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Saturday, December 7, 2013

"Miss representation..."

I was checking Upworthy's daily dose of random videos shedding light on a variety of issues.  I usually can't watch them all, in one go, as they can cover such profound topics, from the intricacies of American healthcare framework, to something outrageous Miley Cyrus has done, to heartwarming clip of little girls expressing their drams, and lastly there's often a memorial type clip, celebrating the life of a recently passed famous person.  I think it's a great service, and I appreciate more positive outlook, and  model based on awareness, and education.  Yes, it's cool, like that.  I was struck by a video cop most recently, called 'Miss Representation, and it lights the profound amount of negative media attention women receive.  Personally, I don't have cable, and really don't miss it.  Though, the chiefly misrepresented women, are those in politics, although none are immune.  Check it out, see what you think...

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ladies weekend!!

I have a group of 7 or 8 girlfriends I went to HS with, who've remained quite close, as the years have passed.  A few are married, and live far away, the others are all the New England area, still.  We have random intermittent getogethers whenever possible.  After I missed the last opportunity, by confusing my travel dates for a wedding, I was pretty bummed.  I missed the opportunity to see everyone, near and far.  As a result, 4 of the more local gals came over  to VT, for a visit.  This hasn't worked out in 5 years, and I couldn't be more thankful have such an amazing group of strong, talented ladies to help motivate me.  Were all pretty different, but somehow the mix, and array of goals, dreams, accomplishments, and even loss, has held us together.  Val has always been there for me, with regular visits, and a comforting, and sarcastic demeanor, I look forward to catching up, whenever possible.  She and  Hazel hatched a plan to coordinate with Erin, and Melissa, and somehow, against all odds, they all appeared at my door, last Saturday.  I know I have nothing to be nervous about when they come to visit, but I cleaned repeadly before they came, and still thought my apartment looked crammed, and messy.  It was as clean as it gets, these days, but I haven't moved in 4 years, and still have a lot of junk that's no longer relevant, in every corner.

No one cared, and I saw the momentarily open floor space become filled with their stuff.  It felt like high school, all over again, cramming everyone into one room.  We decided to go for an extremely brisk walk along the waterfront.  The arctic feeling wind came across the lake, with a chilling bite.  We walked about 2 miles round trip, we got to where the beach begins, and picked up pace, even more, returning.  We hit 2 of my routine stops in that area.  Skinny Pancake for hot drinks to warm up, and then the Peace and Justice Cener next door, where I volunteer.  I rarely look around the store, so I had fun looking more closely at the retail.

The next stop was Outdoor Gear Exchange, and finally dinner at The Farmhouse, a local eatery featuring predominantly local ingredients for all dishes served.  We had to wait about 40 min. In the bar ((darn) to get a table.  This is a master business plan, to have the bar downstairs, and send the wait list down there.  Hands down, they serve the best burger  in town, so that's what I had.  The meal was delightful, all around, and I felt so blessed to be in such great company.

The next morning Melissa and Erin were the early risers, who dared to venture into the frozen, snowy tundra to go running.  I'm terrified of ice, and loosing my balance, so I didn't go out, but Melissa čame back with great pictures of a dam I couldn't identify.  Eventually we rallied for a late breakfast at Magnolias, a favored downstairs brunch spot, of mine.  I'd recently had a conversation about steel-cut oatmeal, and that person had mentioned that their oatmeal was A-mazing.  So, that's what I had, though, I believe we all  felt contended through the 4 hr drive back to Maine, after that meal.  It was sad to have the weekend disappear in a flash, but in was so grateful to share parts of my life with them all.  I am sure that having friends I admire, like these ladies, has helped me to look for the good in my situation, and to stay strong, in hopeless times.

Fears chilling grip

Today began in great fashion.  I had an immediate victory, when my alarm went off at seven, and I got up, and stayed up.  Any day I do that, it's a victory, in my book!  I got some breakfast, and then set about playing with my apple peeler device, to make apple pie.  I don't know what it is, about this device, and even though I've had my dad re-explain how to use it, on nearly every trip, I cannot do it.  At a certain point I get so pissed at myself, I walk away and give up.  Ny roommate comes out, and I ask for his help.  It takes him all of 30 second to tell me to flip a lever, I'd already messed with.  I stuck an apple on,only to realize they are too soft.  Note to self, do not leave apple in the fridge for 2 weeks,  and expect them to be usable.  Feeling defeated by own idiocy, I retired to the couch to send some emails. At 1030 Marc (roommate/aide) dropped me off downtown at the department of Labor.  I wouldn't choose to make this a regular destination, however this is the current location of the TBI support groups, which I recently became a facilitator of.  Attendance has been extremely minimal recently.  However I young man showed up, whom I'd never met before.  We shared our stories, and he'd recently gone back to his job at Burton snowboards.  It was wonderful to meet such a kind soul.  It was a good meeting, even though there was a sole attendee.  It was probably the first time I've appreciate the role of facilitor, and felt like I could put my strangely vast knowledge of TBI program tips and tricks to use.

After the meeting, I headed to outdoor gear exchange to ask about fixing a tear in a down jacket.  I got what I needed, but not before being swayed by a deal on pro meal bars.  They taste amazing,  and have saved me from 'hangry' siituations.  I then trundled down Chrurch st. to grab the bus I needed to get to PT.  As I was seething over my ATM card not working, for no apparent reason,a young man walked by turned around, and came back, said "I LOVE YOU, I have a mental disability, but you need to know I love you!'  Normally this behavior frightens me, and get I feel angry because I can't flee quickly.  But this was really sweet, and made me smile. I caught by bus, feeling great.

I made it to PT, and started with a great session.  I was moving fluidly, even doing my push-ups felt good.  I was having a hard time with my right shoulder though.  Nearly every motion was more painful than norma.  l My PT suggested we try electric stimulation to loosen up the joint. It's a bizarre tingling sensation, but as he increased the frequency I started to freak out.  Tears began streaming down my face, and I felt frightened.  The more intense the stimulation got, the more it reminded of these sensation  in my heart, when I got shocked 107 consecutive times by an internal defribilatof, whose lead detached, ans shocked me consecutively, until I could be transported to another hospital, with a means of deactivating the device.  I rarely think of it, these days, and had no idea, anything as as simple as pulsing therapeutic pad on my shoulder could ever give me a panic attack.  I tried to tell myself I was safe, and it was impossible for me to have another shock from a defibrillator. as I no longer have one.  I didn't have the mental ability to deal with that situation, and when I felt the stimulation on my shoulder, it all came back.  I asked Ray, the PT, to tell me a story, but he couldn't start before I completely lost it.  I'd hoped that distraction would get me through, but I lost my cool, I couldn't even hear him, and suddenly demanded he take it off my shoulder.  I slowly calmed down, as he took it off my shoulder, but the trauma of that incident was still so fresh. They tried a heating pad, instead,and the pain lessened.   As soon as I got to the locker room, my emotionalal dam burst, and I called a couple people for a ride, but couldn't get anyone.  So I caught the bus.  As I walked back to my apartment, from the bus stop, I realized that even though I didn't receive a blunt force traumatic brain injury, my injury, I  still harbors plenty of trauma, that I've been unable to deal with.  I hope that the fear attack, I had from the electronic stimululator was a one time resurgence of the greater difficulties surrounding my inpatient days.  Those are not days I'd wish upon anyone.  I was extremely fortunate to have the support of family, and friends, which is absolutely why I still look for the best outcome, and still push for it.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A day in the life of...

My alarm goes of at 7, however, I've adapted an unpleasant skill of getting up, turning it off, and dozing through the morning news on VPR.  I have NEVER been a morning person.  It's not my finest time of day, but that's how the cookie crumbles.  Today, I dragged myself out of my cave of covers, when the fire alarms started blaring.  This upset me for 2 reasons.  1. No one finds the blaring fire alarm sound, pleasant.  Think elementary school, when you had to march outside, and it was so loud you thought your ears were bleeding.  We don't have to go outside, but I sure wanted to.  I quickly ate, and threw my things together, and walked to my first appointment.  It's probably 3/4 of a mile, and is great walk, if the weathers okay.  I have to cross the bridge, and go to an old mill.  The building is enormous and contains an oddly large number of yoga studios, for one building (3+).

