Time Flies When You Are Having Fun

Twentieth (35 of 9)

Immediately after I was released from the hospital, we went to celebrate Shane’s 20th reunion at the Air Force Academy.  Twenty years have flown by.  In twenty years, we moved around twelve times (thirteen if you count extended TDYs)– Minnesota to Colorado Springs to Oklahoma to New Mexico (me) and Louisiana (him) to North Dakota (both) to Germany to North Dakota to Virginia to Ohio to Florida to Colorado Springs. We have survived five years of separation, and four deployments (two combat).  And now we are back where it all began.

Garden of the Gods (121 of 137)

Thursday, we went to Antlers, a local hotel, and picked up our tickets.  One thing about the reunion is it’s quite expensive (the tune of $900!).  The registration alone was $100 each.  It included a dinner and free drinks on Thursday night.  There we met up with friends we hadn’t seen in years.  I found out that several people Shane sang with in Catholic Choir were living here locally.  It was so nice to see people I hadn’t seen in 20 years, and being asked to come hang out!

On Friday, we went to the actual Academy and toured it.  We went to Shane’s old squadron.  Talked to the cadets.  We learned interesting statistics about the new class.  The greatest statistic was the cadet class in 1997 was only 10% female, while the cadet class in 2021 is 30% female!  It was so nice to see such a change in environment at the Academy.  Most of the women at the academy are studying STEMM majors.  So it’s not just “fuzzy” majors.  These women are going to be the future leaders in Engineering and Math career fields.

We also found out that Shane’s boss in Florida, General Silvaria is now the Superintendent at the Air Force Academy.  It was nice to see him and his wife again.

At the end of the day we went to the memorial service.  There were several deaths in the four reunion classes (1972, 1992, 1997, and 2007).  They read the names of the deceased this year (including one senior) in each class.  Played Taps, and the Missing Man formation of A-10s.  The clouds have begun to roll in, and the angels began to cry during the formation.  It was beautiful and sad at the same time.  There was one guy in Shane’s class that died this year in combat.  It made this ceremony extra special, as the family was there to lay roses on his name.  There was not a dry eye in the crowd.

Twentieth (38 of 9)

At the end of the ceremony, I caught this nice fellow watching with his friend.  He is a PTSD service dog, who was attending with a 2007 graduate.  It’s a stark reminder of the sacrifices that living veterans are making.  It has changed my attitude about being a veteran.  I am considered a disabled veteran, and for years I was not proud of my service.  I didn’t deploy.  When I left the service I got someone else’s going away gift, and I felt like I didn’t sacrifice.  But recognizing those that did make the ultimate sacrifice, and seeing the PTSD dog made me feel blessed, that even though I have service connected cancer, I did experience what my husband and other vets have experienced.

The weekend ended with the football game.  I don’t have any pictures from this event.  I brought my camera, but decided to put it back in the car.  The game was a close one, but our Falcons could not pull it out in the end.  Anyway, the kids, Shane, and I went to the class tailgate, where we met a friend from both Shane’s squadron AND pilot training, Ryan.  Turns out Ryan is a published author, so I got his card to discuss with him how to get published (I have kind of decided to publish my book as a collection of short stories and novellas).  When we got to our seats, it started raining.  The rain started out lightly, then the wind picked up, and by 9:00 minutes into the game, it was 48-degrees, with driving rain, and 30 mph winds.  We watched the Falcons score first, and then we decided to leave.

As we left, my son, decided to hit every puddle.  We got home, fired up the fireplaces, and turned on the game.  Luckily we left, as the game was on an 80-minute lightening delay.  We flipped from various Big Ten games, drank hot chocolate, and ate chips and dip.  All-in-all we really enjoyed ourselves at the reunion.

 

Dogwood Weekly Photography Challenge Week 9: Shadows

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This week’s challenge is artistic shadows.  I tried taking several shadow pictures, with very little luck, but at last week’s Mardi Gras, I was able to capture these beads laying on the boardwalk in the shadows of a building.  That’s all I have to say about that.

