Monday, June 30, 2014

Sunday Stroke Survival on Monday :)~ Less Tolerant with Age and a Rant

Oops, I forgot to hit publish so for this week Monday is the new Sunday.

As the years go by especially since my stroke, I find myself less tolerant of what comes out of the mouths of others.

That one line in the movie, Forest Grump... 

"Stupid is as Stupid Does"
Forest actually had more common sense in his damaged brain than normal people thanks to his momma.
It hits me in the face when I'm around other people. Is it any wonder that I prefer my own company rather than be around people? At least I know the cause of my stupidity. I've got brain damage.

Why do people think that the hardships they endured for a couple months with a broken arm or leg, entitles them to compare it to my paralyzed arm or leg? Can't they accept the fact that it's like comparing apples to oranges? It's like comparing a stubbed toe to a compound fracture.

I know first hand the trials of broken bones. I broke my wrist. Seven bones broken and/or dislocated. Six weeks total and the wrist was almost as good as new. I tore my Achilles tendon in my left ankle and spent fifty-three weeks in an air boot.

A post stroke paralysis and the spasticity cannot even compare to those. Time to healing cannot be measured in weeks but years if ever. Weeks are a drop in the bucket in comparison.

Sure with a broken limb, you might have had pain. You had the inconvenience of a cast or splint.  You had that unscratchable itch. You may have had the inability to do certain things or figured out a way to do them. BUT you knew it was only temporary. Eventually, your broken bones would heal and you'd be free to carry on with your life as before. That's the BIG DIFFERENCE.

As stroke survivors, we have no such assurance just a possibility and hope. Sure a broken limb my feel like forever but in reality it's a drop in the bucket of your life. Stop the comparison!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunday Stroke Survival ~ Aphasia, Wouldn't Dragon Speak Work?

I don't know how many times over the past two year that someone has asked me if Dragon Naturally Speaking or some other speak instead of typing software would help me write my books. I know I'd be rich at a dime for every time I answered no. I wish it would.

Yes, as far as not having to type everything with a keystroke onto the page, it would. Typing is a challenge one handed but doable. But my difficulties with writing are more complex.

I have aphasia. The inability to transfer thoughts into words or even carry thoughts for very long. Luckily I don't have a problem with comprehension for the most part. I can write a blog because there are previous words or sentences to keep me on track. In this I'm very lucky indeed. Many can't. I'm also fortunate that I can recognize that something is not right with what I'm about to say and tell the listener. I'll say that this isn't the correct word but it's all I can recall at the time. They can easily do a substitution for the right word or play twenty questions with me to get the right word.

My problem with comprehension comes into play when I read. For example, a story with multiple characters often finds me flipping backwards to recall who a character is or what they said. It really takes the enjoyment out of reading fiction. This is where my second stroke hit me the hardest. So mostly I read subject based nonfiction. Biographies are in the same boat as fiction for me.

Getting back to speak-typing programs. With voice recognition software they will have you repeat certain phrases to get a baseline of how you speak. How I speak words in the morning, afternoon and at night sound different depending on what has gone on during the day and my level of fatigue. First thing in the morning and late at night (the usual time I write), my speech is slurred more than if I've been awake and vocalizing for a couple of hours. My mouth will form the right letters but the sound is off than my usual voice. Which has almost totally changed since my stroke.

My voice has to wake up and be exercised before I'm clearly understandable. That's a blessing of being alone in the house with my lip-reading hubby. Sound doesn't matter. Unfortunately for me, this is the same time I'm most creative. Focusing on how I'm pronouncing my words is like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time. I can't do it anymore. My multitasking and juggling skills rank right down there with the average male and I used to be a master at it. No offense meant, but it is a proven fact that women can multitask better than males.

