2010

Back to the Beginning: Update (posted Jan. 8, 2010)

I’ve needed to update for quite some time, but with holidays, Richard having been here, working on the house, migraines, an inordinate amount of body pain from the last fall, changes in medications, the sewer being connected and all the interior and exterior changes to the house, I’m a bit beyond tired and overwhelmed. I guess dealing with any one of these things would be a pretty big stressor. Oh yes, can’t forget, packing moving, sorting through belongings, holding on, but mostly letting go.

As I write, a police or ambulance siren goes blaring by, I will not miss that part of living here.

I think it’s quite safe to say, “Calgon, take me away!”

The melancholy or sentiment the last couple of weeks has been greater as I let go of more and transition from living here to sort of living off sample size items and only the things I need for day-to-day living. I guess most folks are older when they get to this point of having to let go of so much, and those outside that transition cannot fathom the difficulty.

It is, in essence, a type of death, an acceptance of a lot of difficult life truths.

Oh – I completely forgot to mention, I will have to begin driving 30 minutes+ each way each day for the next 5 weeks to take care of medical needs of my horse. Vets orders, and need to have her healthy before she moves. Wow.

Still no word from the Disability attorney about my case, this is a long, languishing journey in itself.

I don’t know I’ll be able to find an attorney for the auto accident and may need to put that on the back burner – but – bummer is, I owe the hospital for medical expenses incurred after my PIP coverage ran out. It is nearly impossible as the patient to keep track of one’s spent resources when it comes to these things because some facilities only bill the insurance once a month. It is exhausting when every area of life is a fight for survival.

Home mortgage – well, one day I’ll blog specifically on this, but suffice to say, we’re still in the process of sending documentation, yes, one would think we’d be done with this by now
since we started in August. Same as above, an honest fight for survival.

I am getting to the point where I’m unable to pay my utilities, especially now with the sewer hook up, my gosh, how life can fall apart. Yes, the number one reason for bankruptcy in America is due to health problems. But I don’t want to be system supported, I really, really, really miss being fully self-sufficient! Oh gosh, if only effort and intention were enough.

I am definitely at a different place in life, thinking on lots of things, pondering our values in life, wondering why we have a stubborn belief things will always get better. I guess I continue to question everything I know because so much of it hasn’t quite jived with real life.

It is my sincere hope to still be able to make a difference whether I have to go on Disability for the rest of my life or not. My comfort level is certainly being involved in life, growing, helping, giving, being an active participant, I’ll never settle for being a spectator. Life is simply too short.

I cannot see what the future holds, I can’t even fathom the rest of this evening! I do hope for a place of nurturing, where I can once again grow strong, live, and not fight so much to just survive. For those not within this struggle, the stress, the whole journey, is simply unimaginable.

Tags:  brain fatigue, Brain Injury, fatigue, mTBI, ongoing stress, turmoil, TBI

Back to the Beginning: Brain Space…The Final Frontier!
(posted Jan. 11, 2010)

After several days of apparently trying to do too much, my brain switches to mass confusion mode. I can’t figure things out, lose things, and my world turns upside down.
I have been on Twitter trying to help draw traffic to the folks who did my WWII memorabilia auctions on eBay. I thought I’d finally had a routine when all my circuits got crossed. I made mistakes which I didn’t initially realize, tried to correct them, got confused again, tried to correct the correction, and ended up very, very frustrated with myself.

These are the reasons why no one will hire me and why I can’t keep a job. It didn’t just hurt that I was making mistakes but I was representing them, the mistakes are clearly mine.

Today was the first day of going to take care of my horse’s medical needs. I left the house completely forgetting my cell phone, sunglasses, not my usual self. This evening Richard arrived (I only learned of his planned visit yesterday), and when we went out, I locked the keys in the house.

My brain space is empty, and it still frustrates the tar out of me because I very much want to be a productive, contributing member of society. These moments of big mistakes still frighten and alarm me because it’s as if my own brain has betrayed, or worse yet, left me.
It is a process to learn to still love that which I feel has betrayed me, and which I can no longer rely on.

I do have much to do and I often talk about if I add one thing to the small brain balance scale something else falls off. What this means is survival mode once again, not doing extra things like enjoying the feeling of being more social on Twitter, and taking a break from trying to help the folks who helped me so much. I will not go to support group from now on, I just can’t do any of the extra things that bring me life and help me feel more connected to the world outside of me. It is both frustrating and exhausting being unable to be consistent.

I saw many new signs of houses for sale in the area and on the drive up to the barn, yes, I’ve got to get mine listed too. Much to do, lots to get rid of, a truck to sell, a house to sell, a lot of things I’ve never done before even prior to Brain Injury.

I can feel the area of my injury twitching, all the baseline things of Brain Injury come back when I’ve overdone it. I imagine it’s my brains way of requiring me to stop and rest before I make more mistakes or hurt myself by falling again.
For now, I take a break. Be blessed everyone.

Tags:   brain budget, confusion, frustration, misery, mistakes, overload, stress, TBI

Back to the Beginning: Limbo Land and Thoughts on Humankind
(posted Feb. 9, 2010)

A difficult place to be, in between systems, no longer able to be fully independent, yet not approved for assistance. If it were not for humor, I think I would have died long ago.

For now, I wait on the Disability process, it seems we will meet before a judge in approximately six months. I am glad I decided I needed to sell the house rather than wait upon a hoped for miracle and face a much worse fate.

My food benefits have not been renewed because of a mental screw up of mine, thinking I had until the end of January to get my paperwork in, I was wrong by a long shot. I wrote them a couple of times, explained, apologized, and nothing.

I wish I could say I live in a no-flake zone, but do not. The contractors, the help I need to get the house prepared to sell hasn’t happened, no returned calls, not showing up, whatever. I am down to the wire and really just need folks to simply show up and do what I have to pay them to do, or what they volunteered to do.

I did do some yard work today until I reach that point of excruciating pain, the strange head pressure on the right side of my head that makes me wish mercy was within reach. I have to stop, then start again, slowly, and pace myself. ‘Tis frustrating when so much needs to be done.

I have set my alarm clock earlier in hopes I can get up and get even more done. I’ve gotten to the end of my rope and have been so tired I’ve slept through my alarm. I’ve asked Richard to call to make sure I’m up so I can try to get the things done I’ve needed others to do for me. Somethings will naturally be out of my grasp, but have to do as much as I can on my own.

I am back seeing the chiropractor, they graciously called to remind me of the re-exam we needed to do and I mentioned I’m not sure if this would be a re-exam or new injury because of my fall in November. At this point, even though my PIP coverage is exhausted, we’re documenting this as relating to the accident last year. Before that accident I sure didn’t fall.

I’ve been receiving mail from the at-fault party’s insurance and since I can’t obtain an attorney who will take a small chance on me, I’m wondering how to answer. Their latest correspondence was requesting a release of my medical records. It is these times I do so wish I had access to legal counsel, even just to know what I should or shouldn’t do at this point. We know how the insurance companies railroad the folks who have been harmed by their insureds.

My heart is with others in this same boat, struggling to just survive, unable to get the help and assistance they need. I went to the community resources (yes, they only open appointments up on one day a month so you can get scheduled for the following month, and God help you if you don’t get scheduled, you have a long time to wait in Limbo Land.)

I do not qualify for utilities assistance – get this – because I earn too much money on Unemployment! Ha! I told her the amount of my mortgage and she said they do not take that into consideration. Oh my…

About the mortgage, my lender has once again declined my request for mortgage restructuring, goofy people, they say I don’t qualify. Oh yes, I’ve been current on my mortgage payments since day one over seven years ago, but they say they cannot help me now. Lovely!

For others walking in this path, I send you warm thoughts of sunshine in the midst of these storms.

For those who are honest, wanting to make an honest way through this crazy system we have, I send you courage and strength to not compromise who you are.

It seems others not only benefit but thrive on the very systems we’re trying to just simply get the barest of help from. For those, I do not know the circumstances, but do know if it involves me compromising or being dishonest, I’d rather be materially poor than to sacrifice my heart and soul.

These are heartbreaking paths we walk upon, seeing the lack of help, the harsh reality of human behavior (we’re just animals and animals know the injured, weak, a rare few may be kind, all others are just looking to take what they need without a thought for the other.) These are the piercing truths I would never see thriving in the business world, making lots of money and having everything I wanted or needed. I am wondering if it is indeed survival of the fittest or just survival of the greediest and most shrewd.

Tags:  asking for assistance, attorneys, disability, hell, lawsuit, not getting help, survival, TBI

Back to the Beginning: Sold! (posted Apr. 18, 2010)

It has been less than a week since the sale of the house closed. I’ve been in Montana for the last several weeks and let me tell you it’s quite a transition!

I was prepared to sell the house, furniture, outdoor furniture and even the contents of the shed and basement, including lawn mower and weed whacker. Nothing could prepare me for the actual sale. I’d hoped a young couple or young family would move into it.

I first learned a single man, first time home buyer was purchasing it, there were no closing costs involved, and I thought that was neat until the time came for the inspection. This has taken me a long time to understand and to this day does not sit well with me. He had his family construction business do the inspection. That’s odd.

Well, in this strange inspection report (which was only a few pages on the family’s letterhead), I thought I’d never seen anything like it. Now they were demanding odd things like me replace the windows! The windows work fine, they just didn’t want the single pane windows now. There were a few other things listed and I was dumbfounded. Certainly things are at breakneck speed and my spirit was disquieted.

I asked my listing agent if that is legal and he said there’s nothing in the contract stating the inspector has to be licensed in Washington State. That just didn’t feel right. I inquired online whether inspectors have to be licensed in this state and they do. I contacted the licensing agency, they confirmed my suspicions they were not licensed and it did indeed seem a conflict of interests.

They wanted me to pay $4,000 for the repairs they THEMSELVES allegedly found in my home. Granted, this guy is a first-time home buyer taking advantage of the $8,000 credit from the government, he has the audacity to try to leverage me using their own inspection report. It did not work. We countered with a few repairs we’d make and that would be that. They accepted it, we got the work done (like getting the windows to open that were paint
shut), and minor stuff.

I was dragging my feet on this because it did not feel right and if someone is taking advantage of me, or the government’s program, I put up a fuss. My agent suggested I not be “emotional” about all this, and we shouldn’t discourage the escrow people from sending us the paperwork. I thought he was representing me, I understood it didn’t matter what was legal, illegal, or what. Wow.

I wrote the Attorney General for Washington State, the Governor, even the President of the United States, all before closing, and received no reply. I have reason to believe they will take the house, never live in it and flip it for a profit. After all that hard work!

Yes, the house is sold, I suppose I should be grateful, relieved, etc., but I’ll tell ya, when it goes against my grain, or intuition, it’s a tough pill to swallow.

Did I walk away with much money?  No.  I’d be lucky if I broke even, but am quite sure I lost money.
Tags:  move, sold house, TBI

Back to the Beginning: The Decision (posted Apr. 21, 2010)

I received a letter from Social Security the same day I sent the escrow papers for my house sale, the ironic timing of both did not escape me.

I received approval for Disability, and started crying in the Post Office. It has taken me about a week to process this and understand it to be a good, good thing. The date of Disability is way later than I would have liked, but the process of fighting for benefits is over. Two major life stressors – the house and Disability are now over. I know I will need some time to settle in to not only my new life here, but the Disability system, a much smaller income and hopefully finally, a more peaceful life.

The settlement will be quite small since the onset date is so late, but I’m glad to have been approved. I had the option of continuing the fight or accepting the date I saw their doctor, I chose the latter. I am tired of these dragged out years of fighting.

Once I get my debts paid off I can go about the business of just living, and, even afford a hair cut or two (yes, I have “Recession Hair,” haven’t had a hair cut in a year!), go to the doctor, dentist, etc., and take care of all those things that have been shelved for years.

I will be eligible for Medicare in a year, I think. Big settlement or small, I am grateful for the help that is available. The out-of-pocket expenses continue for now, but the relief is immeasurable. That fight is over, thank God, and perhaps I won’t feel I have to work so hard to prove my disability to the world and be able to just have a good life.

This is a major transition, I still have dreams at night of things like applying for jobs at Microsoft. But within those dreams are stark reality of looking good on paper and completely tanking the testing and interview! I saw with clear vision in my dream the blank looks of the interviewer when I told her of my Brain Injuries, that may have just been a dream, but it is the truth in the daylight hours too.

Who am I now without the house and the struggle to prove my case? I’m not completely out of the woods, I still have to deal with the at-fault party’s insurance, and yes we know that won’t be a walk in the park. Hopefully this will be the last struggle for a time, and perhaps maybe, I can simply breathe.

Tags:  approved, Brain Injury, disabled, mTBI, Social Security Disability, TBI

Back to the Beginning: Bank Issues (posted May 3, 2010)

I am of the many disabled folks on Disability for whom a representative payee is required. We’ve gone through the paperwork to have Richard take that position and all seemed well until it came time to deal with Bank of America.

I’d been with Bank of America (formerly Seafirst Bank) since childhood! Moving here I closed my account and switched to First Interstate Bank (an entirely wrong choice…but I digress.) I had ease of use with Bank of America online bill pay, checking, savings, you name it, they were great.

So we open an account online and all is well…until we hear from Social Security that the account has to have my name on it although I cannot have access. No big deal we figure, just call BoA and get the name on the account changed.

No can do. We talked to several Customer Service agents, even chatted online thinking someone would have the sense enough to resolve this. Oh no, they can’t do that over the phone or online, get this, we have to go to a banking center to simply change the name on the account. There are no Bank of America banking centers in the entire state of Montana.

They have the audacity to tell us we have to go to the nearest banking center 550 miles away (one way)! Yes, they were completely serious! The spiral of difficult issues with BoA continued, they’ve made it so distasteful and ridiculous we’re taking our business elsewhere. We opened an account in town, no problem! They appreciate our business and even gave us a gift for opening the account. Ah, a bank appreciating it’s customers, what a concept!

Richard tried to get Bank of America to return the funds to his bnnk, they’d transfered the funds to Bank of America to secure the account, they said they couldn’t do that either. What the???!!! Today he wrote himself a BoA check for the full amount he deposited and will tell BoA to close the account.

Crazy, absolutely crazy people at BoA. The kind people at the bank in town? Oh, as an act of courtesy, they got in touch with Social Security, everything is set up, clean, simple. Complete peace of mind versus the drama with BoA.

As much as I once liked Bank of America and miss their easy online site, I’ll never go back and certainly cannot recommend them after this shenanigan.

The next thing to figure out is whether I will keep doing business with First Interstate. They are terrible! No wonder they are no longer in Washington state and many other states!

I need to do some research on credit unions, I’ve heard good things about them. Hopefully they’re far more mindful than the two banks I’ve been dealing with lately. Surely some financial institutions appreciate their customers!
If you happen to have success with a credit union and wouldn’t mind sharing, I’d sure appreciate the good word.

Back to the Beginning: An Enlightened Walk (posted May 11, 2010)

I did an unusual thing today, I let go of my ‘obligations’ and ‘to do’ list. I decided to walk to town because I’ve seen others do it and figured I needed to try. I need to get out of the house more, explore my new territory. I have missed walking.

I am not certain whether there was more traffic on my walks in Bremerton or on my walk in this small town. The funny thing is, people here will move to the other side of the road (for the most part), and most everyone waves. People moved aside in Bremerton too, but they never waved or showed much facial expression, like they do here.

