Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunday Stroke Survival: This is NOT the life I Ordered!

Anybody that knows me knows I wear some snazzy T-shirts that express what I'm feeling. As you can judge from the title of this blog what I'm feeling today. Yep, I'm on the pity pot today. Or partially. I'm not to the point of throwing things around in frustration, but I'm close.

Last night, I roasted an eggplant, Vidalia onion, and half a tomato to go along with my fried breaded okra. Yep, all exception the onion were from my garden picked earlier in the day. The intention was to scoop out the eggplant and tomato, mix it with the onion and top it with some shredded mozzarella cheese which I had made the day before. I was going to sprinkle it with some fresh oregano, basil, and rosemary which I had harvested just for the purpose before I placed it under the broiler. My mouth was watering just thinking about it while harvesting.

While the vegetables were in the oven, I cleaned and breaded the okra. I poured the oil into my cast iron skillet to heat and the timer went off on the oven. It takes me four times as long when I have to cut up vegetables now. I donned my oven mitt to get the sheet pan out of the oven. I was carrying it back to the cutting board when I tromped on one of the cats' tail. I lost my balance. The sheet pan tilted and all my pretty vegetables slid onto the floor.

I grabbed some paper towels and started to get it up when I noticed the smoke rolling out of my skillet.  When my vegetables hit the floor, the tomato went everywhere in a hot, wet mess of well roasted vegetable (or is it a fruit). I stepped over the mess and turned the heat off. A good thing the oil had been new or it would have made everything taste like burnt yuck. As the oil cooled, I cleaned up the ruined vegetables.

I contemplated roasting some more eggplant, onion and tomato, but decided against it. It was already going on 9PM. I fried the okra and had that for dinner. That's the good thing about being alone. I decide what and when to eat. My husband was always a meat, veg, and bread type of man. Even when he only ate tablespoons of food, he stuck to it. No way would he been satisfied with just fried okra for dinner even though it was one of his favorites.

So today, I'm keeping it simple. I'm doing Asoba noodles. You Americans will recognize it if I used the word :Ramen" noodles. The difference is I add extra yummies to mine like green onions, fish, shredded carrots, and spinach. I cooked the vegetables and make my own soup base. Sometimes, I'll substitute Kale or seaweed if I have it on hand. I change up the meat to chicken, beef, or tofu (if I made any). The little packet goes into a drawer for when I make a big pot of chicken soup because of the sodium level being so high. It's a bowl of soup that is a meal.

I've been eating all sorts of things since my husband died. For the first week, it was seafood. He had an allergy to all seafood. The next week was vegetarian. The week after was Indian. Since I've had my fill of these, it's whatever strikes my fancy or my energy level. I can cook once and it'll feed me for a couple of days. I only eat one full meal a day now. I know, I know, it ain't healthy. But yet, I usually eat a good meal with all healthy stuff. The rest of the time I nibble and snack. It might be popcorn and nuts, or fresh veges, it might be cereal, or fresh peaches and low fat cottage cheese.

It's just too much trouble cutting up meats and veges for one person twice a day. When I cut up broccoli, cauliflower, celery, or carrots, I always cut double the amount for snacking later or for the next meal. Sure it would be easier to buy nuke meals, but I've had my fill of them in the past year and a half probably forever would be too soon to eat another one. I just love to cook or I did when I could move and use two hands. I pick my battles to ease fruastrating myself as much as possible.

That's like all the forms I've been confronted by these last couple weeks. Life insurance and my husband's retirement plan especially. They were several pages of fill in the blank. I already have difficulty reading with my stroke, but writing legibly...forget it. I wish my old typewriter worked. I have to wait to fill out these forms when one of my daughters or grandchildren come over. I can't draw a straight line to save my life and numbers fuggedaboudit! I have a hard enough time reading phone numbers and addresses that I've written. Don't get me wrong. I know practice makes perfect, but I just do not have the dexterity in my multiple injured, but healed left hand. But that's what I'm left with because my right hand was affected by my stroke.

Would I like a little cheese with my whine. No, thank you. I warned you in the beginning that this was my moment on the pity pot. Getting out of the shower today, I (of course) got my panties and shorts in a wad on my affected side. I didn't have my husband to run to for help. I just had to deal with it. Twenty minutes later, success. I was finally able to leave the bathroom fully clothed. Totally exhausted from the effort. If I hadn't gotten so dirty and sweaty in the garden this morning, I wouldn't have had to get a shower in the first place. Now, gone up in smoke are the plans to make a new bunny cage for the new Angora bunny baby I'm getting at the end of next month. It's much cheaper to build the cages than to buy them. I just don't have the energy to spare. A good thing I made my soup base before I took a shower.