There I see a rehab. Psychologist.  It's not the easiest thing in the world for me to sit down and talk about what bothers me, or things I'm having trouble with.  However, this one is pretty is pretty good at it.  I left, extremely pleased the sun was out.  It was a short uphill trek to the bus stop.  I reached the crosswalk, and waited for the light.  There was man, unshaven, holding a random piece of cardboard, also standing there.  He offers, in a thick Slavic accent to help me cross the street.  This is probably the one thing I always want help with.  I hate crossing the street.  Even as my mobility improves, I get anxious, and worry that the light will change as I'm in the middle of the street.  I can't remember that having happened, but still not my cup of tea.  Anyways, I took his arm and we crossed.  Mid-stride, he says, "What is your injury?"  Does no try to beat around the bush, or apoligize for asking.  Thankfully.  It's not a hard question.  But, for some reason we've made it one.  I said, 'I have a brain injury.'  He tells me he knows of this, amd talks about an Italian relative in a car accident.  I tell him mine is from lack of Oxgen because my heart stopped.  And that my heart stopped because of a drug a doctor had given me.  Which drug?  Yaz.  He, like more people these days, hadn't heard of it, so I dropped it.  There was no deed to talk about the birth control, that almost took my life, with random hitchhiker.  As soon as he crossed the street, he held up the other side of the cardboard, he held, and it read, 'Going To' and the rest of it was too small to read from a distance.  My first thought was, 'what a weird place to hitch hike.'no where near a highway ramp, and right in town.  Eventually he gave up, and crossed the street to come to bus stop.  Which was going back to town, not away, as he'd been trying to do.  I asked where he was going, but he never said.  Very nice man, just had an unsettling character about him.  I got off the bus at the hospital, to transfer buses, and was drawn in by a sign reading, farmers market.  I bought a cookie, carrots, and a cucumber. And a coffee on the way out.  Then, caught my bus down  to the lake.  I volunteer in this area about 200 yards from the lake, at a place called the Peace and justice Center.  It's a great community, and I enjoy the people.  Although, I'm not contributing much right now.  I feel a bit useless, which is a sadly common theme, these days.  I returned to my apartment with my roommate, and set to making food.  After I'd gotten dinner, I set to making these awesome bana based cookies.  They are wicked tasty.  The batch didn't make as many as usual though.  Oh well, it will be an excercise of Will power not to demolish them, before  my high school friends come to visit...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Day of rest?

My day began today with one of my classic faux-pas'.  I dragged my slovenly self out of bed, at 9, and made coffee, and toast.  Slowly, I assessed the filth of my living space, and gathered dirty dishes.  Also rembered to water my plants.  That doesn't happen often enough.  I sat down with my toast, to hear a knock at my door. I felt all of the Color drain from my face, as I realized it was Sunday morning, and I had 10 o'clock breakfast plans.  I got up to answer the door, ahem, wearing pink, snowflake panama pants.  This okay if your guest is in your age group.  However, it's extremely embarrassing, should your guest be your old academic advisor, from college.  I look forward to catching up with this husband wife team, whenever we can find time.  It had been almost 2 years this time, and I had already dropped the ball, by neglecting to return an email.  To add fuel to my shame, I'd then had a lapse in memory.   Thankfully, they were extremely gracious about my difficulties.

They waited for me to put on more appropriate clothing, although told me I didn't have to.  However, you could not  pay me to leave the house in pajama pants, especially pink ones.  I hurried out to the car, a few moments later, quite ashamed.  Though they wouldn't hear it, so the conversation turned to Jay's retirement.  Sometimes college seems like a different lifetime, and I suppose, in some ways it was.  Though, as we discussed the Belize study abroad program they'd created, and my classmates, my mind slips back to the joy, and freedom of those days.  I know how far I've fallen from then, and slowly scrambled to put myself back together.  I accepted a long time ago, that I'd never be who was before this happened to me.  It was not easy, however, it was necessary.

I always enjoy hearing about their upcoming winter plans.  Since the Belize program was not able to continue, after 3 years,  they've concocted clever travel plans, sight seeing  Central America, integrating into local cultures, whenever possible. The meal quickly passed, and before I knew it, I was back, and immediately was motivated to redeem myself, and repot a couple of plants I've needed to, for over a month.  Who expects a sunny day, in the 50's, in November?  I then vacuumed, as I had dropped a bunch of dirt on the carpet.  Off white wall to wall carpeting is so convenient...  Oh well, what's another dirt stain?  It's more like a blotchy brown rug, these days.

After cleaning, I took the jogger out for a 3hr jog/run.  Burlington was exceptionally weird today.  I got hissed a by a guy walking by.  I already detest the fact that walkers pass me, but really, is it necessary to hiss?  No, I don't think so.  If you're 12, that's cool, but otherwise it's rude. I also saw a homeless tent community in the woods, which instantly explained all the weird noises I heard there as I ran by, this summer.  Also passed a strangely large group of Hispanic men.  They were all huddled together, in a circle. Either yelling or chanting things in a  language I didn't recognize.  About a mile from my place, was when it began to rain, which I'd hoped to avoid.  When I first got the yellow sign stating 'runner with asisstive. Device' I worried it might make more of a target,for the strangers I encounter, although, it's been just the opposite.  More people smile and say hi, than ever before.  With exception of the hisser, I saw today.

I returned, and occupied the kitchen for 3 hours,  I only made chicken, and green bean casserole, but I cleaned out my fridge, located missing dishes, and took out the recycling.  I can't remember the last time I accompshed everything I needed to get done, around the apartment,  in a day.  Maybe I should find a way to shame myself, each day, because apparently, that's what it takes.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How Bizzare

In high school, that was the name of a song, I liked, by a band called OMC.  No idea if they're still around, but the title seemed appropriate for my day.  I've recently been fielding queries, as to my lack of writing.  It's been a good fall season, lots of memories, I've begun to record, and then gotten distracted, and done other things.

Today, I thought ahead to make,and pack my lunch.  Convienienly, this idea only seems to occur to me when I haven't recently bought lunch meat.  I had an avocado hummus, lettuce, cucumber, and smoked bacon sandwich.  It wasn't bad, though, it was a bit odd.  I love cucumber with smoked salmon, and bacon with turkey, but I must've lost my mind while buying groceries this week.  Whatever, it was a different sandwich.  I caught up on some emails, and headed out for PT, angry at myself for not having written down, the fact that I needed to get my own ride, or leave enough time to take the bus.  It takes me 2 hrs to walk or run, 45  minutes, to catch, and transfer  buses, if I'm lucky, and 15 min, to ride in a car.  With 15 min to spare, I called a cab, once I'd located my phone.  The app. find my iPhone, saves me everytime.  The most ridiculous place I've found the phone?  My refrigerator. The  worst place I've left my phone, and thought I'd never see it again? A bench, in a municipal building.  As soon as the app displays a map, and address, or makes your phone beep. I wish I wasn't this forgetful, but I'm so thankful, that I'm not the only one, and someone has created an app for sieve brains like me.

I made it to PT, and was sent off to do what I can, independently.  Like the weight machines.  The therapist I work with, Ray, is pretty clever with developing new ways to test my balance, and coordination. Both of which, are challenged, for me..  It's like reliving my childhood, where my friends and enemies mocked my lack of coordination, and speed, by referring to me as sloth.  Unfortunaly, a nickname that is one of the 7 mortal sins, sticks around.  As a kid I was very ashamed of the nickname, but as I grew, I learned to appreciate its comedy.  Fluid coordination is not, nor ever was, a skill I  possess.  I have to step onto excercise blocks, forwards, and sideways, and then step on specific targets, like colored dots, ropes, and mats.  I have a really hard time getting my feet to hit those specific  targets. Sometimes I fall every time I walk through, sometimes, I only fall once, like today.  And very rarely, I don't fall at all.  Imagine that.

After PT, I located my bus pass, in a lost and found, at UVM.  Apparently, I'd left it, last week, while at the Telluride film festival.  Somehow, I got the free bus up to campus, walked across campus, got my card, walked back, caught the same bus downtown, and went to my volunteer role, at the peace and justice Center.  Although, I didn't actually get much done, because one of the interns announced there was a school shooting, or hostage situation,  in the square mile sized town, I live in.  There was a gun, whostage situation, at the same school, last spring.  Why this idea of guns at school, is such a fad, I don't know.  Columbine happened when I was in high school, and I feel like there have been shootings, every year since, all over the country.  Why anyone would purposely target the most defenceless, of our population is beyond me.  There weren't any news reports earlier, but, I heard about it again, on VPR, with vague details.  It sounds like school mayy have  already been out for the day, but, even so, guns and kids are not a combination you ever hope to hear about.  Especially, not twice in the   same year, at the same high school.  What a terrifying day for the families in Winnooski.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

How to say goodbye?

Today was an average day, in my present life.  Honestly, I feel lost, and without a direction.  Last time I felt this way, I pulled up everything, and left.  It was the middle of my fall semester junior year.  My head wasn't in the game, so, I found something, I knew I loved, and left.  I went to UVM, because I had a dream of becoming an equine veterinarian.  By my junior year, my grades were not phenomenal, in the Math, and science department.  My appretation of supporting myself, and doing every activity I found remotely interesting, left me little time to study, practice, or really become excellent, at one thing.  I couldn't see that, then, and while I don't regret my life choices, I wish I had a clearer vision for what I hoped to do with a degree, in communications.  I studied biology, to get into vet school, and later switched to communications, as it came more naturally to me.  I.e, I didn't want to senselessly pound my head into a physics, or calculus text, I could wrap my head around.  I just forced myself to keep trying, because I wanted to he's. Wounded, or sick horses.  Finally, I reached a place where I realized I needed a change, and time, to decide if this was the right path.  So, I found a job, doing farm labor, exercising, and grooming horses for a British Olympic hopeful equestrian.  Those days were simpler, they hired me. Asked on the experience I told them I had.  3 weeks later, I found myself on a massive horse farm, riding 5 horses a day, observing lessons, cleaning up more horse poop, than I care to think about.  We worked from 7 am until 7pm, most days, but everyday passed entirely too quickly, whether it had been fun, or not so.  I changed a lot, in that year, as it was first time supporting myself, taking responsibility, for my choices about school, and the money I'd wasted, that fall semester.  Eventually, I had to return, and face my world.  That meant deciding how to finish school.  I ended up switching majors to communications.  I did quite well with it, provided I was interested in the course.  I worked the hardest at the subjects that interested me the most, and the others, I pulled through, begrudgingly.

