What are your friendships built on?

friendship

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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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This post is brought to you in part by:

“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: http://tinyurl.com/Caregiver-Hangout-040513

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: http://tinyurl.com/Caregiver-Hangout-040513

If you are able to attend during the live presentation, the recorded version will be available on our YouTube channel:
http://www.youtube.com/familyofavet

(*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 – http://www.familyofavet.com/
On Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/lifeaftercombat
On Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/familyofavet
On our blog – http://blog.familyofavet.com/
On BlogTalk Radio – http://www.blogtalkradio.com/familyofavet
On YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/familyofavet

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

*PLEASE SHARE THIS TO HELP PASS THE INFO ALONG TO OTHER 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:)

http://torreyshannon.com/2013/04/attn-va-caregivers-please-see-copy-of-letter-inside-post-about-possible-pay-increase-april/

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. :)

~Brannan

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 – http://www.familyofavet.com/
On Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/lifeaftercombat
On Twitter – http://www.twitter.com/familyofavet
On our blog – http://blog.familyofavet.com/
On BlogTalk Radio – http://www.blogtalkradio.com/familyofavet
On YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/familyofavet


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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.

feed-brand-enjoy

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: http://www.vosizneias.com

Photo credit: http://www.vosizneias.com

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: Gizmodo.com via  (AP Photo/AIR PHOTO SERVICE, File) MANDATORY CREDIT

Photo credit: Gizmodo.com 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 media@torreyshannon.com, 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!

Dishes

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.

Laundry

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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Top 10 Tips I Learned To Do For When the Going Gets Tough

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I know things COULD be worse, but oftentimes we just have a sense of overwhelm that puts us in a tailspin. Can you relate? quote-diary-find-happiness-in-a-simplest-things

Things have been pretty tough lately at the Shannon household. I’ve had a twitchy eye since the first week of November that just won’t go away. I am stressing about some major issues going on in our life, which is likely why it won’t spontaneously resolve on its own. I’ve tried everything to make it stop: supplements, naps to get more sleep, reducing caffeine…everything. Nothing short of shifting my stress will have any real impact, so that’s what I am trying to do.

But first, let’s talk about some of that stress…

My time has been consumed more and more with helping others in crises of their own, feeling helpless to help in some of these cases.  I am wishing I could go back to school, but realize there is no humanly possible way I can add that to my plate right now. My kitchen is still in a half-gutted condition following a flooding incident last year, simply because I don’t have the time to manage that issue or funds to cover the deductible or replacement of our appliances (which is not covered by insurance). I am looking at my ever-growing to-do list and thinking it will be the year 2020 before I can possibly catch up.

If that wasn’t enough, our dog got very ill and had to be taken to the vet on an emergency basis. I had to rush to my children’s school in my pajamas for another kind of emergency, thus humiliating myself in the process. I had a major issue trying to do a simple act of carpet cleaning, resulting in being up all night trying to get too many suds out of my carpet. I accidentally broke lane 8 at the local bowling alley, inconveniencing the entire community of league bowlers in the process. Dan has been having more disturbing dreams, thus increasing the agitation level of the entire home. Our son is having some major health issues that require multiple specialty tests with no real answers to how we fix it from here. Because he is missing so much school, he will have to have some serious intervention to help him succeed. We may have to consider homeschooling him, which adds more time commitments from me and expenses we don’t have funding for.

I am missing deadlines and having more added to my plate, and I am completely and utterly overwhelmed.

I am short on funds, short on time, short on patience, short on sleep….just short in every way.

However, among all this, I’ve found some saving graces that have helped me get through it all.

