I logged on last week to check the status of my Warriors pending claims, and much like many of you have experienced, something didn’t look right. As I clicked through the endless links and parts of the eBenefits website, I became increasingly irritated as I realized the situation in front of me. After the hours I spent online filing and uploading documents, I am met with an all too familiar site. Some of the claims “didn’t go through” and the documents were loaded into “miscellaneous” instead of attached to claims as intended.

This is no surprise but does add to the frustration with the Veterans Administration.

I am computer literate and I have a graduate degree. I know what I am doing. Yet so many glitches and “updates” on this site produces results that directly affect the outcome for Warriors claims that makes it is hard not to feel it isn’t on purpose. What does someone older, less tech savvy or worse; someone with TBI and no support network do when they see this stuff. I mean I know I did it correctly but what if you weren’t confident in your knowledge and skill level.

It would make you think you were crazy.

Yesterday I went back in and patiently entered the things that didn’t go through and attached files where they should be and got the message, AGAIN, that every thing was accepted so we will see in a couple of weeks if that ends up being final.

But it wears you down.

I think that is the biggest reason people just give up. There are so many Warriors that we meet that haven’t gotten through the process because it becomes so difficult to not be angry. Sadly, you can put your life on the line for your country, incur permanent harm but not automatically get taken care of when you return. It’s another battle that most just does not have the energy for. It’s sad.

It requires resilience most of us don’t have.

My Warrior would be quick to tell you, if I had not been persistent, he would have given up a long time ago. I recently caught Madonna Badger on Super Soul Sunday and a lot of what she talks about in her TedX talk, really applies to the caregiver scenario. There has been unimaginable terror, grief and pain in the lives of Warriors and they just have to keep getting up. A lot of times they can’t and that motivation comes from the Caregiver. A lot of times as a result, a Caregiver becomes completely wiped out. It’s a vicious cycle that only keeps everyone afloat because of that resilience that each victory and defeat help us build.

But it is hard!

Sometimes I am really good at it and sometimes I am not. I would love to hear about how you stay positive and what you do to make sure you aren’t stretched too thin. Everyone can always use good advice!


Its A Lot Like A Jigsaw Puzzle

This past week we took part in one of my favorite things…PROJECT DAY. It actually took more than one day but it has become something that my Warrior and I can do together to make our house more of a home. For this project, we bought a $10 table at Goodwill and peeled the curling laminate off the base. After that, it was a matter of piecing together all the scrap wood we already had combined with some we salvaged from pieces of things that broke in the last move (my Coke crates, my great, great grandmas table.)   We had to get a couple of new boards to complete the pattern and finish off the edges.

table 3table 4table 2


What I noticed most in this process was the change in my Warrior. He has been reluctant in the past to take on such work or adamant that he did not have the capability due to the problems that a TBI will cause in the brain. Remarkably, when he started this time and reached a frustrating part, I reminded him to think of it as a jigsaw puzzle. For whatever reason, that seemed to make sense and he set about cutting and nailing pieces and remarkably finished the table in under a week. There was a bit of creativity required to make the boards all the same elevation and just not overthinking things seemed to move the project along at lightening speed. Way before I realized it, the table was complete and ready to be installed. I LOVE it and we are well on the way to finishing up the dining room at least.


table 1It reminded me how much our lives can be equated to a jigsaw puzzle. A lot of times, I kind of feel like that old box, busted at the seams, struggling to keep all the pieces inside. It’s not easy. Some days stuff just comes pouring out everywhere and I am cussing as I try to find them all and clean up the mess. Other days, it all comes together effortlessly.


If that isn’t the perfect description of being a caregiver, what is?


If you and your Warrior can’t build furniture, I do highly recommend literally trying puzzles and game. It does activate parts of their brains they typically don’t access and as we have been adding that as a regular routine, I can see how it helps with thinking, memory and planning. My Warriors favorite app right now is Flow Free. It is a connect the dot type game with maze elements that starts out simple and increases in difficulty as you go up each level. He enjoys word find games as well and we try to do some “brain training” type activities on a daily basis. As a family we also play games during or after dinner. One of our favorites right now is Apples to Apples and everyone, no matter the age can participate. If you think of it as how to be as ridiculous as possible, it becomes a very funny interaction.


Another recommendation for learning about how the brain works and how you can train it is to check out the Science Channel mini-series Hack My Brain. (It is still on in reruns.) Some of the drills that Todd describes, like thinking of alternative uses for items, we now employ.


Baby steps really. It doesn’t have to be scary or frustrating all the time.   Now, time to design the entertainment center!