Hey, my grandma made that

October 30, 2014

Chris stayed with his dad last week while his mom was out of town. On Sunday I stopped by for dinner (yep, all by myself!) and saw him folding laundry. I noticed one of the things was an embroidered tea towel my grandma made and without even thinking said it out loud.

No big deal, right?

My grandma died of an aneurysm when I was 2. As my parents say, as if to stretch her life out just a little longer, 2 and a half. I have only one vivid memory of a person I’ve been told loved me very much. I was on a little sled, dressed in a bright magenta snowsuit, and our dog was jumping around in the snow. My dad was pulling the sled while my mom snapped pictures. My grandma and grandpa were standing next to one another on the stoop outside the front door of their house, big smiles on their faces.

That’s it.

My grandma had silver hair and a dress on that day.

I know she came to Canada from Eastern Europe, on a boat, with her parents.
I know she was very good at embroidery, sewing and quilting because I still have some of the things she made.
I know her thimble cookie recipe never fails and she made the best homemade noodles.
I know she washed laundry by hand.
I know she played the piano.
I know she loved God and was the head of children’s Sunday school at our church.
I know she babysat me everyday while my mom went to work (go mom, 70’s power!).
I know she favored me because my cousin Lynn told me how much it pissed her off.
I know she is not the only one of her sisters to die from a stroke or aneurysm.

All my life I’ve felt a strange connection to my father’s mother, even though I didn’t know her. When I was 19 I moved home for the summer from University and had what we now call a transient ischemic attack (TIA). I walked into the house with the last box and, out of nowhere, went completely paralyzed on my left side, couldn’t talk or move. When it was over I was left with a raging headache and my dad, especially, was white as a ghost. I went through a battery of tests that summer and there were a lot of nervous glances, hushed voices and whispers just out of earshot.

Now I know why.

Today is World Stroke Day. Normally I wouldn’t come on here and get too heavy into my family history, but this is a big deal. Did you know that every two seconds someone in the world is having a stroke? Did you know that your risk for stroke is greater if a parent or grandparent has had one? Did you know that someone who has had a TIA is almost 10 times more likely to have a stroke than someone of the same gender and age who hasn’t? This stuff is real and it’s happening a lot.

Check out the World Stroke Campaign and the American Stroke Association to learn more. The F.A.S.T ways to spot a stroke are something everyone should be equipped with.

I spent the majority of last year trying to act like nothing happened to me and that wasn’t my smartest move. If you’re out there in a high stress job and have even one hint of TIA or stroke in your family history, I hope you’ll look at what’s happened to me (here and here) and rethink your career. Arm yourself with all the information you can and live your best life.

As an aside, my grandmother LOVED CATS – just like me – and today is also National Cat Day! It’s sad for me to see all the things we have in common but never got a chance to share, so this one’s in her honor.

photo 13



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  • Reply Karla November 3, 2014 at 1:27 am

    Look at you on that bike again! Keep it up, you are getting stronger everyday 🙂 We all have our illnesses (myself included) and your outlook and attitude are such a big factor in recovery of every disease! Stay positive and keep journaling, it helps to get it all out of your system! BTW this picture must have been taken last week before it got cold here in LA! Brrrrr..

    • Reply This Free Bird November 7, 2014 at 4:00 am

      Thanks, Karla. Attitude is a major factor. It’s been important for me to acknowledge my disappointments/anger/sadness, have a moment to deal with those feelings and then refocus. Having a positive attitude and taking care of yourself is really important for your health! And yes, that picture was taken either one or two days before the cold snap, just in the nick of time!

  • Reply Drollgirl October 31, 2014 at 5:52 am

    Very good of you to share this story. My grandma had a massive stroke in her 80’s that pretty much ruined her (paralyzed one side of her body, and stole her ability to speak).

    I have always said I’d rather have a heart attack instead of a stroke (or the dreaded cancer!), but sadly we don’t get to choose our downfall. Hell, I might end up with all three if I don’t get my shit together!!!

    Anyway, glad you have made positive and healthy changes to your life!!!!

    • Reply This Free Bird November 7, 2014 at 3:58 am

      Strokes are a real bitch and I’m sorry that happened to your grandma. Wouldn’t wish this on anyone. Manage your stress and enjoy your life! Doing my best to follow that advice. 🙂

  • Reply lena October 30, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    This is so powerful.

    • Reply This Free Bird November 7, 2014 at 3:57 am

      When I went back and read it a few days later it was deafening to me. As scary as it is, I’m glad it was communicated that way to someone else, too. Thanks, Lena. xo

  • Reply Jen October 30, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    No words for this post…I just LOVED it!

  • Reply Faiza October 30, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    Happy everyday Carrie! Glad that you are working hard everyday to be your best self. I am inspired by your successes and honesty along the way.

    • Reply This Free Bird November 7, 2014 at 3:55 am

      Thanks, Faiza. I don’t want to come across as a debbie downer, but at the same time it’s not sunshine and roses over here right now.

  • Reply Courtney October 30, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    I am completely convinced that anyone who loves cats is inherently an awesome person, and your grandmother is totally on that list.

    Courtney ~ Sartorial Sidelines

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