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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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!
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
Have you ever heard of the 5 Love Languages? If you have, chances are, you might have attended a chaplain’s marital retreat, marriage counseling, or some kind of couples/marital focused retreat or seminar. If you haven’t feel free to click that link.
I have been on enough Strong Bonds (chaplain’s) retreats to be able to recite the 5 languages in my sleep. I use them in therapy, at times. I curse the fact that Gary Chapman came up with this idea and developed them, because it sure would be nice to be the therapist that developed the languages. If that was the case, my assistant would be typing this blog as I dictated it to her, most likely while flying somewhere tropical.
I digress. The point of knowing which Love Language you identify with and what your partner and/or children identify with is important. I take the quiz every time I’m on one of the retreats and my main language never changes: Gifts. I swear when I took the quiz the first time (2006) the official title was Gift Giving. The website now shows it as Gift Receiving. That throws me off a little, but I’ll explain what it means to me. I love gift giving. I love taking the time to search through stores to find “just the right” gift for someone. It doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas, their birthday, or a “just because” gift. I frequently bring back gifts for others on my travels, no matter how far or not far the trip was. My husband has learned to accept this about me, and has gotten better (over the years) of showing emotion and really expressing his appreciation of any gift I bring him, not just saying “thanks” or “you didn’t have to get me anything” and then stuffing the gift back in the box.
My mother also seems to have this language and she knows how to gush over a gift, no matter how small. My father does not have this. As I’ve said in past blog posts, when he saw the finished book he proclaimed it “fine. pretty good.” Not the exact enthusiasm I was looking for, but luckily, working with my dad for the book taught me more about him and I wasn’t expecting a big show of praise or emotion. That being said, you would think I would have learned for when Father’s Day approached.
Dad is hard to shop for because 1) he has everything he wants and if he doesn’t have it he can buy it 2) he doesn’t have a hobby or collection, which is great for a default place to start.
So when I was at a charity event to benefit ALS in May I saw it– the perfect gift (well, the second perfect gift). It was an autographed baseball, signed by Jim “Catfish” Hunter. This was perfect (slightly only less perfect than tickets to the Atlanta Braves game at Fort Bragg on 3 July). I knew I had a snowball’s chance in Mexico to get the game tickets, so the baseball was the best present I could conceivably obtain. You couldn’t just buy the baseball, it was an item in the silent auction. The signature was faded, but it was there and authentic (I Googled). I put my bid in and realized that my chance of winning was small. I had to leave the event around noon for another engagement (a baseball game, how ironic) and the bidding didn’t end until 1700. Luckily, my awesome friend, Jessica, agreed to go back to the event at 1630 and call me, discussing the current bid and what I could afford to go to. She called right around 1700, we agreed on a final price and then she called me back to say she thought I had won, as they had taken the bidding sheets away and I had the highest bid. I danced in my row at the stadium, and sure enough, a few minutes later I got a call from one of the organizers to arrange payment.
Fast forward to Father’s Day. After lunch and a brewery tour, I present the ball, in a baseball themed gift bag. Dad looks at it, squints at it and kind of just stares at it. “Do you see who signed it?” I asked, about to burst. He squints some more and says “I can’t really read it.” “Catfish Hunter!” I exclaim, like a five year old that can finally let the almost two month long secret out.
“Well, that’s nice. Thank you!” he said and hugged me.
“How did he like the ball?” Jessica later texted me. “I think he was underwhelmed. Or possibly overwhelmed, or tired.” I replied. She understands. She knows my dad.
Fast forward to late June, Father’s Day has passed. I’m at work and receive a call from my husband. He NEVER calls me unless there is big news/an emergency. I was with a client, but I took the call.
“Guess who just won tickets to the Braves game??” he shouted (if you know my husband, you know this is a LOT of excitement and expression for him.)
“Awesome, how many?” was my first question.
He wasn’t sure, but we had already discussed this. If we had won two tickets, they were going to Mom and Dad. We felt that as much as we really wanted to see an MLB game, especially at Bragg, that Mom and Dad deserved them more than we did. He later found out that we had gotten four tickets, so we could all attend. (Did I mention Dad is a die hard Braves fan?)
(Special thanks to Alicia, Josh, Cheryl/Eric, and everyone else that also tried to get me tickets LEGITIMATELY.)
I called my Mom with the news and she said Dad seemed ok with the idea.
We went to the game. It was a long night (game time was 2008, and we got there at 1745 due to parking, shuttles, etc). It was awesome! We were three rows from the Marlins dugout, and I could hear them talking. Braves lost, but it was still a great experience- a historic, once in a lifetime experience. We didn’t get out until almost midnight. I knew Dad was tired. Guess what, he was also somewhat underwhelmed.
Lesson learned: there is no perfect gift. The time spent together is the best present ever. Even if it seems underwhelming.
I had a working vacation this week. I took 4 days off, didn’t see clients, left the state, crashed at someone’s place that is in a heavily traveled city (for free, score!) and forced myself to work. Boy, do I know how to party 😉
That being said, I’m proud of what I accomplished over those four days even if it was not everything I wanted to get done. I am the kind of person that always starts with a giant “to do” list, knowing it might not be possible to get it all done. I know there are others out there that either don’t use a to do list (any accomplishments are a bonus) or have a very realistic to do list.