At five AM and after nine PM, the simple phrase, "I'm having a good day" sounds like "I ma hasing a goo a." But between seven AM and eight PM it's clearly understandable. This does not include the first half an hour after a nap. So you can see the difficulties with voice recognition software. Also my speech is constantly improving. How I speak now is infinitely better than even six months ago. I would constantly be upgrading the voice recognition. In fact, I'd probably be spending more of my time upgrading than actually writing. I'm still getting jumbled between the English-English pronunciations and the American-English. I guess I've reverted to my previous English language lessons.

This point was brought home today with my sister in law's visit. I haven't seen her in a year.  She exclaimed today, "You are doing so much better than the last time I saw you."

My first thought was kind of nasty..."Well what did you expect after a year of getting better?" Of course I answered considerably more cordially and thanked her. You know that look that dogs get when they twist their head to one side when they hear something strange? Well I saw her do that more than once during her 45-minute visit so it must have been something I said or how I said it.Yep, aphasia can be a real witch with a "b" in normal conversations no matter how well you think you are doing.

Now that she's gone and I can breathe again, I look back at the improvements I have made and am thankful. There's something about trying to play catch-up after a year's absence that is totally draining. I need a nap. But after this long winded blog...No, I can see no sense in getting a voice recognition software program to assist me in writing my books. I have to fix my mind first. Now if I was thinking entire scenes and dialogues within a couple seconds like I used to...maybe, but for me right now, I'll pass.

Nothing is impossible with determination.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sunday Stroke Survival~ If All Else Fails -Punt

I've heard from so many about my ability or ingenuity in dealing with my stroke and life. Personally, I take no credit for it.

I glean information from all sorts of sites on the web to form my new ideas or ways to do things. I know what I want to do and know that I'm not the only one facing these issues. Somebody somewhere has to be talking about it. That is the truth. I spend hours in research and following tangled strings to form and rough working something to substitute for what I can't do.

That's not to say I'm not creative, because I am. I was looking out side the box when my #2 daughter was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis way back in the early eighties. Not to many people knew that kids got it and so young. My daughter was 2 years old. She was facing a lifetime, until she would be 16 and not be considered a juvenile anymore, of physical therapy exercises that hurt twice a day, blood work every four weeks to check medicine levels and kidney function, multiple scans and x-rays, special diets, immunoboosters, and splints and braces. That was on top of regular kid stuff like Chicken Pox and school.

If something is fun then most people don't mind if it's something they have to do. Have you ever met a child that liked taking medicine four times a day, even if it's the orange flavored Children's aspirin. At two, she took a whole bottle of 30 tablets each and every day.There's only so much a kid or an adult will tolerate under normal conditions before they will revolt. I wrote nursery rhymes that went along with her physical therapy exercises in an attempt to make them more fun for her. It was more fun but still painful and boring in a ten year time frame.

I'm a firm believer in..."When all else fails PUNT!" Life isn't fair. Life is not some trouble-free zone. Stuff happens.

For me as a child, I never once asked to be put in harm's way. Neither did my parents. But stuff happens.

As an younger adult, I didn't ask for half of the things I went through. All right, I'll admit to setting myself up for some of it. Everyone makes poor decisions at some point in their life that sets themselves up for a tumble or three.

My father always says a cold is trying to catch him because nobody in their right mind would want to catch a cold. The same goes for most bad things that happen to "good" people.

Didn't you see me as a working minister, author, and full-time caregiver jumping up and down two years ago when a stroke was looking at who to strike next. "Ooh! Ooh! Pick me! Pick me! I can't wait to have a stroke of my very own!"

Yeah, right! You must be crazy!

But the fact is that I did have a stroke. I remember thinking the next morning, if I did have a stroke, I did something right because it wasn't that bad. But then it got worse. I progressed from weakness to paralysis. Yep, I was the idiot who was jumping up and down saying, "Pick me!" and it did.

Punting Away a Stroke
As the weeks and months progressed, my stubbornness kicked in. But there's only so many times you can make applesauce, lemonade, and punt...but I'm still punting. I'm up to my eyeballs in applesauce and have constantly puckered lips from all the lemonade. Still I continue to fight.