I'm now realizing, I still live like that.  I focus on what I like, and try to begrudgingly get through the other stuff.  I spent the last 6 years arguing with doctors, therapists, amd case managers, to get what I thought was best, or what I needed.  Sometimes, I learned that I didn't know as much as I would've liked, and other times I learned that I needed to create ways to get around problems.

There was one person, that remained a constant, in my life of unknown people, and outcomes.  In 2008, I met a woman, Kim Patton, who was going to be the occupational therapist, I worked with, from then on.  However, she was field based.  In the early days she helped me secure community based volunteer positions, and was committed to ensuring that I stayed active in the community.  Naturally, my personality clashed with hers, on a regular basis.  She was an incredible mom figure, and if you know me, gracefully accepting assistance, is not something I excel at.  The majority of our working relationship, she'd toss out ideas, and I'd immediately disregard them, or just blindly shoot them down.  Looking back, she worked tremendously hard, to ensure her clients received the best care.

Last year, it became evident she was battling, a particularly harsh medical condition.  We suspected it was likely cancer, but it was like the dead horse in the room, I wasn't about to openly inquire, if she wasn't interested in sharing these details.  She was always so,open, with regards to her family life, and she was still working, so, I didn't put much thought into it.  She transitioned off my case pretty informally, last summer.  I can't even recpllect our last visit.

Today, I met up with a friend/ previous aide from the early days.  She called while I was out running, to push our meetup, a bit later.  I contined on, came back, changed, ate, and she arrived looking pretty upset.  When she asked me to sit, I felt my chest seize in fear.  I had no idea what news she had, but I knew it wasn't good.  She told me that she'd just heard from Kim's husband, and that she'd passed away, the day before.  I felt engulfed by a wave of sorrow, and regret.  I certainly wouldn't be where I am today, without her pushing me, and leading me towards a path of acceptance of my new path.  For that I will always be thankful.  Looking back, I wish I'd shown her more gratitude, when I had the opportunity.

She lived, a driven, caring, and compassionate life, my heart breaks for her family, but I'll remain forever grateful for the progress she helped me reallize.  May you rest in peace, Kim.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

... (spooky-scary)

A great friend of mine got married Sunday.  Weddings are an annual, or biannual event, at this age.  I met Colleen in high school.  She was a tomboy at heart, and enjoyed running around in the Maine woods, despite being raised to be a lady.

I have always had this fleeting memory making a pact, or promising I wouldn't think of getting married, until ic was 30.  Funny thing was, I couldn't remember which one of my girlfriends I'd sworn. That pact with.  5 years ago, when I had someone to love, and the subject occasionally surfaced, my deeper subconscious paid me rare visits, but, I recall thinking, 'I didn't want yo get married until my 30's, and yet, I have no idea why.  If I've found love now, I want to hold on to it!'  Funny, how that didn't work out...

When Collen got married this past weekend, I saw her write something about having made a pact at 15. Not to marry until she was 30, and all of those memories, as well as many past struggles and tormenting emotions, surged in.  I realized I've never dealt with my emotions, since this happened to me.  I saw a therapist I didn't trust, on an emotional level, for almost 4 years, ack!  I never learned. To deal with my emotions properly, as a kid either.   I held everything in, until one, tiny thing, pushed me past my tipping point.  Sunday, I learned that I still do that.  I never actually dealt with my feelings, when Sean moved.  Instead, I threw myself back into school, and a class I didn't understand.  I was so far out of my league, at that point, I got lost in my phobias and misunderstanding of that class.  I remember that fall, because I dropped 10 pounds, that I did not  have to loose, and felt nauseous at every meal I ate, in my then living situation.  

When I moved, at the end of the year, it was the fresh start I needed, to get away from everything I associated with Sean.  That progression allowed me to cover up those feelings, without actually dealing with, or confronting them.  All of sudden I felt as if I'd been flattened by a Mac truck, of emotions, and feelings, I haven't dared , or even had the capacity, to approach, since the onset of my injury.  I went to meditation class that evening, to attempt to deal with myself.  I've been having difficulty adjusting to the visiting leader.  I loose focus constantly, and failed to consider that fact when I went.  Trust me, 90 minutes of guided meditation, often flies by, but I couldn't find home base, that night.  It was more like 90 minutes of my inner psyche, attacking itself.  Everything from interactions I could recall with Sean, to why I'm so unhappy with myself for not being gainfully employed, at this present moment.  It's rather unsettling to have your past, and present, attack at the same time.

I went to the track Monday afternoon, and pushed myself to faster, than I think I can.  For the very first time, since I started doing my escapes at the track, I got winded.  I've never, independently reached that point of physical stress, since incurring this injury.  So, that felt awesome.  While, I did, what I refer to as my run on the track, a frisbee team, came out, to use the field.  I must've listened to them chant something that sounded like, "ti-go-wanna-comfa-UVM" 10 times before I heard, "Here we go, UVM!"  So bizarre, how phonetics work...  It was a great distraction, though.  When I hit 3 miles, I stopped to stretch.  I'm touching my toes, when I hear, C-Blaaaaize!"  That was a nickname, I got in college, generally from my outing club friends. I knew who it was immediately, which I can rarely, to never, say when I'm out, and about.  My mindset falls back into college mode, relatively easily.  I think because, I really understood it, and where my life was headed.  When I acquired this injury, I lost everything that made me who I was, including my mind.  Stringing it all back together, hasn't been easy, or glamorous,but, in the end, you need all of those things, to know who you are- passions, furies, intolerances, glories, and so on...

I completely changed gears, from jogging at the track, to head over, and take part in a group called, Monday Night Kirtan.  It's basically a group of people coming together, to make music, and sing in chants.  All of the people are extraordinarily positive.  When I began going, I immediately appreciated the mindset of many of the folks I met, which enabled me to make more connections within the group, and continue or take part.

The progression of my recovery isn't normally, a vision, I can readily access.  However, when I realize. I have the opportunity to process the progression I've made, I feel I need to use that clarity, to help put things back together for myself.

All that said, congratulations to Colleen, and Adam, on your wedding!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Maine Marathon

The slogan this year was, "The way a marathon should be".  That's a clever play on, 'Maine, the way life should be".  Which is is the state slogan.  My favorite t-shirt, from years ago, said that.

My dad came up to Vermont, Friday  night.  We made some dinner, and planned out the weekend.  He ran some errands, while I continued gathering everything, I might possibly need.   Oddly, I forgot one crucial thing.  My toothbrush.  Yuck.  I did get one there, but I was so bummed when I couldn't find it.

We enjoyed an amazing meal with my friends Val, and Abe.  Fresh veggies, sweet potato hash, and pasta with pesto.  There was a lot of antagonizing going on, while dinner was cooking.  Another friend, Hazel showed up, and we all ate this wonderful meal, and caught up.  We talked about a wedding, of a close friend of ours from high school.  I'd suddenly become, the only one, not attending.  Due to error, in not booking my tickets.  They decided to bring me in spirit, and in photographs,  it was one of those ideas that sounds great in the moment, but that you doubt will ever really occur.  Although, I was pretty sure, it would happen.  These ladies, are doers.  I wish I spent more time around them, for that reason.  I've spent 6 years living life where people talk about stuff they never actually get around to doing.  These gals are my best friends, and I know they do what they say, no matter how ridiculous.  And, I love them for it.

It was an early to bed, early to rise type of night.  We got up at 4:30 to start at 6:30.  It's a truly beautiful course, especially, at day break.  The first 2 miles are along a cove, and open water.  It's my favorite part, as it's just getting light, and you catch the first glimpse of the sun rising, over the water.  Everything is peaceful, and quiet, at that hour.  We continued on,and ran into a cyclist volunteering for the race, Roy.  He was the same man, who'd accompanied us last year too.  It was great to see a familiar face, on course.  We all continued on, me pushing the jogger, my dad running backwards, and Roy, going back, and forth, until we got into the pack, that is.  Around halfway, we started seeing a lot more runners, and had people consistently passing by, the rest of the way.    After I turned around, I heard  my name, and knew it must be someone I'd recognize.  I got mauled in a hit and run bear hug, by my childhood eye doctor.  I'd seen her at the gym in June, and we'd talked about this race, but I'd forgotten until that moment.  That was pretty unbelievable!  The top marathoners zoomed by, as we knew the end was fairly close.  The day before, the race director had mentioned the name of the guy projected to win, Robert Gomez.  I stood there thinking, I know that name, weird.  Eventually, I realized, it was because we were on the same cross country team, in high school.  So weird.  I never actuallysaw him, except as a blur passing by, but he did win the race.  Another member of the XC team from high school, was there too.  Medomak Valley represent.  I saw Darren passing too, but didn't really get to day hi.  This is a huge event, I never expect to see people I know.  I had my own surprise, of awesome friends waiting at the finish.  In the last mile, or two, my childhood best friend, Amy, and her boyfriend Jason, were walking out, and they brought us in.  I was so relieved to finish, as I was starving, and just wanted some pizza.  For whatever reason, pizza is the post race food, I've come to crave.  Crazy.  It's one of the few times I even eat pizza.  It normally doesn't call to me.  Hazel also came down to join us, and  had just found out she passed her nursing boards, that morning, so there was celebration all around.  

