Getting Back in Balance

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything for this blog, so apologies to my throngs of followers. (Cue maniacal laughter and pointing. … Okay, let’s continue.) When I started, it was easy to tap out a post a week, especially since I’d had a backlog of pieces done before a friend with technology know-how taught me how to get the blog up and running.

Doing that required shifting my strict but expanding schedule of not working, getting lots of sleep, reading newspapers and books, walking in nature, taking and volunteer-teaching yoga classes, and making sure I kept up my pretend musical career. That last one just meant I needed to run through the repertoire of songs I’d figured out how to play on my electric keyboard while singing to an audience of one cat.

Well, that lifestyle, plus the neurological drugs that keep this 10-year brain-injury survivor (WOOT WOOT!) seizure-free, got shaken up again this fall as my husband and I devoted ourselves to politics. A young U.S. House candidate once considered the longest of long shots now seemed to have a chance, and even though she wasn’t in our district, we gladly volunteered.

By his calculations (my numerical sense is kaput now) we canvassed nine times in four weeks, for about 500 doorbells rung. And that’s not even counting the 65 houses we visited on Election Day to ensure the vote got out. After a long nap, it was off to the candidate’s Returns Watch party, which turned into a victory party and kept me up way past my bedtime.

Exhilaration plus exhaustion equals zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

But by Thursday evening I was recovered enough to teach yoga to my veterans (yes, I call them “my veterans”) at the local VA. A neighbor was kind enough to drive me and my multiple bags of yoga equipment, since I’m no longer a driver myself. Because the building is sort of tucked away in a hidden plaza, and because it was too dark to see street signs, we got a bit lost… and I freaked.

It was a quiet freak-out, as freak-outs go, and my friend remained unaware and cheerful. I just kind of whimpered and then suggested we stop and get our bearings, though I don’t have bearings anymore. How many times have I been to this place and I still can’t direct anyone to it? I asked if she could turn off the talk radio, because I can’t filter out background noise anymore.

I’ve also come to depend on other people’s sense of direction or their car’s voice thingy that tells them where to turn. (Yes, I realize I should know the name of that thingy, but…why?)

When we arrived–in plenty of time, by the way–I told her that she had just seen the brain-injured side of me, the side my friends and neighbors rarely see. She was more than understanding. She gave me a hug and we talked for a few minutes more before she helped me in with my yoga blocks, straps and towels (in lieu of proper yoga blankets).

The class itself, for all my brain drama, was a joy. Confidentiality precludes me from giving details about the participants, who also come to the center for counseling. Let’s just say that I came with a plan for the session and ended up tailoring it to their needs. So it goes in all yoga classes.

At the end, the instructor typically closes the class with a few words of wisdom. This time, I hadn’t thought of what to say and admitted as much to my students. One of the regulars (it won’t be breaching confidentiality to say we’re both Libras) offered this: “We should always try to keep our lives in balance.”







Well, this bites … but it’s fixable

“This won’t hurt a bit” …

… is NOT what the dentist performing a delicate procedure on my choppers said this morning. Instead, he told me to alert him if I needed more local anesthetic during the extraction of an upper front tooth and insertion of a temporary one. I didn’t.



My “before” dental X-ray and possible Halloween mask. Too scary? 

Thanks to silent meditation and a high pain tolerance on my part, and skilled dentistry on his, I got through it all just fine.

It helped that my husband had arranged to work from home today and came with me to the appointment. He spoke with the dentist beforehand, getting answers to questions that I hadn’t been able to on my own. And when the dentist kept referring to my husband as “doctor,” well, we just let that slide. (Ted’s in communications, but he’s so knowledgeable about brain injury that he’s often mistaken for an MD.)

While I was in the chair, I put all my meditation techniques to use. I did relaxation breathing, focusing my exhales on the area of discomfort to make it recede, and even–WEIRD ALERT–silently doing chants that correspond with the cakras (pronounced CHA-kras), or energy centers of the body.

That’s why I didn’t need more anesthetic. There was pain, but I made it go away.

That’s the blog inspiration I got while sitting in the dentist’s chair. You see, I’d started my morning, as always, with cereal, coffee, news … and angst. This is a painful period in our country’s history, but I believe we can overcome the pain.

