Joys and Woes of 20-One Oh (part 1)

As the year comes to a close, I’ve decided to be a copycat and look at the events from this past year, both good and bad, to help me not only reflect but also provide me some motivation to focus on how my life might or should change in 2011. Because this will be so long, I’ve decided to break it up into two parts. Here’s Jan through August!

January was perhaps the scariest month of the year. I remember it was a Sunday. I woke up and started talking to my husband about the football games. My voice started to slur, and I blacked out. When I finally became conscious, I was disoriented and I couldn’t move the right side of my body. The paramedics were here at that point asking me questions, and I kept looking to my husband for the answers. All the symptoms pointed to a stroke, so I was taken to the hospital. It took a week of misdiagnoses before the doctors determined that I had a partial complex seizure. The EEG showed epileptic activity, and due to the severity of the seizure, I was diagnosed with epilepsy. I was released from the hospital with a walker and a prescription for physical therapy. The hospital neurologist signed off on an application for a permanent disability placard for our car. I had no idea if I would improve. I gradually regained the use of my right arm on my own. My right leg took much longer. If we were going anywhere for any extended period of time, my husband got me a wheelchair. He really had to do everything for me. Our house is so small that it was difficult to maneuver my walker, so unless I had to go to the bathroom, my new home became the couch. After nine months of physical therapy, I finally graduated to a cane. I had fully regained the strength in my right leg, but I was constantly dizzy and extremely wobbly. I was still having small seizures, called “absence seizures”, and my speech was affected. Many times I couldn’t come up with the right word I wanted to use. Or I would run words together. There would times when I couldn’t get a word out, and my stuttering induced a seizure. When I first saw my regular neurologist, he told me that I have a small gray mass in the left side of my brain. Such a situation is called Gray Matter Heterotopia. He told me I’ve probably had this for most of my life, but he couldn’t tell me why it only recently activated causing me the seizures and the speech and motor issues. I was put on two different seizure medications plus an anxiety medication. Today, I still get dizzy and wobbly, but it’s not a 24/7 type of thing. I still forget words from time to time, but I haven’t had any stuttering episodes lately.

Shortly after I was discharged from the hospital, I found out that my favorite band, New Kids on the Block, would be coming to Seattle. They were releasing a sort of biographical video in February that talked about their reunion and their activities since the reunion. And, to promote the release, they chose three cities where they would screen the video with their fans. I won a ticket to be a part of the screening, and then I begged my husband to let me go. I had only been out of the hospital for about a week and a half. I obviously couldn’t drive, and the theater was in Bellevue — more than an hour and a half drive away from our house. To my surprise, Phil agreed, but he insisted that we rent a wheelchair because he wouldn’t have anything to do with the New Kids on the Block. A friend of mine stayed with me, and we were put in the handicapped seating area. There was a walkway that separated our seats from the next row, and that was where the guys entered before taking their seats three rows behind me. I got hugs from all five guys and a kiss on the cheek from Jon Knight. It was so surreal — not only watching the video in a movie theater but also knowing that the New Kids on the Block were in the same theater watching the movie with us. They joked around, talked at the screen, and threw popcorn at us. After the movie was over, they came to the front for a Q&A. Then, Joey McIntyre announced that he was going to sing a song. He came back to that walkway and was directly in front of me. Everyone in the audience had a single rose to give to the guys. The plan was to hold them all up at some point and have the guys come out and take them, but it had never happened, so I thought I’d give my rose to Joey since he was right there. I called him over and gave him my rose. He hugged me and then leaned in to my face. I assumed he was giving me permission to kiss his cheek so I tried to do so. He immediately moved away. It was then I realized that a friend of mine was trying to take our picture. I was so embarrassed! I knew that Joey was married and he drew the line at being kissed, but for some reason that all had gone out of my mind in that brief moment. My friend took the picture and then Joey returned to the front without even singing his song. After it all was over, my friend wheeled me out to the lobby, and we saw Donnie Wahlberg at the concession. My friend gave me her camera and walked over to him to ask for a picture. He obliged. After, he walked over to me to say hello. While I had been in the hospital, a bunch of New Kids fans had signed an online get well card for me. Donnie had also said on twitter that he had signed the card, so I thought this would be a perfect time to bring that up. I thanked him for signing my card, and he said, “that was you?” I said yes, and he gave me a hug and said he was glad I was out of the hospital. Phil came up at that point and said hello to Donnie. They did that manly fist bump, and then we made the long drive home.

Three months later, my husband found his daughter. He knew about her, but he hadn’t seen her in 13 years. Given my history of infertility, it was definitely a struggle. But in the past 8 months, we have had weekly visits and are developing a good relationship with her. She is such a sweet girl; it makes it hard not to love her. She is so much like her dad, not only in appearance but also in personality. She has often called her self a mini-me of Phil, but she also calls him her dad, and they end every visit with a hug and a kiss.

Also in April, I started writing for A friend of mine referred me. I applied to write as the national hip hop examiner, but they instead assigned me to local hip hop. I knew nothing of local hip hop, so I had to do some googling. The first artists I discovered was Darxiide. They were very gracious when I first contacted them. I initially asked them to review a mixtape for me. Afterward, they told me about a project they had started to bring local artists together on a mixtape. I suggested profiling some of those artists and they made the contacts for me. The relationship with Darxiide has continued, and they have introduced me to countless hip hop artists. I love this writing job, and it has inspired an even greater passion for music and a love for promotion and publicity. I now receive unsolicited emails from artists asking for interviews, profiles, and album reviews. My school and my health have prevented me at times from being consistent with my writing, but to date, I have written over fifty articles, and I’ve gotten behind on some profiles and album reviews that I hope to get done before the end of the year.

In July, I traveled to Vancouver, BC to attend an educational conference on brain development and learning. My favorite research psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, would be presenting, and I couldn’t wait to hear him in person and possibly meet him. My dissertation was based on his theory of flow, and I wanted to let him know that. After his presentation, I found him sitting in the lobby talking with some other attendees. I pulled up a chair and was able to talk to him as well. I was able to tell him about my research and the articles I had read that prompted the research. We discovered that he wasn’t aware of some of the articles I had read. He offered me some input about my study and wished me well in my pursuit of my doctorate degree. I should have asked for a picture with him, but I never did.

In August, Phil and I celebrated our 8th anniversary. Given my health this year and the continued depression over infertility, Phil surprised me with a 7-day cruise to Alaska. It was truly the highlight of our year, turning my focus away from the horribleness of our lives to the happiness that was our continued marriage. We got to see Alaskan huskies and were taken on a modified dog sledding ride. We also took a tour of a bear sanctuary. The remaing part of the cruise, we relaxed. I sang karaoke one night, and another, we had a fancy dinner at the topscale restaurant on the ship. We had an oceanview room, so every morning we woke up and looked at the endless ocean. Phil had taken such good care of me since my hospitalization, but this was one of the best presents he could have ever given to me.

Stay tuned for part two! I should have it up in the next few days.


About debhalasz

I am a free-lance writer, skilled in writing press-releases, profiles, web copy, articles, and album reviews. I also am a skilled researcher in all areas. I have a MS degree in Educational Pscyhology and am currently in the dissertation phase of my PhD program. My passions are second language learning, learning strategies, music, musicology, neuroscience, and neuroeducation. I am a fan of all genres of music and love learning more about both indie and major-labeled artists as well as the behind-the-scenes people who make them look so good! View all posts by debhalasz

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