part X… clueless

The blessing of not selling our home to go bigger and better, was 6 years from being fully realized. As I look back on many phases and decisions in my life, I am frequently reminded of blessings that, at the time, seemed like regular old occurrences. When the Lord tells us, “…He will never leave you, nor forsake you.”  (Deuteronomy 31:6) He truly means it. His ability to patiently bless us beyond our present vision… frankly… astounds me.

By the end of March, I ‘passed’ a follow-up MRI with flying colors. So, per the doctor’s orders, all systems were set on “go” to continue my life as it was, pre-injury.

Lucie’s 13th birthday party welcomed in April. We successfully surprised her and let her and her friends stay up ALL night (a persistent request of hers since age 9). It was a great party with nonsense and noise and even a dance party in our garage with me instigating new and crazy moves to the increasingly louder music.

That was Thursday of Easter weekend. By the time Monday rolled around, I found myself unusually tired and having periods of 3-4 hours/day of blurred vision. Very strange.

Shortly after that, it began to occur to me that attending our church services nearly made me pass out. When I sang I got light-headed. Weird. I wondered why and quit singing.

The next Sunday, halfway through the service, it dawned on me that I had just about no idea what our pastor had been preaching about. Instead of concentrating on the teaching from the pulpit (something I looked forward to every week), my eyes wandered all over the place, taking my brain with them. Zero focus. Just random thoughts about whatever and whomever my eyes landed on:

  • “When did the church get ceiling fans? It’s not hot today. Why are they on and why are they spinning so fast?
  • “Oh, there’s Colleen, I need to ask her about getting the kids together on Saturday.
  • “Is that Lani? Is Rich with her? I have to remember to ask them if they can sub for us next week and lead our Bible study.
  • “Why don’t they turn Pastor Fred’s mic down. It’s so loud.
  • “Sara’s got a new haircut. Very cute. What did I need to tell her? Oh, that’s right. I can’t bring Gabe to AWANA Wednesday night, can she?
  • “When did we get all of these ceiling fans!?
  • “There are the Pedersons. Shoot! … I was supposed to bring our girls’ outgrown snowpants for their kids”.

When church ended and I’d talked to the people I remembered to talk to after the service, I would find myself in a surreal sort of daze, wandering to the car. After arriving back home, I went straight to bed for the rest of the day due to sudden and extreme fatigue and nausea, clueless as to the cause.

  • At school (my workplace), I found myself making odd new requests of my students: “Kids, while I read this story, could you do your best to sit super still?”
    • “Why, Mrs. Drake?”
  • “Well, today I feel a little bit like I’m on a boat all the time, and when you move, it’s like the water moves.”
    • “Oh, we understand that, Mrs. Drake! One time when I was fishing…”
    • “My mom and dad said they felt like that on a plane one time…”
    • “My grandpa took me canoeing when it was windy once and…”
    • Etc…. 

(One of the things I love most about children is their willingness to accept you as you are when you are open and honest with them. It’s like one, big, compassionate and endless hug. I miss those hugs).

It was while I was at work, busy writing reports, emails and other notes for the adult literacy coaching portion of my day, that I discovered that I’d begun to frequently leave off the last letters of the words I was writing. Often entire words were missing. Also very weird.

In early May, after an all-school assembly, I found myself feeling like I was floating. A week later at another assembly, I could feel a wave of nausea slowly creep from my stomach to my head, followed by a feeling of guilt for having to ask my colleague, Sue, to take over my class of 28 kids in addition to her 29 while I rushed out the nearest exit to throw-up. Both occasions left me feeling dizzy, unable to function, in need of a driver to get me home, and in need of 24 hours in bed to recover… with me still clueless as to why.

I found myself in a variety of similarly bizarre situations throughout the remainder of the year. As the 2010-11 school year came to a close I was exhausted and perplexed and looking forward to the relief of summer break more than I ever had before. And thanks to the combined efforts of my mom and my hubby, it was actually going to be a summer off, with none of the usual teacher training seminars and tutoring that I typically filled my “time off” with.

