Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

March 16, 2014

Harder Going Out

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 9:15 am

For over a year now, my brothers and I have been slowly clearing our childhood homestead, readying it for sale.  I had spent my time there largely carrying out the myriad “loose” items that had collected over the years.  Easy to bag and box and carry and drag.  My Mom’s scrapbooks from when she was a little girl.  My Dad’s artwork.  Eight thousand rubber bands and plastic margarine containers my Mom kept.  Every holiday card they ever received.  A thousand odds and ends of dishes and glasses and silverware and pots and pans…

There were the file cabinet drawers filled with taxes and cancelled checks from the 70s.  Stocks of china and books and things people left when they went to college, moved out, moved back in, left for different states, different lives.  Left for….Heaven.

Now that we are down to near-empty rooms, there are items that, when moved in, had no intention of ever leaving.  An entertainment center that even the movers told me that first day, “Tell us where you want it because it’s never moving.”

Well, it’s moving.

My brothers dismantled it and dragged it up the stairs.  That heavy-as-hell workbench and that storage bin that I never could of imagined where we got it or how it even fit downstairs for fifty years….

It’s all harder going out.

Like entertainment centers and steel file cabinets and seemingly unmovable work benches, we move thoughts into our minds at an earlier time.  When we are younger, when we are excited and hopeful, perhaps when we are naïve.

We take in “stuff” over the years….Things we’ve heard and things we’ve learned and things we’ve rationalized and stories we’ve told ourselves.  We pile in the rumors and the family stories and the beliefs and attitudes.  Most of the time we don’t research them to find out whether they are true or valid or need to change.  We pile them in and soon we just vacuum around them.

It’s harder going out.

Collectively, as a Society, as a human race, we are so slow to change our beliefs on so many things.  What skin color means and what a woman deserves to make and what a family should look like and what a government should do….

More close to home, we set in stone what we mean, ourselves.  What roles we play and where we shine and puff out our chests.  We find comfort in the piles and bags and boxes filled with stuff we will never again use because they reflect a comfort time.  They validate a life’s work, they prove we were loved or able or popular or important or successful.

It’s harder going out.

Each month I sit down at my kitchen table and I write out bills and I log how much they were on a sheet I brilliantly titled the Bill Log.  Genius.

I was looking at the amount totals for gas, electricity and water and I was amazed to find they are virtually the same.  Every month.

Within a dollar, within pennies, I am such a ridiculous creature of habit that there is virtually no change in my utility usage over an entire year.

As simple as it sounds, if I want to change my utility bills, I have to change how I live.   I have to take a shorter shower, wash clothes a couple of times fewer each month, use paper plates or cups….Whatever.   In order to change those numbers, I have to change the behavior driving them.

One of the hardest parts of recovering from brain injury is the realization that, by and large, once that brain is struck and damaged, things are immediately changed.

We might not know it yet.  We might be preoccupied with hospital stays and therapies and surrounded by medical bills and overturned realities….

But we have already changed.

The reason my brothers are dismantling that entertainment center and dragging out my parents’ bedroom set and carrying up that old work bench is because we are different now.  Not everything fits anymore.  We don’t need some of those things.

I moved to a condo because I have just spent more than half my life cutting the lawn on a double lot that has fifteen trees to trim and leaves to rake and lines to edge and bushes to shape.

I’m not a young kid anymore and I’m not heading in that direction.

I have changed.

And so have you.

There are beliefs and traditions and practices and roles and comforts and routines and yes, furniture, that no longer fit any more.  Somewhere along the way we came to think of that as a bad thing.  As a failure or a problem or a shame. 

In reality, we are meant to change and evolve and clean out and give away and drag up from the basement.

Perhaps we were duped by growing up in a time when everyone worked at the same job for forty years and left with a gold watch, a pension and a chicken buffet dinner.  We slapped bondo on our cars and drove them for twenty years.  We saved plastic containers and wire bread ties and we actually sewed the holes in our socks.

Sometimes it’s more effort to stay the same.  To keep dusting and vacuuming around that work bench or that entertainment center or that treadmill that no longer fits.