On days like the past twenty-fours have been, I have to keep reminding myself that life without challenges would be boring. I could stand a little boredom right now. Nah, not really. I would get in so much trouble if I was bored. A WHOLE LOT MORE than I get into now.  I should be content but I'm not. I want more. I think I'll work on the sweater I started to knit. That's the ticket. How much trouble can I get into knitting? But you know as a Murphey, there's always Murphy's Law.

Nothing is impossible.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

My Rabbitry is Growing

French angora bunny
Well I have been searching Craigslist, Hoobly, and Raverly for additional BEW (blue eyed white) angoras. Preferable French angoras because it takes two hands to deal with the fluffy ears on English angoras. Giant angoras, while great wool producers, are just too heavy at 11-15 lbs each to handle one-handed.

English Angora bunny
Well, it's been difficult. Most people with BEW French angoras live a minimum of 5-16 hours away from me. I'm not against a road trip, but I haven't driven that far on my own yet so I'm a little bit cautious about doing it. Most people around here (100 miles radius) only have English angoras. But I do plan a trip to Canton later next month to pick up Clover's mate. (about 5 hrs away) I'm kidnapping one of my children for this first long trip. I'll also be popping in to see some friends.

Well, the luck of the Irish struck. On craigslist, I noticed an ad for angora rabbits. It was under PETS. In talking to the seller one is a BEW French angora! She has six more for sale also in varying colors. Depending on my ability to build some cages, I may get three of them. I'm still finding out information on the rabbits. The best part is that the seller is only 35 miles from here and the rabbits are $20 a piece. What a deal for me! So I'll be set I think as far as the rabbitry goes.

Now I just have to buy my land in November, have my tiny house and barn built to house them all. Ya gotta love when a plan comes together. Good thing until then, I've got this huge house to keep us all in comfort. I'm going to have to buy bigger containers for the fodder system with all these rabbits. I thinking maybe seed flat trays. Those heavy duty ones. They are cheap enough and if they don't work out I can always use them for the garden.

Speaking of the garden. I won't be replanting  them until after the move. I'll start fresh again in the Spring with even more gutters and elevated raised beds on the property. God is good all the time.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Stroke Survival Sunday:Support Groups

My support group
If you've had a stroke or brain injury, try and find a local support group with other stroke survivors and/or traumatic brain injury survivors. I think you'll be glad you did.

After my stroke I delayed in going to a survivors group because I really don't do well in crowds since my stroke. I figured it would just be too much input and overload all my circuits. Finally, I broke down and went. What could it hurt to go to one meeting? I never had to attend another one if I didn't like it. Plus, my speech therapist was one of the leaders of the group so it wouldn't be as if I didn't know anyone.

We were a fine pair walking into the conference room. Me, on a cane with one arm drawn up to my chest and halting speech, and my deaf husband at my side. We entered the room and found a spot to sit. A pad of paper was passed around to sign in on which my husband filled in.

As the meeting was called to order, I looked up to the co-leader. I knew her. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind recollection gears chugged. Finally, it hit me. We went to high school together. Then after an introduction, the speaker was a nurse from the health department. I knew her also from high school and we attend the same church. I turned and saw the physical therapist from the service I used after I came home. I was real comfortable now. It was beginning to feel like old home week. The other stroke survivors I didn't know from Adam, but that was soon amended as we went around the room with introductions. My memory of new names and faces had gone out with the dish water since my stroke so it would take a while to remember a name with a face...but they had the same problem too so I didn't feel so bad.

I met people who had battled this stroke recovery thing for years and some who had been post stroke for a decade or more. I didn't feel so out of place like I do in church among "normal" people. Some of the people were worse off than me and some were getting along fine or sort of. Are you ever really fine again after a stroke? It seems like there is always something different about you. Anyhow, I was made comfortable at the meeting and decided to attend more. I felt a sense of camaraderie with these folks.

This was a group I could help and be helped by. That's always a plus in any group function. Getting involved and being useful. I attended two more meetings before  my husband started his down hill slide. It would be another two years before I attended another one. But the leader of the group corresponded by emails and phone calls. My suggestion of visiting new stroke patients while they were in the hospital is now a big part of the group and membership has grown. A stroke exercise group is forming and a few other things are in the works. So even though I was physically absent, I was still a part of the group.

It sort of worked full circle for me when I started dry needling. My speech therapist and support group leader is the spouse of my therapist doing the needling. Small world, huh? No, just a small to mid sized town. Although, I did not hear about dry needling from her but my occupation therapist. My stroke group even sent flowers after my husband died.

A good support group is like a shot in the arm of "I can do it." Being around others in the same boat as you are helps you focus away from yourself. If you were like me especially, where I didn't have much contact with the outside world at the time. It made me feel accepted when all I could see was my limitations. It opened me up to possibilities through helping others. Having a self central focus is not a good thing after a stroke. Nothing makes you feel more abnormal.

