The BEST Dash Point State Park Camp 2015 is right around the corner! This annual camp experience is set in beautiful and iconic Dash Point State Park. The camp begins at 2:30 p.m . August 9 and runs through 1 p.m. on August 15. Take in the glorious surroundings while relaxing and enjoying friends. Here’s a video to inspire you! For questions or more information about this camp, email BEST at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And they’re off!
Brain Energy Support Team (BEST) Founder and Chief Visionary Officer, Penny Condoll along with the organization’s Executive Director, Gloria Kraegel, have taken to the road for an excellent adventure of the very BEST kind.
Packed up and at the ready, the two women departed Our BEST Space in University Place, Washington, at sunset last night. Destination? Off to Eastern Washington to meet up with other BESTies at the 8th Annual Brain Injury camping experience at North Lake Skookum.
The dynamic duo made it to Cle Elum, Washington last evening and settled in for the night for a much needed slumber. Up early this morning, and fueled with coffee and pastry from the Cle Elum Bakery, the travelers are just about ready to get back on the road, tackle mountain terrain and make their way further east.
Ah, but before the road beckons, there’s an important to-do. The trip would not be complete without GREAT eats, treats and meats from Cle Elum’s historic and iconic, Owen’s Meats.
Our gals want to give a special shout out to Suzanne and the boys at Owen’s for all the great service! Penny and Gloria will be sure to be the culinary hit of camp this year with all the wonderful tasty meaty treats and spices they picked up. And to complete the experience? Carnivore caps (of course)!
Here’s another shopping picture. So many items to choose from!
Check back regularly on this blog for the latest travel updates and pictures from the road and join the excellent adventure campaign at #PGEA2015! We’ll also be providing additional updates and news from BESTies around the state.
Stayed tuned and happy adventures, friends!
Here’s a little fun for a Friday!
Brain Energy Support Team Founder and Chief Visionary Officer (BEST), Penny Condoll (pictured right) and Executive Director, Gloria Kraegel (pictured left), are all tricked out in their superhero garb and having a blast!
Learn more about our BEST Superheroes (#superheroesatourBEST) and join the campaign by clicking HERE. You’ll be glad you did!
The Brain Energy Support Team (BEST) is honored to present our latest guest blogger and one of our BEST friends.
Certified Journal Facilitator, author and caregiver,Barbara Stahura, was previously featured on our exclusive blog series, Our BEST Stories, for her valuable work on behalf of people with brain injuries and their families and caregivers. Today, Barbara shares with BEST readers the profound and important impact and healing properties that writing about one’s own story and experiences can provide.
When a brain injury happens, the familiar story of a life can be altered in ways not possible with any other kind of injury or illness. So much you knew about yourself—the wealth of information you depended upon to lead your life—can blur or disappear, leaving you stranded and struggling in an unknown place. Along with cognitive and emotional challenges, you may face challenges with your physical abilities. You can feel as though you’ve been kidnapped to an alien planet where nothing is familiar and you are lost in dangerous territory.
Family caregivers can feel equally bewildered, as well as terrified. I certainly did when my husband sustained a serious traumatic brain injury more than a decade ago. But my journal offered a safe sanctuary where I could pour out my deepest thoughts and feelings without judgment or criticism. Writing somehow made them more manageable. Despite being diagnosed with secondary traumatic stress, journaling allowed me to hold on and cope with the overpowering uncertainty, fear and anxiety.
As I’ve found during eight years of guiding journaling groups for people with brain injury and family caregivers, telling your story through journaling can enhance the healing process. Healing here does not mean restoring your injured brain to its former functioning or your life to the way it used to be. Instead, it means finding healthy ways to become aware of, accept and acknowledge what has happened so that you can move forward into your new post-injury story. Journaling, for even five or ten minutes at a time on a regular basis, can help release you from yearning for the past and open positive doors to your envisioned future.
How to journal
There are no rules in journaling, except perhaps to date all your entries. So don’t worry about correct spelling, grammar or punctuation. You need not be a good writer. Simply write in whatever way is comfortable for you. You can write on paper or use a keyboard. If a brain injury prohibits you from doing either, you can speak your entries into a recording device, use speech-recognition software or find a trusted confidante who will scribe your words without judgment or changes.
