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.


Remember...

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 cafeastrology.com...

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 body...you 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.



Sunday, July 31, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: Looking at Blessings

(I'm out of town again. This is becoming a bad habit )

You know, I was thinking this week how blessed I am because of my strokes. You may think I'm crazy or more crazier than usual. I am the queen of Abby Normal, remember? But honestly, I am blessed because of my stroke. No, I don't always feel that way but for the most part I am. Yeah, like the rest of you survivors, I've had some devastating setbacks, and woulda, coulda, shoulda haves. But I'm not kicking myself with regrets. Are you? Are you living in the past? Are you looking at your new, useless parts of your body saying if only I could get it back?

Why are you wasting time?  

And, I don't want to hear you say that you can't do anything or about it. Because although I speak aphasic plainly in this blog, I'll scream bull patties when I hear that. It's ranks right up there with physicians saying, "Your recovery is the best it's ever going to be." It's a cop out. You've just quit trying, if you ever did. (me being all about tough love and kicking you in the hinny)

I used to say if writers/would be authors truly wanted to write they would. Now, I'm applying the same attitude to doing in spite of a stroke. If you really wanted to do something you would. Even regular people have their wishes. You are extraordinary because of your stroke. You have become super human being since your stroke. Don't believe me? Using me as an example, what I couldn't do just four short years ago after my stroke...

  1. Speak
  2. Walk
  3. Use my arm at all
  4. Move my leg with moderate control
  5. No control of my foot drop
  6. Limited control of  my bladder and bowel functions
  7. Chronic fatigue so bad I could only manage four hours awake
  8. Out of control Psuedobulbar Affect
  9. Vision in one eye (left) partially blocked by free floating blood
  10. Couldn't hope to ever drive again
  11. Could maybe make myself a sandwich to eat or a nuke and eat meal
  12. Falling or stumbling several times a day
 Today... Major differences! Not without hard work and long hours to perfect by not quitting.
  1. I still struggles with word finding, but to most I speak well.
  2. I can walk and even sometimes without my cane
  3. Raise my arm enough and have control to hold things like opening a jar of pickles. Can carry up to 5 lbs in a tote bag (think groceries when hooked on my almost constantly spastic wrist). 
  4. Raise my leg and place it within 6" of where I want it to be. I still lose all control when knee reflex is taken.
  5. I can dorsiflex and on a low spasticity day can even evert on command the foot.
  6. I have moderate control over bowel and bladder. Exception is diarrhea and heavy diuretic days. Even for normal folks this is a challenge. I can count on one hand how many accidents I have in a week.
  7. Chronic fatigue is still an issue but I'm more active than four years ago.
  8. The PBA is still an ongoing problem. I do find yoga deep breathing and focusing tends to reduce the affect without the use of medication.
  9. The vision is clearing as time shrinks and break apart the blood into smaller and smaller pieces. Those with floaters will understand what I mean. 
  10. I drive my automatic vehicle with little adaptive equipment. (a steering knob) I even make the trip home, almost 7 hrs of driving in heavy traffic and multiple direction changes.
  11. I cook almost everything I used to cook. The prep work takes longer to do.
  12. I may fall once a month or so. A lot of the time I can catch myself before I fall.
Now in addition to all of that, I've even picked up a few old leisure and have to do things. I'm planning and expanding towards future horizons.
  1. I plant, grow, weed, water, harvest and process my own fruits and vegetables. Just like I used to do with some adaptions like raised and elevated raised beds, plus longer handles on hand tools. This first year is experimenting and fresh eating on new soil/composting/organic with the expansion into 85% of dietary needs in 4 years.
  2. I have relearned to knit with one hand with large needles or looms.
  3. I have relearned how to spin wool into yarn.
  4. I raise, groom, and care for angora rabbits. In the past three years, the operation has grown from 1 rabbit to 11. In the coming two years, the operation will be expanded to 20 and for profit.
  5. I raise, butcher, and process chickens and meat rabbits for freezer meats. We will also have dairy goats for milk, cheeses, and meat. So far this year, 25 lbs of meat was butchered and processed by me alone. With the goal of 300 lbs of meat passing by this one handed person a year within the next three years.  Not to mention raw pork products turned into bacon and ham, and all dog and cat food.
  6. I do a handicapable YouTube channel that shows others (handicapped or not) on homesteading. Currently I'm featured in at least one video a week.
This is just the beginning. More plans are in the works. I'm continuing in experimenting and gaining confidence. Adaption, will power, and the Grace of God is essential.

Nobody gets it right the first time, or even the second. Unless it's a fluke. You only fail if you give up. Are you a quitter?

I'll admit to not being upbeat 100% of the time. I get frustrated too. It's more like 85% upbeat and 15% down trodden. All these creative juices on how to adapt things to the way I can do them as I am now takes its toll. All of these did not happen overnight. It took days, weeks, or months to make it look easy and make me feel like I've accomplished a goal. The first attempts are never pretty. It takes a lot of editing/adapting/tweaking to make it pretty. I'll admit to putting off a task when it gets too frustrating to tackle another day. But I don't let it become a UFO (UnFinished Object). It's just put aside until I have a lower frustrating time. I give myself permission to let others do for me.
Example: I let Mel open all the cans for me with her manual can opener for about a month. She didn't mind and it made her feel useful while I did all the cooking. Until, I got tired of waiting for her and bought a Tornado can opener. I use it out of necessity. She uses it because she has fun with it. And, she didn't see the need for this gadget before I bought one. It also made nonsharp edges so she could up cycle them in her workshop.
Yes, before my stroke, people just looked at what I did as ordinary. Now after my stroke, people look at what I do as extraordinary. I'm super human in all that I do because I didn't give up. I chose to forget about what was...the past and past achievements. I chose to embrace my new limitations and achieve in spite of them. As a stroke survivor, wouldn't you like to join my in feeling this way? Only you can make the choice for you. It's all about your attitude. Today is a new day. Start it fresh.
Say it with me...
Nothing is impossible.


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.