Outside the group activities is a definite perk of a support group. For us, there is a clay class which boosts your creativity. I haven't been to one yet, but I do plan to go to at least one to see what it's all about.

We had an outing on a shrimp boat excursion tour. We were comfortable and away from danger in an enclosed glass room while the shrimpers fished. We were even treated to a low country boil. So what if I couldn't use my fork or knife properly, neither could anybody else. I do have to admit that eating a low country boil with only one working hand was definitely a challenge and a tad bit messier than usual. But the point was, I was out of the house. I was in good company. and lastly, I had a blast!

So if you have not looked into a stroke support group other than online, I would suggest you check it out. It's a whole different set of realities joining in person with other stroke survivors. That's not to knock the strong stroke tribes we have online, but you are still cooped up within your four walls. Get out and smell the fresh air. Be a part of life instead of sitting on the curb. Take a step out of your comfort zone to engage others in a safe environment of it being people like you, a stroke survivor. Nobody will understand what you are really going through like another survivor.

Not sure where to look for a group? Try a local hospital. Try the Council on Aging. Ask your local health department. Check the rehab centers, or neurologist's offices. Even try your local Chamber of Commerce. Good luck. Now stop sitting there watching the world pass you by. Join in and get involved with life again. You've been alone far to long.

Nothing is impossible.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What I'd Like to Say to Debt Collectors But Don't

This is to the debt collectors out there who will never read this. This is just something I have to vent about.

Needless to say, I've had more than my share of debt collection calls since my husband fell ill in 2003. That was when my husband had two heart attacks and stroke within six months and I became primarily a home bound caregiver except for part-time work. I pray you never are blessed with my circumstances and have debt collectors call you.
 May you...
  • Never have to spend years watching as your loved take an agonizing breath after another with you wondering if this was it and they die.
  • Never have to spend one moment watching a loved one waste away to become someone you don't recognize and suppress a shudder when you see their body.
  • Never have to have to make the decision between pain relief or continuing to breath for a loved one.
  • Never have to watch your loved one struggle with not being able to do anything but lie in a bed for months knowing they'll never get up again.
  • Never have to spend years caring for your loved one whose heart rate keeps falling or rising to the point where to heart stops because it is beating so fast that blood isn't being distributed, no matter what everyone tries, with you wondering if this was their time.
  • Never have repeatedly kiss your loved one goodbye because they are going through a procedure that they doctors have told you has a greater than 90% likelihood of killing them.
  • Spend precious minutes on the phone with a debt collector, like you, while medication for your loved one is due, or trying to feed them, or bedpans and urinals have to emptied and you are so bone tired that you want to doze off while talking to them.
  • Never have to listen someone, who is trained in strong arm debt collecting, berate and belittle that your credit will be ruined when you it already is or threatening to sue you. Stand in line.
  • Never have to stay awake for weeks watching as your loved one stops breathing and wondering if they will take another breath.
  • Never have to decide between food in your mouth or something your loved one has to have because there isn't enough cash in your account for both
  • Have a job that understands that you are doing the best you can with a dying loved one to care for too for years.
  • Have a job that pays  enough for someone to come in and pay them, while you are away and leaves enough afterwards to pay all your bills.
  • Never have to work your day job and spend the remaining off time caring for your loved one nonstop for years where you consider your on-the-job time as vacation.
  • Never have to answer a debt collector call and step out of the room to talk to them while your loved one is alone and takes their last breath.
Signed, The Debtor

After typing all this, I do understand that debt collectors (second party companies who pay pennies on the dollar for the debt) have a job to do. They are also being paid by commission. I apologize for being a deadbeat debtor. It's not like I had the money and refused to pay. It still isn't the case. I'd pay each one off to stop the threatening letters and harassing phone calls. By the way, the last bullet is true. Not that I think that my husband would have realized that I wasn't holding his hand at the time. At least I hope.

I have been truly blessed by having survived the past ten years even with the ups and downs. I had a chance to share with him and say to him all that I needed to  I know many that do not have this opportunity. This is due to the fact that I had my strokes and could not work

Yes, I have sacrificed to do this. Yes, there are too many bill collectors. My husband's total care cost since 2003 tallied up to $2,934,957. To say that total would be financially devastating to anyone besides Bill Gate, is an understatement. That was after private insurance (Medicare 2007 too). Before insurance, this figure was a 80% - 95% higher figure.This is not counting the funeral or hospice services. I'd spent my entire retirement nest egg, savings accounts, and then some. Would I change a dollar of it if I could...nope! Money comes and goes, but a life and time spent with my beloved...priceless.

