Help for Nick and Jeanine Fundraising Campaign

On Friday the 12th, I wrote THIS post about how my father-in-law, Nick, suffered a massive heart attack.

It is an absolute miracle that he survived; however, very soon he will be having double bypass surgery, and with each passing day, the medical bills are mounting.  Nick also will be on unpaid leave from work starting next week.  My husband Mark and his twin brother Matt are determined to eliminate a financial crisis, which is inevitable without immediate action.

Please visit the link below to donate and spread the word!  Nick and Jeanine have been two pillars of support for Mark and Matt in all their endeavors, especially with their military careers and deployments.  It is now time to take action and help them out!

https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/rfq2/help-for-nick-and-jeanine

We also have a Facebook campaign page: https://www.facebook.com/HelpForNickAndJeanine

Thank you SO MUCH for your prayers and support!

ETA: July 19, 2013

Please click on this link to download our official flyer!  Feel free to distribute via e-mail or to print and distribute!  Thank you again for your support: Nick Mayor Benefit Fund.

~Malori~

~Mark~

~Matt~

Nick in the ICU this week and Nick just a couple weeks ago, when he and Jeanine were interviewed on Fox 6 News (Milwaukee)

Nick in the ICU this week and Nick just a couple weeks ago, when he and Jeanine were interviewed on Fox 6 News (Milwaukee)

Prayers For My Father-in-Law

I was planning on writing a completely different post for today, but I am going to put that off until next week.

For those of you who are believers, please offer up a prayer for Mark’s dad, Nick.  This afternoon, he had a serious heart attack.  He was working out at the gym when he collapsed and passed out.  It was a blessing he was in a public place – he needed a defibrillator right away because his heart had stopped, and then he was rushed to the hospital.  A stent was put in, but he is still in critical condition in the ICU.

This has been one doozy of a week.  As we military folk know, summer is the most violent time in Afghanistan, so it hasn’t exactly been Disneyland over there.  Calling Mark and telling him the news that his dad had experienced a heart attack was tough, but I’m thankful that he and his brother are there together.  It is extremely hard when something bad happens to a family member and relatives are spread out literally around the world…not to mention being in a combat zone!

This isn’t the most eloquent piece I’ve written, but I wanted to get the word out to my readers.  Thank you in advance for all your prayers and well wishes.  It is our faith and others’ support that holds us up in the rough times.  We appreciate you so very much and I am hoping to post positive recovery updates soon.

~Malori~

About one year ago when the twins visited home for Independence Day

About one year ago when the twins visited home for Independence Day

Deployment and Independence Day

Frisco Square flagsMark and I have never celebrated Independence Day together in person.  Each year we’ve known each other, he has traveled home to Wisconsin, to visit his parents and twin brother.  Because of the cost and lack of adequate vacation time, I never joined him.  So not being together on such an important holiday is normal…

…except that this time it’s because he’s in Afghanistan.

One can imagine my excitement about getting to Skype with him on the 4th of July!  It was the first time I was able to SEE him since he left, and I seriously believe that video chat is the most blessed technological invention ever.  That evening, I attended the FC Dallas soccer game for free, thanks to the DFW Military Wives, Fiances, and Girlfriends Meetup group.  But who knew that a soccer game could be so emotional.

At halftime, The American Fallen Soldiers Project honored one of our fallen heroes by unveiling a drawn portrait of him and presenting it to his family.  While they and a small group of uniformed soldiers were gathered on the field, a bagpiper played Amazing Grace as a slideshow played on the big screens.  I did not know this family, but I had a really hard time keeping it together.  I met up with Tara Crooks from the Army Wife Network during the fireworks show, and she expressed the same sentiment.

Since Mark’s first deployment and then working through post-combat issues, I’ve become a little more hardened, a little less emotional, and I don’t easily cry anymore.  However, when it comes to patriotism and our troops, events like these hit close to home.  Before I met Mark, I considered myself patriotic and thought I knew what patriotism meant.  But now, I am able to experience a deep love and pride that I never knew before.  I’m also able to appreciate more deeply the freedoms that our soldiers defend…because I have seen what Mark has sacrificed and is willing to give.

