Sunday, July 16, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: The Queen of Abby Normal with Attitude

This week I made triple berry jam the way my grandmother used to without pectin. I found out last year that Mel does not favor strawberries. That was after we planted a dozen strawberry plants. So we harvested raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries last summer, as well as strawberries. I put about a quart of blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries into the freezer for this triple berry delight jam just for her.

While my latest A1C was 5 (optimal), I still basically eat like a diabetic. In other words limited refined sugars. I've been doing combat with my blood sugar since my stroke bottomed out my blood sugar. In one evening, I went from an insulin dependent diabetic to just the opposite...hypoglycemic (low blood sugar). I even eat two fun sized candy bars a night so my blood sugar doesn't bottom out while I sleep. Not that I mind. :o) But still my A1C comes out at about 4.6 or 5 every three months. Go figure! Don't try this at home folks. I'm the Queen of Abby Normal. All hail the queen. No doctor can figure it out. I'm just thankful. I make my strawberry jam without sugar.

In some ways, I feel abnormal about a lot of things I do. I knew my quirkiness suited me well while writing, but in real life, I was just different. My mental acuity was higher than those around me.  As a child, I'd rather sit with my elders and absorb what they had to say rather than be with others my own age. Kids my own age had nothing to teach me. At 16, I was doing college level course work and going to seminars to be happy.

Now as an older adult, I chose to go backward in time to homestead. Even being partially paralyzed from multiple strokes hasn't slowed me down much. Sure life would be a lot easier without the paralysis or spasticity, but I'm still doing. Even though, I believe, nobody in their right mind would choose to have a stroke. Life happens and it's not always good. There are situations beyond our control which happen. It happens to everyone worldwide. So what saves a person like me from total despair? My attitude. I don't believe there is nothing I can't do. No matter what if I want to do it. Nothing is bigger and stronger than my Father in Heaven. Being His child shouldn't I be able to do it too? I believe so.

So I use quantitative words for my shortcomings like "yet" when I say I can't do something like keep my inverted foot straight to walk without my AFO. "I can't walk without my AFO yet." I believe I will one day. I try to do it daily. This morning it was "Nope, not yet." That doesn't mean tomorrow I won't. Until then, I'll just keep trying.

That's not to say I don't get frustrated with this waiting game. I honestly do. I'm also childish and want everything NOW! So how do I deal with the situation? I could sit and pout. I could throw a temper tantrum. I could yell at the world. I could do a lot of things that will not help me at all. I'll do something for someone else. Then I don't feel so useless. I don't sit on the self-pity pot any longer than necessary. In this case, make my triple berry delight jam for Mel. At other times, it's knitting baby booties for the crisis pregnancy center. Believe me, I've made a lot of booties this year. I take what I can do and to downgrades what I can't. It feeds my ego and my sense of accomplishment. It makes me feel not useless.

Yes, I'm the Queen of Abby Normal with attitude. All hail the queen! Won't you join me?

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Time for a Change

I wanted to ask y'all some advice. I've been on a Zanaflex, Baclofen, Botox, and even valium regime since my stroke for high tone and spasticity. They have even recently upped the dose to 500CC of Botox with the extra 100CC going into my arm. Needless to say, I've spent a small fortune on this. But still, the spasticity level and pain it causes is increasing. All of this is beginning to feel like a losing battle and I hate it.

Before my spasticity progressed to moderate, and then to severe, I had voluntary movement of my elbow and two of my fingers. Now, even with all of this and weekly dry needling sessions, I can't  extend my elbow and have nothing voluntary in the fingers at all. My ankle no longer supports me without inverting. According to my OT and PT, I'm doing everything I should and can do. I've hit a major frustration point in this. I feel like I'm up against a brick wall and can no longer chip away at the mortar holding it together.

Is it time for a change???

What works for others with this condition? I understand this neuro-spasticity  is a mystery. My therapists and neurologists have talked at great lengths about the subject. I'm not taking just their words for it either. I've done quite a bit of research on the subject myself over the years. A lot of neuro deficits from my strokes, I can fight to recovery from. But this part I'm having trouble with. I'd call it quits and be okay with it if it wasn't for the pain that goes along with it.

I live and want to live life to the fullest, and I can't do it in pain. Having fibromyalgia just makes it worse. Pain, any pain, is amplified ten fold at a minimum. I've dealt with my condition for over a decade. I discount my pain levels mentally with meditation and stubbornness.I refuse to be held down and stop moving. This stubbornness isn't without its own set of problems. I do take everything slower on flare days, but I just don't lay in bed all day. I get up and do to the best of my ability in spite of the pain. In some respects I do not feel "lucky" that sensory nerves were not damaged by my strokes. I could honestly use some relief from all this hurting. But then, I also want to be a zombie taking this or that pain killer either. Aging hasn't helped. That in itself brings a whole host of other problems.

So I believe it's time for a change. After five years, there's got to be a better solution. I've been looking into baclofen pumps. Do any of my readers have one? I've got a few questions for you...
How long have you had it?
Are you satisfied with the results?
Would you do it again?
How weak does this IT unit make your functioning side?
How well does it work on your upper limb? Everything I've read said not very well. This is my main issue with it.

Having a pump is said to work better than the oral medication because it is delivered directly into the spine. This isn't a cheap option since the surgery alone is $30+K. The medicine to refill it has to be bought every 4 weeks (for a smaller unit) to up to every four months. It can cost up to $500 per refill. That's not my cost between Medicare and BC/BS. I expect to still pay out of pocket for some of it though.

I'm not a vain person so having the unit bulge my abdomen doesn't matter. If it works...then it's priceless. I'm not expecting miracles here. I'm desperate.The decision is still at least five months away for me. It will be my Christmas present to myself for a happier New Year if I decide to do it. I found a neurophysicist, at Shepherd Center, that performs this procedure 45 minutes from when I live, just north of Atlanta, so commuting will not be a problem for follow-up appointments and therapy. Like I said I've been researching it for a couple of years.

On the other hand, maybe just change up my drugs. But in everything I've read, I'm already on the most common ones. With my history of drug allergies, that's a scary proposition. But also given my history with general anesthesia and my heart stopping, that's even scarier. Mind you, I'm not a 'fraidy cat. I have some serious risks, but risk factors are weighed against the my decreasing quality of life.

As I've said before, I was well on my way to full recovery of my arm and leg before the spasticity set in so bad. The dry needling even with an electrical current running between the needles only gives me about 16 hours of relief from the pain and only 12 hours of relief from the muscle spasms (done weekly). That's with Botox 500CC 4 times a year), and 3 muscle relaxers, at almost maximum doses, that I take daily. I'm just tired of fighting this losing battle. If something doesn't work... fix it!

Nothing is impossible


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

I know. I know. I got the title backwards, didn't I? But after a stroke and living post stroke for more than five years, it sure feels like it. I hear you all now. "Whoa! This doesn't sound like the Jo we usually read." But just hold on a minute. You know that's fixing to change. Or at least you hope, right? Or you are sighing and saying, "Jo's on the pity pot again."

I'm in this weird mood, so be forewarned. I can get very retrospective at times like this. What's the reason behind this mood, you may wonder. I've been people watching again...mostly Mel.

What we thought was a sprained wrist turned out to be a broken one. Her dominant right wrist. I've been watching how she is handling it. She's never had a serious illness, broken bone, stitches, or anything medically wrong with her in all her life. That's almost sixty years folks. Other than depression, she's led a charmed life until one night she tripped over her TV tray. As she puts it, "I couldn't break my wrist by doing something cool. I had to do it by doing something stupid."

But really, isn't that always the way?

So I've been doing a comparison between how we each handle the one handed life. We are kindred spirits and alike in attitude. So it's been interesting. Nothing shows true attitude like how you handle adversity. Of course unlike me, she has use of her fingers and can pull the splint off. She does this more than she should. Especially in times of frustration until pain causes her to put the splint back on. She's a grown woman, I should only advise her once on what to do. After that, it's her choice. So I've been watching her for the past couple weeks.

At first, I listened to her moan and groan about typing one-handed. She's writing a dystopian novel. Yes, I understand that particular hardship. As the picture suggests, Mel a charter member. This where we differ. Instead of first trying to figure out how to do something, she'll gripe about it first. I order to nip it in the bud now, I hold up my right arm and say, "Hello!!!??" There isn't anything she can say that I haven't said a million times over the past five years. She'll be in the splint for two to four more weeks. It couldn't have happened at the worst possible time. We're busiest on the homestead this time of year. But it has been and interesting observation.

It's not that I don't empathize and sympathize about her struggles. I can and do. But I listened to this for a couple of weeks of how she couldn't do anything, before I started with tough love. She had to get up and do. Between us we have two working hands. Granted they are both our left hands, but still. Two crafty women, like we are, should figure out how we can get things done.

Sort of like this
Our current project is the new rabbitry and chicken areas. These two areas are built with pallets and cattle panels. The biggest and hardest part is digging the holes for the post supports. She gets on one handle and I do the other one. Having hard, compacted clay to dig in isn't making this a quick process. We are managing two holes a day but we are getting it done. We had one 24' wall complete before I left for home. That's a major accomplishment. Now we have to do the other side. Mel figured out she could push the handles open without causing pain so she planted some 4x4x4s while I was gone. All it took was me giving her a kick in the pants to get her started.

Before I left for home we were watching Netflixs and doing assorted tasks. I am knitting baby bunny rattles for the local crisis pregnancy center and Mel was rolling cigarettes. Yeah, I know. I know. But I pick my battles. The pain of using her fingers got to her and she was messing up the cigarettes. She shaking her head, tears rolling down her cheek and she was whispering, "I can't. I can't do it."

Ouchie!
I looked over at her and told her to clean up her mess and stop for the night. We'd had a full day of animal care, one of our buck Angoras toenail ripped open one of his testicles. We had to do minor surgery. Her holding him and me doing the cutting and closing to neuter him. Three drops of morphine had him totally sedated while we worked. Well, he'll be a good wool producer, but not a breeder. We switched off doing therapy exercises on the other buck, Dustin. We had dug two holes and placed four panels for the rabbitry. We had dinner and cleaned up afterwards. We were both exhausted. I told her...
  We can only do what we can to the best of our ability and no more. As much as we'd like to do more or do better, that's the honest truth. You can only strive to do better. Never when too tired or frustrated. When those two factors are in play, you will only fail. So take it easier on yourself.

So are you feeling like defeat is being snatched from the jaws of victory? Maybe, it's your point of view. A defeatist starts a sentence with 'I can't.' A moderate starts a sentence with 'I'll try. An achiever starts a sentence with 'Watch me.' Sure first attempts and maybe the first ten times you'll fail at the attempt. Eventually, you will snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Nothing is impossible.



Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Traveling this Weekend, But...

After the fiasco of the past few weeks, we are finally moving forward in building our homestead. We've been two women with only a functional left hand. Mel sprained her wrist and was in a split. She's getting a small taste of what I go through each day living post stroke.

For our YouTube audience, it's been a long absence from any new video productions. When we ain't doing nothing, there's no sense in videoing it. Sure I've been canning, but it's not something they can't see or learning on fifty other sites. As far as cooking videos, I haven't made anything worthy of videoing because I've been canning. The rain has kept us indoors as much as possible. So no building, animal updates, or gardening stuff. Still we have to get back into video making mode again.

