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Olives — Yum

A few months ago (before I was dizzy!) the folks at Olives from Spain offered up their expert, Annie Sibonney, the Cooking Network star, for an interview. They let me ask her questions and recorded her answers. Here, find that video with plenty of interesting olive facts as well as some recipes that sound delicious. The best part: They are offering one NaPM reader a nice gift — some free olives and olive-related items. Want them to come to your house? Comment below and tell me one thing you like about olives.

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As I am finally starting to slip out of the everyday-I’m-dizzy dizziness, I figured it’s time to share some info I learned along the way. Mostly, so others who are dealing with concussions can learn from my experience. (And what a SUCKY experience it was/is!) Here are some of the more upsetting/annoying things in no particular order…

1) Your resting heart rate and blood pressure may go up.

As an avid exercise fan, I always had a low resting heart rate so when I started having palpitations and a feeling of my heart beating fast I went to the ER. They hooked me up to machines and found that my EKG was abnormal. My resting heart rate was high. They sent me home and told me to follow up with a cardiologist, which I did the next day. They couldn’t find a problem. What no one knew — and they should have — was that it was actually pretty normal for someone a month out of a concussion to have a high resting heart rate. I finally found an article that linked to this study, but not before undergoing a TON of cardiac tests that cost me and my insurance company thousands.

2) Dizziness — even from a concussion — can make you nauseous.

During the past four months I have lost about seven pounds. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s actually probably more. I couldn’t figure out why I was gagging on food and having to force myself to eat. My vestibular therapist helped me sort it out. I was doing a walking exercise and suddenly felt dizzy and then nauseous. A light bulb went off in my brain. Again, wish someone had told me that before I assumed I had something seriously wrong with me.

3) You will get lots of strange symptoms that don’t seem to be related to your head.

There are so many symptoms I had that had nothing to do with the common concussion symptoms of headaches, sleep issues, dizziness and fatigue. For instance, one of the things that happened very early on was that I started having severe night sweats. I woke up drenched in sweat and so incredibly thirsty. At the time, I wondered if I was going through an early menopause — it was that bad. And then just as suddenly as it started it went away. I couldn’t find any research on the topic, but I found a bunch of regular people posting online who were having the same issues.

4) You need to change the way you eat and supplement yourself.

It takes an incredible amount of energy, protein and nutrients to repair a brain, so I did the research and started eating extra meat and taking B-12s, omega-3s and a multivitamin.

Earlier this year the FDA came out with a consumer update that said Omega-3s cannot cure or prevent concussions. If you read it, you understand why. They don’t want people taking omegas to prevent a concussion or going back to play too soon after being concussed. I get it. But I also read plenty of studies that find that omega-3s are really, really good for your brain and DO help it repair itself. This April study from the American Society for Nutrition outlines why Omega-3s, in particular, are so important:

Preclinical investigations demonstrate that dietary consumption of DHA provided either before or after [minor traumatic brain injury (mTBI)] improves functional outcomes, such as spatial learning and memory. Mechanistic investigations suggest that DHA influences multiple aspects of the pathologic molecular signaling cascade that occurs after mTBI.

5) You may be anxious and depressed. No, change that. You’re probably anxious and depressed.

This one is well-supported but no one told me that I would have mental problems following a concussion. I should have guessed it when I started crying and hugging a mud-covered stranger as we were leaving the scene of my accident. I wish someone had. Still, I don’t think it would have prepared me for the crap storm of sadness, anxiety, fear and terror that I’ve been through. Wah, wah. Yeah, I know it sounds whiny to complain with a concussion, but trust me, it really, really sucks.

6) Your family is going to have to change.

Six months ago I did everything in my house. My husband, as he says, did anything I asked him to do. Trouble was, I was such a control freak that I didn’t ask him for much. Asking someone to take on a whole new role isn’t welcome or easy. It’s been a learning experience for both of us. And kids? Well, they don’t like watching Mommy “brain rest” every day. They don’t like having to skip things or miss things or have their lives turned around, either. So yeah, things definitely change.

7) People don’t always understand.

I guess this is true with every illness or injury, but there are people to this day who really don’t get why I am not able to go somewhere. (Or wasn’t able to go somewhere.) Or why I would cancel a vacation or not be able to work for a while. You can tell them, but unless you have a cast on they aren’t going to get it.

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One of the things that always bothered me was when people — mostly other moms — said I was a super mom. I felt like it set me apart and made people less likely to want to be my friend. Since the concussion, I have done a lot of what feels like slacking. It’s completely changed how I feel about myself and swung the pendulum the other direction.

