Are you in the club no one wants to join?

members only This is a loaded topic for me and mannnnny others, but today I want to talk about something that came up recently regarding family who doesn’t ‘get it’ in understanding the complexities and challenges of our lives after combat.

This is a sore topic with me on multiple levels. It’s one of those topics that needs an entire chapter of a book to explain or discuss….and could very well be an entire book if I really want to be honest about it.

So I’ll TRY to keep this short and limited to one aspect of the issue.

I had a family member (one of the ones who WANTS to learn more about our life) recently confess that she is still learning and had ‘no idea’ and thanked me for the continued reminders. God, I love her for that.

Then I have some family members I’ve had to literally BLOCK because they either refused to learn, or just refused to understand. I was the ‘bad guy’ and became a target for unkind actions on their part.

I am reaaaallllly tired of being the bad guy. I really am.

Over the years I’ve struggled with trying to educate the public, let alone family or friends, about what TBI does to a person. Or what PTSD does to a person. And then I further explain what it does to their spouse, their children, their quality of life, their friendships, etc.

This shit is hard, people. And the outcome in these situations is I continue to fall into the ‘bad guy’ category when I step in to provide correction, redirection, education and understanding.

BOTTOM LINE: The person you need to be listening to is ME. (Or any caregiver/spouse in an equal or similar situation.)

My husband is the most truthful, honest, pure person you will ever meet. He is honest to a fault. Even if it means admitting he screwed up, he’ll be the first person to admit it.


My husband is going to FORGET to tell you the truth because it’s escaped his mind entirely. He’s going to confabulate things to connect all the missing dots and fill in the gaps with things that probably never happened. He’s going to tell you things he thinks he’s supposed to tell you because he knows it’s the answer you want to hear. He doesn’t want to hurt your feelings or cause undue alarm by telling you the truth sometimes. He’s also too tired to explain it all, so he just summarizes it or glosses over the topic entirely.

And that means I have to go back and clean up all the messes it creates.

For instance, I overheard him today talking about how ‘healthy’ he is. My eyes bugged out when I heard it…but I GET why he made such a claim.

In his mind, he is healthy because he’s working hard at it. He’s losing weight a little at a time. He’s compliant with his meds and they are working the way they are supposed to. He’s more stable as a result. He has a good care team at the VA (which most don’t have the luxury of having!) and things are rolling along with his health better than expected.

But what he hasn’t shared is that it’s because of ME that these things are going on. I hate to burst any bubbles — but he’s not as healthy as he claims. Part of it is because I take that role on and shield him from a lot of it. And this makes me the bad guy/pessimist/realist in the equation and likely an enabler in the end. I don’t want to stress him out or add pressure by saying “Hey, love…your cholesterol is so high you are a heart attack waiting to happen!” Instead, I plan his menu as carefully as I can so that I can quietly address that issue without bringing fear into his mind. The last thing we need is for him to stress out on top of all the other stress he’s got on his mind and in his life. And guess who deals with that stress? Me. And the kids. And his aide. So I make damn sure not to add more of it if I can help it.

And then there’s the other stuff…

I was the one to get the in-home equipment he needs to do his workouts at home. It was me who arranged for the personal trainer/life coach to come see him regularly and add another 10+ hours of responsibilities per week that come with those visits. It was me who works with 16+ providers at the VA on a weekly basis. It’s me who pushed to get him leveled out on his meds, orders them, makes sure he takes them, etc. It’s me who tracks his labs with Excel spreadsheets to make sure nothing is falling through the gaps. It’s me who looks at the trends of his labwork to see declines so we can intercept quickly. It’s me who …dead tired and not in the mood… suggests we go for a walk and then has to CONVINCE him to leave the house in order to do it. It’s me who does so many other things in relation to this issue that I am too tired to even talk about all of it.

And that is a FRACTION of what a caregiver/spouse does for someone with a TBI/PTSD. A FRACTION!

I was recently asked to set aside time for someone so they could “pick my brain” about all the things Dan deals with on a daily basis so they could help him.

On the surface, this is HUUUUGE and amazing news. But there’s a catch…

This is the first time in 10 years they stepped up to ask that question. And then, I find out it’s because they are sure they can sell him something (or, maybe gift him? I don’t know) using products on the market that are supposed to fix damn near everything.

I feel so defeated. It makes me want to scream.

If it would help, of course I have likely already tried it. I’ve been the bad guy before making him ‘try’ something new (he hates it when I do that!!!). But we are talking about a BRAIN INJURY that isn’t reversed magically! We are talking about PTSD on top of it. We are talking about ten years of countless tests, exams, treatment plans, office visits, hospitalizations, 24/7 care by multiple people for over a decade.

I am trying really hard to see the gesture in the heart and kindness and concern it was presented, but it’s coming from a place of VERY limited thinking and understanding. It minimizes the true and actual reality. It also minimizes me in the end.

This product may very well help in some small way, but it would have been realllly nice if you asked me about his disabilities, challenges, injuries, obstacles, etc. ten years ago instead of just now.

So to all the family members out there who talk to their veteran loved ones and hear how great things are, how easy their life is, or see them performing well for a 15-minute phone call…. you got to see the BEST side of him and not the other side of him.

I am the one who gets to see that other side. And deal with it.

It’s also because of my hard work that you get to enjoy that best side of him.

SOOOOO…. to my point:

The first example of the family member I described above, the one who shows compassion and a continued desire to understand, means the WORLD to me.

The second example of the family member who closes their mind by choice…or just doesn’t know any better to open it a little wider…is quite an energy suck.

If you really want to know more, do more, understand more, etc. just keep listening to me when I tell you about it. Sure, listen to him too. I am not trying to minimize him in any way. But you have to see the WHOLE story to truly understand.

In the end your eyes have to be WIDE OPEN to really see the truth. It’s time to wake up, even if it’s a decade too late.

Be that kind of person who opens their eyes, mind and heart. I beg you. Please. Not just for me, but for EVERY veteran out there with TBI issues and/or PTSD issues.

Sound off! Do you belong to the club no one wants to join? Share your experiences in the comments below!


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The longest goodbye?

flickering candle This week I am at a writer’s workshop and had all intentions of going all gung-ho on writing my book, but something has me so unsettled that I had to break free from the formality of writing my manuscript in order to tell you about it. It’s really weighing heavy on my mind, and I have found out in the course of becoming an author — as long as I purge whatever is bothering me through the use of words (which means I *am* still writing) I can get back to my regularly-scheduled programming.

I came across this poem today and, in light of recent news, I wanted to share it.

Saving You

The darkness takes him over,
the sickness pulls him in;
his eyes—a blown out candle,
I wish to go with him.

Sometimes I see a flicker—
a light that shone from them;
I hold him to me tightly,
before he’s gone again.” 
― Lang LeavLove & Misadventure

As sad as it is, isn’t it also so beautiful?

I am one of many people in this world who loves a veteran that is suffering from a traumatic brain injury and/or post traumatic stress. It changes them not only on cellular level, but on a deeper level that reaches into their soul. Some days we have good days and I get a glimpse of the man I met and married nearly 22 years ago. Other days I don’t recognize him at all. Some days he surprises me with words he’d long forgotten to speak. Other days he’s silent and lost in an abyss where words can never reach the places he needs them the most.

Right now I am going through a bit of a roller coaster. Dan has been going through some health challenges that have put him into a place where he is hard to reach. I received news from his doctor night before last about very alarming results in his recent lab work. While this isn’t new news, it’s news that was worse than the labs before it, and the labs before that. We knew he was struggling, but modern science has proven just how hard he’s struggling…

Without revealing all that is wrong and violating his privacy, I can summarize it in one sentence:

I feel like I am watching him die slowly

For the sake of sounding dramatic (which is definitely not my style) – this is exactly how I feel.

I’ve written in the past about Dan’s tendency to over-react (and dramatics are definitely not HIS style, either) at the mere thought of losing me, or his fear of what he would do if something terrible ever happened to me.

I get it. I really do. What would happen to him if something happened to me? To help with addressing those ‘what if’s’ in life, I took a step back from the chaos to put my attention where it is needed the most.

But I really hadn’t felt the fear of losing him …until now. THAT is why I am writing about it today. If I don’t, I feel like I may crack and shatter into a million pieces.

The story behind this story

I didn’t talk about it back when it happened, but I had a very pivotal moment last month. It solidified my realization of Dan’s true fears. On the surface it would be so insignificant — we’ve seen many presidents do it on TV, yet they drive on and continue running our country — but to me it was an imprint on my mind that came back to haunt me.

