Category Archives: TBI

My Secret


I was going to title this post The Secret, until I realized that everyone would think I was going to talk about vision boards, affirmations, visualization, etc, etc. All of which I have somehow neglected to check off my to do list. This is not that Secret.

This is my Secret. It is both easier and harder than Rhonda Byrne’s metaphysics manifesto. Easier because you don’t have to make time for all the manifesting exercises. Harder because it demands that you surrender to life as it is.

I’m writing this post for Brandon, a friend who spent the last year in the worst Hell on Earth, literally wresting his life back from the colon cancer determined to take it in as painful a way as possible. Brandon finally underwent his last surgery and is now cancer free. It only took scooping out his entrails like an Egyptian mummy. Knowing Brandon, I bet he asked his nurses if they would pack the goods in canopic jars for him. I am too polite to ask him if his abdominal cavity is now stuffed full of linen.

Brandon is now cancer free. The war is over. The band has packed up and gone home. Now that the excitement is over, Brandon is left with a long recovery while he wonders what kind of life is left for him. Today he was mourning past summers and all the things he will no longer be able to do.


I can relate. I had my own life changing collision with a Ford Taurus in 2001. A guy named Fred was too busy trying to change lanes to look ahead and smashed into my bike. My head returned the favor by smashing into his windshield. Two seconds of inattention by the driver has left me with mild traumatic brain injury, so-called “mild” because there was no obvious head wound. I won’t bore you with all the ways it affects me, or the struggles I’ve endured to find a way to be “Me” in this new normal. I will just say this:

Today I am living a simple and satisfying life as an author and painter, and my head injury helped me get here. I still have my disability, and I’m happier than at any time in my life.

My Secret: Embrace your circumstances as a gift from the universe (or God, Allah, or even Moe at the neighborhood transmission shop) designed to give you what you need to get where you want. Dive into your circumstances as if there’s a pony buried in the manure—because there is. Master the challenges your circumstances present, whether it means learning how to ask for and accept help or finding a way to ask your neighbor to please not cut the grass at 6 am on Sunday. Become so good at being where you are that you never want it to change.

Practice gratitude for the challenges life presents you, then go out and tackle them. It will be a mental exercise at first, then it will become real. That’s when miracles will happen.

Aztec Diet: Climbing the Slippery Slope

It happened. When did it start? Was it Friday, when Anna wanted to have breakfast to share her fears about her schnauzer, Zipper, newly diagnosed with cancer? I chose eggs with goetta, potatoes and a pancake instead of the spinach omelet I knew I should have. The cancer turned out to be too far progressed for treatment. Saturday, Zipper got his angel wings. We went to the movies for a distraction (Iron Man 3 was excellent, BTW). That included buttered popcorn and Popeye’s chicken afterwards. I ate the biscuit and the crunchy skin. This week, I had a raspberry chocolate chip milkshake made with chocolate milk, two small pieces of cheesecake, a Dove Bar, and a Frappuccino. There was also a chicken quesadilla and a beef gordito in there somewhere. There must be other, undocumented sins. I woke up today, two pounds heavier.

I really have to go back further than Friday’s breakfast. I bought kale and spinach 2 weeks ago, and did not touch either until this morning. I was just tired of smoothies, tired of thinking about food, too tired to fix food, tired in general. Perhaps it had something to do with being out of meds for a week. My therapist says this can promote carb and sugar cravings. Switching jobs from grading tests in the evening to polishing flutes in the afternoon must have played a part.

My TBI (traumatic brain injury) has been acting up. That means that simple, everyday tasks require the herculean effort of Frodo clawing his way up the slopes of Mount Doom. “Sam, I can’t do it anymore,” is a frequent mental refrain. I eat whatever is easiest.

This is not so much about blaming or explaining as understanding. I enjoyed my little trip off the food reservation, but I don’t like the aftermath. I don’t want to do this again.

So, how does one climb back up the slippery slope? One step at a time.

