The Jello Brain

The Jello Brain

or

Part 5 of Where I’ve Been the Last Four Months

Part 1: The Cow

Part 2: The Omelettes 

Part 3: The Concussion

Part 4: The Therapy

When asked how I’m doing now I can look back and see how very far I’ve come in the last months and I want to say I’m better.

I have gotten better.

But better is not 100%. In some areas I’m not even close and the answer of better needs to be tempered in a way that has me fumbling for words to explain.

I can do almost everything I would like to now. And almost everything exhausts me. An afternoon nap is a necessity. Sometimes a morning and evening nap are too. I am no longer a night owl. I can’t stay up that long.

Some days I have good brain days and I can do the things and take a nap and do more things and feel as though one day I might even be able to do all thing things I’d like to in a day.

Some days I can do the things!

Then there are times, sometimes hours, sometimes days that I’m unable to do more than the bare minimum. Times that I feel that instead of living life I am crawling through it using every inch of fingernails (that are quite strong thanks to all the healthy foods I’ve been eating to give my brain as much fuel as I can to help it along) to pull my way through an activity, a conversation or a day. Those days are frustrating.

Some days I fall asleep on the floor using a child’s boot as a pillow.

But when I get the most frustrated I think of something my therapist said that went something like this:

Think of your brain like a nice bowl of jello that’s all set up in the fridge. When you have a concussion it’s like someone takes that bowl and shakes it up into a lumpy bumpy mess. After a few hours if you leave it alone the jello goes back to the shape it was but all through the inside of it are cracks and fissures. That is what happened to your brain when you got your concussion.

So, considering my brain is a pile of cracked jello working to mend itself together, I think I’m doing remarkably well.

When I’m not doing well, when I’m too tired, have done too much or am just having a bad day, the best way I have found to describe what it feels like is that it’s like all the bad parts of being drunk.

I start to feel disconnected from everything around me. I have trouble focusing, both visually and mentally. I try my best to talk normally but sometimes I can hear myself fumbling words or a conversation and I can’t seem to catch back hold of it. And, like all truly inebriated people, at some point I just need to lay down and pass out for awhile.

I’m not actually drunk right now but if I seem like it please excuse me. It’s just my broken jello brain.

The Therapy

The Therapy

or

Part 4 of Where I’ve Been The Last Four Months

Part 1: The Cow

Part 2: The Omelettes 

Part 3: The Concussion

I needed help but I was unable to read and research anything on my own. We had already learned that most doctors don’t know what to do with concussions and had no idea where to turn for advice. Fortunately, a friend let us know that physical therapists can have concussion training and, even better, my current physical therapist was one of them.

Within the first two weeks I was working with him doing things that should have been painfully easy but were next to impossible for me.

Can you hold your arm out in front of you, look at your thumb, close your eyes, turn your head, open your eyes and still be looking at your thumb? I couldn’t. It’s depressing not to be able to find one of your own body parts and also vindicating. Something really was wrong with me.

From my therapist I learned that my sprained neck muscles were messing with my positional awareness and my inner ear or vestibular system was also out of whack… and my eyes… well they didn’t track quite like they were supposed to either.

I diligently did my therapy. I tracked post it notes with my eyes and worked on word searches that had no words. Everything spiked nausea, dizziness or headaches. I’d wait for symptoms to subside and do it again.

If you’ve been to physical therapy you know how they give you small, evil exercises that are hard and exhaust your muscles. Working my brain was just like that. Instead of burning muscles I had nausea and instead of wobbly fatigue I had headaches. But I kept on. Working until the symptoms would spike. Letting them come back down and doing it again and again until I could find my thumb and track the post it notes. Then of course in true PT fashion no gold stars were awarded. (If you are a physical therapist you really need to consider giving out stickers. I’m telling you a sticker chart would make even adults feel accomplishment.) Instead I was congratulated with another small but deceptively evil task. Eventually I graduated to word searches with words and tracking medicine balls as I moved them around my body.

And slowly.

So slowly.

My brain started getting better.

nanopoblano2019

It’s November and National Blog Writing Month! My team, the Tiny Peppers, is doing things a little differently this year.  Instead of posting every single day we are all aiming for: 10 days of posts, 10 days of reading/commenting, and 10 days of sharing posts through any other platform.  Happy Blogging! 

The Concussion

The Concussion

or

Part 3 of Where I’ve Been The Last Four Months

Part 1: The Cow

Part 2: The Omelettes 

It’s hard to explain what happens when your own brain is injured.

To begin with it’s hard to do a lot of things when your brain is injured, like think straight, much less do all that goes into writing down thoughts in a way others can read. In addition, our brains seem to hide their worst symptoms from us. “I’m fine” has never been so unintentionally and obviously false!

