Shared Caregiving Stories

Quote-for the last four years or so, i've been in this cycle of injury, pain, rehab...I've felt stuck in it. The only way I see out is to no longer play football. It's taken my joy of this game away.In this segment of Shared Caregiving Stories, our very own ICA member Jeannette D. Mayer shares her view of how Andrew Luck’s retirement from the Indianapolis Colts parallels the experiences of being a family caregiver. 

To read the full posting, of which I highly recommend, click on this link Luck’s Retirement Parallels Military Caregiver.

Shared Caregiving Stories

Guest blog by one of Idaho's caregivers, Jeannette D. Mayer.

Stand Closer, It's Shoter than You Think

This age-old joke never gets old. How many of them can you think of? How many of you have some hanging in your bathroom? They all are great to get a giggle.

Now to get to the touchy part: when we are talking about men with brain injuries and/or spinal injuries, these jokes are no longer funny. Traumatic brain and/ or spinal injuries can create incontinence issues, which can be frustrating, hair pulling, puddles of disasters. This is true not only for the man, but also for his family. Nothing is worse than walking into the bathroom and stepping into a puddle of wetness in the middle of the night. The smells, the yellow stain on the bathroom mat, the fighting with him to clean up after himself are endless battles. Battles that many times fail, especially when dealing with traumatic injuries. Often these men don’t have the mental abilities to understand what is happening to prevent these accidents from occurring.  Trying to change his behaviors is frustrating for you both.

I’m here to tell you to KNOCK IT OFF. This is a battle not worth battling. A war that is non-existing.

Incontinence is not just frustrating for the family, the spouse, the parent, the caregiver. It is even more frustrating and embarrassing for our Veteran, Our American Hero who would like nothing more than to leave a clean a floor and front of the toilet. We haven’t even covered the even more unmentionable “number two” mishaps. That’s another smelly messy embarrassing story line.

There is hope with a simple solution.

First, remember to breathe (maybe breathe through your mouth instead of your nose) – these happenings are out of our control. We can’t control them from happening so let’s embrace what we can do.

Second, now that you have accepted this new ever changing daily normal let’s prepare for these uncontrollable moments.

How do we prepare? That’s the fun part.

·      Put a couple bathmats that are small and don’t have the rubber backs (this way they are easy to wash & dry) in front of the toilet. Pick some fun bathmats that make you both smile.

·      Keep a roll of paper towels and bathroom cleaner by the toilet – so when the mishaps occur, all you need is right there for an easy clean-up.

“Alakazam” the magic is created for you both! Short, sweet, simple fix.

Does this mean you will never have your frustrating moments? Nah, they will still come. Let them come. Embrace them. After all you are human with real feelings and emotions. Just do your best to not let them take over.

 As a caregiver, we carry so many extra responsibilities. Learning to control what we can while letting go of what we can’t will help us keep being successful caregivers. We can’t fix what isn’t working correctly in our wounded Veterans. However, we sure as heck can find ways to not only help support them, but also help support ourselves in the process. Finding these simple little tricks will keep us keep moving forward.

Find ways to simplify your life, this is another way to promote selfcare.

We are a Military Family who is American Made!  

We Reach Higher, Dream Brighter, and Hold on Tighter.

Clean toilet

Shared Caregiving Stories

Idaho caregiver, Jeannette D. Mayer, shares her story of letting go in the following blog post titled 

Lessons Learned: Sometimes We Just Have to Say ‘Goodbye’

 

All of us living in a military family have those friends and family members who just don’t seem to understand “a day in the life of a military family.”  Over time, we realize that our relationships with people we love are being strained because they don’t always understand the life we lead.

For some of us, our hero comes home wounded — lifelong wounds — that can cause even more pressure and strain on already fragile relationships.

For a long time I struggled with these family and friends. In fact, I have more than struggled. I have flat out gotten angry, cried, attempted to rationalize, and slowly tried to let go. There were attempts to help them understand… to show them what we are living with… but you cannot fully walk in another person’s shoes, it’s just impossible.  

I’ve been slapped in the face with comments like, “You’re abusing your husband,” “You’re the reason he is the shape he is in,” or my favorite: “It’s the medications, and you’re ruining him.”

Some we would no longer hear from them again, they just faded away like that lost sock in the dryer to never be seen again.

Comments like this really made me step back and look at myself, and question my caregiving skills. Was I really creating all the damage to my husband? Would he be better off without me? Self doubt started to take over, adding to the pain from the loss of people I use to rely on — people I considered true friends.  

