Let’s get down to Earth

No womb for hate!

 

I must come clean as I’m an alien from an advanced society located in dark matter and have been hanging out on earth since 1957.  I came to the planet in peace and in the capacity of a researcher on behalf of the intergalactic peace consulting group.  Having been on the planet almost 60 years I have quite an extensive and comprehensive report that may take several paragraphs to covey.

Natural disasters like solar flares, tsunamis and hurricanes can result in loss of life and destroy communities.  They can even knock out wi fi!

First I’d like to admit that it’s a dangerous world out there. Asteroid and meteors can hit you on the head or even destroy a planet. Natural disasters like solar flares, tsunamis and hurricanes can result in loss of life and destroy communities.  They can even knock out wi fi!

You humans are a critical juncture in your evolution– provided you believe in evolution, and if not you’re likely part of the problem. One of our recommendations is to create a little more physiological and bio diversity by interbreeding various races.  Maybe by doing so you won’t argue and kill over race.  You might also experience broader tastes in food and music.

Another thing we want to address in our report` is this flag-waving shit as it can lead to the destruction of the planet. We strongly recommend you reconsider nationalism. Do you really need a nation’s doctrine, religious text , or XYZ News to dictate your morals?  Think for yourself, and don’t trust or rely on governments, religions, or the media.

Muh flag!

 

 

 

 

Like Dad used to say, …

 

Last Tuesday I had to take off work to get a continuance on the traffic ticket I received last month for improper registration (See my previous entires regarding this matter). The reason my registration is not proper is because I moved from Kansas to Missouri last September and upon applying for a Missouri license and vehicle registration was informed that I’d have to provide proof of citizenship, even though I had a valid Kansas license and even had a Missouri license in the past. Having been born in Germany where my father was stationed with the U.S. Army, they wouldn’t accept my birth certificate as identification. To my knowledge, social security cards are not legitimate for identification purposes except by the IRS and creditors. I don’t have a passport.

In March I submitted an Application for Certificate of Citizenship along with the required $600 filing fee. Having responded to a couple of requests for additional evidence since that time, it is still under review. On 1 May my Kansas registration expired and in July I was issued the ticket while en route to work by the KHP.

Not wanting to drive illegally I rented a car to drive to court. As soon as I walked into the Johnson County Courthouse I was met by three law enforcement officers stationed at a security checkpoint. I wasn’t sure of the protocol until one of the officers held out a tray where I dropped my keys, wallet, phone, and manilla envelope so that they could be ran on the conveyor and through the little magic security machine. I was the only person in line and the courthouse did not appear to be busy.

After the tray went through the conveyor I stood for a moment until one of the officers informed me that I could retrieve my belongings. Another officer kind of chuckled as if I were all ready supposed to know that, or maybe he was just thinking, another stupid citizen. I wasn’t the least bit hurt or intimidated.

Looks like our public servants are really working hard,” I said, sporting a fake grin.

I don’t recall the cops’ exact replies, but they acknowledged they weren’t very busy and one of them even jokingly stretched and yawned. The cop that chuckled was leaning against a wall and another displayed poor posture. I got the impression that the only one really working was the one standing near the front of the conveyor, and that the other two were just fucking off. I asked the one that looked like he was working where the traffic court was located and he gave me directions.

I thought about how similar I am to my late father as I walked up the stairs in the courthouse. In my manuscript I describe how after retiring from the army my father would sometimes drive the family to the commissary or hospital on post (Fort Riley, Kansas) and how he’d comment if a soldier wasn’t standing straight enough or if a jeep or a deuce and a half looked dirty or had a low tire.

It’s a goddamn disgrace,” was usually how my father described such defects.

I admit I’m angry over my citizenship status as well as receiving the traffic ticket and as I made my way to traffic court I could feel the anger intensifying. I quickly decided to change my strategy and inquire to see if I could possibly urge the prosecutor to withdraw the complaint. It seemed reasonable to me based on the circumstances. It wasn’t like I was intentionally driving illegally or couldn’t afford to register the vehicle. When I got to the prosecutor’s office I informed the receptionist that I wanted to confer with a traffic prosecutor regarding my case. A few minutes later a prosecutor stepped out of the office into the lobby and asked how she could help.

