One Day Left in July...

by Helene Louise  

One of my principles as a parent, as an employee or even just as an individual, is to always (or as much as I can) do what I say I am going to do. It could be delivering on a promise that I've made to my daughters, setting clear boundaries for the kind of behaviour that I expect from them (like being respectful and compassionate) or setting myself up to meet deadlines in the workplace. Regardless of the situation, doing what I say I am going to do has been a big part of fostering strong relationships and giving myself the sense of accomplishment that I need to continue persevering at whatever it is that I want to or have to do.

In this case, a few years ago I decided that I wanted to write exactly the kind of book that I couldn't find when I needed it the most. The kind of book that could have been a reference point for me in coming to terms with my baby having suffered a stroke and provided some insight into how someone else had dealt with the long process of rehabilitation that follows. 

Writing about that period of my life was not easy. In a way, it was like reliving the most difficult part of my life all over again, but worse. When I was living it, I tried to stay numb to my feelings and in writing it, I was being completely honest with myself. However, as I continued writing and looked at the experience with the perspective that comes with time, I also saw what beauty there was in all of the tiny triumphs that were ours to celebrate and what strength I ultimately found through it all.

I said that I would make my book available by July 2013. It hasn't been easy, but with one day left in July, I am happy to say that the very book that I wish someone had written for me to read, is now available through for whoever might like to read it.

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A Little Bit of Positive

by Helene Louise  

Sometimes, it’s very hard to see the positive side of a situation. But, the more I practice it, the more I am able to do it—even if it takes a long time and even if there is only just a little bit of positive. 

For example, I ended up studying economics further to the advice of a high school guidance counsellor. In the meeting to determine what I was going to do with the rest of my life, I said that the only thing I knew for sure, was that I didn’t want to study anything related to math. The counsellor answered that economics would then be perfect for me. It was months later, in my first few days on campus, that I realized that all my courses were going to be math-related. Now, it seems ridiculous that I was so poorly informed in what was such a key life-decision. But, what is perhaps even more surprising, is the stubbornness that I demonstrated in getting through the program, eventually even going on to do a master’s degree.

The first time I realized that all the courses in the economics program would be math-related, I felt trapped. I was far away from home, I felt isolated and, most of all, obliged to carry through with what I had signed up to do. I definitely struggled over the four-year program and in fact, on my first calculus test, I got a humiliating 27%. But, instead of quitting, my stubbornness kicked in and I made sure to get the help I needed to understand the concepts and succeed in what I had started. And, the experience of working hard at something that wasn’t easy for me, made it easier for me later on to take on and deliver challenging projects in the workplace.

The same could be said for my daughter’s rehabilitation after a childhood stroke. When I received her diagnosis, I felt trapped in something that I wasn’t at all expecting and didn’t think I could handle. But, in the same way as I had approached my studies years earlier, I sought out the help I needed, worked long hours and strategized to get the most out of every day (as I explained in my book which will be available later this month).  

I will never say that my daughter having suffered a stroke is a good thing, in any way. But, within all of the heartache and struggles, there are still some positives. Despite everything, my daughter is a courageous, capable and bright young girl. She has already learned to work hard for what she wants to achieve. She is inherently accepting of people who are different. She has already learned what it feels like to be discriminated against, how important it is to stand up for yourself and most importantly, how critical it is to believe in yourself. These are all very positive things. So, even in what was by far the most heartbreaking of situations for me, I can still see a little bit of positive.

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Proudly Stubborn

by Helene Louise  

“You’re so stubborn!” That's something I’ve heard a lot in my life, particularly over the past decade or so as I’ve tried to find ways to help my daughter overcome the effects of a childhood stroke. 

Maybe that’s true, maybe I am “so stubborn”.  I was certainly too stubborn to unquestioningly accept the first opinion that my daughter would probably never walk and that she would most likely be developmentally delayed.  I was too stubborn to accept that there was nothing I could do to help her.   I was too stubborn to accept the countless times that I was told that she had already reached her full potential when I believed that nobody could know that for sure and it was still worth trying to help her.  And, I was too stubborn to give in to the feelings of helplessness that so often overcame me as I tried to figure out what to do next.  

Although it stung every time that I was called “so stubborn” (I’m pretty sure that it was never meant as a compliment...), now, it is something that I am proud of. It is, in part, because I am “so stubborn” that my daughter is perfectly fluent in English and French and holding her own in a mainstream school. It is, in part, because I am “so stubborn” that she has learned to play the violin despite that the use of her right hand/arm is limited and that her first teacher said that it would not be possible.  It is entirely because I am “so stubborn” that I have spent countless hours translating the difficulties that I faced rehabilitating my daughter into a book to try to help others facing similar situations.  

Although I am proud of it, the truth is that the word stubborn is not very nice. It sounds kind of ugly and if you look it up, you will find that it is defined as “unreasonably or perversely unyielding”.  That’s definitely not a compliment.  So, instead of “so stubborn”, I prefer to think of myself as “so dedicated”, “so caring” and “so resilient”.  The outcome is the same, of course, but the description of the action behind it is much nicer.

So, whatever your challenges may be, I encourage you to be so dedicated, so caring and so resilient. And, if that’s not enough, then go ahead and be “so stubborn”.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s a very good thing.

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by Helene Louise  

Perspective comes from the Latin word “perspicere” meaning to look through or to see clearly. It's a word I hear and use often, along the lines of...from my perspective, I think that...or, looking at it from a different perspective, I’d say...

Perspective is an interesting concept. It can't be measured or compared between two people, so even though we might think that we have the same perspective as someone else, we can’t really know it for sure.  And, our perspectives can fluctuate over time. They can change instantly with an unexpected piece of news—either good or bad—or, they can change ever so slowly as a result of nothing in particular, except our thoughts about whatever is happening to us as we go through life. Our decisions and choices are largely based on the perspectives that we form. If, from our perspective, we think that something is possible, then we are more likely to try to achieve it. And, if we think that something is not likely to occur, then we are less likely to put any effort into it at all.

 What I have learned through working hard to encourage and motivate my daughter to overcome the effects of a childhood stroke, is that my perspective—or the way that I see things—is only part of what should be influencing my decisions. Early on, my perspectives were strongly influenced by other people’s opinions, which were predominantly negative in terms of what progress she could be expected to make.

But, what I see now is that besides whatever I thought I was seeing clearly at the time, what was even more important is what I was feeling and believing. As I described in my book (which will be available in July), trusting my intuition, finding reasons to persevere and being willing to adapt my perspective based on even the faintest ray of hope or the tiniest sign of progress, turned out to be a big part of getting through the challenges that we faced and making progressno matter how insignificant that progress may have appeared to others.  

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Welcome to Micha Books!

by Helene Louise  

I am thrilled to be making my very first blog posting!  This blog, this site and the materials that will be available through Micha Books represent the realization of a vision that I’ve been quietly working towards for years. 

When I found out that my baby had suffered a stroke, I had the privilege of being referred to many doctors and therapists who, collectively, have played a critical role in my daughter’s rehabilitation. What I did not have access to, however, were the kinds of resources that would have resonated with me as a mother trying to help her child and at the same time, come to terms with a very difficult situation. 

I know that Micha Books could never provide everything that parents facing similar situations might need. But, what I have learned through this experience, is the value of the little things—how a sense of kindness and compassion can make the difference between desperation and hope, how a new idea can make the difference between success and failure and how the slightest change can serve to dramatically improve a situation. I have learned the value of patience and perseverance and the beauty of celebrating the very tiniest of triumphs—the kinds of things that others take for granted but parents like me, know come with an enormous amount of effort.  

Finding out that my baby had suffered a stroke was devastating and the period in my life that followed, was very difficult. But, as the years went by, it also turned out to be the experience from which I learned the most. What I am offering here is by no means intended to serve as professional advice to anyone nor is it intended as an example of what may be possible, or appropriate, for others. It is simply an effort to make my own experience available to others in the hopes that it is useful in some way. It is, in essence, exactly what I wish I could have read when I needed it the most.

My first book The Little Dark Spot: How I Came to Terms with My Baby’s Stroke will be available this summer. In the meantime, check back here for more reflections on issues related to encouraging and motivating children facing the challenges of physical rehabilitation.


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