Before the game, I sat in Frisco Square eating some delicious barbeque.  (And yes, I made a point of patronizing the food stand that displayed a “Support Our Troops” sign!)  I asked a lady sitting next to me if she could take my picture, because “I’m here by myself.”  She asked why, and I proceeded to tell her about Mark.  She was genuinely interested and asked pointed questions about what it’s like in Afghanistan.  I gave her honest answers, according to what Mark has told me, and she was intrigued by stories from the frontlines.  Everyone is war weary and it’s too easy to tune out reality, especially if you’re a non-military family.  But the truth is, civilians want to hear about our soldiers, no matter the politics surrounding war.  They want to put real-life faces to what is happening, and I know this lady truly cared.

Patriotism and supporting our troops is so much more than flying our flag or slapping a yellow ribbon magnet on our cars.  It means actually becoming invested in what our military does for our country.  It means gathering as fellow Americans to recognize those who have given the ultimate sacrifice and those who are currently willing to give all.  I witnessed that in my hometown last week, and I am proud and thankful to live in such a supportive, patriotic community. ~Malori~

Sitting in Square

Eating some brisket BBQ in Frisco Square

Great view from the beer garden of the FC Dallas soccer game!

Great view from the beer garden of the FC Dallas soccer game!

Follow Blue Star Families on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ and build a support network so you can keep your family and personal community strong throughout the duration of the entire deployment life cycle.

Please click HERE to read my disclosure statement, in compliance with FTC guidelines.

Military Mondays: An Interview with Marshele Carter Waddell

In the final installation of my PTSD Awareness Month series, I wrote about the book Wounded Warrior, Wounded Home by Marshele Carter Waddell (co-authored by Dr. Kelly Orr).  I e-mailed Marshele, told her my and Mark’s story, and asked if I could interview her.  I was thrilled when she said yes, and I hope that her words offer just as much help and comfort to you as they did for me.  Thank you, Marshele, for sharing your heart!

~Malori~

Marshele headshotWhen did you and your husband Mark begin your journey in the world of PTSD/TBI?

When my U.S. Navy SEAL husband returned from Iraq with only a broken leg, I praised God that he was home safe and sound. In the months that followed his homecoming, I sensed that his leg was the least of our concerns. Although he was recovering physically, his soul still walked with a limp. His unseen wounds, caused by war zone experiences, went unmentioned, unnoticed and untreated. Slowly but surely, these invisible injuries infected our marriage, our children and our family life.  He was home with us in body; but, in his spirit a war still raged. From irritability and irrationality to nightmares and emotional paralysis, it became very clear to me that my veteran husband was suffering from post-traumatic stress. For two years my husband denied any need for help and unintentionally led our family into a land of silent suffering.

For more than two decades, our marriage had survived everything that a special operations career could throw at us: frequent deployments, long separations for training and real world conflicts, serious injuries and surgeries as well as multiple overseas family moves. The stress of my husband’s job was nothing new for either of us. That may explain why my husband’s frustrations and underlying anxieties caused me no new concerns at first. It was “all systems normal” and “steady as she goes,” or so I thought.  Hope for the Home Front: Winning the Emotional and Spiritual Battles of a Military Wife and its companion Bible study were penned before I knew anything about the beast that would raise its ugly head when Mark returned from the frontlines. Military Life 101 was cakewalk compared to the challenges that came home in Mark’s mental rucksack. Our “normal” defined our life and activity. We were living it; but, we didn’t understand it.  Mysteries rarely make formal introductions, but move in uninvited and we live among them sightless for a time.

When was the turning point?  Or are there several, continuous turning points?

Night and day, the invisible wounds continued to whisper. After several more combat deployments, my husband’s wounds were hemorrhaging and demanding to be seen, heard, tasted, touched and treated. Medical evaluations and government assessments diagnosed Mark with chronic and severe PTSD.  A couple years later, neurologists, psychiatrists, and brain scans confirmed that Mark had incurred multiple and extensive traumatic brain injuries from his combat service. In some respects, it helped to know what we were dealing with as a couple and as a family.  Finding the name for a cluster of disturbing symptoms, whether it’s a dry cough or deadly cancer, is always a relief of sorts to the one who suffers and for his closest family and friends. It gives us an initial fresh dose of hope that we can find a way to make things better. Yet, the bittersweet comfort of the diagnosis is short-lived because as an individual, as a couple and as a family, we were still faced with PTSD…the Pain of The Shattered Dream.

