Friday, September 4, 2015

the big 4-0....Plus 2

Let me start simply, earlier this week I picked up a shift for a co-worker, no big deal, right?
Well, in doing this, I tuned my four day qwork week into a five day, but not a five day week like my last one, it was broken up into groups of days I had to work in a row, so I didn't think about it much.

as I was talllying up my hours for the week tonight at the end of my shift today, the number kept mounting. Until I finished.

I looked at the sheet after I had written my total hours for the week.
"holy shit." I whispered to myself.

42 hours.

I worked 42 hours and didn't even realize it.

I have been tired this week, but I attributed that to staying up too lat and having an almost four year old child who's really excited about getting up too early in the morning, you know, the same reason regular people get tired.

The more I thought about my work week all I could think about was this self-pitying and whiny post from three years ago and hoe different things are now.

Then it sunk in; I have officially taken my life back, the stroke hasn't taken anything from me .

And, in the words of my incomparable co-worker, Brett, I made this week my bitch.

boo-ya, stroke, take that!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

How Could I khave Known: alove letter to the People's Food Co-op of Kalamazoo

My Dearest PFC,
How could I have known when I walked into your cramped storefront, holding my application to be your new Front End Manager how important that decision  was  or how you were to impact my life?
A long haired woman with flowing skirts accepted my filled out application, she called me "hon" after taking the application from me.

At the time, I thought I knew everything about everything. I was wrong. I didn't know anything, I didn't know anything about myself, family, community or faith,you have taught me about all of those things in the five years we have known each other.

In the days, weeks, months and years after the stroke, you have stood by me, patiently holding my hand as I discovered myself though tragedy. You accepted me at my worst, you made me feel like I fit in somewhere when I felt I fit nowhere, you made me feel normal and extraordinary when I never thought I would be either of those things ever again. As I delved into the darkest depths of my depression and came out on the other side knowing more about myself than I ever thought I would, you and your staff loved the new person who came out of that cocoon of darkness and despair, you accepted her when she needed someone to say, "it's ok, we like you, just as you are."

your workers we the first responders to my husband's late night call alerting you that Charlotte's birth had gone awry, your manager's were the first to see me in the hospital's ICU. My foggy memories of the ICU are filled with your laughter, reassurances and watching your staff members cradle my precious baby when I couldn't I felt your healing energy and the care you had for me, even though we had only just met.

Your staff constructed a system(the PFC loves systems!) to get me good food and good company three times a week while I was literally was trying to get back on my feet. These visits gave me something to look forward to when things looked their bleakest, when I was so desperate to return to your warm embrace.

You found new and creative ways to incorporate me back into your hustle and bustle when I could barely walk, you watched, waiting, patiently and faithfully, knowing I would eventually be able to work as I used to. You never gave up on me, even when I have wanted to give up on myself.

Even today, you are my safe haven, my safe space where I can just be the new me I have become.

As I've grown into this new version of me, I have built my new values, that look nothing like the values I had before, because of all of the time I have spent in your loving embrace.

You have never left me, and I will never leave you.

Thank you,
your most devoted,

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Big 4-0

For those of you following along, you are probably familiar with my love affair with The People's Food Co-op of Kalamazoo, this place has been essential and instrumental in my renewal process, not only has this place been a safe haven for me as I have gone through the process of becoming a new and better person, it is a place where I can be me in all my flawed glory and no one seems to mind.

the PFC has also been my therapy, challenging me to rebuild my cognitive and physical abilities; This week I have crossed another milestone with the help of this priceless place: I completed a five day, 40 hour work week, yes, I worked Mom-Friday, all eight hour shifts in a row, no breaks. Now, this may seem like it's not that big of a deal to most people, but let me put this in perspective for you, when I started back at the co-op post-stroke in 2012, I was working one two hour shift a week and that almost floored me, the effort it took to interact with people and stand for that amount of time was massive, but, as my brain started to come back online, my super-boss Simon and I started slowly but surely  increasing my hours, which took it's toll, rebuilding stamina is like building up any muscle, anytime I overdo it with my energy levels my body shuts itself down to the point where it's impossible for me to do anything but lay in a useless lump of misery, so jumping from 20 to 30 hours a week was a stretch, and, last week I was on the couch for four days straight after a 30 hour week and in preparation for this week.