After all, A failure is only a failure if you let it be. If I try, fail, and give up then I'm a failure.

Can you really accept failure in your life? Are you this sad sack, who simply let's their failures pile up around them and say, "Woe is me."

How long can you keep that up before you try to figure out another way? I know some people in the real world who can stay in that position for years. Nothing is their fault. Not even a smidgen.  Everything bad happens to them and only them. I'll bet you can think of a few too. Can you stand to be around them for very long? Me neither. That just ain't me.

  • Find a teeny tiny positive in your situation. Grab a hold to it and squeeze it for all you are worth. For me, it was being surrounded by caring people who could laugh and being able to laugh at myself.
  • Find a bigger positive and repeat. Before long you've squeezed that into nothingness, so you begin to actively search for positive things to cling to because it feels so good. For me, if I wasn't dead then there was the hope of recovery or adaptation. Even though at times this was more of a curse than a blessing. Perception isn't always reality.
  • Find a couple of positive things and keep searching. Before long you will be finding more than you can hold. For me, I was grabbing like a starving man at an all you can eat, free buffet.
  • Nothing is ever ALL bad or ALL good. There's always the flip side. You just have to look for it. No, I'm not going to say the silver lining because there is no silver lining surviving a stroke other than surviving. It just is what it is.
So that's how I did it and doing it. If you really want to do it. God gave you a brain too. Although not as intelligent, or as beautiful as mine. (batting my eyelashes at you) Oh, smile! You know you want to.

Nothing is impossible with determination.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

D-Day~ A Different Take

D-Day was supposed to be the remembrance of the Allies landing on Normandy. For me, it has a whole 'nother meaning.


It would have been my 38th wedding anniversary to my ex husband. Am I ever thankful it wasn't. I'm sure he feels the same way although he has been unlucky in the marriage department ever since. Six times unlucky so far including ours.

It reminds me of my day of deliverance. Although the date of my actual divorce is December 3rd, my old anniversary date is the date of my choosing. Each year when it rolls around, I do a little jig (I am Irish by marriage, you know). Small feelings of regret on a failed marriage is steam rolled over by relief. The roller part of the machine needs to be ten times larger to equal the way I felt. No I'm not bitter. Just relieved that I'm not still in that marriage.

But today is the 7th. Yippee! Huzzah! It's my baby girl's birthday! She is 28. Traditionally, my husband would go into my kitchen grab my biggest canning pot and metal spoon, and go into her room or call her. He would then beat them as a wake up call singing his version of "Happy Birthday" to her. He hasn't missed a birthday in twenty-one years.

He won't miss this year either. Instead of a early morning cacophony it will be like a mid afternoon one. There is a three hour time difference between Arizona and here.

 You've come a long way, Baby! With more memories in the making.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sunday Stroke Survival~ Gardening 2014

3 sisters planting
Last year's garden was a make shift of what I had on hand in an attempt to regain a joy and necessity in my life. My allergies were considerably lessened by eating my organically grown vegetables.

I never stop researching. I believe death is the absence of learning and believe you should learn (relearn) one new thing a day. Or at least I try too. I spend hours on the internet in Google, Youtube, Pintrest, and assorted other sites just researching possibilities.

I'm fairly open to new things. I tend to be an innovator and try new things. If it makes my life easier...BONUS!

So after dealing with bread flats, bag gardening, and milk crates last year, I'm trying some new things this year. I've got all my compost and all those bags of organic soil from last year.

This year I'm trying something different. I decided to do vertical and raised-raised bed square foot gardening to see which method is simpler. If I don't try, I won't know. I surfed the web and found the cheap alternative, because finances are extremely tight. Whose aren't, right? .

3x5 pallet raised bed
I hit upon this site. How to make raised bed gardens out of old pallets. You know me...recycle mama and squeeze each dime into a dollar bill. Pallets are free and this keeps them out of the landfills. This particular one my grandson built for me for corn and tall stuff (green peas, tomatoes, okra, black eye peas) that requires a trellis. It's 4x8 feet.