A visual I will never forget…

I was stepping off a small airplane onto the tarmac, and in a moment of not paying better attention, my foot slipped and I missed the last couple of steps. It was like you see in the movies…. s-l-o-wwwww  m-o-t-i-o-n. As I contorted my body to land as gracefully as I could, I connected my eyes to Dan’s face as he reached for me to catch me. He wasn’t fast enough. As each of my body parts connected to the cement beneath me, his face contorted into the most horrific look of fear I have EVER seen on his face.

He was truly horrified.

It was surreal in a way. For a moment I wondered if that was the same face he made while in combat and witnessing the things that changed him forever.

I can’t explain how his face shifted and how his eyes screamed in horror, but what I can tell you is this:

I was certain that what went through his mind was his realization that he couldn’t protect me. He couldn’t save me. He was watching the very person he relies on for every element of his life slipping away to a place where bad things happen.

I got up as gracefully as a middle-aged woman could and shrugged it off. I spent more time comforting him than he was trying to do for me.

When I got the news from his doctor, everything I knew about my world changed

As I reviewed the results of Dan’s labs and let the historical data set in, I think my face contorted in horror much like his did last month when I landed in a pile at the bottom of the airplane steps.

It became clear to me: I am not afraid to die. I am afraid if HE died.

So many questions and conversations ran through my mind…

What more could I have done to prevent this? I would never forgive myself if this is something preventable. Even if I am doing all I know how to do, what if I could have done more?

Then it sunk in…. This is a terminal illness when I really get down to it. Morbid? Yes. But it’s also our new reality.

Worst yet in the “Hey, let’s blame ourselves” department:

What if everything I have been doing I do to care for him is exactly what is killing him? What if the food he eats and the medications I make sure he takes are the reason why he’s going downhill?

And the biggest question of all…

What should I do?

The answer is, I really don’t know. But what I do know is this:

There is a difficult dynamic that goes on when a spouse becomes a caregiver. The roles change from lover to mother. I become the nag when I have to get on him about better choices in his health. For all intents and purposes (and in his defense) he’s not deliberately making bad choices. He just needs help with making better choices.

And that’s where the conflict sets in. I am guaranteed to step into the role of being his nagging mother.

I’d much rather work on being his lover, but that will probably have to wait for awhile.

Guys like my husband do NOT do well with change. Everything in their world is based on predictability, routines and habits.

In order to help him, I have to turn his whole world upside down. There will be no predictability. All his routines we worked so hard to create will now change. All his habits, the very thing that keeps him grounded, will also need to change. There will be significant consequences.

So I have to learn to let that go. It is what it is, so I might as well deal with it.

Backing up even further in this issue, let’s go to the things I can control and help him with…what he puts in his body.

Even if I can change his entire diet (which was already verified by multiple professionals that I was doing everything right) and find even better options for him to eat, we simply cannot afford to buy things like organic foods or lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

This brings me back to the guilt of not starting a garden sooner. I was too busy being busy, and I could really use a garden right now!

Again, it is what it is. I have to learn to let go of that and deal with it.

If we take him off any of the medications he’s currently on, there will be consequences. He’s FINALLY stable enough with his PTSD medications that he hasn’t had outbursts in quite awhile. I can deal with the isolation and anxiety, but controlling the outbursts were such a big win for him. If we change his medications in any way, something we’ve worked SO hard to get leveled over the years, we are back to square one. We are back to him having rages, outbursts, broken furniture and broken hearts.

So, now what do I do?

Am I realllly ready to let it go and deal with it?

Um. No.

But it’s all I’ve got left to do.

Dan is doing what I expected he will do. He’s in denial. This mimics the five stages of grief. He’s denying there is any problem because it’s so much easier to ignore it than to accept it.

The fifth and final stage is acceptance. I want to get to that place and help him get to that place too.

How can I, in the face of health issues that are life-shortening or life-threatening, skip to the acceptance stage? Or, better yet… prevent all of these stages from being needed and at least keep them at bay?

Our society is conditioned to assume we all plod along at a high level of function until we are suddenly struck down by a catastrophic event or illness. When that happens, everything will be over nice-and-clean. But that catastrophic event was a near-miss and he beat all odds. We spent years reaching his fullest potential in his recovery after his combat wounds.

It’s really hard for me to swallow that bitter pill that our best days very well may be behind us, and now we are entering a prolonged decline.

And sometimes the cure is often worse than the disease.

What is the difference between saving a life and prolonging dying?

Well, the truth in all of this depressing news and spiraled thinking is this:

I haven’t given up yet. He might, as he does from time to time, but I am going to keep doing what I’ve always done and never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up.

I will find a way.

I don’t want our children to worry more than their young lives have had to deal with already. They will need me more than ever to give that stability and peace of mind that got them through to this point in our lives.

I want them to know that I am going to do everything in my power to keep their father in their lives for as long as God will give him. Until then, there is certainly one thing I CAN do…

I have chosen to improve the life we have

This may come in the form of putting things at the top of my list of things to do that were previously buried a lot further down. I am going to make and preserve memories. I am going to take what we have left together and make it the best damn life I know how to create. I can’t let my life be driven by all the what-if’s we’ve had to process. Instead, I am going to ask myself a different kind of ‘what if” and do it like this:

What if I shut off the phone for a month and let the world disappear while I took my family to places that made us happy?

What if I did things that are sure to make him happy, thus making all of us happy, and soaked it up instead of rushing to the next thing?

What if we let go of the past and started focusing on the future, even if the future isn’t guaranteed?

What if everything I do really is good enough, and I go on to release myself of the emotional baggage …and accept the fact I can’t save him no matter how hard I try?

What if I put that energy into something more meaningful instead and just lived our damn life already?

What if I didn’t look at this as the longest goodbye and just embraced it as our new season of finally getting around to living?

Yeah, I like that so much better.

I woke up this morning and out of nowhere Dan started singing “You are my Sunshine” to me. I can’t tell you how much I miss hearing his incredible voice breaking out into a song. That was one of the reasons I feel in love with him. He would sing to me, for me, and sometimes even about me. It helps that he’s also an incredibly talented singer, though he’ll argue with you if you tell him so.

I joined him in the melody, and before you knew it, we were singing it together.

I held onto that image in my head and pushed all the other images aside.

This is going to take a lot of practice. You see, Dan is not the only one that relies on predictability, routines and habits. I have to upend my entire world too.

I intend to do everything I can. I refuse to see it as a glimpse of the man I married that will eventually flicker and go out like a candle in the wind. I see him singing to me today as one of the many memories I plan to preserve forever and ever. Even if it’s the last time he does it, all that matters is that he did it that one last time.

We never know if our moments are a ‘one last time’, so let’s spend all of them as if they are.

And like the poem at the beginning of my post said:

I am going to hold him tightly, before he’s gone again.

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What are your friendships built on?


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I love this quote from C.S. Lewis:

“Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one!”

Friendships are commonly built on being able to relate to each other. My friendships involve encouragement, laughter, commiserating together on difficult days, and bouncing ideas off of each other.

I’ve been incredibly blessed to have some of the most wonderful friends a woman could ask for. Many of them I have never met in person! I’ve lost a few along the way, too. They fell to the wayside because we either grew apart because we could no longer relate, or I could see it was a one-way street and not a give-and-take relationship. Instead of mourning that loss of what the friendship once was, or feeling bad for being taken advantage of, I remind myself that that loss  just made room for better friendships to come into my life.

There are some moments in our lives that can change a friendship forever. The best moments are the ones where we find out about each other, or find out more about each other.

Don’t hide from the world because you are afraid to get hurt. You are losing out on a chance to form friendships or relationships that can last forever.

God will weed your garden and help you make room for those who deserve and earn your friendship. I promise.

Most of all, remember this: One of the best friendships you can ever have is with yourself. Some people will stab you in your back. Some people will lie. Others will leave you feeling alone when you can’t afford to be. Those are the days you need to be your own best friend.

A strange thing happened when I started writing on this blog. People I’ve never met — who were scattered to the four winds — came out of hiding to say, “I thought I was alone, and now I realize I am not.”

And that made me feel less alone too.

We have to stick together, and I am so grateful for each of you who are in my life. Even if it is a quick comment on my blog or on social media, I value each of the connections that come with sharing my story. In turn, I get to learn yours too.

What are your friendships built on? Have you made room for more meaningful relationships along the way?

