Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

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  :)))

https://www.audible.com/pd/B07G7GRYZ2/?source_code=AUDFPWS0223189MWT-BK-ACX0-124297&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_124297_rh_us

 

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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.

Imagine.

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.

Done!

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

 

 

June 3, 2018

My Bag of Ways…

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 11:13 am

For some of us, there is no longer a way.  Plain and simple.  There is brain damage so awful that we cannot do many or any of the things we once did.

But for so many of us, there IS a way.  Yes, many times it is not the same way we knew.  It’s not the way we prefer.  It’s not even the easy way.

But there is a way.

Often the way is hiding behind “the old way” or “the only way” we knew.  We cannot find it because we allow ourselves to get stuck on and feel defeated by the old way and the distance between us.

I’ve been at this more than 20 years now and, in all that time, I’ve had to find new ways more than any days are countable.

Some of the new ways weren’t very pretty, mind you.  Many made me feel, at first, almost childlike in their simplicity.  Some of the new ways humbled me and embarrassed me, even.

Until I came to appreciate them.

Those ways.  Those glorious ways.

I’ve learned to embrace the ways.  However different.  However humbling.  However more difficult.  However more challenging.

As long as there are ways, I’m in the game.

And so are you.

Ways allow us to keep from falling too far behind.  They feed us with critical feelings of accomplishment and value which grow so large that they take up all the space once filled with embarrassment and, even, shame.

After I lost my career, I had to find ways to make money.  To work.  To succeed.  And I did.   I tried a lot of ways and more than I ever could have imagined.  The reward for challenging myself to embrace and to follow the new ways was an independent life, a new condo, a great relationship, the realized dream of publishing books, the ability to speak in public and so many more.  It taught me that the new ways were pretty powerful and equal to the task of improving and enriching my life.

Now I’m at it again.  I know I’ve mentioned how I’ve been dealing with this dizzy thing since before Christmas.  More specialists to come, trying to find whatever it is to fix.

In the meantime, I’ve had to dig into the bag of ways again.  Thank God, the bag is full.

Because I cannot work one of my jobs, I’m having to find new ways again.  New ways to develop skills.  New ways to accomplish work.  New ways to make money.  New ways to see my dreams come true.

At the end of the day, nobody cares how we do it.  Our embarrassment or shame is misplaced.  What matters is that we keep trying.  That we stay in the game.  That we are courageous enough to try new ways.  That we keep working the problem from every angle until we find one that we can solve, no matter what it looks like.

It may be smallish.  For example, I’m narrating my books now so they will soon be available on Audible.  For most narrators, they have the stamina to keep their voice and pitch and pace at an easy level for a long time.  Me, not so much.

With my brain injury, I tend to become flat after a short while when I read aloud.  It’s hard for me to read at all, really.  I cannot stay on the lines or follow the lines.   Not fun.  Not good stuff.

But it’s important to me.  It’s worth whatever ways I have to create.

I decided that, in order to get this done, I’m going to have to pause my narrating even after a couple paragraphs to keep my reading lively and engaged.

Not a fun way, no.  Not the easy way, not by a long shot.  It’s going to take me 73 years to read one book.  LOL

But it’s a way.  It’s a great way because it works.

I’m finding a way because I looked.  I’m making a way because I was determined to.  That’s, truly, all that matters.

My bag of ways is full.   How is yours?

May 18, 2018

Getting Up For The Royal Wedding

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 12:39 pm

I saw some people post on FB that they couldn’t understand why anyone cares about the royal wedding.  They thought it ridiculous that anyone in the U.S. here would set their alarms for the 4:30 am coverage on a perfectly good Saturday morning.

I don’t mind being ridiculous.  :))

I’m getting up tomorrow morning for the royal wedding because, in part, time just keeps flying.  With a brain injury, most of us try so hard to create routines to help us stay efficient.  I know I do.

But, unfortunately, routines often keep us from enjoying any fun.  We structure our days with such rigid borders that our years continue to fly by without anything to show for them or any way to slow them down.

