Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Cutting the Cheese

We are two cheese loving fiends in this household. Cheese omelets, grated cheese in dishes, cheese and crackers, or even just slicing it and eating it.

Don't get me wrong. Any self respecting homesteader/DIYer has made cheese. I'm no different. I've probably made half a ton of cream cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, and other herbed spreadable cheese over the years, but never a cheddar or even a semi hard cheese like Swiss. Which we love the best. But, living post stroke is full of challenges every day. What I've got to say to that is..."What's one more?"

My excuse...I didn't have the molds,nor weights, nor a press. They are costly. Then, I figured I didn't need a fancy smancy cheese press or cheese molds the online places sold. I went to my favorite place to learn something new...YouTube. There isn't much that you can't find if you look for it. I also bought one of those Ricki Carol kits. The one with various cultures and rennet. It also came with cheesecloth, a thermometer, a strainer basket, and instructions. I much prefer my flour sack dish towels than cheesecloth. It's more sustainable than cheesecloth.

My friend in North Carolina had sent me home with a gallon and a half of frozen goat milk. Mel was tired of "tripping over" all those
Mel built hers with 16" bolts
quart bags in the freezer when she was trying to find something. She told me to do something with it. There was no room in the freezer for ice trays. She had made herself a book press a while back because she wanted one. She used it once and put it aside to gather dust. I simply repurposed it into a cheese press. I had some leftover 3" PVC pipe from when we made our rabbit poo removal system to use as a mold. I didn't have to pay another penny. What can I say...I'm cheap.

All I needed was to fashion was the follower that moved freely inside the pipe on to the scrap pile. We tried several ready made options, like a wide mouth canning lids, but the all could not stand the pressure without bending. Mel then took a leftover piece of 1x4. She cut the insert and sanded it. We finally had something that would work...sort of. It took several more cuttings and sanding attempts before we got it perfect. By using wood as a follower, the wood would get wet and swell. After a while, the follower wouldn't move freely in the PVC. So, wood would not be the best option, but it's what we had. We also pulled small blocks from the scrap pile to take up the space between the follower and the top of the book press/cheese press. Voila! We had a cheese press and molds.

The weights were empty, gallon milk jugs filled with water. 1 gal of liquid= 8 1/3 pounds. I figure 1 jug equaled about 10 lbs or at least close enough for just playing around. I could fit two gallon jugs and two juice containers around the bolts. If I was successful and I liked making hard cheese, a yard sale or Goodwill would have a set of standard weights cheaper than new. And then, we'd have to buy the dairy goats to feed my cheese making endeavors. Right now, I was playing with options. Who knows, I could hate the process and not want to do it again. No sense in spending my nickles and dimes yet.

Now I was ready to make cheese! I mixed enough cow's milk with calcium chloride with the partially thawed goats milk to make two gallons of liquid. working with full gallons is a lot easier than cutting a rennet tablet into 1/8th or 16ths. Then I placed it in a large, heavy bottomed pot. I gently brought the combined liquid up to temperature. I added the culture and let it bloom in the warm milk. I added the required rennet. It was instant gratification to see curds forming as I stirred it in. I put the pot in a warm water bath to let the curds finish forming.

Now many folk will cut the curds very precisely with a long knife, aptly named a cheese knife. I'm a one handed homesteader living post stroke and don't have a lot of patience. I used a wire whisk to cut my curd. I didn't need perfect cubes. I just needed it cut fairly uniform small chunks, and the whisk did the job. It was a whole lot simpler.

I cooked off the curds and strained them dry. Getting that large pot full of curds and whey into the kitchen sink one-handed is another story. I poured the curds into the mold. I retained the whey for ricotta cheese later. But that's another process.

I have to say, that I'm actually pleased with the result.  Did you know that cheddar cheese is made by cheddaring the curds? I didn't. I thought this was kind of neat. It seemed a shame to have to break that glossy, smooth cheddared cheese up to add salt, but I did.