Walking post-injury is not something to take for granted, being mindful of where my feet fall can be quite taxing. I twisted my ankle today and managed to avert a fall. I have to stay on level ground even with traffic coming the other direction.

In my letting go of the list of things to do today I realized I still put a lot of pressure on myself to be and do more than I am/can. Why? Because I’m in process about this whole adaptation to not only being disabled but now moving into being on Disability. Long story short, I realized a core issue is I feel guilty. Isn’t that odd?!

The old me who was deeply conditioned to make the grade, be a good daughter, neighbor, friend, employee has to let go of some of those labels and roles. I am feeling guilty for not working when God knows I’ve tried and failed, tried and failed. This is new territory and far more unstable than the ground I was walking on today.

I am feeling guilty for not being what I was raised to be, feeling less than even I think I should be. What does a person do with his/her life after being taken out of the mainstream? Who are we, any of us, without the things that once made us us? It is a difficult blow to my self-concept, even now, to not be working. Yet, it is not as if my life before was right and now my life is wrong.

I was thinking today, Brain Injury is the gift that keeps on giving (sarcasm). Brain Injury not only comes with the physical pain, but also the micro life quakes as you go throughout your days – making mistakes, social awkwardness, unintentionally causing ourselves injury, being exasperated with ourselves, the list goes on and on. There is a microcosm of events constantly taking place beneath the surface.

Today was a challenge, like many, but this one met with a migraine before I even got out of bed. At 3 am I was up, getting an ice pack, getting a cup of milk and taking over-the-counter pain meds. The migraine had already reached my nervous system and I was shaking, how odd to have a migraine dig in so deep before I was even awake. My neck has been hurting for days on end too.

I still decided to go for a walk because for just one moment, I needed to feel free.
I am glad I did to discover the heavy shroud of guilt I’ve been carrying. I will continue to ponder, be with it, explore, and process it well for its many lessons, insight, and eventual freedom.

Tags:  balance, forgiveness, guilt, moving on, TBI, walk

Back to the Beginning: Dropping Cookies (posted May 14, 2010)

Instead of going for a walk along the road again yesterday, Richard said he’d go with me if we went up the hill with him into Forest Service property. Cool beans! New territory, let’s go! The thoughts did not connect in my mind that this could mean uneven ground…

I fell not once but twice, the second being worse as we were traveling down hill. My right ankle twisted, ended up underneath me, and I landed once again precariously and painfully on my right sitting bone and contorting my left ankle. This time I had to wait sometime for the pain in my left ankle to subside before trying to get back up. No broken bones, but more injury when all I’m focused on doing is healing and being as active as I can.

I did not cry but wanted to. Later I acknowledged in my mind crying would have been okay and quite understandable. I could not have been more disappointed with myself. It’s as if I’d spent all day baking cookies only to drop them all on the floor, standing there aghast with an empty plate wondering what in the heck happened.

Last night I was a zombie, icing everything I possibly could and my brain was absolutely fried. I am doing okay today, not trying to rest too much because that’s when things really tighten up. No doubt about it, either a cane or walking stick when on uneven ground.

Re-injuring previously injured areas is quite disheartening. I’ve not struggled with balance issues as much as I have since the last car accident. Sad how Brain Injuries really are cumulative. I just know I’ll be worse off if I stop being active.

Tags:  balance, more falls, more injury, TBI

Back to the Beginning: Farmer’s Market CSA (posted May 19, 2010)

I am so excited, today was the first day of receiving my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box of fresh produce at the Farmer’s Market.

Eating well and being as healthy as possible is so important to me, it feels GREAT to support local farmers and their families and keep funding our community.

I got to meet the farmers I’ll be supporting and receiving produce from, it was awesome. I received three big bags of lettuce and some green onions. I quickly rushed home, washed the produce and made up a salad – oh – my – gosh! It was divine! Protein shakes and salad for dinner, a perfect Spring meal.

I thought going this route would be pretty expensive, but with the price of organic foods at the grocery store and the fact that fresh produce out here is very, very difficult to find, I think I’ve made a good decision.

For those who can afford it, I highly recommend CSAs – there is something very nurturing about meeting the person or persons who grow your food, look them in the eye, shake their hand, and know you’re both making a difference in each other’s lives. It really is quite awesome!

Tags:  CSA, health, nutrition, support local farmers, TBI

Back to the Beginning: Montana Brain Injury Association and Support Group (posted May 19, 2010)

I had to highlight here I received a hand-written Thank You note from the Montana Brain Injury Association – it was the coolest thing! What a simple, beautiful way to reach out and acknowledge a new member. I am touched.

Richard and I went to the local Brain Injury support group and there were five of us in attendance, three of us were from the immediate area.

It was good to give support to a woman who is experiencing what we all experience on this path of TBI. I learned Montana is 2nd in the U.S. for Brain Injuries, Wyoming leads the statistics with the most TBIs.

I will follow signs what I am to do now, I’ve seen a lot of people drop out of sight after they are removed from their crises. I feel a strong need to continue the cycle of giving support in return for the support I myself have received, as long as it remains in positive energy, I do get drained so terribly easy. More shall be revealed, making a difference in the lives of others feels good, and helps soothe some of the hurt felt along the way, as though the struggle wasn’t completely in vain.

Tags:  BIAMT, Brain Injury Association, finding meaning in adversity, helping others, TBI

Back to the Beginning: Riding Days Over…or Not? (posted May 24, 2010)

When Richard returned home from the grocery store, he relayed a conversation he had with a gal we briefly met at a local trail riding group I’d hoped to join.

She had asked if I would be riding soon, Richard shared I had a short, non-eventful ride here and was then out for four days. He said, “I think her riding days may be over for good.” As most folks on this path of TBI know, the losses are many, often unending. That phrase was a dark cloud shrouding and suffocating my heart.

I’ve loved horses all my life, choosing the horses themselves rather than the stuff of horses. One of my favorite pictures is of me as a four- or five-year-old on the back of Blue, my favorite pony. I always wanted to go riding, always. Later in school, one of my annual photos would show me wearing the “I’d rather be riding” t-shirt I loved so much.

Since the accidents, my need for speed and adventurous, sometimes reckless spirit have given way to safety and wanting no further injury. (Heck, just to be out of pain would be nice!) But to be on the back of a horse, especially when you’ve been handed so many limitations, it is a freedom unmatched by anything else this earth can offer. It is, indeed, a touch of heaven.

With that phrase in mind and a little sorrow about what I’ve had to give up with the sale of the house, starting over, etc., I set out to garage sale this weekend. The last sale I stopped at, the woman had tack, naturally being a horse person, one can never have too much tack! We started talking, she asked about the type of riding I do, I mentioned my neck injury and not yet really being able to handle it.

As it would turn out, she is a trauma nurse. She and her husband used to have seven horses, and, at one point in time she had broken her neck. She asked if I’d ever used a neck collar, I said I’d never even thought of it. She had me wait, she got one for me to try on and let me keep it. I asked if I could give her something for it, she said no. She said it helped her because it absorbs the shock. What a blessing. (There is an extraordinary type of kindness like that out here, if people know of your need and they can help you, they will. My term is, “the people out here extend their hearts well.)

She also recommended folks to me who helped her in her care, a massage therapist and chiropractor.

I think at this point, it’s time for me to write the at-fault party’s insurance, I need to pursue further care. It’s a daunting thing, because to me, whether it be fighting the Social Security System or an insurance company, this is choosing to go back into the fire, and heck, as we know simply trying to live with TBI is a difficult challenge. But the pain is constant and it would be helpful to be able to feel better or at least have direction with pain management, and then get on with the business of having a good life.

I’m off to go write my letter…maybe a little caffeine to get the brain started first!

Tags:  resigning myself, giving up, horseback riding, horses, letting go, TBI, trying

Back to the Beginning: Yard Sale Weekend (posted May 30, 2011)

We did it! We pulled off a yard sale this weekend and I’d say it went well. We were mindfully prepared, had done A LOT of research how to have a good yard sale – even researched prices. We included the extras like an extension cord so folks could try out electronics and a mirror for trying on jackets. Everything was marked, we used red duct tape.

It was exhausting!!! I wish we could have had shorter hours, but I’m learning people out here yard sale ALL DAY LONG! Friday was a far busier day, Saturday was a drag because the weather was foul, rainy, cold, dark…enough so we never did feel warm.

There are a lot of great sites with tips on how to hold a yard sale, this is one of the ones we appreciated: http://www.yardsalequeen.com/yardsale.htm

My favorite thing was we did put an ad in the paper, gave the street name but no house address and then put up signs Thursday night, all except the ones closest to the house. Excellent! Richard took out the signs earlier than our opening time and folks still followed him to the house. I DO know one thing out here, people do not respect the “no early birds” notes in the ads!

(It was unfortunate the newspaper put the ad in a week early – not our error, but an inconvenience for people looking for the sale last weekend. To those folks who mentioned it, all I could do is explain.)

It was enjoyable on the social side, but by the end, honestly, me and my little brain were quite tired of people! I used to be such a people person!!! It’s a lot of stimuli, a lot going on at the same time, and a whole heck of a lot of questions. I made sure Richard did the math, that would have been a huge mistake to let me do that. I always loved math, so much so, as a kid, I would ask for math sheets to do during the summer. Weird!

Most of the items were Richard’s, so he did well, and it was neat to see people happy with their purchases and us knowing they’d get use instead of living on a shelf somewhere.

Oh yes – and indeed – Richard baked cookies since he’s known for that out here. It was fun to give away cookies, probably more especially to those who didn’t buy anything so they’d know we’re in it for the fun and appreciated just their stopping by, they did not have to feel bad for not buying something.

It was also neat to give people a break, like the teachers who stopped by, and Richard gave a Mom a $5 back when they were leaving because she has three kids.

I did regret, however, bargaining with a gal who’d been to our house once when she learned I was a horse person and was looking for someone to ride with. She talked me down 50% on one item, said there was a stain on a brand new sweatshirt and she didn’t know if she could get it out, and basically got us to give her some things for free.

I kicked myself because this is a woman carrying a horse handbag wearing horse jewelry stocking things for her RV! Where I come from having an RV means disposable income. I told Richard, next time, he does the negotiating! It made me feel yucky because we had just given their horse group an entire kitchen pack they could use for when they go trail riding, it had everything they needed in there. We’d had it when we worked in Alaska. A kindness already forgotten? We pretty much felt burnt, to a crisp! Perhaps she thought we could give everything else away and had no debts of our own.

Oh my gosh! I almost forgot to mention, tonight a truck drove up and it wasn’t one of Richard’s friends. Get this, it’s about 4 or 5 in the evening, they knock at the door asking if we were having our sale today! Duh, no! There were no signs out, the ad was clear about the times and days. Seriously! I thought it was tremendously disrespectful. Wow, people!

My balance is off and I had a heck of a time getting out of bed this morning, phewy, a lot of brain bucks went into this weekend. I think all in all it went well, but my oh my, I need recovery time! I’m off for now, my neck is killing me!

Tags:  fatigue, overload, strategies, TBI, yard sale

Back to the Beginning: Results Coming (posted June 1, 2010)

Well, something I haven’t yet blogged about is other health issues. Since arriving in Montana, getting used to everything being new, well, my digestive system hasn’t made the transition well. Everything is different, from restaurant foods (which I find surprisingly salty, greasy, or spicy – and these are all sit-down restaurants as we have no fast food), to finding produce being a challenge, and even the water tastes much different.

I’ve gone to the doctor a couple of times in the last month or so, thinking it was IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), I came home, changed my diet and all seemed relatively normal. Several days before, and right up to, the yard sale I was having tremendous pain in my intestines – so much so even my back hurt. A few days in bed didn’t resolve it and they say if you have consecutive diarrhea, go to the doctor.

Thursday I was in, they asked me more questions, took a urine sample and sent me home with tools to take a stool sample. Isn’t it funny, when we get stool samples from animals, it’s a fecal test, for us, it’s stool. All the same stuff folks, just different names! Richard calls my sample collector my dirt box – LOL!

At any rate, I’ve done a lot of research online and there are a lot of things this could be: Lactose Intolerance, Leaky Gut Syndrome, Crohn’s, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and a few others I can’t recall right now. It is uncomfortable at best and really makes a soul doubt the benefit of eating when so much pain and downright not feeling well accompany. I think thus far, with office visits, lab work, medications and all I’ve paid pretty darn close to $1,000 out of pocket! Owie!

I can’t imagine it is too serious since taking something similar to Pepto Bismal really helps. We’ll see what the results are, I’d imagine more testing will incur. I wasn’t sure if this was all brought about by relationship and/or move stress. They should have full results by Wednesday, I’d imagine. Ca-ching, more lab work…

Tags:  health issues, IBS, TBI, tests

Back to the Beginning: Exhausting Week (posted June 6, 2010)

I wish I had better insight into pacing and planning than I did this week. The yard sale being just last weekend, I really should have planned in more rest and not schedule the cat’s vet appointment for this past week.

In search of the best vet I looked online and then posted an ad on Craigslist as I’ve heard the vets in town here are not recommended at all(!), that means a 120-mile roundtrip. Just like when I moved here, I underestimated the logistics and stress. We went for a Friday afternoon appointment.

This was the first trip to a vet since putting my dog down last year and I’ve got to tell you, my heart gets all wobbly, I really hate the stress it puts my animals and myself through. I told Richard I would pay a good vet extra to make house calls just to avoid this scary journey.

Everything went as well as it could, Tux did well, she’s overweight and limping, and because she is the elder cat of the household, there is concern about her age as well. They examined her and took a blood sample, she did well during the exam, but she said no to the blood draw on her neck, so they had to shave and draw from another area. Something about seeing that shaved area still startles me. Must be left over heartache from November’s loss of Rudy. How easily I can still cry about that…

We combined running errands with the trip since it’s to the major metropolis of the area where shops like Target, Costco, and name brand grocery stores are located. I clearly overdid it. I shop slower than Richard and he is always in a hurry to get to the next store or drive back, so I’m always feeling rushed in addition to the mental gymnastics my injured brain is trying to do.

I was fried! Richard was trying to explain to me where some people lived in town, he asked, “Got that?” I just numbly nodded without a clue knowing it didn’t really matter, I was too tired. We stopped at a burger joint for something to eat and I grabbed one of their ‘take out’ menus that way I can look at it when not so overstimulated, decide, and have that with me so I know what to order next time. Nothing like staring at a board over the employees heads and not being able to comprehend what’s on it or make a decision to save my life!

A stop at Starbucks for a lovely vanilla latte helped quite a bit to get a little temporary energy for the return trip home. It also helped to have in my mind what I would order before we got there, vanilla latte seems easy to remember and not get distracted by all the choices. It was good to just stop for a moment. I slept both on the way to, and the return trip home.

I was glad to get Tux back to her kitty home where everything is familiar and there are no strange sounds of whining animals she cannot see.

I told Richard one of these days I’m going to bust out of my chains and make the trip by myself because he looks and shops faster than I do. He wasn’t pleased with the idea saying it’s too long of a trip for me. In my mind that is what I want to do, taking breaks when I need to, not being in some marathon I can’t keep pace with. Whether it happens or not?

We’ll see.

