Butch and Risotto: What’s That?

Here’s a comic that applies to COVID life as much as my first intent. I originally drew this comic to illustrate my distractible and forgetful behavior while recovering from several concussions.  It was particularly hard to follow through on something when I forgot about it as soon as it was out of my sight.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I found myself distracted and forgetful again. Days and then weeks passed and I couldn’t seem to accomplish anything. It was the natural result of the heightened anxiety, stress and fear I think many of us were feeling, and still  feel at times. Our daily lives have changed and there is so much uncertainty in the world right now.

Instead of slowly being able to expand my life as I heal, I am again home much of the day. Part of that is COVID – public spaces like libraries, coffee houses, or museums are simply not available. The other part is my new climate, where the summer humidity and heat make it impossible for me to casually spend time outside between 9 am and 7 pm.

I hope you enjoy this comic! I ran out of steam before I finalized it in pen, but the story is clear. Blessed be.


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Edge of Functioning

“You need to record that. Right now.” my friend Betsy says with conviction. She has paused on the trail, so I pause and look at her. She understands. She knowns how tenuous a mental thread is when recovering from an mTBI.

After a moment of processing what she said, I start nodding. “Right… right, yes, that’s a good idea! Let’s do it.” I have been struggling so hard for so long, trying to capture the narrative of my book. Only a month maybe, but it feels like forever.

I pull out my phone and start a voice memo. “The purpose of my book… or the protagonist or whatever. Okay. When I first get injured I think the enemy is my brain injury but through my book I evolve and realize the true enemy is myself and my belief about what my life should be and….” My eyes wander as I try to hunt down the other thoughts in my head.

“Expectations” says Betsy, prompting.

“My expectations about what I should be able to do or how my life should be. And once I accept my limitations and accept the effects of the brain injury my life becomes so much better. It’s not fixed, but it becomes so much more livable… and tenable and uhhh…”

“All your big words” she says with a grin.

“Thanks” I say, grinning back. “Okay, do you think I got it?”

“I think you hit the main points.”

“Great. Whew!” I say, stopping the recording. A second pause of staring at my phone, then my brain kicks back into gear and I put it back into my pocket. I look at Betsy, smiling my appreciation. “Thanks for talking that through with me, it really helped. I’ve been feeling so frustrated, so lost. I try to figure it out, and all I get is blankness. Now I have it, or at least something.”

We pause and breath for a few seconds, transitioning back to our other activity – walking. Then we are off, motoring around Red Rocks for another 30 minutes or so, chatting and hiking and enjoying the beautiful trees and nature, the water and snow. The beauty of being outside, outdoors, during the cold season.

That was my most successful book thought for the entire month of November… and December. I had that clarifying thought, but the next day and the day after that, I didn’t have the mental sophistication to do anything with it. Somehow, sometime, without me being aware, a complexity of thought, of knowing and feeling the written word, snuck out on me. Maybe it was while I slept, or while I had breakfast one day. I’m not sure when, but it left.

The thing is, I didn’t really realize it left. That is the challenge with dealing with executive dysfunction. When my higher thought processes go, I don’t necessarily know they’ve left the building. All I know is I try to do something, to think something through, and it doesn’t work. And doesn’t work. And doesn’t work. Am I not trying hard enough? Am I not prioritizing my writing? Am I not resting enough? What the fuck is going on? I look around me, expecting to find answers, without really being able to put my finger on exactly what the problem is.

It is only when a level of mental clarity returns that I realize what has been missing. Suddenly something that was impossible, difficult, unknowable flows easily, is effortlessly processed and transformed without contortions on my part. It is so strange when nuanced ability returns. Terrifying to be so close to the edge of functioning that I waver back and forth over that line without knowing it.

So for all intents and purposes, I lost two months of book writing and editing. Why? I’m not sure. A lot has been changing and a lot has been happening, so it could be normal things – stress, other priorities, being at a difficult place in my book – or it could be a brain injury thing.

The main suspect – as always – is my thyroid. My doctor lowered my thyroid medication at the end of September after a blood test showed my body wanted less thyroid. The med change decreased my energy, but it didn’t fog me out.

I hit my head on November 15th – hard. A concussion proper, with an immediate headache in the front and back of my head that lasted about two weeks. I didn’t notice any cognitive effects. The headache passed, but I still seem to be more tired and more sensitive to using a computer.

I also started new medical treatments at the turn of the year. I am going to PT360 for their post concussion syndrome program, and I’ve started seeing a chiropractor that follows the NUCCA philosophy. Very positive, very draining, and a lot of damn appointments – and maybe I’ll turn a corner in my healing. It’s also possible all the new information my body is integrating right now is why I’m so damn tired all the time. Not physically heavy fatigue, just… tired.

Or maybe it is stress. The most positive type of stress – good news! I have a lot of that to share. I proposed to Mary and we’re getting married in March. Yay! Mary strutted her stuff and will now be a full-time tenure track photography professor, starting in August. Woohoo! That means we are moving to Virginia. Fun! That also means over the next six months we’ll be packing everything we own, selling our house and moving 800 miles away with our two maladjusted rescue cats. Wow!

