March 16, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Within Seconds, Everything ChangedTBI SurvivorWithin Seconds, Everything Changed

Happy Traumatic Brain Injury Day! {that just sounds weird}

I'm coming up on the 2 year anniversary of my traumatic brain injury- it didn't fly by like when your kid is all of a sudden 5 years old, or how you've been married for 9 years!  

The last two years have almost felt like slow motion.  I know I've come a long way (read last years post) but almost every day I feel like EVERY SINGLE THING in my life has changed since my accident.  

This month I have taken a lot of time to surround myself with other TBI survivors and share my ups & downs.  Some of us are in this weird category of injuries where we look totally normal (sometimes, ha!) and we can function in society, our friends say we're the same...but we don't feel like ourselves.  Our daily struggles may be quiet and sometimes private.  This can make it difficult to build awareness.

Every 13 seconds, someone sustains a traumatic brain injury!  

See more facts here


Today, I challenge you to take 2 minutes to close your eyes and give your brain a break- they deserve it :)  

I have some exciting things coming up & I can;t wait to share them with you so STAY TUNED!!!!!!!!!  

32...and counting!

August 26, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Happy birthday to me! 

I wanted to share 32 things I've learned in the past 32 years. [in no particular order]

  1. Be you. Blue hair and all!
  2. Love the people that love you back.
  3. Those blue grip-helper things don't help when you're broken, just ask for help from someone stronger. 
  4. Most stuff doesn't matter, don't worry about it.
  5. If you only focus on crappy stuff/people/weather you'll only get more crappy stuff/people/weather.
  6. Take naps whenever it's acceptable.
  7. You don't need 783 'friends', you need a handful of cheerleaders. 
  8. Make plans and then be ok with those plans changing.
  9. Sometimes it's '2 steps forward and 1 step mulligan'  
  10. There is nothing more wonderful than a perfectly ripe avocado. 
  11. Mom's are not appreciated until their children are at least 18, hang in there.
  12. If you don't like it: unfollow, unsubscribe, ignore it, avoid it or shut up.
  13. Take a butt-load of pictures. [then you can pick which ones will go on your 'board' and you don't have to reply on everyone else's crappy photos of you!]
  14. Print your pictures, don't rely on technology to share your memories 30, 70 or hundreds of years from now.
  15. Try new things unless you think you might throw up, then maybe you should skip that one.
  16. If you're in a bad mood, hold the door open for everyone you can- they're always so smily, it's bound to rub off!
  17. Don't keep using a pillow you don't like. 
  18. Buy the safest vehicle you can. #mushybrain #2014triedtokillme
  19. Learn to write with your left hand, you never know when you'll need it! [still working on this but I got pretty good last year!]
  20. "Organizing" doesn't mean "rearrange" it means "get this crap-pille under control before it takes over the whole kitchen!"
  21. Get off-the-grid once in a while.
  22. If you haven't worn it/used it/looked lovingly at it in a year, it's just taking up space for something that you might wear/use/look lovingly at.
  23. Finding 32 things you have learned is hard.  Assuming I can't write stuff like "2+2=4" 
  24. Learn new things. Old tricks are just that.
  25. Watching TV shouldn't be a 'favorite pastime' or hobby. [exemption: Shark Week]
  26. Be kind. Even when you want to be a dick. Kill them with kindness if you have to!
  27. People evolve. Priorities change. It's ok, life goes on.
  28. Pick your battles, do you really just want to battle your whole life?!
  29. Don't drive with just one arm on the top of your steering wheel [10 & 2 people!] #trexarm
  30. Laugh with your kid, more often than not.  You can still be a "parent" while having fun.
  31. Do nice things for your cheerleaders, you might need them someday!
  32. Don't cry when you leave the house with only 1/2 of your makeup done, you're a hot mess and it's ok.  And don't laugh when you see someone with only 1/2 their makeup done.  You never know the whole story.

 Happy 32-and-counting to meeeeeee! 

Happy Smashaversary!

April 07, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

April 7th, 2014 my vehicle was struck at highway speeds causing multiple injuries. I was 3 blocks from home, in an intersection I drove thru multiples times a day, in a neighborhood I have lived in for 30 years and I had a green light.  