 

I felt nervous and took a deep breath and tried to calm down. I asked her to please take a seat and after briefly explaining my situation I asked if she would consider dropping the complaint based on extenuating circumstances to which she replied she would not. I urged her again and even showed her various documentation including my application for citizenship and a letter to my senator requesting it be expedited. I further argued that I had made a reasonable effort to obtain proper registered and that I shouldn’t be held liable. She wouldn’t budge. She said that if she withdrew the complaint that it wouldn’t be fair to all the citizens who legally register their vehicles. When she offered me diversion I wanted to fucking scream, but instead I took another breath then pointed my finger at her and informed her that what she was doing was completely immoral and that she was nothing more than a revenue collector for the state. Even though she never identified herself or her title I assume she was an aspiring assistant prosecutor trying to rack up as many prosecutions as possible to enhance her career. I’m sure she also didn’t want to let down the cop who issued the ticket who I’m sure tries hard to generate revenue for his employer to justify his paycheck. Fuck justice and morality, it’s all about the numbers!

Hope you sleep well,” I said before exiting the lobby.

The clerk of the traffic court was only able to grant me a two week continuance, but I’m plan to ask the judge for another when I return to court.

Like Dad used to say, “It’s a goddamn disgrace.”

 

Feeling Alienated (Part II)

I’d like to think I’m closer to resolution regarding my immigration issue but maybe not. I really don’t feel like I should be required to hire a lawyer to prove my citizenship (especially considering that my father was in the U.S. Military at the time of my birth), but it doesn’t appear that way. Instead, I contacted Senator McCaskill’s office a few weeks ago and requested assistance in expediting my case. I also emailed the USCIS Ombudsmen and complained because the USCIS doesn’t respond to my inquires very well when they do respond. It’s kind of like complaining to the police about the police; at least they haven’t beaten me up yet.

tbprofile-picA couple of weeks ago I received correspondence from the USCIS stating I would need to provide additional information about my father, but unfortunately they were vague as to the specific documentation they were requesting. When I called the USCIS to inquire into this matter an agent informed me that he did not have access to the letter I was sent and wasn’t sure what they wanted. He offered to let me read the letter over the phone, which I did, but he too couldn’t determine the type of documentation they were requesting. Having worked in customer service for years taking calls and even performing QA, I have a pretty good sense when a representative doesn’t know what the fuck they are talking about, and this agent had no clue. A couple of minutes into our conversation the call mysteriously got disconnected and I got really pissed. I waited for him to call me back, but he never did. I was going to call back in a thick, menacing European accent and accuse the agent of being a no goot, stupid amerikan, and let him know how incompetent his government is. However, I decided that I probably shouldn’t do that since the USCIS is affiliated with the DHS. I would hate to be renditioned to Gitmo as that would really fuck with my summer festival plans, if you know vhat I mean. With all the domestic spying and gathering of intelligence you’d think the government would realize that I’m just an average amerikan.

Fortunately Senator McCaskill’s office inquired about the documentation and determined that they are requesting copies of birth and marriage certificates for my parents which I’m trying to obtain. What a runaround! I remember growing up in the 60’s and 70’s and my parent’s and teachers explaining how I lived in a free country and how amerikans weren’t required to produce papers. Times have obviously changed and I do hope that the amerikans will feel safer once I get my papers. I was telling one of my old army brat friends (whose father was coincidentally shot in the head in Vietnam) that I might consider applying for welfare and SSI once I get my papers to get even.

On a more positive note I’m pleased to announce that I’m now a member of my company’s Wellness Committee. Hard to believe that a former heroin addict with HCV who used to have beer cans strewn about his yard could qualify for such a position. About the only cans you’ll find in my yard today are vegetable juice containers destined for recycling.

v-8-cans

About the only cans you’ll find in my yard today are vegetable juice containers destined for recycling

That’s all for this entry as it’s time to workout and relieve some stress.

