Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Quote Rings True

I happened upon a quote this week and it got me thinking.

There are several different themes and variations to this proverb, I found them researching this one, but this one struck home for me.

Most of us go through life just plodding along including me. We live each day one after another like a donkey tethered to a water wheel. It's not until we are hit/punched in the face with adversity that we get the opportunity to challenge ourselves. We have three choices: excel, or fail, or accept somewhere in the middle.

Now, nobody really wants to fail. Failures don't give you that warm fuzzy feeling and pride in your success, does it? Nah! Just the opposite. It feels like a punch in the gut by a wrecking ball. So the choices are really two: excel or accept somewhere in the middle. Somewhere in the middle works until you learn to excel.

After a stroke, it feels like you've been punched in the gut. Your whole life has been turned upside down and even twisted in a kaleidoscope fashion without the pretty image. Unless you are one of the blessed few that recover everything within a month after your stroke, you are looking at adversity that may last years, or even the rest of your life.

At first, it's frustrating to relearn what you knew how to do yesterday. It's a hard, rocky road. There is no smooth, grassy lane to side step onto. You just have to knuckle down and plod on to regain even the previously simple tasks you had been doing for decades before your stroke. Learning or relearning is never easy. Just after my stroke, I compared myself to my six-month old grandson. I was having to learn to feed, speak, walk, and toilet train myself all over again.

Once the basics was relearned more or less, I entered into childhood again. There were tasks of reading, comprehension, math, cooking, and cleaning. I'm still struggling with some of these items even five years after my last stroke. All this time, I'm also battling grief over the loss of what my strokes had taken away from me. Temper tantrums, think a two-year old, stemming from frustration. This is compounded by PBA (pseudobulbar affective disorder), tremors, and spasticity added as side effects of my strokes. Nothing like kicking a horse when it's down.

I ventured into my teen years by adding driving into the mix. I reactivated my immortal and I-know-everything teen attitudes too.  This I did as a survival mechanism. I was experimenting with what I could do and doing what I wanted to do. I was testing boundaries. I added activities I was doing before my strokes like knitting, spinning, and homesteading. It's not an easy process and I'm learning/relearning as I go. This time, I without wanting to date or deal with boys/men so it's easier. I also walk to the beat of my own drummer so it doesn't matter what others think. This a positive side of approaching the teenage years again being over 50.

All of this happened in a matter of months instead of years because I'd been here before. I was a head strong with a genius level IQ before my stroke. I still am somewhere in the deep recess of my mind. It's still trying to navigate around the dead patches in my brain. As I said before, I'm still trying to perfect my relearning in all the ages like toilet training from the toddler age, tempering my adventurousness, and rebellious side, but holding onto the fun.

This journey through adversity, I have learned more than I did the first time around this life and gained a level of wisdom I couldn't have learned without it. I've always thought that death was an absence of learning. A stroked brain is the mother of relearning a different way. I've used my creativity to a level that I couldn't have dreamed was possible by figuring out how to do what I needed or wanted to do. It's cockeyed, but it's getting done. So what if it isn't done the same way everyone else does. I'm a unique individual in a world of copy cats. You know what? I kind of like it like that. Why be ordinary in you life when you can be EXTRAordinary.

Nothing is impossible.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

We Survived the Storm

Well, we survived Irma. While watching this huge storm creep up Florida at 15 mph, we were preparing for it even here in the northeast Georgia mountains.Mel saw an Amber Alert on FaceBook for the state of Florida. The whole state was buried under the storm. The winds and outer bands of the storm proceeded to us before it even made landfall near Tampa.

At 6:45 AM, it was on it's way to us, but even bouncing off the coast, it was still a category 1 hurricane. Mel and I both moved away from Orlando and southeast Georgia to these mountains expecting never to have to deal with hurricanes ever again. This storm was too big. It was picking up warm water from the Gulf and the Atlantic.

Having lived for decades threatened each year by these storms, all our preparations were made. I'd been canning like a mad woman all summer long. Food would not be an issue. Loss of power for an extended period of time would be difficult but not an insurmountable issue. We cook with gas and we had a store of charcoal. The major snag would be the freezer stuff, but I could can all the meat products in a pinch so we really wouldn't lose anything. It would just take time to do. The ice would load the coolers in the meantime for milk and cheeses. The eggs weren't washed so they were still covered in their bloom so they would keep for a week or more at 60 degrees without spoiling.

We were as prepared as we could be for the advancing storm of the century. Sort of. The new chicken coop to protect our flock wasn't complete so they still roost on our front porch. They could go underneath the porches or trailer if it got really bad. The weather service was predicting 50 mph winds even though the storm status had been reduced to a tropical storm. We figured down in our hollow we'd get maybe 40 mph winds. We shouldn't have to worry about flooding with the creek 100 feet below the house.

