Thursday, August 23, 2012


Found this on FB this morning. Says a lot. Our lives are made up of a complex network of pathways that we can use to move from one phase of life to the next. For some of us, our paths are wide, smooth, and clearly marked. Many people, however, find that they have a difficult time figuring out where they need to go next. Determining which "next step" will land you on the most direct route to fulfillment and the realization of your life purpose may not seem easy. There are many ways to discover what the next step on your life path should be. If you are someone who seeks to satisfy your soul, it is vital that you make this inquiry. Often, your inner voice will counsel you that it's time for a change, and it is very important to trust yourself because only you know what is best for you. Personal growth always results when you let yourself expand beyond the farthest borders of what your life has been so far. When figuring out what your next step will be, you may want to review your life experiences. The choices you've made and the dreams you've held onto can give you an idea of what you don't want to do anymore and what you might like to do next. It is also a good idea to think about creative ways you can use your skills and satisfy your passions. Visualizing your perfect future and making a list of ways to manifest that future can help you choose a logical next step that's in harmony with your desires. Meditation, journal writing, taking a class, and other creative activities may inspire you and provide insight regarding the next step in life that will bring you the most satisfaction. It is when you are willing to listen to yourself and be fearless that figuring out your next step becomes easy. Beneath the fear and hesitation and uncertainty lies your inner knowing that always knows which step you need to take next. If you can allow the taking of your next step to be as easy as putting one foot in front of the next, you'll notice that your next step is always the one that is right in front of you. All you have to do is put one foot forward and on the ground. --Earth medicine —

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Finally got internet

Hello all. I know it has been a long time since we posted. Haven’t had internet here until recently. Sally and I have been busy since we were retired. Susan and Dan Ivancevich had a piece of property here in Burgaw, NC that Sally and I have been working on to get developed into a horse farm. 500+ fence posts, a couple of snow storms (when we first moved down here), some rain (again when we first moved down here), and some long days and there is now a farm where there once was only a hay field. Sally has been doing great. She has quite a fan base in Burgaw, and of course whenever we make a trip to the big town of Jacksonville, or Camp Lejeune, we spend half of the time running around seeing her fans there. A month ago we were asked, by our Active Duty Psychiatrist, to go to Lejeune and do a presentation to the Sergeant Majors from 2nd Marine Division. She wanted them to see a “Real Psychiatric Service Dog”. Sally did an outstanding job and the SgtMaj’s really seemed to have a better understanding of what a real Service dog could do for a service member. They all commented on how Sally was soo laid back thru the entire presentation. Some also commented on how she would lay at my feet and then nuzzle me and make me pet her off and on. They were amazed when I told them she was assisting me with my anxiety at those times. “She can really sense that?” I was asked more than once. Yes and by her reminding me to pet her allows me to refocus from the external stimuli to her and to relax. I think by the time we left there was a better understanding and appreciation for what a “Real Service Dog” is.
We have had our share of ups and downs out here on the farm including one major relapse. We went to one of our VA appointments, our third appointment and our third Doctor. This Doctor came out to call us back for the appointment. When Sally and I stood up, she turned and told me that I could not come back to my appointment with my dog. To say I was shocked is an understatement! I told the Doctor that Sally was my Service Dog but she said she didn’t care, she would not see us. All of this happened in the waiting area of the clinic in front of other Vets. I told her that according to the ADA Sally is allowed to come with me and she still didn’t want to let us back. Finally she agreed to see us, after a nurse stated that where Sally is a Service Dog the Doc had to let me bring her. Upon entering the Doctors office the Doctor looked at me and told me,”It’s not you, I just don’t like dogs.” Then came one of the comments of the year. “You seem to be upset and or anxious, did I cause that?” the Doctor asked. Yes was my politically correct response. We sat thru the appointment, if you want to call it sitting!! Afterwards we were supposed to try and take care of a couple other things while in Jacksonville but my anxiety and stress level were way too high and Sally had absorbed as much as she could so we ended up coming back to the farm. A couple phone calls were made and a formal complaint was fast moving up the chain of the VA. The next day I got a call from the IAVA rep from the Fayetteville VA and by the end of the 2nd day I had received an apology from the Director of Mental Health for the Fayetteville region. The phone call I had made had gone from Jacksonville, NC to Washington, DC to Fayetteville, NC back to me and then back to Washington, DC and back to me in a form of an apology all within 48 hours. I was told there was going to be re-education classes held at all clinics under the Fayetteville VA region concerning Service Dogs. This was all god and fine but the rest of the damage was yet to be seen. The next time Sally and I had to go into town to get groceries I realized the extent of what had happened. My anxiety shot thru the roof and the only thing I could compare it to was Sally and my first trip to Wal-Mart together down in Hinesville, GA when we were still doing transfer training. Sally in her unshaking form still looked up at me as we stood outside the store with that are we going to do this look. We went in and started the process of retraining me to be able to handle going out again. This was 2 months ago and when we go out I still have an increase in my anxiety, but relying on Sally we can still function. Not easy yet but getting back to that point.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

