Boy, it's been a while since I've written a blog post. I've been working through some issues with a therapist and just have not felt the urge to compose one. But it's Thanksgiving, and I want to share something with everyone before you gather around the dinner table with friends and family that you may have not communicated with much throughout the year.
There may come a time, when someone shares their struggles with you. Be it a death in the family, an illness or injury (temporary or permanent), job or relationship struggles, or more. Try to stop yourself before saying something we have all said before, "If you need anything, let me know."
I've heard countless variations of that phrase over the last 15 years of dealing with the aftermath of my Traumatic Brain Injury. At first, that is very heart warming to hear that so many people care about me and want to do something to help. But something I've learned, is that the phrase ends up being empty words.
Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that the people don't want to help. Or that they don't care. But remember, the person you're saying this to is in the middle of a battle and may not know what they need, even if it is obvious to you. They are struggling under the weight of battle and you have now put another task in front of them.
In my case, with something as complex as TBI that affects every single facet of my life, where do I even begin to start at where I need help? Financial, house upkeep, transportation, recreation, or one of the other areas impacted? This is also not a short term issue like recovering from a minor surgery or injury. This is forever. So how much are you willing to take on? What is too much to ask for?
I'm not pointing fingers at anyone. I have said this to many people who were struggling over the years. Always with good intentions because I care that they are struggling but don't know how to help. And I believe those that have said it to me are likewise doing so with good intentions. Rare is the person who says it simply because they think it's obligatory.
I have therefore decided that I will try to not use the phrase. Instead, I will try to identify ways I can alleviate the burden and offer the person specific ways that I can help by listening to them and putting myself in their shoes. I encourage others to do the same. In fact, whenever someone says it to me, I will simply point them to this blog post. So if I pointed you to this post, please don't take offense.
Now that my Public Service Announcement is complete I feel compelled to share the one thing for which I am most thankful. My wife, Amanda, who has been in the trenches fighting the TBI right beside me. Her strength, compassion, and love have been instrumental in getting me this far and keeps me pushing myself to be the best I can be.
I wish everyone a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!
I received many messages and comments regarding the last post.
I won't get into everything right now but I want to respond to those that are worried about me and don't want me to give up on my goal.
First, thank you so much for your concern. But I will be fine. True things are tough right now. I'm searching for help in dealing. I'm a survivor and I will survive this.
I also still have my goal to have a boat and take other veterans out on the ocean. I just don't have a path to accomplishing the goal short of a 30 year plan. And I'm not sure whether I'll be able to even continue with my goals at 20 years out. Lots of research has been demonstrating a link between TBI's and reduced mental acuity/dementia as you age. While it is not a guarantee, my luck hasn't been that good so I have to take it seriously and plan accordingly. I'm still searching for a path forward for my goals but I have a lot of limitations which make it tough.
A picture example from our trip of my luck taken just after the incident. Driving down the mountain in the jeep, minding my own business following Amanda with our camper. When all of a sudden, out of nowhere I collide with a wasp. Yes that is a WASP sting on my neck that I received while driving. Was going over 30 mph around a curve, lucky I didn't get in an accident and survived. But was I really lucky?
I recently re-read all of my blogs that I have written over the past year or so and going over all that has happened and all that I've been told. I've already touched on a few issues in my blog or on social media but a few things that have been said to me have been weighing heavily on my mind recently.
"You are (meaning me) a survivor."
That could be a compliment. Except it was used in comparison to someone else being a success. Implying (intentional or not) that I was not a success. After all of the setbacks of the past and with all the hurdles yet to come I can't deny that it is true. I am a survivor. But I want to be more. The problem is that desire for more, without the ability to achieve it, just leads to pain.
"I deserve to enjoy my retirement, I've earned it."
Told to me by someone who is retired after a long fairly successful career in explaining why they can't get involved with some of the recent issues I've gone through. I don't dispute that this person earned their retirement but I'm retired too. Maybe I didn't earn it through a long career so it is different? If so, I guess I will never earn the right to enjoy my retirement.