Feeling Alienated

citizenship2After losing my home in Kansas City, Kansas, to foreclosure last September, I moved into a one bedroom apartment in Kansas City, Missouri. It’s not the ideal apartment but I didn’t have much time to look for a place because I only had a few days to vacate the premises after being served the eviction. The foreclosure was stressful to say the least, so I felt a sense of relief when I moved out.

It was a couple of months ago when I took a day off work to get my Missouri Driver’s License and tags as my Kansas vehicle registration was set to expire on April 1, 2014. When I went to the DMV they would not accept my Kansas Driver’s License as identification and stated I would need to provide a birth certificate, passport, or a proof of U.S. Citizenship document. I knew then that there was going to be a problem, which was confirmed when I returned to the DMV a short time later with my birth certificate which they would not accept because it was German. I tried to explain to the clerk that my father was stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army and that both my parents were American Citizens, and that I had previously had a Missouri Driver’s License, but was told I would need the required documentation.

I was a little upset when I got home and got on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website and learned that the filing for the application fee for the proof of U.S. Citizenship was $600. Not only that, the form required additional documentation and information such as my parents’ marriage certificate and where they were married at, known of which I have or know as my parents have been deceased for almost 30 years. In the cover letter that I included with my check and application I requested that they accept my father’s Oath of Enlistment in the U.S. Army which I enclosed therein. In that Oath my father listed my mother as his wife and person to be contacted in case of an emergency. I also included a section of my father’s enlistment records which further documents his marriage.

Shortly after submitting the application I received a receipt which included an alien number to which I am now assigned. When I went to the website and checked the status of the case it stated that it is under initial review. I also learned that the average processing time for a Proof of U.S. Citizenship document is six months. I’m not sure I can drive with illegal registration for six months, nor would I want to, so I promptly called the Immigration Office and requested an expedite under financial hardship on the basis that I could potentially face fines and restrictions for driving illegally and thereby not be able to drive to work, resulting in loss of employment and income.

…to be continued

 

Onward I flow

I realize this comes as bad news, but last November I got a so-called “real job” which hasn’t left me with much time to work on my manuscript or update this blog.

I’ve also been engaged in a legal battle for the past couple of years, defending myself in a foreclosure action which has been stressful at times. I’m not going to comment too much about the case because it’s still in litigation, but unfortunately, it looks like I’ll be losing my house. I can accept the fact that I’ll likely be evicted as I’ve been through worse things in life. It does, however, leave me to ask if I can move in with you– just kidding, but I will be looking for a place soon.

It was about the same time that I was contacted by my employer about an interview when I injured my right shoulder while roofing my house. In fact, I was on the roof when I got the call from human resources last October. My roof is (or was) a flat, built-up type roof, and I had finished applying the coating the day before and was lugging the very first five gallon bucket of pea gravel up the ladder when I felt my shoulder give, followed by an intense, burning pain. After the injury I could barely raise my arm and had to lug the remaining ton or so of gravel using my left arm. I also had to refrain from exercising for several weeks and when I finally resumed working out I had to limit myself to cardio only. It was probably a couple of weeks after getting hired when I was walking Ralphie in the park one night when he got on the scent of something and tugged me down a ledge where I banged my left elbow. Luckily Ralphie was not injured in the incident and just wagged his tail when I cursed him and kept on tugging.  My elbow still hurts.

Being new at work and  in training, I didn’t want to take off or use the little personal time I had to see a doctor. It was probably a good two months after my hire when I finally decided to go to the urgent care clinic one Saturday when the pain became intolerable. Upon examination the doctor determined that I had injured my right rotator cuff, but he wasn’t able to diagnose my elbow because the x-rays didn’t reveal anything. He did agree when I suggested I talk to my personal trainer about incorporating some physical therapy exercises into my routine.

