Wednesday, July 24, 2013

My Amazon Subscribe and Save Deals

I've started taking advantage of my Amazon Prime account by ordering things in to my business that are more cost effective than a shopping trip.  I have done a substantial bit of research to make sure I'm getting a good deal and thought I'd pass along what I've found.  With a Prime account and a Subscribe and Save subscription you can choose the items you want and how often you want them delivered.  With 1-4 items delivered on the same order you get a 15% discount.  With 5 or more items you get a 20% discount.  You can cancel or put orders on hold at any time. 

One of the best deals I found was on 48 double rolls of toilet paper.  The cost with the 20% off was $18.10 delivered each month. That's alot of toilet paper but it is easier and more cost effective than loading two buggies each week with paper products. This way they are delivered to our door and I don't have to pay payroll costs for someone to go get them.  Now, don't get me wrong becuase I'm all about keeping money local when I can but with me having to stay at home with my husband, I'm trying to save as much as possible too. 

Items scheduled to arrive in August include (Prices subject to change and Subscription includes 20%off):
  • Purex Ultra Packs Laundry Detergent
    •  $6.97 or $5.58 SUBSCRIPTION
  •  Bob's Red Mill Flour 4- 5 lb bags 
    •  $13.91 SUBSCRIPTION (not currently in stock since I put it on my list)
  •  Mr Clean Magic Eraser
    • $4.97 or $3.98 SUBSCRIPTION
  •  Cascade Dish Detergent Packs, 85 ct
    •  $15.46 or $12.37 SUBSCRIPTION
  •  Angel Soft 48 Double Rolls
    •  $22.63 or $18.10 SUBSCRIPTION
  •  Platex Large Gloves
    •  $2.15 or $1.72 SUBSCRIPTION
  •  Scott Naturals 6 large rolls paper towels
    •  $9.22 or $7.38 SUBSCRIPTION
  •  Lysol Disinfectant Spray, 19 oz
    •  $4.88 or $3.90 SUBSCRIPTION
  • Nestle Carnation Instant Dry Milk
    • $10.61 or $8.49 SUBSCRIPTION
  • Microwave Pork Rinds, case of 18
    • $18.99 or $15.19 SUBSCRIPTION

Some of the items' regular prices are already discounted.  Remember that Amazon prices are subject to change and I suggest checking your subscriptions a few days to a week before they are scheduled to make sure you don't miss out on an out of stock item.  I'd hate to miss my 20% off if something wasn't in stock.  That's why I added smaller "filler"items that we use, just in case.  

Maybe you don't want to buy that much TP but you can always search for a smaller amount.  I just thought I'd  share my hard work with you so you could take advantage of some savings.

(Disclosure: This post may contain contain Affiliate links)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Frustrating Journey - C&P Exams Tomorrow

Many friends know we have to go to Atlanta tomorrow for John's Compensation Exam.  This is nerve wracking for me on several levels. First, last year's exam was incomplete and not at all accurate.  We were told after the fact that the examiner was not "qualified" to conduct TBI/PTSD exams.  She didn't adequately fill out the papers, didn't submit them back to the VA in the allocated time frame, and it was a miserable experience.  The VA only sent about 10 pages of medical records (out of 300+ for the year) for the examiner to review.  They didn't record the actual responses John gave for the complaints and disabilities being evaluated.  It was such a frustrating experience driving all the way to Columbus for three separate days that just before his PTSD evaluation John jumped out of the moving truck on the freeway.  Yes, you just read that right.  I knew he was agitated and had slowed down and pulled over as much as I could before he bounded out of the truck, but it happened.  I eventually coaxed him back into the vehicle and we went for the remainder of the exam.  You better believe I was shaken but guess what....even after that and all the other details of his symptoms and daily life, the examiner reported that John didn't have any significant difficulty on 14 out of the 16 facets listed.  Yet, the VA exam at the VA hospital by two collaborating physicians on the same 16 facets showed EXTREME difficulty in 14 out of the 16 facets measured and some difficulty on the other two. 

