Saturday, July 30, 2011

Summer Storms

In El Paso it is on a very rare occasion that we see rain clouds and have storms rolling in. However, it never fails that once we reach the mid to late summer season, we see some isolated storms come through this city that we live in. They say the sun shines on average 302 days a year here, which would be the reason behind us being referred to as the Sun City.

When the storms came through during the first few days of this week, the kids became frightened by the sound of the rumbling thunder. To me, I saw no big deal in it and opened all windows and doors, allowing the wind to blow through the house and to let the smell of rain take over. Then it hit me, the kids are not use to the east coast storms like I am. They have never known it to really storm.

Of course, after all the storms and rain that has come through every evening and night, not only have the kids found it entertaining to run outside and splash in puddles, Kevin and I have had a blast taking the XTerra out on some easy riding trails just to ride through the water. Nicholas has now discovered that he can make some mad puddles in the backyard with the water hose... Needless to say, we have caught him "wheeling" while on his bike! I guess the genes run through thick in him with a mom and dad that love to get out in the muddy puddles with 4 wheeler's and big trucks!!!

The last photo is the one that stands out to us the most. While we were out driving, we noticed the storm had a very red tint to it. It was very odd and of course we had to take pics!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Falling in Love All Over Again

After three hours of Kevin being in the OR and me being on the verge of a breakdown because the procedure that was only supposed to last a little over an hour ended up being over three hours. Panic was beginning to set in to the point I had to ask the Red Cross Volunteer woman if she could find out what was going on with my husband. Of course, she went to the OR area to check the status of his procedure and find out what was taking so long. She was only away from a few minutes and came back with the news that they were in the process of transferring him from the OR to the recovery area and that his doctor would be visiting with me within moments.

Not long after the conversation with this sweet lady, Kevin's neurosurgeon came in to get me and Nicholas. As we were walking to the recovery area, Dr. Caram explained all that had taken place and why it had taken double to time. Once he had made the incision and was in the neck area, he was able to see the extent of the damages. He was able to see that the MRI did not show how horrible things really were and what had been done to Kevin after being hit with so many IED's. Kevin has severe arthritis and bone spurs in his neck as well as the bones crushing down on his neck. There was a lot of drilling and moving around in order to replace a disc and perform a fusion. He had bones pressing down on the nerves that was causing a constant pain in his neck, shoulders, and stabbing headaches. 

As we approached the recovery area, I saw my husband lying in the bed not even knowing who he was or where he was at that moment. I saw a side of him that I had never seen, even after he had his arm surgeries he wasn't as bad. He kept lifting his arms and placing his hands against his heads in hopes of trying to ease the pain. The good sign that I immediately picked up on was that my husband was lifting his arms again with no problem. But, to see him in that amount of pain I felt my heart just ache. For about an hour they kept pushing the pain meds through him in hopes to alleviate some of the pain. I felt helpless seeing him this way. Yet, he kept grabbing onto me and keeping me as close to him as he could.

About an hour after being in the recovery area, we were taken a few floors up to a room that he would be staying the night in. During the few hours that I was able to stay with him, Kevin kept me laying beside him, holding me close, which Nic played on my phone or watched a movie. I felt like at some points I was Kev's crutch as he tried to hard to not let me see the pain he was in. I don't think he realized that it all showed through just by looking at his eyes. Through this time, Kev kept telling me how much he loves me and yet, I still felt helpless because I couldn't just make him feel better.

During this time, I felt my heart break into a million pieces as I watched the battles, yet at the same time I felt my heart swell with pride knowing what all he has done and been through. I caught myself on multiple moments after he pulled me beside him to lay with him on his bed, tearing up and trying my hardest not to shed even a single tear. I mean, how do you explain to someone fresh out of surgery the thoughts that were going through my mind. Everything from the past two deployments and his injuries became raw and fresh to me all over again. My husband has honestly lived through the true hell of combat. He has done, seen, witnessed what we all fear or worse, what we all imagine the most difficult situations to be in war. He pulled convoy security, he did the recovery missions, he was involved in multiple firefights. He's lived the true hell of war.

For the first time since his return in 2007 and again in 2009, everything truly hit me. It all came falling down on me like a pile of bricks. When I returned home that evening, the tears just poured. I often hear many wives mad and yelling at the world because their spouse is no longer the person that they sent off to war. I know this is true.... Yet, how can one find so much anger in this situation. All I could think was, my husband came home. Even if he has severe problems with PTSD, TBI, sleep apnea, skin cancer, and everything else that has come out of the deployments, we can work through it all. He's home with me and our kids and he is alive. There were so many times over there when things could have gone differently. I could have been one of the many that had to live through the feared and dreaded speech of "On behalf of the United States Army, we regret to inform you...", yet I wasn't. I didn't have to explain to our children that their daddy wasn't coming home. I haven't had to rebuild my life, alone, while daily just trying to keep it together because my spouse didn't come home physically.

