Raison d’etre

Moving Forward

Us all fancied up.

Todd and I at our vow renewal. He still makes my heart a flutter after 24 years.

Todd was critically injured on our anniversary.  It was our 15th year one, to be exact. Not only was he badly injured, but he lost two of his friends at the same time. Most of you who have been through combat understand that these sort of losses are never forgotten. The survivor’s guilt that comes along with it never leaves.

At first, I vowed that somehow, we would still honor our anniversary. Seriously, the Taliban almost got my husband, I refused to let them get our day, too. However, the invisible wounds of war are some of the worst and as September would roll around, the dark cloud of grief would roll in right at the end of the month, smother the joy out of the whole month of October and linger until November.

I am proud of my husband. He puts in the painful work with his counselor to be compassionate to the grief of this and other horrible experiences from war. We see a neurologist for the chronic migraine sort of headaches my husband endures as a result of his moderate brain injury. He is one of the best doctors I have ever seen. His empathy, kindness and emphasis on neuroplasticity has been very helpful for us moving forward. He was the one that first thought up the idea of getting a vow renewal as a way to move forward. We had never considered it.

Neuroplasticity is the concept that the brain is focused on survival. The brain is designed to remember pain first in order to keep you from hurting or killing yourself. When a brain injury occurs, the millions of pathways in the neurons and blood vessels are damaged, blocked, and eventually the brain starts re-wiring itself. Neuroplasticity explains that when you provide your mind with positive things, that it helps the brain create new pathways that connect its memory to enjoyment. I have to say this really does help. For the past 3 years, horse therapy has been one of those purposeful joys that really has improved my husband’s quality of life.  His recreational therapist has also been extremely helpful. Providing him with something new to learn, in his case photo development with black and white film. This is an amazing new hobby and he is really getting good at it. He is really engrossed in learning all he can and we bought him an SLR, too.

Check out http://reset.me/story/neuroplasticity-the-10-fundamentals-of-rewiring-your-brain/  There is also a great book our doctor recommended on Amazon called Neuroplastic Transformation Workbook by Michael H. Moskowitz M.D.  http://a.co/78gQp26 

I recommend it for you caregivers as well. Your lives are just as important, and your mental health equally so. No one deserves to be unhappy or unfulfilled. Do this bit of work and you will be rewarded. Seriously, what do you have to lose?  That is also one of the helpful things for me on the darker days that still happen but fortunately not as often in a week. I work on something that brings me purposeful joy like dancing or being outside.

I haven’t written much in this blog in two years.  Life has been super busy in the past two years and my mind hasn’t wanted to dig into the deep cathartic emotional topics. In the past two years we have been on a really good path. I became a caregiver to my elderly aunt, and having her close by and getting to spend time with her has been a joy for me. She has the most can-do attitude better than most people my age. She isn’t afraid to speak her mind and she is sharp as a tack. She honestly is one of my role models.

I really have been focusing on mindfulness, which is a huge complement to neuroplasticity. http://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/

Basically you reframe your thoughts on what you’re dealing with. Instead of saying,”Sigh..I have to drive us to the VA today and deal with a lot of painful bureaucracy,” I try to think of it as,”I am lucky my husband is here in my life. I get to hold his hand and walk through the VA today with him. Let’s see what we can accomplish.” The focus on a more positive aspect really helps. I will even put on a cute outfit, just to make him smile.

Those that know me personally know I am a dark, sarcastic and very skeptical thinker. Kind of like an artist/scientist hybrid. A mathematically challenged scientist. Some of my favorite memes deal with Skinner’s cat.  Alright, back to the original concept of mindfulness.  You can go on YouTube and find a lot of free stuff. This is really fantastic. There even are mindfulness concept coloring books. Feel free to share your Skinner memes with me though, they truly crack me up.

You have to have humor in your life as that makes it all bearable.

 

 

 

 

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More than This

lipsense lipsMany of us were in the middle of doing something with our careers as independent women before dealing with major catastrophes in our lives such as an IED blast in our life. Pretty much a giant bomb went off in mine not only in terms of how it hurt my husband, but how it disrupted our life. However, there were positive things that came out of it.

