Hope for Veterans Day: Bringing Back Normality and What We Can Do

Happy Veterans Day Weekend, everyone!
It seems an oxymoron to call it “happy,” but it is indeed a celebration, though of a somber sort, recognizing all those who have fought for us. Some have given the ultimate sacrifice of their lives, and all have given a sacrifice of some sort, visible or otherwise.
That’s why I was drawn to this article in The New Yorker, exploring the way so many soldiers are affected by P.T.S.D., and what we can do about it. When I sought to say something meaningful about this day (Remembrance Day, Poppy Day, etc. in other countries), I looked first to other stories. Perhaps it’s the writer in me, but when I seek to find meaning in events, in experiences, I look for the stories–to read, or to tell myself.

This article, published in 2008 but more relevant with each passing day, explores the conundrum of what happens when soldiers come back from war–but really, it’s relatable to anyone who has ever been through anything traumatic (so, everyone). I related to it on several fronts–having experienced trauma, myself, with my traumatic brain injury and thankfully being required to see a psychologist as part of my treatment plan. Not to put my experience on the same plane of heroism as a soldier’s, but I think it is a natural human tendency to dismiss your own feelings when you’re in a situation of huge stress/trauma–your instinct is just to get through it, overcome it, and “level up” into a greater version of yourself, having completed a huge act of fortitude, physically and emotionally.

Except–how can you “level up” emotionally when you had to focus on the physical getting-through of the event, not acknowledging (or even noticing) the huge emotional minefield around you? It doesn’t matter how “tough” anyone thinks s/he is (a common mentality, the article interviewee noted, in the armed forces)–a traumatic event needs to be unpacked. According to the article from nine years ago–meaning the number can only have risen–“According to a recent study by the Rand Corporation, nearly twenty per cent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are suffering from P.T.S.D. or major depression. Almost half won’t seek treatment.”

The key in treatment, says the article, is dissociating environmental or situational stimuli with the traumatic event of the past. I love that medical science is disarming the blanket stigma against video games and tapping into their potential use outside of just entertainment. While I was lucky to experience some high-tech and even virtual reality devices as part of my therapy treatment at Marianjoy during my TBI recovery, what they have now is even more impressive.
So, speaking of “leveling up,” when I read that virtual reality video games are now starting to be used to treat P.T.S.D. with a high degree of success, I was thrilled. It seems like an “of course” idea, but it took a lot of work for them to get a military training platform, turned video game, turned treatment option, into clinics. Just like any dangerous physical venture, it’s important to have a trained guide (here, therapist/psychologist) lead you through the experience and be able to pull you out if it gets too hazardous.

While the whole story was touching and engaging, the line that made me cry was the last one–a soldier who had found immense relief from this virtual reality treatment:

“Most of the intrusive thoughts have gone away,” he said. “You never really get rid of P.T.S.D., but you learn to live with it. I had pictures of my team leader [who was like a brother, killed in front of me] that I couldn’t look at for three years. They’re up on my wall now.”

Wow.

It gives me hope for our veterans, whom I respect and feel we owe so much. If you have wondered, like me, what we can do to help our disabled and otherwise injured veterans, besides buying the cute little poppies from volunteers selling Tootsie Rolls, this CNN article gives a fantastic list of simple, but impactful, ways to help. I also encourage you to think of your own talents and how you can share them. “Talent” is, perhaps, a generous word to apply to my musical skills, but my singalong string band, the Pennies from Heaven, likes to lead carols at our local VA hospital every Christmas, bringing a sense of home, familiarity, normality, and warm memories to those who can’t be “Home for Christmas” (a heartbreakingly common song request from the veterans we play for). The biggest thing we notice from anywhere we play (hospitals, nursing homes, etc.) is that people appreciate the company–bringing the outside world in is a helpful way to help anyone acclimate to daily life. So if your talent is just being a good listener or a good storyteller–I promise you your gift of time and company will be appreciated, even if you can’t see it at first glance–it may mean the world to a veteran or other patient.

