Tread and Dread

Three firefighters died while fighting wildfires in Washington State. A total of 22 died throughout Oregon, California,  and Washington.  Several thousand  people lost their homes or were evacuated due to safety.  The fires set a record in acres consumed.  At this point, National Guard, Army Active Duty, and fire teams from other countries are involved.  The air quality throughout the state is horrible. May the firefighters stay safe and the fires controlled.  Blessings for the family and friends of those killed.

All I have to worry about with the fires is running inside on a treadmill because of air quality.  It’s a small concern overall.  This blog is about how a runner stays entertained while running on a treadmill because of air quality.   It is not meant to put down what is happening with the fires.



A bane of most runners’ workouts is the dreaded treadmill, or dreadmill.  Today was my turn to experience the boredom.

One must have a plan to complete a dreadmill workout.  You are truly on a road to nowhere; it’s the same scenery.  It gets worse as run time and mileage are longer.  Many runners zone out listening to music on iPods.  Since I no longer tolerate sounds well, I have to amuse myself in other ways.

The TBI affected my intelligence and attention span.  For example, my math skills are now at a 5th grade level.  I completed a class in calculus at one point.  Big change.  I practiced the multiplication table to pass time.  It went ok for a few numbers.  Then I got to 6.  The finger counting began.  Six times seven… Let’s see… Six times six is 36. So: 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42.  It’s 42.  Mind you, I counted on fingers or I lost my place.  Then, the sevens.  Seven times six is… So: 7×5 is 35.  And so goes the finger counting 421 that’s it.  I couldn’t reverse the numbers although I understand they are equal.  I last until the nines table.  My head was toast.  The thought.. “I’m not smarter than a 5th grader.”  Cute show.

Next game: watch traffic and come up with stories about the people.  One was about a man going to see his girlfriend.  He stopped at McDonald’s and choked on a McNugget.  Another: Her ferret stole the last apple, dragged it under the couch, and ate all of it. (note: ferrets are carnivores.  They shouldn’t eat apples.  And a full apple would be a huge meal for a ferret).  The horse trailer that stopped on the road in front of the gym so the guys could get coffee was interesting.  It was huge.  And had some nice looking horses at least their butts which was all I could see.  I rapidly got bored.

Next: Name animals in alphabetical order.
A: Anteater
B. Badger This is where it went horribly wrong. The song “Badger badger Mushroom” popped into my head immediately. For those not familiar with it, the song’s words are: “Badger, Badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger; Mushroom. Mushroom. ” This repeats several times, then “It’s a snake… a snake… oh, it’s a snake.” Now, back to badger. So much fun to have stuck in your head.
For those of you who are curious just how bad it can be, here’s the link. Listen at your own risk. Badger Badger
To get that charming little ditty out of my head I resorted to singing Marine and Army cadences in my head. It worked. (looking at the readout: crap, 15 more minutes)

I continued my alphabet game with C,D, and E. Of course, F was FERRET! Such cute little critters. I need to clean their cage…

As I went through the remaining letters, there were some I couldn’t think of an animal. Others, I named food first. For example, “H= Hamburger… no, no. It’s a food. Hawk. That’s it.” I was getting hungry… mmmm… food. I wonder if I can get a friend to drive me for a Blizzard?

Eventually, the run ends. Just in time. R was for “Restroom.”


What It’s Like

I wish I could send this post and article to my HR and coworkers.  

I fought as hard as I could in the years following the injury. I’m stuck. What I have now is what I have although I might improve slightly.

It was never easy. Even when I was doing hard things, they were an attempt to rehab.  
There are days I feel more energetic and can do more. I notice there is a pattern. If I do more one day, I’ll be more fatigued the next.  
That’s one of the major issues at work. Every day it’s a fight against overstimulation and fatigue. Every day is harder. I slept 12-13 hours a day so I could work part time. And I was always exhausted, stressed, and anxious. I never was “who I was before.” Most days, I hid it fairly well. My office is a cave. You’re right. I needed quiet, dim, non stimulating environment. Remember all the tears? And me walking away from meetings? Or getting so frustrated in meetings because I couldn’t keep up or express myself? Think it was easy to work? I couldn’t process the information. It was too much, too fast. Sometimes, I just zoned out. I needed to survive, I wasn’t trying to be rude or unprofessional.   