So, our financial well being and John's access to more local medical care literally lies in the hands of someone we will see for about 3 hours tomorrow.  Dear Lord, I really pray they accurately record what is real for us.  We're not asking for something he doesn't deserve.  We just want what is needful and appropriate.  Did you know that between the 80% compensation that he presently gets and the 100% that he needs, there is a $1400+ a month difference? Yes. Stark difference. The price of our mortgage and taxes each month, actually.

Even though the VA determined over two years ago that John needed a full time caregiver, and gave me a stipend and health benefits, they have also denied his compensation for Aid and Attendance stating he needs no assistance or care! Yes, they did. Even though his neurologist at the time we applied (Sept. 2011) wrote "Needs Constant Supervision" across the bottom of the application.  So John is frustrated that the VA pays me more when he's the "suffering" one. Right now we can't get close medical care for John.  We have to drive 1.5 hours for emergency care and 3.5 hours for regular care.  Even though the VA allows me ChampVA health care insurance and I can access whatever resources I need close to home because I take care of him.  For me it is great. Yet, it shows how warped the system is because John can't get the same care. 

John's supposedly "expedited" Social Security Disability was denied because the VA hadn't determined him "Unemployable." So now we've waited 12 months on an appeal that hasn't made any progress.  John's Unemployability was denied by the VA based on the fact that they didn't see any barriers to employment.  Yet, he now hasn't worked in 23 months and the Vocational Rehab division has him enrolled in the Independent Living division because they determined him to not be suited for employment or education.  So, they have given him new can openers, jar openers, pens, eating utensils, etc.  so he can be more independent when he looses feeling in his hands.  They gave him a vacuum and a steam mop, a couch cane for assistance getting up, and a pill container that alarms and talks to him.  Still we can't get the home renovations approved.  The housing grant was denied  because John has a brain injury and seizures. Since he hasn't lost a limb or eyesight, they say we are out of luck and have to struggle. (See "We are the VA Backlog" blog)

John fell several times this week again.  He had a multitude of seizures again.  We can't get his oversized wheelchair through the door to our bedroom or our toilet closet or our clothes closet.  This week the most frustrating was when after helping him to the bathroom he had a seizure and fell against the door closing it and blocking my way in.  We were helpless to help him.  With the exception of a few weeks this year, this has been an almost every week struggle.  For a while last year we left several of the doors in our home off.  We took them off the hinges and completely removed them so EMTs could get John out on a couple occasions and John could maneuver easier. 

Now, however after a few bills the VA refuses to pay at our local hospital, John refuses to go there.  A few months ago after a bad fall my grandfather took him to the hospital and because he didn't have insurance they acted like they didn't want to treat him.  They gave him one shot and immediately brought discharge papers, even though it didn't relieve any of his pain.  They refused to call the VA hospital for transfer or treatment, and we wound up driving the 90+ miles to the nearest VA facility as John had to have some relief from the pain after the fall on the tile floor. 

Oh I digress.  If you're still reading my frustrations then "Thanks" or "I'm sorry." I am not sure what is more appropriate.  Today, I needed to vent.  I'm concerned.  I'm scared.  I fear that tomorrow's exams will not be adequate and we'll have to keep fighting for appeals.  The congressman's office requesting expedited case due to hardship didn't work, the Voc Rehab putting in requests for Dental treatment in May and June didn't work, and filing a wounded warrior SSD claim didn't work.  We've been in a backlog of claims since 2008 and I'm tired. I'm tired of fighting it and I can't get a break. 

We took one of the new Disability Benefits Questionnaires to John's Mental Health doctor two weeks ago to his 2 week check up.  My thoughts were that he'd seen her for about 2 years and she could accurately describe his need for total disability.  We go to the appointment to find John had been reassigned to a new doctor.  His doctor wasn't gone but as the VA hired many new MH employees, they redistributed the cases.  Oh my...."Here new Dr. W. Here is this detailed questionnaire for you to fill out" and my heart sunk again because I wanted it done by the doctor that knew John and knew of the severe issues that he was having and knew that they were real. 