How does one honestly acknowledge the seriousness of the PTSD/TBI problem, yet not wallow in self-pity and despair?

Encountering self-pity and despair is going to happen.  However, wallowing in it is only one option.  I have had to learn to bracket these very normal emotions and to give them reasonable deadlines.  We all need to feel what we are feeling.   But we must make a choice how long we will stay stuck there.  I have found that finding and connecting with others on similar journeys and continuing to learn as much as I can about the two conditions give me hope and strength one day at a time.  Yet, when friends cannot be found and information rings hollow, my faith in God and His promises to us has been my trustworthy anchor through all of this.

What should a wife do if her husband with PTSD/TBI refuses to get help, or if he doesn’t think anything is wrong?

I encourage every woman I meet to seek professional counseling for herself whether her husband does or not.  In most cases, it is the woman in the life of the veteran—wife, mother, sister, daughter—who seeks help first. Statistics have shown that nearly 80% of all veterans who seek help did so because a woman in their lives cared enough about herself and her veteran and her family to seek help and information and resources first and knew where to refer her veteran when he/she was ready for help.

At 41 years old, I walked into my first counseling session not sure what I would find, a bit embarrassed to have sunk so low that I needed mental health care, but desperate for any morsel of help.

I had dreaded the exhausting process of bringing a total stranger up to speed on my life. We were years deep into this mess.  We had wandered so long inside this maze, I was convinced no one could ever find us. Yet, somehow I knew that if I didn’t allow the wounds to be reopened, irrigated, scraped and allowed to regenerate new life that the injuries would turn gangrenous and we’d be done.

What are the five stages of grief and why do spouses experience these when dealing with PTSD/TBI?

When a veteran suffers from posttraumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, every member of his/her immediate family experiences the effects and, in many cases, suffers what is known as secondary acute stress. This secondary traumatic stress resembles the universal and potentially complicated process of grief. Spouses, parents and children of warriors pass through phases of shock and confusion, hurt, anger, guilt, fatigue, fear, and finally, acceptance.

Even with faith, courage and the discernment to apply God’s promises to a very dark situation, the results of war can be emotionally scarred homes, major depression, addictive behavior, substance abuse, divorce or suicide. However, with the right guidance, professional counseling and resources, informed community and church support, these same individuals and families can find hope, healing and wholeness.

What are some simple ways a wife can encourage her husband on the road to healing?

First, be patient with him and with yourself.  His road to healing and your road to healing are going to look somewhat different.  Accept the fact that you are living in a very stressful situation.  Just accept that.  Then, realize that you cannot fix him or heal him.  That’s not your role.  Your priority has to be taking care of yourself in the process and learning as much as you can about PTSD and TBI and where the reliable resources are.  This information not only gives you hope, but equips you to respond in challenging situations in healthier ways.   Wounded Warrior, Wounded Home, the new book that I coauthored with Dr. Kelly Orr, is focused on how family members can and should take care of themselves on this journey.

What can we do, as wives of wounded warriors, to make sure we are healthy, too?

CLING

Confusion, relentless anger, false guilt, endless exhaustion, and disabling depression did not add up to the life I believed God intended for us as His children. My fears conflicted with my faith. And though smaller than the tiniest mustard seed, my faith began to speak to the mountain standing in our way. These are the five steps I took and still take to create an environment of healing for myself.

C – Connect with your Creator, your close friends, your community ministries, and your counselor.

L – Lean into the Lord as you learn all you can.

I – Intercede and get intercession.

N – Nourish your body, mind and spirit.

G – Give back; get involved.

I invite you to learn more about each step in this “recipe for resilience” in Wounded Warrior, Wounded Home, chapter 7.

If there is no “cure” for PTSD or TBI, what is our end goal?  Is healing a life-long journey?

Most “experts” would tell you to accept your new normal.  Allow me to share how I feel about that term.  Here is an excerpt from a blog post I wrote recently:

Can we dump the term “New Normal?”  Is there anyone else out there who dislikes that expression as much as I do?  Can we just click and drag it to the trash bin right now?

The “new normal” is the convenient catch phrase that so many folks use to refer to the rearranged life you have to keep waking up to and wading through after something uninvited and painful decimates your dreams.  It’s much more than the frustration of not being able to fit into your size 8 jeans anymore.  It’s more than the the myriad of minor adjustments and recalibrations that the seasons of life demand of us.   John Mellencamp nails it, “…life goes on long after the thrill of living is gone.”  For some the uninvited guest who rudely rearranges your stuff is a serious illness or a divorce. For others it’s a hurricane, a flood or a fire.  For others it’s a tragic accident.  And for still others, it’s the aftermath of combat.