I’ve posted snippets via my Facebook page for some of these topics, but this week was an amazing week on many levels. I’d like to share a few highlights with you:

  • We found out our first grandbaby, due in May, will be a GIRL!
  • I have been struggling with finding the ending to our book. In order to write a novel, you have to know where it will end before you can realistically begin. I found the perfect ending for our book, a serendipitous moment brought the answer to me, and now I feel like I can move full speed ahead on the production of the book.
  • Last year, after sending many veterans in need their way over a long period of time, the Quality of Life Foundation stepped in for a need of our own. It was a need that I had researched and kept running into road blocks over and over again. I asked them where else I could look to address the need, and they offered to take the issue off my hands and work on it themselves. Six months later, on Friday to be exact, the Healthy Back company donated a medically necessary bed to help Dan with his multiple physical issues such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, regurgitation/aspiration of vomit while sleeping (thus choking profusely), scoliosis of his back, degenerative disc and joint disease of his spine and limbs, neuropathy and a few other issues. Between those issues and his constant PTSD flare-ups, neither of us were getting much sleep, and that just exacerbates the issues even further. Not only was the bed donated to help him improve his sleep and overall quality of life, but the delivery of this bed was donated by JL Transport based out of Denver Colorado. The owner if JL Transport is a veteran and also the founder of the veteran nonprofit Wounded Warriors Impacting Neighbors. Multiple organizations banded together to make this happen, and we are truly thankful for this incredible gesture of thanks that came our way for Dan’s sake.
  • Out of nowhere, a person from our past reached out to us. Come to find out, this person found us after researching information on brain injuries and found an interview Dan had done via GQ Magazine. The reason for this research? She now has a brain injury. Not only did we reconnect, but we came full circle in crossing paths again.
  • For the first time in three years since moving to our home in Colorado, we had guests in our home. Some people don’t realize just how much of a milestone this is, but to us it means we had developed trusting relationships within our community with people who ‘get it’ when it comes to my husband’s PTSD. Dan had hives the night before, then had the shakes as soon as everyone arrived, but he muscled through it all (with pre-planned exit strategies to escape to the barn when it became too much to bear) and even spent some of the time with all of us during this gathering. I am so amazingly proud of him for taking this big leap of faith and so grateful for the people who surrounded us that day with their understanding and support.
  • I’ve taken time to reconnect with multiple friends that I’ve lost touch with over time. I can’t tell you how nice it is to pick up the phone and call someone and find your conversation picks up right where you left off, as if no time had passed in between.
  • Home Depot delivered some new replacement appliances (courtesy of Operation Homefront) to help us move in the right direction to resolving our kitchen flood issue. I can’t tell you how nice it is to have properly working basic appliances for a change, which makes my overall life easier.
  • A Congressional inquiry I am involved in took a major twist and turn thanks to a 5,000-word letter that was composed into the wee hours of the morning. The letter worked, much to my surprise.
  • I managed to get some major overhaul cleaning and sorting done, which lifts my spirit when I walk into a clean and organized space.
  • A caregiver friend of mine was in a crisis of her own, and with my help she was able to get everything resolved quickly AND get help she didn’t even expect.
  • We just wrapped up filming of a documentary that will potentially create more positive changes and impact others who need help. On top of that, we were contacted by a major news outlet about doing an in-depth story that will also bring awareness and help to those in need.

Even if none of the above items never happened, I’ve learned to find happiness in the simplest of things. Here are some examples of the things I focus on when the going gets tough:

  1. I remind myself I have a wonderful husband whom I love and cherish, and as long as I can continue to be of support to him, this makes me happy.
  2. I stay focused on the fact we have three wonderful children that I can take pride in knowing I am doing the very best as a mother to help them succeed.
  3. I give thanks for what is around us: We have therapeutic outlets like great friends, loving therapy animals and a community that supports us.
  4. I remind myself I have the ability to make a difference, whether in simple or grand gestures.
  5. I take heart in the fact that small things turn into bigger things, for good or for bad. I just have to choose which one I want to focus on! A carpet cleaning fiasco turned into a sense of accomplishment and sanctuary once all was said and done.
  6. I stop to remember that I get 24 hours in a day, just like everyone else in this world. I have the power to choose how it is spent. I’ve learned it’s okay to take a tactical pause when I need to.
  7. I give myself permission to be imperfect: I can still dream, think deeply and plan goals for my future. While many things may take until the year 2020 to accomplish, I have the power and ability to set smaller goals along the way.
  8. I’ve learned it’s okay to ask for help. There is no shame in saying to others that you have needs. I know there are people out there willing and able to help, and just knowing they are there brings a sense of security if I ever need it.
  9. Sometimes things come when we least expect it. I just have to have faith that it will come when the time is right.
  10. I repeat this mantra as many times as I need to: Hard work does pay off eventually.

