Saturday, December 22, 2012

Self-Awereness with TBI or PTSD

Also see my "What does PTSD look like?  I'm Fine, How are You?" post

A veteran slams a door, he hollers, he is angry.  Yet, the vet doesn't recognize that this is not normal acceptable behavior and doesn't realize there is a problem.

A doctor asks, "Where is your pain?" 
The vet looks puzzled and replies, "my back." 
The doctor then questions, "Where at specifically in your back?"
"Hum.." ponders the vet.  "It is kind of towards the bottom."
Upon examination, the doctor finds that the vet cringes with pain when his middle back is touched.
With a jerk and gasp, the vet replies, "That's it...right there."

  What is Self-Awareness?  

The above are two examples of a lack of awareness. In the first example, the vet may likely blame someone or something else, externalizing the problem and failing to realize that it was his behavior that was inappropriate.  The second example demonstrates a vet who does not even pay enough attention to his pain to accurately report where it is coming from.

In the most simplest form, the Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines this self-awareness as "an awareness of one's own personality or individuality."  But what is awareness? Why might it be difficult for some?  Self-awareness is something most people have to purposefully work at and be attentive to. 

Awareness, according to Wikipedia,  "is the state or ability to perceive, to feel, or to be conscious of events, objects, or sensory patterns. In this level of consciousness, sense data can be confirmed by an observer without necessarily implying understanding. More broadly, it is the state or quality of being aware of something."

I have found that many times people with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and/or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) along with other disabilities often have trouble with self-awareness.  Perhaps denial, that great defense mechanism, plays a large part with people ignoring problems or disabilities and simply believing they are "fine." Delusions can also play a part in one's lack of self awareness.  Delusions of one's disability are common. Often people deny or ignore that there is a problem in the first place.  When one has injuries and problems, either visible or invisible, with the functioning of the brain there is likely to be lack of awareness.

With a lack of self awareness it is difficult for a person to talk about feelings, sensations, and physical complaints.  This may lead them to manage their emotions and relationships effectively.  Mr. Rogers sums it up nicely below.

Fred Rogers“Part of the problem with the word 'disabilities' is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can't feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren't able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.”― Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember

It is almost normal for many, especially soldiers, to ignore disabilities as much as they can and still believe that they are capable of much more than they can physically or mentally endure.  They may try to tackle a large project or attempt to attend a large gathering, yet not be able to finish the project or get through the gathering without panic and paranoia. Without adequate awareness, one can become frustrated, frustrate those around them, and retreat to loneliness, disappointment, and lack of fulfillment and satisfaction with life. 

Self-Awareness Theory 

Self-Awareness Theory states that when we focus our attention on ourselves, we evaluate and compare our current behavior to our internal standards and values. We become self-conscious as objective evaluators of ourselves.  People with mental illness, like PTSD, or TBI can have great problems with objectively evaluating themselves.  They can have problems recognizing reality and awareness.  

Additionally, a component of Social Psychology is that one wants his or her behavior to be congruent with the beliefs and values that he or she has.  When those behaviors and beliefs don't line up, there is conflict.  For example, when one believes that he or she should be the bread-winning worker in the family and is disabled and no longer to fill that role it can lead to cognitive dissonance and leaving the disabled person uneasy and likely depressed until resolution can be made.  One can resolve cognitive dissonance in several different ways. He or she can change his or her ideas to believe that the disability is accepted and that not being the bread winner is alright.  They might also pursue VA compensation or Social Security disability or other resources that  are available as an alternative that is acceptable in the place of being the primary wage earner.

Overcoming this lack of awareness

C.G. Jung“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”― C.G. Jung

How does a person overcome a lack of awareness?  This can take a long time.  It doesn't happen immediately.  It is a process and for those with disabilities, it can be a very taxing and seemingly impossible task.  Awareness can start with a simple quiet reflection of ones surroundings and being mindful of what is present.  Quietly sit with your eyes closed and pay attention to what you hear or feel.  Do you hear cars going by?  The hum of the computer? Do you feel the weight of your arms against the chair?  Do you have a headache? Are you anxious because of your eyes being closed?

Next, one can also do progressive muscle relaxation training.  With relaxation training, one does a body scan paying attention to the muscles and the tension in the body.  The person then systematically tenses muscle groups, then relaxes them, noticing the difference between tension and relaxation.  The goal here is two fold.  First, the person can create a more relaxed state in his or her body and secondly, that he or she can be more aware of where they are harboring tension or stress so they can relieve that bodily stress by the contraction exercises.  One example of a relaxation exercise is that when you feel tension or tightness in your shoulders, that you pull them up towards your ears (like you are shrugging them).  Hold your shoulders up in this position for about 10 seconds and then release them.  Let them fall back down to the normal position and recognize the difference between tension and relaxation.  

See this video on YouTube for a great relaxation exercise or watch a person do the exercises here to get an idea of what they look like. 

Be patient with the person as he attempts to learn how to be more aware.  Ask open ended questions to help them come up with answers for how they feel and ask specific questions when needed to help someone become more aware of pain or emotional awareness.  