30 minutes

Sorry it has been so long since I last posted. Sally and I have been running around a lot. Trying to get things ready for our move this weekend and getting used to being retired. I am officially out of the military now. September 28 was my last day. Other things that we have been doing includes texting with my daughters. After our one meeting we have been texting at least 2-3 times per week. It is a small step but a step non the less. The house has now been moved out to the property in Burgaw and we have been running around trying to get a lot of things done for it. Sally absolutely loves going out there and spend at least 30 minutes just rolling around in the hay field. Then goes on a sprint spree for another 10-15 minutes. I think her and I are both getting anxious to get the move done and over with and start enjoying the quiet, and peace that the area will offer along with the openness that comes with 44 acres of hay field. Will post more after the move and include pics.
2 nights ago we pushed the envelope and I ended up paying the price for it. I have recovered some but still have some of the side effects still, still have some of the headache and still a little nausea. My oldest daughter had a chorus concert on Monday night. Sally and I went. We only stayed there for 30 minutes before my anxiety got way too high and we had to leave. It has been a while since I pushed myself to the point of becoming ill, but this was that night. We stood outside for around 5 minutes trying to get my mind into the right set to be able to go in. I could feel the anxiety increasing even before we left the house. Having a fear of kids and women added a lot to the anxiety as I knew we were going to a middle school and there were bound to be a number of each there. Once inside we were offered a chair next to the back doors of the auditorium and sat there trying to watch the kids sing. Sooo many people there and although they were watching the concert I still felt real on edge. Sally wouldn't leave my side and constantly was making me pet her to try and help me calm down. It worked for a little while but eventually the anxiety was too overwhelming. I started to shake and feel lightheaded. Nausea was setting in and eventually we had to leave. On my way out to the truck I had to stop a couple times to get sick. Not a pleasent time. Though there were a lot of bad things that happened I still made it 30 minutes. I still feel bad that I didn't get to hear my daughter sing, especially since she was to have a solo that night. But I hope that she understands that I tried and couldn't handle the stress. Just a reminder to me that even though I have come a long way with Sally's help there are still a lot of things I need to work on. Going to get going for now as we need to go and get some more things done for the move. Will post more later.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Interesting week