So, here I am, lucky and relieved because I can lay my head down every night with Kevin beside me. As I write this, I feel selfish and in pain because I know how many others there are that are no longer able to experience this any longer. In the end, regardless of what war has brought to my house, I no longer have doubts, fears, or worries that we not overcome everything. Sure, life and marriage won't always be easy, nor do I expect it to be. However, something during the recovery period following Kev's surgery hit me hard and I found myself falling in love all over again with this man that I met years ago and have been blessed to share my life with. War changes people, but it's what you make of it in the end and the determination a spouse and veteran have to make things work. I welcome the new changes that lie ahead, including the challenges that come after combat.  Kevin will never be the same mentally or physically again as he was before he ever deployed, yet he will always be the man I love and continue sharing my life with. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fun in the Hot July Sun

A couple weeks ago the kids headed to the backyard to play and run around in the nice weather we were having. They asked us if they could play in the sprinklers we bought them last year. They never even made it to the point of hooking everything up, when Nic decided to grab the water hose and start a battle in attempt to soak the girls. As soon as this started, Caitlin of course took off running and Bre managed to get herself cornered at the back wall with a teal plastic container lid as her human shield. 

Her "shield" didn't work as she hoped, which of course turned a battle into a war! Breanna somehow managed to snag the water hose from Nicholas, who was able to get a grip back on it and around in circles these two ran. It didn't take too terribly long before Breanna managed to have Nicholas soaking wet. Even with his enjoyment and laughter in full swing, this brought on a war between these two. The fought back and forth over the water hose, laughing the entire time! 

Their laughter just makes my heart melt.....

Oh, and the grass looks absolutely amazing and so much better now!!!! :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Kevin's Spinal Surgery Update

As most of you know, on Wednesday at 5:20 in the morning, we had to report to William Beaumont Army Medical Center for Kev's spinal surgery. This procedure consisted of a disc replacement in C5-6 and a fusion at C6-7.

Of course Tuesday night went by with very limited sleep and Wednesday morning came way too early! We did manage to make it to the hospital on time, even with Nicholas not wanting to wake up and get going. Surprisingly, they allowed Nic and I to go everywhere along side Kevin with of course the exception of the OR. Around 7:40 and the meetings with the surgical team, we were told to head to the waiting room and that the surgery would last a little under two hours. Needless to say, it lasted a little over three hours! Nic and I grabbed a cinnamon roll from the cart a few floors down, as well as a drink, then settled in the waiting room for a few hours. Nicholas made friends with anyone around us, he played with his cars and dinosaurs, watched a movie, colored in his books, and even had a nice woman next to us read a story to him. When we reached the three hour point of Kevin being in surgery, I started to get worried and nervous...only to find out that he was just being rolled into the recovery area at that point.

The Neurosurgeon arrived in the waiting room right around the three and a half hour mark of Kevin going back. At that point he explained that the surgery was a lot more complex than expected due to the bone spurs, arthritis, and bones crushing Kev's nerves. He explained that the MRI did not even come close to showing the extent of the damages and injuries. Needless to say, we are both very pleased with this doctor and very happy that he went ahead with the surgery in place of Kevin waiting for after we moved.

Dr. Caram (the neurosurgeon) made the incision in the front right portion of Kev's neck and went through the side wall to reach the discs. At this point there were findings of severe cervical spondylosis (degenerative osteoarthritis of the joints between the spinal vertebrae ~ degenerative disc disease) at his C5-6 and C6-7. Dr. Caram had to do a good amount of drilling during this procedure. As I stated in the beginning, his C5-6 was a disc replacement and C6-7 ended up being a fusion. Dr. Caram also explained that the discs were pressing down and crushing Kev's nerves, which in return was also causing a lot of the pain.

Dr. Caram explained to us that after the surgery and once Kevin starts to feel somewhat better, he needs to use his neck muscles in exercises that have him looking up, down, left, and right because certain neck muscles have been "lost" due to not using them. He now has to strengthen them all.

Before the surgery, Kevin would sporadically get stabbing headaches and neck pains, there was a grinding feeling when he would look left, right, up, or down. His back was beginning to show somewhat of a hunch and to lift his arms in an upward position would be painful throughout the shoulder area. Following the surgery, the shoulder pain was minimized and so far he has not grabbed his head from the stabbing headaches. Now, when he looks to the left or right, he no longer has the grinding pain and just has the surgical pain. Kev is still real sore and the pain is noticeable at times, but overall, the improvements are already showing through! He is very glad it is over and very excited to get through this recovery process so that he can feel all the improvements.

