Meet my #HeroOfOptimism

My husband is my #HeroOfOptimism for his unwavering support and calmness during the most tumultuous year of my life.

IMG_1439While perusing Twitter and FaceBook last week, I noticed a #LifeIsGood post asking people to share their Heroes of Optimism.  I immediately thought of my calm and positive husband, Brian.  He isn’t a fan of personal publicity but I would like to share this with my friends and family.

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Just over a year ago, as a 39-year-old mother of two, I suffered a fourth stroke. I had suffered three strokes in my early twenties and underwent debilitating treatment. Fortunately, I had been living a somewhat normal life for fourteen years when my fourth stroke occurred. After my last stroke, I was shocked to be diagnosed with a new rare brain disease, Moyamoya disease. There is no cure for Moyamoya but treatment is brain surgery I soon learned that I would need not just one but two brain surgeries. With the help of my husband, we made the courageous decision to travel across the country to a premier neurosurgeon for bilateral brain bypass surgeries.

With two children under ten, Brian was dedicated to maintaining a normal routine and life for them. Brian balanced his stressful career and being a full-time caretaker to me while keeping life consistent and positive for our kids. On top of being his usual involved father, Brian seamlessly took on the role of husband, mom, employee, boss, public relations consultant, advocate, confidant, counselor and family CEO. I was facing the battle of my life and had much anxiety and fear going into two brain surgeries. Brian remained calm and reassuring at all times- to me and the children. He selflessly devoted himself to my well-being, care and comfort before, during and after my 8 and 10 hour surgeries (one week apart.) He supported me when I had speech issues, making me signs to carry in case I needed to communicate. He held me when I needed assistance walking. He bathed me, managed my medications and pain and (literally and figuratively) did all the heavy lifting and caring for me and the children.

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Brian remained positive and confident in me and my course of treatment the entire time. He let me discuss my fears but always provided positive thoughts and optimism. He hugged me, held my hand and reminded me always that I would overcome these challenges. Brian, with the help of family and friends, created #teamlisa. Through my three weeks away, Brian religiously updated #teamlisa via social media. Not only was he my light of optimism and positivity, Brian provided that information and security to my family and friends around the country.

Team Lisa

Brian wasn’t in my life during my early health challenges, but I’m so thankful he was here for me during this latest, scariest one. I was able to stay positive and overcame a stroke and two brain surgeries thanks to my husband, Brian. He is my #HeroOfOptimism.

Flashback: My life before everything happened…

I look back at the photos of my life last March and it seems like a lifetime ago. I was leading a very full and extremely busy lifestyle.

Happy familySure, I was probably doing too much (a lesson I’ve learned this past year) but I was loving life. I was serving as a National Go Red for Women Spokeswomen for the American Heart Association, serving as Vice President of the Parent Teacher Organization, leading a Girl Scout troop of 24 girls, playing tennis twice a week, doing my kids’ library twice a week, being a room parent, and driving my kids to/from multiple activities each day. I was busy but satisfied. A few key events that happened in early 2015 were our annual family vacation and an amazing heart month in February while serving as a National Spokeswomen.

Being selected as a National Go Red for Women Real Women in September 2014 was such a cool experience. I was asked to share my personal stroke story with a national audience along with eight other ladies (my heart sisters!) We were flown out to Los Angles for training and photo/video shoot. We were treated like the “talent” and didn’t feel like a bunch of survivors but rather old friends with something very special in common. I still giggle at my serious photo that was used nationally for awareness. So funny considering I smile most of the time.

Official Go Red photoFebruary was the busy month starting with a trip to New York City for the Go Red Fashion Show during NYC’s Fashion Week and culminating with the local GRFW luncheons. My heart sisters and I were also treated like celebrities during these events where we raised awareness and had a ton of fun. Some of the highlights are captured in the photos below.

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Our annual family vacation also took place in early March. I traveled with my husband, kids and my parents to Orlando. We laid by the pool, relaxed, went to Universal Studios where we rode every exhilarating ride, ate out tons and just had a blast together! You can see the pure joy in our family photos.

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Another highlight from last March was a friend’s 40th birthday party. Held locally, it was a fun mixture of some of my closest friends and some school acquaintances. The party was a great crowd with yummy appetizers, plenty of drinks and old school music. I may have even hit the dance floor 😉 It was a fun, carefree night that I often look back at as my last hurrah!

My last hurrah!

5 ways school vacation rocks even for Mom!

As a stay-at-home Mom to two school aged kids, school vacation certainly has its pros and cons. I find my perspective forever changed after being away from the kids for almost a month last year. Now, I love time with my family! Not that I didn’t before…but it’s cherished even more once it’s been taken away. So, vacation arrived with an actual weekend off for my husband (who had been traveling for over two weeks!) and a relatively open schedule. Here’s the best parts:

  1. No early commitments! As a busy family, most mornings include me yelling at (ah, encouraging) the kids to do the routine! I never realized how difficult it is for two kids to get dressed, do their hair and teeth. After six weeks of 8:30 activities on Saturday and Sunday, I was tired of the morning scramble to get out the door on time. It was golden to have slow, stress free mornings throughout vacation.
  2. Wide open days! I admit, as a planner, days without a plan often give me stress…what in the world will I do with a whole day free? I have reshaped these days in my mind as opportunities. I’m actually able to ask the kids what they would like to do and do it! Our adventure this past week was to try skiing. I know they were nervous but they wanted to try so I brought them to their first one hour lesson. Ski weekends, here we come! 😉

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3. Quiet times with the kids…to do whatever they would like. We didn’t have to run to practice, hustle for homework, or squeeze in a shower. We played with playdoh, painted canvases, built lego ships, played Mario Chase as a family and watched movies while cuddling. Real life sometimes doesn’t allow for these precious moments.

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4. Reconnecting with other friends. We have a wonderful community of close friends who make up our everyday life. They are the kids’ best friends and my village of friends who support me and allow for a fun life! However, our busy schedules often prevent us from seeing other friends- my college friends, high school friends and relatives that we often see just for holidays. It was fantastic to catch up with some of these people over the break. It was even better knowing that I did some reaching out- which I haven’t done that much since my surgeries. Things are coming along.

5. Sibling bonding. When my kids have time together, they truly like each other and playing with each other. Vacation gives them this much needed bonding time. They hit the ski slopes together, negotiated watching movies together and had time just to be silly with each other. We often have the usual grind which doesn’t provide for time with each other so seeing them together just warms my heart.

I know vacation is over now but it was a nice break from reality. Now…where’s summer??