There are several books published about Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Of course there is Jill Bolte Taylor’s book, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, which is amazing. It took Jill nearly eight years to regain her near-normal self after suffering a stroke. She has been a speaker about this subject for TED talks. Her talk, called How It Feels to Have a Stroke, is worth every minute of the nearly twenty minutes. Dr. Taylor is a neuroanatomist, a scientist, who studies the nervous system of the brain.
There is also a book by Valerie Greene, another stroke survivor called, Conquering Stroke. Though doctors told her she may never walk or talk again, Valerie had other plans. Her determination, and about ten years, propelled her to writing her book to raise the awareness of stroke and giving hope to stroke victims and their families.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly was written by ELLE editor, Jean-Dominique Bauby who survived his stroke with a totally paralyzed body. His only functional part was his left eye. With this eye and a system of blinks, (ex.: 2 blinks for A, 3 for B) he wrote the account of his stroke. He died shortly after his book was published.
Lee Woodruff wrote In an Instant: A Family’s Journey of Love and Healing. It’s a book about her husband, Bob Woodruff, a news corespondent for ABC News, the TBI he received while on assignment in Taji, Iraq when a bomb struck the tank in which he was riding, and his journey to regain his life.
There are other books out there, but these are, in my opinion, the best. A new book, Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope, will be published later this month by Mark Kelly, Congresswoman, Gabrielle Gifford’s husband, which will recount Gabby’s struggles after being seriously injured by a gun shot to her head near Tucson, Arizona in January 2011. I am eager to read this book.
And if this is not enough, then wait for my book to be published. My book, title to be announced, is an account of my husband, David’s, traumatic brain injury, his fierce dedication to recover, and his return to his Columbia University lab – all the while living as normal a life as possible. I am within site of the completion of the second editing of my book. Copy editing to follow – then on to the tedious process to locate a publisher. Wish me luck!
I hope that my account of David’s determination, perseverance, and healing in style and with grace, will stand proudly on the shelves of libraries and book stores around the world. I hope that it will be an aid to others who suffer from or will suffer from Traumatic Brain Injury, for their families who tenderly care for them, and for the thousands of professional caretakers in hospitals and nursing homes who daily tend to the needs of their brain injured patients.
Neuroanatomist, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor; Businesswoman, Valerie Greene; ELLE Editor, Jean-Dominique Bauby; ABC News Corespondent, Bob Woodruff; Congresswoman, Gabby Giffords; and Columbia Professor of Microbiology, Dr. David Figurski share a commonality … the will to live and the determination to do it well and with grace.
I salute each of you.
Ever since high school when I starred as Marcelino, a young boy in Marcelino Pan y Vino, I have wanted to do more theater. I dabbled in it in college when I shared the lead with another young actor in Hello Out There. The biggest joy of that performance was that both of my parents traveled to Pittsburgh from Erie, Pennsylvania to see me perform.
The following year I was chosen to co-star in Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour. I played Mary, a mischievous and devious child whose lies and deceit caused the ruination of the co-stars Karen and Martha. It was a controversial play dealing with homosexuality and took a good deal of talking by our director, Janet, to convince the administration to grant permission for us to perform the play for the college audience at Robert Morris University. Unfortunately, our leading man disappeared, dropped out of school – who knows. We never saw him again. He left us only days before opening night. As you may have guessed, the play was sadly cancelled, but it still holds a dear spot in my heart.
These few tastes of theatre left me longing for more. It wasn’t until this past year, when I eked out a few more minutes from my life’s overly-busy schedule, that I joined my town theatre. I began working/volunteering in the box office during shows. I worked as house manager, taking tickets, greeting the play-goers, and making sure the house was prepared for the comfort of the patrons. I also help to prepare sets by painting scenery. Earlier this year I took the stage for the first time in nearly forty years with a monologue, called Fleece, about a middle-aged woman who is obsessed with … fleece. It was written by Joe DelPriore.
I did an impromptu performance when I was recruited to be an extra in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. This is one of my favorite plays. I took my granddaughter to see it two years ago on Broadway. It’s a quirky play about very eccentric “spelling bee’ers.” I was a part of the support cast for about 50 minutes. That was half of the play. It was a real rush and such fun. (More on that later.)
With a red and white polyester house dress, a red, pilled, mis-buttoned cardigan, glamorous beads draping my neck, high top black and white sneakers with trailing laces, and a stocking cap plopped on my head with a beautiful, yellow flower adorning its side, I hobbled onto stage to find my favorite park bench. I’d spent twelve years of my life on that beloved bench only to find it occupied by an old, scraggly man in need of some “hygiene” stuff.
The one act includes my character declaring her detest of squirrels and chipmunks and wondering what the old man’s take on small animals in the park is. After enduring a leering look from the man, she firmly assures him that she “ain’t on the market.” Then she quietly reminisces about her long, dead husband, Harold, and her too busy grown-up children.
This piece produced lots of laughter from the audience, but it also provided an insightful view into the gentler character of the woman. This profile shows that, yes, she is tough. She is streetwise. She is sometimes even comical. But she is, first, a human being with feelings and wants and needs … and loves. Like most people, I am aware of the sad plight of the homeless, but while rehearsing this piece over and over again, I became more sensitized. I began to reflect on the inner beauty of the woman and began to understand the mechanisms she used to cope. It will surely make me see the people of the streets differently.
Nicholas Stratigopoulos, a fellow blogger and a new teacher to the profession, posted an article, Appreciation for Educators, on his site educationisphysical. I’d heard various versions of this concept many times throughout my career. Here is my version, which is pertinent to my area of the country.
A Teacher’s REAL Worth
If the school board agreed to pay me a babysitter’s salary, I promise I would throw in reading, math, science, social studies, art, music, physical education, and handwriting … for FREE. I’d even do morning, lunch, and recess duty; and I’d be sure to hang out in the school yard for an extra ten minutes after school each day to be sure that all of my students are safely delivered to the loving arms of their guardians. I’d offer extra help after school too and come in early in the morning to tutor students who are struggling. I’d pat kids on the back and wipe their sniveling noses when they scrape a knee or elbow, and I’d put on a Flintstone or a caterpillar or super hero bandaid … or maybe just a heart-one, to make them feel better. I’d crawl on the floor or plow through the half-eaten apples in the lunch-time trash cans to help them look for their lost teeth before sending them to the nurse for their fancy certificate. I’d be a referee when Johnny takes Timmy’s new toy truck at recess and won’t give it back. I’d lend my shoulder to cry on when Susie tells Mary she has a new best friend. I’d correct papers and design lessons way after the dismissal bell rings and into the wee hours of the morning at home just to be ready for the next day’s fun and games. I’d sit through hours of faculty meetings each week and come back at night for Back-To-School-Night and Literacy Night and Games Night and Science Fairs and Art Shows and PTA parties and … parent/teacher conferences to tell the parents how wonderful their children are – because they Really are. If they would pay me a babysitter salary, I would do all of that … for FREE. I promise!
Babysitter fees in my NYC area are between $10.00 and $15.00 an hour per child. I could have probably worked just a few years, retired by age thirty-five, and been a multi-millionaire.
Too bad babysitting was not my life’s chosen profession. I just love teaching too much.
$10.00 Babysitter Fee:
25 children/class (Salary can be adjusted. Just give or take five children either way.)
184 school calendar days
25 children x $10.00/hour/child = $250.00/hour for 25 children
$250.00/hour for 25 children x 6.5 hours per day = $1,625.00/day
$1,625.00/day x 184 school calendar days = $299,000.00/year
I’ll sign! Where’s the dotted line?
I’m worth it!
$15.00 Babysitter Fee:
25 children/class (Salary can be adjusted. Just give or take five children either way.)
184 school calendar days
25 children x $15.00/hour/child = $375.00/hour for 25 children
$375.00/hour for 25 children x 6.5 hours per day = $2,437.50/day
$2,437.50/day x 184 school calendar days = $448,500.00/year
I’ll sign! Where’s the dotted line?
I’m worth it!
(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)
I am reposting this from my website, donnaodonnellfigurski, in memory of a former first grade student, Greg, who left us too early ten years ago.
Greg was a good student and a happy child for most of his 1st grade year with me. His mother, Val, was my dynamic class mom. She could handle anything!
Then one day she told me she was worried. She was about to give Greg a brother, and he was upset about her going into the hospital. He was afraid she would not return. I told Val not to worry. I told Greg not to worry, too.
His mother was going into the hospital for a happy event. Greg was reassured and our whole class set out to write a book to welcome Greg’s new baby. (When all else fails – WRITE!) Greg also wrote his own book to welcome his new brother, David. (As David grew up, he landed on my classroom doorstep, twice – both in 1st grade and 3rd grade.)
About ten years after Greg was in my class, Val gave me some sad news. She told me that Greg was in the hospital. This time I couldn’t tell her not to worry, as I had done so many years ago. I could not tell Greg that either.
Greg was diagnosed with cancer. He was only 16. My memory of him stops there. But I remember him always. I remember his smile. I remember his fun-loving ways. I remember him six years old and in my 1st grade class. And, I miss him.
(Photo compliments of Me and Val.)
PS. Happy 20th birthday to David, Greg’s little brother who he was so worried about.
Funny … you take you car to an auto mechanic to be repaired, to change the oil, rotate tires, flush the engine – and your car comes back new – or at least in better running order. You run to the nearest computer geek when your computer fails or begins to rundown. Hopefully the geek/”genius” will restore its hard drive and save your files. You take your shoes to a cobbler for new heels – maybe a new shine. When the clasp of your diamond necklace (wishful thinking) breaks, you take it to a jeweler for repair. So where do you go when your body breaks down, when it begins to fall apart, or needs a tune-up? To your local hospital, of course. That’s what David and I did today.
Since David’s traumatic brain injury in January of 2005, he has suffered and endured a plethora of disabilities. One of them is a variety of eye/vision ailments. He sees objects in duplicate. They are tilted. And his vision is blurry. Those complications plague David each day, but he can’t escape eye discomforts at night either. Before he succumbs to his pleasant dreams … and some not so pleasant, (but that is another story – another time) I must lubricate his eye with drops and squeeze a dab of a gel onto his eyeball before I gently draw his upper lid down and patch it securely for the night. Then I kiss him goodnight and turn out the light knowing that I am preserving his cornea for another day – another night.
But, though this procedure was lubricating his eye, it was not the optimum solution. So David and I set off to Doctor L. and ultimately to our local hospital to repair his broken down eye.
We arrived at the hospital at about 9:20 A.M., after wending our way through Garden State Parkway rush hour traffic. We spent most of the day as guests of the hospital. Much of it before the surgery, (about two hours) was spent with Sue S., the charge nurse who admitted David with a million questions and a sharing of lots of stories. Sue relaxed both of us and made our time in the pre-op room fun and interesting. We learned about her life. She learned about ours. Everyone has a story!
Though David’s surgery was outpatient eye surgery, it was surgery just the same … and NO surgery is inconsequential. No surgery comes danger-free. No surgery occurs without the autographed papers releasing the hospital and the doctors from any mishaps that might occur. I remember all too well having to sign away David’s life on those papers during each of his three brain surgeries. At least today … he signed.
When the doctor and the operating room were ready, David was wheeled away on his gurney. A very unpleasant feeling of déjà vu engulfed me. Didn’t I already do this? Three times? Just yesterday? Just six years ago? I kissed David and watched as the operating attendants wheeled him away and I went to the waiting room – to wait.
Dr. L. put a small metal weight into David’s eyelid to pull it down so his eyelid would close – so it would not expose the cornea. Stitches! He also raised the lower lid so that David’s tear duct would work properly – again to spare the cornea from drying out. More Stitches! We had been trying to have this surgery for two+ years. (think insurance woes) Now it’s done.
The surgery took place at Overlook Hospital in Summit, NJ. Where is that????? Everyone at the hospital, the nurses, the nurse aides, the folks in the admitting and registration department, was wonderful and made the experience a good one. Again, I want to mention Sue S. who really went out of her way to make us feel comfortable.
It was a long day. But the surgery is now over – soon to be just a fleeting memory. We are home. And David and I are both breathing a lot more freely.
The aftermath of the surgery – David looks like he was in a brawl, which he didn’t win. Some may think he looks like he is ready for Halloween with blood occasionally tearing down his cheek as it drips from his eye. Some, meaning me, think he should be in bed resting, recuperating from his ordeal, but no, he is back at his computer – working – doing what David does best. But before he sat down at this computer, he enjoyed a mushroom, onion, and red pepper omelet (He had to have the red peppers.) and my left over french fries from Donna’s Cafe at the hospital.
Some folks bring their loved ones Get Well balloons. Some bring flowers. I know what will most make David happy … dessert!
So for dessert he had Boston Cream cake. YUM! After not eating for nearly twenty hours, he was ravenous.
It was a long day. We are happy to be home.
(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)
I love this horoscope my sister, San, sent to me. It is so apropos.
If you are a teacher who loves her job, it’s not really working overtime when you work until 5:00 or 6:00 P.M. at school preparing lessons, making learning games, or sharing ideas with fellow workaholic, I mean dedicated, teachers. It’s not really working overtime when you work at home snuggled up on the couch until 10:00 or 11:00 or 12:00 A.M correcting papers or surfing the computer for new, fun ways to present learning phonics or dreaming up new lessons to make learning addition and subtraction facts easier.
If you are a teacher who loves her job, you might be like me and forget to take your class to specials like art, music, library, or to the gym for physical education. You might be so wrapped up in your science or social studies lesson that the time just slips by. You and your class might be so engulfed in reading and discussing Charlotte’s Web or singing Chika Chika Boom Boom or I’m a Little Teapot, or writing a friendly letter to the principal to tell of all the wonderful activities you do in first or third grade. You might be so focused on entering a new page of poems on the Wiki … and you have to get it done so the kids can read them to their parents at home that night after dinner. But, if you are a teacher who loves her job, one thing you do NOT do is leave at 3:30 – because that would seem like half a day.
When you love teaching, as I do/did … no, still do – even though I am freshly retired, then leaving early at 3:30 … is just not going to happen. I’m not working overtime. I am following a dream … following my passion … making kids happy.
(Clip Art compliments of Bing.com.)
I have been a teacher for … oh … a lot of years – about thirty. Teaching is my first passion, besides my husband of course. Writing is my other passion. So when the National Education Association, NEA, recently acknowledged my column, TEACHER’S PETS at SmartWriters. I was flattered. Actually, I was ecstatic. You would have had a hard time pulling me down from the ceiling. This award honors both my writing and my teaching. It intermingles my careers. The best of both worlds!
Of course, I am unbelievably proud of my team of reviewers — seven to fifteen children ages, eight- to twelve-years-old. They are amazing reviewers and have grown into this job as the years have passed. All of the KIDDLES have been members of the KIDDLE CRITers since they were six years old. The only prerequisite is that they must have been in my first grade class. In May I induct about four to six more children. The number of invitees depends on how many current members there are.
Each review session, the children come prepared to work and laugh and tease and giggle and eat … and of course, to read and write and review picture books. So far the KIDDLES have reviewed more than 60 books.
You can see the reviews at SmartWriters. Happy Reading!
We hope you enjoy them.
COMMENTS FROM FRIENDS AND FAMILY . . . AND FAMILY AND FRIENDS . . .
