Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sunday Stroke Survival ~ Sailing Through Life with Disabilities

If you are disabled it is hard to think of yourself as sailing through your life especially if the disability happens when you are older than a babe in arms. But it can be done. Nothing is easy in this life and a life as a disabled person is no picnic. Sounds like I contradicted myself, doesn't it?

Nope, not at all stick with me through this and you'll see why.

One sailing through life is often thoughts as a pleasurable experience, right? Just because you are disabled doesn't mean you will never feel joy or be happy again.  I'm going to relate this to me because I know myself so well and maybe you can find a common thread in yourself. It takes a couple things to get there...
  • Inner peace
  • Determination
  • Knowing yourself
  • Pushing boundaries
  • Attitude
and last but not least...
  • Courage
Inner peace is that little place inside you that tells you that no matter what the outcome to any situation it will be all right. Everyone has this sanctuary inside of them, but the hard part is finding it during chaos. It takes practice in repeatedly finding it until it is second nature to you.

I have such a spirit and I call it faith in a loving Heavenly Father. That isn't the case with everyone. For me, I turn my soul upwards. I am in return flooded with a sense of well being. Even if it's when my husband stops breathing. Even if my heart is full of despair. Even if the situation is less dire like doing the same old rehab exercises for years. I head for my certain spot and dwell there.

People always ask me how I can speak so matter of factly about my husband dying, or the challenges of my life now since my stroke, or any of the times when life has really put a whammy on me. Now you know. But yes, I am not a robot, and can react and feel things deeply. But, I can always mentally retreat to where I can find my inner peace.

Determination or in my case pure mule headed stubbornness comes from me saying like the newscaster in the movie Network, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." Everyone has that point in them. Mine may be quicker reached than others because of my mile wide stubborn streak.

I have always found that if want something bad enough you will move mountains to get it. I am woman. No, Superwoman when it comes to my wants in most respects. I want my arm and leg restored. But while I'm waiting for that to occur, I'm figuring out how to do things for the way I am today. Sitting back and twiddling my thumbs has never been my style. If it's yours then you may have to retrain yourself into the habit.

Knowing yourself is important. I know what I can and cannot tolerate. When told I cannot do something my attitude it "watch me prove you wrong." This goes back to being stubborn. I didn't love my limitations before my stroke or since, but if I want to do something...watch me.

But by the same token, I am governed by common sense also. If something is outrageously dangerous like drag racing or jumping out of a perfectly good airplane you won't find this woman doing it. There are limits, even though occasionally I'm haphazard but I do learn my lesson fairly quickly like watching for potholes if stepping backwards. That's how I ended up with a knee replacement.

Pushing boundaries is a way to achieve what you didn't think you could. If you do not try you won't achieve. Granted you may fail a thousand times to do it right, but you may stumble upon a round about way of getting it done too. I've learned many happy accidents this way.

For example, when I came home after my stroke the OT that came by the house asked me about opening cans. I had bought a little, electric Black & Decker can opener before my stroke. I told her with confidence that I could operate it with no trouble. She accepted this without another word. Then came the day when I actually had to use it. I sat trying to figure out how to hold the can, lift and pull down the lever to open the can.

I did it. I raised the lever and placed the can in position and used my chin to lower and press down the lever. Up until last month, I've opened cans this way for almost 18 months. Last month I bought one of those battery operated, one hand jobs. The point is I pushed beyond the boundary of being one handed and opening cans.

Granted, more than a few cans have sailed across the room in my frustration in getting it done. I really couldn't afford these temper tantrums anymore. They just tired me out quicker and could get pretty expensive in canned goods. Yes, I'm buying canned goods now instead of canning it myself. I haven't figured out how to lift the rack of my water bath canner with one hand YET. My hubby does love my homemade pasta sauce.

My attitude- my choice and I'm choosing happy
Attitude is something that all of have, but having the right attitude makes all the difference in the world when sailing through your disability. I decided after my stroke, it would impact our and our children's lives as little as possible. Sounds like high ideals and impossible to accomplish, right?

It honestly takes too much energy to be sad and unhappy all of the time. Facing life with disabilities is never something anyone wants to do or desires. It is trust upon us. A right of passage or test of will that tries to trip us up at every turn. Believe me when I said, "I'm so happy I had a stroke that left me mind boggled and half my body paralyzed." NOT! It was more like, "God, how could you let this happen to me!" Did you have the same reaction to your stroke?

He knew it was only the shock talking and has forgiven me. How do I know this? Because in spite of the strokes, I see blessings and abundance of HIS love each any every day. It's there if you have your eyes set to see them.