Good resources on my shelf that I recommend to clients and students are:
  • The PTSD Workbook. Link to this book on Amazon:

  • The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Bourne.  Link to this book on Amazon:

Both these books are now available on Kindle.
Kindle eBooks

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A few ways to save

John thinks that I'm queen of being frugal, yet we like nice things and we like to go places.  In fact we travel a lot and it is easy for expenses to add up.  Here are a few of the ways we've saved some dough this year.
Nov CVS deals for about $20 with $30 ECB back

Coupons and Sales

Obviously clipping coupons and shopping grocery store sales (particularly Buy One, Get One Free deals) are a great way to save.  We've saved hundreds of dollars by doing this.  John even asked for a coupon at Captain D's last week!  Sometimes coupons are a good deal but if it is for a product you will not use or would expire before you can use it, think twice.  You may be adding to your bottom line bill if you use coupons and purchase alot of items that still end up being high dollar that aren't really needed.  

If you print and redeem coupons from Swagbucks you can earn points to redeem on anything from Amazon gift cards to pencils and baseball cards to movies.  You can also earn SB (Swagbucks) by searching the web.  We have used some SB redemptions for baby shower gifts and stocking stuffers.

Search travel sites but don't always book online!

Most everyone searches Travelocity or maybe even Groupon before  taking a trip. If you are looking for a very specific location and date then searching, planning, and booking in advance is most likely the way to go.  However, if you are simply traveling up the interstate and don't know exactly where you will reside for the evening, you may want to use your smart phone to get some ideas of places and prices.  We have found on at least 5 occasions over the last 2 months that if you take your phone into the hotel with the online price pulled up, they will beat it.  That's right.  They will usually not only meet the price without you having the hassle of entering your credit card info into your phone, but we find that we get about 10% extra off.  Of course this would be a gamble to expect that each time.  Worst case scenario is that you then book online or go somewhere else!

February 2012 at Magic Kingdom - A much needed escape
We do like to use specialty travel agencies, like Mouse Tales Travel .  Kimberly or Lori can help you book a trip within most any budget, and plan out all the details of your trip.  That would include park tickets, park plans, and dining, amongst others.  Tell them I sent you and if you book a qualifying trip, I'll get some Disney dollars.  Then when you refer your friends, you may can get a bonus too!  We first booked a trip to the Animal Kingdom Lodge with Mouse Tales and two weeks before we went, John was feeling good and wanted to go to Mickey's Halloween Party the next day.  Kimberly gave us a few options and booked our trip while we were picking up essentials at Wal-Mart and all we had to do was drive to Orlando.  Priceless.  Lori helped plan a large family trip earlier this year and get flights and transportation scheduled for John's family and make reservations for our meals.


We have fallen in love with Ebates! You get cash back for online shopping.  I wish I had discovered it sooner!  You get paid a percentage back to buy the things you are purchasing online.  Plus, you can get referral bonuses when  your friends sign up.  I've racked up almost $40 over the last 5 weeks.  For the first person you refer who makes a purchase, you get a quick $25 to be paid out in February.  My favorite deal so far was using an email coupon code for and getting 52% cash back.  I got two magazine gift subscriptions for $1.96 with $1.02 in cash back from Ebates! Cha Ching.

Shopper Card and Credit Card rewards

Don't forget to check balances on rewards.  I have redeemed my Sears shop your way rewards for groceries and other goodies that will total about $50 before the end of the year.  Also, if you have rewards on credit cards, check out the items that they offer.  I got a free car seat from Discover last year and with Bank of America rewards I got a birthday present or two for others.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A month without posts and a quick catch up

I realized today that it has been about a month since my last blog post.  I guess we've been a bit busy.  


We've made a quick trip to Indiana for John's Granny's funeral.  We made stops along the way at the Tennessee Aquarium, Rock City, and Tellus Museum.  We ate at a German Restaurant and Cheeseburger in Paradise.  We came home tired and decorated for Christmas.  We picked out a 12 foot Christmas tree this year.  Then, last week John woke one morning and had no recollection of our trip and even called his mom to see how his Granny was!  

We bought a bug...a Beetle, so we could get better gas mileage.  Since it takes us over 3 hours to get to the VA that John goes to, this will help out a lot. We got tickets via Vettix to the Georgia game on New Years.  

Boys posed for Christmas Pictures and we hurried to send out a few cards to close family.

John ordered me an anniversary present and it is now on the wall.  He picked out a "silly face" picture from October's trip to Disney.  It is amazing to me that he has went to great lengths this year to try to remember holidays and events and strives to get presents.  We did have a few years when he forgot to get anything or forgot that there was an occasion to remember.  So, I'm grateful that he's remembered this year.  Sometimes he is early and sometimes the present comes late, but the effort has been there and he's taken the time to cherish taking pictures this past year.  For that, I am also grateful.  For the first 6 years of our marriage, John refused to take a picture at Christmas and we had very minimal pictures, especially of all four of us.  Now, he is often the one that asks to take a picture so he can hopefully remember that he tried to have good times or that the boys will remember that he tried to do fun stuff and spend time with them.

We've got presents for the holiday but we've also been able to give a lot and to teach our children to give, especially to those that are less fortunate.  We've donated to individuals we know, we've donated to individuals and families that we don't know, we've picked out toys for Toys for Tots, we've gave things to people that might not otherwise get anything for Christmas.  We've watched people with tears in their eyes be thankful for the gifts received, and I got a phone call from someone close to tears who was grateful for the gift that they received. 

Life has its ups and downs but it is best when shared with those you love and when you are able to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

Remember the Reason for the season.

Monday, November 19, 2012

What exactly is the problem? Thoughts on TBI & Fibromyalgia

Photo from
You don't feel good.  You go to the doctor.  You take meds.  Hopefully, you feel better.  That's the way things ideally should work.  With the invisible illnesses it goes so much farther than that.  You don't feel good.  You go to the doctor.  He gives you meds.  You might not feel better.  You keep going.  You keep having symptoms.  Life can be quite miserable.  What is the real problem(s)? What exactly is it? What can we do to make it better? Will it ever get better?  It is TBI? Is it PTSD? Is it something else?

