Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: Incontinence Revisited

I'm not sure what is going on with my bladder, but it ain't good. In the past month, I have had more "accidents" than dry days. I think I may have a bladder infection. This is usually a first sign for bladder control. Later, the pain urination, and pus or blood starts. It's been so bad that adult diapers have been a relief to wear.

Anyone that wears these know that it must be the most uncomfortable undergarment ever made. It doesn't matter which brand you choose, it poorly fits and the elastic plastic outside rubs the skin raw. But still it's better than the alternative of urine soaked clothing. The reason I switched from my pads was because of flooding. It's not a question of little spurts, but almost emptying my bladder with no sphincter control... none, zip, bupkiss. I don't even have time to stand up and head to the bathroom. Just the act of gravity turns the faucet on. Speaking of faucets, I now have to go before I run any tap. It doesn't matter if I just made the trek to the commode five minutes before, I will have to go again. I know my diuretic plays a part in this also. My warning mechanism of a full bladder ceases to function with bladder and kidney infections.

This is quite embarrassing in public situations like the grocery store as you can imagine. I'll go before leaving home, arrive at the market, and immediately have to go again. It's only five minutes to the store! And, that's with purposely waiting until six hours has past since taking my Lasix. Going before then is an accident waiting for the chance to happen. Since my bladder infections start this way since my strokes, my old PCP wrote a standing order for sulfur based antibiotic to combat the issue. I no longer have that luxury since I've moved. I have to wait until next week to see my new PCP before I can get a prescription. That's after I drive 35 minutes to get to his office. Yes, I'll be making several pit stops along the way. These pills are HUGE! As if I don't have enough issues with swallowing. But, ya gotta do what ya have to do.

This week I used the last of the disposable diapers leftover from the case for my husband. Hospice ordered the wrong size and then ordered the right size so I actually had one and a half cases left upon his death. I've treated these as gold and used them sparingly for almost a year and a half.

At this point, I'm thinking sustainable resources (not to mention cost). A 20 pack of disposable pads will cost $6-8 a package and some months I can go through two of them. That's $12 a month times 4 1/2 years! You do the math because I don't want to add up how much money I've spent. Heavy flow menstrual pads are cheaper than the urinary incontinence pads. I priced washable pads and diapers for adults. Wowzer! I could buy a really nice vacation with the cost of a week's worth.

 After four and a half years of using disposable pads and diapers, I'm switching. This winter, I'll be sewing washable urinary incontinence pads. You heard me right, and yes, I'll video it and cross post it here. Here's my design process. Problem solving 101.

I haven't found a pattern I like yet. We are talking a thinner liquid that moves faster than a menstrual flow so it would have to be thicker and more absorbent. Then I had a brilliant idea. Use one of the pads which work the best for me. I'll have to add a little bit of fabric for seam allowances and making the wings long enough to overlap each other, but I can do that.

I've tried many brands over the years while I've combated this issue. When I have a choice, my favorite is the always maxi pads. The size and shape are comfortable. For me, the length covers both my orifices. While the absorbancy is a bit iffy, I can't fault the design. I am using it for a purpose it wasn't designed for. I love the always incontinence pads. They work fantastic, but oh, the price!

A pattern found, I could focus my mind on the other issues like what it's made of. A 100% cotton is desirable. After watching a vast number of YouTube videos on constructing cloth menstrual pads, I realized that several layers of flannel or terry cloth was not going to handle that much liquid. The pad would need twenty to forty layers and be a bulky mess. What could be a thin, absorbent, and natural material? I thought of wool, but quickly discarded it. Wool, while absorbent also gets very heavy when wet. I can see me now. "Oops, I had an accident." "Oops, my panties are now around my ankles!" No thank you. I went back to cotton. I idea of stitching in thousands of cotton balls entered my mind. I'm Abby Normal, not insane! Rolled cotton as in bandages was my next thought. After calculating how many rolls I would need and the price, I nixed that idea. What kind of padding would be thick enough? Then I remembered my grandma always swearing by cotton quilt batting. I could make several dozen pads out of a twin size quilt pad. They could be stitched together (quilted) and provide channels for urine to follow. Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!