It has been a crazy few weeks, and that’s why I am behind in just about everything.  I gave up Facebook for Lent.  I haven’t given it up 100% though.  I still go on and read statuses, sometimes I post a little bit.  I mostly post my photography, updates on cancer, and updates about my friends.  Recently, I posted regarding my friend, Becky, who passed away.  It’s the fifth death in our little local cancer group.  It’s the first person I have known quite well.  So her death caused me to go into a tailspin.  I have had to talk myself down a few times this last week.

I’m still stable.  As in my cancer is not growing, it is not shrinking, it is remaining the same.  It feels like the last two weeks of each chemo cycle it grows, but once I get chemo it shrinks it.  It’s frustrating, and annoying.  I find myself on my downtime doing a lot of research.  It’s hard to explain to people that I have cancer, but I feel great (for the most part), and I don’t look like I have cancer.  It’s definitely one of those invisible diseases, and it’s really hard to explain that you aren’t terminal, but you aren’t entirely well.  I feel like I have a ticking time bomb inside me.  One day it’s going to explode, and I’ll be like Becky, slowly fading away.

 

 

Dogwood Photography Challenge Week 6: Artistic Candy

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This week’s challenge is Artistic Candy.  It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and it’s also my husband’s 42nd birthday.  Last year at this time I was throwing up in a plastic bin at a hospital after my hysterectomy.  Our birthday celebrations on his birthday has been spotty.  Of the 25+ years we have been dating and/or married, we have been together on my husband’s birthday a handful of times.  I think I can count on one hand when we were under the same roof.

Anyway, we met in 1991.  I had started running track at the insistence of my Life Studies teacher (I think that’s what it was called, I don’t remember for sure).  I decided to go to an indoor meet, because being the social butterfly that I am, I had nothing better to do.  It turns out my husband didn’t have anything better to do either– he missed his race.  We talked all night.  He drove me home.  We flirted a ton.  He even dated another girl.  But we always came back to each other.

We started to date on August 29th, 1992.  Every month, he would send me a rose for every month we were dating.  He even managed to send 24 roses on our 2 year anniversary in the middle of August while he was at basic training at the Air Force Academy.  We dated long distance, before the internet, before cell phones, and before technology.  Most communication was done via letters.

In March of 1995, he proposed, and I accepted.  We were engaged just over a year, and were married June 13th, 1997.  As many military couples do, we spent most of our first several years of marriage living in different homes, different zip codes.  I remember being told by my flight commander that we were better off divorced, but we stuck through that.  We have stuck together through 13 PCS moves, 4 deployments (2 combat deployments), a child with autism, the death of his step-father, the death of my father, a grand total of 4 years of separation (not related to deployments), a child with significant developmental delays, and now cancer.

We are separated yet again…  But we are always and forever together.

Dear General…

This is an open letter to beg you to allow us to stay where we are living.  Last week, my husband, a school select for Air War College, found out that he was alternate this year on the school list.  Well, to the non-military reading this, you may ask, well, what the heck does that mean?  It means nothing, and it means everything.  Basically, if someone elects to retire, gets in trouble, or for some other reason not known to anyone, turns down school, my husband may go in their place.  It also means that we have no choice, say, or input on where my husband goes to school.  It means that if he is picked up for school, we will likely be separated for 10-12 months until my husband graduates from school, and gets a follow on assignment.  Since we have also been at this base for a longer than normal period of time (thanks to several doctors and extremely understanding commanders), we are also “hot” for a new assignment.

I understand that I’m just a military wife, and you probably think that I have little to no understanding of how the military works.  Here’s my background, I am a veteran.  I am also a mom to two children with different challenges.  My son has moderate autism, and my daughter is incredibly gifted (and is being evaluated for autism– on the higher end of the spectrum, or ADHD).  The last time we moved everything with my son went tragically wrong.  We essentially “lost” my son– he went from functioning at around a 5-6 year old child (he was 7) to functioning at the level of a 2-year-old.  He was abused at his public school, and wrote to everyone and their mother for help.  Help came a little bit too late, and it has take YEARS for him to return to where he was when we first came here.  He is just NOW catching up.  I know that most generals have children, I ask you to think about what you would do, and how you would feel if your child regressed at that rate.