A year later, I have 95% range of motion in my arm, a little less in my thumb & a "new normal" when it comes to my brain.  (see my blog about my brain injury here )  That blog talks about all the things that I'm still dealing with but I wanted to take a minute and speak my gratitude.  Let's do this!  

  1.  I'm alive!  It could have been so much worse, I am so lucky!
  2. Thank God that my 3 year old son was not with me. 
  3. ​My husband didn't kill me, there were days that I wouldn't blame him if he had (Thank you, Tony)
  4. I still have a sense of humor.  My jokes might not make sense now but that's what makes them funny :) #mushybrain
  5. My closest friends bathed me, nothing says 'close' like that! (Jamie, Tony & Alison!)
  6. I had a redheaded chauffer for almost 3 months- privileged! (thank you, mom!, and all my other taxi-driver-wannabes)
  7. I can touch my nose again!
  8. I have kept my job throughout restricted hours & multiple limitations (thank you, Lorri!)
  9. I spent months propped up with pillows, giggling with my 3 year old- he kept me from losing it multiple times (Thank you, EJ!)
  10. So many people cooked for us & brought me caribou! (Thank you Lori, Teresa, Emily, Kelsey, & more!)
  11. My photography clients stuck in there & had so much patience with me! (Thank you, clients!)
  12. My photography business didn't close thanks to 1 person- Jessi.  I couldn't have done it (and still can't do it) without you!
  13. The first time I felt like 'myself' again was at the lake last summer (Thank you CBay'ers!) 
  14. I haven't laughed this hard in my whole life. Who would have thought?!  If you've heard my laugh this year, it's thanks to you!  
  15. Some friends & family have had to redefine "Carissa" in their heads and I'm so thankful they were willing to do that and not make me feel like I lost my support system.  
  16. Music.  Thank you.  Sometimes a song can reset me. It can teach me things. It can relax me. It can energize me.  #newnormal
  17. Pillows and blankets, thank you.  
  18. ​I think 8 or 9 people have given me teas, recipes, etc. to try and combat these headaches, Thank you!
  19. My team of Doctors & Therapists, I can't say it enough.  (Thank you Chad, Abe, Kathy & countless sweet nurses!)
  20. Netflix, thank you for binge sessions until 5am. #insomnia
  21. Angela, you answered prayers multiples times and probably will continue to for some time. You inspire me. 
  22. Post-it notes, I love you but I hope we can break up sometime!

I'm sure there's so many more that I've forgotten, I'm sorry! #mushybrain

And now what?  Well, I'm going crazy on my bucket list.  I'll be working on my new (hopefully improved) golf swing this summer & learning to strum a guitar is good physical therapy.  This "old dog" will learn new tricks- you just watch!  I'm taking more time for myself & learning what it's like to be the "new Carissa."  

In the mean time, do me a favor...

Slow down.

Take the time to do things that are important to you.

Enjoy this life. 

Be thankful.

Yes, #2014TriedToKillMe but #2015WillBeAmazing... thanks to all of YOU!  <3




But you look great!

March 16, 2015  •  Leave a Comment




But you look Great!

Brain injuries; you can’t put a cast on it.


April 6th, 2014.  I DO look great!  I’m 30 years old, I’m a wife, a mother, a highly-motivated super human.  I have 2 (maybe 3) jobs, I can multitask like a beast, and I have never felt better with where I am in life.  People tell me all the time “Carissa! You look GREAT!”  I worked hard to feel this great, thank you!  

April 7th, 2014 my SUV was smashed by another at highway speeds.  My physical injuries included a broken elbow, broken thumb, hand laceration & skull laceration.  Prescription: surgeries, stitches, casts, slings, physical therapy & pills.  I was “lucky,”  I looked “great!” 

I could see them huddled in the corner whispering to each other, one of them would look at me and turn back to the team to whisper some more.  I was laying (butt naked) on the gurney, bright lights blinding me, my body hurt in 2,873 places and I was freezing.  Finally the one that pulled the short straw sulked over to me and said “We have some bad news, with the laceration on your head,” which was being held shut with the weight of my head so I couldn’t move, “there’s a possibility that we will have to shave part of your head.”  I laughed, have you noticed my haircut?! It’s half-shaved already!  The short-straw laughed back in relief, “Don’t worry, you’ll look great!”  Damn my head hurts.

