Catching Up and Preaching ?!!?
If you’ve followed my blogs in the past, I’m always apologizing in the March/April time frame and telling you that it’s my busiest time of year. It really is. (Crap, typing “blogs” made me realize I haven’t written on my Square One blog in forever. I’ll remedy that soon enough.)
This year, instead of chairing a charity Walk to Defeat ALS, I was attending the funeral for one of my longtime ALS support group attendees. His death came as a shock to me, and I’m tearing up as I type this now. He had ALS since the mid 2000s, much longer than the expected life span of the average ALS patient, and still walked and talked, and drove and did all the things that “healthy” people do.
“A hazard of the job, I suppose” I had whispered to one of the Chapter staff that attended the funeral and sat with me. “It doesn’t make it any easier” she whispered back.
It was good to hear that, because at times as a therapist, I forget that we too, are just people, and are allowed to have emotions.
Fast forward to Vietnam Veteran’s Day and Welcome Home day (March 29th and 30th). I was able to see Dad on the 30th and even treat him to lunch at Applebee’s (his choice). He was surprised to hear that there were two days dedicated to welcoming Vietnam Vets home. I was surprised to hear that Vet Center hadn’t mentioned it (or maybe they had and he missed it).
I addition to these life celebrations, my contract job, asked me to present to a church in Chapel Hill. The topic was Military and its Effects of Families and Children. I prepared a 15-20 minute presentation (speech really) and then a follow up power point for the potluck lunch that occurred after church. Imagine my surprise when my boss told me I wasn’t just presenting my speech, I was giving the sermon. I explained to her that I didn’t know how to give sermons, and she explained that at this particular church, they usually have a guest speaker to present on a topic and that is the sermon. I felt better, that’s what I had been planning to do- present a topic.
Imagine my surprise on Sunday morning when I arrived at the church, met the Pastor and he explained that I was part of the worship team and I would be sitting on the altar (not sure if they call it that) and I would be giving the sermon. The altar thing took me by surprise, but I went with it. Then, I noticed my name in the bulletin: “Preacher: Joanna Nunez”. That cracked me up. While, I’m certainly not anti-religious, if you had asked me if I was ever going to be preaching a sermon I would have definitely answered no.
So that has been my March and April so far. Trying to spread awareness of the horrors of ALS and the plight of the Military Child (remember that April is the Month of the Military Child!)
A Smart Pen that outsmarts the User.
To be fair, I don’t know if I can honestly say I’ve been procrastinating with writing. I have been writing, just not every chance I get. Getting used to the nuances of the smart pen (and it getting used to my handwriting) hasn’t been bad. I will say it is a lot easier to carry a small pen and a regular sized notebook around, as opposed to lugging a laptop everywhere. I can feel productive when I’m stuck in a lobby or waiting room somewhere.
I think the biggest problem with this new technology is getting used to actual physical writing. I don’t think I’ve handwritten things since middle school. True, I write handwritten clinical notes everyday at work, but those are brief and I don’t have to worry about my handwriting. To actually compose something with pen and paper is a skill I haven’t forgotten. I’m used to my hands posed over a keyboard, as I think. I like that as I’m thinking dialogue through I can be typing it. Don’t like a word or think of a better one? Just backspace. There is no “backspace” or “delete” on the smart pen. In grad school they drill into your brain that if you make an error in a medical chart (case notes are considered medical) you correct it by a single line strike through. When you correct something with your smart pen, a single line strike through causes those words to be underlined when it’s transcribed to text.
All procrastination aside, I’ve had a great January with a trip to Arizona, several new clients, coordinating a fundraiser for ALS and at least 2,000 more words added to the novel. I know some people do 2,000 words in a matter of hours, but these are special words. They are written a sentence or two at a time, in the notebook with the smart pen, between clients, at doctor’s offices, in the drive thru line at the bank, on the airplane tray table. I once saw a highly acclaimed cardiologist speak about the links between anger, anxiety and heart attacks. Patients flew in to see this doctor, and she worked 5-6 days a week. She had several books written and when someone asked how she managed to write with her schedule she said “a line or two, in between patients, every day adds up.”