We have fought and fought to get him where he is today.  If you request my husband to come work for you, thereby deny the reclama that his very understanding commander is about to fill out, and then force my family to move.  If my husband ends up going to school in 2017, it can be very bad for my son.  It takes a REALLY long time to set up services for an autistic child after a military PCS.  It takes equally as long for that child to develop a relationship with his therapists.  By moving us this summer, and with the increased likelihood that my husband will go to school in 2017, you will make him move twice in less than a year, or you will force us into a geo-bachelor situation.

I understand as a military wife, that there are separations.  That’s part of the life that I lead.  I don’t mind them when they become necessary.  I don’t mind the deployments.  I don’t mind the two week TDYs every month, and I have learned how to be a military wife, counselor, taxi cab, teacher, mother, father, and whatever other role I need to do, so that my children have the support that they need.  The separations that bother me, are the ones that are completely and totally preventable by taking a family’s situation into consideration when making decisions regarding one of the family member’s career.  This is one of those situations.  Many of the bases where the senior developmental schools are located are bases that my children and I cannot go to, because of EFMP limitations.

If we stay here, and he was sent to the school that is 3-4 hours away, my husband would be able to participate in my children’s lives.  My son has made amazing strides when by participating in weekend activities with typical children.  These activities are paramount to his continued development.  He will be in Boy Scouts next year (he is Arrow of Light right now), he also plays soccer in the fall for the VIP special education league, and baseball in the spring league for the VIP league.  While I can do soccer and baseball on my own, Boy Scouts will not only difficult, it will be impossible, and it would detrimental to my son’s development.  This is the ONLY activity were he is in contact with typical children– again this is PARAMOUNT to his continued development.  If my husband is far away, and cannot come home on the weekends, my son cannot participate in Boy Scouts.  While I can attend many of the weekend activities with him, women are not allowed on most of the camping trips.  He cannot progress in Boy Scouts, an activity he loves, and needs, without going on those camping trips.  There is no one else who can go with him.  My father passed away this past summer, and even if he was alive, his health is poor.  My father-in-law is unfortunately, untrustworthy, and will not attend camping with my son.  There are not many men in our lives that understands, or tolerates my son’s behavior.

I understand that the needs of the Air Force come before my needs, or my son’s needs, but I ask for compassion and understanding when it comes to making your decisions.  I ask that you please listen to my husband’s boss in this matter, and read this.  With raising rates of autism and ADHD among the military population, I am not the only parent facing this obstacle.  I also am aware that my husband has the option of turning down schooling all together, but I also know that by turning down school, he is putting future progression in the military at risk.  Recently, in SpouseBuzz there was an article that states that military families with special needs children tend to stay in the military as long as possible to take advantage of the premier health care.  We are one of those families.  We don’t want to do anything to jeopardize my husband’s ability to stay in the military beyond 20 years.

I know that this letter is a lot of rambling, and I hope you can understand why I am doing this.  Please don’t take it out on my husband, we don’t need a general inquiry, and please don’t have the Chief of Staff spouse call me (the last time I wrote a letter like this, I was told to shut up and color by the AF Chief of Staff’s spouse).  The way I look at it, my primary duty is to my children, and I will say and do what needs to be said and done to advocate for my children.  I see it as my duty to show you how much power you have over the outcome of my children.  I hope you see this as a means of educating you, and not something more.  Thank-you very much for your service to our country.

Sincerely,

Jodi

Day Five: The Perfect Day

I am weightless.  I float through my home uninhibited.  Each day I see the sun rise and set 16 times.  When I look beyond the Earth to dark sky, I see the universe completely different than I do when I am Earthbound.  I imagine that each speck of light is a planet, galaxy, or star in far off land.  I wonder if there is someone like me in a space station looking through a small window staring at the dots of light in their field of vision wondering who is looking back at them.  Every so often I see an identifiable planet.  The one that is most recognizable is Mars.  I think of a book I read recently, “The Martian,” and think to myself how much more I have in common with main character in the story than I do with most of my fellow Americans.  I feel more at home weightless and in space than I do on the ground.  Today, though, Venus is more visible today than any other planet.

I switch windows every so often and look down at Earth.  It looks so peaceful from up here.  At night, you can tell the developed countries from the undeveloped countries based on the twinkling lights of the cities.  There are no land boundaries, the only boundaries you see are land and sea.  You can’t see war, you can’t see poverty, you can’t even tell the race of any of the multitudes of people living on Earth from up here.  All you see is land.  You see the lush green of the forest, you see the white mountain tops, you see the vast oceans, and you see browns and greens of deserts and plains throughout the world.  At night, you can see the storm fronts that move across the United States by the lightening that flashes from above.  During hurricane season, you can see the frightening beauty of a storm.  You can see the slow shift of the clouds with every sunrise and every sunset.

Every so often we pass between the moon and Earth.  The sunlight reflects off the moon’s surface, and the view is phenomenal.  It is not like a full moon that you see on Earth.  Instead, I see the moon in all its phases multiple times each day.  I see the crevices and pot marks made by meteors.  I see the Sea of Tranquility as the moon rotates with the Earth.

From space you see how perfect the Universe is even though I know that it is utterly imperfect.  My perfect day is waking weightless in my temporary home.  Looking out through the tiny windows of the International Space Station, and observing the universe in all its perfection and glory.  My perfect day is the first day and the last day I spend up here, and the realization that comparatively speaking I am so small and the Universe is so large.  Even though each star I see in the sky appears to be a mere speck of burning gas and dust glowing in the night sky, it is far larger and more significant than I am.  While my life, the world, and everything else is imperfect on the surface; in space everything is perfect, peaceful, and real.

I am an astronaut, and this is my perfect day.

This is a short fictional piece.  I have never been in space.  The references to space are from various sources, but primarily from Kevin A. Ford.  I had the pleasure of meeting Colonel (ret) Ford in 2011 before his mission to space while he was visiting Wright Patterson AFB, OH.  After a day of briefings, and being escorted around by my husband, he stopped by my home for apple pie and ice cream.  It was humbling speaking to him, because he was the most down to Earth guy you could possibly meet.  In 2012 and 2013, Colonel Ford was the flight engineer on an STS mission to the International Space Station.  He has also flown the August 2009 mission on the Space Shuttle, and is one of the last space pioneers.

He smiled while my daughter asked countless 4-year-old questions, and my son with un-diagnosed Tourette’s yelled swear words.  I have met a few celebrities in my time, but this was one person that I was utterly star struck by.  He is probably the closest I’ll ever get to space.  I am writing a novel about a space traveler, who comes to Earth, and Colonel (ret) Ford is truly an inspiration and a hero to me.  To read more about Colonel Ford, and the rest of heroes at NASA visit: http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/

Source:  Colonel (ret) Kevin A. Ford, USAF/NASA, http://www.jsc.nasa.gov

Day Six: Tell a Short Story that Starts With a Ransom Note

Not All Airmen Are Wimps

Picture Courtesy of USAF Public Affairs

I am an USAF veteran, and a disabled veteran at that.  My disability rating occurred during a chemical accident that happened when I was active duty.  I make sure that every time I state this, I mention this very important caveat, as I hold combat veterans in very high regards.  When I go on veteran’s websites, I see the Air Force the butt of every other service joke.  The Air Force itself is called the Chair Force.  We build decent golf courses instead of barracks.  Our officers are Prima Donna’s, who zoom through the air in fancy air craft.  Our enlisted force is usually portrayed as large men, eating donuts, and complaining about the bike test (that went away nearly 12 years ago).  The Air Force is seen as the joke of the US military.

What people fail to mention are the heroes of our Air Force.  Our latest hero, A1C Spencer Stone from Oregon was on a high speed train, when he and three of his friends stopped a lone-wolf terrorist from massacring 500 fellow passengers.  Airman Stone sustained severe injuries to his hand, his back, and his neck.  When the news first broke, the press reported that it was three US service members, then it was three marines, and finally as the story is continuing to break it was one active duty service member– an airman, his two civilian friends, and a 60-something year old grandfather of two.  When the press hears of a military hero, it is the assumption that it’s not a marine.