Congratulations on the NEA recognizing your page. Excellent! Well done! Neat! You did the hard work. You’ve earned the honor!
Roxyanne Young, Editor SmartWriters Journal
Congratulations! That’s a great reward for all your work!
Carolyn Johnson, Internet Librarian and Educational Author
Mom! That is absolutly fantastic! You must be so proud….what an accomplishment. You deserve it!
Lots of love, Kiersten In case you didn’t guess . . . That’s my daughter!
That was GREAT!!! Congratulations!
I’m so happy you have received this recognition for all your hard work. “You Go Girl”!!!
Fav Cuz, Trish
WOW! Congratulations Donna. That was great. This should give you some well deserved recognition.
Congrats, Donna on your hard work and your award for your young publishers and critics! Keep up the good work with your students. Good luck to all of you!!
Love, Joyce, cousin
Congratulations on your recognition by the NEA. Very impressive!
Pat, brother-in-law – the youngest one
I’ve been haunting the Apple store – spending hours and hours with my new computer and IPad. Taking lessons on the IPad, which I love, and troubleshooting a billion problems on my new Mac Air computer, which I hate – the problems – NOT the Air. I love the Air.
When the “geniuses” did a data transfer from my old G5 Mac computer to my new Air, they converted the data to new programs, unreadable by the Air. They got rid of some programs, too, making it impossible to open other files. The whole thing is a mess.
You might think … at least your data is secure on your old computer. You might think that … but NO. They had to upgrade that computer in order to make the data transfer, wiping out many programs there and rendering my files useless. Those files consist of twenty years of writing, all of my picture book manuscripts, – about 50 or more – my database program, which includes my reunion data … and so much more, recipes, books read.
Had they explained this possible massive data loss, I can surely assure you that I would not have chosen this route. But, alas, I was not informed, which leaves me ensnared in this computer nightmare.
Fortunately all may not be lost. David took a sample from each problem area to his lab and found the documents will open on his “old” computer there. Thank goodness! So, I could spend the next ten years of my life in his lab recovering all of my data. Something to look forward to. At least I will never have to face boredom.
(Clip Art compliments of Bing.com.)
What color is your brain?
Is it purple or red? Is it green,
yellow, or blue?
Are you mellow?
Brains/personalities come in all different types. They are impassioned. They are relaxed. They are frenzied and creative, and inventive. Do you ever wonder what color your brain is? I do.
And so I asked my friends a few questions. I have very colorful friends.
My BLUE-Brained Friends
Your Mind is Blue
My YELLOW-Brained Friends
Of all the mind types, yours is the most intellectual.
You tend to spend a lot of time thinking about science, architecture, and communication.
My PURPLE-Brained Friends
Treska-granddaughter; Donna-self; Gayle-writer friend from Arkansas; Cousin-Kathy S.;
Of all the mind types, yours is the most idealistic.
You tend to spend a lot of time thinking of fictional people and places – or a very different life for yourself.
My RED-Brained Friends
Of all the mind types, yours is the most impulsive.
You tend to spend a lot of time thinking about love, your dreams, and distant places.
My GREEN-Brained Friends
Of all the mind types, yours has the most balance.
You tend to spend a lot of time thinking about the future, philosophy, and relationships (both personal and intellectual).
My ORANGE-Brained Friends
Of all the mind types, yours is the quickest.
You are usually thinking a mile a minute, and you could be thinking about anything at all.
Your thoughts are often scattered and random – but they’re also a lot of fun!
You tend to spend a lot of time thinking about esoteric subjects, the meaning of life, and pop culture.
To learn more or try the game yourself.
(Clip Art compliments of BlogThings.)
I discovered writing for children during a writer’s course at Teacher’s College of Columbia University in New York City, where my instructors strongly encouraged me to develop my writing skills. Ever since, I have been writing in one form or another.
Since 2002 I have worked as a children’s book reviewer. My reviews can be viewed in my column called TEACHER’S PETS at SmartWriters.com. These reviews take an interesting twist. I not only review the book, but a team of children ages six-years-old to twelve-years-old review them with me. I also write two lesson plans that teachers may use with the featured book, as well as provide suggestions for additional books and websites to complement the book.
As a member of SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Host for the Children’s Writers Workshop at the Careers and Workplace on America Online, and the registrar for KINDLING WORDS: the RETREAT, I have met many wonderfully supportive and helpful writer friends.
A warm and funny friend, Paula Danziger, (now deceased and very missed) was the author of more than thirty books for children. The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, published in 1974 was her debut book. Her Amber Brown books were probably her most favorite and loved books by children all over the world. Paula was kind enough to critique my picture book manuscript, A School is NO Place for a Frog, over much laughter and sushi one afternoon in New York City.
The first time Paula called my house she received the following voicemail message. “I’m sorry, we don’t answer our phone, please leave a message and we’ll call you back.” She left the following message amid hysterical laughter. “Donna, if you don’t use that in a book, I will.” I wish she had lived long enough to use it.
Another long-time friend, Marilyn Singer, author of Tallulah’s Tutu and Mirror Mirror, and more than ninety other titles spread over the genres of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry added her expertise to some of my stories, too.
I am always grateful to another dear friend, Barbara Seuling, whose qualifications are many. Barbara wears the hats of editor, picture book and middle-grade novel writer, and she sits on the SCBWI advisory board. Barbara has written more than fifty books for young children, including Oh No, Its Robert, as well as a reference book for children’s writers titled, How to Write a Children’s Book and Get It Published. Barbara has had direct input on several of my picture book manuscripts through her many online courses, which I have taken with her; and through her Vermont Writing workshop, which she offers in both New York City and Vermont. I took it in Vermont – a most beautiful, quiet, and quaint countryside. Barbara has been an invaluable influence on my writing.
I have published four stories in the Scholastic Press Literacy Place 2000 anthology. These books are found in classrooms all over the United States as supplementary materials which compliment the reading programs. The third grade titles are A Star Wish, and Miss Emma Gets Her Way. The story in the fourth grade book is called The Legend of the Silver Birch, and Never Going to Grow Up can be read in the book for fifth graders. I have also published an activity called Snowflake Snippets in MAILBOX magazine, which focuses on teacher classroom interests. As a 1st and 3rd grade teacher for nearly thirty years, I have had an enthusiastic audience for my stories, and I draw many story ideas from my students. My passion for writing parallels my enthusiasm for teaching and I feel very fortunate that each complements the other.
I am very proud to note that I was nominated for and included in the 2000 edition of Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers. This was a great honor since the nomination was from a former 1st grade student of mine who was a high school senior at the time of the nomination. Since this first honor, I have also been nominated and included in both the 2004 and the 2006 editions of Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.
Currently, I am under contract with Salina Bookshelf INC Multicultural Publishing for two chapters, which will be included in two books about Native Americans. One chapter is the biography of Buffy Sainte-Marie, singer, songwriter, and political activist. The other chapter is about poet and professor, Luci Tapahonso. Writing Buffy’s biography was enlightening and such fun. A thirty minute phone interview with her from her home in Hawaii proved what a warm, caring, and totally dedicated person she is. Countless emails flew between our computers as I gathered information for the chapter. When I finally met Buffy for a few moments after her concert in Santa Fe some years ago, I was convinced she is a very special woman. I am proud to have been selected to write her biography.
I am currently looking for publishing homes for a number of my picture book manuscripts including, A School is NO Place for a Frog, Kanona Prattsby, and “Tie Your Shoes, Miss Tress.” I have also finished the second draft of a memoir about my husband, David, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2005. I hope to shop around that amazing survival story soon.
I happily live with my husband and best friend, David. We have two children, Kiersten and Jared, one son-in-law, Falko, and two grandchildren, Treska and Kaya.
(Clip Art compliments of Bing.com)