I’ll see you at the voting booth.

“Now spit, and go to the front desk for your follow-up appointment.”




Ten Years and Counting

This story is not about me.

I’ve spent the past week feeling a little overwhelmed by the response to an article that ran in the Aurora Beacon News, part of the Chicago Tribune Media Group. The local Fire Department alerted the newspaper that my husband and I would be bringing dinner to the crew at Station 8 on the 10th anniversary of the night I was nearly killed in a car accident.

I owe my life to their efforts and those of countless other people.

img_news-storyFor years after my initial recovery, we said we’d celebrate the 10-year mark with a big party in the backyard, inviting all those who have helped us—doctors, EMTs, the pharmacist, neighbors, friends, family, etc., etc. But as September 2018 approached, it became clear that there were far too many people to whom we felt gratitude. Continue reading “Ten Years and Counting”

This Little Light of Mine

Yesterday I found a rock.

Now, I’ve already written in this space about a much bigger rock–a boulder, in fact–that has come to symbolize my continuing recovery from traumatic brain injury. But this was just a smooth rock that fits in the palm of my hand.

On one side was a happy, smiling sun. It looked liked something a child might have drawn, with its rays poking out in beautifully random directions. Then I turned the stone over in my hand, and what was there took my breath away. “Be a light to the world,” someone had written in yellow marker.


My Facebook post about the find got me lots of online love. Above the photos, I had typed “ASKED AND ANSWERED: I often ask myself what my purpose in life is. Look what I found on the way home from yoga today.#willtry

But the reality wasn’t that simple.

Continue reading “This Little Light of Mine”

The Curious Case of Lisa Yee

The other day I saw a photo on Facebook of someone from my high school class I hadn’t seen in decades.

“Wow,” I remarked to my husband, “he’s, like, an adult!” Mind you, I’m 51, and our 25-year-old daughter has already embarked on a career of her own.

Predictably, the grownup in our marriage reminded me that I, too, am technically an adult. I had to laugh … but just a little. (What makes him so smart? He’s not the boss of me!)


You see, as someone who has emerged on the happy side of traumatic brain injury, I feel like I’ve been aging in reverse. Now, before you start imagining Brad Pitt’s character transforming backward through the years from an old man to a fetus in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” know that I’m just having fun with words here, something my brain still allows me to do.

But when it comes to doing math in my head or keeping track of where things are and what day it is, that’s another story.

For my purposes here, aging in reverse means I’ve recaptured the joy of childhood. My fun and games are now yoga, piano, singing, being outdoors–sometimes even writing. To quote another movie, “Elf”: “I like smiling! Smiling’s my favorite!” On the other hand, I also get moody, emotional and stubborn, like a teenager, and I’m forever being warned about taking unnecessary risks by that grownup in our marriage.

He’s right. (He’s always right. That’s what makes me so mad!)

Continue reading “The Curious Case of Lisa Yee”

Creativity Now!

I swiped the title of this piece from George Costanza’s father, Frank, of TV’s “Seinfeld,” who’d end his ridiculous shouting matches with wife Estelle by throwing his hands in the air and shouting, “Serenity now!” Maybe the “serenity” part had started as a soothing mantra, but these were the hilariously batty and antagonistic Costanzas, so no serenity for them.



Just over a mile from our house stands a steep hill topped by a boulder in the shade of an oak tree. Back in my pre-brain injury days a decade ago, I’d get up early and go for a run before work, ending it with the zigzagging terrain of what I called The Mountain. I also had a name for the boulder: Rocky, which I’d sit on to catch my breath and take in the view–the lake, the woods and, at that hour, no people.


Then I’d walk home to start my day. At that time I was a regional editor at a suburban Chicago newspaper, so my job involved a lot of sitting, typing and fretting—pretty much like any job, now that I think about it. Those runs energized me for more than work. There was also the usual stuff of life—housework, grocery shopping, dinner prep and shuttling our daughter between school and gymnastics.

It was one of those nights after practice that The Accident changed our lives. I drove to the gym and had our daughter, who was 15 and on her learner’s permit, drive us back. At a four-way stop three blocks from home, there was a crash. I have no memory of any of this, of course.

Thank God, I was the only one injured.

Continue reading “Rocky”