Again with the keys

Have you ever misplaced something—something like, say, your keys—and then had to retrace your steps? Sure, you have. Everyone does that. No need to use brain injury as an excuse.

A few evenings ago I’d taken my keys with me when my husband and I went out. Didn’t give those keys a thought until next morning, when I was in my usual rush to an appointment. (You didn’t ask, but that appointment was a dance class at the Y. What I lack in grace I make up for in enthusiasm.)

I used a spare key to lock up, putting off the search until later.

Much later, well after Second Breakfast, tidying up and español lessons on Duolingo, I checked the usual places where stuff turns up—counters, bathrooms, etc.

Then I panicked. Surely the keys had fallen during last night’s group run. … No, wait: Maybe they were still in my running belt, which I’d tossed into the laundry.

But no. So began the retracing. This took the form of a slow jog, easy on the body but tough on the mind.

I kept looking down, reminding myself to check park benches and the bases of lampposts, where people often place objects they find along the path.

When my running watch pinged, telling me I’d gone 1 mile from where the GPS function had kicked in, I knew I was about to reach my turnaround point from the night before, so I trotted on.

Then my brain pinged. I stopped running and started laughing at myself.

Along with the familiar view of Chicago, I recalled the sensation of having my jacket tied around my waist and the feeling of annoyance at having to readjust it as something kept whacking me in the gut.

My keys! Which I now saw myself zipping into the pocket—the pocket of last night’s jacket, now sitting in the dryer.

Sure enough, that’s exactly where I found them.

After a leisurely walk home.

The Man I Almost Didn’t See

During a walk yesterday with my friends Helen and her assistant, we turned a corner we don’t usually turn. I was paying attention to nothing more than the trees and houses to our left, when Helen, looking at flora to the right of the sidewalk, spotted him. The elderly man had apparently fallen next to the sidewalk.

He was conscious but disoriented and was able to give us his name. He said he was on his way back to the memory-care center across the deserted street. (Helen’s a resident of the active-senior facility across the next street, and her helper works there.)

We did our best to soothe him as we waited for a staffer and then medics to arrive. He was anxious to get back to his building, telling me it was time for lunch.

Back at Helen’s building, my friends noticed I had been crying. I said it was because the man had looked a little like my father, but I don’t think that was it.

Our lives are fragile. Our minds are fragile.

I guess the moral of the story is this: Always take the unexpected turn.

The Dark Side

I always try to make light of my brain injury.

Haha! Lisa inquired about her lost sunglasses, only to be told they were on her head (“Sweetie …,” said the desk clerk with a wry smile.)

Whoopie! I often say the first thing that comes into my head. (“I’ve got perfect vision!” I announced to my daughter and her boyfriend from behind a pair prescription specs.)

Heck, it’s my nature to make light of everything. Hence, my blog.

Last night, though, I had a scary lapse, one that I hope is not a harbinger of things to come.

I was getting ready for bed, and my mind was wandering. A name came to my consciousness. For a few moments, I had to mentally ask myself, “Ted … Who is Ted?”

Ted is my husband of 30 years.

Lest I forget

I went to him in tears, telling him about the incident and asking if we should call the neurologist. He was calm and reassuring.

I had recently had many disruptions to my all-important routine. We’d recently visited relatives and later ate dinner in the city (both pandemic firsts). I ran a 5K last month and just started swimming lessons.

I have excellent neurological care, never miss a dose of drugs and do everything I can to promote my physical, intellectual and mental health.

Most importantly, I’ve got Ted. He’s got this.

New Friends

Meet Peekaboo, the little snowman expertly crafted by nursing aide Barbara (taking photo in pic) out of powdery snow.

My friend Helen and I were walking in the garden at her senior residence, The Mather, when we met Barbara and her charge, Trudy, as Barbara was starting construction.

Barbara snaps a shot of Peekaboo and Trudy as Helen looks on.

I tried to help but couldn’t get the snow to stick. “I’m from Poland,” Barbara said, explaining her skill with snowcraft and promising to build a full-size snowman when conditions are right.

Trudy, who lives in the memory-care, section of The Mather, was delighted, especially as someone from the Deep South who never got to play in the snow.

We all had a great conversation, though Trudy and I kept having to be reminded of each other’s names.