Last week was an interesting week. I was asked to go to Virginia and assist with some applicants for dogs, and also to do an interview. I got up there on Monday night and settled in for the night. Up and moving early Tuesday morning to get some breakfast and kind of goofed around until it was time to go and meet the clients. The clients that I have met were a pretty diverse group. We had 4 of the 5 branches of the service represented all in one room. 2 Navy, myself and April, 2 from the Air Force, Jennifer and Terry, 1 from the Marines, Jim, and 1 from the Army, Sonny. It was really a neat meeting. Joan was there and did some photographs and even allowed me to move to the shade so as to get a picture without my glasses on. A big thing considering there have been so few taken of me with the dogs without a pair of sunglasses on. I even got my black and tan picture. It is a picture of Me with Sally, and Wyatt. It was a picture I have wanted since the Navy went to the new black and tan uniforms. Silly I know, but what can I say? The meeting went well. A lot of information passed onto the clients and even some new information passed to me. One of the clients had done their "Bump" and was told that they are being teamed with Burke. It was a big moment for them. I know the feelings that went thru their mind. Overall a good day!!
Wednesday rolled around and we had an interview with a French TV station. I was extremely anxious the whole morning. Sally though really helped me to keep grounded. Every time we got into the truck she would stick her nose under my armrest and tell me to raise it. I would and she would move and put her head on my leg, as if to remind me that she was there. We finally met with the reporter. he was working on a series for the station and wanted to know how Sally has helped me. He had kind of a difficult time hen I couldn't answer some of his questions concerning my deployments but we both worked around it. Sally stayed right in front of me the entire interview leaning up against my legs or laying on my feet. From what the reporter told me France has an ever increasing number of suicides that are happening with service members. He asked if I had ever gotten to that point? I told him no but I have asked myself numerous times why one of the IED's that I was hit by didn't work. It is a question that I have heard many other guys and gals that have experienced them ask. After my interview the reporter interviewed Allison and Terry. Then he asked if I could show him some of Sally's training. She was in a really good mood and decided that it was a good day to show off. Every command was followed with no hesitation. The reporter was extremely impressed by the "Pay attention", and "Alert" commands. Sally even did a full roll and let me rub her belly. This caught me off guard as most of the time I only get a quick half roll and then she is back to a lay position. We went outside and the reporter had the 2 of us walk by him several times, while he filmed. Overall it was a decent day, and definitely a great trip!!!

Friday, August 6, 2010

My test

Well last week I put to the test a lot of what I have learned over the last year and a half. I met my kids. 3 of them at least. My anxiety has never been that high. My head was pounding my stomach was turning, my hands were shaking. It took everything I had mentally to to move forward with the meeting. I asked one of the Marines from group to be in the room with us in case I lost it. He is a big boy, no offence meant, and I am sure that he could control me if anything bad happened. The art therapist came in and told me a little bit of what she had been thinking about doing. Her plans sounded alright. Then the time came.
I looked out the door of the conference room and saw 3 young ladies walking in. As they cam around the corner of the wall and saw me sitting there their faces lightened up and smiles grew. They came in and sat across the table from me. I turned my focus onto Sally as a feeling of wanting to get up and walk out started coming over me. Sally stood and looked under the table and as she saw the girls her tail started wagging and beating me in the leg. I gathered my strength and let her of lead and told her to go "Visit". She walked all around the room visiting everyone else but the girls. then she went to them. Sally got quite a bit of pets and hugs from the girls. Then came back and laid down at my feet. I had to really force myself to try and look up from Sally and across the table. Here are 3 incredible young ladies that I have been accused of abusing and being a physical threat to sitting across a table from me and smiling at the chance they get to see me. Talk about guilt!!!!! We draw some pictures and then start talking about memories. My picture was of me fishing as a kid. One of the things I always enjoyed. I also drew the bald eagles I used to go out and watch near the Platte river back home. Then it was Tala's turn to tell about her picture. She had drawn a picture of her riding a bike. I guess that is something I used to do with the girls whenever they were over here. As she talked she began to cry. That was too much, I had to excuse myself. When the only memory you have of someone is of them crying, then when you meet them and they begin crying it is really difficult to push any other thought out of your mind other than here you are hurting them again. I wanted to remember the things she was talking about.
When I came back in it was Keilani that was discussing her picture. One of her comments that she was asked to repeat was her talking about how when I help her to learn to ride a bike she never fell. I guess I was always right there to make sure she was safe. Again it was really hard. Then Shakaya's turn and she spoke about me taking her fishing and catching a catfish. I asked her if she had put the worm on herself and she giggled and said no. She tried but could handle how they felt. We all giggled a little bit.
In a video of a meeting that the girls had with my therapist 2 weeks before Tala had mentioned me teaching her how to play Chinese Checkers. I asked if I had ever told them the history of me playing? They said I hadn't. So I told them how every time I went with Mom and Dad to visit Grandma, and Grandpa Kloppenborg, as soon as I walked into the house I would go get the tin with checkers on one side and Chinese checkers on the other. Grandpa would sit there and encourage me to try and open the tin Then he would finally help me and open it and wee would sit and play a couple of games. We did that for many years. Then I figured out how to open the tin on my own. We only played a few times after that. I have always wondered if that was Grandpa's way of teaching me patience and determination. Once I could open the tin, the lesson had been learned. Tala then told me of how we had gone to a thrift store and she found a tin like I had described and I bought it and got some new marbles and had taught them how to play. I found that tin not to long ago and was wondering where it had come from, as it gave me a lot of memories of Grandma, and Grandpa.
Keilani was one of the harder ones to watch. Every so often she got up and went over and gave Scott a hug. Scott was a friend of mine that when I first woke up helped me by getting me back to Lejeune and taking me to the hospital. He tried his best to help me through the first few months afterwards. Then he got deployed and we have lost touch ever since. Kailani would go over and give him a hug and when she came back and sat down I could see that she was trying to fight back the tears. I hate hurting people and especially kids. I hate to see them in pain. But I couldn't do anything to help. It really drove me nuts.
I sat there and listened to the girls talk about a Dad that had a lot of fun with them and did a lot with them. A Dad that cared for them. A few months ago when the girls met Terry, Allison and Sally, Tala had made the comment to Allison that the reason I only remembered tears from them was due to the fact that their Dad would always go and try and cheer them up when they were down. I watched their faces as they talked about this Dad of theirs. A lot of love, caring and I could see that it really hurt them that, that Dad wasn't around. I felt sorry for them for their loss. It seemed to me that they were talking of a Dad that had died! I tried to find a connection with them in my mind. I searched and searched, but couldn't make a connection. The intellectual side of my mind knew that they were talking about me but the emotional side had nothing, but sympathy for 3 incredible young girls that had lost some one very special to them.
This meeting was a step for all of us. Good, bad or indifferent is yet to be determined. To me it was a step. I guess for the girls it was a very special day. Maybe one day I will be able to find that same feeling.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Big test tomorrow