I made a Time Capsule for each of my parent’s things.  Stuff that was sooo them.  Special things.

I threw out my Mom’s garter belts and her bathing cap from 1962.

Suffering a brain injury or any major life change is like moving out of a house.  If you haven’t been clearing it and maintaining it over the years, it’s harder going out.  There’s just so much clutter.

I’m in a beautiful condo now.  It is clean and well-repaired and it reflects the styles and personality and place that I’m at now.  I don’t need that entertainment center any longer.

Beyond the obvious setbacks and devastating realities of significant head injury or life change lies the whisper that beckons.

It sneaks in and makes the curtains dance.  It smells of freshly-cut lawn after a long winter.

It is a fresh start.  It is change.  It is Spring. 

Nobody can take or belittle or make frivolous the remarkable changes that a brain injury brings.  You have suffered a personal winter for the ages.

But it’s unnatural to wear our parkas and our boots when the storm breaks.  When the skies clear.  When the sun warms.

You deserve Spring.  You deserve to start anew without all the thoughts and roles and practices and routines and work benches of a life before.

Now I sit in my new condo in the quiet mornings when the sun streaks through my front window.  I smile as it reflects through the beautiful green glass on a copper lantern that was my parents’.  I smile at how wonderful the few pieces of furniture I kept compliment my paint and carpeting choices.

And I laugh.  And I hope.  And I dream.



February 9, 2014

Measuring Cups, Moguls, Apples and Oranges

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 11:56 am

I can remember sitting in class in high school, seemingly a lifetime ago, and hearing my teacher talk about how we needed to learn the Metric System because our country was planning on switching over and naming the Metric System our designated, official system of measure.  It was a big deal back then, I recall, with many in an uproar that we would change, so significantly, the way we measure.

I watched the Olympics last night and saw American Hannah Kearney take the bronze in what was, for her, a cutting disappointment after her gold medal four years ago.

I saw that little flub they spoke of.  I saw her knees come apart as the hills gauged her and stole her dream finish in that split-second.

To the world, we marveled at her ability.  Wow!  To tackle those moguls and to flip and flip backwards, to land, to maneuver.

But, for her, it was a performance that disappointed, didn’t measure up, brought her to tears.

It’s funny what we remember about things…

I can vividly recall being in 9th grade swim class, standing there self-consciously with my arms crossed, trying to cover my belly.

I weighed 119 pounds at the time.  I could run a mile in under 7 minutes and I could bench-press 150 pounds.  I had teardrop muscles for thighs and I was all taught and hard and the strongest I had ever been.

There wasn’t a belly to be ashamed of.

Too often we grab measuring spoons and cups that simply no longer serve us.  No longer are valid.  No longer matter.

We turn a deaf ear to the overwhelming roar of the else, the everyone else.  We are so determined to find where we don’t measure up.  Where we disappoint.

Our ears are too big, our boobs are too small, our bellies too big, our penises too small, our chins too big, our bank accounts too small, our this and our that.  Always seemingly too….something.

It seems to me that we needn’t worry so much about what we measure with, which system we choose, but, rather, the things we measure them against. 

And maybe the everyone else should have a voice, a listen…

I hope one day that Hanna Kearney realizes what an outstanding, top-tier Olympic athlete she has been.  Wow, what an accomplishment.  To toe the podium in two consecutive Olympics.  That is truly a remarkable feat.

And the rest of us?

Do you think I should feel shame that my body is no longer as trim and muscled as it was when I was 15?  Do you think that we should waste one more moment lamenting how we no longer are as good as we once were?

It’s time to re-assess what we are comparing.

Too many of us after brain injury spend months, years, even the rest of our lives, comparing our abilities to those without brain injury,  even (and most nonsensically) ourselves before we were hurt.

We all do it.  We’ve all done it. 

And we’re all simply mistaken.

We have to allow ourselves to be right here, today.  To be who we are and make something great of that.  To know that we aren’t supposed to be younger or older or this or that.  That we are supposed to live today.  With all of the abilities, opportunities and choices available to us right now.  Right here.  This moment.