By nightfall, we hunkered down and were watching Netflixs when we heard a loud cracking sound soon followed by the a loud boom and vibration of a large tree falling. Yes, we felt it 1/4 mile away. The lights went out. We were ready with lanterns. We watched the trees bend and sway as the wind tried to whipped them into submission. The chickens on the porch were blown off the porch rails. The hens uttered shocked cries as the wind knocked them onto the porch. Soon they gave up trying to roost on the rails favoring the shelter of the wood pile. By the morning, they were tired, wind blown and alive none the worse given the night's events.

Also by the morning we found that while we survived the tropical storm, we were hit by tornado Flynn. Ah, come on Jo! Tornadoes don't have names. But I tell you honestly, this one did in the form of our 16-week old kitten, Flynn. He had blown through the inside of our home like a tornado during the night. Cat food food dishes were upset and their contents littered the floors. Towels had been unfolded and dragged hither and yon, candles separated from their candle sticks. The guitar case had been used  as a monkey bar. There was nothing on the end tables and two dining room tables that escaped his notice. Everything was a toy to be played with and dropped on the floor.

It took the better part of the day just cleaning up the mess he made! He was so-o-o naughty that when I went to Walmart for extra paper towels, I saw this dog coat and HAD to buy it for him. He still can't figure out how to really walk around in it yet. He'll appreciate it this winter. Flynn definitely had a flashback moment to his feral beginnings. I chock it up to him being bored out of his gourd from being inside for a day and a half because of the rain.

Anyhow, back to my tale of the storm.

We ventured outside to survey the damage. The rain had stopped around 7 AM. Branches were strewn all over the place. Mel grabbed the larger branches and limbs to clear the driveway. I grabbed the smaller one starting a pile for the debris. We made our way up the drive to the main road. We found the cause of our power outage. A large popular tree had fallen during the storm. A power line was visible underneath. Going half a mile down the main road in the other direction, an old oak tree blocked any forward progress downing even more power lines. The impact of these huge trees with the road actually broke the trees into large sections. We headed back home to work on more clean up work and await our electric company to restore power. Power was restored to our section within 19 hours. We are lucky. Over 75% of the county lost power and still 40% is still dark. After three days, we are still picking up the smaller sticks. Volunteers are still clearing trees late into the night. We've got a good start on the kindling pile for winter. This area just isn't used to tropical storms like this blowing through.

The refuse, chipped up trees, have found a new home...our garden. We've volunteered as a dump site for some tree services. Our orchard area and garden will soon be covered a two-foot thick layer of the stuff. It will decompose over winter and be ready for an additional layer of compost (chicken and rabbit manure, straw, and kitchen scraps). It'll be ready to plant in the Spring. For every cloud there is a silver lining. This is ours.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Adapting Using YouTube

As I've said, I've become a YouTube junkie since my strokes. Most videos are short and to the point. Some offer in depth details on how to accomplish certain things. There are also a pile of videos on anything you can imagine. For many, this is a untapped resource.

Now I don't think everyone that makes a video is an expert on what they are showing. Far from it. A lot of YouTube creators are novices just like me. Me, I'm Abby Normal so I enjoy quirky creativity. Otherwise known as thinking outside the box. If there was only one way to do things, let's face it as a stroke survivor, we'd be up the creek without a paddle.

I like options. I guess that's my saving Grace. I don't like things to be the same. I honestly like change as long as its for the better. I know life is about adapting to change. Otherwise, I feel like a smelly, stagnating pond yearning for a refreshing input of clean water.A chance to rejuvenate into something more. That's not to mean I welcomed my strokes. I would be certifiably nuts to want that. But still, being paralyzed, recovering, the spasticity battles, and everything else has been a challenge to overcome. I've never faced a challenge without giving the old college try of beating it. This was has been daunting. But I still haven't given up.

I watch assorted YouTube channels and think, "How can I do that?" If I reach a decision that it's impossible right now, I watch several others and see how that creator did it. If I watch enough ideas, I eventually figure out a way to do it or not. Somethings even with adaptation isn't possible without help.
sweet potatoes
Last week, I harvested sweet potatoes and left them to dry. It being Sunday, homesteaders never have a day off, it was either process them or start to losing them. I wasn't going to allow that. They weren't huge, but enough that two would make a nice side dish. We are still amending our soil for better harvests. Next year, will be better.

I wanted to leave the nicer ones whole and store them in a box for fresh baking. I do love baked sweet potatoes. I could make a whole meal with them. Meanwhile there was a slew of them which were misshapen and sliced by my shovel that had to be canned. I've never frozen sweet potatoes before so I didn't even consider it.

left whole for storage, >than 1/2 the harvest
Now as a person with one usable hand, I have extreme difficulty peeling vegetables. Most times I leave the skin on and just scrub them. But sweet potatoes have to be skinned before canning. I asked Mel to peel them and she was disinclined.  I placed them in my big 23-qt water bath canner and boiled them for 5 minutes to soften the skins. I was hoping to loosen the skins enough too peel them with my fingers. It worked. I sat by my jars and peeled, sliced, and filled my jars. After about an hour, I had filled five pints jars this way. Mel took pity on me and peeled the rest with a paring knife. Soon, my pressure canner was full of 18 pint jars of sweet potatoes. It took Mel an hour to peel all the rest. It was so much faster with her helping. Not that I couldn't have done it myself, I was getting it done. I did adapt, but allowed for expediency.

Today, it's on to the corn. I saw a YouTube video on how to make a cut corn off the cob easily with a drill and thought, I can do that.
Of course my buckets were larger than my corn device so it took so adaption for me to do it one handed. Although I could have built it.  I left it to Mel to build. Up until now, I froze the corn whole in its shuck, but now I have corn kernels and creamed corn canned too!

With YouTube I've relearned how to garden, knit, spin wool, cook, and assorted other skills I thought were lost to me forever since my strokes.

So if you've ever sat in wonder of how I do all that I do living post stroke, now you have the answer.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday Stroke Survival: Waiting and Waiting and...

Pause! Still!
This week, I'm still feeling like the Energizer Bunny on pause. I finally heard from the nurses at my PCP's office...they lost the paperwork. Geez, thanks a lot! Let me just drive an hour round trip and let me fix your mistake. No, that's not going to happen. With the big hurricane hitting Texas, gas prices here have gone up 70 cent a gallon. I made that trip once to get it for the first time. Now, it's on them. Hanger Orthotics and my PCP's office are only a mile apart.

Now, I understand I'm not my PCP's only patient. It's a huge practice with eight doctors and support staff. I'm going to let my fingers do the walking yet again on Monday.

I'm still in a holding pattern with my neurologist also. I haven't heard BOO from them yet. Yes again, another huge practice with ten neurologists and five satellite offices, but still. I've been patient. More than patient and in pain. I'm taking the full dose of Dantrolene (100 mg a day). Side effects have been irritating including
headaches (not migraine strength, but dull and constant), diarrhea, and general fatigue, but no extreme sleepiness or abnormally low heart rates at night.  The last two are a plus over the Zanaflex and Valium. But, at least it keeps my pain levels just below uncontrollable tears or screaming. So I guess it's working. I'm also thinking of buying stock in Imodium. Supposedly, the diarrhea will stop as my body gets adjusted to the medicine. Here's hoping.

If I don't hear from them, I think I may drive to my closest satellite office for my neurologist on Friday to speak to a real person. It's only fifteen minutes away instead of an hour plus one way. Put that person on the spot for answers. That poor soul. I won't be my abby normal, pleasant self. I'm never at my best in pain, although I do try. I'm tired of listening to computerized voices and leaving messages.

Question...should I go ahead and get my Botox?

The Botox is expensive and does relieve most of the spasticity pain for two months out of three, and it does improve my mobility a little at the red line dose. I know in the past when consulting other doctors for treatment, they have asked that I be Botox free for at least six months prior to being seen. I'm at the five-month Botox free month now. This my major hold up. I'm hoping for an alternative that works better now instead of next year. Decisions, decisions, and building levels of frustration.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival:When the Muse Fails

The title is taken from my writing days. I've been writing about my stroke, dealing with my strokes, living post stroke, etc for over five years now. This week inspiration fails me on what to write. I try to be inspiring, knowledgeable, comical with my own brand of  humor and insights, and a host of things with this blog. This one may be a whine rather than what I want it to be.

I guess it's just that kind of week where the hurry-up-and-waits, aggravation, and just plain busyness of life on the homestead is weighing me down to much to be inspirational. It's been a blah week.

I've been waiting on a call back from my neurologist about a referral to the Shepherds Center for three weeks now. I don't care if the appointment is three or four months away. Actually, I do because I'm in pain and limbo. But to hear nothing is aggravating! Even with my calls to my neurologist's office...NOTHING. The same thing goes with my PCP, I'm waiting on them to fill out the paperwork so my new shoes can be ordered. With the build-ups on my AFO, I have to have specially altered shoes.  Have I mentioned that I'm impatient? I don't know if it's so much as impatience as it goes against my guiding principal of treat others as you want to be treated. I wouldn't do this to someone else.

It's like dominoes lined up where one has to be set just right to they another in succession to fall. This has to happen before you can go forward. I really don't like depending on others. Because, invariably there are delays.

On the homestead front, things are progressing finally after a delayed start. USIC has done their job (earlier than expected) and marked all the cable, telephone, and electrical lines. Work can continue on the electrical and plumbing issues we have. The driveway is in making access better. The ramps are in so all my home canned goods can be stored in their proper place instead of overflowing on every table, and tucked here and there. Now, my aggravation point is medical and waiting on others to do what they should/have to do.

We've lost an Angora rabbit and hen that I've spent months healing and rehabilitation so they could continue to have a productive life. This hasn't helped lower my aggravation levels any. But then again that's part of homesteading too. It's still frustrating to see them happy and full of life one day and dead the next. I take small comfort in knowing that they were living and thriving because of my efforts.

I always analyze my view points. Am I being too critical? Do I have realistic expectations? Am I being too pushy? The answer is that I don't believe so in this case with the medical hurry-up-and-wait. I know my time schedule of wanting it done now isn't always possible. I know things take time. But is communication unreasonable? If I knew the reason for these delays, I could cope better and be less aggravated. Instead of feeling that I'm not important, my request is unreasonable, and that I'm asking the impossible. I know deep inside that this is not true, but it sure feels that way.

I guess I did find my muse after all, but it's not the text I wanted to write.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday Stroke Survival: The Ramp is In

I believe it was a month ago or longer that I mentioned that we were putting in ramps off our porches for easier access for me into the house. Well, one of them is done and it is the Taj Mal of ramps. Or at least cost wise it should be. Building materials especially pressure treated lumber ain't cheap.

I should mention that we started on the back ramp because it would give me easier access to the food storage building and the animals. Well let me say that this one ramp cost me more than I allotted for both ramps because of an addition I made to the ramp in back. So I'm stopping with the one. A deck that would allow a wheelchair or my wagon to turn around on. I will say that the finished product was nicer, stronger, and more utilitarian than I could have imagined.
porch L store room R

We held off moving my home canned goods into the storage room until the project was completed. Last night, Mel and I moved 16 cases of goods into the store room. Yes, I've been busy. The garden had a lackluster performance year because of a late cold (freezing temps in May!) followed by a blistering short lived heat wave. But I more than made up for it with local contacts. Not that anybody had a stellar year, but homesteading is a community. I traded off herb for vegetables. I even bought a few cases of produce off local vendors. Next year, I'm hoping not to have to buy anything.
Rabbits and chicken at the bottom

Among the weeds are watermelons, tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, and black eyed peas. But then again, these same weeds like grasses, clover, wild plantain, wild violets, etc offer free food for our rabbits. Nothing goes to waste here. We are stock piling straw, grass clippings, cardboard, and compost for a major revamp of the garden area late fall. We are going to till it and bury the area in about 24" of this extra material. I'm also going to line the area next to the barn drive through with old, molded straw bales and trying for a living fence in the spring.

Broody/Gimpster's new home
In the rabbit hoop barn (pictured top left), our injured hen from last winter has a safe and secure habitat. She's got a cage up with the rabbits at night. During the day she has the entire 12x24 area to roam around. We set water and food down for her. She can see the other hens and roosters through the chicken wire clad pallets enough to be sociable, but isn't jumped on by the roosters and hens. I did notice that the twice daily physical therapist I did with her wasn't a complete waste of time. She bear weight on the leg to help support her after a dust bath and long enough to scratch with her fully functioning leg. It's only for a matter of
seconds, but she has adapted.  I wish all humans living post stroke like I am the same resiliency and adaptability.

Her new digs even has a nest box just for her. She still gives us an egg a day. This was her saving grace. Otherwise, she would have been culled her months ago. She's so tamed now that even one-handed me can pick her up with barely a ruffled feather. Her head and neck still bears the scars of her narrow escape from the figure with the scythe. Her comb on top of her head is a short, mangled mess instead of her once beautiful comb, but she's a keeper. Like a puppy she comes and greets me whenever I enter the rabbitry.Then, she'll hop up to me and cluck askance for treats. For the past couple of weeks, it has been deer apples that were so bad I couldn't make applesauce, apple pie filling, or apple butter with them. Out of the 65 lbs of deer apples I got for $13, there was about a 3-gallon bucket of bad apples. The chickens go nuts for these.

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

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Dealing with Pain

Since I decided to forgo Botox this round, as you can imagine, the pain that accompanies my spasticity has been a constant companion. Every waking moment it ranges between 7 to 8 and worsens while sleeping. At times, I'll hit 9 or 10 several times a night.

The neurologist I saw for the Baclofen pump, changed my zanaflex to dantrolene to see if it will work better. Meanwhile, I've boosted my oral Baclofen up to the 80 mg maximum again during the slow build up to 100 mg of dantrolene. (1 capsule a day for one week, then 2, then 3 until week four when I take it four times a day) Meanwhile, I'm painfully biding my time. So far, I'm tolerating the new drug well. No outward allergic reactions other than being tired, but no relief either. I'm currently on two pills a day.

You may be wondering how I'm managing my pain. Honestly, the best I can. When the pain level reaches 8 on the scale, I'll stop whatever I'm doing and sit. Not that sitting relieves the pain, but I can't function. I'll keep my mind deterred, somewhat, with games or blogging. I'll even window shop on the computer. Anything but sit idylly by focusing on the pain. I do this until the pain drops a level, and then I'm back at it. This week on the homestead, I'm canning cream soups and broths, and chicken since I butchered two roosters of four that needed culling. I honestly made it harder on myself by not doing this when they were 12 weeks old instead of six months. If they had been under four months old I could have just frozen them. But that's okay, I needed to make cream of chicken soup and cream of mushroom soup anyhow. So far, I've canned a case each of chicken, each cream soup, and two cases of chicken bone broth. Not too shoddy even with the pain I've been in.

This week the back ramp and deck the between the storage building and the porch went in. It wasn't cheap, but well worth every penny spent. The handyman, Ronnie, is also a certified electrician also. Double YEAH! He'll straighten out the panel box and wire the outside buildings for us. He can even handle some of our plumbing issues too. I love it! One stop shopping! I don't need the other "professionals" who won't even give me a call back. I've been waiting on the other guys for weeks. I spent over a dozen years as a business consultant, this is not how to grow a successful business. Even common sense will tell you this.

But as usual, I digress from today's topic. When I know the cause of my pain, in this case spasticity. I only baby the pain when I can't stand it and when it physically stops me from what I'm doing. Until then, I take frequent breaks, but I keep going. While I've got pain medication, I use it as a last resort. Usually when the pain makes me physically ill. Who wants to be in pain AND vomiting too? Not this gal. A 30-tablet pain prescription med will last me a year. Hot showers help, but I have an issue with them. While the showers help with the stiffness, it also raises my heart rate. Then I'm swapping muscular pain for chest pain with difficulty breathing. It's a balance game between the two. I also can't live in the shower. Biofreeze helps too. I love this stuff. I'll also add Sriacha to foods to increase my capsaicin and garlic to my diet to fight the pain internally.

When I've tried everything and it doesn't bring the pain down to manageable levels, nothing is left but to cry. But even crying does no good. I just end up with a blotchy face and s runny nose.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: It's a Go-No Go

Frustration has set in this week for me. I met with the neurologist about possibly getting a Baclofen pump to ease my spasticity instead of Botox. He told me very bluntly, that to get enough Baclofen into my spine to make the arm work again I'd never walk again. What a trade off! I had to question (about 2 seconds worth) if it was worth it. My mobility is just as important to me as getting arm function back. Granted the Baclofen pump would improve the spasticity in my lower leg and I might eventually be able to get out of my AFO and improve my mobility. It would also stop three of the medicines I take now for the spasticity, dry needling, and the Botox in the leg. It might even reduce the constant, painful cramping in my arm.

This week, I hooked grocery bags filled with a gallon of milk and about ten pounds of other groceries on my affected arm and it didn't budge! That's how bad my arm has gotten. The only time it straightens to full extension is in therapy with dry needling with electricity exhausting the muscle and the PT using a good bit of his strength. That's once a week and it only lasts for 30 minutes.

Just how bad do I want my arm function back? It wasn't the fix I hoped it would be. We discussed other options... rhizotomy or peripheral neurectomy, and central ablative procedures, such as cordectomy, myelotomy, or stereotactic procedures. The one that seemed to offer the best hope was selective rhizotomy. All surgeries carry risks especially for me with my heart condition. The other consideration is that they are all considered a permanent means of getting the results I want. There is no going back and reversing what has been done.

Not that I don't trust my neurology team, I do. But I asked for a referral to Shepherds Center. They ARE the best in Georgia for spines. They rebuilt part of my spine for me a quarter of a century ago. I'm weighing my options carefully. If anyone can tell me the ins and outs of any procedure and the best outcome, it's them. I'm still waiting on the appointment with Dr Taubin, their spasticity specialist. I should hear some time this week. In the meantime, I'm doing research. With the last increase of Botox not changing anything, I'm looking for alternatives.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Poor, Dumb Animals VS Us

You can learn a lot watching poor, dumb animals and how they adjust to adversity. Here on the Cockeyed Homestead. we've had our share of hurt critters of late. This winter we had our chickens ransacked by predators. We lost three quarters of our chicken flock due to coyotes and stray dogs. We had one hen narrowly escape being a snack in one of these attacks. After nursing her back to health, we released her back into our new flock of roosters, hens, and our three surviving hens from our old flock. This hen, Broody, wasn't left unscathed by the attack. She recovered by only regained the use of one leg. She uses her wing as a crutch. She flies short distances and hops everywhere.

Broody helping Mel
She's as happy and content being disabled. We called her Broody because she was the only New Hampshire Red that went broody last year and even hatched out one chick. We were happy she survived. She spent half the winter in a old milk crate by the wood stove. Now, Mel calls her Gimpster. She still lays eggs for us and we are waiting to see if she will go broody again this year. Not that we have a New Hampshire Red rooster anymore, the attacks killed both of them, but still she may. Broody/Gimpster has a new challenge, her disability makes her easy prey for the randy roosters in the new flock. We've had to separate her from the flock for her own safety in the rabbit hoop house.She does everything that a regular hen does except scratch. It would be kind of hard to do with only one functioning leg.

Another example is our self black English Angora rabbit, Dustin. We treated him for ear mites earlier in the summer. We treated all our rabbits when we shaved them before the summer heat sets in. Imagine wearing a thick, six-inch long fur coat in 90+ degree weather. Yikes! Anyhow, Dustin developed an ear infection. Within two hours of him starting to shake his head to wry neck or torticollis. At first we thought he was dying like his other rabbitry mate did earlier in the day because of the heat. We thought he'd had a stroke which is fairly common in rabbits. But on closer examination and putting him in an air conditioned space, I was wrong. Just an ear infection. Then was a quick trip to the Tractor Supply for an injectable antibiotic for him.

Dustin at 1 yr old
Let me just say, it was touch and go for about a week. I began doing physical therapy with the rabbit. He was our only unrelated buck. We needed him to be healthy for breeding purposes. He also had luxurious fur. To lose this buck would really set us back. Not only the price of the rabbit, but to the tune of $340 a year in fur and future offspring. But besides the monetary loss, he was Mel's only remaining Angora. He was also nearly blind now with the scarring on his corneas from the towels we placed in his basket. After two months we realized that Dustin was a lost cause for breeding ever again. The therapy did very little to help him. We had a long discussion what to do with him. He appears content and is still up for some of his old antics with his new lot in life.

Dustin still had luxurious fur as it grew back out. He needed grooming more often (3 X a week) because of the movements he made going from one part of the cage to the other was causing him to mat more. Mel said it hurt her to watch him throw/roll around in his cage.We discussed putting him down, but that would break Mel's heart also. But I told her to really look at him. He wasn't in pain. His appetite was good. He was healthy except for the head tilt. He could still lead a long life. Rabbits live almost 16 years. He was only two when this occurred. He had adjusted to this new way of getting around. He had no trouble finding his food or water dish. He was just messier going about it.

Yet another example is our newest addition to this homestead, Flynn. We found him, actually Mel and Nnyus did, when he was just 5 weeks old in our back acreage. She brought in this little feral kitten and our hearts melted. We cleaned him up, fed him, and cuddled the daylights out of him. None of our female cats wanted anything to do with him. Only Logan, our black Manx, allowed the kitten any where near him. Soon the kitten was comfortable around the household pets and us.

We began noticing that this kitten had a problem. He only hears a narrow range of sounds. It doesn't stop him though. The chickens didn't know what to make of this small, furry creature. Flynn hides under the monkey grass borders along the front walk and pounces on them. He thinks it's great fun to watch them jump straight up in the air. He'll hide again waiting on the next unsuspecting chicken. Keep in mind that the chickens are four times as big as him. He has no fear. We do startle him when we approach him from behind. Then it's his turn to jump straight up in the air. He's on the verge of flight but then he realizes it's only us.

Okay, I've given three examples of handicapped animals and how they adapted. So what's my point? Why is it so hard for human beings to adapt to challenging situations like living post stroke? Is it because we have long term memories? Is it because we are always comparing ourselves to others and the way we were? Why do we do that to ourselves? We are only hurting ourselves.

Isn't it time we stopped and learned by their example? "Well, this sucks!"Get on with living. Each day strive to do a little bit more. "Well that didn't work." Let me figure out another way to do it. Now, I'm not saying being a poor, dumb animal is better. I'm saying be smarter. Forget about the past. It does no good to dwell on it. Get busy with living. You survived your stroke as much as you didn't want to. Time to get off the self pity pot. Get moving.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: You Know You're Paralyzed, Right?

"Doh!" was my response.
This following question another patient made they made after hearing me tell my physical therapist what I have been doing on the homestead since I last saw him a week ago.

This was followed by the usual comment I hear, "You do more before noon than most people do all day!"

Yes, that's true. I operate a mini farm and homestead. To others homesteaders, I'm barely doing anything. That's true also. I'll call a homesteading friend and they will have done twice the amount of work done that day. I guess it all depends on your point of view. It really doesn't seem that much to me, but when you recite my list of morning chores most "ordinary" folks are exhausted just thinking about it.

From 4AM to 7AM, you'll find me in the kitchen. I'm starting the day's baking. Breads, rolls, breakfast pastries, and desserts for the week are prepped. I'll also eat my breakfast. Usually yogurt, homemade granola cereal, or oatmeal. Occasionally, I'll scramble some eggs and have some toast. I'll hop on the computer to play some wake up my mind games, answer and read emails, check the day's schedule, etc. I'll feed the cats and dogs, giving them plenty of ear ruffles before I head outdoors with them tagging along.

From 7AM to 10 AM, you'll find me with the chickens, rabbits, or harvesting the garden. I'll gather wild plantain, poplar and oak leaves, assorted grasses, clover, and other weeds for the rabbits. While technically their diets is complete with fodder and timothy hay, I figure the rabbits would like different things to munch on too. I sort of rotate how much of each they get per day and change it up. Each will get individual attention...mostly snuggles and nose to nose Eskimo kisses. Dustin is usually ready for his morning physical therapy session. I usually feed him first so he's ready by the time I finish everyone else. I'll gather the eggs before I head inside. I'll also set up Mel's morning cup of tea.

The chickens get the bucket full of caterpillars, beetles, and assorted bugs I find in the garden as well as their ration of fermented grains (wheat. barley, sunflower, and oats) and a commercial organic chicken  food. The chickens will also spend the bulk of their day free ranging in our wooded back acreage. I'm also setting up next rotation the fodder and fermented grains. Broody or Gimpster (as Mel calls her) gets up in the dog crate to be fed and have her alone time away from the roosters who aggravate her unmercifully. The cage door isn't latched and she lets herself out when she is ready to rejoin the flock.

All in all, our animals are pampered if not spoiled rotten.

From 10AM to 3PM, I'm baking whatever I started earlier and washing the day's harvest. Then, I'm processing the harvest. Canning tomatoes, okra, and eggplant (for right now). Black-eyed peas, herbs, or other harvest is set on trays in the oven for the pilot light to dehydrate them.

From 3PM to 5PM, I'm usually doing my off the homestead doctor or therapist visits, feed stores run (including for us), etc. Or, I'm grooming rabbits. Or, I'm helping Mel with this or that project around the homestead. I'm also prepping dinner unless I'm running late and pick something quick before coming home.

6PM to 10PM, I'm cleaning up the day's mess in the kitchen. Not that I'm not doing this during the day too. We are watching our favorite Netflix shows or watching YouTube. But I'm also knitting. Right now, I'm working on a 12" wide scarf for Mel. After that project is done, it'll be socks, baby booties for crisis pregnancy, and dishcloths.

From 10PM to midnight, I'm usually at my computer. Playing mind building or just for fun games, writing blogs, answering and reading the 50 odd emails that have come in during the day. I'll finally lay down for the night amidst the sounds of crickets, frogs, cat purrs, and an occasional coyote call.

So what do you think? I'm I too busy or just busy enough? Yes, I know I'm partially paralyzed. Yes, I know I'm living post stroke. The point is...I'm living.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Making Do and Getting Help ~ Ranting

It really irks me to no end when I have to ask for help for something I used to be able to do before my strokes. When I was sixteen I rebuilt my first automobile engine. By thirty, I could rewire a house and do major plumbing repairs and installations. It helps being the daughter and sister of a certified electrician, plumber and welder (my dad) and four brothers who are H&A installer/repair. I watched and learned. They even taught me hands on. Having a contractor son in law and being a lay carpenter was added to my skill set. There was not much I couldn't build or repair. Then my stroke changed all of that.

I mean pre-stroke, I could literally do it all. A Jill of all trades. Just like my father was Jack. Now, I have to call someone to do it because I can't safely. You know me. I'm not opposed to taking some risks. I almost relish it. Now, living post stroke everything is weighed against safety versus doing. If it were just a matter of falling, it would be no big deal. Heck I've done that too many times. Only some have been mentioned here. Ya, ya, I'm getting older too. But it really irritates me to have to pay someone else to do something I know how to do. This is life living post stroke and I dislike it intensely.

I just received the estimate on the new driveway. It is actually cheaper by several grand than I estimated. I'll admit this is one area that it's cheaper and easier to have someone else do it. I didn't relish the idea of moving and spreading 120 tons of gravel. I don't know anyone who would if they had a choice.That much rock is hard to imagine much less put it where it needs to go. I mean two tons of pea gravel didn't seem like much when I built my shade garden at my old place, but I did it. Er, um twenty years ago.Ten years is a whole lot of age on this body now. The young man who owns the company was eager to please and I'm happy I chose him for this project.

But the electrician and plumber? I mean really? This is what gets me. I could have trenched, laid pipe, and done all this electrical stuff myself if I had a working body. What I wanted were easy tasks. Instead, I'm paying someone else $65 an hour to do it. It's killing me. I'm talking their language, because I've done it all before. My father and I even dug a shallow well, connected the pump, and set up the sprinklers in their 1/4 acre garden. It's not rocket science, it's only manual labor. I've never been afraid of a little hard work.I'm still not.

My driver's side door handle broke off. It literally broke off in my hand as I went to get into my minivan two weeks ago. I, of course, landed on a thick grassy area beside the driveway with the most padded part of my body still holding onto the plastic part. Nothing hurt but my pride. Then came the ordeal of climbing in through the passenger side, around the engine hub, and into the driver's seat before I could go anywhere. With the outside handle broken, I go through this ordeal every time I drive. Getting out from inside is no problem. I just leave the window open when I get where I'm going to reach in and open the door. Of course, I'm saying a quick prayer it doesn't rain while I'm inside wherever I'm going.

How hard is it to change an automobile's door handle? Pfft! It's a no brainer. Pull the door panel, disconnect and reconnect a couple of wire (electronic everything in the door) and a couple of screws. Except I can't finagle my body to do it. I did try. I had to call someone else to fix it. No mechanic or parts store in town had a replacement handle.  Worse yet, the closest Toyota dealership was three towns over. I made an appointment with them to replace the door handle. I get there as scheduled only to find the handle is on back order and wouldn't be in the dealership for two weeks. So in the meantime, I was stuck with going into my vehicle from the passenger side. To add insult to injury, the charge for the handle and for the labor to install it...$322!

Talk about add on expense to having a stroke. I could watch millions of dollars (if I had it) trickle away just because I can't do any more. I make do and do what I can, but when I can't because my body won't let me is ridiculous! I'm just ranting here because I can. Call it the hidden cost of living post stroke. If I was an ordinary person without my skill set, it wouldn't bother me so bad. But I've never been ordinary.

Nothing is impossible.
But in this case improbable.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Why Me, God?

You ever ask, "Why me, God?" as it pertains to your having a stroke? Most people do. Or, something along those lines of thoughts or rantings? I have to say that I have never asked this knowing there HAS to be a reason, but that doesn't make living post stroke any easier for me either.

Yes. It's that time again. I was hit in the face with this yet again by a stroke survivor this week. I'm still doing ministry work as a stroke survivor to other stroke survivors. So I'm addressing it here too. This person was also quick to laud their Good Works. I'm a good christian. I go to church every week. I say my prayers. I have a in dwelling Spirit. I help the poor and down trodden. I not only talk the talk, but walk the walk... the list was longer but you get the point.

(I'm using the male pronouns here though it could easily be a female)
I understand that the person is a "good" person by his actions and deeds. I also recognized he is going through the grief process (anger) over losing half the function of his body. Until this stroke, he had a very physically active, healthy life. He is still a young man, 36. He was "struck down" in his prime like so many suffering hemorrhagic strokes. By all accounts (risk factors), this shouldn't have happened to him, but it did. It happens.

How can I, a mere mortal, make this person understand that God didn't do this to him? Sometimes especially just after a stroke, the survivor isn't really looking for an answer to his question. He is asking someone to listen to him vent. This was the case this time. But later, when he is truly searching to an answer, I'll be there also. Far be it from me to know exactly why God allowed this to happen to him. I know that the doctors can tell him why medically what happened, but spiritual matters are out of most physicians' league. It takes a doctor of another sort, like me, to help them wade through the quagmire of doubts, faith, and finding answers in a book that's millennia old.

After a while, asking God for the answer feels like HE isn't listening. But HE is.

I know the pat answer is, "You aren't ready for an answer," or "It's beyond our understanding." Yeah, I've heard this too many times from ministers over the years too. I don't use these phrases. If I don't know the answer I'll say so. I believe it's better to be honest than offer some trite phrase. In their defense, they mean well. I'll pray about it and wait for the answer. you may also notice I rarely quote Bible book, chapter, and verse. I do this on purpose. Not because I can't back up what I'm saying with them, but the message is more important than the reference source here.

Sometimes, the answer comes years later. Sometimes, the answer comes in little snippets over time. Sometimes, when you least expect it, it will be a revelation that you didn't realize until you think back on it. Sometimes, it's answered in a loud, booming voice saying, "Not now!" (This personally irritates me and He knows it) It's no big surprise that patience is not one of my easily learned virtues.Sometimes, the answer comes in the form of a total stranger. I never know how God will answer my question, but He always does. It takes faith and patience. There hasn't been a burning bush since Moses.

Most times when I'm asking (yelling) for God to answer me, I don't have a quiet, listening spirit. I'm usually in the midst of turmoil. Isn't that when most people call of Him? I'm guilty of this too. I'm angry, hurt, or desperate. You too? Whew, glad it's not only me. It's like talking to an irrational person. Why waste the energy? They are too busy in the midst of whatever it is to really hear anything. Even in prayer, my mind and heart are in a jumble. Often, I receive an answer right before I fall asleep or when I awake. That's when my mind is the quietest. On rare occasions, it's while I am listening to the radio. (I listen to a christian music station) I remember once, I received an in Walmart from a stranger waiting in the checkout line. I don't think she even knew what she was saying. The point is that you have to be receptive. You may not even know you received an answer until much later an have an AH-HA moment.

What is your reason for "Why me, God?"? I dunno. For every event there are dozens of reasons why this happened to you in particular. That's being honest. I don't know all the particulars of my strokes. I do know He needed me here doing what I'm doing. How do I know? I have peace in my spirit and have gained abundant blessing in my life. The ever present encouragement I receive and souls that He's retained continues to grow as this ministry grows.

Nothing is impossible.

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.