Yesterday was Xray and talk-to-the-Doctor’s-rep-day. I didn’t hear what I wanted to hear, but I also feel much better because I know precisely where I stand, making it possible to work at solutions.

First off, I had already discovered that health insurance covers treatment requiring care by a licensed professional, including Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy. It doesn’t cover things provided by talented aides –all the things that help with the practical aspects of living with this brace, for example.

As for the Xray, things “are looking the way they are supposed to look.”

I also learned that the brace definitely must stay on for a total of three months – two more to go. And it must always be on whenever I am upright. So there’s no license to get up without it in the middle of the night for a pit stop, for example.

Then I was taught how to put it on and remove it myself, with the hope that I can get to the point of doing it quickly when I need to get up. Besides that, it’s clear that I am not the only person experiencing this brace thing and people have learned various ways of living with it. For example, some people choose to sleep in it.

All that information left me feeling good, because problems can be solved when the facts are clear. Since I’m planning to leave rehab on June first, I have this week to practice proficiency in putting it on and off. I’ll have the opportunity to try sleeping in it. And I’ll be able to set up the bed situation to make it all work at home. Plus I’ll call on friends to help me set up my house to deal with these temporary requirements.

As has been the case all along here, I have learned so much more practical understanding of the situation for others, especially for those with long-range problems, so much more serious than mine.

All of which adds to the powerful sense of gratitude I’ve experienced ever since finding myself still alive after the “event” of April 15.



Posted May 23, 2015 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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In no particular order, but worth remembering and sharing, here are some things I’ve observed in the process of treatment and recovery from the April 15 event.

I’ve often wondered what’s the best way to speak to someone in a wheelchair. Kneel down? Bend over? Remain at one’s own level? I still don’t have the answer, but I know the most important thing is to be within comfortable view and hearing for the person in the chair. It can be a lonely position to be in, as if one is not a part of the world around one. That’s especially true if there are two or more people involved in addition to the one in the chair. Don’t forget there are at least three people in the group. Just because one is in a lower physical spot is no reason to be demeaned as belonging in a lesser position. Maybe a better way to put this is to strive to remain within eye-contact position. Obviously if you are pushing the wheelchair, you can’t be in front of it or beside it, but you can maintain conversational presence. Just don’t overlook the person in the chair.

This applies as well to being with a person using a walker. It’s a rule of courtesy that should apply when just walking with someone. Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

In using a walker, one becomes aware of variations in the floor, and the danger of rugs that can catch on the non-wheeled part of the walker. A couple of days ago I almost caused a woman to fall – it ended in a stumble – because my walker caught on the exit rug, pulling it up enough to trip her. Maybe people who place rugs and such in public places should be better aware of these dangers. Certainly the person using the walker, and those walking with her, should be aware of the danger.

I’ve learned the terror of helplessness, which for me is a temporary situation, but certainly heightens my sympathy for people with severe and permanent injuries that make them more dependent on others. When I am lying flat on my back at night with orders not to roll onto my side and unable to get up for bathroom calls, or in an emergency, I am aware of my almost complete inability to take care of myself. It’s a lesson I’m happy to have learned, though I’d much rather not have learned it the way I did.

On another note, I’ve learned to appreciate the help my friends have given me shopping in my closet. Especially, I’d like to point out the importance of pockets for carrying things around. They chose one hoodie which is perfect for leaving hands free for the walker.

I’ve also learned to appreciate the tools to which Occupational Therapy has introduced me for reaching things without bending over, for pulling on clothes, including sox, the long shoehorn, and another grabber. In that, I’ve developed such empathy for people who need such tools for the rest of their lives.

Another thing I’ve observed is the problem with some restroom doors and facilities. Once inside there are the large booths to accommodate people in wheelchairs or walkers, but the entrance door can be very heavy – more than the 10 pounds I am currently limited to, for example. It’s not true everywhere, but where it is, it can be a serious obstacle.