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Dear outsiders looking in: Don’t let the appearance of normal days fool you

A relatively new blogger on the caregiver scene wrote a fantastic post about her feeling a need to explain or apologize whenever her wounded warrior has a good day. He’s able to participate in the family on these days. He’s able to get out of the house on these days. They feel like they have to justify monies spent on a family dinner. Worst of all, it opens up their exposure to insensitive comments about how ‘lucky’ they must be to not have to work or how fortunate she is to stay home as a caregiver on a full-time basis.

I could relate to every single thing she discussed. I am betting there are many more who can relate too. Can you?

Here is the original post, which I would like to address here with my own opinion and experience of the issue:

I feel like I need to apologize

Specifically, I want to quote the following from her blog…

“It isn’t just the motorcycle that makes me feel like I need to explain and apologize when we act normal. If we take the kids to dinner or go to a movie I feel like I have to (take an extra mortgage out on the house to take 6 people and) explain to everyone that it has been a very good day for the hubbyman and we were able to get out of the house, but this doesn’t happen all the time. I think I know why I feel this way. I, like many other caregivers and disabled veterans, have been the recipient of the dreaded “oh it must be nice to get paid to stay home” remark. I have also heard, “he doesn’t look disabled” too many times to count.  I have also been told by other wives of disabled vet’s “I wish we could live off his disability” and “Why can’t I can’t paid to stay home? Why are YOU so lucky?” These statements in any form or version make me want to lose my shit and bug the fark (see momma I didn’t say the “F” word! hahaha) out on whoever was DUMB enough to say it! I think it irritates me so much because I can’t think of a single polite way to respond. What I want to say is something to the effect of “You are too stupid to keep sucking air. Get out of my face!” or something sarcastic like, “Oh yes, because the hubbyman is SOOOOO lucky to have fallen 27 feet and broken his back in six places at the age of 27. I wish everyone could have been that lucky!””

And this…

“What I usually do is remember to breath, smile, and say politely, “Not every wound is visible, but I agree that the country needs to do better about taking care of it’s wounded warriors.” or “We budget every dime we get. It’s not easy to manage a family of 7 on disability and caregiver pay. The hubbyman would LOVE to be able to work, but he simply isn’t able to.” Let’s be honest, the hubbyman is a man like any other. He has struggled (and STILL struggles) with the fact that he cannot physically or mentally get up and go out and work to bring home enough to support our family.”

Lastly, and probably most importantly…

“PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY don’t ask my hubbyman how he got hurt or if he has killed people. Don’t ask those questions of any combat veteran! It sets the veteran off and puts us wives into a tailspin because it can cause our veteran’s PTSD to flair up. Flashbacks are a bitch (sorry momma I couldn’t say it any other way) and they can happen to if our veterans start talking about and reliving their war stories. If the veteran wants you to know those kinds of details he will tell you (or give his wife permission to talk about it on her blog…ya know, whatever the case may be).”

In my world, it happens almost every day

steak dinner Like I said, I could relate to her post on many levels. I’ve written about elements of these issues before but it has been awhile since I’ve mentioned it. Just last week I hesitated to post a picture on Facebook of a fabulous steak dinner that my husband and I were enjoying at a restaurant while we were out of town. I wanted to explain and re-emphasize (which I think I actually did to some degree in my comments) that we don’t eat out for multiple reasons: We can’t afford it unless it’s a rare occasion, and this was a rare (and special) occasion. We live in such a remote area that dining out is a major event just to DRIVE far enough to get to a restaurant. I cook every night regardless of how tired I am because there is no drive through or pizza delivery. And, in the case of this specific dinner splurge, it was on special.

Why do I even feel like I have to explain?

Well, I’ll tell you why. Just like the above-blogger said, we get insensitive comments from others who assume too much. I was even stalked by an online group who said that my husband was ‘stealing their hard-earned tax dollars”! They went absolutely bat-shit crazy when they later found out (through their continued stalking) that my husband’s student loans were forgiven due to his disability, and I was teaching others how to apply for the same benefit too.

I know I need to work on my need to justify the good days, the good moments, the good times, but it’s hard to do when people who don’t even know you feel like they know more about how your life should be lived than you do. It’s a guilt complex, in part, but it’s also a pre-emptive need to ward off attacks that we know will eventually come. At the very least, insensitive comments that pop up when you least expect it.

There are only two days a week that my husband leaves the house, and those are the days he goes bowling. We chose to regularly go bowling because it also serves as physical therapy for him. PT is hard to acquire through regular VA channels so this is our ‘outside the box’ approach to his ongoing need for treatment. It forces him to get out of the house. It forces him to work on his depth perception (because he only has one eye). It forces him to remain upright and balanced. It improves his self esteem. It took years, actually, for him to get comfortable enough to trust all the people who are with us on those days. He’s still on guard in this environment, but the support of our team mates has resulted in this success for him. I am truly thankful for our community for their supportive part in this journey.

However, even with our amazing community support, there will always be that ONE person who assumes that if he is able to walk and talk or throw a bowling ball, he has no right to a handicap parking space. Or, perhaps it’s another person who assumes he functions at this level 24/7. Just the other day we had a conflict. Our son was advocating for the bowling alley management to turn the TV’s to a benign channel like the Weather Channel so that my husband would not be exposed to news about the Boston bombings. Management insisted the news remain on for the rest of the customers. You can imagine how helpless our son must have felt in not being able to minimize his Dad’s exposure. We just do the best we can with what we have and navigate through this difficult world as best we can.

What I am trying to say and share here is this:

If you are a caregiver like me and the blogger quoted above, I believe we NEED to continue talking about these struggles. We also need to celebrate the good days and not feel guilty about it when they happen. We need to share those stolen moments more than we tend to do.

For those who are not in our shoes, please keep reading our stories. Take a few minutes of your day and try to understand the world we live in. We don’t necessarily expect you to understand it on every level, but on the most basic levels. It makes my heart sing when I get comments on this blog from readers who say things like “Wow, I didn’t realize or look at it this way. Thank you for opening my eyes!”

In order for us to remain sane in a crazy world, we need to celebrate the good days. We need to splurge once every few months and do something ‘normal’ for a change. We don’t sit around doing nothing all day. We work our asses off, and if one night of no cooking and no dishes bothers you that much then the problem isn’t with me…it’s with you.

Sound off! Do you fall into the trap of feeling like you have to explain or apologize for your good days? Are you on the outside looking in and now see things just a little bit differently by reading our stories? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Please consider sharing this post elsewhere to continue the discussion. Thank you!


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“There is no prosthesis for the brain” – {featuring Lisa K from Texas}

brainTorrey’s Note: This post was authored by my dear friend and fellow veteran caregiver, Lisa Krohnke. I was really impressed with the message that she shared on her Facebook page that I asked for her permission to reprint it on my blog. In this piece she articulates so well a deeper message that people need to hear. Take a few moments to read through. You’ll get a glimpse of many layers of the lives we live. I hope you can appreciate it as much as I did!

There is no prosthesis for the brain

I’m really not a fan of whining about my ailments on FB (although I have been known to a time or two LOL) because I realize there is always someone way worse off than me. But I am kind of going to tonight but I promise I have a point.

I have many friends who are either wounded warriors with PTSD and TBI or their caregivers (including my husband). Most of them have physical injuries as well; injuries like amputations, burns, degenerative joint disease, lung disease etc. All of them have been told by some one at some time to just “get over it”. Just focus on being positive and you can learn to walk again. Just focus on being positive and your burn scars won’t bother you as much. Just focus on being positive and you can do physical therapy to restore your mobility etc. etc. etc.

This advice is not given to be mean or degrading although it is given with a certain ignorance to what its like to have an injury to the brain. One friend has been branded “lazy” by some fellow amputees who do not suffer from severe PTSD as he does. They can’t understand why they can work, they can attend retreats and they can socialize with other amputees when he can not. They have decided he just isn’t trying hard enough. Yet he does try hard. He tries extremely hard. Just to find the emotional strength to face another day. And he is not lazy. In fact, he deployed multiple times to combat and was awarded medal after medal for his heroic service. One of the men who has treated him the worst lost a limb at the beginning of his first combat tour. Not that that makes it easy but he is not dealing with PTSD or TBI so it does make it easier.

Which brings me to my whining.