When this week began, I was terrified that I would be miserable and sick by the end of the week, but, I realized that worrying about days ahead wasn't helping me enjoy the days that were happening and that I only needed to worry about that if it happened, so I started paying attention to how I felt at that moment, got enough rest at night and enjoyed myself at work all week long. Then today rolled around, the day I though I would for sure be a mess for, but I woke up bright eyed and excited to see what the day would bring, determined to kill it and to traverse this gauntlet Simon had thrown down for me. I felt great all day long, even when some sleepiness would sneak in, I would push it aside in favor of enjoying the company of my co-workers and the lovely environment I work in. Now that I've built up that muscle I can do it again and again and not doubt my ability to do so.

So, you see, my friends, in the end it's all about how you look at things, if you look at them in the right way there is nothing that you can't accomplish.

I made this week my bitch! Victory!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Mrs. Happy Face

Charlotte and I recently returned from our yearly week-long vacation on her Grandma's farm in Ontario. The week we spend there is always fun filled and relaxing, but this time was different, it was different because I was determined to get all of the juice out of my days, to pour myself into every delightful moment spent with my rapidly growing child.

We had a wonderful time, we did farm chores, watering horses, cows and feeding the barn cat, Sophie, we went on wildflower hunts, discovered wild garlic, rode around the expansive farm on Grandma's Gator played everyday with Charlotte's new bestie, her cousin Alexa, everyday.

Then the best  and most anticipated event of the trip happened:

Charlotte's first sleepover! When we were planning the trip I mentioned to Charlotte's grandma, Marcia that she would really love to have a sleepover with Alexa, so we started plotting, then the day finally came, Charlotte and I woke up ecstatic that morning, me, because I was excited to experience this with Charlotte, Charlotte because, well, it was exciting, the girls swam in the pool with me and Aunt Amanda, watched Chicken Run and the two three- yearolds even ate some of their dinner. After dinner, Charlotte's Grandpa Robin went outside and got a campfire going, I may have suggested that Charlotte would love that too, and we went outside to sit around the fire, roasting marshmallows and making smores, Charlotte managed to get smore all over herself, right after her bath, mind you, I may have eaten more smores than a grown woman should, the night was perfect, it was warm, the farm was peaceful, the sun setting, I was with my favorite people, eating smores, then Amanda snapped this photo of me, and posted it on Facebook, afterwards theere was an outcry of jot from all of my digi friends, it was so good to see me happy! These comments made me step back for a moment, I took stock of the last three years and, yes thus is probably the first picture of me since the stroke where I am experiencing blissful joy, before and after, before the stroke, I wa on the samr quest everyone else seems to be on, the search for ultimate happiness;

Now, let me be clear, I am not a spiritual or happiness guru, but here's what I think about happiness: the search for this slippery emotiuon is really hard, because we think we will find happiness in possessions, people and how attractive we are, I think happiness lies in living and loving your life, regardless of the circumstances. Sure, I ealk kind sloww and trip over my words sometimes, and, yes I have an arm that has decided to go on a permanent vacation, but I'm here and as long as there is breath in my body I am going to live the shit out of this life, so when I'm at the end of it, I die with a smile on my face.

Stop chasing happiness, people, it's right in front of you.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Unexpected Therapist

As soon as a brain injury occurs, be it a closed head injury, concussion, stroke, etc..., the survivor is immediately inundated with therapists, physical, occupational, recreational and speech, these therapists are there to help the survivor learn how to live their live post injury.

For the month I was at the rehabilitation unit at Borgess hospital, I got very accustomed to what these therapists did, they helped me re-learn to speak, eat, dress myself and bathe.

When I was told I was being released from rehab, I was ecstatic, I thought that returning home would make everything seem normal again, after all, home is where routine lives, home is comfortable and normal, but what I discovered upon returning home was that life was anything but normal, returning home was when my real rehab began, it was when I had to start learning how to live in my new body, with my new mind in earnest. The only thing on my mind at the time was getting back to work at the Co-op, I started working again in May of 2012, I was working two hours a week, greeting customers, answering phones and occasionally ringing customers up, a job that been created to suit my needs and abilities at the time. After being elbow deep in practically every aspect of the co-op right before the stroke, doing this job was a hit to my pride, I was embarrassed to be standing there by the door, greeting customers, doing minimal work, now I understand, it was what I was capable of, but at the time, I felt like my life was crumbling apart in front of me, I was determined to find a place for myself at the co-op again.