What I’m saying is, it’s hard to know exactly what causes loss of such nebulous and hard-to-describe higher level thinking skills. And since it is likely more than one thing, it is hard to fix. Isn’t that the thing with brain injury? There is no “do x” leading to a reliable “z is fixed” experience. It’s all so fuzzy, so hard to pin down, so unpredictable.

Right now, I am applying for Vermont Week at the Vermont Studio Center. This internationally known artist residency sets aside one week a year to host 40 or so Vermont artists. I want to be one of them! While I was working on my application, my higher thinking returned. Suddenly, I could conceptualize how to showcase my writing. I could massage the content of my three or four scenes for clarity, for impact. I felt the pattern, the thread of story through my writing again.

That simply, I became aware of what exactly has been missing for months. This first happened about 1 1/2 weeks after I went back to a higher level of thyroid medication. Now, three weeks later, that clarity and ability still wavers in and out, depending on the day. Definitely not fixed, but a little better.

It’s hard to believe it’s been six months since my last blog post. I have missed you, my friends, and missed your support. My book, though. I’m still working on it. I really expected to be further along, almost finished by now… but that’s not the case. I finished my first draft at the end of September, and as of today I am at 110,884 words and counting.


The first step ~ Draft 1

A lot of editing, writing and shaping still needs to happen, so my blog posts will be widely spaced and sporadic. Since I was already taking a break from my book to apply for Vermont Week, I thought I’d take the time to write a blog post. Going forward, that’s what I’ll do. When I’m on a book break and have the mental space, I’ll reach out. And, before packing everything up, I’ll dig out those mTBI comics to share too.

For now, I must bid you adieu. Blessed be.


The trees glisten with the results of last night’s ice storm. Photo courtesy of Mary.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments


It’s not you, it’s me.

No, we’re not breaking up. But I do need space to explore new goals. I’m taking a six month hiatus from The Foggy Shore blog.

Not to say that I won’t post at all. It’s simply that my focus is going to shift, so I’ll post as time and inclination allows. I do have several comics in the works – they’re damn funny, and you won’t want to miss them. I’ll share those as I finish them.

But now, and for the next six months, my focus is going to be on my writing… I mean my other writing. Writing my book, the book I’ve wanted to write for years. The one about living and recovering from post concussion syndrome. It’s time to slog through my past, try to give it shape, and put it on the page for others to read and understand.

I realized last week that I wasn’t going to finish my book if I don’t give it my sole attention. I was sitting at this same computer, writing about one of the several times I felt suicidal the first year or so after my injury. Tears running down my face, sobbing, full of sorrow, but really wanting to get it out there. Writing like that isn’t fun, but it is necessary for my purposes.

I am human, so I tend to avoid pain and pursue pleasure. Writing for my blog, which are snippets of specific recent incidents and my experience in those moments, feels much more pleasurable than getting into the trenches of my past. So. If I keep having blog posting on my to-do list, I’m going to keep struggling to “find the time” to make the other, more difficult stuff, happen.

That’s the number one reason. The number two reason is this. Any person who deals with mental fatigue issues knows multitasking is difficult. Or, rather, simply impossible. I’ve been trying to switch my attention between my book for a week, then to my blog for a week, and then back to my book again. Each time, it takes a day or two for me to mentally transition my brain and thinking patterns. The result is I’m not gaining momentum for either of these activities, making it harder to accomplish what I want.

So. Here we are.

You are welcome to email or message me. I still want to connect. If we know each other outside of the electronic jungle, please feel free to call or email or text or video chat or meet me in person to catch up. I’d love to.

It’s hard to believe something I set in stone 18 months ago – putting up blog posts on a schedule – is changing. And harder still to believe I’m taking a break after 4 years and 8 months of this being my lifeline to the world. I’ll probably freak out a little later on about it, and I’ll probably have a bit of a rough time adjusting, but I will.

Thank you, all of you, who have read and commented and cared about my blog over the past 4+ years. You helped me to stay sane and feel like what I have to say is important. I would not have made it without your attention and support. I will always be thankful for that, this blog, and you. Blessed be.


Stella kindly doesn’t let my pile of papers with book ideas get in the way of our quality time.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Water Filtration

“High iron in the water can interact with the chlorine we just added, and turn the iron into particulates.” He says slowly. “They are such small particles that the carbon filter can’t filter them out, and they go through the equipment and into the pipes.”

My brow crinkles as I try to understand what he is saying. “Does that damage the equipment?” I ask.

He nods. “That’s why it’s really important to check your iron levels regularly, to make sure it doesn’t get too high.”

I wait, poised for the next logical bit of information, but it doesn’t come. “What’s too high?”

“Well, we like to see people at less than .3 ppm. Right now you’re at point 8, which is quite high.”

Another pause. Maybe it’s the end of a long, rough day for him. It must be. He was supposed to be here sometime between 9 am and noon. He didn’t arrive until 3:45 pm, and it’s pushing five now.