Afterward, Barbara mentioned that the day had provided a great activity for Trudy.

For this not-yet-senior, who increasingly struggles with names and longs to meet more people in her new city, it was a great activity for me, too.

Peekaboo and Trudy

Gratitude, with a side of grapes

This morning I woke up determined to turn over a new leaf and get chores and exercise out of the way early.

I’d loaded the dishwasher and washing machine and was about to head out when I checked Facebook and saw one of those “daily gratitude” posts that people do this time of year. Normally I ignore those, but today I was fresh off a morning meditation session and let my friend know I appreciate and share her sentiment.


Then I left the building with my grocery list and credit card in my backpack … and that’s when things began to go wrong.

My phone’s GPS app directed me along an unfamiliar route to Jewel Osco. Instead of the one-mile jog promised, I ended up heading in one wrong direction after another, recrossing some of the same streets more than once and stopping repeatedly to recalibrate my route, turning the trip into triple the distance. (I should note here that I could have just schlepped to the pricier Whole Foods a few blocks from home, but where’s the challenge in that?)

When I got to the store, I reached into my backpack, took out my credit card and fished around for my face mask—they’re required in indoor public spaces in my state. It wasn’t in the big pouch, or the three smaller areas in front, or my pockets. So I made do with the wraparound ear warmers I’d taken off during the run.

I grabbed a basket and quickly got down to business: grapes, salad and, after finding that my cereal of choice was way overpriced, laundry stain remover.

I was almost to the checkout when it hit me: My credit card was gone. In a panic, I went back to the produce section to see if I’d dropped the card among the bagged grapes. A store employee nearby suggested I go to Customer Service.

As I waited at the desk, I gave myself and my shopping basket another look. I was almost in tears when the Customer Service rep arrived. “I just lost my credit card,” I told him. “Has anyone turned one in?”

To my enormous relief, he told me someone had found a card outside on the sidewalk. He asked my name and handed me my card.

Now I’m home and writing a blog post for the first time in weeks. I’m grateful for all the nice people in the world. And those grapes? Sweet.

You’re Welcome

Yesterday I saw an empty bread bag floating in the shallow, concrete-bottomed pond that serves as a a skating rink in winter and a playground for ducks and geese the rest of the year. The ducks were ignoring the bag, but I just couldn’t.

This little guy (a wren, I guess?) seemed to be enforcing the rule.

I found a long stick and decided to try to fish it out. By that time, though, it had floated farther away.

Thinking, “This is either a really good idea or a really stupid idea,” I took off my shoes and socks and waded into the cool water, which came up above my ankles. I easily snagged the bag and got it into a trash can.

But not without annoying the ducks. They’d swum to the other side of the pond without so much as a quack of thanks.

From the kitchen of my sweetie pie

This is what my husband made yesterday, including the homemade crust. It’s a chicken pot pie (or “potch pie,” as our daughter called such things long ago).

Love in the form of a chicken pot pie

Even though Ted is back at the office most days, he still nurtures me and his love of cooking by preparing leftover-able dishes and planning other weekday meals on the weekends. He often quotes his late father’s philosophy that “food is love.”

So where does that leave me, whose duties are cleanup, salad prep and table setting?

After all, while he made this dish, I was out on a run, stopping for a balance beam/singing performance and then a FaceTime conversation with my dad before a quick run back.

I was out of Ted’s way.

We have a galley kitchen—cramped quarters for two cooks—so he’s forever shooing me out as I try to clean as he goes.

And I’m no cook, anyway. Left to my own devices, I’d live on cereal, nuts, yogurt, fruits and veggies, plus the salmon filets he’s taught me how to broil. I may not share my husband’s obsession with (or talent for) cooking, but I’ll never miss one of his meals.

Food is love—and I’ll never let my chef forget how grateful I am for making our lives delicious.

Slowing Down

Last evening, after returning from my second fun run of the week—I sat at the keyboard and once again attempted one of my favorite Paul Simon songs.

I finally admitted it’s too complex for my fingers and brain. (Also, the songbook is overdue at the library.)

The run, during which the two much more athletic men who showed up kindly reduced their pace and distance so we could all chat, was actually fun. I guess I learned to give myself a break, just like they did.

