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We went to the VA today.  

 (Photo cred beachbrights.blogspot.com)

That’s when we found out our doc moved. Across town.

Then the doctor said a cardio referral for Mr. Wonderful will take up to two months unless we run here and call there and double back, turn around, sit down.

All this to say I can’t stop worrying about Mr. Wonderful just yet. He keeps having the seizure-like episodes and then had some actual heart pains and the neuro guy said he needs to see a cardiologist immediately.

Which will be two months from now if we play within the system. Frustration and honestly, straight up fear washed over me. 

And then. 

 (photo cred allieseidel.com)

I remembered the grace God has offered me. For free. How my good Father has already provided the answer I seek, the resting place I crave. The timing we need. I recall the scandalous grace and the way He has already saved my family.

You see, I have had an extra 891 days with my husband because of God’s scandalous grace. I have had 891 extra days of smiles and hugs and good mornings and prayers and dinner times and memories since that day in 2013 when I found Mr. Wonderful in the kids’ treehouse writing goodbye notes. 

Every day since has been a gift.

Even the hard days.

Even the days where we fight or fuss or learn something new about PTSD or slug it out with the VA. Even when we have more month than money or more kids than time or more pantry than food.

Every day–all 891 of them–have been a blessing from my Father in heaven, a record of his unfailing, unrelenting, scandalous grace.

And I am grateful. 

 (photo cred the WoW Style)

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Health Care

I have to be careful that I don’t go on too big of a rant here–no one’s got time for that!

We’re currently at the VA to get an MRI on Mr. Wonderful’s shoulder. Even though I’ve been working since November to get him scheduled with a neurologist for the seizure-like episodes he’s been having. We aren’t doing an MRI on his brain but his shoulder.

This makes no sense to me at all. The shoulder is not the emergency in our house. A 6’6″, 330 pound man falling on the ground while I, the smaller human in this equation, try to break his fall–this feels like more of an emergency in my book. We’re now up to daily episodes, sometimes multiple times per day. But we gotta get that shoulder looked at.

I made multiple calls to the VAChoice program, which is supposed to help if your appointment is more than 45 days out, which ours was back in late December/early January. I’ve made calls to neurologists. I know he is one veteran in the grand scheme but he’s my vet and I can’t break his fall very well. You should see us–we’re hilarious when this happens.

It looks like we are going to end up keeping our appointment with the VA neurologist in a few weeks.

I already want a second opinion. 

I’m getting all wrapped around the axle on something I can’t fix or change or speed up. I want Mr. Wonderful to see a civilian neurologist last month. I want his crazy scary seizure thingys to stop. I want to be at home on a Tuesday night with my family instead of waiting in a lonely hallway by myself for a late-scheduled MRI that ran even later. 

  (Photo cred Meredith Shafer 2016)

But what I really want is for God’s plan, his destiny for my family, to come to fruition. I want him to use us–even in the VA–to spread light and hope. God knows they need it here.

I only want what he wants for us. So I will unwind. I’m relaxing. I’m taking a little me-time right here in the VA. And we’ll go get some fried chicken and have a little Date Night on our way back to our family. And I will trust and believe that God works all things for our good. Even if it’s not my time or my plan or my way.

I have enough faith to trust that he’s got this. 

 (photo credit Meredith Shafer 2016)

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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. 

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2016. Swing by Instagram and Twitter to say hi!

Resumé

I was talking to a sweet friend of mine from work today. She and her family have been through some trials lately and are still firmly ensconced in The Middle. 

The Middle is the worst.

Seems The Middle isn’t just a tv show.  

(Photo credit Buzzfeed Community)
It’s the place where you can’t seem to get your bearings. The Middle is where you tend to get boxed in by your circumstances. And it seems like it takes forever to get through.
I am very familiar with The Middle.

This is usually where I lose things: joy, hope, perspective. It’s the space where I can get awfully wrapped up in what I’m seeing. What I’m feeling. 

During our conversation I began thinking about the choices we have when we’re in the dreaded Middle. How, when I have been in The Middle, I have sometimes felt like there were no choices, that I was just stuck. But it dawned on me: one choice is always present, even in The Middle.

Choosing joy. 

 (photo credit lostbumblebee.blogspot.ca)

The middle is a difficult place to do this though. Let’s be real, many of us start looking at our circumstances and feel as if this place has overstayed its welcome–that’s frustrating. When you’re ready to move on from The Middle but The Middle’s not finished with you yet.

You know, on paper my family is not only a little weird, if I look at the facts objectively, we’re not that impressive. At first glance, our family resumé is a one-pager with large font. There is a cute toddler, a strongly-opinionated four year old girl, an eight year old with some focus and behavior stuff going on, a twelve year old with an eye rolling issue, a former military guy as the husband/daddy of the house with medical records out the wazoo and an under-employed lawyer/piano teacher/mildly regionally successful author.

On paper, we’re not so hot. 

 (photo credit Mashable)

Despite this resumé, I am trying to lead the way in some of our choices. I am trying to show my kids–even in the early morning before I’m fully caffeinated–how to choose joy.

Extravagant, relentless joy.

I fail a lot. For instance, yesterday. All. Stinkin’. Day. 

