Higher Suicide Risk

A disturbing, yet not surprising, article was published in the Washington Post today.  Although short, the reporter detailed a Danish study conducted on young adults who either had a Traumatic Brain Injury or a mild injury sometimes classified as a concussion.  Unfortunately, the outcome was not a surprise at all.

For a few years, I have worried about this type of event happening in our family.  There has been a large increase in suicides especially among teenagers and young adults.  We have tried to be as proactive as possible.  Ignorance is not bliss.  I think our society has to do more.  Traumatic Brain Injury patients and others suffering from mental health issues need support and care.  The health insurance companies need to grant this care to those in need.

A brain injury, no matter how severe or minor, has a profound effect on cognition and the brain.  Survivors have remarked that they are more impulsive which can lead to devastating circumstances.  The brain can no longer keep them safe from harm or may overreact to an event.

We need to share our stories.  Not just the good ones.  The heartbreaking narratives have to be told and heard.  I believe we all have a story to share.  Sometimes the most heartbreaking ones have the most impact.

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Back To School Preparation

On a whim, I wrote an article for Thrive Global.  The editors send prompts on a weekly basis.  I usually think about submitting a piece if the subject is relative but other things take precedence or I forget.

This week the prompt was anxiety and going back to school.  The subject could be parent’s anxiety, student’s anxiety, a transition to elementary school, middle school, high school, or beyond.

I immediately started writing since this is a subject I have dealt with for a long time with my children.  Don’t get me wrong, I am definitely not an expert but we have had our share of the back to school jitters.  There is currently some of that anxiety in our home since our schools resume next week.

I put my thoughts down, edited, and submitted.  A day letter I received an email informing me that the piece had published.  Cue happy music.

If you want to read the piece head over here.

Books I Have Been Reading

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I really enjoy reading book recommendations or “What I Have Been Reading” segments and realized I have never done one of these.  So, I thought this would be a good time since we are at the halfway mark of the year.  I know!  How can 2018 already be half over?  Time is going way too fast for me.

This list is not in any particular order.  The links I provided are only for general information. I do not get a kickback.  Here it goes:

His Father Still 

The story, told from the father’s perspective, interweaves the trials and tribulations of raising children and then at one of the worst periods the unthinkable happens.  Tim tells the story honestly while also leaving his other family member’s privacy intact.  It is a heartbreaking story told with such heart.  There is some religious undertones which I usually do not enjoy but they are handled well in this rendition.  I would definitely recommend this one.

The AutoImmune Solution

Dr. Myers, a functional medicine doctor, describes how she healed her own body’s inflammation using functional medicine remedies such as diet, sleep, and exercise.  I enjoyed the book but found it so similar to many others in this arena.  Much of it was redundant and I honestly could not imagine how I could adopt the eating plan for me and still cook for my family.  A good read if you are just starting out on this journey.

Saving Charlotte:  A Mother and the Power of Intuition

Pia de Jong does a superb job in this memoir of her daughter’s first year of life.  Honestly, I am in awe of the decisions she and her husband made for the newborn daughter which ultimately saved her life.  Her descriptive prose had me yearning to visit Amsterdam.  I read about this book on either a blog or another book list somewhere and wish I remember where so I can thank the reviewer.  I had a difficult time putting this book down anticipating what was next.

A Three Dog Life

Abigail Thomas weaves us through the story of her husband’s accident, rehabilitation, and relocation through beautiful prose.  I had read Safekeeping:Some True Stories From A Life a few years ago so I picked this one up thinking the subject matter would be dogs.  Well, she does discuss her dogs but the main subject is her husband and his traumatic brain injury.  Those of you who follow this blog will understand the shock I experienced when I first started.  So much of the story resonated with me even though her husband was much older at the time of his injury.  Thomas is a beautiful memoirist and I highly recommend this one.

I Forgot To Remember: A Memoir of Amnesia

I met the author, Su Meck, during a journaling workshop and we have since become friends.  I initially was intimidated because she was a published memoirist (one of my dreams).  Her memoir details a freak accident at her home when she was only 20 years old and the resulting amnesia.  I am awed by her story and recovery.  She touches on a lot of issues in the brain injury and medical field as well as the effects it had on her relationships and her family. Her story gives hope to a number of survivors trying to regain their lives.

How To Walk Away

I received an advance copy of Katherine Center’s newest novel and the moment I read the first page I was memorized.  I was very impressed by the amount of research she did to accurately describe a medical rehabilitation setting and some of the other medical issues touched upon.  The storyline was believable and explored so many different paths.  It was not predictable which I appreciate since I get tired of the stories that can all be wrapped up so nicely at the end.  This is a must read and makes for a good beach read as well.