Never mind that my husband is always telling me to do the same thing. When I play “Hey Jude,” he quotes the line, “Don’t carry the world upon your shoulders.”

By the way, I got an automatic renewal on the other songbook I’d checked out, so I’m still plugging away at Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” (I’m up to “Spare him his life from this monstrosity.”)

Note the title. The notes look simple, but don’t be fooled.

This is my brain on yoga

This photo, taken years after the 2008 car crash that turned our lives upside down, provided the cover art for my yoga teacher training thesis in 2017, the first writing I’d done since college. (Design by my husband, headstand by me.)

I don’t remember anything about the 2008 car crash we now call The Accident—and only much later did my husband realize why a medic, calling for him to meet us at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago as I was being loaded into a helicopter, urged him to hurry.

It was to give him a chance to say goodbye.

When I awoke in the hospital a week later with a broken body and a traumatic brain injury, no one knew if I’d ever be the same. After a month, I still couldn’t retain short-term memories. I’d recognized my husband and daughter right away (but how had she gotten older?). No problem recalling Dad or my many siblings either, but I kept asking if Mom was still alive. She’d died of cancer in 2007.

Such is the sometimes amusing, sometimes emotionally wrenching and always baffling world of the TBI patient. According to, a TBI is “a blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the function of the brain.”

In my case, the diagnosis was “moderate” TBI. Among other scary things I’ve found in trying to review the data my husband has summarized into a 3-inch-thick binder over the years, this diagnosis had to do with my rating of 5 out of 15 on the Glasgow Coma Scale, my “initial decerebrate posture”–a rigid body position with legs straight, toes down and neck arched–and seizures.

I also read about my months of physical and cognitive therapy and my “residual neuro-cognitive problems,” depression, hampered mobility and trouble with “activities of daily living.” As much as I resisted it, we arranged for a home-care assistant.

Finally, I looked through my husband’s transcription of my “seizure diary,” a combination of my thoughts and his descriptions of my seizures, some of which he’d captured on video so the doctors could witness them. This trip down “no-memory lane” was my attempt to figure out the year I started yoga (2011? 2012? I’m not so good with numbers anymore), but I couldn’t stop reading about my now-extremely rare episodes. This one, from March 2012, was from a night Ted was working late:

“I get ready for bed early, multitasking brushing my teeth on the john, when I hear my phone. … Feel a seizure coming on and lean forward. Next thing I remember, Ted’s home and he’s coming to bed. It’s hours later. I’d gotten myself cleaned up, into bed, lights out. (Discover a sore on outside of lip the next day, another inside–from my teeth. Also blood and toothpaste in my hair.)”

Today, as we approach our 15-year “Acci-versary,” it’s hard to identify with that version of myself, a newspaper editor forced to face a new reality. So much has changed—my physical recovery and return to fitness, new neurologists, the right medications, a deeper relationship with my husband … and yoga.

Yoga, please

Ted (who’s become so knowledgeable that people think he’s a doctor) had urged me to try tai chi for its intense focus. I wanted something more athletic, so the instructor directed me to a yoga class taught by his wife, Lynda.

I now understand why Ted was drawn to tai chi as a therapy for me. In Dr. Norman Doige’s 2007 bestseller, “The Brain That Changes Itself” (accidentally discovered along with Posit Science’s Brain Fitness Program during a PBS fundraising segment), the author discusses why people tend to become forgetful as they age. He explains that the nucleus basalis, a group of neurons in the brain, is designed to secrete acetylcholine, which helps form clear memories. Those neurons get neglected from a lack of mental stimulation, or from being “set in our ways.”

“Anything that requires highly focused attention will help that system—new physical activities, challenging puzzles, new careers that require learning new skills,” neuroscientist Michael Merzenich says in the book. He also touts the brain benefits of learning a new language in adulthood (Sanskrit, anyone?) and getting “sensory input from our feet.”

Learning something new? Check. Focusing intensely? Check. Going barefoot? Check. Whatever, I was sold.

I began attending classes three times a week, jogging the mile to the community center since I no longer drove. It felt good to work my muscles in new ways and to see myself in the big mirror holding (what I considered) perfect poses. But soon something inside me began to change. I’d catch a glimpse of my face in that mirror, and I’d be grinning, not grimacing. I’d see a classmate’s pose and think, “You can do it!” instead of feeling self-conscious or competitive, my default modes. And after class, I’d feel calm.