It doesn’t matter what we were twenty years ago, in as much as we compare today.  It doesn’t matter what we made, what we weighed, how we had this or did that.  All that matters is what we have now and how we bend that to sculpt a tomorrow we want.

Let’s not compare our skiing to a two-time medal winner in the Olympics.  Let’s not compare things that are not fair, not logical.

They are apples and oranges and apples and oranges are for eating, for treating, for painting of and for nourishing us.

Let’s nourish us.

Let’s take every day and see how light it travels without all of yesterday’s expectations and disappointments.  Let’s just take this day and see what we make of it.  Maybe we will get thinner today.  Maybe we will get stronger today. Maybe we will be sober again today.

But maybe we will get fatter today.  And maybe our health will deteriorate today.  And maybe we will fall off the wagon.

And then let’s try again tomorrow.

We don’t have to carry everything with us.  We don’t have to shoulder everything, a lifetime of how we failed to measure up.

Why don’t we just take today and enjoy the heck out of it.  No hurries, no worries. See if we can’t take the opportunities and abilities at our disposal and do something that makes us feel good.  Feel valid.  Feel happy.  Feel loved.  Feel accomplished.

We aren’t supposed to be what we were back then.  Not in high school.  Not in college.  Not before our injuries. 

We are what we are supposed to be right now.  The trick is to make something delicious when maybe we don’t have all the ingredients we thought we had or forgot to pick up or finished the rest of last time we cooked.

Let’s make something wonderful, anyhow.  Just today.  The best of today.  Let’s not worry about how it was before or how it might have been.  Let’s not even fuss about how it might be the next time.  Let’s just enjoy how we make it today.  Let’s feel light in the knowing that we are exactly where we are supposed to be and we are just plain flippin’ fabulous here.

In the now.  In today.  In this glorious moment.



January 11, 2014

If the Whooping Crane Can….

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 8:52 pm


Not even a decade ago, the Whooping Crane’s numbers had dwindled to around fifty.  They were on the verge of extinction and in very real danger.

Some fabulous people got together.  They brought a compassion and a determination and a willingness to think outside the box that we can all applaud.

They designed and created a fake “Mama Crane” that would guide and direct orphaned young cranes out of Wisconsin before the punishing winter and get them safely to Florida before they died.  From the time they were in the egg, they were treated to the sound of the engine from Fake Mama Crane and were literally taught to fly by following these awesome people dressed all in white, running down a runway, showing them how.

When they were ready, Fake Mama Crane flew and so did the young cranes.  Fake Mama guided them all the way safely to Florida, just as a real Mama Crane would have.  Instinct would show them the way back to Wisconsin’s wet lands after winter.

I marvel at the dedication and pure determination to save these beautiful birds.  I giggle at the thought of them dressing as cranes and running, themselves, down a runway and leaping into the air, teaching these little crane babies to fly.  Imagine the sight!!!!  :)  Big smiles here.

When it comes to any of us learning to fly again after devastation in our lives, I don’t know if I’m more inspired by the fake cranes imagining a new way to lead these orphans to safety or the young cranes themselves, running, running, running and finally trusting those sweet wings.

After traumatic brain injury demolishes what we had created as our normal, our chosen…we have to find a way….

Find a way and make our way to that runway again.  We have to trust people determined to assist us in staving off our extinction.  There are people out there, many cleverly disguised, who have that one simple word, that unexpected hug, that chance given, that door opened…who will help us change our lives and steady those wings.

If we let them.

Make no mistake, the enormity of TBI in a life threatens to extinguish a beautiful flame and it’s up to us to keep feeding it, to keep it burning.  

Nobody could take that last step for those young orphaned cranes.  Nobody could force them or do it for them. 

They had to lift off.

And so do we.

Today the Whooping Crane’s numbers have grown over four hundred.  Slowly but surely these magnificent birds and the people determined to love and to save them have created a miracle of hope.  A beautiful story of inching so dangerously close to history and then soaring again.

