Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Have You Given Up?

I'm fast approaching the four and five-year mark of living post stroke. I have to say that the idea of giving up the hope of full or even partial recovery of my right arm and leg has crossed my mind. But still I hang on with my finger tips to that hope.

The difference between me giving up hope and others is that I'm not standing still waiting for full recovery. I'm living my life to the fullest while waiting. Sure, I may have moments, days, weeks, or rarely a month on the self pity pot, but I eventually snap out of it. What about you? Are you still on it? How boring! Don't you want better for yourself? I know I did in spite of having two strokes.

If you've read this blog very long, I know you've shaken you head in amazement about what I have done since my strokes. It honestly has taken some hard work and thinking outside the box creativity to get here. I'm still without us of my left arm partially. The shoulder works, Thank God! But from the bicep to the fingers, nothing except some serious spastic muscles. I truly believe if it wasn't for the spasticity, I would have regained full use back. I was well on the way before it set in full force leaving contractures in my wrist and fingers. My ankle is another story. I couldn't strengthen the Extensor Digitorum or Peronesus Longes (outside, lateral calf) muscles enough to control my ankle from inverting. See, I know which muscles are affected by my strokes and are causing the trouble. But I can voluntarily evert my foot and dorsiflex when the spasticity is not present. I still am working on these issues with exercises. But, I'm thankful for my AFO, it allows me to stand and walk.

My attitude has been my saving grace and my frustration point. It's no secret that I'm stubborn because of this I'm resilient and tenacious. It's also no secret that I'm a cheerleader. I'm always rooting for the underdog even if it's me. These traits have carried me through a lot over the decades. I used to say learn something new each day. Yeah, I'm a nerd. But, since I had a stroke I've added to that. Attempt to relearn or try an alternative of something you used to do each day. Nothing is easy the first time you try. Heck, it may be difficult the first twenty times you try, or even the 500th time you try. Who would have ever thought a video of me cooking or canning one handed would get 4,000 plus views, but it has. The same goes for a lot of videos we produce where I'm in it just doing.

There isn't much I need assistance with and that's the way I like it. Mel has learned to ask before jumping in. I really appreciate that. I could have been like many I see being rolled around in a wheelchair post stroke. Nah, not really. I would have fought my way out of it. See, my attitude is showing. Not to mention that it would have been impossible for me to get around my house with a wheelchair. Circumstances and sheer will got me up on my feet again. The same can be said for everything I can now do. I keep pushing my boundaries.

Nothing ventured is nothing gained. It's true. Are you satisfied with your life living post stroke? I sure wasn't. I had dreams and goals for the rest of my life before a stroke sideswiped me, didn't you? I know you did.I didn't have the luxury of time after my stroke. I had a terminally ill husband at home who needed me to function. I had to do to the best of my ability and fast. I spent a total of 30 days in the hospital and rehab unit. Then I went home to what awaited. I knew my children would help, but not for long. Within six months, I was doing almost all again. I was walking, talking, driving, cooking, and caring for my husband who was only slipping away, and able to less and less.  Did I feel hopeless or helpless? Truly yes! But I didn't have a choice.This was my saving grace plus my attitude.

Your stroke did not kill your brain, only parts of it. I know you still are thinking trapped inside that nonfunctioning parts of paralyzed body. I know I was and am. My mind is going ninety to a million miles an hour. I could spend hours, days, weeks, months, and yes, even years bemoaning my lot in life. But inside, I use all that brain power in thinking of things I can do and how I can do it. Yes, I will continue to fail at trying to use a manual can opener. But that doesn't mean I won't pull it out of the drawer and try it from time to time. There's got to be a way to use it. I just haven't thought of the correct way yet. When I do, you'll be the first to know.

Yeah, I'm hard headed, stubborn, and have an attitude. Beep, beep! Get outta my way! I might just run you down if you get in my way with the speed of my brain power. I ain't dead yet. That which does not kill me, makes me stronger. Want my attitude? What's stopping you?

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Chicken and Adaptive Gardening

As y'all might know for the better part of a month now, we've had an injured chicken in our house. Her leg was injured in a predator attack which killed three of our birds a few weeks ago. The trial of incorporating her back within her flock was a dismal failure. She was attacked by hens and rooster alike. We kind of figured this would happen because she's been away from the flock for so long and is still a one legged chicken. I fear she will never regain the use of her hurt leg even with the range of motion therapy I've been doing with her.