This novel is a work in progress, but so am I.
Running Out of Distractions
It’s Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend and I have officially run out of distractions. I’ve gone Black Friday shopping, surfed the Amazon deals, gone to lunch with my friend Jessica, played PokemonGo- even training at a gym, and have gone grocery shopping for non essential things. I don’t think I can avoid it (after this blog post, that is). I have to start my writing marathon, which is now down to about a 10K.
(Nerd bonus: I even re-taught myself IRC last night to chat with people. Because that is SOOO important, you know).
Do you find yourself putting writing off?
Do you know why I can beat all the Pokemons in a gym of my color, and not get a spot in the gym?
Please feel free to comment below (and distract me a little more!)
If you give a mouse a cookie…
…it will want a glass of milk. If you give Joanna a project, she will find 300 other tasks to complete as well.
This is the only possible explanation I can come up with for why I haven’t written a post or touched my novel since late September.
I know that November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and I didn’t have any delusions that I could commit to 10,000+ words a day. I do have a plan to have my own type of challenge- I want to be at 30,000 words by the end of the month. I’m at 12,000. I know with real NaNoWriMo you have to start from 0, but this is the Joanna challenge. So today and the long weekend of Thanksgiving I plan to force myself to get this done. I want the novel finished (for me, not edited) by the end of the year. It would be great to have a Spring release date.
Just an update (if you follow my Facebook page you’ll get more timely updates)- I did my first craft fair (I’m not too crafty), gave a talk on Moral Injury in Charlotte, NC and was able to see Dad for Veterans Day. I’m trying to prepare for Christmas and all the trappings of that.
I’ll keep this brief because I really want to get some words in today.
Today started out like a regular Thursday for me- morning appointments with clients, then planning to have lunch with Dad before returning to work to meet with afternoon clients. Dad said last night he wanted to eat at a sort of underground pizza place. He was craving “sweet pizza”.
Spinners Pizza might be known as Garro’s Pizza to those of us who grew up here, or were stationed at Bragg in the 80’s and early 90’s. Long before CiCi’s was a thing, Garro’s was home of the pizza buffet. What set them apart from the chain pizza places was their rustic decor, and their “dessert pizza”. Before Pizza Inn had the Pizzert, there was Garro’s cherry or apple pizza, -sometimes even chocolate, made with chocolate pudding! No tomato sauce went on these slices, just a sweet base (can’t reveal the secret, sorry!) then topped with unsalted mozzarella cheese and yummy pie toppings. When you were 8, this was the greatest thing in the world. (Let’s be honest here, as an adult it is still in the top 10 of greatest things.)
So that’s why Dad wanted Spinners today. He wanted sweet pizza. He got there before I did, and had already ordered drinks. I was pretty sure he assumed I wanted the pizza buffet, but alas, I’ve been gluten free for a little over a month and the health benefits (for me) really outweigh delicious, delicious pizza. (It’s been a struggle. If you think I don’t miss gluten and “real” pizza, please read the second paragraph again. My keyboard might short out from drool.)
It was just Dad and I today. I don’t know where his other friends were (I’ve previously mentioned them- they always want Mexican food). I was kind of happy it was just us. As much as I love the other Vets, it’s nice to have Dad time. We made small talk and he ate slice after slice as I ate my salad (their salad bar is straight out of the 80’s, unhealthy ranch and everything!) and waited on my pizza fries. Think pizza, no dough, smothered all over french fries. (Just want to mention here that in no way does gluten free=healthy.)
While we ate we talked, about his recent trip with my mom to Philly, about his group meeting today, and we reminisced. We talked about when Spinner’s was Garro’s and I would beg to eat there after school on early release days. (Garro’s was not located far from school.) We laughed about how my little sister would always whine that she wanted McDonald’s but we could convince her to go to Garro’s by telling her she could sit at the Pac Man table. Yes, its still there. A table with a Pac Man game built into it.
Today, Spinner’s was packed. From construction workers to men in suits, its hard to beat a reasonably priced pizza buffet with great service. Our waitress was running her feet off, as she appeared to be the only waitress serving the whole restaurant. Near the end of our meal, I asked for a box for my leftover pizza fries. She brought it back and said “your meal has been paid for, have a nice day!”