For those of you who may not know much about the incidents that led to this surgery, let me tell you. In 2006-2007 while in Iraq, Kevin came in close contact with many IED's, VBED's, mortars, RPG's, and was involved in numerous fire fights. The same thing in 2009, just not as severe. During one mission in 2007 an IED was activated right beside the truck Kevin was gunning in and he was thrown from the turret. This incident  left him with a gash on the front upper part of his head, bleeding everywhere,  briefly unconscious, broken elbow, hurt back and neck, and nerve damage throughout his arms. Following these injuries, he was put back on missions a couple days later and kept pushing through. When he redeployed home months later, I could instantly see the differences in him physically. He was not able to move as he did before and he was always in pain. He could no longer pick up heavy objects as before he deployed to Mosul, Iraq. As time crept by, he became worse. Even though the physical struggles became more challenging as the days went by, he still kept pushing through and even deployed again 17 months later. In 2009 he was in Iraq for about 8 months when they medically sent him home on R&R. At this point, he had become so much worse. He was unable to open things, such as water and gatorade bottles. His hands had quit working and he was partially paralyzed. Kevin could no longer hold nor fire his weapon and had lost feeling in both hands. Upon his return he had to undergo a surgery in each arm called a Ulnar Nerve Transition. Within time, the feeling and movement came back in his hands and arms. His left hand is much better today, but he still cannot fully extend his right hand open. His pinky and ring finger do not open all the way. He also has a lot of tingling throughout this area and the feeling has not even returned half way. After trying physical therapy and injections in his back and neck, the surgeon decided it was best to go ahead with the disc replacement and fusion. Kevin still has bone spurs, crushed vertebrae, arthritis, and degenerative disc disease throughout his back. However, this surgery should help him out tremendously!

As always, please keep our family in your prayers when it comes to our health obstacles!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

I'm Almost Back

What a chaotic month this past month or so has been for my family! First, I had spinal surgery on June 18 which kept me down for awhile. I am still trying to recover as I write this, but am much better than I was. The pain is still there and it still hurts to sit, but it could be worse!

Kevin had to undergo a disc replacement on his C5-6 and a fusion on C6-7 this past Wednesday morning (July 20). He had to stay over night at Beaumont and is home now, recovering. He is already able to tell and feel a difference and improvements, which is absolutely amazing! We cannot wait to see what the full recovery brings to him! Kev is still in a fair amount of pain and very sore, but is on his road to feeling better in that area of his neck and shoulders. I will post again at some point this weekend of the details of his surgery and why it was done, just as I will update with many photos that I have hidden away to share!

Hopefully in the next week or two, I will be back to updating on here. Thank you so much to everyone that prayed and to all that called/messaged me to check on him and me over the past six weeks! We appreciate and love you all!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Today's Boredom Produced....

More collages from photos since the first of this year.....

Enjoy! Click on to enlarge!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Blogger Buddies, Lend me a Hand!

Fellow Blogger Buddies:
Please help me spread the word on this contest and help place first! Placing first will allow us to help spread more awareness and education to and for our Combat Vets and their families that face life with PTSD and TBI as well as other factors after war!

As you all know, I am on the Board of Directors for an awesome nonprofit organization,

Discover is currently holding a contest, Vote for you favorite card design to support Operation Homefront. What better way for to get involved and to raise more awareness for PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and TBI (traumatic brain injury)? We have our design out and have entered this contest that you can vote on from now through July 15 and the best part is you can vote daily for our design! Our founder, Brannan Vines, has entered the contest in her name because we can't currently enter as an organization. As you all know, we are a nonprofit organization reaching out to Combat Vets and their families all over the world! If we wing, we will get $5,000 to help continue our work and spread the word about PTSD and TBI! So, come vote for us and help us take this to first place!

Also, you can join our event on!

Our website:

Come "like" us on facebook:

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Vote for FOV in the Discover Design Contest

As you all know, I am on the Board of Directors for an awesome nonprofit organization,

Discover is currently holding a contest, Vote for you favorite card design to support Operation Homefront. What better way for to get involved and to raise more awareness for PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and TBI (traumatic brain injury)? We have our design out and have entered this contest that you can vote on from now through July 15 and the best part is you can vote daily for our design! Our founder, Brannan Vines, has entered the contest in her name because we can't currently enter as an organization. As you all know, we are a nonprofit organization reaching out to Combat Vets and their families all over the world! If we wing, we will get $5,000 to help continue our work and spread the word about PTSD and TBI! So, come vote for us and help us take this to first place!