“Ooookay.” I say as we stand there and look at each other in my utility room. This still doesn’t make sense to me, and I need to figure it out. Not only is it my responsibility, I also need to understand well enough to explain it to Mary tonight. In a stroke of brilliant thinking, my brain susses out the information he has given me and comes up with the next logical, reasonable question. “So if the iron is too high, what should I do?”

He’s quiet for a minute, clearly thinking. “Well, there is another filtration tank out there. It’s half carbon filter, like you have now, and half ceramic filter. The ceramic is fine enough that it will take the iron particulates out of the water before it can bang through the rest of the equipment. If the iron stays high, we can come out and switch it for you.”

More silence, as I consider. At least this guy isn’t fast moving or fast talking. There’s time for me to think without being obviously slow. I appreciate that. The moment of space allows me to realize I’m filled with a sense of unease.

His plan leaves the ball in my court. In the world he envisions, I’m expected to take independent action regularly, make a judgment call, and then initiate an equipment switch if needed. That’s not good. There is no reality where it’s a good idea for me to have to take independent unplanned action, let alone make a judgment call.

We’ve had a drinking water problem for nine months. Do you know what I didn’t do during that time? Call the water treatment company to get the problem fixed. That takes initiative. That takes being able to articulate the problem and determine future action. That requires all the executive functioning skills – planning, initiation, decision-making – that became unavailable to me after my mTBIs. Mary eventually called them in May to set this meeting up.

I consider the facts, and the current situation starts to make sense. I feel surprise – that isn’t the norm in my world. What he’s saying isn’t logical, isn’t the best course of action. I’m sure of it. The feeling of confidence in my bones also surprises me. That’s new. He’s suggesting something that is going to be a hassle, so why do it? An alternative solution occurs to me and it feels good to have an answer. “If this is a known issue – we know there’s chlorine, we know it’s high in iron – why don’t we just go to the half carbon, half ceramic filter right now, to start with? Or is it a lot more expensive?”

He pulls out his phone and starts scrolling through it. Silence. I appreciate someone who doesn’t have to talk all the time, fill all the holes in the world with sound. I wait, comfortable, as five minutes pass. I spend it staring at the wall, quite contentedly. “It looks like it will be about another $150.”

“Okay” I say. More silence as my brain works through the issue. I hesitate before making a decision. I desperately want Mary to be there, to decide for me. Not only does she have a working brain, but she is also a decisive individual. I wasn’t decisive before I was injured, and now… well, it can be hard to make a decision. Today, though, my brain is working better. I’m healing. I still clearly have a habit, a tendency, to not trust myself. An impulse to follow someone else’s opinion or choice, instead of my own. A desire for someone else to be the adult, to be responsible, to take ownership of the decision.

I take a deep breath. This is my responsibility. My decision. My area of, if not expertise, then at least familiarity. “Let’s do it. Let’s go directly with the correct filter system.” A pause as he just looks at me, saying nothing. “Do you have one of that type with you today?” I prompt.

“No. I just brought the regular one to install today.” he says, still looking at me.

I raise my eyebrows. “Is what I’m saying making sense?” He is the expert, after all. “Does it make the most sense to go directly with the filter you just told me about, given that we know we have chlorine and high iron?”

More space as he stares at me, and I stare back, waiting. “Yes, actually, yes, that makes the most sense.”

“Then I won’t have to monitor the iron, right?”

“Yup, then you’ll be all set. All you’ll need to do is keep an eye on the chlorine pellet bottle like we talked about.”

“Good. Let’s do it.” I say decisively. I’m amazed at myself, that I can say it decisively. I check within. Yes, I know this is the wisest decision. Yes, I’m willing to deal with Mary questioning my decision or complaining about the extra money. I feel confident in my decision. It makes sense.

What a beautiful world it is, when things make sense. When I understand what is going on, and can make an informed decision. Thank you Universe for making that possible.

I feel like I’m still becoming an adult, again. Forget puberty and that wide swinging of hormones. Now, it is a matter of becoming aware that a choice, or a different choice, is possible. And realizing that I can change the situation, the path of my life, the world. Me. I can do that.


Our new, and more expensive, water filtration system

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Irritating Oversight

*bding* The screw ricochets off the underside of the metal desk, causing it to vibrate faintly. I hear the screw land on the cement floor and roll a bit before it settles 10 feet away.

Damn it. This is not going as smoothly as I hoped.

I pull another drywall screw out of my container and press it firmly against the metal underside of the desk. I insert my drill bit and line it up carefully before slowly pulling the trigger. The drill hums low as the screw starts to spin. I push harder, trying to open up a small hole into the thick metal, trying to make this screw do something it is not designed to do. A moment later the precarious balance of force and alignment shifts and I listen as another screw ricochets off the metal desk a few times, rolls along the cement floor, and then come to rest somewhere out of my view.