I tried yard sailing yesterday, I went but wasn’t really there. I tried chatting with some folks who had come to our yard sale, but couldn’t! I was there, but my brain wasn’t! I ran my errands and returned home in short order. Today is a migraine and continued brain fog day. I spent more time in bed with the ice pack today than anticipated and still can’t quite resolve the neck and head pain. I’ve been trying to not take pain meds to help my stomach and intestines, but today had to give in. The head pressure and neck pain have been something else. If I bend over, whether it be to put boots on or clean out the litter box, wow, the neck pain and head pressure upon standing upright are something else!

Mornings still seem to be the toughest part of the day for me, if I haven’t slept well or wake up in pain, everything moves at a turtle’s pace. Just the other day I woke with so much pain and stiffness in my neck that if looking straight ahead is like 12:00 on a clock, I could only look to the right far enough to what would be 1:00. It was the oddest thing!

I’m off to rest again…my brain is in control! LOL!

Tags:  brain fatigue, Brain Injury, mTBI, overload, pacing and planning, rest, TBI

Back to the Beginning: Lab Results (posted June 12, 2010)

I received the results of my lab work and my cat’s blood work on the same day – both good news. My lab work was all negative, so I have no bugs or odd things in my system, although at this point they have found nothing and do not know what to do next (if anything at all), I am being extra careful, watching the diet. I jokingly said to Richard, with all the money I’m paying for all these tests and doctor visits, I kind of wish they’d found something, at least it’d be more worthwhile, I think!

My kitty’s blood work is perfect! Neat to hear as she’s 12 years old and the matriarch of the animal family. She’s still limping a little bit, and at a whopping 14.5 pounds I’ve started feeding all the cats separately. It’s a circus, I tell ya!

I need to go back down to the vet’s to pick up some anti-inflammatory meds for her to see if this will help for what may be arthritis beginning. Richard is not thrilled about another 2-hour round trip drive, neither am I. It would be nice if I could indeed make the trip alone.

Richard drove to Idaho this morning to pickup a part for his truck, he did a lot of research, but no one would ship the item, so he left here at 4 or 5 am to get to the shop, get it installed, and will be back later this afternoon. He invited me to go, I declined, we know it’d most likely be too long of a day for me. I don’t do well just traveling to go shopping, I couldn’t imagine 8 or 9 hours on the road.

Back to the Beginning: Depression (posted June 12, 2010)

Depression is common with anyone with TBI, as I’ve learned from personal experience, it is standard issue like it or not. Depression has a distinct voice, the sound of hopelessness, overwhelm, an inescapable darkness and struggle. More often than not I can hear it in the voices of others, see it in their actions, but am not so quick to see it or hear it in myself.

When I attended support group in Bremerton, we had a guest speaker, a Clinical Psychologist who, when asked how much depression he’d seen in his TBI patients, said 100%. Wow!

Because I love the quality of PBS stuff, when I recently happened upon a PBS documentary called “Depression: Out of the Shadows” at the library, I checked it out and looked forward to watching it. I watched it over several days and took it slow because some of it hit close to home and was difficult, but also very enlightening and beneficial, to watch.

It was neat to also find it online, here you can go chapter by chapter (and not have to worry about returning a DVD to your local library!):
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/takeonestep/depression/

The documentary takes you through the lives of people affected by depression, people you’d never imagine suffering from depression at all. It takes you through the symptoms, the difficulties one experiences, to the diagnosis, support, transformation, and treatments available.

Because it is real, often raw and powerful, this documentary removes a lot of the stigma associated with Depression (“it’s all in your head,” or my favorite which I’ve heard applied to TBI too, “you’ve got to pull yourselves up by your bootstraps.” As if any of this is an insane conscious choice we’ve decided to try on for ourselves, cannot now free ourselves from, and someone else telling us the elementary things we have already tried will “fix” us!)

I did not pick up this DVD thinking I was depressed at all, but came to realize I am! It helped me give a name to what I’m experiencing and I can’t chalk it all up to Brain Injury. I guess the confusing thing to me now is trying to find out, if it is even possible, what is specifically Brain Injury, Depression, Anxiety, or PTSD! It seems they all sort of flow together in one big sloppy mud puddle!

Since watching the DVD and learning about the great idea of charting emotions for Bi-Polar Depression, I decided to look online for “mood charting for depression.” That led me to this site: http://www.bipolar-lives.com/bipolar-mood-chart.html where I printed out the three chart links they had available.

One site in particular I have already found quite helpful from that search is http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/ (naturally this made me smile because of the irony my late dog Rudy was a black lab.) 🙂

This handout was an eye-opener for me:
http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/docs/UnderstandingYourDepressiveEpisode_000.pdf

It basically showed me all the stuff I’ve been feeling pre-move, during the move, and post-move made for a perfect storm leading me into depression. I had no idea! I just thought I wasn’t adapting well, fitting in, struggling with losses, TBI and such. All of this is indeed true, however, I recall the truth spoken by the previous Social Worker at rehab, basically if I did not get my depression to a manageable place, it would hamper my recovery.

I showed the Mood Chart to Richard and I said I was a bit confused because as a TBIer I basically don’t get to the “10″ on the chart. I mean there’s a lot of leeway when it comes to depression, it has such high highs (for some) and such low lows (for me). He suggested not going on a 1 to 10 scale, but maybe only getting to a 6 is as high as us TBIers get.

I appreciated the author, Andrew Solomon, who was one of the featured folks on the PBS Depression DVD. He showed the number of pills he has to take and basically said these are what keep him from insanity.

Andrew’s words gave me huge validation in his use of the word “insanity.” I have said only in confidence to one other person, that on my good days I’m 75% my old self, and on my bad days, I touch the fringes of insanity. What a huge relief and validation to know I am not alone, and, there is help out there when one finds the proper med or meds.

The words used, the insight and experience of those interviewed, the perspectives of the doctors, were all so very helpful to me in this journey with TBI. It is my sincere hope folks from all walks will watch the PBS documentary, there is so much to learn in this life! No more stigma, just a lot more compassion and acceptance, we cause each other such harm in putting up walls and labeling…perpetuating the very things we disdain, which have divided man from the beginning of time.

Tags:  Andrew Solomon, clinical depression, compassion, depression, medications, PBS, TBI, therapy

Back to the Beginning: Rude Awakening (posted June 13, 2010)

Yesterday was one of those days, do something and get so terribly exhausted I had to stop and rest. I’d been on the computer, I swore I hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary. My brain said we’re done. I thought I was going to fall asleep at the keyboard.

I got my sleep mask, settled in to bed with my kitty Tux, when Richard came in. We had planned on visiting friends of his who were holding a garage sale and keep them company. I told him I had to rest, we could go in a little bit, but if he wanted to go now, go.

He went. I didn’t give myself a thought about not being able to go, that sort of disappointment, the missing out on something, is just part of the deal with TBI.

It was 1:45 when he left. I fell asleep immediately (rare). At 2:05 I was scared awake by someone’s yell. My heart was racing! It sounded awful close so I looked out my window, saw nothing, looked out toward the neighbor’s house thinking either my horse got out, or worse, maybe the older neighbor had a heart attack. Seeing nothing in their direction I went into the bathroom to look out the front of the house.

There was a truck parked right in front, I knew it would be someone to see Richard, most people go to the front door so I assumed they’d knocked and no answer, they would leave. As I turned away from the window there was a knock at our kitchen door which startled me. “Oh, it’s Richard’s friend,” I thought, as I went to the door.

Oh no – it wasn’t the kind man I’d met before, this is a guy who came to our garage sale a couple of weeks ago, had the audacity to tell Richard his prices were too high, left, then came back the following day (Sunday) when we were NOT having the sale. I thought it was downright disrespectful back then to come on to someone else’s property when clearly we’re not having the sale! Richard reluctantly went out, I was angry and would have nothing to do with him.

Now it was my turn. He said he thought we were having our sale again today, that my husband said we’d be having one in two weeks. I said no, that Richard said we’d be having one in a couple of weeks, the date wasn’t set, there were no signs at the street and no ad in the paper. He said he didn’t know there was an ad last time (I didn’t tell him there had been, odd comment, I thought.)

At any rate, he needed to get some other things and return what he couldn’t use. I said I didn’t know if Richard has any sort of money back policy (who in the heck does at a yard sale???!!) and told him to come back in a few hours.

I don’t usually wake up well under normal circumstances, I was clearly irritated by this man and was not going to take any crap. Even though I strongly suspected a Head Injury when he was first at our yard sale, now was not the time for compassion or asking any personal questions!

He turned to leave saying he didn’t mean to bother me (seriously?! That’s hilarious!) I closed the door and went back to my bedroom. Couldn’t settle down so called Richard and told him our favorite guy from the yard sale had stopped by. I wasn’t sure I was heard, he told me his friends got a new puppy. The phone lost its signal and he called back asking if I was okay, he then jokingly asked his friend if he had any of the items for sale I’d sold him.

In that moment I knew I was alone again to reason this out, then came the tears…

There are a lot of little subtleties with Brain Injury and not recognizing this person who I thought was someone else is one of those little things that can and sometimes does, in the long run, put a Brain Injured person at risk. (The formal name for not remembering faces I think is called Face Blindness, something I’d never known before TBI.)

That event freaked me out! Being able to think fast on my feet, figure things out as they’re happening is not something I do post-injury. It puts us at risk and the feeling of constantly being vulnerable and somewhat betrayed by one’s own brain, is unsettling, to put it mildly.

Tags:  face blindness, living with traumatic brain injury, problem solving, reacting to life with a Brain Injury, Realities of living with TBI

Back to the Beginning: A Better Day (posted June 14, 2010)

Today was by far a better day than most, it comes close to being a good day. Good days for me mean no pain and feeling pretty good in general.

It’s way past my bedtime, Richard is fast asleep, I just returned from a trip to the front porch and trying to call his cat, Jasmine, in for the night. I worry about her being out overnight and since I’m usually up later I try a couple of times to call her in before I turn in.

Tonight was the first time I’ve seen the moon since being here. Weird, huh?! The hills in the distant were dark, a light band just across the hills and a darker sky above, there was a beautiful sliver of the moon. So beautiful. I guess what I’d imagine is the North Star was above, oh my gosh, I just stood there enjoying it. What a sight. I thought to myself, this must be what folks enjoy who get to go camping. Maybe one day that’ll be something I will be able to handle.

I worked with my horse on the ground today, it was going well but I didn’t listen. There’s that voice that tells you to stop when something is working good, and the voice that says you want more. I listened to the voice that wanted more (putting more weight on what I wanted than what was right for her) and things fell apart. I got us to a much lesser good spot and stopped, turned her loose and went to sit in the tack room. I was so tired I just sat there and didn’t move. (I have a rocking chair in the unfinished tack room, a good thinking chair.)

I knew going out there I was beyond tired, I was at that drained stage not knowing why in the heck I was so tired, but had an agenda, so there I had been. I sat thinking how Sadie runs when I whistle, how I’ve always viewed her as my heart on four legs, that is my friend out there.

We are friends, she and I, and how I was training her today, I was nothing of a friend. Heck, I would have balked and refused just as much if someone I considered a friend was trying to force me to do something I wasn’t ready or wanted to do.

I’ve always figured I play the part of the man trying to figure things out and she’s the woman who is always right, my job is to listen to her, let her willingness be our timetable. I know better. She’s a super wonderful horse and today I blew it.

I watched her happily walking around her pasture as if nothing had happened. Animals are, most often, incredibly generous in their forgiveness. I’ve said frequently we’re blessed by their forgiveness. I’ll never know what deed man has ever done to deserve something like that. The animal-human connection is something that has fascinated me all my life, no matter what language we speak, no matter where on earth we may live, there is that incredible bond.

Knowing I probably would not get any less tired sitting there any longer, I decided to feed Sadie. I whistled and at first she didn’t come. I then showed her the hay and she trotted on up like usual. She is such a good girl. We do not, by any stretch of the imagination, deserve these incredible creatures.

I thought deeply about the Mark Rashid book I read some time ago, “Whole Heart, Whole Horse,” where the entire premise is just that, we give the horse our hearts and in return we get the whole horse. Remarkable.

I fed Sadie, and in her good heart she did not hold a grudge, but waited for me as usual to put the hay in the hopper and give the okay. I apologized telling her how very sorry I am for not being her friend. I petted on her and told her she is such a good girl! I know those words of apology will mean nothing unless there is change in me to back them up. Lesson learned. Whatever I’m looking for as an end result is not greater than the relationship with Sadie.

Later I went out with two apples, one at a time, put them on a rock and had her wait for the okay. Amazing how animals and humans can get along when humans are such alpha dorks! They offer that second chance, that instantaneous forgiveness, still be friends. It is the heart and spirit of animals, horses in particular, that has captivated my heart all my life.

Tags:  animal husbandry, animal therapy, animals, mistakes

Back to the Beginning: Back in the High Chair (posted June 22, 2010)

I used to listen to Ichabod Caine on the country station in Seattle and often joked his seat in front of the microphone was “The High Chair.” Mine is here in front of the computer at last.

Lesson learned, do not download software from one of those sites that helps you earn digital money so you can trade them in for gift cards, electronics, etc. I’d checked everything out, it looked completely legit, and ended up with PC troubles.

The CPU usage is still tanking so need to get that figured out. Ran lot of Norton fix-it and diagnostics and we’re up and running, not as fast as before, but I am grateful to be back online. Within this little world of disability, my computer is a link to people and a world beyond walls…

Back to the Beginning: Within That Moment… (posted June 27, 2010)

What would you do?

Recently Richard and I went out to dinner at the local restaurant in town. We sat down by the window, soon a car parked on the street and we smiled at the two big dogs inside. Richard and I both LOVE dogs.

Once we got over the oohs and ahhs I casually noticed the windows, it had been a warm day (I worked outside, my brain fried, my face still red from overheating!) I told Richard they didn’t have enough air, he mentioned the driver’s side window was open, but maybe only 2-3 inches at most. I said no other windows were open. He said they have no cross-ventilation, the dogs were just eager for the return of their people. Not what I saw and felt.

At first Richard didn’t seem all too concerned, an inconvenient uncomfortable moment. I couldn’t stand it. I was sitting at the window watching their big chests panting, working hard to get enough air, saliva dripping from their mouths.

The flashing bright red light in my head that senses injustice, cruelty, etc., went off in a big, major way. It was all I could think about, intuition and all senses heightened, something was very wrong here.

I thought of my own big dog I lost less than a year ago, that look they give you, well, one of these guys had given me “the look.” I thought about the “wag more, bark less” bumper sticker on our car, how we’re animal people, dog lovers and to not do something was hypocritical just because this was an uncomfortable moment.

I asked if he could say something to the waitress, Richard knows the owner of the restaurant well, he motioned to her.

We showed her the dogs, she said the same thing about the one window being open and I noted hard panting, dripping saliva. She did talk to the folks, who apparently were not pleased with us getting into their business! Oh poor them! And with that, nothing else was done.

I could hardly stand it, by this time the dogs were laying down and I could no longer see them. This was one of those moments we stood inside the circle of influence, it hurt to know this raw moment had no soothing, happy ending.

I asked Richard if he knew who the dog owners were, he said the man owns a nursery north of town. We will not be buying any plants, seeds, or even a speck of dirt from them.