It’s been a little over sixth months since the injuries and I’m finally feeling better now with less pain although the mobility in my shoulder is still limited. I also have to take ibuprofen a few times a week which I hate doing, but at least I can still run and bike without feeling too much pain, except a couple of weekends ago when I lost control of my bike while jumping a curb and banged the hell out of my shin.

I might also mention that I’m a bladder cancer survivor (cancer free since 1996– watch out Lance Armstrong!) and suffer from hypothyroidism and HCV (Hepatitis C), the later of which I contracted through irresponsible IV drug use. The last time I used IV was in 1985, and wasn’t even aware I had hep C until a follow-up to a physical exam on my fortieth birthday in 1998. Shortly after the diagnosis I had a liver biopsy whereafter the heptalogist informed me that the scarring of tissue was minimal and that I could likely die of cancer or some other ailment and also because I’ve been alcohol abstinent since 1987, and am otherwise in good, overall health.

It was sometime around 2002 when I complained of feeling fatigue and my doctor referred me to a second specialist who recommended I undergo interferon treatments. The fatigue has been ongoing since then and I sometimes feel feverish, but my temperature is always normal. It’s impossible for me to gauge since I really don’t know what normal feels like.

I’ve been physically active most of my life, running, lifting weights, and dancing and in recent years I’ve also taken up biking. My longest run was 22 miles which I did the summer after I turned 50 and I eat fairly healthy. I’ve heard runners, athletes, and even inactive people complain of fatigue, so maybe what I feel is normal.

As much as I would like to use the vacation days I’ve earned to attend festivals and go mountain biking, I’ve decided to focus on my health. The good news is that I passed a physical but I am feeling a little anxious because I have an appointment in a couple of weeks with the same specialist who suggested I consider the treatments. I’m sure he’ll at least recommend another biopsy. I have to wonder if he gets compensated by the drug company for his referrals and whether his recommendations are truly in the best of my interests. On the other hand I can’t ignore lab results such as viral counts and biopsy data, so I’m going to have to make some informed choices.

In other matters my new job as a product support specialist is going well. I struggled a little at first in typical Tom Ballard fashion, but I’m learning a lot. I primarily help customers with updates and downloads and also do a lot of troubleshooting on their devices and occasionally handle warranty claims. I’m so lucky that I had the opportunity to get a technology certificate while in prison in the 80’s and that I was later able to petition the court to expunge my convictions.

Although I haven’t had much time to work on my manuscript, I think about it often and know what I need to do to get it published. I was also contacted by one of the researchers whose studies I cited in my previous blog entry, which was very encouraging.

Onward I flow!

June 30, 2013

IPTSD: The Monster Hiding in your Child’s Closet? Part II

Army Brat’s War: A story about Peace, Love, War and Intergenerational PTSD, is my in-progress autobiographical novel.  The story is based on my experiences growing up in an army town during the 60’s and 70’s, and the turbulent relationship with my father, a Korea War Veteran who suffered from PTSD.
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Part II

While many of the army brats I grew up with seemed to have functional families, most of  the ones I associated with had parents who were divorced or separated, or had fathers who were otherwise MIA after returning from war.

I recall several other army brats who, like myself, engaged in self destructive behavior and even self-injury.  One of the characters in my book,  Valencia Diaz,  the fictional daughter of a Master Sergeant, is based on several female army brat friends who participated in what we called, “the punk test” when we were in Junior High.  This test or “dare” involved rubbing a pencil eraser back and forth across the lower arm as many times as one could.  I describe how Valencia had the girls record with a hundred-something strokes.  Although civilian kids also partook in the punk test,  they didn’t seem to do it with the same fervor as the army brats.

In my prologue I describe how my father confronted me with a shotgun during a violent altercation when I was a teen in 1974.  I was later arrested at Irwin Army Hospital and spent about a month in jail before being transported to a diagnostic center for evaluation.  I  don’t recall the court proceedings very well because I was in such a poor emotional state, but I believe it was the threat of being committed to a state institution that I accepted a plea and agreed to be sent to a residential adolescent treatment facility in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  This facility was unique in that it was exclusively for the troubled teens of military veterans, and funded in part by CHAMPUS, the Civilian Health and Medical Program for the Uniformed Services.  CHAMPUS was like the insurance company for retired military personnel and their families at the time, equivalent to what is now called, TRICARE.