Here we are, over a year from the time that I brought up to the doctors that my husband had been having these "absent" type seizures.  He has went through a host of drugs, some with allergic reactions.  A few have truly helped his functioning.  The neurology department diagnosed a few types of seizures.  Then, they dismissed them as psychogenic in nature and referred him back to mental health.  We have been through the works and spent much of the last year and a half in various doctors offices.  

While it is obvious that stress makes most any illness more exacerbated, we have always thought that there is a more physical relationship to John's symptoms.  Even with a diminished sense of self awareness, he still has these feel awful days when he reports virtually no stress. 

John's case is complicated and that's why we bypass the most local VA facility to go to what we thought was a better one, yet so much is still left unanswered.  Fatigue, confusion, dizziness, sleep disturbances, daily headaches, and this brain fog of  taking long times to respond and trouble speaking were all symptoms we (and doctors) attributed to his Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) or maybe his severe case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  John has always had pain.  He gets compensation from the VA for arthritis related to some injuries and he takes daily meds for pain.  Last year, we found out about some nerve conduction problems in his extremities.  John would drop things or loose feeling in his arms and legs.  Now we have radiology reports that there are hotdog shaped tumor like places along John's spine and throat.  Part of what we have been looking at as a typical seizure like episode includes falls, change in consciousness, dizziness, vision disturbances, and a massive nose bleed out his right nostril.  This massive nose bleed has been unexplained by any doctor or medical professional and I've started taking lots of pictures when this happens so providers can see what I am trying to describe.  

An interesting finding for me was that I looked back into our first case management phone note from the VA Medical Center and found that headaches, falls, dizziness, confusion, and nose bleeds were his complaints before ever presenting at the facility over 6 years ago.  I remembered the headaches, because they dominated life.  They were terrible.  I remembered John spilling numerous drinks on a brand new room sized rug.  Within a year, it was past the point of being cleanable and I had to trash it.  John spent most of the time at home sleeping while I was at work and I didn't pay extreme attention to his daily routine or symptoms.  Then, looking back I saw these same host of symptoms that are only worsening. 

Last week, John spent a couple days in the hospital with chest pain.  It was unexplained.  EKGs were fine.  Blood pressure and pulse were normal.  It wasn't anxiety.  It wasn't stress.  It was just atypical chest pain.  A stress test ruled out any other cardiology related problems.  So, they sent us home without any real answer of why his chest was so severely hurting that he couldn't move, had trouble breathing, walking, talking, and feeling his legs and arms.  

John did some research on fibromyalgia.  Virtually every symptom that I can find and research fits.  Not one, not two, not 10.  Almost every symptom fits his unfortunate daily life experience.  From the emotional symptoms of anxiety and depression to the gastrointestinal symptoms, it all fits.  The neurological symptoms of dizziness, fainting, numbness or tingling sensations, ringing  ears, sensitivity to light, and noise intolerance all are real and present. Other symptoms are feeling spatially disoriented, balance difficulty, clumsy walking, dropping things frequently, difficulty judging distances and difficulty seeing what you are looking at. (Click here for one blog I referenced

John read somewhere on the web that the VA has linked a service connection to fibromyalgia and vets, particularly ones that served in Southeast Asia prior to 2002.  These vets were given a host of anthrax and other immunizations that may be linked to this and other problems.  So, these thoughts have sparked our interest.  We've already began to ask our medical providers for answers.  In the meantime, I thought I'd share this with you.  You can can offer any feedback that is helpful, it is welcome and appreciated. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mini Apple Pies in a Jar

After being in the hospital for a couple days and resting up, John was itching to bake an apple pie.  I saw mini pies in a magazine so we decided to try it. The recipe yielded 7 individual jars for us.

-Make a pie crust
-Line 1/2 pint jars with crust
-Fill with Apple pie mixture
-Lay lattice crust
-Brush with egg and cinnamon sugar
-Bake at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes
- Cover tops with foil if needed to keep from burning
-Cool and enjoy

What I got for .24 and a few other things!

Wal-Mart Trip - oop .24 (tax)

Couponing is so fun....unless you get unexpected surprises at the register.

You can find most of the coupons I used by searching the database at  or using or 

I started off last night at CVS to take advantage of their great ad that "started" today.  I got:

  • Lindsey olives  (used 1.00 coupon)
  • 2 Right Guard deodorant (2.00 Coupon)
  • CVS Haul November 2012
  • baby shampoo (which is why I went)
  • Advil- Childrens 1 oz
for about 6.10 and got back 6.37 in EB which I used today on my second trip. 