I felt isolated, and alone in a world where there was no one else like me.

As I started to share our family story openly, I realized who was still here. It was refreshing when a few of them started to understand why we just snuck out the door during a family dinner, or why at the last minute we canceled attending a friends BBQ.  

I am so thankful to those family and friends who were able to comprehend the ever-changing new normal of our lives.

Over time, my rational skills became more focused. I began to accept those who left our lives, making it easier to open our hearts and home to those who were still here, along with the newcomers entering our lives. During this experience, I learned a lot.

First lesson learned: Some of those who left our lives did not have the ability to understand — or accept — our new everchanging new normal. They just didn’t know how to overcome the challenges emotionally. For that, I forgive them. This is not a lifestyle all people can live in. And that is okay.

Second lesson learned: Harsh words are spoken out of anger, out of lack of knowledge, or out of fear. Some family members have said the meanest words to me because they don’t want to accept what was happening to DeWayne. He has been their hero for so long. To see him in a different way, less strong, and needing help, was hard for them. For these people, I forgive them and pray that one day they will find a way to accept, while understanding he is still with us, along with his everchanging new normal.

Third lesson learned: There are some mean people in the world, who were never truly “real” family or “real” friends. Living with this new normal means a lifelong need of assistance, and attention drawn away from those who don’t like it. For these people, I forgive them and pray they find their place in the world that makes them happy.

Do I still ache for the friends and family we have lost? Yes, for we never truly get over the pain, we just learn how to live with it. For some of the loss, I am glad they are gone. If we can’t support each other, then they were never truly a friend to begin with.

As for the family members who chose to say harsh things. I have found a few family members who will stand up beside me and go to battle for me. Very thankful for this support and understanding.

No matter where we go in this world, we will always run into people who don’t like our ever changing new normal, a highly demanding lifestyle, or they don’t like Ava the service dog. They don’t like the war. Which is fine. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But it was our men and women in uniform who proudly stood up to defend their freedoms.

So proudly stand up for your freedoms. Caregivers, Veterans, Supporters of all Military Families know you are not alone. Join together in support of each other. Share your challenges, your hardships, your stories. Share your laughers, your hugs, and your smiles. Strength comes from the knowledge and support of others beside you.

Say Farewell to those who don’t understand, who verbally attack, or just don’t show the care and support your family needs. It is okay. It isn’t easy but it is okay.

We are a Military Family who is American Made!  

We Reach Higher, Dream Brighter, and Hold on Tighter

Shared Caregiving Stories

Guest blog by Jeannette D Mayer, a caregiver and R4 Board Member

Happiness was grabbing that handful of popcorn mixed with chocolate M&M’s® to find the Peanut M&M’s® hiding in there. For many years, these delightful milk chocolates wrapped around tasty peanuts were jokingly called “Happy Pills” in my house.

 

My favorite snack was mixing M&M’s® with the delightfulness of fluffy, salty, buttery, popcorn — you just can’t beat this combination!

 

Recently, I have discovered a new form of “Happy Pills” that brings great value into my life, but it was something I never imagined I need to ask for. At a doctor’s appointment a while back I flat out broke down crying uncontrollably.

 

My doctor knows I am my husband’s caregiver, he asked me how everything was going with my hubby… with me… with my daughter?

 

My doctor knew it was time to have “The Talk.” The very uncomfortable conversation about antidepressant medication. It was time, because my life felt like it was truly spiraling out of control. I felt my mind, my body, and my spirit were dwindling. I was starting to get sick at so many levels and often. Stress was affecting me heavily.

 

Concentration was a struggle.

 

Crying was a normal part of my day.

 

Frustration over the smallest, stupidest things started to happen.

 

I began to question myself and why I acted this way. It bothered me how I reacted to events that shouldn’t upset me, and I hated crying all the time.

 

My doctor was extremely professional in his approach to the this challenging conversation about antidepressants. He asked the question and left the ball in my court, while showing support in pursuing this conversation before leaving his office that morning.

 

He said something to the effect, “You have a lot to carry on your shoulders and I want you to be successful.”

 

WOW, “I want you to be successful.”

 

Those were the magic words that helped me start thinking about seriously. Yet that darn irrational brain crept in. What will others think? Does this mean I am not strong enough to take care of my family, my husband? What’s wrong with me? Am I a failure? Does this show weakness?

