These are the days my friend, We though they’d never end. We’d sing and dance forever and a day. We live the life we choose, we win and never lose those were the days oh yes these are the days

I choose not to let my brain hemorrhage define my life. Clearly it’s part of my life’s journey and experience, but I choose to focus on healing as the holistic process of gaining strength in my mind, spirit, soul and body.  Walking, practicing yoga and Pilates, and looking to my soul to reaffirm what is truly important in life make me happy.  I savor being a mother. And while I will never be exactly the same as I was before my injury, I’m so much more whole as a human being.  I allow myself to open up to new possibilities. And with that shift in energy new doors have opened.  My life is all soul filling, and life affirming, and  creates beauty and peace from serenity in the heart mind, soul and body. Life is so rich.

It’s amazing that some of the most joyful things in my life have come to me after stroke. I hope that people who suffer brain injuries can embrace their beauty, and learn to surrender and open up to new possibilities.  Please allow yourself to grieve the loss of the person that you were before your injury.  One cannot blossom into the best “new you” until you’ve mourned the loss of the pre-injury you.  I suggest that you not try to recreate the life that you led before.  We have an entire lifetime to recover!   It’s so important to not fight yourself or accept a doctor’s opinion as gospel.  A survivor can choose to become an even more evolved, more comfortable version on a spiritual level of the person she was before.  Develop  a rich life, choose a greater  purpose and ideally more balanced life. I love life.   I know who I am, and I welcome every moment as it presents itself!  Please remember to focus not on where you’ve begun, but on where you’re headed!

 

Learning to feel comfortable with discomfort

One of the greatest challenges that I face is accepting that not every day is a “wonderful” day. I feel such gratitude for my recovery and for the life that I’ve created that I sometimes struggle with those feelings that inevitably bubble up when one is truly in tune with her feelings and surroundings. When I was dancing, I numbed myself to any physical or emotional discomforts. I could only plow ahead with a single-minded determination, and didn’t stop to consider that I may feel tired, sore or unhappy at times. Since my brain hemorrhage,  I have chosen a path to deeper self-acceptance and realization.  I do not wish to not remain numb to my feelings or the energies of the world around me. This enlightened choice does not, however, make me immune to discomforts in everyday life. As we all do, sometimes I wake up feeling sore in the muscles or physically and emotionally tired. I must have felt that way before my stroke, too.   I was so numbed at that time to essential human needs for rest and rejuvenation that I didn’t allow myself to acknowledge that such feelings existed. My soul wasn’t blossoming to its fullest capacity, but a certain discomfort can come when one’s spirit is so much in tune to herself and her surroundings. I slowly learn that it’s ok to feel every emotion and feel sure that I will not remain heavily weighted by sadness, anger, or frustration. As a natural optimist, it’s comforting to realize that.

ballerina, stroke survivor, mother

Too many times one allows herself to be defined by what one does rather than what her spirit holds dear. I look at the above facets of my life and feel such great accomplishment that I am proud to be identified in such a fashion!
I studied ballet, tap, and jazz dance with Ellen Hardeman for 15 years, and attended New Orleans Center for Creative Arts briefly before my matriculation at Boston University in 1995. After studying with Boston Ballet and at The Gorny Institute in St. Petersburg, Russia, I graduated from Boston University with a B.A. in Russian and Eastern European Studies in 1999. I returned to New Orleans and began a career in the Hotel and Tourism Industry, as well as as a dancer with Loyola Ballet, Komenka Ethnic Dance and Music Ensemble, Ballet Hysell, Lula Elzy Dance Theatre, Jefferson Performing Arts Society, and the New Orleans Opera Association. I have taught ballet at Boston University, Loyola University, Ellen Hardeman Dance Academy, New Orleans School of Ballet, and The Schramel Conservatory of Dance. I’ve performed all over the world as a dancer, in countries as varied as France (2 tours), Italy, Bulgaria (2 tours), and Poland.
Shortly after returning from touring Italy and Bulgaria with Komenka Ethnic Dance and Music Ensemble, I suffered a massive hemorrhage in the right frontal lobe of my brain due to a cavernous malformation, at age 29. My life was saved by the incredibly skilled hands of West Jefferson Medical Center’s renowned Dr. Frank Culicchia, who performed an emergency craniotomy.
Thankfully, when I suffered my stroke on September 7, 2007, I had already enjoyed a beautiful 26 years of dancing and had achieved so much as a ballerina and international character dancer. I have translated my talents as a performer into a vocation as an inspirational speaker and spokes model, or as I call myself, “strokes model” for The American Heart and Stroke Association and as the Ambassador for Loyola Ballet, as well as an actor, appearing frequently with Moscow Nights US.
I am incredibly grateful to have suffered my stroke in 2007, as opposed to even 10 years earlier. As scientists look back at all the discoveries made in the 1990’s, the so-called Decade of the Brain, one finding stands out as the most startling and, for many scientists, the most difficult to accept: people are not necessarily born with all the brain cells they will ever have.
In fact, from birth through late adolescence, the brain appears to add billions of new cells, literally constructing its circuits out of freshly made neurons as children and teenagers interact with their environments. In adulthood, the process of adding new cells slows down but does not stop. Mature circuits appear to be maintained by new cell growth well into old age. For decades, it was axiomatic that people were born with all the brain cells they would ever have. Unlike the bones, the skin, the blood vessels and other body parts, where cells divide throughout life to give rise to new cells, it was believed that the brain did not renew itself.
Although the Congressionally mandated ”Decade” produced many other discoveries, from ways to obtain images of fleeting thoughts inside a person’s head to new drugs for a wide variety of mental disorders, the finding that the brain develops and maintains itself by adding new cells is the most revolutionary. As such, rehabilitation methods offered to stroke survivors are very different now than in, for example 1997. I work now on forming new connections from my brain to my left arm and leg, as opposed to solely strengthening my right side, which is an example of the old rehab philosophy.
I always imagined that I would have children one day, but life as a performer and now stroke survivor had delayed my plans for a family, as had living in a perfectly located yet small apartment. I began to feel a strong pull to mother hood in early 2011. At 33 years of age with so much of my stroke recovery achieved, purchasing a house and having a baby became my focus. Who could expect that my incredible husband’s tendency to over-plan and be overly cautious would get in my way! Never one to run from a challenge, I finally convinced my husband to buy a house in Lakeview in July 2012. At the same time, I began to focus my efforts in occupational therapy with the incomparable Francine Bienvenu at Touro, on the essentials of caring for a baby. Working with a doll weighted and sized to simulate a real baby, I learned to change, clothe, feed and carry with one very strong right arm while relying on support from my weaker left arm. Through these therapy efforts, I proved to Damien that physically, I was prepared to care for a child.
Damien remained fearful that he would shoulder much of the burden of caring for a baby until he and I spoke in early 2013 to an occupational therapy class devoted to parenting with physical challenges at LSU Health Sciences Center. The incredible stories of perseverance as parents that the other speakers shared finally convinced Damien that we were ready to become parents. But now I was preparing to perform the role of the Fairy Godmother in Moscow Nights’ production of “Zolushka”, the Russian version of Cinderella with Moscow Nights US. The show closed on April 9, 2013 and I became pregnant on May 6.
Damien and I were invited to speak on the same panel at LSU Health Sciences for the third time on January 21, 2014. In an extraordinary twist of fate, we could not appear because I was delivering Alexei, our son during the class! We are going to speak again in September and will introduce the newest, handsomest member of “Team Abrusley” to a whole new class of Occupational Therapy Students!
This incredible journey from world-traveling dancer to half-paralyzed stroke survivor, to mother has been a stunning triumph. It would not have been possible without my incredible support system as well as my own refusal to be limited in any fashion from living the life that I choose. I promise to instill these values into my son Alexei Lanaux Abrusley. He will learn from me, his mother, to always be a survivor and never a victim! A great hope of mine is that Alexei will one day write an essay about me!
I am constantly amazed that caring for Alexei is much easier than I anticipated, even as my physical challenges continue to improve. I compare these constant adjustments and transitions to weathering a winter in the Northeast. As a Boston University alumna (College of Arts and Sciences ’99), I speak from experience when I say that it’s much easier to transition from chilly fall temperatures into a frigid winter because it happens so gradually. I compare this to being the mother of a 1 year old baby. He has grown so beautifully and naturally that caring for Alexei has been much easier than I ever could have imagined! Thankfully, I’m very creative and thoughtful about my way of moving. I use the right side of my body, particularly my hip more to support Alexei. I am now able to hold my 23-ish lbs. 31-inch baby with both arms, thanks to the incredible efforts of Dr. Laborde of Orthopaedic Associates, and, of course my ongoing work with Frannie Bienvenu of Outpatient Neuro rehab. Because I just turned 37, I hope to get pregnant again in May. My husband Damien is also on board for a second child, although he remains true to his cautious nature and would like to wait a few months longer. I know that we’ll find the way that is best for our family, and I look forward to my continuing adventure!