I did accomplish taking 13 hours of CEUs in trauma, and passing their exams, allowing me to sit for the Certified Clinical Trauma Provider exam which I passed on the first try. Its not just the initials that I get to add to my alphabet soup, its the knowledge I got from these courses. I take a lot of Continuing Education hours. I’m required to do 40 every two years, but that’s not the only reason I take them. Some I chose because of their reduced price, their convenience or because friends and colleagues are taking them. This particular set I chose to take because I wanted to sit for the CCTP and I wanted even more information about trauma. Because PTSD is in the forefront with today’s news stories, in the military and frequently trending on social media, it gets a lot of attention. It also gets a lot of funding and research.
These two days of classes gave me a whole new way of approaching trauma with my trauma survivor clients and for that I’m grateful but it also gave me a new perspective on PTSD itself. Dr. Genty, the professor, told us not to view PTSD as an illness, but as a brain injury. The reasoning being, once the trauma has effected you, it does damage your brain- it changes how you perceive reality, threats and future traumas.
I can totally get behind that statement. I have often used the linear explanation to try to get trauma survivors to understand why they have flashbacks and other symptoms that come out of nowhere. The linear explanation is that our brains like to learn in linear patterns. So if you learn to tie your shoe, as your brain is learning this task, it fires synapses in a particular pattern. Whenever you tie your shoe in the future (even when you don’t have to think twice about it) those synapses will fire. Trauma can’t be contained in a straight line, as it doesn’t “make sense” to our brains. Therefore, it embeds itself all over our brain, and it can be activated by different things.
This is why I like the brain injury model. It makes a lot of sense. It also gives a new perspective to treatment, making an even further distinction between PTSD and Moral Injury, but that is a post in and of itself.
I hope I have made it abundantly clear that I’ve never served and that I have admiration for those that do. The more I work with Service Members and Veterans though, the more I can relate to certain experiences or emotions that they express. I have heard from many SMs and Vets that 9/11 was a pivotal moment in their military careers- it made some join, it made some re-enlist, and it made others (that thought they were finished with their military career) join again.
I feel that there is a certain pivotal moment going on for therapists. Unfortunately, it is taking more lives than those that were lost in 9/11. With 22 Veterans a day committing suicide and the inability of the VA to handle Veterans’ needs effectively, it makes me wonder if I am in the right place, career-wise.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE what I do. I love having a private practice, I love being my own boss, I love the clients I have and working with them. I love my contract job, where I get to work directly with Service Members, Vets and their families “off the record”. Yet I wonder, could I be doing more at the VA?
I would like to think I don’t have unrealistic expectations or an overly optimistic viewpoint of what I could accomplish by working there. I have no superhero complex, trust me when I say that I am tired and a bit cynical in my current line of work and I’m pretty sure the VA would make that worse. I remember working for the Department of the Army. I remember the red tape, the stupid bureaucracy, and how many of our policies seemed to hurt the Soldiers more than it helped them. I know that those same limitations would be at the VA at the very least.
That being said, I wonder how many former Soldiers, Sailors and Marines (I know, I know, there is no such thing as a former Marine) thought the same thing when they thought about re-enlisting after they thought their military career had ended. They probably loved the freedoms the civilian world offered them. Yet they made that choice, that sacrifice.
It’s enough to keep me up at night. Right now, I deal with it knowing I’m doing the best I can with the clients I have and the opportunities that are afforded to me. I also write. I write to let people know about the horrors that these Service Members and Veterans face and how they aren’t getting the help they need. For now, that will have to be enough.
I know that the main focus of my book (and thus, this blog) is my dad, but my mom is pretty remarkable too.
She joined the Army in 1974 when it was still the Women’s Army Corps. (WAC)
Yes, they wore skirts during basic training. (I didn’t know this until I started research for my book). They were also tough, bad ass women. I mean, today, women in the Army are pretty common, especially now that they are allowed in combat positions. In ’74, not so much.
She went enlisted as a information specialist (now known as PAO, or Public Affairs Office), mostly writing for the newspaper, stationed at Ft. Bragg for two years before deciding to go to Officer Candidate School at Ft. McClellan, Alabama (no longer in existence) then Officer Basic at Ft. Benjamin Harrison, Indiana (also, no longer in existence). She was taught the skills to be an Adjutant General Officer (personnel administration and management). She was then sent to Ft. Jackson, SC (still in existence, where little sis went to Basic Training) where in true Army style, she did NOT perform AG work, she was a training officer/executive officer for female basic training.
She transferred to Ft. Bragg after marrying Dad in 1977, and was assigned to 1st Corps Support Command (Coscom, now called “East Bragg” or Theater Sustainment Command).
She went into the Reserves in 1980, after having me, and continued to serve in the Army Reserves until 2004 (30 years), retiring as a LTC (Lieutenant Colonel).
Mom served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, as a Mortuary Affairs Officer (if you’re wondering where I get my morbid sense of humor from, there’s your answer!)
I just wanted to take Mother’s Day to tell everyone that I’m just as proud of my mom as I am of my dad. While she might not be a Combat Vet, she overcame all sorts of challenges in the early years of her career, and went on to be pretty amazing. “Your Mother wears combat boots” has never been an insult to me. I’d always reply “yeah, and she can kick your wussy mom’s a$$!”
(This pic is of Mom, as a 1LT in 1978 or 1979)