I sigh, a combination of frustration and a girding of my loins. It is too soon to give up, too soon to allow the frustration clawing from my center to overwhelm me. This has to get done. Instead of screaming in frustration and throwing my drill across the office, I take a deep breath and proceed.

I set down the drill and grab one of the small finishing nails I brought with me just-in-case. I strive to find the indention, any indention the screw or the one before it left on the metal. I think I feel something, and settle the tip of the nail into it. Once seated, I grab the hammer and try to give it a few solid taps without hitting my hand.

Ow! That’s not the nail. I squint. The head of a finishing nail is quite small, and I’m holding it almost an arm’s length away as I lay on the floor facing the bottom of the desk. Mary had turned off the overhead lights because I said I didn’t need them, but now the shadows and my over 40 eyes are having trouble seeing the head of the nail. I tap tentatively, hoping I’ll hit it. About every third tap shifts a bit and hits the side of one of my fingers holding the nail.

I sigh again in frustration, and roll to my side. I just need to get closer. I shift a little up as I push my elbow under me. *Thonk* Dammit! That’s the top of my head hitting against the metal leg of the desk. Really?!? Just, really?

I lay on my side for a few moments, gathering myself. Am I okay? My shoulders ache, my head aches, but that’s from all this bull I’m doing. Am I off? Is anything wrong from the head bump? I pause to allow the opportunity for my body to give me feedback. I’m tired. I want to stop. But do I want to stop because this is frustrating, exhausting and tedious, or because something is wrong? I don’t know.

Well, I started this task of moving Mary’s keyboard tray from one desk to another. It’s almost done. Only one screw left to put in! I’m going to finish it. I shift up enough, finally, so I can actually see the head of the damn finishing nail. I hit it more firmly, trying to breach the metal of the desk. After a few more blows I stop. The nail is bent. Again, using it in a way it is not intended to be used. I lay back down and toss it onto my collection of dulled screws and bent nails that I’ve created over the last half hour? Hour? As I’ve been getting starter holes created for the five metal screws required for the pull-out keyboard tray to be stable.


Mary catches me mid-project

I grab a new screw, line it up, and gun the trigger hard. It spins, and then I feel it shift inward a bit. And then the whole screw is embedded into a new hole in the metal. Excellent. I remove the dryway screw and get the actual thick screw with a bolt head and metal cutting tip – whatever the heck that is called – in the starter hole. A bit of pressure, a shower of metal dust bits falling on my shirt and into my eyes as the screw widens the hole, and it’s done. Finally.

I am exhausted, headachy, and done with this whole thing. I roll out from under the desk carefully – no more head bumps. Before I get up, I take a moment to crawl around and gather the destroyed screws scattered around the floor. The job isn’t over until the cleanup is done.

As I rise, I feel wobbly. I find myself weaving from side to side as I walk. I’m probably more tired than I realize. But it’s done. Done.

It isn’t until an hour or more later that I realize… I had a set of metal drill bits not 20 feet away. How much more quickly the task would have gone – 5 minutes, 15 minutes max – if I had popped one into my drill to make those holes. Using the proper tool, in the proper way, instead of jury-rigging a solution.

The success I feel at accomplishing a difficult task turns to embarrassment. Shame. Frustration at myself. Why didn’t I use the drill bits? I forgot. I forgot they existed. Not three days ago, I was looking at my bit set and noticed I had barely-used bits specifically for drilling through metal. So it wasn’t that I didn’t know it. As I think back over it, I started the process out – using the nails, the screws to make the holes – because I didn’t want to get up. I didn’t want to bother to roll out from under the desk to get that drill bit. I thought my improvisation might be a simpler way to get the job done. By the time I got into it, though, into the trenches of the task, the fact that those drill bits existed – the exact thing I needed to make what I wanted happen – that information was gone.

I feel so stupid. Not dumb, just stupid. I made an easy task hard by getting stuck in a mental rut. By not pausing, stepping back when something wasn’t working, and reevaluating. Instead, I did what I use to do all the time right after my injury. Or before my injury for that matter. Double down. Triple down. Push through.

That’s one of my weaknesses, one of my behavior patterns that doesn’t serve me well anymore. I know that. I learned that years ago. But still, faced with a task – especially now that I have more energy – I just want to jump on it, not step back and reconsider when my first idea doesn’t work. The thing is, these days, I probably have the mental acuity to remember, at some point, about those drill bits. If I had made mental space. If I had paced around a bit, and rubbed my chin, and thought about it. There’s a good chance I would have managed to remember their existence, and then been able to use them.

But I didn’t. And although I succeeded, I also failed. Success of a task done. Failure of tiring myself out needlessly and doing something frustrating for an hour, when 5 minutes of thinking could have made it happen so much more easily.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Gluten Free

Mary slides the cookie sheet out of the oven and sets it on the counter. “Are they done, do you think?” she queries, her brow furrowed.

I reach out and lightly touch the top of a biscuit. It gives slightly, but is firm. Normally, I’d think they were done. “I don’t know. They have barely browned at all.” I say with concern. “Let’s put them in for another two minutes, just in case.”