I've got another one that is 1x16 feet to take the place of my Boxwoods out front. My poor Boxwoods were infested with bore worms and had to go. This raised bed stands two feet high but has a slat shelf bottom one foot deep. You gotta love scrap wood! The front bed will hold my Nasturtiums, Pansies, Marigolds and other edible flowers. I still have to bend over to harvest them, but not as far as ground level.
Not mine but close

Now for my shorter vegetables and fruits, I have some raised-raised beds on legs or milk crates. These are also made from pallet lumber. Yeah, I used a good truckload of pallets with this venture. My grandson was a happy camper to have something to build with power tools! He's almost 15 and the more time he can spend outside creating the happier he is. He also gets time with Grandma which doesn't break his heart either.  He spent three glorious weekends with us tearing apart, sawing, and drilling to make me four 4x8 and one 1x16 boxes.

On the underside we used scrap lumber as braces, chicken wire for stability, and cardboard boxes courtesy of our neighborhood grocery store. Now eventually the cardboard will decompose but we also added some landscape weed barrier fabric between the cardboard and wire. On these will go my asparagus, carrots, radishes, bush green beans, squashes, strawberries, and herbs etc.

For the upper divisions into one foot squares were  mini blind slats that we Gorilla glued and riveted together. They were "trashed" because of assorted kids, remodeling, and pets over the years. We stockpiled them thinking if we ever needed a couple of slats we'd have them...Ah, come on, we are only talking about five sets. I'm not a true hoarder.

One box is exclusively rabbit and chicken friendly weeds, grasses, and seeds that didn't germinate. Every couple of days, I can move the chicken tractor that my grandson is building for me which fits over the top of it. This for when I don't what the rodeo of dogs and cats wrangling chickens and rabbits. Sometimes it is easier to keep them penned when time is of the essence.

I also found something else that peaked my interest...pallet vertical gardens. We planted several of these with lettuces and microgreens (radishes, kale, mustard greens, spinach, etc) This is strictly for salad munching and the rabbits. Needless to say I planted two of these. One for us and the other for the rabbits. We do love our rabbit food in this house. These are leaning against the house in the space between three windows. Our pallets chosen for this venture were 4x6. My grandson had to move a few boards around to get the proper spacings. We just stapled landscape weed barrier cloth to the inside to make sure the soil didn't wash away. I'm also planning on expanding my herd this year to include a breeding trio of Angoras.

Another thing we are trying on the wooden fence is this...
When we replaced the roof, we also replaced the gutter system for a rain catch system. The old gutter was screwed to the fence in four foot sections. After a little discussion we staggered the layout on the fences to make it more artistic looking. I also used replaced oxygen tubing to run in between the gutters so as I water the top on it flows down into the others. Wire caps make a great substitute for drip funnels. I did have to buy a few new end caps for this project but most of it was recycling what I had on hand. In two four-foot sections I have strawberries planted since they are perennials.

Yep it's been a busy couple of months for my grandson, but he loves it. All in all, my total cost, besides gas picking up the 16 pallets, was under $50. Here's hoping this new adventure in gardening works out well. Just think. If I hadn't had my stroke, this adventure would not be happening.

Oh, for another recycled gardening tip...
KFC Snack and Go cups make an excellent seed starter. Just remember to punch holes in the bottom for drainage. The handy plastic cap makes for a great humidity control cover for seedlings and it's divided into two sections for different plantings. No fuss, no muss instant seed starter. Trash to invaluable treasure.

I planted my seeds and placed them in a long plastic container with about an inch of water in the bottom. The plants pull water from the bottom and the extra humidity waters them from the top. They grow in them until transplanted into the garden bed.

So this year I'm gardening with two fingers, a pencil and a spade. Final tally at the end of the season.