I went ahead and picked up a buggy of stuff because I didn't want to do so many transactions and I spent 15.55 (plus tax) and saved 37.84 on these items (getting about 24.00 EB back):
  • 2 Minute Rice .40 (.60 coupon)
  • 2 Lindsey Olives (used 1.00 coupons)
  • Nips 
  • Powerade 
  • Listerine Zero (used 1.00 coupon)
  • Chex Mix (used .35 coupon)
  • Easy Feet 
  • Kotex 
  • Starbucks Refreshers 
  • Caramex (used 1.00 coupon)
  • Cepacol 4 ct 
  • CVS asprin 
  • Scooby Snacks (gummies) (used .35 coupon)
  • 2 AirWick Warmers (used $2.00 coupon)
  • 2 Sparkle Towels 
  • Charmin Toilet Paper (used .25 coupon)
  • Glade Warmer Plug In (used 1.00 coupon)
  • Play Doh soft Pack 
Then, I used those $24 EB to buy these things with an oop cost of about $5 with $21 EB remaining:
  • 2 Taster's Choice Coffee Sticks (used 2/.50 coupon)
  • Ladies Speed Stick
  • Belvita wafers
  • South Beach Diet 5 pk
  • 1.25 lt Fanta
  • 2pk Energy Drink
  • Makeup kit
  • Phillips Remote
  • Green Bag Tag
  • 2 M& M Tubes (cost of having kids)
  • Command Strip (used 1.00 coupon)
  • 4 pk Sleep Sampler 
I plan to go back later to get the Kraft Mac n Cheese, 12 pk DR Pepper, Hot Wheels, Advil, another Listerine, and a few other things to keep rolling the EBs.

My quick Wal-Mart trip included 

1.00 Duck Tape Packing tape (1.00 coupon) FREE
2 /.98 Beach Nut pouches  (2/$1.00 coupons)
FREE coupon from General Mills for the 12 pk 90 CAL Brownies
.24 (tax) oop

Happy Saving!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Couponing Fun! Stock up and/or donate stuff.

Tomorrow marks the start of CVS's  big sale.  The ad is filled with "Free" after Extra Bucks (EB) items.  Here is my Shopping plan, starting with what I bought tonight on sale.  I mentioned on a couple FB pages today that you can hygiene items to a VA hospital/facility.  I personally saw the need at the Augusta, Georgia Downtown facility when they didn't have toothpaste for the patients.  If you want to donate any toiletry items, I will be happy to take them!

Lindsay Olives $1.00
  $1/2 Lindsay olives printable
 I used the $1.00 from last week (Final Price= FREE)

Baby Shampoo - 1.25

2.37 ECB WYB Children’s Advil Suspension, 1 oz, $2.37, limit 1
Manufacturer Coupon -$1.50 off Advil Children’s item (Facebook) printable
 (1.50 profit after EB)

$2 ECB WYB Right Guard Total Defense Deodorant, $2.99, limit 2
(excludes spray)
Manufacturer Coupon -$2/2 Right Guard Total Defense 5 deodorant printable
Manufacturer Coupon -$3/3 Right Guard sport deodorant, excl aerosol printable
Manufacturer Coupon -$2/2 Right Guard Total Defense 5 Deodorants, RP 11/4

 (BUY 2 for .01/ea profit after EB) *GREAT DONATE PRICE

I paid 6.10 + tax and got back 6.37 EB

  Tomorrow's Plan (Trip 1)

75¢ ECB WYB Mars Chocolate Candy Singles, 1.08-2.15 oz, 75¢, limit 2
B2G1 Mars Milky Way bars, 1.76-2.05 oz printable
(buy 3, makes all FREE after EB)

99¢ ECB WYB Charmin Basic Bath Tissue, 1 roll, 99¢, limit 1
.25 coupon from November P&G insert

(makes it profit .25 after EB) 

$1 ECB WYB Play Doh Soft Resealable Pack, 8 oz, $1, limit 1
(makes it FREE
after EB) 

$1 ECB WYB Kleenex Slim Pack Facial Tissue 3 pk., or
$1 Sparkle Single Roll Paper Towels, $1, limit 2 
(makes each FREE after EB) 

$1 ECB WYB U by Kotex Liners, 18 ct., $1.49, limit 1
(makes it .49 after EB)

Pay   6.73+ tax use 6.37 extra bucks (.36  OOP+6.49 EB Back)

Sunday Trip 2 

$2 ECB WYB Depend Silhouette or Real Fit, 3 ct., $3.99, limit 1
Manufacturer Coupon -$2/2 off Depend product printable  (I'm buying 2 to give away)

99¢ ECB WYB 3M Command Hook Sample Pack, 99¢, limit 1
Manufacturer Coupon -$1 off Command product printable 

(makes it $1.00 profit after EB)  

 99¢ ECB WYB Air Wick Scented Oil Warmer, 1 ct., 99¢, limit 1
Manufacturer Coupon -$2/2 Air Wick products, excl aerosols, stick ups and solids printable
(buy 2, makes both FREE + .99 EB profit!) 

$2 ECB WYB Listerine Zero 500 mL or PocketPaks 72 ct., $2.99, limit 2
Manufacturer Coupon -.50/1 Listerine Pocketpaks or Pocketmist printable

(.49 after EB )
I will use a .55 coupon from the dentist for a  .45 total after EB

