Sunday, December 6, 2009

With Gratitude: Part One

With Gratitude: Part One

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Broken Brain-Brilliant Mind, The Story of Alicia, It's a Wonderful Life, Second Chance to Live.

I've been following a blog called Broken Brain-Brilliant Mind (excellent title) by a fellow who has sustained multiple MTBIs (which is more common than you might imagine; think about how one keeps hitting a sore thumb). He doesn't identify himself by name or location (he explains why and I think he has some good points) but writes a lot and has a lot of good resources.  His post the other day (the day before Thanksgiving) about his plan for handling all the activity of a holiday nicely describes what must go on behind the scenes for people with brain injuries.  I remember needing to plan like this.  I simply could NOT handle the noise and activity.  I couldn't follow a conversation.  So, I would have an escape plan; an excuse. When I got overwhelmed (which happened very quickly when I was first injured) I couldn't think and then the headache would come on and I would be debilitated... again.  Consequently, I spent a lot of time alone.  I lost friends (it's hard to maintain friendships when you don't call people back).  I never answered the telephone (and now, unfortunately, that's a habit that remains).

This fellow also goes on about the hope he has for a full recovery.  Where would we be without hope.  He quotes Winston Churchill: "Never, never, never give up."  Somewhere early in my healing process, I got a postcard from a friend (the source never identified her/himself) with this exact quote.  It stayed on my refrigerator for years.

He posted a link to this documentary about Alicia who suffered a TBI about seven years ago.  There are nine episodes from the documentary on YouTube.  It's amazing what the power of the human spirit can do.  She pulled herself (with the help of her family and care providers) out of the depths of her injuries and has fulfilled her dream to become an actress and this documentary tells her story.

I didn't want this experience.  I didn't ask for this. I didn't want a brain injury. But who does? Who wants this kind of trouble to land in their lap? Who wants to have to work hard for years and years to overcome problems like these?  These blogs, videos and stories I'm reading/watching are about amazingly courageous people.

We're in the season of It's a Wonderful Life.  I mentioned a little about this in my last post. I first saw this movie many years ago and now watch it every year after Thanksgiving.  In fact, for the last bunch of years, I watch it more than once, alone.  My family will no longer tolerate it.  As schmaltzy as this is, it brings me hope. It brings me joy!  There is so much symbolism in this movie for me.  So much!  Even down to the fact that when the depression hit, and it slapped me hard, and I became suicidal and I had my plan in place and I was going to leave my children without a mother (I actually thought they'd be better off without me), my angel was Clarence.  I swear to you!  The real life person that brought me back from the brink of suicide was named Clarence.

Clarence is a friend of a friend.  I knew him a little, not a lot.  I ran into him in Boulder in May of 1999 and he said, "I heard you had a car accident."  He asked me how I was doing.  I said, "Fine." Which was true, because, when you're actively suicidal, you are fine; all the pain and suffering is going to be over soon.  He said, "Well I have a little experience overcoming medical problems, could we get together for lunch some time?"  And that was the beginning of an unbelieveably incredible set of events that brought me out of the darkness.  I will post some selections from the book about this when they're ready. 

Second Chance to Live is a website/blog I ran across today.  I love his phrase: Through my process I have learned a valuable lesson. I am not my traumatic brain injury, my deficits or my limitations.

Here are some statistics I believe are worth sharing:
  • 121 million people worldwide suffer from depression. (The World Health Organization)
  • 18 million of these cases are happening in the United States. (The National Institute of Mental Health)
  • Two-thirds of those suffering from depression never seek treatment.
  • Untreated depression is the number one cause of suicide. 
  • Almost four times as many men commit suicide as women. (NIMH)
  • Someone takes their life every 16 minutes in the US.
  • Suicide is preventable. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New Orleans is LOUD

I was in New Orleans last week for the annual ASHA (American Speech-Language Hearing Association) convention with ten thousand other speech pathologists and audiologists from the US and Canada.

Our hotel was just two blocks from the French Quarter a lovely and amazing historic section of New Orleans that is a must see.

On our first night, we walked the streets a bit looking for a place for dinner. We had a couple of restaurant suggestions, like ACME Oyster House, but there was a very long wait and we were all starving after a long day of travel.

We wandered the streets a while longer and happened upon K Joe's Cajun & Creole Cuisine. What an amazingly wonderful find. It was early in the evening and the restaurant was quiet, although not for long, because we kept waving people in who stopped to read the menu displayed out front.  They were mostly other people from the convention.

Our waiter, Andrew was friendly and efficient. Travis, the owner/GM came over to the table and chatted with us. He brought us freshly made crackers with a hot spicy jelly and cream cheese. I could have eaten just that for dinner. It was amazing.

I had the blackened catfish. It was perfectly moist and the etouffee sauce was tangy and of a good consistency, although, I'm not the best judge of etouffee, being new to Creole cuisine.

Travis promised to show us the upstairs private dining room and the Chris Owens room after our dinner. Wow! Beautiful decor. I'd love to arrange a private party! He showed us the back patio and explained it was still in the development stages; the restaurant had only been opened for two months.
And wow! Chris Owens, what a woman!

We finished up our experience at K-Joes' with Mardi Gras beads, with without expectation (wink).

Then we were off to, were else, Bourbon Street. It was loud, smelly and bawdy. But I had the Bourdon Street experience, minus the Bourbon. Loud music spilled out into the street. Live music. Rock n’ Roll. Jazz. We ended up at a karaoke club, Cat’s Meow

I had just met the ladies I was with. ASHA has a find-a-roommate section of their website for the convention and my roommate (a lovely gal from Boston) had a friend who had a friend who had a friend, etc. There were about eight of us.

Well, the ladies stopped along our walk on Bourbon Street to slug down Hurricanes, a fruity rum kind of drink, I think, in plastic to-go cups. So, by the time we got to the Cat’s Meow, they were feeling just fine. It was funny. They were funny. Very funny. 

New Orleans in LOUD. There’s noise in the streets, the cable cars clang, the riverboats whale, music blares from open windows and patios, even the elevators and airport shuttle blast loud music.

The week was full. There is much to tell. Of significance, though was that I am proud of my profession. There are a lot of people doing a lot of good things. I am proud that we, as a group of people are compassionate and caring. When I talked about the work I do with transgender people, there was only kindness and support. It should always be like that. 

But, it isn’t. While I was in New Orleans, the transgender community had their annual nationwide Transgender Day of Remembrance for honoring people who are murdered by the hands of others because they are transgendered. 

I didn't get much writing done while I was in New Orleans.  I could barely think with all the noise. 

Monday, November 16, 2009

Laptops and lattés

Last Saturday was the day!  My Chapter 1, Saturday June 13, was critiqued.  I meant to post this blog the next day, but that meeting sparked so many ideas, that I’ve been working feverishly all week.  I'm getting Chapter 2 down on paper, but haven’t had a spare neuron to devote to finishing this post (which I began last Saturday).  I decided to stop re-working Chapter 1 so I could let the critique and all the thoughts it created settle into some kind of order.

The Boulder Writers Meetup Group meets in the back room at The Cup on Pearl Street in Boulder every Saturday morning.  The Cup is a hopping place where the cognescenti of Boulder gather with their laptops, lattés and introspective glances to no one in particular.

There were about ten of us and mine was second of the two pieces that were presented.  It worked for me; definitely! I loved hearing the impressions people had of my writing, and what worked and what didn’t work about the chapter.  What was very meaningful to me was how people related to the characters, what they thought of them and how they interpreted their personalities and their relationships to each other.  I was pleased that some people got what I was trying to convey and connected some of the symbolic elements.  Without a doubt, the comments were valuable (whether they were positive or negative) and I will make use of them.  Thank you group!  