The only thing I can change is me. I can change my mind or my attitude, but not my paralyzed side of my body. Don't get me wrong. I'm still working towards that 12% that make a full recovery, but it will take time. Would it be better to be unhappy while I do this? Even if it takes years, decades, or another quarter of a century? I'm in this body for the long haul. Keep in mind that it takes two years for nerve cells to regenerate. The brain is comprised of millions of them. Actually, being unhappy delays healing. The mind is a powerful organ.

Courage is only visible in adverse situations. Nobody really wants to be courageous. It is thrust upon them. You could be an ostrich with its head in the sand, but honestly how do you live like that? Yes, you are hiding from the reality, but it is still there waiting. It surrounds you and will engulf you, if you let it. Human beings are a violent race. We fight when backed into a corner. We may not want to, but we do. It's called self preservation.

I've been called courageous more times than I can count, but inside the opposite is true. I'm quaking in my boots. Does that mean I wouldn't climb through gasoline and broken glass to get to a person hurt in a car accident in the old days? Nope, I did it more times than I can count up until my stroke.

Even since my stroke, it takes almost more courage than I have driving a car one handed. Sure all of us have done it in the past but we didn't have to. It wasn't our only option. You had the other hand to grab the wheel if you needed to. Not now. While I always used to watch out for the other guy while driving, now it's essential because it takes time for information to filter through my brain to spur action. I have to physically twist my whole upper body to look to the left. Let's face it. All other drivers are idiots and morons.

So how do you sail through life with disabilities? One wave at a time. They be rough seas or placid pools of blue so hoist your sails and live.

Nothing is impossible with determination.                                                                                                   

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday Fun~ My Birthday!

Yep, it's that time of year again. All together now... "Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you---"

"Quick, somebody get the fire extinguisher before the whole house goes up in flames!"

No, not really. Open flames are not allowed in my house any more because of my hubby's oxygen. They aren't needed anyhow. Just to count that many candles, there would be nothing left of them by the time you finished. I imagine you'd have a hard time lighting all of them before they were stubs. Yeah, I'm an old fart.

But now on to the fun part...presents!

Remember me talking about this loom and to save money I was going to build my own? I even went out and bought the wood and the nails. My husband took over drilling the nail holes for me. He's averaging about four holes a day. Sweetie that he is. At that rate it'll be a month before he gets all the holes drilled, but he's still hard at it.

Well, imagine my surprise when the UPS man knocked at my door with a package for him yesterday. My hubby got his pocket knife out and slit the tape, and he handed it to me saying, "happy birthday." The old sneaky leprechaun that he is had gotten on the internet and ordered my birthday present. I opened the box to find the All-in-one loom I wanted. He also assured me that he'd keep on working on my homemade loom too. But he didn't want me to wait until he finished it to knit to my heart's content.

All together now, "Awwwww!"

My birthday. Another year of celebrating it with my husband. Another year of surprises and joy. Another year of wisdom hard won. Another year in stroke recovery. AND another year to spent with those I love.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Frustrating Attempts to Craft But Victory in the End...Maybe

Okay so yesterday, I announced that I was making Dew Drop Shawls for the female members of my family.

I priced the loom used in the video. Yowser! It is expensive! $46 without the shipping added. For me these days, anything over $20 is expensive. Especially for a want. Granted this isn't a one time use thing. It allows me to stretch the possibilities of things I can still do. It's crafty and creative. But I still have to buy the yarn I have in mind to make the blasted shawls too. I couldn't justify the cost in my mind.

So I reverted to my favorite pass times once again- Google search and youtube for a cheaper alternative. I could build my own for less than $20. Now I really don't have any confidence in my skills with power tools like saws yet, but my local Home Depot could take care of that. A hammer and nails I think I can do, but keep in mind my work bench is inaccessible in my garage with half my tools.

My BIGGEST mistake...thinking!

So I come home with my prize, 3/4 inch square dowels cut to 24 inches and 3 inches for two side pieces, enough wire brads to do the job, and some Gorilla glue to make sure the nails didn't move. All I spent was $17. I thought, Cool! And, they wanted $46 for this. Sanding it all smooth as a baby's behind was a piece of cake. I braced the pieces between my belly and the edge of my desk and used a very fine sponge sanding block. I made the block with stuff I had on hand by taping 220 grit sand paper around a kitchen sponge.

According to the instructions, I had to measure down the middle (roughly) of each dowel and draw a line. Simple, right? WRONG!

 Hurdle #1- Have you ever tried to draw a straight line with a ruler on a raised surface one handed? The ruler moves, the block moves, and the line is waving like a ship being tossed in a hurricane.
The Fix- Used the other dowel to support the ruler and put thumb tacks to hold it in place. Now I make no bones about doing anything with my nondominant left hand. I suck at using a pencil with it. The line is fairly straight after three attempts. I only have to do this three more times on the other pieces to the loom.

