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Slow Burn: A Journal

Slow Burn: A Journal (cover image)

Heidi Relge

Heidi Relge

Day One

Dr. Gramble said I need to start keeping a journal. Its supposed to help me pinpoint the things that cause me anxiety and stress, and she thinks it will also help her gain better insight into how I think. I guess I am hard to read or understand or something. I dunno. I'm not thrilled. Keeping a journal seems so juvenile, and knowing she is going to read it too seems to miss the whole point.

I guess I could be wrong. I am tired of this pit of dispair I feel like I am living in. Its no fair to my family. I miss the woman I used to be. I remember her. She was never full of life or the one everyone wanted to be around, but she still had purpose and dreams and the motivation to get out of bed and make things happen.

This person I am now is just a thin shadow of that woman. So if keeping a blasted journal will help me find her again, I guess I will give it a shot. What can it hurt?

So, here you go, Dr. Gramble.

I supposed I should start with my name and a teeny bit about me. Do you do that in journals? Are you supposed to? Ugh. I don't know how to do this. This is so weird.

Whatever: here goes.

My name is Chelsea VanBrandt. I am a MilSpouse and a Mama. I don't work. I can't. My Lupus, Fibro, and incessant migraines keep me in pain and mental lockdown, so I just try to be the best wife and mom I can. And clearly I am failing at that.

Hence the need for Dr. Gramble, and I guess this blasted journal.

Day Two

I stopped watching the news on TV ages ago. It's been so long, I can’t remember the last time I watched the news. It might have been when my hubby was deployed last year, actually.

I hate the news. I know there are good people and good things happening in the world every single day, but the news never, ever covers those things, so I stopped allowing that negativity in my life.

Though I am out of the loop in any kind of civil conversation now. Oh well. I actually don't give a crap about most of it. Why should I?

That said, Brandyn came home from work totally agitated today. I could sense his tension immediately, and it put me on edge too. I could see it was eating at him, but I could tell right away it was something he had to shelve and not share with me. His job is one where he has daily access to things from all over the world, and his clearance means he can never talk about it with me. I used to worry about everything he bottles up, but he's assured me that he and his coworkers vent a great deal over the clusters they have to deal with.

Still, venting at work clearly didn't help this time, so after he went to bed, I gave in and turned on the news. I regretted it almost instantly. There is a silver-lining to not being able to know what Brandyn knows. Everything I see on the news I know is only half the story… or half of half of a story… and everything is always spun to fit a political viewpoint. Its disgusting.

Still… I watched over an hour of CNB before realizing what it was that likely had him so upset, and even as the reporters spun their tales, I knew what I was watching was likely only a fraction of the truth. And judging from his agitation, it was much much worse than the news knew or was letting on.

Now, I have to try not to think about what is happening with our economy in light of the threats made by China and worry about how it might affect Brandyn at work. Just great…

Here, Dr. Gramble. THIS is where some of my stress comes from. The frickin' news media!

Tell me again, how does writing it down in this journal help me?

Day Three

Kasi came home from school saying that school has been canceled for the rest of the week. The letter from the principal said that school would restart the following Monday providing the state passes their budget, which affects every public school and state run agency. I read the letter and realized I wasn’t going to be able to send off my packages (gifts for my sister's kids for their birthdays) cause this means the national budget hasn't passed either, and the post office is going to be closed too.

My next thought was that the contractors Brandyn works with are going to be absent, which means he's not going to be able to take the leave he was scheduled to take so we could get some projects done around the house.

Then, Genia came over for coffee after dinner and began blabbering about the stock market dropping low again. None of that makes any sense to me, so I nodded and sipped my coffee pretending to know and care about her concern, but I am sure she saw right through my pretense. Sigh. She kept on anyway. Whatever is going on must be pretty bad. She kept repeating that we all need to get as much cash out of the banks and buy tradable things that would be worth something. Apparently, our paper money and coinage are all but worthless. That’s good to know, 'cause I have jars and jars of coins that I was saving for vacation - if Genia is right. Who knows?

Maybe I will research it a little tomorrow. I may not understand it all, but it does seem to make sense to have more tangible worth than our flimsy paper money.

Day Six

I missed a couple days, and I bet my therapist will have something to say about it.

Tough luck.

Life happens.

I got a call from my sister-in-law in Louisiana. She needs me to keep her kiddos for a week while she goes on a work trip out of the country. No biggie. Our state still has not fixed its budget, so Kasi is still out of school, and likely will be for longer than expected. Our state's plight has made the national news, but apparently we are not the only state facing financial crisis. The way the radio announcer made it sound was like we should find peace in knowing our state isn't the only failing state in the nation. What a moron.