She Matters:  A Life In Friendships 

Another recommendation I received after I wrote a piece about friendship while taking an online writing class.  Susanna Sonnenberg weaves her stories of friendship woes and triumphs through different phases of her life.  She also includes her relationship with her mother which was brilliant since our mothers are our first foray into friendship.  I thought I would get more clarity from this but still enjoyed it.

What Alice Forgot 

I am a fan of all the books I have read by Liane Moriarty and this one didn’t disappoint.  Again, I was surprised when the main character has a concussion and forgets the last ten years of her life.  The storyline kept the suspense going though some of it was a little far fetched.  I had a hard time putting this one down as well since I wanted to find out where the characters were going,  I definitely recommend this one.  It’s not my favorite novel by Liane but definitely ranks as one of the better ones.

Tell Me More;  Stories About The 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning To Say 

Kelly Corrigan is such a prolific writer and I am a huge admirer of her work.  I have read all of her previous books and this one did not disappoint. She is approximately my age so I have an easy time relating to her stories of growing up, leaving home, striking out on her own, marriage, and children. Her descriptive writing brings you right there alongside her as she witnesses the deaths of her father and best friend.  It is heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time.  A must read!

Homegoing

This is a beautiful story spanning so many generations.  Yaa Gyasi intertwines the stories of generations seemlessly.  My book club read this and I started listening to it but had to switch to traditional format so I could keep track of the characters and how they connected.  It is beautiful and raw.  There are parts that are hard to read but so worth it in order to get to the others.  The research that went into this novel is astounding.  This is a book that is almost impossible to describe.  I definitely recommend this one.  Take your time to fully immerse yourself in the unique storytelling. This book brought about quite an honest book club discussion as well.

Take Me With You

I had never heard about this or the author, Catherine Ryan Hyde, prior but I enjoyed this one.  Since I finished I have yearned to travel the country and see Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, etc.  The story is a little hard to believe but winds it’s way through many dimensions which I won’t reveal here since they could be spoilers.  A good read but I wouldn’t go running out to buy it.

Everything Happens For A Reason:  And Other Lies I’ve Loved

This book written by Kate Bowler lives up to all the hype you most likely have heard.  A beautiful story told through the authors heartache of a stage 4 cancer diagnosis while in the prime of her life.  At the time of her diagnosis Kate has a young child, loving husband, and a great career.  She takes you through the diagnosis and beyond and back through her upbringing.  It is brutally honest and revealing.  This is a must read.  Kate also has a podcast Everything Happens with Kate Bowler which I recently started listening to.

The Course of Love

I picked this one for our book club and though it was good, I was a bit disappointed.  I was expecting something much different so this may have attributed to my opinion.  The story is good, believable but jumps ahead in the end.  It could have been wrapped up a bit differently.

Devotion 

I have now read a number of Dani Shapiro’s books and this one is excellent.  She weaves her story through the present and past so seamlessly and it leaves you wanting more.  She tells the trials and tribulations of marriage and how devotion is so imperative.  This is another must read.

Finding Family

I bought this book because the author found out he was adopted by accident and later searched for his biological parents.  He used some ancestry tools and I was hoping to gain some insight in how to search for the missing puzzle link.  I was very disappointed.  He was able to get names which helps tremendously.  Though, this didn’t help me in my search for answers hopefully it will help others.  The book did give a bit of resources at the end which I have used as well.

Little Fires Everywhere

I read Celeste Ng’s previous book and was thrilled when I heard she had another book.  Little Fires tells the story of a family with teenage children and how things are not always how they seem.  They appear to have the perfect life but once you peel the layers you find the broken pieces.  Celeste is able to intertwine so many elements back and forth.  I really enjoyed this one.  I was reading it during a day off from school and remember how thankful I was that my girls were playing nicely so I didn’t have to stop.  A definite read and contender for one of the best books of the year.

Braving The Wilderness

This is the most recent book by Brene Brown.  I absolutely adore her.  I feel we could be friends, if we ever met.  I really enjoyed this one.  One of the reasons is she explains more about her past and her upbringing and how she battled her way through her family and school.  It felt that she was actually more vulnerable here.  She does repeat some from her other books but it is helpful as it relates to the subject matter here.  I have tried numerous times to hear her speak and each time the tickets are sold out before I log on.  I will keep trying.  This is another great read.

Please let me know your thoughts on the books here or any other recommendations you may have.

Happy Reading!

pile of five books
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Federal Interagency Conference on Traumatic Brain Injury

It has been very quiet here on the blog while my attentions have been diverted elsewhere.  In December I worked on a proposal to present at the Federal Interagency Conference on Traumatic Brain Injury  I had never written a proposal and it was more difficult than I had imagined. I was so happy when it came time to hit SUBMIT.

When the email arrived in February congratulating me that my presentation was allotted a 15-minute session I was quite surprised.  The title is “A View From The Front Lines: A Caregiver and Survivor Perspective”, I planned to show how traumatic brain injury affected the whole family, not just the injured individual. Once I wrapped my head around this new information I got my “ducks in a row” and started writing.  The first pass yielded a presentation of 25 minutes.  The hard work began trying to reduce the presentation.  I felt so many important facts had to be deleted. After many edits, a final document was done.

The talk occurred on Day Two of the conference.  The text of the speech follows:

In 2001 I was living the “dream”.  Married to a wonderful and supportive husband, had two beautiful children and was staying home with them in their formative years.  We built a new house and moved in the second week of November.  The tide turned my husband was laid off a few days afterward. 

Three weeks later, my daughters and I were in a horrific car accident.  Olivia suffered a severe TBI and we were thrust into the new world of doctors, rehabilitation, and advocacy.   

Six days after admission I was told that Olivia needed to be transferred to an inpatient rehabilitation center since there wasn’t anything else they could do medically.  The closest pediatric rehabilitation hospital was 2 hours south or 1.5 hours North.  I was in shock and burst into tears. Among other concerns, what were we going to do about our 5-year-old Daughter? She started kindergarten a few months ago, we were living in a new neighborhood, and Mike was unemployed.   

The medical staffs at both facilities estimated she would be an in-patient for 6-9 months.  We discussed the possibility of moving so we could all be together while Olivia was in rehab or moving closer to Mike’s parents since there was a facility in Pittsburgh but ultimately decided to transfer to Kennedy Krieger.  A week elapsed before the transfer since we insisted on second and third opinions and we toured the two facilities which bought us more time.   

This event became the beginning of our advocacy work on behalf of our daughter. 

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The hospital social worker pulled my husband aside at one point and told him that I was having a nervous breakdown since I was crying repeatedly.  He responded to our daughter was in critical condition and another daughter at home and going back and forth to the hospital in order to ensure a quasi-stable environment for our 5-year-old was rough.  I was irate when he relayed the conversation to me. 

 Our time at Kennedy Krieger was fraught with both positive and negatives.  The physical therapist still remains one of my fondest memories if you can have fond memories of your child’s stay at an inpatient rehabilitation facility.  Olivia LOVED dogs and the movie 101 Dalmatians.  Beth tapped into that and she would encourage Olivia to move her limbs and eventually got Olivia walking by using a pull along dog toy.  Olivia couldn’t wait to go to PT so she could play with the dog and other fun toys Beth rewarded her with.   

Again, Mike and I alternated being at the hospital with Olivia and home with Our daughter.  Add to this, he was looking for a job, the holiday season was upon us, and we had to find attorneys to represent us.  We were constantly asked to retell the story of the accident, which I did not remember, and explaining the seating in the car.     

The discharge was December 28, 2001, exactly fourteen days after admission to inpatient rehab, not the 6-9 months estimate we were given.  This was definitely one of many miracles to occur.  Olivia could walk but nevertheless, her gait was very off and we feared her falling every moment.  Luckily she was still small enough that we could carry her up and down the stairs.   

Once home, I started noticing there was something not quite right with me.  I was sleeping a lot and could not be woken easily.   I also noticed I was having a very difficult time reading.  I would read an article in the newspaper and re-read the same paragraph multiple times and still not understand.  It didn’t get any better and finally, I decided to seek the assistance of a doctor. Luckily, the nurse practitioner knew what was wrong and referred me to a neuropsychologist.  He gave me a diagnosis of the Post-concussion syndrome.  I had no idea what that was so I went home and looked it up.  Let’s just say I was shocked to learn that PCS is another term for mild brain injury.  My first thought was when is this nightmare going to end? 

Olivia was found eligible for special education services in January, just 2 months after our accident.  We had an IEP in place soon afterward.   

Mike found a job in February 2002 and returned to work full time.  Though it was a relief financially I was terrified how I would take care of both girls, get Olivia to the various appointments she needed, and heal myself as well.  So many people have asked over the past 16 years how I did it.  Quite honestly, I don’t have an answer.  All I can say is that when your child needs to help you do whatever it takes to get it.   

Once we were home our daughter began playing school with Olivia.  She would sit down at a table we had in our kitchen and try to teach her all the things she needed to learn.  She would have Olivia recite the alphabet over and over and when Olivia got frustrated, which would often happen a minute into this game, our older daughter would burst into tears or start yelling at her that she needed to know these things.  We soon realized Our daughter was taking it upon herself to “teach” Olivia all the things she lost.  She felt that if she could teach Olivia she would be Ok.   

