The Odyssey and the Agony

sunrise jax

I wasn’t sure what to expect when we applied for a couple’s Project Odyssey through Wounded Warrior Project.  As we have attended other similar events, we did expect some type of group therapy discussions.

We were housed at the beautiful TPA Saltgrass Resort in Ponte Vedra Beach (I highly recommend the Fried Green Tomato Pimento Cheese Sandwich if you are ever in town).  The folks at this Marriott were beyond kind and went out of their way over the couple of days to make sure we had what we needed.  This location caters to corporate meetings and they have a Starbucks located inside.  How genius is that?

The staff from WWP were great.  Their intent was to facilitate all kinds of discussions through thoughtful discussion, art projects and bonding exercises.  As with most groups of military families, this can devolve into herding cats.  A lot has been going on in their corporate offices and they handled it well.

I am not a big fan of team building exercises (in corporate environments I have seen the quickly go awry).  A similar thing happened on this venture but with a lot more emotion.  On our first day we were kind of thrown into tandem kayaks with no instruction and told, go to this point down river.

What a mess.

Our guide was knowledgeable, the area was beautiful and my Veteran had the most epic melt down in the history of melt downs out in the middle of the water.  In retrospect, it was HILARIOUS, but at the time it didn’t feel like it.  We had to work through some things for sure but I could have done without the trial by fire.

The next day was a team exercise where half of us were blindfolded and had to come from a room off the larger area into a place where the other half was to make us sit in chairs but no one could talk.  In preparation, my team half developed more than one plan cheerfully and were ready to go.  My Veterans team half apparently fought the entire time.

What happened next was even worse.

Being unable to see and have people grabbing on you brings up all kinds of issues.  Whether you are a Veteran or not, if you have trust issues or space issues or all of the above from a trauma, this reignited all of that.  To say that there was some emotion and crying is an understatement.beach backpack task

The next day’s beach activities were much more beneficial.  Everyone worked together and felt supported.  It was nice to see.

We have talked often since about whether we would have participated had we known any of this in advance and I am not sure.  They don’t give a schedule so you are forced to roll with it but that resulted in being ill prepared wardrobe wise and very stressed when it came to times for medications.

It could hbeach task2ave been handled better.

The results, however, are hard to argue with.  There were conversations that needed to be had that finally started.  There were plans to be made that finally were.  There was thoughtful consideration of personal goals which had been lacking.  I am glad for the experience of it but not sure I would recommend it for everyone.  If you aren’t in the right head space for that or not in the place in your relationship where you are ready to work on things, you would be miserable.

Fair warning.




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!