Anyway, so Kasi and I are going to Louisiana and will be there for little over a week. I love road trips. I am already working on my roadtrip playlist!

Day Seven

Kasi and I left at 5am. I admit I probably should not have been driving - I felt so sleepy, but I wanted to be there before it got too terribly late. We left Colorado and hit Oklahoma, and I was pulled over immediately. The Cops were a bit scary, to be honest. They asked Kasi and I to get out of the car. They totally emptied my car. I mean they completely stripped it! Took out all the luggage, the gifts, the floor mats… Thankfully, I was not the only one, or I would have felt really singled out.

The cops were checking everyone’s license, registration, and checking and verifying addresses and phone numbers. It was wierd. It was almost like I was passing into another country. Like, I half expected to have them point machine guns at us. They didn't have any, but it was so surreal, I wouldn't have been surprised. I mean, really.

I asked the two cops who were going through our stuff what the reason was and got no answer. I mentioned that I thought they were unable to do this without a warrant, but they just laughed at me.

I didn’t want any trouble, so I sat on the side of the road with Kasi, and we just waited till they allowed us to pack everything back up and let us go on our way. I breathed a huge sigh of relief when we left Oklahoma and hit the Texas state line, until I saw the Texas Highway Patrol pulling over random vehicles near the state border as well. At that point, I figured I should turn off the ipod and click on the radio.

The news was on every station. Our country is officially in economic collapse. Every station had experts arguing over what this means for us, what it means for the world. I admit, I didn’t feel much. A small amount of dread, but beyond that I simply did not understand what I was hearing. After a while, hearing of nothing that would explain the increased police presence everywhere, I had Kasi turn the iPod back on.

We hit Louisiana, but at that point we were on back roads well away from the Interstates. We weren’t stopped, so we got to my Sister-In-law's where were met by my frantic in-laws. Their anxiety put me into sudden lethargy… Is that the right word? Sigh. I don't know.

I couldn’t understand what they were upset about. Their questions made no sense to me. How could I know the answers to their questions? I repeated over and over that Brandyn was ok, and that he told me nothing about this crisis. Finally, I told them I was exhausted from driving. They accepted that, and I have been up here in my sister-in-law’s guest room ever since.

My hand hurts from writing. Maybe I should have thought about keeping a journal online.

Day Eight

Oh.. my.. god! What day!

Julianne was supposed to leave this morning. I dropped her off curbside at the airport for her flight out of the country. I watched her walk in, and I drove off. She called me ten minutes later and asked me to come back to get her. Apparently, international travel has been stopped. The news is strangely quiet on this, and the internet news sources are playing up every conspiracy theory they can think of.

Julianne seems distressed over this change and has been on the phone all day with her coworkers and the people she was supposed to meet with in Japan. I figure while I am here I can keep the kids out of her hair.

She thinks she will be able to fly out tomorrow and keep the meetings, but when we watched the news tonight before The Voice, there was finally something about the stopped flights and a promise of a Presidential Address.

Sure enough, that clown - no I sure enough did NOT vote for that joke - got on. His face was pasty white as ever and his white hair was strangely mussed up, like he just woke up from a nap. I think I understand why so many of the uber Conservatives call him "Sleepy Joe" now. For a guy who relies so heavily on his speech writers to get him through every address, he seemed even more cautious with his words. I could swear there were a couple times where he appeared to look to the side and look for prompting on what to say. It was rather unsettling considering that the "Right" appear to think he is nothing more than a puppet with someone else pulling his strings.

Ten minutes later, Julianne got a call from her boss saying that all her meetings were now scheduled for video conference. Just like that, I am no longer needed to help her out.

I called Brandyn. I could tell he was distracted again. I told him I'm coming home tomorrow, and he breathed a sigh of relief. He told me to get Dad to gift us his guns and write a letter stating so. He told me not to hide them, but to pack them like normal, fully expecting me to get checked again as I cross state lines to get home. I asked him if this was the new normal, and he was quiet for a minute. He didn’t know. We talked for a bit longer, but when we hung up, I felt a knot forming. Something is wrong. Terribly. What does it mean?

