Wishing you a warm, bright and peaceful holiday from your friends at the Brain Energy Support Team!
A fabric self-portrait of Karen Sheppard
Betsey Johnson, American fashion designer
Karen Sheppard would probably be inclined to agree with American fashion designer and icon Betsey Johnson. If Sheppard could, she’d create at the sewing machine for hours. For her, sewing is more than a just a hobby. It’s a living and breathing lifelong forever kind of passion that she positively loves like no other. Ask Sheppard what she thinks about sewing and crafting and you will get the most direct and truly heartfelt answer:
“I love it.”
And it’s not just the words, either. It’s the body language, the tone. When she talks about sewing, even if it’s just three simple little words, watching her smile from ear to ear and her face light up with excitement and energy is simply breathtaking to witness. For Sheppard, this is the kind of spirit that has been with her for many years.
“I started sewing at 10 years old,” says Sheppard. “I had a little sewing machine and I made Barbie dresses. When I got older, I got to use my mother’s machine. I learned to sew on both of these.”
She still has both of the machines in her home; they are her treasures. While her sewing and crafting skills have been refined and developed over the years, the excitement and joy has always remained steadfast.
“It’s fun and exciting!” says Sheppard. “I can go and do that and forget about everything else.”
Ask her about her favorite thing to create and she just simply laughs.
“I love to make EVERYTHING! I just get a kick out of it. Even if I cut something too small, I still make something out of it. I have a “no-waste” policy!”
Sheppard has also been able to channel her passion with employment. She’s worked part-time at the local JoAnn’s Fabrics store for eight years. The work was personally satisfying for her—she loved interacting with the customers and giving them advice on their various projects. She describes the experience as “neat.”
However, Sheppard has plans. In fact, her plans and her current life circumstances may possibly rival her love of sewing. It’s that good.
Sheppard’s last day at JoAnn’s is December 24th; her new path is right here at the Brain Energy Support Team. Sheppard will serve as the Stitching It Up Coordinator. She is just thrilled be able to help teach and mentor to the group’s eager crafters and have lots of fun at the same time.
And speaking of fun, there’s another part of Sheppard’s life that she is simply over the moon about. It’s really big news.
Sheppard has just moved into her very own home. She’s been there for nearly a couple of months now and the excitement has hardly waned.
“I love it!” she exclaims. “I like the keys. I really like the keys to that house. I hold those keys like a treasure!”
Indeed. In the past, she’s either always lived with a family member or in someone else’s home. Having a space of her very own (along with her beloved dog, Charley and cat, Isabel, as roommates) and her own independence is something Sheppard savors.
“It’s my house. I get the say. I like the independence. I don’t have to do things I don’t want to do.”
“This house means the whole world to me.”
And just like Sheppard’s sewing and crafting projects, boy, does she have plans. In time, there will be fresh paint and perhaps a garage. However, it’s the garden planning that has Sheppard really excited. Besides growing her own vegetables and lots of pretty flowers, there’s an element in the future garden that holds a special place in Sheppard’s heart: a maple tree.
“I want to plant a maple tree as a memorial to my dad,” says Sheppard quietly. “I have some of my dad’s ashes that I want to plant with the tree and then put a special plaque there for him. I also want to have two other plaques on each side of the tree to pay tribute to my grandparents, too. I also want to have a bench there by the tree, so that I can sit there and think about them.”
Sheppard’s father, like her, was a quiet person, but someone who really understood her. His death was hard.
“My dad didn’t talk much; he just said a little bit. We went on lots of walks together. We just understood each other.”
“My dad would be so proud that I have this house.”
Sheppard does have a lot to be proud of: she’s the proud mom of two, she’s fulfilling her passion and she’s teaching others. It’s a lot of accomplishments; being a part of BEST helps.
Sheppard has been coping with TBI since surgery in the mid-1970’s. She’s been involved in support groups for over a decade and has been a part of BEST for three years; she’s been with the Stitching It Up group for two years and also attends the Puyallup Support Group.
“At the support group, I go to listen; sometimes to say something. My friends there (and at BEST) mean a lot. I can have something going wrong and here I can talk about things others just wouldn’t understand.”
The support is important. While Sheppard has good days, some days are harder. Speech has been the hardest thing for Sheppard. She works with online tools and a speech therapist. Sometimes, walking isn’t easy, or as Sheppard puts it, “…my legs aren’t doing what they are supposed to do.” Having the house has motivated Sheppard to keep active. Her dog Charley also keeps her moving, too. He loves frequent walks around the neighborhood. Sometimes Sheppard isn’t always in the mood for those walks, but she knows it’s important for her health and goes anyway.
“I think I have a bright future,” smiles Sheppard.
We think so, too.
Have a story to share? Contact Kim T. at email@example.com.
Education matters for everyone.
Through educational experiences, we grow personally and professionally, are better able to connect with ourselves and our communities and we gain the tools and the skills we need to help us live our lives to the fullest potential.
Education also can take us places on life’s journey through learning new and developed skill sets. As we refine our skills and develop new ones, the classroom setting helps us achieve goals through encouragement, looking at possibilities, gaining support and comfort, creating a sense of empowerment and so much more.
That’s why education is one of the most critical parts of our mission and vision at the Brain Energy Support Team (BEST). We are passionate and excited about providing a robust series of classes aimed to support, energize and inspire individuals with brain injury and their families.
Beginning January 2014, our BEST Learning Center located in University Place, Washington, is ready to help BEST participants kick off the New Year with a wide variety of classroom programming. Led by experienced and supportive instructors, here’s a taste of just some of the educational experiences that we have available:
- Action planning for the future.
- Life after brain injury.
- Brain injury and work accommodations.
- Brain injury and substance abuse.
- Listening and communication skills.
And that’s not all. Take advantage of the BEST Cyber Sale and save big! Register for classes beginning now and up until December 24, 2013 and receive 50% off all class registrations! Register between December 25, 2013 and January 5, 2014, and receive an early registration discount of 20% off for classes that are scheduled for or begin in January or February.
Now is the perfect time to take advantage of to giving the gift of education for yourself or a loved one.
Registration is a breeze through our handy online registration system right here on this website. To learn more, see full class descriptions, dates, times and prices, click HERE. Do you have questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact us. We are happy to help you with your educational needs and look forward to meeting you at our beautiful new learning facility.
Here’s to the New Year!
Happy Cyber Monday, friends and supporters of BEST! We are pleased to announce that our Stitching It up online store is up and running! Handcrafted quilts, totes and survivor bracelets are lovingly made by our BEST crafters. Perfect for gifts for family, friends (or yourself!), all proceeds from the sales of these items benefit the programs and services at BEST. Make your holiday shopping a breeze while supporting a great cause. Check out the site right HERE! Happy shopping!
Photo credit: Paul Bishop
Paul Bishop is a believer.
There are a number of reasons why he believes in things: his strong faith in God; the love and support from his children and grandchildren; his vast travel experiences around the country and the world through his work and life experiences; his deep love of nature; his independent thinking and focused reflection; surviving a near fatal stroke; his new role on the Brain Energy Support Team (BEST) and the relationships he’s been blessed with at the organization.
However, there’s one particular thing that keeps his ability to believe even stronger. Call it a mindset, a gut feeling or a spiritual awakening. There’s one thing he knows for sure.
“I think I have something I’m supposed to do in life. I may not have all the pieces to that yet, but I believe that with all of my heart,” reflects Bishop.
Definitely a telling statement from a self-described adventurer and thinker, Bishop started doing things in life in a unique way. Born to a military family in Germany (his father served in the U.S. Army), Bishop developed a case of wanderlust by circumstance. He spent his formative years being in Germany, Japan, and the United States. Seeing new places, having adventures and being immersed in different cultures really resonated with him.
It was no surprise when Bishop took to the road as a trucker and the job took him all over the United States. It was a 25 year career.
A Self-Portrait. Photo Credit Paul Bishop
Bishop would head out on the open road for four to six weeks at a time (with a week off in between gigs). The results of his work are astounding. Bishop logged 140,000 miles per year; at the end his career, he logged a total of 3.5 million miles on the road.
“I’ve been in every state except Vermont and Maine,” chuckles Bishop. “I spent a lot of time alone in my truck for years. There were definitely lots of reflection and lots of time for thinking.”
And there was lots of time taking in the scenery and savor it. He definitely has some favorite places in all of his years on the road.
“I love the Painted Desert,” shares Bishop. “It’s very beautiful and calming. One of these days I would love to set up a camera to tape all day long just to see the colors change.”
Speaking of colors, the changing of the leaves marking the fall season on the East Coast was another passion to see and experience. Bishop even shares his memories of his adventure traveling in his truck through Montana’s Glacier National Park in 14 feet of snow. While the driving was treacherous, the serenity and beauty of the land moved him.
Travel remains in his blood, even today.
“I really want to visit Alaska,” says Bishop. “I would love to keep travelling. I’d love to see Scotland, England, Australia and return to Asia.”