When I woke up last year and was finally convinced that it wasn't 1994 it was a big shock, to say the least. Then, as I learned more about my life in the 14 years I had lost a couple of things that were even bigger shockers, I was married and going through a separation that was going to end in divorce with a woman I don't even remember dating, and that I had 4 kids. In 1994 I had no desire to have kids. Kids were great as long as they were someone else's. I was the usual bachelor. Feed the kids full of sugar as long as I was around. The big difference was I was also a release for the sugar. I remember at the bar I worked at here in Jacksonville as a bouncer one of the bartenders an I became like brother and sister, we used to get off of work and go to her house and make chocolate chip pancakes for her kids. They would get up and eat and then crawl around on the Buf gym to release some of the energy. Then I would go back to my barracks and she would be stuck with the rest of the sugar rush. It was a good time. Now I found out that I had 4 of my own. Within a couple of days I was served with a restraining order that stated that I was a physical threat to my ex-wife and the kids. Family Advocacy Program(FAP) from base was brought in to my situation, and with the findings from their investigation I was told that there was a "high probability that I abused my ex and my kids, and a high probability that I will abuse again." This was a major blow to me. I can't imagine abusing anyone!!! In all honesty to me that is one of the worst things that a man could do in his life. Speaking to my therapist the other day I told her that to me abusing a spouse and kids to me is the ultimate sin. It is one thing that there is no forgiveness for. I still struggle with this every day. The only memories that I have had of my ex is of her crying and scratching at her arms. The only memories that I have of my children is of them crying. No smiles, no laughs, not one single happy memory. It has been driving me slowly insane. I have been offered many explanations of reason for the kids crying mainly because of me either returning or preparing for a deployment. None of which have made any connections in this messed up mind of mine.