We found our daughter counseling soon after because we weren’t sure what she witnessed at the scene or what was going on in her mind.  She seemed fine to everyone else but we knew something wasn’t right.  She was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and dysthymic disorder, a form of low-grade depression.  She went through 2 therapists before we found one who worked.  Of course, none of these appointments were covered by insurance, but we really felt that she needed this in order to heal.     

Imagine this, two young children, one has a TBI and requires OT one time a week, speech therapy once or twice a week, and other therapies at least one time a week and every 6 months add neuropsychic testing and neurologist appointments.  The other child has to attend therapy weekly and the caregiver is having physical and cognitive therapies.  Where does “being a kid” fit into this scenario? 

When Olivia was discharged the doctors told stressed the first two years of recovery were the most vital and afterward the likelihood of further recovery declined significantly. We were devastated at her one year follow up. Her neuro-psych testing results were abysmal and the doctor could not understand why her test results had not improved as they should.  I reached out to Brain Injury Services since she was currently on the waitlist for case management services in search of answers.   When the supervisor asked me if she was receiving any therapies and I listed all the things we had in place her response was, “oh, you are doing so much, there isn’t anything else I can recommend”.  On one hand, this was validation that we were doing all we could but on the other hand what was going on with her? 

Another early lesson for us was to only go to doctors with experience in brain injury.  These doctors and therapists were much more likely to have a positive impact on her recovery.   

Remember, this was 2002 and 2003 and there were very few doctors and therapists with brain injury experience.  Add in a pediatric specialty and the number of practitioners dropped significantly.  Fortunately, we lived close to a metropolitan area where we could access Children’s National Hospital and Kennedy Krieger in Baltimore.  I cannot imagine how a child in rural Virginia would fare.  It was not easy to get to Children’s in DC or Baltimore but we somehow made it work.  We didn’t have much choice.  While working on this speech I looked at the number of neurologists available to patients in Wise County Virginia. Ballad Health Systems, the largest healthcare provider in that area yielded 4 pediatric neurologists all located in Tennessee.  There was not any indication if they had any experience in brain injury.  What is a family in that area to do? 

As time went on we continued to fight for Olivia.  The school system was very difficult to work with at times.  We had to be well versed on what they could offer and made sure all the services were made available to her.     

Once both girls were in school full time, I finally felt that I had the time to devote to my healing.  When your child has been severely injured and you are told the little girl you had prior to that fateful day would never be the same, there is a lot of emotional pain.  These costs weren’t covered by insurance either.   

I was diagnosed with severe carpal tunnel syndrome in both of my wrists and had to undergo separate surgeries to correct the issue.  The surgeon later testified that these were caused by gripping the steering wheel so tightly at the time of impact.  Another setback for healing from this trauma. 

Over the years we added and took away a number of therapies including cranial sacral therapy and therapeutic riding. 

Private OT and speech services were discontinued not because she didn’t need it but trying to fit it in was difficult and there was such a high turnover of therapists that it was no longer beneficial.  During this time, I also learned I was pregnant.   

Olivia began resisting the services she was receiving at school.  She is the poster child for “invisible injury”.  We let some of the services go.   

Middle school was a battlefield.  At this point, it was becoming clearer that her injury was adversely affecting her and the way she interacted with her peers due to her processing issues. She started feeling the effects of bullying and the anger intensified.  At home, she would scream at us, slam doors, throw things.  There was one evening I remember vividly when I was comforting her younger sister who was scared of these outbursts and I suddenly had this feeling that Olivia was capable of hurting herself.  Mike and I decided we needed more help.  I kept thinking something was going on inside her brain but couldn’t pinpoint what it was.  We made an appointment with the neurologist who we hadn’t seen since she was six.  As soon as he heard our explanation and examined Olivia he asked if she felt her brain was exploding at these times.  She said she did.  He explained she couldn’t process all the information and her brain was having misfires.  He prescribed some medication and things got a little better.   

During the first month of high school, she fell off a horse at therapeutic riding and had a concussion.  Another set back which impacted the school.  We were referred to another doctor for testing.  This doctor brought so many things into perspective.  She suggested we have a pediatric neuro-ophthalmologist exam her since one of the bleeds had been at the occipital lobe.  This was news to us. I was shocked to learn that Olivia had lost 50% of her right peripheral vision.  The doctor explained that Olivia compensated all this time. I had so many questions which he graciously answered.  

Simultaneously, we began experiencing difficulties with the school and decided to hire an advocate to represent us at the IEP meeting and we wrote letters to the administration.  Her resulting IEP was written with almost all the services she needed and the school became very cooperative.   

