Tag Archives: support

In the season of gratitude, is “thank you” enough?

This is the season for gratitude. From Veteran’s Day through the many faith-based celebrations clustered around the turning of the year, it is a time when we at least try to look beyond the glitter and find a reason to be grateful, a reason to have hope. In that spirit, now and through the year, we find ourselves wanting to thank those we feel helped to make this life possible. I often hear a brief conversation, a sentence or two at an event, that acknowledges the service of a veteran. Each time such brief moments make my heart hurt. I’m sorry, but “thank you” is not enough.

Photo by Mike Hashisaki, Plains, MT

My teen years were spent in the Vietnam era. I lived in a city that was surrounded by military bases and the cost of that commitment contributed much to how I perceive the world. There are those that will tell you it is mere urban legend that if our troops wore their uniforms when returning from active duty, they risked ridicule and abuse. No, no legend. I was there. Whatever my thoughts were on why we were there and how the “military action” was executed, I wept when I saw those who had suffered so much, who came home broken in ways not always obvious, abused in their own country. This is the root of my issue with “thank you for your service.” Even for today’s vets, it is not enough.

I like to find ways to actively pursue solutions, ways to help. I am a fixer, but I also like to be effective. Growing up with veterans, I learned a great deal of what went on in their heads, and I wanted to help. That sometimes requires finding out from the source of your compassion just what it is that is needed. Sometimes we get it right.

Veterans in this country face horrific statistics. According to the NIH in a report published on the Department of Veteran Affairs website, 1.7 million veterans received treatment in a VA mental health specialty program in fiscal 2018. Programs included treatment for PTSS, substance use disorders, behavioral problems and a host of other issues. This number includes only those that accessed VA resources.

The 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report published by the Department of Veteran Affairs notes that 6,000 vets commit suicide each year. This crosses gender and age boundaries. That is an average of 16 men and women each and every day.

While you are saying “thank you” to the spiffy looking fellow in a uniform at the local restaurant, are you thinking of the scruffy fellow on the sidewalk that hasn’t had a bath in who knows when? According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 9% of the homeless population in this country is made up of vets. Some 37,878 broken spirits; men and women who just don’t see a way to cope in society. Some, of course, choose to separate themselves from a society and a culture that cannot comprehend the places they’ve been and the things they have seen.

Doing what I do, even after years of accumulated stories and nights sitting up with friends dealing with things that would not leave their heads, I still felt it necessary to do the research. I asked a friend of mine if I could visit one evening and grill her husband on what he saw as the greatest need for vets today. His answer might surprise you; education and job placement support.

The GI Bill, established to provide help for education in trades or professions is an elusive benefit that changes with when you served, how long, and where. Vietnam was a battle ground between the president and congress and the legal status of Vets in the conflict was ambiguous at best. This impacted many of the benefits which may have been available to men and women who served in that theater.

The other issue he noted was job placement assistance. He felt that the least the military branches could do was to help veterans transition into civilian life. Knowing how to blow things up is not always a useful civilian skill. Leadership skills, logistics, technology, mechanics, construction, and a myriad of other skills most certainly are. During my interview he expressed his frustration when he returned home after his first term of service. He thought he was only suited for jobs in the security sector. Never really finding the right fit, he finally elected to re-enlist in a different branch. His second time home he was lucky. His mother-in-law pointed out that all of his time as a leader in the military had trained him as a manager. He applied to a position and found a new career. Even if a veteran had a solid career before serving, that job may no longer be a fit.

I don’t think it is important to find the perfect job. However, it is important to find a place that reconnects a person to society and gives them some sense of being of use, some sense of belonging. Part of transitioning to civilian life is adjusting to a less intense more loosely associated culture than the intense life or death relationships of foreign service. Success occurs in degrees; failure can be deadly.

Above all, we spend millions training our military personnel to do damage to others. That is what war is. Although we deploy to a few “nation building” exercises, such deployment often occurs in hostile environments. Even when stationed with allies, our military people are usually not culturally assimilated by the host nation. Military service is an intense training course on how NOT to deal with the society in which you find yourself. Then you come home, and there is no one there that can begin to understand that separation from the wider world while becoming ever more dependent on highly disciplined, insular core group.

Where does one go to help with such things? Not everyone has time (but some do), not everyone has money to donate (but some do). Sometimes it is a matter of letting someone know that there is a resource out there, they just need to reach out. Such as we have, we give – that’s why “thank you” is never quite enough.