Day Nine

Kasi and I were on the road before sunrise. Dad insisted on mapping out a route for me that kept me off the interstates. He had written me a letter with an inventory of the guns he is gifting to Brandyn. Neither of us knew if it would be enough, but it's worth a shot. Mom and Dad hugged me good-bye. I swear Mom had been crying. It's like she thinks she'll never see us again. Dad said something about coming behind us a couple weeks from now with Julianne and the kids in the camper.

We left Louisiana, and drove through Texas, and through Oklahoma with no trouble. It was much longer taking the lesser traveled roads, but it kept us from being stopped. Once we hit Colorado, I normally take the Interstate back home, but - maybe it was a premonition - I felt like detouring more western. So we traveled for an additional hour before finally getting home. Brandyn was still awake. He met me at the door to the kitchen and hugged me fiercely. When I pulled away, I saw the concern in his eyes, and I knew it - something very bad is happening.

He helped Kasi and I unpack, and we all went to bed. Beyond small talk, he and I didn't discuss the inspections at the state lines, or the economy collapse, or the stopped international travel. I think we are both hoping this all just passes by and will be another one of those things that doesn’t really affect us.

One can hope.

Gosh… The drive was so long… I am so tired…

Day Ten

Kasi is still home from school. I decided I better make sure she stays on top of learning something, so I gave her a couple books I enjoyed reading at her age, and told her I want her to read them and report to me what she learned. She was not thrilled. I don't know why. Island of the Blue Dolphins and Z for Zachariah are great reads, and just might be appropriate for the times. I wonder how she'll react to Z for Zachariah. If she likes it, I will give her Alas, Babylon next.

When I went into the kitchen this morning, I found that Brandyn left me an envelope with cash in it. The note said to buy flour, sugar, salt, pepper, coffee, paper, and batteries of all sizes. It also said there were two five gallon gas cans in my trunk that needed to be filled. I stared at the list and wondered over it for a minute before it clicked. He wants us to prepare.

So I left Kasi at home reading her books. While I was in the car, I found another note from Brandyn telling me to shop at three different stores, using only the cash, and then go to the bank and pull out my max amount for that day. He said he'd explain later, but I think he forgot.

I was not thrilled to have to drive all the way into Denver to stock up on these supplies, but I trust Brandyn, and I know he wouldn't ask me to do something that was not necessary. So I ran to the different stores. I think I need to start watching the news regularly - every magazine and paper on the end caps is kinda freakin me out! All of them stating we are on the edge of collapse. Government upheaval. Political tensions. Rioting. State tensions. Military Commanders making bold statements and accusations. Plus, I noted I was not the only one who appeared to be stocking up.

I saw one woman grabbing candles, and I thought I better as well. I also decided we better get matches, bags, and first aid supplies. I have always been such a fan of apocalypic shows and movies, and I realized there is a great deal we are going to need if things really are hitting the fan.

I got home around the same time as Brandyn. He was unloading purchases he had made after work. He got ammo for each of the guns, and camping gear. When I pulled in, he had me back into the garage and closed the garage door before unloading. He said something about the neighbors not needing to know what we have.

After we were done unloading everything, he pulled me to the back door where we could look out over our small yard. He pointed to the back corner and told me that tomorrow he is going to start digging a hole where he wants to bury a couple 50 gallon barrels that we will fill with gasoline over the next several days. He also wants to move our shed to cover where they will be buried so no one will expect to find them there, and he is planning on building a false wall in the basement to hide the guns and ammo.

His planning makes me afraid of what is happening in our country. It also makes me glad he is my husband. I know he will do his best to take care of me and Kasi. I don’t know how I am going to be able to sleep now though…

Day Eleven

Dr. Gramble canceled all our following appointments. Her secretary said that she is moving back to the east coast to be closer to her family. I tried to find another therapist to take over my appointments to help with this depression and anxiety, but no one is taking on new patients right now.

Just perfect. I think I will still keep journaling. Just getting down all the crap that is happening right now seems to help me organize my thoughts. I wonder if this is what journaling does for other people too?

Brandyn did start the hole in the back yard. One of the neighbors saw him start the hole, and Brandyn told him it for a rain catchment system. So now his plan is more complicated. He is going to put one barrel in the ground and tie it to a gutter system for the shed. Then he is going to move the shed over the area, remove the floor, and dig out space for the two gas barrels. Damn nosey neighbors. Though, I guess this is better. Having a water catchment can’t be a bad idea. We are all on city water. Not sure if it will stay on if the power goes out. Another thing I need to look into. Another thing I should start collecting.

