Overcoming obstacles with Optimism

Posts tagged ‘art’

Between the Covers

What is in my book BrainStorming: Functional Lessons from a Dysfunctional Brain?
Between the covers you will find:

• 187 pages
• Over 5 years of planning
• 100+ essays divided into 9 categories
• Lessons guided by people who have spoken to me from around the world

I started this blog based on a few questions I was asked by research scientists regarding coping techniques for prosopagnosia. These questions led to more questions. I soon started to write answers to questions I had been pondering in my own mind and were not yet thought of by doctors. And so, years of writing began.
This blog has become my outlet for self-discovery and offered wonderful connections with readers around the world. A long time ago, I started to entertain the idea of publishing a book. After every presentation I had given, at least one person asked why I had not written a book yet. This question was followed with when will I write the book? At first, I doubted my ability. I soon decided that there were people waiting for me to write it, and I loved writing. I went for it.

For nearly a year now, I have been rearranging essays from this blog and trying to determine which essays are the best. And so, the final product is nearly here. Publishers, my book editor (I have the greatest one by the way), and numerous supporters have paved the way for this book to be published. I will have it listed on my new website very, very soon. By the way, have you checked out tarafall.com yet?

Next week I will be traveling half-way across America for a book promotion tour. This will allow me to see old friends and celebrate new accomplishment. Yes, the essays are from the blog, but now you will see the ones I am most excited to share all in one book. Stop back soon to see information on how you can order your copy of BrainStorming: Functional Lessons from a Dysfunctional Brain.

“We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel… is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.”

– Ursula K. Le Guin

See With No Pictures & Hear With No Sounds

I was asked a terrific question during a recent classroom visit.  I spoke about a volunteer who described a picture which was hanging on my hospital wall during the time when I had no eyesight.  I told everyone how beautiful this picture was.  This lady taught me we do not need any eyesight to see the beautiful pictures our world offers.  Later, after learning I also lost my visual memory which causes me to no longer be able to see images in my mind, a student asked how I was able to “see” in such great detail this picture the volunteer described to me.  I answered her question.  However, I did not feel my answer was adequate.  This is one reason I love being asked questions.  It forces me to look deeper into my condition and help everyone –including myself- learn more about how my damaged brain works.



            So, how is it the volunteer could create such an amazing image for me when I was blind and was unable to conjure up pictures in my mind?  My more detailed answer to this question: Have you heard Mozart’s 65th symphony in B minor?


Let me describe it to you: First, there is silence.  A bassoon begins to make the only sound.  This bassoon sounds lonely, almost haunting, as it repeats the same note slowly holding it longer and longer each time in between lengthy breaths.  Finally, when you are certain the player has no air left, the tuba joins in adding its low call begging to break the painful bassoon beat.  The trumpet joins with the tuba.  Their sounds come together becoming almost inseparable.  Other brass instruments join in beat by beat.  The lonely, slow bassoon sound is nearly forgotten as all the brass begins to play together.  Suddenly you become lost in the horn sounds.  Their beat becomes more frantic.  You listen closer.  Children suddenly look around anxiously.  You can’t pull yourself away from the horns.  Drums add what sounds like marching feet finding a battle.  The noise becomes chaotic.  The rhythm is lost.  Its raging speed is frantic.  Suddenly: CRASH!!  …. A cymbal crashes destroying and stopping all other sounds.  The noise ends leaving complete silence.  Silence fills the stage and the room.  Nothing is heard as every person holds their breath.  The heart pounding crescendo you just experienced leaves confusion having been stopped so abruptly.  Then one lonely piccolo gently breaks the silence.  A sweet, long pitch fills the fragile air.  Three flutes follow.  The dark noise which built to silence is now filled with peace.  You feel light as the flutes beckon happiness.  The clarinets join, and you feel swept away.  Chaos, anxiousness, is replaced with happiness.  Do you feel what the flutes are offering, the peace? 


Can you feel the emotional pull we have just danced through?  But Mozart never did compose a 65th symphony is B minor.  You would have never heard that piece.  Unless you have studied music at great length, you cannot identify the sounds and the feeling this combination of instruments could create.  Yet, if you were told this story with dramatic voice intonation, your heart could race.  You anticipate what would follow the crash of the cymbal.