Waterproofing and fastening them in place. I had to wear it under my clothes and didn't want telltale signs soaking through. I still want retain some shreds of dignity. Plus, do you realize how uncomfortable wet breeches are? I still have to walk from where I am to where I can change the pad. It also had to be thin enough to carry a spare in my pocket. I started looking at homemade cloth diapers. Now a days they are streamlined. Gone are the flat diapers I once put on my children. I know because I searched for them when I was looking for the padding of my pads. Washable diapers have become shaped and sized just like disposables. I started searching for the nifty plastic fasteners and the fabric they used for protecting infant clothing. I found it all a my local JoAnn's Fabrics. The waterproof material is called PUL (PolyUrethane Laminate) While not a natural product nor cheap ($6.49 a yard), it was the answer I was looking for. It being 64" wide and being able to get a dozen pads out of a quarter yard of fabric made this fabric a win-win in my book. I opted for white from the slew of colors and patterns. Remember, I wear white, cotton granny panties too.

Now, I have a plan. I did buy some pretty printed, cotton flannel to serve as the cover fabric next to my skin. Nothing to bold or bright because they are going to hold my accidents. Nice little rosebuds on a white background seemed to strike my fancy. Hey, I'm still a girl. They don't have to be totally utilitarian. They may not be pretty for long, but I've found a recipe for an all natural protein stain remover also on YouTube that might have them looking pretty for a while.

So why am I waiting until winter to do all of these? The one thing that I can't control is my free time. During the winter months, the garden is a 8x16 greenhouse. A huge difference that four garden beds. The days are shorter and colder so I won't be outside as much. I'll still have to tend to the rabbits, chickens, dogs, and cats, but there won't be a garden to tend, or produce to dehydrate, can, or freeze. 

The days being shorter means building project will cease at sundown. Yes, there will be the added activities of spinning and combing angora and other fibers, and knitting galore. We don't do this in the summer because most times we are too bone tired, and it's too hot. My battery operated sewing machine will be put to good use. A treadle machine is what I wanted to get, but time and space constraints won out. Oh, and the cost for everything the material, quilt batting, those nifty snaps and their special pliers, thread, and even my sewing machine cost thrown in was under $50 or equivalent to three months of disposable pads. Yes, I'll have to launder them, but I have to wash clothes anyhow. Why I didn't do this before? Just call it a brain fart.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


I'm introducing something new here.
Murphey Fíon Behan.
Proud parents David and Jennifer, my #4 daughter.
Born 10/4/2016 at 1:27 PM.
Weight and length 8 lbs 4 oz and 20.5 inches long.
Both mother and son doing well.
He joins brothers James and Connor.

Murphey was supposed to be born on my late husband's birthday on the 18th, but a he decided to beat Hurricane Matthew to town. You might remember back in August, she moved into my Golden Isles home. Jennifer was in full, hard labor when she delivered Murphey via c-section. They were released from the hospital within 48 hours and were whisked away, by a voluntary evacuation, to Charlotte, NC. I know it had to be a rough ride for Jenn. Why so far away? David's has family there. He didn't want to take any chances with their family.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: Keeping Hope Alive

Today, on the anniversary of the day the twin towers fell in New York, I ponder just how to keep hope alive. Not only alive, but thriving towards post stroke recovery. It is really difficult when faced with years post stroke to keep even the smallest faith that recovery is even possible.

As time passes, hope can be lost in the shuffle of day to day living. This is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because it helps you cope with the day to day struggle and frustration that recovery hasn't happened yet. A curse because it not striving for recovery but adapting to the change. It's not an all encompassing and consuming thought.When thoughts become a back burner things, you no longer have a driving will to push for it. But honestly, having that force is exhausting which is why as time passes it dissipates. No one can survive the do or die drive for an indefinite period of time.

We, as survivors, make concessions. We adapt our thinking and goals for survival's sake. There's not a day that goes by that I don't think, "when I get my arm, hand, or leg back." But it's not a thought in the minute by minute passage of time through the day as it was during the first few months after my strokes.