But, I was and still am quite overwhelmed.  

Out of the Darkness isn’t actually a story about a car accident; it could have been a story about a death, a diagnosis of cancer or the broken heart of a wife after 20 years of devotion to her husband which ends in him leaving her for a younger woman.

Out of the Darkness is about the events that occur after one single instant that changes the course of a life.  What are those instances that change us forever?  Those moments that are never anticipated and can’t be denied.  It’s about the hurdles the character faces in overcoming the ravages of her brain and body and the journey she takes to repair her life. 

It’s a bad-things-happen-to-good-people story.  It’s a something-goes-amiss story.  It’s a self-against-self story.  

In the Flemish morality play, Everyman (c. 1500), the character is representative of all of us--the human race. When Everyman is summoned by death, he discovers that his friends Fellowship, Kindred, Cousin, and Goods will not go with him. It is Good Deeds, whom he previously neglected, who finally supports him and who offers to justify him before the throne of God.  

In literature and drama, the term "everyman" has come to mean an ordinary individual, with whom the audience or reader is supposed to be able to identify, who is often placed in extraordinary circumstances. 

So, is Camryn an Everywoman? Is she an ordinary woman? Camryn is a divorced mother of two children; she’s back at school for an advanced degree, works full time, cleans the house, cooks dinners, does the laundry, makes Halloween costumes for the kids and bakes Christmas cookies each December.  She is summoned by death when she faces the extraordinary task of overcoming a brain injury and chronic pain.  

There are so many of us who suffer.  I ran across a website over the weekend To Write Love on her Arms
We’ve learned that two out of three people who struggle with depression never seek help, and that untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide.  In America alone, it’s estimated that 19 million people live with depression, and suicide is the third-leading cause of death among those 18-24 years old.
The good news is that depression is very treatable, that a very real hope exists in the face of these issues.  We’ve met people who are getting the help they need, sitting across from a counselor for the first time, stepping into treatment, or reaching out to a suicide hotline in a desperate moment.
There are those who suffer and are those who reach out.  Someone reached out to me.  His name is Clarence; it was my George Bailey moment.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Where’s the damn fault line?

Ugh! Yesterday was rough. I’m just so stuck on Chapter 2.  My chapter 1 (draft 2) is being critiqued this Saturday by the Boulder Writer’s Meetup Group. I’ve attended a couple of times now.  It’s a good group.  The critiques are hard, but solid and thoughtful.
I’ve been writing a ton and reading a ton.  I’m currently devouring Lucky, by Alice Sebold.  It’s an amazing story--her first, her memoir.  Wow, my own sad tale pales in comparison!
I’ve been reading a lot of first books/novels/memoirs and then the same author’s second novel and third and so on.  It’s fun to see the progression, the development of their voices, the evolution of their skills.  But somewhere in me, I think my first novel has to be this amazingly brilliant work, and the truth is—I don’t have that skill yet. Ugh!
Winston Churchill once said, ''Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.''
So, I believe I’m somewhere between my book being my lover and my master.  I love it and I am a slave to it. I dream about it (literally and figuratively).  I loathe it. The process of writing, of trying to craft something for which I have little skill, is both a marvelous journey into the souls of these characters, who are asking me to tell their story, and a mad obsession to dance with the monster.
I’m relying on my experience as an avid reader, the fact that I have a story to tell and that I’m a talker (verbal story teller), but writing and writing well is an entirely different thing. I'll never be a Margaret Atwood or Joyce Carol Oates. And I’m trying to do this on top of a full time job/career (which I love and love spending time doing), the family, blah, blah, blah!
A part of me (big part of me) would love to be able to write full time; to spend my early mornings like I do now sitting peacefully (although the brain storm in my mind the last two days hasn’t been any fun) for a few hours; then go for a run; then come back and write/edit for a few more hours; then have lunch with a girlfriend; then come home and read, maybe clean the house (on second thought, no); then have dinner with Kevin make a few phone calls to family and friends; read; then off to sleep.  Yes, I would love my days to be filled this way.
But, in order to do the above, a writer has to be published, so there’s an income. The mortgage, utilities, car payment and student loan debt demand their due. And in order to become published, a writer has to have a completed book.  And in order to have a completed book, a writer has to carefully craft the book.  And then, here I am all over again, back at the beginning.  I doubt that I have the skill to craft this monster.
I’m in a master mind group and we’re reading Think and Grow Rich.    As I was lamenting my current state as a failing writer yesterday morning to Kevin, he reminded me of the story about Darby (an interesting sign and a story for another time) and his gold mine.  The story goes that this character named RH Darby had a dream of finding gold ”out west”  and heads for Colorado.  He gets some equipment and a small crew and has a little success—he finds GOLD.  But the vein dries up quickly and he abandons his dream and sells the equipment to the junk man. Well, the junk man is no dummy. So, he finds himself a mining engineer, uses the equipment he purchased dirt cheap from ol’ Darby and strikes it BIG.  The junk man takes millions of dollars of ore from the mine. As it turns out, Darby was only three feet from the mother lode, but he didn't know it.
The moral of story: never, never, never give up. Find an expert if need be (the mining engineer steered to junk man to the fault line where the gold was). Before success comes, most people are met with temporary defeat.
I’m listening to Kevin and thinking to myself--ok, this is good, I know this, I’ve had this experience before, on all my fingers and toes a hundred times over--I know this experience of defeat and doubt. 
I’ve been given a second chance at life that most people do not have. I’ve had to persevere through some of the roughest things life can throw at someone.  And if I had given up, well, this story would never have been told.
I guess that damn fault line is right around here somewhere—I’m only a mere three feet from success!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Oh, the bloggers

I went to the Front Range Bloggers Meetup on Monday night. What an engaging, talented entrepreneurial group of people. They’re out there; they’re in here; they’re making it happen. I was impressed! So, this is where the kids who were in the chess club, had science fair projects and were in the 4-H Club ended up. Good to know.

In contrast, the Boulder’s Writers Meetup was a quiet bunch. They were polite, but small talk didn’t come easily. This is where the English majors go. The two pieces we critiqued were well crafted and the comments were solid and direct; I like that. I’ll definitely go back.

So, where do I fit in? I’m a talker really. I’m a speaker. I certainly identify as a writer, but blogging is too new. I don’t know if I’m a blogger. But, I like to say the word. BL – AH – GG –ER… blaaaaaaaaaaaah…ggggggggggeeeeeeerrrrrr. Yes, it’s a good word. I like the way it feels in my mouth.


It’s a cold snowy Wednesday. Most of my patients canceled today and the others I called to reschedule. We have nearly a foot of snow at my house and we’re just at the beginning of the storm.

My writing time got off to a scattered start today. Oh, I was up, coffee made and at my laptop by 5:30 AM, but I decided to play with my emerging blogger identity. So, I used some of the strategies I learned. After prowling around the internet for over three hours, I was able to figure out how Google Analytics works, I signed on to Evernote (this seems like a good idea to track my internet prowling), and I posted a some comments on a few blogs related to brain injuries. I got a new URL in my name, which points back to this blog. I’ll design it as both a website for the book and my blog site. But for now, it’s just my blog, because… I guess… I’m a blogger now.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Just coffee, words and me

I was lying in bed for about a half an hour; mentally working this one character for the book. The clock read 5:25 and Kevin leans over and whispers to me. “It’s time to get up and write.” The house is cold; we turn the heat down at night. It’s difficult to get up out of my warm cozy bed, but here I am up like a shot!