We were and still are looking for different ways to help Olivia and the rest of our family.  After mentioning music therapy as another avenue, she finally agreed to attend a trial lesson.   A year later she was asked to join their stage production and tour local middle and high schools.  The show “Behind The Label” teaches empathy through monologues, songs, and dance.  Participants have disabilities ranging from autism, down syndrome, Tourette’s, OCD, Cerebral palsy and of course TBI, but they are not their label.  The profound change we saw in Olivia was staggering.  She blossomed, her self-esteem grew tremendously and she now had a bit of a social connection.   

She also was the first pediatric panelist during the 2017 Brain Injury Awareness Day on Capitol Hill.  A very proud moment for our entire family. 

We sought many resources during the past 16 years.  We found Brain Injury Services and they have provided case management and support for the past 16 years. During a conference early in recovery, I was lucky to meet Anne McDonnell who later became the Executive Director of The Brain Injury Association of Virginia and she has been invaluable to our family.  She has been a resource of information and I stayed in contact with her, eventually serving on the board of BIAV.  I also joined BIS’ Speakers Bureau and shared our family’s story.  These led me to quite a few wonderful people and other resources which also led me to Brain Injury Association of America and to this conference.   

Our family had been through a horrific trauma and we would never be able to return to our previous lives unscarred. But, we all survived!  There could have been a more devastating outcome so how could we bring some positivity back into our lives?   

At that moment we decided to share our story.  If one family could benefit it would be worth it.  We consistently searched for another positive story to navigate our way through ours and could never find one quite like ours.  We began advocating for Olivia immediately and vowed not to stop; 16 years later we are doing all that and more.  I believe it has made each of us stronger and created a stronger family unit in the process.  From the depths of a tragedy, a resolve was born and continues to grow today.  Don’t give up and serve as role models for others to do the same. 

 I was lucky to have the opportunity to attend the conference along with some of the best researchers in the field of brain injury.  This was a great opportunity and one I will cherish.  I have learned much and met other advocates in the process and reconnected with others.

Overall, this was a great experience.  The end of the second day I headed home so I could be there for Little Miss’ last day of school.  She and I have had such a rough year with her teacher and we needed to savor the end together.

 

 

How Yoga Helped Heal

pexels-photo-374101.jpegThis is a piece I wrote for a local yoga studio blog last year. Yoga has been very healing to me.  I have learned to breathe easier rather than hyperventilate when stressed.  I know how to stretch my muscles and joints when I am tired and achy.  Lately, I have had a different reaction to yoga.  I have left class feeling fuzzy or having a headache within an hour or two.  Whenever this occurred before I usually knew a sinus infection was developing.

The last few months this hasn’t been the case.  I am not exactly sure what is going on but I don’t like it.  Yoga has been my solace.  I used to be a runner but as I have gotten older it’s become harder to run.  I was instructed not to run much on pavement since I have herniated discs from the labor of Middle Miss and also from our car accident.  Apparently, herniated discs can get worse through constant pounding.

If anyone has a solution please share.  I so want to get the euphoric feeling back.  In the meantime, I am continuing my yoga practice in the hopes that the issue will correct itself.

It was a few years ago, sitting in a ballet studio speaking with a few other moms while our daughters were in class, that I had a conversation I now realize changed my life.

I was suffering the aftermath of a car accident that left my 3-year-old with a severe Traumatic Brain Injury, her sister with Post Traumatic  Stress Disorder, and me with a mild Traumatic Brain Injury and other injuries. The resulting stress caused hyperventilating, debilitating stomach issues, and skin breakouts that I hadn’t even experienced as a teen. There was a time that I was convinced I had pneumonia since I kept feeling pressure in my lungs. My doctor ordered X-rays, but they turned up clear. The doctor thought I was probably suffering from panic attacks and/or anxiety due to all the stress in my life. I realized he was right.

That day in the ballet studio, one of those moms suggested that I try yoga. I hate to admit this now, but my impression of yoga was that it was no more than a bunch of hippies sitting around with legs crossed and saying OM the entire time.

Since my youngest daughter would soon be entering school full time, I decided it was finally time to try a yoga class. I walked in with much trepidation and started with the beginner’s level. I told the receptionist that I didn’t have any experience with yoga. I didn’t even own a mat. I figured it would be a laid-back 90 minutes. I was so wrong.

One of the first lessons was learning to control your breath and only think about the breath for the next 90 minutes.  We were instructed to leave our mental lists and anything else on our minds at the door and focus on our breathing. I had never done this before. It was REALLY HARD!  I was so used to thinking about a million things concurrently. No wonder I was having issues. Over time I learned how to do this as soon as the class began and it was so liberating. I never realized that I could let go of all the thoughts and just breathe.

