Running Just as Fast as I Can

If you know me, you understand I’m using my title ironically. I don’t run. Unless something scary is chasing me.

 (Photo credit Thug Life shirts)

But it feels like with all the pieces of my world swirling around I am running to catch up. I choose to believe that even though it feels like things are falling apart some days, they are really just falling into place.

I just need to figure out how to stop running.

It’s hard, because when I take a look at my life, I’m not sure what I can drop or remove or take away. I feel as if we’ve already culled all extraneous things, people and events: I can’t cut much more or I’ll be slicing bone.

I’m not built for speed. I’m built for yoga or weight training or walking but never for speed. So where does that leave those of us who are running to catch up, mostly due to life circumstances?

I don’t have the answers, but I do have a handful of ideas that I’ll be trying to implement. For instance, if I’m going to do all the caregiving I do–both for my four munchkins and for my disabled vet hubby–I need to make sure I’m taking care of me. For me this means getting exercise, reading for fun, talking to girlfriends and finding a space in my head and my house for some peace and quiet.

 (photo credit 3amdad.tumblr.com)

And finding time to drink copious amounts of coffee.

 (photo credit mrcoffee.com)

I also need to have a weekly Date Night with the man I caregive for so that we remain connected as lovers and friends. Otherwise it’s more like I’m nurse and he’s patient, which he wouldn’t mind at certain times if you get my drift, but in real every day life that’s hard on a relationship.

Spending quality time with each of my kiddos is also in my priority list. Not just in a hurry-up-get-ready-for-school-eat-your-breakfast sort of way, but really spending time talking with and listening to each kid’s heart. With lots of kids in the house I’m still trying to find my way through this.

 (Photo credit lifelovelauren.com)

Getting organized is also in my master plan to rule the world. Or at least my life. We’ve had some obstacles here between all the kids, a couple of moves, trying to survive 2013, publishing a book, getting creative enough to write another, and all the mountains of paperwork required by the VA for retirement and disability and caregiving. Have I mentioned that each department within the VA can’t see the paperwork we already submitted to another department? Just means an avalanche of papers are threatening to take over my life.

So while I’m theoretically running to catch up with my life and my loves, I’m reminding myself that giving myself a break and counting my blessings are a necessary part of this process. For my survival.

And my sanity.

 (photo credit Instagram)

┬ęCopyright Meredith Shafer 2015. Swing by Instagram and Twitter to say hi!

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30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 20

  
I’m grateful for Date Night with this guy! A chance to finish a conversation, relax, really see each other–what a gift­čśŹ­čĺ× 

(Photo credit Meredith Shafer) ┬ęCopyright Meredith Shafer 2015

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#datenight #gratitude #30DaysofThankfulness #thankful #husbandandwifeforlife #marriage #dateyourspouse

30 Days of Thankfulness: Day 4

I’m so grateful for my partner in this life. This man has promised to take care of me and this family and despite our daily battles with PTSD and traumatic brain injury, he still gets the job done. His quiet faith inspires me to keep going, no matter the circumstances. 
 This picture sums us up–he’s the steady-handed, eyes on the road anchor to my artsy fartsy fluttering about. I would be lost without this guy, my sweetheart, Mr. Wonderful.­čśŹ­čśśÔŁĄ´ŞĆÔŁĄ´ŞĆÔŁĄ´ŞĆÔŁĄ´ŞĆ

#husbandandwifeforlife #sweethearts #marriage #partner

(Photo credit Meredith Shafer) ┬ęCopyright Meredith Shafer

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5 Things I Wish You Knew About Life with PTSD

Going through a staggering amount of paperwork and learning curves and medical interventions has kept us pretty busy over the last two years. At one crucial point, I was just trying to keep my soldier alive. And since I was pretty new to this game, I didn’t know how to talk about it for awhile.

But now that we’re a little farther down the road, there are some truths I’d like to share with you about what our life actually looks like on a day to day basis. Since we are no longer in survival mode, I feel that now is a good time to pass on a few things I have learned in this journey. It’s by no means an exhaustive list and since I can only speak about this experience through the lens of a caregiver, know there’s much, much more to this story. 

 But for now, here are a few things I wish that everyone knew about us:

1. We are a family dealing with mental illness so we probably don’t always fit into your idea of what a family looks like. Or sounds like. Or behaves like. So please don’t judge us by our bad days or our good days. Neither is entirely accurate.

On our best days we appear relatively normal, albeit a little louder and more colorful than most. We have some introverts, extroverts, flamboyant ones, shy kids and some ADHD and panic attacks sprinkled throughout. 

On our worst days we have tears, meltdowns and struggles that you probably can’t understand. Please know that we are truly doing our best but if we react to a situation in a bizarre or inappropriate (to you) way, your judgment is going to be less than helpful. Stares or comments other than “Is there anything I can do to help?” aren’t encouraged.

Sometimes we are struggling so hard to keep it together as a family that we can’t be bothered with your idea of decorum. We are simply trying to survive. 