“You love this time of day, don’t you,” he continued.

“Yes, I do. It’s just coffee, words and me.”

So, here I sit, the fireplace is warming the room. I’ve just taken my first sip of coffee. The house is quiet. This alone time is heavenly. It is essential. It is my time with the creative energy that brought me back from the darkness; that sustained me when I thought there was no hope; that showed me my purpose again when there was none.

Just coffee, words and me-a fine trio of friends.

Thoughts meander in and out of my mind; some of them actually make it to a page. I resist the powerful urge to check emails and my friends on Facebook. But, I sneak over there a few times anyway.

It’s been a little over two months since I found my inspiration to work on the book, and thus blog about it. Inspiration is a funny thing. It’s there or it isn’t (I guess). I was at my friend Jeanne’s house warming party at the end of the summer and was talking about the book and the blog, and someone asked, “Is this for real, or is it just your latest, greatest obsession.” That gave me pause. Did this inspiration have sustainability? After all, I finished the first draft in January 2001 and I hadn’t touched the book again until August 2009. I doubt myself sometimes (OK, a lot). I have a busy life--the kids, Kevin, my practice/business,other family members, my friends, running, gardening, knitting, hiking, traveling and the occasional domestic chores (I wouldn’t win a house-wife of the year award). Honestly,how does one get all of this done? But, it is getting done. I write every day (well, nearly every day). I’m writing ten or more hours a week. There have been massive changes to the book. And many more changes will come.

I have a writing buddy now. We met for the first time last Friday to share our thoughts, processes and work. We’ve agreed to meet once a month.

I’ve connected with some folks in Boulder. The Boulder Writer’s Meetup Group meets on Saturday mornings. I’ll attend my first meeting this Saturday.

I’ve also heard from a friend of a friend on Facebook about a bloggers meetup group. So, I’m going to attend that also and see what the bloggers have to say.

Are these simply distractions? Maybe. Or are they useful endeavors to help me along on my journey? Hopefully.

I’ll let you know.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

There is a solution

I love my life! This morning is a gray cold October day. The fireplace is on. The house is still. The air outside is still. The leaves are turning. This huge Ash tree in the back yard usually turns a brilliant yellow before the leaves fall to the grown, but not this year. The brown leaves hold firmly to the branches.

I woke up with a severe headache. This doesn’t often happen anymore. It used to terrify me, because it symbolically spoke of how damaged I was. It limited me; I couldn’t lift my head off the pillow. I’d feel trapped and the fear would grow and the pain would consume me. How many days I was late for work because of this, I couldn’t say. But, this morning, after 11 years of experience, when I awoke and my neck screamed and my head pounded, I lay there and breathed. I meditated. With each in-breath I imagined space at the base of my skull. I smiled inwardly. I breathed softness to the muscles around my eyes and forehead and I fell back to sleep for two hours (so my morning writing time got off to a late start). I feel fine now; still a bit of a lingering head and neck ache, but they’re tolerable.

Down in the basement in those two boxes I tucked away eight years ago that hold the draft of my book, Out of the Darkness: a remarkable story, and newspaper clippings and notepads and my memories, I found an article in The Journal of Cognitive Rehabilitation, (a publication for the therapist, family and patient) that I wrote in the May/June 1999 issue. It’s the strangest thing. It’s like some fairy tale character who awakens and realizes there had been places she’s gone and things she had done, but it was like someone’s else’s life. I have no memory of writing the article or that it laid in that box for years. I think I'll see if they're interested in an update.

It’s time for a run. Oh, and it’s the 13th of the month, so it’s a day of celebration!

No matter how big a problem you seemingly face, there is a solution. Mine today, is to focus on life, love, health and happiness. May you find yours.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

And then what happened … from Chapter 4, Tuesday

To the numbers of you who have commented and spoken to me about this blog, thank you. Your comments and kind support are very appreciated and I’m thrilled to hear that you’re enjoying it.

My intent is to actively blog about my experience with, and recovery from a traumatic brain injury, and to share selections from the “book” as I edit it (which is nearly a complete rewriting of it).

As a refresher to those who haven’t read the pages here in their entirety, this blog began in mid-August this year after a session I had with my wellness coach, Melodie Matice, who encouraged me to complete the book. I suffered a traumatic brain injury and other physical problems after an automobile accident in 1998. On October 23, 1998, I awoke from a dream of sorts with the book title, character names, chapter outlines and a voice in my head that said, “write the book.” So, I did. Two years later, I put it aside. It was an awful first draft; a cathartic self-absorbed rant really. I meant to get back to it, but was busy healing and recovering and I guess ultimately completing my own story; finishing the work that needed to be done to put humpty-dumpty back together again. In January 2001, when the book was put aside, there was no happy ending. There was no hope.

To those who have asked, the book has not yet been published, because, again, it really was just a crappy first draft. I’ve been happily writing almost every day and making massive changes. It will get published eventually, but it’s far from ready.

We last left Camryn sitting in the physical therapist's office embraced in a memory of Salvatore (blog dates: Saturday, August 29, and Friday, September 11, 2009).


“Are you Camryn?” There was kindness in his deep resonant voice.


“I’m Baxter, Baxter Stanwood. Please come in,” he turned and slowly walked into the inner offices and entered the room on the left.

As Camryn stood up to follow him, she saw that the older couple was gone and a woman with out of control gray hair was sitting in one of the chairs, her head leaning against the wall, eyes closed and mouth agape.

The room looked like a small gym with foam pads strewn around, therapy balls, free weights, benches and an exam table. Baxter sat on a large red ball and motioned for her to sit in a chair next to the desk.

“I see here from Dr. Siemens’ notes from yesterday that you had a motor vehicle accident Saturday night. That’s great that you’re in here so quickly. Tell me more about what happened.” She repeated the story for the second, but it wouldn’t most certainly be the last time.

“The headache bothers me a lot. And lights and sounds are too much. It’s like everything just got brighter and louder. Why is that?”

“How are you today?”

“I’m sore and still stiff. It feels like my head is too heavy, like my neck muscles aren’t strong enough to hold it up.”

“Have you filled the prescription for the pain medication that Dr. Siemens gave you yesterday?” he glanced down at the chart again.


“Why don’t you go ahead and do that. It’ll help. What he’s ordered in a non-narcotic medication and a muscle relaxer. One of the reasons you’re experiencing pain is that some of your muscles are tightening as a result of the jarring they received in the accident. The problems you're having with light and sound are something different.”

“Ok, I think I have that prescription,” she said as she shuffled through her purse. “I know it’s in here somewhere.”

“Well, let me know if you can’t find it,” he said softly, “and I’ll have Dr. Siemens fill out another one.”


Baxter placed the chart on the desk and gestured for her to sit on the exam table. He faced her. “Before I begin my exam, I’m going to tell you three words. Listen carefully. It’s important that you remember them. Ready?” He looked her in the eyes.

“Apple, Bicycle, Pencil,” he said slowly, “be sure to remember them.” He spent the next forty-five minutes asking her to do various maneuvers, turns and bends. He asked her to resist while he pushed down, then up on her arms, then left, right, forward and backward to her head. He periodically made notes in her chart, then asked her to do a few additional maneuvers.

He sat back down on the red ball and explained some of his findings, then referred back to the chart. “You know, it says here that Dr. Siemens thinks you may have suffered a traumatic brain injury.”