In my book I refer to the facility as, Ruben Family Services, which has both a boys and girls residence located a couple of miles apart.  The residents (all army brats) attend weekly coed group therapy sessions and also attend public schools .

I describe meeting my therapist,  who picks me up at the airport,  and drives me to the boys house where he shows me around.  On the way upstairs to see my room I am assaulted by a horrible odor.  My problems seem minuscule when my therapist  explains that one of the residents, a thirteen year old, was abandoned by his parents as an infant and is still being toilet trained.  The source of the odor is a hamper in the bathroom that contains his soiled underwear which the live-in house keeper (a middle-aged woman) often forgets to launder.

I attended my first group therapy session high, after smoking a couple of joints with my roommates, who were also from the Fort Riley area.   I recall a couple of pretty girls from the Fort Sill-Lawton, Oklahoma, area who were at the session and were upset because they’d been placed on restriction after running away to a music festival in Missouri the previous weekend.  If I recall correctly the director of the facility had to hire a private detective to track them down.

What I recall most about that first group therapy session was a girl I call, Naomi.  She looked so much older than the other girls that I thought she was a counselor until she started sharing her story.  I believe she said she grew up in Fort Hood and had run away from home at a young age with her pimp, who was an ex soldier.  She described how he had taken her to various army towns to “work” and how she’d even danced in a club.   Her face was disfigured from when her pimp had beaten her and she had scars on her arms from IV drug use and numerous suicide attempts.  I’m certain she was sedated because she spoke in monotone and kept starring into space like some kind of zombie.

While at this facility I bonded even more with my fellow army brats.  I  would even become  a role model of sorts, intervening with troubled residents, modeling for the facility’s brochure, and even assisting my therapist when he conducted workshops at Tulsa University. However, I would eventually become a major liability to the director.

During my last night at the facility an event took place that was so tragic, I would spend years trying to sort it out.

 Intergenerational PTSD

Before I discuss Intergenerational PTSD, I think it’s appropriate to review what is known about conventional Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “PTSD is an anxiety disorder that some people get after seeing or living through a dangerous event.”

The National Library of Medicine’s website states that the cause of PTSD is unknown, but psychological, genetic, physical, and social factors are involved.  They further state that  PTSD changes the body’s response to stress and affects the stress hormones and chemicals that carry information between the nerves (neurotransmitters).

Although there have long been descriptions like, “battle fatigue” and “shell shock” to describe anxiety related to combat, the term PTSD didn’t enter mainstream vocabulary until 1980, when the American Psychiatric Association added it to the third edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III).  The manual is used to diagnose psychiatric disorders and is currently in its fourth edition.

I didn’t hear about Intergenerational PTSD until around 2008, when I was conducting  research for my book and came across several references to it on the internet.  The theory of Intergenerational PTSD, or IPTSD as I have come to call it,  is rooted in epigenetics which involves the study of heritable changes in gene expression.  This theory suggests that PTSD has a genetic origin and that it can therefore be transmitted from parent to offspring.

PTSD can also be acquired secondarily, through the family environment.  A 1999 Australian study concluded that a familial  environment where one or more members had PTSD significantly impacted the likelihood that others within that environment would develop symptoms.  (Westerink & Giarratano, 1999)

One of the most compelling arguments I’ve read supporting the intergenerational transference of PTSD is by Ken O’Brien, who cites several researchers, (Yehuda, et al) who have studied cortisol levels in PTSD sufferers and their children and have likely discovered bio-markers that support the argument that PTSD is genetically based and therefore heritable.

O’Brien also cites a study conducted in 2000 by the Australian Institute of Heath and Welfare. This  study centered on the suicide rates of the children of Vietnam Veterans who were determined to be more than three times likely to suicide compared to the general Australian population.  The study also found that deaths from illness and accident were also higher than expected.