So How Do You Keep Hope Alive?
Focus on the small stuff. What can you do now compared to just after your stroke. I do this quite often here. 
Remind yourself often of your accomplishments. I also do that here on this blog. 
Tell yourself often, "It could be worse. You could have another stroke." Wait. I did that. It reset all my progress back to square 1.
Where there's a will there's a way. You don't fail to hope UNLESS you give up. 
Be angry at the powers that be for not doing better for us. How's that working for you Dean?
Get off your duff and do something...anything! Enough said.
When all else fails PRAY. Isn't that when we usually pray? When there is nothing left for us to do? We always want control of the uncontrollable.

So how do you keep hope alive when the waiting has taken years and you see no meaningful, miraculous results? 

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: Relearning Something New

As time goes on living post stroke, as survivors, we are constantly relearning something to stretch the envelop of our boundaries. Life is not lived in a stagnant vacuum. Unless you want it to be.

Initially, you relearn the basic stuff (walking, talking, bathroom) because it's well basic stuff that allows you to be an adult again and have some moderate control in your life. Having control is powerful. But relearning, is tough and that's an understatement. It will make you angry, frustrated, and feel like quitting. But the alternative is worse for your sense self worth and self image.

I guess that's my real blessings in my post stroke recovery process, my stubbornness and pushing the envelop have always been my blessing/curse. I believe in living an EXTRAordinary life in spite of what life dishes out. I pray for the same for you. I am also well versed in thinking outside the box as any good writer is. All my life experiences, although very challenging, has stood me well.

This week's challenges had to do with the new angora rabbitry building. While I could just leave it with plain, paper backed insulation, I wanted walls. Not only wall, but waterproof wall that I could spray cleaned when the bucks decided to mark their territory. Even with apple cider vinegar in their water, rabbit urine stinks...think aged, but diluted cat urine.

Mel and I went to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore last weekend and happened upon plastic, florescent light covers.The ReStore is always our first stop in searching for anything. The proceeds go to a good cause and what I really love is that it's cheaper. Both Mel and I saw these two CASES of light covers (50 2x4 panels) and you could see the light bulb blinking over our heads...waterproof walls!

We also got a kitchen sink and counter tops for the butchering station and a work surface inside the rabbitry. We also got a few odds and ends for the homestead. I walked away with everything for under $75. Keep in mind that these light panel covers sell in the regular large box stores for $175 for 20, I got 50 of them for $45. I think we did pretty well in the "get it cheaper" department. Heck, one of boxes was still in a sealed. The other one was opened so you could see what was inside.

The light panels are fine they way they are. But it wouldn't be me if I left them plain. I noticed while on side was textured the other side and was smooth. Yes, very easy clean up with the smooth surface out. But, I couldn't leave well enough alone, could I? Being this EXTRAordinary person and all. Remember, I once laid an intricate a mosaic patterned floor in my storeroom in my other house. We needed color in our rabbitry especially since we would be spending greater than a few hours grooming our angora rabbits in there. People often discount the value of color in the work space. Be assured, I never do.

So how do I break up the frosted, whitish clear light panels to add color? I knew this would be a challenge being left with only my left damaged hand to work with. What could I do that didn't involve fine motor skills. In the old days, I would have painted murals on the walls and ceilings tiles. I just don't have that kind of dexterity in my left hand. It still had to be waterproof too. I could just glue the panels up and then roller paint the whole thing, but then choosing one or two paint colors that we both liked was problematic.  Besides, it's boring!

Then I remembered stencils. You didn't have to be exact with that. I could just pounce color on. If I used acrylic paints, it would be waterproof. But what design? There's as many stencil designs as one could imagine. I fell into creative mode and it really felt great!

As usual, I brain stormed the issue. Our homestead is cockeyed. That's why we call it the Cockeyed Homestead. Both of us are constantly thinking outside the box.
We are...
1.  Quirky to the point of whimsical.
2. It is a rabbitry not our living area.
Simple is better if I'm doing it, and neither of us is into elaborate, extremely elegant.
Colorful, but not distractingly so.
It needs to show up well on videos.