The Air Force is full of heroes.  In 2003-2005, my husband was stationed as an ALO (Air Liaison Officer) in Germany.  He was deployed with the 1 ID during the height of the Iraq war.  While there, my husband used drone footage to find insurgents hiding in a building, there was nearly 1,000-person convoy returning to the FOB.  My husband called in an air strike, saving the regimen from the insurgents.  He earned a bronze star for his actions.  He doesn’t advertise that this had happened, he doesn’t talk about it much at all.  I found out about it after I was there when he got his medal, and they read what he had done.  Other airmen in his command did incredible things, especially during the siege of Fallujah.

Our airmen are strong, they are heroes, and they should not be seen as POGs.  Of all the services, the Air Force is one of the only service that allows women to participate in front line combat.  I have females friends, who I have known since I was in ROTC, who have flown missions along side men.  Not only are women leading the way in the military, we also have suffered some significant injuries.  One of my closest friends was in Iraq, helping fight fires after Saddam burned the oil fields.  She now suffers from brain injuries, and debilitating pain from her service in the military.

It’s time to recognize some of the heroes, and stop portraying the United States Air Force as donut-eating, chair-sitting, e-mail sending fliers, and start recognizing them as the heroes that they are.

Don’t Poke The Sleeping Lioness…

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I took my son to the doctor and had two very different and very frustrating encounters there.  The first was in the waiting room, and this is a message to those parents, who think that because their child is typical that any child who is not perfect needs to be quiet.  Teach your children that everyone is different.  Ryan has deemed the doctor’s office an appropriate place to let loose with every Tourette’s vocal tics known to man.  He says them loud and proud.  So we enter the doctor’s office, and I start filling out the paperwork, and he starts in on his tics.  A woman with three children walks in. I’m guessing they ranged in age from 12 months to 5 years.  The 5-year-old decided he didn’t like Ryan’s tics at all, and told his mom, “Can you make him shut up?”  So she smiles at her special little snowflake, and looks at me with eye brows raised expectantly.  OK, note to non-Tourette’s parents the more you try to shut up a kid with Tourette’s, the LOUDER they get.  I raised my eyes back at her, and shrugged my shoulders, and said, “I would if I could, but I can’t, so you and your kid are going to have to have to deal with him.”  She huffed and complained of a headache, and I thought to myself, the world stops because you have a head ache.  You poor deluded young woman.  Sorry sweetheart, I wish I could help.  Take a Tylenol, pull up your big girl panties and deal with it.  Now, lovely readers, please note, this is a pediatrics office, it is not a 5-star restaurant or a store or any place where children are not allowed or frowned upon.  If it were anyone of those locations, I would happily remove my son, and attempt to make him quiet, but there are some places where he needs to feel safe to tic.  He gets nervous at the doctor, nerves make him tic more, so I allow him to vocalize.

Part two of my frustration is with the medical system in general.  I go in with my medical form, and I ask for a new medical waiver for immunizations.  Let me start by saying this– under absolutely NO circumstances am I stating that I believe that autism is caused by immunizations, so don’t even go there.  I actually believe that autism causes immunological reactions to vaccines– there I said it.  My son had TWO severe reactions to vaccines (because I didn’t learn the first time).  His first reaction was brain swelling, encephalitis, which is the reason we suspect he has epilepsy among other lovely disorders.  The second reaction was an allergic reaction– he swelled, and not just at the injection site, but his entire body was covered in welts, he was so swollen he had difficulty breathing.  The doctor told me that I would have to get a philosophical waiver, as those reactions are considered NORMAL.  Yes, you read that correctly– encephalitis and body swelling with welts all over is a normal reaction to shots.  Oh and I can easily get a philosophical waiver when I go to the health department.  I just need to lie through my teeth about my religion and the fact that my daughter is fully immunized.  And what happens when we move again, because by God, we are military and we will move again.  Well, not their problem, I should just suck it up and get the shots, as brain swelling is a normal reaction to shots…

Some day, some one is going to poke this lioness a little bit too hard, and I’m going to go batshit cray cray on someone, but until then…