“Yes, he wrote that he mentioned this to you.”


“So, what do you think of that?”

“I don’t know. I think I’m OK.”

“Dr. Siemens’ note says you got lost on the way here yesterday.”

“Oh, yes, I guess I did.”

“Doesn’t that seem a bit out of the ordinary?”

“I don’t think so, I was never at this office before.”

“How long have you lived in Boulder?”

“OK, I got lost getting here yesterday,” she said as her annoyance edged to the surface.

He stood, moved the red ball closer to her and touched her on the arm. “All I’m saying is that we see this kind of thing here in this office every day. It's just possible that the jarring effects from the impact of the accident caused a mild brain injury.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Tell me the three words I asked you to remember.” She couldn’t. She sighed.

“Think of it like this, the brain is an uncooked egg inside a hard plastic container. Now, imagine that you throw the container as hard as you possibly can against the wall. The plastic container looks fine, but the egg inside is scrambled. The soft tissue of the surface of the brain gets torn and sheared as it bangs against the hard surface of the skull. Some of the symptoms of a mild brain injury, which is sometimes called post-concussive syndrome, include headaches, confusion, short-term memory loss, slowed thinking,” he could see her agitation growing, “and a few other things.”

“You think this happened to me?”

“Yes, it’s possible. I agree with Dr. Siemens’ suggestion that you see the speech therapist and schedule an appointment with the psychologist for a neuro-psychological exam.”

“OK, I’ll think about it.”

“Great! I’ll see you Thursday at 2:00 pm.”

Camryn would grow to have a great fondness for Baxter. He lived in downtown Boulder in a renovated bungalow with his partner of twenty years. He described himself and Jim as an old married couple with their two dogs and quiet lifestyle.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Boulder Marathon – triumph!

I’m up early every (almost) day. On Saturday morning, during my writing time, I sneaked a peak at my Facebook page and saw a post from Naomi saying that there had been an injury and that they now needed someone to run one of the legs of their relay team for the Boulder Marathon. I jumped right in it.

So, yesterday I got up early, and instead of writing, I stretched while the coffee was brewing, changed into my running clothes, took my coffee with me in a to-go mug and arrived at 6:30 am at Breakworks to meet Naomi, we then drove to the Boulder Reservoir. As we walked from the cars, the sun began warming the morning air, I had butterflies in my stomach as I always do before a race (I don’t know why, this was definitely a low pressure race).

The relay was divided into four parts the first leg 6.5 miles was run by me; the second leg 7.3 miles, which was the most difficult leg, was run by Elise; the third leg 6.3 miles was run by Kate and the final leg 6.1 miles was run by Naomi. Our total finish time was just under five hours.

The course begins and ends at the Reservoir. Naomi and Elise cheered me off as I ran across the start/finish line with my “I ♥ Gluten” tee-shirt (we’re running for Breakworks Bakery & Café).

As we headed west, the foothills standing before me, I smile. I hear the rhythmic sounds of hundreds of feet as they run in front of me, next to me and behind me and I smile, because I’m running. In March 2005, when I had my last bad flare-up of pain, I could barely walk. I had trouble with stairs, I had difficulty doing physical things when the pain was like that and now I’m running! And I begin my prayer, “thank you God for giving me a strong, healthy, pain free body and the ability to run.”

We head north on a dirt road and the crowd spreads out. Most of the rest of the course is a pleasant meander through the back roads of Boulder County. At mile one, my time is 11:19. I’m pleased. The long hill leading to mile marker one only put me back a little. At mile two, my time is 22:00. Yes! The rest of my leg of the race is great. I arrive at the first relay point and Elise is waiting for me. My total time is just under 75 minutes, which is about 11:30 minute mile. I thought I’d be able to finish at closer to an 11 minute mile, but I’m pleased. This wasn’t my fastest race, but it was one of my best in the few short years I’ve been running again.

Just before the car accident I’d been running 25 to 30 miles a week at a 8:30 mile pace. My long runs on the weekends were about an hour and a half. I had just finished my first half-marathon at just over two hours, which is about a 9 minute mile pace.

I didn’t run for a couple of weeks after the accident because I was sore all over. I actually don’t remember much of this, but from what I wrote, when I’d run I would fatigue so quickly. Then a strange thing began happening which scared me—a lot! I would get shaky and off balance every time I ran, like a drunken sailor. I asked my physical therapist what was happening to me and I don’t think he knew or I don’t remember what he said. Then the more I ran the more pain I experienced. The neck pain and headaches were debilitating for days and days. Sometimes I couldn’t get out of bed the pain was so bad. Running seemed to bring on an exacerbation.

Running of the Green, an easy 5K in Denver had been the first race I had ever run. And in March 1999, it was the last time I ran. It was an awful race, I had to walk most of it. But, triumph reigned! My daughter Meghann and I ran it this year and we had a great time.

I’m going to run the whole Boulder Marathon one day!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Life changing moments- September 17

In the small hours of Saturday morning September 17th 1983, I got to meet the small child who had been sharing my body for the last ten months. Gestation for a human baby is thirty-eight to forty weeks, which is more than nine months.

She arrived three days before she was due. I’d been sleeping poorly; there is no good, comfortable position for puffy, swollen, large pregnant women in the days before delivery.

It was a Friday night and we’d just finished dinner when she let us know we’d be meeting her soon. We arrived at Boulder Community Hospital around 11:00 pm. The labor and delivery floor was packed. There had been a huge blizzard around Christmas and we knew we weren’t the only ones spending some cozy hours at home on those snow packed days.

The sweet sound of her first cry was quickly followed by an overwhelming tenderness, then a love I had never felt. It was different, part animal instinct, part motherly love. I would do anything for this child. Then she was handed to me and I kissed her wet face and examined her fingers and toes and placed her on my chest and then cried tears of exhaustion and joy.

At the moment of her birth, I was changed. I became a mother.

Happy 26th birthday honey!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lucky 13

Thirteen is my lucky number.

My car accident happened on June 13th. I faced death again (sigh) on November 13th when I choked on a pill. My swallowing has not been normal since the accident. It may be neurological, but my guess is that it's trauma based (more about that in another post). There are many other significant thirteens.

It was Saturday night, November 13, 2004. I had just come back from seeing a play Meghann was in at school. It was her senior year of high school. She was at the cast party. Shannon was living home again and was out with friends. I was alone. I’d been doing a dietary cleanse with some herbs someone suggested—I thought a detoxification might help with the chronic pain syndrome—I was in day ten of a fourteen day program. I swallowed eight pills twice a day and was having very few problems. I was being careful. As I took my nightly dosage, seven pills went down just fine and the eighth got stuck. I started coughing right away and I could feel the pill in my throat. I continued to cough hard and realized it was not coming up. I began to get alarmed. I coughed and coughed but, made no progress. The pill was stuck. I realized I needed help and reached for my cell phone to call a friend who lived down the street, but the phone was turned off and I was getting more and more frightened as I continued to cough and struggle to breathe. I phoned 911. The voice said, “What is your emergency?” I started to tell him, when I realized I couldn’t talk. I knew this was bad. The panic mounted. The 911 guy said, “Ma’me, what is your emergency?” I coughed out the word, “Choking.”

“Ma’me, is someone hurting you.”


“Ma’me, is someone there with you.”