 (Photo credit Pinterest)

But I remain persistent in my quest for choosing to live a joyful life no matter what the medical records say. Despite the school testing and the ADHD psychology testing. Even through upcoming potty-training and temper tantrums and slammed doors and eye rolls and financial difficulty and bad news and VA appeals and doctor appointments and parent teacher conferences.

I’m trying to put one grateful foot in front of the other and shine some hope and light into other peoples’ lives when they’re in The Middle too. 

Or in The Beginning, where their grief is so raw and fresh from loss it seems as if there is no relief. 

Or The End, where relationships have come undone and the bags are packed and the boxes are labeled.

There are always reasons to get stuck looking around at your circumstances. Believe me, I know. Stuck is a place I know well. Grief is a hole I have crawled into. Circumstance has convinced me I was finished.

But joy.

That flashy, glittery Vegas-like sensory overload of joy that I have felt in my darkest place. It was a choice. And I could choose it because I have faith in a God who just won’t quit. Working on me, loving me, taking me under his wing. 

 So no matter where you are in your chapter–The Beginning, The End or that pesky Middle, your story isn’t over yet. And if your family resumé is a one-dimensional, unimpressive one-pager at first glance like mine, take heart.

Choosing joy turns those medical records into a medical retirement, the ADHD testing into opportunities to help our son learn better, that under-employment into a way to help with finances while having the flexibility to be there for my family.   

 (Photo credit The Odyssey)

Keep working on your story. And if you choose joy along the way, well, there’s no limits to what your everyday can look like, beginning, ending, and The Middle.

©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

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Ce-lebrate Good Times, Come On!

This week.

So far we’ve had a trip to the ER (broken growth plate), occupational therapy appointment, ADHD testing, timeouts (theirs), meltdowns (mine) and my new inability to find sleep as easily as I usually do.

Add to this a busy season at work, continued spats with the VA and I have done near lost my ever-loving mind!

Is it Friday yet?

On my Instagram feed I posted a bible verse about the weary needing rest. I’m incredibly weary right now. Turns out, so are a lot of you. I don’t know when things got so complicated, do you?

It’s so hard in the middle of any mess to find the silver lining. Figure out a reason to celebrate. Rush towards generosity of spirit. But I believe that’s a game changer if we do. Instead of waiting to rejoice in the midst of our circumstances, I think extravagantly celebrating in the midst of the muck brings about changes much more important than things going our way.

Seems like celebrating before our circumstances change changes how we even view those circumstances, allowing us to find nuggets of wisdom, gifts of goodness that were placed along our path just for us.

Times are hard. And life moves too fast. And we are all so swamped with business and busyness. But for one glorious moment I encourage you to put all of that to the side and rock your socks off. Party like its 1999. Celebrate your blessings or silver linings or good moments lavishly like the gifts they are.

See what happens. I’m willing to bet you will celebrate yourself right into something truly amazing.

Blessings friends!

(photo credit livelifehappy.com) ©Copyright Meredith Shafer

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Square One

I need a mulligan for this week already! I don’t golf, but as I undertand it, a mulligan is basically like a do-over. 

Yes please.

First my coffee shop closed. Yeah, I was disappointed but I deal. Then I received an email that a friend’s husband had passed away and heard that another dear friend has breast cancer.

And today my husband’s clinic–the Patriot Clinics that serve vets at no cost–closed its doors. Mr. Wonderful has been receiving hyperbaric oxygen chamber treatment for his PTSD and traumatic brain injury and its one of the few things that has had a positive effect on him without the crazy side effects of post meds used to treat the symptoms of PTSD.

The clinic treats vets with diginty and provided treatment that has great results but that the VA and insurance won’t pay for. I don’t know why but I’m sure it has something to do with the almighty dollar. And until they either get their electrical issues resolved or find funds to move to a new place, we’re back at square one for treatment. 

I’m so tired of square one.

Used to when a lot of bad things happened all at once I would just throw a party of the pity kind. Now I realize that when there seem to be so many obstacles and troubles and everything going completely wrong, it’s actually a sign that I’m getting close to whatever it is I’ve been working towards.

Obstacles are meant to keep us down. Trip us up. Make us lose our breath or step or mind. But it’s when those obstacles keep piling up that I know to look around because my miracle is coming.

All this bad news is meant to crush me, to derail me from writing and cheering people on and trying to serve and be a blessing. All this grossness is meant to clog up my soul like a hairball clogs up a sink. 
It won’t work.

I know that our miracles are coming so I am going to keep on keeping on to do my part. I’ll pray. And I’ll keep my chin up and try my best to bring my A game, no matter what obstacles jump into my path.

If you find yourself at square one today, take heart and take hope. Your miracle could be right around the corner too.

(Photo credit Meredith Shafer 2015) ©Copyright 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) ©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

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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) ©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

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

National PTSD Awareness Day

 I know there’s lots of stuff going on in the world today, and I’m afraid PTSD Awareness Day will be lost in all the news and noise. PTSD is our world 365 days a year, not just today. That’s the case for so many. Just wanted to share, encourage, and say you’re not alone!

If you need help:  

(Photo credit celebrating freedom) ©Copyright Meredith Shafer 2015

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