With a little research, I found several organizations that specialize in job assessment and placement. Remember, the local VFW and American Legion posts are always willing to help sort things out. Both the VFW and American Legion often have counselors and staff to help a vet find the help needed. Local posts can be found on the websites (https://www.vfw.org/ and https://www.legion.org/).

Also, check out these links for information on how to get careers shifted back to a civilian focus.


There are other ways to be proactive. There are many organizations that do amazing things such as providing companion dogs, offering financial assistance and counseling, and providing mental health services. There is also support such as Music Corp, Wounded Warrior Project, and Honor Flight. Final Salute is an organization that focuses on homeless women vets and their children. This season make it a point to find a better thank you.



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My Achilles’ Heel

I think I have found that spot in my professional life that I can’t do well or have yet to develop the skills to manage well. Maybe because it is less professional and more personal. Consequently, it is a good thing I have run out of near relatives so I can avoid this particular pitfall in the future. My sore spot is tax issues relevant to an estate and noncollectable debt.


Now, I must tell you that I have handled the accounting side of several estates, and I did just fine, in some cases exceeding expectations. Way back in the away-time when I was first starting out as a bookkeeper/accountant, I was called on to handle two very sensitive estates. In one case my employer’s son died from a brain tumor. He asked me one afternoon if I would meet him at his son’s office the following weekend and help him with a few things. The day went by in companionable silence and we worked through the files sorting out what had to be paid and arranged information for attorneys and accountants who would close out the estate. I was very close to the family and I genuinely felt the loss. At the end of the day he thanked me. He told me that he knew I had probably figured out that it was not my help he needed so much as he needed the company. He let me know how much he appreciated the professionalism, the help, and the quiet support.

Not too long afterword (memory fails on these dates), my employer was diagnosed with Lew Gehrig’s Disease. His prognosis was not optimistic. I was one of three people that knew that his focus had changed from building and maintaining, to preserving and estate planning. For six months he, his son-in-law, and myself, worked diligently with legal and accounting professionals to work out the best way to preserve his estate for the future. I remember vividly when I took his last tax return to his house to gather his and his wife’s signatures that he looked me directly in the eye and asked me if that was all. I replied that to the best of my knowledge, yes. Within 24 hours he was in the hospital in a coma and we lost him soon after. Again, I spent a quiet afternoon going through a desk and personal files to help the family organize and respond.

I have been involved in other estates. Remainders of pieces of family that were close to people I cared about. Always, I felt the greatest gift I could give was my background and the willingness to find things out, to help make decisions, to make sure nothing fell through the cracks.

Then, I became a primary. Dealing with my husband’s, and now my mother’s estate I have discovered I have zero tolerance when it comes to incompetence. Actually, regardless of the situation I am not overly patient with sloppy work when it comes to other people’s money. I’m lucky, truly. With my husband I did hire an estate attorney to give me the lay of the land so that I knew what was needed and expected. I could then figure out how to handle any outstanding issues knowing I had backup if needed. And still, I found myself wanting to climb through the phone and strangle many of the people I had to deal with. Now, my mum. This time I had a professional I could speak with that is working on a file for a friend/client of mine. I offered to pay, but no, this was one commiserating accountant to another. I shall treasure that conversation for a very long time.

So, what is the issue that so bothers me? When a person dies and there is nothing in their estate to cover debt (such as credit cards when they are the primary debtor) the debt is usually written off. Now, companies to which such money is owed can take their sweet time making sure that there were not large sums of money hidden under grandma’s mattress, or that there isn’t some other asset tucked away to which the estate has a financial claim. But, in the end, the debt is declared noncollectable.

At some point, whenever “they” get around to it, the company might then issue something called a 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt. These things are evil incarnate. First of all, conservative estimates indicate that nearly 70% of them have some type of error. These errors can include such things as using the wrong taxpayer ID (or none), not reporting the interest portion of the debt, using the wrong date for the “identifiable event,” and several other bits of information. Now, cancellation of debt is a taxable event. There are limitations, such as interest that would have been deductible on a business return but was not taken.

The point is, there is a form out there in the IRS databanks assigning some value as income to a taxpayer. If you have access to accounting help (not a drive by shop), you will get assistance on how to address the reported income from your side, or to follow up on a corrected form. If, for instance, you went bankrupt, that date of event can be critical in answering the question of whether taxes are due or not. Let’s say you have recovered financially, and the date is set after the date of bankruptcy. That balance is now taxable unless you can get the financial institution to change the date to the date of insolvency. Anybody have a headache yet?

