Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: It's Complete, Sort Of

Today is the first anniversary of my husband's death. Goes by quick when settling an estate, as well as mourning and going on with my life. Still after a year, tears will roll down my face at times, and I still expect to see him in the house. I'm technically finished with the grieving process and it's the end of the official mourning period. I say technically because it's not over. It is ongoing and will be, but there are days when he doesn't cross my mind or I try to talk to him. He's not here constantly, but still in my heart.

I still wear my twentieth anniversary wedding set he bought me. I'm not ready to take them off. Honestly, I may never will be, but that's okay. I don't have to. Another widow friend from my Golden Isles church told me when I went back for my family reunion. It helped to be given permission. Her husband has been gone nine years now, but it seems like it was yesterday too. It seems like my old church has always been filled with widows, widowers, as well as married and single folks. Great people all. It will always be my church.

I still have bouts of anger towards my hubby for leaving. Like when part of his estate wouldn't sell. It has always been part of the plan to "see me through" after he was gone. I could have sold it for 1% of value. Not a chance, I do know it's value and won't accept less than 30-40%. My husband would be a very angry spirit if I had sold it for 1%. Or, like when I went home for the family reunion tried to walk out the back door and couldn't. The big oak tree in the back yard had come down in a nasty storm a couple of weeks earlier. No, it didn't hit the house, but it and the subsequent rain has totally destroyed my game house and all it's contents (pool table, antiques, nostalgia paraphernalia). I had to deal with the insurance company instead of him. The adjuster couldn't come out until the day I had to leave to come back because of numerous appointments in north Georgia. I'm still trying to get up with him via telephone. All of this happens as I'm trying to clear the house of possessions to sell it. The house should be empty and ready to clean by the end of the month with yet another trip 6 1/2 hours away.

Then there are the moments that pull at my heart strings like our newest grandson being born on his birthday this year. My daughter is naming him Murphey in honor of my husband. My husband will never get to hold him, love him, or teach him "the big bird." We had one other grandson by marriage who shared my husband's birthday with him. That boy is in college now. My husband left him his telescope that they used to watch the stars with to remind him to always reach for them.

I'm finally getting the back income from Social Security that they have owed me since his death a year ago! It isn't chump change. It's five months worth of payments. GRRRR!!! Nothing about my husband dying has been easy, but then again, nothing ever has been for me. I should have demanded interest, but I didn't. Next year about this time, I should qualify for Medicare. I'm crossing my fingers. My medical insurance cost will drop drastically when it takes effect which will be a blessing. I really don't think it will drop my pharmacy bill that much unfortunately.

With Medicare, the amount of coverage I receive should overlap and maybe even extend some. I know the deductible will drop. No copays or half copays will help with doctor visits. It will make driving to Athens (an hour away) easier on my pocketbook. Yes, there are neurologists closer, but I like mine.

All in all, on the anniversary of my husband's death, I'm coping pretty well.  I've had a few nightmares both waking and during sleep, but it all works out in the light of a new day. I'm adjusting. My biggest was moving away from what was comfortable and usual. It was a huge step for me, but a necessary healing one.

So today, once again, I start a new chapter in my life. I still have a few chapters to live before I join my beloved. Although, I really didn't want to. But join him, I will for all eternity. "Honey, I'm coming, but not today." Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of my life. Me, with half a functioning body, is doing quite well post stroke. Nothing is the same or usual, but that's okay. For...
Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: Spasticity Treatments and Results

Well, I had my latest round of Botox this week. This time with my new neurologist. He had mentioned in our initial meeting that he may try something different than my old neurologist. After a little discussion, he decided not to be adventurous because my maximum dosage was only 400 mg. Better to hit the spots that work.

I must admit I was a little bit disappointed, but he explained that even though he was basically hitting the same spots, he wasn't my previous neurologist. His technique and depths may be different. You can read what others have done (general areas) and still perform it differently. He did add that he was going to request/argue to get a higher dose of Botox out of my insurance carrier. He'll have a fight on his hands, but as my momma used to say, "never say never." After all, my insurance company also had a steadfast policy against another AFO within three years, and we know how that turned out from my previous blogs.