My only summer commitment was a no-pressure, fun commitment. Lucie, Lydia and I all tried out for parts at the local community college’s production of Annie.  And to one degree or another (little Lydia was a stage hand) we all got parts!  Lucie had a growing interest in acting and I thought it might be a great stress reliever for me, so why not? What better way to keep my body and brain active and be a kid alongside my girls?

Funny though, with a cast of about 25, it soon became obvious that I was the one getting yelled at most often by the director… even more than the 15 rambunctious kids playing the parts of the naughty New York orphans! Why? What did he have against me?

One day at practice, Lucie figured it out and came gently to my rescue. It seemed that I was not following the script. I knew my lines but I did not know when and where to deliver them … which was odd, because all my life I have been blessed with a deadbolt lock on my ability to hold things into memory and retrieve them as needed. Now, (this increasingly unrecognizable NOW) though my memory seemed fairly normal, the retrieval process was becoming an obvious mess.

Lucie, Lydia and I proceeded to make four maps and posted them at my four different stage entry points. Each map had explicit instructions – for me alone – as to when, where and what I was responsible for. The director’s voice no longer rang in my ears.

At the end of July the play was over. I felt that the past months’ experiences had left me refreshed and recharged and ready for the 2011-12 school year. On August 1st the lights turned green and my school year began. As usual, it was 0 to 60 in 3.9 seconds – engine screaming and tires smoking.

I felt good. I felt in control again. All went so well at the beginning that I felt like the old me was back! I was confident and moving forward fast as a 50% classroom literacy teacher and 50% literacy coach for teachers. The strange symptoms that came with singing or shouting or talking and laughing with friends; the symptoms that came with listening to the wonderful sounds of a classroom; all of those stormy, seasick symptoms… they all seemed to subside. Whatever all those weird reactions to normal, everyday things were, they must have all been just ‘in my head’.

I was ready to roll…


*This document is the sole property of L. Marie Drake © 2017.  Permission granted for printing copies of this page on the basis that they are not used for personal profit or any financial gain. Thank you.*

part V… the family home


About two years after living in our temporary Minnesota home, we were ready to flip it and go for that dream home where we hoped to draw pencil marks on the walls showing how tall our kids had grown; plant trees which would someday grow tall enough to decorate with Christmas lights; and create an environment that we hoped our girls would long to return to with their families one day. But life exists outside of our dreams.

The economy fell into a recession… especially the housing market. All brakes went on. Instead of moving forward with our grand plans of a craftsman rendition of a dream home on some lake, we were quietly thankful that our affordable little home remained just that – affordable.

Meanwhile, my career was accelerating. Nope… not in the way of finances (hey – I’m in the world of education – not banking :)!  Rather the velocity increased in the way of  time, training and learning. My career began to morph into part classroom teaching and part coaching other teachers.

My job was to introduce and instruct established teachers in a new and internationally effective reading program, straight out of New Zealand. Because this concept was new to the Midwest and to our district and to its established teachers, it wasn’t always well received. Therefore, in addition to just simply doing my job, the politics of the job began to take up more and more of an already full schedule. Forty hour work weeks quickly grew to 45, 50, 60, 65+ hours a week… along with a nightly ‘to do’ list staring at me when I was home, trying to be “present” with my family.

Now remember, someone like me truly doesn’t mind this much work. In fact, I’m a bit like a gerbil on a wheel – as long as the wheel’s spinning, I’m good. What does happen to folks like me… is we lose sight of the people and relationships right in front of us.

family pic quebec 2006~good one  Our family had become involved in short-term mission work, Bible studies, sports, youth groups, music lessons, etc…. Despite our best efforts, we had become the typical way-too-busy American family. I had too many balls in the air and I was constantly trying to find that elusive balance between my career and my family.  

Amidst everything – the too busy but still happy family life and my too busy but still satisfying job – sometime in January of 2011, we started re-researching the possibility of finding that dream home. The market had found some stability and our house was estimated to turn a profit. By the end of February we had remodeled the basement and repainted the whole house. Our home was ready to be put on the market and the dream house was once again in our sights.

Then, on February 28, 2011,  everything changed. There was a wild glide into mid-air, a thud, a flash of light and a sudden, blinding pain… and nothing has been the same since.