Would you have done anything differently? What would you do in that moment of truth when your intuition stirs to the point of not being able to ignore?  What would you do?

Tags:  animal cruelty, decision making, dogs, injustice, problem solving, social mores

Back to the Beginning: Animal Welfare in My Neighborhood
(posted July 1, 2010)

I went to the local animal shelter and asked to report Friday’s incident. The gal at the shelter only had a minute or two to take my statement and had to go to rescue a dog running along the highway.

I said I could take a form with me if they had one and return it tomorrow (they’re only open a few hours each day, such is small town life, but at least there is a shelter here.) They had no form, so I told her the details.

Long story short, there was nothing she could do. Apparently one has to call in the moment the act of cruelty is happening, and this is not something I’m used to as a suburbs or city girl. She said for me to call Dispatch next time and she would come out and talk to the people and if she got attitude like we did, she would give them a citation.

I asked if she had a card, she said she’d run out so handed me the Dispatch number on a Post-it Note. Now, what I don’t know is if I call after hours like the time the incident happened, would they be able to help or not?

I am not at peace with this and have not yet figured out the next step. Perhaps contact the Montana State Humane Society or Humane Society of America just to have this incident on record somewhere.

The fact the dog owners were as uncaring as they were is a red flag, and perhaps why my heart cannot let this be. If I had known there was nothing the authorities could do after the incident, I would have gone out there and done something in that moment although an act of kindness could indeed get me in trouble somehow!

Tags:  animal cruelty, dogs, humane society, Montana

Back to the Beginning: Animal/Pet Abuse (posted July 1, 2010)

In my online search for information on animal/pet abuse, one website stood out, it’s Pet-Abuse.com. I found tremendously informative and succinct http://www.pet-abuse.com/pages/animal_cruelty.php where they discuss two different types of cruelty, acts of commission (intentional) and omission (neglect).

The site also has a database to search for animal cruelty cases in your neighborhood, much like you’d find a registered sex offender on online maps. This is definitely a site with a lot of heart for animals.

To look a little deeper at this incident nearly a week ago, it is concerning to me I was not the only one to witness this act of animal cruelty. Complacency? I”m really not sure. I hope by posting the above website we can be a little more mindful and perhaps we can speak up, report it, and be an angel for who Oprah calls “little angels with fur on.”

Animals love us with their lives, the very least we can do is our utmost for them in return.
I end with a favorite quote:

“Because animals are honest – you get back whatever you put in.” – Klaus Krzisch

Tags:  activism, animal abuse, animal cruelty, animal husbandry, conscious, dogs, humane society, matters of conscience, Montana, open heart, raising awareness

Back to the Beginning: Somber 4th of July (posted July 4, 2010)

America’s Independence Day, a time of getting together with friends and family, barbecues and fireworks…

For me, this day is almost always a sad one, it’s the anniversary of my Mom’s death. We had been at Disneyland, of all places, when she’d taken ill with what we thought were flu symptoms. In the very early hours of July 4th I awoke to flashing lights. I’d been sleeping in our ’67 Ford station wagon (my brother and I took turns sleeping out there as there wasn’t room in the tent for the four of us.)

I looked out the window and saw my brother standing with arms folded, Mom being placed on a gurney. I asked my brother what happened, if it was Mom, and before he could answer I started crying. He asked what was wrong, I told him I’d had a dream where the three of us (my brother, Dad and I) were standing in a hospital crying.

The last thing I ever heard Mom say was, “Oh God, I don’t want to die.”

I did not end up going with them to the hospital, my 16-year-old logic thought if I didn’t go, she wouldn’t die. The neighbors at the campground offered me a ride, I tried to explain saying “I had a dream….” but again, tears got in the way. The officers who responded to the initial call came by a couple of times to check on me, asking if I’d like to go to the hospital, each time I refused.

I spent the sleepless night pacing the concrete campground crying and waiting. After several hours the patrol car dropped off my Dad and brother. My brother passed by me first, completely silent with that far away look, I knew. Dad, who I’d never seen cry, hugged me and told me she was gone. (He then asked me the most odd question, if I wanted her watch…Dad’s timing and tact have always been questionable. At any rate, I told him I didn’t want her watch. My heart wanted her, not her watch!)

Grief can bind people together or it can tear them apart. My family was fractured before Mom’s death, that fault line would only continue to grow one direction. It’s hard to think that at one point in time we all went through this together, but apparently not ‘together’.

I would take over Mom’s place in the family as Dad was devastated, I have three brothers, and was the only female left. My brothers are all older than me, one 18-months, one 8 years and the other 9 years. I assumed the responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, decorating, even sending Christmas cards, pretty much every job Mom did that I could.

I didn’t know how to cook and received terrible criticisms from my brothers and Dad. To this day I loathe cooking. It doesn’t take one too much to see they could have helped and encouraged instead, but to do so, that would be completely uncharacteristic of my family! I learned quickly the narrow limiting roles women have in our family, and how, sad to say, we are considered much, much less. A big disconnect where everyone silently suffers.

When Dad was in the hospital a couple years ago with Open Heart surgery, I visited Mom’s grave, something I used to do often, but not in recent years since moving to Kitsap County. That year marked the 25th anniversary of her passing. I did not think I would cry, so many years later, but I did. It was almost as if no time had passed and there I was that fragile little 16-year-old girl whose life was abruptly shattered.

Tags:  4th of July, grief, holidays, loss of parent

Back to the Beginning: Meet Patches (posted July 5, 2010)

Having slept all day (migraine, eye pain), I was unable to sleep tonight. I saw the beautiful sunset, picked up my camera and decided to get a view from the front deck. Much to my surprise, this little fella was standing just below our deck.

Richard and I met Patches several months ago, coming up our driveway he wasn’t the slightest bit concerned about our presence. I nicknamed him Patches because of the two big patches of fur missing which made it very easy to distinguish him from the other deer at the time.

Surprisingly he also allowed for this photo to be taken as he was walking down the steps:

I am well aware though he doesn’t seem to mind us humans being in his home area that he is still an unpredictable wild animal to be respected. We don’t have that weird notion he needs to be made into our personal pet!

While we love his coming to visit from time to time we are mindful there are those who prefer shooting of a different kind, hunting season or not. We have to be careful of our interactions and do the best for him. Most of the other deer he was hanging out with have moved on, but Patchy seems to rather like it here, we enjoy him.

I did have to get a little closer to him today to shoo him out of the garden. How redundant is that, Patches in the patch – LOL! I didn’t want to spook him too much and it worked out that just enough movement on my part created enough pressure for him to go back out the way he came (through the gate we’d inadvertently left open.) That was pretty scary to me, that’s the closest I’d been to him, he one one side of the raspberry bush and me on the other!

Tags:  gratitude, nature, respect for wild animals, view from our balcony, white-tail deer

Back to the Beginning: Company’s Comin’ (posted July 10, 2010)

On Tuesday Richard will drive the 60+ mile trip to pick up his nephew and his fiance, do a little shopping, and then return home. We’re not planning on my going because we both know full well it’s probably too much for me. I’m such a lightweight!

When I lived in my house in Bremerton I hadn’t had company stay with me since I think it was 2004 or 2005, and that, dear friends, did not go well! After the first day I was fried, I mean cracked open, deep fried, fried, fried! Once a Brain Injured person reaches that place, it can take days or weeks to recover.

The fact I had company and was working a lot meant going below the brain buck poverty line. Not a smart way to go, but sometimes it’s just surviving with TBI. Gosh, within days of that visit I couldn’t see out of one of my eyes because the pupil had dilated. A trip to the Neurologist and my concern I’d done more Brain Injury somehow confirmed having company there was too much. Yep, lightweight I is!

So we’ll see how it goes this time, I don’t expect any troubles, but Brain Injury can sneak up and bite you on the tail feathers when you least expect it.

The brain drain usually begins before people arrive, all the preparations, cleaning, etc. And heck, since a lot of my stuff was still in the guest room from March, we were ill-prepared for people actually wanting to stay for more than just a few minutes! Now my boxes are in the living area downstairs. My gosh, that stuff has traveled more since I got here than the initial trip! Need to find a space for my stuff, no shuffling and finally get things organized enough to know where things are (another thing not so good for us bears of little brains – as Winnie the Pooh would say.)

I was able to finally afford getting my bicycles fixed up (yes, I have three…I always had extras because living near the lake in Bremerton I figured folks could stay with me and we could go riding…all this before Brain Injury came to visit.) At any rate, whether I can go or not, we now have four bikes, including Richard’s and helmets. They can go out and have fun.

The guest room looks nice, my horse books are still in there for now, again I need to find a better space for it. My vaquero horsemanship stuff is by far my most treasured things I own.

Tags:  brain fatigue, family, having company, living with traumatic brain injury, pacing and planning

Back to the Beginning: Helmet Awareness Day (posted July 10, 2010)

If you’re on any equestrian supply mailing list chances are you received information about today being Helmet Awareness Day. I did a brief Google search and indeed it does seem to be focusing mainly on horseback riding. It would be nice to see this day of awareness spread to other sports!

On that note, I’ve found it interesting living here in Montana where there are no helmet laws for motorcyclists. I’ve seen some folks wearing them, most do not. I’ve also found it ironic schools give away free bicycle helmets to kids at schools yet at the same time adults do not model this safety measure.

When Richard and I attended the Brain Injury support group here in town one gal had
received her TBI from a terrible fall from a horse. She was not wearing a helmet, and, as the snowboarder in attendance agreed, there would be no helmet the next time either. I can’t tell you how much this surprises me! It’s bad enough to have one accident, but to not protect yourself further may indicate another Catch-22 of Brain Injury, we don’t often make the best decisions. I was also surprised the moderator of the group didn’t address this.

A couple weeks ago Richard and I attended a going away gathering for friends of his moving soon. We learned the gal who had been to our yard sale earlier this summer (please see previous post about the yard sale), anyway, she also had a terrible wreck. Her horse went one way, she went the other. Her husband said he had just gotten her a helmet for riding – and guess what – the fall to the rocks below cracked the helmet and broke the straps.

I asked the husband if his wife had been checked out for Brain Injury, he said they did a good job at Prompt Care (I seriously DOUBT it!) and then the hospital followed up with an MRI. I told him that wouldn’t necessarily show anything. While he downplayed what I was saying I made sure to tell him if he notices any changes in the near future of her not quite being herself that she may indeed have a closed Head Injury. Denying the possibility of her potential injury does not make it go away. Behold the power of denial!

All I can say is “one head per customer!” We only get the one brain we’re given, sure it can’t stop a Closed Head Injury or Concussion from occurring, but why not protect that beautiful brain of yours just to be on the safe side?

It only takes one wreck, one split second, to devastate a life forever…

Tags:  Realities of living with TBI, horseback riding, bicycling, helmets, motorcycling, safety, safety first

Back to the Beginning: Without a Question (posted July 19, 2010)

Richard’s nephew and fiancee arrived safe and sound Tuesday afternoon, I greeted them outside as we unloaded the truck. Once settled in downstairs we all gathered in the kitchen.

When Richard left to pick them up I quickly remade the bed with the only matching linens we have. Things like this never really mattered much to me pre-injury. There’s just something about a well put together room. One small finishing touch would drain my brain budget.

I am (still, I think, or maybe just hope) a word person, I used to be a people person and could engage people very easily. With the gift of writing, I was a naturally inquisitive person, always asking questions, probing deeper.

Now I had no questions to ask and there is this uncomfortable awkwardness being around others, unable to engage. It can appear I am anti-social, don’t care, or don’t like someone when it is only my brain’s definite deficits showing. I did manage to ask how the train ride was, but that was all.

I am struggling to write this post, words being jumbled, not sure if this all makes sense, my eyes having trouble with the black words on the white background, etc., my brain is terribly, terribly tired even though I just woke up. I do have more I would like to write when I can. It’s a huge, exhausting distraction for me to have people here. I will blog more on that next time.

Tags:  family, having company, living with traumatic brain injury

Back to the Beginning: Guests at Home and Brain Budget
(posted July 20, 2010)

I thought I did well having company the first two days, but by Thursday night, I began to crash. I’ve been here only four months and now with a perfect stranger while Richard and his nephew went off to work at a job-site Wednesday and Thursday. How weird it was to me they left her in a house she’d never been to, with a woman she’d never met, and somehow we’re supposed to get along.

She’s taking her Master’s courses so a lot of time was on the computer in the same office as mine. I quickly learned I can’t be there at the same time. She’s a distraction, unable to focus on her schoolwork, so she chats with people online and talks at me, complaining about school, gossiping, playing on Facebook, fretting about everything, saying if it can’t get resolved she won’t be able to sleep. All I could do was say, “Uh huh,” I couldn’t even comprehend the email I was trying to read.

This is why I haven’t had company since my birth father and his fiancee’s visit several years ago. That visit did not go well either, even to the point of him asking what did I do with his daughter inferring I was purposely different and could therefore transform myself back into someone more to his liking.

Richard and I were talking Friday evening, as we related about my difficulty with any sort of relationship, tears began to fall. I am dealing with many of the unseen things us TBIers deal with on a daily basis, but having a glimpse of the life I’m missing by having others here is tremendously painful. I miss having friends, close and accepting friends, something I don’t feel I’ve had post-injury. My brain was (and still is) fried.

So here are two people in my home living the life I used to, teaching, traveling, being involved, they even both love to read. I used to read five books at a time because I got bored, I’m lucky to finish a book now. Reading is too much work and again, without the memory mechanism, it is quickly forgotten anyway.

Post-injury I am reclusive, never seeking attention, not doing well in my relationships (very common with TBI). I simply don’t have brain capacity or processing speed for all the details involved, I end up wiped out in no time. And having a memory, I have learned, is vitally important for relationships because it is foundational. In our culture if someone does not remember it often offends the other person deeply. There is a reason why the divorce statistics for TBI are above 80%.

Being reclusive is survival, not a choice. I learned the hard way it is best to live with blinders on because seeing the life I’ve been denied is tremendously painful. I’ve always said some of us with TBI were left with just enough awareness for life to be piercingly painful over and over again.

I cried too because my not being able to tolerate visitors harms Richard’s relationships and I did not want his life to become small and isolated like mine. I cried because within this TBI shell is a lot of loneliness and the inescapable feeling of being caged.

We talked about solutions, I said it is best if I wasn’t here when he had company. He asked if we should buy another house for me to live, have my own space, my own life. Confused and scared I asked what about the relationship? I said I don’t think more distance would be the answer, it always seems with folks who can’t handle TBI, distance is all we get. He said he didn’t want distance either, we were both relieved.

He said after this hunting season folks would no longer come stay. That broke my heart. He reassured me it would be okay. I finally came around to realize if people have the funds to travel, they can afford to stay somewhere if they really want to see you. For this hunting season we’ve talked about ideas where I could go, we’ll see where that road leads.

I also thought of the man the Social Worker at rehab talked about when he had a family reunion. His successful strategy, although difficult for others to accept, was to ask when the most important time was for him to be there and he could be there for two hours. He communicated other times he’d be on his own, walking the dog, resting.

Saturday morning Richard and I were both awake at 3am, equally upset, unable to sleep, we talked about the struggle to deal with this tender situation, and what to do. He said his nephew is different with her here and he did not expect the toxic chemistry between them. He said he wished they’d come to stay for a day or two so we could get to meet his future wife, but staying for two weeks is too much. We talked about all the weird things going on with them and between them.