Mertz’ and the science of neuroplasticity

These are not unusual effects of yoga and meditation—of “being in the present moment,” I’ve learned. Antoine Lutz, Ph.D., and Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin at Madison have studied Vipassana or “insight” meditation for years. They found that the practice improved emotional regulation and stress control even when their test subjects were not meditating. When the researchers trained a different group in “compassion meditation”—having them focus on loved ones and then wish them “well-being and freedom from suffering”—this group showed evidence of increased empathy. In the brain, that meant more activation in the right amygdala in response to images of human suffering.

In addition, the compassion group also showed reduced rates of depression, as measured by psychological tests. “Davidson and Lutz’s work suggests that through mindfulness training, people can develop skills that promote happiness and compassion,” according to a 2012 article in Psychology Today. “People are not just stuck at their respective set points. We can take advantage of the brain’s plasticity and train it to enhance these qualities.”

Which brings me to brain plasticity, otherwise known as neuroplasticity. I remember hearing a lot about this property of my noggin, even in the early days, when I didn’t quite know what Ted was talking about. What it means is the brain is capable of sort of stretching to accommodate more knowledge. Doige explains it much better in “The Brain That Changes Itself”:

“Clearly, when we learn, we increase what we know, but Merz’s claim,” he says, referring to Merzenich, “is that we can also change the very structure of the brain itself and increase its capacity to learn. Unlike a computer, the brain is constantly adapting.”

But the old “use-it-or-lose-it” principle is also at work here. “Merzinich thinks our neglect of intensive learning as we age leads the systems in the brain that modulate, regulate and control plasticity to waste away,” Doige says.

“Intensive learning,” eh? I have a feeling my husband took that phrase to heart when he … encouraged? … suggested? … okay, pushed me to sign up for teacher training at Prairie Yoga in the neighboring suburb of Lisle in 2015. Sure, I loved my classes at the community center. I adored Lynda’s warm, witty style, and I had made a group of wonderful friends, even if I couldn’t always put the right name with the right face (and still, to my embarrassment, sometimes call Craig “Steve” and Cathy “Cindy”).

Embracing my inner weirdo

Hmm. At this point, I’m thinking I’d better back up and fill the reader in on the rest of my lingering … let’s say “peculiarities.”

Gail Denton, Ph.D., who suffered a mild TBI herself in a 1991 skating accident, discusses the issue in the book “Brain-Lash: Maximize Your Recovery From Mild Brain Injury,” which she calls “an outwardly invisible illness.” Although my case is moderate (in between mild and severe), I still appear normal … well, depending on what I’m wearing! See Exhibit A

Exhibit A

What people don’t see (unless they’re my husband) are the emotional fragility, the intense need for routine and especially the mental fogginess when it’s nearing time for my 10 to 12 hours of nightly sleep. In her book, Denton says TBI patients tend to get mentally fatigued because they lack the energy reserves that keep “normal” people from getting overwhelmed.

Denton also lists a number of deficits in the brain’s executive functioning that are so me:

  • Processing speed. This is why, when new yoga cues are given, I often tilt my head quizzically and then just copy what my neighbor is doing.
  • Attention span. Oh, look! My cat just woke up!
  • Sensory overload. I don’t wear the dark glasses just to look like Mrs Cool. Also, big crowds, noise? I’m outta there.
  • Word finding. That’s gotten much better, but … who did you say you were again?
  • Disinhibition. Uh-oh. My childlike lack of decorum (“I’ll break into song at the grocery store if I want to!“) Also, see Exhibit B.
  • Multitasking. Gah! Go, away, cat, I’m trying to write a thesis.
  • Follow-through. Oh, I’ll write that one later …
  • Sense of humor. Ha! See above.

There. Now back to your regularly scheduled thesis.

Now back to science

Numerous other studies have pointed to the benefits of yoga and meditation for TBI patients. One that I found especially interesting was the yoga program for soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq at Eisenhower Army Medical Center in Fort Gordon, GA. Dr. John Rigg, director of the TBI Clinic at the base, describes on NPR’s “All Things Considered” how a blast in combat can affect a soldier:

“What happens is that primitive animal instinct, which is located in the subcortical brain, becomes hyper-aroused. … The subcortical brain doesn’t understand geography and stays hyper-aroused. Their muscles are tightened up.”