What do you think?
Well, I Googled images for inspiration. I ran across an appliqued quilt pattern that fit the bill. It will be perfect for the rabbitry. It's an easy design and I can make the bunnies different colors while the hearts stay red and the inside of the ears can be a lighter shade of the bunny. The inside of the ear is the tear drop shape you see in the picture. I printed out the picture making it standard paper size and transferred it onto cardboard. Yes, I know they make plain stencil sheets, but I have an abundance of cardboard since the move up here and it's free. Hello! Nothing is cheaper than free. I had Mel cut them out because I still don't do well with curvy cuts with scissors or in this case an Xacto knife.

From a coloring book
To fill in some of the blank spaces I use 4" carrots. It's just another pop of color. I positioned the rabbits (3 to a panel) sort of straight. I'm cockeyed in more ways than one. I turned the carrots this way and that in the blank spaces. Not so many that the panel appeared too busy. She asked why I was stenciling the panels behind the cages too because nobody will see it. "Doh! So the rabbits have something to look at. LOL!"

I'm just having fun relearning how to paint again. Although I never used stencils much (I preferred free handing it) before my strokes, I'm enjoying the creative aspects of this now. Just like using a loom to knit. Living post stroke is all about adapting to the changes of circumstances and doing. By choosing acrylic paints, soap and water removes all my mistakes before the paints dry. All I needed was a basic primary (8 colors) set of paints. Although I did buy a larger white and black paint to blend with. I outlined the designs with black Sharpie to make them pop. Oh all right, I had Mel do it because she has a steadier hand. But to see the finished product, you'll just have to watch the video which should be posted next week over on the Cockeyed Homestead YouTube channel.


Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: So Life Goes On

The Cockeyed Homestead YouTube channel, blog, website, Pinterest, and FaceBook sites are a success which is all fine and good, but I've done very little towards helping fellow stroke survivors since I've moved to the north Georgia foothills. This makes me feel quite unhappy.

When something makes you unhappy what do you do about it? Do you sit and suffer in silence? Do you complain about it to anyone that will listen? Do you find something to substitute filling the point of unhappiness? Or do you find a way to fix it?

I guess you know my answer by now if you've read this blog in the past. I'm going to take the bull by the horn and fix it. My astrological sign, can't you guess, is Taurus. No truer match, if there ever was one, if you believe in that sort of thing?

According to

The Taurus Woman

This sign can attack, but only if provoked by one too many a red flag. She has a hot and fiery temper, and will unleash it when pushed to the limits; however Taurus women are generally sweet-natured, with a liking for pretty little objects of affection. A personal serenade or some exotic orchids would do the trick nicely.  
Taureans are also persistent, sometimes determinedly so, obstinate in the face of adversity, and stubborn to the point of utter exasperation. This ability to hang on through tough times and bad, as well as her emotional strength, make Taurean women a force to be reckoned with.

Hm, that describes me to a literal "T." Get it? "T" for Taurus. Oh, never mind. It's just my Abby Normal mind working overtime again. When you consider my steadfast faith, I rarely fail unless I want to. Remember true failure is when you quit trying. I rarely knuckle under to whatever life throws at me and I'll bring others along for the ride. I've always told those around me I'm the nicest person they'll ever meet, or the biggest l3itch in town and it always depends on them. I honestly hate the words "I can't" unless there is a very strong reason, but then I'll fight until proven wrong. Just look at what I've accomplished after my stroke. This actually accounts for my attitude in life. Truly, that which doesn't kills me makes me stronger. Yes, that's biblical too.

But as usual I digress. So what has been my major malfunction with helping stroke survivors here face to face like I did in the lower part of the state. I've spent the past couple of weeks soul searching to pin point the answer.
I hear you all now...
 Give yourself some slack. It's been less than six months. 
 Nope not my style. I ain't dead yet. 

Quit being so hard on yourself.
If I'm not who will be. I'm lazy and need to be prodded lest I forget my goals. I ain't dead yet.

You've totally changed your living arrangements and even residence
Yeah, but except for the last twenty years or so, I did this every 18-24 months so in other words... nothing new about this. There may be more moves in the future. I ain't dead yet.

Your husband just died.