Keeping your journal private allows you to write honestly. But if you write an entry that you never want anyone to read, you can tear it out and destroy it. The benefit of journaling comes in the writing, not in preserving what you write.
To begin, you can simply pick up your pen or put your hands on the keyboard. But it’s helpful to create a structure for yourself by starting with a prompt (for example: Today I feel… or, The most important thing I can do now) You can experiment with various techniques such as Dialogue or Unsent Letter or even setting a time limit.
If you’re writing about a traumatic experience, don’t simply begin writing with no structure in place. Even something as simple as a five-minute limit can help you avoid writing yourself off an emotional cliff with no way back to safety. Stop writing if you feel yourself getting unusually upset. And over time, try to keep a balance between positive and negative so that you don’t end up endlessly ruminating on the darker aspects of your life.
After a brain injury, you might not be able to write much or for very long. Do whatever you can, and please don’t judge yourself harshly. As your condition improves, you will be able to write more. If you’re a caregiver, you might have difficulty finding time for self-care, but know that you can journal in only five or ten minutes at a time. A small journal will fit in a purse or pocket and you can write wherever you are.
As you continue journaling, you will have written memories of your healing and of how far you have come since brain injury altered your life. And there, in those words on the page, you—whether survivor or caregiver—have created the foundation on which to build the new story that will carry you into the future.
About the Author
Barbara Stahura, Certified Journal Facilitator, has guided people in harnessing the power of therapeutic journaling for healing and well-being since 2007. She facilitates local journaling groups for people with brain injury and for family caregivers at HealthSouth Deaconess in Evansville, Indiana, journaling for wellness and well-being classes for Ivy Tech Community College and facilitates online classes as a faculty member of the Therapeutic Writing Institute. She also presents or has presented journaling events for state Brain Injury Associations/Alliances, the National Guard, people with cancer, survivors of sudden cardiac arrest, equine-facilitated therapeutic groups, the National Association for Poetry Therapy and others. Co-author of the acclaimed After Brain Injury: Telling Your Story, the first journaling book for people with brain injury, she lives in Indiana with her husband, a survivor of brain injury. Learn more at her website, by clicking here.
My name is Penny Condoll and I am the proud founder and chief visionary officer of the nonprofit organization, the Brain Energy Support Team (BEST), headquartered in University Place, Washington. We are an organization that supports individuals with brain injuries, their families and caregivers.
And at BEST, we like to take support to a whole new level.
BEST is dedicated in working, learning and being together as a team, supporting and caring for each other. Together, we are taking the steps to build the BEST lives possible and changing the face of brain injury all together, while building awareness.
We have beautiful individual and collective stories to share about our passions, dreams and lives going forward. And while we know how important it is to look back and honor our journey through brain injury, we are equally (if not more!) passionate to share our new journey going forward and how we plan to give a “hand up” to others who travel along beside us.
Through my own personal journey as a former medical social worker, who not only found myself coping with my own brain injury and the discovery of a lack of support systems I needed to thrive, I, along with other dedicated individuals with brain injury and close supporters, formed BEST.
Our slogan was simple.
We know BEST.
Since 2007, we’ve been working hard to create the tools, resources, strategies and programs to set the brain injury community up for success in a safe, caring and nurturing environment.
Today, we support over 70 support groups throughout Washington State, as well as rich and resonant educational programming and support systems that help individuals realize their dreams and potential. We have also developed and implemented fun and engaging socialization activities and special events in our dedicated facility.
And it’s only going to get better!
I also want to extend a warm welcome and invitation to those who wish learn more about our BEST family.
Everyone is welcome and we are so happy to have you!
Join us, won’t you?
BEST Board Vice President, caregiver and guest blogger, Maggie DePuye-Phillips is back with another terrific installment of one of our featured blog columns, Caregiver’s Corner. Today, Maggie takes us on the road with a recap of the recent annual caregiver’s conference in the Puget Sound region as well as some great tips, information and resources.
Don’t go through life, grow through life.
Wow, what a profound quote and fitting for what I am about to share with you.
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the annual “Challenges in Caregiving: Giving Care, Taking Care“ caregiver’s conference, sponsored by the DSHS Aging & Long-Term Support Administration, Pierce County Community Connections and Full Life. I always look forward to this conference as a way to recharge my batteries, be reminded of self-awareness for self-care and learn new strategies to become better at what I do as a caregiver.