“Okay.” Mary says, and slides them back into the oven. She sets the timer, and then we look at each other with questioning eyes.

“Did you see they haven’t risen at all?” I say in a low, incredulous voice, like I’m sharing a deep, dark secret. “They’re the same thickness as when I cut them.” For a brief moment I feel a twinge of worry. Did I add the baking powder? I walk to the cupboard, open it and stare at the container. A vague memory stirs. Yes, I added the tablespoon of baking powder. My anxiety eases, and I feel pleasure that my brain retained that vague memory for me to refer to.

After two minutes, we pull them out. “They must be done” says Mary. I guess. We both take two biscuits, open them up, and I smother mine in butter and raspberry jam. Even though they are a supplement to the soup that’s for dinner, there is no reason to eat them plain.


My poor, flat gluten free biscuits

We settle on the couch and pause. It is the moment of truth. We both bite into our first gluten free biscuit and chew slowly, considering. “Tastes fine.” I say. Really, it tastes like our regular biscuits, more or less.

“Yes, it’s good” Mary agrees, and our dinner continues. A success, I suppose.

Welcome to our new gluten free world. Or, should I say, Mary’s gluten free world. I’m not really gluten free. Rather, I’m gluten free-ish because I cook and eat with Mary, and she has gone gluten free. These are our first gluten free biscuits. So much better than the gluten free pizza crust mix we used a few weeks ago. That thing was creepy – it puffed up beautifully, but tasted of absolutely nothing. It was like I was eating a hologram, there was such an absence of taste.

I’ve heard about eating gluten free for years, decades maybe. I’ve never considered it for myself. I mean, why go through the hassle? More recently, the social buzz says it’s part of an anti-inflammatory diet. Us brain injured types are suppose to try it. Like all anti-inflammation stuff (including my HBOT), it’s suppose to reduce swelling and allow my brain to function more successfully.

I’m not one to switch around what I’m eating. Or – let’s be honest – switch most anything, really. Eating is a basic part of life, and I figure I’m doing well if I eat a balanced diet of food made mostly from scratch. Easy peasey. Plus, I like to keep eating stress-free. I have no interest in assigning judgments to food products and, by extension, to myself based on what food I interact with on any given day.

But, in this case, gluten free came to my door and invited itself inside without my okay. So I might as well check out this visitor and see what I can learn. See if it is good for me.

We’ve been gluten free for about 3 weeks. Geez, has it only been 3 weeks? It seems like forever. But I checked my calendar – yes, it’s been about 3 weeks. Ack.

Is it helping? It seems to be helping Mary. Her digestion is working better than it has in months, perhaps years. She’s sleeping better. Since those are the things she wanted to fix, success is hers.

Me? I haven’t noticed any change. I probably eat some gluten, a piece of bread, either every day or every other day. My energy, sleep, mental cognition, and most everything else hasn’t changed. I might be getting one benefit, though. I’m in the process of eliminating omeprazole and have been wrestling with a rash of heartburn, acid reflux, excessive burping and other unpleasantness during this time. The last three weeks, my symptoms have decreased. Of course, I did pause my wean down about a month ago, so perhaps it’s just my body adjusting to less of the medication.

Can’t know. But it hasn’t hurt.

What else have I noticed about eating gluten free? Well, it’s not as satisfying. Not nearly. Probably some of that is because gluten free replacements have very little protein versus wheat. I feel vaguely hungry and dissatisfied most of the time. Yes, even right this minute, I am vaguely dissatisfied. I’ve gotten use to it, but it’s still there.

I’ve also learned that wheat has a taste, a distinct taste, and I like it. Wheat is tasty. Wheat is pleasant. And wheat has a hell of a lot of protein, which means you can have pasta for dinner and be satisfied. Not true in gluten free land.

I’ve also learned that gluten is everywhere. Who knew? Well, I didn’t. Soy sauce, for one, has wheat. So when Mary and I had some impromptu Chinese food last week, Mary had to eat some sad, slightly sauteed broccoli with bland chicken and plain rice with no sauce while I ate a truly excellent serving of General Tso’s Chicken. Yum!

Going forward? Mary and I are gluten free for the foreseeable future. After she’s settled back into work and life and is done with her recovery, maybe we’ll revisit it. Thanks to King Arthur’s measure-for-measure gluten free flour, I don’t have to sprint towards the finish line. Gluten free stuff can taste good. Only, it is still vaguely unsatisfying. Vaguely.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lifting Up

As I pick up the 10 lb weight, something deep inside me pings alarm. I ignore it. I am already so damn responsible and cautious, I barely manage to lift weights at all. I can do a few bicep curls today.

Feet shoulder width apart, spine straight, shoulders down – I switch the weight from my left hand to my right. The weight feels heavier than normal, dancing along the edge of too much. I notice it and pause, considering. Did I sleep well last night? Yes. Did I overdo it yesterday? No. Am I deeply tired? That one knocks around in my head for a bit as I check in with my body. No, I’m feeling fine. Not ultra energetic, but not exhausted.

