Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

October 20, 2018

Defined By Your Elbow?

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 9:19 am

When you look at your body, your mind and your life, would you say you are defined by your elbow?  By an unusual ankle?  How about your spleen?  Anything remarkable about that spleen?

There are certainly people who are defined by small parts of them which have made huge impacts.   There are people who are defined by their extraordinary voices, pitchers and quarterbacks with rocket arms, dancers and boxers defined by quick and incredible feet…

A lot of times we, ourselves, define people narrowly.  We picture them and just one image comes to mind:  Tiger Woods in his Championship Sunday red shirts and black slacks or Whitney Houston rocking that National Anthem.  Michael Jackson doing the Moon Walk.

We sum them up.  We condense their whole.

Too often, we, ourselves, end up being defined by our brain injuries.   We join those who have suffered catastrophic events in their lives and we summarize them as they were this or they were that until X happened…

We do that to ourselves, too.

Part of the great goal in recovering successfully from these injuries has to do with that old spleen of ours.  That odd kidney.  That one elbow.

It is to force the definition more broadly.

If we look at a person and only see their amazing voice, their incredible arm, their lightning-fast feet, their blazing serve, then we tend to write them off when those superior tools fade and when they are cast aside by the next new singer, golfer, boxer, dancer.

But there is so much more.

Those people have parents and siblings, spouses and children.  They have homes and pets and neighbors and interests.  They celebrate birthdays and question their futures and fear their next chapters and dread their failings.

We are all so much more than one elbow.  One kidney.  One event in our lives.

Most people will experience a discreet event when their lives took a major turn.  A divorce, a spouse dying, a hurricane that ravaged their town and splintered their home…

And yes, suffered a brain injury.

Our goal, as we move ourselves to and through a successful recovery, has to do with defining ourselves and our lives as a set of parts.  Like a body.  A collection of things that happened to us and made us who we are going forward.

A story of life.

It helps to take some time, here and there, to remind ourselves how we are so much more than just these injuries.  How can you define yourself in ten different ways?

I am a spouse, I am a homeowner, I am a writer, I am a sports announcer, I am an audio narrator, I am a University of Michigan football nut, I am Swedish, I am an Aunt, I am a woman, I am a sexual abuse survivor, I am a recovered brain injury survivor…

What are you?

Many stars and artists learn, like we do, how much can fall apart when all that is prioritized is that one thing.  Our lives are like our bodies:  if we feed them only steak or we feed them only sugar cereal, they will fall apart at some point.

We have to nourish all the parts.

Recovering successfully after brain injury is a daunting project, yes.  It is consuming.  But you’ll find encouraging symptoms of successful recovery when you recognize how you need vegetables and fruits and desserts and chicken and bacon in your diet to please all aspects of you.  To feed and to nourish them.

If you can define yourself, right in this moment, as ten different things, encourage yourself to feed and to nourish them all as equally as you can.

Brain injury can only be the one priority for a while because, like a pitcher’s arm or a boxer’s hay-maker or a singer’s voice, the rest of a person’s life has to be rich enough to sustain that person.  It has to be large enough to absorb him or her…

When that voice goes or that arm fails or that brain injury stops healing.

What’s next?



October 16, 2018

Beyond the Red and the Blue

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 7:14 pm

When I was in high school, our colors were purple and gold.  We were the Vikings.   Our rival school back then was green and white.  They were the Warriors.  After I left high school, they combined the two schools and chose blue and silver.  They are now the Titans.

On Saturday it was our Home Coming and, because I am the public address announcer and because many from my class were returning to celebrate our 35th reunion, it was a special day.

I spent the day looking out for pockets of purple and gold, for the ones donning their green and white and, too, the younger ones in blue and silver.  Amid the huge crowd, there was a smattering of each color in every direction and it was a warm thrill to see everyone return (and a delight to see how many still fit in their letter jackets!).

As I left the stadium after a long day, I was so filled with the goodness of all of it.  Yes, we did look for the colors that will forever bind us, but it was in the sweet and nurturing ways of good.  It was a nod to a time when colors gathered us for so many better reasons than simply hating the other side.

Today it seems we are hopelessly divided between the red and the blue.  It no longer seems to matter what either side has to offer.  Nobody is listening.  Nobody even wants to have a conversation with someone from the other political party.  The lines are deep.  The crack in the foundation is wide.  The anger is white-hot.