Dr. W. did check the box that John has "total social and occupational impairment" and I was happy to see that he did a 97% accurate job, in my opinion.  But it is frightening.  I'm not supposed to be the paranoid one but the whole process is beyond frustrating.  Yes, I have faith....I've had faith....and I am sure I will continue to have faith.  But my faith in the VA system is wavering.  My faith in God to provide for our family is still there but we desperately need this increase in compensation from the VA for my husband's suffering and impairment from his disabilities.

So, if you are still reading....PRAY! Send up a prayer on our behalf that when we get there tomorrow we'd have favor and the records will be in order.  The symptoms and problems will be apparent and recognized and recorded appropriately and justice and mercy and goodness will prevail on behalf of this wounded veteran and his family.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Celebrate Independence and Thank a Vet

Today is a day of national celebration.  Again another holdiday marked by food, family, friends, BBQ, deserts, and maybe a little watermelon.  Yet the true meaning of the holiday is to celbrate America's independence.  We need to take a moment to acknowledge the battles and perserverance of the founding fathers and those who settled in America and then fought to keep her free all these years. 
Remember the Veterans that have sacrificed for our freedoms and remember also that some who come home still suffer from the mental and physical wounds they incurred as a result of their service. 
If you have combat veteran friends, family, or neighbors be aware that the celebrations, fireworks, crowds, and loud noises may trigger panic, PTSD symptoms, dissociation, etc. 
Happy 4th of July.  Happy Independence Day.  Thank a Vet today.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

When PTSD leads to Suicidal Signs

Anyone who has looked into symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder knows that dangers of PTSD include anger, impulsivity, depression, and may also include suicidal ideations or cries for help.  Unfortunatly, the VA system often can't do enough for many vets.  Family members and friends have to take a more proactive stance of awareness and support for the veterans that the love. 

I urge you to be there for veterans. Advocate for them, be with them, call 911 or other crisis lines if needed, point them in the right directions, and do whatever possible to make them feel accepted, needed, hopeful, and safe.
The American Veterans With Brain Injuries group posted this info on FB:  
It should also be understood that the VA crisis line is for ALL Veterans who may be in crisis. Very often events can bring difficulties to the surface that have been hidden or "stuffed" for years, sometimes decades! If you know a veteran showing the following warning signs or symptoms, reach out and DO SOMETHING! 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1), or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
These signs may mean someone is at risk for suicide. Risk is greater if a behavior is new or has increased and if it seems related to a painful event, loss or change.

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself.
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself, such as searching online or buying a gun.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawn or feeling isolated.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.

Additional Warning Signs of Suicide Include:
  • Preoccupation with death.
  • Suddenly happier, calmer.
  • Loss of interest in things one cares about.
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye.
  • Making arrangements; setting one's affairs in order.
  • Giving things away, such as prized possessions.
There have been occasions when John wanted to throw away all his Army related gear.  He put his photos, medals, awards, and anything related into a box in the trash and threw out all his Army fatigues and accessories.   He cleaned out his closet, stacking all his clothes in a pile towering about five feet tall.  He told me to get rid of them that he didn't need them any longer.  He's went through times when he hid his Facebook account, posted that there were free Army items in the driveway, busted the glass out of the gun cabinet, loaded bags into the truck, and then hugged our children and told them good-bye. All this a gut wrenching experience for sure. 

How did we respond to these horrific times?  We did the best we could.  I called 9-11, called for someone to come get the kids, and I hid the truck keys. I knew if he left he would never return alive.  In December 2011, John wanted to go to the VA and kill them or at least make them suffer so they would understand what he was experiencing.  John didn't want to personally end his own life, but he wanted to be such a threat that someone else would have to kill him. 