Regardless of whether PTSD is acquired genetically or through environment, it’s familial impact is almost undeniable, yet we hear little about children with parents suffering from the disorder.  I hope to change that.

The Christian Science Monitor reports that more than 2 million US service members have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.   Unfortunately I  don’t know the number of children that these service personnel have, or are projected to have in the future, but I think it should be of major concern since those children could susceptible to the secondary and intergenerational effects of PTSD.

My question to my readers is whether the government should be obligated to provide mental health benefits to the adult children of veterans suffering from PTSD?

Tom Ballard
August 28, 2012

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References:

O’Brien, K, The Intergenerational Transference of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder amongst Children and Grandchildren of Vietnam Veterans in Australia:  An argument for a genetic origin.  Review of current literature. 

Westerlink J & Giarratano, L (1999). The impact of post traumatic stress disorder on partners and children of Australian Vietnam Veterans. Australia and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 33(6)-841-7.

Yehuda R, Bierer L. SchmeidlerJ, Aferiat D, Breslau I, & Dolan S. (2000) Low cortisol and risk for PTSD in adult offspring of holocaust survivors.  American Journal of Psychiatry. 157, 1252-9.


IPTSD: The Monster Hiding in your Child’s Closet? Part 1

Army Brat’s War: A story about Peace, Love, War and Intergenerational PTSD, is my in-progress autobiographical novel.  The story is based on my experiences growing up in an army town during the 60’s and 70’s, and the turbulent relationship with my father, a Korea War Veteran who suffered from PTSD.

Although most of us are familiar with the term, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, little has been reported about the possible intergenerational implications of the condition.  The best way for me to explain the concept of Intergenerational PTSD is by first providing you with some of my background:

I was born an army brat in Augsburg, Germany, in 1958 where my father was stationed with the First Infantry Division, and when I was two we received orders for Fort Riley, Kansas.  We only lived in Fort Riley a short time before my parents bought a house in Junction City, a bustling little army town adjacent to the post. My only sibling is a brother six years my senior and we were never close.

From an early age I aspired to be a soldier.  Whenever my family would go to the PX or commissary I would look in amazement as we’d drive past motor pools with rows of tanks, cannons, and other armaments and see soldiers driving jeeps and standing in formation.   When my father retired from the army when I was five, my favorite activity was playing army with the other army brats in our neighborhood.  We all wanted to be heroes, just like our fathers.

As a child I was rambunctious and displayed behavior problems early-on. My mother was a classic co dependent and would often conceal it from my father whenever I got in trouble in school which happened often.  I was close to my father until early grade school after he lost his patience and physically abused me on a couple of occasions.  Shortly thereafter I began engaging in self-injury and other high-risk behaviors.

My father suffered from frostbite and was wounded by small arms fire in the Korea War, and long after the battle he would experience flashbacks whenever a cold-front or snowstorm was moving in and pace through the house all night with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders, trying to shake-off the chills.  He also experienced stress whenever the soldiers were conducting training exercises on post and the rumble of artillery fire would rattle the windows and shake our house. As a child there were many nights when I would experience nightmares about war.

Around the time I entered junior high my brother left for college and my parents bought the cafe located inside the bus station.  My first job was busing the counter on weekends and paydays for Dad.  It was 1970, I was twelve years old and the Vietnam War was still dragging on.  Most of our customers were tired-looking soldiers, but there were also a number of drunks, prostitutes, and drug dealers who frequented the station. As one might imagine, Junction City was not the typical Kansas town.  The cafe was a 24 hour operation which kept my parents busy and allowed me plenty of free time.  Always the rebel, I quit working for my father the summer before tenth grade when he started hassling me about my long hair and began selling pot and LSD to soldiers in the park with some other army brats.

to be continued…

In part two I will discuss my commitment in 1974 to a facility exclusively for the troubled teens of military personnel and a study concerning the children of Vietnam Veterans.  

The prologue of Army Brat’s War is available for reading on my website.

August 14, 2012