In December I had a sinus infection that became septic and spread to my knee. Last night I had an incredible run (well walk/run for me) with my son Mike. It was not long (only 30 minutes) and like I said I walked a lot. It was the first real attempt at a run for me since the infection. This morning I woke up with a knee swollen to at least two times its normal size. But Mike needed to be taken an hour away for his STARR test and I needed to run some errands in town so I did what the army wife that I will always be has always done – I sucked it up and did what needed to be done.

It wasn’t until my knee gave out from under me this evening that I actually accepted something is wrong. So I did what any good Google doctor would do and I googled my symptoms. I promise I am not a hypochondriac but I could not find a thing that this could be that didn’t mean I will probably never run again. At the very least it will be a long road back and even then running again is unlikely.

So I did the natural thing. I held a pity party for myself. I cried and cried and in between catching breaths I sniffled that I will never be able to run with my son again. When I was tired of crying I hopped on one leg into the kitchen, grabbed a bag of cookies, and proceeded to scarf down half the bag.

After about two hours of this I finally decided it was time for the pity party to end. I did what most of us would do. I brushed the cookie crumbs off of my give-up-on-life pants and proceeded to google ways around my fate. I looked into alternative medicine, I ordered books on my kindle about healing the body using the mind, I downloaded physical therapy videos, and I researched every orthopedic surgeon that takes tricare in a 100 mile radius and checked their rep (no way I’m going back to the quack I saw when this all started).

Now before anyone gets upset I DO realize my situation does not compare with an amputation or other war injury, but that’s not my point. My point is that thinking about life without running, and possibly without walking in a few years is devastating to me. But I am able to use a positive attitude to pick myself up and find ways to adapt. How do I do that? The same way we all do it- I use my brain.

But what does the person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder use to “get over it” when they have a physical injury? What does the person with a Traumatic Brain Injury use to “get over it” when they have a physical injury? For that matter what do they use to “get over” their brain injury?

There is no prosthesis for the brain :-/

The end :-)

(written by Lisa Krohnke and reprinted with permission)


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What does the life of a caregiver look like? Tune in Friday April 5th to find out!

Torrey’s Note:  I will be one of the hosts for this event on Friday, reporting live with boots on the ground while we navigate to the Denver VA. I was part of the RAND study, so I hope you will come ‘hang out’ with me and many others for this event! Scroll down past my notes for the full description.

While this “hangout” is being done with the intention of helping professionals and members of the community who are interested in helping military & veteran caregivers get to know their unique needs and lives better, ANYONE is welcome to attend :)

To find the event page on Google+, simply click here:

What does the life of a caregiver really look like?

Tune in on Friday, April 5th to find out!

The Phase One Report on a study being conducted by the RAND Corporation on Military & Veteran Caregivers was announced last month. But what does the data mentioned in the report actually LOOK like in the daily life of those taking care of our heroes around the country?

Join us on Friday, April 5th, at Noon EST, 11:00 am CST, 10:00 am MST, 9:00 PST for a live Google+ Hangout to find out.

This discussion will focus on helping professionals serving caregivers and heroes learn more about the unique needs of this population. However, anyone is welcome to attend!

To view the event live, please join us on the Google+ Event Page:

If you are able to attend during the live presentation, the recorded version will be available on our YouTube channel:

(*And you can visit the event page ahead of time to post questions, comments, let us know you’ll be joining us, and more!*)


Shared by Family Of a Vet, Inc., a national non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to helping veterans and their families learn how to cope with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), TBI (traumatic brain injury) and life after combat through real-world, plain language education and resources for heroes, families, and communities.

If you know a Veteran or loved one that we can help, please encourage them to visit us:

On the web –
On Facebook –
On Twitter –
On our blog –
On BlogTalk Radio –
On YouTube –

Famiy of a Vet Google Hangout for Caregivers

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ATTN: VA Caregivers – please see copy of letter {inside post} about possible pay increase in April!

Note from Torrey: This just in! My thanks to Family of a Vet for bringing this to the caregiver community’s attention. Details are as follows… First read the letter and then the details below it. :)

Caregivers – You may be getting this letter soon. Important to know, it’s not bad news, and *may* even be good news! Sample VA letter to caregivers


(you can either share the original notification via Facebook, or share anywhere you wish by copying and pasting this link back to my blog:)

Anyway, here is the explanation….

Those caregivers on the VA Post-9/11 Caregiver Program will begin getting letters like this in mid-April. The letters are designed to basically say (short, plain language version :) ) that in May you may start getting a little more $$ each month (as well as “back pay” for the increase to January 2013) because of an adjustment in the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Occupational Employment and Wages for Home Health Aides (HHA) [the table that the VA uses to determine how much Caregivers are paid]. But *worst* case scenario, it will simply confirm your pay rate is staying the same.

In an admirable effort on the side of the VA Caregiver Program, they sent this sample out to many organizations today so that we could help get the word (and explanation) out so that as many caregivers as possible can get the word ahead of time about what this letter is and what it means. Have to say, I’m thankful for that!

PLEASE NOTE: If you call the VA to ask about this, you very well may be told that no such letter exists and no one knows anything about this. DO NOT PANIC! This happened already to at least one caregiver. Basically, Family of a Vet collaborates with Central Offices to know this information before the rest of the world (YAY!)  so here is more assurance that this is coming from the top down, and it’s likely your caregiver coordinator is learning about this later.  Brannan from Family of a Vet adds this:

This letter came directly from VA Central Office in DC this morning as a “heads up”. Since the letter will not start coming out until April 15th, the HAC (Health Administration Center’s Customer Service Center) is being notified at the same time this notice was sent out today. This is an effort on behalf of the VA to give Caregiver notice ahead of time so that there isn’t a concern/worry when an “official looking” letter arrives. This is essentially a “preview” – NOT intended to say all of the steps that will be taken in the next two weeks have already been put in place. It went out to non-profits across the country to give us a chance to help get everyone informed. I think (IMHO) it’s a step in the right direction that they’re listening and trying to create less stress and worry for us. :)


The “official” explanation of the letter is as follows:

Please be advised that the attached letter will be sent to Primary Family Caregivers receiving benefits under VA’s Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers on or around April 15th, 2013 to inform them of the increase or continuance of their current stipend rate. 38 U.S.C. 1720G(a)(3)(C)(ii) requires VA to ensure, to the extent practicable, that “the amount of the monthly personal caregiver stipend provided to … [Primary Family Caregivers] is not less than the monthly amount a commercial home health care entity would pay an individual in the geographic area of the eligible veteran to provide equivalent personal care services to the eligible veteran.” 38 U.S.C. 1720G(a)(3)(C)(ii).

VA’s Caregiver Program uses the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Occupational Employment and Wages for Home Health Aides (HHA), to determine stipend rates paid to Family Caregivers. Because this rate is based on the prior year, VA also factors in a cost of living adjustment based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to calculate the current year’s hourly stipend rate.

The BLS wage rate tables and CPI are updated yearly. The current update reflected both an increase and decrease in the hourly wages of Home Health Aides in various geographic areas of the United States. Strict application of the BLS hourly wage rate would have resulted in decreases in monthly stipend payments for some approved Primary Family Caregivers. Thus, VA decided to apply increases where indicated by BLS geographic regions and to maintain the current rate for Family Caregivers who reside in geographic regions where a decrease was reflected on the published table.

The implementation date of the stipend rate adjustment will be May 1, 2013. Caregivers who would have received an increase will be paid the additional amount retroactively to January 1, 2013. For Caregivers who receive an increase based on the new BLS table, the May stipend payment will include the new rate as well as any additional retroactive amount the Caregiver is owed.


Shared by Family Of a Vet, Inc., a national non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to helping veterans and their families learn how to cope with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), TBI (traumatic brain injury) and life after combat through real-world, plain language education and resources for heroes, families, and communities.

If you know a Veteran or loved one that we can help, please encourage them to visit us:

On the web –
On Facebook –
On Twitter –
On our blog –
On BlogTalk Radio –
On YouTube –

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If you are having a bad day, read this…

Having a bad day? Read this.

For best results, use as directed.

Wash, rinse and repeat.

For internal use only.


Today was just a bad day. That’s all… just a really bad day.

You are not alone.

You are not worthless.

You have value.

No one is out to get you.

You are strong.

Believe it.

It was just a very bad day. Nothing more, nothing less.

You are not fat.

You are not ugly.

You are not lazy.

It doesn’t matter what anyone else is working on. You are doing just fine.

In fact, most people could not walk a mile in your shoes.

Own it.

Bad days don’t define you.

Your husband will not leave you.

