Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sunday Stroke Survival: It's the Little Things That Count

There must be a thousand little things that I now do as second nature without thinking in living post stroke. I got to thinking about them when I got my shower this morning. Some I've mentioned here eons ago and others I have not.  It may just help someone out there. The point is that I took the time after my stroke to think these through before doing them just after my stroke almost six years ago. Now, they are habits.

I got my clothes out of the dresser and stacked them in the order I would need to put them on after I dried myself. I have a storage basket within easy reach of the shower chair for my stack of fresh clothes. I just push it between the tub and the commode when I'm not showering. It also holds my extra pouf, shampoo, and liquid bath soap. I make my own and reuse a previously bought pump bottle of liquid soap. Don't you just hate finding you are out of something in the middle of a shower?

In the old days, BS (before stroke), I'd get dressed from the top down. My bra, shirt, underwear, pants, socks, shoes. Now I dress just the opposite. I need my AFO to stand and balance so my legs and feet get dried first while I'm on the shower chair. I'll don my socks first. My AFO is next while I'm still seated. My socks are on the top of the pile. Next I'll grab my panties. Once they are pulled knee high, I'll insert the urinary pad and grab my pants. I always lay my pants flat against my body the front side up to stop me from putting them on backwards. Too many times have I put them on backwards and didn't realize it until I was pulling them up. I'll pull these up to clear my feet and also about knee high. Then, I'll stand up to pull both the rest of the way up being careful not to get my panties in a wad.  I'll put on my shoes next for better balance. When buying new jeans I make sure of a couple of things before I order them: they are elastic waist (it's faster and easier to get them off on my double Lasix days), they have pockets (preferably deep pockets since I don't carry a purse) and lastly that they are flared or boot cut (easier to pull on over my AFO).

Oh, to make reaching those hard to reach spots, I use a  Pouf on a handle.I found mine at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. One side is nylon mesh and the other is a loofah for those spots that really need a good scrubbing. I'd be lost without one of these. I can used a washcloth in a pinch, but this one adaptive tool takes most of the aggravation out of bathing with one hand on a shower chair. When I go to Bed, Bath, and Beyond, I always buy two of these at a time. The nylon mesh is notorious for coming apart and nothing is worse than being halfway through a shower when it unravels on you.I do miss standing up in the shower.

I'll head over to the sink to finish drying my hair and comb it out of my eyes. Notice I haven't put on my over the shoulder boulder holder or shirt yet. At the sink, I put on deodorant and prepare to brush my teeth. I had bought a Spin Brush (battery operated toothbrush) prior to my stroke. Speaking of deodorant, a person asked me how I applied it one handed. This person recently had surgery and was one handed while she healed and said her wrists wouldn't bend enough to apply it. .First, I use a stick style, solid deodorant.  I'll twist the bar all the way up, and then lean forward until I can reach the spot it needs to be applied to. I'll then roll the stick back down and recap it.

I usually make a mess brushing my teeth. I wish I could blame it on my stroke, but I had this problem BS. I find with a the battery powered toothbrush it's easier to apply toothpaste to because it stays where I put it. I do use Rebecca's trick with the washcloth when I don't have mine. In case you were wondering, this same toothbrush is still going strong after 7 years of twice daily use. How's that for an endorsement? Now, the small trick I do with the toothpaste is I use the edge of the sink to push out the amount of toothpaste I need and then apply it to my toothbrush. Sure, I could just squeeze the middle of the tube, but I'd have to straighten it out eventually, so I save myself a step. I've finally used all the removable cap tubes of toothpaste. Yeah! Now, I've got the flip caps. 

All the time spent doing this partially unclothed isn't an oversight. There is a method to my madness. While I'm doing these other things, my hair and back have a chance to dry. Even though I've used a towel on these areas, any dampness will cause my bra and shirt to wad up. I've almost eliminated this problem by doing the other things first. Now, I'll don my bra and shirt. Since my stroke, I've eliminated the standard over the shoulder boulder holder for yoga crop tops. My twins are rather substantial and a sleep bra just doesn't provide enough support. While the yoga top doesn't lift and separate like a conventional bra will, it does offer lined, firm support and they are cheaper than regular bras too. At my age, I'm beyond caring about having perky breasts. The gardens, chickens, and rabbits don't seem to mind at all.Yes, I know how to fasten  a regular bra and put it on. I had an excellent occupational therapist who showed me how, but I'm beyond all of that. I  am as I am and I just want them controlled to lessen the chance of them blackening my eyes.

