Overcoming obstacles with Optimism

Posts tagged ‘health’

Thank You for Watching & Sharing

“I sometimes walk into walls.
I will never recognize who someone is.
Occasionally I still fall down
which only serves to remind me…
… that I am blessed.”

– Tara Fall, author, educator… and seizure, brain surgery, and stroke survivor




Testing Gravity

“You may get skinned knees and elbows, but it’s worth it if you score a spectacular goal.”   Mia Hamm

 July 07, 2014


In 1687, Sir Isaac Newton watched an apple fall from a tree and began developing his Universal Law of Gravitation. In the past 327 years, this theory for gravity has been tested time and time again. It’s been proven true with every experiment. I once saw on a stroke survivor t-shirt, “I didn’t fall, I was just testing the existence of gravity”. I now declare to test it when falling on my knees, my hands, my elbows and, most recently, my face. Generally, I fall once every six month or so.


July 06, 2014

July 06, 2014


Early this month I traveled to my hometown. Presentations had been scheduled for the first Monday I was there. The day before this speech, my parents had graciously offered to invite extended family over for a meal. Being two thousand miles away, our visits are rare but treasured.

The morning of our family get-together, I went out for a walk with my husband and Mom. During this walk, I tested gravity again. As I fell, I stopped myself with the hand holding my phone, my chin, and my front, right tooth. I broke that tooth. My speech was slurred. I had a presentation in eighteen hours. My chin was cut deep enough we thought I might require stitches. My wrist and knees were bleeding. I had family coming over in two hours.

Thankfully, there’s a wonderful emergency room in a nearby small town. They saw me right away and fixed me with concern, compassion, and medical skill. An amazing dentist in our town rushed to his office on this Sunday morning and bonded my tooth. Thank you Wolken Dental for making it appear as if nothing ever happened. My visiting family forgave me, and even helped me laugh about my dramatic entrance a few hours late.

When I started book talks and presentations over the next week, the participants not only heard about the challenges life delivers as a young stroke patient, but also saw these challenges first-hand from the battle wounds I wore on my face, wrists, and knees. The speech offered a great demonstration of my ongoing attempt to help people understand when you fall, you brush off your knees, wipe your hands, and carry on.

People have said I am too positive. I have heard I am unreasonably optimistic. Yes. Yes to both of these statements. I am hopeful. I am positive. I am happy and optimistic. You see, for example with this fall, I am acutely aware what a gift I have walking again. I know exactly how far I have come and am reminded what is still missing. I prefer to celebrate what I have recovered since my stroke. I would never fall down, never break a tooth, and never crack open my chin or scrape up my knees if I was bound to a wheelchair. I am walking. I get out of bed every morning and walk independently. If falling down every six months is the price I have to pay for walking, well, I consider that a mighty small price for the opportunity to experience the other abilities I celebrate and embrace every other day of the year.

Next day at Oelwein library ready to present.

Next day at Oelwein library ready to present.

Book talk and presentation in Guttenberg July 8, 2014

Book talk and presentation in Guttenberg July 8, 2014



I fell down. I brushed off my knees, wiped my hands, and carried on.



Its Name Is Stroke

“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.” Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym

There is an old American idiom, “kick butt and take names”. I had to make a choice. I understood what had happened. I understood my body was not going to patiently wait for a response. It was by no means a conscious immediate choice to face this challenge. Yet, the choice was mine and mine alone: Learn to fight for what I lost and use -to the fullest- what I had remaining. No one else could make my leg and arm work. Not even the most specialized doctors could fix the areas of my brain the stroke took away.

May is National Stroke Awareness Month. I want people to know that strokes affect everyone differently. Where the damage hits the brain, and how severely it hits, will change the possible outcome. This reality should be neither misunderstood nor denied. Everyone has to have hope. Healing will come in different forms and at different speeds. But, no one should deny that the spirit and tenacity with which brain injuries are fought will also alter the recovery outcome.

There was a chance I would not walk again without assistive devices. There was a chance I would not see again. There was a lot unknown. The brain surgery and following stroke tried to kick my butt. However, I am too stubborn and way too competitive to allow this.

I still do not have any left peripheral eyesight. I also have several remaining disabilities you can’t see. People look at me and assume I have a completely able body and mind. The key is I face my challenges. They do limit what I am able to do, but I never stop fighting against those limitation and daring to have hope of where I believe I can be. Below is the picture from a walking tracker I use every morning when I go out for walks. These numbers represent what I have done during the month of May. The doctors were right; I will never get back my eyesight. The doctors were sort of wrong… I can walk independently again, but I cannot run – yet.

I will fight to create my destiny with an immense amount of gratitude. The stroke came at me. It attacked my brain. It left me with a brain injury. I accepted the challenge and fought back. In the end of this struggle I want it to be known, I kicked the stroke’s butt and I am eager to share its name!


“Challenges in life can either enrich you or poison you. You are the one who decides.” Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience


Not running yet, but I am on my way. Never give up!

MENIFEE: Woman Facing Her Problems (revisiting)

“Facing Her Problems” was written by Peter Surowski and published August 27, 2012 in Press-Enterprise.  Thank you, Peter, for the time and energy you spent writing this piece last year to help raise awareness of prosopagnosia and neuroscience research.  Over the past year, I have heard from people throughout Southern California commenting on how well your article was written and how informative it was.

MENIFEE: Woman can’t recognize her own face.

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