The hardest part of building these new structures is digging the holes for the 4x4 posts. Each structure has 12 of them. It takes Mel a week with the post hole digger to do twelve. We cut the 8' posts in half so the 4' are anchored two feet into the ground for added stability. These will allow the pallets to be screwed into them. We don't want the predators gaining access. We'll be stapling chicken wire to the outsides of the pallets also to hold the little ones in. This will allow the rabbits to run around the large enclosure while we groom them. 24'x10' is plenty of room for them to scamper and binky to their heart's content. We'll also be seeding an area, not enclosed by the tarp, with rabbit yummies like Timothy, orchard, rye grasses, and clover for them to "free range" in. Straw will be under the cages. We decided to reuse the smaller cages we built for the bucks. They just don't need as much room. The new larger 24x36x24 cages will be for the does. Building this five-plex (15 feet long) was an adventure and a half. We put in the drop down nest boxes and a shelf that a momma rabbit can hop on to for getting away from the babies. Yes, they are the Taj Mahal for the does. We are reusing the old hutches as grow out cages and quail cages.

We are now entering the second stage of our rabbitry. The breeding/ pedigree part of raising Angoras. This last year has been spent getting to know our rabbits and get them on a grooming schedule. I still need to get another buck to replace Keiran who died last month and another doe for meat rabbits.The quail are our next expansion animal into homesteading. We spend a year with each animal before getting the next. The next big jumps are to goats and then Guinea hogs.

As for me this weekend, I have been summoned home. I've honestly not been home since Thanksgiving. The reason is simple bad weather and my health. I have a triple A (Aortic Abdominal Aneurysm) growing. My cardiologist is concerned but it isn't big enough to warrant surgery. That doesn't mean it won't blow, but it's unlikely. Knowing quite a bit about these things, I've felt like I have a time bomb in my belly and been afraid to go anywhere especially not 6 hours on the interstate. My dad called me. He and his wife are celebrating their Silver Wedding Anniversary. I honestly think it has been longer. I haven't added it up, but he says it's their silver, but he has Alzheimer's too. It's actually their 28th. I broke out my calculator. I'm just happy he remember she's his wife. He often forgets and searches for my mother.

Another new area for our expansion is a grain trial where the old rabbit hutches are and bush hogging the orchard. Whether we plant the orchard this year or not all depends on timing. We still have the driveway and house to fix when I return to the homestead. That was my main focus for this year especially after being stuck up to my axle in mud and snow this Spring and winter. New pipes from the well to the house has to be installed. The fool that built the original system used a flexible hose and only buried it about 6" underground. We had numerous breaks and water freezing before it gets to the house. It has to be fixed properly. I'll gladly pay someone else to dig the trenches and lay the pipe. It's too big of a headache for me and Mel to do it. I want it done right.

With the new rabbitry and chicken hoop shelters going up, it's time for the electricians to come in and do their stuff. Wow, we can even have air conditioning in the main part of the house this summer! Not that I minded doing without last year. It's not like South Georgia up here. The humidity isn't as great or the temperatures as high. You'd think that Mel being from Orlando would be used to the heat, but she's spoiled and loves her air conditioning. We are so different in our heat and cold tolerances. Hers is a very narrow range about low 80s and she's comfortable. I'll be the first one in shorts and a tank top while she's still in the long sleeves. My comfort range is between 69 degrees to 85 degrees. I'll be in t-shirts until the temperature drops into the low 50s.

Well that's about it. Remember,
Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Lending a Hand

Just because you've had a stroke, it doesn't mean you can't participate and help others. I offer a hand in doing everything. I can only offer A hand because my right hand is paralyzed and spastic. But still, that doesn't stop me.

We recently moved all the angoras out of the present day rabbitry. No, I didn't actually totally move the rabbits by myself because I need my one functioning hand to support me going down the step. That didn't stop me though. Mel got them out of their cages and handed them down to me. I held them like you would cuddle a baby against your chest. They love to be cuddled and felt secure even with my lopsided gait. I had opened the hutch doors before we got started so it was a quick trip around the corner, popping them into their new cage, and fastening the spring lock before getting the next one. Think through the process twice and then do. It saves time and frustration.

Then came the hard part that Mel thought I couldn't do at first. Removal of the cages and litter trays. shredded insulation, rat nests, rabbit poo that had gotten as hard as a ball bearing. I'm still doing the supporting, carrying, and setting down the cages and litter trays to manage the step.

It's one thing moving these into the rabbitry but a whole 'nother thing moving them out. In moving them in, I just had to support them, walk to the door, set it down, climb the step and hold them while Mel attached the chain. In taking them down, the cages had almost a year's worth of rabbits living in them. Poo was stuck to the bottom where I couldn't reach to clean them. Rats had built nests under the litter trays and in the insulation in the walls.
 Now, I'm slipping and sliding on rabbit poo ball bearings, baby rats, and dodging grown rats scampering to get away while removing these things and so is Mel. I'm high-stepping trying to keep my footing. The last thing I want to do is fall into this mess. Flashes of scenes from Willard danced in my head. Do y'all remember that movie from 1971 or the remake in 2003 or Ben in 1972? Now, I'm not terribly afraid of mice and rats, but still, those movies still give me the willies. You get the idea.

We decided to pull all the wall boards down too after we removed the cages. What a mess the rats made. There was no way I'd be using it for food storage in this condition. I hit upon a brilliant solution to drive them all out and possibly kill them. If not kill them, at least neurologically impair them. Bug bombs. We set off two in the 8x12 storage shed. The results were as I expected. The ones left in the building 100% of the babies were dead, about 75% left of the adults were dying or had some nervous disorders (easy to catch and kill). The other 25% scampered out when I opened the door. Hopefully, they'll die later. We scoured the building with bleach, soap and hot water. Toilet brushes work great for this purpose. I ended up wearing a mask because of the fumes.

I'll admit Mel, with two hands and an able body, did more than I did, but with a job this big, even my one-handed-self was helping. So now all the insulation is stripped, beams and siding are cleaned and sanitized. I'm just waiting for the rain to stop to the call the electrician to rewire it with proper lighting and a separate, a dedicated circuit for the building. It will enable us to run the air conditioning, lights, and plug in the new freezer without tripping circuit breakers in the house. Then we'll put in the new foam insulation and paneling up. We'll add rat traps just in case too.