I’m here to tell you right now that there is nothing normal about life after trauma. Nothing.  There is not one thread of “normal” in the tapestry you’ve worked your entire life to weave that now hangs in shredded ribbons and rags.  There is not one glimmer of “normal” seen through the shattered lens you once used to view life, love, and faith. 

I know, you’re right.  I’ve written entire chapters in more than one book on the New Normal.  I’ve stood at podiums across the country and preached the New Normal in my sincere attempt to encourage you to accept graciously what life has dealt you.  But, honestly, I can’t live with the term anymore.  Will you forgive me?  Can we expunge this from our lingo?  It doesn’t work.  It doesn’t fit.  It just doesn’t reflect the truth of what life is after trauma. 

My question to you is this:  can we reject the misnomer and continue to embrace faith, hope and love in a messy life redefined by what onlookers may call an unhappy ending to a story that started off so well?  I say yes. 

Here’s an idea:  let’s give the New Normal a taste of its own medicine.  Let’s give the New Normal a new normal.  I suggest that we divorce ourselves from this wrong way of defining life after trauma and adopt a better term: Pressing On.

I can’t take credit for this better concept. The Apostle Paul coined it nearly two millennia ago when he wrote, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 NASB) 

Eugene Peterson nails it even better than Mellencamp in The Message:  “I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”

The next time you hear or read the term “New Normal,” I challenge you to replace it with “Pressing On,” and then to remind your heart of Paul’s words in Philippians 3:13-14.  It rings true.  It encourages me to keep waking up and to keep looking up.  I’d much rather press on toward the good goals God has for me than to be sadly resigned to an unhappy ending.   

Goodbye, New Normal.  Not so nice knowin’ ya.  Hello, Pressing On.  Ah, isn’t that a better fit? 

 

In closing:

Earlier this year, Hope for the Home Front launched “Hope for the Heart” online community support groups.  In just a few months, we’ve tripled the number of groups available!  You can learn more by visiting our web site, www.hopeforthehomefront.com or our Facebook page, or by sending an email to info@hopeforthehomefront.com.  These groups are private, closed communities and are a safe place for any woman connected to the life and service of a combat veteran of any U.S. conflict.

Ways to find out more about Marshele and her ministry:

When War Comes Home, Don’t Retreat

Hope for the Homefront Facebook page

Purchase Marshele’s books at http://www.hopeforthehomefront.com/store/

  • Wounded Warrior, Wounded Home (co-authored with Dr. Kelly Orr)
  • When War Comes Home: Christ-Centered Healing for Wives of Combat Veterans (co-authored with Chris and Rahnella Adsit)
  • Hope for the Home Front

(Almost) Wordless Wednesdays: Independence Day in Afghanistan

Ind. Day Collage 2013

Since it’s July 4th in Afghanistan as I write this (11:16PM Central on July 3rd), I wanted to tell Mark and Matt THANK YOU for serving our country on this Independence Day!  I am so proud of you guys.  Stay safe – I know you’ve got each other’s 6.

~Malori~

Blue Star Families: Everyone Serves Blog Series Premiere

Blue Star Sticker-Intro

Welcome to the Blue Star Families deployment series!  Every week for the next five months, I and four other military spouse bloggers will be writing about our experiences with the deployment process in conjunction with the e-book Everyone Serves.  I’d first like to give a huge thank you to BSF for accepting me as a blogger and to my Army Wife Network colleagues for letting me know about this opportunity!  I’d also like to give a shout-out to the other military wives participating in this series: Jennifer, Jacey, Julie, and Reda.  Please check out their bios HERE!

Until a few years ago, I never thought I’d be an Army wife.  The military just wasn’t something familiar to me.  I was born and raised near Dallas, was homeschooled until college, and had a serious relationship with my violin, which I’ve played since three years of age.  The violin was my childhood passion, so I made the decision to pursue a degree in violin performance.  I graduated from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in 2009, returning to Texas because I got a desk job.  I got into a normal routine: working at the office, exercising (sometimes), paying my student loans on time, spending time with family and friends, reading, being a news junkie.  I was comfortable and settled….