We hung around briefly, talking to local press,and food vendors,and made a plan to meet up in a couple hours for lunch, at a Portlannd hotspot, Gritty Mcduffs.  It's basically a pub that serves local Maine brews, and great fesh, grill style food.  Yum, after a great race, and visiting with great friends, we headed  back to Vermont, though not before stopping at a local donut shop, 'The Holey Donut'.  It came highly recommended by Val, and Abe.  When I heard about the chocolate, sea salt flavor,  I knew I had to stop.  Thankfully my dad was in a similar mindset.  He also got a gift certificate for Val and Abe, as they'd spoken so highly of it.  I knew that would be a fun thank you note to receive!  Yum, I could go for a donut right about now.

Looking back, the race went pretty smoothly.  Obviously, the only thing I'm actually racing are my uncoordinated limbs.  It's like a neverending  contest for my feet to get safely back on the ground.  The joy, and anticipation I have for this event, is boundless.  Though, of course I look forward to the day I can do the full marathon, sans jogger, though for now, accomplishing 13.1 still feels like a major feat.  I'm so thankful to everyone who helped make this happen for me!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

All in a 'fall'day

Today began in normal fashion.  I got up, a bit after 7,  got my running gear on, and foraged in the kitchen.  I was excited to find a remaining chocolate croissant, in the my mind, any day that begins with chocolate, is a good day.  Little did I know, that theory would be tested.  I got my things together, and Marc, my roommate/ live in aide appeared to a announce he was getting the car.  I was hastily throwing turkey on some bread, for my lunch.  To be thorough, it was an avocado hummus, turkey, lettuce, and smoked bacon sandwich.  Yum! It's such a lifesaver, to live with someone as helpful, as Marc.  I can take the bus, however, it takes 3x as long, to get to a destination 4 mile away.  When I first suffered this injury, I couldn't bear to entertain the idea that the next however many years of my life, I'd be faced with depending on others for everything.  Oddly, the more independence I regain, the more frustrated, and sometimes angry, I become when kindly, but unknowing souls, offer me help.

This morning, I enjoyed a more coordinated than usual session in PT.  my muscles complained a bit more than usual though, as I was just coming back, after 2 weeks, away.  Ray, the therapist, I work with, has developed a unique routine for me, that majorly focuses on strengthening muscles I need to maintain my balance.  I get to haul a sandbag around, twist every way possible, while bearing weight in my arms, do sit-ups, push-ups,among other exercises.  I'm slow, and my movements aren't coordinated, but, I always feel as if my physical abilities, are improving.  It's not something I really notice day to day, but usually, after PT, I head for a run on the bike path, as they're located on the path.

Moving along, I was appreciating the sunshine, and trying to remember to be thankful for the opportunities I do have in my life right now.  I planned to run 7 today, so, I hit the path, ran to what I thought was the end, though, today, I learned it is not, it actually turns left, and away from the lake.  Anyways, I ran to my goal point, and turned around for the jog back. In the last mile I put my foot in a divot, my brain wasn't prepared to handle, and I won't down, on my face.  It was so fast, I couldn't save my face, I quickly sat up, huddled in a ball, against the fence.  I knew I had to get it together, to get back, but I could feel that I'd chipped my teeth, and I don't deal with the cosmetic injuries well.  Generally because, I know it looks terrible, and I'll be forced to explain my face, everywhere I go.  I sat in my sobbing ball of self pity for a few minutes, until, I heard a cyclist stop to inquire if I was okay.  By then, I was horrendously embarrassed, and still mad at myself, for tripping.

I raised my bloody, tender face, and said that I was, but I was also quite angry.  The man, said that was understandable, but he needed to ask me some questions.  I didn't want to talk, as my lips were tender, and bloody, but I answered the 5 typical concussion questions: name, age, birthday, current location, where I'm from.  There was no one to confirm my answers, but I had no trouble, although, I had to explain that I have aphasia, and how I speak, IS my normal voice, he handed me a towel, to clean my face, and advised I stand, to reduce swelling.  I wasn't ready too, so I asked him questions, and I learned about what he does, graveyard caretaker, which I found surprising, as I'd assumed he was in the medical field.  He'd been a personal care taker, until his parents took ill, and I felt very grateful he was such a talker.  He wanted to walk me back to safety, so, we walked back to On Track, where I'd started.  I thanked him for his help, and concern, and prepared myself to show my face among people I did know.  I went to the locker room, and inspected my mouth.  I have fun  abrasion above my mouth, swollen lips, and dented teeth.  I immediately grabbed my phone, to call the dentist.  Last time I damaged teeth, I went through, a terrible process of finding a dentist, and paying for 'cosmetic work' as the state doesn't cover that type of stuff.  Little did I know, I had dental insurance.  Needless to say, it was a learning process.  Today, I called the dentist I see here, and they got me in for 9am tomorrow. Easy.  Guess I have learned something's along the way.

I've beed doing a lot of reflecting recently, on how much improvements, my brain, and body have made thought this process.  I am so rarely able to look at the big picture, and today, I could, even though, I massacred my face.  So, in that sense there's always something good to come out of any mistake.  Usually, it's an opportunity to learn something, so, at least there's that...

Friday, August 16, 2013

No Barriers- what's within you, is stronger than what's in your way!

So, how's life after rehab. you may ask.  To be blunt, everything feels the same.  There should be a more definitive transition program.  I Say no to a lot of things.  It's like  an instinctual program for my mind, and I wish there was social rehabilitation.  Meeting new people, or seeing acquaintances can feel pretty awkward, especially because I forget that it's harder for me to speak clearly now, and when there is so much to take in, I forget to watch listeners faces, to discern if they're having trouble understanding me.  I always question my undeniable enthusiasm for new people, and new situations, the second I arrive.  Though, I'm always immediately reminded how generous, and thoughtful people can be.  I got on the bus, ate whatever I could find in my day pack for an on-the-go breakfast, and took in the splendour of the scenery going by.  I talked to the young couple behind me, mostly about where each of us was from.

After 45 minutes or so, we pulled into a rec. area, at what appeared to be a very small glacial 'lake'.  In Maine, we say pond, if you can see each edge of he body of water.  I was not about to go there though, as I didn't want to seem ungrateful, and so on, but initially, I was a bit disturbed by the lack of space, our group of 20-30 had on the water,  as a lot of it was clearly divided off for a dam.  Dam it!

I was pretty excited when I realized paddleboarding was a option.  It's really big in Burlington, and I've  never gotten around to checking it out.  Mostly because I know I could never paddle, while standing on a board on the open water.  My balance wasn't that good, before I had my injury. I tried surfing, fell off the board, got my feet, when the wave literally put the board in my mouth.  Funny, I never tried again.  I also had a I wind-surfing board, I liked to try to stand on, on the lake, I fell off that more often than I stood on it.  I will never know why people thought I was a cool college kid, I fell, and bruised myself so often, it's not so dis-similar from life now.  Guess I can't hide fom it, I'm a walking klutz, born, and bred.  

Needless to say, when I jumped at the chance to try paddleboarding.  These people who work in the adaptive field, realize how important it is to start off small, and work your way up.  My personality, is go big, or go home, in terms of outdoor activity.  It's not terribly unreasonable, but when, it just doesn't occur to me to work my way into things.  Which, I should realize, however, rarely do.  It was a genuine revelatation, when the guide suggested I try kneeling kneeling on the board.  Knew it may be able to Mage st anding for maybe 10 seconds, but if I tried to paddle, I'd  be in the drink.  When my balance is compromised, my body freezes, which actually causes me to fall, rather than not.  Therefore, I was all about kneeling on the board.  I loved every minute paddling around on hat pond-err, lake.  Although my Kees began to complain, and I needed to check out the kayaks.  We came in, and I immediately got into a kayak.  It was slightly frustrating that I had verbally state my prior paddling experience, mostly as it was windy, and I could tell they weren't hearing me.  I started to loose myself to my emotions, until, I just went and t in the boat, and paddled away from other people.  I went out to he do not cross line, paddled back a bit,took in the scenery, and began to reintegrate with the group.  I was so thankful for the space, as I'd really needed it.  Once I rejoined the group of paddlers, I was myself again, and met a few people, until we were all called in or lunch.  It was also pretty apparent a storm was rolling in.  It looked far off, but I was disappointed when it was decided we should call it a day.  We scarfed down brown bag lunces, and waited or the bus to return.  Eventually, we all ended up finding seats, in program vehicles.