Also, you can join our event on!

Our website:

Come "like" us on facebook:

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sisterly Love, Sisterly Hugs, & Blanket Buckle Up

There was one day last week that our daughters would not stop fighting, Kevin was at work, I was recovering from surgery, Nic was napping, and I was at the breaking point of losing my mind with the fighting. See, the recovery following the surgical procedure I went through is more painful than I ever thought and also takes a lot more our of me than anticipated, so it was quite difficult last week being on my own with the kids while Kevin was at work. Mainly because getting up and down is a lot harder than one imagines and sitting the proper was is close to impossible. During the battles of the Biddle girls, I decided to make them stand by the front door and hug each other. Yes, they had to hug one another and do it in a true loving manner. That took quite a few minutes to get right for the two of them because Breanna was not seeing eye to eye when I told them that was their punishment. Their fighting went from Caitlin trying to  aggravate Breanna with little things while we were watching tv to Bre holding Caitlin down and hitting her.

What else can I say other than....Sisterly Love Leads to Sisterly Hugs!

On a different day last week, Kevin had to take me to the doctor. While we were driving, I looked back at Nic because he started telling me how his blanket (which is the sheet he took off his crib mattress a couple years ago and became attached to) was in the seat belt just like him.... Oh how proud he was!

Friday, July 1, 2011

My 4th of July Thoughts

I remember the first 4th of July that my husband and I spent apart that I actually went out without him. We had been apart before this year for this holiday, but I stayed at our apartment in Germany. In 2007 he was in Mosul, Iraq stationed at FOB Marez, and I decided to take our daughters and newborn to Georgia for a few weeks. This year the meaning of July 4th hit me a lot harder and as soon as "God Bless the USA" started to play as the fireworks in downtown Atlanta began, so did the flow of my tears. There was nothing I could do to hold them back. Maybe that's when the reality struck that my husband was deployed and millions of Americans were celebrating a holiday they could not even explain the meaning to. All they cared about was having a day off work, grilling out and drinking. There I was, surrounded by my family, at the top of a parking deck where they go every year, watching my kids having a blast, and missing a huge part of husband. There I was surrounded by so many wonderful people, yet I felt more alone than I could remember. As soon as I felt the tears coming I tried to hide my face, yet my Aunt saw me and immediately came over to me. At that moment, it was like the flood gates opened and I lost all control. There I was, surrounded by amazing people and all I wanted was Kevin at my side. The feelings and emotions of loneliness had crept over me. As much as I needed him with me, our country needed him more.

As I stood there, listening to "God Bless the USA", with my Aunt hugging me as I cried, all the emotions that I had held back for a few months came rushing to me and there was no possible way to stop any of it. I had kept it all inside for months, while telling myself that everything would be fine and he would come home just as he had left. At the end of the deployment I was blessed because they came home at the fourteen month mark and not fifteen. They came home a month early and were able to spend the holidays with families and not in Iraq. I thought I was the luckiest person in the world. I mean, my husband was home....what could possibly go wrong?

The one thing I was not prepared for was PTSD, TBI, or the lack of knowledge of his injuries, things he had witnessed, the nightmares, distance between us, and so much more that was in store for me. I was naive in it all and thought that my husband was home so all would be okay. Within time, I became lost in my own marriage because shortly after he redeployed home I came to learn that this man that came home from work everyday and this man that I shared a bed with every night and planned to share my life with was a man that I knew nothing about anymore. Where had my husband and the love of my life gone? Then I became angry because no one ever warned me about what I was in store for. No one told me there was a chance he would struggle because of PTSD, TBI, or other combat injuries. No one prepared  me for anything other than either he would come home or I would be greeted at my door by the most dreaded knock and speech for a military wife....

By the time July 4th of 2008 rolled around I had come to learn that my husband was struggling with something, yet I didn't quite know what it was at that point.Our daughters stayed in Atlanta for the summer and hopped back and forth between the grandparents, so it was me, Kevin, and our one year old son at home. We decided to take the opportunity and work around the house. Every other July 4th that we spent together, we celebrated it. When we were in Georgia, we went downtown and watched the fireworks in Atlanta. In Germany, we celebrated on post. In El Paso in 2006, we watched the fireworks with friends at Cohen Stadium after cooking out. In 2008, he refused to go out and we pulled the carpet out and layed tile throughout our entire house...just the two of us. He acted real odd that night and I was so lost with no idea how to handle it. He would yell at me over everything and became real defensive for no reason. When the fireworks started by people in our neighborhood he would snap over every little thing and life became pure hell. I was yelled at for not moving fast enough or for adding too much or not enough grout. Hell, I had no idea what I was doing since I had never once messed with tile or grout. As they got louder and more frequent, I was yelled at more. I was not sure what was going on, but I remember reaching my breaking point, throwing down whatever was in my hand and walking outside to our swing. That is where I ended up hiding out and breaking down into tears. What had happened to my husband?