Since Broody is the only one of our hens to go broody (sit on eggs until they hatch), we've decided to let her live a little while longer. But we'll have to protect her from the rest of the flock also. The other concern we have is that she hasn't laid an egg since she's been injured. A nonlaying chicken won't go broody, I don't believe. But still we are giving her the benefit of the doubt. She may lay again. Being injured can stop egg production. So the plan is this. We'll give her another month or two. In the meantime, I'm building a small chicken tractor 2x6 out of PVC and chicken wire. I realize chicken wire is not much protection from predators, but it will be in a fenced garden area. The plan for such a small tractor is to put it between the rows in our garden. She'll be on bug patrol. The extra fertilizer leeching into our garden beds with each rain will be one less chore we'll have to do. Chickens weren't meant to live indoors with people full time. This tractor can easily be moved every day by me and my one handed self. Since the rows are four feet apart, there's plenty of room for me to tend the garden and the chicken tractor. It only weighs about 15 pounds.

If after two months she still hasn't laid an egg, she can be culled. Why wait so long? Well, we have four fertile eggs in the incubator due to hatch on the 9th. We needed to replace our hens. Now watch them all be roosters destined immediately for their next stage of life. These new chickens will need a grow out pen. I can cull a chicken any time. I, unlike Mel, have no problem doing the deed. It's part of homesteading and being self sufficient.

Seedlings after a freeze.
It's still too cold to plant or even start seeds yet. This morning I thawed twelve water bottles for the rabbits and cracked a 1/4" layer of ice off the 5 gallon buckets we have around the house of rain water for the cats, dogs, and chickens outside. It might break 60 degrees today. Yes, I know we can start seeds inside, but I hesitate.  I started seeds in the greenhouse last Easter and an arctic blast killed all my seedlings two weeks later. An overnight frost is one thing but this was three days of below freezing temperatures at night and the daytime temperatures may have been in the mid 40s was too much for the seedlings. I'll wait until mid April to start anything even indoors.

This year, I'm trying something new. I built a soil block maker. For years, I've sworn by my biodegradable toilet and paper towel core pots as a way to start seeds, but I saw this idea on YouTube where they used PVC pipe to make them. But I thought of a better way. Each month I refill my prescription of Lovaza for my cholesterol. It comes in either the big manufacture package as shown or, I imagine, the largest prescription bottle made. Since my pharmacist doesn't cap my prescription  in child proof caps, my request. I always used to hand my childproof lidded caps to my grandchildren to open. The inner lid  fits snugly into the inside of the bottle. I was saving my prescription bottles for MAP International, who recycles these bottles to third world countries, I simply cut the narrowed end off with an Xacto knife and drilled a hole in the other end for a long bolt. Now making a hundred or so soil blocks would be tedious beyond belief, I made four of them and held them together with duct tape. To press all four bolts down at the same time, I simply attached all four bolts through a piece of 1x4. Voila! I can make four blocks at a time. They are 2" around by 2" high. Much bigger than the cell seed starting trays shown above. So now I can make four at a time in one go.

I'm not the first one to make this
As far as operating my new toy one handed, I put a row of hot glue near the plunger end of the bottles and cut strips of burlap to wrap around them. That way I can hold the plunger down with my thumb and anchor the tubes with my little finger as I pull the contraption upwards to release the pots. I do plan on doing a video of this. Both the making of the soil block maker and using it. All it cost me, other than the original prescription, was $4.00 for four bolts and nuts. I had assorted washers in one of Mel's soup can holders in her shop. Duct tape, burlap, and hot glue gun and glue sticks, we had on hand also. What self respecting homesteader and/or crafter doesn't have these? I found bolts and nuts around the shop, but not all the same length that I needed. If I had had them, it would have been a free, totally recycle/repurpose project. So this soil block maker used up some of my chomping-a-the-bit waiting to plant time. But it was well worth it. I'll still recycle my toilet paper and paper towel cores, but for rabbit toys and fire starters. With only two people in a household, we don't go through paper products that fast. Plus, like many self reliant folks, we use cloth alternative more except for toilet paper.

Well, that's been my week. How has yours been?

As always,
Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: How Do You Spell Relief?

How do I spell relief? B-O-T-O-X. It's been two weeks since my series of injections and it's finally working. Now, for those of you that don't know, my post stroke spasticity is pretty severe. It doesn't come and go in episodes, it's a constant battle. When the Botox wears off between a couple of weeks to a month prior to the next scheduled injections, I'm in pain. Read 8 of 10 on a 10 scale. As an example, tense your upper arm muscle as tight as you can. Now imagine a Charlie horse cramp in those muscles while it's already tight. That's what I go through nonstop until the next set of injections kick in. The cramp will last about two hours, stop for about an hour, and start again.The last part of December to the middle of January was spent like this. A heck of a way to ring in the new year. Because of a billing error, I was also unable to get my dry needling also. It was a grin and bear it situation. I don't want a repeat of that situation ever.