I guess Saturday reminded me that we need to get out beyond just the red and the blue.  Maybe, in this climate, there isn’t a way closer just yet.  But Saturday reminded me that there has to be more.  More than just this.

Whether you were purple and gold Saturday or green and white or blue and silver, there was a lovely oneness to the atmosphere.  We were reminded that we all returned to the same place from which we had come.  We all returned home.

It was great not to think about politics that day.  It was great to jump back in to the warmer waters of sweet innocence.  To a time that, in this time, looked awfully right and tempting in its simplicity.

Maybe we all need to set down our reds and our blues more often.  To go out and find some other colors to remind us of other things.  Often better things.  It is autumn in Michigan and the leaves are at their peak.  I hope to go color-hunting soon.  Yellows, reds, oranges…

Red, white and blue used to be a noble set of colors to stand for, stand behind, join together beneath.  But, split up, and with only white as white-hot hatred, those colors have brought out the worst in us.

Saturday reminded me that it’s time to go pick raspberries and pumpkins.  Time to go see the leaves.  Time for cider mills and fresh donuts.

In order not to be so angry all the time, we actually have to live not so angry all the time.

Wishing you a wonderful season of beautiful colors.


September 28, 2018

Excited to Share :)

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 10:08 am

I always come here when I’m so excited to share something new.  A next step.  Some kind of victory over my injury.  And yours.

We have all learned, excruciatingly well, how life events bump us and nudge us in new directions.  As I’ve reported here before, I’m still suffering the daily dizzies of a new neurological condition that has been complicated by my brain injury and is now passing the nine-month mark.   The last neurologist I saw said, “Yes, you have something wrong with your brain but we cannot help you.”


With my new limitations that have cost me one of my jobs because I cannot stand and look down, I’ve had to reinvent myself again.  I’ve begun to narrate books for audio “readers” and it’s a thrill when so many of us with brain injury have a heard time now reading.

I’ve had to learn so much about recording and editing audio tracks and it’s a new challenge to stay in the game when the work is so tedious and exhausting and difficult.  There are days when my brain injury makes my voice recordings flat or my editing such a tangled abyss that I have to install my strategies of time, patience, new ways to look at it and, of course, chocolate chip cookies.

But, I’ll tell you…..It’s also such a thrill!  Even after 20 years with this injury, to keep charging.  To keep testing myself and proving to myself that I’m more than just an old dog struggling with new tricks.   I feel alive.  I feel inspired with the new.

I know how I’ve said so many times that, this second life after injury doesn’t just have to be about trying to do what we used to do and being frustrated by that.  For me, it is to tally how many things I am able to do in the time I have left.  To try everything and gorge myself on the possibilities.  I hope you are too :)))))

And so,  I am entirely excited to present, “Hasten the Rising-Empowering Women In Love & In Life” on audio formats now available on Audible, iTunes and Amazon. On the shoulders of the Me Too Movement, in this contentious time and, more importantly, when we have the opportunity to save women, younger ones especially, from dark people and dangerous relationships, join me in helping to boost their self-esteem and to empower all of us. If you go to Audible and join through my book there, you can get it free with the free trial. In the back of the softcover book, I put a place where you can sign a heart when you hand it to a young woman, any woman, you love and want to keep safe, empower and show your support for. Let’s replace the Me Too Movement with a next generation of the safe, the powerful, the RISING.

Hasten the Rising: Empowering Women in Love & in Life by Kara L. SwansonHasten the Rising: Empowering Women in Love & in Life
by Kara L. Swanson
Link: http://a.co/d/7tkWxC2

September 12, 2018

That Link Some Of You Requested

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 1:19 pm

Hi there!  Many of you wrote asking for this same link so I figured I’d just post it:

I’ll Carry the Fork!  Recovering a Life After Brain Injury is now on Audible.  With this link below, you can sign up for Audible with the free membership and get my book on audio file for free.  Hooray!!!!!!

They give me 25 free clicks with this so use yours fast!  Just click on the link below or copy and paste it (when I clicked on it, my audio book came right up on Audible).  Use it to get your free copy of the original Fork, now available.  Hooray.  Enjoy  :)))



Back To Homework

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 12:47 pm

As kids return to school for a brand new year, I take some time to recall the school years of my youth.  Parents are surprised to find their kids, seemingly all of a sudden, in middle school or almost through high school or graduating from college.  The year do fly by.

As we watch the kids in our lives get older and more mature in those front-of-the-house first day school pics, we are not shielded from getting older too.