I was in a full blown panic attack by this time. A wild animal struggling to survive. I realized I was getting nowhere with the 911 guy and needed someone right then. So, I went to find a neighbor. It was 9:30 that cold Saturday night in November. I was in my pajamas, white terrycloth robe, wool socks, but no slippers. As I put my hand on the front doorknob I felt myself blacking out. “Oh no! We aren’t going to have ‘dead mother in the door way.’ My kids are not going to come home to that scene!”

I ran out in the street still gasping and coughing and looked to the left but, the neighbors lights were off. I looked across the street. The neighbors lights were on and I went there and pounded on the door.

Poor Allen! I scared him. He and his wife Pam are great people! We’ve since gotten to know them well through Bridge. Allen’s a master at it and taught some of us neighbors how to play. I thought Bridge would be good for my brain. It’s a great game.

Allen opens the door to me sputtering, coughing and hysterical in my PJs and robe holding my throat as I gasp for air. He yells, “Oh my God!” I indicate that I want him to do the Heimlich maneuver and he does it but, it doesn’t work. Pam comes over and I fall to the floor. I hear Allen on the phone, “My neighbor across the street is choking.” Pam rubs my back gently and I calm down. I was reading an article earlier in the day in Yoga Journal about relaxation and breathing. As Pam rubs my back in soft circular motions, my mind was instructing me, “In breath, out breath. In breath, out breath.”

The police were the first to arrive. “Ma’me has someone hurt you?” I’m brought back to the trauma of the moment. I try to answer him and can’t talk and feel the pill in my larynx and I panic all over again.

The fire guys come next-all ten of them, strong and young and gorgeous-and the Heimlich maneuver is tried and again it doesn’t work. They all stand around watching the coughing, struggling, slobbering mess I’ve become on the floor.

The paramedics come. A guy with horn-rimmed glasses pushes his way to the front of the crowd that has now gathered in Allen and Pam’s foyer. “Finally,” I think, “Someone is going to take charge of this situation and get me out of this mess.” He looks me straight in eyes. We are communicating telepathically. I knew if one more person tried to get me to talk, I’d lose it. He asks only yes-no questions. “Ma’me, would you like me to try the Heimlich maneuver?” I shake my head yes. When it didn’t work he said, “I’m going to hurt you if I keep trying this. Since you’re coughing, I’m going to just let this take its course. Is that all right?” I shake my head yes, drop to the floor coughing and gasping some more, but felt safe that I wasn’t alone in my struggle. In just a few more minutes I say, “Oh, I think it went down.” I can taste and I’m coughing up the power from the pill. I guess the gel coating finally dissolved.

I looked up to find two good friends from the neighborhood standing there. Pam must have called them. Sharon sees I’m breathing again and sitting calmly (somewhat) on the floor and offers, “Kathe, this is a hell of a way to get a date.” We all laugh.

The crowd begins to dissipate and the lead paramedic guy says, "Well I guess you’re OK," and begins to move toward the door when my good friends Paul and Sharon simultaneously yell, “No, she’s not.” They take me to the ER in Boulder. I’m still not breathing right. My chest is tight. I’m so hoarse I can barely talk. They give me a couple of nebulizer treatments which help tremendously and send me home with an Albuterol inhaler.

I’m traumatized. I can’t sleep. I can’t stop playing the scene over and over. I can’t eat. I’ll never swallow another pill.

I had a planned business trip to North Carolina for that week. As I’m flying home that Sunday, replaying the scene in my mind (it took some work to get that to stop), a thought occurs to me. It was sudden and definite. “Huh, I’m not dead.” Once again, death came knocking and I didn’t answer the door. I smiled. I was swept away by the thought. “Huh, I’m not dead.”

The most natural next thought came. What do you do when you’re not dead? When you could have been dead a couple times over and you’re not, what do you do? I asked all my friends. Finally, it was Melinda who says, “Well, you haven’t had a date in about ten years, why don’t you start there!” Great idea!

I got busy. She made me get online. Oh no! I’m not going to do this. “Where the hell else are you going to meet someone?” she barked. So, I did. I posted my photo and profile. I got three thousand hits. I had three dates in one day one Friday.

Kevin was the gem that shone brightest. As you already know, we met on January 13, 2005. I called him ‘beautiful Kevin’ (he’s going to hate that I’m writing this), because he is! He is the calm blue water to my hot red fire. He is the introvert to my extrovert. He is the Felix to my Oscar—we really are an odd couple in so many ways.

At first it was every June thirteenth that I celebrated life. Now, every thirteenth of the month we celebrate life, love, health and happiness.

Today is our anniversary—four years and eight months. Aw!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Laughter, glorious laughter!

I don’t recall exactly when the laughter returned, but it’s been in full season since Kevin came into my life.

When my scrambled eggs for brains (a chapter title in the first draft of the book) began turning into more properly arranged axons and dendrites (the gray matter of the brain) and I was working more regularly and earning a more sustainable wage (yes!), a friend of mine said, “Well, now, how about your love life?” There had been several dates here and there, but I guess ultimately I wasn’t ready for love. I was still far from well.

While the brain was clearing up, the body most certainly was not. My cognitive-, speech-, and psycho- therapies had concluded sometime in 2002, I believe. I then began working with a new physical therapist that my new physician, Chris Centeno, MD had suggested. I was being instructed in how to use a therapy ball, foam roller and a TENS unit (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) to manage the pain. Dr. Centeno offered a variety of other therapies and procedures that made an enormous difference in my life. He explained that the chronic pain syndrome I was experiencing was a direct result from the trauma to my brain. He used the term central (autonomic) nervous system dysfunction (fibromyalgia) and explained that my brain over reacts to stimuli from my body. This seemed bad! I hated the word fibromyalgia (although he didn’t use it). I knew enough about it from my patients over the years and from a dear friend who suffers from it, and I definitely did not want it myself! I hadn’t wanted a brain injury, and for that matter, I had wished the whole damned thing hadn’t happened to me.

The pain was awful. Walking, sitting for too long or even lying down all hurt. The pain woke me up. I slept a lot, but still never felt rested. The only place it didn’t hurt was in a warm bath. And one of the most maddening things about the chronic pain syndrome (I still won’t use the word fibromyalgia) was the exacerbations and remittances. There would be hours (at first), then days, then weeks of no pain and every time that happened-every time-I’d think, “Oh thank God that’s over.” Then I’d be struck again and it would rock my world. It would tear me apart emotionally. It hurt so much. I took so much ibuprofen it negatively impacted my health in other ways. I never took narcotics. I couldn’t fathom adding another problem (addiction) to the laundry list of problems I was already facing.

When I met Kevin in 2005, I was not well physically. I was still out of shape (I hadn’t run in seven years), but he didn’t seem to notice or didn’t seem to care or just decided not to mention it, and I am forever grateful for that.

It was a cold January night, a Thursday, the thirteenth. He was fifteen minutes late. On our second date, he was thirty minutes late. I thought to myself, if this thing works out, I’m going to have to let go of needing him to be on time. Kevin is time-challenged. It’s humorous sometimes, but mostly not.

Then the laughter started. He is so funny. Silly really. It’s been an ongoing circus, a lunacy, a King of Hearts, a play date with a five-year-old.

One time, he was in the kitchen preparing breakfast. He was going to make scrambled eggs. I was in the living room stretching after a run and I could see him crouched down in front of the cabinet below the island where the mixing bowls, cups and serving platters are stored. “Which vessel should I use for these eggs,” he called. “Kevin, ‘vessel?’” I roared.

The other day, I called him (as I often do during the day) while I was on an errand for work. I heard some muffled crackling noises and he was slow to say, "Hello." I figured he was struggling with the phone, because he was right in the middle of something. He said, “I’ll have to call you back. I’m transacting.”