Now, for me, donning compression knee-highs one-handed is an inch worm game. I will usually put on regular knee highs after a shower to let them absorb any extra moisture. Once I've done everything else, I'll head to the bedroom and put these on. Yes, it means undoing my shoes, AFO, and socks, but now my legs are really dry so it's easier. Baby powder works wonders for getting these on one- handed. I'll sprinkle some on my bare feet and legs. The only down side is the drying effect the powder has.

I usually start with my affected side first because it's the hardest. Remember my spastic toes? My big toe points up and the rest either splay out or curl under depending on which muscles in my calf and foot are affected. Getting a regular sock on is trying, but a compression sock would try the patience of Job. But still it has to be done. So I corral my toes one at a time if need be and slide the sock over the ball of the foot smoothing as best that I can. The next major obstacle is getting the compression sock over my heel, then ankle. A shoe horn works wonders, but it's hard on the stockings. I'll roll the sock up my calf smoothing as I go. If there is any bunching, I have to straighten it before going and farther. It can take upwards of fifteen minutes getting this one sock on, and then I repeat it on the other side. But my functioning foot and leg can flex to ease the process. My old cardiologist once told me that I needed thigh high compression hose, but I looked at her as if she was insane. I told her that I'd only wear them if she came every morning and put them on me. She dropped the subject and instantly decided that knee highs were good enough.

Moving on to my favorite and cleaning.

When cooking I now use a variety of gadgets. My absolute favorites are my Ulu knife (Thank you, John!) and my Tornado can opener. Both are cheap enough (under $10) rather than the specialty adaptive varieties. I also use a Santoku knife. The Tornado can opener is an As-Seen-On-TV battery operated can opener. A little gimmicky but it works. I also paid good money for a Swedish Adaptive cutting board just after my stroke, but now I opted for regular cutting boards mostly. I just use the groove cut into the meat carving side to hold rolling vegetables like the first cut of an onion or carrots. I found this trick when I picked a half bushel of peaches from a neighbor's orchard two years ago. The fruit was too soft for the pins in my Swedish cutting board to hold it steady to pit the peach. Now it's my go to way of cutting any fruit or vegetable.

My other gadget that I love is my Vidala onion chopper. I can quite a bit of vegetable soup each year. Pickle relish with the fine grate is fast. I can chopped three quarts worth of zucchini and onions inside of thirty minutes. It's a fast, easy way to get uniform chopped vegetable. Making tuna or egg salad sandwich filling is a breeze with this thing. Although chopping hard boiled eggs posed a messy cleaning issue for this chopper, I did find a solution for this, a baby bottle brush that we use to clean the rabbit water bottles. Even my stepmother uses this chopper for potato salad. Yes, a food processor will do the same thing but it takes electricity and I don't have one of those. I may eventually break down and buy one this year though because grating homemade soap for laundry detergent has burned up two blender motors. I see them all the time at second hand stores. It almost makes me have doubts about buying one.

For cleaning the bathtub and dishes, I swear by Scotch-Brite sponges. They are worth every penny I pay extra for them. They'll last twice as long as the other brands which actually makes them cheaper in the long run. I'll keep one in the kitchen for dishes and one in my bathtub. Rectangle ones are the best (no curved corners) to get into corners.

When I shower, after I finish with the bathing part, I'll use my feet to scrub my bathtub with this scouring sponge. I don't have a back to my shower chair so I can pivot around to get the other half of the tub.  Before I thought of doing this, scrubbing out the bathtub was a dangerous proposition. I'd have to climb in with sponge and cleaner, stoop down into the slippery mess and scrub. Many times, I slipped and fallen or almost fallen doing this chore.