Then the planets and universe shifted again. The Front End Manager(FEM) who had taken over for me when I had to step down decided to move out of state, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tempted to reapply for the job when the posting went up , but I knew better, and I had my sights set on s different job that I was not ready for, I was nervous, wondering who would get the job, knowing whoever got the job would be instrumental in helping me get back into the swing of things, the universe always knows what it's doing and it swung in my favor this time because the new FEM was the former's Lead Cashier, Simon. I lept with joy when I found out, Simon was one of the last cashiers I  hired before the stoke, he showed great leadership and knowledge in his role as Lead Cashier, I knew my future at the co-op would be secure in his hands. Simon and I began sitting down and talking about my goals almost immediately after her took over as FEM, my goal, as always, I wanted to work more and become more comfortable cashiering. Soon, my hours started increasing and I started working more cashier shifts, mainly on the weekends, so I had to start relearning out Point of Sale System, soon Simon was working with me, re-training me on the POS, teaching me how to count down my drawers at the end of my shifts, a task that was not easy for me and my addled mind to accomplish calmly. As this process progressed, I was embarrassed every time he had to sit down with me and explain how to count down my drawer, after all, I had trained him to do the same thing he was teaching me to do in the not so distant past, it was an awkward position for us to be in, but Simon treated me with kindness, understanding and patience and he never made me feel stupid, which was how I felt, or like a special needs staff member, he treated me the way he would treat any new hire, with respect.

Now I work multiple times a week, this week I'm working a 20 hour week, Simon's loyalty, patience and faith in my abilities has pushed me in positive ways, just like any good therapist, he doesn't ask me to do anything he doesn't think I can do, I have re- found my niche at the co-op and I am pleased as punch to be a cashier there, any day you see me behind the register at the co-op is the best day of my life, because I am doing it, with the help of my most important therapist.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Round and Round

There is a carousel  at Silver beach in St. Joseph, MI.

We took Charlotte there last summer when she was still two, at the time, she wasn't sure whether this contraption was fun or not, BUT, since the middle of winter she' been talking about the carousel.

We found ourselves in St. Joe on Memorial day, I lightly mentioned Charlotte's obsession with the carousel to her great aunt and uncle, who we were visiting, and wouldn't you know it?

They had extra tokens for the carousel! So we made a quick trip to the cemetery to plant flowers for family members that are no longer with us, the weather was perfect, Charlotte took over the planting proceedings and got herself delightfully dirty and wet, once we finished planting, we determined that we had just enough time to sneak in a ride on the carousel.

When we entered the room where the carousel lives, Charlotte's little body tensed up with excitement, her face was solemn as she contemplated this contraption, deciding which creature to ride, she headed straight for the entrance, leaving us adults to decide who would go on with her.

Now, most stroke survivors struggle with vertigo, I am not an exception to this, so the last time she rode the carousel, I sat it out, a decision that I'v never been at ease with, as I want to be an active participant in her life.

This time, I decided to give it a try, I figured if I just stayed focused on Charlotte's face, the dreaded nausea and dizziness would be held at bay. We climbed onto the carousel, with her Grandpa, who was there as extra support for me, just in case Charlotte lost her grip on her horse. She selected a fancy horse named Magic, her excitement was palpable as we waited for the ride to start, I just looked into he giddy little face and told her to hold onto the brass bar tightly, like I was doing.

The the bell rang and the carousel began to move, Charlotte's face lit up with glee "whee!" She proclaimed!

My eyes welled up with tears of delight and thankfulness, because I was doing something I didn't think I could do and something I could have missed.

Even when my affected leg tensed up due to nerves, I ignored it and looked in my daughter's elated face and thanked the universe and a long list of gods for the chance to experience that moment

It's the little things, people.

Friday, April 24, 2015

all About The Angle

" I just want to be normal again."

Is a lament you would have heard fall out of my mouth if you visited me in rehab at least once.

Most of the time my visitor's response to this statement was, "what is normal?" Or I was told I would find a new normal, a concept I ignored because it seemed so impossible at the time, I felt so outside of myself, I wasn't the person I had been when I walked into the hospital that day, I couldn't function the way I had, couldn't go to the bathroom, shower, or get food for myself if I desired to do so.

Once I was released into the world, I was uncomfortable in public, I was sure everybody was staring at me everywhere I went, why wouldn't they? I walked and spoke funny, obviously I was a freak, so why wouldn't they stare? I did get stares, but why? Was it because of my funny walk or my slurred speech? No, Probably not. I  I got stared at because my discomfort with myself was so obvious to the outside world.

Then three years flew by.

Somehow, without noticing it happening, my new way of life started feeling "normal". Now today, I no longer get stared at in public and why would I? My walk is still not average, my slurred speech is unnoticeable, I think. But my comfort level with all of these things has increased.