You see, despite all the hardships and struggles, I am learning to handle what comes my way. I still have a ways to go, but I am getting where I need to be. In the last year I have dedicated myself in developing and carrying out the Extreme Do-Over Experiment. The first thing I had to learn was my mindset is what dictates the level and duration of my success, regardless of what is thrown on my plate.

It was nice to have many things finally come together for a change. I just have to remember to find happiness in the simplest of things and The Universe will take care of the rest.

I hope that sharing my top 10 tips will help you during your difficult times, and you’ll soon have reason to celebrate the successes that are sure to come eventually.

Sound off! What are your favorite ways to get through hard times? I’d love to hear your suggestions, comments and experiences in the comments section below!
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Introducing: Free Your Mind Friday Blog Hop

Photo credit: drzx2 via Photobucket

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On Kristle’s list of 101 things to do in 1001 days, you will find that one thing she planned to challenge herself with is to answer “50 Questions that will free your mind.” Even though I didn’t put that on my own 101 list, I wanted to join her in the fun and encourage you to do the same.

If you are not familiar with what a blog hop is, this is a great explanation by another blogger: How to Blog Hop

Each Friday I will answer one question from her list. This will repeat every Friday for 50 weeks. My own list got started a wee bit late on my blog because I was busy recovering from my carpet cleaning calamities. I hope that ‘better late than never’ holds true and you will join me!

Here is the list of questions; take them, think about them, write up your answer, and then come back here to link-up with others who will also be participating!

These questions have no right or wrong answers.

Because sometimes asking the right questions is the answer.

  • How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?
  • Which is worse, failing or never trying?
  • If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do?
  • When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?
  • What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world?
  • If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?
  • Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing?
  • If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently?
  • To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life has taken?
  • Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things?
  • You’re having lunch with three people you respect and admire.  They all start criticizing a close friend of yours, not knowing she is your friend.  The criticism is distasteful and unjustified.  What do you do?
  • If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be?
  • Would you break the law to save a loved one?
  • Have you ever seen insanity where you later saw creativity?
  • What’s something you know you do differently than most people?
  • How come the things that make you happy don’t make everyone happy?
  • What one thing have you not done that you really want to do?  What’s holding you back?
  • Are you holding onto something you need to let go of?
  • If you had to move to a state or country besides the one you currently live in, where would you move and why?
  • Do you push the elevator button more than once?  Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster?
  • Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton?
  • Why are you, you?
  • Have you been the kind of friend you want as a friend?
  • Which is worse, when a good friend moves away, or losing touch with a good friend who lives right near you?
  • What are you most grateful for?
  • Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones?
  • Is is possible to know the truth without challenging it first?
  • Has your greatest fear ever come true?
  • Do you remember that time 5 years ago when you were extremely upset?  Does it really matter now?
  • What is your happiest childhood memory?  What makes it so special?
  • At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?
  • If not now, then when?
  • If you haven’t achieved it yet, what do you have to lose?
  • Have you ever been with someone, said nothing, and walked away feeling like you just had the best conversation ever?
  • Why do religions that support love cause so many wars?
  • Is it possible to know, without a doubt, what is good and what is evil?
  • If you just won a million dollars, would you quit your job?
  • Would you rather have less work to do, or more work you actually enjoy doing?
  • Do you feel like you’ve lived this day a hundred times before?
  • When was the last time you marched into the dark with only the soft glow of an idea you strongly believed in?
  • If you knew that everyone you know was going to die tomorrow, who would you visit today?
  • Would you be willing to reduce your life expectancy by 10 years to become extremely attractive or famous?
  • What is the difference between being alive and truly living?
  • When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards, and just go ahead and do what you know is right?
  • If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake?
  • What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?
  • When was the last time you noticed the sound of your own breathing?
  • What do you love?  Have any of your recent actions openly expressed this love?
  • In 5 years from now, will you remember what you did yesterday?  What about the day before that?  Or the day before that?
  • Decisions are being made right now.  The question is:  Are you making them for yourself, or are you letting others make them for you?

Hope to see you back here tomorrow when the link-up goes live!

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