My February 4th blog, "It's Overwhelming" brought me a slew of emails on how I hand wash dishes. I answered each and every one of you, but thought this might help others too. Once again, it's Scotch-Brite and Dawn to the rescue. Try as I might, I can't reproduce a dish detergent that works as well. Smart shopping by using coupons and sales together, I'll usually pay less than 10 cents a bottle. I can't make it for that cheap. I strongly dislike oily feeling water while washing dishes. Now being one-handed, oily dishes mean slippery, broken dishes.

similar to a hand holding the pot
How I wash pots is I wedge the pot handle into the left or right corner of the sink and pull the sponge towards me. The downward pressure of me using the sponge in this fashion wedges the handle firmly in place so it doesn't spin or move while I'm scrubbing. I lift it out of the water to check that I've gotten the inside clean, and then do the outside the same way. I'll do the same with baking dishes and loaf pans. The downward motion of the sponge keeps it from moving too much. For pie pans, I'll hold the pan under water with the palm of my hand, and use the sponge and my fingertips to scrub outwards. Then, I'll spin the pie pan to clean another section until it's clean. I should mention at this point that I do get splashed with soapy water when I do dishes, but it gets done. I wear an full apron or change my t-shirt after I'm through.

For plates, I use rubber shelf liners or one of Mel's thick dishcloths in the bottom of the sink to makes the job go faster. The dishes don't spin and move as I wash them.

These are just a few tricks and tips I've learned living post stroke. There are tons more, but they'll have to wait for another day.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Sunday Stroke Survival: A Matter of Faith

Oops I hit publish before I entered the date.

 It being Sunday and I feel like preaching a bit from my living post stroke computer. So if you do not believe in God, He has this Word for you. Please don't post negative comments here. Send me an email. Thank you.

It's hard to believe I'm approaching the six year anniversary of my first stroke. What a journey it's been so far. And yet, I'm still have faith of a full recovery. Huh? Why is that? From reading your blog, you've had nothing but problems since your stroke. How can you still believe God loves you? He allowed this to happen to you. How could a loving God do this to you? Why hasn't He healed you yet? You're a minister. Surely your testament of healing would bring hundreds to Him. I read it almost every week in emails.

You've all heard that "God works in mysterious ways." What's so mysterious? Have you asked Him? Yes, repeatedly. He never answers me. Sure He does. Are you listening? Are you in a receiving mode of brain activity? Maybe, you aren't crossing your left eye, sticking your tongue out of the right side of your mouth, while wiggling your ears with your head cocked at just the right angle. Sometimes you feel like you have to do some asinine antics or rituals to make sure God is listening or it seems that way. You don't, by the way. Just talk to Him as you would a loved one or close friend. That's what He really wants. Do you only talk to him when the stuff hits the fan like a petulant child? I'm guilty of being a petulant child at times, but not this instance. Are you a nagging wife where God is concerned? Are nags ever listened to or a whiny child?

For me, God foretold that this would happen to me. I was early in my walk of faith. Although I received many blessings, I also had some pretty hefty travails. This continued for decades as I grew in faith and trust. Each time the travails got harder and harder. I might have wobbled from the blows, but I remained faithful as did God. Sounds like a parent teaching a child to swim, doesn't it. Believe me, I didn't understand at the time I just rolled with the punches. Each time I got stronger and stronger in faith. I never doubted the the rewards (blessings) with the triumph of the travail.

Meanwhile, I thanked Him for His mercy when it was over. It's darn right impossible to see blessings through a storm. It's only in retrospect that most can feel how He carried us through the storm. Even the faithful can be shaken up one side to the other. I've had my own inklings with this over the decades.  I'm only human. It's allowed. Just don't make it a life long ambition.

I've had more travails, over the my decades of faith, than anyone should be allowed to go through even at birth, but God had a plan for my life. He would allow me to be His mouthpiece. I used the phrase, "Scorched, but not consumed" in one of my novels. That's it in a nutshell. Through my travails, I've been scorched around the edges, but have not been consumed by them because of my faith. When I tell others what I have done and what I've endured in my life, they are amazed. They can't believe that so much could happen to one person and she still wears a smile, and professes faith. But I do, not always, but 98% of the time.