Quick story, as I was ringing a customer up at work the other day, the question of what happened to my arm came up, as it often does, I answered honestly, as I always do, this customer started telling me about a new kind of therapy that stroke survivors use to reverse the effects of stroke, making the survivor "normal" again.

As I was listening to this information I would have been desperate for three years ago, all I could think about was the fact that I am "normal" and that this sounded like something I didn't need.

I don't get stared at anymore and  it's because I see myself as "normal" whatever that is, so, in the end it's all about perception, isn't it?

Friday, April 10, 2015


There is an issue I feel needs to be addressed, so here I go:

People use a lot of flattering adjectives to describe me such as, admirable, inspiring, adaptable, strong and inspiring.

Let me be clear here, it is none of my business what people think of me, so if you think these things about me, that's great, but I just want to be honest and up front.

Now, the old, ego maniacal version of me would have basked in the glory of all these compliments, it would have been my fuel.


This new, quieter version is embarrassed by all of this positive feedback, because I know the truth. And here it is:

Deep in the very pit of my lies a scared shitless, confused child, if I am any of those nice things people call me is only because I have metamorphosed into them through a lot of hard fucking work, trial and error and increased self-awareness. I work really hard every day to be honest with myself and to fight my selfish, self involved desires. I am constantly trying to be the best version of myself and to treat the people around me with the respect they are due (something I did not ever think about before).

So if you have said any of those nice things to me, thank you, it means a lot and if I seem uncomfortable with the compliment, it's because I haven't always been any of those things, it is only through a lot of hard work,  extreme determination  and a refusal to give up that I have become all of those things.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Hurry up and Wait

I am not a patient person. I never have been, then, I became a patient in a neuro rehabilitation facility. As it began to dawn on me what kind of situation I was in ,I was anything but patient, I wanted my hand back YESTERDAY I wanted to go back to work NOW.

Over the course of my life instant gratification has always been my bread and butter, I want what I want now and I would force my way towards whatever end goal I was after, but, the more I think about it, I 've realized that forcing things before it was time for them to happen has never worked out well for me or anyone else involved in my scheming. When I went back to work at the co-op, I was desperate to be back in a position that seemed "important", so, I tried applying for an HR job that I was in no way ready to perform, when I didn't get the job, I was crushed, as the job I applied for was one I held before the stroke.

But, I was determined to stay at the co-op, I knew there was a place for me there, and I decided I would dig my heels in and wait to see what that place would be. And I have, I am now working more frequently than before and have, once again become quite an adept cashier.

Self identity was the one thing I was desperate to find in my post-stroke world, hence the many different names I gave myself: Liz 2.0, New Liz, etc....but, I hung in there and I am happy to say that I have a better sense of self than I ever have and I am really awesome, new weird nickname needed, now, I'm just Liz, that's all.

So, what's my point, you may be asking yourself; here it is: That obnoxious saying, good things come to those who wait is, in fact true, because I have become a professional waiter, and, I've found that instead of forcing things to happen before it is time, that letting them happen naturally has a much more satisfying result.

Friday, March 13, 2015

My Social Network

My dad has worked in the computer industry my whole life, so, as I grew up, in the 80s and 90s, there were always these weird computer thingys in the house, my play house in the basement, which could fit two 10 year-olds in it comfortably was a wooden  box a hard drive had been delivered in.

In high school, my house was the cool place to be because we had that wacky new fangled invention: the internet! My friends and I would roam the chat rooms in total awe over the fact that we were "talking" to people half a country away.

Nowadays the novelty has worn off, there's a lot of complaining going around about how social networking and the internet isolates us from each other. I have something to say about that:

Word spread quickly after I suffered a stroke in childbirth, my friends and family members sent notes out on Facebook asking for prayers and positive vibes for me, as a result of this coming together of my digital community, I received countless numbers of cards and gifts that lifted my spirits and strengthened my resolve, I started this blog initially to keep my friends, family and numerous supporters apprised of my physical and mental state, but it has become an invaluable resource, allowing me to process all of the feelings I've had over the past three years in a healthy and positive way, my internet community are the people who read these posts.

Over the years I have received so much support via Facebook and through this blog, that without these tools, I truly believe I would have been lost. So, I do not believe the internet isolates us, that's up to the user, but it creates this amazing global community who can come together in minutes to support one of their own when they are in need, so, for those of you who've followed along via Facebook and this blog, thank you for the support, the pats on the back and the constant stream of positive energy.

Goddess bless Mark Zuckerberg.