Now, that may not seem funny to you, but I had to pull the car over I was laughing so hard. My eyes watered. I couldn’t see. My belly ached. My ribs hurt. I was still laughing uncontrollably when he phoned back moments later. “Kevin, ‘I’m transacting,’ who talks like that?” Kevin does. He’s precise. He’s exact. If you need a picture hung, he’ll whip out the level and measuring tape faster than you can say, “Jack Robinson.” He carries hardware in his pockets at all times; he’d put his level and tape measure in there if they’d fit. You never know when you’ll need a flashlight or pocket knife. He’s a boy scout without a troop, list in hand, items labeled and accounted for. He is precise and exact in word and deed.

Kevin is also multi-task-challenged. We were preparing dinner. He had a drink (I think it was limeade, his favorite) in his hand and I looked over at him, and a few minutes later I looked again, and then said, “I thought you were going to start chopping this onion.” He looked at his drink, then he looked at me and said, “I can’t possibly chop that onion right now, I’m sipping my limeade.” Another roll-on-the-floor fit of laughing erupted. And there’s more, much more.

I had my last big flair-up of pain in March 2005. It was Tuesday, March 15th, the ides of March. The pain was so bad that day that I couldn’t work. I had trouble walking, driving and thinking. I called a spiritual friend whose opinions matter greatly to me. I consider him someone who explores the inner workings of his heart and soul and he follows a path that looks beyond what we can feel, hear and touch with our physical senses. He suggested I pray. He suggested I be grateful for the experience I was having. I wanted to choke him! But, I was too weak to drive over there. We talked for quite awhile when I began to realize what he was getting at. What did I have to lose? I thought for a long time about what he said, then I began this prayer, “Thank you, God, for this pain. I don’t know why I have it, but if it serves some purpose for you now, thank you for it.” I’d say that prayer hundreds of times a day.

I guess I now know the purpose. Gratitude is an antidote to pain. Whoa! I wouldn’t have figured that one out on my own.

I hold hope in the palm of my hand and I freely offer it to you by sharing my experience, journey and this story.

Now, every time I run I pray, “Thank you God for giving me a strong, healthy pain free body and the ability to run.” I say it over and over while I run. I am strong. I am healthy. I am a runner. I’ve been relatively pain free since May 2005.

Maybe it was the laughter that healed the pain. Maybe it was the prayers. But, I do know it had something to with some outstanding, committed and knowledgeable people on my healthcare team.

Friday, September 11, 2009

From Chapter 3- Mexico—Salvatore

Azucar was tucked into a cul-de-sac off the main avenue on the north end of Cancun. Camryn and Cynthia discovered it several vacations ago. The lighting along the bar invited a fantasy of Havana nights of the 1940s. Her parents would have loved this place. She wasn’t aware if they’d ever been here. They too, had come to Cancun frequently. Elizabeth and Ken were great dancers. Every decade, on their wedding anniversary they’d throw a huge party and on their last one, their fortieth it was no different. Camryn loved dancing with her father, but it wasn’t quite the practiced steps that Elizabeth and he shared.

The matre’d, Enrique seated Camryn and asked if he could join her for a drink. He called the waiter over, bought her a drink and they talked briefly before he had to return to work.

Loneliness settled in as she watched the club fill up with couples and groups of people, laughing and talking as they pasted her unnoticed. Here she was alone, again. It had been years since romance put in an appearance —there wasn’t time in her life or a place in her heart for it. She finished her drink and thought maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to have come here by herself. She stood, smoothed the wrinkles on the front of her white gauze summer dress that contrasted nicely with her gently tanned skin from earlier in the day, tucked her clutch purse under her arm and headed toward to door.

Then, she looked up. Her eyes met his. His long dark wavy hair was pulled back into a ponytail. He was dressed in dark slacks, a white shirt, no tie with his light tan jacket slung over his shoulder. They were unable or unwilling to shift their gaze. He slowly walked over to her and took her hand in his.

“Buenos noches, senorita,” he spoke softly as he leaned over to kiss her hand.

“Buenos noches, senor,” she said as she let him.

“Allow me to introduce myself,” he said in English with an accent Camryn couldn’t quite place. He wasn’t Mexican. “My name in Salvatore and a beautiful woman such as yourself should not be leaving so early. The night is young.”

“Oh, boy, what a line,” she thought, yet, she had to check to be sure her mouth wasn’t gaping open. It was as if he had just walked off the cover of a magazine. He was the most beautiful man she had ever seen.

“Please sit down. Will you join me?” She gestured. She realized she was going to stay for awhile.

Salvatore ordered drinks. Camryn had another Perrier. The conversation flowed freely. He was Italian and was on vacation for two weeks with his business partner and childhood friend Benito, who would meet him there shortly. They were staying at the Fiesta Americana just across from Azucar.

A collective rhythm pulsated in the air as song after song played on.

The next dance was a Rumba. Camryn let Salvatore lead her into the sensual moves that hinted at the possibilities of the night.

The band took a break. Salvatore looked over and saw his friend. “Benito’s here. Let me introduce you.” He held her hand and led her to where Benito stood.

“Benito, allow me to introduce the most beautiful woman in the world,” Salvatore said dramatically.

They laughed.

Benito’s English wasn’t as easy to understand. He was polite and formal. Salvatore and he spoke to each other in Italian. After her second dance with Benito, Salvatore suggested they go to another club, Christine’s, a disco, was a short taxicab ride away.

In the cab, Salvatore put his arm around Camryn’s shoulder. She took his hand in hers. She knew where the evening was going. The rules of conduct in the sultry heat of this Mexican resort were left wide open. At Christine’s a photographer took their pictures. Salvatore bought two copies and gave her one.

The three of them found a table and Benito immediately approached a group of women and headed to the dance floor with one of them. The music and flashing lights filled her senses. It was too loud to carry on a conversation. Benito waved them onto the dance floor. They swooned and crooned along to Donna Summers’ I feel the love. Then another song erupted and suddenly the crowd separated and they could see a man going all out on the dance floor. They laughed and howled. Camryn glanced over at Salvatore as he laughed. She paused, studying his profile, then his hands--his fingernails hadn’t seen hard work. He looked over at her and leaned into her. She met him and for the first time that night they kissed. They pulled back. Their eyes met. Then they leaned toward each and their lips met again. He led her back to the table. The music washed away their voices.

“Maybe we should do go,” he offered. But, she couldn’t hear him and shrugged her shoulders. He nodded toward to the door. She didn’t hesitate. He caught Benito’s attention and waved good bye.

Morning was not too far distant as they reached her condo. She held her shoes in one hand and his in the other as they walked along the beach, enjoying the coolness that settled on the night.

“It’s late,” said Camryn.

“You mean it’s early,” corrected Salvatore.

Camryn smiled. “Let’s go upstairs." He didn’t hesitate.

Salvatore put out the do-not-disturb sign. They stood just inside the doorway. He kissed her. He picked her up in his arms and carried her up the short flight of stairs to the bedroom. He laid her on the bed, their lips never separating. She could feel the weight of him on her. She slipped her hands under his shirt and felt the muscles of his back straining. In one fluid motion, he rolled over and pulled her on top of him and his practiced fingers unzipped the back of her dress.

“Oh my God,” she thought. “I’m in a super-market romance novel.”