What were you doing? What were you in the midst of? What are things you want to do once you feel that things are a bit more even keel? What are some of the criteria you use on your life for that “even keel?” Is it a winding down of medical practitioner visits? Not so many visits to the VA? One hospitalization a year vs 6? Is it him and you now sleeping more at night? (If so, I am very happy for both of you!) I would love to hear what it is that constitutes smooth sailing for you.

I was talking to my counselor a few months ago and she asked me something I hadn’t thought of in a long time. “What were you doing before your husband got hurt and what would you like to do or do differently when things get as close to normal for you?” I think it was a good fifteen minutes before I could answer her. I hadn’t really thought about it in so long. I had left it behind during the grief part of everything. So what do I like doing? What are things that drive ME? What were things I was good at? I had forgotten the idea of me along the way.

I was at a retreat with an amazing group almost two years ago called Courage Beyond and one of the exercises we got to do was painting. I had forgotten how much I truly love watching the color play on the canvas. What fun it was to mix colors and create my own palette. Kind of like how I have always enjoyed playing with makeup and hair, but went to college for Journalism and Broadcast instead. Anyone that knows me sees my love for color, retro fashions, and the old glamour pin-up looks from the 50’s. You can check out my page here:
href=”http://www.senegence.com/beautythatlasts”>

I have been thinking. I love belly dancing, painting, burlesque, writing and so much more. How do I pick something and narrow it down? One advantage of all of the changes in our life is that I was saved from my boring job at a large computer company and pursuing my MBA. I was one course in it and had earned a B before Todd got hurt. One course that made me think “why do I care about capitol management and why is it so damn boring?” I had no desire to manage people and deal with HR issues. I had no desire to be someone’s sales monkey anymore. Selling lots of hardware and seeing very little commission or anything in return.

For the past few years I have been ballet dancing and belly dancing. I love dancing. It is in my blood and I feel so happy and calm and like my old self when I do it. It is one of the best forms of exercise I know and something I can do for hours without it feeling as boring as being on a treadmill. I did the Shimmy Mob a year ago and got to perform with a bunch of women to benefit an agency that helped victims of domestic violence. It was empowering and fun and something I will do again.

I used to sell Artistry makeup when we did Amway back in the early ’90’s. I really enjoyed doing make overs for women and watching them be happy with their reflections. When I was younger, I used to do some modeling and learned a lot about techniques and different cosmetic lines. I used to buy a lip color called LipSense from my friend whose aunt sold it. It was amazing as I could dance and it would stay put. Of course, my favorite color is Blu Red. It looks like a Hollywood lip color the stars of the 50’s used. As a dancer, I got hooked on it.

I decided last summer to sell it myself for a few reasons. One being it was a lot easier having direct access to and the rest of the amazing product line and two, I miss having a job that pays me a real salary. I miss having my own business. This was a compromise. I get to play with colors and see women happy with themselves instead of tearing themselves down. So, it was a step I made to do something fun for me. It does not involve anything wounded. Nothing military. Nothing manly. Nothing predictable. Nothing medical. It is all fun. It is work, but fun.

Something that reminds me that I was a woman who had her own career, her own life before some idiot terrorist blew up life as I knew it. The blast is NOT who we are as a family. It is something that seriously was one of the worst things ever, but honestly it made us grow together as a family, as a couple and made me grow and mature as a wife and mother. I refuse to be defined by something that is no longer. It has been four years since this tragic event happened.

I choose to honor the people lost by living the life I have left. Enjoying my days with my family. Making the most of the time I have with my husband. Basking in the glow of his good days and treasuring the wonderful friends I have made during this major change in my life. This is not a blog piece about my makeup line, but a piece I felt like writing as it deals with change. Change for yourself. Change to make you feel more like you. How to get yourself back. Sure, our service members were wounded, but they are our men. Our husbands, lovers, fathers…so many roles they play in life just like we do. I have been focusing on ways to encourage him to make changes in his life as I have done with mine. At the end of the day, we are husband and wife and parents of a wonderful son.

Not victims. Not over. Not lost.

More changes ahead. Stay tuned!