Next, according to the instructions, is marking the nail holes along the length. I knew the spacing on the All-in-One loom so this was a no brainer. I took my double pointed compass out and marked along the line in purple ink. Why purple ink? Because I can. There was no way I was going to take a ruler and figure out what marks went there 3/8th of an inch along a 24 inch length. I knew my brain couldn't hack it. I left enough space along the long pieces to account for the joining cross pieces. Huzzah! The brain remembered!

Hurdle #2- Holding the dowel in place while I traveled the compass down the length.
The Fix- Brace it against my keyboard and put my paralyzed arm against it.

Now all I needed was a hammer to nail the brads in place deciding that I would first do this before gluing and screwing the frame together. I also decided not to pre-drill the nail holes. The nails only had to go in 3/4 of an inch. There I go thinking again.

I've got FOUR hammers of varying weights, sizes, and uses. But could I find just one? NOOO! Ah! There they are! On my work bench as they should be. There is only five feet of boxes and sacks in between them and me. No way I'm going to be able to move them out of the way by myself to get one from my work bench on my own. And, climbing Mt. Everest is not my list of fun things or accomplishments for this year or ever. The attempt is not worth the risks. Thank you, daughters #2 & #4 and a smattering of grandchildren for leaving me this mess. Off to my local thrift store to buy another hammer. Success! I can hammer nails now.

The results.
Being a smidgen off in the long line makes a difference. By not pre-drilling the holes, the nails went in crooked. The only good thing about this is...I learned my lesson and tried it. It's back to the drawing board for me. At least, I tried to nail the nails on the short piece first.

I'm going to have my beloved draw some straight lines for me when he wakes up. Luckily this is a square dowel so there are four sides to draw on. I'll remark my nail hole, and pre-drill the nail holes.

I'll make a handy dandy depth gauge like the instruction show out of 1/4 inch washers taped together. That way I'm sure to get the nail 3/4" across the board evenly plus it's a bigger nailing surface to hit. I've got at least forty of them in an easy accessible spot thank to my scavenging husband. He's one of the few men I know that will thoroughly take apart something broken and scavenge all the nuts, screws, and anything else that might be useful one day. It drove me batty, but now I'm thankful.

Now where is my drill or my Dremel tool so I can pre-drill my nail holes? Oh, that's right! They are on my work bench. ARGH! I'll be back with a picture of the finished project, but it may be a while.

Nothing is impossible with determination.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Obesity Revisited~ Learning a Few New Tricks

So yesterday I mentioned nibbling as a method of staying awake. I've found another way and this one has no calories.

I'm a creative person and a crafter from earliest memory.  I can remember sitting beside my grandmother at a quilting frame when I was old enough to stitch. Crocheting lace with cotton thread with my mother at seven years old. I first crocheted with yarn at nineteen. Also having my own embroidery hoop and floss collection at eight. Bamboo knitting needles and the like. At other times it was crafting with paper and scissors in cut work or origami. Getting my own easel and oils set up at twelve. I've crafted letters and words since I was ten years old so I became a freelance writer as an adult and author. Yes I love all aspects of crafting. I've really missed it since my stroke. Crafting is my way of relaxing like boating, hunting or wood working is to others.

I've been struggling to get my crafting abilities back since my stroke. I'm still mentally working on a way to spin fiber into yarn one handed. I presently cannot get into the garage to get to the work bench with all the tools to actual experiment building the attachment I have in my mind. This will be remedied with a yard sale now that the weather is nice.

I've struggled with knitting without two hands. The needle under the armpit method made it impossible to make small things because the needles had to be sturdy. The same thing with a needle between my knees. The cramping of muscles. The awkward positions I had to sit in to have access. Made it impossible for me to do it for long periods of time (over a hour) without having to put it down.

"Oh no! She's been watching youtube again!"Yep! I found an answer there...loom knitting. I've been at it for a month now and having a blast! I've made slippers, hats, and socks galore. For Easter, I made each of my eight grandchildren a bunny. At the back is a pompom tail and a gather stitch tied off with a bow. I placed a large plastic Easter egg inside stuffed with Jelly Beans. I enclosed some fiberfill and a yarn needle with matching yarn to take the place of the egg after the candy was eaten. I made them out of two skeins of Red Heart Light & Lofty yarn so they are fuzzy and cuddly. I think they turned out too cute and I'm proud of myself for the accomplishment. I couldn't have bought gifts for the $10 I spent for yarn and $5 for the loom.

My husband scoffed at the idea of giving our oldest grandson (16) a stuffed bunny rabbit. "That's not a guy gift! Get him something like an X-Box game or something! Geez, woman."
I loved watching him chew up his words and swallow them. Our grandson picked up his bunny and cuddled it. Then he entertained us all by making the bunny hop and talk. He twisted the head this way and that to make it more animated. Now honestly, the bunny probably went home and into a box, but he was entertaining to watch while he was with us.