Nothing new on the news. At least not anything that makes any sense to me. The United Nations has declared our country bankrupt. I really don't understand how this is news. Considering we have been trillions of dollars in debt for a decade or more, what is the magical number that makes us considered bankrupt? I kind of wish I took even a basic economics course when I was in college.

Our President is fighting the UN's declaration, but according to news sources, his business interests in China and Russia conflict with country interests and are a large part of the problem. I find that hard to believe. Now, suddenly, his business interests overseas are an issue? Before the election, they sure weren't!

Oh well. I have to admit I am mostly ignorant on these things.

Then there is China. China is posturing. I don’t know what that means really. Brandyn said it has to do with collecting what our country owes China. Supposedly, China can come in and claim land and property within our country? What? This is all so confusing.

Of course, the Middle East is rife with open criticism of us. "We are finally getting what we deserve. Infidels never prosper for long." ISIS is claiming they will soon have a strong foothold and are hinting at foreign allies. I asked Brandyn whom they are referring to. I can tell he knows, but he can't tell me.

I think this will be another sleepless night. Thankfully, Kasi seems unaffected. At 13, she is still more interested in her friends, phone, and TikTok than anything.

Day Fourteen

Brandyn hasn't been home in two days. The base is on lockdown, and he is in the SCIF. I haven’t gotten any calls or emails from him. One of his coworkers who was able to leave just before the lockdown did call me to let me know that the explosion that rocked the base was nowhere near where Brandyn works. Still… A car bomb. Here. US soil. US military base. Right here. I am horrified and numb with disbelief at the same time.

They haven’t released the names of the deceased yet - not to the news anyway. I tried to get to the other gate and get information, but the SP’s wouldn’t let anyone within 50 feet of the gate. I was met by an Airman who checked and confirmed my ID. He walked me to the staging tent, and I was able to talk to a public affairs guy who could "neither confirm nor deny" that my husband is safe.

This is when I hate being tied to the military. I mean, I get it. I do. And I hate the necessity for the inability to know my husband is safe.

Kasi is sick with worry. She didn’t eat anything all day. I held her for a long time tonight as she cried out her fears for her dad. We prayed together, but I could tell, she got no peace from her prayers. To be honest, when I got here in bed and said those same prayers again, they seem so shallow and empty…

Lord, are you listening? Do you see what is happening? Do you care?

Day Fifteen

The Base Commander allowed the personnel to change today, so Brandyn called me as soon as he was in his truck and on his way home. The news has been scary, and I don't know what to believe anymore, so I've been forced to turn it off.

I did learn a lot though: Our base was not the only one targetted. Five others around the country were also hit. Casualties are now nearly 300 military and civilians. Sadly, one of the car bombs made it through the gates at one base, but when it was finally stopped, it was near the base daycare. The driver blew himself up and took out the SP’s that had him cornered as well as half the daycare and several vehicles and passengers that were stopped nearby. Thirteen day care workers and over eighty children - gone. Just gone. My heart is breaking for the parents who will never get to love on their babies ever again.

The President made another national address claiming war on terror. Hallow threats at this point. The enemy, whoever they are, is among us, and not afraid any longer.

Brandyn is still asleep. Tomorrow, he wants to finish the shed and gas storage. And he wants me to do more shopping. I don't want to leave the house, but he insists that we need to act as normal as we can. Normal? What is normal now?

© 2021 Heidi Relge


Heidi Relge (author) from USA on February 10, 2021:

Thank you, everyone, for your comments! I am enjoying sharing Chelsea's story with you all. I admit, I have kept journals myself over the years. Thankfully, I've never documented anything so unnerving within mine. I hope you will all follow along as Chelsea's journal progresses. ~H.R.

Misbah from The Planet Earth on February 09, 2021:

Well your journal is interesting, nice to keep a journal online. But you can never tear it, so bad idea for me...


Misbah from The Planet Earth on February 09, 2021:

When I was a kid I used to write on my journal every day but always after writing I teared up the page because I always wanted no one else to read it ever... I know I sound like a stupid but I also don't know why I used to do this.

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on February 09, 2021:

This sure captured my attention, Heidi. This journal was well-written, and covered a pretty scary but very possible scenario....a country going into economic collapse. Nice work.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on February 09, 2021:

Wow, Chelsea sure is going thru a lot, Heidi! I don't blame her for not watching the news. I'm much the same way. It seems her world is even more chaotic than ours currently is. I hope it's not a sign of what's to come!

I'll just keep wearing my rose-colored glasses. They keep me positive and in tune with the beauty in the world. There really is more beauty than ugliness, in my eyes.