Writer’s Guild East Part 2 – November 2011

I know this is a long-overdue post about something absolutely wonderful and intense that I feel so lucky to have been a part of. Last July, myself and some other WWW’s got to go to NYC to meet with the Writer’s Guild East. The Guild is a bunch of amazingly talented, successful and professional playwrights, novelists, TV writers, and more.

November 2011 was our time for the second trip of the retreat. The purpose was to have our mentors look at our writing we had done during the few months in between the retreats and give us some constructive feedback on our writing. It was a great experience. I am working on my memoirs or “momoirs” as my son calls them.

As many of you can imagine, to write about something very profound and life changing can be like opening Pandora’s Box of emotions. I have not had the time or the privacy to sit and blubber like a fool while I type a bunch of stuff out. I know I need to do it, I will do it. I will just have to make sure I hit up the local Costco for tissues. Have you ever experienced something and stuffed all of your emotions away just so you could put out the fires life throws at you and so you can be strong for your kiddos? That is what I did.

Just when I thought I had the lock tightly closed and hatch sealed, I found out during our trip we were going to visit Ground Zero. Ground Zero is the area of New York City in which the Twin Towers once were. This is the hallowed ground of 9/11. Anyone that knows my husband Todd, knows that it was 9/11 that inspired him to join the National Guard before he was too old to do it. My mind was spinning at the thought of seeing a memorial to all of our innocent people lost on a brutal attack that many people, even New Yorkers, have forgotten about.

The trip would put in front of me the most visually impacting symbols of loss and hope that I have ever seen. My husband is forever suffering from serving his country. Wounds that are both visible to the eye, and invisible. The invisible wounds are the worst ones.

It was a beautiful day in November, 2011 when we all got off of the bus and walked to Ground Zero and waited in line to get in. On the outside, there is a beautiful bas relief in bronze of the firefighters who died trying to help rescue the people trapped in the rubble.

That bronze sculpture above wrapped around a huge side of the firehouse. It made me cry when I saw all of the in memory of written on the plaque. So many people sacrificed themselves to help strangers. How many people sacrifice anything at all in their lives to help others? There were a bunch of tourists around from other countries. Some were standing in front of the wall laughing, cracking jokes and posing. I wanted to kick them hard. To me it was a solemn, beautiful thing to look at and give it respect. Not treat it like a Mickey Mouse statue at Disney World.

In the museum, there were items that were found in the rubble and excavation of the property to build the new memorial grounds that are breathtaking and very tactful.

The item above was a .45 revolver that had melted into the cement during the blast.

One of the things that made it surreal and heart breaking was the wall of pictures of the lost. The walls were tall- I am guessing around 20 feet tall and were covered every inch of pictures of people missing and lost. People to never be seen again. I thought of every family missing their loved ones and it made me glad. Glad that my husband decided to stand up and support his country. Never again did he want to see such horrors inflicted on US soil ever again, not if he could help it.

The stuffed lamb really made me sad. I thought about a child dealing with the panic of what that day was like. The museum had sound bytes from the 911 calls, to actual messages from victim’s cell phones. It sounded like pure chaos. The innocence that the animal portrays made me think about the parent that had to reconcile the fact that they were not going to live through the event. How can you hold your child’s hand in a tragedy and look into their eyes, knowing you are only going to see them again in heaven.

This was my hand written dedication to the memorial. Visitors from everywhere wrote their kind words of healing, faith, encouragement, and support. I was blown away to see the kindness of others that poured in via these postcards of support. Some from South America, Africa, and the Middle East. It made me smile to see kindness. To see humanity.

Outside, where the twin towers used to be are two beautiful giant granite and marble monuments with large water fountains in them. Here are the pictures of those.

I took pictures of some of my friends, but I was crying my eyes out, looking at the symbols of my husband’s best times of his life and the worst. It was hard to see the reasons he went to war, right in front of me. I am so glad I did get to see it. I really felt that it was beautiful the way the people’s names are lit up along the sides of it. The names were the firemen. There were so many names.

I am proud of my husband for serving his country at a time of crisis and I do not regret what he did. He will never regret not answering the feeling he had of patriotism to sacrifice his life and the life of his family for serving.

I hope we never ever again see such a sickening loss of life on our soil ever again.