At the same time there is a very real sense that everything wrong with you is just in your head. With the added twist that everything wrong with you is, quite literally, “all in your head”. Even now thinking about that makes my head spin and brings out a reluctance to talk about any of it. But, despite all that, I’d like to try to explain what my concussion has been like.

I’m going to indulge in all the gory and pathetic details in these next few posts in a way I usually never would on this blog.  I’m going to lay it all out there because I (and those around me) had so little idea of what a concussion can actually be like and we were unprepared for what was in store for me. Hopefully these will help someone, sometime, be a bit more prepared than we were.


In those first days and weeks after the accident when things were at their worst they looked like this:

I couldn’t stay awake for more than an hour or two at a time for the first days. After a few days I had about four hours in me before I fell asleep. And not like normal “I think I’m kind of tired,” but stumbling, unable to function, I’m just going to pass out on the floor if I don’t make it to a bed, tired that comes from a brain that is truly out of energy.

When I tried to read, the letters and words swam around instead of holding still like good little words should. This was particularly bad in the middle of a sentence or paragraph where they swam into different lines and became all jumbled up.

I couldn’t visually focus on anything. I could see everything but bringing anything into sharp focus was hard to impossible depending on how tired I was.

Essentially everything made me motion sick. Riding in the car gave me a headache and made me dizzy, driving was out of the question for many reasons, and even walking made me nauseous.

I was light sensitive. Hiding like a vampire on bad days and venturing out in hat and sunglasses on good days.

Anything that provoked symptoms started out by giving me cotton mouth and I was the most hydrated human ever trying to combat it.

Headaches were constant and I started classifying and categorizing them. That’s the one from trying to use a screen. That’s where it hurts if I try to read. That one is from staying awake too long…

My balance was terribly bad, at times I needed to hold on to John’s arm to navigate. And standing on one foot (something I am normally quite good at) was next to impossible.

What I didn’t know at the time is that I spoke slowly and lost the thread of conversation. I knew that sometimes I couldn’t find the right words. I knew I was tired. But it wasn’t until a few weeks later when people told me things like “you sound so much better now that you aren’t all drugged up” (I never took anything but ibuprofen) and “you finally sound like yourself again” that I realized that I hadn’t been sounding like myself.

A week after the accident my main activity, other than sleeping, was coloring while listening to audio books.

I, clearly, needed more medical help.

nanopoblano2019

It’s November and National Blog Writing Month! My team, the Tiny Peppers, is doing things a little differently this year.  Instead of posting every single day we are all aiming for: 10 days of posts, 10 days of reading/commenting, and 10 days of sharing posts through any other platform.  Happy Blogging! 

The Omelettes

The Omelettes

Or

Part 2 of Why I’ve Been Missing for Four Months

Read part 1 here: The Cow

After the cow we called the authorities and we called friends. Kind strangers stopped at the side of the road to help. Kinder friends drove us to the ER and took care of our children. We were bruised and scraped up, shaken and exhausted but most definitely alive and grateful.

In the morning we told the girls what happened and Clara responded by making us the best omelette I’ve ever eaten.  It was stuffed with chorizo and cheese and delivered it to us in bed. As we went through the day it became clear that in addition to the bruises and scrapes, our brains had been addled in the run in with the cow.

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John couldn’t come up with the right words and I couldn’t stay awake for more than an hour. In short, we had concussions. Clara laughed at John’s language slip ups and made us another omelette with fresh garden herbs.

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My mom drove Ivy to her summer camp, Clara fed us omelettes with cherry tomatoes that she picked when she went to collect the eggs with Jane. Friends picked up the girls and took them for the day (but not until Clara made us omelettes with edible flowers as garnish) and dropped off more food. We were extremely well cared for while we rested and recovered.

By the end the of the week, John was more or less back to himself. He could read, he could drive, he tired easily but he was clearly on the mend.

I was not.

And Clara, she expanded her omelette making to include vegetable faces…img_2042.jpg

…and we were all grateful.

nanopoblano2019

It’s November and National Blog Writing Month! My team, the Tiny Peppers, is doing things a little differently this year.  Instead of posting every single day we are all aiming for: 10 days of posts, 10 days of reading/commenting, and 10 days of sharing posts through any other platform.  Happy Blogging! 

The Cow

The Cow

or

Part 1 of Why I’ve Been Missing for Four Months

To be fair it was a much worse night for the cow.

I’m not sure what her plan was that night, camouflaged as she was with her all-black hide blending in with the black asphalt in the black of night on a county highway. She may have had all sorts of plans for her night of freedom or she may just have been dozing off chewing her cud right up until John and I crested the hill in front of her in our little Saturn Ion.

Once she was lit up by the headlights none of us had time to do much of anything while the car barreled on. She didn’t move, John swore, I turned my head to look at him wondering what was going on as the cow slid across the hood of our car, windshield collapsing toward us even as the incline of it launched her into the air. The cow then performed what is likely one of the few three-quarter somersaults with a half twist in the history of cow-dom as she flew to the other side of the road.

And that, sadly, was the end of the cow.

It was also the end of our car.

But not, thankfully, of us.

nanopoblano2019

It’s November and National Blog Writing Month! My team, the Tiny Peppers, is doing things a little differently this year.  Instead of posting every single day we are all aiming for: 10 days of posts, 10 days of reading/commenting, and 10 days of sharing posts through any other platform.  Happy Blogging! 

Seeing Flowers

Parenting is overwhelming.

Not necessarily on a daily basis. On a daily basis you are required to keep the children safe and feed them. That’s not bad.  I mean they keep requesting to be fed three times a day this summer, but if they are all still alive at the end of the day you’re winning. It’s when you start to think about the tiny humans you are raising and what they might become that the weight of the parenting responsibility comes crashing down like a summer’s worth freeze pops and pool floaties.

Are you raising them to be kind but also to stand up for themselves? Will they be generous but not taken advantage of? Are they polite? Do they wash their hands when they are supposed to? Do they know how to fold a paper bag and collapse a cardboard box? Can they cook a meal? Have you taught them not to talk to strangers but also to be friendly? Can they swim? Can they ride a bike? Do they have decent morals? Have they learned not to lie but also to tell white lies when opening gifts in front of people? Do they eat the food they’re given? Did you remember to teach them how to behave with strange dogs? What do they do with a bully? Are they the bully? …

Parenting is overwhelming.

Today I took my kids to the beach (either I was trying to teach them that if you hurry up and do chores then you can play or I was just tired of being hot and sweaty myself, I forget which). While we cooled off in the lake we noticed catalpa flowers floating by, the girls started to swim them down collecting as many as they could.  As we gathered a small pile on our floatie and tried to tuck them into swimming suits and behind ears as decorations, we heard a group of girls squealing about the toilet paper that was floating by them again.  Aghast I looked up to avoid this floating health hazard only to realize that they had misidentified the beautiful catalpa flowers as toilet paper and were swimming in the other direction. I was still aghast, but for a different reason.

A dramatic re-enactment of the situation staged in our rain barrel.

Parenting is overwhelming.

Are you raising them to be curious enough to look, really look, at the world around them? Are you remembering to teach them to use their brains? (One of mine is in middle school, she forgot how to use her’s but I’m hoping it comes back to her in a few years). Do they run from something different or lean towards it? Can they tell the difference between a nasty piece of trash and flower dropped by a tree?

I left the beach thinking that maybe the only parenting goal should just be to teach children to recognize a flower when they are faced with one.  Even if it’s out of place, even if it’s different, even if they have to stretch their brains to figure out how it came to be there, even if it’s something they’ve never been faced with before.

And if they can do that maybe they can do anything.

Except fold a paper grocery bag.

That one is apparently much trickier than I thought.

Parenting is overwhelming.

But I fed mine more than once today and they got to bed alive, if hours past bedtime, so I’m totally winning and I bet you are too.

 

 

A Shifting of Stars by Kathy Kimbray

The words you guys. The words. Yes, I know, you are thinking. “Uh, excuse me Jessie, books are literally made of words.” But these words describe places in such lyrical ways they roll around in my head painting vivid pictures. I was only on page two…  “Beside me, buildings cringe with moss. Walkways glisten with dirty puddles. Teetering balconies slouch from walls with garments strung between casements like cobwebs.” …and there I was, in love.

I’d like to think it’s more than personal preference that makes this setting of such a vivid scene so important. Thrown into a whirlwind of a fantasy world where the heroine is being marched away in chains by the end of the first chapter you’ve got to be able to get your bearings quickly.  And the beautiful descriptions make sure you do.


I hit the unveiling of the big plot point and found myself in an unexpected conundrum of not knowing whether to complain to the book (sometimes I talk to my books) that “Your characters “big news” is the same thing everyone says and does” or yelling “OH MY… You did what now?!?” which brought me right up to the end where I still was in a conundrum because I couldn’t decide if I was so mad the book ended because I just really wanted to know what happened next or that a reader should seriously and legitimately not be left hanging at such a point.

Would I recommend it? Fellow YA Fantasy readers I suggest you give this one a read and then call me so we can talk about that ending!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

discovered this book because I’m a proud member of Rosie’s Book Review Team!