Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Plenty to Be Thankful For

It has been a busy couple of exciting and fun filled weeks.

Lloyd got home on November 19 for keeps and forever. We have decided that we are going to name this as a family holiday. From now on, 11/19 will be on our calendar as "Home Day," and we intend to celebrate it every year to remind us of all that "home" means to us. It's especially cool that Home Day is 11/19 since that was the address of the house where the Braatz family grew up in West Allis, WI. (Extra hugs and such go out to Mamaw, Uncle Dave, Uncle Richard, and Mom.)

Since then we had a fantastic Thanksgiving at the Rose home eating delicious food, enjoying time with family, and celebrating a Packer victory. It was amazing to have Lloyd home for this as we knew without a doubt what we were thankful for that day.

The following weekend, we headed to LaCrosse for the traditional Blakeley Fake Family Christmas get together. We had a great time just relaxing with family and friends, and Lloyd got to experience Exploratory Surgery at Pizza Doctors for the first time ever. As an added bonus, we also got a lesson on how to use a cast iron waffle maker, so we should be able to make them now without making a mess. We'll see how it works out the next time that we try to make them.

Since then, most of our time has been spent with work, putting the apartment together, and getting used to being able to actually live together. Lloyd has been tracking down leads for a job and enjoying the whole "being a civilian" thing. (He grew a beard. :) He plans to shave it for job interviews but is having fun with the idea until then.) We did make a trip down to the VA regional office in Milwaukee to start the claim process for Lloyd last Thursday. The expectation for the trip was that we would drive down there to get an appointment for him to start filing paperwork at a later date, but he did bring all of his medical and service records with him just in case they could do a bit more than that. It turns out that we got a pretty amazing surprise.....he was not only able to meet with someone about the claim - because he had such complete records with him, he was able to submit a fully developed claim last Thursday. According to the guy at the VA, the process should take around 3 months instead of the 6 months to a year that we had been anticipating. We're pretty happy about that news.

Right now, our major project is to finish moving into the apartment and getting everything set in it. We're looking forward to being able to have friends and family come to visit us soon.

God Bless!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Drop. Your. Sword.

The Dread Pirate Roberts has passed the eel infested waters and climbed the Cliffs of Insanity. He won duels of all sorts. The DPR and his princess have survived the Fire Swamp with its rodents of unusual size. (Commonly referred to as battle "buddies" who cause more trouble than they're worth.) He managed to get out of the Pit of Despair and storm the castle. Right now, he is threatening the powers that be with a duel to the pain. We all know that in the end, he and the princess will ride off into the sunset for a beautiful life together. However, in this moment, it's a little tense about how that happens.

Lloyd does not have the official date for his return home yet. Tomorrow, he will be pushing through the paperwork and threatening to duel anyone who slows him down in any way shape or form. Hopefully, there will be a call tomorrow that all is ready to go.

God bless!

Jumping for Joy!!

The current saga of Army related shenanigans will soon be coming to a close. While a lot of endings can be described as bittersweet, this one is not. It's just SWEET!!! On Thursday, 10 November 2011, Lloyd received his discharge orders. He did a couple of celebratory laps in the barracks and then called his wife who burst into tears of relief at work. (They are getting used to this at the Dousman Street Express. Management will likely breathe a sigh of relief when this saga is finally done.) He then began the task of tracking down the necessary parties in order to get his final "send me home now" paperwork. (A DD214 for those who are military minded.) It was delayed a bit due the holiday weekend, but he took a bit of time to rest up and prepare for a flurry of activity to get him on the first possible plane home. Hopefully, the date of departure will be set sometime today.

We thank you for your prayers over these last 23 months of challenges and ask you to keep praying for safe travels home.

God bless!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Time Frames and Terminal Leave

Between lack of phone calls and lack of internet, there hasn't been much updating happening for a bit....not that much has actually changed. Here's what we now know.

"Military" version: Lloyd heard from the medical review board last week. They came back with a 10% disability rating. Lloyd signed off on everything, and is waiting for all of the necessary packets to be signed at various locations around Fort Sill, so his discharge orders can be processed. At the time that his orders are finished, he will speak with the cadre about arranging for his terminal leave. They require 6 days notice before terminal leave can begin, and it takes an additional 72 hours for the orders to be cut for that leave for a total of 9 days. On the day that his leave begins, he will be given his flight information for arrival into Green Bay.

"Civilian" version: Lloyd finally heard back from the review board. He got a 10% rating which is what we expected but not what we wanted. He signed off on it all, and started the goat rodeo where they shuffle paperwork around for a week or two. Since they were stingy bastards about giving him his vacation time, he's got a bunch of it saved up. As soon as they finish his paperwork, he's going to make the arrangements with his boss to take all of his vacation time and have his last day in the Army be his last day of vacation. It takes them 9 days to figure out how to handle that because it's not like just about every person who leaves the military has this happen. They also are incapable of planning ahead, so they can't tell him until the day he leaves Oklahoma (or maybe the night before) when his flight is actually going to get into Green Bay. It's not like it will likely stay the same anyway since he'll probably end up connecting through Chicago, and anyone who's taken the Chicago to Green Bay puddle jumper knows that the flight is ALWAYS delayed.

No frustration shows in this posting, right?

On the brighter side, Express Convenience has been incredibly helpful and accommodating through all of our yo-yo life. When the plan was for Sarah to relocate, they created a "Green Bay flex team" floater position that would allow for a flexible departure date. After the relocation got scrapped, they happily have extended that position as long as it is needed. Additionally, even though the schedule will already be posted at that time, they have agreed to give the full day off when Lloyd returns with management covering the shift if necessary. It is really nice to know that there are companies out there who really live out their stated beliefs of working with employees to ensure that their personal life can be a priority. There are not a lot of places like that anymore.

Right now, we are praying that Lloyd receives his discharge orders by November 10 at the absolute latest, so he will be able to be at all of the various Thanksgiving/Christmas gatherings that will be happening in the next two months. This should be a slam dunk no brainer to have happen, but that isn't the way that things have gone for us the last 22 months. We appreciate any extra prayers that you'd like to send in that direction.

God Bless!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different

We closed on the refinance on the house on Friday. Our renters are excited to be getting into the house in the next week or two. We are still waiting on word from the medical review board. Other than that, there is not much of interest to report.

As a break from the normal doom and gloom, here are a couple of limericks written this week. They made us laugh, and hopefully they'll bring a smile to your face as well.

Miss Gibbs really needs smiting,
The results will be totally frightening.
I'll release fire ants
To go up her pants,
Or maybe I'll strike her with lightening.

Poor Sarah is sad and alone,
So the DPR needs to come home.
He is on a quest
To go be a pest
Cuz Fort Sill needs to get pwned.

Have a great weekend.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Self-important Drill Sergeants make life difficult

The refinance on the house is temporarily on hold until Lloyd is able to get the cadre at Fort Sill to play nicely long enough for him to get the necessary power of attorney (POA) paperwork set. Until the forms are signed, we can not move forward with the bank. We are praying that they let him keep his appointment for Tuesday. Nothing else new to report. Just a lot of the same old garbage.

Thanks for your prayers. God bless!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Keep Your Fingers Folded

Lloyd signed his packet earlier today. The medical review board has it and should give their decision in the next 3 weeks. A lot is riding on what they have to say about what percentage of disability they assign. (It goes in increments of 10%) As we understand it, it mostly can be summed up as one of two results at this point.

  1. Medical discharge: Disability rating 10% or 20%. Lloyd gets an honorable discharge, and his GI Bill pays for school. He files paperwork with the Veterans Administration, and (after they go through a whole different process) they send him a monthly check for his disability.
  2. Medical retirement: Disability rating 30% or higher. Lloyd gets an honorable discharge, and his GI Bill pays for school. He files paperwork with the Veterans Administration, and (after they go through a whole different process) they send him a monthly check for his disability. Additionally, he receives a military pension, continues medical insurance at very low annual cost, and gets a lot of other benefits of being a retired disabled veteran.
Obviously, medical retirement is the "better" of the two. It's also not very common for the review board to grant it with good reason. (Unless you're missing a limb or wheelchair bound of course.) We are praying that in Lloyd's case that they do. Of course, the long term financial benefit is there. However, there is a much larger aspect to it. The medical issues that Lloyd has that are directly related to his time in the service are significant. We are hopeful that some of the symptoms might get better with time and treatment, but there are no guarantees of that, and it could very well be that what he needs isn't covered and needs to be paid for out of pocket. The conditions as they are now are going to have an as of yet undetermined impact on what he is able to do. Finally, this is an official acknowledgement of what happened and its long term effect on our life. This factor is intangible, but that doesn't lessen its importance.

A lot is riding on these next few weeks, and we appreciate your continued prayers and support.

God Bless!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pardon the Skepticism

Lloyd has gotten word from the folks at Fort Sill that they want to have everyone currently in his status cleared through the process and home within the next month, so we'll be praying that this happens. We'll believe it when he has his discharge orders in hand and his boots on the ground in Green Bay.