I’m sure I’ll think of other things to add, but this final one has been really important and instructive for me. The staff at the hospital and here at the rehab – Auburn Manor — are amazing. I believe the aides would qualify formally as “unskilled labor,” and I watch them eagerly accepting overtime to add to their pay-by-the-hour income. But they are definitely not unskilled. And the best thing about it is they all very clearly enjoy their job. One aide left at one point for a corporate job and begged to return after a couple of days because she loves the work she does here.

The dining room staff as well is amazing. Most everyone is wheeled in and wheeled out by staff, and set up with the right meal for them. I believe there are as many special needs as there are people, so it’s quite a job to carry out quietly, competently, and with kindness. All in all amazing, skilled, giving people.

Finally, I’m so aware of the fright of being unable to meet the bills. Today has been largely given to exploring all insurance options. My heart goes out to people whose savings, and even their homes, have been sacrificed to medical bills. My dismay goes out to those who blame the victims for being in that bad situation.

So that’s it for today. Like so much of what I do, this has been written with frequent interruptions, this time working at preparing to go home and finding the necessary support – financial and otherwise..






Posted May 19, 2015 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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Every day I plan to share a bit of an update, and every day gets away from me. I try to get in a lot of sleeping, but sleep is a scarce commodity in rehab. As fast as I doze off, someone else is here to collect me for occupational or physical therapy. I do enjoy the working out, though, and I can see improvement every day. If only it weren’t for this brace that must be worn whenever I’m in an upright position. Actually, It’s not bad while I’m up. It’s the helplessness of lying on my back in bed at night, unable to get up should nature call.

But I wanted to tell you of the nice things that happen. First there are the wonderful folks who go shopping in my closet for things to wear, picking up my mail on the way, and watering my plants. Oh, really, there’s no way to list all the lovely things people have done and the kind torrent of well wishers.

My daughter surprised me by being here from Colorado on Mother’s Day, and I had a great outing with her and my son — brunch at Baccio followed by the matinee at the Guthrie – a super production of “The Crucible.” Tired when I got back to rehab, but well worth it.

If I’d been better about keeping up this report there would be more tales of kindness. Take, for example, my friend who has decided to send me some published jokes every day. Just too many thoughtful gifts to list them all

But one thing I want to be sure to report is the kindness of the fireman who supported my neck and kept me occupied while they worked on getting me out of the car. He actually spent time on saving my earrings. I have an inexpensive pair of little diamond earrings – tiny, not easy for big fireman’s hands. “Do I just pull it out?” he asked. “No, you need to pull out the piece in the back too.” He did, and put them into his plastic glove. Then he went to work on the very slim chain I chose to wear that day – one from my high school days with one pearl drop. In those days the clasps were very, very tiny, but he worked and worked and managed to open and remove it. I am so happy to have that chain, and so grateful to him for saving it. I wish I knew his name so I could thank him for that loving touch, so meaningful at that time.

I feel that I’m just loaded with stories of the beautiful things people have done for me. I hope to share more as time goes on.

But now I’m ready for a nap.

APRIL 15, 2015, THE SHORT VERSION   32 comments

I was on my way home via Audubon Road in Chaska, Minnesota, a short distance from where I would take a right turn onto Engler Boulevard. Not far from the safety of my own garage.

I knew I was sleepy, so I was fighting it, when suddenly there it was, the last car in a line of cars that I was bearing down on. There wasn’t really time to say words to myself, but I thought, “I did it!” (fell asleep, that is), Not wanting to injure anyone else, I turned off into the grassy area on the side of the road. From there I rely on the report of an eyewitness who saw the whole thing. In fact, he called 911 before my car had even hit the ground for the third time. “Send everything,” he told them.

I just barely clipped the bumper of the car in front of me, and apparently accelerated to turn off into the grassy area. There ensued a wild ride, steering desperately to avoid trees and poles, knowing I wanted to get my foot to the brake, but too busy steering. The eyewitness tells me any other choice I might have made would have been disastrous for lots of people.