Have a terrific day.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday Stroke Survival: Down But Not Out

Tis the season it seems that stroke survivors get fed up with their lot in life and just how frustrating living post stroke can be. I've heard this from several stroke survivors in the past few months. They are not alone. I'm there too from time to time. You get tired of just the struggling and adjustment you have to make to do anything. Does this ring a bell for you?

You want to scream at the world how unfair it is that you have to go through everything this way and it MIGHT change over DECADES. No, guarantees, but maybe there is some hope left after adapting your life after it has been turned upside down by a stroke or brain injury. Every passing year that hope grows smaller and smaller until not a glimmer at the end of the tunnel can be seen. That is the reality of stroke recovery after the 30 days to 6 months mark has passed.

But even with the hope still alive, the frustration of adapting and/or not being able to do everything like you used to pre-stroke, frustration and your moments and the pity pot can lengthen into despair, depression, and just get you down. It's like that old commercial, "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up!"  The sheer reality of "forever" hits you hard. It can incapacitate you just as much as your disabilities have.

I'm speaking from personal and my clerical profession standpoint here. Get help. Two years ago, I wrote about the grief process as it pertains to stroke. In fact, I did a weekly series on Sundays about for a month or so.This year, I'm dealing with the grief process in a double whammy dose. Don't believe for an instant because I know what the process is and can recognize it that I'm immune. I'm not. The betrayal of my body (my stroke and my heart) plus the death of my husband.

The thing about the grief process is that it never truly ends. The frustration and sense of loss will pop back up when you least expect it. Items have gone flying across the room in my sheer frustration at times for my not being able to use both of my hands. My sarcasm can drool off my tongue towards a person said something unkind or without thought. Even if they are only repeating what I said about myself. At times, it can send me into an internal rage. I rarely do external rages anymore. Who do they think they are? Can't they see I'm angry/frustrated/in pain? (you choose one) How would like to have THEIR brain damaged permanently and have to struggle like I do? Sound familiar? Yep, I've been there to. I'd be a zillionaire of I had a dollar for every time I've thought, "Geez people! How thoughtless can you be? And, I'm the one with the damages brain!" over the past three years. Actually for me, it's been more like 29 years since my accident left me a bionic woman or physically impaired.

When confronted with cold, hard facts like forever, you have two very basic options: to do or don't. Extend it farther is to be miserable and make everyone around you feel and experience your pain, or to put your big boy or girl panties on and decide that whatever it is IS NOT GOING TO BEAT YOU. Only you can make that choice for yourself.

I looked at my stroke as I have every other time I've been at death's door or faced with some impossible choice. This is not going to beat me down. I choose to look at every second of life as an opportunity not to be wasted. That's not saying I don't have my poor pitiful me moments, because I do quite often. I CHOOSE how I continue to live my life on my terms. I always say I'm a Christian by choice and grace. I've been exposed to many different types of religion in my past even atheism. I've even studied quite a few is researching a choice. I believe in doing research in all things before making my choice. Forewarned is ore armed so to speak.

Talking about or even venting is helpful and/or useless but a necessary evil. Don't be ashamed of doing it. But by the same token, don't let those feelings consume you. It's like fish. Fresh caught smells great and tastes wonderful. But let it sit around for a few days, weeks, months or, God forbid YEARS, and no one will be pleased or will very likely be repulsed by it.

I know you've heard the term, "Everything in moderation" and "To everything there is a season." It's about balance. I hear you literal types out there saying, "Yah, balance is my problem since my stroke! I don't have it and the vertigo is killer!" But I'm talking figuratively. It's a ying and yang type of thing. Good with the bad. What you can't do anymore and the things you can if you try. Keeping an open mind is critical. Look for possibilities instead of sinking in the quicksand of what was.

So as my title of this blog says, "I'm down but not out." I may be facing a mountain of struggles right now (and it may last a while), but I won't fail unless I give up. In the grand scheme of things, it's only a speed bump. Retrospective vision is a wonderful thing. In order to see what will come, you have to be open and willing to act on possibilities of what's to come. Yes, I may still but paralyzed and/or suffering with spasticity from my stroke for decades to come, but there is always the hope and possibility...maybe not. Everything changes over time. When I contemplate where I was in this journey 3 years ago, compared to where I am today...I'm better. No, I truly haven't regained all that much, but I'm thankful I can move my index finger and thumb although it's only butterfly kisses of movement in my affected hand. I'm also thankful my husband is not here suffering like he was.

Life is not lived in a vacuum. Everything happens for the good, okay, or the bad, or devastatingly horrible...but where there is survival there is adjustments, adaptation, and faith that tomorrow will be a new day and a new beginning. If it seems like you are spinning your wheels like a truck embedded in mud up until its axle...you are not looking hard enough. Take a big breath in and just observe what is happening around you. You can sit on the sidelines and watch or you join in. The choice is yours to make.

Nothing is impossible.