Hungry, hungry brain

My husband recently reminded me of a comment I used to make in the early post-TBI years when I’d get overwhelmed by visual or mental stimulation: “My brain is full.” The cure was usually a nap.

Now, 10 years after the car crash, my brain seems to have quite the hearty appetite. I’ve been taking heaping helpings of anything to do with language, yoga, music, current events–you name it. … Well, not piracy. So I guess I am kind of a picky eater, if we’re going to keep going with this metaphor. Yes, we are. It’s fun!

The problem is I tend to binge on activities that fill my brain with information, know-how and/or joy, rather than sticking with the balanced mental diet I’d be on if I consistently made to-do lists and to-did everything on them, as I keep telling me shrink I’m gonna.

Metaphor all gone. (Burp.)

Just today, I continued a recent obsession I’ve had with learning to sing my favorite song from the musical “Hamilton.” It’s “You’ll Be Back,” sung by King George III to the American colonists. Until recently I thought I had the magical ability to recall every note and lyric of every song I’d ever heard, including commercial jingles from products I don’t remember.*

Turns out that’s only true for songs from before the accident. So I practiced, practiced, practiced–at the piano, on the couch, in the shower. I still don’t have the song memorized, but I’ve loved every minute of trying to make that sucker stick in my head. Even the melody is complex. Also, as part of my online search for the lyrics, I found an app that teaches the chords of the song. So the next step was to learn how to play chords on the piano–F, G, D, etc. Somehow my brief childhood piano training didn’t include learning chords, so I’d just been noodling around, playing what sounded right with the melody.

So that was this afternoon’s delicious candy. (Sorry, the metaphor’s back.)

Earlier in the week, I had gorged on finding ways to make yoga accessible for one of the veterans I teach at the local VA on Thursday nights. His limited mobility meant I needed to come up with alternate poses and use yoga blocks and other equipment, including standing “push-ups” done at the wall to build arm strength. So focused was I on my task that I forgot to eat. (No metaphor, just a growly belly, which I then filled with actual food.)

It seems that my mostly recovered life (10 to 12 hours of sleep a night, plus all the medications I can swallow) has become a sort of banquet, and my plate’s not big enough.

*Last night my husband for some reason mentioned the 1970s doll Baby Alive, and I immediately started singing: “Baby Alive, soft and sweet. She can drink; she can eat.” For more, See “Back To Where I Once Belonged” on this blog.

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”

Nashville or Bust…I Guess

About a year ago, my cousin Monica asked all the “Curry girl cousins” if we’d be interested in some sort of destination reunion in 2018.


To survey our preferences on price, amenities and dates, Monica, who lives in Kentucky, texted all of the 14 other not-so-girlish women from coast to coast—California, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas. The last time we had all been together was in 1996, at Pa Curry’s funeral.

There are also 20 “boy cousins”—the sons of Ma and Pa’s children—but this was going to be ladies-only.

My immediate reaction, as with many invitations: Come up with excuses to say no.

Continue reading “Nashville or Bust…I Guess”