But after a short time in yoga, he says, participants report better sleep, relaxed muscles and a better outlook. “It’s an enlightening factor, even for people who don’t continue in yoga, to see that they can use breath and physical movement to actually change the way they feel.”

As if I didn’t know that! Still, I was one nervous yogini when I showed up for teacher training my first day.

Maybe I should have taken a look at the following recent study first: Harvard psychologist John Denninger and his colleagues divided their subjects, all of whom had reported high levels of stress, into three groups. One group was taught Kundalini yoga—which includes meditation, breathing exercises or pranayama, and the chanting of mantras in addition to physical yoga postures; the second only meditated; and the third listened to relaxation recordings. Based on questionnaires, brain scans and gene analyses of blood samples, the yoga group showed an increase in the expression of genes for energy metabolism and a decrease in the expression of genes for pain and stress, according to a November 2013 article by Bloomberg News.

One of Denninger’s colleagues on the study, Harvard physician Herbert Bensen, had literally written the book on stress relief in 1975. In “The Relaxation Response,” he called his work a “validation of age-old wisdom,” rather than a breakthrough, that presented “a simple version of Transcendental Meditation for people in the Western World.” The book, which has since been updated, shows methods of activating the parasympathetic nervous system when the “fight-or-flight” response kicks in. He calls two of the steps essential:

  1. Focusing on a mantra or activity “to keep the mind from wandering.” (I can testify to this one. Yoga, meditation and walks in nature do quiet my mile-a-minute thoughts.)
  2. Having a “passive attitude.” (Working on it. Does passive-aggressive count? I kid, I kid.)

Me? A teacher?

Brain injury and all, I was accepted into Prairie Yoga’s teacher training program with open arms, thanks in no small part to a recommendation from Lynda to studio owner Lori Gaspar. Lori trusted Lynda, a Prairie veteran who continues to teach and take classes there, so Lori added me to her own 200-hour trainee group. This was an Iyengar-based class, meaning the emphasis was on holding each yoga position precisely and for a long time, rather than “flowing” from pose to pose.

I loved it! I got to do challenging poses and make close friends. Still, the written homework was hard at first, and it wasn’t easy for my unpracticed brain to retain what I was learning about body alignment, hands-on adjustment, anatomy, yoga history and philosophy, Sanskrit and … oh, geez, other stuff. Then there was that scary new technology on my phone—the Uber app—that I had to master, since I don’t live anywhere near jogging distance of Prairie.

I also faced my fear of failure during the weeks my two group partners and I fretted over the free public class we were assigned to “sequence” and teach. (A weird aside: Remember those executive brain functions I listed that take a hit after TBI? One I left out is Sequencing. So maybe yoga helps with that too, since our class went just fine.)

Yay! More science

And now, back to science. In other brain-positive research, a 2013 study at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston compared MRI scans of cognitively impaired people after an eight-week program of yoga, meditation and mindfulness with those of similar patients who had gotten standard care. According to the April-May 2015 edition of Neurology Now, the program group showed better connectivity in the hippocampus, which is related to learning and memory. (Score! The hippocampus is where most of my damage is!)

And then there’s this, from the June 2015 edition of the medical journal Disability and Rehabilitation: An eight-week mixed-methods case study in which yoga teachers worked individually with TBI patients showed a 36 percent improvement in balance (a biggie for me; I still struggle with those types of poses). Other benefits, as measured by physical assessments and interviews, were confidence, lower-extremity strength and endurance.

Said one patient: “I mean, it’s rocked my world. It’s changed my life—I mean, all the different aspects. I mean, physically, emotionally, mentally—it’s given me, you know, my life back.”

Physically, emotionally, mentally. … I know, right? But for me there’s more.

‘Take it or leave it

In “BrainLash,” Denton concludes with what she calls a “take-it-or-leave-it” chapter that “introduces the concept of an increased or newly installed skill known as extrasensory awareness. It is a potential product acquired with brain injury. It serves your pleasure.”