It will be ready for food then. I've been canning quite a bit, mostly dry beans so they'll have a proper home. With just two of us in a household, cooking kidney beans, limas, or any dried beans is almost ridiculous to do for one meal for us. A pound of dried beans makes four meals unless it bean soup. It also takes hours. This way, it's simply open, heat and eat it. It only takes about an hour and half total to do fourteen jars in a canner. A little time now and a little time later. No, I don't lift the canner with hot stuff in it. That would be nuts with one hand. The best part is, it's about 35 cents a jar. Of course, if you bought the jars for this it would be more.

My point is. Don't be afraid to lend a hand if you've only got one functioning hand. It can be invaluable. An extra hand is better than none. So what if you only have one like me. We get the job done. That's what is really important.You never know until you try. Remember, not all first attempts are successful. Keep trying and figure out how to make it work. It has taken me dozens of failed attempts before I succeed at something to make it look easy. Don't give up.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Budgeting Resources

Wow! I hate when that happens. I was writing my homesteading blog and came up with the idea for this blog. And then, BRAIN fart! It's gone!

It could be age. I am older. It could be CRAFT (can't remember a frigging thing). Or, it could be just because my strokes left me with brain damage. Let me go back and read my other post and maybe it will flash back into temporal remembrance. Humming the theme to Jeopardy.

Ah! There it is! I found it. Today, the topic is about budgeting resources. No, I'm not only going to talk about money (but that too), but time (yours and someone else's), energy, and space. While most of us knew what financial budgeting was prior to our strokes, a stroke, and living post-stroke entail new avenues of thought. It was a true SHTF (stuff hits the fan) event.We had to expand our resources into the vast unknown of no time limit to recovery. It could happen in that golden 30 - 60 days or it could be years...decades even.

I mean most of us were living our lives like nothing like this could happen to us, right? I know I was. Then BOOM! Everything changed. We take more pills than anyone should ever have to take. Our vocabulary has changed to include phrases like ischemic and hemorrhagic to name just a couple. Some of us have to rebuild our vocabulary (everyday stuff) from scratch, and we still haven't got it all back. We budget our word use to words that come easily to us or have to say many because we can't remember exactly what the word is. I'm in this corner now.

To top it all off, my comprehension is mush. I have to see the name of a character within three pages to remember who they are. This pretty well shuts down most fiction reading. Because I'm having to budget my words, it takes an immense amount of work to get my point across. Simply talking to another individual is exhausting. It also plays upon yours and the listener's patience. The more hurried I feel the longer it takes. 

Forget about simple math computations in my head. Now anything above single digit functions is history. I used to add multiple columns of triple digits in my head. Plus multiply and divide them too.

So I rarely read fiction anymore. Although, I did pick up a Harry Potter play that I had little trouble reading. Don't ask me how but it just made sense. I stick to single person nonfiction. Reading should be a pleasure, not something you have to work at. It saves me time and frustration. See I'm budgeting that too. If I have to read something more than three times to understand it, it is better left unread unless I have to.

Relearning how to do everything also causes frustration and wastes time if you do it too many times in a row. For me, cans will go sailing across the room while trying to open them too many times. My inner child breaks free in a major temper tantrum. Sometimes, you have no control over your inner child. Save time and energy. Limit your inner child tantrums. Nothing makes you feel more exhausted or wastes more time. The mess you make will be another chore you have to do.

I limit my attempts to three. After that whatever it is- is left for someone else to do. Or at least put it down and walk away. It will still be there in fifteen minutes after you've calmed down enough to try again. I DON'T ALWAYS PRACTICE WHAT I PREACH WITH THIS ONE.

The economy of space is another concept of budgeting I learned after my stroke. Changing a full-size bed is harder than a twin sized bed. Having a bed convert into a desk where I don't have to move too much was brilliant. You don't use your bed once you're awake. I don't even have to fix the bed if I don't want to. For me, I haven't had anything besides two cats sleeping with me for years. When I'm ready to sleep, I sleep. When I'm ready to work, I work. Because everything has a place on the bed or desk, space isn't wasted. There's less to clean up too. It's higher than most twin bed frames so getting off and on the bed is easier for me. I have had to close a kitty a time or two into the wall to get them off the bed. They weren't hurt and just learned when I said "off," they'd better get moving.  The Murphy bed is easy enough to move single handed.

Having less to clean conserves energy. I have found that since my strokes, it takes twice as much energy to do the same job as before. Coupled with the Chronic Fatigue I now suffer with, any energy savings is a plus. Cost wise, you knew I'd get around to the money part, didn't you? I spend more of my limited income on prescriptions. Before, I could take an additional job or two to cover the expense, but now that's a luxury. Cutting expenses any way I can is a necessity.

By reducing the stuff I had down to bare essentials, I rid myself of the cost of housing all those items. I needed clothes on my back. But the fancy suits, blouses, skirts, pants, and shoes (oh my God the shoes!) went to the Goodwill or Salvation Army. I needed my cold weather clothes...three sweatshirts and three sweaters. T-shirts (6), shorts(6), tank tops(6), two blouses, jeans (4), one cardigan, one pair of dress pants and two dresses is what I pared my wardrobe down to. Oh, yes, underwear 10 pairs, knee high socks, 12 pair, and three nightgowns was also in the saved pile. I'm actually happier with fewer choices. I have less to wash, dry and fold. It takes up one dresser instead of three closets. Even still, I could reduce my wardrobe even more if I wanted to. I think I wore my heavy quilted jacket only once this past winter, but I'll hang on to it.