It wasn't until 2015, that someone gave me the name of my calling...a martyr. Like Job (thank God I'm not Job) in the Bible, God is using me to show His love and faithfulness to others in the present day. Those are some mighty big shoes to fill.  Does it sound like I'm bragging? Believe me, I'm not. Nobody would want these shoes, I don't. He uses me as an example. Remember, I believe in leading by example. I can walk the walk and talk the talk. My perspective is focused, Been there (Am there). Done that (Going through it). Can I show you the way? How I cope? I never force feed anyone. God opens doors and windows even if it's just a crack you push through.

The Lord is my shepherd. May the love and peace of the Lord be with and upon you.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Sunday Stroke Survival: Healing not Healed Yet Setback

Happy Easter and April Fool's Day rolled into one!

Just when I thought my foot was healed, I found out it's not the hard way. It's been a couple of weeks that my healing broken bones in my foot has virtually been pain free. What with the new AFO and rocker sole on my affected foot's shoe, I thought I was out of the woods. I've actually been pretty good about staying off of it. Even though it has felt better.

As it happens too often on the homestead, we had a calamity that took both of us to fix. A couple of the cattle panels that make up the roof of our rabbitry slipped their shelf. The brackets we had screwed in to hold it in place came loose. Thus the roof caved in on one side. But worse than that, the five male rabbit cages were attached to the cattle panels suspending them off the ground.

I said that I've been good and I have. I've only been out to the rabbitry twice since I broke my foot. So now, I looked at the five cages with rabbits in them tilted to a 45 degree angle. Those poor rabbits! I helped Mel by supporting the cages as she released the cables. It took both of us to lower the 15' section of rabbit cages to the ground so that they were level once more. Then we began transferring the bucks to the outdoor hutches on the other side of the house ( a good 80' walk each way). We removed the remaining screws from the rail which held the cattle panels and reattached them. Finally we zip tied the panels to the pallets so this wouldn't happen again. By  the time we finished all of this my foot was screaming at me. The old twisting knife pain was back. I don't know if I rebroke the original bones or new ones.

Now instead of brushing out these rabbits, we are going to have to shear them. We'll lose all that fiber. The reason- Broody(Gimpster) chicken and her sister had made their home on the tops of the cages. The hens like being on top of the cages because the roosters leave them alone. They just hop on  the straw bales we house in the rabbitry for easy access to the top of the cages. Now chickens aren't toilet trained. They go wherever they feel like it. Not to mention their feed and watering bowls were all up there with them.

We placed metal oil pan drop trays on top of the cages to catch all of it. Well, when the roof gave way, all those trays dumped into the buck cages dousing them with all that poop and everything else. Of course being rabbits, they couldn't get it off no matter how hard they shook themselves. The shaking only cause that poop and straw to get embeded further in their hair. The five bucks look pitiful! We would wash them but their fur is so fine that it would mat against their skin. So we lose a little over four pounds of fiber. At the selling price of $8 an ounce... you figure out how much this additionally cost us.

We've just chocked it up homesteading. Things like this happen in life when you least expect it. Living post stroke doesn't make it any easier. Recovering from broken bones and Mel's trigger thumb which is now reinjured also, just makes for a bad turn of events. We're in bad shape for the fast approaching springtime busyness.

So once again, I'm off my feet again. I will be helping Mel rehang the rabbit cages after some minor adjustments and a good cleaning. The bucks will return to the rabbitry after we shear them. Mel with her little scissors and me with my mustache trimmer.

It's kind of amazing that while I don't play well with scissors, I can handle a battery powered trimmer with great accuracy. The bunnies do tend to move more with the vibration, but I can hold them pretty securely by pinning them down with my affected arm. Except for their fuzzy ears and their nails, I can shear a rabbit without cutting them once unlike Mel with her scissors. Mel is responsible for their ear and nail care for all the rabbits.

While we're at it, a good cleaning of the rabbitry is in order. I'll do what I can, but it's going to up to Mel for most of the grunt work this year. The deep bedding needs to be raked out and piled up to decompose further. But I can scatter flakes of fresh straw under the cages scooting my rollator around once it's cleared.  If my broken foot has taught me anything, it's the need for a cleared and possibly a matted surface down the center of the rabbitry. I'm thinking the rubber mats like horse stalls have in them. They are 4x6 so four of them would work perfectly. We decided to expand the rabbitry another 4' long. We wanted a larger area for the rabbits to get sunshine and a "free-range" area that they would be protected in. The 3' section we currently have for this is taken up by food storage bins (plastic garbage cans). They hold the sprouting grains and seeds (corn, black oil sunflower seeds, barley, wheat and oats) and commercial, organic feed for both the chickens and the rabbits. We use the commercial feed as back up.

So while I'm still healing I'm taking it slow. In about a month, I'll be setting seed for the transplants to go into our straw bales. They've been "cooking" (decomposing) since October. Their centers should be full of composted material to feed the plants. Notice how I'm only mentioning things I can do while seated. I plan once again to be good. Hopefully, neither one of us have another setback in healing.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sunday Stroke Survival: If All Else Fails, Punt

I know football season is over for another year, and punting a football is nigh on impossible living post stroke, but if the shoe fits you wear it. Hmm, wonder if I fit enough clinches in the first line? I also said the no-no word "impossible."<grin>

Jo, are you feeling okay? Actually, I'm fine and dandy so put your mind at rest. I just get frustrated at times and that's what this blog is about...working through frustration.

Everyone gets frustrated from time to time. But, as a stroke survivor, it seems to happen more frequently over the littlest stuff. Mainly, you are trying to  do something that should be second nature to you you've done it for so long before your stroke. Like walking or going to the bathroom, but all of that went out the window after your brain fart. Actually it's known as a brain infarct, but it's the many times where you go, "Oops, that didn't work right," and PFFT, it's gone." Thoughts evaporated just like the knowledge was never there.

Normally, before your stroke, you chocked it up to being busy or having too many irons in the fire. God forbid, you give age credit for these mishaps especially if you're under 50 to old fart's disease or CRAFT. You can blame it on old fart's disease, if your over 50. But now, after your stroke, it happens all the time and it gets frustrating to live with.

I often repeat what Thomas Edison says about creating the light bulb here.  You don't think he got frustrated a few times during this process? I'll bet he did. There are plenty of times along this living post stroke journey that I've looked at this and said, Edison was a braver man than me. But then, I realize he only tried 10,001 ways, I'm well above that number in attempts to walk unaided by my AFO or cane, and regaining use of my arm in almost six years of living post stroke. I still haven't found that one successful way of making them work like they are supposed to, but I haven't quit yet either.

Do you ever just get tired of adapting and just want to do? Oh, yeah! It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to have to adapt everything to get anything done. I've always taken pride in my adaptability. I was able to turn on a dime to figure out a way to do something. With the starvation and blood killing off millions of brain cells, even my turns now take a minimum of three points to make a turn (physically and mentally). But, I thank God for this adaptability trait every single day. It allows me to still follow my dreams (more on this in a future post). In other words, I fall back and punt. Going with Plan B, is never anyone's first choice or it wouldn't be Plan B, would it? Even if it takes Plan C,D, or even F to get where you want to be, isn't it worth it? Whenever you strive for something more, there will be frustration. Think of it as a stretched Newton's Law of Relativity.

The thing that balances the frustration-doing point is desire. You have to want to do it. Edison wanted to create the light bulb. It didn't matter how many attempt it took him to him. He had the desire to do. So what are you that passionate about?

Coping strategies
  • Those passionate things would be the things to focus on first. Count each little success until you achieve the big one. It takes a lot of dominoes to make a chain reaction of them falling in sequence. 
  • Pick several passionate things to achieve. Work at each one. When one things gets too overwhelming or frustrating switch to another.
  •  Give yourself some wiggle room and plenty of pats on the back along the way. 
  • Look at things often retrospectively to see progress is being made. 
The comparison may surprise even you. The first time I used a knife after my stroke was awkward  and ineffective, but now I can cut anything. I just kept trying. Most times now, my fancy Swedish adaptive cutting board never gets used. Sure, the cuts aren't straight my cubes are even, but I get the job done with little effort. Retrospective vision is often overlooked. Don't do that! Allow yourself to give yourself pats on the back frequently because you've worked hard for them. Remember, if it were easy there would be no frustration.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sunday Stroke Survival: Survivor's Lament

If there's one lament about living post stroke that I hear the most it's "I just can't do nothing since my stroke!"

Be it a stroke or any life altering event. The first thing everyone faced with it, their first inclination is to say this and throw up their hands in frustration. True? True. It's probably one of those human nature things that I was graced to be standing behind the door when it was passed out.

Yes, I'm blessed to have been standing behind the door on a lot of human nature things that plague so many. By the same token, I was probably jumping up and down waving wildly when it came to impatience and stubbornness. "Pick me. Oh, please pick me. I gotta have those! Give me a double helping!" I can see God in heaven shaking His head and going she's going to a handful. He wasn't wrong. <grinning> But He also blessed me with creativity, logic, problem solving, and a healthy dose of common sense too to balance the equation. Is it any wonder I call myself the queen of Abby Normal? By sheer nature, I'm a contradiction in terms. But, I digress (once again *sigh*) from today's topic.

I always say, "Your attitude needs adjusting." Instead of "Get your head out of your backside," or " get off the self pity pot because someone else needs a turn." But that's basically what I mean. You've heard of the fifteen minutes of fame? I propose you apply the same approach to frustration and self pity. Okay, maybe thirty minutes. Your attitude is about the only thing you have control of after a stroke. Unless you have PBA like me from my stroke, but that's another thing entirely.

Basically what I'm saying is your focus it twisted. Unless you really want to feel worthless, down trodden, and alone. Does anyone really WANT to feel this way? I know. I know. We all know someone it seems to want to live like this, but I'm assuming you are not them because you are reading this. Take stock of what you can do.

Maybe you lost a lot with your stroke(s). I know I did. The laundry list of what I've lost, maybe forever, is huge. The inability to hold a job is the biggest for me because I loved my ministry and writing life. It takes a strong will to look at this list and  say I give up, but I don't. My first winter, after my stroke, without knitting or spinning wool, was devastating to me. I'd only spent over thirty years doing it. The first Spring without a productive 1/4 acre garden was just as bad. Did I wallow in self pity? Honestly, I did a little, but I was also researching how to do these things I loved with my new impairments. Just the act of researching helped me off the ledge. It was doing something rather than giving in to my plight. (Remember the stubborn trait) By the next Spring, I had knitted little Easter bunnies for each of my grandchildren. By the year after, it was knitting elegant shawls for my family. Now, almost 6 years later, I'm spinning and knitting one handed all winter long again.

I'm gardening too. Adaptive gardening techniques was also something I researched. I may not produce as much as I once did, but God's wisdom and grace has given me a smaller core family to provide for.

The list of pros and cons are still skewed because I'm living post stroke. But I truly believe in the "Nothing ventured. Nothing gained." saying. Just like before my strokes, the sky is the limit for what I can achieve or learn to do again. If I truly want to do something, I'll figure out a way to do it. Sometimes, the attempts are thumbs up, thumbs down, or thumbs neutral, but that doesn't stop me. I weigh the importance of my success against time, frustration, ability to repeat the process, and a long list of other things just like all the "norms" out there.

So when hit with the survivor's lament of "I can't do nothing" buck up. There's a lot of things you still can do, if try and adapt. Don't sell yourself  short. Take stock and figure out how you can.  You can do it. I have faith in you. All it takes is the first baby step of wanting to do it. I say baby step but for some folks it's a huge one. It's taken over a year of talking about knitting one handed for a lady in my group to say, "Teach me." That's okay. She's doing it.

Nothing is impossible.