Overcoming obstacles with Optimism

Posts tagged ‘communication’

8 Ideas for Love in a Box

Whether you have a college student in your family or know of a military member, hopefully you have had an opportunity to put a smile on their face by sending a care package. It is that time of year where we wish our students well and send them off on their own. Whether it is their first time away from home or their fourth, a box of love always delivers happiness.

Over the years, as a military family, we have sent many care packages. I am hoping some of you have also sent and received these boxes of love. I am always looking for new ideas of what to put in my flat rate boxes.

Here are a few ideas of themed care packages:

Feel Better Soon
Lipton Soup Secret Chicken Noodle Soup
Traditional Medicinals Throat Coat Tea
Cough drops with honey
A box of Kleenex

Movie Night (One of my favorites)
A few new/favorite DVD’s
Boxes of movie size candy

I Love You a Latte
Tins of cappuccino mixes
Instant coffee
Non-dairy creamer
A new coffee mug
Sugar packets

Stress Reliever
Squishy tension ball
Pack this all with a lot of bubble wrap for them to pop

Boxed Up Bathroom
Toilet paper (the softer the better)
Shampoo & conditioner

You’ve Been Framed
Calendar made specifically to include photos of family and friends
Various size, random photographs offering fun memories
Tape to hang these pictures
A digital picture frame filled with pictures

Kidding Around
Crayons and a coloring book
Pez candy and dispenser
Nerf balls
Silly string

Something’s Fishy
Let’s Go Fishin’ game with batteries
Swedish fish candy
Gold Fish crackers
Gummy worms

Care Package flat rate box

These are my ideas. Now I want to read yours. What are some care packages you have heard about, seen, or received?

It Happened in Vegas

We had a great trip to Las Vegas, Nevada last month. I met a lot of amazing people while we were there. I was able to work a lot, but –of course- we also found time to play. We spent a few nights at the Downtown Grand. From there, we could easily get to University of Nevada – Las Vegas. I spent time meeting with sociology students at the college. After I spoke about the neurological conditions I had experienced, my visit led to conversations about medical care in America, how one identifies with one’s self, and various educational and family topics.

The next day offered an opportunity to visit the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas: Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. If you are interested in architecture, I highly recommend you look at the design of their building. It is quite fascinating both inside and outside. I was honored to have been invited in to their center to speak with doctors and staff. It is always rewarding to relay first-hand experiences with the people who work hard to advance the knowledge of how our brains work. While I think it is important for them to hear a patient’s perspective, I also find it fascinating when they share with me the new programs which are paving the way to healthier brains.

I met countless citizens of the downtown community in Las Vegas. The Window was a nice place to speak and meet people. I answered questions from curious minds. Downtown Podcast invited me into a venue I had never before had a chance to experience during my journey. Here, a group of volunteers come together once a week and videotape a podcast to share information with their growing community. I was lucky to have had the opportunity to meet this circle of passionate, civic-minded adults.

We did take time off from meetings and talking to people. We ate an over-abundant amount of delicious pizza at the award-winning Pizza Rock. This restaurant has four different wood fired pizza ovens which all cook at different temperatures. It was interesting to see pizzas cooked this way. Then we took a short walk to the Mob Museum. We spent hours and hours in there and could have spent longer.


Following my presentation at The Window.

Following my presentation at The Window.

Las Vegas provided me with the chance to meet special people who offer a lot of hope for our future. Each time I visit a new community, I learn something unique about what they have to offer. This trip reminded me of a great part of the city waiting to be seen, heard, and experienced beyond the strip. Most people are not fortunate enough to see this area during their visit to Las Vegas.

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


Question & Answer Week 1 – a

What has your “disability” (for lack of a better word) taught you about the human race? –Laura Cyrek

          I am sure you have heard the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”.    There is a profound amount of truth to this when you look at other individuals.  It is easy to judge people.  It’s not nearly as easy for us to forego assumptions, and focus on what is inside this person’s heart. When strangers approach you, judgments often leap into your mind:  Their eyes dart too quickly; they are not truthful.  Their misfit clothes have been worn too often and are getting holes; they don’t have much money.

We often don’t take the time or effort required to discover what is inside this person. Have you read Cross in the Closet?  It covers a wonderful, controversial topic.  The underlying message is very powerful.  This book highlights the need to love people for who they are.  This is a challenge we could all work on in our lives.

What have I learned about the human race?  There is a lot of good out there in our world.  A lot of good.  We need to take notice of this good, and try not to get pulled into the negativity stemming from quick judgments we too often apply.

Everyone has a story.  Every person has a pivotal point or experience that helped shape them into who they are today.  Look deeper than what you see at first.  Their story may be outrageously funny or horrifically sad.  Find these stories and you will better understand who these strangers are.  The human race is a beautiful collaboration of people.  Even people who have built walls up to protect themselves and lurk in a world of sadness and anger have a warm spirit under that dark shell.  People are inherently warm and loving.  Be careful not to misjudge what you see in your passing glance.  Find their story, and you will better understand them as individuals.  Everybody has a story.  Every person has a passion and a dream.  What is your dream?



Was there a specific event or moment that gave you the courage to share the story of your condition with the public? – Amanda Feld

          Over the years, I searched extensively for individuals writing and speaking about my four longest lasting conditions: epilepsy, young stroke patients’ recoveries, hemianopsia and prosopagnosia.  Rarely could I find first-hand accounts of what it was like to live with these conditions.  I did not want to linger in the shadows of scientific studies where 28% of patients found this or 68.7% improvement rate was found with this.  I wanted to hear from specific individuals who had faced the world and succeeded in living a full life despite limitations. 

I knew I had a story to share, and I knew other people could learn from it.  It wasn’t until two years ago I met John Riehl that my hope to share this story became a reality.  John is an amazing man.  I am grateful he saw value in my message and helped me take it to a larger population.  John put together a wonderful video that helped tell my story.  Through John, I had great fortune of becoming friends with professor and documentary film maker Dave Gould.  He has helped me connect with even more people.  This summer I will begin speaking with the American Heart Association of San Diego.  My story is slowly spreading to more and more people.  The response of gratitude is overwhelming when I realize everything I have experienced is now helping others find their way through a journey of adversity.

          My willingness to share my story has nothing to do with courage.  This drive to share my experiences stems from being lost and wanting someone to reach out their hand to show me possibilities of a bright future defined by hard work and motivation not medical challenges.  I did not want to be a statistic defined by research found in medical journals and hand-outs in doctor’s offices and hospitals.  It is my privilege to be able to help more and more people see beyond these statistics.  I feel I can now give back and help people realize adversity does not need to take you over and keep you from reaching your full potential.   Regardless of the roadblocks, obstacles can be overcome through our use of optimism.  Every person has the ability to uncover their inner strengths.



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