God bless!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Needed: Itching Powder

Things are starting to roll for the refinance on the house. It's taking longer than the bank had planned, but that's actually par for the course when dealing with the Sheffers. Paperwork always seems to get delayed for us. Provided there are no snags, we should be able to finish through it all within a week or two. We're just waiting to set the date for closing.

News out of Fort Sill hasn't been nearly as promising. After hearing that the NARSUM was ready for Lloyd's signature more than a week ago, he still hasn't been able to sign it, and he has no idea when he will be able to put  pen to paper. This is why we're always hesitant to celebrate when someone tells us that they have good news. We've gotten burned too often to get too excited. We're back to wishing unpleasant and uncomfortable things on people who aren't doing their job. (Current favorite is try to curse Miss Gibbs with an itch in a place that is socially unacceptable to scratch.)

Because we are still getting so many delays from Fort Sill, we are moving forward with relocation plans. Sure, there's a chance that they'll get the paperwork rolling. Sure, it's about as likely as a football team coming back from a 15 point deficit with 2 minutes to play in the game, but, it could happen. Realistically though, it's pretty unlikely that they're going to get everything together before the move happens. The house is starting to look pretty empty. There's still plenty to do, but it's really starting to feel real.

Charlie battery continues to be an unpleasant and frustrating place for Lloyd. The Blue Falcons have been out in full force, and there seems to be no stopping them. It has severely limited Lloyd's free time making it difficult for him to call home or have any chance to relax, and it's gotten much worse the last couple of weeks. In the past, when it was just a few days, Lloyd was able to keep his spirits up. It's getting much more difficult though as the weeks pass. Our prayer is that we catch a break and the stress eases up to allow us to restore our strength for whatever we have to face next.

God Bless!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What Does This Mean?

Someone put our plans in a blender and hit puree. Again. Why do we even bother with a plan anyway? It's not like a single thing that we have made a plan on has EVER made it from start to finish. By the time that we do anything at all, we have had to redo or completely scrap the plan at LEAST one time. Lots of people have heard the line that you should "write your goals in granite and your plans in sand." Still, you expect that the tweaks to the plan will not require major course changes on a regular basis. In the last year and a half or so, we have changed course so often that we are suffering from some severe emotional and mental whiplash. 

The last 24 hours have been no exception to this. We have had a lot of new information dumped on us. A lot of people have asked what the new information means for us, and we honestly have no idea. We are going to need some time to process it all and determine what, if anything, needs to change about our current plan. We are not trying to be evasive or hide anything from people. We just don't know.

What we do know is this:
  1. Miss Gibbs called Lloyd yesterday to inform him that the NARSUM is ready for him, and he should be able to sign it next week. The "normal" time from when a soldier signs the NARSUM and when he/she is discharged to go home is 6-8 weeks. (Keep in mind that the "normal" time for the med board process in its entirety is 3-6 months. Lloyd started the process in February 2010, so the clock is at 20 months. We don't necessarily put much stock in "normal" time frames.) 
  2. The bank called. They finally got the report from the appraisal. It came in lower than we wanted, so we only have 10% equity instead of 20%. We will not be able to get as good of terms in the refinance. We will, at least, be out from under the conditions of the WHEDA loan that were severely limiting our options. 
That's it. That is all that we know. This new information needs to be incorporated into a decision about how to move forward from this point. Until that is done, we will be tentatively moving forward with the original most recent version of our plan. There are still a couple of weeks where we can continue on the path without reaching any critical points. We will be going ahead with the paperwork on the loan and packing the house for relocation. If we decide to cancel the relocation, it is still easy enough to stop the process.

On a side note, there has been a lot of tomfoolery and jackassery going on in Lloyd's unit. This has resulted in a lot of additional stress for Lloyd due to increased inspections, extra duties for the unit, and general all around suckiness. Combine that with the fact that he's got a nasty head cold, and he's having a pretty miserable week. 

For our prayin' peeps, we have an updated list:
  1. Discernment as we decide how to proceed with the new information about Lloyd's status.
  2. For us to keep our priorities and goals in the front of our minds and allow us to keep the main things the main things.
  3. A quick recovery from the bug that Lloyd caught.
  4. For the others in Lloyd's unit to see the error of their ways and start behaving themselves at least well enough to avoid punishment.
  5. Peace in the uncertainty.
  6. The ability to maintain focus in the day to day of life.
We appreciate you all so much.

God Bless!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

That Bastard Murphy Strikes Again

A large portion of our possessions are packed and either in the storage unit or piled in the second bedroom awaiting transport to Oklahoma. Everything is rolling with bank and employer for the relocation. We are just waiting for the appraisal to come back and the power of attorney (POA) paperwork to be ready, so a date can be set to sign for the new loan.

Today, Miss Gibbs called Lloyd to let him know that the NARSUM is (finally) all ready and he could be signing his packet next week. Provided there are no more delays, they could be discharging him in six weeks. Seriously? All we needed to do to get Muphy's Law to kick in was to pack everything in the house and start the ball rolling for a relocation?

In all seriousness, we are so very grateful for all of the prayers and encouragement through this all. We know that it is not our strength that is getting us through these trials. Every single one of you makes a huge difference for us.

We haven't had a chance to discuss what this means for the relocation plans yet. We have always known that it would be easier and faster for him to deal with all of the stuff with the V.A. while at Fort Sill, so it might still be in the cards for us to move down their to finish those forms and appointments. We are going to need lots of extra prayers for discernment as we go forward from here.

God Bless!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Special Request

This has been a long week for both of us, and we didn't get nearly as much accomplished as we would have liked. One major thing to report is that all of Lloyd's things have been moved out of his parents' house and are now piled in the living room and kitchen. This evening's project will be to start going through boxes and repacking them all to either go to Oklahoma or to the storage unit. It's going to be the primary project over the next few days.

The other project is going to require the help of others. While we are living in Oklahoma (and probably after that), we would like to put pictures of all of our family and friends in a digital frame. The idea is to have a constant reminder of fun times and the people who are supporting us through all of this. We would love it if you helped us to choose the pictures. Pick a few favorites and send them our way. Yes, part of it is that there are a ton of pictures and going through them would be overwhelming. However, it would be more fun, and more meaningful, if they were ones that you all actually really liked. Thank you all in advance!

God Bless!

Eight Weeks

A few minutes ago, our postal carrier Jill rang the doorbell on Chez Sheffer. Two letters to Lloyd were returned as unable to deliver....postmarked July 25. For those of you not looking at a calendar right now, that's EIGHT WEEKS AGO! It took them EIGHT WEEKS to process a piece of mail. Ok, 7.5 weeks - the USPS had the letter for a day or two on either end. But still...a wedding invite last year was sent to the wrong address and came back in THREE DAYS - NOT EIGHT WEEKS! 

If anyone out there still has any question as to why Lloyd is still languishing at Fort Suck Sill, this should shine some light on the subject. This is just one more example of the bureaucratic black hole of all things paper that exists on the northern edge of Lawton, OK. Just how big of a SNAFU is this going to be anyway? Are months of letters suddenly going to start showing up back here in Wisconsin? Unbelievable.

Please pray for sanity and calm.

God Bless! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

No news isn't always good news.

Sometimes, it's just no news.

We've been a little light on news this last week. The assessor was here this morning, and we now get to wait for the results. They're supposed to take about a week. We're hoping for Friday news even though it's unlikely. It would just be nice to have the uncertainty removed before heading into the weekend.

Other than that, the big news has been that the kitchen floor food magnet has been turned on (the floor was scrubbed this morning), and there are TWO colors of Kool-aid in the fridge right now.....both red AND blue are available for those visiting or dining at Chez Sheffer. Pretty exciting stuff for sure.

This week, we're praying for quick and positive news from the assessor/bank as well as calm during the waiting time.

God Bless!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Can we take the short cut? Please?

We have got more up in the air right now than the EAA Fly-in. Here's a quick recap to start your work week.

Lloyd is still in Charlie Battery. It still sucks rotten seaweed. He is still waiting for Miss Gibbs to finish pushing his paperwork though. The big delay in it is still that the doctors all need to sign off on the narrative summary (NARSUM) of all his medical conditions caused by his time in the service. As soon as all of the signatures are in place, Lloyd's packet will still need to go to the medical review board where he will be assigned a disability percentage rating.

