If you want to see someone’s smile and energy light up a room, spend about five minutes with the Brain Energy Support Team’s Learning Coordinator, Janet Novinger.
Novinger has this innate way of connecting with others in such a positive and big-hearted way; one can’t help walking away feeling empowered and cared about. It’s with this spirited persona that she has lovingly embraced the BEST family with open arms and an open heart.
Novinger became introduced to the BEST organization in the fall of 2011. She began coordinating and facilitating BEST educational opportunities and trainings in 2012 and 2013. Now, with the launch of the new BEST Learning Center in January of 2014, Novinger is beyond thrilled, not only by the beautiful training facility, but by all of potential connections with class participants and the community at large.
For Novinger, to say learning, training, making connections and bonding in an educational setting is a passion, is a vast understatement. For this teacher, mentor, businesswoman and supporter, it’s the very fabric of Novinger’s very being. She has worked for over two decades—both externally and internally—as an organizational consultant in the greater Seattle region for a multitude of clients.
“My tagline, if you will, of my company Explorations, (www.explorationsconsulting.com) is ‘explorations, learning, growth and change,’” explains Novinger. “Magic happens in groups. We really begin to see things within ourselves and others.”
“I absolutely love ‘setting the stage’ for these experiences! Whether it’s the planning, thinking or research, I do these things with a big heart. I love the beginning of that communication process with participants and preparing the ground to learn and connect.”
Novinger continues, “Anything can happen in a classroom. The possibilities are so exciting! There’s such an ‘aliveness’ by engaging with a group. It facilitates and allows people to examine where they want to go and how they want to be transformed. People can think about their next steps and how they want to gain and use their skills.”
“It’s just so sacred.”
“Sacred” is a good way to describe Novinger’s connections to BEST. As an experienced coordinator and facilitator for many other similar organizations over the years, BEST is unique and special. Novinger’s words capture that connection well.
“Penny (Condoll, BEST Founder and Chief Visionary Officer) and Gloria (Kraegel, BEST Executive Director), have been able to create the organization in my mind and in my heart,” smiles Novinger. “Don’t get me wrong; there are some really great organizations out there that really do help and support people and their families with traumatic brain injury. However, at BEST, there’s a real focus on the impact of traumatic brain injury on his or her caring circle. “This concept often gets ‘lost’ in the bigger organizations as some tend to focus in on research, prevention, education and advocacy only.”
The bottom line for Novinger about BEST, a perhaps a custom “tagline” so to speak?
“In my mind, BEST improves today and tomorrow.”
Todays and tomorrows for Novinger are special and important, as she is too, a brain injury survivor. Two freak accidents in a five week timespan changed Novinger’s life forever in 1999.
It was a simple case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In 1999, Novinger was employed at the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department. A teen was riding his bicycle indoors on the office stairs, when Novinger proceeded into the stairwell. An instantaneous collision occurred and Novinger was badly injured. Despite her pain and discomfort, she pushed herself to return to work, when a piece of equipment in the nearby restroom suddenly fell and struck Novinger in the head.
“Life was never the same after that.”
Due to “second impact syndrome” Novinger’s brain function changed. Novinger worked hard on self-care, creating and implementing different systems to manage challenges and engaging other people’s help in her own support circle. Things that are sequential, planning tasks, following steps and scheduling are difficult. Add what Novinger calls, “a level of fatigue and physical pain that shows up despite my best efforts,” along with balance and eyesight issues, well, some days can be pretty difficult and frustrating.
“Sometimes, I can’t understand why I can’t do something,” says Novinger. “It can be frustrating. But then I realize: that’s the brain (injury). I realize then that I need to approach it with compassion, kindness and flexibility.”
It’s with that very approach that Novinger hopes to continue to embrace in 2014, as well as continue to tap into her passions. Besides her work, one of Novinger’s big passions is her beloved adopted home of Seattle. The Midwest native come to the Emerald City in 1989 and has never looked back.
“The land here speaks to me,” beams Novinger. “I love the people, the vibrancy of the city and the sheer beauty here.”
Family is also a big passion for her. They include a niece (who she says with a smile that she is completely “attached” to), her sister, brother-in-law, mother and two rescue cats, Peanut and Mowgli. The cats have an extra special place in Novinger’s heart.
“These cats have a traumatic background and in many ways I feel like we are all healing together,” shares Novinger. “Not only do the cats provide company, but they are always happy to see me, have a sense of when I need them and they are both real cuddlers.”
And of course, there’s her passion for the people and programs at BEST. What does Novinger see for the organization in 2014? Her vision is straightforward.
“With the BEST Learning Center, I want to create programs and success for myself and for others here at BEST.”
“I have found with my traumatic brain injury the desire to heal and have the fullest and best life possible. I’ve learned that there are so many, strategies and practices out there to help.”
Have a BEST story you’d like to share? Contact Kim Thompson at email@example.com.