Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

November 23, 2018


Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 9:30 am

Very excited and proud to announce my third audio book is now available on Audible, iTunes and Amazon.  Particularly excited because so many brain injury survivors struggle to read, like I do.  It’s difficult to follow the written word and, as I’ve found, too many audio books are narrated too fast and are hard to follow along with.  I paid special care to ensure my narration was clean and well-paced.  Thrilled to offer this as an additional tool in survivors’ recoveries.  Was wowed to hear of people using the first audio book of the original Fork in their TBI support groups and rehab sessions.  That means more to me than I could ever well-express.

In this narration, I really felt connected to you.  I laughed during it.  I cried some.  It was a special opportunity and experience for me to feel how the best part of such a challenging experience is the ability to share it and help others with it.  Feels great.  :))))))

Remember that, if you go to Audible and sign up for a free trial, you can obtain my new audio for free.   Yay!

Hoping this is another way to add to your successful recovery as you ROCK THIS LIFE!!!!


November 22, 2018

The Truth About Stuffing

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 11:09 am

When I was a kid, my Mom managed to prepare Thanksgiving Day feasts for a dozen or more every year with a bird that was always so big that the oven door didn’t close all the way.  We didn’t have enough chairs or matching silverware or fancy napkins or room for everyone to scrunch around that tiny table.  There weren’t microwaves yet so we turned the back patio into a an extra refrigerator for the day and everything kept warm on plugged-in hot plates tethered to every outlet.

Oh, I loved that stuffing.  While the 22 or 26 pound bird was the scene-stealer and the dinner’s highlight, it was the stuffing I waited for.  It was the stuffing I snuck in the early day when no one was looking.

You can make stuffing in a number of ways.   Sage or cornbread or cranberry walnut.  Seems everyone’s favorite is the kind they grew up on.  Mine sure is.

That first Thanksgiving after my Mom’s first stroke was my first attempt at pulling off a Thanksgiving meal.  Oh my…We don’t have to revisit some of those moments.  LOL.

My brother, Craig, and I had only a vague notion about how my Mom’s stuffing went together.  We bumbled and fumbled over each other that first year, trying our best while our Mom sat silently at the kitchen table, both laughing and crying.  We were both laughing and crying, too.

Stuffing can be traced back to all sorts of origins.   People stuffed meats and vegetables and fish.  They used everything from breads to herbs to vegetables and cheeses.

I have long-assumed that stuffing was an inexpensive meal-stretcher for those who needed a filler when maybe the meats were smaller and their families grew larger.

Over the years, I have tweaked and often failed in my attempts to get my Mom’s stuffing perfectly duplicated (Kara, put the sage down and step away)…   More than twenty-five years later, I come pretty close now.

But, while I was prepping my stuffing this morning, I was thinking about how it compliments.  How it fills.  How it stands in.  How it, maybe, makes up for.

And I realized how, in any life, we each have to keep making and keep adding stuffing to fill the holes that heartbreak and disappointment create.

Many of you know that my Dad actually died right on Thanksgiving Day.  Even after eleven years, the memories dare to darken this day each year still.

Today it occurred to me that, over these years, I have added the people and the activities and the outlets that bring joy to sadness and which bring light to darkness.

You are my stuffing.  You.

You are where I go, you are whom I choose, you are one of the many ways I fill the holes and compliment life when the meats are a little too wanting.

Thank you, all of you.   Thank you for the simple warmth, the wonderful support, the gentle smiles and even the belly laughs I enjoy on FB, through my blog, in our exchanges and from all the ways you touch my heart.   You are the ones I return to sneak from on more days than you could know.

Thank you.  Thank you for being my stuffing.

I wish you warm, wonderful moments of Thanksgiving today and always.

Love you.  Kara

November 20, 2018

Love Tim Green

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 11:12 am

Did any of you see the 60 Minutes segment on Tim Green?  What an incredible man!  What an incredible life!!!

This story had a slant towards repeated concussion and how that may play a role in those who eventually are diagnosed with ALS and similar neurological conditions.

But what I took from it is this man as such a warm, adorable, wonderful example of a multi-faceted, broadly-successful life in so many areas.  He went from a football all-pro to now an author of more than 30 books and, as his disease progresses, he invites and utilizes new technologies to allow him to continue to write.

He is an inspiration.

Even with such a debilitating condition, he has continued to participate in his loving family and he has continued to participate in his love of football, coaching youngsters in any capacity that he can.

He finds a way.  He continues to participate.  He goes out and enjoys his life each day.

I hope you will find him as warm, lovely and inspiring as I did.  Love this guy.


November 16, 2018

If You’re Going To Display Santas On Halloween…

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 9:43 am

It is only now that I can speak of the trauma of Halloween day.  Ha.  I arrived at the counter at my neighborhood CVS, only to see huge, life-size Santas already on display.

I felt immediately panicked.

I had read that, in an effort to further boost early holiday shopping, name brands had devised strategies to trick us into early feelings of Autumn and the holidays.  Some, for instance, were already advertising their pumpkin spice lattes by early September.

I was aghast.  I hadn’t even put away my capris yet!!!

It wasn’t until I saw those Santas on Halloween morning that I decided I would fight back.   So I decided that I’m going start Thanksgiving early.

Care to join?

As the cold and the snow arrived early here in Michigan, I was leaning towards sour and starting to feel grumpy.  After all, Autumn is my favorite season and I felt we had been cheated of some of my favorite weather weeks of any year.