And once again, this conference did not disappoint me.
The keynote speaker, one of my favorites, Wendy Lustbader, a well-respected social worker and an Affiliate Associate Professor at the University of Washington, School of Social Work, spoke about the importance of caring for the needs of the spirit when caregiving. Referencing two of the many books she wrote, “Taking care of Aging Patients” and “Life Gets Better,” she recounts several anecdotes of her encounters with clients she has worked with over the years of her career. She defines spirituality as having three “dances:” perspective, vulnerability and meaning/purpose.
Ms. Lustbader went on to explain that when it comes to our loved one’s own spirituality, we are to speak in their verbiage (God, Lord, etc…) as a way to “be” with him/her. To gain perspective, receive and listen to connect your loved one with his/her own spirituality. Furthermore, recognize your loved one’s vulnerability and redefine their purpose in life by making changes to the environment, which in turn will uplift his/her spirits and help see that life does get better, even at the end.
So, with that, I have been enlightened and inspired to not only look within, but stay true to my own spirit, and be more conscientious when I am caring for my loved one and help his spirit take flight! After all, every act of kindness grows the spirit and strengthens the soul!
At last, summer is here! I am really excited because I now have taken up another “hobby!” Gardening! We created five raised garden beds in our backyard and planted a variety of vegetables and fruit several weeks ago. I am now seeing the fruits of our labor as sprouts have come through the soil and some of the starters have flowers on them. I am up at the crack of dawn and out the door, watering the beds and my flowers.
Surprisingly, although it’ added work to my daily routine as a caregiver, I truly look forward to this time. Gardening is truly a place where I find myself when I need to lose myself. Gardening also grows the spirit!
And along with summer, comes travel plans, which can put additional stress on the caregiver when making preparations. From my caregiver toolkit, here are some tips to follow:
1. Plan early! When you put in careful thought into your planning, you are more apt to guarantee a successful trip!
2. Be aware of your loved one’s strengths and limitations to determine whether he/she can manage the trip. It does not make sense to take someone to a crowded place if he is likely to become antsy or has challenges being around many people. Too much stimuli can also be frustrating for your loved one so keep that in mind when planning various places to visit such as museums or entertainment parks.
3. The duration of your trip is another factor to consider. Prolonged travel may be disruptive to the loved one when structure and routine is important to his/her well-being.
4. Take into consideration how you will be getting there and where you will be staying. Remember, many airlines and lodging facilities offer accommodations for travelers with disabilities so take advantage of their services. It will make it a lot easier on you and your loved one when little or no stress is present.
5. Lastly, plan activities that will benefit both you and your loved one. Be flexible with change, keep your sense of humor and laugh at all the situations that may happen. In turn, they become precious memories of your travels together.
Information & Resources
Looking for some caregiver education or support for family caregivers? Check out this resource, here.
July 20th-July 26th: 8th Annual Brain Injury Camping Experience at Lake Skookum, Eastern Washington, sponsored by TBI Survivor Network. For more information, click here.
August 9th-15th: BEST Camp at Dash Point State Park in Western Washington, sponsored by BEST. Check it out, here.
Here are a couple new books on caregiving that you may want to read over the summer:
“The Mindful Caregiver: Finding Ease in the Caregiving Journey by Nancy KrisemanHope for the Caregiver: Encouraging Words to Strengthen Your Spirit” by Peter Rosenberger
Whether it is gardening, traveling, camping or just enjoying the warmth of the sunny days ahead this summer, remember to keep your spirit alive by feeding it with light, energy and love. Let me leave you with this:
Kind hearts are the garden, kind thoughts are the roots, kind words are the blossoms, kind deeds are the fruits.
For caregivers, connections are critical.
While connections to resources, information and various forms of support are important, connecting with other caregivers who share a similar experience is life-changing.
That’s what Natasha Pietila was looking for.
Twenty-five years ago, when Pietila was baby, her father acquired a brain injury due to a cerebral aneurysm hemorrhage. Her mother became her father’s primary caregiver. As Pietila grew up, she also grew into the role of a caregiver, too, assisting her mother provide for her father’s care and well-being.
Here is Pietila’s take on what she and her mother faced as caregivers, which is unfortunately, a common experience for those who care for people who have a brain injury.