I air dried, to set the rind, 1 1/2 pounds of freshly pressed cheddar. The bits and pieces that did not fit into the mold for the first weighted pressing was put in a bowl with cream, garlic and herbs for an overnight aged treat to be eaten with crackers. After all, the cheddar won't be aged for 3 months to a year before it's ready to eat. The whole process would need to be done on a large scale to meet our desires for this milk based product in the future because of the aging time involved.

As with most homesteads, the Cockeyed Homestead believes in waste not, want not. Everything has a second or third use. The whey was turned into ricotta cheese. Add some day old cream cheese, homemade sour cream, and leftover cottage cheese and we had the start of my infamous baked cheesecake. Just something else to nosh on while we are waiting.  Topped with my Triple Berry Delight jam made this summer as an extra fine treat. Yum!

After all is said and done, I may be investing in some weights. Cheese making is a labor of love and time. I can see myself doing this again. Now, about them goats... :o)

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: I'm Still Crazy Part Deux.

Today, I'm revisiting last week's blog on my craziness living post stroke.

You may remember a few weeks ago, I blogged about our orchard being cleared. Yeah, once again real life got the better of me pulling me away from the homestead. Doctors, therapy, and orthotic appointments were heavy over the past several weeks. Ah, such is life living post stroke. We never got the chance to broadcast our deer plot seed to green up our tiered orchard before the cooler weather started.

3 of 5 tiers
Now that the firewood is stock piled, the garden has been put to bed for the winter, and the chicken coop and run are done, we can turn our attention to the barren ground which will become our orchard. It means hauling and spreading cardboard all over the five 25'x 75' tiers in the orchard. We've already spread the wood chips. What a job!

We've saved all the cardboard from deliveries to the house, soda cartons, and everything in between for months. All of it broken down and stacked for easier distribution. But, what we have won't cover more than two terraces. That means several trips to the grocery store to get theirs. We'll also be picking up empty 3 and 5 gallon buckets of frosting, pickles, and assorted other things. They are extremely useful on the homestead.
Anyhow, back to the orchard. Mel Jerry-rigged a hitch for our lawn tractor/mower for my garden cart. So now we can just drive big bunches of it down to where we need it. Considering the tumbles and falls I've suffered through the past month or so, it only seemed the smart way to do it. I can now ride all the way down to the lowest tier without the danger of falling. This is a huge plus for me. And, me just getting over a pressure sore too, it's faster for me to get around.

I'll be buying two large bales of wheat straw to go over the cardboard. Then, we'll be spreading rabbit and chicken manured hay over the straw. The last coating is a hand broadcasted layer of bone and blood meal as added nitrogen fixers before putting it to bed for the winter. We'll depend on mother nature to water it all in. I'm crazy, but not that's crazy to hose the quarter acre area by hand. It will take several months to achieve. Organic gardening on this mass scale is not adaptive gardening, but necessary for the organic orchard to get off on the right foot. It all goes back to I'm crazy. But I have a plan. So it's my planned insanity.

Now for the adaptive gardening segment, this anyone can do. I'll be bordering two sides of our vegetable garden with straw bale gardens. Since our vegetable garden is a side ways trapezoid shape, the longest edge borders a narrow car park area and the barn/workshop. It was originally fenced against the chickens (didn't work) with a five-foot welded wire fence held in place by Mel's moveable fence posts. I was looking to replace the fencing beside the car park and the new driveway beside the house. Since it's relatively new soil, I also wanted to build it up some too. The straw bale gardening techniques seemed to be the way to go.

By stacking these 2x3 bales of straw, it raised the planting area above ground level. Much easier for me to maintain. There are little to no weeds produced by using the straw bales to plant in. The weeds that typically come up are wheat grass and clover which the rabbits and chickens love, and inky mushrooms which  I use as a black colored dye for wool.So it sounded like a win-win scenario to me also. The fencing could still be raised for support of these vegetables too. It's a couple weeks process the get them ready for planting, but I've got all winter. The bales will slowly decompose over the next two years. Plenty of time to get perennial plants like rosemary and lavender thrive and established. It will also give me rich fertile soil in the end several inches thick so it would eliminate digging into the hard packed clay to plant.

I'm trying to think of the path of least resistance for our spring garden. Accessibility is also important. In between plants or even into the sides of the bales I can plant garlic, onions, leeks, carrots, and lettuces.
I'm thinking the after Halloween or Thanksgiving sales would be the best time for normal folk (small scale) to buy straw bales cheap. Or ask your friends and neighbors for their decorations after they've finished with them as a free option.  Even straw that was used to stuff scarecrows can be used for mulch in the garden. I always think of cheaper alternatives when possible. The fall is the time to think and plan your spring gardens. Another man's junk or garbage can be repurposed for your gardening endeavors on the cheap. The results are a healthier more active lifestyle for you living post stroke. If you need a higher platform to garden and harvest from stack the straw bales two or three high to a comfortable level for you. Split pallets to support the hay bales for longer life.  Start small and work your way to bigger as you go.

The inside of the bales will still continue to decompose (shrink) over time. Use it as a challenge to bend a little more gaining balance as you do. I was thinking about when I came home from the hospital after my stroke. I was asked to bend forward (as to the floor) without losing my balance. It wasn't very far. Now, I can pick things up from the floor without losing my balance. It's a gradual process to relearn, but an inch at a time is progress. A decomposing bale of hay can be used as a tool towards recovery.

A word of caution here. I actually lived a pretty organic, self sufficient lifestyle for decades before my strokes. So I tend to do things on a grander scale than most stroke survivors will, because I had the knowledge and experience previously. Now, it's just getting around to do it again.

Nothing is impossible.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: I'm Still Crazy. Where Are You?

Guess which shirt I'm wearing today? <grinning> I love this shirt. In fact, I've got three of them in different colors. Don't I know I'm living post stroke? Aren't I limited by disabilities? Aren't you a sexagenarian? Oh quit. Get your mind outta the gutter. It means someone in their 60s.
I can say "yes" to all those things. But I have one ruling principle...
I ain't dead yet!
 So I'll continue being crazy enough to fulfill my life and challenge myself every day.

I mean once the fat lady has sung her song. That's it. No more dreams. No more plans. No more nothing. You are bound for the hereafter. You have no choice in the matter. Until then, the choice is yours. 

There is something called hope.
... that you will recover from your stroke.
... that you will be out of pain.
...that you can move a limb or a piece of paralyzed limb.
... that God will give someone the wisdom so nobody else goes through this.
... that you get to spend another day enjoying the laughter of children echoed by your own.
      ... to do one thing you hadn't done before.               
... to experience life another day to the fullest.        

What is your other option? 
I love this image for despair
there is nothing left to live for...
you can contribute nothing...
I'm just a burden to everyone...
you are no longer a productive member of society...
you are worthless in your infirmities... 
why bother doing anything because no one expects you to...
X, Y, or Z will do it for me better and faster...
X, Y, or Z owe it to me...

 I can tell you from personal experiences that despair gives nothing back. It's a killer of any joy you might have. Despair is a spirit killer. It does nothing for you or anybody else. Everyone has moments of despair. But that's just it...they are moments. They don't chose to stay there. Or shouldn't. In living post stroke, you will visit despair quite often. Recovery is fraught with failed attempts and dashed hopes. Just read a few of my blogs over the past five years and you'll see that I'm not immuned to despair.

Or, are you somewhere in between? At times, I feel like a yo-yo because I go back and forth between these two emotions. That's okay. Most times, I constantly chose the hope side. It actually is a choice on how you live your life.

May I always be crazy enough to test boundaries of what I can do.
... try new things.
... figure out how to redo the things I used to do.Especially what I loved to do.
... figure out how to succeed, no matter how many attempts it takes.
...remember the distinction between attempts and failure.
...keep despair down to moments.
...failure is not an option so long as I keep trying.
...there are no limits, just opportunities.
                           ... God is the creator and inspiration and I'm just a copycat.
                           ... God is the spearhead and I'm just the rod. He points the way and I follow.

Nothing is impossible.  

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Clean Up and Preparing for Winter

Time now has jet engines
My goodness it's the end of October already! This year, just like previous years, has flown by. Why is it when you are younger times drags. A month until your birthday seems to last years, but now it's zoomed up to and passed so quickly?

October is a rough month for me emotionally. It's our anniversary month and my beloved's birthday. Both of them have passed now so I'm doing better. The only bright spot in it is my youngest grandson's, Murphey, birthday. It's hard to believe he's two years old already.

We were hit by a tropical storm and had a brush by of another one this year. It left us a huge mess on our homestead. Trees, limbs, branches, twigs. and leaves all over the place. So far between Mel and I we've picked up three 4x6x4 piles of the stuff and that's only from the driveway and walkway areas. These three piles have been sorted between limbs that need a chainsaw or handsaw to cut, those we can break into 2' sections for kindling, and twigs also to be used for kindling. We need a variety of sizes to keep our wood stove going for heat every winter and a lot of it. Our wood stove isn't the most efficient model at burning wood, but it keeps us warm on even the frostiest of nights. That's what is really important. All I know is that I'm tired of picking up tree trash and there's still tons more to pick up. We haven't touched the six piles the driveway and orchard clearing made.

I took two tumbles this week. Once out in the yard. My AFO foot foot got tangled in vines and I went down hard. To make matters worse, my functioning knee landed  on a twig which broke on impact driving it just under my knee cap. I managed to get up on one knee, but my functioning knee would not bear my weight. It was severely traumatized and bruised. I had to call for Mel to help me up. Later that same day, my foot got hung on a cat zipping by to get out of my way. Down I went again. My functioning knee is now not only bruised but I got a nice rug burn through my pants leg. I've been hobbling around on it very gingerly for the past couple days.

All my hard work canning this summer is paying off. Now, I shop for groceries in the barn (for meats) or the storage building for canned goods and staples instead of driving to the grocery store. It's a lot easier popping a lid off a canning jar than using a can opener to pry lids off cans. Chicken pot pies are a cinch to make with canned chicken and vegetable soup. There's always a thin layer of fat to start the gravy with on each jar. Add some four as the thickener with the broth from the soup and I got gravy. The hardest thing is rolling out the pastry top. It's a quick thirty minute meal once the pastry work is done.

I bought some of those reusable grocery bags for shopping at all places. It makes carrying heavy loads of groceries on my non functioning arm a breeze. Since it is frozen at a 50 degree angle, by spasticity most of the time, I'm making applesauce with a bad situation. But I'll be happier with a functioning elbow again when the functional neurosurgeon gets finished with me. It'll take a few more trips.

I bought four 4-ft florescent lights for the barn. Now that is a well lit 14'x24' space all year around. It has an old barrel wood stove in it for the colder months. Mel built it to heat the house back when she was One Woman and Two Acres. After a failed attempt to make it work for the house, it was relegated to the barn. Just like everything else, but that's another story. It works fine out there. In fact, it will heat so well that it'll run you out of there just to cool off. A welcome change when there's snow on the ground. I'm just waiting for Tractor Supply to stock some more stove pipe. The single ply pipe Mel bought has rusted through in spots. I may just buy single ply again because it lasted three seasons. It's cheap enough for the metal barn. If it was insulated, it would be better, but I'm not going to that expense.

Living post stroke is adventure nobody, in their right mind, would want. But life is life and it's worth living to its fullest no matter who you are or what you're dealing with. Take it one step at a time and keep going.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Back in Business Again

Okay, I'll admit my blog has been a living post stroke downer of late, but today that changes back to the old me. <the cheering section goes wild>

After almost a week of being off my feet, I was itching to be back at it again. Yes, of course, I took it slow. Sort of. Well what can I say? Y'all know me.  <Grinning>

It's ragweed season in northern Georgia. My allergies just love ragweed. Yes, I called my PCP and got all my meds refilled. But more than that, it's Goldenrod season! To most folks, Goldenrod are a pretty yellow flower that grows like weeds in pastures and along road sides. Actually they are weeds, but to me they spell M-O-N-E-Y. Money you say? Yes, it's like money in the bank to me because this innocuous weed is my source for a natural yellow dye for wool and it's free.

I went out with my half bushel baskets and filled it up one just driving to the main road. That's only what I could reach safely. Well all right, I did fall once. But, I got right back up and continued picking. I continued my harvesting along the main road gathering another two half bushel baskets. I did stop by the cattle farm less than a quarter mile away and asked to go into his hay pasture to gather some. Yes, I was careful not to squash his hay or fall again. I just went around the edges where his tractor went and I gathered pounds of the flowers. He even allowed me to take my van and drive around as I gathered the flowers which was extremely nice of him. In the old days, pre-strokes, I could have walked around his field with no problem. Now especially with a healing decubitus ulcer on my foot, not so much.

You might ask where I found my half bushel baskets. Well, it's part of my homesteading mentality of reuse/ repurpose everything. Over the past couple years, I'd bought a bushel and a half of peaches. I'd also bought sweet potatoes, and assorted other vegetables in bulk. I always saved these items and stored them in the barn. I've got large stacks of them. I always asked the farmer if they wanted them back because I know they had to purchase them. If they didn't, I kept them. I reuse them to harvest herbs and assorted other items from our garden. They are pretty well made. Not as good as a grape vine or wicker basket, but considering they were free to me why not reuse it until it falls apart? It's not hard to find reuses for almost everything, if you think about it.

Anyhow, I gathered my three half bushel baskets full and headed home with my prize. Normally when space was limited, I'd gather them up by the stems, tie them off, and hang them up to dry. This time, I couldn't be bothered. My foot was also throbbing like mad. I left them in the baskets to dry. Every couple of days, I'll flip them over in the baskets. They are drying nicely. Within a couple of weeks they'll be ready to use anytime I want to dye wool. Now, wouldn't you call that money in the bank too?

I also got my order from Zaycon Fresh. A 40 lb box of boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I'd already planned to can this shipment. After living in hurricane country for as many years as I did, I learned the importance of not having all your meat products in the freezer. Heat and eat becomes the norm when dealing with days of power outages. Even up here, we lost power with tropical storm Irma and power outages in winter. I decided I wanted to par cook them on the charcoal grill. Ooh, yummy for the tummy! Being my one functioning handed self, it was a two day process. The first day was spent grilling off and rough chopping all that meat into 2" pieces. The second was packing the chicken into jars and pressure canning it. But now, I've got pre seasoned chicken, canned in its own juices, and ready for whatever I want to make with it. Chicken and dumplings, over simply heated and put over rice or noodles, and oh the chicken salad it can make...just to name a few options. One jar of two full canner loads, 40 jars, didn't seal so it's ear marked for chicken salad this week. The broth will season a pan of risotto. But after messing with all that chicken, it's chili for supper tonight.

So as you can see, I'm back to normal. Or at least, my living post stroke normal.

Nothing is impossible.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Touching Email and Thank You Readers

I received an email from a lady in Tennessee a couple of weeks ago that touched my heart greatly. No, it wasn't from this blog, but my other blog at the Cockeyed Homestead and it touched my heart at a time when I really needed it.

I have readers that have been with me for years. Only a few actually comment, but many other email me through the contact option. Sometimes, I forget what an impact my blog has on others. I'm just chatting away on things in my life. It's a saga...a never ending story that is my life. I hope to inspire, motivate, and bless others with my blogs.

I don't always know for sure even with the high hit counts in the analysis charts. Many may just scan a bit and find out it's not what they were looking for like I do when researching a subject. The internet is great for that. But to know someone is actually reading and digesting what I've written is great. To know that I've actually succeeded in my goal is awesome. It is a reaffirmation to me that I really am answering a calling by blogging.

Thank you readers.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: More Woes

It seems like of late, I've been writing about the woes of living post stroke than my usual upbeat blogs. This week is not different.

The decubitus ulcer (pressure sore) on my foot ruptured. It was my own fault. Instead of being a good girl and staying off it, I played last weekend.

It was the Big Red Apple Festival here. I'd never been before and planned on going for over a month. It was the 30th anniversary too. For this blink-your-eyes-and-it's-gone town, it was a huge deal. I had missed last year's and didn't want to miss it again.

I figured it was going to be like most of the other festivals I've been to since moving here, thirty minutes tops to see everything. I was wrong. Three city streets were closed for several blocks. Of course, I just had to see all the food vendors. Almost every restaurant and church for a three county area was represented. BBQ, gyros, hamburgers, hot dogs, homemade sausages, a variety of ices and ice creams, and baked goods galore. I couldn't decide what to eat. My mouth was drooling over all the goodies. In the end, I opted for a hot caramel apple offered by the local real estate office. I also got the mandatory 30th anniversary Big Red Apple Festival t-shirt. It was offered at a price I couldn't I mean really! Go to an apple festival and not eat an apple?! Unheard of.

I bypassed the kid zone with their bounce houses and apple bobbing tanks, and headed for the arts and crafts section two streets over. Handmade jewelry, wood carvings, soaps, aromatherapy oils, paintings, handmade sewing projects, quilts, needle work, honey, jams and jellies, and the alpaca farm wool and alpacas booths all found me perusing their wares. Not that I had need for any of it. It was just so much fun looking at all of it.

My foot got more and more raw from walking the sloping pavement. I hobbled to Lisa's booth at the front of the row. Lisa is the coordinator for the Clarkesville Farmers Market. I'd been talking to her quite a bit this summer about opening a booth in that market next year for the homestead. I'd spent all season doing market research. I could barely take a step without pain. I knew I'd overdone it.

I was looking at her homemade, organic bug repellent when I felt the ooze start inside my sock and AFO. The callus over the blister gave way. I glanced over to my van parked across the street judging if I could make it that far. I had no choice. I walked each painfully gauged step to my van. A police officer dutifully held up traffic for me to cross the street. I apologized for taking so long as I passed him. He said they could wait for me to take my time.

I wasn't even going to try and survey the damaged foot in the car. I knew I'd never be able to put my AFO on again to walk into the house if I did. I drove home thanking God for my cruise control and only having  two red light and a stop sign before home. I left everything in the car and climbed the four steps into the house.Why didn't I take the new ramp?  The ramp is harder on my foot going up.The stairs were quicker. You see I also had to pee. I hollered at Mel yo bring the stuff in from my car as I sat down in the sofa. I pulled my shoe and AFO off. Gingerly, I pulled off my sock. The 4x4 I had folded for padding had soaked through. I peeled off the tape and as I pulled the 4x4 off the callus came with it. The gaping sore greeted me. "Hello again!"

So I'm off my feet for a days. Well sort of. I still force myself to get up, get dressed, and do the necessary bathroom visits, but otherwise I'm off my feet. I've bandaged my foot with Ameris gel and folded 4x4s. My AFO is off unless I have to walk. Six more days and counting until I can order my new shoes. I can hardly wait. Actually by the time you read this, it'll be tomorrow. Then it will be waiting until I can et them. The sore should be almost healed by then.

Even with all this pain, the festival was worth it. Sometimes, you just have to be bad and have fun.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: I've Gone and Done It Now...

I've gone and done it now. I finally got tired of the hurry-up-and-wait for others to act. I've only been talking about my waiting for what...three or four months now?

I figured waiting on Shepherds Center was just another wait time twiddling my thumb awaiting the unknown. Try doing this with one functioning thumb. I was born under the zodiacal sign of the bull. Very apt for me because I'm stubborn as a bull, and hate being patient awaiting on others. I took the bull by the horns.

I made an appointment with a neurosurgeon in the next big town (30 minutes away). Today (Tuesday) was that appointment. I apologized before I began my tale because I might get ugly in the telling. I figured forewarned is better than them thinking I was just another whinny stroke survivor boo-hooing about their life of limitations. You all know I'm NOT one of those people.

I figure I've been more than patient and cooperative for the last few years with trying everything for combating my post stroke spasticity. I've done research upon research for alternatives. I've played guinea pig for treatments, drugs, and anything anybody else could think of including electricity running through my limbs. Endured pain levels where all I could do was curl up and cry because there was no relief. It was all done in the hopes of controlling this demon which has stolen my recovery. Quite literally. I've lost what I've regained of arm and hand function because of the spasticity.

The results of the appointment...they can't help me. In this case, there was a BUT. The kind of BUTs I like. They can't help me but they will make an appointment with someone that can a functional neurosurgeon at Emory University in Atlanta. It means diving an hour, but at this point I'm grasping at straws..any straw available. Somebody on this Earth has to have the answer. These guys literally helped write the textbook on the subject.

Although in looking at the abbreviation (above) for the American Society for Stereostatic and Functional Neurology, it's ASS F(i)N(al) struck me as I first saw it. I don't know if this means they are all asses and what they say is final, or that this is the final straw for my ass. Either way, it's a shot of hope.

Now about my shoes. I've been waiting and burning up Ma Bell for months now also and still no shoes. I thought I had resolved this problem a month ago. Nope! The orthotic company still has not received the necessary paperwork as of this morning. Since I was in town for my neurosurgeon appointment anyhow, I decided to hail hell fire down on both offices until I had an appointment to get my shoes ordered. I was tired of waiting. I'm already starting on yet another decubitus ulcer forming on my AFO clad foot because of my shoes no longer supports my foot correctly. I was not my usual nice person in either office. I went to the orthotics place and picked up another set of the paperwork and hand carried it to my PCP's office. All of four blocks away. I signed in at my PCP's office. No, I didn't have an appointment, I explained to the front desk clerk, but I wasn't leaving until I got this matter resolved today. I explained why I was there too to the poor girl. She in turned called one of the nurses up to the front desk. If all else fails...pass the buck. I explained my situation again. The nurse took a no nonsense attitude and marched to the back of the office where the doctor was seeing patients.

Fifteen minutes later, the nurse returned with the filled out and signed paperwork in hand. I rose to take them from her. She shook her head and walked to the fax machine. Within five minutes, she motioned for me to join her at the desk. She told me to go to the orthotics office and make my appointment for my shoes. She was a nurse after my own heart and she did exactly what I had done in the past. Again, she apologized for the delay in getting it done, but her actions spoke volumes. I went to my brace maker and got my appointment...October 18th, my beloved husband's birthday. Two weeks after that, I'll have my shoes.

It's been a eventful/uneventful couple of months. Hopefully, not soon to be repeated.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Suunday Stroke Survival: News and Insurance Woes

I finally heard from my neurologist about getting an appointment at the Shepherd Center!!!
(Whistling and one-handed clapping)

That's the good news.
(CLUNK! The other shoe dropping)

The bad news is that they are not taking any new patients. My neurologist's office will have to call back in October or November to see if there is an opening. So I;m still waiting. But I do have a toe in the door. Sort of. With Shepherd's being one of the top spinal/brain centers on the east coast, a waiting list is to be expected. The last time I was there a couple dozen years ago, I had an 'in' (leverage). I was a spinal trauma, life flight nurse with a severe injury and they had an experimental surgery. I had doctors pulling for me. That's not the case now. Now, I'm an old (five years post stroke) stroke survivor looking for options. I understand the difference, even though I'm the same patient.

The odds of getting into the Center and having something done before the end of the calendar year is looking pretty slim. Why the push? Well deductibles for one. I've gone round and round with my medical insurance program since my Medicare kicked in back in July. Yes, my insurance is cheaper by $30 a month. My Blue Cross/Blue Shield is now my secondary insurance. They've got divisions called Pre-65 and regular medicare. It shouldn't matter, right? Medicare is Medicare and my BCBS is secondary. But because I'm not 65, by a couple of years, they only reduce my premiums by $30 instead of 66% (100 a month versus 300 a month) like at 65. It's a racket, right? Who besides me, thinks this?

I'd shop for a different policy, if it wasn't mixed up with my retirement pension. It's also terrific insurance that has a maximum out of pocket and a low yearly deductible. Yeah, I'm just griping here because there is nothing I can do about it. With my Medicare, the chances of my hitting my yearly BCBS maximum out of pocket expense ever again is nil. Which is a good thing, but a bad thing when you compare the benefits of the BCBS policy. I can foresee me spending close to the maximum each year without actually crossing the threshold each year.

I guess I've got a choice to make. Either to wait in Shepherd Center or find another neurosurgeon. The bad thing about my move to north Georgia is that I know no one that includes doctors. My years of experience and tracks records means nothing. I'm starting from scratch. Wish me luck.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Incontinence Woes

Now I know I'm not the only person living post stroke with incontinence issues. I've heard from a multitude of you. I've done pretty well getting out of diapers and just using a pad.

Being on Lasix, diuretic, for a bum heart just compounds the problem. I usually plan ahead. I'll take my Lasix two hours before I have to go anywhere. After two hours, the main effects of my Lasix wears down from a roar to a meow. But even still, I'll go before leaving home, go again upon entering a store/doctor's office, go again before heading home from shopping/ doctor's appointment, and run into the house to go again when I get home. It's somewhat routine now. Whatever I bought will have to wait until I take care of the issue. I'll leak in between and sometimes I just don't make it.

It's really embarrassing, as an adult, not to be able to control your bladder! When out in public, other people give you a wide berth especially after an accident. They look at you with that "what's wrong with you" look. Hello! does the cane, limpy walk, or one arm frozen in a 45 degree angle give you a clue? Of course, it was an accident. Who in their right mind would want to pee or worse themselves. Even at home and it's just me. I'm mortified. I dutifully clean myself up and put on fresh clothes waiting for the next accident.

No, I'm not on the self pity pot. I'm stating fact. Doesn't everyone love seeing an adult walking around in urine soaked britches? Do you look at them pitifully? Or do you go about your business? I think most of us would prefer you so the latter. You know the saying, "Sh*t happens" it's true with urine also.

Now in combination with my Dantrolene, Sh*t really happens. I was at the Farmer's Market a couple of weeks ago. I was speaking to the lady in charge of the market about setting up a stall next year. No cramps. No ominous rumble in my belly. The back door flood gates opened. There was no stopping it. It flooded my pad with poo. It ran down my legs and covered my socks and AFO. I halfway expected it to run off my shoes onto the concrete, but it didn't. I excused myself. Totally self conscious, and walked to my car. Every step was punctuating by a renewed onslaught.

I drove the fifteen minutes home wet with the goo being ground into my pores. It seemed like so much longer. At home we had the handyman and his assistant working on the plumbing. Oh great! The water is off! No shower. No flushing toilet. I'd have to use the spare gallon of water to clean off with.

I started feeling off earlier last week. I was more tired than usual. We were only preparing for a hurricane to hit us. You know the vague feeling that something is going wrong with your body but you don't quite know what's wrong. It started with a hot flush one moment and freezing the next. It was followed by that achy feeling. Not enough to stop you doing what you have to do, but just a general sort of thing. I chocked most of this up to missing my medicines one night and according to MedMD they were also side effects for the Dantrolene. I tried to ignore it. It wasn't until there was blood tinged toilet paper after wiping and the feeling like I'd been kicked by a mule in the side a few days later that I knew my problem. I didn't need a doctor or lab results to tell me I had a kidney infection.

Having to wear pads for my incontinence moments, provides a warm, moist environment for bacterial growth no matter how clean you keep yourself. The same with diapers. You have periodic diaper rashes and infections. It's so common place with me that my PCP writes a prescription with four refills every six months. I rarely notice a bladder infection because of my loss of sensation in my pubic area, but there's no ignoring a full blown kidney infection.  So this week I'm battling a kidney infection. I'm happy to report its on the mends. A few days of sulfur always stops it.. Thank God!

It's always the side stuff that goes with any diagnosed problem, like a stroke, that runs you ragged.

Nothing is impossible.

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.