Huh. My hesitation doesn’t make any logical sense. There is no reason for lifting to be too much today. In fact, the 10 lb weight has been easy recently. I’ve been meaning to move up to 12 lbs.

I relax into my stance, pull my elbow near my body, and curl the weight up using my bicep. This first repetition feels as difficult as my tenth rep usually does. I hear a small “no” from my body. I ignore it, and lift a second time. Quickly, tension fills my shoulder and I have to focus to force my bicep to lift the weight. By the third rep, I feel the tension spidering out from my shoulder, up my neck, and pooling at the base of my skull. A warning.

I don’t want to stop. I’m tired of having to do every little thing slowly and carefully. Instead, I lift a fourth time. The tension at the base of my skull flows upward. It feels like my head is being wrapped in a fuzzy blanket as the tension crawls up the back of my head, flows over and around my crown, and reaches a point above my eyebrows. Where it aches.

I sigh. I know that feeling. I’ve lived with it for years now. I hate it. I feel the visual clarity of the day wane and my mental ability being blunted. The brightness of the colors in the room are less noticeable, the detail of the couch fabric fades into fuzzy oneness. Headache. Dammit. Headache.

I drop the weight in defeat. I guess I’m not lifting today.


Looks like this one will be sitting for a little while.

I’ve been lifting weights for about two months now. This past March was the first time since my mTBI, the first time in five years that I’ve had extra energy for it. I was so excited this spring, with crazy spring energy vibrating in me and my continuing improvement suddenly making new things possible.

I figured I’d start conservatively. I’d do upper body one day, lower body the second, and rest on the third. I’m not in a rush.

The reality of that schedule quickly degenerated. I was less than a week in when I had to take a few days off. No particular reason. I just wasn’t up for it that day. Or the next. Or the next. And when I did have energy again, I didn’t have enough to do bicep curls, the chest press, tricep lifts, one-arm rows and what I call wings. Or the squats and roman dead lifts and bridges and lunges that I had planned for the day after. It was just too much.

So now, I try to do two exercises a day. Generally one upper body, one lower. And still – and still – with such a light schedule, there are days when it is too much. Not for any reason, no. Just because. For some reason I don’t understand. Is it because the moon is full that I can’t do this today? Or because I had orange juice with dinner yesterday? Or because I dreamed of selling kindling last night? Or maybe none of those things. That’s what is so frustrating. Maybe none of those things.

So no lifting today. And maybe none tomorrow. And maybe none the day after. I take a deep breath, and let it go. I roll my shoulders, trying to ease some of the tension there. I’ll just drive myself crazy if I start having expectations, start setting goals I can’t control if I reach. So, I go soft focus. Got to remember the soft focus. There isn’t space in my world for wanting things to be different than what they are. There isn’t space for goals and expectations and wants. I am a responsible, savvy steward of my body, my mind. I don’t borrow from tomorrow to pay for stubbornness or pride today.

At least not usually.

Putting my arms out, I twist back and forth, trying to relax. I stretch my arm over my head and bend sideways. Then the other side. Just casually, not pushing, but trying to give my body a chance to loosen up. No luck. Still a headache, tension in my neck.

I proceed to my PT-designated exercises – one designed to relax my shoulders, one to relax my hips. They help some, but not enough. I still have a headache. I might have this headache for the rest of the day.

Usually, anyway. As I start to prep my breakfast, I notice my mental clarity improving. Not as good as it was before I did too much, but not as cloudy as directly after I lifted. That’s new. Usually I kiss my mental sharpness away for the entire day when I do too much.

I find myself smiling gently. Cool. I am improving. I shake the other thoughts and feelings out of my mind, and focus on my story. I’m doing well; very well. Things are so much better than they were even a year ago. And what a blessing – a wonderful blessing – to be able to actually start deliberately building my strength again, rather than just making it through each day. How exciting for me, to be improving myself. If not every day, then every week. How different a reality than most of the last five years, when I have had to do less and less, tear my dreams and desires down, and focus on just getting through the day.

Yes, I much prefer to be on the building side of things. Building again, myself and my world. I am becoming stronger. My world is becoming larger. Thank you, Goddess, for the gift of my life and my healing.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Driving Towards Freedom

He doesn’t get out of his truck as I pull up beside him, on time, at our designated meeting spot off the highway. Huh. He doesn’t get out when I climb out of the brown CRV I said I’d be driving. Oookay. He’s clearly convinced that I’m not who he’s waiting for. I walk to the side of my vehicle, looking in his direction but keeping my eyes unfocused. I don’t actually need to expend the energy to see him to give the non-verbal signals required. I lift my arm in greeting, smiling and giving him a half wave and a nod. After another pause, he gets out of his truck.

“Hi there, I’m Charlie” I say with a friendly smile. We shake hands. He’s got at least six inches on me and is probably in his 60s. He’s clearly flummoxed. “You were probably expected someone a bit taller than me” I say, grinning, giving him an indirect way to acknowledge that he expected a man, and I am a woman.