I didn’t understand it – that everything had changed for me. Not then. I didn’t understand it as we raced to the hospital the next afternoon with my head hanging over the puke bucket while I was on the phone with a colleague, asking her to conduct the training I had planned for the next day. I didn’t understand it as the doctors discussed airlifting me to Minneapolis for an emergency brain surgery while I made plans in my head for Lucie’s surprise birthday party now only a month away.

As the doctors explained to me what a Subdural Hematoma is, I was thinking about our house. The realtors would be there in a week to take pictures. Did I have everything ready? Should I take all of the family pictures down like they suggested?  Did I have all my testing done at school, before kids left for Spring Break?  Were my report cards completed?  ...CAT scan (are they the same as CT scans?) Why was Lucie going through so much at school?  Why did kids leave her out?  Am I spending enough time with my children?  Do I know them? Was Lydia truly as happy and as confident as she seemed? … heart monitor?… (why? I get the brain scan but… an MRI now? ) When would I get all the student’s data entered from the testing if I were in the hospital?  How would I be able to analyze the data if I couldn’t even see the bucket in front of me earlier today?  Could I still speak French?  Oh, no!  What if I lose my language abilities in both French and English… let me try it.  OK, no words French or English… just confusion.  I’ll try later. …more doctors shining more lights in my eyes… (I feel like the lights are killing me). Where’s my mom?  Is she still on her trip? Why is Lucie at the foot of the bed?  She looks sad?  How can I comfort her?  My dad looked quite pale when he came to get Lydia for us, why?  What is Eddie doing? … please don’t make me try to follow your finger again… Would someone please get me a Sudoku, so I can prove that I still have a brain?  Wait, I don’t play Sudoku… note-to-self… learn how to play Sudoku!

As unbelievable as this sounds, about four years passed before I was able to understand and come to grips with the fact that nothing was ever going to be quite the same for me again.  There would be blessings, but they would look a bit different and they’d be harder to see. Not harder to see because they were smaller – I don’t think God gives us small blessings. I think His blessings are all infinitely enormous, all equally wonderful.

I think it’s our vision that fails us. His blessings were there through all of this dark period. Some I couldn’t see at all and missed entirely, and others I could barely make out through the fog – I saw only bits and pieces. But He was teaching me to look closer and to try and focus on what He was doing in my life.

Eventually I got so if I squinted, I could start to see the beautiful pattern in what initially looked like a big, ugly mess.

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.”     2 Corinthians 4:8

I believed that verse meant He wanted me to never give up… and I was a stellar model of that in my newly ‘concussed’ predicament. I thought the words were about me and what I could do. But I have since come to believe that this verse isn’t about me at all. It is about Him.  He wants me never to give up hope in Him.

Ever so slowly I learned to give up on myself and to trust in Him. All of my efforts to overcome this injury were failing. Not one of my attempts at a normal life were successful.

Finally, grudgingly I agreed to hit the pause button on all of the many plans I had made for my life.

But the pause button wasn’t enough. He wanted me to hit STOP…

*This document is the sole property of L. Marie Drake © 2017.  Permission granted for printing copies of this page on the basis they are not used for personal profit or any financial gain. Thank you.*

part III… the boy

New Year’s Day, 1993, we were Up North at my parent’s house on the lake. Unbeknownst to me, “the boy” got up early, went downstairs, and gently interrupted my dad’s morning devotions to ask him for his daughter’s hand in marriage. (So old school. So romantic. I loved it!)

Blessing given. (Btw… thanks, Dad!).

5 hours later – halftime of the Sugar Bowl – the boy asked me to show him the playhouse that my dad built me as a kid. Reluctantly I said “OK.” (Just the summer before I’d asked him to come out and see my childhood playhouse. For some mysterious reason he continually declined. Now – New Year’s Day – it’s 20 below zero and all of a sudden he wants to see it!?)