Dad looked confused, and I immediately started looking around the restaurant? Was it the gentleman who looked like a lawyer in his suit and pink shirt? Was it the three elderly ladies that had sat near the back? I waved the waitress down and before I could ask, Dad did. “Who paid for us?” She looked around the restaurant and the smiled and said “the two men that were sitting here” and gestured to the booth behind us. Since I was facing them, I knew sort of what they looked like. I knew from their converstation between themselves and from several other customers that they were car salesmen. Had they seen Dad’s Vietnam Vet hat? Had they heard us reminiscing about 20-some years ago when I was in elementary school (yikes)? Had they heard me offer to fill his plates for him, as his limp was a bit pronounced today? (He refused AND was not using his cane. If you want to know where I get my stubborness from…)
As we left, we had to pass the cashier. “We’ve already been taken care of,” Dad announced to her. She smiled and replied, “yes, sir.” I stopped and asked her if she knew anything about our benefactors. She seemed hesitant. “I know they are car salesman,” I supplied. She hesitated for a minute and said I think they work at “—- Ford*”.
I want to thank those two men who don’t know us and still paid for our meal. You saved us fighting over the check and I think your random act of kindness deserves recognition. If, by chance you are reading this, please email me or get in touch with me through this blog or my facebook page. I imagine you didn’t do this for recognition, but I would like to thank you personally and let your boss(es) know what great people you are.
I try to keep politics out of this blog, but let me say this- with the recent acts taking place around the country many people, myself included, are finding it hard to “hunt the good” in this world. This act of kindness makes me realize that for all the bad that is out there, there is so much good too.
(Disclaimer: I am not being paid or receiving compensation by Spinner’s Pizza or —Ford for this blog, this is all personal opinion.)
*Once I can confirm that they truly work at — Ford I will place the name of the dealer in this blog.
contact Joanna: email@example.com
It might not “look” like PTSD
What do you think of when you hear or read the word PTSD (technically, the acronym PTSD)? Do you see a grizzled old combat Vet like Lt. Dan from Forrest Gump? Lt. Dan definitely had PTSD, survivor’s guilt, Alcohol Addiction and a few other diagnoses I could add in there, assuming he was a real person. Maybe you see a young woman who was recently raped, afraid to leave her apartment or go out at night. That would certainly be a good candidate for a PTSD diagnosis.
Most people don’t think of their Hooah*, take charge, NCO* as possibly having PTSD. (*I’ll explain these army terms below). They don’t imagine someone that does public speaking, owns their own law firm and helps victims of domestic violence as having PTSD. Why not? It’s true that not every NCO or women has PTSD.
To get technical, the VA estimates 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan Vets have PTSD. So put 5 NCOs in a room, chances are one of them has PTSD. (please note, these could be male or female NCOs) (RAND corporation study, 2015)
Civilian women clock in much lower, with an estimated 10% of all women having PTSD in their lifetime. So put 10 women in a room, chances are one of them has PTSD. (PTSD United, 2013)
Why am I telling you all this? Because I had a personal realization this weekend. For years Mental Health Professionals have urged others to break the stigma and not stereotype mental disorders and the people that have them. I realized, while seeing my Dad “in action” at Greek Fest Friday night, that he doesn’t “look” like the typical ideal of PTSD.
Sure, he now wears his Vietnam Veteran hat proudly, and he was using cane Friday, due to some knee pain, but he was talking to everyone in sight. We arrived to Greek Fest (an annual, weekend long event of Greek food, wine, and dancing) and grabbed a seat in the air conditioned fellowship hall (despite being a September evening, it was still hot and humid). We had Dad hold the seats and then Mom and I did the divide and conquer approach- she took one line for drinks and Dad’s meal, I took the other line for our gyros and fries. (Authentic Greek fries, I assure you.)
Mom got through her line first, and when I got back to the hall, Dad was eating his Greek chicken, rice and green beans and talking to a man about his age. They seemed to be discussing something intently. As I slid into my chair, I leaned over to Mom and whispered “does he know him?” She shook her head and said, “I don’t think so.”