Although personally, the idea of putting even more of this toxic chemical in my body is not my first choice. But with the relaxation of the spasticity, I improve in function and ability. If another 50 or 100 mg. of Botox will reduce my spasticity enough to improve my elbow flexion, my index finger and thumbs mobility, or even straightens the inversion of my foot where I'm able to take even five steps without my AFO, it's worth it.

I've been doing dry needling for over a year now. In the beginning I was having treatments three times a week (upwards of 100 needle sticks between my arm and leg a session). The effects last 25 minutes to a couple of hours. Speed forward a year and a half, I have needling done once every two months on my leg (often only 3-5 needle sticks) and lasts for almost two months depending on where I'm at between Botox sessions. It's lasting that long and my foot is flat on the floor each step instead of the increased pressure and weighted step towards the outside edge of my foot. (This is what caused all my pressure sores the first two years after my stroke) 

A year and a half ago, my arm was clenched into my chest, the wrist was greater than 90 degrees, and the fingers didn't move. Again, fast forward to present time. Right before my Botox session, My arm rested at 45 to 60 degree angle. A far cry from at almost 180 degree angle it had before a Botox session. Even better, I was 5 degrees off from full extension at the elbow the day before the Botox. The wrist is still stubborn, but mostly because of the wrist contractures. The same goes for my ring and bird fingers, but my thumb, index and pinky fingers can be straightened into a sign language "I love you." I can even hold that position now for about 5 seconds after a good stretching session. I can move my thumb and index fingers together in a pincer form although it takes me a few minutes to do and a whole lot of concentration. I'm pretty well exhausted after doing it twice. The spots that get dry needling now, my steel traps (trapezius) once a month, my bicep twice a month, my pectoral and shoulder blade every four months, my triceps about every three months. My lower bicep, my elbow extenders, lower arm, wrist, and hand now only require WEEKLY visits. (Less than 25 sticks) How's that for progress?

My drugs have been a consistent juggle. Between 40-60 mg of Baclofen a day instead of the 80 mg I was up to. It depends on when my Botox wears off. Most days, it's 40 mg. I tried to drop the dose down to 20mg a day because I felt so good, but my body let me know the extra 20 mg per day. The Zannaflex is down to 8-12 mg per day instead of 16 mg. Again, it depends on how my Botox levels are. Most nights, it's 8 mg because it helps me sleep more comfortably. I eliminate the daytime dose. The Valium, I was on 5-10 mg. I can't even remember when the last time I took it. The really good thing, I was on Cymbalta and Lyrica for my fibromyalgia. Now, it's just Cymbalta. So less drugs and less pain is always a great thing. Better for my body and my pocketbook.

Yeah, it's been a while to reach this point. But like everything about recovering from stroke loss... it takes time. How much time? Who knows, but what else have I got to do? Anyhow...

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: Asaptive Gardening Dos and Don'ts

**I'm away this week for a family reunion so this blog is brought to you via the scheduler. Blogger is being stupid today so I've resorted to using a different format.
 It finally rained copious amounts yesterday and last night. Everything in my mini garden, at least for this year, is green and perky. So I brought my camera out to the garden while I made my rounds this morning.

As many of you know, I'm starting over this year on a new homestead in the north Georgia foothills. I've had a number of brain farts and issues with starting over as you read some of last week. So today, I thought I'd bring you along for a tour. I'll also be focusing on what to do and not do when adaptive gardening as well as a building cost break down. As I've always said when starting something new take small steps, learning as you go, and rejoice in your efforts because nothing is impossible.

Even though my stroke left me without a functioning right side, I have raised my own food for over thirty years. I wasn't going to let a little thing like paralysis stop me. I just had to think outside the box, or in this case inside the box to continue doing what I loved and needed.

We bought a fence panel ($37) from our local building supply store. It measured 6x8x8 and it would build three raised beds. I could have bought lumber to build three low raised beds for triple the cost. HELLO!!?? WHY??!! Also, why am I talking about low raised beds for adaptive gardening? Well, you have some rather tall plants like cucumbers and beans (trellised), corn, okra, and a few other vegetables that need a place to be. Imagine you have an elevated raised bed (about 3' up) with 7' corn or 8' tomatoes in it. I'm might grow vegetables, but I'm not the Jolly Green Giant. Ho ho ho!

 This fence panel made my beds 3'x6'. It's smaller than the standard 4'x8' bed on purpose. I will have to reach less to get to the middle of the bed. Thus, the chances of throwing myself off balance is reduced. Building them was easy and cheap. Filling them with an organic planting mix not so easy and cheap. There's nothing but red, compacted clay and bedrock a foot or so down around here.

Today after the rain, my mini garden, only for this season of trials and errors, the first bed we built looks like this. I've got onions, carrots, grey zucchini, pumpkin squash, tomatoes (4 varieties of heirlooms), and okra. Can you guess what shouldn't have been planted in this low raised bed? It was a brain fart moment like a machine gun for me while planting. Looks can be deceiving. These tomato plants are 4' tall already. The pumpkin squash plant has runners 6' long. It stretches from the bed to a 6' tall trellis.

The second bed is Mel's original 4x8 hardy board siding bed. I planted assorted beans (green beans and 15 bean soup mix beans), sweet potato slips, soybeans (non GMO), and a couple of Roma tomatoes for sauces. Brain fart- most of the beans are bush type plants rather than pole. Sweet potatoes are a no brainer, they grow underground. DOH! In the back, you can see one of our compost bins. Leftover fencing. A cheapy, cheap project. Off to the far right is the old chicken coop that the chickens no longer use. They only use it to lay eggs in if they don't lay them in one of Mel's toolboxes in the barn/workshop.

Although next year, I will be growing sweet, red, Yukon Gold, and russet potatoes in twenty gallon containers in spite of all the arguments I'll have from my roommate. I'll reuse the old tires around my brambles (raspberries and blackberries) to control their spreading tendencies. The used soil will go into the new elevated raised. Meanwhile I'll keep on making new soil via the Back to Eden / permaculture method. This year purchasing compost and peat was faster and I was all about getting some kind of garden in.

The second 3x6 bed is newly planted yet again with corn, bush beans, carrots and cucumbers. And look what I found this morning! The first tiny cucumber plant peeping out through the mulch. This makes the fourth time I've tried to plant this. Not bad for only being planted a few days ago. Hopefully the chickens will stay out. Behind this bed is three 2-year old peach trees that Mel planted a year ago with the intention of transplanting them in the orchard. Well, they are still there waiting. I figure the cucumber vines will use them for supports.

*The third 3x6 bed is waiting to be built. Probably in the Fall or Winter with another three low raised beds for the garden expansion.

Speaking of supports. For our trellises, although we had one purchased
tepee support and one redwood trellis, we use what nature provides. It might not be the prettiest, but you can't beat the price. Old, beat up fencing makes this a snap too. On some others we've used the fencing around the garden, and on others bits and pieced of leftover clothesline or wiring.

Another adaptive gardening technique is making elevated raised bed planters. We made ours from a discarded pallet (4x6) for each one. This is a freebie except for the nails. Oh wait, we reused the nails from the pallets. A true freebie! Except for the electricity used for the saw. These are 1x4 for herbs. They are 33" inches high which is waist high to me. I guess we could paint them to look attractive, but I'm more about functionality than beauty... maybe that's why I don't bother with makeup (war paint), or even brushing my hair with a Pixie haircut, why bother?

Another adaptive gardening technique we've used this year is a gutter system with a soaker hose. Per square foot this was the most expensive at about $2 per square foot. The vinyl gutters themselves are inexpensive ($6), but the hangers and end caps ($20) will triple the price. Pictured is part of one six-foot run of strawberries. We've got one more of strawberries and 2 six-foot runs of gutters for lettuce, spinach, and radishes. Plenty to feed us and the rabbits. We've attached them to the outside of our enclosed porch to keep the chickens out of them. Yeah, I need to prune these back. But we got ten pounds of strawberries from 20 plants this year. Next year will be three times as much at least if I replant the runners.

You aren't lucky enough to have a enclosed porch or railings to hang gutters from? Remember that 6x8x8 wooden fence panel? Get that and a couple of 4x4s and make yourself a growing wall. Or wire free pallets together. Gutters will screw into about anything even the side of your house. If you can't grow out because of space limitations, grow vertically.

Adaptive gardening doesn't have to be expensive to accomplish. Use what you have on hand.

The whole gist of this blog today, besides showing off, is that you don't have to give up the things you loved to do after your stroke. You can do almost everything you once did with some modification and a little imagination. Sure there are some things you might never do again like using hedge clippers with ease (but who really likes doing that?) I may not ever run the NY marathon again, but if I really wanted to I could walk it. There are always concessions/adaptions that have to be made as with living in general. Living post stroke is the same thing.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: Adaptive Gardening

Severe Weather Pressure Treated Pine 5.5 in Picket Privacy Fence Panel (Common: 8ft x 6ft: Actual: 8ft X 6ft)It's been a while but I've been busy as you will read.

(Started this in May.) LOL
Well, it's Spring again. So begins a new garden of delicious vegetables waiting to grow. We have three standard 3x6 raised beds made from a fence panel. We still have to purchase another one to make into 8" deep raised beds for a total of six beds for taller and/or climbing plants (corn, beans, peas, cucumbers). I won't have to bend down to harvest.

We've also build some elevated beds for herbs.

I cut the handle of a mop and attached a two and a half foot and to a hoe and claw to make weeding easier. My old bones and hip replacement just doesn't take the bending as easily.

(Started this week and I'll try to do better)
I just passed my 4 year anniversary on the 27th of May. My time does fly when you are not having fun and running around like a chicken with its head cut off literally. No I haven't gotten more function in my arm and hand back, my leg still inverts both due to my post stroke spasticity. Since I've been here, I've found a new neurologist, cardiologist, and dry needling PT. I'm still waiting on a PCP. I've got an initial appointment in July. My new therapist is not as experienced or confident as my old one, so I'm not making the strides I was with my new one, but at least I'm out of pain. I've finally been able to back down to once a week, but since I'm not making positive strides it's more pain control.

I'm also scheduled for Botox with my new neurologist the second week in July. I've been lucky so far with the new doctors. They've all been on the same page as me or a page or two ahead. I haven't had to fire one because of the god complex yet. So yeah, considering all that I've heard from other stroke survivors about useless doctors, I've been lucky.

I've had to really fight with gardening this year. Between it being a new garden and the chickens, it's literally been a battle. I'm doing a combination of square foot and back to Eden gardening. I planted my seeds perfectly so that everything got enough light and water. It was going to be perfect just like my garden beds back in my other place. The planned harvest would be enough it carry Mel and I through this season with plenty of fresh goodies. Or that was the idea.

Enter the chickens...
They have been a bane to all my gardening efforts this year. They figured out they could fly over the fence this year. They ate and scattered seeds all over the place in each bed. They also have dug out large areas for dust bathing. So far I've replanted corn five times, green beans and cucumbers four times. I have no idea what's coming up or where. I harvested four pods of beans yesterday to find out which plant it was. It turned out to be red beans. I picked a huge zucchini that grew and was buried underneath a tomato plant. This sucker was twelve inches long by six inches around! I've got pumpkins growing where my yellow squash was planted. No yellow squash made it.  Sixty English pea plants are history. There's no telling what this year will bring.

Speaking of the chickens. We plan to hatch out a new laying stock next Spring. The current layers will go on to their next stage of life. These new ones and the rooster, Whitie, will go into a regulation hen house and yard. I'm tired of fighting them and next years garden will be fresh eating and six months worth of eating.

We had to fence off the compost area so there would be compost. After the chickens had a go through it, there was only carbon left in it for a lopsided compost. This is the only homestead I know of that free ranges the chickens and fences off areas to keep them out of it. Mel ended up putting a 5' fence around the garden and compost pile.

I killed one extra rooster and made another zombie rooster out of the other one. His days are numbered because I found the hatched and am sharpening it as I write. No more will future roosters age more than four months old. They are tough and muscular. I broke the neck of the second rooster but it didn't kill him. Yeah, his muscles are that tough. He just wanders around the homestead with his head tilted at a cockeyed angle. Is it any wonder we call this the Cockeyed Homestead?!

We fenced off a dog training area for Mel. She wrote a book on how to train your dog in ten weeks. Of course she had a brilliant idea of not only adding pictures but also a DVD to it. So we had to get another dog. We went to the shelter and found a German Shepherd mix. This wasn't a puppy but a three-year old, 80 lb DOG. She called him "Bennie" and I called him "Dufus" because he is dumb as a pile of rocks and is as heavy as them too. He now answers to both names.

Herbie, the 20 lb wonder dog
In choosing this video dog we went down the line of dogs at the shelter. The dog she needed had to be untrained. At each cage we commanded the dog to sit. When it complied it got petted and we went on to the next cage. When a dog didn't respond to the command, it got praised and petted. We found after comparing note, there were two options. One was a puppy and the other was Bennie Dufus. This dog had never been in a truck because we had to bodily lift him into the truck to bring him home. He'd never been inside a home before. He'd always been on a tether. We found this out when he bodily picked up Herbie and one of the cats, and shook them within an inch of their lives. He also killed one of our laying hens after climbing over the fenced training area. All within the first twenty-four hours with us. So he's back on a tether in the training area during the day and inside at night. He hasn't messed with any more of our household critters since the first day. He is put through his paces of simple commands like "come" and "sit" and he's done pretty well with those for the past two weeks. I'm just looking at the "Dufus" part of him and thinking he's not going to be a well behaved dog in ten weeks, but I could be surprised. Right now I'm doing my best not to get tripped up by him. But then again, if he throws me off balance he's big enough to steady myself with him.

It doesn't sound like a lot when I list it like this, but it's been one thing after another.

Nothing is impossible.

Come find me on youtube where I'm doing cooking and other videos.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: Well, I Forgot

You may have noticed that I missed Sunday Stroke Survival this past Sunday. Well, I forgot. Well, not exactly, I was in the Golden Isles packing up more stuff that I didn't earlier. I had canceled the movers. I just packed items I had to have like clothes, animals, feed, and assorted stuff into my van. It took two trips. Last weekend, Mel, two friends, and I drove to the house to clean up and get the bigger stuff like my lift chair and assorted things.

Murphy's Law strikes again. One of the guys we hired, cousin to our friend, who was supposed to go and bring his 14' trailer along ended up not coming due to an emergency in his family. That left us short on muscle power and his trailer. On the drive to the coast, our friend's Jeep front end started wobbling. I'm thinking a tie rod was loose as I watched through the Chevy truck's back window. He said it was his wheels were out of alignment. The wobble increased as he picked up speed. So we toddled along on the interstate going 52 mph. There were no neighbors to be found less than 50 to help lift. I had arranged for a motel room for the two nights we were in town. The tractor/mower we were suppose to bring back with us had a dead battery and couldn't be loaded. I had text messaged mt girls of our intention to empty the house that weekend. Their husbands were at work and they weren't available. GRRR! I gave them a month's notice and weekly reminders. So we brought back what would fit in the back of Mel's truck and the Jeep. At this rate it will take a couple of trips more.

By the time I remembered this blog, we were on back roads making our way back home. I'm giving notice in advance now that my Sunday blog may not appear on schedule for the next month and a half. Just in case Murphy's Law strikes again.

On the home front, I've been grooming 11 rabbits, caring for 2 dogs, 5 cats, and 7 chickens since I've been on this mountain. We've been building garden beds both 8" and 3' tall for our crops. I've planted the crops for transplanting while the beds are being made. This year's goal is fresh eating. So I've planted tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, onions, garlic, an assortment of herbs, lettuces, corn, spinach, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tumeric, ginger, horseradish, about 15 varieties  of beans, English peas, and both sweet and hot peppers. Oh we also started apples, peach, pecan, lemon, fig, and mandarin orange trees. We planted strawberries in both gutters and hanging baskets. So we've been pretty busy.

We also have our new YouTube channel up, a new website, created a new logo, a new blog, pinterest account, and FaceBook. See below-
Our cockeyed email-
Our cockeyed website-
Our cockeyed pinterest-
Our cockeyed blog-
Our cockeyed facebook page-
Our cockeyed youtube channel - We've got a glitch in our link.,com search "cockeyedhomestead."
So check us out-like, pin, comment and subscribe. Thanks.

Nothing is impossible.