…until I was introduced to the military.  Mark and I met online in March 2010, and a few weeks later, we met in person for a date.  He drove three hours to meet me, and that in itself was impressive!  However, I also was impressed by his intellect, his passion for our common beliefs, and his dedication to his job as an Army officer.  (Oh yes, small detail – his looks were quite striking as well!)  That first date led to many more, and a few months later, we knew that we had met “the one.”  We were engaged in December 2010, and this month (June 2013) we tied the knot at the courthouse.  Upon his return from deployment, we will have our church wedding and then ride happily into the sunset.

But, as we all know, military life is never that easy.  Deployment inevitably returns.  Lives are in danger.  Stress is a daily visitor.  The word “Afghanistan” pops out in the news like a neon sign.  But yet, we continue to live this life – not just in survival mode, but in thriving mode.  From the beginning of my military journey with Mark, I looked upon it as the biggest adventure of my life, as a unique opportunity to rise to its challenges.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve experienced moments of feeling completely overwhelmed – but at some point, there is a chance to coast down the other side of the mountain.

This, our second deployment, has just begun – and I have to say that saying goodbye the second time around is much harder than the first.  But what is exciting to me is this: I also have the chance to share my experiences so that others won’t feel alone in the tough times.  I have an opportunity to serve my country and fellow military spouses by opening up my heart through the passion I have for writing.  For that, I am truly honored and grateful.

~Malori~

Follow Blue Star Families on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ and build a support network so you can keep your family and personal community strong throughout the duration of the entire deployment life cycle.

Please click HERE to read my disclosure statement, in compliance with FTC guidelines.

The Beginning of Our Second Deployment Journey

Deployment Photo Edited*Per OPSEC requirements, he did not leave today.  This post was inspired by what I wrote in my journal on the actual deployment day, which will remain unknown to the general public.*

Today, Mark left for his second deployment to Afghanistan.  It’s hard to believe.  While the feelings are familiar, they are harder the second time – because you know EXACTLY how they are going to feel.  You anticipate them, but then feel knocked down anyway.  You blame yourself for feeling sad and emotional, because you did know what was coming.  Couldn’t you have then prepared yourself properly?  Couldn’t you have successfully guarded yourself against those “wimpy” emotions?  What did I do wrong to feel this way…again?

I found myself tearing up easier this time, and I was tempted to not fight them as I’d done before.  He was also more gruff than the first time.  We had a smattering of lighthearted moments, but for the most part, things were serious.

After dropping off his bags on post and closing out his apartment, we went back on post to the brigade headquarters.  Others were already there, and it was more fragmented than I had imagined.  For the first deployment, there were only about 25 soldiers leaving, and we were all gathered in the same place.  It felt more family-like.  But this time, groups of families and friends just stood by their cars throughout the parking lot, and some even said goodbye right away.

I waited by my car while Mark got issued his weapon, which took about 30 minutes.  I had the irrational fear that he wouldn’t be allowed back at the car, without having a goodbye, and I was so glad to see him walking back.  He messed around with his weapon and we took a few pictures, but mostly we were distant.  However, I was able to draw him close as I read Psalm 91 aloud, my right arm holding him to my side.  It was a tender moment and important to me that we prayed “the soldier’s Psalm,” but it took ALL my strength to keep my voice steady.

He hung out at the car for about 20 minutes, and then he said he needed to go.  It was still about half an hour before they were going to make all the families leave, and I felt a little upset that I was being told to go earlier.  But I knew it would make things harder for both of us if I protested, so after he put on his backpack, I hugged him tightly.  I said, “You be safe over there,” which he brushed off by saying, “I’ll be FINE.”  We kissed, I hugged him again, we said “I love you,” and I tried to hang on for just a few more seconds…but he firmly pulled away and picked up his weapon.

“All right, gotta go,” he said sternly, and began walking away.

“Call when you can!” I said after him, my voice starting to wobble.

He looked back and raised his hand in acknowledgement as he marched on.  Battling tears, I got in my car and happened to catch a couple more glimpses of him as I drove away.

And with that, he was gone.  Our second deployment had begun.

~Malori~

How does your first deployment goodbye compare to your second, or third…or fourth?  *Hugs* to all of you going through deployment right now, too.  We are all in this together!