Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Oh the anticipation!

I’ve been a Batman FAN-atic all my life; I read the comic books, watched weekend re-runs of the vintage (original) Batman series starring Adam West; can I just express how drop it like it’s hot gorgeous Eartha Kitt was as cat woman? This is where I would totally do my best Jim Carey’s The Mask voice…SMOKIN’! 

Yeah...that really wasn't going to suffice without the visual

 I was absolutely addicted to the Saturday Morning Warner Brothers Cartoon series [insert displeasing feeling of dating myself]. I even begged my Aunt and Uncle-BEGGED- to take me and the cuzzo to Six Flags during opening week of both Batman the Ride and The Riddler’s Revenge, which I still to this day, have to ride every time I visit that theme park. Not to mention how many times I watched Tim Burton’s Batman film(s) adaptation, despite the revolving door of leading man role changes of my beloved Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton- you’re still the shizz wiz as Batman…shout out my Dark Knight brother, shout). And let’s not even go there with the adopting of the first, heavily Prince orientated, soundtrack that I played without skipping a beat, each day before and after school.

 Yes, I am a Batman Fan; hardcore, unapologetic, certifiably branded, Batman fan-FRIGGIN-atic. But not even my fan-filled ass was prepared for the three-peat Lollapalooza that is now being called the new generation Batman Trilogy. From the very first scene in Batman Begins, to the performance to end ALL performances in history- Heath Ledger as the Joker- I WAS HOOKED. After The Dark Knight  and the untimely death of an actor that was sure to set Hollywood ablaze with absolutely no limit to his acting potential, I was really nervous about what to expect from the last Batman film of the soon legendary and epic trilogy conclusion.

Alas, they proved my worries merely speculative, and after watching this brief trailer, you’ll understand why… 

Holy frijoles! Does that not look AH-Ma-zing or what! And…It’s coming to theaters the day of my birthday! I’m stoked. STOKED. The anticipation is killing me slowly, but I’m super excited about taking some much needed “me” time, and spending it at my local theater, with my favorite comic book hero.  

Are you planning on taking some much needed you time to head to your local theater this summer? If so, leave me a comment or email me. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Service dogs and warriors

Do animals (dogs in particular) have the ability to reduce symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? That’s the question, which over the past few years has been floating around newspapesr and magazine publications, and has received worldwide recognition and attention from both local television stations, and larger multi-media sharing sites.

Five years ago, I would have argued my doubt about the ability of animals reducing any symptoms of anxiety; that was, until I saw firsthand just how instrumental the bond between our family dog Xander and my husband has been in successfully minimizing the first signs of an anxiety attack and in some cases, stopping the anxiety attacks my husband often experiences. It was December 2007- the hubby and I were catching a few red tag Christmas sales items at one of our local department stores, when he suddenly began having one of the worst anxiety attacks he had ever experienced to date. The anxiety was so overwhelming, he actually began to sweat, hyperventilate, and lose control of his motor skills before we could make it out the store. Because we didn’t expect to be out very long, we didn’t take any meds that had been prescribed by his doctor to combat anxiety attacks; by the time we made it home, he was in a full-fledged attack, that I honestly thought even meds could not diminish. I didn’t know what to do, or if anything could be done at all, but what I did notice was Xander’s reaction to seeing the hubby in this condition. He immediately nudged the hubby onto his back, and curled up onto his chest pawing at his shoulder until my hubby lay completely flat on the bed. Although I had already managed to get one pill safely into my hubby’s mouth, it was Xander who was able to slowly stop the anxiety attack. Within 45 minutes (I’m aware that seems like a long time to wait for results, but as many of you know even with meds anxiety attacks can last for hours- sometimes even days without resolve) my hubby was able to finally calm down.

I was, and still am convinced that Xander’s quick attention was the reason that anxiety attack didn’t end with a trip to the VA ER. Since that day both my husband and I have been diligently doing research on service dogs, and the benefits of having one specifically for PTSD and TBI. The best description I have heard to date of how beneficial having a service dog in the home of someone suffering from PSTD can be found in a March 2010 article on the homepage of the united states Army: The article quotes Alicia Miller, an Army veteran and cofounder of Operation Wolfhound:

Medication works 50 percent of the time. Talk therapy, alone, works 30 percent of the time, and dogs work 84.5 percent of the time. The dogs are proven effective. It’s a much better deal for the veterans because they don’t have to worry about the side effects of medication”

I fully agree with this statement, and couldn’t have said it better myself. Speaking from personal experience, and as I have already addressed in a previous post, side effects of meds can be just as dangerous as the symptoms they are intended to remedy. PTSD is not as easy to cure as prescribing a pill, or speaking to a therapist, and to that, continued attention to the problem itself is needed if there is chance or hope at reducing the effects of the problem itself.