But then there were late hurricanes on the East Coast and, next, California lit up like a tinderbox.  All while I watched coverage from my cozy home in Michigan.

Hard to be sour, really.

I’m officially starting Thanksgiving early because, for all the things we complain about (even those valid bugger things that deserve our scorn), most of us who are reading this are lucky and fortunate and blessed beyond measure.

We may complain of early Santas at CVS and snow on top of beautiful Autumn leaves.  We may grouse about the endless political ads that took over the Midterm season.  Some will lament their teams who didn’t make baseball playoffs, who are limping through football season or who are stumbling out of the gate of basketball season.

But most of us have it pretty good.

The death toll in California is rising as courageous, exhausted first responders continue to find victims who literally melted to death in their cars.  There are some on the East and Gulf Coasts who have never fully recovered from their Hurricane devastation, let alone Puerto Rico.  And already snow and ice storms are coming to sneer.

With Daylight Savings time came darker, colder mornings and so many I know went right into the dumper because, for the next six months, they will rarely see light as they leave for work and return home again after those rare glimpses of sun.

And, yes, I am a Detroit Lions’ fan.  God help me.

It’s important to jumpstart Thanksgiving early for many because, it appears, she’s going to need to warm up a bit before the parades and the food and the football and the relatives next Thursday.

Many, on both coasts, will struggle to muster givings of thanks when all that they have called home has been lost to the fury of Mother Nature.  Many are displaced and misplaced.  Some would give anything for burned Thanksgiving Day biscuits and too-dry turkey…

As most of you know, I’m still dealing with those stubborn dizzies which continue to make daily activities a hardship.  This year has been a struggle and I know many of you have been challenged and dinged up some this year, as well.

But, at every turn, I have been helped by people with hearts of gold who have offered and given and laid their coats down in mud puddles before me.

They are champions of Thanksgiving.  They are larger than any float we will see in those parades.  They are the Godsends who remind me, at every turn, that Thanksgiving is always about what we have.  Not what we don’t.

And Thanksgiving is welcome early.  Thanksgiving is welcome every day.

Let’s call to her.  Invite her.  Surprise her with the many, many measures of our best realization and appreciation.

If they’re going to start Christmas on Halloween, let’s all start Thanksgiving early, too.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and to yours.

November 8, 2018

Did You Vote?

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 11:01 am

Did you vote Tuesday?  Did you wake up this morning and feel badly that there was another mass shooting with multiple casualties?  Did you forget to water the plants or forget that load left in the washer or the dryer again?  Did you forget to pick up coffee filters for the third time?  Did you turn your collar to the new north winds and wish we had a longer Autumn?  Did you read the headlines?  Did you think of someone you need to call or email?  Did you lament the physical changes you are experiencing when you looked in the mirror and realized you are not 23 anymore?  Did you burn the toast or leave the mayo on the counter overnight?  Did you jot down another to-do list and carryover all the things from the to-do list from days before that you haven’t gotten to yet?  Did you pick up your meds, make that appointment, put air in the low tire, start to think about Thanksgiving, roll your eyes that stores had Santas on the shelves the day after Halloween, feel relief that there are no more election commercials, check facebook this morning, check your phone yesterday another fifty times?  Did you run out of stamps or printer ink at exactly the worst time?

Did you?

I think we are closer to that vague term of “normal” than we give ourselves credit for.

I can remember, in the days after losing my virginity or losing my parents or acquiring my brain injury, being out in the world and feeling different.  Different because I had changed.  Because I was not the same person I had been just a day before.

I can distinctly remember driving home from the hospital the day my mom had died and being stuck at a red light.  The person next to me glanced my way and I said to myself, “Do I look like someone whose mother just died?”

What I’ve realized over the years is that, no, I didn’t look any different.  Even when my brain injury encouraged my use of a wheelchair or a cane or when my arm hung strangely to my side.

I looked like everyone else.


As I’ve gotten older, I’m no longer the only friend whose parents died early.  I’m not the only one who lost a career, couldn’t drive for a long time, struggled to make ends meet, tried and faltered, changed jobs, changed addresses, changed my thinking.

I realize now how we are all the different versions of same.

I met a man who, while standing in the cold, confessed to me that his hands don’t take the damp weather well from injuries he sustained in Vietnam.  When I started getting dizzies last Christmas, I cannot count how many people shared their stories of decades suffering similar challenges.   When I’m driving down my street in the morning, I often see a woman slowly motoring the length of the block in a motorized scooter.  There’s that man I see at the store who winces a little when he starts to stand up.  Friends have reported so many issues and new conditions that I find myself forgetting to ask about them even days and, usually, weeks later.

We’re the same as everyone else.  Just different versions of the same.

Once I realized that, I started to present more sides of me.  Sides of me that people liked more.  Sides of me that I liked more.  Sides of me that brought happiness, shared joy, ended in laughter.   And, the more I did that, the smaller my injury became.  The greater the shadow it retreated into.

The bigger my best became.

Too many of us grow a rancid resentment because we are angry that no one can understand what this is like.  Too many of us carry it as a chip on our shoulders.

But I don’t know what my friend’s breast cancer felt like.  Or my other friend’s kidney cancer.  I don’t know what my friend’s MS feels like or my other friend’s heart attack.  I don’t know what my friends feel like who have kids.

We all have unique lives.  Unique experiences.  Unique stories.

As different as our brain injuries have made us feel, they have, instead, simply made us more like everyone else.   When, for so long, we have felt isolated and alone out there, it is a joining comfort to realize we aren’t on an island, after all.

We are all part of the different same.

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