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


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!


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!