Summer Institute II

I’ve been listening to the tapes I made of the 2014 Summer Institute on Theology and Disability back in June. It is almost impossible for me to take notes and listen to a lecture or presentation at the same time due to my brain’s inability to divide its attention which is why I tape them. It takes quite a bit of time going back through the tapes to take notes since I have to pause the tape in order to do this. I can’t imagine going to school now for it would take me forever to earn a degree!

Attendees who were Presbyterian or from another Reformed body.

Attendees who were Presbyterian or from other Reformed bodies.

I so enjoyed being around others involved in the disability community for we speak the same language. The Institute values the experiences and opinions of people living with a disability which isn’t the case back in the “real world.” After every speaker, there was a time for questions. There are the usual academic questions which one gets in a seminary classroom, sometimes asked by people who have disabilities and are serving as ministers in a faith community.

However, what I really liked about this time, were the questions from folks who have difficulty speaking due to their disability. They often spoke slowly and with great care. One of the challenges I have due to my TBI, is concentration. Some of the neurons in my brain were destroyed in the accident so the remaining ones, must do double duty. As a result, concentrating on something for an extended period of time, wears me out.

Here the issue of different challenges for folks who have different disabilities, clashed. I need someone to speak clearly so it doesn’t take a lot of concentration for me to understand them. Someone who has a disability which impairs their speech must speak slowly which I imagine is hard to do. However, it takes real concentration for me which causes cognitive overload. In our regular lives, people are too busy to take the time to listen and understand so I appreciated that time was allowed for this despite my cognitive overload.

What I really liked about the Institute is, everyone knew there are differences in disabilities. My challenges are different from someone else’s and the important thing is to take the time to really listen and understand one another. This is something those of us who have disabilities can teach the rest of the world, if they would only pay attention to us.

Moral MondaysThis is a picture of my friend TJ, who did civil disobedience in Raleigh, the capital of North Carolina. The North Carolina legislature is out of control for they are cutting many, many programs.  This past Monday, several clergy were arrested and I so very much wanted to be among them.  See this link for information about the protests. http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/06/11/2954059/clergy-lead-moral-monday-demonstration.html

I am astounded at our legislature and I want to join the protests but because of my brain injury, I think it would be too difficult for me to participate. Raleigh is about 3 1/2 hours from Asheville.  The jail is noisy and I understand folks aren’t released until about 2 or 3 AM.

Yesterday I had an appointment about 1 mile from my home on Haywood road so I decided to walk.  The traffic on Haywood was loud and I because I’m unable to filter noise, I found it difficult walking.  When I arrived to get my hair cut, I went inside where there was music playing on the stereo so I had to divide my attention and filter that out as well. The whole thing exhausted and reminded me why it’s best for me not to get arrested in Raleigh.

I did get another idea though.  There are many folks who just can’t take risk being exhausted for work on Tuesday so they cannot participate either.  It seems to me, we need to have some sort of event here.  It could be connected to what is going on in Raleigh.  I ran it by a couple of folks a week ago and they thought it might work.  I just need to follow up on my idea.

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Television

The picture on the lift is of my television. Actually it is a framed print but my television is behind it.  My husband Michael and I don’t watch television but we have one so we can play DVDs or watch special programs.  He’s really involved with bird watching and he found this print but he hasn’t hung it yet. Since we rarely watch television, this seemed as good a place as any to put it. The funny part is, we kind of like it there because it hides the television!

What is it with our society and televisions?  They seem to be every where.  At one point the post office even had one so we’d have something to watch as we waited in line. Yesterday after swimming at the Y, I was getting dressed when someone turned on the television in the locker room.  It was some stupid daytime show and I wasn’t interested in it at all.

My inability to filter out sound makes a blaring television really difficult for me.  People say they just like the background noise but I can’t have background noise and still function.  My brain no longer allows me to divide my attention so its not just background noise to me.  I turned on my hair dryer and the woman promptly turned the volume up so she could hear it.  

When I get over stimulated, which is what was happening to me, I become tense and short tempered.  I can only remain in that environment for a short time.  If it is a setting where I can turn the television off, I do so.  If not, I remain in the environment for as little as possible.

If you have a brain injury, do noisy televisions bother you? What about other sorts of stimulation: noisy rooms, music at dinner, or anything else?  Feel free to comment here or email me directly at puffer61@gmail.com I’m in the process of switching this blog to word press since commenting is much easier there. I had hoped brain injury survivors could share their challenges here but commenting is too difficult.        

Homeless Remembrance and Cookies


Today there was a Homeless Remembrance service at the Haywood Street Congregation. The church has worship services on Wednesday at 12:30 and many members attend who do not have homes. A free lunch is provided for everyone as well as a clothes closet. Folks are not required to go to the worship service in order to receive lunch which is unlike some other organizations here in Asheville. I went with my friend Bill who often attends there. He used to not have a place to live but now I am on a team of folks supporting him as he moves into housing.

I’ve attended once before but today was a special day. We were remembering all those who died who were homeless in Asheville this past year. The crowd was large and fairly noisy. At one point, a mother left with her crying child and the pastor Brian said it would be fine if she wanted to stay. She still choose to leave. I think Brian’s attitude is a good one to have for all must feel welsome at worship. However, I was secretly glad she took the baby out. It would have made worship very difficult for me to attend do to my inability to divide my attention. (If there’s noise I am unable to block it out and focus on what is important) I don’t do well with a lot of stimulation and this service certainly had this. I really wanted to attend so I pushed myself even though I knew it wasn’t the best environment for me.

Following the service, a group of us who are supporting Bill as he goes from being homeless to having a home, met together to bake Christmas cookies. I don’t usually attend two over stimulating events back-to-back but both events were important to me. We met at the synagogue which was near-by and we even had Jewish cookie cutters! I did talk to the Rabbi a bit about the difficulties of being Jewish during this Christmas season. I would have liked to talk to her and others on the team more about this but it is difficult for me to have a conversation while I’m doing something. I now can do only one thing at a time and I just couldn’t concentrate enough on a conversation with all the hustle and bustle. (again, dividing my attention)

I did have to leave the room for a bit because I could feel myself being overloaded cognitively. I went to the sanctuary (Again, my ignorance. Is it called a sanctuary in a synagogue?) and put my ear plugs in but there was construction noise right outside the window. I went back to the fellowship hall and found a chair in the corner where I could “rest my brain.” I felt much better after returning ten minutes later.

I don’t think people realize how much energy and planning it takes to do simple things when one has a TBI. If you have a brain injury, what sort of things do you have to do in order to participate in events? Do you find it difficult to concentrate on things when something else is going on? Commenting instructions are on the upper right hand side. (I’m unable to comment here so if you would like a response, contact me directly at puffer61@gmail.com) Have a happy holiday!