Sarah is still working on all of the pieces for the move. It's a bit of a mess. Here's a quick summary.
  • The mortgage that we currently have on the house is a WHEDA loan. It is causing a bit of an issue for us right now because it requires that the house be owner occupied as the primary residence. It's not possible to comply with this and live in Oklahoma, so we need to refinance the loan.
  • In order to refinance the loan, they need to do an assessment of the current property value to determine how much equity we have in the house. Problem? The housing market is pretty volatile right now, and we are a little nervous about the value that the assessor is going to assign. The assessment should be done sometime this week. We'd appreciate lots of prayers.
  • The packing has been going well. Special thanks goes out to Jen for giving up all sorts of her "free" time   during the boys' nap time. There is no way that this much would be done without the help.
  • After the refinance is done, we can officially start trying to find an apartment in Lawton, and when a move in date can be arranged, set a date for the move. We have to wait until then though because otherwise they will deny the loan. (At the time that the loan is signed, the house needs to be a primary residence and notice can not have been given to the employer.)
  • We are still trying to find a place to store the Comet. Ideally, we would prefer to have it stored by family or friends instead of at a storage unit. Lloyd is (justifiably) nervous about just leaving it just anywhere. Anyone who has an idea, please let us know.
Some days, it's hard to even know where to work next on all of this. It seems like every time something gets checked off the to-do list, its completion adds two or three new things to the list. We are trying to remember our blessings, stay positive, and keep moving forward. Some days we do better at this than others, but we keep doing our best.

God Bless!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

WHAT?!?!?!?!?!??!?

Lloyd was told by Miss Gibbs today that she has four cases in front of him before she can work on his packet. This begs a few questions. For starters, what has she been doing for the last two months that she said she was working on his packet? Why does Lloyd keep getting shuffled to the bottom of everyone's pile? And most importantly, just what is it going to take for the Army to get their act together enough to finish this process that has already taken more than three times as long as it should?

It's news like this that really reinforces our decision to sell the house and set up shop in Lawton. There are really no words to describe....

Thank you all for your continued support and prayers. God Bless!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Thumb sucking and the Incredible Hunk averted

We are sure that it comes as no surprise to anyone that we have really struggled with the whole distance thing, but we have just accepted it as an unfortunate temporary reality. It has meant lots of letters and phone calls, a whole lot of miles on poor Allie (over 14,000 miles in about 4 months at one point earlier this year), and an emotional toll that has made it hard for either of us function normally and not lash out at random stupid people. A lot of people have told us that they don't know how we have managed it. The only answer is that His strength is shown in our weakness. There is no way that we could have done it alone. We know that He will make it possible to walk the path that He has given us, and we have to continue to listen to know when and where we need to change course.

After much discussion and prayer, we have realized that it is time for one of those course changes. (If we continue on the present course, Sarah will soon be found under the covers in the fetal position sucking her thumb, and Lloyd will be going all Incredible Hulk on everyone in the barracks who even looks at him wrong.) We can't keep with the whole "married and living in separate places" thing anymore. So, as soon as we can get the house sold, a truck will be rented to move what we will need to live in Oklahoma until everything with the Army has been resolved.

There is so much to do in a very short time. There a ton of packing to do, and items to be moved to the storage unit. There are also a lot of those little projects around the house that don't take much time but never seem to get done. Hopefully there will be a fantastically attended Tom Sawyer party at Chez Sheffer in a couple of weeks that will make quick work of it all. Stay tuned for details.

God Bless!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Karl A. Braatz





Karl Braatz went home to the Lord on July 20, 2011. He was born on a homestead near Opheim, Mont. on Jan. 12, 1922 to William and Anna Braatz. He and his family moved to Marshfield, Wis. when he was seven, where he lived until his high school graduation. After high school he moved to Milwaukee and began his apprenticeship as a tool and die maker.

He entered the military in 1943, was a navigator in the Army Air Corps during World War II, then returned and lived in Milwaukee, Wis. There he met and married his best friend and one true love, Teresa (Terry) Braatz. They raised their three children while he worked for 25 years at International Harvester, then 15 years at Allis Chalmers as a process engineer. Karl was a wonderful father, who lived his faith and created beautiful memories.

They retired to Mooresville, N.C. in January 1981 and began traveling more until deciding to sell their home in 1988 and travel full time in their RV. They enjoyed working with Laborer's for Christ building churches and friendships. Their first Laborer's project was in Sierra Vista, Ariz., building Immanuel Lutheran Church, where they learned that an RV park was being built in nearby Benson by Escapees (SKP). They purchased a lot but continued working with Laborer's and traveling throughout the country. After many wonderful years of memories and adventures they were grateful to settle with their SKP friends and Peace in the Valley family, letting everyone know this was the best place to be, surrounded by love. Karl and Terry felt blessed to help build their church in Benson as a true labor of love and continue to worship there.

Karl will be remembered for his deep faith, his devotion to his wife, his keen sense of humor, and his appreciation for all God's blessings. At every stage of their lives Karl and Terry could be heard saying, "These really are the best years of our lives."

Karl will be missed by all who knew him and loved that ever present twinkle in his beautiful blue eyes.

He is survived by his wife, Teresa, his children, David (Linda), Richard (Karen), and Debra, his grandchildren, Ashley, David, Connor, Mackenzie, Sarah (Lloyd Sheffer), Joshua, and Katherine (Neil Olsen), his great-granddaughter Alexis and many nieces and nephews.

A memorial service will be held Saturday, Aug. 6 at 11 a.m. at Peace in the Valley Lutheran Church on J-6 Ranch Road, Benson, Ariz. Memorials may be given to Peace in the Valley towards the church addition Karl had hoped to help build.




Originally published by the San Pedro Valley Sun News and reposted here to ensure that its continued availability.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Miss Gibbs....continued

Yesterday, Lloyd was able to talk with another soldier who had Miss Gibbs as a case manager. According to that soldier, she had been very frustrated with the delays and concerned that Miss Gibbs wasn't getting the work done on the case.....until everything was finished and she was able to read through the paperwork. At that time, she saw that based on the dates and other notations in the file, Miss Gibbs had been bulldogging the case to the best of her ability, and delays had not been her fault. We are encouraged that this may be the same for Lloyd's case.....even though it looks like nothing is moving, she is doing her best to get things done.

Right now, the hold up is the same that it has been for the last 6 weeks. Lloyd's doctors need to all get together and sign off on the NARSUM. (NARSUM is military speak for "narrative summary." In this case, it is a whole pile of papers that tell the story of Lloyd's medical issues with the US Army and why the doctors believe that his case merits a med board.) Before Lloyd's packet of information can go to the review board in Texas, all of the doctors need to reaffirm and sign that the information in it is correct. Without those signatures, we wait. And wait. And wait.

With all of the waiting that we do, it can be challenging to not let that inertia spread to other areas of life. For everything that we can not move forward on, there are others where we can make progress. One of the current struggles is to not let a malaise overtake everything and keep us from doing those things that can be done. We ask for our prayin' peeps to help us ask for the strength to continue to do those things that we can do.

God Bless!


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

You have got to be kidding.

Treasonous bastard was supposed to be on our side.
As if life wasn't already difficult enough with everything else that has been happening in life, the last hour at Chez Sheffer has involved unusual noises coming from the utility/laundry room. Luckily, it was not a result of any freaky little demon rodents that are just lurking and waiting to launch themselves at some unlucky person's face leaving them scarred from the gnawing teeth and sharp little claws, so there is that bright spot.

Unfortunately, it is the result of the plumber installing a brand spanking new water heater. Sure, it's a nice water heater. It will have a larger tank capacity than the old one, so it will have enough hot water in it to take a long shower or actually fill the bathtub. It also might end up being more energy efficient. However, it was not in the plan or budget - the bathroom will just have to wait a bit to get redone. The water heater we had was supposed to just quietly go about doing its business and not pee all over the utility room floor. Maybe we should see if the med board office at Fort Sill wants it......that place is full of folks who don't do what they're supposed to do. That whole "God doesn't give you more than you can handle" thing doesn't really make it any better either.....it would be nice if He would cut us a little slack on stuff every once in a while. It's not like we'd get all worried that God didn't think we were up to the challenge.

Since it's annoying, it's probably best to come up with a list of things to be grateful for about the situation in order to calm down:

  • Thanks to Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, there's cash on hand in the home improvement savings budget to cover the surprise expense.
  • It was only a little hole in the water heater, so there wasn't too much water on the floor, and nothing got ruined.
  • Lindquist Plumbing was able to get here same day to replace the water heater, and even though there was a lot more labor involved than anticipated, they are going to stick to the original estimate.
  • The water heater is nice, and it will probably look good when we sell the house that we have a new heater instead of one that's 15-20 years old.
It would be really nice if this was finally a turning point for our fortune. Good things come to the persistent, right? "Today's the day!"

God Bless!
This one had better be housebroken.  No
more peeing on the floor. (The heater, not the plumber.
 The plumber's a nice guy who had to do a whole
lot of extra work to make the heater fit properly.)


Friday, July 29, 2011

Life's Problems and the Fire Swamp

This week has not been one of our better weeks as far as news goes. Considering that the high points have been that two days between urgent care and the hospital ruled out appendicitis and some other nasty chronic stuff and the symptoms just were the result of a really nasty infection requiring two different antibiotics.....it should give a pretty decent idea where the bar for "good news!" was set.