So I guess this is what I’d call the “take-it-or-leave-it” part of my thesis. It’s hard to describe, but I feel a new sense of connectedness now. Things happen because they’re supposed to happen; everything works out. If The Accident made me who I am today, I’m glad. I like myself better now. I think this awareness came several years later, when I was no longer in “survival” mode, going from seizure to seizure, so maybe my brain had a chance to heal somewhat.

The feeling grew when I started yoga—and exploded when I learned to meditate. In fact, shortly after a three-day seminar on the topic at Prairie by visiting teacher Nicolai Bachman that, honestly, did not hold my interest, I became aware of a strange phenomenon. When I closed my eyes, I could “see” what looked like an open eye at about the bridge of my nose. Being an idiot, I mentioned this to a classmate, figuring it was some bizarre “neurological thingy” from my old TBI. She said something like, “Whoa, that’s really advanced.” So I did some reading (in my own Teacher Training Manual, for gosh sakes) and concluded that I was seeing that famed “Third Eye” that lets you “see from a deeper place” and “trust your own intuition.”

Whoa, indeed.

While it’s not “like I have ESPN or something” (gratuitous “Mean Girlsmovie reference, see Exhibit B), I do get little intuitions. For example, long after I’d finished the previous paragraph, I got a mental tug telling me I’d misspelled “Nicolai.” I looked it up, and sure enough I’d added an H. Also, if I ever need inspiration, I just close my eyes. (How do you think I’m getting through the writing process?)

Exhibit B

Mostly, though, this Third Eye brings me comfort. Says Denton in “BrainLash“: “You may experience an increased interest in spiritual matters … for which you had no interest. This may be a general awakening to a higher power.“

That has certainly been the case for me. I was raised in a church-going family, but at a young age I found religious doctrine illogical. The idea of God didn’t make sense to me, though I wasn’t about to admit this to my parents. Decades later, though, I had an epiphany, but it’s unclear exactly when. My husband says I found God a few years ago, after The Accident but before meditation—and very shortly before a recurrence of severe seizures that led to an episode of post-ictal psychosis (think “The Exorcist”) for which I was hospitalized for a month. (No, that “Exorcist” line was a joke, but Ted says I got spooky-religious and was even convinced at one point that a male orderly was God.)

The only religious awakening I do remember was a gradual one, when the peace of meditation became a way to connect with the Universe, with God.

Just ask my shrink

Or maybe I’m nuts. But my shrink assures me I’m not. “Your participation in yoga helped you to shift to a level of being more peaceful inside,” says psychologist Joseph Keegan of Naperville, with whom I’ve worked for I-forget-how-many years now. “Prior to that, you were at more of a frenetic pace—anxious, pensive. Yoga provided you with a sense of equanimity and altered your sense of interconnection with the world.”

He says yoga “opened up a door to a sense of spirituality” and even points out that my habit of picking up litter and recycling as I walk home “reflects that you feel you have a place in the universe.”

But my progress hasn’t all been because of yoga. Not giving a thought to the possibility that he might screw up my thesis, Keegan attributes some of my improvements in cognition and memory to playing the piano. (Actually, it’s an electronic keyboard; I just keep it on “grand piano” setting so as not to sound like an ’80s “hair band” member.) Ted, knowing that learning piano, especially in adulthood, works wonders for the brain, had given it to me for Christmas one year.

“With your decision to play the keyboard, you moved on to challenge yourself with music—to challenge yourself in a positive way, a different cognitive way,” Keegan said. “And it gave you positive, resonating feedback.”

So I guess the point of all this is that yoga and meditation—plus music, nature, friends, family (especially a devoted, selfless spouse) and faith are the keys to coping with brain injury—and I’m living proof. Oh, and prescription drugs. And excellent doctors. (I highly recommend Dr. Elizabeth Gerard at Northwestern Memorial.)

… And did I mention the drugs?

One last note: Thank you to my teacher trainer, Lori, for rejecting my first thesis idea—autobiographical song parodies—because she wanted me to learn something from the process. All this research and writing was hard, but I see now that it was just what my brain needed. Just for fun, though, I’ll leave you with this:

‘Yoga’ (with apologies to The Kinks)


Had a steady desk job

At the paper in town

When a nasty car crash

Turned our lives upside down

In a moment.


