Relationship Goals

If you ask Jason or I, we won’t lie to you, our relationship took a hit with the brain injury. Our roles changed, not just with me working out of the house and him being home on disability, but even our roles towards each other. I became very much like a parent, checking his daily schedule, reminding him of his tasks. The things we celebrated in that first year of marriage included his being accepted to Toronto Rehab and long term disability being approved, not necessarily things that newlyweds think they’ll be cheering for. The fact that Jason loved me through all of that, and never seemed to resent my bossy role is a testament to what a good and patient man he is. We were told early on we had a 90% chance of being separated by one year into the brain injury, and a 70% chance of divorcing from then on out.

Statistics like that are scary, and fortunately act as a great motivator for Jason and I. In the beginning we had to focus on recovery and surviving, and I don’t regret a minute of it. But now, as we seem to settle into more of a day to day routine we’ve decided to change things up. Over the last few months we’ve been trying to prioritize regaining our feelings of husband and wife, rather than roommates, or patient and caregiver. We literally find ourselves having to choose to be married every day rather than fall into other relationship dynamics. Romance for us is more about choosing to try in small ways, than some fancy dinner or big gesture.


And so we had to come up with a brain friendly way to love each other. Most of our strategies come down to clear communication. If the idea that your spouse should mind read fails in a regular relationship, it will definitely leave you disappointed when brain injury is a factor. There’s just no energy left for trying to sort out coded words or meanings. And so we make lists and read books and add our relationship into the schedule (actually, this is just what we are trying to do, we are by no means masters at this!).

Our love list: Hanging on our wall in our bedroom is a chart. This chart has 5 things we can each do to take care of ourselves (different for each of us, mine includes things like pray, go to the beach, for Jason it’s watch a movie or go for a walk with Willow). Below that is 5 things we can each do to love the other person. Again, different, mine involve things like kiss me hello, ask about my day; his include specific words of appreciation and kind reminders of our schedule. It’s not romantic in the traditional sense of the word I suppose, but I feel overwhelmed with gratitude whenever I know that Jason has taken the time to remind himself of the list and make an effort for me.

We also started the Bethke’s 31 day challenge and when that was too overwhelming decided we would stretch it out over a series of weeks with 3 love challenges a week. And I have to tell you, when Jason chooses to use some of his energy to show me love it lights me up. Again, these are actions we schedule into our week on Sunday so that we can plan and conserve energy as needed. 
Some other reading about relationships and TBI: http://www.darlingmagazine.org/do-we-need-new-love-songs/

The ultimate preplanning meal planning strategy

Like I’ve said before I have always been a meal planner. For me, I really struggled to adapt to the differences between pre-brain injury meal planning and meal planning in the midst of exhaustion and grief. I nearly always missed ingredients that were crucial or got quantities wrong. Half the time meals that looked good on Saturday before grocery shopping were overwhelmingly difficult by Wednesday night after 7 clients. I just really wasn’t great at it and it meant we ate take out a lot.

I reworked my planning multiple times over the last two years and it pretty much always failed me. Now, just a few months ago we started a new system and I have to say we have had much more success. We moved into this house and were blessed with tons of storage space which is probably the issue that might be the most limiting for this system.

Our bin system, nearly fool proofized

Step 1: Once a week on Thursdays I take out all these bins and lay them out on our counter. And then I start planning. In theory, my planning includes looking at flyers for what is on sale as of Friday (when we grocery shop) and what our week looks like to choose time sensitive recipes. Sometimes that happens. But if not, my most lazy planning involves looking through our recipe binder and pinterest and printing off recipes for at least dinner (lunches are often leftovers and breakfasts often smoothies).

 

Step 2: I use a half sheet to write out what we will eat each day to keep myself organized and place the required recipes in each bin. We try to keep all the recipes in protective cover sheets so they survive cooking accidents.

 

Step 3: Then I go through every recipe and pull all pantry items that we have and place them in their respective bins. Based on what is in the bins and in my fridge I am able to create my shopping list for any other ingredients.

 

Step 4: After we shop on Friday we fill the bins with their items and place them back under the counter.

Each morning ourhome reminds us to check the bin so that we can confirm we know what the dinner plan is and that we have taken out any meat that needs to be defrosted*.

This system is somewhat brain intensive for organizing and getting used to, and I tend to be the one that does it most often in our house. The real energy saver comes when it’s time to cook and all ingredients are in one bin, ready to go. We have also had far fewer nights where recipes are missing ingredients since we started using this system, meaning we eat home cooked meals more often now than before. This system solves a lot of the problems we were having with meal planning and cooking at home. 

*Right now we are trying to add in a step where I add post it notes to each bin with what needs to be pulled out of the freezer for the next day’s dinner. It works well when I make time to do it.

 

 

Lists we love

Throughout Jason’s recovery we have tried tons of different lists. The list saga has definitely proven to me that what I think is a good system, is not always the case. In the beginning my lists had colours and sublists and were scattered throughout the house like it was a scavenger hunt. Just in case anyone is wondering, that was not useful for managing Jason’s energy levels.

I think an important thing to clarify for anyone dealing with a brain injury is what medium works best for them. I’m a paper and pen girl. I LOVE scrawling lists on post it notes, crossing everything off and the joy of throwing the list in the fire when it’s complete. However, written notes mean Jason either needs to remember to bring them with him or needs to go back to the fridge every task to see what is next. We found quite a few good templates on etsy and pinterest that might work for different families. One we used for quite a while was this one from etsy:  https://www.etsy.com/listing/174372800/daily-page-notepad-6-pack?ref=shop_home_feat_4 (there are also digital download versions available that you can fill in and print off easily)

When we used this list we had Jason’s daily routine detailed in the green To Do’s section and then filled in the rest of the page as needed so that while I was with clients he could navigate his day easily. We made the change away from this list when initiation and time management were becoming more problematic.

We now use OurHome which I’ve written about before. It’s a list app that works well and allows us both to add things to our own, and each other’s, lists as needed. You can set up reminders within the app so that you get notified when a task needs to be done (we always have reminders set for things like feed the animals, phone calls that need to be made etc).
Still, remembering to look at the list was a challenge so Jason found this app, After Unlock, that makes ourhome the first thing that pops up every time he unlocks his phone. This seems to work well for us, for right now.