Feeling “Normal”

With surprise, I realize that yesterday, I felt “normal” for the first time in 7 years. I have never liked the word “normal”, and preferred to use the word “typical” even before my brain hemorrhage. Whenever I think of the very word, “normal”, I hear it spoken in a comically shrill tone. Normal implies that anything else falls short of some arbitrary standard. As an introspective person who has always felt “different”, I hate the implication that “different” is somehow, less, than! How interesting is it then that in the immediate aftermath of my stroke,  I so desperately wished to be “normal” again, yet I adored when friends would happily say, “You never were normal, why strive to be that way now?”!   This is perfectly phrased and is now a concept that I embrace. It is with great joy and renewed fervor that I recover from an incredibly successful lengthening surgery for the contracted tendons in my left hand. I could move my fingers on the evening of the surgery and can toss a ball to my baby son, Alexei, as of the first day of therapy. The surgery has relaxed my entire left arm and hand so greatly, and I’ve already regained such mobility. I plan to have the same procedure performed on my Achilles tendon in March, in fact. Due in huge part to this newly gained relaxation in my left side, I felt “normal” on Wednesday. I now realize that “normal ” for me means feeling balanced physically, mentally, and spiritually. “Normal” does not necessarily equal feeling exactly as one “used to”, pre-stroke, baby, divorce, injury, etc.Good morning, this is the first Saturday of the last month of2013 not the best year for most of us but we're still going.

 

My Mama

My incredible mama, Elaine Grundmeyer is, in the manner of most people, an incredibly complex individual whose personality cannot easily be distilled into simple elements. The following series of vignettes encapsulates the many seeming contradictions that contribute to the lady who is Elaine Grundmeyer, better known as, as she proclaims herself, “Sarah’s Mom”. It is my belief that people who are perplexed by the person I am may understand me better once they meet my mama. Our patterns of speech are very similar, as is our fashion sense (classically, glamorously elegant) in both arenas. While I have enhanced my naturally blonde hair to be platinum, she has enhanced her naturally blonde hair to Julianne Moore-esque red. With her luminous skin and delicate features, my mother very strongly resembles Scottish-American actress Julianne Moore.

She is a true lady, in every sense of the word, from her perfectly chosen attire, often accented by beautiful, locally designed hats, to her soft manner of speech and thoughtfully chosen words.  She refuses, for example, to refer to Statler and Waldorf from The Muppet Show as a pair of two disagreeable old men who  heckle the rest of the Muppet show cast from their balcony seats.  To my mama, Waldorf and Statler are “the elderly muppets”.

Only last week, I received an “angry” voicemail from my mama where she questioned my choice to take an early Pilates lesson before work on a cold and rainy day.  She was “quite puzzled by my choice” to do such a thing and clipped off her “rant” by snapping, “well, I hope you don’t get sick!”.  My co-workers were so envious that this is how my mama snaps at me!

Perhaps the essence of my mama is most pithily captured by her e-mail address- creoleflowerchild@yahoo.com.  My family can trace its French, German, English, Italian, Irish, Welsh, Spanish, Canary Island roots in New Orleans  to the 1700s, which adds to the complexity of my mother’s inner workings.  She is this incredible combination of Southern elegance and spirited rebel, which became clear when she matriculated at Berkley and UCLA 1966-1971.  Although she was often tear gassed for protesting the Vietnam War, she would never refer to herself as a “hippie”, but instead as a “flowerchild”, because “hippies didn’t wear lipstick”!  Anyone who knows Elaine and Sarah recognizes that we pale-faced flowerchildren certainly benefit from “a little paint”!   In fact, I vividly remember being embarrassed when my mama came to walk me home from school one day without make-up.  My mother’s beauty has always been a great source of pride for me.  This sentiment seems to be the same for my mother, because she frequently greets me with the phrase, “Don’t worry, I have rouge in my purse!” No one was worried, Mama! I once read that French mothers in the 1700s found rouge extremely important to a lady’s appearance.  My mama is obviously from this school of thinking.  As I introduced my mother to the digital age, I helped her create an e-mail address. Each word was chosen very carefully by my mother.  “Creole”, because we are, and, as my mother says, “If I were not French I would lose the will to live”, “flowerchild” because she’s a lipstick wearing hippie, and @yahoo.com because @hotmail.com “sounds too wild”.