Of course you’d think that with all of this travel, Bishop wouldn’t be grounded necessarily; but that wasn’t the case at all. He’s the loving father of three children and proud grandfather of three. He is really grateful for the strong relationships he has with his children and their families; it means the world to him.
Bishop and his family have a also strong philosophy of positive self-pride and acceptance; it’s something that carries them forward as they support one another.
Bishop’s daughter has a form of spinal bifida; while not the most invasive type, it still posed challenges.
“We raised Kendra to be proud of who she is and not to be ashamed of any physical limitations,” explains Bishop. “She ended up making lots of friends and did fine.”
Bishop’s grandson was recently diagnosed as autistic; Bishop’s view remains unchanged.
“We accept people where are at and for who they are. For my grandson, life will be as good as it can be, and I personally think he will have a great future.”
Bishop appreciates a future for everyone; especially his own. Why? Right before the holidays in 2010, his future was nearly lost.
Bishop was out of town working and back in his lodging when he suffered a severe stroke. With no ability to talk or move, he was unable to summon help. Eventually, after a long period of time, he was able to get assistance, but he was worried.
“I had all of the odds against me,” says Bishop. “I had no medical help right away and I was feeling my whole body shut down.”
“It was a bad nightmare.”
While medical experts weren’t optimistic at first, Bishop held his own and recovered. He credits being in the right hospital (they had a dedicated stroke unit), his faith in God, his belief he had more to do in life and his hard work in the recovery and the rehabilitation process.
Today, Bishop still has challenges. Reading and understanding reading can be hard in particular. He plays lots of word games to exercise his mind, along with some good tools he learned through BEST. There’s also a lot of trial and error, too. For the most part, there are more good days than bad days and Bishop feels he’s found peace and happiness.
A lot of those good feelings come from his new found role at BEST. Bishop has been a part of the BEST family since early 2013 and now serves as its Outreach Coordinator. He assists with administration work, working with volunteers, community outreach and coordinator for special events.
He savors his role.
“I really like being involved in something, while being productive and helping people,” he says.
He continues, “Right now it’s an exciting time at BEST. I am so grateful to Penny (Condoll) for seeing something in me and wanting to work with me.”
“We have a really good mutual respect for each other and a unique relationship. We are honest with each other and we don’t judge one another.”
“I am really looking forward to seeing BEST take it to the next level, to really sustain ourselves. The peer support (aspect) is really neat. Those visiting and social connections are so valuable.”
“At BEST, everyone has something to offer.”
Spoken like a true believer indeed.
Have a story to share? Contact Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org.
People with the biggest and most loving hearts can do some pretty magical things. These wonderful souls are connected with so much good in the world when it comes to helping others; kindness, care, inspiration, love, positivity, giving a needed hug and a hand up are just some of the hallmarks of their characters. They are also instrumental in the creation and love of dreams, whether these dreams are for others or their very own.
These are the words and concepts that perfectly define BEST member Diane Rasch.
Rasch, a Midwest native, married mother of three, artist, performer and craftswoman, is well known in the organization for her warm smile, her kindness and dedication to others in BEST at support groups and “Stitchin’ It Up!” and her wonderful creative talents. And while she has spent most of her life helping others, she is taking some time to realize her own dreams too.
Rasch has started her own business “Heartfelt Tidbits of Creativity” which combines her love of lifting others spirits while showcasing her line of handmade cards, notes, and other crafts. Rasch is a natural at this endeavor and she is eager to continue to grow and learn. She was also a featured artist at the TBI art show in September 2013.
“It just keeps getting more and more creative; the creativity keeps coming more and more,” explains Rasch. “Getting into making cards really means a lot to me. I just love making cards. It’s so much fun!”
One of Rasch’s earlier card making projects launched right here at BEST. Rasch decided to send BEST members special hand-crafted birthday cards. People were touched by the gesture, but there was one person who reached back out to Rasch that touched her heart profoundly.
“I received a thank you card back for the birthday card I sent,” shares Rasch. “There was a handwritten note that said how much that card meant to that person. They told me it was the only birthday card they got.”
Rasch continues, with emotion in her voice.
“I felt so moved by this response, I just cried. This really touched me; this is why I just love getting into making cards.”
It’s with this kind of care and commitment to others that has been a staple in Rasch’s life, before and after her brain injury in 2006. Prior to her injury, Rasch spent decades teaching, mentoring and caring for children in the public and private arena. Children hold an extra special place in Rasch’s heart; she thinks of them fondly and often. She is particularly passionate about children with special needs and inner-city youth; she spent years helping these children not only learn new things, but she also helped coordinate healthy meals and emotional support for each child in her charge.