We bundled up and made the short walk through the woods to my gingerbread-styled playhouse. Once inside, he challenged me to climb up in the loft (of which my adult body now barely fit). When I awkwardly found the top ledge, I turned around to show him that I did still fit.  As I flung my feet from the ladder to hanging over the edge, he grabbed my hand, and proceeded to ask me to marry him! His version of getting down on one knee was mimicked by me being above him… again… so romantic.  As the cold made his lips barely talkable, he struggled to ask again… “Will you marry me?”  Between my shock, my freezing tears, and utter joy… I had forgotten to respond.  Through visible breath… I finally said YES!  Six months later I found myself married to the boy… Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome and I became one. We began our life together.



I do have to admit, he was more than just ‘tall, dark, and handsome’ – even more than the man of my dreams. My attraction to him came from a substance in him that ran deep and complemented my shortcomings… and I his. He knew the Lord, he shared that spiritual relationship with me, and with that foundation underneath us… our relationship had – still has – an unchanging ROCK to stand on. We truly were best friends getting married… and still are… despite our imperfections.

So….a couple new chapters in my life had begun. I had found God – really. And I’d found the man I believe He intended for me and I was sure that now I would know how to live a life of peace and balance. No more questions, no more doubts, no more chaos. But that’s not the way God wired me. I was still the same type-A human He’d originally created. And that’s okay! He most definitely has a purpose and a special plan for all of us and all of our intricate ‘wiring.’

“LORD, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it…

For you formed my inward parts;

you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

Psalm 139

Despite reading and knowing the truth of God’s word, I would often find that I was becoming my own best competition… never satisfied with enough. Was this the way God had “hemmed me in?” Was this me allowing Him to be “acquainted with all my ways?” Or, was my personality a road block in drawing closer to Him? I agree that He “knitted me together” but, even though I had come to know Him through Jesus, was I praising Him for what He had made… or was I recoiling the ball of yarn and, in turn, un-knitting what He had so “fearfully and wonderfully made?”  Always biting off more than I could chew; always trying to fit square pegs in round holes; always reaching for the moon. Always, always, always

During our first five years of marriage, my husband and I were working downtown Minneapolis – living just a short bus ride away in “God’s Country” – NordEast Minneapolis. We were fortunate to be… very happily married. Life was simple and easy. But…..

I’ve never been super comfortable with “simple and easy.” Where’s the challenge in that? I started thinking about having a baby. Surely a baby wouldn’t complicate my life. Right? No… I wasn’t that humble to see through my own personality!

But it wasn’t just type-A-syndrome… No, it really wasn’t that at all – it wasn’t that tidy of a thought. This desire was something honest and real and it came from – well, I don’t know where it came from – the Lord – and it came from down deep, from a part of me I didn’t know I had. We’d talked a tiny bit about having babies, but I had put way more energy into a career and a happy marriage. Children were never really a part of that picture. Until they were.

We were in the middle of him finishing college & working odd jobs; me – working a 50+ hour week job & graduate school; remodeling our house; and learning to be married. So when I presented the whole baby idea to my husband, he looked at me all clueless – sort of the way I looked at him when he wanted to see the playhouse at 20 below. He often has the more realistic view on things – sometimes leaning pessimistic.  Well, you know my angle – overly optimistic – nothing’s impossible – partially realistic. And then, according to him, I lied to him – twice.

My first lie (according to him) was that having a baby would not much change our simple, happy life. I really said that!  Two decades and two kids later, I know now that that was a ridiculous thought, but not a lie because at the time… I did actually believe it.

My second lie (according to my husband) was that at my ripe old age of 30, it would probably take a couple of years for us to get pregnant… three weeks later I was interrupting his Twins game on TV to tell him that I was, in fact, pregnant.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”   2 Corinthians 4:7

Nine months later, the next new part of my life began…

*This document is the sole property of L. Marie Drake © 2017.  Permission granted for printing copies of this page on the basis they are not used for personal profit or any financial gain. Thank you.*

part I… what just happened?

As we began this site of resources and the blog that sort of naturally spilled out of it… I jumped into the middle of blogging feelings, accommodations, and symptoms of life with an Invisible Illness… with hopes of capturing YOU where YOU are at.  The mission was and still is… to boldly share the secret life I feel I have been living so that you, too, can break out of your shell and, with me, come to some sort of compromise of acceptance.