"We're not talking about you."
This one requires a little context as it happened multiple times.
Once, I was at a dinner with a bunch of people that I know well. The talk unfortunately turned to politics and people getting free handouts from the government, and how there are always lines out of the welfare office of people just waiting in line for their exam or interview. That if they can wait in line all day they certainly can just go get a job. I point out that I have waited in a line like that, multiple times. But I needed the help and that was a requirement. And even then I had to fight to prove that I needed the help. But I stood in line, does that mean I should "just get a job?" even though you know all the issues I have? After a laughing reply of "maybe" from one of them thinking as though its a joke, the rest quickly reply, "but we're not talking about you."
But aren't you?
I often play video games with other veterans (some still on active duty) and have ever since I got out. There is a group I found a few years ago and there are quite a few regulars while some new faces come and go. I've gotten along well with many of them, chatted about life in and out of service, fought through deep depressions together. Multiple times now I've heard veterans talking down to other veterans for not being deployed, or not being in a combat oriented unit. Sometimes I remind them that I was never deployed, does that make me less of a veteran too? And they reply, "We're not talking about you."
It sure sounds like you are. At times I can't help but feel that I am less too. That and lose respect for them.
"Must be cool to be retired."
It's not what you think. I'm not just retired, I'm disabled. I have a fixed income with constant issues coming up that demand any extra money we have. Traveling around is difficult and requires a lot of planning and sacrifice. I have little ability to make any extra money. I have little confidence and no direction, though I was starting to find that with my time on the water.
And with the end of that I've been floundering. I setup my whole life so I could do that. Focusing only on things that would further my fishing/boating goal. Giving up gardening ambitions, putting off woodworking and home improvements projects, spending time away from home, and more. With the end of the fishing and boating I feel left adrift without anything, and what's worst is knowing I'm dragging down those that are attached to me without any idea on how to get back on course. I've been trying to get back into gardening, woodworking and more but too many problems crop up. With money and my issues being central to them all. At times it seems like things are insurmountable and that I'm in a prison with no control of my life. But as I've been told before, I am a survivor and I'll survive this.
"I support you(meaning me)."
I've had this website/blog and for over a year now and I've been actively trying to fundraise for the past 8 months. I've had 4 donations, which I am thoroughly grateful for, but I'm honestly contemplating returning them since I'm having doubts whether this project will ever take shape.
I've shared everything I've planned with friends and family. I've received 0 comments on my blog posts or web pages, a few social media shares that I'm grateful for, and a handful more social media comments than shares. Most of which aren't much more than "thoughts and prayers". I look at my site statistics and see how few visits, clicks, and viewing time I get. I'm left feeling like the universe is telling me to stop trying to accomplish my goals, that my ideas are foolish but nobody wants to tell me. So when I hear this comment, it just confuses me.
Looking back on everything over the past year, I feel further away from my goal of getting back out on the water so I can find myself again and eventually start giving veterans an educational but fun experience of their own.
It may or may not seem like it but my current battle is not with those that have said these things. It's not with those that may or may not support me, before now or in the future. My battle is with myself. Will the FV-Escape-Hatch continue on in it's current form? Will the program change in some way big or small? Or will I find some other smaller, more realistic goal to focus on and give in to what I feel like the universe is telling me? Only time will tell what the outcome will be. I will be sure to keep you in the know.
I have made progress on the project as a whole. I took down the wall on our side yard in anticpation of a driveway access to the future boat shop location. I've acquired tools and am more familiar with using them. I have also continued planning the project out and researching information about my Dad's band and reason the F/V Escape Hatch is named that way. So while I may not have done as much as I would have liked. Or worked on what I would have liked. Progress is being made. However, this project is about actually BUILDING a boat and I have yet to start. I'm very close, especially now that I have a bandsaw, but I do have a few things to do and get before I'm ready to begin construction.
My next step is getting my space setup with an assembly/layout table. I'm planning on building a torsion box assembly table out of MDF that will work with my table saw and band saw as outfeed tables as well. It will be roughly 7' X 10' with plenty of storage for tools and eventually will have an integrated dust collection system that will run off my shop vac and Dust Deputy Cyclone system I already have. I'm still in the design stage of this but estimate it will cost less than $250 when all said and done. However, I can get it up and going for around $100.
After the table is setup I can finally begin building the boat. I will first start with frames 1-4, as they seem to be the most straight-forward and don't require a 10" wide board to cut from. There are a number of items I will need to purchase in order to complete them.
I will need some of the 1-1/4" #8 bronze screws that are called for in fastening the frames together with the gussets and floor timbers. I think since I'm so close to Glen-L it will be fine to order the screws from them and have them shipped. I can get 100 for around $25, which is good enough to begin.
I will also need to purchase some epoxy, epoxy supplies, and a respirator. I'm planning on using Poxy-Shield for gluing up and encapsulating the wood. I can get a 1.2gal supply from Glen-L for $125. I should probably get a little bit of the Silica Filler as well, and I can get a pound for less than $20. The respirator will set me back about $40. Initial total for epoxy and supplies are almost $200
The final step is purchasing some lumber and a sheet or two of 1/2" Marine Plywood. I can get enough to start for less than $200. Then it's time to begin making sawdust and playing with epoxy!
All in all, I will need about $500 to really get this build started. If I were able to get 50 people to each donate $10 I would be able to start. In fact, I already have $50 from my GoFundMe campaign already set aside! That means I only need 45 more people. Even $5 will help. Skip you're extra coffee for the day (I could never ask you to go without, that would be cruel!) and help a disabled veteran pursue his dream!
So please share my FV-Escape-Hatch GoFundMe Campaign site with everyone you can think of and if you can please visit it yourself and donate today!
Thank you so much for your support!
After a lot of deliberation on how to accomplish my goal of building a boat and taking veterans fishing I've decided to do the most obvious thing...start a forge at home and begin to create videos and other content.
Ok, it's not the most obvious route for me to take. But it is a route for me to get content out there and to introduce myself and my project to the world. Many short videos can be produced for a small amount of funds. Hopefully it works and I will be able to find some donors to begin building the boat in earnest. It will also allow me learn to create items for the boat itself. I can see myself fashioning door/drawer pulls, tools, and other things for the boat.
I have started my forge on the cheap as money is real tight. Here is a brief run-down on my tooling.
I have a 10lb sledgehammer from Lowe's that I am using as a makeshift anvil. I ground the face flat and radiused the edges closer to what I want. I then created a makeshift stand with some scrap 2x4 I had leftover. I left the handle on the sledge as I'm hoping it's a temporary setup and I would rather not re-handle a brand new sledge.
I purchased a 24oz ball pein and 3lb cross pein hammers from Harbor Freight. I had to clean up the faces, especially on the cross pein. But they work. I also sanded off the finish on my cross pein handle and than burnt the wood and put a coat of paste wax on it. Feels pretty good in the hand now. Will probably do it to the ball pein at some point too
My Mother-in-law used to do ceramics and had a leftover kiln that she offered to me. I was able to take one section apart and use the firebricks in a simple forge. For the flame I use a Benzomatic propane Pencil Torch powered with a standard bbq propane tank. It's not the greatest setup but like the hammers, they work.
Finally, to round out my home forge I purchased a bench vise. I really need a post/leg vise instead, but for now it will help me make twists and hold material while I cut it with either a angle grinder or hacksaw.
I have hopes of upgrading my tooling soon with an actual steel (not a cast iron from Harbor Freight) anvil of 80+lb, a true forge with actual burners, and a full post/leg vise. But even with this setup I have already created a couple hooks and have tried my hand at tongs and a fire poker. I look forward to creating more things and producing content again.