Then my car hit something that propelled me about 8 feet over the street sign, taking out a street light as I landed for the first time. Two more rollovers ensued before my car came to a stop right side up. All I could do was repeat “Oh my God!” Several times as I listened to the loud metallic noises of my 2002 Acura RSX in flight. Not like a prayer. More like astonished observation.

By the time I landed, the eyewitness had left his car behind and was there to lean in the hole that once was the passenger side window. I saw black smoke and thought “I’d better get out of here. The car is about to burst into flames.” That’s when he reached in and touched my hand, telling me he’d called 911 and help was on the way. “What’s your name?” he asked, and I told him. “Where do you live?” he asked, and I told him. “Are you married?” he asked. “Divorced since 1976” I said.

“I expected to see a bloody dead body,” he reports, “and instead I found you tucked away in your little cocoon.”

Help was there in two minutes, and what wonderful help it was. Such kind people who went well beyond the call of duty.

I have more details to report, but I’m running out of energy. For the short version – every part of my car was smashed except the part I was in. I have three broken ribs, lots of bruising, and a fractured?/crushed? vertebra, L1, I think. It’s the one at the base of the spine.

I’m doing great. Ever so grateful I didn’t hurt anyone else, Amazed I’m alive. More than that, I’m joyful.

I’m even blessed by the fact there was a place for me in a rehab location just 5 minutes from my home where some of my friends volunteer.

Already the ribs are less painful. My logistical problem is the brace that must be worn for three months (predicted) whenever I am upright – even in the shower, for example. We’re now down to the point where two of us can get it on and off, an experienced aide and me. I won’t go into the problems of living alone with it, and I assume I’ll solve it at some point. Right now, though, please don’t ask me when I’ll be going home.

I did go out this past Tuesday, though, to participate as a presenter in a forum on forgiveness.

I’ll try to attach photos of my car.

Anyway, that’s why I haven’t been around the blogosphere much lately.

Crushed Car #2jpeg Crushed Car #1


It’s been a long time since I told you about my granddaughter’s Australia difficulties. Today I’ve finally reached the point where I can report to you that all’s quiet on the Aussie front. It took understanding, forgiveness, and problem solving on the part of all three victims, but now peace, quiet, and good will prevail.

First was converting the anger over the situation into working together to share the pain and reduce the extent of it. All three sides made sacrifices. The landlord managed to find someone else to take on the balance of the lease; the young women sacrificed their initial bond; and each party accepted some loss.

Most of all, they gave up anger toward the cheater who caused the chaos as they focused on problem solving instead.

Now my granddaughter is looking to raise enough money to return to Australia for the balance of her work visa.

As for why I’ve been so slow in telling you this, I’ll let you in on the reason sometime in the next few days.


I don’t understand how someone can just walk off on an obligation without giving two hoots how it hurts others. “You’re the Psychologist,” my son says. “You ought to know the answer.” OK, I can come up with an answer, but that still doesn’t help me really “get” how someone can just walk away.

To tell the truth, I could understand it more easily if it were someone who’s been raised in poverty with little hope for the future. It still doesn’t mean that I ‘d like it. But in this case it’s a young American woman who could afford to go to Australia, apparently with the intention of staying for the year they allow. No, I don’t get it, and I don’t like it.

Given all the awful things going on in the world, this hardly qualifies as one of the more horrific events. But it’s a heartbreaker that should never have happened.

Anyway, here’s the story. Since my granddaughter was in High School she has dreamed of going to Australia. Recently she was finally able to do it having found a program that would allow her to stay and be employed there for a year. In anticipation she had paid off her student loans and earned and saved enough to get there and sustain her until she got a job.

On the way, she spent time in New Zealand where she worked as a Nanny. Then, at the beginning of 2015 she went on to Australia with a work visa allowing her to stay until the end of 2015. She got a job in Brisbane at “Cucina by Toscanis” which she enjoyed and they enjoyed her. All that was left was to move out of the hostel into a nicer home. That happened on February 3 when she and two other American girls signed a lease until the middle of May. Needless to say, her joy delighted us all. Yes, joy. A rare thing in today’s world.