 

With my eyes filled with tears, I pushed this self-doubt aside and told my doctor, we haven’t had the conversation but it is time to. It was amazing how admitting this to my doctor lifted so much weight off my chest. I knew God had truly played a role in my life that day. He directed us both to connect.

 

My doctor handed me the box of tissues and the trashcan as he took time to answer all my questions no matter how silly they may have sounded. He asked me a long series of questions so he can could decide what medication and dosage to place me on.  

 

Most importantly he wanted to make sure I had a good combination of support: counseling, support group, and medical care not only for myself but for my husband.

 

Just like the Peanut M&M’S® and popcorn combo these new happy pills also require quality goodness combinations to work successfully. The doctor covered the warning signs repeatedly, made sure I had his office’s phone number along with the follow-up appointment before I left. With very strict instructions to call at anytime, night or day, if I needed anything.

 

At the follow-up appointment I could feel a major difference starting to take place. My brain fog was clearing. Crying was starting to become less of a daily event. Smiling was back on the menu vs. frustrations.

 

It became very clear that my mental well-being and healing journey had begun. My doctor informed me that these antidepressants might be temporary as we continue down my husband’s medical path but that this extra mental health support for me is a good thing so I can be there for him. So I can also be a wife, a mother, a caregiver and a friend.

 

There are times when all those irrational thinking questions still rattle around in my brain, even though my rational brain says, “don’t care what others think, they aren’t living your life. No one has right to pass judgment. I’m not weak for asking for help, there is a lot I am dealing with and need the extra help to breathe.”

 

This is on repeat in my brain and on a sticky note on my bathroom mirror to remind myself every morning until I convince myself it is true.

 

Depression and antidepressants are not meant to be taken lightly. I find humor helps me breathe, helps me face the day. Calling antidepressants “Happy Pills” is because they did help me discover some needed joy.

 

If you are wondering if you need extra support in your life, You are at that point of asking for help too. Please do reach out for support from your doctor. I promise, it will be ok. If you need permission, I give you permission to allow yourself this valuable self-care conversation with your medical professional.

 

You Are Not Alone!

 

50 percent of all post-9/11 military care recipients have depression, twice as many as their civilian and pre-9/11 military counterparts. (Hidden Heroes, America’s Military Caregivers, RAND Study).

 

As a united front of Military Caregivers, let’s join forces in support of each other and stop the stigma of reaching out. If you are facing depression, thoughts of hurting yourself or even suicide – know there is help out there for you too.

 

I care about you, along with many others. We can’t be caregivers alone.  

 

Talk about it with fellow caregivers you trust, have that support person attend the doctor appointment with you, breakdown in your doctor’s office, seek counseling & support groups.

 

Find your Peanut M&M’S® and Popcorn combo that brings the needed joy back into your life.

 

We are a Military Family who is American Made!  

We Reach Higher, Dream Brighter, and Hold on Tighter.

Shared Caregiving Stories

How Expo Markers Saved Our Military Family.

Guest blog by Jeannette D. Mayer.