After learning how to breathe correctly I was then able to focus on me and only me for 90 minutes. Going to the studio started to hold so much hope and promise for me.  I began to understand the terms associated with yoga and yearned for more.  I began trying different class styles and learned which ones resonated for me. My stomach issues improved as well as the acne. Over time, the panic attacks and anxiety were better.

One of the best things about yoga is that competition does not exist in the studio.  Everyone comes in with different levels of experience and abilities, but we work as one to heal and rejuvenate our souls.  If I had a day that left me with less energy and it took all I had just to arrive at the studio, then no one was the wiser. I never walked away regretting taking the time for myself.

It was in the Flow Yoga studio that I found my release.  I could stretch the tension out, sweat it out, breathe, and end with a five-minute rest.  No one could yell, “Mommy”, and interrupt my introspection; my phone was left at the door. I walked out of the studio feeling rejuvenated.

I have introduced yoga to my three children and each has approached it very differently. I hope as they get older they will begin to reach for their yoga mat and discover themselves. Now, if I could only get my husband to embrace a yoga practice.

Namaste~

Twenty Five

Mike and I will be celebrating our 25th Wedding Anniversary tomorrow.  WOW!  Hard to believe!

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Some days it feels we have only known each other a short time and other times it feels we have been together forever.  When we got married there were so many hopes and dreams.  Most of those came to fruition.  I remember one evening sitting in our first apartment, he predicted we would have 3 daughters and a male dog.  Guess what?  He was almost correct.  He forgot to include the female cat!  20160922_201412-e1523579075918.jpg

Those of you who have been married for awhile know that marriage isn’t a piece of cake.  It is not easy.  There are times when things are very smooth and you sync perfectly.  The two of you agree on everything, share goals, political views, decorating choices, etc.  THEN, there are THOSE times when a union on anything seems impossible.  These are the times when commitment really makes a difference.

I recently read a great piece on marriage.  If you have never followed Nina Bazdin  I highly encourage it.  Nina has an advice column on her website and the questions are really interesting.  The latest was submitted by an ambivalent wife who was debating whether or not to leave her marriage.  She wasn’t miserable but wondered if she could be happier.  Nina and her mother consulted on this answer and I felt their response was spot on.

Some say there is nothing better than “new love”.  The love of an early relationship when the butterflies are in your gut due to the excitement.  Not knowing the person well, but eager to learn everything, thinking it’s perfect.  This feeling doesn’t last forever and it shouldn’t.  We start to show our differences, we learn from each other and we get lazy. Life happens.  People evolve.

When Mike and I got engaged one of his aunts hosted an engagement party in the Pittsburgh area where a lot of his family lived.  He was the first of his three brothers to marry and it was such a wonderful gesture.  During this party, a number of women approached me and marveled at the fact that both Mike and I came from homes with parents who were still married.  Little did I know then what I would discover later but more about that here The Truth Eventually Reveals Itself.   We grew up in the generation that had one of the highest divorce rates and we both had extended family members who had experienced one or more.

During the past twenty-five years, we have had our share of highs and lows and we have witnessed other couples go through their own.  What makes our partnership continue and others tumble?  I would be a rich woman if I knew the answer to this.  One reason I think we continue to grow in our marriage is we have a great deal of respect for each other.  Without respect, I don’t think any relationship has a chance.  We argue and disagree plenty of times but we try to listen to other, make a decision and move forward.

I have seen plenty of people stick to their opinion and refuse to compromise out of stubbornness.  This is not going to help anyone.  What transpires is a stalemate and no one is going to win.  I have also seen couples undermine the other in front of their children which, again, only causes rifts to the partnership as well to the relationship with the children.

Children bring such a unique element to marriage.  The parents each come from unique backgrounds and their respective families most likely handled things differently.  Once a partnership is raising their own child there are bound to be conflicts.  One was raised by a helicopter parent and the other by a “hands-off” parent and there you have the potential for a huge dispute. How the partnership navigates this can impact their marriage for years to come.

Two people come into their union with unique narratives of their past, including hurts and betrayals and these also can wreak havoc on the relationship.  Marriage is not just about love.  Yes, there has to be love and affection for one other, at the core, but there is so much more.

We celebrated our anniversary this past weekend with a night away.  Mike had done most of the arrangements and we enjoyed Tea at the hotel in the afternoon.  My children were getting much laughter about this since he is not a tea person but he arranged it because he knew I liked it.  While enjoying the company of each other as well as the scrumptious sandwiches, scones, and treats as well as the champagne, thrown in by the hotel the manager came by to extend his congratulations.  He asked us what our secret was to be able to celebrate 25 years of marriage. We both chuckled and said we don’t know what the secret is but one thing that certainly helped was patience.