Now here comes the lesson – two, actually. (1) Don’t be too trusting, and (2) Don’t ever sign a lease where you could be responsible for someone else’s debt. What happened? One of the co-signers sneaked off without telling the other two, leaving them with the total commitment; not only for the weeks ahead, but also for the weeks she hadn’t been paying.

My granddaughter was the only one with a job. The other honest signer was paying her obligation with saved money and was looking for a job. The lease was to expire in the middle of May at which time the landlord’s daughter plans to move in.

The cheater left behind at least three victims: my granddaughter, her honest roommate, and the landlord, who insisted the two remaining were responsible for the entire debt, including the payments the deserter had not been paying. Met by an impossible situation, the two honest roommates consulted RTA Queensland and learned that, given the circumstances under which the lease was written, and the delay in discovering the indebtedness of the third roommate, there was no choice but to negotiate directly with the landlord.

Unfortunately none of the three victims was effective in negotiating. The landlord stuck firmly to his legal rights in spite of the fact they simply could not be met. The two roommate victims were unable to meet the demand. So they advertised and found two couples who wanted to rent the unit for the remainder of the lease time and referred them directly to the landlord., expecting one of the couples would sign a lease.

Unable to afford to stay, my granddaughter had to leave her job and get a flight back to the States. Her employer offered her to come back to the job if she was able to return to Australia. The two victimized roommates notified the landlord of their departure date. My granddaughter’s assumption was they would then work out a payment plan for their part of the obligation. All that was needed was information about when the new renters had taken over.

Unfortunately, negotiation requires direct conversation with all parties involved. This did not happen. The landlord insists on full payment of the entire debt. My granddaughter doesn’t know if he has new renters. In short, everyone has been hurt, and no fruitful negotiations have followed. Three people hurt and struggling because of one dishonest, irresponsible person.

The lessons? (1) Trust but verify. (One thing attributed to Ronald Reagan that I find useful.) (2) Never commit yourself to pay someone else’s debt. (3) No matter how legal it may be, one cannot get money out of an empty pocketbook. (4) Sometimes compromise is necessary. (5) Negotiation can’t happen if the parties involved aren’t talking directly to each other with the understanding that each may have to sacrifice something in order to gain.

Two young women recovering from dreams shattered. One very non-joyous granddaughter back in the States, unemployed, trying to pick up the pieces, sort out all that has happened and decide where to go from here. A landlord who leased his property in good faith, left with a loss. Sad lessons learned. And no effort on the part of the one who sneaked off leaving others to suffer the consequences.




I doubt anyone has noticed, but it’s been a long time since I’ve posted to my blog – just too busy trying to do other things. But I have faithfully kept track of the friends I “follow.”

Today is different. I feel a moral obligation to respond to the lie that was told last evening on the latest episode of “Bluebloods.”

If you don’t know the show, I’ll tell you about it. First, though, I want to explain that I was watching it because it’s one of the fictional shows I enjoy at 9:00 p.m. Central Time. I try very hard to be ready to relax by that time so I can lose the day’s stress watching make-believe. I like the show. I like the characters – a good-looking bunch of folks.

It’s the story of a wealthy Irish Catholic family that basically controls an error-free, noble, always just, New York Police Department. It’s clear they are wealthy, because at the end of almost every episode they all gather around a large table in their attractive dining room in their large house for an ample meal accompanied by wine. (The children in the family don’t have wine glasses in front of them.)

At the head of the table is the police commissioner, or his father, the retired commissioner. The rest all serve in one way or another – detective, officer, prosecutor. The children all plan to follow the noble path when they grow up. Often there are political problems with the Mayor who has a bad habit of thinking first of re-election. In between there are the kinds of things one expects to happen in a cop show.

There are some interesting things I tend to mull about when I watch it. For some reason that seems to have nothing to do with the drama, the writers killed off the mother and the grandmother before the show even began – and an older brother who died in the line of duty. (Hm. Sort of makes me think of the Kennedy family.)