Monday I woke with horrible stomach/intestinal discomfort from having a little ice cream at dinner Sunday. I completely forgot I am now lactose intolerant! I stayed home most of the day but I had to get out of the house, I escaped while Richard and his family were gone. I did not want to be here when they returned, I was irritated, tense, anxious and needed out.

I drove up into the hills onto a road I’d never been on and stopped at a hitching post at a trail head. It was a beautiful spot, I made sure I had cell phone reception and rested. I could feel the weight fall from my shoulders, feeling lighter, more at peace. I cannot think, move or breathe at home, I feel trapped, needing to be congenial and kind. I was at my wit’s end, irritated they were here and wanted them gone! Not very welcoming or warm-hearted, but it’s what I was feeling and I know I struggle with having people in my space. Neither Richard nor I can fathom why in the heck they will not take us up on our offer to take the spare vehicle so the nephew can show the fiancée around. He’s been here seven out of the last eight summers, he knows his way around.

I watched my time making sure to be home before dinner so Richard wouldn’t worry, but I really did not want to come back home. The two parties in the relationship are not good for each other, immature addicts feeding off each other. I could not take one more minute of these 34- and 46-year-olds playing Slug Bug in the back seats of the truck. I could not take the ongoing emotional games and banter about their wedding plans and the drama (this is his third marriage, her second). I couldn’t take the iPad, laptop, cell phones, texting, playing farm on Facebook, I felt we were babysitting. I couldn’t fake it, I couldn’t smile at the things they do and think are funny, I just couldn’t.

Driving back home I knew what I was feeling was very real, it was important for me to get away before I said or did something that would hurt someone. I need trustworthiness, consistency, integrity, honesty and openness and I’ve not found them within this tender situation. While I know it is Richard’s family, this is also my home and quite frankly were they not related I would have nothing to do with them.

When I got home I was still pent up, I quietly told these things to Richard while his family was downstairs. At dinner everyone was awkwardly quiet, his nephew did not eat much (atypical), no one wanted to be at the table. Richard said he thought the fiancée may have overheard what we said. He and I talked, I said I’ll not be participating in much, I can’t be around them.

I apologized to Richard, because of the awkwardness being around the quiet me, unable to engage. I’ve seen it, here, and before, the downcast eyes unable to look me in the face.
I said I hope there is not a rift caused by this between him and his nephew and hoped he could talk to him before he leaves. I apologized for causing him to sacrifice having visitors, he reassured me by saying he picked me and our relationship comes first.

——————————–

Update – Richard talked to his nephew first thing this morning and he told me they had a good talk. Richard, in his classic straight talking, honest manner shared our concerns and expressed my need for space. We’re not trying to get rid of them. It was his nephew who said the trains run everyday inferring they could leave at any time, but again, that is not our intention. Richard told him he still loved him and there was no rift between them, this would change nothing. I am very proud of Richard!

We’ll see what happens, folks. If we didn’t care about them both we wouldn’t have said anything at all. I believe we are doing the right thing and have their best interest and the best interest of a potential new human being in mind. I would imagine Richard is one of the few people in his nephew’s life who speaks the truth to him.

(Richard helped with this post as we’re working together to resolve our particular TBI issues.)

Tags:  brain budget, head injury, living with traumatic brain injury, TBI

Back to the Beginning: Good TBI Information (posted Aug. 1, 2010)

…while I continue to be offline recovering from having company, I thought I’d share a really good link discussing the myriad of intricacies often overlooked in those with ‘Mild’ Traumatic Brain Injury.

http://www.dickibus.co.uk/tkayhdi.htm

Having crashed as hard as I did from having company, I went back to my hard copy TBI file and found I printed this site’s information some time in the past. I had found it helpful then (as noted by the highlighting and comments), rereading again I felt the need to share it here in hopes it will be a help to others.

Hope to be back soon! Waiting patiently…and not so patiently…for recovery.
Best to you.

Blessings, Love & Peace,
RH

Tags:  living with traumatic brain injury, mild traumatic brain injury, TBI, traumatic brain injury

Back to the Beginning: Candidly: The Anatomy of My Brain Injury Crash (posted Aug. 2, 2010)

The saga continues…

This is a long post, for that I apologize, a lot has happened in the last two weeks and I was completely down for the better part of it.

To pick up where we left off in the previous post, Tuesday morning Richard said he had a nice talk with his nephew and his nephew confided he didn’t want to have children, his fiancée did. The contradictions with these two continued in a blinding streak and caused our minds to spin! All this drama and chaos were taking its toll, I’d been beyond tired for a couple of days, trying to leverage caffeine, and manage the headaches that clouded my days. I couldn’t do it, and I also couldn’t see what lie up ahead.

The crash…

Later Tuesday morning Richard took me on a lovely short trail walk not far from home to get me out of the house and hopefully help the stress. We returned, the nephew and fiancée had finally taken Richard up on his offer and the other vehicle was gone – what a relief, peace and quiet at home again…sort of. Without a note where they went or when they’ll be back, we did a few things around the house, had dinner, on edge because we really didn’t know when they’d just show up. Although exhausted, we went to bed later than our normal time waiting and hoping they were okay. Around 9:30 they came home, Richard went to chat with them, I stayed in bed.

They chatted loud in the kitchen. I became agitated, clenching my fists first, saying in a muffled voice, “shut up, just shut the f* up,” and then hit my bed with my fists. The chatting, hearing the same stories irritated me. They had no respect for our routines, bedtimes; we were to adhere to their schedule! They wouldn’t stop talking, I put in earplugs. I could still hear them. Their ongoing underlying disrespect irked me. Guests respect their hosts; it’s just what you do. Not these two.

Past the point of being able to communicate, I closed the bedroom door loud hoping they’d take the hint. I could still hear them. Flopping down on the bed I started sobbing uncontrollably. I don’t cry much, this time I couldn’t stop. I don’t know how much time passed before Richard came in. I was sitting up in bed rocking myself, hands over my ears, Richard asked what was wrong.

I said, “I couldn’t make it stop, I couldn’t make it stop!”
“You couldn’t make what stop?”
“The noises.”
“The noises inside your head or us?”
“You guys.”

I was shaking, teeth chattering, Richard apologized, hugged me as I continued to unravel feeling I was completely crazy. I told him I needed to get out NOW. He asked where I’d go, I had no idea, and we didn’t like the idea of me leaving. He would ask them to leave, they could take the car, stay in the next city over.

The following morning he asked them to leave before I woke, thinking their voices would be too much. The fiancée cried and Richard hugged each of them saying it wasn’t them; this would happen with me and anyone.

The mystery…

They left Wednesday morning and never called nor responded to Richard’s email we’d received the fiancée’s contact lenses she’d been obsessing about all week. I think by that time he’d also left a voicemail, tried calling again later, the last try the voicemail box was full.

All this time worried, Friday evening Richard called his niece since he knows they talk all the time. He left a message on her phone, then called and left another message for the nephew. His mailbox accepted the message, we KNEW he’d received the prior message and had chosen to not call back. Funny we received a return phone call from the nephew within an hour of having called his sister, and we still haven’t heard a word from her even though Richard asked her to call!

Although they took with them the Montana visitor’s guide, get this – they did not stay in the next city over, nor did they stay in Montana at all. They took Richard’s car all the way from here in NW Montana to Mount Rushmore!!! Richard was excited for them, happy to hear they were okay; I was pissed, shocked, and dumbfounded. All this time worried, wondering if they’d been in an accident.

The blatant audacity and disrespect to take Richard’s vehicle put that kind of wear and tear on it without telling him – or even asking him – floored me! No questions were asked if WE needed the vehicle for however long they were going to take it. I felt sick to my stomach. Why couldn’t they have rented a car, taken the train, or whatever?! This ordeal is became, and still is, a point of contention between Richard and I because I keep saying the man needs to take responsibility for his behavior and Richard blames it all on his poor upbringing. Give me a break!

His nephew’s excuse for not calling? Cell phone reception was spotty. Are you fricking kidding me? No cell phone reception or internet for three days, come on! These people eat, sleep, and breathe technology on their iPhones, iPads, etc., you can’t tell me that!

A week ago today Richard and I had planned to go down for a nice dinner then I would drop him off at the train station to drive the vehicle back. He cancelled our plans and drove down to meet them before they left, take the car in for service, take them out to dinner (yes, I know, reward them for bad behavior), and spend some time with them before they left. I refused to go, but actually, I hadn’t recovered from their visit and had a horrible migraine. Canceling our plans didn’t feel good at all after this whole ugly ordeal.

(Richard would receive a ride to pick up the vehicle another time as I was in no shape to drive that far.)

When I asked Richard if he would confront him about his nephew’s taking his car he said he didn’t know if it would come up or not. What the? It’s YOUR car, the man comes to MONTANA to visit you, leaves the state, makes YOU chase after him to find out where they are, and YOU don’t bring it up? Someone needs to hold that man’s feet to the fire, enabling him only cripples him more. The nephew deliberately kept out of touch for three entire days not knowing whether they’re dead or alive and Richard started doubting the words he said to his nephew and was feeling responsible for this 46-year-old. Wow.

It wasn’t worth it. The crash which held me down for the last two weeks, their flippant attitudes, their egotistical sense of entitlement, selfishness, lack of respect, oh my gosh, all the work we did on the house, the guest room, every effort we took to help them and help make them feel comfortable, just not worth it! Even Richard was exhausted from driving them around all over the place and trying to be their activity coordinator, we were both fully RELIEVED when they were gone. These people talked ALL THE TIME about nothing – even Richard grew tired of that in no time, it wasn’t just me!

No decent guest would put that kind of stress on someone they love nor would they allow someone to do such care taking because it’s really bad for both parties. It wasn’t worth all the awkwardness Richard and I have to go through and the anxiety that comes along with explaining so much flipping TBI stuff. It wasn’t worth my having to be placed under the microscope and center of attention with all my high-maintenance-TBI stuff.

You don’t do these things to someone you love…ever!

The outcome…

For myself, I know I cannot have people stay in my home, period. Last time was years ago and I ended up in the ER with a dilated eye and felt completely out of it. I don’t know how long the recovery time was then, but know I was down for quite a while.

For other TBIers the movement of their pets set them off, and they have had to give up their animal family. I also know of others for whom if the agitation is not quickly resolved, they will shake and vomit, and will then be unable to function for days, just like I was. This stuff, this weird, seemingly invisible stuff is very real. I would be curious to know what happens to us on a physiological level in these moments of brain injury crashing.

I hate the inconvenience my limitations cause Richard and his relationships. But I do know this one thing for sure, while this is social for him, this is survival for me. They can adapt, I cannot. I’ve tried! My quality of life depends on the stability and strength of my home, my only safe haven, for I have learned the hard way.

Richard has already talked to one of his hunting friends about staying somewhere else this hunting season. I’d thought about going somewhere, actually getting to travel, take a vacation, for the first time in over 8 years but I honestly don’t know if I could handle that either.

This situation entirely blew out of the water what I was told the relationship between Richard and his nephew and the relationship between the nephew and fiancé. It also completely blew out of the water any thought of a marriage ceremony with friends and family present. There is no way I could handle something like that. Social situations fry my brain, because of the hardship and crashes it causes, I have to choose seclusion in order to survive. It is certainly not something I’ve given up easily, and will probably always struggle with wanting and longing for more because I really do love people.

There is a lot of explaining that comes with TBI and since I had emailed friends and family with the announcement of our engagement, I have to explain to them sincerely and in as light a manner as possible that a ceremony or reception are simply out of the question…and attempt to not offend anyone at the same time! Naturally I feel bad for Richard because his friends here continue to ask when the big day will be, they want to be there. I think it’s just natural with TBI, like many diseases or conditions, there are a million tiny little deaths that take place most every day.

The good it brought, lessons learned…

This situation brought Richard and I closer, we are on the same team, heading the same direction together. And for me, it made me once again deeply appreciate the friends who were/are truly friends. To see all the things going on with Richard, his nephew and fiancée, this phrase strongly resonated in my heart – go with the ones who love you, invest in those friendships.

There are those in this life who will not take advantage of you, take kindnesses for granted, who will relate with an inspiring integrity and character, they will love the stuffing out of you as-is, and will nurture you, help you grow in ways you could not imagine. True friendships or relationships are not devoid of truth but relish the safety where each individual can fully be themselves telling their truth to a trusted soul, and find they are fully embraced and encouraged.

Friendships, we may come to discover, may very well be the soul’s foundation.

Tags:  agitation, anxiety, brain injury crash, disabilities and independent living, frustrations, having company, living with traumatic brain injury, overload, worry

Back to the Beginning: Canoe View (posted Aug. 8, 2010)

I can honestly say today was the first full good day I’ve had in quite some time. I am very tired tonight but wished to make a note of a good day, to enjoy it, record it, and neither hold onto it or long for another. It just is. As a friend of mine says, “It is what it is.”

It was rather lovely to not have to drag myself out of bed and through the day. I was able to get quite a bit done, or at least it felt that way! Having been down for two weeks a lot of things got neglected and that’s a drain to my spirit.

Yesterday Richard took me on my first canoe ride post-injuries. I was petrified!! I do believe there is a bit of my old spirit still in me where I get scared, but do whatever it is that frightens me anyway. Nice to touch that ‘old self’ once again, it feels familiar, comfortable.

With my balance issues on solid ground I wondered what in the heck my brain would think about being on the water and not so secure. Getting in the boat was a bit of a chore, and Richard graciously told me to take my time.

Once in I held on to the sides and wondered how in the heck people find it relaxing! My little brain was working so hard just to find some sort of balance. It wasn’t too far removed from my memory how I used to get dizzy riding the ferry from Bremerton to Seattle and back, so the concern had a foundation in experience.

I finally realized my holding on would not spare me should anything happen. Ah yes, groundlessness. An uncomfortable place to be, I did not want to venture out into the deeper parts of the lake even though I had a life vest on.

Once rational thinking took over, I began to relax. I’ve done this before, I thought. I still knew how to paddle and that felt pretty neat. We got out a bit and Richard handed me one of his fishing poles. Safe to say I am not a natural fisherperson! Trying to cast a line and deal with my brain trying to get a grip was a little much. LOL – multitasking is not my forte!

Fortunately we were distracted by a momma moose on the shoreline to our right so we went to get a closer look. I’ve always loved moose, guess I just have a thing for big animals. That helped my brain make the event a more positive one. We paddled along and saw a beautiful bald eagle. The loons were singing their beautiful songs, it was quite lovely. I remembered hearing them in the movie “On Golden Pond.”

I saw the strangest thing in the water and wondered if it was some sort of different fish, Richard said it was a turtle! Oh I forgot they have turtles out here!

It was good exercise and a pretty good experience overall despite the neck pain then and now. Richard let me say when it was time to go, we hadn’t been out there too long, but I knew I was done. We grabbed a bite to eat on the way home, and once back here, I crashed. No big surprise.

I am glad I got out to do what I took for granted so many years ago. I didn’t realize I’d get to see wildlife from the water, that made it an incredible journey.