Some with brain injuries and most with not, we all age and so many of us become quiet in our heads.  LOL.  We run almost on auto pilot, directed by rules and schedules and routines.  There’s always something next to do or somewhere next to go.  We don’t really engage our brains as much as we allow them to bow to the tech devices which rule our worlds.

For those of us brain injured, and for all of us as we age, we have to continue to engage our brains and wake them up and stretch them out and feed them with learning.   We have hallways and doorways in our brains that need us to walk down and to fling open and to flick on the lights of.

In honor of all the kids returning to school, I invite you to join me, just for a few moments….

Think back to your days in elementary school.  Go past the easy memories that you have told and retold.   Start, instead, at the slide on the playground.  Remember how the metal steps got slippery with sand?  Remember how hot that slide got in the afternoon sun during recess?

Picture your merry-go-round.  Remember the color?  The ruts in the dirt from kids dragging their feet?  Can you feel the whir as you flew around, faster and faster….?

Picture your desk in first grade.  What was in your schoolbox?  Can you recall books at the library labeled E for easy when we were kids?  Can you remember learning cursive? Can you bring back memories of clapping erasers or the smell of dittos?

We have to fight to keep those doors open in our brains.  All of us, as we age.  We have to go further than the easy memories we’ve told again and again.  Try to exercise our brains by reaching and stretching our ability to recall.

Start with a lunchbox.  An umbrella.  Your winter boots.  Your scarf.  The stickers your teacher used to put at the top of your page.  Shopping for school shoes….

All of these have memories attached to them that, for most of us, have been locked behind doors for decades.   Let’s find them again.  Let’s breath fresh air into our brains and feel them opening and growing again.

A little homework never hurt any of us.  :))))

September 9, 2018

It May Look Different But It Feels The Same

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 3:04 pm

The fans screaming and cheering in the Big House in Ann Arbor for their Michigan Wolverines are as rabid about their football Saturdays as those who cheer for Texas and in Arkansas, Ohio, Washington and California.

The young married couples in the United States who offer their vows and begin their new lives together are as hopeful and eager and smitten and excited as those in Ireland, Mexico, Singapore and France.

An awed, grateful set of parents, gazing at their newborn in a hospital in Montana, has the same dreams, fears and wonderment as those who welcome babies in Canada, New Zealand, Hawaii, Buffalo and Niger.

People try to shield their children, purchase new homes, land new jobs, bury parents, meet up with friends, adopt dogs and cats, and ponder old age in Boston, Algiers, Luanda and Stockholm.

My point is that living may look different around the world because we get caught up in colors, in group names, in sides, in teams, in parties…

But most everyone, everywhere, simply seeks happiness, fulfillment, purpose, fun and love.  Most everyone, everywhere, simply seeks to know happy days and peaceful nights.  Most everyone, everywhere, simply seeks life and the best things of it.

There are a million ways to invite, enlist, gather and produce happiness, joy and love.  Just look at how many beautiful places we can travel to, how many instruments we might take up, how many different animals we might adopt, how many different shows we might watch.

The ones who feed their empty places with only the dried-up crumbs of how things used to be, will always be hungry.

We cannot grow using seeds already skeletonized.  Already dried.  Already gone.

We can only fill the ache of hunger with the vibrant promise of things alive.  Things still here.  Things still available to consume and to be filled with.  Nourished with.

We are all in the same place, everyone in the world, even when our lives look wildly different.  We all go forward with the memory, the ache, of losses we did not choose.  Of losses that broke our hearts.  Losses that changed our lives.

You’d think people would be kinder to each other, given the knowing of how much life can hurt.

All we can do then is to create light where darkness lingers.  All we can do is to create warmth where we have been cold.

Instead of punishing those around us with our heartache, our resentment, our anger, and our feelings of being stolen from and victimized, let’s gift them, instead, with the healing seeds of investment.  Investing in those around us-our time, our love, our best efforts, our best selves.

For they are here.

And so are we.

If regret and loss and heartbreak and disappointment are understood, simply, as the price we pay for the privilege of living, then maybe we invite ourselves to be ever-more determined to make the rest of our time better.   To put as much happier, brighter distance between us and our worst as we can.

There are lovely people everywhere.  There are beautiful places everywhere.  There are wonderful opportunities and funny moments and needy animals to adopt and hopeful children to guide and great causes to join and worthwhile organizations to serve and people people people everywhere who need a little something good.

There aren’t enough hours in today to spend so many in yesterday.