The Botox has kicked in none to soon. It February already. Potatoes, green peas, cabbages, and carrots need to be planted. We've expanded our garden this year. I've also built an elevated raised bed from pallets for another crop of strawberries. It's only a 3x3x3 planting area, but I'll be able to tend it just fine. It's only 27- 30 plants. I should get a few pints of jam out of it. I do love strawberry jam. Other fruits and vegetables I can lean over and harvest but the strawberries would be crushed before I got them in the basket. Also, other fruits and vegetable ripen at the bottom first, then ripen up the plant, but strawberries will always be at ground level for the entire harvest. A 3x6x3 planter is in the works for my herbs. The 1x3x3 pallet planters just couldn't hold enough plants and water for my herbs last year, but it was a good attempt by Mel.

We've spent the winter months harvesting angora rabbit wool. Never got a chance to spin it into yarn though. I also haven't made my urinary pads either. We've lost two chicken to predators this winter. So one of the hens that survived the attack is sitting on some eggs for us. She has an injured foot. A bite went through her foot and abscessed before we found her. She's got a comfortable spot inside by the wood stove until she heals, and can rejoin the remaining hens and rooster. So we've given her a job of sitting on some eggs to hatch out replacement birds. She's sitting on four eggs. As of this week, her leg is still tucked firmly against her body and she uses her wing as a crutch when she's out of her milk crate.

The cookbook is coming along very slowly. It's not so much the recipes but the pictures that is taking so long. I have to make the dish first. Then there is the staging of the dish to make it look beautiful and delicious. I still haven't decided on the title. But I'm still at it.

Mel is finding out just how difficult self publishing can be. Writing a book is the easy part. At least for her. All the folks she thought would jump at her dog training book, haven't. I've tried explaining to her that $8.99 is too high for a 42 page book, but she isn't listening. She's working on her social media presence like twitter and instagram, but she's sort of lost. Meanwhile, I haven't been on twitter since my stroke almost five year ago, but every week I'm gaining twenty-five new followers. Go figure. My books have become a stumbled upon and buy item, because I haven't promoted them a lick. That's okay though, the royalty monies peter in. With no new books published, I've become a has been author. That's okay too. It's just living post stroke for me. It's just not worth the frustration to really put in the work it will take. Trying to regain other things back and adapting things I really need to do take the forefront, and these cause enough frustration. Writing has always been a need to do luxury item for me. Needs before wants. Maybe one day again.

Well that's it for now. Remember...
Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: It's All About Me! Well, Sort of

But I love you too!
My only New Years resolution of sorts that I made was to focus on me more than others in 2017. If you really knew me, you'd realize what a challenge this is for me. In all my 60 years of life, I've put others before me to the point where I literally drove myself constantly into the ground. Do I sound selfish? It's not totally going to be a meme year though. The homestead is a huge undertaking and that's where my main focus will be, but there are other goals I'd like to explore and do that I've put on a back burner for far too long putting out everyone else's fires. Everyone else needs to take responsibility and just deal with it.

Sounds strange coming from a professed minister, right? Not entirely so. A huge part of my meme year involves others and their well being including my own. What I've wanted and been guided, by the Lord, is to reach more disabled folks and show them an alternative to just existing. I've been shown that this is my ministry field now. While I've continued writing this blog, I've done very little else. This will change in 2017.

I'm starting with a subcategory of our Cockeyed Homestead YouTube channel with a series of videos on homesteading and being disabled. I'll probably start a whole new channel. How does "The Single-Handed Homesteader" strike you? No, I'm not leaving the Cockeyed Homestead and will still do videos for that channel, but this will go more in depth of my faith, philosophy, how-tos, to give those disabled folks out there both a kick in the pants, and hope that they can also have their dreams, or at least some of them. They ain't dead yet no matter how much they want to be. This was a goal I set for me almost three years ago. It's time for me to get cracking on it. For many over at my stroke recovery blog, it's been a long awaited promise fulfilled. No, it won't be as originally intended with me by my lonesome. Homesteading is hard enough without disabilities, and with the move to north Georgia, I'm no longer alone.