Thinking about this I would have to say that each marriage is different, but the two things that have been most central to our union is patience and respect.

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Brain Injury Awareness Month

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The month of March is Brain Injury Awareness Month.  There are so many brain-related events happening near me and other places and I really wish I could attend all of them.  Maybe if I cloned myself that would be possible but that won’t be happening anytime soon.

Last week, I attended the Brain Injury Association of Virginia’s 35th Anniversary Gala and the following day their conference was held in Richmond, Virginia.  I have been in attendance at quite a few of their conferences since 2006 especially over the past six years as a Board Member.  I always learn something new.  The brain is the most complex organ we have and there is so much we don’t know.  Every conference or event I participate in is a learning experience.  I always walk away with a new idea or something to research.  This weekend’s event was no exception.

Later this month, I will be attending Brain Injury Awareness Day  This is an annual event but I have only attended the past two years.  Prior to that, it was difficult to arrange child care for Little Miss and I was unsure if I should bring Middle Miss fearing the day would be too overwhelming and/or over stimulating.  Those with a brain injury know that noises, bright lights, echo sounds, just to name a few, can cause disruptions for the individual.

Last year Middle Miss was on the panel of speakers.  Read more about it in this post.  It still seems so surreal that she was given the opportunity and did such an amazing job.  I will relish that day for a lifetime.

I will most likely attend the day’s events by myself and meet up with other brain injury advocates on Capitol Hill.  I am in the process of requesting meetings with my representatives to share our story and request their support in any legislation relating to brain injury.  One of the issues I really want to address is Social Security Disability.  I will write more on that in an upcoming post.

There are other events during that week but I do not know if I will be able to attend.  Coordinating the family schedule is always a complicated task and involves a lot of juggling.  I was invited to a reception on the evening prior to Awareness Day but it doesn’t look like I will attend due to another commitment involving Little Miss’ Chorus Group.  I don’t want to miss these important milestones because I know how important they are to my children and I also know these events will not be around forever.  I am really trying to live in the moment and enjoy the times as they come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharing on Facebook

I have to admit I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook.  I have really enjoyed reconnecting with friends over the past 10 years since joining the social media craze.  It is the competitive nature of the beast that makes me retreat.  I sometimes feel that a lot of members are trying to one-up each other or show how perfect their families and lives are.  This has never been a characteristic of mine but I am sure I have done my fair share of bragging as well.

I recently had my article published on the Thrive Global website.  The article had previously been published on  Medium and TBI Hope.

On a whim, I shared the article on my personal Facebook page.  After clicking “post” I felt a bit of nervous angst.  I wasn’t sure what kind of feedback the article would receive.  Within minutes, my notifications started buzzing with some of the most beautiful comments I have ever received.  There was so much support and encouragement for both the story and our family.  I was overwhelmed, in a good way.  I knew that I had made the right decision when I decided to share the piece.  Some of my Facebook friends did not know our family’s story into the depths of Traumatic Brain Injury and some had been right there with us from day one cheering and praying for Middle Miss’ recovery.

I think it also was a tiny step of putting my writing out there and seeing how it was received.  I think fear has been holding me back while trying to write our book.  Fear that it won’t get published, it won’t get read, readers won’t resonate with the story.  I have finally embraced that no matter what I have to try.  I have to write and try to get it out to the masses.  It doesn’t matter if no one likes it.  As we started to talk about this project our goal was to give other families a lifeline while going through a devastating event such as ours.  When this happened to us 16 years ago there wasn’t a guidebook telling us how to proceed, what types of specialists or doctors we would need, etc. We didn’t have the resources that are prevalent in today’s world.

Now the hardest thing is for me to stay focused and allow the time for the writing to happen.  This has been such a hard thing to accomplish lately.  I need to put aside other thoughts and responsibilities and treat this as my job.  I have really tried to keep a full day or two each week to fully devote to writing.  That means no volunteering at hospitals or schools, no lunches with friends, and no running errands or shopping.  This last one has been hard because I have to fit the food shopping and regular errands in somewhere.

I need to delegate and try to combine errands with other activities which usually requires a lot of planning.  Does anyone have suggestions?  It would be nice if I could hire an assistant but that definitely won’t be happening.

You’re Fat!

Those are words no one wants to hear. But when you are a mom who was teased at a very young age about her extra weight, went through an anorexia/binging phase in high school, gained more than the freshman 15 in college, and your daughter tells you these words were directed her way your heart splits open.