That day, I'd dropped my phone in Kristen's car, and not realized.  I was upset, as I didn't know how to reach reach nyone I was staying with.  I tried to remind myself not to get upset, or panic, and amazingly enough, I didn't.  One of the staff at Telluride adaptive, kindly brought me to their office, and called the on site No Barriers 'office'.  We had to be creative in dealing with security measures in places.  I don't know what it is about smarty pants, on the other side of tht phone, but dealing ith her sent me right back into my angry place, and I shut down.  Somehow, contact was made, and I was able to meet up with Kristen and George, at the resort Starbucks. So grateful!

I went for decaf, as angry, nd hopped up on caffeine do not mix.  Met a few new people there, but I felt so relieved when Kristen, and George appeared.    I did find my phone, under the seat, later on.  Not my day, although dinner was fun, as I ran into so many people I'd met with different adaptive groups.  It took an hour to stand in line, and get food, but you hardly realized any time went by, as there was so much going on all around.  I was so excited to see Amy Purdy, as I'd met her, at my first trip to No Barriers, at Winter Park, 2 years before.  No Barriers is such a unique community, as once you start coming to these summits, the idea of not attending he next one, is not an option.  It was so incredible to see familiar faces everywhere.  That brightened up my evening.

As soon as we returned to the condo, I collapsed  onto my bed, and didn't rise again, until 6:30.  Before my alarm, it never happens.  I hit the shower,and was somehow ready to leave, an hour later.  We headed for the favoured breakfast spot, Maggies.  Amazing morning sunlight, delicious pastries, and great selection of fruit.  Yum!

That was Saturday, we headed to our meeting spots, although, I'd misplaced my schedule.  I felt like I'd lost my mind, on this trip.  For 6 years, I've learned to depend on others, to help me keep it together.  I felt as I'd been smacked in the face, and sent back to start.  Loosing my schedule meant that I confused when/where I was supposed to be.  I did rock climbing that morning.  When I'd signed up for ambulatory rock climbing, I missed just how ambulatory you needed to be.  I found myself looking up at a narrow switch back path, of what I'd describe as a mini rockslide.  It wasn't very far, but knew it'd be troublesome to walk up with help.   It ended up that 3 of us walked sideways up this path.  We all made it, by taking our time, and strategizing our complicated moves.  I was so thankful to them, for their assistance.

As I caught my breath from, the mini hike, I got my harness, and helmet on.  That was a slight production, because everyone wants to help.  I eventually, had my turn, on the wall, but as soon as I got on the wall, I snapped, and started refusing assistance.  It was really hard to get my giant sneakers on tiny holds, and look for new holds to move to, while climbing.  I felt as if I was taking hours to inch my way up the wall.  I loved climbing, before my injury, but the passion wasn't there for me that day.  It was my first time on actual rock, since college, and it felt great, but, I hadn't expected to have such a hard time strategizing my moves.  Then again, I forget, I have this injury, that makes everything physical, far more challenging than I think.  Especially now, that I've progressed in so many other areas.  

After the climbing expedition,  I remembered I'd signed up to go horseback riding, so I got on that bus. I was very excited to go for a ride.  By the time, I got on the horse, I ready to gallop off, over the hills.  Instead, I walked the horse in large rectangle, in a field, with the other riders. On every turn, someone made a comment, about how I must be a rider.  I was really surprised.  I am a rider, and I know what I'm doing, but I didn't expect my brain to be able to tell my muscles what to do, as it had been a year.

Riding is my biggest passion, I love horses.  Unfortunately, they're extremely expensive, and require many things I lost, such as transportation, and income, to keep around.  I wasn't able to get it together to ride in CB again, so I was happy to be on a horse at all.  I don't see them, in my day to day life now, so, I don't always think about what I miss about them.  I spent the first 17 years of my life, with them, and never reallize the hole they've left in my heart, until I'm around them again.

We plodded in a single file line, down the trail, and could hear thunder in the distance.  In that moment, I recollected my schedule.  I'd wanted to ride in the morning, because I learned last year that storms roll in, in the afternoon.  But, in that moment I was happy, it'd worked out that way, because Kristen wanted to skip Sundays activity, and I'd been signed up to ride Sunday morning.  We all began to turn around, to make way for the barn.  The forests were gorgeous, elegant, old trees, a winding path, crossing a stream, I wanted to last forever.  But alas, it ended, around the next turn, and we could see the barn.

When we returned to the ski resort, I got a message, I should take the gondola, down to town.  I had to ask several people to find it.  The view was amazing, but I felt weird, getting on alone, with 3 couple in the gondola.  They were tourists from all over, enjoying the scenery  Colorado has to offer.  It was a quick ride, they were all very nice.  But, now I had to find my way around a new town.  I'm not used to being alone, in new places anymore.  I kept asking people, as I walked.  It didn't take long to find people who knew where 'Old Gold', a bar, and expensive restaurant, was.  I eventually found them drinking, a tacky, red drink in martini glasses.  They insisted I try one, and in first said no, as I wanted to eat, before I drank.  They had appetizers, so I picked at then, while anxiously awaiting the food trucks, I had tickets for.  An hour passed, and I tried the devis kiss, drink.  It reminded me of sugar, and menthol.  Lovely, but, it filled my stomach, for a brief moment.  We made our way down the street, to the bar I'd originally gone to, to find them.  They have the same name.  Still, no food trucks.  I had some water to start, and soon moved on to another drink, as the intense hunger returned.  Why I never left, to go get food at a restaurant, I don't know.  I know that alcohol, and brain injuries don't mix.  That's why I don't exceed 1-2 drinks, and make sure I eat, and drink a lot of water.  It's not something I miss, so I don't usually fall off the wagon.  But, when that's all there is to fill my hungry stomach, that's how I filled my stomach.  I'm not ptoud of my choice, but it did help with gnawing hunger..
It, however, didn't help me be more sociable.  I just sat in the booth, and tried to respond, when spoken to.  I remember seeing this guy, I've had a riciculous crush on, since the mont I saw him, last year.  I didn't get up, and barely responded to his comments.  Not my finest moment.  When we finally headed back to the condo, I ate everything I could find, which wasn't much.  It was strange for me, I used to love to go out, meet people, party, and now I try to even like it, but, it's really scary to let go of mind, now, because I lost it, for so long.  I was so relieved, as I got to sleep, that night.

The next morning was Sunday, our last day.  We had closing ceremonies to attend, and a final activity to take part in.  However, it had been agreed, the final activity should be skipped, to allow us a more reasonable return time.  We enjoyed breakfast a bit too long, and then were in a mad tear to make closing ceremonies.  I got let out at the building, as I take more time to walk.  I found an open door, and fortunately walked tight into the full auditorium.  It took me a moment, but, I felt so relieved to see. A few open seats together.  As I turned in that direction, I saw Amy Purdy, a double amputee, from surviving Meningitis.  We met at the last summit, in 2011, and I'd really wanted an opportunity to catholic up, and hear more about her experiences.  She joined the US Paralympic snowboarding team, and is training for Socci next year.  She has come so far, and has this spectacular perspective, it felt likesuch an honor to get that time with her.

The speakers  were all enigmatic, and told inspiring tales, of courage, drive, and, of course enthusiasm.
Many people were recognized for their work within the organization, and others for truly impressive feats, of courage, and physical stamina.  For me the speaker I recall, most of the story about. ,and had  already been looking forward to seeing, was Kyle Maynard.  My aunt and I had met him, while grocery shopping, at the summit, in 2011.  He, and a friend, Billy, had a similar idea, and the conversation began.  I remember how impressed I was, that they'd approached us, as Kyle seemed to know everyone at the summit, that year.

Acquiring this disability, has really changed how I see myself, and the rest of the world.  From when I   realizedwhat I was facing, back in 2007, I knew it was now a solid, steady goal, to reform the connections I'd lost.  It has literally taken until now, to realize I will never be who I was, before this injury.  Though, I've learned, that this is who I am now, and there's nothing wrong with that.  Were all different' and unique, in our own ways.  Having the opportunity to participate in events like this, has shown me that the keys to happiness are in pursuing your passions, and maintaining a close group of family, and friend. it's such a beautiful perspective, one that I hope follows me thought life! 

Monday, August 12, 2013

No Barriers- what's within you, is stronger than what's in your way! (Getting there)

Where do I even begin?- The travel process

Flying out to Colorado has become a biannual event for me, in the past 2years anyways.  I love flying there as I pick up an extra  couple of hours.  It was a wicked early Wednesday morning flight to Chicago.  Actually the flight was at 740, but I woke up at 4, thinking I was beyond late, as my alarm hadn't gone off.  My roommate/ live in aide heard me crashing about, and just as I realized I was an hour ahead of schedule, Marc appears, keys in hand, and announces he's getting tithe car, and walks out the door.  I'm in the car before it occurs to me, I'll be sitting the tiny Burlington airport for 2.5 hrs, as I've been throgh it enough now, it takes less than an hour to go through security, and find the gate.  So, I sat in the terminal and watched the sunrise, and eagerly awaited the time the coffee cart opened.  An hour quickly passed on Facebook, and people watching, mostly Canadians, and trying to decipher their conversations from each rare word I could translate.