I’ll leave you with one more suggestion–to read this moving poem by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD, who was inspired to write it after presiding over the funeral of a fellow soldier and friend who had fallen in battle in 1915. It’s something I do every Veterans Day, to connect with this day of remembrance, which was established at the end of the very war that inspired this poem (hence the November 11th observation every year):

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October: A Month to Celebrate and Give Back

October is one of my favorite months–possibly my very favorite–for many reasons. Long-time readers and even casual acquaintances are quite familiar with my passion for Halloween (you’ll see some Halloween posts here as the holiday gets closer–and feel free to search “Halloween” in my blog for previous posts!). Crunchy leaves, crisp (but not cold) air, autumn soups, apple-picking, so many festive opportunities…what’s not to love? As one of my favorite literary heroines famously said, “I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers” (L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables).

Image result for i m so glad i live in a world with octobers

–Pinterest User iBelieve.com

October is also the month for celebrating important awareness occasions, like National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) and Breast Cancer Awareness Month–two observations that are a focus for me both at work and personally. While I’ve written about NDEAM for work with Marianjoy in the past, and continue to do so, I’m looking forward to writing about breast cancer awareness, as well, for Northwestern Medicine’s Marketing Team, having had the exciting opportunity to work more closely with them lately. How lucky we are to have top cancer and rehabilitation programs right here in the Midwest! Breast cancer has always hit close to home for me, with several family members and friends as survivors, and more friends who are currently battling the disease.
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Besides writing, I decided to take the observation one step further. Financial donations are great to help with breast (and other types of) cancer; without funding, research projects to eradicate the disease wouldn’t be possible–and so I try to donate to cancer charities a couple of times a year (check out Charity Navigator to find one that fits you and has a good stewardship score). There’s another type of donation, too, that most people might not think of right away, one that requires your time, not money: hair.

It wasn’t until my traumatic brain injury in 2005, when part of my head had to be shaved for brain surgery, that I realized how important hair is to identity. For women, it’s inextricably tied in millennia-long trends denoting femininity, fertility, sexuality, youth, conservatism/rebellion, professionalism…the list goes on. For 19-year-old me, it was one of the hardest changes to my appearance I had to get used to, partly because I had no choice in the sudden change–just like cancer patients. It made me very self-conscious–with my eye patch and wheelchair, it was just one more thing broadcasting to the world that I was going through a major medical experience. And what if I wasn’t ready to share that?

Luckily for me, it was only part of my head, and I was able to do quite the comb-over to cover the bald side until my hair grew in. I always joked that Rihanna soon after took my cue and made the style a trend.

(You’re welcome, RiRi)

Fortunately, my hair grew in fairly quickly, and when it reached a point where I could get it cut into layers, I decided to donate the rest to those who were less fortunate. It felt good, the thought of helping others, when so many had been helping me.

I decided to do it again…22 months ago. Unlike my first time donating, the thought popped into my head when all of my hair was short, so I knew I was in for a long road. Over those 22 months, I only got one trim–it helped that I stayed away from heat-treating my hair, so I didn’t have to worry (much) about split ends.

The experience reminded me of the way the religious customs can remind you physically of spiritual meaning (like the practice of giving something up for Lent reminding Catholics of Jesus’s ultimate sacrifice). Although I sometimes enjoy having long hair, there were many times were I couldn’t wait to get it cut again–it felt so unruly to me, but I reminded myself this hair wasn’t for me–it was for someone else. It was a good exercise in patience.

My mom made the growing process more fun with some elaborate hairstyles–some so beautiful I second-guessed cutting the hair:

Thanks, Mom! ❤

I went to my hair stylist a few times to get a length check, and finally, I was ready. I already knew the charity I wanted to donate to: Wigs 4 Kids, an organization in Michigan that provides wigs to kids and young adults for free. It’s important to research where you will donate your hair, because some organizations charge patients for their wigs (it’s a laborious process to make them, so I understand, but I’d prefer the patients to get their wigs for free). It’s also important to know how long you need to grow your hair, if it can be dyed, if it can be gray, etc., before you make the chop–each organization is different. Wigs 4 Kids requires 10″, and after my hair stylist evened it out, I had just over that to donate.

Ready!

Megan, my hair stylist, is very familiar with prepping hair to donate. It’s important to section off and secure the part that will be donated before you cut it, so it doesn’t fly all over the place. She made four braids.