“Because we struggled to locate supportive services for my father or a community of caregivers, we’ve experienced isolation, exhaustion and frustration. Brain injury can be difficult to explain to those whose lives have not been affected by it and because my father’s brain injury is of the ‘invisible’ nature, our roles as caregivers are also ‘invisible.’”
Upon moving to Seattle in 2013, Pietila sought out a caregiver support group; more specifically, one for caregivers for people with brain injury.
She quickly found out that one did not exist.
When she tried other groups outside of the brain injury community, it was hard for her to connect because the other caregivers had not experienced brain injury.
She decided to action.
“I moved to Seattle in Fall of 2013 and wanted to find other people who ‘got it’ and I discovered that there weren’t any support groups in Seattle just for caregivers for people with brain injuries. Knowing how important it is to have a separate, safe space, in which one doesn’t have to censor feelings, experiences and questions, I decided to create the space that I needed. I was given a lot of encouragement and support by other caregivers and professionals in the community, who assured me that there were many caregivers in need of similar support and connection; this encouragement served as fuel for organizing our first support group meeting.”
Pietila is now the founder of the Brain Injury Caregiver Alliance of Seattle. The group has been meeting since March of 2014. Pietila is grateful and appreciative of being able to share and learn from other caregivers in the brain injury community. It’s a collaborative approach that aims to build community for, and with, other caregivers.
“The Brain Injury Caregiver Alliance of Seattle seeks to create an inclusive, supportive and resourceful community of caregivers, sealing up the gaps in our community, through which caregivers often fall,” says Pietila. “Available information about support for caregivers frequently boils down to: ‘take better care of yourself,’ which can feel dismissive because it doesn’t acknowledge or address the many time, financial and emotional barriers to self-care that caregivers often face.
In our group, we seek to identify barriers and realistic solutions to self-care, collect, provide, and advocate for resources, and make our group accessible and available to all caregivers for people with brain injuries.”
The group meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m.in room 221 at the Good Shepard Center located at 4649 Sunnyside in the Wallingford community of Seattle, Washington. Light refreshments are provided.
“We are inviting speakers to our meetings, who can provide information and resources needed by our members,” shares Pietila. “With the understanding that mindfulness practices and physical activity are key components of self-care, but that those can be difficult to locate or finance, we are planning to bring a yoga workshop to our members. Additionally, one of our members created a fantastic blog that houses resources and caregiver reflections.”
As the group continues to grow, what does Pietila see for the future? Pietila and her fellow caregivers are eager to expand their reach into the community and be at the ready as a resource for the medical community and other community members.
“We would like to explore ways to reach more caregivers, collect group member approved resources, provide caregiver respite and connect with allies in the community (like) medical providers, educators, police officers, social workers and more. I am also planning on assisting with a caregiver specific table at the (Washington State) TBI Conference for 2016.”
Pietila continues, “Given the increasing attention to brain injury in the research and medical community and by the media, this is an exciting time to be working towards expanding resources for the brain injury community.
I would like to see and participate in dialogue around revamping the medical community’s approach to brain injury, to include critical dialogue around caregiver support, barriers to information, the negative impact of isolation and the need for more long-term wraparound support options. Brain injury doesn’t just affect the person with the brain injury, but rather the whole community in a ripple-effect and so post-injury, it is the community as a whole that needs healing.”
Mark your summer calendars, make your plans and start packing your bags! Our 2015 summer camping experiences are back and we think they’ll be the BEST ever.
With the natural beauty and splendor of two stunning locations in Washington State setting the scene, be prepared to be treated to some enriching experiences this summer.
From July 20 to 26, travel to Eastern Washington to gorgeous North Skookum Lake to join other campers for Brain Injury Camp 2015. Now in it’s eighth year of operation, this week-long camping opportunity features engaging activities, workshops, support circles and so much more. Check out this short video to get a little taste of what this camp adventure looks like!
To get more information about this camp, visit braininjurycamp.org.
In the month of August, we head westward to the BEST Dash Point State Park Camp 2015! This annual camp experience is set in beautiful and iconic Dash Point State Park. The camping experience begins at 2:30 p.m . August 9 and runs through 1 p.m. on August 15. Take in the glorious surroundings while relaxing and enjoying friends. Here’s a video to inspire you!
For questions or more information about this camp, email BEST at email@example.com.