At this point, another man approached, also wearing a Vietnam Vet hat, shook my Dad’s hand and jokingly said “thank you for your service”. “You too!” my Dad replied, and they all shared a laugh. I began eating my lamb gyro (authentic!!!!) and in a few minutes heard glimpses and snatches of some of the same stories I told in the book, all about the food in Vietnam.
I relay this story, because my Dad was not sitting in the chair, arms crossed, sulking, when my Mom and I returned with food. He was socializing with everyone around him- something I always remember about him. When my husband and I were dating he commented, “Wow, your Dad knows everybody!” He was only half wrong- my Dad knows a LOT of people, no matter the setting. He also won’t have strangers for long, the way he strikes up conversations with people he hasn’t met before. “Your Dad would be a good politician, he can talk to anyone.”, other people have told me.
So PTSD might not always “look” like PTSD. The same can be said for any diagnosis, whether mental or physical.
Try not to judge or stereotype. Hidden behind the biggest smile can be pain.
*Hooah= an Army word that can mean whatever you want it to mean, usually, “yes” “I heard you” “Roger” or sometimes “f you”. Here, when I say a Soldier is “Hooah” I mean they are 100% about the Army, exceeding standards and being super patriotic and loyal.
*NCOs are non commissioned officers. Any enlisted with the rank of E-5 and above in a NCO. In the civilian world, they would be managers, where as officers would be supervisors/owners, while Soldiers (E-4 and below) are the lowly hourly workers.
In therapy, we call it a breakthrough
I don’t really use the term “breakthrough” when I’m with a client, unless it’s jokingly.(I also never say “and how does that make you FEEL?”- too cliche) I do see the moments of “breakthrough” on client’s faces though- when they get the insight they’ve been blind to all along, or are able to break down a defense mechanism. It’s kind of a “Eureka” moment. Some clients will be able to recognize that a change has taken place. Others just feel a little lighter, like a weight has been lifted.
Often there is crying (that’s not a requirement, it can be a no tears moment). Overall, its accessing deeper or buried feelings, recognizing cause and effect or achieving more insight, especially insight that affects their treatment goals.
I don’t know if there is a similar thing for authors. Could a breakthrough be overcoming writer’s block? Finally finding the exact way you wanted to phrase a thought? The rush of the moment when you finish a chapter, or even the whole manuscript? (Before edits and rewrites, of course.)
I don’t know what to call it, but I had an author breakthrough on Sunday. I was writing some backstory for one of my main characters and I got really caught up in the scene. It was almost like I didn’t have to think. As I came to the ending of the scene a tear hit my laptop. I was crying! Even though I was composing this, it was so emotional it made me cry.
Now, I cry when I read certain books, but to cry while writing one? That’s hopefully a sign of good character development!
The Next Revolution will Start with Chips & Salsa
If you follow my blog, you know that I have a weekly tradition of going out to lunch with my Dad, when he’s in town for his Vet Center visits. Over the past six weeks, these lunches have expanded to include several other Veterans that are from his group. They are all Vietnam Vets, and they are all an endless source of information about the war.
They always want to eat Mexican food (not a problem with me!) and the one time we strayed for barbecue, while it was enjoyed, everyone agreed that it would be back to Mexican food the next week.
Lunches are even more fascinating with multiple war stories from the Vietnam era. I would love to say it would be enough for another book. There’s one problem. I hear the same stories every week.
Veteran: “Did I ever tell you about the time I learned to like Lima beans? We were camped out in the jungle, and that was all that was left from our C rations were cans of Lima beans. I hate Lima beans. But one of the guys took a few peppers growing wild in the jungle, chopped them up and heated them with the beans. It tasted great!”
Dad: That reminds me of the times I would buy rice with over easy eggs on it. These Vietnamese women would cook it and their kids would come sell it to us. $2 for a huge plate of rice with a few eggs on top, and it was hot! My 1SG threatened to write me up if I got hepatitis, but I knew it was good. (Bonus points if you can find a part in the book where Dad also claims he was threatened by the 1SG for his food choices.)