Choose to soar.  Run down that runway.  Ten times.  A hundred times.  A thousand….

Keep leaping into the air.  Towards the sky.  Towards the sun.  Keep trusting that the next dream, the next step, the next attempt, the next path, the next morning….will be YOURS!!!!

Happy New Year, all of you.  Can’t wait to see you soar!!!!

Have you checked out my new site yet?  Stop by, take a look and grab a BYTE!    http://karaswansonsforkbytes.com/

December 24, 2013

Maybe He’ll Stop Beating Me…..

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 4:35 pm

Maybe he’ll stop beating me

Maybe she’ll decide to quit drinking

Maybe he’ll give up gambling

Maybe she’ll finally get up and start looking for a job

Maybe he’ll break up with his mistress

Maybe she’ll stop reminding me of that one thing I did

Maybe he’ll stop telling me he’s working late when I already know where he’s going

Maybe she’ll forgive me

Maybe he’ll grow up

Maybe she’ll find her way

Maybe he’ll call

Maybe she’ll realize she made a mistake and come back

Maybe he’ll finally go to a doctor

Maybe she’ll stop bitching at me for everything

Maybe he’ll start paying attention

Maybe she’ll forgive me

Maybe he’ll quit driving so dangerously with the kids in the car

Maybe she’ll be a better mother

Maybe he’ll be a better dad

Maybe she’ll stop embarrassing me in front of my friends

Maybe he’ll stop belittling me in front of my family

Maybe that spot on my arm will go away

Maybe that tingling in my arm will stop

Maybe my brain injury will heal


But, in the meantime, this is Christmas.  This is New Years.  And this is your life.

What does your life look like for you?  At the end of another year?  Another one in the books.

We all wait for something.  We all put off and think, if only this would happen or that wouldn’t have happened….

The truth is:  Things happen and, if it wasn’t Christmas, I’d say shit happens…Ha.

We can’t keep waiting for other people to make our lives happy.  We have to move on.  Move towards happy, with or without them.

Everyone deserves to feel hopeful about something.  A second chance, a better future, a new love, possible redemption or forgiveness….

Whatever it is you wish for this holiday season…this New Year…I hope you’ll go out and get it.   Gather up your courage and your determination and your sense of humor and your chocolate and go get that happy life.  Make it.  Demand it.  Seize it.  Grab it.  Create it. 

And then enjoy the heck out of it.

We should never have believed that we’d skip through our lives without divorces and broken hearts, lost loved ones and disappointments and natural disasters and terrible diagnosis and yes, brain injuries….

But, sure as we are here right now, sharing this moment during the most magical time of the year, dare to believe that you can overcome everything.  That you can press on and move up and toward every goal you set, every dream you imagine.  That you can beat odds you never would have believed. 

I’m cheering for all of you.  You know that…

Let’s not limp into this New Year.  Let’s go racing over that line that separates what hasn’t happened just yet with what’s coming soon.  Take a snapshot of how you want your life to look and then crop out all the toxic people and things that make that snapshot impossible.

This is your time.  Your year.  It’s not too late…not too late for any of us.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a Happy New Year filled with good health and true true happiness.


November 25, 2013

The Knockout Game, really?

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 9:30 pm

Recently on the news I saw a story covering a new “game” by mostly teenagers called The Knockout Game.  In it, unsuspecting pedestrians are targeted just walking along the street.  As the group of teens approaches and just passes the pedestrian, one of them cold-cocks the poor target, dropping them with a blind-sided sucker punch.


This is happening in at least seven states.  The video clips are truly disturbing, watching people just drop to the ground, already out on their feet.  It’s as if someone just threw a mannequin to the ground.  They don’t even break their falls.  It’s really upsetting to watch.

It’s flat-out dangerous.

This “game” can put people in the hospital and in the morgue.  I saw clips of a man who had sustained a devastating traumatic brain injury as a result of getting blindsided and knocked out.  His life is changed forever.