Your children will not be scarred for life because you yelled at them.

Your mother will get over it.

Your friends will still be there. The good ones, that is.

In fact, your relationships will become stronger with time.

You are doing just fine.

Bad days rattle all of us. You aren’t the only one that has them.

Work on what you are working on.

What you are working on is good enough.

No one is keeping track but you.

In the scheme of things, it doesn’t matter if you ate the whole tray of brownies.

Tomorrow is your do-over. Today was just a blip on your radar screen.

You will feel better tomorrow.

Bad days give us perspective. It was just a bad day.

As with everything in the world that God gave us, we have phases.

The sun and the moon, tides, seasons and weather.

It’s all just a phase.

The sun will rise, the waters will calm, and the storms will clear again.

Just give it time. It will pass.

Hope springs eternal.

This, too, shall pass.

Start where you stand.

Start by saying NO.

It is quite alright to say NO.

Don’t feel guilty. It’s energy you can spend elsewhere.

Just move on.

Really! Do it! Just move on!

Give your bad day an eviction notice.

I know.

You don’t get enough sleep.

You don’t get enough exercise.

You don’t get enough fresh air and sunshine.

It’s not fair. I know.

It’s going to be alright.

It was just a bad day.

Do this: Take a small sip from a stream of calmness.

It runs deep.

It feeds into a river of purpose and promise.

That is where you find yourself.

Just you. No one else.

That’s all you need to worry about in this moment.

Today was just a bad day, and tomorrow will be better.

I promise.


If you are having a bad day, maybe these posts will continue to help you:

Join me in the Extreme Do-Over Experiment

Create your own DIY Pampering Kit

How do I get to a place called “Anywhere but here”?

Top 10 Tips I learned to do for when the going gets tough

How (and why) I ditched the toxicity in my life and how you can too

If you want more, be sure to visit the sidebar of my blog and click on any of the topics in my tag cloud!


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But they said they don’t spam! AND I “x”ed out of it!

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

I love my husband, I really do, so when things like this happen I have to laugh and share. This sharing is not meant to embarrass him or make him feel bad because I know he will read this post (HI HONEY!) – it’s just a lesson to be learned that we can hopefully laugh about later.

Like this story.

Or this story.

(for the record, you’ll need to at least read the second link to understand what I discuss below)

My poor guy is learning the hard way that small things have unintended consequences…

We have a new story now!

So you understand the context behind what happened:

If you are new here (hello!) you will need to know my husband has a traumatic brain injury and PTSD. The two stories I linked above give a glimpse about what we deal with in everyday life.

What you need to know about Mr. Wonderful:

His filter is diminished on understanding consequences to certain actions, to say the least.

He is also a notorious for being cheap. For instance, the second story above explains how he shuts off lights in the most annoying ways.

(In his defense, it’s because we have a set budget for his disability income, and providing for his family and paying all our bills on time and in full is of utmost importance.)

He also can’t pass up the opportunity to win something. He enters the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes every day, without fail. I can’t even get him to change his clothes every day, but PCH email notifications get his attention no matter what.

I think I am going to start emailing him his reminders to shower and change his clothes. :)

What you need to know about me:

Mondays are notoriously busy, and my life is notoriously crazy. Often times I have to unplug the phone just to keep him from stressing out with the constant ring of our phone.

Well, this morning I got up and had a discussion with him about the need to get some housework done, whether I hire someone or delegate the work to the rest of the family. I simply cannot keep up. I gave him a choice…either I delegate some of the work to him or he helps me cough up the funds out of our budget.

He looked around and said, “But everything looks fine to me!”

I don’t know if he’s just being a cheapskate or being totally serious.

This response is from a man who cleans the kitchen and doesn’t think to wipe the countertops as part of the process. He just forgets, or his brain doesn’t ‘see’ it. (please note, he wasn’t this way before his injury so it’s not just a ‘man’ thing)

I tried not to laugh, but I did. Then I got serious.

I asked him if, God forbid, I wasn’t here any more…how often would he mop a floor? How often would he clean the glass? What about sorting things?

His answer: “Once a year should do it, right?”

Now my phone and his cell phone is ringing off the hook!

Come to find out, he couldn’t see the harm in filling out an online request for information. My guess it was likely associated with a sweepstakes of some kind. My poor guy is learning the hard way not to fill out online forms because they have unintended consequences…

Every mortgage lender in America has called us today. I am shutting the phone off and rearranging my outgoing calls for another day.

Now he’s defending himself. The poor guy.

I just heard him exclaim, once again, “BUT THEY SAID THEY WOULDN’T SPAM, and I DIDN’T EVEN FINISH IT. I X’ed OUT OF IT!” and all I can do right now is laugh and rearrange a small part of my day to fix the issue.

These people will. not. stop. calling. He’s not very thrilled about it. And neither am I.

But all we can do is laugh.

The final outcome?

I made the executive decision to call in a maid for a day to get me caught up. It’s a battle I won’t dare to fight at this point. :)

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About that meltdown I had on Facebook the other day…

Photo credit: via  (AP Photo/AIR PHOTO SERVICE, File) MANDATORY CREDIT


In my last post I talked about the two things I do each day to help maintain my sanity. Well, not too long after I published it, I was facing a meltdown of epic proportions that ended up as a public display — a rant that could only be described as me on the verge of hysterics. Even though I had my “two things” done for the day… I still snapped. This makes me a bit of an asshole that no one wants to invite to pool parties because I turned into somewhat of a hypocrite within a matter of 48 hours. I admit it probably would have been worse had I not done my two things, but it still happened.

It wasn’t one of my finest moments, let me tell you, and part of me felt really bad about it. I felt like I was making people feel guilty for having their own needs and not thinking about mine. A couple of people left my page entirely, which could be directly related or just a coincidence. As much as I vowed to speak my truth and live it, I even debated deleting it because there may be unintended consequences of laying it all out the way I did.

I decided not to delete it, but use it as a learning opportunity for not only myself but for you as well.

Since it happened I’ve put a lot of thought into WHY I snapped and I came to the conclusion that nothing I was doing could have prevented it, but there are things I CAN do from now on to help keep it from happening again.

At the rate I was going in my everyday life, it was only a matter of time before I was bound to snap. Let me explain why…

Let’s do a little review:

Here is a copy of the mini-meltdown. I will then explain the reasons and circumstances behind it that brought it on.

I don’t mean to offend anyone, and I truly appreciate everyone who cares, but I have to share something and you need to try to understand…Just like anyone else, my day can turn on a dime. One minute everything is copacetic and the next minute all hell breaks loose through no fault of my own.

 My stress barometer hit the red line today with new news that I need to mitigate. No one is dying or anything like that, so it’s just a matter of logistics on my part to sort out and put MY family first with our individual and collective needs.

So here is what YOU need to really understand and not get offended over in the process:

I am not answering the phone, door, PM’s or emails. I have an assistant to manage many of these things for a reason. If you really need me, email her at, but remember that your emails COST ME in order to pay her to take care of them, so please make sure it is important. I consider each and every person who contacts me as important, make NO mistake, but I have given of myself for free for so many years and make NO MONEY to do any of it. I bear the burden of many, so me asking you to bear a burden to just give me a few days to focus on no one but me and my family is all I ask.

 AND for those that get pissy and start gossiping because I got creative with my grocery budget to pay for that kind of help (an assistant) a few hours each month, you can kiss my butt, quite honestly. If you have nothing better to do than to criticize me for needing one or paying for one, you may need to reassess your own priorities and get busy enough with matters of real importance to need one of your own.

I told myself that I wouldn’t post status updates that say I am going offline any more, as it just makes people PM me twice as much trying to ‘catch’ me before I sign off, but this time I am sharing this because you have GOT to understand I am human and need to manage emergencies more than you realize. Please…I love you…but give me a day or two without adding more demands that can wait. Even messages asking “How can I help?” or “what’s is wrong?” turn into explaining everything or thanking you for your concern is time I need to be spending working on the actual issues.

I will be reaching out to certain people in the next few days to either talk about what is going on to get ideas I need, or to outright ask for help. If I am not reaching out to you, responding to your own requests for help, please don’t get offended. Also, if you see me online to zone my brain out on FB to chillax, it doesn’t always mean I am bored or have free time. Just because I am on FB does not mean I am at anyone’s beck and call. I have a LOT of things in my pipeline I am working on as it is. If I take 5 minutes to find something funny online, it’s me trying to keep my friggin’ sanity.

Thank you. Again, I love you all and will be back when I can.