Let’s make tomorrow eager to get here.  Let’s entice her with our promise that we will honor her, love and respect her.  That we will not shun her for a yesterday that we cannot change.

Let’s promise her our good.

September 4, 2018

Bigger Than We Imagine

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 3:31 pm

Look out your front window.  Just for a moment now….imagine King Kong coming over that row of houses in front of you.  Or above that tree line.  Or across that free way or over that lake.


You look out, tiny you, and you are stopped still in your trax by the site of King Kong coming toward you.  Wowowowowowowoow.   Or more like, What the……….

The other night, I caught a spider outside my window, creepy crawly in against the gold lighting at my condo.

Now, to him (or her), I am that King Kong.   Coming toward that tiny spider, I must have looked like big old King heading over that tree line.

But what did I do?

I sure didn’t act like King Kong.  LOL.

I was freaking and squeaking, barely reaching to hurry and shut the window in case that teeny tiny spider decided to swing on over from the tree branch, find a hole in my screen and proceed to attack me in the night.

King Kong King Kong King Kong…

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we are bigger than we feel.

So many things seek to diminish us in our lives.   For some it’s the sagging and receding and paunching and slowing of age.  For others it is the failing measures of status, income, credit or popularity.  As we know so well, for many it is the implications, both real and assumed, that hang upon the differently-abled like a sodden cloak.

How teeny do we become?

We don’t even see all of those who have been diminished.   Compacted.  Shrunk down.  Pushed back.   They are there, all around, though.  See them quiet at the end of the bench, alone at a table in the lunchroom, holding cardboard signs at the intersection, curled up under the overpass.

So tiny we don’t even see?

When we are brain injured, so much of our experience, post-injury, is diminishing.  So much scrapes away and chips away and tears away and melts away.

What is left?  Naked go we, the survivors.  Naked go we, the new.

We don’t even realize how big we still are because we imagine that injury to be King Kong more than we imagine it that teeny spider.

Let’s be big.  Let’s be big for ourselves.  Let’s be big to our kids.  Let’s be big with our partners.  Let’s be big in our communities.

Let’s be big.

Let’s find all the ways that we can love and support and assist our loved ones, despite our injuries.  It’s not about how many of our needs are not met because of injury.  It’s about being able to meet the needs of those we love in spite of it.

We can be big in so many small ways.  Ways that matter.  Ways that count.  Ways we may have overlooked before, back when we knew we were King Kong.

Too many of us become bitter, asking why the world and our people don’t get us, don’t help us, don’t accept us, maybe don’t even love us…

Let’s ask, instead, how can we be big for everyone around us?  How can we quiet what we cannot do any longer by making our abilities shout?  How can we be big in terms of goodness, in terms of kindness?  How can we be big to the smaller people in our lives in terms of mentoring, tutoring, supporting, loving?

That isn’t prohibited by a broken brain.  That is missed by a broken heart.

Let’s be big.  I’ll be smiling when I see you coming over the tree line.  I’ll be smiling when I see you coming across the lake.

Let’s be big.





August 24, 2018

Hello, All

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 2:01 pm

I was thinking about all of you and how this blog reaches more than a hundred countries.  With all the strict and rigid rules governing access to planes and through airports and across borders, you’d think that maybe brain injury could be caught and held and detained and kept.

But no.

It reaches every tiny corner of our globe.  Like heartache, like cancer, like flu, like need, like hunger, like depression, like despair, like everything else.

It reaches.

And so we reach, too.  Out to our families and friends, our communities, our doctors.  Each other.

We reach.

Hello to you in India, to England and Sweden.  Sending warm thoughts to you in Canada and all the way to New Zealand and Australia.   Hola, Mexico and our Spanish-speaking friends.   Warm sentiments to you in Germany, in France, in South Korea and in every nation where brain injury waits snickering.

As I get older, more friends and family members now report their daily struggles.  Nagging pains and strange symptoms.  New meds and more doctor appointments.

I am aware, with each passing year, how extraordinary you are, we are.  That we have battled all of these symptoms in our daily lives for all of these years.

Most people will, hopefully, never fully get us.  We are all guilty, I suspect, of looking for understanding when we should simply be grateful for compassion and cheer and acceptance and help.

I’m so blessed to enjoy so many wonderful people in my life who, even after all these years, still come by to make sure my lightbulbs are working and that I’m not climbing up on ladders to change them.

Simple gifts of love.

Wishing you all simple gifts of love.  Of feeling like you are warmly cared for and thought of.  Know I am warmly thinking of all of you.  From here to every corner of our globe that this stupid injury has touched.