May of last year at the grocery store a simple brush of a hand sent me into a major down spiral. I developed a major fear of women and children, along with a host of other phobias. Over the last year I have struggled many times with the idea of giving up my parental rights as I didn't feel that I deserved to be involved with the kids. Especially since there was a "High probability that I would abuse again". I have done this and instead have struggled with the idea of trying to get back involved with my children. Since I received Sally I have intentionally pushed myself to try and cope with children. The woman thing I am no where near ready to try. Any time a child with their parents have come up to me and asked about Sally I have tried my best to deal with my anxiety and take a knee and talk with them. It has been one thing that I have had a lot of difficulty in coping with. I have had a couple bad reactions afterwards including knocking one child back with my arm when he got up beside me and touched my arm. I instinctively jumped, and accidentally knock him back into his mother. Kids still are one of my 2 biggest problems. A couple of weeks ago I went down to a house that had 2 younger children, one teenager and one older gal that were there. My stress level was through the roof and I had to really concentrate hard on keeping my cool. I managed to do stay there for an hour and a half. The kids though helped by not coming too close to me which helped. The youngest one Amanda, who is one of the clients with paws4people has really given me mixed feelings the last 2 times that I have seen her. When I have seen her she taps on her arm that she wants to snuggle with me. Even though I have always kept my distance it still made me tweak. Susan has told me that Amanda doesn't do that with many people. There are times that I have hoped that there is still a part of me some where in this mind that is the old me that could have fun wit children. Then the findings of FAP come back into my mind and I keep m,y distance. I don't want to hurt anyone any more.

Two weeks ago my therapist met with my ex and my girls. My ex brought up the idea of recording the meetings. I watched the videos, of the kids talking about their Dad and couldn't make the connection that they were talking about me. They talked about learning to cook, working on science projects, riding bikes, sounded like a caring father. Then they started talking about regretting spending time with their friends because that time could have been spent with their dad instead. About having to act like adults now because Dad isn't there to mediate between them. They talked about a Dad that would try and succeed in cheering them up when they were up set. None of these thing connected with me to them. Parts of me really wondered what kind of a Dad would put their kids through this kind of hell? Why would a Dad that did this to his kids deserve to be around them again? The came the memory that they were talking about me. It was very hard to watch these videos. Honestly in a lot of ways it was almost like they were talking about a Dad that had died. I have heard some of the same comments from people that have lost their Dad. When I watched the videos I had hoped that hearing their voices would bring back just one good memory. That didn't happen. Instead the images of them crying came back and haunted me more and more.

Now for the big test!!! Tomorrow I am supposed to meet my daughters for the first time since this happened to me. Talk about a major test. I already have the feeling that everything I have learned in working with Sally is going to be used during this meeting. I already know I will have to get up and leave a couple times to let the anxiety calm down. We are to have an art therapist there too. This way it will give some distraction. Just typing this I can feel my anxiety shooting through the roof. "Baby Steps" is what everyone keeps telling me to take. Somehow it seems more like I am taking "Baby Falls" instead. As a kid learns to walk they take those steps that are too big and end up falling. Sometimes they catch themselves sometimes they fall. Don't know which it will be tomorrow. Can only wait and see.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Busy couple weeks 2 weeks ago