Tags:  balance issues, canoeing, first time post-injury, groundlessness, living with traumatic brain injury

Back to the Beginning: Final Chapter: Nephew and Fiancée
(posted Aug. 10, 2010)

Playing a little catch up here, Richard received an email from the two (a week ago?), they made it home safe, thanks for a memorable trip, they left a cell phone clip in the car, please mail. They did not ask about Richard. I couldn’t help but say, “Of course it was a memorable trip, THEY TOOK YOUR CAR!!!”

When Richard got the car back he was surprised how much trash – candy wrappers and junk – they left in the back, wow. They had bought sleeping bags and lived out of his car.

Nice.

My first ride I was overcome by a strange, permeating, smoke odor that didn’t smell like cigarettes. Richard said maybe the test drive mechanic took a smoke break in it, highly unlikely for this region’s most reputable dealership, and Richard dealt with them for years without incident. Nothing surprises me now; including the beer bottle caps we found. Weird stuff for a couple who supposedly run marathons!

Richard’s niece called Friday night saying she hadn’t gotten the message he left two weeks ago, someone else gets the messages on her home phone, and Richard should have called her cell. Oh whatever!

They married yesterday (intentionally 08/09/10). When here she was obsessed with wedding details; he with his bachelor party, but neither talked about the state of their union. They’re traveling at the speed of stupidity. Someone once said something to the effect of, “There are those, who even if you tell them, they still won’t know.”

Richard and I are (almost too!) gleefully moving on, exercise equipment has replaced the guest bed! Things are better, returning to normal for almost everyone except for my little grey kitty, Precious, who was displaced by having to up his quiet, snuggy spot in the guest room.

He has his kitty bed up on top of the closet which I call his ‘loft.’ Instead of sleeping there he burrowed himself under our bedspread despite the heat, my normally mellow cat was freaked out. He hasn’t quite returned to his spot, but just like it was a transition readying him before company, I hope he’ll return to it in time. We all get to go back to our routines and our quiet, snuggy spots!

Tags:  exercise, family issues, having company, overload, positive changes, traumatic brain injury

Back to the Beginning: Brain Injury – The Solar Panel Analogy EXCELLENT (posted Aug. 11, 2010)

Richard came up with an excellent analogy of my Brain Injury, the important role home plays, and what happens when people stay in our house. This is how he explained it:

Home is my solar panel where I plug in, recharge, and rest. When I am at home, the peace, stability, quiet, and my ability to control stimuli provide me the energy I need to go out into the community. I know just how much energy I have when I leave to go to the grocery store, library, or where ever. When it starts to wane, I have to head back home immediately to recharge.

When I have visitors, however, THEY unplug my solar panel and I never get to recharge.

This analogy will help set parameters about how much face-time I can afford before causing myself harm. Setting clear boundaries is vital, I’ve learned if people can’t or won’t respect your boundaries, it says a lot about the health and strength of the relationship and will be reevaluated.

Tags:  boundaries, energy, friends and family, guests, healthy relationships, home, life with TBI, living with traumatic brain injury, PTSD, socializing, visitors

Back to the Beginning: What Are You Doing? (posted Aug. 17, 2010)

Our dear, deer friend Patchy came back to visit yesterday. I was in the house napping, Richard arrived home to this fella eating in the garden (well yeah, do you blame him? The gates were left WIDE open! Mmmmm…we’re not the only ones who love fresh produce!)

Richard shooed him out, Patchy jumped the fence rather than back through one of the open gates. When I shooed him out of the garden last time I tried to not put too much pressure on him to cause him to panic.

Richard coming into the house woke me, he immediately told me Patchy had been in the garden. I’d been hoping to see him and get another photo or two of this growing youngin’, I grabbed my camera and headed outside.

The first photo Patches is approaching me, perhaps my standing close to one of the garden gates was appealing, maybe he was awaiting an invitation!

This second one he came closer and has that look of ‘what are you doing?!’ like he’s getting a feel whether to come closer or trot off.

When I came back into the house Richard was standing at the window and voiced his concern about how close we got to each other. I had been a little scared, just like I’d been last time, but all indications show he’s used to humans so maybe I’m more scared than he is!

He then went to an area outside of the garden near my truck and bedded down! Richard said he sure must be comfortable here to do that. It was the neatest thing, I must say, and he did stay for quite some time. I still think he’s remarkable and beautiful.

I am glad he was here, he hadn’t been here in a while, the last time he was here with a spike buck and two does, I jokingly said maybe they were double dating – LOL!

Well, after this post I’m heading back to bed (exciting, I know!) I’ve been down and out most of this last week. Yesterday was a pretty good day, the first in quite some time I’ve felt decent and put in an hour or two working in the yard before getting too tired.

I missed a tentative canoe ride with Richard and a couple of social events this last weekend, but since we’re all still here, we know the world didn’t end!

Tags:  deer friends, patchy the deer, white-tail deer

Back to the Beginning: Are You Giving Up Cooking? (posted Aug. 21, 2010)

My neighbor asked looking at the Belgique cookware I had at our yard sale yesterday. My humorous and truthful reply, “Well, I hadn’t actually started!” I’m not sure if she was told those were mine, or, if that’s just the general assumption. Woman = Cook.

I had wanted to learn how to cook, so much so I voiced the desire to a ex co-worker and she bought me some of the Belgique ware Christmas in 2002. Yes, you read that right, 2002! I’d used it very little over the years, but had the grandest of intentions! I respect everything I own so take really good care of things, the set is pristine. We had it priced at $50 with 25% off. She looked at it once, went home, came back and bought the set saying if she can’t use it, the girls can (her daughter-in-law and granddaughter)…we gave them an additional discount, ‘the neighbor discount!’

I think I’m in the category my friend is in, he said he’s here to eat-to-live, not live-to-eat. I don’t go ga-ga about any great meal, and for the most part don’t crave any foods. I’ve often said if eating wasn’t necessary I wouldn’t do it at all.

This is one of the reasons I like to juice – put all the fruit and veggies in a juicer and voila, a meal! And, as strange as it may sound, I don’t really remember what I ate when I lived in Bremerton! That’s one of the goofiest things I’ve found post-injury is I may *think* I’ll remember, but do not whatsoever. A change of scenery, a new life, and poof, the recall is hazy at best.

I wish, in hindsight, I’d taken a picture of my pantry, fridge and freezer. I know I did eat (!), I just don’t remember what. Must have been simple things like burritos, protein shakes, and frozen meals. Now when asked what I want to eat, my answer to Richard is, “I don’t know.”

On a scale of enjoyable to I’d rather have a root canal, cooking is farther on the painful scale. Part of it was my history, another is I want to cook healthy AND have it taste good. Cooking burns my brain bucks and energy in a split second and if it doesn’t go well, I’m significantly hosed because we’re back to square one with no meal, and no energy to fix it. Cereal and a lot of recovery time, anyone?

I did learn how to bake growing up so that is easier although something I will only rarely do. I quickly learned post-injury just because it was something I spent my previous life doing that didn’t mean a thing now. I got out the old recipes, picked one out, got everything out and ready, made it all, only after all the prep, baking and cleaning I learned left out an ingredient. Oh my gosh! I had never done that before, it was ruined! What a waste of resources.

My last meal was attempting a Copy Cat recipe of chicken tenders from a restaurant. I marinated the chicken with all the ingredients except lime juice since we had none, I had to ‘wing’ it (terrible pun, I know!) I’m not a cooking person, when someone says ‘braise’ my first thought is ‘brays’ as in donkeys! I had no idea what that meant so just cooked them on the cast iron griddle. No letters from Martha Stewart, please!

There must be reasons women like me opted-out of Home Ec in school! Being a tom-boy, playing sports, hiking and biking outside, having a horse, that was my deal. Sorry to disappoint the world that since I am a woman this does not automatically mean I have the gift of planning, preparing, then cooking, serving meals and pleasing everyone!

This whole thread reminds me what I thought when I went to a family function recently. Because I was the only other female there, I was asked to help my Dad’s elderly wife in the kitchen while the men sat on their asses watching football. Resentment? Who me? I would not say it then, but it became my mantra, “I have a vagina, therefore I must help in the kitchen!” I wasn’t doing anything the men couldn’t do…bleck. Gender stereotypes where small people try to make others even smaller than they are! Where is the sense of help, family, community, we’re all in this together mentality? Wow.

Oh, and Richard’s comments on the cooking attempts? “You make REALLY great ice water!”

Nice.

Anyone thirsty?!

Tags:  difficulty learning, disabilities and independent living, gender issues, life with TBI, mistakes, relearning, traumatic brain injury, trying to learn, stereotypes

Back to the Beginning: Missing One Week (posted Aug. 29, 2010)

With Brain Injury, the concept of time can become quite freakish. This week was one of those such weeks where I was completely adrift from what I call “this whole concept of time thing.”

Monday started out with a trip to Glacier National Park, it was the second journey in a couple of weeks, the first was short after a late start, a very bumpy ride which caused considerable neck pain, we weren’t prepared with food and water, and I was just too tired to enjoy any of it.

With lessons learned of what we hadn’t packed, this second attempt was calmer. The weather, however, was a complete flip! We remembered to take jackets, but hey, this is summer, so figured we’d be fine. It was freezing – and windy.

We walked FAST on the hike to Hidden Lake because it was bone-chilling cold. It even made the water I had in my fanny pack very cold! It felt good to get out, it was the first hike I’d taken in years, a freedom not taken for granted.

The spaces in between the railroad tie-sized walkway bothered my eyes so much so they looked like strobe lights, eventually I had to look away. The temperature? I would only come to find the next day from emailing the park that at 8:30 that morning the reported temperature was 37! I don’t know if that took into consideration wind-chill.

The hike is famous for having mountain goats along the walkway, unfortunately not this time. We returned to the car tired out and frozen, ate lunch and left only to find a trail down the road with the goats alongside – drats! We did try to get there, but with the incredible amount of traffic on the two-lane highway we decided to call it good and head back.

Thursday was the 60-mile drive to town for Richard’s doctor appointment and shopping. I’d hoped to sleep in and recoup Friday, but completely spaced about our yard sale! Holy cow, we’d placed an ad and everything!

Despite my being absolutely fried before the sale even started, it went pretty well, we marked things down 25% Friday and 50% Saturday, even the truck got marked down Friday, but no takers. Guess the fact it’s a 2-wheel drive is not a big sell out here in the land of harsh winters. We also marked down my Mom’s Hobart mixer and huge cake decorating toolbox 25%, but again no takers. A lot of interest, but no sale. The mixer itself is worth $800-$1200 alone.

We will continue to try to sell the bigger items locally and maybe eBay too, and as far as the leftovers? We thought it’d be a neat idea to call the different charities and ministries in the area and see if they’d like to come and take whatever they can use. The thrift store here in town gets inundated with things and we thought this may work for everyone.

Oh – and a gal did offer me a horse and a saddle in exchange or my truck! My brain couldn’t process it so I’m sure my reaction was less than what she’d hoped for. C’est la vie.

I almost forgot Friday evening Richard had to drive the 60+ miles to pick up a friend arriving on the train at 9:15! Richard was having car trouble so I could not go to bed as I would have to drive there if they didn’t arrive back here by 10:30. Oh my gosh, can we say fried?!!

I’m glad the sale is over! I can manage a day or so, but not two days. A half a day would probably fit me well. I get tired easily, then really irritated with the BS, drama, intrusive questions and trying to be more social and interested than I actually am.

I think another core issue goes back to while being diagnosed. My life was strewn out before the scrutiny and judgement of perfect strangers. I guess I see people coming here, going through our stuff and questioning everything as pretty much the same. Intrusive.
I got tired of me doing or saying stupid things which I knew set people off. Hopefully those folks have memory issues too. Social interactions post-injury will probably always haunt me. It’s the strangest thing getting so disgusted or embarrassed with myself, like I can’t trust myself to behave, but I still have to live with me! Sometimes I feel I can’t take me anywhere!

Only one lady came back after we closed yesterday afternoon, she swore we told her we’d be open until 1:00, I said no, the signs and ad said otherwise, she said she couldn’t read that small print. Bleck. My BS detector lit up the bright afternoon sky! People – I just don’t have the tolerance. The general disrespect or people trying to cheat you out of a really good deal irk me to no end. And people writing checks at yard sales, are you flipping kidding me?!

The more I know about people, the more I go back to my childhood love of animals, they’re far more reasonable, what you see is what you get, they spend all their lives sensing and intuiting. I guess the experiences of the last several years has taught me there just aren’t that many really good people out there.

There were a couple of really nice folks, one couple with their toddler who knew Richard. When they walked up another lady seeing the cute girl in her daddy’s arms asked, “And what do we have here?”

The dad beamed, “The best deal in town.” The mom shared how they had tried to get pregnant for six years, gave up trying, looked into adopting when she suddenly became ill. She thought it was because she had been working six jobs (yes, she said six!) Neat to see, they’re happy and as content as can be. A family like that is a beautiful sight.

There was also a fellow who had the sweetest soul, he bought some jewelry for his wife because she likes beads. He went to his car, came back with a fist full of crumpled dollars and spare change, asked me to count it saying it was easier for me (oh if he’d only known!) and then asked how many pairs of socks he could buy. Richard made him a good deal and the man left.

I mentioned to Richard it was a very good chance of him having a Brain Injury because he kept asking how much the prices even though everything was marked and he, along with me, had trouble figuring how much 25% off was.

I’ve thought about that man a lot since he stopped by our sale, I wish I’d taken note of the car he’d driven to keep an eye out for him in town. I hope the kindness and acceptance we offered were received as such. Of the many folks who came to the sale, he was one of the few who took to heart the sign we posted asking folks to please park mindfully of others because of the layout of our driveway.

And you better believe I offered up prayers of protection for him.

Tags:  brain fatigue, concept of time, living with traumatic brain injury, losing time, mild traumatic brain injury, relationships, socializing, yard sales

Back to the Beginning: Excellent Brain Injury Article by Carl Zimmer
(posted Sept. 2, 2010)

About a week before Richard’s company arrived a friend of his mailed him Carl Zimmer’s article, “The Brain: A blow to the head can change the neural architecture of the brain from elastic to brittle, with devastating consequences.” The Discover Magazine article shows a crash-test dummy hitting the airbag of an automobile…that image always hits too close to home for me.

I scoured the Internet for this article at that time and shortly after, it was THE article we talked about, shared with everyone, and referred to over and over again, but could not find anywhere online so we shared the hardcopy article.

On Facebook, author Michael Paul Mason’s page refers to this very article! Cool beans!! (Mr. Mason wrote the excellent book, “Head Cases: Stories of Brain Injury and Its Aftermath” http://amzn.com/0374134529) If you haven’t read it yet, I do hope you’ll check into it at your local library or bookstore.

On his page he has this note: “One of the best articles I’ve read explaining what happens to the brain following a concussion, by one of our best science writers, Carl Zimmer:
http://discovermagazine.com/2010/jul-aug/18-brain-what-happens-to-a-linebackers-neurons/”

I hope you find it as enlightening and as helpful as we have, I am delighted to know it’s available online and thus share it here.

Blessings to Carl Zimmer and Michael Paul Mason – for by doing what you do naturally you’re making a HUGE difference in countless lives.

Tags:  concussion, head injury, neurology, neuroplasticity, neuroscience, science, traumatic brain injury

Back to the Beginning: That’ll Leave a Mark (posted Sept. 4, 2010)

It all started out innocently enough yesterday…

I went out to give my horse some carrots, and since I’m not the give-your-horse-treats kind of person, I decided I’d have her earn the goods. I set out a tarp for her to cross over each direction to see it well from both eyes.