He pauses. “You are a different sex than I expected.” He still hasn’t smiled, and he doesn’t offer his name. His wife sits in the passenger seat and stares at me… glaring, actually, if I wanted to allow myself to notice.

“Yah, I get that a lot these days” I say and shrug. A few moments go by.

“So, you’re a beekeeper” he says, and we chat a bit. I needed to meet early because I’m picking up bees today, also. After a bit of social nicety, my eyes flick to the back of his truck. He catches the hint and we head around his vehicle. “Here it is. It’s best if the legs sit on top of it when you travel” he says as he unhooks the equipment. He takes the legs off and I move in to get a look at what I’m buying.

Yup, it’s a small table saw. Looks to be in decent shape. No way to test it, of course, because no electricity. Good enough. I pull out my wallet and count out his money. “Sixty five, right?” I ask.

“That’s right” he says. I give him the money, and he picks up the table saw and hauls it to the back of my car for me. Bonus. I hustle around and open up the back end, moving a bag of water softener salts to make room. He places it, and I go back and grab the legs. After a bit of fiddling, it’s all settled into my car.


My newest piece of equipment.

He goes and gets a small bag of stuff from his vehicle. He shows it to me. “It’s all there. The manual, the blade guard and all the parts that came with it.” He fiddles with a little arm of plastic I hadn’t noticed before attached to the table part of the saw. “And this here slides off easily when you want to use it.” I have no idea what that is, but I nod.

“And there’s nothing I need to know about, no quirks or issues with the saw?” I ask one last time, just to give him the opportunity to point out any issue, now that he has my money.

“No, it’s great. Just have to get rid of it. Downsizing”. With that, he clearly feels he’s told me enough. I thank him, I put my hand out and he shakes it, and we climb back into our respective vehicles. I wait a moment, but they don’t leave. I feel too awkward to sit there and rest like I need to, with them right there next to me. Instead, I start the car and zoom off like I have a purpose. I mean, I do – bees. But I need a break.

After the 1 ½ hour drive to our meeting spot, I’m not doing too bad. I stopped twice along the way, with my last break just 20 minutes ago. The change in activity, though – stopping my drive, interacting with a stranger, then starting to drive again – requires recovery and transition time. I didn’t take it at the appropriate moment, instead I drove off for my own comfort. The headache starting to blossom between my eyes and the deep ache starting at the back of my skull tell me I’m pushing myself, my brain, to handle too much change without rest. I stop a few miles north and take the time I need. I park, close and cover my eyes, and let my brain rest and reset before I continue my journey.

As I drive to pick up my bees, I make sure to acknowledge my success with the table saw purchase. Good on me. I contacted the guy, figured out a time and place that were within my ability, and bought a good piece of equipment at an excellent price. I am succeeding. I still have 30 minutes to bees, then 45 minutes to friends and brunch, then 40 minutes home. Still a long way to go. But this first part went well. Yay me.

When I finally get home, around 1230 pm, I am double dog dead tired. I am exhausted. My limbs hang heavy from my body and I drag myself and my new package of bees through the house. My eyes ache, my hip aches, my head is pounding. I put my bees in my writing studio to stay cool, then I head directly upstairs, lay down, and sleep for two hours.

All told, google tells me I drove about 3 ½ hours in one day. Wow. I used a few reasonable accommodations – stopping every 30-45 minutes, using caffeine and having proper food on hand. But still. Being able to drive 3 ½ hours opens up the world to me. For the first time in FIVE YEARS, I can drive to Albany, NY (if I want to for some reason). I can drive to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MOCA). That’s on the table again. As I look at google maps, I consider where else I can reach now, at least with some caffeine and on a good day. Brattleboro, VT. Utica, NY. Manchester, NH. Maybe even Portland, ME with Mary’s help. Montreal, Quebec City, Sherbrooke. So many possibilities.

If I can do 3 ½ hours, how about four hours? That brings Boston, MA into my reality. How nice it would be to visit a proper city again. I mean, overwhelming and exhausting, probably – but to have the choice, the ability to get myself there. Yes, that’s something precious.

My time in a cage is coming to an end. For so many years, since my first mTBI, I have been trapped. Trapped by my limited mental and physical energy. Now, today, I feel that cage finally falling away. It’s not all fun and games – it still has to be a good day, I still need accommodations, it still takes me a while to recover afterwards. But now, well, now my leash is a lot longer. Almost – almost – I am free.


My new colony of bees stay in their hive today because ~ burrr ~ it’s 40 degrees F

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Spring Cleaning


My friends the bumble bees

I crack open the book and smile. Fuzzy bumble bees look back at me, each busy on a different flower. I flip the page and see a map of that species’ distribution in the United States and an exhaustive collections of all the body color patterns that particular bumble bee might carry. Yes, it’s clear why I bought this. What a great tool to identify bumble bees.