            Just like I no longer have the ability to see pictures in my mind, you did not have the ability to hear the full symphony.  And, in the end, we all have a similar experience.  The picture was described for me so my memory could assist my emotions in creating a wonderful image, if not for me to see, at least for me to feel.  This is a symphony you will never hear, yet I hope it made your pulse race.  It can leave you wondering the rest of the day how words leave you in awe over a beautiful sound you will never be able to hear.  This hospital volunteer left me seeing a beautiful picture.  I hope I leave you hearing a beautiful symphony.  I truly believe it is possible to see without having any pictures and to hear without having any sounds.

Thank you morguefile.com for the use of these photos


Honored To Have Presented

I took a short time off from blogging to prepare for and attend The Examined Life Conference: Writing, Humanities and the Art of Medicine.  I met many wonderful people on this adventure.  My trip was made even more special by an invitation to speak at a Life Design’s Class and a dormitory.  When I take the opportunity to speak to groups, it always leaves me with a lingering awe over how my message is received the same way by various, completely different communities.  All these events were rewarding in this surprisingly similar way: I had eighteen year-old students and doctors alike wipe their eyes and tell me how much they appreciated the lessons I offered.  On the plane ride home, I read the same reaction through thank you notes people went out of their way to write and deliver.

Examined Life Conference program 2013


This was the information provided in programs to offer an understanding of why I was there to speak.

Information regarding my presentation.

Information regarding my presentation.

After the conference registration and welcome, I was in the the first set of presenters.   We went around the room for introductions when, lo-and-behold, I heard a name and recognized the voice of a dear college friend.  She drove four hours to surprise and support me.  Afterwards, we were able to spend a few hours catching up.  What a wonderful surprise!  It was a great gift and a special way to start my three-day conference.


Wonderful surprise visitor to my Examined Life Conference presentation

Wonderful surprise visitor to my Examined Life Conference presentation


My week ended far too quickly.  While listening to other presenters, I learned more about writing and how it can fit into the medical world to heal and help individuals grow.  I met amazing people who had wonderful hearts and strong spirits.  These are people who are destined to make a positive change in the world.  I heard some beautiful poetry and even received one by email.  Thank you, Susanna, for leaving me awed and speechless with your words that truly struck a chord in my memory.  Abbi shared lessons of challenges and growth she built from an unimaginable heroic story.  You are a strong, wonderful woman Abbi.  Heather left me excited to see what she started writing, inspired by what I shared.


If I met you and we chatted for a while, thank you for sharing a piece of yourself with me.  I hope I left behind lessons others can grow from as their lives evolve.  I know there were many seeds planted within me this past week.  To the students I met, to the individuals I chatted with from planes to hotels and to all those in between who spent time learning and speaking with me, thank you for a week that left my spirit overflowing with ideas, hope and gratitude.




"I'm leaving on a jet plane.  Don't know when I'll be back again. Oh...I hate to go." -John Denver

“I’m leaving on a jet plane. Don’t know when I’ll be back again. Oh…I hate to go.” -John Denver

Weekly Serving of Optimism: Quotes & Thoughts (St. Patrick’s Day)

Thank you http://photodaisy.blogspot.com/ and morgue file for the use of this photo

I celebrate a summer birthday.  Due to the fact I was doomed to always miss the school ritual of bringing in birthday cake and celebrating with my classmates, my parents embraced our Irish heritage and proclaimed St. Patrick’s Day as my day to take in treats.  This yearly activity created many fond memories for this March 17th holiday.

St. Patrick’s Day is now right around the corner.  As an adult, I have attempted to continue creating fun memories regarding this day with my children.  We will soon be making shamrock pictures and creating stories about leprechauns.  I always find warmth, happiness and sometimes humor within common St. Patrick’s Day sayings and blessings.  Here are a few, I found just for you:

“May the Irish hills caress you.

May her lakes and rivers bless you.

May the luck of the Irish enfold you.

May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.”

Morgue File photo

“May you have warm words on a cold evening,

a full moon on a dark night,

and the road downhill all the way to your door.”


Never iron a four-leaf clover, because you don’t want to press your luck. –Unknown


“May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields.

And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.”


“May God give you…

For every storm a rainbow, for every tear a smile,

For every care a promise and a blessing in each trial.

For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share,

For every sigh a sweet song and an answer for each prayer.”


“May you be in Heaven a half hour before the Devil knows you’re dead!”


This last blessing is one that always brings a smile to my face:

“As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point in the wrong direction!”

Thank you Kevin Connors for this Morgue File photo

I would love to read your favorite Irish blessing or saying.  Do you know a good Irish toast or joke?  Share those, too.  I can’t wait to read your comments!  As the sign said that used to hang in an old, familiar kitchen, “Éirinn go Brách”.

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