As mentioned above, I have zero tolerance for incompetency in some areas. I have to think about the number of people out there who do not have access to the things I do, who get these documents and have no clue of what to do with them and end up paying someone something when they don’t owe it. Sometimes at great personal sacrifice. And I really don’t like having to work double time to fix someone else’s lack of focus (lack of knowledge is okay, uncaring incompetence not so much).  I get that we do not want people of means to declare financial ruin and skip fancy free from using other people’s money to support a life style. The problem is that the “fix” does far more damage to those who can least afford a viable and legal defense.

I just have to say that I am blessed with people who bring me back from melt down and offer solid advice. If you know someone who is dealing with an estate that is insolvent with not enough assets to cover the debt, it will help if you find an accountant to walk you through. Some senior centers have access to professionals willing to donate time or provide advice at lower rates. Remember always that you have the right to use reasonable resources to care for last expenses such as burial and legal and accounting services (unless of course it is the final Social Security check). Just don’t panic, find someone who has been there to help you walk through it. I shall go try to take my own advice and be thankful that all the folks left in my life are people that can depend on me to be more level headed.

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It is time – past time.

I can’t feel your pain.
I’ve tried, I even thought I knew
How you felt.
With nowhere to go,
No safe place to know,
It would all be fine.

I can’t feel your pain.
I’ve tried, by reaching back,
All those years,
When I was abused,
Frightened, and alone.

I can’t feel your pain.
I’ve been tired,
I’ve been hungry,
Even, yes, even
Had my life threatened.
But I always found a way,
A way to live another day.

Perhaps I understand,
In some small way,
How deep the ache,
How sore
Your soul.
But now I see,
It never goes away.
For you it’s every day.

The air you breathe,
The ground you walk,
Is filled with hate,
And fear,
And terror.
Barely in the shadows,
But growing ever stronger,
Reaching for us all.

As hard as I try,
It seems no more
Than Insult,
to your
and battered
to say,
I feel your pain.

Perhaps, as small
As it may be,
My voice can help,
My life can show,
That hate
is never,
the answer.
For the love of all
Creation has provided,
It is time.

It is time to end the pain.
It is time to be there
For the black,
For the Muslim,
For the gay,
For the PEOPLE,
Of our earth.
One person at a time.

I will do my best.
I will share.
I will talk.
I will try to reach
And hearts.
And I will hope.
I will not say,
I feel your pain.
But I will be here.
I will hold you.
And one day, together,
We will find the dawn.

Sunrise 3


Filed under Humanties for the Unbound Mind, My Journey with Job, Personal Journeys, Poetry

Reflections on 12-14-12 Part the First: Pain ~ and Peace

It’s a cold, February night on a nearly deserted Texas highway. A family of four and their friend and business associate are traveling to San Antonio for a brief vacation, a weekend of R & R. At the wheel is a conscientious but inexperienced teenaged driver. This part of Texas does not see much snow, but there is ice. On this night it is black ice that appears, as such things do, without warning. Even experienced drivers with great skill find it difficult to maintain or regain control once a vehicle loses traction, especially at highway speeds, and however moderate that speed may be. For a young lady just short of her 17th birthday it was a situation completely beyond her expertise.

The Suburban left the road and rolled somewhere between one and three times. Hard to count when you are bouncing around or unconscious. Later investigation by police and medical teams indicated that she had died on impact with the steering wheel; probably before the vehicle even left the road. Her small, slim body was ripped from the seatbelt and thrown through the window. As it happens, I was in that vehicle. Regaining consciousness I realized that her parents were outside of the car with her, responding with whatever emergency training they had, refusing to believe what they most likely already knew. In the car with me was her ten year old sister. Crawling back into the seat I reached for her and held her until help arrived. Luckily, a ranch family not quite ready for bed heard the crash and saw the rolling vehicle. Time was meaningless but it didn’t seem all that long before the scene was flooded with helping hands and emergency vehicles.

The loss of a child is a pain so unlike anything else. This was not my child, but she was part of a tangle of emotionally intense relationships I had with her family. She knew me well enough to trust me in time of urgency. Something she did not give lightly. If her mother was not available, it was me that she would call. No, she was not my child; but the grief was still overwhelming. It seemed as though we remaining four had become scuba divers. Sounds, sights, feelings seemed muffled somehow. Her mother wrote poetry. Beautiful, heart wrenching poetry. Her father closed up on himself. Her confused little sister became uncertain of her place in a family torn into ever smaller pieces. The consequences reached far, far into the future. At the time we were lucky to have a church family prepared to envelop us. There were always quiet people near us to answer the phone, answer the door, organize food, ferry people to and from the airport, the doctor, and the funeral home. Quiet, gentle angels that kept the world at bay until we could, bit by bit manage to communicate once more with the land of the living. We huddled together in our own private hell, holding the broken pieces close until they started to heal.