7.40 + tax after Coupons (Use 6.49 EB) = 1.09 plus tax + $5.98 EB Back
Other Great deals on my shopping list include (go to here for a comprehensive list of all deals):
  • 88¢ ECB WYB Haviland Thin Mints or Nips, 3.5-4 oz, 88¢, limit 1
    (makes it FREE)
  • This is a great deal. Stock up! $1.50 ECB WYB Starbucks Refreshers, 12 oz, $1.50, limit 1
    Manufacturer Coupon -$1 off Starbucks Refreshers beverage printable
    (makes it FREE + profit!
  • This is a great deal. Stock up! $1.99 ECB WYB Starbucks Double Shot or Single Can, 6.5 oz, $1.99, limit 1
    (makes it FREE)
  • This is a great deal. Stock up! 99¢ ECB WYB Coca Cola Products, 1.25 L, 99¢, limit 1
    (makes it FREE)
  • This is a great deal. Stock up! $1 ECB WYB Powerade Sport Drink, 32 oz, $1, limit 1
    (makes it FREE)
  • This is a great deal. Stock up! $1 ECB WYB Chex Mix or Gardetto’s Snacks, 5.5-8.75 oz, $1, limit 1
    Manufacturer Coupon -.50/2 Chex Mix, 4.5 oz+ or 100 calorie snack, SS 10/07
    (makes it FREE, or use coupon – makes it 25¢ ea.)
  • $2 ECB WYB Nature Valley Protein Chewy Bars, 5 ct., $2.99, limit 1
    Manufacturer Coupon -.50/2 Nature Valley Granola Bars, 5 ct.+ or Granola Thins 
  • $2 ECB WYB Scooby Doo Fruit Snacks, 8 oz, $2, limit 1
    Manufacturer Coupon -.50/2 Betty Crocker Fruit Shapes, Fruit by the Foot, Fruit Gushers, Fruit Roll-Ups, or Ocean Spray, Mott’s or Sunkist fruit flavored snacks, SS 10/07
  •  This is a great deal. Stock up!ECB WYB Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, 5.5-7.25 oz, 99¢, limit 1
    (makes it FREE after EB) 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Give Others Something to be Thankful for....Don't Just Write a Post of Thankfullness.

Our lives should exemplify Christ so much that we should be transparent so that in whatever we do, people see Jesus. 

First, I guess I should say that there is obviously nothing wrong with everyone posting "What I am Thankful for" posts.  There's nothing wrong with making a daily habit out of sharing your thanksgivings with others.  If you want to do that, great.  If you are doing it for intrinsic reasons or to foster a greater sense of thankfulness, fine.  I have started on a couple occasions to post something concerning this but have halted. 

One FB friend posted yesterday that he was thankful he hadn't started the ritual and some may sneer at that.  However, there are a host of reasons that I can think of regarding why not to make a daily "Day x-I'm thankful for..." post.  First, is it because of conformity? To be seen as doing the right thing for the season? If you miss a day or a week, do you feel obligated to list point after point things you are thankful for? Are you doing it to boast?  So, maybe these are far fetched reasons for you. Maybe you are rethinking your rationale.  I would venture to say there are people making thanksgiving posts now that haven't posted a thankful post in ages.  The Scriptures teach that we should be thankful in all things, because that's how God wants us to be. Hopefully Thankful posts and thoughts will lead others to be more thankful in their daily lives and not only in November

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. -1 Thessalonians 5:18

I didn't do this daily public post last year because of a couple reasons: sickness and issues limited our FB time and it was hard to speak those thankful things when life looked so bleak.  We didn't get out the boys Thankful Turkey and stuff his tail with Thankful Feathers.  It was hard to even speak those "Thank you God for...." prayers at night with the boys.

Here is where my sensitivity to the subject comes in.  Even with tough economic times, we all have plenty to rejoice in and be thankful for.  Maybe you're thankful for family, while there are others out there who seem to have no family.  Maybe you're thankful for your children, while others out there are childless.  Maybe you're thankful for births, while others are grieving loss and tragedy.  Perhaps you are thankful for a job, and others are unemployed.  Perhaps you're thankful for health, yet others are fighting for their survival.  Maybe you're thankful for the ability to provide, while others don't have enough money to keep the electricity on.  Possibly, you're pantry and fridge are stocked, still there are others literally pinching pennies trying to decide what grocery items they can afford.  Likely, you might have thought of plenty of shopping opportunities for this approaching season, still others wonder how they will be able to provide for those dear to them.

I challenge you to Give others something to be Thankful for

Be mindful of this.  It is likely that some around you are struggling that you may not even be aware of.  Ask God for discernment. 

So how can your life better exemplify God? I challenge you to go beyond just a daily post that may be forgotten next week.  I challenge you to Give others something to be Thankful for.  Because you have been Blessed...bless someone else.  Maybe that means take someone a meal, or sit and chat with one who has little company.  Perhaps it means take a bag of groceries to a person or family that could use them.  Give some toys to a family that is struggling to help ease their worry of where their Christmas blessings are going to come from.  Send someone a note to tell them you are thinking of them.  Provide something, be it small or large, for someone that would likely be impossible otherwise.  This might be as simple as buying a coat for someone. 

It is ironic that people can get trampled and have awful shopping experiences on Black Friday, just one day after this nation takes the day to be thankful for what we have.  Yet, our mentality is "Go get more" even if we don't need it. 

Take the challenge.  Give Others Something to be Thankful for..Don't Just Write a Post of Thankfulness.  Be the Body of Christ. Reach out and give someone something to be thankful for and share the real reason of the season.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Surprise Birthday Adventure!?!

Two weeks ago, John told me he couldn't keep it a secret any longer.  "I've got to have some help, so pack your bags and one for the kids.  I'm taking you somewhere tomorrow for your birthday."
He confessed that he'd thought about packing my bag for me and later telling me we were heading out for lunch and then realized that he would have left something out and that I would have been beyond panicked, not knowing what to expect. 

Second row parking at Epcot!
As my birthday was not for another two and a half weeks, a "surprise" was a little easier to pull off than if it were my actual birthday.  I had a couple of guesses but John went way beyond with planning.  He made reservations for a hotel, meals, and tickets.  I was astonished that he had put so much thought into making my birthday special! We went through a couple years when he didn't remember birthdays and didn't remember Christmas, Valentines day, or a few other occassions.  I suppose I gave him a bit of greif over this because he has made it a big point to make sure (even if early) that he remembers these days and celebrates them in some way. 