“These are the kids that society sees as hopeless, “shares Rasch. “I didn’t see it that way at all. I was just drawn to these kids. There is such value to all of them and so many get ‘thrown away.’ I knew there was hope. I loved watching these kids change and grow. For me, it was very special to me and very rewarding.”
While children and serving other sis certainly a passion in her adult life, she had another creative passion in her youth that still burns bright in her heart: dance. Rasch started at the tender age of four learning dance. She was instantly hooked on the art form and proceeded to study dance for the next decade. Rasch took as many ballet and tap classes as she could manage, savoring the magic, movement and creative spirit expressed through the world of dance. As she was about move to toe shoes in her ballet program, financial issues and a conflict with the instructor ended the lessons.
But the love of dance never left her and even with a TBI, Rasch is still dancing. Literally.
Last spring, Diane had some chance encounters with a dance instructor who encouraged her to resume her ballet instruction. At first hesitant, Rasch decided to give it a try anyway and she signed up for lessons at the Ballet Theater School in Edgewood.
It changed her life.
“I can’t always make my hands and legs go at the same time or same pace,” says Rasch with a hearty laugh. “But I love it and it has been really inspirational to me.”
“Plus, you really have to have a good sense of humor, “she smiles and winks.
And a live performance doesn’t hurt either. Rasch performed in Headstrong’s “WeirdStock: Strangers and Aliens” event in October, performing a dance with scarves. Rasch’s performance was nothing short of inspiring.
“I really wanted to do my dream and do something with dance,” she said. “I decided on performing with scarves. It was spontaneous, but it just felt right.”
Speaking of feeling just right, Rasch’s involvement with BEST is exactly that. Rasch and her husband are relatively new residents of Washington State, a move predicated on living closer to Rasch’s three children and their families who are all local residents. It proved to be a good move in more ways than one; she expanded her family and then some.
When Rasch lived in the Midwest, she encountered something all too common in the TBI community: lack of validation and belief.
“My doctor’s told me symptoms were all in my head,” she sighs.
Then one day at a public library in Illinois, she happened upon a book that changed her life for the better. It was a book on TBI and for the first time she could connect and validate her experiences.
After arriving in Washington, she joined BEST for support and has nothing but fierce love for her new found family.
“I’m really close to everyone at BEST, “she explains. “For the first time in my life, it’s so nice to have someone who really, really gets you. People ask me why I got to more than one of the support groups at BEST.”
“I tell them it’s simple. With the love and support we have for each other, it’s family. And It’s really important to be with family.”
If you would like to share your story and journey, contact Kim at kimT@brainenergysupportteam.org.
Here at the Brain Energy Support Team (BEST) , stories matter.
Everyone who is involved with the organization has a story to tell and a remarkable personal journey. Our new blog feature, Our BEST Stories, is designed to not only tell individual stories on how people became involved with BEST, but also to inspire, share and promote conversation.
If you’ve had the opportunity to spend time with BEST Program Director, Penny Condoll, you’ll notice that she has an important catch phrase:
“It’s a beautiful thing.”
At BEST, our stories are beautiful things indeed.
Let’s kick off our first story.
Meet Kim Thompson (a.k.a. me, your author!).
Me, at the BEST 1st Annual Dinner and Dessert Auction on 10/26/13 in costume (I am not really a blonde!)
Name: Kim Thompson
Current City: University Place, Washington
Born: Tacoma, Washington
Personal Life: married, mom of two, freelance newspaper and magazine journalist, BEST team member
Favorite Quote: “Women and elephants never forget.” —writer Dorothy Parker
Favorite things: family and friends, good cheese, all kinds of chocolate, running and walking, writing, music, animals, restaurants, Tacoma
My journey to the Brain Energy Support Team was an interesting and unexpected one. I credit a savvy newspaper editor, the happy involvement of the universe and downright good fortune.
As a freelance journalist, one of the key gigs is being a military reporter for a local publication. Back in the early spring, my editor was doling out assignments and he told me that he discovered BEST and thought it would make an interesting story for our readers. After doing the research, I wholeheartedly agreed and picked up the story.
When I contacted BEST for an interview, Executive Director, Gloria Kraegel, got back to me immediately and suggested a meeting. As a journalist, it’s always a good sign when a source is eager to talk and gets back to you right away. I had a hunch that it would be a good interview.
My hunch was correct. I had a wonderful meeting not only with Gloria, but with Penny Condoll, BEST Program Director. Both women were so kind, welcoming, open and straightforward about the organization’s mission, vision and community engagement. They were also quite gracious when I kept them 30 minutes over my promised interview timeframe. Let’s put it this way: I was so engrossed in the conversation and learning more, that time just slipped away. I thanked both Gloria and Penny for their time, energy and great information. As I walked out, I knew exactly what needed to happen next.