Every day I look at my husband and am reminded how lucky I am that he was able to come to me… to us! DeWayne came home to our daughter Addy and me after using five of his nine lives from May 23 – Oct 2, 2005 while on a tour-of-duty in Iraq. (Humor is a vital part of our ever-changing daily new normal.) His 5 lives were used when: 1. A Humvee roll-over, 2.&3. improvised explosive device (IED)exploded at close range, 4. guarding a downed helicopter that was being dismantled when the main body of the helicopter was destroyed by explosion with soldiers guarding within 200yards. 5. An IED went off right under the command seat of the humvee he was riding in. Through-out all 5 accidents 1 comrade lost his life, 2 lost some limbs, while many others came home with complications that continue to impact life going on 10 years later.
By Spring 2006 DeWayne was home and reintegration back into civilian life began. After days, months, of yearning for my husband to be with me again, for Addy to have her dad back, the full realization came crashing down that something wasn’t quite right. DeWayne’s mental functionality wasn’t like it used to be. He went from the ability to manage a check-book, run a Schwan’s route, create new routes, restructure old routes while maintaining his second in command at the Schwan’s depot along with many other high level executive function to having substantial short-term memory loss, becoming easily lost, confused & disorientation. DeWayne had challenges locating familiar locations and with that, the discovery process began.
I started to attend medical appointments to understand what was wrong and what we needed to do differently. The end results indicated he has a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury, (TBI) as well as post traumatic stress disorder, (PTSD).
• What happened between Oct 2, 2005 and Spring 2006? Medical appointments all over the valley began. Treatment for his TBI began, 6 months of outpatient TBI treatment, 3 days a week of 8-10 hrs a day treatment began. His TBI Dr. wanted inpatient for a longer time frame but this was the extent the Army would allow. We attended physical therapy, counseling, occupational therapy and recreational therapy. We learned how to live our daily lives with an ever-changing daily new normal.
• How was DeWayne different?; He would forget tasks, leave the stove on, forget his way home, not understand simple instructions, forget what he is supposed to do during any given day. His temper grew and his ability to control his temper was gone. He was sees people & hears voices that aren’t there. I built a pillow wall to protect myself from his violent nightmares. I couldn’t leave the room because he would wake up in a freight if I wasn’t in bed.
 After 6 months of TBI treatment in the civilian world the transfer of his care to the Boise VA Medical Center began. DeWayne couldn’t comprehend the why transferring of care was needed, which added to the anger. Learning to navigate the VA added to the already challenging daily new normal. Once we had DeWayne established at the VA we had to re-establish all his therapy programs. Creating new relationships with his therapy /medical teams and reminding DeWayne continually as to why we were doing all this became my life for another 4 months. We rejoiced when DeWayne’s occupational therapist Wendy transferred from the civilian TBI facility to the VA. Another joyful moment came along when DeWayne remembered Wendy. He had positive responses to Wendy so progress began once more.
While at the VA, the care was great. Time came to transition that knowledge into functional actions at home. We tried different notebooks, binders-with dividers, tasks sheets and schedule pages on the computer. We set alarms on his phone, bought him a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), and a small calendar whiteboard. My brain was aching to discover something that would support My Love to be successful in his daily living.
And then a stroke of genius came along! We decided to use our kitchen cabinets as a whiteboard using expo markers! It was a simple solution to what seemed like a complex problem. I felt I could breathe again. We created a functional – adjustable lifestyle “Our Central Command Post” aka our kitchen. I worked with a local cabinet maker who sat down with us multiple times to design cabinets that would meet our ever-changing daily new normal. The biggest asset was the Plexiglas inlay on the cabinet door. With whiteboard tape and expos markers we have been able to centralize our daily happenings. As a family, Our Central Command Post is where to go to regroup and move forward.
• Problem: DeWayne couldn’t keep track of his daily tasks
• Solution: Plexiglas inlay – DeWayne’s section: No more than three tasks to create a successful day – assigned blue.
• Problem: Daddy couldn’t remember his daughter’s schedule
• Solution: Addy’s section: daily schedule, chores, and assigned her purple.
Knowing his daughter’s schedule was encourage him to be a successful, supportive daddy.
• Problem: DeWayne wanted to cook dinner. He was a fine chef prior to deployment, however upon his return his cooking became less then desirable.
• Solution: Dinner section: detailed meal preparation instruction written down and assigned green.
• Above these sections are important phone numbers used regularly.
We chose the kitchen because it is a great central location to bring the family together. Not only did it pull DeWayne’s daily functions into one place, it brought us all together so we would have less distractions, quick access to the calming effects of food and it centralized everyday life. One most days, DeWayne can locate his daily medications, wallet, glasses, hearing aids, and other items in the kitchen. Hence the naming of our kitchen, “Our Central Command Post,” tying our home and military lifestyle into one functional happening. Today we live with TBI, PTSD, Tremors, Social Anxiety, Silent Seizures, Fall Risk, and mental confusion. Expo markers are a tool we use to keep moving forward. We celebrate with Expo Markers.

We have expo markers of every color and style gracing our kitchen for the Plexiglas cabinet door and my Mom calendar. I love the colors. The colors help keep items fresh, bright and cheerful. Expo markers are easy to clean off, to change, to keep fresh and new. They are simply fun. A touch of spice to our lives. The colors are also fun to draw pictures with, which our daughter’s friends have blessed us with drawing of flowers, smiley faces and words of encouragement.
The story of how Expo markers came into our lives began January 4, 2004: the best wedding gift from an amazing friend. Little did we know that God was working his magic for years down the road in so many ways. To this day, expo markers are truly the best wedding gift we received. The note that came with the expo markers said, “these are to leave love notes on your bathroom mirror for each other often”. Several years later our expo markers disappeared only to appear in our daughter’s bathroom. Our daughter liked our mirror notes so much that she knew it was time to draw on hers too, so we purchased a set for her bathroom. Adalaide’s bathroom is the main one for the home, so when guests come over, they also leave messages or works of art on the mirror. Expo markers officially transformed from being a family thing to being a Village thing helping raise a family.
Expo markers have brought stability into our ever-changing daily new normal of a life. They have been a part of bringing peace, joy, and continual love.
As a Military Family we are American Made, We Reach Higher, Dream Brighter, and Hold on Tighter.