John quizzed me on where I thought we were going.  I knew he's wanted to go to the mountains to Octoberfest for a couple years, but we had never been there.  So, I told him I knew this was "out of his comfort zone" and I told him that I thought he had booked something in Orlando. Universal and/or Disney was my best guess.  It is the last couple weeks of Epcot's Food & Wine Festival and I knew he had wanted to go.  We took the kids last year and they were just plain awful.  They were tired, didn't want to be there, and they acted out horribly.  We swore we would never take the kids back when we wanted to eat and drink our way around the world.  Last year, Aston wore most of the foods on his clothes.  He had jerk chicken with mango chutney on his shorts, along with chocolate mousse and he had what was left of two pieces of chocolate cake from France on his shirt.

Shrimp, Lobster Chowder, & Mini Crab Cakes
John surprised me with La Nouba, the Cirque du Soleil, performance with seats in the fourth row.  He booked them on the drive down from my phone's browser and I didn't have a clue.  He made reservations at The Coral Reef restaurant at Epcot.  We debated park hopping but stayed at Epcot from opening to close!  John even made reservations at the Disney Polynesian's Kona Cafe.  We slept in and didn't make it, nonetheless the effort was there.  Just before going home, we played a round of mini golf at Fantasia Fairways.  It was awesome.  It is a mini shrunken course with "sand traps" and water.  I still managed a hole in one on the third hole.

I was exhausted from the drive there and back but we had a great weekend.  I was blown away by the thoughts that John put into making the weekend special.  He was determined that for the third year in a row, we wouldn't spend my birthday at the VA hospital for appointments or tests.  He wanted it to be memorable for me. 

Thanks, John.  It is still a few days away but this has been the best birthday in a while. 

(Friends and readers: I am now a Travel Agent complete with graduating from the Disney College of Knowledge and I'd love to help you plan a magical vacation.  Email me at and Find the agency on Facebook - Our services are FREE from quotes to park plans and dining with qualifying vacation packages)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Another Magical Disney Trip

October seems like the perfect time for a quick get away for us.  Crowds have gone down and the weather is cooler.  Orlando is now in John's "comfort zone" because it is so familiar to us.  Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party has turned out to be one of our very favorite Disney things.  We've loved our last two years' quick get always.  Why do we love the after hours parties at the Magic Kingdom? Its unique.  Its a little bit cheaper than daily park admission. You get candy (or cookies, apples, hot cocoa if it is Christmas).  What's better than trick or treating around the Magic Kingdom where everyone can dress up and let cast members fill their bags.  Kids (and adults) can dance and party with their favorite characters and the parade and fireworks are spectacular.  I think we actually like the fireworks at the Halloween Party better than any other day of the year!

While we really like family or friends to "tag along" with us when we travel, we have conquered the Halloween Party trips with just us four.  This year we chose to stay at the Caribbean Beach Resort in a Pirate themed room.  The beds were a bit hard and the room was the smallest we've ever had at any Disney Resort but it was still a great treat for the boys who played and imagined their beds were sinking ships under attack and all kinds other scenarios created in their imaginations. 

The resort pool was spectacular and the kiddie pool was the most awesome that I'd seen.  The Grand Floridian's new Wonderland tea cup kiddie pool area is a close rival, but for a moderate resort the pool at Caribbean Beach can't be beat.  A kiddie pool with three waterslides is just amazing and the big pool had multiple waterslides through its castle like fort walls. 

We try to take advantage of good days, and Disney has a way of creating awesome memories.  Lots of pictures and plenty of fun make for great things to look back on.  Everyone needs a little Magic now and then. °

(Friends and readers: I am now a Travel Agent complete with graduating from the Disney College of Knowledge and I'd love to help you plan a magical vacation.  
Email me at and Find the agency on Facebook - Our services are FREE from quotes to park plans and dining with qualifying vacation packages)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A week full of yuck? I was jumping out of a plane and I!

Two weeks ago I posted that it was a "seizure free feel good week" and my exceptions were for another great week.  If I'd not posted that I likely wouldn't really recall what a good few days we had.  This week and the one before it has been far from desirable with a few exceptions.  Falls, dizziness, confusion, nightmares, and seizure after seizure.  Last Monday, John rolled off the couch and exclaimed, "I don't know what happened.  I was jumping out of a plane and I!" I confess that I chuckled.  Later in the evening he had a seizure episode that was so bad he was not responsive and had quit breathing.  

He asked for help in the bath as typical last week but while I was helping to dry his legs off, he told me that I was the "best wife anybody could ask for."  It really is the little things in life to cherish.  I helped him to the bed and then we later proceeded to play a little bit of our game of Words with Friends while on the couch.  I made wraps for supper and while John was eating, I looked over and panicked.  He was holding his hand out as if clutching his phone, except his hand was empty.  His eyes were rolled back in his head so that only the whites of his eyes were viewable and what was worse was that he was in the middle of eating.  He had food crammed in his mouth and after not responding for bit, I proceeded to do a finger swipe in his mouth that most people only learn about in CPR and First Aid Classes.  He began to regain consciousness and I helped him clear his mouth out as he was choking.  He was obviously startled and I apologized and told him I had my fingers in his mouth because he wasn't responding to me and he just wanted "to go to sleep for a year" at that point.