They airlifted me

And they worked on my brain,

But they still didn’t know

Why I wouldn’t come out of a coma.



I almost died.

My family cried.

Ted fell to his knees.

Then I looked at him and he at me.

Now, that’s not the way

that it went down that day.

But I’m still here today,

so there’s that. Hip-hooray!

Now there’s yoga.


Now, I’d left my home gym

just a month before,

And I’d never, ever kicked

to handstand before.

But Lori smiled and demo’ed

for the class,

And I did the pose! Didn’t fall

on my a – – !

And that’s the way

that I want it to stay.

Yes, I always want it to be that way

For my yoga.


Now, I’m not dumb,

but I can’t understand

Why my memory’s so bad—

oh, now wait—yes, I can,

Thanks to yoga,

That research for yoga.






Idiot-Proof Watch, Meet Idiot*

* Is Not the Title of This Blog Post

I recently mentioned I might like one of those fancy GPS running watches, so my dutiful husband did some research until he found the most user-friendly model.

Here’s the watch. I’m still getting my wrist (and my brain) used to it.

He showed me the basic steps to get going with it and also directed me to some online tutorials. When I still didn’t get it, he printed out even simpler instructions. Nope.

He set me up to get going, and all was well until I finally stepped out of the building. Still no GPS signal. So I just pressed START and hoped for the best as I ran to the park.

Okay, there’s a lot more boring running stuff I was going to say here, but the rest of the afternoon was much better.

I ended up sitting on a park bench, eyeing baby ducks with good intent (Sorry. Musical shout-out to Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung.” No one but my brother will get it, but it’s my blog.)

Now, where were we? Oh, yes, my friend Helen, who’s in her 70s but doesn’t have a brain injury and does understand technology, had a look at those printed directions. She couldn’t make sense of them, so we moved on to more pleasant topics.

When we rose from the bench to walk her home, I heard a “ping!” The GPS signal had kicked in!

With apologies to Helen, I bid her goodbye and went for a test run. Destination: balance beam.

Da Beam

Turned out it was about six-tenths of a mile from the park to my favorite plaything. But instead of hopping on the balance beam to walk back and forth, singing various songs and trying simple yoga poses, I sat on a bench, eager to post about the experience on Facebook.

I returned to the post I’d abandoned a couple of times since receiving the watch. Its too-clever title, “Idiot-Proof Watch, Meet Idiot,” reflected the frustration I felt trying to figure the thing out.

But my husband has been adamant that I not put myself down. He’s always reminding me that I have a disability, not a lack of intelligence. So what if I’m no math whiz and have trouble following directions and can’t multitask and burst into tears when I’m upset and … and …?

Above all, I am not to call myself an idiot.

But documenting my progress from frustration to (maybe?) mastery of one aspect of this watch was too tempting. I started typing on my phone.

Then, along came Other Jerry. I call him that because I recently met another older fellow named Jerry. Great guy. Boy, the people you meet now that we’re mask-free. But I digress.

Other Jerry, riding a 10-speed bike and wearing a cardigan, slowed near my bench, and I said hello and introduced myself. I only started doing that sort of thing since the brain injury, and especially in the post-vaccination, mask-free era. But I digress again.

He and I commiserated about technology, praised the VA—where he got his vaccine doses and where I used to volunteer as a yoga teacher—and talked about the Navy. He’d served I-forget-when, and I bragged about my 93-year-old dad, who’d lied about his age to join up in World War II.

After he cycled off, I tried to return to my self-deprecating post.

The Universe seemed to have other ideas. Two of my friends walked up, shouting out greetings. Mary and Ellen are closer to my age, but they were as baffled by the watch and as grumpy about technology as me.

Once again, the conversation took a more interesting turn, or turns, including what a “butt” I’d been to my husband about the watch.

By the time we wrapped it up, I decided to head home. But first I sang “Bohemian Rhapsody” while walking to and fro on the beam. (Needless to say, I’m a well-known weirdo at the shore.)

I still had a GPS signal, so I just pressed START and trotted back. It was a longer distance, but later the data showed I’d stayed at a much more comfortable speed.

Back home, as I often do, I apologized to my husband for the way I am.

His rejoinder: “If it makes you feel better, you were that way before the accident.”