You need to know that this isn’t like me. A co-worker once told me that I was known as “the vault” among my colleagues. Which, in my line of work, was not a bad thing. But she was right in more ways than just the professional end of things… I’ve always had trouble sharing my true feelings. I grew up in a wonderful, kind and loving family with only one little dysfunction… alcoholism. Although I think it is pretty impossible to have a ‘normal’ family without any sort of dysfunction… this particular dysfunction quickly taught me how to cope – quietly covering up adversity while at the same time putting my life on cruise control no matter what was going on underneath.  In addition to learning those life skills, I came from ‘good German and Norwegian stock’… aka… unswerving perseverance (I mean really, how did our ancestors live in sod huts and survive North Dakota winters? Seriously!).

So this website… blog… Facebook … this sharing-yourself-world is sort of new to me, and kind of scary.  For example, when I got my Facebook account, I set it up with a fake birthday – thinking I’m helping to protect myself from being too revealing. Well, I just got 80+ birthday wishes for my fake FB birthday… a few of them in person… very embarrassing. Somehow I didn’t see that coming!

“For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.”      2 Corinthians 4:15

So this new and uncharted territory – makes me very surprised that any of this tripping UP the DOWN escalator endeavor is even happening. But The Lord doesn’t ask us to do what is comfortable for us… just ask Moses, Jonah, Paul, and a few others!  I believe the Lord has asked me to be as raw as I can on this website, not just for me… but for others.  When you read my story… know that the desire is that it will inspire your story… to be real… to let you feel… to help you conquer… to not give in… and to help you heal.

I have been asked to share my story… FROM THE TOP.  Many of you reading this have been a part of that narrative… and yet you still ask. Which is strange, but not as strange as the fact that it is my story and there are times when I still ask  … what just happened?  Remember stories of olden days when someone would literally stop the clocks in their home when a family member died?  Well, this injury has made me long for all clocks to stop. Not that I have died, but a part of me did in 2011. And, for the past 6 years, somewhere deep within me, I have been waiting for time to stop… so I could figure out what just happened.

“Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God,”           2 Corinthians 3:5

Over the next 2 or possibly 200 blogs, I will walk you through my story. Hold on for me, please. Be patient. I don’t know what all I will reveal. I am not showing up for this task all polished and prepared.  Hebrews 13:20-21 is often summarized like this:  the Lord does not call the equipped but equips the called. Please pray that He equips my pen as the words pour out and pray for your heart as it receives them.  I pray that God will be glorified.

listeninglinkzzzz listening link ~ part I … what just happened?  …click here to listen to the above article… 

*This document is the sole property of L. Marie Drake © 2017.  Permission granted for printing copies of this page on the basis they are not used for personal profit or any financial gain. Thank you.*

mid-month NEWS & info ~ may 2017


  • NEW opportunity on our website’s contact tab:  there is a place for you to submit your personal story! Please write to us and share your trials and successes.  Caregivers, family members and friends are also encouraged to share their perspective… we know it affects everyone.
  • NEW blogs will be posted weekly on Wednesdays.  Please join tripping Up the Down escalator… and follow us so you don’t miss even 1 blog full of blessings!
  • One blog each month will be focused on news & info… just like this one.  🙂
  • Did you know that many of our veterans suffer from TBI?  Below are some ways you can support them either through prayer or finances:
  • TBI Medical ID bracelet ~ finally there is a medical ID bracelet stating that you have had a TBI (an important factor in an emergency situation)!  As a bonus, you can order one while at the same time support our veterans who will tailor make it to fit you… Handmade by Heroes…


  • Please know that all words on this website that are underlined and blue are an automatic link to more information on the present topic.
  • Many of my fellow TBI friends have lost the gift of reading… whether it be comprehension, stamina, decoding or vision challenges.  
    • For this purpose, I will slowly be adding this icon & words: listeninglinkzzzz listening link to each section of writing.  When you click on this, you will connect to a YouTube link or a podcast that will READ that section TO U!  
    • Please know there are many stories, songs and TED talks embedded throughout our website where reading is not necessary!

tUtDe = tripping Up the Down escalator

*This document is the sole property of L. Marie Drake © 2017.  Permission granted for printing copies of this page on the basis they are not used for personal profit or any financial gain. Thank you.*