Here’s the deal… my frustration stemmed from a few categories of my life that became a source of contention for me. I spent the last few days reflecting on these sources of frustration and sorted through a lot of guilt for feeling the way I did. What originally was a fountain of joy in my life became a cesspool of disappointment later on. For instance:
  • I do a LOT for others. I LOVE helping people and am driven to do it because I know what it is like not to have anyone to turn to. I know what it is like to not know where to start. I don’t want others to suffer the ways we did, and if I can use my knowledge that I have obtained over the course of many years and many relationships that I’ve invested and built over time, I’ll gladly share it.

You don’t get a reputation for being an expert in caregiver or veteran issues by accident. I’ve worked HARD to become a reputable source of information and resources, so it’s natural that people will come to me for help. I rarely talk about the things I have going on in my advocacy pipeline, so here is a quick glimpse of just SOME of the things I am involved in:

  • I’ve been honored to be selected as one of the 20 inaugural Caregiver Fellows working with the Senator Elizabeth Dole Foundation.
  • I’ve been honored to serve on the Department of Colorado American Legion’s VA&R Committee for the past two years.
  • I’ve been on countless segments on national news or in international publications.
  • I just wrapped up filming for a documentary with another in the works.
  • I have a 24-hour news source flying out here soon to do another segment/interview about veteran and caregiver issues.
  • I’ve worked silently with programs to help them get funding, develop initiatives, served on panels at national conferences and have top-level executives contacting me for my help, connections, input and advice.
  • I answer dozens and dozens of questions EACH DAY through personal messages via social media, emails, phone calls, via this blog or other electronic means. In doing so, I make connections between veterans and caregivers to organizations that have a huge impact on their lives. In many cases, and I mean many, I give more help through these connections than we’ve ever received for ourselves. People have free homes, free cars, thousands of dollars in financial assistance, free vacations, no-cost house repairs or in-home services, etc. just for reaching out to me as their starting point in the process.
  • I am part of a big initiative by a national veteran nonprofit to publish a ‘how-to’ manual for veterans, caregivers and their families. Out of all the collaborators in this project, big names that I am not at liberty to discuss quite yet, I identified that I was likely the only person not attached to a major organization or held a title of any kind, all of which are fueled by funding, volunteers, staff or other resources. I identified that I am just little old me and do a pretty good job on my own.

Part of me doesn’t want to ‘brag’ about these things, but I do admit I am proud of myself for all my hard work and dedication to serve people outside of our own selves. I do it all for free. I do it for a greater good, not just for fame or glory, let alone for any real recognition. The flip side of this issues is this: It becomes a double-edged sword because it also brings the following pitfalls:

  • Because I do it for free, people don’t put any monetary or intrinsic value in my time or my knowledge. Even after writing out my Rules of Engagement, people tend to overstep their boundaries with me. Not everyone (especially the list of examples above) does this. It’s just a select few that poison the waters surrounding my islands of reasonable expectations. Like the meltdown above, I can be harsh or insistent about my boundaries on what I can or can’t do, will or won’t do, and it goes in one ear and right out the other with some people.
  • When you become a public figure, you attract people who would love nothing more than to shoot you down, undermine your authority or otherwise sabotage anything and everything you work for or represent. As one friend put it “When you soar like an eagle, you attract hunters.”
I’ve struggled to find a balance through all this. I identified about a year ago that helping each and every person by holding their hand leaves me open for being taken advantage of, or enabling the very people I am helping into a habit of not helping themselves. Some questions I receive could be answered with a simple Google search. I try to remember that not everyone has a built-in quest for knowledge or have problem solving skills like I do, so I remain patient and help them.

However, I resented those who treated me like their own personal secretary, or viewed me as having nothing better to do than to help them with minor issues. The real insult is when, after only a few hours since a question is presented to me, the person waiting for the answer to a problem THEY created is “Don’t you even care?”

That makes me lose my ever-lovin’ mind, y’all.

The fact is, I have no one to blame but myself for the predicament I was in. I have branded myself by reputation as the go-to person to fix nearly every problem that is presented before me and have ALLOWED people to walk all over me in the process, despite setting boundaries. Helping others like I do is not a problem until the demand far exceeds the time I have in a day to get it all done, and if/when *I* have needs, it’s difficult to establish a line in the sand that says “Give me a minute…I am working on my own stuff right now.” It’s a bigger problem when people feel ENTITLED to my time and connections, like I owe it to them in the first place.

At the same time, I’ve been relatively silent on a topic that needs to be discussed. This topic is about the underbelly of the wounded warrior community, which has earned an entire post of its own (and once I have a chance to brace myself for the criticism it will surely bring, I’ll compose it and publish). Since this post is already getting long, let’s just say I become more and more aware of the who’s who in the wounded warrior community that would do anything to step on your neck to make themselves stand a little taller. It especially comes from those who overtly use the word “God” in their everyday vernacular, and it downright pisses me off.

I touch on struggles we deal with in our everyday lives from time to time, but I don’t go out of my way to share them all. Why? Because there are many worse off than us. I know that and it drives me even harder to help all of them in some way.

But I still have problems.

I especially have problems when you lay them all out on one place and stop to realize realize I single-handedly deal with them simultaneously and every single day.

For instance, I shared an example of a typical day in this post. I talk in circles sometimes because there is just so much going on in my muddled mind. The entire foundation of this blog is to give my own life as an example that no one is perfect, nor should they strive to be. I talk on Facebook in segments about the goings on in our life: The good, the bad and the ugly. But to be clear I think people need to see the bigger picture that I see — all laid out in one place to fully absorb and appreciate the chaos of our life. I think I need to be more clear about what I am contending with right now (on top of the hard work to help others outlined above) that you may not even know about or have considered, so you can understand the WHY behind the meltdown I had:

  • After months of fighting the Goliath of the Department of Defense, among cutbacks and unfair circumstances, our son was honorably discharged from the Army this past week against his will and despite his great service record. He and his wife are expecting their first baby (and our first grandbaby) in a few short months. This means they are now homeless (and coming to live with us as a result), jobless, and without healthcare for their unborn child and the mother who carries her. How could this happen? Part of it is due to cutbacks and loopholes the Army is using to cut the numbers of troops on their payroll, but the other part is the saddest of all… it is due to incorrect medical records from when he was 13 years old that put him in a category of needing mental health services while his father was traumatically injured in combat. It’s like he’s being punished for being a child of a wounded warrior. My fight was huge, as was his, and it will continue despite the loss of a career he truly wanted for the rest of his life. I am just sad that out of all the people I advocate for, my son’s outcome was not the outcome I worked so hard to get.
  • Because of the above, I am swarmed with a newly-revived and seething hatred for the Army, the very institution we dedicated our lives to over multiple generations. I become angry at the unfairness of my son’s circumstances. I become angry at how my own husband was tossed out like a piece of trash, never getting a retirement ceremony or anything to say “thank you for your service and sacrifice”. Which brings me to the next issue I am dealing with…
  • I am still fighting a bill from the Department of Defense in the amount of over $7,000 for Dan’s “free” final move. Even though he is repaying this amount (which I can prove is illegal to even collect the way it all came down) we are getting daily calls from the DoD appointed collection agency, who refuses to comply with the most basic elements of federal and state consumer protection laws. I either have to fight this fight on my own, or pay an attorney to fight it for us.
  • Our middle son has had health issues to the degree of needing specialty care by a neurologist, who has put him through MRI’s, CT scans, EEG’s and medication changes with trial and error results. As such, he is missing a great deal of school, struggling with the residual depression that comes with it, and may very well need to be homeschooled to avoid failing his first year of high school. The amount of pressure on me to resolve this issue is profound.
  • My parents are now in a nursing home, and due to the dysfunction of the structure of our family, I am put between a rock and a hard place to manage their end-of-days. I worked hard to let go of the anger and angst I had regarding my family’s role in the toxicity of our days after Dan’s injury, so opening this in-your-face wound with the demands that are expected of me is truly a struggle. I can’t bear to hear my mother beg for me to come visit, when the reality is I can’t just up and leave like everyone thinks.
  • Dan’s health is not where it needs to be. Neither is mine. I have to chase down doctors, departments at the VA, case managers, etc. to make sure they are doing their job. Then those providers change faster than we can be seen, which brings us right back to square one every time I get traction on an issue.
  • I am overdue on getting the children’s braces adjusted, as they both need teeth extracted before we go to the next stage in their dental care. I can’t pull that kind of money out of my ass right now.
  • I am still needing to fight the unfair situation with our cell provider, Verizon. It looks like the only way to deal with it is through arbitration, which means I have to arm myself as my own attorney to see this through. I just don’t have the time to proceed, or the energy. I may just have to walk away from this one, and that sucks even more.
  • I need to pursue some VA benefits for Dan to help improve his quality of life. Once again, it’s a fight and process that I know in advance will be exhausting once everything is said and done, and may take a few years just to see the benefits.
  • Our dog, Miko, is the best line of defense for Dan’s PTSD, but she is aging. We spent quite a bit on vet bills last month due to health complications she was having, and this month new symptoms have rendered her unable to get up on the bed or in the truck to go for rides…her favorite part of the day. She will be 8 this year, and I am having to come to terms that she won’t live forever and losing her down the road will be a catastrophe for our family.

