Second Chances

Three years ago this very day life as I knew it ended.

All of the hopes and dreams I had for my family came crashing down in our kids’ treehouse, of all places. It was in that treehouse, lovingly constructed from scraps of both lumber and time by Mr. Wonderful, that I found my soul mate right before he was about to take his own life.

You see, life had gotten so bad for him that suicide seemed like the only way to make his pain go away. 

The drinking hadn’t done it. 

The prescriptions and doctors on base hadn’t done it. 

His family hadn’t done it.

He soldiered on so well that I didn’t realize how badly he was hurting until it was almost too late. Minutes were the difference in our case-the difference between our story being about second chances and it being about what life is like as a military widow raising four kids all by myself. The difference between my kids knowing their dad and wondering what he was like.(photo cred Meredith Shafer 2016)

When I found Mr. Wonderful with a half drunk bottle of vodka writing his goodbye notes, all I knew to do was beg God to save him. To save us. 

I hadn’t even seen the loaded shotgun yet.

I just knew from climbing my very pregnant belly up to that second-story treehouse and feeling the sadness and pain radiate off of him that we were fighting for time.

That treehouse was meant to be our end. Instead, somehow God used it to start something brand new for us, to give us a chance at a second chance. Miraculously our ending was re-written at the last possible minute. We got a second act by the grace of God. 

It’s surely a miracle that the very pregnant girl was able to get the drunk, suicidal 6’6″ 330 pound soldier who was more than twice her size out of the treehouse, onto solid ground and into treatment.

It’s surely a miracle that Mr. Wonderful was sent to a treatment for a few months that would help save his life, restore his mind, begin his sobriety.

It’s surely a miracle that we have had 1,095 bonus days, second chances, extra time.

And though it hasn’t been an easy road over the last three years, I am grateful for every one of those 1,095 days. I count myself blessed despite the PTSD diagnoses, the caregiving, the crushing blows, the doctor’s appointments, the setbacks, the fights with the VA, and the new normal we find ourselves in. Even the worst days in the last three years have been a blessing, because they have been the second chance I couldn’t imagine from my viewpoint in that treehouse.

September is National Suicide Prevention month. Twenty-two military a day take their lives. If more if us speak up, tell the story with no shame, maybe we can break this stigma against mental illness and invisible wounds. Maybe we can convince hurting people to ask for help. Maybe we can reach out to those around us.


Ask someone if they’re ok. Care about people. Walk through this world with more kindness and less judgment. 

You could be the difference in someone’s story-


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┬ęCopyright Meredith Shafer 2016.

For more info about our story, to check about speaking engagements or to find me on social media, connect with me at www.meredithshafer.com.

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Monday Madness

By 8:03 a.m. today I lost my mind and frankly, my will to do anything. Everyone at my house was off their game. 

Everyone.

The twelve year old left everything everywhere as if the magic cleaning fairy would be arriving soon to clean up after him. 

 (Photo cred thefunnybeaver.com)

The eight year old woke up late, moved slow, worked my last nerve with talk back and outbursts. I also found out why I keep getting a bill from the school cafeteria: despite making and taking his lunch every day, he was getting a tray instead of eating his lunch. So I do indeed owe the school $16.47.

The Little Sister of the bunch spilled her milk, threw a fit, spilled more milk. I still hadn’t lost it yet though. I was still slogging through getting the oldest two out on the bus at two different times and then getting the two littles ready while the baby was spilling yet more milk and the dog was drinking out of the toilet and I had so much work to get done today and it was time to cautiously wake up Mr. Wonderful (cautiously because he has the PTSD, we have a process) when I realized: 

This is my life. For realsies. 

 (Photo cred curiano)

Confession: I’ve been a fraud. Faking it with optimism and gratitude til I make it but never really making it up that hill. Working three jobs to make ends meet. Raising four kids, sometimes by myself. Caregiving for Mr. Wonderful. Waiting for someone else to come and claim the life they lost because this can’t be mine.

A few short years ago I had a working husband who was able to help a lot with our busy household. I only had three kids and two jobs. There was no VA battle, no PTSD, no ADHD, no running around constantly like a crazy woman. I only had to run around like a crazy woman sometimes back then.

I’m so tired of pushing and straining and striving to try to make changes and have nothing budge. I’m exhausted from not seeing more progress to spur me on. I’m tired of being tired and worried and unable to sleep or find time for working out or finding joy in time spent with my kids instead of hauling them from point A to point B just hoping I get them there on time.