Hopefully you feel the touch of love and compassion, as well.  xo

August 16, 2018

Promise Kept

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 3:55 pm

Hi, everyone!  I’m so thrilled and delighted to be able to share that finally….no, FINALLY!!!!! I have managed to narrate and produce the original, “I’ll Carry the Fork!  Recovering a Life After Brain Injury!” as an audio book.  Hooray  :)))))

As a brain injury survivor, most of you can imagine the potential roadblocks in narrating a book for audio.  Trust me, I hit every one of them.  🙂

It’s hard for me to read on any given day, to myself, without having to speak the words and into a microphone, no less.  Ha.  When you write a book, you don’t realize how many edits you make and mistakes and fixes….When I started to actually read the book aloud, it became quite clear that this would be a great, great challenge.

Not only did I have to work around my own challenges in reading and focusing and staying on each line and not going flat with my affect, but I also had to learn the recording program, learn the sound engineering tools and then try to record it when my cats weren’t awake because they always thought I was talking to them and came running in to talk back.  Ha.

I also wanted to ensure that survivors like me would be able to follow my cadence and pace so I took great care to read it in a very measured way.   Clear and easy.

I promised this option to the book many years ago when I must have been high.  LOL.  No, really.  I was determined to provide this option for those of us who simply cannot read any longer.  I made a promise and I was soooo determined to keep it.


There was always the option to hire a professional narrator to handle the task but I sure wanted to do this with you and for you.   We’ve all come so far together and it felt really terrific to imagine actually spending time with you and telling my story in-person.

This is a gigantic personal achievement for me.  One that has taken many years, starting with a friend and I recording terrible versions onto homemade CDs.  And now this  :)))))

For those of you interested, you can get the audio book for free with a free trial.  It’s available on Amazon, iTunes and Audible.  I think that, if you sign up for the free Audible trial membership and tell them it’s for this book, you can get the download free.  Hooray!!!

Anyway, excited to share.  Couldn’t wait to tell you.  I’m working on my other books now and it’s a new path for me.   Always a new path as we chisel out these lives of ours.  Always re-inventing, always trying new.   You and me.  Me and you.

Thanks for sharing my exciting news.  I couldn’t wait to share it.  Hope everyone is doing well.   Kara

July 10, 2018

Might Be Dizzy But I’ve Been Busy! Ha

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 10:56 am

Hi, everyone!  Hope you are all enjoying a great summer.  It has been really hot this summer in Michigan.  I am not really a hot weather gal and, with my continued dizzies (neurologist appt next week!), I’ve been inside a lot.

In honor of my never-ending quest to keep reinventing myself, keep evolving, keep challenging myself, I dared to write my latest book, revealing a side of me that I don’t talk about much.

Some of you know that I was molested as a kid and endured some pretty horrific intimate crimes as an adult.  As much as I cheer us who have been brain injured, I, too, cheer those who have suffered the life-altering hells of intimate crime.

This new book is for women, primarily.  Any women, really, but mostly for those who have yet to start or are already struggling in the tangled mess of wrongly-chosen mates and mismatched relationships.

It is a booster shot for all women to realize, release and reveal their inner powerful beauty.  Their innate awesomeness.  Their particular sassy.  🙂

Within a week or two, I will also be announcing the release of my second newest project:  ta da!!!  After so many years of struggling to get the original, “I’ll Carry the Fork!” onto audio, it will be released to Audible, iTunes and Amazon along with the audio of the book for empowering women.

These dizzies, as I’ve mentioned before, have reminded me of when I was first brain-injured.  After 7+ months of this now, it feels like the world has moved on.  Like I have adapted to it.  Like the initial belief that it would be cured soon has faded….

But I’m quicker this time around.  Better armed.  As you are.  I know now that I have the ability to continue to adapt and to reinvent, as needed.  I can do this.

And so can you.

I’m convinced that we are not meant to be just one thing all throughout our lives.  We are rainbows of many colors.   We can do anything!!!!!  🙂

I hope you’ll enjoy the new book, “Hasten the Rising-Empowering Women In Love & In Life”   I’ll be back in a couple of weeks to announce the release of the first two books as audio books.  Hoping that those of us who are challenged to read can enjoy it/them.

Keep reinventing, you guys.  Keep reminding yourselves, each day, that you can think yourself around this brain injury and invite new versions of your awesome you.

Have a great summer.  Love you guys.  xo



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