Take religion: I am a catechist for my older daughter. I am one of three teachers since we have a huge class. I realized quickly that teaching — heck, even sitting in — the classes makes me dizzy. So much head movement. So much noise and vestibular input. I still go, though, but I dread every class. I even find myself silently cheering when my kids are too sick for me to attend. That sounds terrible, I know.

Last year — the first year I worked with these women — we switched houses every two months so everyone took a turn hosting. I was supposed to host November and December but I realized there was no way I could host. A one hour class is really two when you factor in cleaning up before and after, setting up and waiting for the parents to come. I reached out to the other teachers and said maybe I could host my months at the library. That way I could cut out the extra hour of work. They were less-than-pleased. I explained my problem and asked if the other teacher would swap months with me. (The vestibular therapist says I will feel much more like myself by January.) They went along with it, but in my head I felt like a slacker.

This same feeling has haunted me over the past months when, for example,  I’ve asked another mom to go to a Girl Scout event in my place or when I told the PTA president that I couldn’t put out the school’s magazine-style newsletter in addition to the one-page newsletter I am already doing. Yes, I signed up for it back in June, but it’s not possible now. If I am going to be sitting in front of a computer it’s got to be for work. (And FWIW: In that case I was stunned that no one even said they felt sorry I was still dizzy or that of course my health was more important. They didn’t even reply to my email!)

So yeah, I am not super mom anymore. It really sucks. And yet it doesn’t.

I have spoken to a therapist, doctors and a priest who have all told me something pretty profound: This concussion, this dizziness should be a wake-up call. I was doing too much, and I didn’t love everything that I was doing.

I volunteered so much at school because I was desperate to be class mom for one of my kids. I figured doing Reflections, school store, both newsletters, and all the other stuff I stepped up for would make me worthy and get me that slot. But you know what? It wasn’t serving me or my family to do so much, especially since very little of it was actually appreciated.

As for some of the other stuff — like volunteering at our beach club — I was doing that to make friends or keep the ones I had. I realized pretty quickly who my real friends are once I hit month two of this nonsense. My beach club work didn’t mean squat. Same goes for being an online coordinator for Girl Scouts and probably 75 percent of the 0ther junk I did. Most of it didn’t mean anything or have any real benefit except to people who are not my kids or my husband.

The concussion also taught me about what I love. I love being a Girl Scout leader. I like teaching religion, but I hate doing it in my home. My family is too busy. Unfortunately, I made that commitment to my older daughter’s class so I will have to honor it for another two and a half years, but if I choose to be a teacher for my younger daughter I will only do it at the church. They have classrooms there that I can teach in and, if one of my kids are sick, they bring in a substitute. I don’t have to scramble or feel bad for dropping extra work on anyone.

So no, I am no longer super mom. I really don’t think I ever was. But since I am trying to be more positive I have to thank the concussion for teaching me yet again what matters. In the long run, very little matters as much as I thought it did.

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Life as a Dizzy Shut-In

When you're dizzy you need to switch from a rocking, moveable office chair to one that is stationary. Like this one from when I was a little girl.

When you’re dizzy you need to switch from a rocking, moveable office chair to one that is stationary. Like this one from when I was a little girl.

It’s been a while since I blogged regularly. For a variety of reasons, really, but lately it’s because I have been busy recovering from a concussion. I have post-concussion syndrome, actually.

What does that mean?

In the beginning it meant I had a headache, was dizzy and exhausted all the time. (If you’ve never been dizzy count your blessings. Dizzy sucks.) It was hard looking at a screen — TV, cell phone, computer, it didn’t matter. I limited my screen time to getting work done. (It’s amazing how we get what we need to get done.) My social interactions dwindled to nothing. Telephone conversations hurt my head. Parties hurt my head. I had a very short fuse and no filter, either, which meant I said stuff that pissed people off. When someone made an inappropriate and rude comment at a block party, I couldn’t ignore it. I snapped and left. When someone did something that I felt was unfair at another gathering, I spoke my mind about it.

The weird thing about post-concussion, though, is that you look fine. You look like yourself so people don’t really have patience or sympathy for your mouth or your ailment. Dizzy? What’s that? You have a concussion? How can a concussion make it so that you’re not yourself? People just don’t understand. It’s been a long ten weeks but now the fatigue and headaches are mostly gone.  I have lingering dizziness, though, and that makes the social isolation continue.