A week later I was attempting to write (left-handed) a grocery list for my new Slave (aka: husband) 

  • bread
  • OJ
  • easy food that can be made 1-handed 
  • M……
    I couldn't figure out what that white stuff was called. You know, you put it on your cereal in the morning.  You’d have to leave it open for me in the fridge because I can’t twist anything open. It’s from cows. Hmmm…..I can spell it M.I.L.K.  Why can’t I tell you what it is?!  Hmm. Weird.  

The headaches came next.  With headaches came a new referral, a Neurologist.  And a new  injury: a traumatic brain injury with concussion.  According to WebMD I’m obviously now a vegetable, nobody will know whats wrong with me & there’s really no cure.  Everything I experience could, or could not be, related to this injury.  Thanks.  

This is how I figured out that people prefer physical injuries, both on themselves and on others.  We like a clear “diagnosis”, we like a clear “cure or prescription”, we like to know when we’re “back to normal”.  These 3 things are nearly impossible with a brain injury.  What you’re told is to “try to do things as normal and hopefully you’ll feel normal again.”  What they don’t really tell you is that there’s a new normal.

The term ‘New Normal’ really doesn’t sit well with someone whose brain would like very clear steps & directions.  New Normal means relearn everything you thought was normal and the new way is now: Normal. 

I want to talk about the things my family, my friends and strangers don’t always see me struggling with.  They ask how I’m doing and no matter what I say, they respond with… “But you look great!” Thanks, I finally learned how to get ready in the morning. 


Prescription: Stick to a Routine

This is key, says everyone.  Well, for the first 6 weeks I only had 1 arm.  My routine included trying to pull my pants back up one-handed, learning to eat left-handed without shoving the food into the side of my face, and trying to stay awake all day (highly medicated) without watching “too much” TV or reading (not allowed with a brain injury.)  So much for a routine.  

When I got my arm back, is when some new struggles emerged.  I had to learn how to get ready in the morning.  Yup, I’m 30 years old with a 3 year old and I can’t manage to get ready in the morning anymore.  I’d forget deodorant.  I’d leave shampoo in my hair.  I’d leave the house wearing slippers.  This wasn’t me.  But was this the new me?

A routine doesn’t really feel like one when it’s limited by work restrictions, physical limitations and a daily headache that puts you in bed at any given moment.

Prescription: Try to get back to Normal Life

Let’s look at the Wednesday before my accident to get a peek at my normal life. 

4:05am Alarm & Breakfast

4:30am Opening Shift Supervisor at local coffee shop. I make a killer latte- 4 at a time.

12:00 Stop by BeWise Organics, I just accepted a Sales position with them!  Make some phone calls, send some emails, go visit some potential accounts

4:00 Take my favorite human to swimming lessons; my 3 year old son EJ.

6:00pm  Dinner.  I love cooking, and EJ loves assisting me!  Dinner finally puts us all in 1 place.

7:00pm EJ hopefully cleans up, we read some books & get him to bed.

8:00pm Laundry, answer some emails, edit photos (oh, I didn’t mention my own photography business?)  

10:00pm BED, alarm is set for 4:05am, remember?

As of March 2015, 11 months post-smash, I’m restricted to “no more than 4 hours of work/day, no repetitive movements, no high-paced environments.”  

My New Normal:

4:05am I can’t be at the coffee shop. It’s too busy.  The loud noises give me a headache.  Multitasking stops me dead in my tracks.  Turning around too fast makes me dizzy.  I can’t open a  gallon of milk (I SAID IT!) I can’t imagine being here for 10 minutes, let alone 4 hours.  Oh, I forgot, I was let go August 11th, 2014 because of my limitations.  

8:00am Getting ready in the morning.  At month 9 I finally figured this one out.  I emptied my bathroom of every single thing I didn’t use on a daily basis.  Now I, hopefully, don’t get distracted and only apply makeup to half my face or forget to dry off before attempting to get dressed.  ugh.  