Alcohol seems to play a major role. Not only is there the wine at dinner. (Let me be clear, I like wine at dinner.) But there is also the ever handy bottle of bourbon, or whatever it is they drink, when there is a problem to discuss – at home or at the office – and a glass poured at the end of the day to relax. There’s no obvious threat of alcoholism, but I often wonder what was the writer’s purpose in introducing it.

I’m quite sure the writer’s have a political point of view different from mine. On a few occasions they have spoken disparagingly, almost sneeringly, about the ACLU. Not anything long, just sort of a giggly hope that no one they know would be “that” kind of lawyer. No problem. I suspect it even fits the plot line. Lots of people in their line of work don’t especially like the American Civil Liberties Union. As a matter of fact, if my memory serves me correctly, the first President Bush bragged about tearing up his ACLU membership card.

I personally have been a member of the ACLU since I traveled to Germany (among other places in Europe) shortly after WWII. The rubble was still all around. Yes, I’m that old. The thing is, I met so many wonderful people – good people who had let the holocaust happen. I remember one of our student guides saying, “It will come to your country someday.” I learned what I think is an important lesson. It’s true: Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Hence, the ACLU membership.

But that’s not why I’m furious. They have every right to make their opinions known. No, I’m furious because they basically lied, and misinformed, in an area which is extremely important in the current atmosphere of violence, cruelty, and vengeance.

For no apparent dramatic reason, last night they introduced the concept of “restorative practices,” sneeringly suggesting it might be OK for High School students to apologize for things they do, but …

OK, so the lie. They completely misrepresented the process, thereby distorting the purpose. The subplot starts when a young woman who is about to be married receives a letter from a man in jail – the person who years before had killed her mother, father, and brother apparently in a home invasion. He would like the young woman to meet with him in jail. WRONG! That is not the way a restorative justice interaction begins. Unless something has changed a lot very recently, the perpetrator is not allowed to harass the victim. No, restorative justice began for the relief of the victim, not the criminal. It’s the reason why, for example, victims now have the opportunity to testify before the sentencing. It would have to be the victim who initiated the meeting.

The next WRONG!. When the young woman wants to do it, in spite of the Commissioner’s advise, he insists he is going with her. Here’s where things get to be a big lie. As it’s presented, they just make a date and go to the prison. Once there, she and the killer and a woman — apparently some kind of social worker – meet over a table in a private room. The “social worker” person yields easily to the Commissioners insistence that he will stay, and is ready to end it all if he detects that the prisoner is hurting the woman in any way. THIS IS DEFINITELY NOT THE WAY THINGS ARE DONE.

There would be no such meeting without a long process of preparation – often as much as a year or more– being sure both parties want the meeting and are prepared for it.

Rather than presenting a restorative practice interaction as the serious, important, and productive process it is, they made it look like an amateurish, thoughtless, activity.

Finally, the Commissioner encourages her to maintain her vengeful attitude. She has every right to do that. As one who cares a lot about forgiveness, I’m the first to say that forgiveness coerced is not forgiveness at all. The sad thing, though, is the next day she gets married still harboring the hate. WRONG! Forgiveness is not a gift to the killer. It is a gift to oneself, proved many times over to be important for one’s physical and mental health. She has now begun her married life carrying the hatred and all its potential damage with her.

The fact is, restorative practice is a very practical response to crime. A highly developed legal process in several countries, and less widely in the U.S,, it has been demonstrated to reduce recidivism significantly. To say nothing of the fact that people, both victims and criminals, are rehabilitated. The process saves money and saves lives and the quality of life.

I’m furious with “Bluebloods” because the misinformation is presented for no apparent reason except to degrade an important development in judicial process. I guess it continues to be more important to enjoy the satisfaction of inflicting retributive pain than to work at solving problems.

I’ll keep watching the program. Along with CSI and NCIS and their variants, it is one of my favorites. I know the blood is fake, the gun ammo are blanks, and the actors will get up off the floor.

I’ll also keep doing what little I can to encourage restorative practices rather than pleasure in vengeance that leads to no productive end.


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