Every day I look at my husband and am reminded how lucky I am that he was able to come to me… to us! DeWayne came home to our daughter Addy and me after using five of his nine lives from May 23 – Oct 2, 2005 while on a tour-of-duty in Iraq. (Humor is a vital part of our ever-changing daily new normal.) His 5 lives were used when: 1. A Humvee roll-over, 2.&3. improvised explosive device (IED)exploded at close range, 4. guarding a downed helicopter that was being dismantled when the main body of the helicopter was destroyed by explosion with soldiers guarding within 200yards. 5. An IED went off right under the command seat of the humvee he was riding in. Through-out all 5 accidents 1 comrade lost his life, 2 lost some limbs, while many others came home with complications that continue to impact life going on 10 years later.
By Spring 2006 DeWayne was home and reintegration back into civilian life began. After days, months, of yearning for my husband to be with me again, for Addy to have her dad back, the full realization came crashing down that something wasn’t quite right. DeWayne’s mental functionality wasn’t like it used to be. He went from the ability to manage a check-book, run a Schwan’s route, create new routes, restructure old routes while maintaining his second in command at the Schwan’s depot along with many other high level executive function to having substantial short-term memory loss, becoming easily lost, confused & disorientation. DeWayne had challenges locating familiar locations and with that, the discovery process began.
I started to attend medical appointments to understand what was wrong and what we needed to do differently. The end results indicated he has a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury, (TBI) as well as post traumatic stress disorder, (PTSD).
• What happened between Oct 2, 2005 and Spring 2006? Medical appointments all over the valley began. Treatment for his TBI began, 6 months of outpatient TBI treatment, 3 days a week of 8-10 hrs a day treatment began. His TBI Dr. wanted inpatient for a longer time frame but this was the extent the Army would allow. We attended physical therapy, counseling, occupational therapy and recreational therapy. We learned how to live our daily lives with an ever-changing daily new normal.
• How was DeWayne different?; He would forget tasks, leave the stove on, forget his way home, not understand simple instructions, forget what he is supposed to do during any given day. His temper grew and his ability to control his temper was gone. He was sees people & hears voices that aren’t there. I built a pillow wall to protect myself from his violent nightmares. I couldn’t leave the room because he would wake up in a freight if I wasn’t in bed.
After 6 months of TBI treatment in the civilian world the transfer of his care to the Boise VA Medical Center began. DeWayne couldn’t comprehend the why transferring of care was needed, which added to the anger. Learning to navigate the VA added to the already challenging daily new normal. Once we had DeWayne established at the VA we had to re-establish all his therapy programs. Creating new relationships with his therapy /medical teams and reminding DeWayne continually as to why we were doing all this became my life for another 4 months. We rejoiced when DeWayne’s occupational therapist Wendy transferred from the civilian TBI facility to the VA. Another joyful moment came along when DeWayne remembered Wendy. He had positive responses to Wendy so progress began once more.
While at the VA, the care was great. Time came to transition that knowledge into functional actions at home. We tried different notebooks, binders-with dividers, tasks sheets and schedule pages on the computer. We set alarms on his phone, bought him a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), and a small calendar whiteboard. My brain was aching to discover something that would support My Love to be successful in his daily living.
And then a stroke of genius came along! We decided to use our kitchen cabinets as a whiteboard using expo markers! It was a simple solution to what seemed like a complex problem. I felt I could breathe again. We created a functional – adjustable lifestyle “Our Central Command Post” aka our kitchen. I worked with a local cabinet maker who sat down with us multiple times to design cabinets that would meet our ever-changing daily new normal. The biggest asset was the Plexiglas inlay on the cabinet door. With whiteboard tape and expos markers we have been able to centralize our daily happenings. As a family, Our Central Command Post is where to go to regroup and move forward.
• Problem: DeWayne couldn’t keep track of his daily tasks
• Solution: Plexiglas inlay – DeWayne’s section: No more than three tasks to create a successful day – assigned blue.
• Problem: Daddy couldn’t remember his daughter’s schedule
• Solution: Addy’s section: daily schedule, chores, and assigned her purple.
Knowing his daughter’s schedule was encourage him to be a successful, supportive daddy.
• Problem: DeWayne wanted to cook dinner. He was a fine chef prior to deployment, however upon his return his cooking became less then desirable.
• Solution: Dinner section: detailed meal preparation instruction written down and assigned green.
• Above these sections are important phone numbers used regularly.
We chose the kitchen because it is a great central location to bring the family together. Not only did it pull DeWayne’s daily functions into one place, it brought us all together so we would have less distractions, quick access to the calming effects of food and it centralized everyday life. One most days, DeWayne can locate his daily medications, wallet, glasses, hearing aids, and other items in the kitchen. Hence the naming of our kitchen, “Our Central Command Post,” tying our home and military lifestyle into one functional happening. Today we live with TBI, PTSD, Tremors, Social Anxiety, Silent Seizures, Fall Risk, and mental confusion. Expo markers are a tool we use to keep moving forward. We celebrate with Expo Markers.