Having experienced body shaming for most of my life I have tried to be very cognizant of the words I use around my daughters. My mother used to say “If we could cut off part of your backside, we would have a really good steak”. I can’t imagine ever saying these words to anyone.

It’s no wonder I had issues.

Since becoming a mother over 21 years ago I have tried to model healthy body image. Both Mike and I have shown them healthy eating habits eating most of our meals at home. The only times we eat at fast foods restaurants is when we are traveling and our choices are very limited. We have shown them, through action, how exercise has helped us maintain a healthy lifestyle as well.

None of the 3 misses are natural athletes, they take after me in this area, but we have enrolled them in soccer, softball, dance, cross country, swimming, and martial arts classes. They don’t seem to enjoy exercise and we sometimes have to really push Middle Miss to do something but we have given them the tools. I am always secretly jumping for joy when Big Miss mentions attending a yoga class, one of my favorite exercise choices.

So, when little Miss came home from school and told me the boy who has been harassing her all year said she was fat my heart broke. It took me back to the school playground when kids would taunt me with, “Kelly her belly is so full of jelly” or “You have such a pretty face but…”.

I had noticed that in the past year she had been gaining weight, especially in the tummy area. Middle Miss had always been a bit heavier than her peers but she had been like that since she was born so I figured it was her body build.

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Little Miss, on the other hand, was petite for most of her life. At her, one year check up the pediatrician told me to keep breastfeeding her since she hadn’t gained enough weight. Her feet have always been much smaller than her peers, she was a little peanut compared to her sisters.

During her checkup last year I asked the pediatrician about her weight after asking Little Miss to leave the room since I didn’t want her to hear the conversation. The doctor did some bloodwork after I expressed some concern about a thyroid condition which I have. The tests were negative and the doctor said she wasn’t concerned about her weight.  She commented that a lot of girls this age put on a little weight due to the hormonal changes that are occurring.

We have tried to get her more exercise but it’s been hard since she has so many anxieties. She doesn’t want to play any sports having played soccer for a number of seasons and leaving once her age group transitioned to the larger field. She still refuses to put her head underwater or get her face wet even though we have tried various swimming programs. She has refused to ride a bike, ice skate, or roller skate fearing a fall. The only activity she has continued is dance and that is precarious at the moment.

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I have done some research about the best way to talk to your daughter about her weight and I am at a loss. All the experts recommend emphasizing healthy eating and exercise and not using the word diet. We have done this all her life.

I recently read a study that was conducted in England which encourages parents to speak about a child’s weight up front. The researchers believe the reason the United States has an obesity epidemic is the lack of conversations about weight. This could be the case but I am cautious with that due to my experience.

I did read another article that suggested speaking to a child about this issue by asking her how the comment made her feel. I get this. I can envision asking her, “so how did the Boy’s comment make you feel?” The only thing that worries me is that whenever I ask her these questions she will usually respond with, “I don’t know”. How do I follow up after that comment? I don’t know where I can go from there.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of this talk?  I have but it wasn’t handled correctly.  Any advice to share with this Mom?

Group Dynamics

We all want to be part of some larger ideal.  We are looking for our tribe.  That is why we choose to live in communities or select one particular church to join, or a school.  But what happens when the group we have chosen to call our own is not serving us in the way we envisioned.  Or what if one particular member is not adhering to the group “unwritten rule”?

Great things in business are never done by one person. They're done by a team of people. - Steve Jobs

According to Wikipedia group dynamics is defined as “a system of behaviors and psychological processes occurring within a social group or between social groups”.  I have always felt that groups are made of people who either have a common interest, desire, and/or hobby.  I have belonged to many during my lifetime and some have proven very successful while others have fallen away over time due to lack of communication, lives going into different directions or lack of cohesiveness.

One thing I have always looked for in a group is support.  This support could take on many different shapes such as emotional, encouragement, and helpful.  One thing I have always said that could derail these communities is a form of “backstabbing”.  What do I mean by this?  Well, if one group member has a personal motive and refuses to embrace other ideas or values then this will cause the group to splinter.  If a member talks negatively about others the members will splinter into subgroups.

 

I have always felt that groups are there to support one another through hardships and boast each other during the good times.

So what happens when there is a group member who consistently does not encourage or support another?  How does the group survive?  How should members address the situation?

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I am dealing with this issue right now and am at a loss.  I am not a confrontational person by nature.  I have fought fiercely for my children but when it comes to myself I usually back off.  My instinct is to retreat and not say anything.  Eventually easing out of the group. However, this time it feels different.  I do not like how this group is being splintered especially when we all have a single mission.  I don’t want to talk to others and get them involved since I don’t want to be talking about someone, however, I don’t know how to handle this issue.

How would you handle it?