Pomegranate Pleasure

    2 Cups spinach
    1/2 Cup yogurt
    1 banana
    1/2 Cup pomegranate juice
    1 Cup water
    2 – 4 TBSP ground chia

Aztec Diet Day 23: The Perfect Smoothie

Pounds Lost: 12

Breakfast: Dr. Bob’s Kale Blueberry Smoothie (Aztec diet); Lunch: 5 oz tuna, a tablespoon of mayonnaise, 3 celery ribs, multi-grain crackers; Snack: none; Dinner: Blue Meanie; Snack: air-popped popcorn

Breakfast and Lunch: Raspberry Consolation; Snack: None; Dinner: Miso Green; Snack: air-popped popcorn

I haven’t been posting regularly for the past several days, I’ve been tied up with a research project which concluded yesterday. Monday night I was exhausted and wanted something super-simple for dinner, so I created the Blue Meanie. The name is ironic, since it’s very sweet. I’ve been on a Beatles kick lately, what with “Blackbird” running through my head at odd moments, so that’s what stuck.

Yesterday morning I was disappointed to find that A Shot in the Bark did not make the ABNA quarter-finals. Disappointment always puts me in the mood for chocolate. Normally, I would have a Chocolate Covered Cherry, but I was out of cherries. So I created Raspberry Consolation. It’s very rich. I used 4 TBSP chia and it had the consistency of a light pudding. This smoothie lasted me all day, with absolutely no hunger.

I get the most hits from people looking for smoothie recipes. I don’t think in terms of recipes. I’ve been writing these down to save them for posterity. Pretty much, I check in the fridge and see what looks good, and what needs to be eaten before it goes over.

Dr. Bob talks about creating your own smoothies, using a base, mixer, fruits and veggies, chia and sweeteners. My attitude towards these things is a bit different than his. I suffer from depression resulting from my TBI, so it’s important that I have a steady supply of healthy fats. This assists mood management and brain health. This means that I am losing weight more slowly. Still, 4 pounds a week is very respectable and I’m satisfied with my approach.

Dr. Bob’s go-to base is non-fat greek yogurt. I have nothing against yogurt, but I prefer other bases. Bases I use:

1 avocado and 1 banana (Avos have fantastic fats. This increases the size of your smoothie and is suitable for all-day smoothies.)
Flesh and water from a young coconut (incredible electrolytes)
Small handful of cashews (blends up nice and creamy)
Almond milk, unsweetened (fast and easy)
Miso (for savory smoothies)

For a Mixer, If I’m not using coconut water or almond milk, I use water. Except when I make Dr. Bob’s Kale-Apple-Carrot, in which case, I use carrot juice. And no, I don’t juice the apple. I cut it up and toss it in the blender. fruits should be eaten whole so the fiber offsets the sugar.

Every smoothie needs greens. This is the single most important veggie you can consume. Dr. Bob likes kale for it’s high nutrition profile and it’s bland taste. This is fine, however, no matter how expensive your blender is, kale remains a bit “chewy.” Swiss chard is close to kale in nutrition and blends easier, but has a stronger taste. Spinach is further down the list but still packs a nutritional wallop. It is mild tasting and blends easily, especially baby spinach. I buy pre-washed, organic spinach. It’s time-saving in the kitchen, which is important to me. This is my go-to green. Romaine is further down the list nutritionally. It’s the most nutritious of the lettuces. It blends nicely and has a bland taste.

Keep a variety in your fridge, each has a different nutritional profile, so change it up. When I say “grab a handful” I mean a big handful that expands to two or three cups when you drop it in your blender.

Fruits are what make a smoothie a smoothie. frozen fruit is very convenient and allows you to keep a variety on hand. I get my blueberries fresh. They are terrific brain food and I go through them like crazy. 1/2 Cup – 1 Cup is plenty, unless I am using a high water content fruit like papaya, in which case, I use more fruit and less water.

I usually add some extras to my morning smoothie. Chia, of course, is mandatory in all smoothies. I rarely add sweeteners. When I do, I use raw honey. I add 1/2 TSP powdered ginger to most of my smoothies. It’s a terrific herb with many excellent properties. I’ve found it essential in preventing TBI headaches. Cacao is lovely brain food. And green powder for extra green power. If I’m adding green powder to a smoothie, I don’t make it an all day smoothie, the powder can get a bitter edge after a few hours.