Law enforcement came, cleared the house that was turned upside down and then found John about 8 blocks away.  Unfortunately, because John had worked as a deputy sheriff for a couple years before his health became so bad they didn't take action on his claims to kill everyone at the VA.  They recorded that they didn't hear him make any threats.  A deputy friend took him out for the afternoon and brought him back after all the guns were out of the house.  My parents came and stayed for a few days and afterwards John didn't recall too many details about the events that happened while he was in this rage.

Here is how I ended my letter to the VA Comensation board this week:

John is plagued constantly by the daily horrors he suffers from his service connected conditions.  Just last night he was screaming in his sleep, frightened by the visions and nightmares or demons trying to kill him.  We had to reorient him, leave the lights on, and he wanted to "never go back to sleep." While I am asking him now how to convey this to you, he states, "It's real fucking bad. I'm miserable." Between his confusion, disorientation, and severe anger and impulsivity, we had to buy a gun safe last January to lock his collection away from him after he tried to load all his guns to go "kill everyone at the VA" because he wasn't getting the help he needs.  It is awful that our children have to witness him like this.  I don't want to endure another day that he hugs and kisses them goodbye saying he will never come back home, watch the sheriff office suit up in body armor and storm our house searching it between the things he turned upside down as he fled the back yard.  He should feel that the VA has more of his best interest at heart and demonstrate that through better access to medical and mental health care, and the 100% compensation that he deserves so he doesn't have to stress about where money for bills or food is going to come from.  When he feels he is "worth more" dead so we won't have to be in a financial bind, it is already way too late.

Please be assured that at the time I am writing this blog, John is safe and is neither suicidal nor homicidal but I wanted to share these signs, symptoms, and stories with you in an effort to know that if you are plagued by PTSD and experience these symptoms that you are not alone in your struggles.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Chocolate Mug Cake...Faith of a Child

Our two boys had spent the week mostly away visiting aunts and uncles and the grandparents on the farm.  Yesterday afternoon, we went to pick them up and there were thunderstorms with heavy rain passing through.  The drive is about 90 miles for us, so it isn't just a quick pick up and head home. 

On the way home, the rain picked up and visibility was slim.  My wipers were going full force and I had to slow down substantially.  From the back seat, I hear Gabriel (age 6) exclaim, "I'm talking to God.  I prayed: 'Dear God, please let this rain slack up a little bit.'" Then in a few moments the driving was much easier as the rain let up a little bit. Gabriel was astonished and immediately thanked God for listening to his prayer and quickly answering.  

Then Aston (age 4) with the mustard seed sized faith to move mountains says, "Dear God, I want a piece of chocolate cake."  He was so serious and genuine and then he paused. He just sat there.  He held our his little hands as if waiting for a plate of cake to miraculously appear as fast as the rain subdued. 

Aston wasn't as happy with his prayer result as Gabriel was. Gabriel saw instant results from his prayer and Aston expected no less.  So this morning, I decided to search for that Chocolate Mug Cake recipe.  I found it and made Aston his very own Chocolate Cake.  It is waiting for him when he wakes up.  I guess we'll have an object lesson breakfast of the fact that have to wait longer for answered prayers!

And Jesus said to them, Because of your unbelief: for truly I say to you, If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you. -Matthew 17:20 American KJV


I'm acutally thinking that this mix would be very adorable as a teacher/friend gift packaged in a little mug.  I think I'm going to experiment to see what I can come up with.  I'm thinking substitute Whole Egg Powder for the eggs and Fortified Instant Milk for the milk.  I guess I might need some Butter Powder too. I've never had these staples in my pantry but I've looked at purchasing them in the past.  This way, all the recipient has to do is add water.  I think I may order those things as they would work great in the pantry stockpile and then I'll have them next time the need for a small gift arises.  Of course, Aston loves to cook and help in the kitchen and he will probably want to make a bunch of these to give away.  

Maybe we'll have to design our own special gift tag.  I'll work on that and post it to share when we finish it!

Hope you have a faithfilled-prayers answered kind of day.