“What began as a love affair became how to manage life with the PTSD veteran ” excerpt from “Train’s Comin…”

“PTSD is a thief.  It steals your job, it steals your sleep, it steals your family, it still is your identity, it’s steals your life”.

This is what my Vet told a young Marine who suffered a breakdown and hospitalization. This is the fight. Fighting the “thief”.  I have observed my husband struggle with this thief for 17 years. I didn’t know what PTSD was. I didn’t know what depression was. I’d heard about them and even read a little about them. What I know now is that love and understanding are key in living with this fight, but counseling, a support group of veterans, as well as family, and your vet’s will to live his best life is what gets him back.

My vet could not have navigated to this point without at some point deciding whether he wanted to stay where life was comfortable in a “bunker” …or in the world with the rest of us.

“Mr. Tibbs” – The Gatofeo Saga


“newly arrived”

Mr. Tibbs is an eight month old tuxedo cat we adopted a month ago.  Transition is a mild word for what we are going through, but I am probably exaggerating.  We were used to unassuming “Sister”, our sweet, demur, but singularly unsocial, 11-year old resident cat.  Mr. Tibbs is anything but unassuming.  First of all, he weighs 14lbs.  He just turned eight months.  We think he has rabbit in him, in fact I am sure of it…clumsy rabbit, that is.  Only one broken dish so far, but plenty of leveled pictures, books and memorabilia.  I have cleared the tops of surfaces in hopes to preserve my collectables, and may adopt a more minimalist décor for a while.

058 His agile, destructive gymnastics reminds us how far removed we are from having a young cat.  He’s grown on us, with his plaintive meow, (much like a toddler who wants attention) and his new behavior of covering his food before he walks away from it, something we were not familiar with, but is part of, I read, their instinctual innate behavior.  Translation:  more mess.


Speaking of mess.  There was a few days in the first two weeks, I thought we would exercise our option and return him to the pet store.  The wet bathroom rug is what almost did us (my Marine) in. Cat box crisis.  We had never gone through it before now.  We managed overcome the “outside the box” issue  with an new, improved oversize cat box that I have aptly named the “USS Mess”. Whew!



Sister, tolerates him to a point.  His early morning feedings we are still working on.  I cleared off the left side of my desk because he knocked the phone and TV box off my desk onto the window sill, so he could better see “out there”.  However, he has recently moved to the right side of my desk to nap.  226

Week five and we  are settling into a peaceful co-existence…much like Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess and Isobel Crawley.

“Ok, I’m good. I’m ready to fight, now.”


I have been on the fringes of my husband’s passion for judo for years.  When we met and married, he had been long retired due to a C-4 injury and was coaching at UC Irvine when his disability rating made it no longer possible for him to coach.  After moving to North Carolina, he tried a couple of things.  He volunteered at the local universities for a class or two and  at the Children Home of North Carolina in Oxford to help the children there.  He volunteered at a dojo in Durham before  his former coach, Sensei Mayfield reached out and asked him to travel with him to tournaments and camps as  an assistant and “coaching liaison”.  More recently, he and two friends organized the El Toro Judo Club.  El Toro was my husband’s original dojo.  The Marine base in California has long since closed and the club in California retired with his original sensei’s passing.  Given the opportunity,  he wanted to honor his first dojo and first sensei.  El Toro Judo Club holds classes at Bushido Karate Shotokan  in Raleigh, offering two sports to the interested martial arts community.  More importantly, it gave him an outlet to pass his judo along to others, to stay involved and contribute in his way,  not just to the students in his classes, but to the community.   The club has a fundraiser, El Toro Fall Bash, a golf tournament that I have been involved in organizing for the last three years.  Which means, now I no longer live on the “fringes of Judo”.

I remember exactly how it happened, my no longer existing on the fringes.  It was Sensei Mayfield’s tournament in Jacksonville, three or four years ago.  I had dropped my husband off at the tournament, as was our routine, and went on my way to Starbucks, Barnes and Noble, the base PX, and back to the tournament.  I was given a chair on the floor level  near one of the mats where the adults were competing.  There was one competitor who looked like he might be active duty personnel, who forcefully and smoothly, took his opponent down and next thing I know match was over.  I had just witnessed my first choke hold, and I was done.  I was a judo fan.  I know it should have been more complicated than that, but it was not.  It was the not an earth shattering experience, it was not a demonstration of pristine technique,  it was just pure strength of one man against another.

So, imagine me, this last weekend, when some kid I don’t even know, was taken down to the floor by his opponent and the match is stopped while the first aid representative looks him over.  The match resumes, the kid is taken down again and the referee stops them in their action and raises his voice and asks the kid “how old are you?” Kid yells “Thirteen”.  Referee responds telling them to carry on.  Kid gets choked, “taps out” and match is over.  Kid gets up holding his neck, bows out after the referee signals that his opponent won, and walks to the sidelines where his dad is.