“Yes,” she uttered, her voice just above a whisper.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Ghosts in the Darkness

Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting in Bookend Cafe, the coffee shop attached to the Boulder Bookstore—being one of the throngs of erudite Boulderites. It’s pretty white here in Boulder. I don’t mean that in a negative way; it’s just an observation. Led Zeppelin’s Going to California; “Standing on a hill in my mountain of dreams, telling myself it's not as hard, hard, hard as it seems…” was playing over head.

Kevin had some business in downtown, so, I decided to go along. After a late breakfast at Turley’s he dropped me off on Pearl Street. I wanted to finish some writing I had begun earlier.

As I sometimes do, I begin by editing some of the book’s first draft. December 11, 2000 was the date on the chapters I was reading yesterday. The book holds my memories, my history (for the most part) of what my life was like back in 1998 through 2000. I had a scheduled trip to Cancun, Mexico with my sister the weekend after the accident. I shouldn’t have gone. I wasn’t well, but I didn’t know it yet. I remember nothing of that weekend except what I wrote as part of the story. I haven’t talked to my sister about that weekend. I think I’ll give her a call.

Here come the tears again. I fight them back. I can’t cry in public.

I haven’t always been such a crybaby. But, I am now. A friend of mind told me that I also laugh more heartily than before, too. The brain injury changed me. I don’t have the same filters I used to. I guess it’s good. I’ve come to accept who I am. And really, when you meet me, you’d never know that I’m different. But, I am.

One of the first classes I took as a part of my PhD was a philosophy of science course. Margaret LeCompte, PhD was the professor. She changed me. I am one of the many thousands of students she has had in her career, and I’m sure she’d say “Kathe Perez who” if I ever emailed her to say “hi.” However, a part of how I see world was developed in that class. She had a tremendous impact on me. The major assignment for the course, which we had the semester to complete, was to write what she called a “Stand Point” paper. We were to search back through our lives our personal histories—our families, education, where we grew up, our culture, our mental, physical and emotional experiences, what we read, and our political perspectives--and write who we are. She said that it is from our histories that we come to the point upon which we stand today, and that would determine the type of science to which we would be drawn. I anguished over the paper. I went to see her a couple of times. And yes, she did mean everything. “You mean my father’s alcoholism?” “Yes,” was her reply. “You mean the poor little Mexican girl who grew up in fancy white Connecticut?” “Yes,” was her reply. “But, but, but,” I protested. “Just write it,” she insisted. So I did.

About a week ago I was going through a small blue notebook I apparently used to keep track of my life. The first entry in that notebook was November 3, 1998. The writing is nearly illegible. I sentences are incomplete. I must have been trying to help myself remember some things that were supposed to get done. I wonder if they ever did.

In another blue notebook (I guess blue was my color) from some years later, I saw that I attended a talk or book signing by Jimmy Santiago Baca in 2001. I have absolutely no idea how I got interested in his work (Chicano jailhouse poetry), but I guess I did. Then, the next day, I heard he was going to be speaking in Boulder in a couple of weeks. So, I did a Google search and came up with nothing. I went to his website, nothing. I emailed him and asked him about it and he emailed me back to say, that yes he was speaking in Boulder on September 22, 2009, but he didn’t say where and I still can’t find it and I’m too embarrassed to email him back.

Yesterday when Kevin finished his business and came to retrieve me from where I sat at a tiny round table barely big enough for my laptop, we decided to look around the Boulder Bookstore for a bit. Now, when you love to read (I need to retire just to read all the books on my list) you simply cannot go into a bookstore and come out empty handed. I had intended to only get To Kill a Mockingbird. On the way home from work the day before, I heard an interview on the radio with Denver’s Mayor Hickenlooper about his project One Book-One Denver and I wanted to get a copy.

Thirty-seven dollars and eighty-five cents later, I walked out with four books and a big smile.

I began reading Jimmy’s book, A Place to Stand (I think I may have read it, the cover looks familiar) and know why I was attracted his story--chronic shame. He’s a little boy in New Mexico and the adults in his life that were supposed to love and care for him failed him. My father was from New Mexico. His dark skin and dirt floor shack that was his boyhood home raked at his soul, but instead of finding the words to tell his story, he found the bottle.

Somehow I blamed myself for the accident. I saw that the car coming up behind us was going too fast. Why didn’t I try some strategic maneuver like in the movies to avoid the collision? Then bang! Smash! Damaged!

The ghosts from that dark, dark time in my life are here again, not to bring me over to the other side, but to take me further into the light. “I want you to be an example of hope in the world,” said the voice in my head.

“Standing on a hill in my mountain of dreams, telling myself it's not as hard, hard, hard as it seems.”

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My Dark Mood

My dark mood came knocking Tuesday night. I had a feeling it was she. I haven’t seen her in awhile. I got up, went to the door, saw who it was, thought better of it, but I let her in anyway. We’ve known each other for quite some time.

I’m lying very still as dawn stretches into my room, breathing softly so she doesn’t know I’m awake. My thoughts carry me to a peaceful place--sitting in my comfortable chair, in my comfortable living room with the tapping sounds of my pretty red nails on the keyboard of my lap-top (I love that). Then my dark mood senses I’m awake and slaps me. Hard. Damn her! She’s coercing me to spend another day with her. Boy, she’s convincing.

My dark mood and depression are cousins. She introduced me to depression back in 1999. Depression--now that’s a bitch that’s packing some power! Depression oozed into the hearts of beautiful creative souls like Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton and quietly had her way with them.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m reading (actually re-reading) Anne Lamott’s, Bird by Bird, and she mentioned there was a time when suicide came to some of her father’s writing friends. Last night, Anne suggested that I write about what I know, about my experiences, that I use my history and observations of the world around me, to be the anchor of my stories. She writes about alcoholism, neurosis, and depression. What is this with writers?

You’d think that my dark mood would love that I’m writing. But, she’s secretive. She loves secrets. She whispers in my ear. She turns my fears into truths. She’s good at that!

So, I haven’t written/edited much more on chapter three. We left off with Camryn taking a cab ride into the night club district of Cancun, Mexico. We’ll pick up from there soon.

My dark mood needs to leave now. It's sunny. It’s 63 degrees. It’s 7:48 am. Another amazing Colorado morning. The neighborhood kids are scurrying along the bike path to the elementary school. My writing time is coming to a close for today. I’m going to go for a run. My dark mood hates it when I run.

I feel better. I’m going to ask her to leave.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Joy and Motivation

I’m writing everyday and it’s bringing me joy! Joy: “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires.” (Merriam-Webster Online). I’m in a massive edit of the book. Finally! It brings me joy.

When my kids were young, almost every morning of their lives, I’d ask them about their dreams. In my dream last night, I was in a class my friend Melodie Matice was teaching. The class was on spirituality and how to tap into your intuition. It was on a beach and we, the audience sat facing the water. It was warm, comfortable, just after sunrise. The sun was coming up behind us. I’ve been to this location before in my dreams. It’s along a lagoon and the water is always calm. The beach was rocky. Many of my friends were also in the class and during the break my friend Rosia came over to me and we were talking about how I might go about publishing the book. We were talking about the title and whether to use the current title or something else. Then another friend drew an amazing picture. The drawing, in colored pencil, a scene from that beach, had hidden faces in the rocks. We all loved it and then someone mentioned it would make a great cover for the book.

Writing brings me joy. Reading brings me joy. Reading about writing brings me a lot of joy. Sunday, I picked up a book I bought in 1999 (I keep the receipts in the books I buy) by Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: some instructions on writing and life. I now want to read everything she ever wrote. I want to meet her. Ok, Supreme-Being-of-my-understanding, you heard it. I want to meet Anne Lamott. (I’ll let you all know when I do).