One of the 'perks' of a disability, is getting to board first, and not having to feel personally responsible for holding up other frustrated, intolerant passengers, and also the kind, forgiving ones too.  This trip I chose to travel with my hiking pack, from a different lifetime.  I can walk with it, although I can't recommend carrying a pack, and a cane.  People like airport personnel freaked out a bit.  I prefer to save a buck wherever I can, and really have little shame about what people will think, so, off I went, trekking about the airports.  My loss of peripheral vision is a real asset here, as I don't usually notice gawkers.  I have to say my mental vision of using my pack was stellar.  Though, I didn't account for the genuine concern, I'd bring upon myself.  I chose to use my pack for its vertsatility, comfort, and ease.  However, I did not consider that wearing my pack, and walking how I walk might set people off.  I didn't consider how offended people can become, when I decline their well intended, and generous offer for assistance.  I feel as if I'm rude for wanting to carry my own weight, and for wanting to challenge myself.  I checked my bag at the gate, and got it back, when we landed in Chicago.  My layover was extremely short, but they brought to a bus which dropped me off at my terminal.  This was a very strange experience, as being out of doors, and on he Tarmac just seemed unusual, though, it was very easy.  I must say, I was disappointed to have missed the opportunity for lunch.  We actually landed early, in Denver, however, only by minutes.  I had to set about finding assistance to get to the correct exit, to meet my friend, Kristen.  Someone from United, was kind enough escort me, and my pack over to baggage claim.  2 subway rides, and some trekking later, I finally met up with Kristen, a friend I'd made last year, doing an adaptive paddling trip.  Kristen was born with a condition called cerebral palsy, which I didn't know anything about.  I'd heard unimpressive stories about severe cases, but I lacked a general knowledge regarding cause and effect.  I learned that we are both survivors of oxygen deprivation.  The difference is how and when.  I learned that CP is created when the fetus loses Oxygen for a prolonged amount of time, during delivery.  Therefore causing brain injury.  Every case, as well as each injury, is different.  Kristen is an inspiration for me, in terms of having forged a path through the professional, and academic world.  I'm desperate to go back to school, but seem to lack the tenacity, and ability to formulate a roadmap for myself to do so, although, good new I just received medical documentation that I'm of sound mind, for academic purposes.  Next, is the GREs!  

Getting back on track, we grabbed a quick lunch at Arby's, a place I only know for its curly  fries, from the age of 7, or so.  Kristen dropped me off at her house, and returned to work for the afternoon.  I puttered around, ate my curly fries, and roast beast.  I quickly grew bored, sitting around, so I walked all around the neighbourhood.  Not much going on.  I knew I needed to be very careful, and vigilant of my surroundings, as there were no defining markers to be found.  I made 2 loops within the general complex, and decided not to push my luck.  I sat on the outside patio, stretching my travel weary muscles, until I heard the garage door open.  Kristen had returned, and we created a plan for the evening.  I was on kitchen duty, preparing road snacks, and baking treats.  After prep. For the trip, the plan was to catch 'Were the Millers' at a local cinema.  I haven't laughed so hard in the movies,, since 'the hangover'.  So funny!

The next morning we set off for the drive to Telluride. Picking up, another friend Kristen's, nearby.  George is a connection of Kristen's, through the paraolympic training facility, for cyclists.  He's blind, which meant I had to be extra contientous in my speaking abilities.  It's hard enough for sighted people who try to read my lips, to better understand my speech patterns.

It was a 6-8 hour drive to Telluride, where the summit was.  I was quite travel weary, when we arrived, around 5.  By the time we got there, I'd realized the quad cane I carry everywhere was missing.  Big oops! I had the great fortune of seeing Ellen Weinmeyer, whose a great family friend, as well as wife to one of the original founding members of No Barriers, Erik Wienmeyer.  Always kind, and thoughtful, she immediately noticed something was missing. She kindly offered to see what she could do to find me a stick to use for the duration of the summit.  As we parted ways, I sincerely hoped we'd find each other again.  I headed into 'innovation village', and immediately saw familiar faces, at the Push America tent.  It was great running into Kyle first off.  I figured I'd see him there, but I couldn't have had better luck running into him, as he volunteered to walk me over to registration.  Losing my cane wasn't much of a problem, when theres a handsome man offering you an arm to get around.  Yes, that was my plan all along...  Kyle helped find the dinner area, after I got my registration materials, and then headed back to his tent.  I found more exceeding helpful people, wanting to fix my dinner plate, and help me to a table.  As I looked for a place to sit, I heard a familiar voice call my name.  I looked to see who it was, and recognized Bob, a man who volunteered to asisst me while doing the summit hike 2 years ago.  It was great to reconnect with him, as I'd hoped to see him again.  If my memory serves me, Bob is a retired physical education teacher from California.  He's very sprye, and chipper, and was wonderful to sit, and catch up for some time.

After dinner, Ellie somehow found a trekking  stick I could use as a cane, for the duration of the summit.  I was so grateful, although, a bit concerned I may accidentally impale a stragner, weiding a sharp pointed stick around,  thankfully, that did not happen.   Opening ceremonies were held after dinner, and I was able to reconnect with Kristen and George there.  I've been so fortunate to get to know so many people from adaptive programs, it seemed a bit surreal, being recognized by so many different people.  I seem to recognize people auditorily, more than by sight.  Although I finally see well again, my memory doesn't hold onto visual images too well.  I literally need to meet most people 4 or 5 times, before I can easily recall  their names, and how I know them.  I've thought that was a detriment of my injury, as its been so difficult to remember so many new people, for so long.  Although, my mom wisely pointed out that I meet so many new people, everywhere I go, it'd be difficult for anyone to keep straight.  Whichever it is, I still feel exceptionally rude when I'm not able to recognize someone.

Opening ceremonies began, and I once again found Kristen, who'd gone back to the condo she'd rented in town, for a number of us to share.Kristen, George, myself, and a mother couple, of whom we saw very little.  Mark was retry sociable, although I only met his wife once in the 3 days we were there. I was tod we had great digs, and then eagerly focused on the introductions, and the incredible stories I heard from truly amazing, and thought provoking people.  I remember 3 speakers clearly, Dr. Hugh Herr, whose disability, I cannot recall, I want to say spinal cord,  from divi to shallow water, though I'm not certain.  I believe he's a very prominent physicist, from MIT.  There was a young woman, named Kate, who'd made a name for herself, as the first female collegiate football player.  She'd been raped by a teammate, her sophomore year at Colorado state, had a quite unsettling story of how her life had been derailed e from that horrific experience.  The speaker I was most stricken by, was Bob Woodruff, anews-reporter from ABC, who'd received a brain injury in the middle-east, while covering a war story. 

Every brain injury is different, as every brain is different, and so on.  Although, he was one of the only I've heard, with somewhat similar complications, from compromised vision, to limb spasticity.  I'd hoped for an opportunity to meet him, though he was only there that evening, and there was no real opportunity, sadly.

We headed into the Colorado night, bound for quiet, downtown Telluride.  Thankfully, it was a 10 minute trip.  The condo was modern, and quite spacious.  Quite a switch from the hotel room, at the resort, I'd planned to be in.  My bags were already in the room, when I walked in.  Amazing!  I was so thankful, as I was so tired.  I couldn't wait to get out for my paddling adventure, the next day.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The end is near...

(heh, of my rehab. program)

Real, personal details have always been difficult for me to express, even before my injury.  Throughout my life, I've been blessed with many great family members, and friends.  In a lot of ways I feel robbed of many of the former relationships I've had, with everyone, from family, to old friends.  Fortunately, many have patiently stood by, but, I always find that hard to remember, when I finally muster the courage to contact old friends, usually from college, and then, either don't get a response, or do, but then they cancel, before we meet, and disappear again.  Making friends was much easier before my injury.  I've changed in a lot ways, though, we all do, just in different ways.

Up until now, I've been so focused on getting myself to a place where I'm comfortable, out in the world.  There have been many amazing souls along the way, the 'grace' I'm told I show, in my situation, has been, in large part, due to the strength, and compassion shown to me, by others.  It's not like any of this has been easy, but, the people in my life have all given me different aspects to appreciate, and look forward to.  Those, all being positive things, are the things I most appreciate, and prefer to center my stories around.

Yesterday, was a purely beautiful day here in Burlington.  My day began with physical therapy.  I've always enjoyed, and looked forward to PT. I've worked with many, over the years, often switching between, to find ones with skills, that match my interests, in terms of rehabilitation.   It really comes down  to appreciating how I can measure the progress, definitively, and the more I do, the more I'm able to do.

I've been going for  a few months, and recently realized, I usually get cut off around this time frame, and this realization, was rather disturbing.  They couldn't give me any answers, but that's probably for the best anyways.