I hear you. "But Jo, that's not selfish!" True, in part. I don't think I've got a totally selfish bone in my body. It is my commitment service to the Lord that guided me to this. Why else would He have allowed me these challenges to overcome? Especially with Him knowing me so well. (grinning) It nourishes my soul and blesses me abundantly so in my mind it is selfish. It's all about me. My growth. My faith. My resilience. My philosophy towards adversities. I'll just carry viewers along on the journey. If it touches one other soul and brightens their life, all the work put into it will be worth it. But then again, it's all about me.

The second part is to get involved on the local level.  I know you've all heard this before. I researched stroke support groups. While being a leader and unique in life is admirable, it can get lonely at the top. I used to say even a minister needs a minister from time to time. Yes, I have my Heavenly Father, but it doesn't hurt to have a good support system here on Earth too. After repeatedly calling the local stroke support group and not getting a call back, I'm going to present myself in person at the local hospital, which sponsors the group. I'm not leaving until I have talked to someone who knows what is going on. Yes, I can be stubborn that way and I'm tired of feeling alone here when I know I'm not.

So that's the plan. Work continues on the cookbook and life continues on the homestead living post stroke.

Nothing is impossible!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Retrying Old Things

Download your copy here
A little known fact about me is that I'm a multi published author. Even on this stroke writing blog. It's been so long since I've put up a snippet, story, or new book.  Before my strokes took away my ability to read and write, I was writing a survivalist series of books, in part about urban homesteading. The first book in the series was self published, as were the rest of the planned series. Well, I had a personal SHTF situation quite literally with my strokes and my husband's care being shifted over to hospice.  It has been a long, slow  recovery process for me. In fact I'm still in it. I've fought tooth and nail, clawing my way back to get to this point.

I've been asked by several of our YouTube subscribers to write a cookbook. I am presently going through my database of recipes, some of which we've videoed on our channel to compile it with fresh pictures. It is slow going, plus I'm typing one handed. My brain just doesn't work as well as it once did.  I haven't done much writing except for blogs in five years, but it's been good practice. Since cookbooks are basically lists, I almost feel almost confident enough to handle this type of writing now. I dunno how long that will take. I've never written a cookbook before. In the downloadable ebooks, I'll put links to the videos that correspond to the recipes. At least those uploaded prior to the publishing date. The rest may appear at a later date with no links, of course. You just have to search our channel under the "Cookin'" playlist. Today, there are 22 recipes there already and growing, but not in written form. (Hm, an asterisk on the page that YouTube deleted one or more videos. I'll have to figure out which ones and why.) Ya gotta love technology. Anyhow, there will be a web address listed in the paperback version.

How long is the cookbook? How many recipes? I dunno. I haven't thought that far ahead. Heck, this may be several books. I just haven't figured out the divisions yet. I've got thousands of them in my head, on my computer, and written on cards and pieces of paper in my stash from decades of cooking professionally and at home. When can you get a copy? I dunno that either. I've got to figure our the answers to the previous questions first. There are a lot of angles in publishing especially self publishing. What my angle? Why should someone buy the book when the video is free? Of course, there will be some recipes I won't tape too. The videos are a bonus added feature.

Then there is the housekeeping side of self publishing too like the cover art, any other art, the dividers, the divisions, who am I gearing sales for (marketing plan). Included in the marketing plan is public appearances, pre-sales, and book signings which means the pre-purchasing of paperbacks to sign. It also involves care of the homestead while away doing these events. A whole lot of juggling and planning and I'm not the master juggler anymore. I'm I really able to do this again? Do I really want to? We honestly need the cash injection to keep operating. If neither of us are working off the homestead.  Our feed and seed bill alone is $100 a month during late fall and winter, and we're small time right now. We can't grow in self sufficiency and/or profitability without it. Every little bit helps.

Who knows, I may start writing the above mentioned series again with more of a homesteading focus. At least, I'm going to try even if it takes a couple of years to write one. You got to understand. In my previous life BS, before strokes, I was writing, editing, and publishing four to ten books a year between nonfiction and fiction. Taking a couple of years to write one book is a harsh reality check for me. But these days, I'm living post stroke and trying to get on with my life.

Order it here
For Mel, she's on that newbie stage of writing of eat, sleep, dream writing fiction after her do training book hit the market. She's even has characters talking to her. She probably wouldn't eat if I didn't put a hot plate of food in front of her and make her stop writing once a day. I remember those days well. I sort of envy her. If we were both in that mental phase of writing, we'd starve to death. (grinning) All's I gotta say to her is spring is coming and enjoy it while it lasts.

As always...
Nothing is impossible.