Have fun inventing your own smoothies, and be sure to give them fun names. I think tomorrow I’m going to whip up a Yellow Submarine.

Blue Meanie

    1 cup blueberries
    1/2 – 1 banana
    2 cups spinach
    1 cup almond milk

Raspberry Consolation

    1 Cup raspberries
    1 avocado
    1 banana
    3 TBSP Cacao power
    2-4 TBSP ground Chia
    raw honey, to taste

Miso Green

    2 Cups baby spinach
    1 TBSP Miso
    1/2 Cup tofu, rinsed and cubed
    4 Cups hot water (I run mine through the coffee maker)

Place tofu in the bowl or glass you intend to use for your soup. Pour two cups hot water over it, let it sit. This will warm the tofu up. place the other 2 cups of water, spinach and miso in the blender and blend. Drain tofu, pour the miso soup over it.

Aztec Diet Day 17: Brain Food

Stats: Still holding steady at a 9 pound net loss.

Breakfast: Greek yogurt with 1 Cup blueberries, a mandarin cutie and a banana; Mid-morning: 20 oz water with 4 TBSP chia; Lunch: Hot Guac Salad, 16 oz water with 2 TBSP chia; Snack: 1 Cup cottage cheese, 40 calorie snack pack of seasoned nori; Dinner: Spinach/Papya/Mango Salad 12 oz water with 2 TBSP chia Snack: 1 oz air-popped popcorn

Yesterday the blade assembly on my blender fell apart. New blender is not due until tomorrow evening. All is not lost. I plan to eat the same things I’ve been eating, just not blended up. It will be a nice change.

I’ve mentioned before that I suffer from mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). For years the conventional wisdom has been that these injuries do not see improvement after two years. Due to the large number of head injuries resulting form the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, medical science is finally questioning this assumption.

People like me tend to fall through the cracks because, hey, we know what side of the toothbrush the paste goes on, and we can take a shower by ourselves. Those are the standards for being functional. Never mind how long it takes us to do these things, how stressful it is, or how exhausted we are afterwards. We may retain our level of intelligence, yet struggle to make decisions and complete simple tasks. We are often too fatigued to do more than get up in the morning and feed ourselves.

I’m very fortunate to have a group of fellow suffers to share experiences with. Aside from getting the validation and emotional support sadly lacking in the medical community, I have also learned much about managing my condition. We’ve had to learn to be our own doctors. I’ve had gains in both productivity and well-being, despite being years past the two year mark. The gains are very modest, but the impact they have on my life are enormous.

One area that needs more attention is the role of diet in treating TBI. It makes sense that the same foods which are beneficial for Alzheimer’s patients would also help TBI sufferers. Couple this with a diet that reduces carbohydrate induced brain-fog, and the possibilities are intriguing. This is the Aztec Diet in a nutshell. To further enhance these effects, I am researching specific foods that enhance brain function.

Some Goodies:

    Walnuts especially touted as brain food. Other nuts are also helpful. It’s good to get a variety.
    Wild Salmon tuna, mackerel and sardines are also good choices
    Dark Chocolate or Cacao
    Green Tea
    Olive Oil
    Greens – Kale, Chard, Spinach, Romaine
    Flax Seed Also pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds

Hot Guac Salad

    1 avocado
    1 TBSP lemon juice
    cumin, to taste
    1/4 Cup salsa (I used peach mango)
    1/4 Cup shredded cheddar cheese
    romaine lettuce

Mash up the avocado in a bowl. Mix in the lemon juice, then add the cumin, to taste. spoon salsa on top, then top that with the cheese. spoon this into romaine leaves. you can treat large leaves like taco shells. The small inner leaves make lovely little “boats” just big enough for one bite.

Spinach/Papaya/Mango Salad

    1 large handful baby spinach
    1 Cup diced mango
    1 Cup diced papaya
    1/8 Cup cashews

No need for dressing. The fruit moistens the spinach.