When we got married, we had decided to not put Lloyd's name on stuff until after he was home for good in case anything came up that would require his being here if it was held jointly. (House, cars, etc.) Guess what. It doesn't matter. We received news this week that we can't move forward to refinance (or sell) the house without his (notarized) signature on date sensitive documents because Wisconsin is a joint marital property state. Considering his current situation, that is not possible. The only way around it is with a power of attorney (POA)....which would also require his signature - see previous sentence. Which came first....the phoenix or the feather? A circle has no beginning. And we're basically stuck until either he is home for good or comes home for leave in December. (The urgency that we have in getting this fixed is that our current mortgage holder who has been screwing up all sorts of stuff for us financially since they took over a year ago has upped their game to bold-faced lies that are easily refuted and making threats for not playing along like docile sheep to the slaughter. US Bank is clearly not aware that they are poking a particularly ornery bear who has a lot of repressed rage from dealing with the Army.)

Speaking of the Army, another week has passed and Lloyd has still not been able to sign off on the packet to send to the medical review board. This makes for a total of five weeks now that all of the paperwork has been finished and only needs his doctors to sign their name on the line stating that his file is correct. Yes. You read that correctly. Five weeks.

At this point, we are both feeling pretty frustrated about how much our efforts to move forward are being thwarted by circumstances in our reality. It's a suffocating feeling that leaves you feeling sinking and trapped with little chance for escape. The flame spurt has a popping sound that precedes it (ample warning to adjust to a situation before you're faced with a crisis), and ROUSes are defeated by pounding the snot out of them (hard work and determination can overcome some pretty big and ugly problems), but lightening sand sucks you in.

Thank you all for your continuing support and prayers.

God Bless!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Miss Gibbs

The amazing and incredible Leroy Jethro Gibbs would never go on vacation for a week in the middle of a big case and leave justice unmet. He couldn't even stay retired, when he left someone very competent in charge in his place, because there were wrongs in the world that he needed to right. He'll do anything in his power (and some things technically not in his power) to ensure that our servicemen get the treatment that they deserve. That's just the way that he is.

Miss Gibbs does not meet her namesake's focus. She was went on vacation, and no one did diddly squat in her absence. Big shocker there. They don't do all that much when she IS in the office. They sure aren't going to get more motivated without her there. She's back finally this week though. (Hopefully.....at least that was the word on Sunday.....no update since then to confirm or deny.) Maybe, after only, you know, a month, she will be able to get the signatures on the forms. This is why a 3-6 month process is moving into its 18th month. Thank you Uncle Sam.

Prayers remain the same....for us to not get too frustrated with the continued delays, for paperwork to finally be ready to send, and for the review board (when they get the case finally) to assign a 30% or greater disability rating.

God Bless!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Red Cross

The Red Cross does a lot of stuff. They're known for blood drives, disaster relief and humanitarian aid, and ensuring humane treatment of prisoners all over the world. You know what else they do? They provide US military families peace of mind in knowing that in the event of a family emergency, they can quickly verify the information and get word to soldiers stateside or deployed who might otherwise be unreachable. For anyone used to dealing with red tape and "official channels" with the military, "compassionate" and "speedy" are not words normally attached. However, with the Red Cross involved, they are.

Maybe we can use some of their expertise for folks to reform the medical review board process.....

Thank you for all of the extra prayers this week.

God Bless!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Conspiracy Theories Come from Somewhere...

There is nothing new to report except a growing suspicion that there is no way that people can be this incompetent and negligent on accident. Maybe it's the emotional strain finally causing paranoia, but this is just ridiculous.

Lloyd is still waiting for the doctors that have worked on his case to sign off on his packet to go to the review board. They have had it for over 2 weeks now, and it's still not signed. Before that, his packet was delayed for a month because someone forgot to hit "save" on his file, and no one noticed it despite his going to the office multiple times a week and asking why it was delayed. Before that, it was a case manager waiting for the doctor to send Lloyd's diagnosis....despite the doctor claiming that it had been sent multiple times over the course of about 8 months. (When Lloyd finally asked for a copy of the diagnosis himself, they sent it in about 20 minutes.) Everyone accepts that the Army is all about delays, and it is totally understandable that every case is different. At the same time, the process should take 2-6 months tops. The Army told Lloyd that they were going to med board him 17 months ago, and he still has a month minimum (probably more) if they send his paperwork to San Antonio tomorrow.

This med board and the benefits that hang in the balance are not about a big payout for us. It is about making sure that he will be able to get the treatments that he needs from conditions that arose as a result of his time in service and ensuring that we will not be in trouble if it gets worse instead of better over time. With the continued delays, it is hard not to wonder if they are trying to wait it out to avoid paying. We ask for continued prayers for a speedy resolution. Also, we ask for prayers for us as we deal with the emotional strain that this has caused us.

God Bless!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pinch Me

Lloyd got his paperwork all signed. It went to San Antonio, and the medical review board gave him a 30% disability rating. He will be home next week.

And then the alarm goes off, the euphoria of the dream dissipates, and reality returns.

This week, Lloyd made a minor pest of himself at the med board office on base in the hopes that Miss Gibbs would be able to get his packet together and ready to send to San Antonio. No dice. He will have to try again next week.

Progress in other areas is being made at least. There are boxes ready to head over to the storage unit which is pretty exciting. (Did that really just get written? Boxes to a storage unit is exciting? What kind of an old fart is writing this thing?) Also, Lloyd has started looking into what will be involved for his schooling when he is finally able to come home and utilize his GI Bill. There are a LOT of schools out there, and we both want to make sure that he picks the one that will be the best fit and most helpful for him. (He's worked hard enough to get the GI Bill....he's going to make it worth it.) Right now there are a couple that really are standing out from the field. We'll have to see for sure how things look when he is out and able to check out campuses and talk to people from the schools.

One of these days, Lloyd really will have all of his stuff ready to sign, so he can come home. Until then, we'll just keep praying that the day comes quickly.

God Bless!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Like 40 Grit Sandpaper

The two weeks since our trip to Arizona have been pretty rough for us. There has been nothing new on Lloyd's discharge since he got to Charlie Battery which is frustrating. He also hasn't been given any chance to call and talk unless he sneaks a quick call when he's supposed to be doing something else - like sleeping.

Not having movement on Lloyd's discharge stuff is nothing new. We are actually pretty used to it by now. Normally though, we can vent frustrations, tell random funny stories to lighten our spirits, or just talk about whatever is on our minds at the time. Not having that is incredibly isolating and mentally exhausting.

We know that this too will pass. We are just praying that it passes quickly.

God bless!

Friday, July 1, 2011

This Weekend

Today kicks of a long weekend that many will fill with camping, cook-outs, fireworks, and fun. There is nothing wrong with that either. It is quite fitting that people would spend this weekend enjoying the freedom to spend time relaxing and having a good time with family and friends. Just don't forget why you have it.

On this day 235 years ago - July 1, 1776 - the motion being debated on the floor of the Continental Congress read :
"...That these United Colonies are, and of a right ought to be, free and independent states, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved."
Have you ever thought about what these men were really debating? Have you ever REALLY thought about the circumstances and time that they lived? The King George III was not like the benevolent figure-head Royals that appear in the supermarket tabloids of today. Just having the discussion could be considered treason against the Crown and a capital offense which is why no official record of the debate was kept....it was simply too dangerous.

On July 2, 1776, a vote was taken, and independence declared. It would take two days to finalize the full text of the Declaration. It was a document like no other in history, and it would change the course of history. Stop and think about that. When was the last time that you read this document? Have you ever? It doesn't take long.....just a few minutes. There was no need for frilly or fancy phrasing. In a few concise words, these men told the world that on this land there was a new nation - and explained all of the things that they had tried to do to prevent this necessity.

While you are enjoying this long weekend, take some time to reflect on the freedoms that you enjoy and what those men risked to give them to you. Think about the men and women who have fought and died to ensure the continuance of those freedoms and the sacrifices of their families. If you are at all thankful for those freedoms (and you should be), ask yourself what you are doing to express that gratitude and ensure that those freedoms live another generation. If you've got kids, let them know that there is more to this day than a barbecue.

God bless!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Some Skittles and a shillelagh please

Every time an obstacle is cleared, it brings new challenges. This, of course, applies to all of life. It would be possible to wax poetic or philosophically on this for ages. There are all sorts of different ways of phrasing this to make it sound all fancy pants. You can use the standard, "it is what it is," which is pretty bare bones. You can talk about how the trials and fires that we face are like a refiner burning out the impurities in precious metals. You can go on about how it is weights and resistance that build up all of our being and not just our muscles. When it comes down to it though, it can be summed up with this...
You thought that you had a victory, but things still suck....and maybe more than they did before.
We had spent over a year working toward that day last week when Lloyd was transferred from Bravo battery to Charlie. It represented a major victory for us. Sure, we knew that it wasn't going to be this celebration in the land of rainbows, leprechauns, and unicorns that crap Skittles. Still, we expected that there would be some sort of improvement in the situation. If nothing else, being in Charlie means being with only people who are being discharged and not being lumped with the folks in FTU (the "fat kids camp" for people who are not injured but need to work on running, push ups, and sit ups because they too out of shape to pass their PT test). It should at least be a little better.....right? Or not. In the week that he has been at Charlie, Lloyd has been finding that now more than ever, he has no time to get any of his stuff done. He gets his hopes up on stuff, and then someone pisses in his Cheerios. He hasn't been able to call home in the evenings, and he's really getting tired of the Blue Falcons that are all around him. (Maybe it's a good thing that there are no leprechauns there - Lloyd might steal their shillelaghs to bludgeon some idiot Blue Falcon.)  It's been pretty frustrating and discouraging for him, and it's been wearing on him heavily. (Not just him either.)