Love and light.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Word play

If there is one thing I've learned over the last three years, it's this:

Language is of utmost importance, the words that come out of your mouth and the one's that live in your thoughts can impact your life in a big way.

My new year's resolution for 2014 was to eliminate the word "can't" from my vocabulary, because, it's a negative word and , really there isn't anything I can't do, unless I say I can't do it.

I recently read this article in Stroke Smart Magazine

reading it just reminded me hoe incredibly important words are, so, rather than use the word recovery, which implies that everything will be as it once was before the stroke (which is never going to happen, my body, mind and spirit has been too  irreversibly altered by this experience for everything to go back the way it was.

I have traded in the word recovery for renewal, this is a far more positive word, as it indicates, I am moving on with my life and accepting the circumstances of my life with open arms.

I have also made a concerted effort to not complain, outwardly or in my head, because, I have NOTHING to complain about, and it feels better not to, complaining changes nothing. You know what happened when I stopped complaining?

Things started looking extremely sunny, in-spite of the gloomy Michigan winter we've been through, once I realized nothing was worth complaining about and I put a cork in my mouth any time anything negative wanted to vomit out, life started looking pretty damn good, despite the challenges.

Try it, I dare you.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Game Changer

There is a box in my house. It's a smallish, slightly beat up, square cardboard box, but what this box holds is truly amazing; This box holds hope, wisdom, inspiration and mostly this box holds love.

Let me start at the beginning.

Right after I found out I was pregnant in the spring of 2011, I started scouring the internet for mommy stuff. I stumbled upon a blog that I quickly became obsessed with the blogger's strength of message and the empowerment she found in motherhood captured my imagination, I had discovered The Feminist Breeder. I read her blog daily , looking for snippets of inspiration and information from an empowered mommy, just like I wanted to be.

Then, the unimaginable happened.
During an induced labor by brain sprung a large leak, causing a clot which forced my brain to one side of myskull, paralysing my left side and making this fast talker and thinker slowed down in both departments, luckily, that baby I had been learning to take care of through this blogger whom I admired so much came through the ordeal unscathed, but, I was left unable to breast feed as much as I wanted to (due to my many medications) and I was unable to care for this new life as fully as I had anticipated.

Knowing I was going to heartbroken by this unexpected turn of events, my good friend, and soul sister, Sheila, knowing how obsessed I was with TFB(The Feminist Breeder) got in touch with her, hoping she might contact me to give me some encouragement. Then my dream came true, GinaTFB contacted ME on Facebook, wanting to know how she could help, she and I came up with a plan, her idea, really; A greeting card campaign. She put up a post about ME asking her readers to send me words of encouragement, well, I didn't know what to expect out of this venture, but the cards, letters and even a CD or two came flooding in, I got over 90 pieces of mail from women all over the world, these women told me stories about relatives who had been touched by stroke, their own personal stories about difficult pregnancies, they told me how lucky Charlotte was to have me in her life, how important I was, regardless of how much I was able to do.

But, mostly these women sent messages of love.

All of those cards are in that magical box, which I busted open today. I was touched, at the time these cards came in, I felt hopeless and useless, they came at the darkest point of this journey, the point where I felt my entire life was falling away through my fingers, the point where if I had given up, that was when I was going to.

I got letters from The Netherlands, New Zelaand, England etc..from all over.

How could I give up when all of these people were rooting for me and believed that I was fully capable of doing this? I couldn't. So, I didn't. The contents of that box truly changed the game for me, words of kindness from complete strangers, reminding me that life is worth hanging on for.

I'm glad I listened

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Outside In

Over the course of the last three years, I've had these random moments where I've stepped outside of myself to look at my life.

At the beginning of this journey I've been on when this would occur my reaction was something akin to,

"what has happened to my life? Everything was so great, now, look at me."

Tonight as Charlotte and I were washing dishes together ( I was washing, she was splashing in the soapy water) I took a moment, stepped outside of myself and took a good long look at what was going on.

"I just want to be a real mom." was my mantra as I was adjusting to my new life, but tonight as I took that moment I realized, Oh my goddess, wait. I'm a real mom now,  and I'm good at this, as Charlotte and were simply being in each others presence, I felt more satisfied with the state of my life than I ever have been, it was the simplest of moments,\; Water everywhere, Charlotte dumping cups of water into water, me hand washing dishes that wouldn't fit into the dishwasher, but, my gods, that was the most beautiful moment of myday, and in that moment, as I was looking at myself I said,

"What's happened to my life?! Everything seemed so dark and hopeless, now, look at me."

Never. Give. Up. Ever!

Love and light, my friends.