My friend Bobby and I were lamenting a time when a sucker punch wasn’t celebrated by your friends.  Wasn’t the design of some twisted game.  If you threw a sucker punch, you were a punk.  A coward.

Still are.

You have to wonder how that message got lost along the way….

A new twist to the story happened when the knockout punch misfired and the intended victim calmly shot the punch-throwing coward twice before watching him carted off and arrested.   The kid who threw the punch cited “boredom” as one of the reasons for participating in the Knockout Game. 

Boredom, really?

When my friends and I were bored teenagers, we walked around malls for hours.  We talked on the phone, back when kids actually talked on phones.  We drove around for hours listening to music. 

We didn’t decide to put people in the hospital or, worse, the morgue.

When I was a bored teenager, I ended up pulling weeds, washing windows or running the vacuum cleaner.  Trust me, I wasn’t bored very often.

We have to teach these kids somehow that it is NOT their right to injure or damage our brains.  It is not their right to take our memories, our abilities, our careers, our financial footing, our relationships, our futures. 

OUR LIVES!!!!!!!

Please be careful out there, everyone.  This is only going to continue until more and more intended targets sadly have to defend themselves with deadly force of their own.   Kids are going to continue to put people in hospitals and morgues until they end up there themselves or until they grow enough to realize how stupid they are being.

Be aware.  Spread the word.  Talk to kids.  Don’t walk alone.  Remember that not everyone keeps the same definition of stupid or holds life in as high a regard.

Keep yourselves safe!!!!



November 10, 2013

Thrilled, Delighted, Proud, Tickled, Exhausted

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 9:13 pm

This is a very special moment for me and I couldn’t wait to share it with all of you. 

I once thought that suffering a traumatic brain injury would mean the end of everything good in my world when I saw the pieces of my life scattered all around me.  In the seventeen years since, I have experienced, instead, a journey so remarkable that I am grateful for this injury every day.

Many of you have been with me all the way since my book was published in 1999.  From then and through my speeches, the magazine articles and now here in blog land, I have enjoyed your company, your comments, your stories and your support.

Now I’m taking a next step and I’m so excited to share it with you!!!!

It has always bothered me that so many of us can no longer read like we did.  I was there myself at the beginning and I know how frustrating that is.  I wanted to be able to connect in a way that my book and my blogs cannot.  I imagined, in a way, us just sitting down for a cup of coffee and…talking.

I’ve been working on a series of easily-downloadable audio presentations narrowly designed for specific problems that survivors, caregivers and professionals face every day.  Each runs about an hour and, together with my producer, we’ve worked to keep the cost affordable so that it can reach as many people as possible.

I’ve pasted the link below and I hope you’ll drop by there for a visit.  As always, I appreciate your visits and conversations over the years here on this blog and I hope they continue.   I love you guys and I’m cheering for you!





A Lifestyle Of Thanksgiving

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 10:48 am

I was in a restaurant last night and they were advertising a yummy-looking “Thanksgiving Day Sandwich” with turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing on it.  The picture made it look mouth-watering, as they do.  I wanted that sandwich more at that moment than I want world peace.

I ordered the soup and salad bar.

It wasn’t Thanksgiving yet, I had said.  We’re going to have turkey in a few weeks, I reasoned….

The salad bar was abysmal and the soup was worse.  Amidst noodles that had been sitting in the pot for so long that they had actually disintegrated, I learned a lesson I should already know:

Don’t ever pass up an opportunity for Thanksgiving.

We are a funny bunch, really.  We wait for some Hallmark nod on the calendar to tell us when to gift and whom to gift, when to be thankful for vets and grandparents and, yes, even Jesus.  We look at the calendar at the beginning of the month, the week, to see how many more days before we need to be thankful.

Maybe it’s time to just live Thanksgiving, instead of visiting it just once a year.  Maybe it’s time to eat turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce and stuffing in July and April and February.  Maybe it’s OK to skip that horrible salad bar with no garbanzo beans two weeks from Turkey Day and enjoy the sandwich in the picture.

Life is short. 