For instance, on Friday a bestie asked me to come to the movies with her and some other girls. I wanted to go but I just couldn’t fathom sitting in a movie theater for an hour. Besides, they were seeing Gone Girl and I didn’t think I could sit through that without post-concussion syndrome so I said no. Yesterday night my husband went to our monthly bowling league. I stayed home. Second month in a row. My vestibular therapist had counseled against going unless I was feeling “100 percent before I left the house.” Bowling alleys are provoking, she says. The noise, the people, the lights. Your eyes need gaze stability looking at the pins.

She has me doing all these exercises to train my brain out of the dizziness and they evoke dizziness so no, I wasn’t 100 percent. Another night getting “brain rest.” I painted with my two kids and the little girl who spent the day with my oldest. I watched The Breakfast Club. I ate apple babka. (Oh, another issue is that the concussion took away my appetite, exacerbated my stomach issues, and caused intense bursts of anxiety. I ended up losing like six or seven pounds. As my husband likes to say, I look like I need to eat a few dozen sandwiches so I am doing a lot of carb loading now to gain back some of the weight.)

But every day I feel a little bit better. I see my progress. Today while staring at the B taped to my wall, I was able to shake my head 40 times in 30 seconds. A few days ago I did 40 shakes in a minute. Progress. Earlier this weekend I was able to have a great conversation with a friend and I didn’t feel drained at all. Work is getting easy again. And faster. I feel like myself again when I sit in front of the computer! That’s huge. I don’t need to use my finger to read on a screen. I’m blogging and it feels good. Good to share what I am feeling. Good that my fingers are flying across the keyboard like they always have. Yes, the vestibular therapist said I will have good days and bad. Yes, I still need to take brain rest for five to ten minutes every few hours, but it’s progress. And that’s a good thing.

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Picture Day Hair

Yesterday was picture day for Big Girl. Today Little Girl got her turn in front of the camera. Both girls donated their hair recently, so they have what I consider shorter hair. Little Girl had more to give so it’s sort of longish. It hits right below her shoulders. Big Girl’s curly locks bounce up when cut so she’s shoulder-length at best. Either way, I felt clumsy and inept trying to style their hair. Facebook only makes it worse.

So many of my friends post photos of their little girls with perfectly coiffed hairstyles. Fish tail braids. French braids. Long, wavy hair with intricate arrangements on top. Big Girl’s hair was combed with product brushed through. (We use Original Sprout Miracle Detangler and Natural Hair Gel. Click here to get $10 off your first order.) She wore a single, thin headband. She looked cute. This morning Little Girl wanted two braids tied back together and a headband. I felt clumsy trying to make her braids, but I did it. It took a while. She also looked cute, but I know I could have done a way better job with both of them. In the whole scheme of things it doesn’t matter all that much, I guess, and that’s what I have to remember.

Both girls are beautiful no matter how their hair is done. As long as it’s clean and frizz-free, I should be happy. They should be happy. So what if I am clumsy when it comes to hair and all things beauty? It is what it is. Besides, there’s always re-take day, right?

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Outgrown Shoes? Donate Them!

So many shoes...

So many shoes…

Looking inside my little one’s closet always surprises me. Where did all those shoes come from? How is it possible she has so many shoes. Then I remember that most of them were handed down from her sister. It makes me feel better, but not completely better. After all, I still bought way too many shoes. Anyway, a few days ago I was pulling all Little Girl’s outgrown shoes out wondering what I was going to do with them. I came back into my office and found an email from Stride Rite. The shoe company this month is running something called “Big Hearts, Little Shoes.”

The company, in conjunction with Little Gym, is collecting gently used shoes for donation to Soles4Souls, an international charity that collects shoes and distributes them to people in need across the world. It’s a lovely charity, and one that I’ve written about in the past. Parents can bring their unwanted shoes to any Little Gym or Stride Rite store and drop them off until the end of this month. Everyone who donates gets a coupon for 20 percent off any same-day purchase of new shoes. However, even if you don’t need new shoes, it’s still a worthwhile donation since you’re helping a child who is probably going without shoes right now. (Many of the donations go to third-world countries where lack of shoes can lead to disease and parasite infection.)

Worn but still have plenty of life.

Worn but still have plenty of life.

So, although we don’t need any more shoes right now I will be taking a ride to a Stride Rite store over the next few weeks to drop off about 10 pair of shoes. I may even go up to the attic and pull down what I’ve saved over the years and cull the stuff that I know my little one just won’t wear.


Our used up markers.