I decided to write the heck out of that story.
I also decided that it wouldn’t be the last time I would see Gloria and Penny.
Again, my hunch was a correct one.
Because BEST had such a rich overall story, I felt that one story just wasn’t enough. I wanted to cover the Stitchin’ It Up! program as well, as it touched me so profoundly. My editor agreed and the second story of the series was born.
By the end of that interview, Gloria and Penny were no longer sources, but friends and mentors. We agreed to stay in touch.
It wasn’t soon after that meeting, that I learned that the BEST team had acquired a home. I was absolutely thrilled to learn about BEST Space and how everything fell into place to make it happen. When Gloria and Penny asked if I wanted a tour, I jumped at the chance. It was such a personal treat to see the BEST team’s vision come to life in this terrific space. To quote Penny again (because it seems so fitting), it was a beautiful thing.
I popped by the BEST Space Open House celebration later that month and had the opportunity to meet so many really great people. The space looked amazing—so inviting and comfortable. It was easy to see the loving small touches; but most importantly, it was the team’s passion in making this dream a reality that really struck me.
Since that time, I have brought my children to BEST Space. My little test of specialness—simply ask my kiddos what they think. They told me that they both liked how nice the people were, how cool the craft room was and that they would like to visit again. Out of the mouth of babes, right?
So, I am pleased to announce that I actually am officially part of the BEST family as of early October. I will be helping out with public relations, social media, blogging, and writing tasks to support BEST. I am excited to be of service.
And the timing of this involvement is so deeply poignant for me personally. A very close family member has been struggling with partial complex seizures as the result of a possible TBI suffered earlier in life. While the cause is still under investigation, I was able to gain support and valuable resources from my new friends at BEST. It was a salve for my entire family.
As I journey forward at BEST, I know my story will grow, change and become even more wonderful. I am so looking forward to getting to know all of you and enjoying some good conversations. I also welcome your ideas, feedback and questions on the blog and our Facebook and Twitter pages. Contact me at kimT@brainenergysupportteam.org. Looking forward to chatting soon!
Hello friends and supporters of BEST!
As all of you are aware, there are lots of blogs out there in the cyber world. Everyone has their own specific definitions of what a blog is and what a blog does.
Here at BEST, we have our very own definition of a blog, too. First off, a blog is a great forum to share information and engage in discussion. However, we see our website’s blog as a bit more. We see it as a welcoming place; a place to come together to learn, share ideas and support one another on our journeys.
That’s why we are excited to share with you some upcoming changes on the blog.
Here’s a little taste of what to expect:
Everyone who has their lives touched in some way by traumatic brain injury has a story to tell. Perhaps it’s a story of overcoming obstacles and having perseverance. Maybe it’s a story of embracing a new path. Periodically, we are going to share stories of real people and their real journeys.
Things You Need to Know
We will continue to post information and resources that is of value to you, our readers. Have some information that you think would be of interest to others in this forum? Tell us about it!
Inspirational words come in all forms: quotes from great thinkers, song lyrics, art, photography, poetry, humor and so much more. Look for little tidbits of information aimed to inspire.
Okay, you gotta have a little fun, right? Laughter is a great thing. Check out the blog for some funnies that will put a smile on your face.
One of the best things about a blog: comments and discussion. Watch for a new “talking point” icon to appear on our posts; we’ll pose questions to get the conversation started. Good conversation builds good community!
What do you think?
As always, your feedback and ideas are important. We welcome them.
So, stayed tuned and enjoy!
Wow! We have a home!
Thanks to the support of our Board of Directors, Kim Thompson of The Ranger for her great articles, an anonymous donation, and the enthusiasm of our new friends at Miller Investment Partnership BEST now has its own space to host small group discussions, activities, and classes. We’ve always held groups, presentations, trainings, and other activities in our community and we’ll continue to be an active part of the community.
We’re setting up shop and expect to open our doors early September.
Remember, we’ve been giving hints on our facebook page where we are located without giving you the address. If you’re familiar with the Tacoma, Fircrest, UP area have some fun and see if you can find us.
The next Board of Directors Meeting will be held at 10am on Saturday, July 13, 2013 at the Tacoma Area Coalition of Individuals with Disabilities (TACID.
TACID is located at 6315 S 19th Street, Tacoma WA 98466.
Please note that the date is subject to change at the Board’s discretion and post updates here if a change in the Board meeting schedule is made.
The Board meeting agenda will be posted prior to the meeting.