The only glimmer that we have on the horizon right now is that Ms Gibbs is working on getting Lloyd's packet (his piles and piles of paperwork) ready to send to the medical review board. Right now, she's working on getting all of the doctors who have reports in it to sign off on the packet as a whole. (Not only do the doctors have to agree on what they as individuals write in it, they have to agree that there is nothing wrong with any of the stuff in it. Minor red tape in the grand scheme of it all. Hopefully. At least Ms Gibbs seems more inclined to do her job and get the stuff done than Miss Maria was.) As soon as it's all set and sent to San Antonio for the review board, praying without ceasing that we will be in agreement with their findings.

We appreciate all of your prayers. Right now, our specific requests would be for restful sleep for us both (since everything seems worse when you're exhausted), the ability to be productive and accomplish our goals (and not just finish the tasks that others assign us), and for the doctors make signing off on Lloyd's packet a priority.

God Bless!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Moving

There have been some questions lately about if the Sheffers are moving. The answer, in short, is yes....eventually.

For those who haven't been to our house, it's pretty small. Ok, most people who live in apartments have more living and storage space. It's about 600 square feet and has a couple of small closets for storage. No basement. No attic. And the single car garage which used to be used for storing little used items now holds a 1964 Comet. Now, when it was built, a nice couple could have probably raised their 2.4 kids and had a dog. These days, it's basically big enough for one person and their crap. This was fine when it held one person and her crap. Then, we got married. Fitting all of two people's stuff in the house just ain't going to happen - and actually having a second person?....not a good idea if you don't want a fight.

Our solution is simple. We're going to plan to sell the house and find another place to live. Where that will be is something that we will be deciding together after Lloyd has discharge papers in hand and boots on the ground in Green Bay. It might be in Green Bay; it might be in another state. We are exploring a lot of different options right now. While a fantastic long term solution, it doesn't solve the short term issue of not enough places to keep stuff. That will be addressed by renting storage space somewhere and putting all of the stuff that we will need in our new place but don't have room for at the house. This should also make it easier when we do move because most of the stuff will already be packed to go. (Anyone who has moved will tell you that scrambling to pack everything that you own in a week or two is pretty bloody stressful. We're trying to be proactive.)

We are very grateful to those who have volunteered to help with packing boxes and getting the house ready for sale. We will be taking you up on those offers and probably begging others for help too. You guys help keep us sane(ish).

God Bless!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

How would YOU feel if they found the dead guy's stuff before yours?

This week, there was progress on Lloyd's med board process.

As had been mentioned earlier, the chain of command had lost his packet of information from his time in the normal basic training. All of his records with training courses, etc. had been filed, refiled, and shuffled into various piles so many times that no one had any clue where they actually were. They must have just about emptied the office to do it, but they found his paperwork. It was underneath the packet of info from a dead guy. No kidding. One of the soldiers had passed away over holiday block leave last December, and they hadn't been able to find his paperwork either. It is hard to know exactly how to react to the news that they found your stuff with the dead guys stuff...there is an awful lot of dark humor in a situation like that. The major bright side is that the information has been found which means that all of the packets of paperwork that Lloyd needs to proceed are accounted for. Yay!

On Tuesday, Lloyd was transferred to Charlie Battery...the next step in the process. There was apparently some question as to whether this transfer would be permanent or if they would send him back to Bravo; however, it looks like things are settled for him in Charlie. It has been a major change for him and pretty taxing. He has to adjust to a new schedule as well as be trained for the new tasks, routines, and responsibilities that he will have for his time there. He also has to work on determining what the new situation will be for privileges and freedoms. In some areas he will be gaining some freedoms, but he might lose some in other areas. It may be a bit of time before it is all clear how things will work on a daily and weekly basis.

The checklist for the process is getting much shorter. Almost all of the "big" stuff is done now....just a few things remain. (There will likely be a ton of smaller and hidden steps that we don't know about yet. It happens....right Papaw?) The big/known stuff to go is as follows:

  1. ALL of Lloyd's paperwork needs to be assembled into the final packet of information for review.
  2. The big final packet is sent to San Antonio.
  3. A medical review board will look at all of Lloyd's medical records (civilian doctor, army doctors, surgery reports, physicals, etc.) and assign him a percentage of disability based on ALL of the stuff that he has as part of his diagnosis. Disability percentage is assigned in 10% increments. The magic number that we are praying for is 30%. At this point, he will be considered medically retired which would really make a difference for us in the long run. It normally takes a MINIMUM of 3 weeks for the review board to do their thing.
  4. The packet is then returned to Fort Silly Sill along with the findings of the review board for Lloyd to review. At this time, he will have basically two options. The first will be to accept the findings of the review board, sign off on what the Army offers him, and wait for them to set his discharge date. The second would be to reject the findings of the review board and begin the appeal process. Each time that he submits an appeal, it would have to go back to the review board and take a minimum of 3 weeks again....or longer if they decide drag their heels because he's appealing.
While we have had some discussion about what may happen when we get to step 4, we have decided that we are going to wait until we get there to really spend much effort on it. Right now, we are praying for steps 1-3 to go quickly and return a 30% or higher disability rating which would make things a whole lot easier. As always, we appreciate all of your prayers.

God Bless!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Week in review

Sure, a "week in review" normally comes at the end of a week. Really though, when do the Sheffers ever do anything the "normal" way? The last year and a half have been just about everything BUT normal. We're not about to change our ways now. (Plus, all that travel was just too exhausting to try to update the blog earlier. You'll all have to just deal.)

The best word to describe the week...amazing. It seemed like there was always something new to see or do....and more things to add to the list of things that we want to see and do. Our list for future adventures is even longer now than when we started the trip.The adventures that we had were full of stuff that we will remember forever.

  • Time with family : This was a big part of why we planned the trip. Lloyd was able to meet some more of the extended family and spend some time with them, and that time is something that we hold to be very precious. Dinner around the table...relaxing on the patio enjoying conversation and the view...getting to spend time with people we love and admire...these alone would have made it worth the drive. (All 4800+ miles of it.) 
  • Fort Huachuca : We often laugh because it seems like whenever Lloyd gets a pass or leave to get off post, we always end up back on base. (With the exception of holiday block leave when he's in Green Bay.) We had been joking that this would be the first time that I came to get him when we wouldn't be doing just that.....and then we decided to go to Fort Huachuca. So much for staying off the Army base. :) At least this time though, it wasn't his regular post, and we were able to be much more relaxed. We took care of some stuff at the PX and the clothing exchange before finding our way to the museum. They have tons of stuff there on the history of the Army's presence in the southwest as well as stuff on the Buffalo Soldiers.
  • Tombstone : The Town Too Tough to Die was also too cool to only visit once. We spent a few hours there early in the week and then decided that we had to go back for a full day. We saw the shootout, the historama, museums, shops, Big Nose Kate's Saloon, the Crystal Palace, and the Boot Hill Cemetery - and barely scratched the surface of what was available. There was still a lot that we didn't get to see. We'll just have to go again sometime soon. We'll probably need to get a couple of more memory cards for the camera though. Lloyd managed to fill the whole thing without even trying.
  • Time for the two of us : This is something that we definitely needed. We were able to talk and enjoy time together. Sure, a fair bit of the time came while we were driving, but we also were able to have relaxing time at the clubhouse doing laundry, on our short hike in the desert near the RV park, and even just lounging around the casita watching Harry Potter movies. 
  • The Arizona wildfires : Not all of the week in review is fun stuff. The Monument Wildfire is burning very close to where we were as was the Antelope Fire while it was burning. An estimated 10,000 acres of Fort Huachuca burned two days after we were there. (It's a good thing that we went on Monday instead of waiting.) The fires had reached the edge of Sierra Vista and threatened the cute little town that we had gone through to see the church that K&T had helped construct through their time working with Laborers for Christ. We have continued to watch updates from a local TV station out of Tuscon and pray that those battling the blaze will get help from the weather. 
  • Freedom RV in Tuscon : Most people probably don't go to an RV dealership as one of the sights to see on vacation. We aren't most people though. We looked in dozens of RVs to see what all is out there and get a picture of what we would like to have in our future. We checked out lots of different floor plans and were able to get a good look at some of the features that we really like and others that we do not want. Straight up, all of them were nicer than our house, and the 45' rig with 4 slide outs probably had almost as much square footage as what we have (although towing it would be a challenge). 
  • White Sands, NM : We only got to see what we could take in from the highway. We'll need a return trip to see more. On the bright side, we managed to NOT get ourselves into any restricted parts of the facility, so that was a plus for us.
  • Roswell, NM : Another location that had its time cut short. (Something about a 6 hour delay in heading out due to a leaking water pump just messes with travel plans. At least we found it early enough that we could drive it to a repair shop instead of being broken down in 100+ degree heat in the middle of the desert somewhere.) We did manage to get some pictures though, and we have a bit better idea of some of the things that we would like to see when we are there next time.
  • Groom, TX : We highly recommend that if you're driving down I-40 past here, you stop and visit. It is awe inspiring and thought provoking. We had intended to make it a lightening fast stop as we were behind schedule but realized in only a few minutes that we needed to take more time. 
All in all, it was a wonderful week, and we feel very blessed by all of it. Thank you to all who sent up all the extra prayers that got Lloyd's leave approved and kept us safe in our travels.