Too many coworkers either didn’t notice or excused it. I know some people were trying to help and didn’t know exactly what I needed. I didn’t know either. And if I’m emotionally, mentally, or physically flooded or exhausted, I won’t be able to tell you. I’ll walk away or break down. If I get there, take me somewhere quiet. And know if I’m emotionally melting down, “processing” won’t work. It’s more emotional stimulation. Just sit with me quietly or leave me alone. I figured that out with the help of my cognitive therapist. I won’t be able to ask at that point. You have to recognize it and help.

When I worked part time, I slept 12-13 hours a day. Think about it. What was my life? I never had the energy to cook. I lived off oatmeal, maltomeal, cereal, delivery, sandwiches, salads, or whatever microwaveable meals I had. I never had the brain energy to cook, either. It was too hard to manage anything involving multiple steps. I barely kept my house clean enough to be sanitary. My day: work, sleep, warm up dinner, take care of animals- let ferrets play, sleep. Repeat. Some days, I made myself get some exercise. Short runs, that people critize me taking. After all, if I can do that, I can work. It can’t be that bad. Running was sanity. Weekends, I slept and usually shopped and tried to do chores. Usually I got back enough energy to at least show up to work the following week.
Now add in seizures and migraines. And no longer being able to drive. Still think it’s easy? Still think I’m faking?  
Walk a week in my shoes.  Or even a day.  Deal with the sensory stimulation of normal life being like living in a rock concert 24/7.  Earplugs, sunglasses, hats can only do so much. Know why I cringe at a sudden noise or loud voice?  It physically hurts!  It confuses me!    

Since I’ve been off work, my diet has improved. Im still as disorganized as ever but my house is cleaner. I sleep only 10 hours a day. Maybe 11 if I was really busy. I can actually do the cognitive improvement exercises every day when before I might have managed them 2 days a week. Things are better.
I love working with veterans.  I wish I could do my job like before.  Or at least in some meaningful way that contributes.  I tried.  


Brain Injury Need to Know

Still More Simple Gifts.

In the last blog, I spoke about the song Simple Gifts and the complex of simplicity.  There are two more alternate verses.

This alternate is my favorite of all versions.  It is lyric and hopeful.  It also acknowledges the earth as our home and how our actions will impact other people.

The Earth is our mother and the fullness thereof. Her streets, her slums, as well as stars above. Salvation is here, where we laugh and we cry.  Where we seek and love, where we live and die. 

When true Liberty is found, by fear and by hate we will no longer be bound.  In love and light we will find our new birth and in peace and in freedom redeem the earth.    

 The earth is our home in this lifetime.  We do have responsibility to care for it and what lives here.  Often,  religions seem to be more about dogma and judgement than a spiritual connection to each other and Deity.  There are people who reflect the positive values of the spiritual side of organized religion.  I chose a path of spirituality and acknowledgement of Deity, personal and spiritual growth, and respect.  I fall short of this at times.  For me, salvation is paths of spiritual growth, not an event.  We all are involved in salvation in some way, as we’re learning by experiencing this life.

The final version is an attitude towards thankfulness and being able to choose our own paths.  Although religious freedom is supposed to be a protected right, there is a strong movement to legislate religious values.  As a country, America needs to focus on how to respect individual freedom to choose our own paths.  

‘Tis the gift of be simple, ‘Tis the gift to be fair.  ‘Tis the gift to wake and breathe the morning air. And each day we walk in the path that we choose, ‘Tis a gift we pray we will never lose. 

Simple Gifts

The Shaker hymn, “Simple Gifts” (Joseph Brackett) is deceptively simple.  The melody and harmony lines are uncomplicated.  The verses are sweet but speak to deeper meanings.  The original and additional verses speak to my life over various times, especially post accident. 

The original version was written as a dancing song.  

‘Tis the gift to be simple, Tis the gift to be free.  ‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be.  And when we find ourselves in thr place just right,               ‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained, to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed. To turn, turn, will be out delight. Until by turning, turning we come ’round right. 

After the accident, I gained confusion and fear not simplicity.  Life was complicated and I lost all sense of peace and freedom.  I was locked in a mind and body that just didn’t work right anymore.  In a job that didn’t fit and fighting to try to gain my life back.  I fought to hard to be the place I was before.  I missed the place “I ought to be.”  My life changed.  I needed to change with it.  As I find the simple gift of being free of trying to be who I am no longer, the gift to let go of fear, to be, I gain a larger gift of peace, love, and delight.  Such as the full moon, the stars, the winds, friends, family, running…just being who I am.  There is no shame in who I am now.  To lose much of my mental intelligence was humbling.  Being intelligent and talented was important before. I have to accept the changes and realize with humility, I am different, with different things I can do.  I have  To keep turning away from negativity and fear until I come ’round right.  Humility is something often seen as weakness.  It is truly seeing who you are, strengths and weaknesses and loving yourself anyway.  And being willing to change and grow.

We all have the moments of needing to be humble and turn our lives in a different direction.  Sometimes, it takes a thump on the head to get our attention.  I hope  you listen better than I did.

Simple Gifts on You Tube

One alternate version speaks of love and relationships.

‘Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return.  ‘Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn. And when we expect from others what we try to live each day, then we’ll all live together and all learn to say:

‘Tis the gift to have friends and true friend to be. ‘Tis the gift to think of others and not only think of “me.” And when we hear from others what they really think and really feel, then we’ll all live together with a love that is real.

Things we should have learned in grade school that would make the world and our lives much better: Learn, teach, listen, respect, honesty, putting others in front of yourself.  Friendship is a balance between give and receive.  Friends love and support each other.  One does not take more that you give back.  Balance.  Community and relationships are work.  We have to hear from others bravely, and they must speak truely and with respect.  Then, you can build on the foundation.

  Simplicity is hard, as challenging in some ways as our daily complicated, “meaningful” lives.

Love is found in simplicity.  There are two additional verses I’ll talk about later.


Simple Joys

 it doesn’t take much to make a ferret happy.  They have a sense of play and fun that I wish that I had.  Imagine if we could live our lives just enjoying the day as it comes and enjoying the simple things.  

Life is too complicated sometimes.  We get caught up in daily problems and responsibilities.  Slow down.  Focus in.  Don’t live life by rote.

Enjoy the simple things.

What a day

It was an interesting day.  One of those days it didn’t pay to leave the house.

My neighbor offered to drive me to the gym on his way to work this morning. On the way, we encounter a woman driving 20 mph in a 35 zone. She’s hugging the left line so you can’t see around to pass. Finally, she drifts right and we pass her.
There’s a roundabout on the way. We’re in the roundabout, so we have the right of way. A car pulls in right in front of us. My neighbor slams on the brakes and we manage to stop before hitting him. 

We get to the gym. The parking lot has an entrance and an exit lane. Ignoring the arrows, a person pulls out of the in. Neither vehicle has the turn angle to complete the turn without hitting the other car. We back up.

I work out, get home, shower, and eat. I needed to run some errands downtown, so I walk up to the bus stop. There’s a cross walk and a light. I’m walking toward the crosswalk. A car makes a right hand turn, misjudges the angle and drives up on the sidewalk. It’s coming at me and I jump sideways. My balance isn’t the best. Diving for cover, I land in one of those evergreen shrubs. In the process, I twist my left ankle. I’m slightly allergic to evergreen. So, now I have evergreen itch, a twisted ankle, and am covered with bark dust. Complete with a splinter in my left elbow.

On the bus ride downtown, a car pulls up too far when the bus was making a turn. The bus curb checks.

I get to the pharmacy and they refilled a prescription I haven’t been on in three months and not the seizure medication I need. I have to wait 20 minutes for them to fill the right medication.

In one day, I was almost in an accident, been nearly hit on the sidewalk, twisted an ankle, got a splinter, and almost got thrown out of a bus seat. Then had to wait for the prescription to be filled, missing the the next bus. 
When the next bus arrives, the driver rapidly exits and runs away. He must have seen me coming, right? He returns without incident. That was strange.

It’s Friday the 31st, not the 13th.  I think Loki the prankster has gotten loose.  Either that or every horrible driver got dumped in a small town in Eastern Washington on the same day.  

I finally made it home safely and hide in the beds with Brigid.  She’ll protect me.