What would it mean to go through such hell in a fish bowl? How would it feel to have people battling over the whys and wherefores before you even knew if your child was among those who had not survived? How would it feel to become everybody’s symbol of whatever agenda they needed to push before you even had time to internalize what had happened? How would it feel to hear so many squabbling over causes and small bits of inaccuracies like vultures? Of what importance are the reassurances that someone, somewhere isn’t going to let it happen again? How shattering a “body count,” as if your child was nothing more than a bag to be counted. With your life in pieces around you, you are not prepared to care about the next time. For you it is already too late. All this before you had time to somehow stop the rush in your mind of all the things that your child would never be or do. Mute with hurt and pain, how could you shout loud enough to tell them all to be still? “Let me breathe, please just let me learn to breathe again.”

As an author I am currently involved in research for a book about Job. Many of my feelings on the book do not fit within the boundaries of common interpretations. There are messages I see and feel that I do not find in the literature. If there are hints they are brief puffs in the wind. I believe that one of these messages is the real error of Job’s friends. For the last few days we have been very much like them. Too busy looking for whys and how comes and not nearly busy enough supporting those in pain.

As an active participant in a number of groups and a growing reach of friends and fans on Facebook, I have seen anger, despair, raw emotion and bitterness ripple through the community like a digital tsunami. However, now is not the time to shout from the treetops, jump up and down and announce our own surefire way to fix the problem. That time will come but something MUST come first. First, you must heal. Not all at once and not completely; but you must at least climb out of the “scuba dive” and be a reasoning, thinking individual again. Someone prepared to enter into effective debate, discuss alternatives, check facts, understand more about the who, how, and when. Now is the time to heal.

Part of the raging argument is related to what God’s part may or may not have been in all of this. I intend to make this a multi-part blog and this will be one of the focal points. For now I want to point out why I think Job’s friends so seriously missed the boat.  It is something that is found in sacred texts around the world. The way we heal is to love one another. The way we heal is to support each other in our suffering; to provide for the widowed, the orphan, those who need, and those who hurt. Some will tell you that this is not part of the Old Testament thundering God of the Hebrews. I have news; it is.

In Leviticus 19:18, we find, “You must not exact vengeance, nor must you bear a grudge against the children of your people. You must love your neighbor as yourself. I am Yahweh.” (Jerusalem Bible) Jesus, you see, was quoting scripture. Throughout the Old Testament some of the things that upset the prophets the most were not the tiny little sins and indiscretions, it was the treatment of widows and orphans. It was the sacrifice of human lives (which may or may not have included children) and the treatment of the poor and suffering.

Jesus himself tells us that the two most important commandments are to love God and love your neighbor – as yourself.  He even says that all the law and the prophets hang on these.

Many will be familiar with pieces at least of I Corinthians 13: “If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing. … If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.” (Jerusalem Bible)

In the first part of Revelations where Christ addresses the seven churches, His complaint against the church at Ephesus was, “you have less love now than you used to.”

Whether or not we come to an understanding of why things happen, whether or not we find in ourselves some faith in some hovering over-protective Sentient Being keeping watch over us, or whether or not we are driven from any faith at all because we cannot tolerate a universe with any Supreme Being that won’t protect us from our own evils great and small; we must love one another. We must find support and concern for each other. We must be the Good Samaritan, the person who shares burdens, the one who answers phones, warms up meals.

There will be a time when we must, as a nation, address the systemic causes of violence in our streets and in our homes. Not just for those who died thinking they were safe in their schools and neighborhoods, but also for those who walk our streets each night not knowing if they will make it home safe just one more time. There will be a time; but first, we must heal. First we must envelop our wounded. Let them learn to breathe again.

If you want to make that commitment an active one, I suggest you research benefits for the families.  Groups or charities that can be checked out that are helping with expenses suddenly incurred and not expected.  This is, evidently, a neighborhood of financial stability.  That security can go out the window quickly when you suddenly must pay for plane tickets, funerals, or time off work beyond bereavement leave (usually about 5 days).  Some of the families and perhaps some of the remaining students are sure to incur counseling costs.  Maybe you can physically travel to the town and protect the families from media and harassment by being part of a human shield.  Do something creative, something healing, something that reaches out and touches.  First, find peace and learn to breathe again.

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Filed under My Journey with Job, Personal Journeys