After a little bit, she went over the first side just great, I asked her to head the other direction and cross. Along about that time a huge horse fly decided to disrupt our class.
I went to swat at it, Sadie cow-hopped kicking her back left leg and nailed my right hand! Hat went flying, I let out a startled gasp, oh my gosh, the pain! Nothing broken, I could still move it. Decided to finish the lesson, give her the carrots in the trough, pet her and go ice my hand.

(Doesn’t look too bad in the photo, my middle finger took the brunt.)

I picked up my hat and as I looked up, our neighbor was standing by the carport with fresh corn, she didn’t say anything other than she’d leave it by the front door, I don’t know if she witnessed any of the excitement.

Richard was working outside, I told him I’d just gotten kicked, it was no big deal, I’d finished the lesson with Sadie and was going for the ice pack. Richard came in with me, we played Yahtzee (I rolled left-handed for the first time ever!) while I iced my hand.

He voiced his concern maybe I over estimate the connection I have with Sadie and is concerned if we were to ride off the property something serious could happen to me. Yup, I’d thought about it myself too. These moments of failure remind me I’m no horse trainer and need help.

It’s scary and disheartening the Natural Horsemanship stuff I’d learned pre-injury and tried to maintain during the injury has faded like most every memory. All the clinics I attended, the ‘watching so hard’ I gave myself eye-strain headaches, time spent working with Sadie, the books, DVDs, videos, poof, gone from memory.

Richard said I know how I want Sadie trained, and I said I really didn’t and that it scares me I just don’t remember all the training that meant the world to me and made my eyes light up. It makes me wonder if I should pursue horses at all. I said I know it’s dangerous, but then again, so is going down the stairs for me (LOL)!

It surprises me I’ve not found a single Natural (Vaquero) Horsemanship person out here – I thought I moved to horse country! I posted an ad on Craigslist immediately after I moved here looking for someone who could help and have found no one. A waitress at a local restaurant has a daughter in college 5 hours from here completing her Business and Natural Horsemanship degrees and asked me if they could count on me for next summer. I said yes unless I found someone sooner.

There is a gal whose name I heard in passing and I’ve contacted her although I don’t know the type of horsemanship she does, so we’ll see.

Horses are my first and last frontier. They were my first love since childhood, and then in my twenties my brother stole my saddles (talk about hurting someone on a deep, molecular level), I gave away my model horses and thought that dream had faded.
But I don’t know. I trail rode when I was probably barely 5-years-old and my joke is ‘horse’ was my first word. So much of life post-TBI ends up in utter ashes, it’s tough to ponder having to give up something like this.

I was pretty honest with Richard tonight saying I know the disconnect with Sadie lies with me and I don’t know if it is due to the last accident. I’ve said since the day I saw Sadie that she was my heart on four feet but I’m not feeling that way now.

I’ve said it many times, what’s the point of fighting so hard when you end up losing everything in the end?

I can’t see giving Sadie up unless I cannot care for her, but what good am I doing her by not helping her live up to her potential? Would it not be better for someone who is a good hand with horses and is not limited to her being a pasture pony most of her days because I’m not able to get out of bed?

Ah, life with Brain Injury, always a plethora of heartbreaking questions and decisions…a heart aching for solutions and doing the right thing no matter what.

Tags:  at a crossroads, decision making, defeat, life questions, life with TBI, living with traumatic brain injury, memory loss, processing life with TBI

Back to the Beginning: Learning to Rest (posted Sept. 6, 2010)

Although the Type-A old personality of myself resists it, rest is a big part of life with Brain Injury, it is staggering how little it takes to get us tired!

I caught on I was heading into a crash the last couple of days so decided to designate today my ‘sacrifice’ day for rest. I took some Advil PM and headed back to bed this morning in hopes of rebooting my brain and granting myself a little more energy. I slept a little, not the restful type of sleep.

The world is very quiet here, summer has quickly departed (the *much* cooler weather, birds flocking together, the squirrels busily gathering food, and the change in the color of the deer.)

Tags:  acceptance, Brain Injury, fatigue, rest, sacrifice day, TBI

Back to the Beginning: Proof I CAN Cook…Sometimes! (posted Sept. 8, 2010)

The hummingbird feeders have no visitors, the squirrels are diligently storing their food for winter, and even the deer hides are changing with the weather.

Temps have dipped down close to freezing in some areas and with the end of the growing season comes root vegetables! Yum!

We received many potatoes and onions from the CSA the past few weeks and they were put to good use. Love both! This is the fruit of many hours labor in the kitchen this past weekend. (Or *maybe* by the end I was the fruit – LOL!)

If you’re familiar with Black Angus restaurants, you are probably already addicted to their Baked Potato Soup, it is divine (and I am really not much of a food person!)

You can find the recipe by going here: http://www.copykatchat.com/showthread.php?t=10503 or by Googling Stuart Anderson’s Black Angus Baked Potato Soup (long, isn’t it?!)

I initially found the recipe on recipezaar.com last year, they’ve since changed to food.com, I tried the site, it was slow and had a pop-up. Bleck. The recipe I’d printed out then shows the Calories 303, calories from fat 147 – yes, folks, their recipe is HALF FAT, this isn’t ice cream, people, it’s soup!

I made some modifications, using Smart Balance Omega-3 Light instead of butter, cut the amount of salt in half by using sea salt, and used Lactaid instead of half-and-half, and fat-free Tillamook Sour Cream. I’m curious what the caloric/fat values are with the modifications and would love to have an alternative to sautéing onions in butter!

I quadrupled the batch to use up all the potatoes and put some in freezer containers. It freezes well and thawed perfectly for lunch this afternoon.

I burned up a LOT of brain bucks making this, it took me pretty much all morning (although the recipe says the prep time is 10 minutes – ha – not for this brain injured chick!) and, of course, HAD to nap afterwards. Cooking is exhausting post-injury, that’s for sure. And for a gal who used to enjoy baking as I found it relaxing, cooking is quite a stretch!

Oh yeah, almost forgot, it took us FIVE grocery stores in a 65 mile radius to find white pepper. Who knew?!!

Tags:  brain budget, cooking, living with traumatic brain injury, nutrition

Back to the Beginning: Patriot Day 2010 – Introducing TBI Warrior
(posted Sept. 11, 2010)

9/11. The date heard around the world. A crime against humanity experienced in real-time by our very own generation, making history, simultaneously weakening and strengthening mankind’s resolve.

If you’ve not heard Alan Jackson’s powerful song “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning,” I hope you’ll Google it and/or the lyrics.

Where were you?

I was home getting ready for work. Because the office opened later that day, I heard the bewildering, frightening news on the radio as it happened. I fell to my knees crying and praying, I remembered an article I’d read years earlier in Reader’s Digest, I knew it was Osama Bin Laden. (This was before my TBIs).

I went to a prayer service that night, bawled and prayed, bawled and prayed, bawled and prayed. I was asked if I’d lost anyone, no I hadn’t. The events pierced my heart as they did for most, we felt the loss in the marrow of our bones.

We and others sent our brightest and best service men and women to fight a war against terrorism, to protect rights and freedoms gained by the sacrifice of prior generations, all which we hold dear. Because of this, we have a new generation of injured soldiers returning home from battle…many with TBIs.

I am pleased to introduce “TBI Warrior” who found me on Twitter. He is a Combat-Wounded Soldier working diligently to recover from a TBI sustained in Iraq and is reaching out to help others. Here is his insightful and inspiring blog:

http://tbiwarriors.blogspot.com/

To be in contact with a soldier recovering from TBI is heart-warming, I’d hoped to bridge the gap between civilians and the military. You may recall my family served in WWII, my fiance served in Vietnam, gratitude for our service men and women is an understatement.
Today I wore my late Mom’s flag pin with a poppy from the American Legion. It’s Patriot Day in America, a day to remember the fallen, to honor our military and heroes who rush in where angels fear to tread.

Tags:  9/11, combat-wounded, honor, Iraq, mild traumatic brain injury, mTBI, September 11, service, tbi warrior, traumatic brain injury

Back to the Beginning: Online Again! (posted Sept. 22, 2010)

Ah, it’s good to be back. This PC is still working for the time being, but chances are, will need a new computer…gulp…big purchase! I had been significantly freaked out prior to taking the computer in because someone hacked into my old hotmail account I hadn’t used in probably a year or so.

I’ve started researching and with the costs of suped-up laptops I honestly wondered for a moment if I even needed a computer. Ha! Who am I kidding? Richard me straight on that! Jiminy Christmas! I would like the next computer to last longer so am looking at higher end models (yes, I know, be still my heart, oy vey, the cost!)

Computers, just like many tools post-TBI are pretty dang important. I need all the help I can get being organized and staying on top of things. It will be a big change, I think, going from desktop to laptop, boy, hasn’t this been the year for change?! I won’t miss those jumbles of cables, however, that’s for sure! Talk about draining brain bucks!
And, funny thing, I want a RED one! LOL!

It feels good to be back online, to have had a break, and a fresh start. It’s helped me see how much time I spend on the computer and am at a total loss of what to do with myself without it, and, I get too many emails!

Needless to say, I’m unsubscribing from lists and am working to get things tidied up before having to let this old desktop PC go. It’s had quite a bit of repairs over the years, a new hard drive a couple years ago, etc. I shudder to think how much I’ve paid for the repairs alone!

It’s also a time to think about what to keep. With the weather changing and more time spent indoors, it’s probably a good time to declutter.

I tend to keep hard drives in the event I want to find something from my life before and after the car accidents. Maybe it’s time to go through those too, keep what I need and let go of the rest. It’s kind of a weird thing looking at who I used to be and what I used to be able to do…and it’s not like I remember any of that stuff on a day-to-day basis anyway.

I hope this finds everyone doing well, nice to be here, good to virtually see you all again! 🙂

Tags:  communication, computers, friends, shut-in, TBI, virtual friends, world wide web

Back to the Beginning: New Series – TBI Tools: Nutrition
(posted Sept. 29, 2010)

I thought I’d like to start a series on tools I’ve found helpful post-injuries. In this journey sometimes simply getting a diagnosis, rehabilitation and support are a luxury as we stumble down a blind path in this unrecognizable new life.

Since I was able to get some rehab under my belt, I wanted to share what I can with others. Getting the right care, support and tools are crucial to salvaging what’s left of the old life, and build a foundation for a good ‘new’ life post-injury.

I’ve been out with several headaches and migraines this week and jokingly thought the first post would end up being on ice packs…oh how exciting! Wouldn’t be prudent! Yesterday was a good enough day for me I could tolerate not only washing, but juicing and thought it’d be a good foundational post to start with.

For me, nutrition has been a pretty big deal because of discovering food allergies as an adult. Recently I’ve learned with the inflammation that’s been terrorizing me that I could be doing myself a favor and look into foods that have natural anti-inflammatory properties.

That brought me back to juicing. It’s something I did every day for my dog and I while she struggled with Cancer. I called it her, “Puppy go juice” and making it for her gave me a strong sense of purpose. It did make a huge difference in her energy and may have not only extended her life, but gave her a much better quality too.

The produce in this photo is mainly from the CSA, with kale and parsley from our garden, and apples from the store. Got to love those colors, oh my gosh! Chard, beets, carrots, eggplant, apples, green peppers, cucumber, zucchini, etc…I’ll juice pretty much anything that can be juiced in the fruit and veggie family.

This is my juicer, it’s a Breville fancy schmancy, can’t remember the model, it has two speeds and so far works really great.

I can vouch for the LaLanne juicers as well as that was the first one I’d had, it lasted a couple years of daily juicing. I think they’re both very good. I bought this one off of eBay (it was a display model) and the LaLanne one I had earlier was a Costco purchase.
Because I’m not much of a cook and would like to maintain some decent nutrition and produce usually went bad before I consumed it, juicing was a good option for me.

I’m no nutritional saint by any means, I was raised on cakes, cookies, and all sorts of yummy fatty things, so still have a sweet tooth that is probably pretty dang hard wired. Cake is a weakness for me as my Mom worked from home before it was cool to do so and decorated cakes for a living. I like to say, “I’ve never met a cake I didn’t like.” Same goes for most sweets, really!

I figured Jack LaLanne has outlived a lot of people I know and as a non-veggie person thought if I could drink the greenest juice he had in his recipe book that came with the juicer, I’d have it made. I didn’t like the drink, I drank it all, and the funniest thing? I started craving veggies after my body got over the initial shock!

I’ve been told it’s important to stay hydrated and eat well, especially with Brain Injury. For me, I’ve found juicing helps me do both.

It is a big investment in time, energy and money, but, a good return on the investment. I have heard of people who bought juicers and do not use them. If juicing is something you’re curious about, I’d suggest doing research first and maybe purchasing a lower end juicer on the secondary market to see if it’s something you enjoy.

Tags:  anti-inflammatory foods, Breville juicer, CSA, energy, fruit, health, healthy diet, hydration, Jack Lalanne, juice, mental clarity, mTBI, nutrition, produce, stamina, TBI tools, traumatic brain injury, vegetables

Back to the Beginning: The Drive Home (posted Sept. 30, 2010)

A few photos of a lake I love to look at as we drive to and from town (60+ miles away). I don’t have photos of the trip down, I was already exhausted before we left the house, so slept along the way.

Exhausted and worn out still, wanted to post these for you now, while I’m still upright and fairly functional!

This first one is my favorite.

This is actually the first photo I took. Richard and I commented how pretty the lake was today and I said I wanted to take photos.

Next thing I know we’re turning around, heading back to this spot, turning around again, pulling over, driving backwards up onto the hill where I took this shot. Anyone else dizzy?!!

I thought it awfully nice of him to pull over so I could get these great shots. Such a beautiful day!

This third one is of the other shore, I love it because the shoreline waters are always aquamarine, a change from the stunning blue of the rest of the lake. Heck, it’s all gorgeous!

Tags:  beauty, exhaustion, lake, montana, mTBI, photography, TBI

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Back to the Beginning: TBI Tools: Wireless Thermometer
(posted Oct. 2, 2010)

Less than a few months old, this is the newest in my TBI tool collection.
It shows time, indoor/outdoor, min/max temperatures and best of all – the little girl’s clothing changes with the weather!

I’ve had trouble ‘getting’ what the temperature was, processing that information and then dressing accordingly.

At home it’s no big deal to change clothes, but when you’re out and about, it’s downright unbearable! Been there, done that, either too cold or too hot.

This was $20 at WalMart, and is helpful to have this in the bedroom to check often, especially on those days I have to rest a lot (like today) and may go outside at a different temperature than the last time I opened my eyes!

Tags:  Changing weather, living with traumatic brain injury, mTBI, self-awareness, slow processing, TBI

Back to the Beginning: The Rest of the Day (posted Oct. 2, 2010)

I don’t do well being confined to my bed waiting for strength and better days, patience and tolerance are sometimes hard to come by.

This was the view today, usually you can see a tree or two and the sky, but these little buggers are what I spent my time counting as they landed on the window screen.

Pretty exciting stuff, I know! I live such a glamorous life – LOL!

This is a stink bug, aptly named I’ve heard, although I’ve not personally ‘benefited’ from their defense mechanism.