 

Neurological Amusements

It must be noted that while recovering from a stroke is very challenging; it is not without its amusing diversions. Four come to mind this afternoon.
I am reminded of my 2 nights spent in intensive care following my angiogram and the subsequent removal of my cavernoma via craniotomy. I remember lying in bed, unable to move my left side due to my stroke, and having been instructed not to move my right leg after the angiogram, “because, you could send a deadly blood clot from your right leg directly to your brain. Then we’d have to do a whole ‘nother surgery”. I also had a tube thrust down my nose and into my throat to nourish me and help me breathe. Although I was physically and mentally able to speak, the presence of the tube rendered me unable to communicate and imprisoned in my body (at the time, though, I didn’t feel imprisoned, but frustrated by my inability to communicate). I noticed 2 male figures to my left who strongly resembled the two men on the far right in the picture below. These two would appear from time to time during my 2 nights in ICU. I desperately wanted their help in communicating, but they remained quietly observant. By the time I was brought to my own room, I was very annoyed with these two and scornfully thought, “well, you two are just useless”.
Can you imagine lying helpless in the Intensive Care Unit accompanied only by two ghostly members of Flock of Seagulls?

Rock you like an MRI?
Having an MRI is never an enjoyable experience, although I have been lucky enough to have had very understanding and accommodating young technicians perform the 3 MRIs that I’ve had.

MRI is the investigative tool of choice for neurological cancers as it is more sensitive than CT for small tumors and offers better visualization of the posterior fossa. The contrast provided between grey and white matter makes it the optimal choice for many conditions of the central nervous system including demyelinating diseases, dementia, cerebrovascular disease, infectious diseases and epilepsy.

One challenge of the MRI is that the patient must lie perfectly still for about 1 hour while the very noisy and claustrophobia inducing test is conducted. The patient cannot see anything except for the tube in which he lies motionless that seems to be less than 5cm.s away from his face. At my last MRI about 5 years ago, the technician offered to let me listen to the radio during the procedure. I chose the classic rock station. Imagine how difficult it is to remain without laughing and motionless while Scorpions’ 1984 hit “Rock You Like A Hurricane” blasts in one’s ears! The West German accented lyrics make the song yet more hilarious, as do the 1980s guitar riffs and vocal style, not to mention the booms of the bass drum.

Scorpions-Rock You Like a Hurricane
It’s early morning
The sun comes out
Last night was shaking
And pretty loud
My cat is purring
And scratches my skin
So what is wrong
With another sin
The bitch is hungry
She needs to tell
So give her inches
And feed her well
More days to come
New places to go
I’ve got to leave
It’s time for a show

Here I am, rock you like a hurricane
Here I am, rock you like a hurricane

My body is burning
It starts to shout
Desire is coming
It breaks out loud
Lust is in cages
Till storm breaks loose
Just have to make it
With someone I choose
The night is calling
I have to go
The wolf is hungry
He runs to show
He’s licking his lips
He’s ready to win
On the hunt tonight
For love at first sting

Here I am, rock you like a hurricane
Here I am, rock you like a hurricane
Here I am, rock you like a hurricane
Here I am, rock you like a hurricane
Writer: SCHENKER, RUDOLF / MEINE, KLAUS / RAREBELL, HERMAN

Who had the stroke? part 50

I answered my phone in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Gustav in 2006, to hear the excited voice of my mother, crying out happily, “Sarah, they’re giving out free MRIs”. Mama, I think that you mean MREs.

The Meal, Ready-to-Eat – commonly known as the MRE – is a self-contained, individual field ration in lightweight packaging bought by the United States military for its service members for use in combat or other field conditions where organized food facilities are not available. The MRE replaced the canned MCI, or Meal, Combat, Individual rations, in 1981[1] and is the intended successor to the lighter LRP ration developed by the United States Army for Special Forces and Ranger patrol units in Vietnam.
I’m certain that such a phrase only trips exuberantly off of the tongue of a Hurricane Katrina survivor (we New Orlenians were frequently offered MREs in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina)and mother of a “neurological-superstar”, such as me! Because my memory is better than almost anyone I know, it has become a joke among my family and friends, as I rhetorically ask, “Who had the stroke?”

Who had the stroke? Part 1

Perhaps the most telling incident that summarizes “Who had the stroke?” is the following. While suffering my stroke, I was rushed via ambulance from Touro Infirmary’s Emergency room to West Jefferson Medical Center for an emergency craniotomy. As I rode in the ambulance, while suffering a massive brain hemorrhage, my mother told the ambulance driver the following horrific tale that had only occurred  only 1 month before.
After stabbing a random man sitting at a Mid-City bar, a man smirked as he walked toward the door to leave, passing other bar patrons on his way out. But then, suddenly, he stopped.
DThe man still carrying the knife, took one step back toward a beautiful, talented young lady, a regular at Pal’s Lounge, grabbed her by the head, and fatally slashed her neck “from ear-to-ear.”
The beautiful, talented young lady, 28, was an Ursuline Academy graduate who went on to get a master’s degree from Loyola University. She worked as a housing adviser for the Road Home program.

I had gone to junior high at Ursuline with the beautiful, talented young lady, the poor victim in this disgustingly senseless killing, although she was 2 grades behind me. My mother couldn’t remember the name of the bar and I was shouting through an oxygen mask from the gurney in the back of the ambulance, “Pal’s Lounge, Mama. It’s Pal’s Lounge”.
Can you imagine fact checking your mama whilst having a massive brain hemorrhage?

I have become a Quizzilla!

I must confess that I’ve been hooked into taking any quiz that has been posted by friends on Facebook. Although I tend not to enjoy games of any kind, I enjoy these little quizzes as a means to look more deeply into those qualities that make me the individual that I am. Frequently I’m surprised by the results, and I choose to look deeply within to find any underlying truths. While I’m sure the quiz makers did not design such games with the intention of causing the quiz taker to question her own truths and sense of self, but such a quality is part of “what makes me, me”.

Let me share some of my recent quiz results:

Your celebrity boyfriend is Ryan Gosling.
Ryan Gosling may sometimes come across as a tad brooding, but who could possibly resist that heart-melting gaze of his? We’re certain you’d be more than happy to stay up all night listening to him read you his poems, if for no other reason than you could stay up all night *watching* him read you his poems.

I really know nothing about Ryan Gosling, although I would have guessed Johnny Depp, as his appearance and character choices are more in alignment with my taste.

Best United States city that suits your personality
Honolulu
Out in the middle of the Pacific awaits the lovely city of your dreams. It’s safe, quaint, beautiful, and full of culture.

Best guess for your age is:
21
This is a shock, as 36 suits me, perfectly! I would never wish to be 21 again. I am by far the happiest I’ve ever been in my life right now. I have everything that I need and want, and am in the best physical, mental, and emotional condition that I’ve ever been in!

What color is your aura -Green aura
You are a compassionate person, full of healing and peacekeeping capabilities. Very close to nature, a green aura is a healthy one, full of growth and balance. You have a love for living things and seek to change the world for the better.

Green is my favorite color, too!

Your Beatles Song Is Twist And Shout
Young at heart, you are energetic and you love to dance

I would have expected “Let it Be”

Which Dwarf are you?  You Are Bashful

You tend to be quiet but still waters run deep. You are friend and outgoing once you get to know somebody. You are have a wide variety of talents.

What Country in the World Best Fits Your Personality?  France
You are a romantic who enjoys strolling through cobblestone streets and markets. You are inspired by art and architecture, and thrive being surrounded by other artists and intellectuals. You enjoy the bustle of a city, but also love spending time in the warm countryside, sitting at a café, and having a glass of wine or coffee. Your soul is nourished by being in nature, and by having deep meaningful conversation about love, art, and the meaning of life.

Personality traits
The rebel

You are a wild one! You play by your own rules and there’s no one else quite like you. You do what you want, when you want it, and how you want it, and nobody can tell you otherwise. You learn most things the hard way, but once that lesson is learned, you will never forget it.

Unconditionally Loving

It’s the kind of love that has no limitations. And it asks for nothing in return. You genuinely love people for who they are. For their true and honest selves. Raw and unfiltered, this magical love runs deep through you every waking moment of your life. And the people whom you give it to feel truly lucky to experience your love in their lives!

Enchanting

You have a special aura and a subtle down-to-earth attitude that can captivate the rest of us after we’ve set our eyes on you. Your charm is astoundingly magnetizing. Plus, you have a unique style and a certain air of mystery, but a realistic attitude about the value of living life. And you wonderfully recognize that others matter too. Everyone that knows you is amazed by you!

You’re wickedly smart, but you’re a bit shy and your hobbies tend to be indoor ones. Even though you don’t open up easily, you excel at everything once you do. Your brilliance only increases by the day!

ISFP-personality type
Quiet, friendly, sensitive, and kind. Enjoy the present moment, what’s going on around them. Like to have their own space and to work within their own time frame. Loyal and committed to their values and to people who are important to them. Dislike disagreements and conflicts, do not force their opinions or values on others.

Which musical best describes you- Wicked!
You are fearless and ready to try defying gravity! Nothing is going to stop you from reaching your goals. You never judge people based on their appearances and love helping others. You know that your past does not define you and that you can do anything you set your mind to it!

Which Decade Should You Have Been Born In? 1960s
In a decade full of new discoveries, life changing inventions and a trip to the moon, you fit in perfectly. Whether it’s dealing with nuclear threats or arranging a protest for the hippie movement, you have the proper intelligence and social skills to tackle any problem. By the way, don’t forget to check out Woodstock, we hear it’s smashing!

You are 11% Bitchy, so you are not a bitch.
11% bitchy, so not bitchy at all!

Wow, you’re so nice! You don’t really bitch about anything, do you? I wonder, though, if a good bitch fest might do you a little good from time to time?

Which Bibliical Woman are you?  You Are Abigail!

Little is known about you, but you are a beautiful woman of strength, courage, intelligence, integrity and wisdom. You understand your place, and act with decisiveness. You are the source of wisdom and reason in your household. You Are Abigail!

What Classic Novel Describes Your Life?  Pride and Prejudice
Independent and Brash, Jane Austen’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE could have been written about your life! Your intelligence and stubborn nature has brought you to where you stand today, and to say you surprise others on a daily basis would be an understatement. In your mind, nothing is impossible – And if anyone chooses to stand in your way they simply become another obstacle. You believe you were meant to do great things, regardless of race, sex, or religion – and nothing of the sort will ever stand in your way.

Who should play you in a movie? Halle Berry

I would have said Charlize Theron, not that I’m complaining!

if you could regain, get or have one thing back from your stroke – what would it be?

So many survivors posted things like, “use of my hand and arm”, “my ability to  drive”, “my ability to dress myself”.

Interestingly, my response was “My feeling of invincibility”.  It didn’t even occur to me to put my ability to dance!  Only when I read another survivor’s post that read, “the ability to move effortlessly in a flowing fashion”, did it hit me, oh yeah, I used to do that so well, even balanced on the tiny tip of a pointe shoe!  My most missed ability says,so much about where I am mentally in my recovery!

I feel very proud and whole upon reflection.  I realize that I’ve truly achieved acceptance of what happened to me, and continue to fight for yet more recovery.  I’ve also chosen not to look outside myself for validation!  It seems that not many people, stroke survivor or not can claim to have reached this level of enlightenment. I’m certain that I feel this way in large part because, there is really nothing that I “cannot” do, including actively pushing for 3 hours to deliver my son, Alexei!  I live my life to the fullest and do everything that I choose!  Sometimes the way I do things may look a little different than the manner in which others do, but I get it all done on my own!  This is not to say that my old perfectionist tendencies don’t still float up from time to time.  I find that as I continue to recover, I am yet more demanding of myself.  Because I can walk well, I am now very critical of my form.   I guess you can take the pointe shoes off the girl, but can’t take the perfectionism out of the ballerina!  I must note that I don’t berate myself as I did when I was dancing, but constantly challenge myself to get yet better.  It’s a much healthier form of perfectionism than it used to be, pre-stroke.  I’m much quicker to applaud my achievements and am no longer quiet about my strength.  In fact, I call myself a Steel Magnolia (delicate in appearance and manner, but made of steel in spirit and soul).  My husband Damien, who is a sommelier calls me The Velvet Hammer, which is actually wine-speak, but I love it for me, as a person, who has finesse, but is really quite strong beneath her refined exterior!

Acceptance is not the same as surrender.