God bless!

Mystery

Anyone have any idea what these bird cage like things are? We would love to know - it's been bugging both of us for a week, and we haven't gotten any answers yet. Here's what we do know:

  1. There are 5-10 of them in this fenced in area spread out but not in any apparent pattern.
  2. It looks like there may have once been a paved parking lot at the site. (It's hard to tell when you're talking Arizona desert - it could be concrete or just packed dirt.)
  3. They are located just north of Picacho Peak right along the side of I-10.
  4. They look like they may have a door in the side of the basket thing on the top, but there are no steps attached to the pole.


The game is afoot! :)

God bless!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A quick snapshot of highlights

The last couple of days have been a lot of fun. We have been working on balancing relaxation with seeing the sights of Arizona. It is a fine line to walk at times because there is just so much to see, and our time here is too short to cover it all.

On Monday we made a trip to Fort Huachuca. We only had a little adventure getting lost on post and did not find ourselves in any restricted areas in the process. We made a couple of quick stops at the clothing exchange and PX before going through the Fort Huachuca museum. They did a really good job of putting together the exhibits, so it was both fun and informative to see it all.

After leaving the Fort, we drove past the Immanuel Lutheran Church which was built by Laborers for Christ a little over 20 years ago. It was amazing to see the amazing work that was done by their efforts, and it renewed our desire to work with the organization in the future.

Big Nose Kate's Saloon in Tombstone totally lived up to our expectations. The food was amazing, and the atmosphere fun as always. The rest of Tombstone was a blast too. Wooden board walks, cute little tourist shops, and the Earps always make for a fun time.

Tuesday we headed up to Phoenix to see some family up there. We got to spend the afternoon sitting by the pool relaxing. It's funny....100 degrees isn't that bad in the shade, and it's downright comfortable when you can sit with your legs dangling in the pool. For dinner we went to Rustlers Rooste and enjoyed rattle snake, cowboy stuff, a trip down the slide, and goofy balloon hats with our dessert of cotton candy. If you're in Phoenix, it's a stop that you need to make.

Wednesday we had lunch at the famous In and Out Burger (delicious burgers that drip all over the place) before heading back down to Benson and dinner in the rig. It's been a pretty packed week so far. We'll just have to see how the rest plays out.

We have been really thankful for this time together and are grateful to all those who carried us here in prayer.

God Bless!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The first day of relaxation in months....

Right now, we are sitting at the clubhouse at the SKP park in Benson, AZ. It was a long haul to get here...both in terms of the miles as well as the emotional haul that brought us here. We are incredibly grateful that everything has been working in our favor in bringing us here. We are almost caught up on our sleep and recovered from the long hours sitting in the car.

Being that this is Lloyd's first trip here, we have both enjoyed the new experiences. The scenery is absolutely beautiful. (Not all "brown mountains" look the same. :) They are all a little different.) We've seen lizards, a family of gambol quails, road runners, and a number of beautiful cacti...that are amazing even though they have prickers. The billboards are right....the center of "amaze" is AZ.

We have also been able to spend time with family and friends here all ready and will be continuing to do more of that this week. There will likely be a few more postings yet this week of our adventures.

A shout out and thank you again to all of the folks who carried us here in prayer. We would not have made it without you. (Like Bon Jovi said - we're livin on a prayer.) 

God Bless!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Details to follow

Due to general #$%^%$#%^, Lloyd's leave was not finally approved until Thursday afternoon. (That's a story for its own post.) We are still waiting to find out from the Drill Sergeant on duty tonight if he will be allowed to leave at 0001 tonight, or if we will need to wait until 1000 tomorrow to head for Arizona. Hopefully there will be word on that really soonly.

The fantastic news is that this next week is going to actually be postings about our fun and shenanigans together....what a novel concept. More to come soon!

God Bless!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Faith and prayers

Lloyd has still not heard anything on his leave request. The car will be loaded with his things though, and tomorrow afternoon it will hit the road. Prayers are more than appreciated - they're very much needed as we step out in faith.

God bless!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I'm not making this up

This is a brief departure from the normal update on what is happening in our life. It is a topic very close to our hearts though and one that merits mention.

When I mentioned that yesterday was the anniversary of D-Day at work, my coworker in her early 20s asked me, "what's that?" I tried to jog her memory...."thousands of Allied soldiers died on the beaches of Normandy, France to start the invasion of Europe and free it from the Nazis during World War II..." I got a blank look. In stunned desperation, I said, "it was in the movie Saving Private Ryan." Finally, I got "I saw that movie," from her.


Is this seriously where our nation is heading? I can totally understand people maybe not being able to discuss validity of the Austrian plebiscite that had it annexed into Germany, the importance of Dunkirk, or how the Dolittle raids impacted the morale of the nation. But really....the argument that Pearl Harbor, D-Day, and the bombing of Hiroshima are the three main events of WWII is not that hard to make. I was afraid to even ask if she had heard of Winston Churchill at that point in the conversation. (She's only a couple of years out of highschool. I don't blame teachers....but the education system both public and private is definitely failing us as a nation.)

Part of the responsibility that comes with our freedoms is to remember and respect the sacrifices of those who won them for us. The total number of dead, wounded, or missing from Normandy is estimated to be 550,200. (To put that number in perspective, the total of dead and wounded from the entire four years of the US Civil War was 646,392.) Those men died for us. Their families received those dreaded letters from the war office and suffered grief beyond anything that I can imagine. We are free because they were willing to risk losing everything for it. This is something that we can not afford to forget.

God Bless!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Dr. Ding Dong

It's been another long week with not a lot of news coming out of Fort Suck Sill. There is still no word on the leave packet, and we are down to five working days to get it straight (four until the car rolls out from Green Bay) and everything approved. Not that there's any pressure or anything. This is pretty much what we had expected from the start though. The last time Lloyd requested leave (in September), it was not approved until about 18 hours before it was time to hit the road. Luckily the route is the same either way until Wichita, KS in case things are that tight again. If Lloyd had waited until the last minute to put in the request, it would be one thing....this request has been sitting on some guys desk for a full four weeks already. Basically, we've got some petty wanker on a power trip who wants to make sure that Lloyd knows who's in charge. 

As far as the med board process, Lloyd finally got around the gate keepers and was able to bust his foot off in someone's backside to figure out the problem and why he's been delayed for a month now. It turns out that when Lloyd had his physical back on May 4, Dr. Bell typed the results (AKA the permanent profile) into the computer, printed a draft for Lloyd, and then forgot to hit "save" on the computer. As a result, there was no electronic permanent profile in the files, (and Lloyd's copy said "draft" on it and couldn't be used for the final paperwork,) so nothing could move forward. Apparently, this is not the first time that something like this has happened which begs the question why no one thought to check on it until Lloyd made multiple requests for them to review the paperwork and explain the delay. From the sound of it, he will likely have to schedule another appointment to meet with Dr. Ding Dong and have him retype the permanent profile. (Lloyd will likely watch to make sure that he hits "save" this time around.) As frustrating as all of this is, at least there is an answer and a plan to get things moving again, so we're filing this under "good news" even though it pretty much sucks dead earthworms.

A lot of people have asked why Lloyd's med board is taking so long and why he isn't home yet. This is just one example. There is not a whole lot of accountability for folks to get things done. If Lloyd had not made all of those trips to the office (the first couple of times they told him that there was nothing that could be done to speed up the process) and pestered them until they actually looked at his file, they would probably let him sit there until his contract was about to run out before they even noticed. 

Thanks so much for your continued prayers and encouragement. We need it now more than ever.

God bless!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

News

There isn't any. Sorry for the fake out. It's been about three weeks since there has been any movement on any front for Lloyd getting either his leave or his discharge. He wasn't able to call or even text since Saturday, so there isn't even any news on if his cold/allergies are any better yet. Today is a regular duty day, so maybe something will happen, and Lloyd will be able to call this evening with an update. Until then, it's a continuation of the waiting game. (All you folks thought that we just were not updating when we didn't give you any news for weeks at a time. We really weren't kidding when we said that nothing was happening.) We'd appreciate prayers for some good stuff to happen soon....