We have to be thankful for those gifts in our lives every day.  To live thankful moments.  To point them out throughout the day as we realize and remind just how gifted and spoiled we are.

To be able to read this.  Right here.  To be able to have a computer to bring up the entire world at our fingertips.  To turn on the heat when there’s a chill in the house.  To jump in the car and run up to the store for coffee at any hour of any day.

We allow that precious, clean water to run and run and run while we get ready for hot showers and tooth brushing.  We leave the lights on.  As a society we throw out billions of pounds of food each year.

There isn’t a day that goes by that there isn’t Thanksgiving right there, all around us.

Too many times we get tangled up, allowing ourselves to see only the latest, greatest downturn or curveball in our lives.  We lament the $ 400 dollar car repair bill and the hair-do that keeps ending up as a hair DON’T every morning.  We get caught up in people who are this or that.  The lawn company that did a lousy job of trimming.  The letter carrier who changed his route and now delivers three hours later.

We need Thanksgiving more than one day a year. 

Let’s commit to Thanksgiving.  Let’s eat turkey in August while we remind ourselves the countless blessings, wonders, abilities and options we have in our lives.  Let’s choose the big picture.  Let’s make appreciation the default option for every one of our thought choices.  Let’s totally freak out the greeting card store when we ask for Christmas cards in May, Mothers and Fathers Day cards in September, “thank a vet” cards in March.

A zebra doesn’t need a calendar to tell him he’s got stripes on. 

Please, pass the stuffing.




September 22, 2013

Don’t Let Anyone Else Write Your Ending

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 11:24 pm

I had anticipated the series ending of Dexter all summer, knowing that, after eight years of Sundays, one of my favorite shows of all time was coming to an end.

All day long, it was in the back of my mind.  I felt a mixture of sadness and dread and disbelief, feeling like a dear and trusted friend was leaving me before I was ready to say goodbye.

I sat down to watch it, ticking off the minutes, hoping to love the ending and feel satisfied with how the writers wrapped up my beloved characters’ storylines.

I hated it.

I’m disappointed.  I don’t feel satisfied.  I would have done it differently.

And that’s what sometimes happens when we let others write our stories and choose our endings.

We end up thinking, “Geez, that’s not how I wanted it to turn out.”

From the time we are brain injured, there are seemingly a lot of people wanting to write our endings.  They sum us up, our damage and our losses and our futures.   They speak of windows of recovery that close and things we can no longer do. 

To hell with that.

Don’t let anyone else write your ending.

People are quick to sum you up, to label you, to darken your skies, to determine your fate and your end and your demise.

Don’t let ‘em.

We hear all the time when people say of a relationship, “It’ll never last.”   Troubled kids hear echoes of, “He’ll never amount to anything.”   People are quick to doom business ideas and dreams and any type of thinking or choice which is different from their own.

Prove them all wrong.

We get one story to write and it’s ours alone.   We have the choice to waste time trying to write other people’s stories but, in the end, we are given just one to influence, to change and to determine.

It’s our ending to write.

People, I guarantee you, have written you off after your brain injury.  You are no longer like them, no longer who you were, no longer the same.

Make that difference better.   Brighter.  Higher.  

Write an ending they didn’t see coming.    Fill chapter after chapter, page after page, with WHATEVER MAKES YOU FEEL HAPPY AND LOVED AND SATISFIED AND VALUABLE.

Find your version of success.

Nobody has to love the ending you write except for you.   It’s your life.  Your story.   And you can bend it and transcend it however you choose.  

Brain injury lowers the bar and, for some, maybe that’s a relief. 

I call it a challenge.

A challenge to every one of us. 

Are you in?

July 10, 2013

We Need A Few More Fistfights

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 11:24 pm

I was watching the George Zimmerman trial a little bit this week.  Today they brought in a dummy to represent both participants in what would turn out to be a life-ending skirmish.

I don’t know all the details.  I don’t think anyone can know exactly what happened.  But I think the dummy wasn’t far off.   At least in most cases it is not.

I miss the old days when boys and men (mostly) would get rattled and offended and there would be threats and somebody’s mother would inevitably take some verbal jab and there would be cursing and a crowd would gather.   The two combatants, usually drunk, would go at it until one actually took a good bloodied punch or they were both too exhausted to continue.

Nowadays people just bring a gun to fistfight.

Game over.

I wonder if it could have ended differently if both men would have held their arms out and said, “Hey, I don’t want any trouble.”   Backing away, backing away.   Heck, Trayvon could have run safely away.  I’m sure he could have outrun George.

There are a lot of things I miss about the “old days.”   Lots of things I lament.  I miss Winkleman’s and Hudson’s.  I miss Kresge’s slurpees and Hardees pickles.  I miss the old corned beef at my favorite deli before they started making it differently. 

I miss Cutlass Supremes and the cheesy pre-stroke Dick Clark.  I miss our old city pool and the days when I didn’t find new gray hairs or have my hands ache every morning when I get up.

I miss people and pets.  Shades of younger versions of me.  Moments gone.  Abilities and opportunities gone, too.

I miss the days when drunken buggers used to get steamed over a gal or over a ball game or a favorite team or defending a favorite school.  I miss the days when fistfights were something that people chuckled over the morning after.

Instead now we watch the sad ramifications of such poor choices splashed on every news channel.

I wish we all had a common goal.  That the bottom line at any time was to make sure everyone gets to go home in a safe and healthy manner.

I wish parents and coaches didn’t teach their kids how to throw head shots.   I wish kids didn’t learn how to take out a knee or to throw a fastball high and tight.

I wish I didn’t read about mom and daughter teams poisoning family members for the insurance money or families who deal drugs together or sell kids into sex slavery.

I don’t know when we stopped holding life up so preciously.  Sacredly.  Especially.

People don’t play by the same rules anymore.

What do you say when a kid gets shot for his pair of gym shoes?

People can talk all they want and complain all they want about government and religion and privacy rights and civil rights.   People are always going to complain about taxes and gas prices and intruding in-laws and busy-body neighbors.

I just wish we wouldn’t kill each other.  Period.

I’ll take the rising gas prices.   Presidents as they come and go.  I’ll take the sad goodbyes of favorite stores and old-fashioned food treats and buildings and homes that fall down to ruin.

I just want everyone to make it home safely.  To have a shot at tomorrow.  To awake again amidst a glorious day of possibilities.

I don’t want any trouble.

You don’t get a do-over when you bring a gun to a fistfight.  Both lives are ruined.  One goes to prison and one to the morgue.   Two families, at least, in shambles.


It is the job of the light to shine.  To make brighter.  To give chase to the dark.

We all need to step up and shine up.  There’s a lot of darkness out there.

In our own relationships, in our own families, in our own work places, in our own communities…We can make a difference. 

We gotta love ‘em up and lift ‘em up and commit to a light impenetrable. 

We gotta teach our young men, especially, that sometimes the price for bravado and pride is every tomorrow after that one.   Every dream, every love, every person, every moment.

There never was anything wrong with getting your nose bloodied so you could realize you weren’t going to be so quick the next time.

There aren’t any mulligans in a gun fight.

I wish you all safety.  From that precious beginning, all things follow.  The ability to feel safe in our homes and our cars, on our streets, at our schools and jobs. 

Let’s not kill anyone.  Let’s not end up on cable news at our trial and across every newspaper headline.

Let’s help each other get home safely.  Whether that means not driving too fast or drunk…Whether that means not packing heat and going looking for trouble…Whether that means not stalking or bullying or being reckless trying to show off…

Let’s just not kill anyone.  It isn’t our job.  Not our right.  Not our duty. 

Let’s try to help everyone get another tomorrow.  Who knows what wonders might await all of us with that kind of gift and power.

June 15, 2013

Live the Synonym

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 10:23 am

We throw around the word “perfect” so much that sometimes I think we tend to confuse what is out of reach and what is ideal and “more than enough”

That was the perfect cup of coffee.  That was the perfect meal.  That was the perfect gift.  That outfit is perfect.  I found the perfect shoes… 

For me.

That’s it, right there.  For me.  Perfect for me.

That same cup of coffee may not be perfect to the tea drinker, to the person who prefers it black or with two sugars.   They wouldn’t say they just had the perfect cup of coffee.

It’s perfect for me.

We might call a job the “perfect job” if it pays us a handsome salary, if we get comprehensive benefits, if they don’t make us wear horrible uniforms or fussy suits, if they grant a lot of vacation days or offer in-house daycare.

I’ve heard people refer to their job as the “perfect job” and they drive an hour to work and more than an hour home at night in rush hour.  Or they work seventy hours a week.  Or their insurance doesn’t cover optical….

It’s perfect.  The perfect job.

For them.

Do you know that, in more than 135 years of professional baseball, more than 300,000 games, only 23 perfect games have been pitched?

In the 1976 Olympic Games, Nadia Comaneci, the Romanian gymnast, stunned the world by scoring a “perfect 10″ in an event.  It was so unusual that the scoreboard could not show it.  It came off as 1.0 and it took a while for the crowd to understand that she had earned perfection.

When it comes to having a brain injury, sometimes we get tangled up in what’s now unreachable, maybe as if we were streaming along on the perfect train before we were injured.   Our lives before?  Perfect.  Not only do we retell our history, we rewrite it.

So I looked up the definition of perfect and they described perfection as “flawless.”


Then I checked out the synonyms for “perfect” and I got these:

  A-OK, absolute, accomplished, aces, adept, beyond compare, blameless, classical, consummate, crowning, culminating, defectless, excellent, excelling, experienced, expert, faultless, finished, foolproof, ideal, immaculate, impeccable, indefectible, matchless, out-of-this-world, paradisiac, paradisiacal, peerless, pure, skilled, skillful, sound, splendid, spotless, stainless, sublime, superb, supreme, ten, unblemished, unequaled, unmarred, untainted, untarnished, utopian

That’s more like it.

Quite a few of those seem doable.

Having a brain injury does not automatically require us to forfeit a perfect life.  Not if the synonyms include A-OK, adept, excellent, excelling, ideal, skilled, splendid and superb.

Live the synonym.

You may have what you call the perfect husband.  This gem snores.  He doesn’t always take his plates back to the kitchen.  He’s thinning on the top of his head.  His five o’ clock shadow hurts.  If left to his own devices, he might match teal with olive.

But he’s perfect.  Perfect for you.

Do you know how many of those 23 pitchers in Major League Baseball history pitched more than one perfect game?  None.

Perfection is for moments.  Strange, magical, unique moments.

The rest is living the synonym.  For our own personal version of perfect. 

For me.  Perfect for me.

20/20 vision doesn’t last, except for in hindsight.  Beautiful white pearly shiny teeth need to be filled and cleaned and flossed and fixed and whitened.  Skin sags.  Muscles, too.

The only thing we get our entire lives is life.   It’s not good health.  It’s not romantic love.  It’s not money or comfort or peace of mind or ease.

We get life.

And so, over an entire life, even with brain injury, we are capable of perfect.  Perfect for me.  For you.

We are capable of capturing perfect moments.  Of knowing our idea of perfection.

It’s just all about collecting as many as we can.

If I die having lived the synonyms, I’m going to be a happy and satisfied gal.  If I look back and realize that my brain injury was ONE OF MANY curves in life’s road, it will settle with perspective. 

Only we can keep ourselves from living the perfect life, for us.  It’s not brain injury.  Brain injury has only the power we give it.

Pitchers will throw a million strikes and a million balls.  Gymnasts, for every “perfect 10″, will fall off the balance beam a thousand times.

Life cannot be perfect.  It CAN, however, be perfect for you. 

Live the synonyms.  Aim for the synonyms.  Celebrate and gather them.  Pile them up on your side.  

This is YOUR life.  Nobody else will consider it perfect, brain injury or not. 

Only you can.

And you can. 

Happy Father’s Day to the Perfect Father.  For me.  :) 




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