Thursday, May 26, 2016

Our Grand Day at the VA Clinic

Occasionally, one finds answers unexpectedly. This was our case today at the local VA clinic.  In March,  Michael had the marathon VA intake appointments.

In mid-May we received notice of a disability rating.  It only took 6 weeks from the appointment and we were amazed. It was lower than we'd been told to expect. It was still good - but there were several issues that impact his daily life, which were not given any rating.  Many listed with "further development" on them. Our VSO has not explained. We're in the process of finding a new VSO.

Last week we received notice of two appointments for today. We drove to Oregon. We were at the VA clinic at 0745. Michael asked me to come with him to these appointments. He told the docs I'm his memory. ::wink::   We knew one was for "ortho" and were told the other was  a "go forward" appointment.

Ortho was "ok." He irritated me by constantly asking, "What happened 10 years ago?" as he traced the story of Mike's pain and joint issues. I suggested Stacia's birth - but that certainly wouldn't impact MICHAEL'S health. I told him numerous Air Force docs have told Michael he simply was "getting old."  That didn't fly either.  We didn't KNOW what happened to trigger the downward spiral of health. We left the first appointment wondering what the point of these appointments were. I asked the doctor that very question and he told us he wasn't an insurance man - he was a doctor. Hmph! ::snort::
Our second appointment began when we were greeted and told this was a "go forward" appointment and she was the "Gulf War Evaluator."   I struggled with my attitude for a bit....we have not asked for anything related to the Gulf War, we've not claimed anything pertaining to  the Gulf War....WHY are we here?  This doctor, though not in insurance, DID answer my questions. She is the "further development" for the issues the doctor at Mather didn't rate. Seems they wanted to get some rating to us quickly and  rated on the obvious......these next appointments are to get further information and then they'll adjust ratings as needed.

She'd read all 450 pages of Michael's medical records. She said, "You have a lot going on."  ::snort:: Michael has consistently said Parkinsons is the biggest impact on daily life, but he is in constant pain, and I've mentioned there are days he can't move.  Muscle pain. He told them this over and over. They basically said, "You're getting old." Well....when I mentioned that to the docs today they both said, aging wasn't a good answer. The one doc said, "No, this isn't aging. I'm 10 years older and I don't have to live with chronic pain."  Gotta love seasoned civilian docs. She said she'd traced his pain, his extreme fatigue and a few other symptoms and it all began about 10 years ago.  This time, instead of quizzing us about what we did 10 years ago...she told us what she'd unearthed in the medical records.

Ten years ago Michael filled out a form called a  PDHA - Post Deployment Health Assessment. This was in his records.  When troops return home they complete this form. She quoted from it and he mentioned the one thing bothering him was muscle pain and stiffness. She said this is a red flag. Less than 6 months later one can begin to trace various muscle issues being reported (pain, stiffness, weakness, chronic fatigue etc).  She said it's very common for vets returning from the Gulf War to have these symptoms. She also said it is classic Fibromyalgia - and she threw a few more terms  too. Of the 18 pain points, he had 17 today (and this was a pretty good day).  This explains the bad days, the pain that really hasn't gotten better with Parkinson's meds. The VA doesn't require a vet to have medical documentation of service connection with Fibro IF they've been deployed to the Gulf War. She said the fact that he has fibro, was deployed over to the area several times, has no family history,  AND had mentioned it on the PDHA makes it a very solid case. It also explains all the "inexplicable aging pains."

She suggested we get set up for a PCP (Primary Care Physician) so  we can begin to discuss treatment options for the many things which have been "evaluated," but not treated.  This sounds like a great idea. ::wink::

Bottom line - we have some answers - and five new appointments and THEN they will make a final determination on the rating. Meanwhile, his current rating makes him priority 1 at the VA and he can get care and meds there for free (to include neurology for Parkinsons).  The VA doc advised we not appeal until after they make a final determination. She said we may not need to appeal.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

We've Landed

Keeping in mind the 12 hour rule of parking at the rest area, we got up early and headed down the highway. NOT before Michael hiked to the truck stop and brought back doughnuts for breakfast. I'm not sure why, but this is the one truck stop we've hit where we grab a doughnut each time we pass through. LOL
A Caboose sandwich

We arrived before the campground would like us check we toured the city....dragging the Caboose adds a touch of adventure to any drive.  Eventually, we converged on mom and dad - they'd been busy in the morning. CoRielle (they like this name best, as do we) joined us. We managed to get a game of Farkle in before it was time to head to the campground.

