Getting to Know Tammy

You know what's contributors and moderators think about migraine, but there’s more to us than migraine. We’re doing a Getting to Know… series to introduce you to the people behind the names. We’re sharing information in a variety of formats, but the goal is always the same—to help you get to know us a little better.

We talk so much about migraine and its impact on our lives, but there really is so much more to each of us that just this disease. The other contributors and I got to thinking that you might like to get a glimpse into our (non-migraine) lives. So let’s play “20 Questions.” I’ll go first, and then you get to take a turn in the comments below.

1. Where do you live and with whom?
I live in the Kansas City metro area with my husband of 27 years, two adult kids (ages 23 and 19), and a 2 year-old granddaughter.

2. What did you do before
I was a family therapist, specializing in relationship counseling and anxiety disorders. I also worked part-time for a home-based mental health agency, serving families with kids on the autism spectrum.

3. What do you miss most about your former life?
I miss the money and my colleagues. Quite honestly, that’s it. I don’t miss driving all over town in crazy traffic and terrible weather. I don’t miss all the surprise triggers waiting for me in every home; and I certainly don’t miss the paperwork, dealing with insurance companies, or all the regulations. I thought that counseling would be relatively trigger-free, but it most certainly was not.

4. Do you have any pets? If so, what kind and what are their names?
I have a dog named Otto. He is mixed-breed, mostly Australian Shepherd and Bernese. We adopted him from a no-kill shelter in 2010 on my birthday. His gentle, accepting temperament is perfect for my crazy house. I also have a cat named Anya. She was a stray kitten my husband rescued off the highway back in 2003. She’s been ruling the house ever since.

5. How do you spend your migraine attacks?
I wrap my head in ice packs and curl up in an oversized recliner with a soft blanket, big hat and noise-cancelling headphones in a dark, quiet living room with black-out curtains. My full arsenal sits in a bag on the end table next to me, as does a cold glass of Sprite or Ginger Ale.

6. What are your favorite distractions during a migraine attack?
Most of my attacks are stopped rather quickly, so I don’t need a lot of distraction. However, there are still times when one will hang on, refusing to let go. That’s when I break out some music, a few TV re-runs, and some mindless games of Spider Solitaire and Mahjong to wait out the storm.

7. How many languages do you speak?
English is my native language, but…
Hablo español muy bien y...
Je parle france, un peu, e...
Falo português ainda menos.

8. Are you a music person? If so, do you have a favorite genre, artist, or song?
Yes! My first introduction to music was in church as a small child. I started piano lessons at 5 years old which I continued until my junior year. I also briefly played the flute in middle school. My passion was vocal music, though, so I sang 2nd soprano in the school choir and in a performance ensemble. I have an eclectic style, enjoying great music from nearly all genres. Most recently I have been enjoying music by Skillet, Imagine Dragons, The Script, Coldplay, Christina Perri, and Andy Grammer.

9. What are your favorite books or writers?
Some of my favorites are William Shakespeare, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, J.K. Rowling, Ernest Hemmingway, Henry David Thoreau, Robert Lewis Stevenson…there really are too many to list. I learned to read early in life and fell in love with the classics. If you want to be a good writer, you have to read the greats, right?

10. Do you have a preference between TV/movies and books?
I prefer the book, but appreciate the movie as long as I don’t expect it to match the book. My family has a long tradition of movie going. It’s one of the few activities I can do that will not trigger a migraine as long as I stay away from 3D movies.

11. Favorite movies?
Again, I appreciate quality. I grew up on classic Disney movies and came of age with The Breakfast Club, Ferris Beuler’s Day Off, and Top Gun. Ghost, The Green Mile, Australia, and Titanic all top my list of favorites. I found Harry Potter delightful (although not completely true to the books). The soundtracks to Twilight and Divergent are beautiful. Plus, I’m total Star Wars and Star Trek nerd.

12. Favorite TV shows?
I love crime dramas, but as with music, my tastes vary. I’m currently binge-watching Outlander, The Blacklist, Suits, and Game of Thrones.

13. What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I served in the Navy Reserves from 1990 to 1994 as an Avionics Technician. I was in Basic Training when the U.S. first invaded Iraq in 1990. By the time my training was finished, the fighting was over and everyone returned home. Even though I was a sailor, I never set foot on a ship because women were not allowed on aircraft carriers in the 90s. I’m proud of my service. The Navy pushed me to grow in ways I never expected. It shaped me into the person I am today.

14. What are your favorite interests/activities/hobbies and why?
I love a good mystery and nothing is more rewarding than discovering a new hint about long-forgotten pieces of my family history. I am focusing my efforts on the branch of my family tree from which migraine originates – my paternal grandmother’s line. It helps that Grandma was one of my favorite people of all time. Scrapbooking satisfies my need for creative expression and documents my family’s history for future generations. My brain is almost always “on” but sometimes I just need to park it in “neutral” and get lost in the colors and patterns of a good adult coloring book.

15. What are your thoughts on travel?
I have mixed feelings. It takes a lot out of me to travel, so it has to be a destination or event that ignites my passion. I am more likely to head off on a hunt for long-lost ancestors than I am to visit a resort, waterpark, or go on a cruise. I travel with purpose and plan lots of down time.

16. What is one thing you never thought you would do?
I never thought I would travel alone to meet strangers I met online. Yet I’ve done it 3 times in the last 14 months. I also never thought I would fly again after 9/11. My desire to help others and become a better patient advocate is the only thing that broke through the fear (and my hatred of the TSA) and gave me the motivation to earn the money for 3 separate trips: Washington, DC last summer, San Diego in June, and Philadelphia in July.

17. How do you cheer yourself up when you’re in a funk?
Loud music and dancing all alone usually does the trick. If it’s a really bad day, Smirnoff Sour Apple and lots of cursing are on the menu. If the day is a complete disaster and I’m really ticked off, then only a frenzy of deep-cleaning will do.

18. Are you a beach person, a mountain person, or a city person?
Mountains are a must. It’s even better if they’re covered in snow and there’s not another living soul for miles.

19. Are you an introvert or extrovert?
I’m an introvert, but not at first glance. I’m friendly and outgoing, but I wear out quickly and need lots of quiet, alone time to recharge.

20. Are you an optimist or pessimist?
I’m a realistic optimist. I don’t wear blinders, so I see the truth for what it is. I just choose to see the positive (or at least the humorous) and find ways to make it better.

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