Moving forward…one swing at a time

I picked up a tennis racket this week- exactly one year to the day when I played last. Boy did it feel great!

I never played tennis as a child. I loved and played many team sports- soccer, basketball, track and softball- but never tried the sport of tennis. I sometimes wish that I would have picked up on more individual sports that could have transitioned into an adult hobby.

Loving my Patriots as a kid
Loving my Patriots as a kid

In 2014, I realized that many of my friends were playing tennis. It seemed to be a fun exercise, game and social activity for woman my age. So I signed up with a couple friends at Fore Court and (literally) threw myself on the court. Playing tennis was fun, yet social but mostly it cured something in me that I didn’t know was missing- my competitive spirit.

 

ForcourtGrowing up, I played many sports but was never the MVP. However, I was always competitive. My hustle and positive attitude resulted in a decent athlete who could hold her own due to hard work. I forgot that this athletic spirit was missing…and loved how tennis brought that back. I moved up from lessons and to a league with a very talented partner. My friendships with my doubles partner and other players grew as did my skill. Playing in a league make me want to play better so I quickly found myself playing a couple times a week in an effort to increase my skill.

Playing tennis

I signed up again to play in 2015. I fell in love with how tennis made me feel. Alive, frustrated, successful and strong.

Last March, when I suffered a stroke, I didn’t go back to tennis. My doctors wanted me to rest – my body and brain- until answers were found. Unfortunately, the answers were not ideal and resulted in a new diagnosis and a daunting treatment of brain surgeries. I went from playing twice a week to sitting on my couch….for a year.

#TeamLisa

My tennis friends soon joined my support system and were part of #teamlisa as I underwent my brain surgeries. The ladies even worked together to create a welcome home banner for me. So thoughtful.

Welcome Home banner from my tennis friends
Welcome Home banner from my tennis friends

Another fun fact: I stopped playing in March but the season went through June. My partner continued to play with subs while I was sick. Upon my return from surgeries, I learned that my double team “won” the league. I even received a trophy! So remember you can truly do anything while going through brain surgeries 😉

March 2016…I have known that my friends have been playing and even had a few invitations to join the league/drill/even play socially. I didn’t bite until this week. I am not in shape, heavier than I have been in many years and worried that it would hurt my body. I think my anxiety also prevented me from coming out of my bubble.

But, this week, I returned to playing and stepped onto the Court this Monday. I was nicely welcomed back from my old tennis friends and the Fore Court staff. My partner is a sweet friend who is a better player than me, but is playing simply to enjoy the game and have fun. Playing hard and winning is a perk but not the main goal. This is a perfect match for me as I return after not playing for one full year.

I had such a blast playing again! I almost turned my car around as I started worrying about all the things that could go wrong…but kept driving. I even checked with my husband moments before playing one last time to make sure it was the right decision. I decided to be brave as I hoped the risk was worth the reward. It so was!!

I stepped on the court and while rusty, my competitive spirit with myself quickly returned. I immediately started plotting how I can play more and be better. I also wanted to explain to my pro about my past year, but it just didn’t seem necessary. I guess I can officially say that I’m BBAACCKK!

Same feelings but not the same trip!

Everything this year reminds me something about my brain surgeries. This is my new reality.

For instance, I’m currently on a plane taking off from TF Green airport and I am feeling excited for my trip. Yet deep down, I am panicked as it reminds me of taking off from Boston last year to go to California for my brain surgeries. I’m looking out at a beautiful sunny day (just like last May) as the plane lifts off and am breathing deeply to stay calm. This trip has no similarities to that terrifying one (except leaving the kids) but I can’t help but to reflect.

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I was so petrified to go to California. I stayed positive but didn’t know if I was going to make it. I didn’t know if I would keep my speech or lose functionality of some part of my body. I would miss my kids terribly and worry about them the whole time. I’m tearing up and craving a Xanex even as I type this. Oh it was heart breaking.

Today, though, it’s a good trip. I am leaving to go to Washington, DC- my old home where I lived for fourteen years. I’m going early to see one of my best friends and her new baby. I’m catching up with my maid of honor and having a small reunion gathering of American University friends.

Most notably, I’m taking my scary new diagnosis of Moyamoya disease and double brain surgery survival story to a new place. I’m joining the other rare disease advocates to attend Rare Disease Week on Capitol Hill. I’ve been a heart disease and stroke advocate for years but this rare community is brand new to me.image

I’m nervous to break out of my comfort zone and meet all new people…but excited to hopefully meet some patient peers with whom to compare notes and to make a difference. That always makes me feel good!

I’m also honored and thrilled to be able to bring Moyamoya awareness to Capitol Hill.  The Moyamoya community is passionate, supportive and fierce- so being coincidentally being a representative for them is such an honor. I hope I do them justice!

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It’s all a mental game for me. I am not off to surgery. I am heading to have fun and do something that is going to make me feel good- feel like I am contributing to a better world for patients and their families. I am leaving my children with my husband and parents which is fun for them. I am turning something challenging into something meaningful. ❤️

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??