My brow furrows. If it’s so great, why haven’t I used this in the past few years? I read the description of the bumble bee more closely. This species has a cheek (ocular mandible area) that is as long as broad, and the midleg basitarus has a back far corner that is acute and ro20190414_180235739_iOS2unded. Riiight. So to identify my fuzzy friend, I’d have to capture and probably kill it. No way. I have no interest in killing insects I admire, nor do I want to muck around in leg length or cheek shape. I throw the book on the pile to donate, and consider the next one.

Welcome to Spring, the time to clean out everything unused and unneeded. This spring marks the first year since my injury – more than 5 years ago – that I have had a surge of crazy spring energy. It buzzes through me, shouting at me to do something with my body, to move forward and act, to engage the world. It is the energy of creating change and getting things done. Since it is spring, that takes the form of cleaning. Cleaning out, making room, getting rid of everything that doesn’t serve me now. As luck would have it, Mary’s in the mood to clean, too, and together we are whittling down the excess in our lives.

Everything I own, every possession I have, takes energy. Psychic energy, mental energy, whatever you want to call it. It takes energy to see it on the shelf, it takes energy to have a place for it in my home, it takes energy to interact or not interact with it. So, in that way, every possession I have requires a little bit of my soul.

With every book I throw in the donation pile, a whole set of stories about myself is ripped away. Stories I’ve told myself about what I would do because of an item, or how owning it meant certain things about me, or how this particular bit of information was vital to who I am. Every item, a story, conscious or unconscious. Every item donated frees more space in my mind and my life for what is actually going on. I am releasing stuck, wasted energy and redirecting it to serve me now, in this life.

Take yesterday, for example. Mary and I were cleaning out the garage. I have a bicycle that I haven’t ridden in years. I keep meaning to get it tuned up, but I don’t. My brain injuries changed my balance and visual perception. The ground rushing by me as I ride is difficult for me now, somehow, and my brain fatigues quickly. My balance is much less reliable, and I’m not safe to ride in traffic. Add in no easy place to ride it away from cars where I live, and the bike sits in the garage. Periodically, I move it from one spot to another as I rearrange things.

Not anymore. After much prodding, I let Mary wheel it to the edge of the road and put a free sign on it. It was so hard not to run after her and reclaim it, putting it back in the garage for another year. Instead, I walked away so I didn’t have to see it sitting there, waiting for it’s new owner. It was gone this morning. I had that bike for over 15 years, and it has a lot of life left in it. It is so hard to let go of something not broken that I might want in the future.

Yet, I don’t need it. My current reality is I’m not biking. I have no expectation I’ll suddenly start biking. If I move and have a safe place to ride, I can always get another one – probably for $50 or less. I remind myself this repeatedly – I am only keeping what serves me now, that reflects the life I lead, now. Not the one I use to live, not the one I would like to live, not the one I think I should live – the real one, that I live every day.

The hardest to part with are the gifts given in love. My now ex-husband bought me the Compact English Oxford Dictionary – a monster of a book with thousands of pages, each detailing word origin, meanings, and when a word was first used in writing. Compact means not that they winnowed down the information in the full dictionary, no. It means they shrunk 20 volumes into one book, each page in the compact dictionary actually containing 9 full pages in microscopic writing. A very nice – and necessary – magnifying glass is included. I was deeply touched when he gave me this gift almost 15 years ago. I see myself as someone who would have the Compact English Oxford Dictionary at home, someone who would pull it out and read about this word or that word that comes up in conversation. The reality? Not so much. I rarely used it, and I haven’t pulled it out in years. I remember Evan’s love every time I see it on the shelf, but I have other gifts from him that I do use – like a sharp, handmade knife from Finland. Time to let this one go.

All told, Mary and I donated two full car loads of stuff to Goodwill. I got rid of over 50 books and a mountain of other things that have been sitting around for years. Spring is here. Spring is happening. I welcome Spring’s gift of letting go and making space for new things to flourish.


Early spring flowers (Coltsfoot) on our walk in Johnson, VT Saturday

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Butch and Risotto

Class is done, and my first comic strip is done! I am glad to have finally made a real start, four plus years since my original idea. Having a structured class helped turn my ideas into reality, with noted help from my teacher Rachel Lindsay (rachellivesherenow.com).

Meet Butch and Risotto – a potato and tomato duo dealing with life after brain injury, together. This comic strip is another way for me to share with the greater world what it is like to struggle and recover from a brain injury. My intent is to focus on incidents in daily life that are frustrating, confusing, and even funny sometimes. This is just life, after all, with some extra challenges and lessons.

One thing I learned in my graphic novel class is creating finished comics is a lot of work. A lot! Hours and hours! I assume it gets faster and easier with time, but it is still a time-intensive activity. So. That means you won’t be seeing one of these every week… or every month. I’m hoping to complete one every two or three months. It’s a nice break from the computer screen. We’ll see how it goes, but no promises. Part of it will depend on the world’s response – so please share it, if you like it. Get the word out that it exists.

Without further ado, here is my first completed Butch and Risotto comic. Enjoy!


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments