Underdogs, Misfits and Me

by Helene Louise  

One of the primary factors that motivated me to write about my experience coming to terms with my daughter's stroke and now, motivates me to continue developing materials to encourage others, is that I know how discouraging it is to be met with negativity and how difficult it is to continue persevering when everyone around you keeps telling you something is not possible. Ultimately, as I've written, my daughter is overcoming many of the limitations placed on her by the specialists early in her life. And as for myself, even though my life unravelled at the worst possible time, I eventually found a "new normal" as well as an appreciation for the beauty in the tiny triumphs that came out of our struggles.

 Therefore, it was with great interest that I read Malcolm Gladwell's book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants. In an earlier blog entry, I made a link between an article he wrote years ago in the New Yorker on a study which showed that no “perfect” tomato sauce will appeal equally to all people, and my experience motivating my daughter throughout her rehabilitation.

In David and Goliath, however, the link with my own experience is much more direct. Gladwell challenges how we think about obstacles, disadvantages, disability, discrimination and loss, and shows how much of what is beautiful in the world has come from suffering and adversity. Having felt like a misfit more often than I care to admit, found beauty after persevering to overcome difficulties and actively defended my daughter against discrimination, I found this book inspiring, thought-provoking and reassuring in many ways.


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Structure of a Science Experiment

by Helene Louise  

Recently, I was helping my daughter with her science homework and we were reviewing the basic steps of a science experiment—you start with a purpose, then you do your research, state your hypothesis, actually conduct the experiment, analyze the results and finally, arrive at a conclusion.

In my book I wrote about how, in setting goals for my daughter's rehabilitation after a childhood stroke, I loosely followed the structure of a “briefing note” which is a document often used in government decision-making. Briefing notes are structured to clearly identify the issue, that is, what's to be decided on or achieved, the background information, the considerations, and then, the next steps to be followed to achieve the intended outcome. In helping my daughter with her homework, however, I realized that the structure of a science experiment is equally applicable to figuring out how to achieve something, regardless of the context. 

In the end, I don't think it really matters how you go about setting your goals as long as you make a reasonable attempt to apply some logic to it all. A clear idea of what you want to achieve, some thinking about the factors that can influence the outcome as well as the steps you might follow in order to move towards your goal must surely be more effective than just diving in and desperately hoping for the best. 

I've tried both approaches over the years and although I have no specific data to analyze, I am certain that the logical and structured approach has been much more effective than when I've simply thrown my efforts at something without much thought. It's not scientific, but that's definitely my conclusion.


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Celebrating the Tiniest of Triumphs

by Helene Louise  

One of the things that I've learned in the process of rehabilitating my daughter after a childhood stroke, is the importance of appreciating and celebrating even the tiniest of triumphs. For example, the ability to zip up a coat, button a shirt or hold a piece of paper in one hand and scissors in the other, is something that most kids take for granted. But, for kids who have suffered a stroke, these tasks can seem impossible. In fact, in my daughter's case, these abilities came only after years and years of effort and frustration. 

I don't think that we would have been able to sustain the effort that was required to achieve these goals if we hadn't, together, celebrated every tiny triumph along the way. And, when I say tiny, I mean really tiny—the slightest movement of any of the fingers that had been essentially immobilized since birth and, even when there was absolutely no movement at all, the mere fact that she was still trying so hard, was definitely worth celebrating. The brief moments of celebratory laughing and hugging that followed, helped keep us motivated and working towards our goal, however remote it may have seemed at the time.

If we constantly compare ourselves to others, we can lose sight of what is relevant to our own situations and our accomplishments can seem insignificant.  But, all of our little accomplishments, no matter how small, are individual triumphs just the same. And, in my experience, they are most definitely worth celebrating.


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What's in a link? Part II

by Helene Louise  

Last October, I wrote about how privileged I felt about having my book included on the publications page of the International Alliance for Pediatric Stroke (IAPS)

I feel equally privileged and grateful to now also have my book included on the list of books recommended by the Canadian Pediatric Stroke Support Association (CPSSA). When my daughter was diagnosed over a decade ago, I couldn't find any relevant resources and the experience was tremendously isolating. Just like IAPS, however, the CPSSA is an extraordinary initiative which has been developed since then, to facilitate and support collaboration between families and physicians and, it serves as an important resource for families who have been affected by a pediatric stroke.

With it's vision to provide a compassionate community for Canadian families impacted by pediatric stroke—which is indeed a beautiful and compelling vision, applicable to families facing all kinds of challenges—I encourage you to visit the CPSSA website at www.cpssa.org.



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Capitalizing on Cupcake-Making

by Helene Louise  

 

Planning a child's birthday party can be fun but it can also be a lot of work. And, coming up with new ideas each year can definitely be a challenge. As a single mother, I already have plenty to do just keeping the basics moving along—from getting home from work as quickly as I can to planning meals days in advance in order to have enough time for homework, housework and after school activities, not to mention activities related to my daughter's rehabilitation after a childhood stroke.

 I am continuously thinking of new ways to improve my efficiency but sometimes, all I have to do is use someone else's great idea. A good friend of mine, with whom I share a deep appreciation for strong coffee, regularly translates her culinary and artistic abilities into the most beautiful cupcakes. She added, however, a strategic element to this skill, applied it to the birthday party dilemma and came up with an excellent solution. 

 Basically, her idea is to prepare a large quantity of cupcakes, icing and sprinkles. Then, when the party-goers arrive, the “activity” for the afternoon is to decorate the cupcakes, which is something that all kids love to do. Each child gets to fill up a box and that becomes the "loot bag" that they will take home at the end of the party. Once a child's own box is filled, the kids start filling up a tray so that together, they create the "birthday cake". My daughters and their friends had so much fun the first time that we did this under my friend's careful cupcake coaching that we recently had our second cupcake party which was, once again, both fun and efficient—thanks to my crafty friend's outside-of-the-cupcake-box thinking.


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