Our household utilities can be pared down, but they are manageable. We produce 75% of our own vegetables. Animal feed is a necessary expense. They are also income producing so it balances out to zero at the end of the year. They are self-sustainable plus they feed us too at a  fraction of the cost of store-bought. For everything else, there are local farmers for meat and Zaycon Farm meats. Haven't heard of Zaycon before? They sell no hormone, no antibiotic meat products. We recently joined their Influencer program. Where we get a small percentage of anything others buy under our referral. It means free meat products for us with enough referrals. I recently got 36 lbs of pork sausage links and bacon for less than $2 a lb. A case of all beef hot dogs with no organ meat fillers was cheaper than a wholesale price. Yes, it takes freezer space or jar space if it's canned, but you can't beat the price. I'm currently waiting on enough points for their cases of beef roasts or steaks free. I'm currently saving double of what I did when using coupons. Now that's saying something because coupons saved me 65-85% each time I shopped.

Every penny saved is one more towards stroke recovery and living post stroke. Every moment saved is one you can spend on relearning something else or something new. Every inch of space freed is one less that you have to clean. Every ounce of energy saved allows you to feel at ease to enjoy your life. And that's the whole point, isn't it?

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Rain, Rain Go Away!

It's been raining here on the homestead for three weeks. I was thinking about building an ark. No, not really.  Living on the side of one of the foothills in north Georgia helps. It all runs down to the creek which is a 100 feet below us. But all this weather has stopped forward progress on the building/repairs we had planned on the homestead. Not that it's rained or stormed every day, but close.

We had a delay in the delivery of the new chicken /rabbit shed. So the chicks are still free ranging. We've had a delay in the regrading and installation of the new driveway. Nobody wants to slide in the slick clay including me. No electrician wants to play with rewiring the outside power box in the rain. If they did I'd be concerned. It would do no good to trench the replacement water lines, it would be filled in almost as soon as it was trenched. So we sit and wait for it all to be done.

Meanwhile, the wet weather has played havoc with my life. The cooler damp weather causes my spasticity to be worse. Does this happen with anyone else? Even with the Botox, muscle relaxers, and the dry needling. My arm draws up in a tight set of muscles and dares me to try and straighten it. When I try it cramps into a charlie horse. My leg is just as bad. I have to put my AFO and socks on first thing in the morning. I can't take it off until bed time or I won't be able to put it on again. Imagine trying to relax or nap with this thing on.

My shoulder on my affected side is painful upon movement. I think I've developed osteoarthritis due to the ACL tear and the rotator cuff injuries a year to five years ago. Fun fun. It just adds to my misery. I really don't mean to complain. It would help to know I'm not the only one out there with this going on. I still have animals to care for and a life to live even though it's raining.

Walking in mud and rain is never any fun in living post stroke. First of all, I'm walking with a cane. Even more so when it's rainy and slick. I've just had too many falls to walk around in the rain without it. I may be stubborn, but I'm not stupid. The soles of my shoes may be thick rubber (not really but you know what I mean) with deep treads for better traction, but that won't keep me from sliding. Well, they do to a point. But clog those nice treads with mud and all bets are off. Walk into a store with those high gloss tiles and BOOM. I'll fall in a heart beat without my cane.

This poses an interesting dilemma. I can't move my arm to put on a jacket. I can't use an umbrella because my only working hand is full of a cane...so what do you do? My daddy always told me that I didn't need to worry about getting wet "because poop floats." Yes, he was just being ugly in the comparison. He really didn't mean it I'm sure.

So all my life I've rarely worn rain gear. I would get wet, but I would dry. It's like saying " a little rain won't hurt you." But before, I could at least run to get out of the rain.  Not now. So I get soaked. I'll dry. But then again, I walk from the car into an air conditioned store. BRRR! A rain soaked sock under my AFO is very uncomfortable. It rubs and cuts even with the extra padding the brace maker put in. Then there is the clean up afterwards. Wiping the whole AFO in alcohol after drying it. Having my insurance only pay for one pair of specialty shoes a year doesn't help. I'm off my feet until all of it dries. No sense in putting on a dry sock and AFO if the shoe is soaked inside and out. But I'm tired of getting soaked!

I know Rebecca Dutton mentioned in her blog a couple of years ago about a strap up gollashes, but I can't find it now. So Rebecca ...help! At the time, I filed it away under "that would be nice, but not really necessary." This past month has proved the necessity to me.

I'm also looking into purchasing a rain slick that I won't have to put my arm into the sleeve, but can fasten one handed over the top of my affected arm. It may just mean getting one a size or two larger. The fasten easily one handed is the imperative. A zipper wouldn't be bad but joining the two sides into the zipper would be maddening. I would be exhausted by the time I finally got it fastened and zipped up to do anything else.

I know, Murphy's Law, that by the time I get all this new gear the rains will probably stop. But it won't truly stop. Even with last year's drought, it's has still been a very wet spring. I'll just be prepared. For as my mama used to say, "there will always be an again."

So that's it for this week. Remember...
Nothing is impossible.

 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: What Are Your Fears?

Are you afraid you'll stay impaired for the rest of your life? I just past my 5th anniversary living post stroke.  I can tell you honestly, that the thought has crossed my mind quite a few times over the years.

If I'd had my way the recovery process would have taken a couple of months. I imagine this is true for most stroke survivors. In my case, I was making great strides towards just weakness rather than paralysis for the first couple months. If strength of will was needed I would have succeeded. Unfortunately after the first two months an injury occurred stopping most forward progress on my right upper limb. Then, within six months another stroke set me back to square one in my recovery and took some other things with it like my reading comprehension. Plus the high tone that was present with the first stroke became the dreaded, constant spasticity.

 But looking back over the past five years, I haven't lived my life in a vacuum waiting for my recovery. There have been many times over the years that I have had fears; both great and small. Who doesn't, right? Everyone has had periods of being fearful. I'm no different, although I don't focus on them as many do, but look up to my Heavenly Father for relief. I don't focus on what might happen or never happen.

When you are afraid, where does your focus lie? When you are a child, you ran for comfort to your parents. But where do you go now that you are an adult? I can no longer run to my earthly father. He loses ground on his earthly toe hold daily. I run to my biggest, baddest Daddy anywhere...God. But still the thought still nags at the edges of my consciousness after five years... will I be like this the rest of my life?

Truthfully, I hope not. But it sure looks that way from where I'm sitting. All the gains I make with the Botox and the dry needling is one step forward and two backwards. It gets really frustrating and tiring. I'm constantly in battle mode against my spasticity and weakness/paralysis. I'm still trying to get to the larger steps forward and smaller steps back stage. I am beginning to doubt and waver. Is this a fight I can't win? I've never had one of those before. Yeah, I've done my fair share of adaption and compromises. I consider those a win because I do get what I'm working towards. I'm thankful for even partial wins.

My solution...
As I said before, I'm not living my post stroke life in a vacuum. I attempt something new every day. I used to say learn something new every day, but I'm still in the relearning stage. Part of me fears that I'll be in this stage forever. After a stroke, there's too much to relearn. It all takes hard work and almost daily reeducation just to keep my mind working properly. Ah heck, my mind has always had quirks that enabled me to be creative in all ways. Just never this huge of a quirk to overcome.

Alive, awake, aware, active
I found this "Truth Time" clock on the internet. I found it to be an excellent example of living post stroke. On the quarter hour are the words: Alive! Awake, Aware, Active. First of all, as survivors, we are alive! Our stroke didn't kill us. Some of us wish that it had. I know that feeling, but it didn't.

Awake appears next going clockwise. Get it, clock wise. Your brain just had a big insult happen to it. Wakey, wakey time and shake it up. Nothing is worse than wasting brain power. Granted we have less brain cells than we did before, but the average person is purported to use less than 10% of their brains so we killed off a few thousand cells, we still have 90% that we never used before. Okay, it's like 75% left in my case, but still time to wake it up and use it. We're alive!

So it's on to the next quarter, Aware. Because we are impaired both mentally and physically, we always have to be aware of everything. Our surroundings so we don't hurt ourselves. HAHA! This doesn't work for me to well. Aware of what's going around us. If we just lay around feeling sorry for ourselves we miss out on life. We are alive!

The last quarter is Active. You remember the old saying; "if you don't use it you lose it?" So you are paralyzed. You can't talk right. You're brain damaged! Accept it and go on. Nothing will never be the same ever again even with full recovery because there will always be an again. You have PT exercises to regain the use of useless  limbs. These exercises also exercise your brain too. Make your brain do jumping jacks. Play hopscotch over those damaged areas. Each day I push myself against my limits. I may fail today to accomplish it but there is always tomorrow. Make your brain figure out how to do those things that you really want to do. Get creative. This exercises your brain also. Don't live on the pity pot. Self pity can be an morbidly obese, lazy way out if you over feed it. Allow yourself moments. Set an alarm to time it. When the alarm goes off, get active. We are alive!

You have fears. That's understandable. Strokes or any life changing event can bring them to a head. I just had one of those crazy images pop into my head when I typed the previous line. I pictured a zit. So when you have a zit comes to a head, what do you do for it? Pop it. Realize that the fear stems from a problem or perceived problem. Face it. It might happen. In my case, I will be like this forever and not recover from my strokes. So my attitude is to live each day the best I can. Will I have good days and bad or horrible days? Yep!  Am I limited in what I can accomplish? Yep! But if I don't figure out how to do it, it's my fault! Sure there are some things that would be easier to do with two working arms or legs, but I'm not the only one on earth facing this issue. Just like everyone else on earth. So is it really so different? Fears are fears. My question is what are you going to do to resolve them? Things my be difficult, BUT...

Nothing is impossible.





Saturday, May 27, 2017

It Totally Amazes Me and Thank You All

I was going through my stats this morning and am floored. I do this periodically. Since I changed my blog over to stroke survival, I'm getting pretty close to 5K to 10K hits per blog. I realized that there was a need to talk about surviving and living post stroke, but the response to my weekly blog?!

When this was strictly a writing/author website, the numbers were fair. But this was a shocker to me. I'm no expert in this area. I'm just a person who was fortunate/unfortunate to survive multiple strokes. I lived to tell the tale.

I actually don't see comments or emails from all these views, Thank God! I would need a team of office assistants to get them answered in a timely fashion. I just wanted to say "Thank You!" It truly humbles me.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Well, I'm Finally Doing it!

We've got some changes occurring on the old homestead in the coming months. With the sale of my Golden Isles house brought some added/needed dispensable income. Not as much as I would have liked but I'm thanking God that I got some. I'm finally doing it. I'm having two ramps built for easier access for me into the house. It's only about time!

 The first one is off the front porch. My recent episode with my knee made this an imperative. Lesson learned. We are leaving the stairs at the left of the front door and adding the ramp to the right side. The new driveway will loop around to that side of the porch making it a shorter walk into the house for me. Also all the chickens and rabbits will be on that side too. You may remember that this side of the property is bordered by a high ridge. Also ivy that caught my AFO causing my fall.

The second ramp will be off the back screened porch. With the purchase of a metal carport, we are moving all the rabbits out of the rabbitry. We are also building a dual chicken coop and run in and off the rabbitry. Less chicken poop to slide and walk on. Since I need my AFO to walk wearing muck boots is out of the question. I guess I could alter them by splitting one up the middle, but that defeats the purpose. The second ramp will be a dog leg fashion with a 6' deck off the old rabbitry shed. It will be wide enough of an area to pull my wagon up and down it. The old rabbitry will be converted into a food pantry. The air conditioner will cool it during the summer and with all the insulation it won't freeze inside during winter. I have to store all our canning and dehydrated garden stuff somewhere. Lord knows, trailers aren't built for storage. The ramp and deck will make "grocery shopping" a breeze.

I've lived here a year without the ramps, but I realize that it was only a matter of time before the stairs became an issue. It will also be easier for Mel. I see it as a win-win. We both aren't getting any younger. I think a year of doing without is enough proof to myself that I can do now I'm taking it easier. Yeah, I'm stubborn like that.

Something like this
The new set up with the chicks and rabbits will work out better for me also. All under one roof so to speak. All the grains and food in one place instead of opposite sides of the house and/or barn, a handy water source for all, grooming station, etc. During the winter, we can hang tarps to keep out the chilliest winds for our comfort while working. The cold does not bother the angoras. They love it. Most important to me, it will all be level. No steps up or down. No sweeping floors only raking out the muck into piles to be carted off. It's what we hoped to do with the old rabbitry building, but we fast out grew the space.

I'm still hoping for the long ranged plans of four tiny houses on the property, but I didn't get that much capital. So we are making do with what we got. I plan to still clear some trees out for better sunlight and we still need to bush hog a lot of the property into usable space but again these are hired out jobs to be done. One step at a time.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Things That Make You Say Owie!

I've had a very interesting two weeks. Not in a good way. This should have my Tumbles and Stumbling heading to it because that was the start. A stumble followed by a hard fall. I was walking towards the rabbitry trying to unkink the garden hose.

The south side of the property is bordered by a 10-foot high ridge line covered in small trees and ivy. There is a sort of leveled patch (about 16 feet wide between the ridge and the house). This is where I was walking. There is a thick undergrowth of ivy now
covering the area until we get the new driveway built. I'm focusing on the two hundred feet of hose and trying to straighten it.My AFO clad foot caught on the vines. I pitched forward without anything handy to grab for regaining my balance. I went down hard on my left knee, finally stopping my forward momentum with my forehead colliding with the ground.  Seeing stars was an understatement. My whole world was cockeyed for a few minutes. I tried to get up. I failed. I failed again and again. There I was sitting on the ground. It was a "help! I've fallen and can't get up: moment. I hollered for Mel to help me up. This was one of the reasons for me not living alone anymore. We had been planting the front vegetable and herb gardens. The last thing we had to do was water them in...thus the need for me straightening the hose.

Well, my body was already hurting because of my post stroke spasticity and the Botox wearing thin. With my advancing age, I knew I'd feel worse tomorrow from this fall. I always do. As expected, I had the bruising and scrapped knees and elbows that usually accompanies such falls outside. I found each and every one of them when I showered later. I truly did not know how banged up I really was until my Botox started kicking in. Similar to my bad fall just after my stroke when I tore my AC ligament in my shoulder. This time it was my left (functioning) knee.

About two weeks later, I could barely able to bear my own weight. Climbing stairs to get out of the house or back into the house brought tears to my eyes. Of course, the Botox was kicking in again so I noticed the pain more. I couldn't brush it off as my left knee compensating or being strained by the affected side.

I went to my PC. Sure enough, a badly sprained left knee and deep tissue bruising down to the bone. Nothing broken or torn, thank God. But then comes my dilemma. His orders...stay off of it. Now for normal folks this is fairly simple to do with crutches or a cane. But, for a stroke survivor who only has one fully functioning side? It's impossible. Sure my roommate can cook , clean, garden, tend to the animal, etc. But what about things she can't do for me like going to the bathroom. Sitting down and rising up from the commode has been killer. Even with a wheelchair there are transfers in and out of bed, and such. While I can walk with my AFO, I still depend on my functioning side to do most of the grunt work.

The "stay off it" lasted about three days. I went stir crazy. I wanted to be out with our new chicks, our rabbits, and the garden. Those three days felt like weeks by comparison. There's only so much time you can spend on the computing, knitting, and watching television. My mind was turning to mush and for an active person like me, that was as long as I could stand inactivity. Yes, it hurts to move my knee and honestly, it was close to a week before I tried the stairs. Going down I always lead with my impaired leg, but climbing up I lead with my functioning leg. I knew that if I was going to climb four steps down, I'd have to be able to make it back up again. I satisfied myself, grudgingly, with a porch view of our homestead.

Today, I'm back to taking the stairs again. I still grimace at climbing back up the four steps, but I'm doing it ever so s l o w l y. But cane in hand, I walked around the garden beds today. I couldn't help myself picking a few weeds that have popped up with the rains. Should I be? When has that ever stopped me? But then again, if you don't use it; you lose it right? Yes, I should probably have given it more down time to heal, but if it ain't broke then I should be fine. It's stiff from all my inactivity, but I am using my cane. I had gotten to the point that I rarely used it close to the house but until the pain is gone, my shadow (cane) will be with me constantly again. I'm taking things slow for the time being.

But it makes me wonder. What if I had broken or torn something. How could I function? I mean they make a hemi walker for us one functioning sided folks, but what if you had no functioning side? What could I do then for weeks or months it would take for me to heal? Would I be bed bound the whole time? What a scary thought. I'll just resign myself to being more careful so I won't have to find out. Yeah, you believe that, don't you?!

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Support Systems

You've been stricken with a stroke. It's devastating for you and those around you. What kind of support system do you have around you? If you haven't had an earth shattering event or SHTF happen to to yet, give pause to think about it. Being prepared is forearmed. Nobody is immuned. Life happens and sometimes it sucks lemons.

Now realistically, I am a realist, you can't prepare for every eventuality that happens in your life. I have a terrible family medical history. You name it there are several cases within my family on both sides. It's a constant battle of Russian roulette with all the chambers of the pistol loaded for bear. Take my grandmother. She had seven strokes before the last one killed her. She had that same pistol on both sides of her family. With that history in the mix, you'd know, even if I lived perfectly avoiding all risk factors, I'd probably have a stroke. No, I haven't lived my life up until my stroke with having no risk factors, I was living my life just like the rest of the world. I still don't. Living in fear of what could happen is no way to enjoy and live your life.  Sounds almost like an oxymoronic statement, doesn't it?

But as usual, I digress from the topic of today's blog. Sigh, It's just the way my brain functions these days living post stroke and saying what needs to be said. Back to support systems.

Who you have around you is important and a choice. Yes, I know families aren't chosen, but those who you keep closest and can actually help you is. Sounds materialistic, doesn't it. Actually I'm just being honest here. Everyone has in laws, outlaws, users, and true members despite adversity within their families. Some of you have none left when you sort through the lot. When I honestly searched through mine, I found less than one hand full. Now keep in mind between my four children and ten grandchildren, my in laws (2 sets), my blood sister (her children and grandchildren), six adopted brothers and sisters (and their children and grandchildren), my father and his wife that's a huge amount of folks in my immediate family. But a hand full (four fingers and a thumb) worth???!!! Yep. A lot has to do with distance between me and them. I'm talking about miles not emotional stuff.

When I first had my stroke, they were all around falling over themselves to help. Then, as time wore on (less than six months), they all had the attitude of being put upon. I don't blame them. It was time for me to figure out how to live again. They had their own lives after all. I did it all or did without. What other choice did I have? A heart attack and two strokes didn't kill me. I was still alive. I'm actually grateful to them for the attitude. If you have someone who does everything for you, they are hurting you rather than helping you.

When I was first thinking on this post, my first suggestion that entered my mind was the church. DOH! I'm a minister, right? But the problem with using your church as part of your support system, is it's great for your soul, but lacking in everything else. Most stroke survivors blame God for their strokes and are angry at their deity. I've written about it HERE and HERE to name a few places. You won't meet very many stroke survivors in church. Your pastor may be consoling, but he/she really doesn't know what you are going through. He/she hasn't walked in your shoes.  Christ may understand what you are going through, but a regular minister, me as the exception, can't fully understand.

 But, I ventured out into society to seek my own support system. I had my writer's blog (this one) and started writing about my life living post stroke...because only 1/4 of us actually die from our strokes. At best, it's the blind leading the blind. Except, there were people like me who'd had a STROKE and survived. Some were more experienced (had their strokes years ago) and some were newbies (just had a stroke). There were caregivers of stroke survivors and a whole world of researchers who were reading my blog and reached out to me. It sounds kind of tooting my own horn to say this, but with over 20K hits a month, I think it's worth mentioning. Of course, there were my regular readers of my writer's blog who have continued to read this blog because we had formed a relationship over the years too. Can you believe that next month marks my five-year anniversary of my first stroke??!! Time flies by when you aren't sitting still feeling sorry for yourself.

It's all part of my support system. I know I'm not alone in this surviving business. There's nothing worse than being in trouble and feeling like you are alone. That's how many of us stroke survivors feel. We are shut out of what "normal people" do because we can't do that anymore. Or at leeast not yet. It can be a pretty lonely existence. Except for folks like me that fight kicking and screaming. <Grin>

For me, I had a stroke and a second one being caregiver for a dying husband. I was before and after my strokes until he died. I lost my ministry job. I was unable to drive, barely speaking intelligible, paralysis in half of my body, and a caregiver to boot. In comes part of my support system five months later in the form of my cardiologist. She had known me for decades before I was her patient. A simple question..."Are you driving yet?"

I honestly hadn't tried. But that simple question spurred me into action. I started driving. Very hesitantly at first and only short distances. Luckily my grocery stores, multiple restaurants, and my pharmacy was only a mile away. I also had driven with my left leg only after my hip and knee replacements. So it was just a question of practicing again. See, no experience is lost. But this was a major hurdle of successfully living post stroke. I gained confidence in my ability to live a normal (or new normal) life again. I always say life is about adapting. I gained back a major source of independent living post stroke. So are your doctors part of your support system? Why not? If they aren't fire them and find a better match. They should be and it is your choice.

I needed more one on one support than just the internet. We all do. I found a local stroke support group. Actually, my speech therapist nagged me into going to a meeting. After about a year post stroke, I went and joined them. I had arranged for hospice to be with my husband so I could go. I liked the people. They had an active group. Lively, even. Nobody was in the poor-pitiful-me mode of thought. It was just the group I needed to be in. I was more absent than attending for almost a year, but that didn't stop them from calling and emailing. They still do.

I know some of you are in the same boat as I was. Pick up the phone and call. Can't find a listing? Call your local hospital first and ask. Next try the county council on aging. Even your local Chambers of Commerce may have some information. Ask your neurologist. Ask your therapist. Don't give up.  There are support groups for almost everything. You are not alone.

I finally started going to the support group here in NE Georgia. It's only taken me a year. They are not as big as the one we had in SE Georgia, but it's a start. They are very happy to have me. Last meeting there were 6 members. A far cry from the 50 out of 200 that regularly attended my brainREconnect group. It is run by the local hospital. Or, should I say the neighboring town. At 35 mph on back roads that's close. In a rural community such as this. One town runs into the other. It's only a 10-minute drive from my home. I'm going to shake them up and revamp it like my previous one. They have pretty close to 100 member total. Currently, I'm picking the brain of some long time residents to see what's available. I've found a pottery studio, and possibly yoga instructor that's willing to work with us. The only problem is financing. We need some financial backing and a nest egg to fall back on. Until then, I'm thinking of picnics in the local state park as an outing. There are other such venues available too that are free or very low cost.

This group has reorganized and has new leaders so the possibilities are endless. It's just up my alley as a leader not a follower. It gets me off the homestead and around others. Not that Mel isn't people, but "normal people" just take too much explaining.  So this year, I'm not only growing a garden, rabbits, and chickens, but a support group as well. I've got an appointment with the hospital administrator to talk about a survivor's visitation group. My being a member of the clergy doesn't hurt to grease the wheels in this endeavor. I'll also be visiting neighboring hospitals that will treat stroke survivors. There's power in numbers. It also gets our group out there in the public eye. First I need to know the resources.

So what is your support system if the SHTF? Do you know? Do you know how to find it?

Nothing is impossible.