Love Your Brain Retreat

"Pass it On"

“It's your own conscience
That is gonna remind you
That it's your heart and nobody else's
That is gonna judge.

Be not selfish in your doings:
Pass it on. (Pass it on, children)
Help your brothers (help them) in their needs:
Pass it on.” 

Burnin'

-The Wailers

Here's the crew.

Why was this Love Your Brain an awesome retreat?

Well, I don’t know how to explain why this was so good. It is always difficult to remember what happened three years ago, or ten years ago, or 20 years ago, but I do know about the Love Your Brain Retreat (LYB) I will remember this retreat 25 years later. (In other words, I will remember 2047… if I am still alive.)

My heat was filled with love.

Can you give me a few details about the retreat before I stop reading your webpage? 

Sure. Here are a few of the important facts. 

  1. Don't worry about describing yourself. Don't explain your difficulties. Don’t worry about getting into a rabbit hole. Most people with TBIs try to defend their injuries. Just be you.  
  2. Relax. Talk with other people and don’t worry about figuring out everything. 
  3. We are all different and that is good. You never had to feel odd at the retreat with each person.
  4. There were times when the entire group talked about their injuries or the people who were caregiver people. Each person was a little different and that was one of the best parts with the meetings. Yes, there was a lot of crying. No one felt bad about crying. 
  5. Give people hugs if you want to. Hugs are pretty good. As a teacher, we were told not to give hugs to kids. Well, now that I'm not teaching anymore, I can give away a lot of hugs.
  6. What did I see that was amazing? It's hard to list it down to just a few things but I'll try to explain as much as I can. Everybody who's had any kind of a brain injury, or stroke, or some problem with a brain problem will fit for a Love Your Brain Retreat.

How did you get to the Love Your Brain Retreat? 

We applied. 

We met with Melisa on Zoom meeting, and we chatted. We were then selected to go to Jefferson, Maine.

We flew from Seattle to Boston…took an Amtrak rail to Portland, Maine…and then got in a van that took us to our location. 

Welcome to Boston.

It sounds like an easy trip. What was the hardest part of the trip? 

The hardest part was landing in Boston and then taking a quick bus to Amtrak. We had about an hour and a half to get to Amtrak. The bus was packed (on Sunday!). Was everyone going to church or heading home after church? Even the bus was slow. I could have walked to Amtrak more quickly. And then…one of the kind of people who I hate was talking on his cell phone like he was producing an hour-long terrible TV show. He talked about tennis, Harvard, MIT, his girlfriend, his job as a professor (he is either the worst professor, or a liar), and then he started to talk about how smart he was.

Anyway, we arrived with about 30 minutes to get into Amtrak. I asked an Amtrak dude and said which train goes to Portland. He said, “This is the south side. You need the north side.” 

What he said took me a few seconds… “Is there another Amtrak in Boston?”

Ya, this is the south side.”

“Can I walk to the north side?”

It’s about a mile away.”

I started to do the add up my time to get to north side…we would get a taxi to the north side. In the end we used an Uber car to get to Amtrak. Yes, we were late, and Amtrak was already gone. We had to wait for the next Amtrak ride for 6 hours. By the time we got to Portland it was dark at midnight and arrived at our hotel at 2AM.

Let me take a few moments to do some deep breaths to calm down. 

Yes, the hotel was a mess. Yes, the bed was like sleeping in a cement cradle. Yes, it was the worst hotel I have ever been in. Cost versus clean hotel vs Lay on the floor at the Portland airport. I’d take the airport. 

Are you whining like a baby?

Yes... I always need to be a crybaby.

Yes, my t-shirt said Powell's City of Book...Portland, OR. My photo missed Portland...

Stop crying and explain how you got from Portland to Jefferson, Maine.

Okay. Melisa wore a Love Your Brain tag and I saw her walking with a few other people. I said howdy and other people started to show up. Pretty soon we had about 15 people ready to get in a van and take a ride.

I'm not great at talking since I have Aphasia, but Keith started talking to me about everything and we had about an hour to kill time. I was able to relax.

Once we arrived, we had to drop off our pills and meet with a nurse and a psychologist, and then we were led to our cabin.

What are the cabins like?

If you have been too a cabin before then you know what LYB cabin was like the rest of the world. A place to go to bed. A place to go to the bathroom. A place to shower. Very much like a hostel.

We set up our stuff (sleeping bag, clothing) and then walked down to the main area. Everyone did a little talking and enjoyed the nice day. There were a few things to snack and walk around the camp.

Around 6PM dinner was ready. We sat down with our cabin so we could go through the expectations in the cabin. Momma (our leader) made sure everyone had an opinion and then we ate.

What was the food like?

Well... I am one of those, "I don't smell or taste anything," but the food was great. There were a lot of choices. You could eat fifty gallons of salad if you wanted to, or you could eat chicken until you were full. What was good was that I tried lots of odd foods for me. I could taste salt, sweet, and vinegar. The cooks were awesome.

This was printed in our cabin so everyone could follow the plans.

How are the days organized?

This probably looks easy for regular people, but the organization for me was perfect. Memorizing things are difficult for me. I might remember two things, but a third thing will cause me to forget everything. I write things down these days so I can remember items.

If you look at Wednesday you see that the day is full. A TBI person will need a few breaks to relax. A 1PM time to take a nap is perfect for me. When I tried to go back to teaching I would have a headache for a couple days. I never had a headache until I had my brain injury. Now days, I take a nap around 1PM and then I try to do a few things after I wake up.

At 2:30PM we had a session to focus on intention setting. Most injured people ignore setting goals and pretend that they are working with intention. Yes, that was my role for about two years. Freeing yourself and allowing your world to step back and enjoy oneself is something everyone needs.

At 4:30PM we painted our masks. (The masks were made the day before. I won't do a good job of explaining how to make masks. So here's the inter-web: https://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Papier-Mâché-Mask ) My painting was like Picasso got in a fight and hit a Blue Man in the head.

On Thursday we explained our masks. I painted my mask with a yellow side to clarify my injury and my blue years of being bummed because I couldn't do what I used to do. (Yes, my mask was squished in my backpack as I traveled.)

Dinner was always a great time to eat and talk with lots of people. After dinner we would have a long Yoga time to do a lot of breathing and feeling strong.

After the yoga I went back to the cabin and read a little bit, but by the time the yoga was over I was ready to sleep.

Go Cubs! Why is this picture here? Because Cubs fans don't need to check the scores.

What did people do during connections with break times?

There were a few options to do things on the break times. Caregivers had time to meet with each other and find new ideas. Some people got to meet with the cooks and talk about food. I did the writing group. To me it was really helpful and fun. Sometimes I forget how far my abilities have improved for writing. I always need to be in the moment and not worrying about my past.

In my writing group we all scribbled for about 30 minutes. Just write, don't get stuck... move on.

How was the talent show?

  1. I was stressed about not being able to do much, but once the show started it was really fun.
  2. There was singing, Shakespeare, a little play write activity, and my wife read one of my poems.
  3. By the end of the talent show it felt so complete.

What were the highlights of the retreat?

Meeting people and connecting with everyone in the retreat, but one of the nights felt universal. One of the members had not been able to speak for five years. (Yes, I won't name people in my blog because that can be uncomfortable.) He joined the singing group to practice for the talent show. Suddenly he started to sing. When my wife and I arrived for dinner, the member began to speak loudly to the entire group. The words he spoke gave everyone hugs. It felt like we were in a religious church where God connected everyone in the world.

No, there isn't a religious requirement to go to the Love Your Brain Retreat, but there was something universal about that moment.

Would I do another Love Your Brain retreat again? 

YES!!! I'm pretty sure everyone there would go again. Yes, it was free. Yes, you should sign up.


South of the Strait

Why is my page titled South of the Strait? Well I live in a far corner of the United States. I live in a small town south of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. If I was going to throw a rock across the strait it would land in Canada. I used to be an English teacher. I have worked in Westport, Port Angeles, and Sequim, Washington... and I did two years of substitute teaching in Coalinga, California. I've moved around a lot, living in: Sterling,Kansas; Chicago; Jordan, Montana; Lemoore, California; Auckland, New Zealand; Spokane, Washington; Gambier, Ohio. What do I write? For WordPress I used to print once a week for general comments. I wrote reviews of music concerts my daughter made me attend. (Each month she would want us to drive to Seattle to see a music group. I usually stood in the back watching weird stuff.) I also wrote about trips I have taken in Europe where I liked getting lost. I also wrote during the few months when my son was treated for cancer. (He is officially free of cancer of five years.) About three years ago I decided to stop writing blogs so I could concentrate on writing a few books. I have completed three books...or maybe four. I have now compiled my short stories poems and memoirs on Amazon. You can get it at Amazon now..."A Work In Progress"--Jon Eekhoff. I have been very close to getting a printed book called "Lost Summer" but I was never offered $1,000,000.00. (It's set in Paris, 1920's, with baseball, writers, artist, and actually true stuff.) I wrote a book about college basketball called "Laidlaw." It's kind of a mix of "Moby Dick" and a coach who is about to get fired so he takes his team out for a free drive around the West. My most recent book is "California Tales." These are connected stories about the missionary churches in California. They are sad, funny, inspiring, and odd. I had the entire book done in my head and had just one section to finish the next day...and that is when I fell 20 feet from my roof and landed on the cement. (Like a lot of men, I thought I could maintain my own roof instead of leaving it to the professionals.) I don't remember anything about my accident but I am told I was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Though conscious and responsive after surgery to remove part of my skull, I don't remember anything from my first month there. I spent another month of Harborview working on walking, speaking, and writing. That was two years ago. As a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) survivor, I could have quit writing, but I am not going to quit. I work with the University of Washington Speech and Hearing Clinic. So, here I am. I am married and live here in Sequim with my wife Cheryl. Our kids live in nearby cities. Writing is now an exhausting exercise, but something I plan to keep working on.

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