I could give you more, but I’ll stop there before I depress the hell out of you and trigger a panic attack for me. Let’s move on to the next level of this equation — the things I want to be doing, but can’t do right now or am struggling to get done:

  • My 101 in 1001 list
  • Getting our book written
  • Finding a reliable source of income to offset the above needs
  • Having more time to enjoy my family and everyone in it

Can you see the recipe for a meltdown yet?

Shortly after I had my meltdown on FB, my friend and fellow caregiver, Uncle Sam’s Mistress, wrote on her own blog about her own struggles:
Some days I felt fractured, emotionally pulled away from my own mind and body and just so tired of it all. Other days, I wonder how I don’t keep from smacking someone. I began to start resenting a ton of things, anger seeped through my pores and I just wanted to walk away from it all and never look back. I think all of us have felt this way at one point or many other times in this life. I worried that I was facing a mid-life crisis, early menopause, or hell, I even considered possession. (Sorry Horror Fans, I am completely demon free) I just could not for the life of me get my shit together. I needed a break.


That’s a BINGO!

So, here’s the deal… I put a lot of thought into the overall situation and how I can fix it. I started with this post on Facebook:

I’ve put a lot of thought in over the last few days on how I can prevent myself from becoming frustrated to a point of breaking or snapping. As much work as I’ve put into giving myself permission for self care, finding balance, picking my battles wisely, setting boundaries, etc. the fact is we are all susceptible to overwhelm and frustration of things out of our control. Just a ‘normal’ life can dish that out to you like a Jenga game on steroids, where one missing piece of our life can make the entire stack fall down. But when you add in things like being a caregiver or an advocate, this compounds the situation immensely. Case in point: Just in the course of writing this single paragraph, I was pulled away no less than six times for the needs of others. I guess the point of sharing this is that we all have a lot on our plate, some more than others, and we need to be tolerant of each other in our unique situations. But the most important thing we can do is be tolerant of our own selves and be kind to our inner needs during our must frustrating times. Today, as you flitter about your normal days, try to think about those that don’t have any sense of ‘normal’ any more. And for those in the thick of it, remember to be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to slow down and take care of you.

This is where I stand, and what I am doing to make sure my needs (and the needs of my family) are met:

  1. I stand by my original post meltdown, though in a softer and kinder way. You may not be able to reach me for more than just a few days. I may carry this on for a few months in order to really catch up. This does not make me a bad friend. It means you get an opportunity to be a better friend during my time of need.
  2. I will pursue income-producing activities to cover the unmet financial needs of our family.
  3. I will compose a list of every resource I know of and post it here on my blog so others can take the initiative to fix their own problems. This way I can link to the resources page and those in need can get to work on helping themselves.
  4. I am going to stop dwelling in the past and worrying about the future. Deadlines will no longer be part of my life. I will live in the NOW and just remind myself that my best is all I need to give at any given moment. This also means I will build in more time for self care, thus leading to more rejuvenation and energy to get more work done in the end.
  5. I will continue to be thankful for God, who weeds my garden silently.

If you got to the end of this post, I want to thank you immensely. Your time is valuable and I know you could be anywhere else but here. It’s people like you, to be honest, that really fuel my fire to keep on writing, sharing, learning and growing. You have more value to me than you may ever realize, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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The 2 most important things I do to keep my sanity each day

routine Tonight I stopped the world long enough to write this post. Today was a bit more taxing than usual, as Dan’s TBI (brain injury if you are new here) was acting up more than usual with his loss of balance, confusion and agitation. Add to that a sick kid was home from school and missing yet another day of classes. As a result, my filter is low so I cuss a couple of times further along the way, so this post is not for the sissy-pants population who just can’t get it. This is real life for me (and for many others), so I ask that you cowboy (or cowgirl) up and deal with it. :)

The saving grace to my day was this: There are two things I made sure to do today that saved my sanity through it all.

I’ve been wanting to share this info for awhile now, but I tend to over think everything. What should I title the post? Should I explain what I did before doing this particular thing in my life, or just share it and backtrack to the other things another time? Am I the only one who has this problem and would I look silly for sharing such a simple thing as my big-fat-hairy-tip to manage stress every day?

Well, enough is enough. I am just going to come out and tell you about the two things I incorporate into each day that keep me sane.

Don’t laugh. As simple as it is, I think we ALL get sucked into not doing it more than actually doing it. The trick is to make it a HABIT that you do every day no matter what.

First, let’s backtrack juuuust a little bit!

Please remember, the first two years living in our new home were under unusual circumstances with our well going dry. Even if I had a habit of doing these two things, I couldn’t do them simply because I had little or no water to make it happen.

I also had to get myself into the beginnings of my Extreme Do-Over Experiment to play around with certain areas of my life and find what had the most impact overall. The EDOE started about a year ago and launched it on this blog in August 2012. I didn’t start this habit/routine until I was well into the process, which was about two months ago.

The reason this habit came to fruition was because I started digging deeper into the issues I was having. I discovered that all my daily activities fell into two main categories overall:

  1. Tasks that became interruptions from what I was originally working on, or should be doing to begin with (ie, my to-do list)
  2. Tasks that were on my to-do list, but were too big to do in less than an hour of my day

I found that I needed to identify tasks that turned into interruptions and batch them together in blocked sessions of time. (For instance, phone ringing at random and unplanned times each day). How I fixed that problem is for another post on another day.

Then I had to identify big tasks that really ought to be broken down into smaller, bite-sized pieces. (big projects like filing huge bins of paperwork, or getting the house cleaned). THIS is the category I focused on FIRST.

The key for me was to decipher which was which and change my habits accordingly.

You will need to know that I did the FlyLady thing where you break your housework down into bits and pieces, zones, etc. You also have to know that I owned a maid service and trained my employees to do things in batched categories (dry cleaning jobs like dusting vs. wet cleaning jobs like mopping). Those two areas of my life did not mesh very well. Everything I did professionally in the cleaning industry went against everything the FlyLady taught.

Now I consider housework as drudge work. I was burned out from doing it no matter how I did it.

Drudge work (ie, housework, filing, etc.) was considered interruptions in my mind, so I did everything that needed done in big batches. Well, I had it ALL wrong. They really belongs in the “break it down into smaller pieces” category instead.

This means we are back to the FlyLady method. {sighs}

Okay, fine… but the FlyLady system still wasn’t working right for the busy-ness of my life. Like hell I was going to shine my fucking sink every day! That’s a waste of time I could be using to do more advocacy work, or pay attention to my own family. And Fridays? Those are out of the question to do her zones and routines. Those are days we are at the VA or I am ‘down the mountain’ trying to get groceries.

A shiny sink is not one of my greatest goals in life.

It also helps if you know that by the time I started changing my habits for the above two categories I had developed a daily schedule to manage all the areas and roles in my life. This daily schedule then translated into a weekly schedule, which grew into a monthly schedule, and so on….

…it was more than a “FlyLady” schedule for keeping my house clean. It was an entire life inventory in the end.

(Because I was testing it to see if it worked or helped, I haven’t shared those tricks or the schedules with you yet, but I will.)

After I created and tested my daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly/yearly schedule, that’s when I started building ROUTINES into those segments of my day/week/month/quarter/year.

(This is about the time your eyes glaze over and you consider clicking out of the post. I get it, I really do. The very thought or idea of managing so many things at the same time scared me too. You’ll have to trust me here that it can be done if you do it in the order I present to you on this blog!)

Do you see why two simple things that save my sanity each day really aren’t so simple in the end? I had to have all the other pieces of my life in place before this would work.

Now that I am far enough ahead in the process, I wished I had done it in the first month. It would have made things so much easier for me to manage the OTHER areas I was working on.

I guess that’s why I call this the Extreme Do-Over EXPERIMENT. I had to experiment first to see what order things should be done for the most impact in my life and THEN share these discoveries with you later.

It’s now later.

So here it is…the two things I do each day

Dishes and laundry.

I told you NOT to laugh. :)

I have found that if I commit to making sure these two things get done each day, a wonderful thing happens. First, I feel like my day is a success even if I only do those two things. By doing those two things, other things on my plate are able to get done. And, by doing those two things as part of a daily routine I end up knocking it out SUPER fast and don’t even feel like it was work or drudgery in the first place!

To make it even more clear as to why this turned into such a big epiphany for me, as I mentioned above I had gotten OUT of the habit of doing dishes and laundry because we didn’t have enough water to do them any other way than in big batches. That’s when the vicious cycle kicked in. Once it became a huge job, I would break down and do a marathon session to get it done. The dirty dishes always seemed to bottleneck right when it was time to cook dinner. The pans I needed were dirty. The countertops were full of dishes. I had to clean the kitchen BEFORE I could even cook! Then the process would repeat itself. In the end I detested the very idea of ever doing another load of laundry or washing another dish again.

Nothing sucks more than having to do 20 loads of laundry in a day (or two days) and having a kitchen full of dishes screaming at me to be done next.

Then Natasha came to visit and she folded about 20 loads of clean laundry (hey, at least it was clean!) in a big marathon session for me.

I swore I’d never embarrass myself like that again, making my dear friend fold all my underthings because she loves me that much.

That's a shit-ton of laundry you are looking at

That’s a fraction of the infamous shit-ton of folded laundry you are looking at

Here is how I make sure those two things get done each and every day

Until I can compose a post on how I created my daily/weekly/monthly/quarterly/yearly schedule and built routines into each segment (which later turns into auto pilot with a mix-and-match feature!), let’s just assume you have three basic things going on in your day.

  1. Morning routine
  2. Afternoon routine
  3. Evening routine

Let’s get started!


On your first day, do as the FlyLady recommends and clear your sink of all your dirty dishes. Mind you, I could have very well just told you to go to her site and follow her program but THE EXPERIMENT IS NOT LIKE HER PROGRAM. Just do this ONE part of her program and keep reading on how I have tweaked everything else to better serve me in this chaotic life!

(The instructions are assuming you have a dishwasher. If you don’t, just pretend you do and use the sink as your depository.)

Basically, do a marathon session to get your dishes cleaned on the first day. Don’t clean the microwave. Don’t pull everything from your counters. JUST DO THE DISHES. Then unload them and put them all way. This means you just started with the clean slate you need to carry it through every day afterward. The rest of the kitchen will be addressed soon enough.

Now, as you move throughout your day, every time you dirty a dish it goes straight into the dishwasher. This is sanity saver #1. You will be looking at a clean kitchen all day up to this point!

TIME SAVING TIP: Group your silverware by like items in each compartment. All knives go in one section, all forks go in another, spatulas in another, etc. Do not mix and match all your silverware in the basket! That way, you don’t have to pick through each item individually to put each one away through multiple drawers. Just grab the batch in each compartment and put it away to the proper drawer in one motion!

If you fill it (or the sink) by the afternoon, run the load and put it away when it is done, the moment it is done. If it isn’t enough to fill a load then skip the afternoon session and wait until dinnertime.

At dinnertime, as you cook you will keep loading the dishes the moment you are done with each one. This keeps your countertops clear of clutter. That’s sanity saver #2.

If the dishwasher gets full as you are cooking, run it immediately. By the time dinner is done, dishes should be clean and you can unload to put the final few dishes in.

With our family habits regarding dishes, I don’t have enough dishes until after dinner to run a full load of dishes. My process is actually simpler than what I shared above. I start with an empty dishwasher in the morning, fill it through the day, then run the full load after dinner. Then before I go to bed I unload it.* (see notes below titled “Notes about what works best for you”)

I wake up to a clean slate each and every morning.

This also means I have a clean kitchen all day long. I means my kitchen is clean even while I am cooking. It means the most work I do is at the end of the day by unloading it. It takes me all of five minutes to put everything away.

By doing this one routine each day, without fail, you’ve gone from “Hell NO” to “Fuck YEAH” in no time flat.


Let’s assume you are like me and had a shit-ton of laundry that needed folded or washed. Unlike the dishes example above, I do NOT recommend starting with a clean slate. In this case, you are going to do one extra load until you get caught up.

Just guesstimate how many loads of dirty laundry you accumulate each day. We have a family of four, so I guesstimated I have about one to two loads every day that need washed, minus the sheets that are changed during the week.

So, for the first week, do your guesstimated number of loads and then add ONE more load to that number.

Let’s use my numbers as the example:

  • Two (2) loads on average get dirty each day. I aim to complete three (3) loads in all until everything is caught up.

Here’s how you do it

If you have a bunch of unfolded but clean clothes staring at you, start with those. Throw one load of dirty clothes in the washer and fold one load of clean clothes right then and there. Here is the thing I had the biggest problem with: Then put them away.

(NOTE: Not to confuse matters, but because I had so many loads in the laundry room in various stages, I hadn’t put away clothes for about a month. I was living out of my baskets by that point! My closets and drawers were pretty bare. This is when I elected to purge all the things in my closet and drawers I hadn’t worn in the last month before I started putting anything back. You may want to do this, or not. It’s up to you. It was just a simplified way to know whether something was even worth keeping, or to make room for the clothes that I guaranteed I was wearing regularly.)

Once the dirty clothes are done, boot them in the dryer. Add one more load to the washer. Fold one more load of clean clothes while the first load is drying. Then as each load finishes drying, fold them and PUT THEM AWAY.

What you’ve done is created a clean slate with TWO EMPTY BASKETS to work with. The next day you do two more loads, adding one extra load (clean but not put away, or outright dirty) to be done.

At first I started in the morning and did the first batch. Then I rebooted no later than the afternoon. Then, in the evening, I wrap it all up and marvel at the sanity I just saved by getting it all done.

Now when I wake up, because evenings are what work best for me, I wake up to (at most) clean and folded laundry each and every morning, and most mornings there’s no laundry left to do at all. Every single day is a clean slate for me when I wake up.

*Notes about what works best for you

One of the things I hated about the FlyLady system is she put way too many things into her morning routine that I needed to do. Fact is, I am NOT a morning person. Unloading the dishes in the morning was just asking for me to fail right from the start. I work best at night, so that’s when I choose to put all the dishes away. However, putting laundry away at night after everyone was in bed was a no-go, so I had to shift that task for the afternoons.

Most dirty laundry is accumulated at the end of the day when everyone takes them off to shower or go to bed. Every evening I gather the dirty clothes after everyone goes to sleep, which equates to one or two loads. Since I am a night owl, I run those loads at night (starting right after everyone gets their shower) and have it in the dryer before I go to bed. I use that time waiting for laundry to circulate through to get my writing done. If for any reason I am too tired to do it, that’s okay. I run what I can and then the next afternoon I fold that last load and put it away before the kids even get home from school. I set their clothes on their beds so they can put them away as soon as they get home.

Some of you may have children who are responsible for some of these chores, such as putting dishes or laundry away, so maybe the afternoons are the best time for you and your family’s needs to complete the cycle for each task. Just shift the routine to fit either the morning, afternoon or evening and you’ll find it will be a habit at the same times every day from then on!

End result:

As I write this, the dinner dishes are cycled through and put away. I will wake up to a totally clean kitchen and a clean slate to work with tomorrow, and nothing feeds my soul in the mornings than walking into a totally clean kitchen!

Laundry is also done with only a few minor items folded and in baskets, waiting for tomorrow to be put away. Because I was up fairly late tonight, that last load that was in the dryer was taken care of before my last sentence was composed on this post. :)

That’s it, folks! I hope you find these suggestions helpful, or find inspiration in knowing you are not the only one who struggles with dishes and laundry. Once you make it a habit each day, it becomes easier and easier to do and becomes less and less of a burden in the end.

My next post will address some of the next elements of tasks that I incorporate into my daily schedule. Stay tuned!

PS: I created a new section to my blog that covers all the Funny Stories I’ve shared so far. Since I needed a good laugh after such a long day, I thought you and I could use a little more laughter (even if it is at my expense!) and grouped the funniest stories together. I hope you enjoy. <3

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