Now, there are some special gifts you get when you have (or have had, in my case) a brain injury. You can re-read books (I apparently read quite thoroughly, Bird by Bird as evidenced by the crinkly pages). You can buy your own Christmas gifts, wrap them, put them under the Christmas tree and be surprised by them on Christmas morning (this actually happened and I tell the story in more detail in the book).

I put away all my writings and books in two boxes that sat in the basement for years. I tried revisiting the book a couple of times. But they were false starts and nothing came of it. Yes, the book was crap and it needed so much work, that I doubted that I’d ever find the motivation to complete it. Motivation: it comes from the root word motive—“something (as a need or desire) that causes a person to act.”

What is my motive? I have a story to tell. An experience to share. We all do! And, we all love stories. We never tire of stories.

I’m writing and editing (writing really is more about editing) everyday. And I love Camryn. Is that narcissistic? Because, come on, she’s me, right? She’s divorced; I was divorced. She’s a single mom; I was a single mom. She’s working on a Ph.D.; I was working on a Ph.D. She loves going Mexico; I loved going to Mexico (although I haven’t been there since the accident). Camryn had a car accident and a brain injury; I had a car accident and a brain injury. But, an interesting thing happened. Camryn turns out to not be me. On the outside, some of the circumstances of the life of that character were some (not all) of my own. Then, she began to evolve into her own personality. She developed her own processes for working through the problems she faced. I was surprised and intrigued by that, but as it turns out that’s a common occurrence. Since, I’d never done any creative writing, I didn’t know this. So, back then (from October 1998 to January 2001) and now, I let Camryn tell her story.

I am motivated to do the thing that brings me joy: to write.

What brings you joy? What’s your story? I’d love to know.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

From Chapter 3 -- Mexico, January 1997

No one greeted her on Tuesday afternoon as she hurried into the humble office that the physical therapist shared with her new physician, Dr. Siemens. An older couple, the woman with her cane, the man with his magazine sat near the door at the other end of the room. They didn’t bother to look up when she sat down in one of the worn teal and pink cushioned chairs that lined the walls.

The faint smell of gasoline lingered on her hands. She spilled it all over herself as she topped off the tank on the rental car and had to return home and change, but there was no time for a shower.

“How late am I?” she thought. “Did I miss my appointment?” She looked down at her watch, but it wasn’t there. She considered picking up a magazine, but her thoughts, like a feather in the wind, blew gently away.


The weekend in Mexico last year was thrown together quickly. Nearly every day, Camryn and her sister Cynthia spoke on the phone. As she was driving to work that Monday morning she saw an advertisement on the side of a bus for a low cost weekend in Cancun. Many long lazy weekends and vacations with the kids with Cynthia and her two girls were spent at Bill Johnson’s condo, a lifelong friend of their father’s. Many years ago, when Bill’s wife, Doris slipped away with half of everything while he was busy drinking and carousing, Bill bought the condo and fled to it rather than face the family he shattered in Connecticut. Bill never charged any of them for use of the place. All he asked was that they be very friendly with the staff and tip them generously.

“Hey, doll face, what’s up?” asked Cynthia.

“Let’s go to Mexico at the end of the month. You’ve been working like a dog. And I could certainly use some time away.” Camryn turned off Colorado Boulevard toward the Cherry Creek neighborhood of Denver.

“Ok, let me check on a few things and get back to you. By the way, how did the work on your dissertation go this weekend?”

“It’s hell. I can’t believe how much still needs to be done. My house has never been cleaner.” They laughed. Both Camryn and Cynthia took after their mother in this way.

They said their good-byes as Camryn drove into the parking lot of her office.

As it turned out, Cynthia couldn’t get away. Camryn would be going to Mexico alone for the weekend. Cancun in January alone--she decided she’d bring her lap-top and work on her dissertation.

A subzero cold spell hit the Front Range of Colorado that January. It was six below at the airport when she walked from the short-term parking garage at Denver International Airport to the terminal. She took satisfaction in the thought that that afternoon she’d be walking off a plane in 80 degree weather.

Camryn was in her swim suit and on the beach by two o’clock that afternoon. The wait-staff greeted her warmly as she walked to the beach. They asked about Cynthia and the children. Richard was there, too. He was an American who moved to Cancun several years ago and involved himself in the hotel industry. He waved and approached Camryn as she grabbed a chaise lounge. Richard had been an investment attorney and “gave up the life” as he put it and moved to Mexico.

“Bienvenido, mi amiga, como ‘stas?” asked Richard.

“Gracious. Estoy bien, y tu?” replied Camryn happy to practice her Spanish.

“It’s one beautiful day after another. When are you going to pack up and move down here yourself?” Richard knew of Camryn’s desire to live in Mexico or some tropical Spanish speaking country one day. They sat together and caught up on their lives since last summer when everyone was there together.

Later that afternoon, after her obligatory Mexican siesta, Camryn sat on the balcony which faced the beach and the Gulf of Mexico. The sun was setting and the waves were getting stronger. A group of about twenty shirtless men wearing the same navy shorts ran along the water.

Camryn showered and dressed for dinner and decided to take herself some place nice, one her favorite places. La Dolce Vita was considered one of the best restaurants in Cancun. It overlooked the Lagoon. That Thursday night, she arrived around nine, after dark. From her table, she could see the twinkling of the lights from the boats as they traveled through the Lagoon. She enjoyed being alone with her thoughts. Antoine, the matre‘d, whom she’d known for a few years, was a fair complexioned man with blue eyes. He sat with her for dessert and coffee.

Antoine escorted Camryn out of the restaurant, called her a cab and instructed the driver to take her to her condominium. She didn’t feel like going back there yet, so she asked the driver to take her to the night club district.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I'm Stuck

Nothing. I’ve got nothing. I’m on my third cup of coffee and third gluten free cranberry flax bite. It takes longer to say it than to eat one of them they’re so small.

I’m editing an article for a website. I just added my nephew who lives in the Philippines as a Facebook friend. I’m working on Chapter 3. I don’t like it. I’ve been up since 4:00, well 3:52 if you must know.

I’ve had nothing before. This was a familiar state in the years after the accident. Years mind you. Not days, not weeks, but years. How does one endure the strung together moments that fall together in a rubble that’s supposed to be a life?

My speech therapist, Mary Ann Keatley said, “one day you’ll reflect back on this and realize how injured you really were. You’ll get better.” She gave me inspirational tapes to listen to (reading was difficult). She gave me hope that I didn’t have and desperately needed. She understood. The days I had difficulty speaking were particularly bad--the stammering, stuttering was very embarrassing. I’m a speech therapist for God’s sake! And a damn good public speaker. But not in those years.

I lost my memories. Who are we but the bundle of experiences which fit together and make up who we are? Who are we without our memories? Meghann began high school during that time. I don’t remember her first day of school. There were birthdays and Christmases and trips. I don’t remember. There were people I met and friends I made that I don’t remember.

From the Monday after the accident until sometime later, I guess until the money ran out, I had therapies several times a week. There was physical therapy, massage therapy, speech therapy, and Rolfing. After the neuropsychological testing the speech therapy stepped up in frequency. A year later when things got worse (if you can imagine that), a psychotherapist and psychiatrist were added to the roster. Then there were pain management people and procedures.

It all helped. They were all so great! I felt listened to. I felt understood. I felt safe in their collective experiences. I trusted them and they didn’t let me down.