I let him rest and I escaped to type, checking on him periodically.  It would be so easy to see last week and the last couple days as a bad week but we have our good moments and I suppose that is what keeps us going on the bad days.  Be thankful for the small things, the little things that put a smile on your face, and cherish life to the fullest.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Exciting Times - A seizure free, Feel good week

It has been a great week! John hasn't had any seizure episodes for over a week.  I really can't even tell you when the last time was that we have been a whole week without any sort of fall, increased confusion, or seizure. 

John spent the weekend riding along with a friend at the Sheriff Office to get his hours in for an internship he is doing for a criminal justice class he is currently taking.  We had talked about us leaving for Jesup for the weekend but he felt he really needed to get his hours in and urged me to take the kids and "Go." He tried to assure me that he felt "fine."

I hesitate to hear John use the word "fine" as he uses it when he's on the floor semi-conscious and obviously not "fine."  This time, I knew he had had about 3 good days and I felt comfortable leaving so in a hurry of about 15 minutes the kids (ages 3 and 5) dressed themselves, packed their own bags, I changed clothes, and threw some snacks in a bag, and took off. 

We left in such a hurry that I didn't even take my debit card so we ran by the bank and withdrew some cash and got gas and left on the almost two hours road trip there.  I called John back a time or two and told him we may or may not come home Friday night.  Maybe it would be Saturday but we would just talk and figure it out. 

While I was driving, I realized it had been over a year since I had left John alone for a weekend trip.  I recall very vividly hesitating the last time before the boys and I went to a shower for someone.  John forgot to take his medicines each day that I was not here to remind him. I had even left him a note on the television with the meds on the TV stand.  The note, I might add was on an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper.  It wasn't your average sticky note.  John had a bad weekend at work.  He couldn't find the patrol car keys, wound up trying to apprehend a criminal, and tazed himself in the process while the patrol car gently rolled into the building where he was trying to subdue the man. 

This weekend, I knew John would be riding and not driving.  He assured me he would take his meds, but I had heard that so many times.  He kept telling me he felt good and that I should stay in Jesup even saying at one point, "See you on Sunday afternoon." 

I can not even begin to say how much I have needed a break.  But this worked.  It felt good.  I really believed that he was "fine" and would be alright until I got back.  I even enjoyed being gone, being in church, visiting with family and friends, and playing with the kids.  It was a "be anxious over nothing" kind of weekend. 

John did take his meds and he was ok.

Thank you God for a weekend break of refreshing renewal and peace.  This week, I expect a good week. No, I expect a great week and a great month.  I'm looking forward to going on vacation in a couple weeks.  A much needed family break.  I believe that we can have the best vacation weekend in a while.  

Last October's "I feel good. Let's go to Disney tomorrow" Trip.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What is TBI? Another fall while I type.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) has a host of symptoms and characteristics. TBI looks like different things for different people.  For some it is a closed head injury that may appear at fist as nothing more than a bump to the head or a concussion.  For others, it is a severe open head injury requiring much more immediate medical attention or possible surgery.

TBI, like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is now often labeled another invisible injury that a multitude of our troops are suffering with.  TBI, for each soldier or person affected, can be completely different.

At minimum TBI includes three facets: cognitive, emotional/behavioral, and physical.  Each of these facets categorize various difficulties or dysfunction.  These TBI symptoms would likely includes things such as memory impairment, concentration difficulty, problems organizing or staying on task, inflexibility or lack of spontaneity, poor judgement and prioritizing.  Other physical problems may include pain, visual impairments, hearing difficulties, diminished senses of taste and smell, seizures, problems with coordination or gait, balance problems and dizziness, and speech problems.  Speech problems include things such as aphasia.  The veteran may have trouble coming up with words or accurate words.  His or her speech may even be incoherent at times.  Endocrine and nerve dysfunctions are also potential problems with a diagnosis of TBI.

TBI is classified as a dementia.  Other forms of dementia that people may be more familiar with include amnesia and Alzheimer's disease.  During the last TBI evaluation at a VA medical facility, my husband was actually told that his brain was losing mass or volume.  His brain has literally shrunk.  No wonder he has days where things just don't work like they are supposed to any more.

Some days he doesn't remember if he's eaten or what he ate.  Other days he seems to manage fine.  Still some days are filled with the blank stares and unresponsiveness, classic of an absent seizure.  However, during these times of staring off without response, John's EEG monitoring hasn't shown signs of epileptic seizures.  A step beyond this unresponsive stare is when these seizures or passing out episodes happen while john is walking and he falls unconsciously to the ground or back into the chair or couch.  Sometimes, he has massive nose bleeds to accompany these seizures.  Often his "eyes go crazy" as our five year old says.  His eyes may blink wildly or roll back into his head, leaving only the whites exposed until he regains consciousness. 

A couple years ago, John wanted to go back to school and enrolled at a local technical college in an attempt to use his hard earned GI Bill benefits.  John was still mostly driving himself then and his memory and concentration caused problems that neither of us could have expected.  One day John returned home only about 15 minutes after leaving home and I asked him how class was.  He replied something to the effect of, "What? Crap! I knew I forgot something." He had got thirsty and had went to Sonic to get a drink, forgetting about class.  He would forget to log on to the computer to do course work, forget to go to class, and forget to turn in assignments, even forgetting to go to school to take a final.

John would be eager to start some projects but rarely finish them.  Currently we have crown molding around only about 1/3 of our living room foyer, a project that he began over 6 months ago.  He started painting a faux finish in our bathroom and all but about a five foot section is of a year and a half ago.  I could go on and on with more examples just like these.