To add to the fun, BEST Founder and Chief Visionary Officer, Penny Condoll and BEST Executive Director, Gloria Kraegel, will be posting pictures and more throughout their excellent camping adventures. Join the campaign, “Penny and Gloria’s Excellent Adventures 2015” (#PGEA2015) to see the latest and the greatest from the road.
And now for something completely different (and delicious)! Read on.
“Film can bring personal stories to life while challenging the stigma, isolation, and social inequities people with disabilities routinely experience.” –Cheryl Green, StoryMinders
Interested in seeing film and art in a new way?
Looking to celebrate uniquely-told personal stories that uplift, motivate and inspire?
Ready to laugh, smile and enjoy some great conversations?
Well, the Brain Energy Support Team (BEST) has the perfect event just for you!
BEST is thrilled to announce that nationally-renowned filmmaker, educator and advocate, Cheryl Green, will be coming to the BEST Learning Center in University Place, Washington on the evening of June 5, 2015 for a terrific night of screenings of her celebrated short films.
Green’s film projects lend a fresh and creative approach (many times with a delightful comedic spin) that changes perspectives and invites a dialog and new ideas about the brain injury and disability communities. Some of the short films that will be shown have been developed by others in the brain injury community as special projects that highlight their personal stories and creativity. All films are Closed Captioned.
Green’s work has been shown at multiple film festivals, in educational settings and at other special events.
Green will also be on hand to provide commentary and answer questions about the films and her work.
The festivities will begin at 6:30 p.m. and will include a dessert and coffee reception.
This event is open to the general public and there is no cost to attend. Free ample parking is available onsite and the center is located on several major bus lines.
Please feel free to share this post with friends, family, neighbors and other community members. All are welcome!
To RSVP, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or join our upcoming Facebook event on the BEST Facebook page beginning Tuesday, May 12, 2015.
We can’t wait to see you there!
More about Green: Cheryl Green, MFA, MS integrates her degrees in Performance As Public Practice and Speech-Language Pathology to explore how story can be used to break down stigma and barriers. She makes films and media that combine personal narrative and self-advocacy to create dynamic, artistic tools for cross-disability justice. She is on the board of Disability Art and Culture Project and served on the board of Brain-injury Information Referral and Resource Development (BIRRDsong). She volunteered with the National Black Disability Coalition and Portland Commission on Disability. Cheryl’s mission with StoryMinders is to create a platform for people with brain injury to use the arts to increase connectedness within this often isolated population, to present stories and concepts in an accessible format, and to promote critical dialogue and change within the larger community.
To learn more about Green, Storyminders and more, click here.
Today, the Brain Energy Support Team (BEST) pays tribute to an extraordinary person who touched many lives in the brain injury community throughout the nation.
Ralph William Shields played key roles in brain injury advocacy. As a brain injury survivor himself, he was an advocate for disability rights at the local, state and national levels, held key leadership positions in various brain injury organizations, was a valued team member on a number of critical projects and trainings and high lauded for many other efforts.
Shields passed away earlier this year at his home in New York.
BEST Founder and Chief Visionary Officer, Penny Condoll, shares her thoughts on Shields’ work and legacy.
I met Ralph in 2008 at a national TBI conference in Washington, D.C. I was new to disability advocacy, had been a newly elected chair of the Washington State Governor’s TBI Council and was just starting the vision for BEST. During breaks from the conference, Ralph told me stories. I was so encouraged to hear his pride as he talked of his accomplishments and how he was influencing the “old school” thought about brain injury. I’ll never forget how I left that encounter.
I was changed.
I also gained a role model, a peer and a TBI brother.
Months later, I realized that Ralph had helped Dr. Gordon, his wife and the team at Mt. Sinai create the program, “Moving On.” This workbook has become a standard way we talk about brain injury in Washington State. It’s taught and supported in college settings and support groups. It’s one of the core tools we use in our Project PEER (TBI coaching and mentoring) program at BEST. It’s a workbook that has changed my life and my TBI family’s lives. The pages demonstrated how Ralph and the team had the belief that we could control our futures with the right support.
So thank you, Ralph, from your TBI family in Washington State, for your lifetime of service and tenacity. I hope you knew the significance of your impact.
For more information on Shields’ work and life and to leave your own memorial tribute online, click here.