12:00pm BeWise Organics. Yes, it took me almost 4 hours to get my butt in gear and get on with me day.  I’m a 100% commission-based contractor.  I haven’t gained many accounts being part-time but it’s getting there!  I managed to relearn all of the products and even learned how to say Cetyl Hydroxyethylcellulose!  Over the winter I wasn’t able to drive to accounts if it was snowing (vertigo) but now that’s it nicer out I have more opportunities, for “up to 4 hours a day.”   

4:00pm Swimming lessons.  it took me 10 months to be able to look at the pool without wanting to barf.  I can’t lean over in there or I tip over.

6:00pm Uphill Battle (aka: Dinner)  Without a recipe, this is exactly like my morning routine.  I’d make spaghetti and realize that I didn’t make any spaghetti noodles.  I get half way through making something and give up for lack of interest or rise in frustration.  I forget to buy half the ingredients.  Don't even get me started on grocery stores!  Slave usually takes over & let’s me rest.  

8:00pm Ej is finally in bed, thanks to Slave!  I’m probably still crying over failing at dinner.  My photography business has become less “fun & creative” than it used to be.  I can’t spend more than 20-30 minutes on the computer editing before I get a headache.  Creativity isn’t at the top of the list of personality traits for someone with a brain injury.  

2:00am I can’t sleep, I’ve tried everything (except TV or reading, remember?)  There’s no alarm set, EJ will be asking for breakfast by 7am.  

I don’t see “Normal Life ” on the near horizon.  If this is it, I want a mulligan.  


Prescription: Try a Psychologist for the PTSD

I was seeing a great psychologist who got me driving on my own again.  We had just started talking through some other struggles when my insurance plan maxed out & would no longer pay for therapy.   


Prescription: Keep a Log

Here’s what it includes (exactly)

  • I don’t recognize my car keys in my purse because they sound different than the keys I had pre-smash.  I dig around for an awkwardly long time before I realize they’re in there.  
  • EJ’s 4th Birthday Party was today (Nov 1, 2014) I hated everything about it.  I didn’t have any motivation to prepare for it.  The to-do lists looked daunting and overwhelming.  My mom & Slave did everything & saved the day.  
  • Summer 2014, I got a new tattoo today.  It was more than just getting a tattoo today.  I drove myself.  I chose the design. I did something ON MY OWN.  My new bee tattoo is both the “old” me and the “new?” me.  I used to be a busy-bee.  I was hard-working, busy, active & high-strung.  Maybe the “new” me needs a daily reminder to not just BE, but remember to LIVE, PLAY, FLY!
  • I was trying to say the word ‘conflict’ as in past-tense “They conFLICT.” and I kept saying “They CONflict.”  
  • I interrupt people a lot.  I realized it’s because I have to think so hard about my response (and remember it) that I jump down their throat to spit it out.  I’m unintentionally rude now.  
  • I have a headache. Every day. I try teas, meditation, new pillows, injections into the skull (NOT FUN!)  I can’t kick them.
  • Christmas 2014, a replay of EJ’s birthday party.  I can barely get these decorations up even though they go in the same spot every year.  Once Slave & my mom got all the decorations up, I was completely overwhelmed with all the things in the room that they became distracting when I was trying to listen or talk.  
  • I’d rather go to the dentist than go grocery shopping.  Even with a list, I’m so stressed out by all the people, all the choices, trying to find things, remembering to look at the list, even picking which checkout lane to use makes me want to cry.
  • Sensory overload is in the following places: Hockey games. The Gym. Movie Theaters. More than 2 people talking in the same room. Traveling via airplane.  
  • Vertigo is here: tunnels/bridges.  Walking the track at the gym.  Movie Theaters.  Escalators/moving sidewalks. Bending over to tie my shoes.
  • Sometimes my brain gets stuck on words or phrases, especially when I’m tired.  It will repeat over & over for hours in my head.  
  • I made up a new term: Awakemares.  It’s when you can’t stop replaying the smash in your head and you jerk back into reality like you just woke up from a nightmare.  
  • The following hashtags are prompted in my phone: #MushyBrain #2014TriedToKillMe  #TrexArm (my arm isn’t all the way straight and won’t ever be.  I sometimes look like a T-rex and it makes a great nickname from my friends!)
  • I used to be funny & witty.  Now I try to tell a joke & say it incorrectly.  Or I try to tell a story and it comes out sounding like a joke because I screwed it up.  Now I’m funny because of the random stuff I say or it’s funny that I can’t finish a sentence without screwing up.  I use humor as a coping mechanism in life, so it doesn’t bother me that we laugh at my #mushybrain.  I just wish my business contacts knew that I had a #mushybrain, not just nerves or lack of confidence.  
  • I hate keeping a log, it just reminds me of how far I have to go.  Or is it how far I won’t ever get?  Is all this going to stick around???  
  • I lost my health insurance when I lost my job at the coffee shop.  I attempted to apply for assistance through the state since I was on disability.  The insurance company sent me a 14 page questionnaire asking me to explain my “brain injury.”  I didn’t answer one question.  I sent them the latest newsletter from the Brain Injury Alliance talking about overwhelming brain injury sufferers.  I still don’t have health insurance.  
  • Slave is getting annoyed with my coping mechanism of Flash Cleaning.  He feels obligated to drop everything and help me which only frustrates me.  I explained that it’s jut a way for me to deal with stress right now.  I can’t punch a punching bag (I can’t even straiten out my arm!)  I’m sorry, Slave.  I don’t want you to have to do everything around here.  I can’t vacuum very well left-handed.  Twisting my arm while doing the dishes makes my elbow do these weird clicking noises.  Folding a blanket even frustrates me, dang T-rex arm & remembering how to fold!!!