Our used up markers.

I cannot believe school starts in four weeks and six days. How is that possible? The summer is flying by. Last week we even pulled out our school supply lists and started allocating last year’s supplies. Can you imagine? Yes, you read that right. I am the mean mom who doesn’t just go out and buy all new stuff. I make my kids reuse a lot of the items. Scissors, binders, backpacks and lunch boxes get reused over and over again. Pencils and crayons, too.

Sometimes I feel sort of bad about it. Sometimes I don’t. This stuff isn’t cheap but it’s also hard to recycle so I figure the longer we use it, the better it is for the environment. Still, there are some things that simply wear out or need to be replaced. Markers come to mind. We have a large box of markers that are worn out and don’t work anymore, so I made it my business to figure out what to do with them. One visit to the Crayola site and I found my solution.

Crayola has launched a ColorCycle program that takes unwanted markers and turns them into energy. The program, which is completely free for schools, asks people to collect markers, weigh the collection box once the collection is complete (or count the markers), and call FedEx. That’s it. Crayola handles all the rest including paying the postage charges. This is one of those programs that it’s hard not to get behind. Yes, I’d like to do a little more research about how the markers are processed, but I love that our markers aren’t just going into a landfill. I’m so excited about the program I asked our PTA president and vice president if we could run a school-wide recycling program. (As the newly minted chair of the environmental committee at our school I figured that would be a fun first project for us, especially as we, as a school, are replenishing our supplies.) I’m still waiting to hear back, but hopefully some of you will take this idea and run with it, too. Every marker counts, after all!

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Asking for Help

Finding your way home is easier with a little help from your friends.

Finding your way home is easier with a little help from your friends.

“Hey, guys! Can one of you help me find my way back to the house?”

We were sitting in the children’s room of a local library waiting for Big Girl to finish a program. Little Girl was sitting at a newly-installed pod of iPads playing Minecraft. She didn’t know the four other boys who were playing, but in the span of 20 minutes she asked for help about four or five times, at one point relinquishing her screen so one of the kids could get her back to where she wanted to be virtually.

I sat there watching, impressed at how easily she interacts with strangers. Amazed and happy that she not only asks for help but takes it willingly. At one point I caught another mom’s eye and we smiled at each other. How cute was it that she wanted to know if any of the boys wanted to come and help her pick the “pretty flowers” in the game.

She didn’t learn that from me. I don’t ask for help. I could give you all sorts of psychological reasons why, but the point still remains that — in the past — I would suffer alone rather than ask for help. Even though I have seen time and again how freeing it is to ask for help, and how the people around me really want to help.

This weekend was not the best weekend. My mother was in the hospital. I had a car accident. My friends were right there for me. The offers of support and help pinged into my cell phone. Texts from friends asking if I needed anything, offering to drive me anywhere or stay with my kids so I could go see my mom. I turned everyone down. I didn’t want to put anyone out.

My little one, she’s got this accepting help thing down. The big one, not so much. In order to help her, I need to help myself. I need to model good behavior, letting people help and accepting help willingly and with gratitude instead of feeling like I am bothering people or letting them down by not being perfect. Can someone help me figure out how to do that?

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The summer stretches out in front of us. Two and a half months without structure. I plan on taking time to hang out with my kids a lot and one of the things that’s on my to-d0 list is the Summer Movie Express, a program that provides $1 movie tickets for second run flicks.

You can get more information by clicking through here, but basically, Regal Cinemas is offering deeply discounted movie tickets on Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting in July. The movies include fun family favorites like The Smurfs, Turbo, and Rio 2 — stuff you’ve seen but that look better on the big screen. At at $1 a person, you really can’t lose out.

What do you have planned for your kids? I’d love to hear your suggestions.

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Vehicles at the Beach

Our view from the boat.

Our view from the boat. Wish I got a shot of the shiny blue quad!

Yesterday while at the beach a friend’s son pointed out the shiny, new quads that the dockmaster was driving around. They were a nice improvement on the ramshackle golf cart-looking things that they used to drive, but what struck me was that they were still gas-guzzling, fume-spurting vehicles. Here we were at a beautiful town park and we still had to inhale gas fumes.

I wondered why we didn’t have electric vehicles. I wondered why they weren’t hybrids. I guess cost is probably an issue, but at some point, in my opinion, human experience has to be worth more than saving a little money. Besides the fact that it has to be expensive to keep those quads running around. How often do they need to fuel up?

It’s a question I intend to get to the bottom of the next time we visit the beach.

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