 2. One of the worst things you can do is negate our journey by saying something insensitive and demeaning. For instance, someone actually said the words, “He looks ok to me.” He might. In that moment. But what that person didn’t realize was that Mr. Wonderful hadn’t been out of our house for two weeks. And had fought through three panic attacks to get out the door. 

Sometimes he might forget that he already had this conversation because his short term memory is shot. Or he might fly into a rage at those insensitive words because. You. Just. Don’t. Know.

Don’t judge our struggle based on what you can observe in a moment. 

3. Our idea of a good day and a bad day is radically different than yours. A good day for us is no meltdowns, few panic attacks, and a decent wake up where Mr. Wonderful is able to get his bearings relatively early in the day. Maybe he feels good enough to get a workout, a shower and a hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatment in. This is a good, good day.

A bad day is, well, it’s not something I can put into words yet. I’m still working on it and I may have to get back to you on this one.

4. You might perceive us as flaky if we’ve had to bail out on you. Last minute. Again. We have the best of intentions. We want to be at your birthday party or graduation or celebration. Sometimes we just can’t. 

Sometimes we’re actually on our way out the door but then Mr. Wonderful can’t leave the house. Or we start the day well but it progresses in the wrong direction. Or I know Mr. Wonderful will be ok without me but I’m just not up to getting the whole traveling circus out the door by myself. To friends and family, please understand our absence doesn’t mean we don’t love and honor you–we just may not be able to love and honor you in person.

5. We are doing the best we can. From the outside that may not look good enough. And sometimes it’s not. We try super hard. Every day. But even hard work can’t always get us where we need to be. That’s why one of the things we tell ourselves over and over is to give ourselves a break. And share some grace. And we try to be grateful for every good moment, every silver lining. 

Because we’ve walked the edge between life and death, we now want to celebrate every good thing we can. Life  isn’t a guarantee, and we aren’t promised tomorrow. These are now things we know for sure. 

We no longer take life for granted. Or good days. Or breathing or remembering or functioning. Crazy may be our new normal but we embrace our crazy. We embrace our new normal. And we embrace each other. 

The most important thing I can tell you about life with PTSD is that without our faith and each other we would have nothing. But with it, we still have everything we need. 

 (Photo credits Meredith Shafer) ┬ęCopyright Meredith Shafer 2015

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Catch Up

So as usual I’m behind. I haven’t posted in way too long because my life is way too exciting and I’m just trying to hold on!

Big Brother broke his growth plate in his hand (who does that?!), turned twelve, and became first chair trombone in band. I’m in denial about the being twelve part. 

 Little Brother is barely surviving second grade. I told his super awesome teacher yesterday that I managed to get through law school but second grade is about to do me in. So much homework and probably undiagnosed ADHD (which we’ve begun the super fun process of testing for) means this year is a challenge for all of us. Good thing nothing gets this kid down. 

 Little Sister is still into tutus and cowgirl boots, mud and mishaps. I love how she dresses super girly to go outside and wreck the neighborhood boys.  

 Baby Brother has been sick, which with asthma makes things interesting. And then he kindly shared with me so I’ve been down for the count as well. But we’re getting better and he’s still just happy to be here. What a kid! 

 We’ve gotten a few things worked out for Mr. Wonderful–his hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatment is back online, and we got some VA Caregiver issues worked out. It’s official, the VA has certified me as a caregiver, which I find ironic. We’ve seen how the VA gives care firsthand so it’s interesting that they have to certify me. Sometimes you just have to laugh! 

 I have gotten to speak at some great organizations lately and this has been the biggest blessing! I love that I’m meeting ladies from all over and getting refreshed and encouraged as I am encouraging–crazy how that works.

It’s the end of October and I haven’t written a lick. My final draft is due in January and I. Am. Behind. But I’m not panicking yet because I need the pressure of a deadline. I’m about to kick it into high gear y’all. Wish me luck!

Hope everyone in the blogosphere is doing well, I’m not even close to caught up on your blogs but will be soon. Y’all have a blessed day wherever you are and whatever’s coming your way today!

Much love,

Meredith

(Photo credit Meredith Shafer) ┬ęCopyright Meredith Shafer 2015

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Oh Happy Day!

When working with the Veterans Administation, persistence is the key. We have been fighting for my veteran to be medically retired and have all the benefits that includes for oh, about two years now. Maybe longer. I lose track because I have four kids and I can’t even remember where I parked my car or left my keys or what I ate (or forgot to eat) for breakfast. I do pretty well just to remember which kid goes where each day.

And finally, hallelujah and praise Jesus, we got his paperwork approved! I probably shouldn’t be celebrating that the VA agrees with me that my vet is disabled but I do because that means he gets rewarded for his sacrifice. That bill for America’s freedom that each wounded veteran’s family pays every day will now be recognized and rewarded by the VA, despite the fact that my vet’s wounds are invisible. Of course there are stipulations and regulations (it wouldn’t be a government entity if there weren’t) yada yada yada but thank God almighty we are free at last.

