Featured Journal

Holiday lessons

Written by Tiffany Verzal

This time of year, I can’t help but look back to the one Christmas we had with Alexis before she was hurt.  She was almost 11-months-old and running around with a little push cart Lion.  She didn’t really care about presents, but the bows and wrapping paper were sure cool.  She had a fabulous pair of white fuzzy boots, and a pink and white coat that was so fuzzy it doubled her size!  We savored that Christmas with her, because it was her first Christmas….but I think that every single Christmas with her ends up being more special than the last.

Our perspectives, beliefs, and values have changed dramatically since that first Christmas.  Her injury impacts almost every aspect of our day, and drives most decisions that we make.  But I think when it comes down to it, our goal (Brandon and myself) is to make the most of each day with Alexis.  We try not to miss any chance to have at least a little bit of fun.

Brandon’s family had a tradition when he was growing up, of going to the Christmas Carol at the Omaha Community Playhouse.  We decided last year that we were going to give it a shot and take Alexis.  Like most public outings with her, we were on edge about how the noise, lights, crowd, etc. would affect her.  We didn’t know if she would understand the play or be able to pay attention.  And like most things that I write about, she surprised us… seriously, we should know better by now.  Alexis loved the play.  We met the characters afterwards in the lobby, and Jacob Marley was her favorite.

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It was so inspiring to Alexis that she and Brandon decided to put on their own version of the Christmas Carol.  With Aunt Jen’s help, Alexis and Brandon built a set, bought costumes, and wrote a script.  Both sets of grandparents, one lucky therapist and her husband, Aunt Jen, and myself all played parts in the play.  Alexis played Scrooge and Jacob Marley (we had to do a double feature) and received a standing ovation.  Here she is playing Scrooge.

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Since going to that play last Christmas, Alexis has been to the theatre a handful of times, and can’t get enough.  She’s taken part in some youth theatre productions in Lincoln as well.  We hope that this is something that she will continue to grow and develop.  Lord knows she needs to put that imagination to use somehow.

We went to the Christmas Carol play again this year in Omaha on Sunday.  We sat towards the front instead of the last row, and she got to take everything in.  And of course, we were the last ones out of the playhouse because we had to meet all of the characters. 

What this all boils down to is the same lessons that all of us have to learn over and over…

Don’t let moments pass you by.  You never know when your life will dramatically change.  If you do get a second chance, cherish those moments one hundred times more than you ever did before.

Take chances.  If we let her disabilities get the best of us, she would have missed out on so many things that she has loved to do.

Make some memories and have some fun.  The Verzal Christmas Carol has grand plans of being bigger and better this year…I’m most looking forward to Aunt Jen’s new role as Jacob Marley #2 (it’s Alexis’ script) and Jen has also been cast as the Christmas Goose that is on the Cratchit family table.  I think that our patio table will work to lay her across!.  Alexis said we also need to paint her green (again it’s Alexis’ script).  Trust me, there will be pictures posted of this one!

Happy Holidays!

About the author

Tiffany Verzal

Tiffany Verzal was raised in rural Nebraska, and now lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with her husband Brandon and daughter Alexis (9) and Abby (2). In 2008, Alexis (then 14-months-old) was the victim of shaken baby syndrome at the hands of her daycare provider in Texas. Alexis suffered severe brain damage and has spent over 2000 hours in rehabilitation since her injury. Tiffany continues to raise awareness for traumatic brain injury, shaken baby syndrome and child abuse. Brandon and Tiffany serve as members on Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital’s Board of Trustees. Brandon is currently the Chairman of the Nebraska Child Abuse Prevention Fund Board.

4 Comments

  • As a former Playhouse volunteer, professional performer and veteran of 20+ years doing the Playhouse version of “A Christmas Carol,” stories like yours make my heart sing!!!! Blessings to you and yours this holiday season!!!!

  • Wow, thanks for sharing this! Christmas Carol at the Playhouse was a part of our tradition, too. Consider bringing her to a play at The Rose Children’s Theatre in Omaha. She will LOVE the setting. The best part of all of this is her amazing creative imagination.

  • Your daughter is beautiful and such an inspiration and I’m so glad that I got to meet her after the show last Sunday! I am a theatre teacher and have a brother with special needs and it such a joy to see how the arts (music, theatre, etc.) can speak to everyone no matter who they are or what life brings them. Again, that you for this story and the reminder about what this season is truly about.

    Love, Mrs. C
    (So glad I got to meet her after the show last Sunday!)

  • This story is so Inspiring and my son who is first time at the playhouse realizes just what a difference he makes to everyone who comes to see it.