I’m sick of fighting the VA to get my soldier the care and benefits he deserves. I’m afraid I don’t have any fight left and the battle’s not done yet. 

I’m weary today. And overwhelmed. And claustrophobic by the walls of responsibility closing in. I’m ready for the spring of my life and it feels like the winter winds have just begun.

The one thing I have going for me right now is that in my hardest moments of realness and raw honesty God meets me where I am. He comes to me with comfort, hope and peace, somehow knowing that this Monday, when I’m on the edge of losing my mind and my hope I need his steadying hand more than ever. He changes me from the inside out, even while He upholds me. 

I find great comfort in knowing that the orchestrator of the chaos of the universe cares about each hair on my head, on each worry and heartbreak and tear and breath of little ol’ me.

I remind myself that things can’t be too bad if I am loved, both by God and by my tribe. That I have a life that some others would trade me for in an instant. That as hard as things are today, today is only temporary. 

 (photo cred Instapray.com)

And the God of my today is the God of my yesterday and tomorrow. He will see me through. He has gone before me, walks beside me and is behind me.

I just have to get out of the way of myself, surrender to his scandalous grace, and remember it’s not over yet.

He’s not finished with me. 

┬ęCopyright Meredith Shafer 2016. Swing by Instagram and Twitter to say hi!

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 13 (a little bit late)

I’m grateful I live in a country where I have access to health care. And I’m grateful for my husband’s sacrifices in his military career that provide me and our family with insurance.

And for Netflix and my parents watching my kiddos while I recover. And Mr. Wonderful for making sure I got home safely and have been fed during my recovery.  

 I’m blessed beyond measure.

(Photo credit Dumpaday.com) ┬ęCopyright Meredith Shafer 2015

Swing by Instagram and Twitter to say hi!

Broken Places, Broken People

So we had to go to the VA today. This is not a place I take Mr. Wonderful willingly. It’s a trigger for his anxiety just to get ready to go there. Then once we go, it’s usually hurry up and wait. And get care from an organization that still doesn’t know what to do with soldiers that suffer from PTSD and traumatic brain injury.

Bless their hearts. 

I think many of them are trying. The lady we saw today was actually running almost on time and we were shocked! She was kind-hearted and doing her best to do her part.

But it’s always an exercise in frustration. We know this and prepare for it. Today it was in trying to get into the Caregiver Program. That’s not advertised by the VA. That I was probably eligible for two plus years ago but didn’t know about. 

We’ve already sent all of Mr. Wonderful’s medical documentation multiple times to the VA and now the caregiver part of the VA will be asking for it again. Can’t you guys just communicate with each other and save us the trouble while saving some trees??

Also, we found out that to be part of the Caregiver Program I, (said caregiver) will have to attend classes on how best to be a caregiver. Taught by medical professionals who are not caregivers. While they’re asking the already over-worked, over-scheduled caregiver to leave the home where she is caregiving, creating a situation where I will have to find and pay for a sitter for each of the six classes. This will be after I go through the online application (done), two phone interviews, a home visit by a nurse and after a team decides if I’m caregiver material according to the VA.

Riiiiiiggghhhht.

Not to toot my own horn, but I am a pretty good caregiver. According to this article, 53 veterans die every day waiting for their benefits claims to be processed. The number of claims the VA has on backlog currently stands at 900,000. 

This isn’t good caregiving. Mr. Wonderful and I may have walked to the very edge and looked over it but my veteran is still here. The very entity charged with benefits and caregiving for our nation’s heroes is letting 53 vets die every day on their watch. And they’re going to determine if I’m really a caregiver? Or teach me how to be a caregiver?

No thank you. I like my vet and want him around for a long time.

This just isn’t ok. I don’t have the answers. I don’t know how to fix it all. But I do know that making it so difficult that even people like me want to give up is not the answer. When you make it so hard on the veteran and their family, the people that are already broken down and struggling as it is, that they want to just take whatever you’re handing out to make all the hoop jumping go away, there is something not right.

Maybe if I tell our story and then others tell their stories more people will realize that this is happening all over the Unites States to our heroes. Maybe it will make you a little uncomfortable. Maybe it will make you mad.

I hope so. I hope you will stand with my family and say this isn’t ok. Support military families, write your senators or representatives, ask a vet if they need anything. Shake their hands, get to know them. Appreciate them. Make them feel human again.

Because goodness knows the VA won’t.

(Photo credit Life Change Ballroom) ┬ęCopyright Meredith Shafer 2015

I would love to connect with you on Instagram @MyPinkChampagneLife and Twitter @MyPinkChampLife.