This leads to reminiscing and quite often, the same stories. Dad loves to talk about Cuban Revolution in Durham, a place he often eats before Durham Bulls Games.
Dad: Oh, you should have seen the steak they gave me, so tender!
Veteran: Where is this place?
(Repeat this exchange at least twice per lunch, every week)
So I’m sorry to say that these lunches will probably not lead to a volume 2 of the book, but they will give me awesome memories and invaluable time with my Dad and other Vets.
Side note- Dad will not eat “not authentic’ Mexican food (Sorry, Aye Toro! in Sanford) but he will eat at On The Border. Can anyone explain this to me?
I don’t consider myself as having a sheltered life. I also don’t consider myself to have a very un-sheltered life either (there are no antonyms for sheltered that fit). I’ve not seen combat or been in the military, but I’ve been exposed to it all of my life, grown up around it and live in an area that is teeming with Military. I used to (naively) think that there was only Army (and a little Air Force) here at Bragg. I learned quickly when working there that Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) brings Service Members from all branches to train, work and strategize together.
That being said, maybe I am sheltered in some sort of pro-military bubble. I have experienced and seen anti-war protests, but I would challenge that anti-war demonstrations are not not anti- MILITARY, just against whatever current engagement (s) our military is involved in or the idea/idealogy of war itself. I find that organizations and protests that are anti-war are usually very pro-Soldier. They want Service Members and Veterans to be supported, to get the help, money, and benefits they have been promised to them and to be treated humanely. I can definitely stand behind that.
All of this build up to say that I was shocked and stunned when I was at an event in Raleigh (state capital of NC) with others from all over NC last week. We were discussing many various topics, but somehow the conversation led to Veterans and Service Members and why NC has such a high concentration of both. Most people there could only identify Fort Bragg, but I was quick to point out that we also have an Air Force Base (Seymour Johnson), a Marine Base ( Camp Lejune), two Marine Air Stations (Cherry Point and New River), as well as smaller locations such as Sunny Point or Elizabeth City Base.
The others all nodded and someone made the comment “wow, NC really is a military based state, I can see why we’re called a military friendly state” to which another person replied “I should hope not!” I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. She said it quietly and was shaking her head. I felt my temper going up, and then realized this was not the time or place to engage in a debate, and that as much as I might disagree with her, she was entitled to her opinion.
As I sat there analyzing her statement and my reaction (and ignoring what was going on around me) I realized that she probably hasn’t been touched by the military like I have. In my family, you can’t go out to dinner with us, a family get together or similar without the Service Members and Vets outnumbering the civilians. My family aside, living in Fayetteville, I can’t throw a rock without hitting someone that served, serves, or has a family member that serves. I deal with the military on a daily basis. I also deal with disenchanted, broken Service Members and Veterans. You know what? Not one of them has ever uttered an anti-military statement to me. There have been plenty that have been mad at their unit, chain of command, the situation, the war, a specific battle, etc. but no one has ever hated the military (or their branch) outright. Even those that have said in session, out of anger said “I hate the Army” will moments later begin listing all of the good that the Army gave them/caused them to experience. I’m not just talking money and benefits either. The brotherhood, the support is usually the biggest thing they miss when they are out.
I write this as a challenger to anyone that thinks they are anti-military or would be ashamed that their state/work/family was associated with the military. Are you anti-military or anti-military state? Are you anti-war? At the least, are you pro-Service Member?
Don’t drink the kool-aid (or the Haterade, if you will) without really analyzing what you dislike. I promise to not drink the military kool-aid without also being able to analyze and name some things I do disagree with (which I can).
I’ve made it a point not to address all of the recent terrorist killings, police killings and police overuse of power on my blog or social media for the simple fact that I believe that sometimes that can lead to a bigger divide. I will say that I believe that this “all or nothing” mentality is a problem. Not all military is bad, yet it should be questioned. Not all cops are bad, but not all are good either.
As my editors will tell you, summaries/endings are my weak spot, so I will end with this quote, from a famous author.
“Divide and rule, the politician cries; unite and lead is watchword of the wise.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe