Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Greetings

Every year I do one of those "annoying" Christmas letters. I say "annoying" because some people hate them. I don't care. I love them. It allows me to catch up on the friends and family I just don't have time to keep in touch with during the year because life interferes. I can read up on all of the events, good and bad, that have happened to the people I care about but have not had time to call, and I can tell them all about our busy lives.

If you hate them, you can throw them out. Just like this blog, if you don't like what I write, you do not have to read it. If you don't like what someone is saying on a television show, you can turn it off. It only annoys me when the alleged unbiased media is portraying a news story and you come away from it knowing how the reporter would vote in an election. Seriously? I don't care about your political views. I have my own. Just shut up about your own opinion and give me the facts.

So enough already. This is not going to be my usual Christmas greeting because it is on here. Usually it is on pretty Christmas paper printed out and inserted with my Christmas cards. But this year I am just lucky I got to order Christmas cards. And I even messed those up. I forgot to put our names and date on them. I guess Dr. West is right that people will know who we are by the pictures, but that is SO NOT the point. I wanted to put the address of this blog on the card. Oh well. It will be a family project to fill out the back of the cards with the address of the blog and our names. Not worth worrying about it now.  I have so much else to worry about!

Onto the Christmas greetings.

This year has been quite a year.  Everything changed.  Nothing is as it was or as we thought it would be.  2011 was the year our world was turned inside out.  Life has changed for all of us.

Michael is now 23 years old, Derek is now 22 years old, Kellina and Ryan are now 17 years old and Sean is now 14 years old.

We started 2011 with Michael on active duty with the US Navy and deployed with the USS Vella Gulf off the coast of Israel.  He returned in January.  During his four years with the Navy, he made it to E5, Second Class Petty Officer.  The Navy was not for him, and he processed out in July.  He arrived home on terminal leave on July 22nd, one day before our world turned upside down.  At this time he is thinking about his future.  He will go to college once he decides what it is that he wants to do.  His target date is September 2012.  Right now he is running the household for me since I have not been home since July 29th.

Derek left for Afghanistan with the US Army in March 2011.  He was out of Ft. Drum, NY, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Bat, 2-87, 11th Bravo.

Derek was blown up on July 23rd in Kandahar.  Sorry for being so blunt, but we've been living with this for so long now.  As he says, he's a cripple and we have to learn to live with it.  Today he asked why they make full sized beds for amputees.  That's a really good question.  If we had half a bed in that room it would really give us a lot more room to move around.

Back to Derek.  On July 23rd, Derek was on a dismounted patrol trying to secure a landing zone for a medevec for another wounded solider.  After the medevec left, Derek stepped on an IED resulting in severe injuries including a left hip disarticulation (leg gone from the hip), a right high above the knee amputation, skull fracture, jaw fracture in three places, three missing teeth, broken ulna, limb salvage on the right arm, blast wounds, pelvic fracture, internal injuries, infections, etc.  We almost lost him several times, including on August 8th when he went septic (full system shut down).  He is still an inpatient at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland where he is receiving the very best medical care in the country.  If you are new to the blog and want more about his journey, please refer to earlier posts.

Derek is doing so much better.  He is getting stronger, going to the Matc (Military Amputation Training Center) where he receives occupational and physical therapy.  He is scheduled everyday, but he does not always have the energy to go everyday.  He is still an inpatient, afterall.

Derek has at least another month because he will become an outpatient.  He has to be able to transfer himself without assistance and get himself from the floor to his wheelchair without help.  He will get there.  He has had 35 surgeries and 10 procedures, and he is still facing surgery on his right arm in order to get it working again, so we are not yet at the point were we can discuss outpatient.

While here in this hospital, there have been some benefits.  Derek has met a lot of VIPs.  In addition to the four star Generals and two star Admirals, Senators and Congressmen, we have met the President, Dr. Jill Biden, Kansas, Montel Williams, Kid Rock, Miss America, British Ambassador, Rodney Frelinghuysen, Jack Reed, boxers, San Fran 49er football players, Redskin cheerleaders, John McCain, firemen, Col. Greg Gadson, Medal of Honor Winner Leroy Petry, etc.

The biggest news for Derek is that he is engaged to Krystina!  October 17th, an angel sent Derek an engagement ring anonymously through the mail.  The note said, "I know this is not much, but it is something to get you started.  Wear it in good health."  At first Derek threw it at her, which is typical Derek!  Then he told her that he was going to do it later but figured sooner rather than later was better and he wanted her to be his.  Krystina was crying and it was a beautiful moment.  She has worn that beautiful ring every day.  If Derek does buy her one of his own choosing, this one will have a super special place in her heart because it was the one that they actually became engaged with first.  Krystina said this first ring is the one that she will always hold special.

Krystina left her job and quit school when Derek got hurt so that she could be here with him.  She will enroll in school down here if need be, but for now, she is only thinking about taking care of Derek and getting him into rehab.

Kellina is a senior in high school.  She and Ryan both received their driver's licenses in August (God save me).  They purchased a red VW Beetle.  Kellina is in mostly art classes and loving school, as much as anyone can love school.  Her plan is for an art school or county college and then art school.  Whatever I can afford, please, since I am in this alone!   Kellina is a very talented artist.  Hopefully, she can get scholarships for art school!

Ryan is a junior and has grown some more.  He is now 6'4".  He has to duck when he enters a room.  He had been planning on the military, but I think he is holding off for time being and maybe looking at college first.... I hope.  Morris County College looks good to me!  He has another year, so we will discuss it.  Ryan's real love is still video games.

Sean is a freshman.  It is wonderful to have all three in the same school, especially since I am not there and they are living with my sister for the time being.  Sean did really good in track last year, and he is supposed to be in track this year.  He was also looking at striving for ROTC in college.  I hope that is still his plan and not infantry right out of high school.

Dad is doing okay.  He is holding down the fort at home with Michael while the other three live with my sister and I take care of Derek.  Someone has to watch the kitties!  My poor kitties.  I miss them.

As for me, my life has also changed dramatically.  I have not been home since July 29th.  This is the longest I have been away in.... well, ever.  I hate being away from home.  I hate being away from my kids.  I hate missing my children's lives.  I hate watching my son suffer.  I hate not having my home, my job, my regular stress.  But I really have no other choice.  This is life right now.

I had to do what was best for Derek.  My other children were healthy and had the ability to live with my sister.  Derek was dying.  Derek needed someone to be by his side and make life and death decisions for him.  He still needs someone to help him get through the day.  He said the other day that he still needs me here with him, at least for the next couple of weeks.  So, I will have to make a career change because of the last few months, because of what I have learned and seen and been through.  I am planning to address all that has happened in that department later, but there are big things coming for me.

For all of you, for you and yours, I wish you the best Christmas and holiday season ever.  If you have loved ones deployed, I pray that they get home safe and sound and SOON!  God bless you and yours.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

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