We are freed from having to prove his conditions over and over. Do you know how bad things have to get to prove an invisible condition like PTSD? Let’s just say go past unbearable, turn right at untenable and you’re there. We’re freed from having to worry about choosing his health or a job that won’t help his health at all. There is freedom from explaining our situation to the thirty-seventh person at the VA and sending and resending information and filling out the small file cabinet and three boxes of paperwork that it took to make this happen.

We are beyond grateful that I have a job and we have healthy kids and that we have great friends and family surrounding us. Now Mr. Wonderful is going to have the opportunity to focus on getting better, trying new and different therapies. We’ve already begun working out and eating right and we will continue doing our part to make his health one of our top priorities.

And thanks to some bulldoggedness on our parts, we are finally finished, at least for now, with this part of our battle. It’s a good thing, because we are weary and bone-tired.

But we’re still standing.

(photo credit Meredith Shafer) ┬ęCopyright Meredith Shafer 2015

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Romance…Parent-Style

When you have four kids ages 11, 7, 4, and 1 it’s hard to make time for romance. Like other parents, we have other things going on besides just having kids. We have work and caregiving and household and extracurriculars and therapies and doctors appointments. Sometimes being all romantical is not even on the radar.

But I don’t want to wake up someday when all my babies are grownups and wonder who in the world this stranger is in my house. I have no desire to just have a roommate.

So we are attempting to bring the sexy back in whatever ways we can to our relationship. Mr. Wonderful has really picked up his game as of late. He’s started doing all those little things that he knows I will love or that he thinks will show me appreciation, and let me tell you–that stuff works!

I got this text recently and it just made my day: 

(It’s a dozen roses if you didn’t catch that!)

And then he bought me some ice cream sandwiches because he saw I was running low. This doesn’t sound like a big deal to the outside observer but to me it’s huge! I like to end my day taking a bath with an ice cream sandwich. If I’m out I will go all un-caffeinated on you.

Don’t judge, it’s how I roll. 

And because he’s been home more than I have lately, he’s been doing a large portion of laundry–the bane of my existence. That is sexy folks!

We are trying to get back in the habit of a weekly date night, even if it’s on a Wednesday at noon since that’s when we have childcare. Babysitters could bankrupt us if we didn’t.  

 (Evidence of actual Date Night: we went out for sushi sans children)

We’re attempting to remind each other why we fell in love in the first place. 

This wasn’t by any agreement or conscious decision on our part. It just seems to be happening and like all cycles, feeds into itself creating more romance which creates more opportunities for romance. So we’re going with it.

Because I actually like this guy and I’d like to keep him around for quite awhile. 

 (Photo credit Meredith Shafer 2015) ┬ęCopyright Meredith Shafer 2015

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Anniversary

At 10:00 am on a random Wednesday, I made some serious promises to Mr. Wonderful. I had two beautiful little boys to walk me down the aisle for a second chance at “I do.”

We had no idea the amount of wonderful, weird, amazing, profound, painful, hard, surprising and sweet moments we would share over the next five years. We had no idea we could pack decades of marriage events into only 1,825 days together.

We jumped in. 

All in. 

Not knowing what was ahead but believing that our love for God and each other would hold us together.

Happy anniversary to my love, my Mr. Wonderful-you’re still my favorite person. 

We look so young! (Photo credit Meredith Shafer 2015)
#wedding #anniversary #husbandandwifeforlife #gratitude #letsdosixtymore

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PTSD Awareness Month

June is PTSD Awareness Month and though we live it 365 days a year, I realize that unless you know someone with this “disorder” you may not know very much about it.

I’m going to try my best to explain in bits and pieces throughout the month what my family goes through on a daily basis; I can only tell our story though. PTSD (I loathe the D for “disorder”-it’s actually a very normal response to trauma and we need to stop making people feel bad about this) is different for each person. 

In our case, Mr. Wonderful came back with his souvenir from fighting in the OEF wartime theater. That’s Operation Enduring Freedom. This means he saw bad things he doesn’t like to talk about, has a certain amount of survivor’s guilt for coming back when some of his buddies didn’t, and had to flail about on his own with no treatment for nearly thirteen years.

PTSD has taken on different forms at various times in our family:

-disconnection and lack of empathy

-rage and misplaced anger

-agoraphobia

-extreme depression 

-isolation

-suicidal thoughts and tendencies

This is just the tip of the PTSD iceberg. There is no cure, no one medicine, nothing that will permanently end Mr. Wonderful’s suffering. 

But we press on. And we press in. To our faith and each other. We work on managing the symptoms as best we can. We attend doctors appointments, do therapy, and try to instill healthy coping mechanisms and lifestyle choices in ourselves and our kids.

We fall down. We get back up. We try to use gratitude a lot: it’s hard for negativity to exist when you’re being glad about something. And we know what works (mostly) and what doesn’t. 

Our journey over the last three years, especially before we got the PTSD diagnosis, has not been easy.

But we have been learning how to celebrate in the midst of the storm, to throw up our hands and dance in the rain and wait for the promised rainbow.

(Photo credit Heathershelpers.org) ┬ęCopyright Meredith Shafer 2015

I would love to connect with you on Facebook and Instagram at My Pink Champagne Life or Twitter @MyPinkChampLife. Swing by and say hello!