My roommate came to bring to my last team meeting, of which there's been 2 or 3.  Last year, around this time, I demanded both my parents come out, for the last team meeting, and there have been around 8 more, since.  But, unlike that one, and others since, this one, really did feel like the culmination.  I have spent every day of the last 6 years working towards this goal.  It has probably taken, up until this time, to realize that I will always have a brain injury, there's nothing I can do, to get the last 6 years back.  Truthfully, a lot of the experiences have been sullen, unfair, frightening, infuriating, and/ or purely disappointing.  Though, working through those hardships, has made me stronger, and enabled me to believe in myself, again realize anything is possible, depending, on your approach to the problems.   The world isn't black and white, and if you are creative enough to forge your own path, then your boundaries are limitless.    Yes, it might be frustrating, difficult, and even terrifying, but facing the harsh realities in life, but it does does pay off.  The key is to trust the right people, and to believe in yourself.  I'd be a crazy liar if I said I always remember to keep these things in mind.  However, the perspective I've gained from all of my experiences, as a whole, is pretty invaluable, in my opinion. My life hasn't turned out to be anything I thought I ever wanted, but that all depends on how I choose to view my circumstances.  Though, life isn't about getting everything you ever wanted, it's more about making the most of it.  So, the inevitable question, I face now, where to go, from here?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Hitting the big apple

This may have been my first venture alone, and by bus to head out into the world, to visit one of my my closest old time college friends.  She moved from Burlington to grad school in Syracuse NY 3 -4 years ago, and after school, moved to Buffalo.  I've been lucky to see her on annual trips back to Vermont, if I'm there, when she is.  Back in college, I took a year off to work abroad  for an an coming British Eventer,(professional horse back rider).  My friendship with Amber, was one of  the biggest reasons why I decided not to try to transfer. I loved UVM, and felt I got a great education there,  but it rarely felt like the right match for me.  I seemed to do, or run more activities, while trying to do recreational sports abound, and hold a job.  Oh, and attend classes, I went to those too.  Beyond those things,  Amber was also my partner in crime, in the nightlife scene of little Burlington.  I think independent of each other, each us may have lead led more wholesome college careers, but together, as we often were, things had a tendency to get somewhat rridiculous.  We bonded over sharing being only children, with unique family situations.  We were good in the best of times, and the worst of times.  When I suffered this injury, she helped begin the fundraising initiative, 'Support for Courtney' and brought people together, to start getting people into action, for a unique assortment of fundraisers, and social gatherings.  The idea took off, and other friends joined.  That money was extraordinarily helpful, and went towards hyperbaric therapies, and supplemental Physical therapy, majorly.  I will forever be indebted to her, and all the incredible friends that came together, to come to my assistance, when I needed them the most.  The idea took off incredibly well, given the time frame.  More, and more friends joined in, taking on more projects, of various sorts. I will be forever indebted to this group of amazingfriends.

Now that she's moved to NYC, I knew I could   get there pretty easily, as direct buses run everyday.  We planned a weekend, and her boyfriend, Kieth, met me at the bus stop, and took me on an underground tour, as he navigated us back to Sunnyside, the area they live in.  I love visiting the city, but I don't know if I could survive there, everything moves so fast, whereas, I do not.

We made it to their apartment, which was a great size, considering it was a one bedroom.  They had a lot more space than I'd expected.  Also, they have 3 kitties, 2 of which are constantly underfoot.  The main reason I'd gone down, was a) to reconnect with them, but also b) for a kind of housewarming party, on Saturday.

That evening when Amber returned, we jumped into devising plans for the evening, and ended up meeting another UVM friend, Chris, who just finished his law degree, and was leaving the city soon.  We all used to be very close, so it was really fun to all have an evening out, like old times!  Even if going out for drinks now means I can only tolerate a half pint glass of beer, and then water.  After 3 hours of yelling conversation, and catching up, we all went for diinner,  and the recollections from 'back in the day' continued.  Eventually we all had to part ways, but that night was amazing, as it felt like nothing had changed, and I was 22 again.  I know that many people are glad those days are behind then, as everything was so uncertain, but I got stuck on the edge of uncertainty, for all of eternity, at least that's how it feels.

The next morning we piled into the car, with a plan to go to Ambers bank, and then MOMA. (Museum ofetroplitan Art). We hit the bank, and then a convienience store, because I forgot my toothbrush, yuck!  It was a very unique experience, riding in a car, in the city.  In the 4-5 times I've been there, I've always used the subway, to go everywhere.  It was really amazing to see so much of the city.  Kieth dropped us off at the museum, and we waited for him to park.  Unfortunately there was no on street parking, due to a parade, so it took a long time.  In the time waited, Amber was sold on a membership, which seems like a great deal if you plan to visit often.  Art, and culture is  so foreign to my life these days, I could've spent 3 days in there.  It's so amazing to view hand made creations from so many  different eras.  

After MOMA, we relaxed by an urban waterfall, in the shade.  It was a unique concept, and a nice spot to duck into, away from the noisy street.  From there, we piled back in the car, for our next stop, the 9/11 memorial.  Amber is a landscape architect, by trade, so this exhit has been on her must see list, as well.  Again, parking, and finding the site, was more difficult than anticipated.  It was strange how the actual site was so unclear.  Kieth dropped us off where the GPS said it was, and then we relied on the kindness of the people we asked for the nex 3 blocks, to get there. And then, it was a 45 minute wait.  You have to wait or everything there, I felt I'vebecome very impatient, because, with the amount of waiting you  do,  sorting your pans around  the amount of  time you have to wait,  foreign.  Thankfully, it wasn't too long, and we had to wait anyways, for Keith to join us.  Once we we were all together, it took maybe 10 minutes.  And then we had to wind our way through  long and narrow walkways, through security, like at the airport.  I take a long time to get through those machines, but it went more quickly with their help.  Finally we were able to walk into the memorial area.  The property is sparse, and  open, but enclosed by building on every side side. The foundations of each building were transformed into  4 walls of water, collecting, and recirculating at the bottom in a pool.  The outside edges of each memorial, has names of the lives taken in the attacks. It was a very sombre and morose experience.  It brought me back to my 17th birthday. Being ushered back to home room, from a science class, and neing informed our country was under attack.  We were released early from school, but none of us felt like celebrating, so we just hung out, and talked  about loved ones, or people we knew in the city.  I realized I had blocked a lot of the day out, because there was so much distress.  It took me along time to dig up memories from that day.  There was surpringly little landscaping, other than rock gardens, and shrubbery.  Though, the memorial was a beautiful symbol, and testament to the impact of those events.  

Afterwards, we bee lined back to their apartment, as the housewarming party was that evening.  2 of Ambers close high school friends, Marcy, and Rachel came over also.  It was great to reconnect with them as well.  I got to hear all about what they're doing these days, and a out the men in their lives.  I love to reconnect with old friends, but it can be hard sometimes, as they've all gone back to school, or found  real jobs, or just had tons of life experience by this point in their lives.  I mean, we're all different, but I literally don't know a soul with experiences like mine.  That's a great thing, but often it makes it harder to relate to one another.  And, clearly, it makes me envious, becaus with, or without a brain injury, I am so not where I thought I'd be by now.  I never had exact predictions, but living off state funds, fighting my way through a seemingly endless rehab program, is something you never see,  in your minds eye.  But, at least I can still be happy  for my friends accomplishments, as I know they are for mine.

The next morning was my last, but Amber and Kieths work plans had changed, so they left at 4 am, and we tiredly mumbled our goodbyes, and I fell back asleep.  I awoke again around 8, and foraged for breakfast foods, and coffee.  I ate my leftovers from a diiner, found a banana, and waited for the caffeine to take effect.  Then I got ready for the day, packed my things, and excitedly wailed  for my friend Megan to arrive.  She just finished grad school, at NYU, and I hadn't seen her in 2 years, but was so thankful her Monday was free, so that we could catch up.  In college, she dated a friend of mine from the outing club.  I also lived in her house, the semester she studied abroad.  She was kind enough to offer me shelter for graduation too, as I'd just returned from studying abroad.  I have the most amazing friends, and this trip made see that again, which I desperately needed!  It's been pretty difficult to keep up with so many people, unless they contact me.  6 years is a long time to pass before I realize how many friendships I haven't been able to eep up with.

Megan and  I decided to check out high line park, which is elevated, and built on an old, no longer used, elevated rail line, that features views of the Harbor, and far off islands.  The landscaping is gorgeous, and it was mild 75 degree day, at least that morning.  We then headed off to lunch, and our last stop, The Museum of Natural History.  

This was my 3rd trip to NYC.  The first trip, was a high school trip, and  we saw three broadway shows, AMF a holiday themed show with the Rockettes.  Amazing trip, but we pretty much only saw broadway.  The second trip, I came down with Sean to visit my stepsister Marcia, and her husband Derek, before they moved back to Maine.  I remember how badly I wanted to vist them, but I only rember going to Cony Island for hot dogs, and seeing Rock of Ages, off Broadway.  We had a lot of fun, but it was so early in my injury, that my memory of that trip is a bit fuzzy.  I've never had the opportunity to do a lot of sight seeing, like on this trip, but what an amazing city, even if I wouldn't last a day there, on my own.   This trip helped appreciate, and realize again how fortunate I am to have my life be touched by so many amazing friends.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Way up there in "The Forks" of northern Maine, Yessa!