 We had just enough time to set up and grab showers (a luxury not available at a rest stop) before Krista showed up. Wow - someone tail ended her and her car is a mess! We drove across town to pick up our mail and discovered a packet of paperwork Michael needed to fill out before tomorrow's VA appointments.

The kids and I went on a walk. We love the river trails along the McKenzie. 
Isn't this how every walks? 

Stacia took this - eagerly waiting for blackberries at the campgrounds

A face in the tree

A Vet in his natural habitat

We ended the night with Bocce ball

We didn't expect to be here the next few days, but we are always happy to visit family! LOL Alas, Bre and Bella were busy with appointments and Awana award night - but we'll catch up with them soon.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Our First Boondocking Experience (Jordan Creek Rest Area)

We told the kids this morning, Michael was trying to pick up meds and if he was successful, we were going to hit the road. Stacia's first question was, "Are we taking the trailer this time?"

Driving is slower and a bit more stressful when we drag the Caboose - but it is WAY nicer on the packing, unpacking and sleeping side of things. She was relieved our home was coming with us this time.

Yuuki is more than happy to take her turn behind the wheel

Our plan was to stop at a Truck stop outside of Medford, OR. We kept on driving. We drove until the gas light came on, and then we coasted 7 miles into Seven Feathers to get some gas. Michael estimates we had about 1/2 a gal left when he filled up.

 Our next thought was we'd get dinner and stay at the Seven Feathers Truck Stop....but up the road from the Truck Stop we noted Jordan Creek REST AREA - not an overflow parking lot - a REST AREA.  The view is pretty. It's FREE. Look for exit 99. It's up above the Truck stop and I-5, the parking spots are wide - we put up our slide and still had plenty of room. It's well-maintained and quite pretty.

Dinner @ a picnic table in the rest area

Covered gazebo and to the right are the bathrooms

Cars on one side and trucks and RVs on the other - we will be out before we hit the 12 hour mark

We are second from the left 

Fenced pet area

If one wanted to visit the casino it's the clump of buildings to the middle/right

This is a great spot to stop for the night if you are traveling through. We're happy with the find. It's quieter than the truck stop, much darker too....HOWEVER, there are light posts everywhere, the bathrooms are clean and lit, the grounds are manicured....and I wouldn't say it's the "quiet hours" of an RV park.....but it's much quieter than Flying J....and much more comfortable to sleep in the trailer than in the van. ::snort:: 

SCORE for boondocking. We've slept in driveways, we've slept in the van in truck stops, state parks, military fam camps, RV resorts, and RV parks,  but this is our very first time to boondock in the Caboose. SCORE.  We are well aware this is more like urban boondocking - but it is dry camping and free. 

Glimpses of our Pit Stop

Here are a few glimpses from our quick Pit Stop at  Beale Fam Camp and surrounding areas. It wasn't nearly long enough. We picked up Michael's Parkinson's meds this a.m., they promise they are mailing all the kids and my med records and we're done with all we need to do here. 
See the friend outside our trailer window

Mike, the camp host, made her day when he noticed she is now taller than me. But, she still climbs trees - I don't very often. 

Games, reading and sleeping filled our hours

No visit to the Beale area is complete without connecting with Matt and Rachel and their kids. I feel like I should write a braggy "mommy post" on Matt and Rachel - but I'll refrain - for today. In any event, big changes coming for this dear family and we were happy to connect again. We plan to come back in June for Matt's separation of service as an enlisted Airman, and then commissioning as an officer/Chaplain! We are so excited for them.  I love all these kids - but I'm Gemma to Joy and I'm sure I am to Ellie too - the boys are old enough to realize I am not a REAL GRANDMA. ::snort::
Look how Ellie has grown! 
 We miss this gal already. Such sweet smiles and tears....
Joy and Stacia

We kept trying and trying to catch up with Desiree and Jerry and kids. They are in the MIDDLE of packers invading their home. This morning we just ran over for a quick chat and hug as we knew they won't be here when we are through again.

It was a special treat to connect with Chelsea and Rosie this morning for a few minutes.....and then the trailer was hitched and ready for travel. We are currently in Yreka, CA....heading to OR for VA appointments and the weekend.