We have expo markers of every color and style gracing our kitchen for the Plexiglas cabinet door and my Mom calendar. I love the colors. The colors help keep items fresh, bright and cheerful. Expo markers are easy to clean off, to change, to keep fresh and new. They are simply fun. A touch of spice to our lives. The colors are also fun to draw pictures with, which our daughter’s friends have blessed us with drawing of flowers, smiley faces and words of encouragement.
The story of how Expo markers came into our lives began January 4, 2004: the best wedding gift from an amazing friend. Little did we know that God was working his magic for years down the road in so many ways. To this day, expo markers are truly the best wedding gift we received. The note that came with the expo markers said, “these are to leave love notes on your bathroom mirror for each other often”. Several years later our expo markers disappeared only to appear in our daughter’s bathroom. Our daughter liked our mirror notes so much that she knew it was time to draw on hers too, so we purchased a set for her bathroom. Adalaide’s bathroom is the main one for the home, so when guests come over, they also leave messages or works of art on the mirror. Expo markers officially transformed from being a family thing to being a Village thing helping raise a family.
Expo markers have brought stability into our ever-changing daily new normal of a life. They have been a part of bringing peace, joy, and continual love.
As a Military Family we are American Made, We Reach Higher, Dream Brighter, and Hold on Tighter.

Every day I look at my husband and am reminded how lucky I am that he was able to come to me… to us! DeWayne came home to our daughter Addy and me after using five of his nine lives from May 23 – Oct 2, 2005 while on a tour-of-duty in Iraq. (Humor is a vital part of our ever-changing daily new normal.) His 5 lives were used when: 1. A Humvee roll-over, 2.&3. improvised explosive device (IED)exploded at close range, 4. guarding a downed helicopter that was being dismantled when the main body of the helicopter was destroyed by explosion with soldiers guarding within 200yards. 5. An IED went off right under the command seat of the humvee he was riding in. Through-out all 5 accidents 1 comrade lost his life, 2 lost some limbs, while many others came home with complications that continue to impact life going on 10 years later.
By Spring 2006 DeWayne was home and reintegration back into civilian life began. After days, months, of yearning for my husband to be with me again, for Addy to have her dad back, the full realization came crashing down that something wasn’t quite right. DeWayne’s mental functionality wasn’t like it used to be. He went from the ability to manage a check-book, run a Schwan’s route, create new routes, restructure old routes while maintaining his second in command at the Schwan’s depot along with many other high level executive function to having substantial short-term memory loss, becoming easily lost, confused & disorientation. DeWayne had challenges locating familiar locations and with that, the discovery process began.
I started to attend medical appointments to understand what was wrong and what we needed to do differently. The end results indicated he has a moderate to severe traumatic brain injury, (TBI) as well as post traumatic stress disorder, (PTSD).
• What happened between Oct 2, 2005 and Spring 2006? Medical appointments all over the valley began. Treatment for his TBI began, 6 months of outpatient TBI treatment, 3 days a week of 8-10 hrs a day treatment began. His TBI Dr. wanted inpatient for a longer time frame but this was the extent the Army would allow. We attended physical therapy, counseling, occupational therapy and recreational therapy. We learned how to live our daily lives with an ever-changing daily new normal.
• How was DeWayne different?; He would forget tasks, leave the stove on, forget his way home, not understand simple instructions, forget what he is supposed to do during any given day. His temper grew and his ability to control his temper was gone. He was sees people & hears voices that aren’t there. I built a pillow wall to protect myself from his violent nightmares. I couldn’t leave the room because he would wake up in a freight if I wasn’t in bed.
After 6 months of TBI treatment in the civilian world the transfer of his care to the Boise VA Medical Center began. DeWayne couldn’t comprehend the why transferring of care was needed, which added to the anger. Learning to navigate the VA added to the already challenging daily new normal. Once we had DeWayne established at the VA we had to re-establish all his therapy programs. Creating new relationships with his therapy /medical teams and reminding DeWayne continually as to why we were doing all this became my life for another 4 months. We rejoiced when DeWayne’s occupational therapist Wendy transferred from the civilian TBI facility to the VA. Another joyful moment came along when DeWayne remembered Wendy. He had positive responses to Wendy so progress began once more.
While at the VA, the care was great. Time came to transition that knowledge into functional actions at home. We tried different notebooks, binders-with dividers, tasks sheets and schedule pages on the computer. We set alarms on his phone, bought him a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), and a small calendar whiteboard. My brain was aching to discover something that would support My Love to be successful in his daily living.
And then a stroke of genius came along! We decided to use our kitchen cabinets as a whiteboard using expo markers! It was a simple solution to what seemed like a complex problem. I felt I could breathe again. We created a functional – adjustable lifestyle “Our Central Command Post” aka our kitchen. I worked with a local cabinet maker who sat down with us multiple times to design cabinets that would meet our ever-changing daily new normal. The biggest asset was the Plexiglas inlay on the cabinet door. With whiteboard tape and expos markers we have been able to centralize our daily happenings. As a family, Our Central Command Post is where to go to regroup and move forward.
• Problem: DeWayne couldn’t keep track of his daily tasks
• Solution: Plexiglas inlay – DeWayne’s section: No more than three tasks to create a successful day – assigned blue.
• Problem: Daddy couldn’t remember his daughter’s schedule
• Solution: Addy’s section: daily schedule, chores, and assigned her purple.
Knowing his daughter’s schedule was encourage him to be a successful, supportive daddy.
• Problem: DeWayne wanted to cook dinner. He was a fine chef prior to deployment, however upon his return his cooking became less then desirable.
• Solution: Dinner section: detailed meal preparation instruction written down and assigned green.
• Above these sections are important phone numbers used regularly.
We chose the kitchen because it is a great central location to bring the family together. Not only did it pull DeWayne’s daily functions into one place, it brought us all together so we would have less distractions, quick access to the calming effects of food and it centralized everyday life. One most days, DeWayne can locate his daily medications, wallet, glasses, hearing aids, and other items in the kitchen. Hence the naming of our kitchen, “Our Central Command Post,” tying our home and military lifestyle into one functional happening. Today we live with TBI, PTSD, Tremors, Social Anxiety, Silent Seizures, Fall Risk, and mental confusion. Expo markers are a tool we use to keep moving forward. We celebrate with Expo Markers.

We have expo markers of every color and style gracing our kitchen for the Plexiglas cabinet door and my Mom calendar. I love the colors. The colors help keep items fresh, bright and cheerful. Expo markers are easy to clean off, to change, to keep fresh and new. They are simply fun. A touch of spice to our lives. The colors are also fun to draw pictures with, which our daughter’s friends have blessed us with drawing of flowers, smiley faces and words of encouragement.
The story of how Expo markers came into our lives began January 4, 2004: the best wedding gift from an amazing friend. Little did we know that God was working his magic for years down the road in so many ways. To this day, expo markers are truly the best wedding gift we received. The note that came with the expo markers said, “these are to leave love notes on your bathroom mirror for each other often”. Several years later our expo markers disappeared only to appear in our daughter’s bathroom. Our daughter liked our mirror notes so much that she knew it was time to draw on hers too, so we purchased a set for her bathroom. Adalaide’s bathroom is the main one for the home, so when guests come over, they also leave messages or works of art on the mirror. Expo markers officially transformed from being a family thing to being a Village thing helping raise a family.
Expo markers have brought stability into our ever-changing daily new normal of a life. They have been a part of bringing peace, joy, and continual love.
As a Military Family we are American Made, We Reach Higher, Dream Brighter, and Hold on Tighter.