Returning home is a trip we make frequently enough, although this trip began pretty differently.  I'd gone down to Concord, NH to visit a friend, Emily, with another friend, Anna.  Anna had returned to Vermont, while my mom drove down to Concord, to bring me up to Solon, Maine.  I grew up in Maine, and am always surprised to learn of anew town, I haven't heard of, in our great state.  The region is in the deep orth of Maine.  Up Im 'the forks'where 2 great rivers meet.  We did our float on he ighty Kennebec.  My mom and I drove up in the rain, expecting similar conditions throughout the day.  We left around 5:30 am, to be there around 9.  We pulled into the campground, and a woman came out of the main house, after we'd been idling in the same place few moments, as we didn't know where to go,or which cabin we were looking for.  This is something I will always love about rural communities: she fetched an extra set of keys, and brought us to Ross's cabin.  Ross is a old friend of my moms, from when they worked together at !oss tent company, 30 years ago.  All I knew about him, was that he makes the best jam I've ever had, and he's lives in southern Vermont.  It didn't seem like Ross was anywhere to be found, so we decided to drive around, and look for him.  We headed into town, which consisted of a gas pump, and a store called Boats, Bait,  and Guns.  Solid.  Being that we had no luck in 'town' we abandoned the search, and headed back to the campsite.  Oddly, we were behind another car on the way back.  It was the first other driver we'd encountered.  Eventually, I looked at the plates on the car, and realized the car was from Vermont.  Unimaginably we'd found Ross on the road.  We brought our things in, had some coffee, and heard some stories about the man whose memorial we were crashing.  

Then it was time to drive over to The Forks. It's named for where the Kennebec, and the Allagash rivers meet. We were coming down a straight road, and from far off, I could see a large A-frame building, with the words, The Forks, painted on the front.  I sat with my mom in the car, though I abandoned my post when I realized she was sleeping.  I ventured forth into the sea of mourning strangers, celebrating love, and life lost.  I knew I appeared suspect, given my cane, my lack of extra weight, and my age.  I stopped to talk to Ross, who let me know where the nearest bathroom was.  As I made my way into the building, I met Steve's sister, Sue. She directly asked me how I knew Steve, and I had no choice but to look her in the eye, and admit I didn't, but who I did know there, and thank her for her hospitality, and grace.  She seemed to appreciate my honesty, so I offered my condolences, and finally found the bathroom.  Soon after, I attained my life vest, and pre boarded a school bus, so I wouldn't be making others wait for me.  Little did I know, that I'd be waiting there for over an hour.  My mom came, and kept me company, while people ever so slowly made their way to the bus.  By the time around half the people had boarded, some guy gets on announces the decision has been made, to wait for so and so, who are still enroute.  Eventually people arrive, and get their act together, and we depart.  On the bright side, the sun seemed to winning its battle with the rain clouds.

We finally arrived, and made our way to the rafts another company had donated, for the occasion,  family and friends had gathered to commemorate Stephen Longley's life in this way, because he had began the first white water rafting company on the Kennebec.  Appropriately, it was called 'Rolling Thunder'.  When he passed Steve had been longtime known as the ferryman for AT thruhikers, in the last stretch of their hike.  The AT crosses the Kennebec, near the base camp, we began the morning at.  The plan was to float down to where we'd begun.  About 10 minutes into the trip,  we pass, your classic drunk Mainer.  Ross has pulled out cheese, crackers, and of course his jam, when we pass by a fellow standing in his canoe, a cigarette in his mouth, a bottle of Yeagermeister in one hand, and smart talking another nearby raft.  This kd yells to I'm, "hey man, don't fall out"   He whips his head around, yells, and teeters over into the river.  I tarted sighing, to find myself choking on the cracker I'd been eating.  He immediately surfaced, screaming about the 2 pack of cigarettes in his pockets.  Some of the folks in our raft, pulled him aboard, and he introduced himself, as Rosco from Moscow, (a town in Maine.  It only got more entertainining for me, as he sat next to my mom, and hollered endlessly about his Yeager, and destroyed cigarettes.  Thankfully, she also found comedy in the situation, although, when she'd had enough,  she swtched seats to sit next to me.  There were 2 small rapids on the ride, so I was pleased about that.  Eventually, Roscoe from Moscow abandoned ship again, climbing into a nearby passing raft.  I was pretty thankful he'd been along for the ride, as he, without fail, brought humor, and memories on this rating trip.

Later, we returned to the campsite where we were staying.  Ross unloaded plentiful amounts of his Jamtastic jam for us, which is always a welcome treat.  We had grilled Alaskan Salmon for dinner, and heard many, back ithe day type stories.  Ross is a very vivid storyteller, so it was pretty enertaing.  Later, we all retired, well fed, and contended by a busy day.

The next morning we packed up, ate some local fare at a nearby diner, and headed home.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Rocky Mountain High

I've been working on a post about my snow adventures in Crested Butte, CO, with the fab folks at the Adaptive Sports Center. I have so much to say about my incredible experiences with them, I've decided the best way to portray this trip in written form, is in a day-by-day scenario. So here's CB:day one, the travel experience:

Where to even begin? The grandeur of the mountains to the close-knit communities. On my last trip, this past September, I was unbelievably fortunate to receive my airfare from a local supporter of the adaptive sports center. And the remainder of my adventure costs, were covered by family, and friends, through fundraising. Another huge thank you to all, who helped me to participate in this amazing program! Trips like these make me so grateful for the incredible support, I have. Over the years, Ive often begun to feel like I'm losing faith in the human spirit.Leading a government subsided life, is one of the more frustrating, thoughtless, and misguided decisions I've ever made. The more opportunities I have, to step away, the more I realize, it's as if I'm stuck in a trap. But today's entry isn't about that, it's about the incredible spirit, and generosity of others.

Last Thursday, I caught a cab to the airport at 3:30 am. Miserable, right? Well, I thought so. I'm no longer a creature of little, or no sleep. I didn't want to sleep though, for fear of missing my flight. My roommate/Live in aide works nights, so I had to depend on myself to get there. I'm pretty certain of my abilities to plan out a strategy, when normal means of help, aren't available. I called ahead for a cab, and was ready to walk out the door, when they arrived. Victory # 1. I was a bit of a mess at the airport, constantly thinking I'd misplaced my identification, or phone. Awesome. I travel with my own gear, which can get ridiculously heavy. My bag weighed in at 41 pounds, despite being almost my height, and twice as wide, as I am. I regard that as some kind of miracle. I got a nap from Burlington to Chicago. When I deplaned, I realized my connecting flight to Denver was in the same terminal, so I declined assistance, and apparently walked down a half mile hallway. That felt really good, to successfully navigate myself to my connecting flight. I only got knocked over once, that is pretty excellent in my book, when I'm navigating crowded places. Alone, or not. I think a lot of this has to do with my visual processing. I can't get the message to my body, fast enough, that I need to step left or right, to avoid others hurrying by. I even got to grab some frozen yogurt, and a bagel along the way. Fro-yo is probably one of my oldest food cravings. It's always something I associate with travel too. When I got to the gate, they were just getting ready to pre-board. I was pretty pleased with myself. I imagine many of you may regard this as somewhat simple, and not too thrilling, but for me, living in a world where people constantly stepping in to do stuff for me, it was a huge victory for me to be able to navigate O'Hare, on my own resources.

It was a long day of changing planes. In Denver, I had to get help again, like a tour guide for the airport.Denver is very laid back about assistance, which I find so helpful. Denver connected to Montrose, which is very close to Crested Butte. Montrose is a tiny airport. Easier for me. I walked out of 1 of 3 gates, and saw my friend , Maggie, who works with the adaptive Sports Center, in Crested Butte. I met Maggie, about 3 or 4 years back, at Vermont Adaptive. She recognized me, out at an adaptive exposition. No Barriers, in Winter Park, CO. That was a definite small-world moment. Not being one to turn down an amazing connection like that, I find myself in love with the small mountain community. I've live in Burlington for so long, it now seems huge, by comparison. By the time we go back to Crested Butte, I was exhausted. Maggie had to run out, but had asked her friend Tommy to come keep me company, which was very thoughtful. I knew him from past trips, so, it was great to catch up, and watch ridiculous ski movies from the 80's. feel like I was only half-conscious for the second half. I crashed that night, only to wake up confused, about where I was, and to some.beeping. I only remember thinking, "hope that's not a carbon monoxide detector" before falling back asleep. Good thing, it was only a beeper. Maggie's an EMT, and her pager is always active. strangely, I didn't sleep to well, that first night. I thought I'd crash hard from not having slept the night before. I woke up, crazy early the first couple days, which is not, what my body generally does, willingly. My genuine excitement, for the next 4 days, was off the charts, so sleep was last on my list of concerns, at that point.