God Bless!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Rainbow Days

Rainbows are pretty amazing. You only see a rainbow in the sky when the sun shines through the rain....a bright spot in a dismal day is what gives us the beauty of a rainbow. Sometimes life is like that too. There are rainbow days. When days are dark and gray, laughter shines through the tears and casts a rainbow on your heart and soul. It isn't that you go out looking for rainy days, but when they happen, you can search out that bright spot and find the beauty even then.

These last few weeks have had a fair share of those rainy days in them....not major storms - just those drizzly gray days. Sure, things in Lloyd's med board process have sped up to lightening fast by Army standards....if it gets any faster, it may exceed the rate of travel by these guys. Not quite Chuck Yeager, but getting there. In some ways, it makes it more difficult that we are in the home stretch on the process. Every little delay seems bigger and way more frustrating because the end is in sight. Little kids are way more impatient for Christmas the week before than they are in February.

We do have our bright spots of course. The big one is the planned road trip to Arizona next month even though the circumstances surrounding the trip are not what we would have chosen. Making plans has done a lot to keep us from going crazy while we sit and wait for the med board paperwork to move. (And wait. And wait. And wait.) It is a concrete date and place that acts as an anchor, and the time together will be the longest stretch that we've had together since we got married. It's very much needed. We are praying that we hear early this week yet that his leave request is approved. It will definitely help to ease some of the stress for us to know that at least that is going in our favor.

We thank you again for all of your prayers.

God Bless!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Oklahoma Freeway Trivia

The last week and a half, there has been much discussion about the color of the dotted line on the freeway. Everyone covers the basics of yellow vs. white in their drivers' ed class. The puzzle comes when the dashed line has black as well which is very common on the freeways in Oklahoma when the road is made of concrete. (Blacktop has just white dashes.) There could be any one of a number of reasons for this, but once you start asking, you've just got to keep looking until you find the REAL answer. After posing the question to many people (including an Oklahoma Trooper who looked like he had never had anyone who he had pulled over and had sitting in his squad car ask anything like that), it was discovered that the U.S. Department of Transportation has a thing called the Manual on Traffic Control Devices. It says:


Section 3A.04 ColorsStandard:Markings shall be yellow, white, red, or blue. The colors for markings shall conform to the standard highway colors. Black in conjunction with one of the above colors shall be a usable color.
When used, white markings for longitudinal lines shall delineate:
  1. The separation of traffic flows in the same direction.
  1. The right edge of the roadway.
When used, yellow markings for longitudinal lines shall delineate:
  1. The separation of traffic traveling in opposite directions.
  1. The left edge of the roadways of divided and one-way highways and ramps.
  1. The separation of two-way left turn lanes and reversible lanes from other lanes.
When used, red raised pavement markers shall delineate roadways that shall not be entered or used:
When used, blue markings shall supplement white markings for parking spaces for persons with disabilities. When used, blue raised pavement markers shall indicate locations of fire hydrants along a roadway.
Option:Black may be used in combination with the above colors where a light-colored pavement does not provide sufficient contrast with the markings.
Support:When used in combination with other colors, black is not considered a marking color, but only a contrast-enhancing system for the markings.
Random and trivial? Sure - but who do you want on your team when you're trying answer the question for that last piece of pie? 
God Bless!

Friday, May 20, 2011

May the person holding onto paperwork and delaying it get a paper cut.

"There is more to see than can ever be seen....more to do than can ever be done." Disney sure had that one right. The biggest thing that we took away from this last week is that we have got a mountain of stuff that needs to be done. We have paperwork to request, submit, and follow up on with the Army, the VA, hospitals/clinics/docs offices, and institutes of higher learning. We are planning a 21 day super sprint full out battle on the world to see how much we can physically get accomplished before we go to Arizona. We don't know when the Army is going to move on various things, but we want to have as much prepared as possible when they finally get around to it. The nice thing for us has been that we had a chance to talk over lunches this last week to develop a strategy that combines our efforts to give the maximum results.

For those keeping score on the process to get SPC Sheffer home for keeps, right now, Lloyd has three packets of paperwork floating around Fort Sill. The one that is our highest priority right now is the leave request packet for the time for us to go to Arizona. This one needs to be approved ASAP, and not just because we want to be able to know for sure that he has the leave. If it is not approved before he transfers to Charlie, he will have to resubmit to a different chain of command - and he won't have the month's notice that he is supposed to give on the request. We are praying that he gets word as soon as Monday. The second packet is the one for his med board which was submitted last Friday after a week and a half of pushing to get his commander's letter written and included. Yesterday he found out from the folks in case management that the profile information from his physical wasn't quite the right paperwork.....the doctor signed the one that said "draft" on it instead of the officially final one, so now we get to wait until he gets around to signing the correct one. Supposedly, they had been "working" on getting the signature all week. (Right. Sure. Whatever.) This makes two weeks now that nothing has moved when it should have. (The only reason that this is not more upsetting is that if it does go through, it might mess up his leave request. Maybe God's just causing this delay to allow us to get to Arizona without a hitch.) The final packet of information is his service records from when he was going through all the regular basic training stuff. (Training, certifications, qualifications, etc.) It's floating around somewhere. They lost it months ago and haven't been able to find it. Without it, he doesn't think that they will be able to process his discharge paperwork when that time comes. As soon as he hears about the leave, he will start pushing to get the chain of command to either find the paperwork or recreate it. (He doesn't want to make a fuss about too many things at once. Fight one battle at a time and all.) This is why he has become so completely paranoid about paperwork and has personal copies of everything since they screwed that up.

It has been said that TRAGEDY + TIME = HUMOR. (The Drill Sergeant "Stalker" is already almost mildly amusing after only a couple of days.) Someday, this will likely be a hysterical story told around the campfire, and someone will probably have barley pop come out of their nose as it's told. Not so much today though.

God Bless!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Like Alphabet Soup

It has been a long week for us filled with tons of important information, and it's not even finished yet. Luckily, between the two of us, we have been able to get most of it. You have no idea what a mess of various programs are out there for vets as they leave the military. It is absolutely no wonder that there is so much emphasis on having spouses there for the briefings. It's hard enough to grasp the stuff while sitting there....it doesn't make much sense when transmitted in bits and pieces second hand. Even though Lloyd has been to the classes at least 3 other times, he's still hearing new stuff and things that we need to know for after he gets out.

On other fronts, Lloyd has been pushing to figure out exactly where the delay in his transfer to Charlie is happening, so he can work on getting that obstacle removed. (His packet was complete and submitted on Friday, so he technically should have already been transfered. It's frustrating of course, but we are still within the "expected delay due to red tape and someone not doing their job" time frame.) He's also been pushing to get someone to give an answer on the leave request packet that he submitted. It's a fine line on both fronts for him. If he doesn't push, it will just sit indefinitely; if he pushes too hard, he could end up having some drill sergeant make his life (even more) difficult. Hopefully, we will get news on both fronts very soon. Until then, we wait. Still. C'est la vie. Right?

God Bless!

Monday, May 16, 2011

One Day Down

We went through our first day of the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) class today. Topics included some of the job search programs out there for vets, stress management skills for the transition, managing expectations for return to civilian life, and some of the college preparation assistance out there. It is enough to make your head hurt, and it was only day one. For all the hassles and frustrations, it is a really good thing that we are both there. It's going to take a lot of effort from both of us as we deal with the transition, and it will definitely help to have us on the same page as far as benefits as well as what to expect.

God Bless!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Blessed and Highly Favored

This last week has seen an improvement in our outlook. Spending lots of time focusing on how grateful we are for our blessings has really helped. While not a complete list by any means, here are some of the things we are grateful for:

  • friends who will go for a walk on a moment's notice - and then not even flinch when you show up at their door in tears.
  • getting "knuckles - with fireworks" from toddlers
  • puppy kisses
  • parents who worked to give us every advantage in life that they could possibly provide
  • those who remind us to walk by faith when we can't see the path in front of us
  • prayer warriors who are always at the Throne on our behalf
  • surprise adventures where the map doesn't go
  • Irish Spring
  • front desk clerks who can MacGyver open a wine bottle
  • waffles cooked on a cast iron waffle iron
  • free long distance phone calls
  • fresh from the garden veggies
  • Chucks
  • the view from Grandad's Bluff
  • no questions replacement policy on broken wedding bands
  • Christmas lights
  • fancy date nights
  • bacon
  • going to "kid" movies in the theater with no kids
  • ninja texts and phone calls
  • real weekend passes
  • painted toenails
  • listening to a thunderstorm while snuggled in bed
  • days where the primary objective is to relax in your pjs all day long
  • reading good books
  • ice cream sundaes
  • naps
  • long bike rides
  • our postal carrier who makes sure that the outgoing mail gets picked up every day even when there's nothing to deliver
  • cute little cocktail dresses and snazzy suits with suspenders
  • finding money in a jacket pocket...even if it's only a dollar
  • clean linens fresh from the dryer
  • campfires with pudgie pies and smores
  • an afternoon at the beach
  • getting an awesome parking spot at the store
  • spending an afternoon dreaming at Bass Pro Shop
  • Handel's Hallelujah chorus on Easter Sunday morning
  • friends who are willing to share their couch for a place to crash for a night or two
  • U.S. postage being fairly inexpensive and coming with such fun stamps
  • chocolate chip cookies
  • mugs of tea either relaxing at home or with a delicious sandwich at Kavarna
  • indoor plumbing and flush toilets
  • an amazingly epic spouse
  • stepping outside to temps in the 60s with beautiful blue skies and a bright shining sun to go for a run
  • the quiet peacefulness and beauty of freshly fallen snow
  • the amazing bright vibrant colors of spring
  • a tall glass of ice cold lemonade or sweet tea on a sultry summer day
  • the crisp smell of the air while watching the colors of autumn change
  • a fresh slice of pie from the Norske Nook
  • the sweet smell of an infant fresh from a bath
  • walking barefoot on freshly mowed grass
  • family and friends who share their home brew
  • laughing until your sides hurt
  • improving times on running routes
  • how much easier the internet makes it to stay in touch with friends and family scattered all over the world
  • men and women who set aside comfort and even personal safety in order to protect the rights, freedoms, and safety of others
  • discounts on buying envelopes in bulk
  • surprise packages that arrive on the doorstep
  • days when the sun melts the snow from the sidewalk before you have to shovel it
  • holding hands while walking through the mall
  • BCGs and ACUs in the back of a POV. :)
  • Dark chocolates from Beerntsen's Candies
  • getting a nod of approval for a job well done
  • hugs that you can feel all the way to your heart and soul
  • fields of sunflowers
  • bad karaoke with good friends
  • sending that last check on a debt
  • 50% off sales
  • being able to wake up in the morning
  • walking outside to blue skies and green grass, beautiful sunshine with the birds chirping
  • the fact that there is a LOT of places in the world...that are NOT Oklahoma
  • the fun arguing over the legality of Scrabble words
  • the people who use logic, common sense, and the human element to decide their actions
  • the writers of MAD magazine
  • beret wearing teddy bears
  • shared dreams for the future
  • all of you reading this

    God Bless!

    Friday, May 13, 2011

    The Definition of Insanity...

    is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. (At least according to Einstein. He was a smart dude, so we can probably take his word for it.) The definition of frustration is being only a few miles apart from the one person you most want to see and still being as far apart as when there are over a thousand miles of distance between you. Making really good travel time is not always the best thing that can happen in life.

    On the grateful list though, it was a safe and uneventful drive, and at 1000 tomorrow, Lloyd can sign out for a weekend pass. We'll continue that list tomorrow too. Peace out!

    God Bless!

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    Uncle Sam Hates Allie

    If you're having a conversation with someone associated with the Army, and they are telling you about some sort of rules or paperwork that seem absurd, don't even bother to ask, "are you kidding me?" The answer is no, they are not. They are probably even trying to do their best to make the situation seem less insane because the actual reality is completely unbelievable to a normal person.

    Lloyd had thought that he was all set to submit his leave request packet for us to go to Arizona. Not quite. He has all sorts of extra paperwork to fill out because #1 he is not going home for the leave and #2 he will be traveling to the destination in a privately owned vehicle (POV). (In his current status, he is not allowed to drive or even travel in a POV under normal circumstances and needs to get extra permission for his leave. For some reason, it applies to time on leave and not a weekend pass. It's easier to just not ask too many questions and go with it. Your head will hurt less.) The first part is all set and ready to go as well as all of the normal leave request forms, but he is having problems getting the paperwork for our Alero (Allie) done and will need to get additional help from a drill sergeant tomorrow.

    Yup. This is our life.

    God bless!

    Sunday, May 8, 2011

    Attitude Adjustment

    For more than a year, we pushed forward through obstacles and waited for the news that Lloyd's physicals were done and his packet was ready for him to transfer to Charlie. This last week, that actually happened. Instead of being happy or celebrating this victory though, we both have found ourselves continuing to feel tired, cynical, frustrated, and generally negative about a lot of things. Sure, it would be easy to blame it on the stress of the last 16 months, but it wouldn't fix the problem, and we it isn't the attitude that we want to have in our life.

    Enter the 365 Grateful project. (Thank you to both Katie Harbath and Kate Olsen for sharing the same link. It made it easier to notice when multiple people thought it was important enough to post.) What a fantastic way to cultivate an attitude of gratitude and focus on the most positive aspects of life. We have decided to jump start the process by spending the next week developing a list of things for which we are grateful. God willing, we will sit down together next weekend to put all of our notes together....with a much more positive outlook on life. For our prayin' peeps, we'd love some specifically for us to remain focused on making this list as well as for safe travel on the road to Oklahoma starting Thursday night.

    God Bless!

    Saturday, May 7, 2011

    Do NOT ignore the large sign that says "WARNING" on it

    It seems that Fort Suck Sill is still on high alert status in the wake of Operation Geronimo. Vehicles coming on post are being searched (why they weren't previously begs some questions on security - let's not get started), IDs are being checked a lot more frequently while on post, and it is likely that there would be much more serious repercussions to taking the back route to Geronimo's grave than just getting teased by your wife. It could make things interesting for future visits, but it is more likely to just take a few extra minutes to get places. In all fairness, the "high alert" security measures are nothing more than what one would expect to be the normal expectations for a military base. Why wouldn't you verify people's identity and check to make sure that vehicles aren't carrying weapons or explosives? Um, duh? As far as the back route? There's no way a POV should ever be able to get anywhere near there unchallenged. Even tiny little Fort McCoy verifies proof of registration and insurance for vehicles entering base....something discovered the hard way. (It's a little unsettling to stand at the security station and wait for faxes.) For next week's visit, there will be additional time allowed. How the heightened alert status impacts leave is yet to be discovered. On that, we're standin' in the need of prayer.

    As far as news on the med board status goes, this last week was a good one. Physicals are finished. Dictation is done. All of the paperwork should be in order for Lloyd's transfer to Charlie. Theoretically, it can happen any time now. The cadre just needs to get their biscuits in gear and send him over there. They can be a little lackadaisical about it though. While it theoretically could happen Monday morning, the experience of Amish, Peck, and all the rest is that it will probably take 2-3 weeks or possibly even longer. It is going to take a lot of restraint for a certain wife to not give the drill sergeant on duty an earful next Saturday morning if her husband is still at Bravo. (We'll have to see how all of those books on people skills work.) Once Lloyd is at Charlie, the game changes considerably. The primary thing happening at that point will be waiting for the review board to make their determination. The rules and privileges will be different, and we are going to have to figure them all out when the time comes. Hopefully, things will be a bit more relaxed, and it will make things a little easier on both of us.

    As those who have noticed the sharp increase in baked goods from Chez Sheffer or who have talked much to Lloyd can attest, these last months have been very stressful for both of us. (Thanks to everyone who's been eating all of the cookies.) We're getting closer to the end of this time of trial. Unfortunately, the closer we get to the finish, the more difficult it is to not lose patience or get frustrated.

    God Bless!

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    Short, Sweet, and the Slightest Bit of Sassy

    The good news is that Lloyd's phase one and phase 2 physicals went as scheduled today. He has dictation tomorrow, and that should go without a hitch as well. Theoretically, all that would be needed then is a letter from his CO. (Probably....it always seems that they realize that there's another form or something to fill out. You would think that they'd have standardized procedures and check lists for this sort of thing, but it's the Army. They are incredibly good at putting bits of metal into the bad guys. They seem rather inept at most other things.) Also on the good news front, the LES got unlocked on schedule, so he was able to print off the paperwork for the leave request packet.

    It wasn't enough for Bin Laden to be an despicable bastard in his lifetime. Even though he had become basically irrelevant because he's been hiding for so long, the military is on an elevated alert status due to reprisal concerns which is making life difficult at Fort Suck Sill. We're not entirely sure of exactly how that will impact us in the long term, but Lloyd is worried that it could hinder his ability to get his leave granted. He'll still request it, and we'll pray.

    God Bless!

    Friday, April 29, 2011

    A Bittersweet Day

    As Lloyd has gone through his med board, his chain of command has come and gone, and the guys who were in his unit have as well. Few are there for an extended period of time. Burnett (aka Amish) was an exception. He and Lloyd spent a lot of time together in Bravo. For all the teasing that guys do, Lloyd appreciated having Amish there with him because of a shared disdain for a lot of the stupid that goes on with a bunch of young guys cooped up together and a strong desire to get home to their family. Yesterday, Burnett got transferred to Charlie bringing him one step closer to his goal of going home to his wife and kiddo. His presence in Bravo will be missed. We are really happy for Burnett though. He's a good guy who has gone through a lot of struggle, and this is a huge victory for him. We're praying for things to continue quickly for him, so he can get home to his family soon.

    God Bless!