Discovering My New Normal

by Donna on 03/22/2015

Montana by HorseDiscovering my new normal…

I’m easing back in. I’m finding my way. I’m searching to find a friend in gratefulness for all that has happened to me since I last shared with you here. I’m scrounging up my confidence and my courage. I am tip toeing up to the keyboard afraid to read what might appear on the screen before me. Afraid to acknowledge the reality that has been the last year and a half. A reality that my friends and family experienced more vividly than I.

I am still learning what that reality was like for them…and for me.

On July 22, 2013, I was in Montana for work. It was a gorgeous day for a photo shoot. The mountains ground me. The wildlife invigorates me. I was energized by the work. Feeling creative, organized, important. In a split second everything changed. An accident with a beautiful horse named, Cody. An event that has left me seemingly different. My body is changed. My mind is changed. My heart is changed.

It would take hours to get to the nearest hospital from the rural cattle ranch where we were working. So Life Flight took my broken body that fluttered between a serene alertness and unconsciousness to a hospital in Idaho. The flight was nearly an hour, I am told. I stayed two nights and was found to simply have a concussion. Despite my complaints of pain, no fractures or breaks were found on the hospital’s imagery. It wasn’t until I arrived back in Cleveland some days later, in a wheel chair, when my dear husband took his dazed and disconnected wife to the world renowned Cleveland Clinic, that I was found to have a fractured pelvis, two fractures in my lower spinal cord, a fracture in my foot, and moderate head trauma (Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, they call it). In the course of the last year and a half I have found my vision and balance have been altered, my hearing has been compromised, my strength and stability are lagging, my ability to make decisions has changed, my hips don’t support me as they once did, my mind doesn’t appreciate commotion and distraction – severe headaches ensue – and my memory…oh my memory, is…different, to be sure. My children, now ages 10 and 13, ask me to enter a reminder in my phone’s calendar if I’m to pick them up after school. They worry I’ll forget them. Sadness pushes down on my heart.

Montana Mountains

The doctor points out there is still room for improvement, and I have seen much over the last year, but he also suggests I get used to my “new normal”. It is strange to have an accident, be dramatically changed, but still remember vividly the Donna of before. With each passing month those comparisons and subsequent judgements lesson. I think I am becoming more accustomed to the new Me. I suppose I am finding acceptance. I am hopeful.

I am thankful for this experience, in some ways. It is a journey. It is my journey. I have become more patient, less critical, more appreciative of all that I have and less focused on what I don’t. Our time here is precious. As are our loved ones that care for us – no matter how many hours or weeks or months we can’t give back to them. At least in the way we used to. Measuring ourselves in our “doing” or our “successes” or our “possessions” and even our “titles” is so accepted in our society. One blessing from this journey is that I no longer measure my self worth by my job title (for I have lost that), or my professional accomplishments (for those opportunities are gone for now). Now I just try to show up. Just me – and my heart – for that’s all I have to bring. That’s all that I need to have. I am enough. I work hard at being present in this moment. Not the moments of two or ten years ago and not the moments of next year. These are the moments that matter.

My life might be different now – most days I am grateful that it is. My husband shares that I might be back to a certain percentage of my former self (the number varies by week) – but that he doesn’t need any more. In fact, perhaps some of the things I’ve not recovered, he wouldn’t want back. I am grateful for his acceptance (and love).

What I can do is to love and nurture and support my family. I can see the world more beautifully – with brighter colors and with seemingly more pixels. Though I may not juggle five jobs at once or multi task like the pro I used to be (or remember that my husband’s car’s emergency brake shouldn’t be engaged or his car gets all jacked up), I can cook a meal – a meal to nourish my loved ones. One step at a time. And I look forward to sharing those meals with you. I look forward to exploring the mysteries of living a gluten free life as a former chef/catering business owner/food stylist turned humble cook for my family and friends who will take a seat with me at my table. Won’t you join me? Who knows what this journey has in store for us…

I’d love it if you’d travel along with me on this journey. Simply share your email over on the right side bar (then click “subscribe”) and I’ll send you updates (and recipes and pictures and other tasteful stuff) to your inbox when I have something new to share.


The Immokalee Produce Market and a Guacamole Recipe

by Donna April 9, 2013

Last week was spring break and my family and I were fortunate to travel to southwest Florida to visit my “snowbird” parents who were on an extended vacation of their own there.  This was a special trip as my Dad was diagnosed with lymphoma, underwent chemotherapy, and entered remission all since August.  It has been […]

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Devil’s Food Cake, at long last gluten & dairy free

by Donna March 3, 2013
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Is there any American food more iconic to celebrations than cake?  Some make cakes from scratch, others use boxed mixes, while others order them from their local grocery or favorite bakery.  All to celebrate those we love on their special day.  There is something very exciting about being presented with a cake, all moist and […]

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Chocolate Decadence Torte: gluten & dairy free

by Donna January 13, 2013

Chocolate.  Yes, chocolate is my very favorite of all sweet indulgences.  Yours too?  I already knew that.  That’s why I’m sharing with you my latest creation, Chocolate Decadence Torte, naturally gluten free because it is a flourless cake, of sorts.  In fact, it only has a handful of ingredients.  My inspiration for this recipe comes […]

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Christmas Waffles

by Donna December 24, 2012

It’s Christmas Eve morning and as I sit in my living room enjoying the lights on the tree while I plan our Christmas morning menu, my two children squeeze in on either side of me, excited to talk about the next few days activities.  We chat about presents, grandparents, snow, and food before they scamper […]

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Pasta with Meatballs: Gluten & Dairy Free

by Donna December 1, 2012
Gluten Free Meatballs

Brown rice pasta has become quite a staple in our house since we went gluten free.  My kids absolutely love it.  We probably enjoy pasta at least once a week, and typically on nights when we’re shorter on time.  To give us a change of pace from basic pasta with sauce, I reinvented my favorite […]

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Blueberry Muffins – Gluten & Dairy Free

by Donna November 13, 2012
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This summer we picked blueberries as a family at a picturesque orchard that was perched up on top of the rolling Ohio hills about half an hour from our home.  We had picked strawberries earlier in the season at this same orchard and loved its unpretentious charm. We loaded up our trunk with the purple […]

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Peanut Butter Cup Shake Duals Milk and Sugar…En Garde!

by Donna November 1, 2012
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It’s been almost two years now that our family has been gluten and dairy free (well mostly – we’ve had our share of accidents and will power failures).  It’s been remarkable to see how we have begun to heal ourselves by changing the fuel we have put into our engines.  I’ve seen dark circles disappear from […]

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Teaching little hands to cook: Gluten Free Breaded Eggplant

by Donna October 20, 2012
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I grew up in an era when it was typical that father’s arrived home from work by 5:15 and mother’s had dinner on the table by 5:30. At least that was my reality.  Ham loaf, Swiss steak, “s&%t on a shingle” on weeknights and fried chicken or pork loin roast for Sunday dinner.  Perhaps some […]

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A New Path Discovered

by Donna October 11, 2012

A few years ago I owned and operated a catering business called The Culinary Artist.  I was the marketing specialist, menu planner, event designer, human resources manager, chef, event manager, you name it.  As the business grew, I hired individuals to take on some of these roles, but in the end, I had to answer […]

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