He was visibly shaken, trying to catch his breath.  I looked away, because as a mom, seeing kids in distress,  no matter if your own son is 36 years old, you are taken back to when he was 13 and trying not to cry after losing a baseball tournament, or your brother when he lost a Pop Warner football game and the kids from the opposing team are in the car in front of you, watching your brother breaking down in the seat next to you.  Seeing this judo kid keep his composure until he got off the mat and then start to break down, took me back to those moments in time and I coward that I am, looked away.

Later in the afternoon, he competed again and after what was a long, drawn-out, tough match won.   And he knew it.  He knew he had won.  He jumped up and screamed, fists clenched, at no one and at everyone.

Afterward, when I talked to my husband about him, he told me what had happened when he lost the first match, when I had looked away.  He had gone up to the kid and his father, who was trying to calm him, help him catch his breath and regain his composure.  “Excuse me, sir” my husband said to the dad, “may I try something”.  The dad said “ok” and my husband told the kid, “stop breathing and count, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, now breathe.  Again, stop and hold your breath.  Count 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. ”  The kid did it a third time, looked at my husband then looked at his dad and said “Ok, I’m good.  I’m ready to fight, now.”

“I’ll Be Fine”


My mom and I were in the cocoon of our booth at the Hilton Hotel in Altamonte Springs, having a light breakfast and taking a break from driving.  We were en route to the Hard Rock Cafe and Casino in Tampa.  A much deserved break and weekend for us.  Our waitress knew my mom from the last couple of trips to the Senior Softball Camp my dad attended over the last couple of years.  She asked if I was her daughter and we laughed and said I was.  Mom told her she was taking me to the Hard Rock Casino, just the two of us.  Our waitress smiled a little sad smile and told us how great it was we were going together.  She then told us she missed her mom.  Her mom is 83 and lives in Bosnia.  She had just seen her this last March, and it was hard to leave.  She began to tear up, but recovered and told us that her mom was this little tiny thing, in a small house.  But, she told us that her mom told her that she was old, and all that mattered at this point in her life, was that her kids and their families were ok.  “I’ll be fine” she told her daughter.   Our waitress cleared our table and walked away.  Mom and I shared a look, understanding distance.  Mom had moved from Texas to California as a young mom.  Our’s was the family that always came to visit.  I live across the country from my older children and grandchildren, and my youngest child is practically in the Gulf.  It wasn’t an ocean and continents, but it was long enough.  Each of us had spent countless hours in the air or on the road going back for long visit, or short and sweet visits.  We knew distance.

When our waitress came back, she told us to enjoy our time together.  She said to us, “I have this,” meaning she would get our breakfast.  Then she turned to me and said “Enjoy your mom”, and walked away.

“We Are Not Silent”

“We have government by the majority who participate.”

― Thomas Jefferson

Civic Duty.  I never even knew what that meant.  Growing up in a military family, I was the closet activist, the anti-war protester, civil rights, Chicano Pride…but I was really in a bubble.  I never knew the inter-city struggle or even the civil rights struggle because my parents raised me so very much in mainstream America.   I learned Spanish in school, not at home.  I loved to discuss current affairs and my mom would get up in the night to find my father and I at the dinner table discussing the Vietnam War, civil disobedience, Nixon and Watergate.  I could argue with the best of them and I had my facts, but it wasn’t until I was in my thirties that my mom told me I didn’t have the right to complain if I wasn’t registered to vote.  So, I registered.  But, it wasn’t until our President announced his candidacy did I first work on a campaign.

That was 2007/2008 and since then, I have met some amazing people in local politics.  It was because of that 2008 election I decided to find out how local government works from the ground up, so I became a Precinct committee member.  I am a transplant from California.  I moved here in 1999 when my husband was given his disability rating from the Veteran’s Administration.  His family is from Oxford, here in Granville County.  What I have found, is there are a lot of transplants like me that have made Granville County home and want to make it the best home they can for their families and their community.  Chairman Ed Gleason, 3rd Vice Chair Cuz Spirio, and our Treasurer Lael Pennix are transplants, as I am.  I find it hard to believe that out of thousands of Granville County Democrats, we can’t get hometown folks to help the party as a member of the Executive Committee, participate in a meeting or two, volunteer on a committee, float an idea or two in an email.    But, I am learning what Thomas Jefferson said, is more often true, than not…”“We have government by the majority who participate.”

This last April, at the Granville County Democratic Convention, I was elected Secretary of the Granville County Democratic Party.  It’s not an election year so the participation this year has declined.  When I attend meetings, I see the same people, the same concerned faces.  This Board wants to change that.  We don’t need every Democrat in the County to attend every meeting, but we want everyone to be engaged, to be informed about us, about the issues facing our locale, our state, our government.  We suffered a set-back in the state government in 2012.  We have little or no voice.  Mrs. Mims said something at our first meeting on the 29th that she heard at the 13th District Convention held in Nashville, NC.  The guest speaker was State Treasurer Janet Cowell, a Democrat.  She said Ms. Cowell spoke on a strategy to deal with, on the NAACP Moral Mondays going on in Raleigh, and of note “We may win, we may lose, but we are not silent”.


This could very well be our mission statement:   “We may win, we may lose, but we are not silent”.

I chose to participate.  Please join me.  Until next time…God bless.