I believe that we slow down years when we are able to mark them as different, somehow.  When we add in a bunch of fun days and dates and adventures that keep each year from looking so much like the one before.

I’m 53 now and I cannot tell you where 47 went or what happened when I was 51.  Too many years seem like the same thing without much to mark them as unique.  As I get older, I’m recognizing an urgency to place my mark on these years so that I can recall them, differentiate them and look back to enjoy them.

I was a teen when Prince Charles married Princess Diana.  We were on vacation and my Mom and I got up early for the coverage while my dad and brothers slept.  Together we enjoyed a mother/daughter special moment that still warms me, especially now that she has been gone for 20 years.

These injuries of ours are so isolating.  It is both our burden and our opportunity to fight the loneliness and to balance the need for structure with the need for spontaneity.  The need to remind ourselves that we are still living.  That we are in the game!

Tomorrow morning won’t be a trip to the Bahamas or anything extravagant.    I won’t post pics of my morning on FB.  Trust me, nobody wants to see me in my pajamas.

But I’ll make some eggs and toast and hash browns and fresh coffee.  I’ll enjoy the pomp and circumstance of the royal wedding and get filled and thrilled with the wonderful, romantic feeling of the people there.  I will celebrate with them.

There are so many bad things on the news these days that we can get sodden with dismal.  I embrace, then, the kind of celebration that the royal wedding affords.  People cheering and dancing in the streets of Windsor.  All the extraordinary stories and history and, of course, the gorgeous women’s hats.  🙂

We all need to chase the good, wherever we can find it.

Just a reminder that we are alive, you guys.  🙂  We have to keep finding fun and making fun and enjoying ourselves, however that looks.  Why else would we have survived then?  Why bother having gone through so much if there isn’t good and light and fun and new for all of us?

We deserve it.

Wishing you all a little bit of ridiculous.  :))))  Love you.

 

April 23, 2018

Look Where You’re Looking

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 3:40 pm

In all the correspondence I have enjoyed with so many survivors over the years, the biggest complaint seems to be that their people don’t understand them and their injuries.

This is a frustration, for sure.  It’s exhausting to try and explain things that don’t even make sense to us, especially at the beginning.  I can remember so many people asking me so many questions that I had no answers for.  I’ll bet I made some shit up.  LOL

But, over the years, I have come to appreciate the fact that people cannot understand.  We have to keep from hoping that anyone we love will know this so intimately.  Only if they are injured could they know…

And, even then, their experience would be discreet to their damage and their bodies and their lifestyles.

That’s why we are here, you guys.  Together, all of us.  I get such a kick out of seeing the 100+ countries that this blog travels to.  Canada and Australia and the UK, a lot (hi, you guys!).   But also to Singapore and Mexico and Niger and Sweden.

Literally all around the world we go  :)))

We have to try to stop setting ourselves up for heartache and disappointment by hoping that all of our peeps will be able to fulfill all of our needs.  It cannot work that way.

To those whose people accuse them of lying or malingering or failing, in one or a hundred ways, I’d zip those people right out of my intimate places.  You don’t have to understand everything in order to believe the person experiencing it.

My people, God bless them, have come to know ME and to believe me!  In the absence of every answer that made sense, they simply took the time to know me and how I had changed and what that implied.   They didn’t need to know everything about our brains or even everything about my damage.  They just needed to figure out how to help me stay in the game and keep moving forward.

That’s all we can ask for.

Please don’t expect all your people to understand what this feels like.  Thank God they should never.

Take a good, hard look at those who would accuse you and steel yourself from continuing to go to them for something they cannot offer.

And then come on back here.  🙂  You, from New Zealand.  You, from South Korea.  You, from Ireland.

Come back where we are all here in our brain injured stew.  Pretty awesome, all  🙂

We may be threads alone, flinging and clinging…But, together, we all make up one great blanket that is meant to warm us all.

Can’t lose a one of you.

 

I love you guys.  xo

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