Ringing in the ears, balance trouble, and stumbling when bending over happen frenquently.  Speech problems plague John, as well.  Examples of this might be stuttering, saying things like "bring me a a a a a a a um a drink." Other speech problems include comming up with the wrong words like, "bring me the motorcycle to call my mom" or "bring me a flashlight" with the last statement actually meaning "bring me a drink."

A change in routine can cause problems, as can trying new things.  Irritablity and anger often surface as a result of any of these problems.  The problems themselves cause frustration and mental anguish and may lead to the person with TBI acting out or throwing a tantrum because of their problems or their frustration with how these symptoms negatively affect their ability to function in life.

The long and short of the story is that physical and mental injuries are exhausting and stressful.  Not only is the veteran affected, but anyone within the immediate family, extended family, and circle of friends will undoubtedly see the effects of what happens when the war comes home and a veteran has TBI and/or PTSD.

There may not be an ongoing battle in your backyard on the war with terrorism, but when a veteran returns, part of that war comes home. In many cases of PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury, like John's, no one can begin to prepare or expect what life will throw in their path.  One can read about mental illnesses and PTSD or other more physical complaints and have little idea of what the daily life will look like. 
Added May 2013 from my January Post on Parkinsons:
Recently, the VA has acknowledged that they are proposing changes to the way they view TBI and are embracing five (5) new diagnoses secondary to TBI for service connected compensation. These newly acknowledged diagnoses include: unprovoked seizures, depression, Parkinsons, hormonal imbalances, and dementia. (See an informative article here from the Federal Register) While I'm glad they are finally acknowledging that there is "sufficient evidence of a causal relationship" and "associations" between these things, I'm interested to see how long it takes to get the actual service connection reviewed and rated. We can only hope the process is speedier than the 5-10 years it has taken them to figure these illnesses are linked.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

What does PTSD look like? "I'm fine, how are you?"

What does PTSD look like?
"I'm fine, how are you?"

Many years ago, John thought PTSD didn't exist.  He believed it was weakness.  It was in one's mind.  It was imaginary.  Those were irrational beliefs that started in his early Army days.  Superiors would drill into the soldiers that they were strong and they could handle anything.  They were tough.  That they couldn't be beat.  PTSD was in the mind of the weak.  It wasn't real.  PTSD was for cowards.  PTSD was for sissies.  

Needless to say, when obvious symptoms of nightmares, flashbacks, and anxiety crept in, a soldier programmed with the above nonsense would deny it.  Denial.  A human's most effective and most important defense mechanism.  Denial is the soldier saying, "I'm good.  No problems. Can't complain." He picks up and carries on.  Or does he?  Does a warrior battling these inward emotions and issues really think that he's alright? Maybe he really does or maybe he has a war within his very being .  Likely he is struggling with the real plague of PTSD symptoms and that programming of "Suck it up soldier."

"I'm fine" is such a typical response.   Americans mutter this incessant crap without even thinking about it.  It seems innocent enough, yet it is affirms a stereotypical aspect of our society.  We're good.  We're well.  We maintain appearances and a Persona that we are whole, healthy, successful, and without problems.  Most people utter the usual, "Hi. How are you?" without ever wanting or caring what the addressed party has to say or how they truly are.   They expect a thoughtless, "I'm fine. How are you?" in return with none other than a "Doing well" type response.  

For starters, I don't ask one how he or she is unless I truly want to know or I care.  I think I began thinking this way sometime during my first year of graduate school when I was studying Clinical Psychology and we were challenged to be more aware and genuine in our interactions.  

If someone asks me, "How are you?" He or she should likely back up for an atypical response.  "Tired" is my usual response if I sense that someone is in a hurry or simply uttered the phrase without conscious concern.  However, if you sincerely ask me, "How are you?" you might want to sit down for a cup of joe because it might just take a while.  On the rare occasion a stranger or acquaintance asks how I am and I reply with a quick and hurried, "Fine." I back up and internally shake myself.  I really do.  I ask myself, "Are you fine today? Likely not. What was that about?"  That's how I shake myself back into a greater awareness of how I am.  Now you think I'm talking to myself and that might lead to other diagnoses so we'll get back to PTSD.

Now, maybe you can see how PTSD is an invisible illness.  People with PTSD can often hide or mask their symptoms.  They can recede into their own homes and personal lives, avoiding interaction when they don't feel like dealing with people or the world.  They can learn great (or so they think) coping skills, like denial, so it appears that they are fine.  

However, when one wants to really conquer PTSD and conquer his symptoms of the illness without it dictating life as he knows it, a few things have to change.  The hardest part is acknowledging that PTSD exists and it is real and it is happening to you or your loved one.  Not covering up or making excuses leads to a greater acknowledgement of the illness and symptoms.  Unfortunately, I think about all the years that we simply covered up or made excuses for the ugly symptoms and actions of my husband.  Looking back, it didn't do anyone a favor.  Now we make the covert overt.  We acknowledge it. We talk about it when we can and we are more honest.  A doctor or mental health professional cannot help what they don't know about.  Your family can not be encouraging or supportive if they don't know the honest truth about what is going on.  Your spiritual network, church, or confidants can't lift you up in prayer and thoughts if they are not aware of the situation.  

Few people are discerning enough to take a "I'm fine" response and decode when you are actually not "fine" and offer the help and support that is essential in making progress with PTSD or other aspects of your life.  It is essential to open up.