Brain injuries are injuries.  They hurt.  They need to heal.  They affect your life.  They affect everyone around you.  They don’t have a cast.  Their stitches don’t ever come out.  There isn’t always a scar to remind people what you’re dealing with.  They’re just as, if not more, life-changing as a physical & visible injury.  




A shift

February 22, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Those of you that have know me know that my camera is my creative outlet!  I've had a camera in my hands since I was young, I was film-trained in high school and college, and I have had my own photography business for over 5 years.  
I have had the pleasure of watching people join hands in marriage (and cried, ) hold their day-old babies (and cried,) and continue capturing their family history as they grow.

  • I've taken over 1000 headshots.

  • I've seen the most beautiful women shed a layer (or all their layers) for stunning images.  

  • ​I've had dogs & babies poop on me.

  • I've held brides' dresses up in the stall during their bathroom break.

  • I've laughed with every single person I've met.

  • I've been on a sailboat in Vieques & a frozen ice-ledge in Wisconsin~ ok, this was "fun" and "work"

I've felt blessed every step of the way, and I can only thank every person with a 'Photograph MN' stamp on their image!!!

No, I'm not quitting :)

After a life-changing accident that messed up my right thumb and elbow & took my brain for a spin, I had to consider my (new) physical limits and choose what would keep me in this industry long-term and so I have decided to shift my focus to project-based photography and video.  I've had the opportunity to work with product photography, fashion photography and video projects in the past and it's always been a 'want' for me but I just had too many other things on my schedule to focus on it.  

So what does that mean for my former clients? I'm still here for you! I will offer smaller, more intimate sessions from time to time.  If I can't fit you into my new calendar, I'd love to refer you to some of my Photographer friends who are still taking new clients.  I'll miss you like crazy, but that doesn't mean we can't still share these moments together, now I just get to come hold your baby & attend your wedding as your friend :)

And to my new clients, Hello!  Here's how I imagine you in my dreams:

  • You're looking for someone who is very "real" with their clients.  

  • You appreciate creativity & a unique eye. The images that you use are in 20 places, are wrong sizes & sometimes not even what you need.  

  • You have short-term and/or long-term projects and want to build a relationship with someone who can take these projects and roll with them.  

  • You value quality, supporting local businesses & honesty.  

    Am I close???  

    And myself:

  • I often have a different hair color every time we meet.  

  • I wear jeans & have no problem telling you the weird things I'm thinking about.  

  • I love getting to know you, your life, your business & your favorite doughnut~ surprisingly it helps me do a better job.

I am really excited for this next step. I'd like to give a big ‘Thank You’ to everyone who has supported me in the past and encouraged me in the present — as well as give a big ‘Hello’ to the future!  Welcome to C'N Visual Concierge.

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