I watched a few bees, and the stink bug count got all the way up into double digits (I know you’re excited!)

Here is the temperature later in the day, yes, I missed out on a very, very nice fall day.

That’s just kind of the deal with Brain Injury, you give up a lot of your plans or agenda.

(Yes, the temps can fluctuate quite dramatically in the mountain states.)

When I went to the kitchen for some water I saw Richard’s cat, Jasmine, soaking up some kitty sunshine, I’d hoped to sneak out and catch a picture of her sleeping, but woke her.

If ever there was a kitty who went to Sweet Kitty School, it’d be Jasmine, in fact, I think
she’d be Valedictorian! She is a very sweet soul of a kitty cat, we can’t believe she’d been passed around from home to home before Richard took her in.

Animals have always been precious to me, probably never more so than now being home all the time especially on my lesser days.

Today, my kitty, Precious spent some time snuggying with me, it’s amazing how they know we’re not feeling well…and yet they’re completely okay with it.

Tags:  fatigue, living with traumatic brain injury, patience, rest, waiting


Back to the Beginning: Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote (posted Oct. 6, 2010)

“The purpose of life is not to be happy.
It is to be useful,
to be honorable,
to be compassionate,
to have it make some difference that you have lived
and lived well.”
~~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Received this in a Thought for Today email.  I dedicate this to all warriors (TBI or not) who strive (or have striven to) to live well and make a difference.

Tags:  be useful, compassion, encouragement, honorable, hope, make a difference, Ralph Waldo Emerson, resiliency, strength, TBI, warrior spirit


Back to the Beginning: The Knots Prayer (posted Oct. 10, 2010)

As I wait for ‘better’ days, I thought I’d share a graphic a friend emailed.

If you know who the artist is who created this, kindly please let me know.  I respect his/her work, he/she deserves proper credit, and I would like to request permission to post.

Tags:  clean heart, forgiveness, freedom, letting go, living with traumatic brain injury, mTBI, TBI


Back to the Beginning: Update – Brain Injury Attorney / Going Back Into the Fire (posted Oct. 22, 2010)

I’ve been in contact with a Brain Injury attorney’s office (perhaps third time is a charm, and perhaps, they will not find a quick road to piercing my heart and crushing my spirit.)
They are at least willing to talk to me, a small glimmer of hope flickers on the horizon after all.  “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst” is probably the best adage when it comes to unseen disabilities.  The intake phone call will be next week, I’ve got it on the calendar and completely plan on resting before delving into this most unlovely place.

In April of last year I went through the entire process of intake, getting records to the “big Brain Injury attorney” in Seattle only to find he declined my case because it wasn’t a big enough case for him.  There were too many grey areas (but isn’t that what good attorneys deal with??)

The second Brain Injury attorney I talked to in Kitsap County told me point blank I was more trouble than I was worth.  Ouch.  I handled the call with as much tact as I could muster, once off the phone, I bawled.

It either takes a lot of courage or craziness to try again, I guess it’s all a matter of perspective which one is required here, or maybe it takes both – lol!

I don’t take these things lightly, I consider this ”going back into the fire.”  I know from experience a lawsuit will take years, is draining, and often demoralizing with no guarantees.  I asked if they did not take my case if they would at least advise me how to deal with the at-fault party’s insurance.

It is a very ugly side of human nature dealing with insurance companies and the staggering, nauseating ways the truth is twisted into something that minimizes the person’s already devastated life only to benefit themselves.  Oh I don’t know how these people look themselves in the mirror.  How can one live without an active conscience is beyond me.

More will be revealed in time, for now I’m pondering this, what happened in the last lawsuits, and, am trying to remember to breathe deeply.

With Brain Injury comes a LOT of lessons in humanity – and lack there of –  I just wish I wasn’t entrusted with so much or it came in smaller, easier-to-digest pieces!

Tags:  at-fault party, Brain Injury, brain injury attorney, human nature, insurance companies, lawsuits, returning to the fire, truth

Back to the Beginning: Too Much Excitement (posted Oct. 14, 2010)

The last couple of days have been a bit surreal so much has happened in a few short days.  It began with a hunter walking onto the property two days ago.  Okay, I’m new to Montana, so I ask Richard, “Who is that, he just climbed under the electric fence?  It looks like he’s carrying a weed whacker!”

It’s bow season in Montana, the hunter shot a deer, it ran off and the blood trail ended at our fence.  He looked for a while, Richard helped, it would not be found.  The hunter stayed for quite a while walking all over, searching.  He came back yesterday looking again (this is really a good thing as a carcass will bring coyotes).  No deer was found.

Meanwhile…yesterday Richard and I ran errands, stopped for lunch where I had a nice salad, came home and shortly after I felt very, very ill.  Me, this person who is always cold, burned up even with the ice pack on my head for the crazy bad headache that came with this.  In short order I was throwing up.  What a lovely day!  I think it’s still digestive issues and we both agreed, it’s time for me to go to the doctor.

Because I’d slept intermittently during the day sleep did not come easy.  As if on cue,
around midnight I heard a coyote very close, I listened as he went from the hill above our house to the neighbor’s property.  Scared and worried about Sadie I woke up Richard.  He said coyotes usually go after much smaller prey animals.  Still, I couldn’t rest until the coyote’s yipping was way off in the distance.

This morning before we headed to the doctor’s Richard saw a coyote, by the time I reached the living room, it was gone.

We left for the doctor’s and the main road was blocked off.  Initially I thought it was construction but the flagger told us the bank (which just happens to be our bank!) burned to the ground, it started around 3:30 last night.

It was shocking to see that devastation, it’s the same sort of thing I’d seen in Bremerton when teens torched a family’s furniture store.  Heartbreaking indeed.

I took my list into the doctor’s office with me, still nothing definitive, it could be a number of things, they did only basic bloodwork to save me money, I’ll need to do another stool sample (oh joy, oh bliss!)  It comes down to my needing an ultrasound which may be completely out of the picture for now because I have no insurance.  We’ll look into how much this too will cost out of pocket because I won’t have any sort of Medicaid coverage until May, and I really can’t fathom waiting that long to get this figured out.

For now, it’s a serious change in diet, watching what I eat because honestly I’d rather do that than suffer from the diarrhea I had before, and the vomiting yesterday.  I don’t think there’s anything worse than vomiting!

Today was another day resting, I hadn’t eaten since lunch yesterday and honestly, eating scared me!  Richard had left for work when we got a call from a friend of his, her elderly husband fell and she needed Richard’s help.  Fortunately Richard had his cell phone, I called him, he headed for their home right away.  In the meantime I went to check on them.

I thought he’d had a fall like many elderly folks do, I was thinking maybe he needed to go to the doctor and she needed Richard’s help getting him in her car.  Imagine my shock when I learned he fell from a ladder cleaning the gutters and blacked out.  When his wife stepped into the house for a moment I asked him how it happened.  He could not remember.

Panic!  Immediately I am thinking “loss of consciousness,” head injury…you know that feeling when you’re hyper alert?  This was one of those moments, but on the other hand didn’t know what to do.

Richard arrived and the gentleman who had fallen tried to make it sound like no big deal.  I’d like to say we encouraged them to have him get checked out, we didn’t come out and say it.  I don’t know why in moments like these we don’t say or do what we know we need to, I regret it.

I was relieved to hear they did get him checked out locally, the doctors did find bleeding on the brain and he will be taken to the big city 60 miles away tomorrow.  Richard suggested we make tomorrow our big city shopping day instead of next week as we’d planned.  This way we can follow them to the hospital, check on them, and just be there for support.

It is my intention to be fully present, insightfully supportive, and because of my own experiences, I can walk into this particular fire completely unafraid.

Falls are the number one cause of Traumatic Brain injuries…according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of all TBIs requiring hospitalization, 22% are age 75 and older.

Tags:  accidents, falls, injuries, TBI, traumatic brain injury


Back to the Beginning: Back Home (posted Oct. 15, 2010)

We made the hour trip to visit Richard’s friend in the hospital this morning, seems he has six broken ribs and is sporting quite the collection of bruises.  At this point they are not too concerned about the brain…I know, I know…I’ve heard it before, these are too often minimized.  But I also learned he was knocked unconscious once before in his life and seemed to come out of that okay, so we let it be for now.

I’d imagine like many rural areas the people here are hardy, they take what life gives them, don’t really complain about much and manage life the best they can.

I suppose those of us dramatically affected by TBI can tend to be over-protective and over-vigilant.  It seems to be a pretty comfortable fit for me, I must say.  I guess seeing how vulnerable we are, inside and outside of my own eyes, I feel a bit of a warrior, protective stance happening.  Perhaps it’s the immense hardship and heartbreak we go through that makes us this way, I don’t know.  Sometimes I think we go through tough times just so we can be someone else’s angel and come from a place of deep validation and understanding.

When we left the hospital it wasn’t yet decided whether he would stay three days or go home today.  It’s my sincere hope he’s back home, where things are familiar, with the comfort of family and his good dog.

Just about everyone there thanked us for coming as if it was some grand gesture.  I guess having been there for my Dad with his open heart surgery, it’s not something you think about and I am glad Richard suggested it.  I was glad his two sons were there and his wife was drinking coffee, taking everything in graceful stride.  Yes, hardy souls.

I’ve not been in a hospital since Dad’s surgery, there is a healing energy I sensed.  Bless the healing nurses, and may we have compassion, patience, and nurturing intentions for those who are not.

It was good to go, it felt good to be useful.

And I figured out why I couldn’t say what I needed to about him getting checked out yesterday because it happened again today a couple of times.  Things just go too fast for my little brain, it has nothing to do with intention as it has to do with faulty wiring – lol!
Long day, we did some shopping after, and well yes, we’re both pretty fried!

Tags:  blessed nurses, family, hospitals, support


Back to the Beginning: Frogs! (posted Oct. 16, 2010)

I just had to share this hilarious moment that happened while shopping at Target yesterday.  We were looking at items in their refrigerated section when Richard’s phone rang.  About that time two little boys turned the corner of the aisle perpendicular to us, were heading the opposite direction as we were, just a step or two away from where we had just been.  It was perfect.  Why?  Richard’s ringtone is frogs!  He had just downloaded it from Verizon and the look on those two boy’s faces was priceless.

Frogs?  Well yes, some time ago at Costco we were sitting at the food court near the tire center when we started hearing frogs.  A person then pulled out a cell phone and answered it, we were the ones with the funny look on our faces!  Hilarious!

Tags:  children, fun, humor, laughter, silliness, TBI


Back to the Beginning: Conference Call with TBI Attorney
(posted Oct. 20, 2010)

I did have the conference call with the attorney, his paralegal, and a nurse yesterday afternoon.  I sweated the entire call (literally, I so don’t do well on phones anymore) and here I was trying to talk to three people, answer questions and recall things at the same time!  Good thing I rested all day in preparation.  It went well, he said he feels I have a case, he’d like to represent me, and, in regards to the how the last lawsuit went, that was unacceptable.  Wow.

Heck, at this point, just getting a Brain Injury attorney to listen to my story without telling me I’m more trouble than I’m worth or I don’t have a big enough case is a welcome change, the thought of someone experienced actually representing me, wow.  I am pleased, yet with Brain Injury have learned to be cautiously optimistic.  I was shocked and almost a little giddy after getting off the phone.  Wow.

It felt good to talk to an office with experience in all the little hidden idiosyncrasies of TBI.  We do have time as the Statute of Limitations in Washington State is three years.  He did say if I didn’t have a Neuro-Psych test for this last accident I will have to do that, and, there will most likely be some traveling involved.  Gulp.  I don’t even travel for fun, this should be interesting!

Just wanted to share some hopeful news, and I can’t tell you how lovely and refreshing it feels to have hope.  🙂

Tags:  attorney, hope, TBI


Back to the Beginning: So, I have to write this email…
(posted Oct. 22, 2010)

…telling friends and family there won’t be a wedding ceremony due to Brain Injury, and also, if anyone had plans on coming and staying here, that’s out of the picture too!  I started it some time ago, I still need clarity.

I don’t like potentially hurting or disappointing people and, well, it’s embarrassing.  It’s a lot easier to live my life in relative isolation than bare vulnerability.  This reminds me of my dog, Rudy, after her Cancer surgery years ago.  Prior, she was playful, outgoing and fearless.  Afterward, she knew she was injured, vulnerable, never her fearless self again.  I think I’m kinda like that.

My friends and family for the most part are not very involved or knowledgeable about my life let alone Brain Injury.  Not a single one is invited to this blog or has been told about it.

It seems on this path one loses their old ‘normal’ friends, and in time, develops new ‘TBI’ friends.  With this said, I’m wanting to explain succinctly why no ceremony, try to keep it light, and, maintain a little dignity and grace for myself and anyone with a Brain Injury.

I am stumped, struggling with finding words.  It’s not easy to tell everyone in your life you’re not going to have a wedding ceremony, that feels like a social no-no!

Tags:  communication, limitations, living with traumatic brain injury, vulnerability, word finding


Back to the Beginning: Back to the Doctor (posted Oct. 25, 2010)

A trip to the Emergency Room would have been the best thing were it not for lack of financial resources.  The thought of another huge medical bill, well, honestly, I don’t know which is worse, living with this or the debt caused by this!

Financial stress, especially post-TBI, is the worst kind of stress.  I think part of us stops living when we land there.

Yesterday was another staggering episode of raging headache, then feeling poorly enough to stay in bed almost all day, then came the burning-up sensation (I could not cool off), nausea, and again vomiting.  This time I threw up twice, second time with dry heaves.  Enough to leave me teary-eyed and shaking sitting on the bathroom floor realizing I am very sick.

I had issues with my gallbladder about three years ago and it was never like this, never feeling too warm, never threw up, and certainly never debilitated by it.

I’m just not a surgery person, I’d rather keep my gallbladder thank you very much, I like having all the  original manufacturer’s parts!  But then again, lying in bed as sick as I was, told Richard if cutting it out would help me feel better I’d do that.  Yup, I was that sick.

I’ve been looking into the 3-D full body scan I saw on Oprah years ago, showing all your internal organs.  That absolutely fascinated me.  With all the deferred maintenance due to lack of finances, I thought that’d be a good option to get a once over checkup.  But again, that was on the horizon, hoping to find something closer to home than having to go to California, but I think I need something now.  The cost of all this out-of-pocket continues to petrify me!

I feel better this morning without food, but that’s not going to work long-term, lol.  I want to feel better, and I’m now beginning to wonder if some, if not all, of this head pressure is gallbladder caused, there’s so much sometimes I can feel my pulse in my head.  I never would have made that connection until my last two identical episodes of headaches raging on both sides of my head which were surprisingly relieved after I threw up.

We’ll see how this goes, my doctor should be in today, the last time I saw the Physician’s Assistant, which was okay, I feel more confident in my doctor all though when I lived in Bremerton I saw a Physician’s Assistant because it cost less money and she was very good.
The blood work from the last visit came out clean as a whistle.

I’ve got to feel better, I’ve got to get better, I can’t live like this.  Having Brain Injury is enough, add anything else and this camel falls over and may not be able to get back up for days.

[Everything did turn out okay as far as tests and trying to figure out what was wrong, I’m lactose intolerant!  Who knew you could get that violently sick…]

Tags:  Brain Injury, finances, gallbladder disease, gallbladder disorders, health, TBI
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