The following 4th of July he was in Iraq again, so I celebrated with the kids and our neighbors. We shot off fireworks and even though it was fun, I felt lonely and became depressed while missing my husband. This past 4th of July, I was better prepared for the changes and I was also more aware of what was going on and that he had been officially diagnosed with PTSD and TBI. Yet, he still wanted to see the kids happy and let them enjoy the fireworks at the country club. What better way to do it than with friends who lived in the country club community at their house. Of course we celebrated it with cooking out, beer, and some really great sangria for me. He kept a smile on his face and even attempted to go outside with us. As soon as the first one went off, I saw Kevin get real uneasy and flinch, then immediately tell me he was going inside. When I walked into the house as the show was ending, I found him inside talking with a Vietnam Vet. Someone who understood his reason of not being able to be outside, yet didn't have to ask him questions to understand. He just knew. At that instant, I found myself extremely thankful for this man being there and not asking him questions, but just talking small talk with my husband. I am not sure if he will ever know what a life saver he was to Kevin or that he brought tears to my eyes. I wasn't able to be there as I wanted because I had to stay outside with our girls, but someone that understood him was able to jump in. I will forever be grateful for this. There are no words to express my gratitude for this man's presence.  As we drove home, Kevin became very anxious because there were still firecrackers being set off at all angles and it was like we could not get home quick enough.

This year we are spending the 4th of July in the comfort of our own home, and I am okay with that. I have the best understanding than I have ever had of PTSD and what it entails. Our daughters understand that their dad isn't the same man that he use to be and that war changed him. While none of us can understand firsthand what he has witnessed, done and been through, we can understand that a part of him was left in Iraq and will never return. We have all accepted that. Sure, we would love to go to a friends house and cookout with fireworks that night, but we know that is something that will not happen. It's something that we now give up without questioning because of his PTSD. We would much rather have him with us than sit and watch the fireworks. So, while your spouse is not able to handle and tolerate fireworks this year, don't get angry and go out without them because you want to be apart of the celebration. Instead, rent a movie and sit with him. Play a game. Stay at home, even if he has to resort to his "safe zone" because he can't handle the situation. Even if they don't admit to it, just having their spouse there is what gets them through. I have been told many times that me being with him (even when he doesn't show it) gets him through and that he wouldn't be able to do it without me is one of the things that makes me have no interest in being around the celebrations and fireworks.

In the end, what I am saying is, don't be upset, angry or ever hold it against your combat vet when he says that he can't handle this holiday or you see him seeking solitude. In all reality, he is telling you the truth. The fireworks colors may remind him of an RPG as it shoots across the dark skies, the sounds may remind him of mortar attacks, RPG's, fire fights.... don't knock it down when he flinches or tries to take cover. This holiday already holds a special place in the hearts of veteran's and their families, but this holiday is also one that combat vets come to hate because it triggers PTSD episodes that can last for the night or it can last for days or even put them into one of their ruts that lasts for a week or more. Don't come down on them for this. It is honestly out of their control. When you see a vet almost hit the ground or if they do hit the ground looking for cover, don't find humor in the situation, instead, show them you care and are there for them. Their reactions are honestly out of their control. This night is one that makes the vet feel back in combat from the noises, scenery, and even the smell. When they struggle with PTSD there are times these episodes make them think they are back in a war zone. They are not always capable of differentiating the two. Hold your Veteran close to you this weekend and be thankful you still have him or her by your side. I know I am, today, tomorrow and everyday that I have ahead of me.

While they have made many sacrifices that 99% of the population will never witness firsthand, as military families we should be able to sacrifice this one night and remain by our vets side, helping them make it through the night. I ask this of you, please help them through this night coming up and please help other civilians throughout our country understand the meaning of this holiday as well as the reason our military service members may not celebrate it in the way that the majority of our country will. My thoughts and prayers will be with each of our families as we take on Independence Day for 2011.

Happy 4th of July... May we each remember the reason we have our freedom.... Thank your spouse, mother, father, son, daughter, Aunt, Uncle, or whoever else in in your life that has given you the rights to freedom as an American.