Yes, a year ago. It's time to get back to living with the living. I ain't dead yet.

You're disabled from your strokes.
Yes, but I still have a lot I want to do. I ain't dead yet.

You're in transition still.
Uh, isn't almost six months time enough to settle in? I ain't dead yet.

You're older now.
Oh believe me, I get slapped in the face with that reality every single day, don't you? But, I ain't dead yet.
I look at all of the italicized words as excuses. Yes, it may also be the truth if I'm willing to accept it. You may have noticed a common phrase at the end of each response...I ain't dead yet. Many times souls are crushed because they aren't dead yet especially faced with catastrophic losses like half your body not functioning like it had been due to a stroke or the loss of a significant other. But when there's breath still in your ain't dead yet so get up and do something about your situation.

Remember, I grab issues by the horn and tackle them. After a period of time, excuses are an escape and a crutch that hinders forward progress.  It can be a killer of forward progress if left unchecked so I always check. It's the only way to stay healthy both mentally and physically.

So now, I'm tackling this question of why I haven't been in contact with anyone locally about stroke survival. Sure, I've met some survivors out and about, but I haven't called the stroke survivor's support group, nor contacted any of the hospitals about visitation, nor even pastoral care.

Here's what I found...
1) Is it fear? On some levels. It's the kind of fear you have when you stand up in front of a bunch of strangers to give a speech. But I conquered that fear. I'm reminding myself.
2) I've had too many irons in the fire.
Not an excuse but a reality.
a) I've been splitting my time between the Golden Isles and here, trying to get this homestead up and running and dealing with issues at the other. With a six-hour commute between places.
b) The initial set up of an organic system in gardening is time consuming the first year. The last time I had totally do this from basically scratch (besides expansions) was twenty years ago. The conversion to an accessible garden was a transition on an infrastructure already in place.
c)There is also the long term and short term planning goals for the homestead. The exact layout is constantly changing and evolving. Planning only takes you so far, but once in the situation and living it, tweaks have to be made.
d) Gaining all new doctors, therapist, and medically related providers- getting them up to speed, and weekly/monthly appointments takes time.
e) At this point, I'm running two households with each having obligations, at the same time.
3) I'm slower in adjusting than I expected. Part due to my advancing age and my strokes.
4) This one kills me to admit...laziness. Because of all these factors in my life going on, I find I'm spending way too much time in front of this computer just wasting time. Granted, everyone needs down time, but I'm wasting too much time doing nothing constructive at all. Yeah, I could use all kinds of excuses to counter this, but I'm soul searching and honestly looking for answers.

Okay, I've spent two weeks in self evaluation, found the reasons for why this isn't being done, so now what. A time for action and change is called for. This is no different than anything else in life. Isn't this the process for everything that surrounds us when we are faced with a problem?

1 and 2 a &e) The Golden Isles house will be done and on the market in two months. So the long commute and time spent there will only be for family stuff. Yahoo! This will be a huge relief of mental stress, time and money constraints. I can finally see the end of a long dark tunnel with this. Every house in my neighborhood has had an offer and sold within three weeks of being listed so I'm crossing my fingers that this will happen again. With the influx of needed capital, major purchases should be less of a burden. Plus running one household is a whole lot less stress.

2 d) (I'll come back to the rest of #2)The new doctor issue is resolved unless a new one is added. But one is better than three to five at the same time. Yahoo!

2) Adjusting is a fact of life. It is what it is. Accepting this fact will allow me to adjust plus removing a few irons will let this adjustment happen faster by freeing up time constraints. It will happen one step at a time until a working plan exists and goals are met.

3) Nothing I can do about this except allow more time to get things done.

4) Ugh! Laziness! Limit my time on the computer to three or four hours per day. This will include my cognitive rebuilding games, television, other games, and Cockeyed Homestead business (video editing, website, responding to videos and emails). It does not include blog writing. It takes me on average six hours each to write and edit a blog and I do two of them per week for now.

With this action plan in place and a few more waking hours available, stroke survivor support is doable without me running like a chicken with its head cut off or feeling overwhelmed.

Nothing is impossible.