The last 2 weeks have been very busy!! First was the 4th of July. This is the second 4th that I actually sat out and watched the fireworks. This year was better than last year. Sally and I went out on the back deck and watched them. I think there is someone in my neighborhood that must have a class one license, there were some really big blasts. We did alright though. There were a couple of times that I got a really strong smell of sulfur and it made me feel really uneasy. Sally was a champ though!! I guess she sensed the uneasiness and stood up came over and put her head on my leg and nudged me to pet her. As soon as my uneasiness settled she laid down at my feet and put her head on my foot to let me know she was there. It was nice to be able to watch fireworks again. That Monday I decided to take Sally to Petsmart and get her a spa treatment for helping me so much. It was rather interesting when we walked in and I asked for a walk in appointment. At first they told me that I could come back in 3 hours. That really shook me up!!!! But when I explained that Sally was a service dog they gladly assisted me right away. Watching them try and get Sally to get up on the table was an entertaining sight to see. It really showed me the difference knowing the commands makes!! Sally did really good and the gal that took care of her even commented that Sally was one of the better dogs that she has worked with. She didn't care much for the dryer but she tolerated it great!! She even tolerated the nail grinding and didn't wiggle around she just stood there and let the gal take care of her. Quite a difference from the wrestling match that her and I have when I try.
Tuesday we went down to Ft. Stewart with Jeff, and the Army guys down there. It was really good to see the Army guys. Did I really just type that? It seems like they are getting a really good handle on the program there. Jeff did outstanding!!! The commissary in the morning was a little trying but he made it almost a half hour. In the afternoon we went to Lowe's and Walmart. At Lowe's I could see that Jeff was getting a little anxious with the fact that Terry told him we couldn't leave until he found nails. Caroline was being a little difficult but Jeff worked through his anxiety and Caroline's difficulties like a champ. At Walmart Jeff and I went off on our own and got the dogs some treats. Jeff did outstanding there. Here in Jacksonville Walmart is one place that most of the service members I know don't like to go anyway. Though down there it wasn't nearly as busy as the "old" Walmart in Jacksonville it is still a stressful place. Jeff was starting to really use Caroline to help him. Watching him reminded me a lot of the things that I was going through when I was doing my transfer training with Sally!! Keep up the good work Jeff!!
While down there I met Matt. His daughter is getting Corina! Matt is just getting started with the transfer training. I think he is in for some real surprises. He talked that he had other dogs before. One of the things I had an interesting time with, was my history with working with dogs. I had to relearn commands and understand that the way I used commands and the way Sally understood the commands were different. Good luck Matt and have fun you really got a sweetheart of a dog.
While there I only had 2 real stressful times. One was at the commissary when Jeff first had problems in there. Thank heaven that Terry was there. I was really anxious about where Jeff stopped at the first time. I felt really exposed but between Sally and Terry we made it and were able to help Jeff. The second was at dinner that night. The restaurant we went to I sat with my back to the front windows, and front door. Felt a little anxious but the Army guys that went with us I felt would let me know if there were any real problems. I let Sally relax a little bit and used the Army guys instead. Did alright until a couple came in and they sat them down right behind me. What was worse was the sat the female immediately behind me. That made my anxiety launch through the roof. I kept eating and even moved my sunglasses, that Allison complains she rarely sees me without, so I could use the reflection to watch my back a little more. I managed to finish eating and sat there a few more minutes but finally had enough. Sally and I got up and went outside. I had a cigarette, Sally and I walked around the restaurant, and I talked to her and even took a knee and petted her for a little bit. While doing this my anxiety decreased enough to where I went back into the restaurant and sat back down. I moved Sally and had her "Pay Attention", and put her at "Alert", and moved my glasses so I was relying on her to take care of me. Real quick THANK YOU to the inmates that trained her with these commands!!!!!!!!! I did it!!! We sat through the rest of dinner and no one was even aware of what was going on or why we got up and left for a few minutes. THANKS Sally!!! Terry Matt and I met with a woman from a newspaper inn Savannah, and it sounded like she is really into trying to help a lot. I got a good laugh out of her though. She asked me if I had ever thought about trying to get Sally into the Dock Dog contests? I don't think I could ever get her excited enough to jump into the water unless I could find her a Butterfly shaped training dummy. Then I think she would just walk to the edge of the dock and then look at me and wonder when I was going to jump in and get it for her. Those that know her will understand what I mean. It turned out to be a really good meeting.
Thursday came around and I got to watch Terry spring a real surprise on Jeff. We went to the Hotel Jeff and his parents were staying at and they met us outside. I could see Jeff was not really looking forward to the days events. Little did he know the surprise he was getting. Terry told him that since he did so well the day before that he was getting a break and also getting the chance to take Caroline home for the night and Terry would pick her up the next day. It was really neat to watch Jeff's face light up. I reckon it was the same way mine did when I got to have her here at the house on my own. Afterwards Terry, Matt, Jeff and his parents and I parted ways. It turned out to be a really good week.