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Birthday to Remember

Arielle is special. All of our children are treasures to us  - yet Arielle was the "baby girl" for her brothers and sisters for nine years, until Stacia became the baby girl....they still vie for the title amongst themselves and I call them both my baby girls. I'm diplomatic that way. ::snort::  Arielle has a special place in the hearts of both her older and younger siblings. We don't quite understand it - but she does. To the older five, she's the baby sister. To the younger three - she's the fun ringleader.

Today, Arielle turned 19!  We have taken great joy in her sweet spirit. Joy shines through her life - we see Jesus in Arielle.  We all miss her in our home terribly, but it's been fun to watch her face incredible challenges this year and soar.  This happened today....

Stacia wants to know how wet Cory got! 

Did we know this was coming? Well, now. Michael and I see ourselves as wise, fun and incredibly relevant. Many of our friends are in their 20's and 30's.....but we have learned when young men start wanting to spend time with us - it's time to check our daughters. ::snort::  When Cory began hanging around, we looked around to see which daughter we were in peril of "losing."

We like Cory. He called and talked to Michael before they began dating. When we are in town, he makes time to just come sit at the trailer with us and chat - without Arielle. He's had several "meaningful" conversations with Michael. We knew this was Cory's intent. Michael only asked him to carefully consider timing - and we didn't tell Arielle Cory had talked to Michael becase that was his story and surprise to share when he saw fit. For the same reason, we didn't tell the other kids, thus some are very surprised.

We knew it was coming - eventually - and I'm not at all surprised it happened on her birthday! 

Cory loves the Lord. He treasures our daughter and treats her with utmost respect. They met at New Hope Christian College. He recently completed a mission trip in Papua, New Guinea - building a church. He and Arielle both finished their freshman year at college.

Arielle is 19. Cory is 23. Yes, we know she is young. We also know we married at the same ages and 32 years later, we don't regret being married young. It's about the foundation of  your relationship and not the age on the birth certificate. It's also about God's timing and and leading in your life. We are so glad Cory did not show up at college before Arielle did.

Yes, it's a bit exhilarating to consider all the changes Arielle faced this past year - and to contemplate her as an engaged young woman - and yet - we know her heart, we know she follows God wholeheartedly and has bathed this relationship in prayer.

We are thrilled for this young couple! 

PS Izaak and BreAnne have a blog name  - BreZaak. Jared and Larissa have a blog name - JaRissa. We are brainstorming for Cory and Arielle and I just don't know......

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Weekend and Travel Thoughts

Our people.....we were  not the only ones spending the night in the Flying J parking lot. We may never pay for a motel or RV park while traveling again. LOL

 I shared on facebook:  "I woke up this morning in the front seat of the van in a Flying J parking lot....opened my Bible ap and read today's verses about being content in all situations (and Numbers about priests taking a razor to all of their body - figured the passage on contentment would be more applicable as Michael wouldn't go for the razor thing). I went inside and found the friendliest morning greetings, had a couple of conversations with fellow parking lot sleepers - even mentioned Jesus in conversation - quite natural when folks want to know WHY we are living on the road - and had a bowl of oatmeal. On the road again. I think my tie dye sweatshirt is an ice breaker."

We made it back to the trailer around lunch time. We enjoyed a 2 hour impromptu catch up with Brenner and Steph (where we'd parked the Caboose). We arrived at Beale Fam camp and realized we REALLY like traveling with the trailer better than the suitcases and the unloading/unpacking thing. It was wonderful to sleep in our own beds.

Sunday we visited our local church - and enjoyed the worship and preaching. Michael had a rough day and spent the rest of the day in bed.

It has been fun to catch up with people still here at the Beale Fam Camp, we didn't realize how fun it would be to catch up with friends made while staying here on another trip.....gotta love the life.

Travel thoughts - this lifestyle is allowing us to meet people we never would have met if we'd not moved into the trailer. This is a good thing.

Sorry - have been socializing and forgot about the photos!

Friday, May 20, 2016

#WYFF - Shopping for a New Home

I would love to explore Tucson in-depth, it looked like a charming city. Maybe we can do this next winter or early spring.  We decided to travel home a new route - via Tucson. Our travel change was fairly sudden and we hadn't taken the time to discover who we knew along the way. We did remember fellow-chaplains from Misawa are assigned to Davis Monthan. We sent a quick email, which they didn't see. We decided to go ahead and drop by the chapel and hopefully catch at least Chris. In a strange quirk, as we pulled up, Chris AND Jen were exiting the chapel. Chris is on leave but had to come in to take care of a bit of paperwork. They were heading off on a 12 hour drive, and we had a long drive ahead of us too. We chatted a few minutes and said goodbye.