Moment of truth. Even though I wanted the haircut, it’s always initially intimidating to me to part with so much hair all at once!

Done; I loved it! It was hard to believe all that hair was in that silver bag.

I really appreciated Megan’s help in getting my hair ready to go; I was happy she was so familiar with donating. After that, it was just a matter of mailing the braids to the address on the organization’s website.

I never feel better than when I’m helping others and giving back in some way. Ever since my miraculous TBI survival, I’ve felt a mission to help others as I was helped. With time and patience, hair donation is an easy and inexpensive way to help people–I highly recommend doing it, if you can. I’ve mentally committed to doing it again, though I may go for one with a shorter requirement (360 Hair looks like they take 6″ or more–sounds good to me!).

I wish you all a wonderful remainder of your October. I hope you get to enjoy your favorite traditions, and I hope you take a moment to celebrate those other important observances, too.

BIAIL Fashion Show + Top 10: Favorite Things About Having My Blog After One Year

Hello, dear readers! I hope you had a fabulous weekend! I had the honor and pleasure of modeling for the Brain Injury Association of Illinois’s Annual Fashion Show for the second year in a row. As a TBI survivor, disability awareness has become really important to me, and I was so happy to help with such a great cause. The organization is a special one to me, and this event–run so well by heads Philicia Deckard and Ginny Doran Lazarra–always brings together compassionate people and organizations, making it fun to network and socialize (not to mention dress up in pretty outfits). This year, I got to model three gorgeous dresses from Pink Slip Boutique.

Models on the runway

I loved getting to see and chat with Alicia Roman again this year. (I am unashamedly name-and-photo-dropping.) She is a meteorologist for NBC5, and she was the emcee again for the event. She does a great job of being warm to the crowd and models (even asking me over the mic if I was OK when my shoe got stuck in the runway–yes, graceful me) as well as being impassioned about the cause.

Alicia and me after the show

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This weekend was also important to me for another reason:

It marked the one-year anniversary of the creation of my blog! In some ways, I can’t believe it’s already been a year. However, when I look back at my entries over the past year, I realize I’ve put a lot of work and pride into my blog. I am so grateful to all of you, dear readers, for impelling me onward to continue posting. Every comment and view is a validation of my work–so thank you for making it worthwhile. ❤

As happy nostalgia washed over me, I realized this would make for a great Top 10 for this week (my last Top 10 till May!). Below, please enjoy my Top 10 favorite bloggy things. 🙂 Tomorrow marks the beginning of my double-challenge for April: NaPoWriMo + A-to-Z, which means a poem each day (except Sunday), focusing on consecutive alphabetic topics (or forms). I will do my best to complete all 26, but I’m also working on my novel plus my memoir plus, you know, life–but I look forward to the challenge. It was a productive blast for me last year. 🙂

Top 10: Favorite Things About Having My Blog After One Year

1. Making new friends

One of the most unexpected perks of having my blog has been meeting fellow bloggers (or commentators) who have become my friends. I’ve really enjoyed connecting with so many of you, whether it be through writing about similar topics, participating on blog tours together, comments, etc.

2. Keeps me writing

Having to keep up with my blog keeps my writing sharp, and it’s really helped me to develop my voice. My “blogging voice” has settled somewhere in the intersection of the tones of my critical essay, memoir, and conversational writing. My readers’ responses have helped me to nail that down–so again, thank you. ❤

3. Free writing workshops!

It is beyond awesome to receive feedback on my writing from readers who are actually interested in my work. Getting different viewpoints and constructive criticism helps me to tighten my work (often helping me to eliminate those flowery-sappy holes I can fall into and not notice on my own 😉 ). Similarly, I also enjoy offering feedback to other writers. It’s like an online version of a classroom workshop.

4. Opens up my perspective on memoir, etc.

I’ve discovered I often find news or literary items I have an emotional response to that I want to write about on my blog. In the past, I might have an emotional response and not explore the depths of it like I have here. That exploration has deepened my own understanding of how my life or societal events have shaped me, which is very helpful, indeed, for writing my memoir.

5. Online portfolio

I love having a collection of my work all housed on my URL, where I can point people who want to see my work. The site is all mine, and the work I show is how I wish to represent myself as a writer. If, a few years later, I look back and wonder how I could ever have been so SAPPY, for instance, I can simply take it down–it’s a comfort granted when you choose to bare yourself to the world (lending us bloggers a bit of courage). 🙂

6. Experience as a book blogger

When I began my blog, I thought I’d write a little about my opinions on books, but I didn’t imagine I’d be an official Book Blogger. I’ve had the wonderful experience of being an official book reviewer for Novel Publicity & Co., which has been terrific. In addition to being able to use my blog as an official reviewing platform, I’ve also been exposed to books I never would have picked up on my own, broadening my perspective and taste. Receiving free books and publicity have been great perks, too. 😉

7. Challenges

Blog challenges (like NaPoWriMo) have pushed me outside of my comfort zone as both a writer and a reader, which invariably leads to my growth. Having a network of people doing the same thing gives us inspiration and encouragement to persevere, even when it’s tough!

8. Organization of my life’s events and writings–and how they intertwine

In reviewing my last year of entries, I realized another unexpected benefit of having my blog was seeing how my life’s events, writings, and cultural responses (like reviews I wrote) all intertwined and influenced each other. It’s kind of like a personal version of that introduction section in book anthologies that explain what was going on in society when an author wrote a work–“No man is an island,” and it’s neat to see where my inspirations have come from.

9. Able to share (give and get!) advice as TBI survivor & writer

I’ve always hoped to be a disability advocate, especially since my own Traumatic Brain Injury. Happily, I get to do that at my job at Marianjoy when I write patient stories and other articles. However, I’ve also enjoyed doing it right here on my blog. It’s nice to be able to write about issues that are important to me–even more so when I get a response that my writing has touched someone in some way. I’ve learned in addition to teaching, too–I really appreciate when people respond with their own life experiences, lending their perspective. The community broadens me as a person.

10. Pushes my creativity

This blog constantly pushes my creativity, impelling me to expand the way I think about writing. The nature of blogging has caused me to think in a much more “multimedia” fashion, once I realized how graphics can enhance a blog’s message. Also, I’m always having to think about writing new things in new ways to maintain–hopefully, increase–reader interest (I hope I’m doing a good job!) 🙂

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I hope you enjoyed my list as much as I enjoyed everything on it, dear readers–and you’ve made it all possible. Thank you.

Please join me tomorrow–and throughout April–for my A-to-Z and NaPoWriMo writings!

My Valentine’s Day Surprises

Hello, dear readers! I hope you had a wonderful weekend and a lovely Valentine’s Day. 🙂

As I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to tell you a little bit about my Valentine’s Day this year.

Ever since my TBI, I’ve had a “carpe diem” view of life. This means I get very excited about all celebrations and I plan all details long in advance. Although, to be fair, I’ve always been excited for celebrations. 😉

That’s one side of it. The other side of it is when things don’t go exactly as planned, I can get majorly disappointed at what I see as a missed opportunity. It’s not exactly the best thing, and I’ve been working on this over the years, trying to take a more “jelly-side up” view. I heard a phrase once that really stuck with me: “We plan, and God laughs.” So true! I’ve realized that things aren’t always meant to happen as we plan them, but there is almost always some good that comes out of a situation. Sometimes, when things don’t go as planned, even better things are able to happen.

Needless to say, I certainly hadn’t planned on having bronchitis this Valentine’s Day. Jeremiah and I didn’t have anything enormous planned, although we did consider dinner/dancing/movie/trip options and made a schedule. However, it was apparent early in the week that it was not to be, because I was so sick. I hadn’t even left the house in over a week, so the plan–or so I thought–was a FaceTime date.

I got to start the day with another leading man in my life–my wonderful dad–who was kind enough to make another doctor appointment for me and chauffeur me there. Even though he pretended(?) to be grumpy about spending his whole day doing this, he made me laugh all the while, and he took really good care of me. It was a daddy-daughter date of doctor’s office; Panera for lunch; hospital for X-rays because I wasn’t getting well; and Costco for medicine. At least at Costco, they had an amazing array of samples, and as exhausted as I was, I felt up to the task at making the rounds to every single station. This is a favorite activity for our whole family, although my dad would never admit it. 😉
(Upon hearing I was doing this while sick, Jeremiah said to me, “The world could be ending, and you’d still be at Costco.” My response was, “If the world were ending, I would ESPECIALLY be at Costco. I’d need to stock up!” I mean, right?)

Then, my dad had the pleasure of helping me look through scores of flower planters on the shelves at Costco, so that we could pick the very best one. I’d wanted to get flowers for Jennifer for Valentine’s Day, anyway, and I was really happy to luck upon such a pretty option.

I dressed up the planter with ribbon and a homemade card…all materials I found in Jennifer’s impressive craft station in her room, which of course she immediately recognized, LOL (Happy Valentine’s Day to you…from you). I drew portraits of us as hearts–Jennifer on the left, me on the right–and used our self-appointed Frozen nicknames. Jennifer had made me a valentine, too, and she left it for me to see first thing when I woke up. 🙂

Jennifer and our parents had planned to go to Sweet Tomatoes for Valentine’s Day, and although they wanted to stay home with me, I insisted they keep their plans.

I also insisted that Jeremiah stay away, because I didn’t want to get him sick. Plus, I told him I just wanted to stay in my pajamas all evening. However, he wound up surprising me anyway, bringing me our favorite meals from Noodles & Co., a cookie for dessert, and these:

I was so touched by his thoughtfulness. It was simple enough not to be any fuss for me, and yet it was so many of my favorite things. He even came prepared with advice about a plot point in my novel I’d been struggling with. 🙂 And I got to stay in my pajamas, after all.

And so, dear readers, I keep learning that letting life happen is just as important as planning it out. FYI, I am slowly feeling better, finally! I hope you have a great week, and stay warm. 🙂

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Christmas Snow Globe: A Reflection on Christmas Blessings

Good morning, dear readers! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. I will share the details of my fabulous holiday soon (thank you loved ones for making it so), but today’s post is a reflection on my Christmas eight years ago.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Marianjoy held its annual Patient Christmas Party two weeks ago. It was lots of fun, including skits and carols. A coworker-friend of mine wrote a parody of the “Wassailing” song that we all performed; it was hilarious and went over really well. 🙂

We got to wear costumes if we wanted to, which of course means I did:

I dressed as an angel! My mom sewed the dress for me in high school, and my dad made the halo. I’ve worn the wings so many times they’re a little droopy. 😉

But the most special part of the event, for me, was the opening reflection. I asked our Spiritual Director if I could write a piece to share at the party, and she invited me to open the event.

As soon as we arranged it, I was intimidated. My mission was pure enough: I wanted to share some inspirational insights about hope at this time of year. No one *wants* to spend Christmas in a hospital–but if you look at it in a different way, it may be the most special Christmas you’ll ever have.

When I spent Christmas as an inpatient at Marianjoy eight years ago, it was such a unique experience. (I was discharged just a few days later.) I hadn’t planned it, of course, but it wasn’t cold or clinical–it was warm, friendly, encouraging, and full of love–all the things Christmas should be.

So I, the writer, the girl who is always talking, sat frozen at my keyboard for weeks, trying to think of how to put this into words. It was so important to me to get it right. Not only would my whole audience be experts on the subject, but the gift I wanted to give them was abstract and elusive, a long-shot: hope.

I must have gotten it at least a little right, because I had a lot of applause and people coming up to me afterwards thanking me for sharing it–patients, coworkers, the CEO, former therapists, nurses, and doctors. It was a terrific experience; better than I’d hoped for. 🙂

My writer’s block finally disappeared when I thought of the central image, which you can find in the title below. I hope you enjoy my speech. 🙂

“Christmas Snow Globe”
By: Amanda K. Fowler

Christmas in a hospital is kind of like a snow globe:

Frozen Snowglobe

(then I shook this snow globe, a Christmas present to Jennifer and me)

Your whole world is turned upside-down. You feel as if you’re suspended in a schedule of personal flurry, too busy with the rituals of therapy to notice that time is passing outside of your dome. And suddenly—it’s Christmas.

And—when you pause for a moment to catch your breath—you feel it. You’re not alone. You are surrounded by love and hope.

You might expect to hear something like this out of someone from the Marketing Department. But the way I really know this is I was a patient here myself eight years ago, due to a severe Traumatic Brain Injury that gave me only a 5% chance at survival.

When I came to Marianjoy, I was out of the danger zone, but I wasn’t back to myself, or back to my life. It was a transition, between nearly dying and nearly living. And I certainly hadn’t anticipated spending Christmas here.

For me, Christmas has always been about being home with family. But while I was here, I discovered a new family. I saw it in the compassionate faces of the therapists. I felt it in the healing touch of the doctors. I even tasted it, in the peppermint bark another patient had made for me, surprisingly—candy she guarded so closely that she gave my father strict instructions not to eat it before giving it to me. I guess she had a sixth sense about my father’s sweet tooth.

And I realized—I was spending Christmas here with my family, with this place that has become a home to me. It’s a family I have been blessed with, a gift I did not anticipate receiving that Christmas along with my life. Yes, Marianjoy is like a family to me—and, much like the in-laws who suggest staying after Christmas into New Year’s—they can’t get rid of me.

And so—I know this may not be how you planned to celebrate Christmas. But take it from someone who has been on this journey before: there is beauty all around you. In this snow globe—you are loved. There is hope here. We even asked for some fresh snow today. This transition is a special time in your life—and in a funny way, it is a gift. I will never forget the Christmas I spent here, and I hope yours is just as special. Merry Christmas.

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I hope you liked it, dear readers. Good luck on your New Year’s Eve preparations! If you’re not back here before then, I wish you a happy New Year full of peace, love, good health, and prosperity. ❤

Happy Thanksgiving: Ten Things I’m Most Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers! The holiday is almost over–and by the time I finish typing this post, it may well be over–but I do hope you’ve enjoyed it.

Like most families, we have certain traditions in our house when it comes to Thanksgiving. Our staples are basic, but as health-nut–foodies, we’ve tweaked “traditional” dishes into our own creations (most of this credit goes to my mom! <3).

Since we were little, our mom invited Jennifer and me into the kitchen to punch down her from-scratch bread dough once it’s risen. And since we were little, Jennifer and I have found the squishy texture hard to resist before it’s ready. It’s become a tradition in and of itself.

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Every year, my sister & I try to squish the dough before it’s ready. Sometimes, our mom stops us in time.

The meal turned out wonderfully, despite Jennifer’s and my mischievous attempts. The menu: turkey, stuffing, white bread, cranberry sauce, pumpkin muffins, cranberry muffins, steamed green beans, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and apple pie–along with pear wine that I picked up in South Haven with Lindsey and Megan. Absolutely delicious, all of it!

Actually, I was lucky enough to enjoy not one, but two Thanksgivings this year.

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The “kids” at Jeremiah’s family’s Thanksgiving, left to right: Jeremiah, me, Sarah, Jessie, and Alex.

I had a lot to be grateful for this year. The Broke and the Bookish suggested a “Top Ten” this week that I think is very appropriate.

Top Ten: Things I’m Grateful For
(in no particular order)

1 & 2: Family and Friends

My former classmate and fellow blogger, Frank, put it best in his “grateful things” post: “friends who are like family and family who are like friends.” I really couldn’t have put it better myself. Both have shaped my life tremendously, in the ways they support and guide me–and I like to think I do the same for them. I’ve been blessed to have wonderful relationships with both family and friends that have evolved over the years, only getting better as our lives become more developed and more full. These categories overlap, too: eight years ago, my friends cooked and brought a full Thanksgiving dinner to the hospital for my family. Even if we don’t have as much room in our schedules to be together now, they take up more room than ever in my heart. ❤ I LOVE YOU ALL!!! ❤ ❤

3: Oreo & Chad

Perhaps our babies belong with #1, but they are a different, more adorable species, so I think they can have their own category. Our babies are guinea pigs–see this poem to read just how much they mean to me. Our babies–both so different and wonderful–have awakened a new type of love in me. Though I can be, um, “motherly” to others I love, there’s nothing like loving a (guinea pig) baby. They have enriched my life on such a deep level; they are the embodiment of love. They have me wrapped around their little paws, if you couldn’t tell.

4: Jeremiah & His Family

Similar to #1 & 2, I’ve known them a long time (eight years!) and my relationship with each of them gets better every day (or for the most part, as romances go! 😉 ). I’m lucky to have such a supportive boyfriend who doesn’t mind when I fall into my fantasy worlds I’m writing where there is no cell phone reception…or food…or blinking. Always supportive, always devoted, always loving. Not to get mushy, but I LOVE YOU Jeremiah. (OK, I’m always mushy…you know this by now, dear readers.) I’m so lucky that this package deal includes his family–I’m close with each one of them. His sisters are among my best friends!

Readers, I’ve RUN OUT OF TIME, so in an uncharacteristic move, the rest of the list will be brief!

5: My Faith & God

He has always been there for me, even when I wasn’t paying as much attention to Him as I should have been. He saved me, in more ways than one, and I think He brought me back to do good–and I think that is through:

6: My Writing & Speaking

Communication is vital to all of our lives, and we often take it for granted until it’s taken away from us. I’m grateful mine has come back in such a way–I have so much to say, and I can’t wait to share it all. Dear readers, you are an integral part of this! Thank you for listening to what I have to say and encouraging me to move onward in this journey. ❤

7: Books

Books have been an integral part of my life, shaping the way I think and the person I want to be. They bridge continents and eras, connecting our human existence and making sense of this crazy thing called life.

8: My Job & Coworkers

I’m so blessed to have a job where I get to do what I love every day: writing, editing, public speaking, and events. I’m doing it all in a place I believe in passionately–Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital–and I get to apply my skills to fundraising and publicity purposes for this wonderful place. The icing on the cake that I did not expect (but should have!) is that I LOVE my coworkers. Several of them have become some of my very best friends.

9: Nature

I’m constantly inspired by nature. It’s as alive and changing as humanity itself, and its unpredictable beauty and nurturing are gifts to us.

10: My Health

Well, this one is pretty self-explanatory, especially with my recent reflective post about my TBI. Against all odds (<5%), I have survived a near-fatal injury, and against even greater odds, I am living a beautiful, healthy life. This is another one we take for granted, and every time I’m having a bad hair day, I remind myself that there was a time when I had no hair on one side of my head–boy, how it grew back with gusto (see frizzy picture above). I am blessed and very grateful. ❤

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I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving too, readers. I am grateful for each and every one of you. ❤

“Let it Go”: Inspirational Song from Disney’s “Frozen”

Hello, dear readers. Thank you for your warm response to my last post; it means a lot to me. Tonight, I wanted to share a song with you that I’ve been listening to nonstop (mobile users, click here): “Let it Go,” from the Frozen soundtrack (available for preorder on Amazon). It’s making me even more excited to see the upcoming Disney movie. I love almost all Disney movies, especially the princess ones, but I can tell this one is going to have special significance to me–especially for the reasons I described in my last TBI postFrozen is not only based on a classic fairy tale (Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen”), but it also focuses on the power of the love between sisters.

the power of family is the strongest magic of all

Via TangledDisneyFrozen on Tumblr

This song is a bit more poppy than I usually lean towards (at least this version of it; I suspect Idina Menzel’s movie version will be less so); however, it’s very catchy and uplifting. Demi Lovato’s voice is amazing, as always. I do love the message in it, too. These lines were especially significant to me, in light of yesterday’s post/my TBI journey:

It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small,
And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all.
Up here in the open* air, I finally can breathe;
I know I left a lot behind, but I’m too relieved to grieve!

*I can’t tell if she’s singing “open” or “cold, thin” here–I prefer “open,” for my purposes. 😉

I so relate to that feeling–that feeling of perspective and being relieved when you let go of your worries and embrace your gifts, as unlikely or troublesome as they might initially seem. ❤

I’ll post my reaction to this movie once I’ve seen it; hopefully, I can see it for my birthday next week (cementing my princess status, I think). I’m hoping the movie will be as good as I’m imagining it to be! 😀