Besides supplying unconditional love, affection, comfort, and support to the Veteran or person in need, just look at all the other useful tricks service dogs can be trained to assist with.

I know I’m extremely thankful for Xander, and I know he is helping my husband fight PTSD. If you are interested in a service dog for your warrior or yourself, talk to your VA Primary Care Physician, and ask for a recommendation letter. They may require an assessment, but if you or your warrior is being treated for PTSD or TBI, you could qualify for a service dog. There are also sites you may be interested in to obtain more information about service animals that I will share below.

                                             Good luck everyone! And as always, take care.

My Hubby and our officially crowned "Service Dog" Xander

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Cupcakes, Veterans and Fun

Today was probably one of the most touching days I’ve had the opportunity to experience in quite some time. My stepdaughter (otherwise known as the Lady Bug), the hubby and I decided to spread some Fourth of July love by way of cupcakes to some of the inpatient Vets at our local VA Hospital. Usually, whenever there is a holiday, we gather together as a family to spend time with Vets that either don’t have access to their loved ones, or are too sick to leave the VA to celebrate on their own. This gives us the opportunity to spread a little joy, give honor to those that are truly deserving, and take time to break away from the day-to-day cycle that is PTSD.

First of all… how cute is this little lady bug? Um… so cute it hurts comes to mind.

 It’s always heartwarming to see the look on the faces of some of the Vets we encounter as we pass through the VA room by room giving away handmade cards, gifts, and treats, but today was by far the most gratifying and poignant experience thus far. Walking in to the breathtaking sound of a local woman playing the keyboard and singing Bridge Over Troubled Water  for a Vet struggling through the holiday, should have been the first indication that today would be different for me; my grandmother (Grammy as we all call her) would sing that song and play her keyboard all the time, and I loved sitting next to her taking in every moment second by second.

From the very first room we entered the Vets that occupied it were thrilled to pieces to know that someone thought enough of them to surprise them with treats and thank you’s. 

Some of the Vets were so excited they reached out to hug the Lady Bug, and joked around with her creating frosting mustaches and cookie crumble freckles.

Even the Nurses and Hospital Security decided to join in and make the day special by sharing their stories with us, and entertaining the Vets with jokes and laughs.

As we entered our last room on our way out we ran into a younger Vet that had been admitted after a serious motorcycle accident. He was having a very difficult time getting through the holiday and really wasn’t up for any celebration when we first walked in, but after just a few minutes of speaking with us he began to open up and thanked us for coming by to visit. 

The Lady Bug, for a moment actually began to cry as we walked out and turned to me to express that the Vet reminded her of her Dad after his motorcycle accident (ironically, they both had the same injuries). She instantly felt connected to the Vet, and asked to go back to his room prior to leaving just to check on him. When we got back to the room and explained to the Vet that the Lady Bug was concerned and wanted to ensure he was ok, he sat up and reached his hands out to her to thank her for being kind, and really began to open up a little to us about why he was having such a difficult time during this holiday. 

What he expressed to us, and seeing how moved he was to see that total strangers could be just as concerned about his well being as a close friend, was all together more memorable than any other visit we’ve made to the VA. We left feeling much more connected to our cause than we had ever been before, and more than that, we left knowing (not hoping) that today, we actually made an impact in someone’s life.

It was amazing. I’m looking forward to our next VA visit. 

O Beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain

For all those who fought
Both past and present
Military and Civilian
No matter what race
Or religious denomination
To keep us safe from harm
To give us all a voice
To shape and mold this country
Into the country it is today
A country I am proud to live in
Today and every day, I thank you.

This song always reminds me of my first baseball game; the hotdogs and pretzels were flowing, the roar of the crowd was insane, the energy and spirit of the game itself was intoxicating, and over the loud speakers a recording of Ray Charles singing America the Beautiful filled my ears. That day, I became a baseball fan. I was 7 years old and even that young, I understood that in that stadium, race, gender, religious belief, even time didn’t matter- we were one, and we together are what makes this country great. This is a belief that I’ve carried with me from my formative years to adulthood, and this belief grows stronger each day as the numbers of my fellow warrior wives who reach out to me to share their stories rises. Even though the belief now carries much more weight and value than it’s original baseball origins, the basic emotions that erupt from that belief are the same. Life isn’t always sunshine and roses here, and America is just as much scary as it is beautiful, but nonetheless it’s our America; that’s a fact to be proud of.

Enjoy your Independence Day everyone!