Why did Michael have a hankering for driving through Tucson? He has haunted ads, online shopping sites, dealers and forums for at least 20 months. This one had promise and we could see it in person if we stopped by Tucson. Twenty months ago, I thought Michael's hunt was silly. We've been debt free for nearly 20 years. We didn't want to spend our savings on a toy as we moved into retirement. We planned to be on the road a few months and then head to Japan. Plans changed. Doctors began to say I need to learn to drive our rig. I've been working on that, but the trailer is getting increasingly hard to drive for anyone...and more so for someone who has never pulled before. Motorhomes looked better. Michael wanted a Diesel Pusher/Class A. The more we looked, the more we realized this hunt would take a bit of time. Just because we COULD get a loan for zilliions of dollars, doesn't mean we think it's wise to spend so much on something that WILL retirement approached we could see we would not have one before retirement. This makes financing even more difficult. ::wink::   More doctors are saying I need to learn to drive our rig....we know what we'd like to find having traveled in our trailer for 8 months.....a living area with enough seating for us all to sit in it at one time, a bunk for each kid, STORAGE, a bigger bed for Michael and I and I'd really like a bed that didn't require levitating to make....the small kitchen is a challenge but I can make it work.... Finding Class A DP with 3 BUNKS is a challenge. When we DID find them they had no storage (closet turns into bunks), had only 2 beds, were over 45 feet long, or were out of our price range. There is a nice one by Thor with bunks AND an over the cab bed...but it was just a bit more than we felt right financing.

This motorhome is a 2005 diesel pusher. It has 43K miles on it - not bad for a CAT C7 engine. It is priced considerably below book value. The owner had modified it, and the mod doesn't appeal to many (though he save all the pieces). I have 80 pictures - but why bore you, if we don't buy it?

It has four slides. Yuuki was offended we wouldn't allow her to give her  sniff of approval.  

The opposing front slides make a "spacious" living area. There is a loveseat (2 recliners really) on one side and a 3 seater couch across the way. The driver and passenger chairs swivel so there is seating for 7, as is.  But do you see what is sitting where the dinette should be? I wasn't sure I'd like it at all - but we are brainstorming work arounds.  This would give each child their own NORMAL sized twin bed. BTW it also has a FULL-SIZE QUEEN mattress. We currently have the Queen short they put in most RV's.  There is a third frame and mattress under the bottom bunk.  I'm thinking curtains or something for privacy....The kitchen is the same size I currently have. I'm not loving all the glass and mirrors, but would remove as much as possible. I'd love tile and not carpet - but I can deal. We'll get a portable table for when we can't eat or study outside. Alex and I will have to come up with a new early morning routine.....

Not sure why I have to sit in the seat of each one we try - maybe to give the illusion that I can drive our rig. ::snort:: But, I think I could drive this. 

Photo of the slide

Michael noticed a few items he wants  to adjust the price for or fix. We'd like to have a certified inspector give it a once over, so we know if there are more repairs we'll have to do. We need to check the price of registration and insurance and then see about a loan....which may be  a no go. Our income IS very steady, but the loan we tried to take 8 months ago was turned down as we haven't used credit for over 20 years....not totally true...we charge everything and pay the card off once a month. We were told this would show credit....but they want credit with a set payment that we would be obligated by someone else to pay off monthly.  The few things we bought on "credit" to build credit, we paid off early - also not a help according to our bank.

We are interested in this motorhome. Even if we can't get this one, seeing the layout - bunks without sacrificing the storage space needed for the extra people - gives us more options as we continue to save, shop and wait.

Other than that - we saw lots of road, saguaro and truck stops today. 

Yes, we ARE sleeping at Flying J again. We are looking forward to rejoining our trailer...but this works and is an adventure. We learned a lot from the trip out - and have one less person this time. I pulled out the sleeping bags, used the picnic blankets and window shades to block out light, and rearranged the luggage in the back so Alex can sleep back there....I think it will be better. We feel safer at a truck stop than at a rest area or deserted parking lot.  

#WYFF is sponsored by Fulltime Families. View more of our Friday exploits by clicking the #WYFF tab above.