Now I'm setting my sights on Christmas.I found a how-to pattern on (you guessed it) youtube for an elegant shawl for the female members of the family.  In our family gifts are usually handmade with love. Needless to say, for the past two years our gifts have been commercial. There is something less satisfying about gift giving that is commercially bought.

So this week I'll be busy scouring the internet for the right metallic silk blend yarns to make these shawls. I've only got eighteen to make by Christmas. AND not to be one sided about it, all the guys will get hats and scarves. The grands will once again get grandma knitted sweaters and other goodies. No they won't have a giant letter for their name like Mrs. Weasley did in the Harry Potter books. These are sweaters they will actually want to wear.

Yes, I'll be busy but happily so.

Nothing is impossible with determination.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Oops! I won

One of the blogs I follow, thanks to the Blog Blitz, is lilicasplace. I started reading her not too long after her stroke. We have quite a bit in common. We are both survivors. We are both writers. We both have emergency medicine backgrounds. Many friendships have less in common. Lilica and I started emailing back and forth since then.

I read where she gave an award to Deanne Humphry-Dunne on the 13th and skimmed the rest. What I missed in reading was Deanne gave her the Butterfly Light award. The oops comes into play when she told me she awarding me also. I went back and reread the blog and sure enough she did. Wow, what an honor. The award was originally created by Belinda. I'm sooo confused! :)

Da Rulz-
Here are the conditions for accepting the award :
1. You must write an acceptance post, making sure you link back to the blogger who awarded you and thank them. You MAY NOT lump this award in with a batch of other awards.
2. You must individually name and re-award to a minimum of 1 blogger. You must let them know either personally with a comment on their blog OR a pingback.
4. You must write a short paragraph entitled either “How I’m Spreading Light” OR “How I’m A Positive Influence”
5. Display Belinda’s lovely “Butterfly Light Award” badge on your blog.
How I'm a Positive Influence
I always lead by example and encourage others to do the same. I use myself as an example for both successes and failures. Failures are only temporary setbacks. It is easier to maintain a positive attitude than a negative one. That's not to say that I haven't had my share of time on the self pity pot because I have and will, but time spent on it is measured by a clock. Smiling creates less wrinkles than frowning. A good reminder when you aren't even a fall hen like I am. I focus on the blessings instead of the turmoils and tell it like it is. It's not always pretty but there is a lesson and an upbeat to all things if you just look for it. A step forward even if it is a baby step is forward progress. Just as others are cheerleaders for me, I'm am a cheerleader for others.
Who am I tagging?
My biggest cheerleader...Zan Marie Steadham of In the Shade of the Cherry Tree.
 
 



Sunday Stroke Survival ~ My Big, Fat Body

I wish I was in this shape instead of larger!
No it's not a personal image thing. It's the truth. When you have to say that round is a shape, you know you are obese. I have a gut that I can use as a table. No that's not boasting. I'm saying it with shame.

I recently went to the cardiologist. She looked at the stats and told me I'd gained weight. Five more pounds was added to my bulk and I now weigh more than before my stroke. I'm obese (bordering on morbidly obese) and I know it. Chock up another item that keeps me in the high risk range for candidacy for another stroke or heart attack. Genetically indisposed for high cholesterol no matter how much medicine I'm on. Married with a strong family history for weight relate medical problems.

I hear ya, "But Jo, you can change your weight problem." Yes I can to a point. The extenuating circumstances hold me back. The pressure sores on my foot is a biggie. I'm under doctor's orders to stay off it as much as possible. It's a case of damned if you do and damned if you don't. If it were on the toe part of my foot, I could focus the main weight bearing towards the heel as I walked and vice versa  for the heel. But no, it happens to be on the outside edge of my instep. There's no way of not putting pressure on that.

Prior to the pressure sores, I was walking half a mile a day and losing weight. I had lost thirty pounds of unneeded bulk with a minimum of twenty more to lose. But since May of last year, I put all of that back on and then some. Talk about frustrating! Combined with the muscle relaxers for my spasticity and my hubby in hospice, I find that I'm nibbling more not because I'm hungry but to stay awake. The fatigue I feel all the time and medication are a double unchangeable sword. While I may nap and catch forty winks during the day and early evening, it's not a restorative sleep, but from exhaustion. I'm staying awake the only way I know how.

Couple that with a prior eating disorder of equating comfort with food and I've got some major problems! I guess I'm just making excuses, right? I could pick the right kind of foods to nibble like carrots or celery. I actually do this quite frequently. But calories are calories. Intake without burning them off in some way is an imbalanced equation...thus the added weight. Added to all the stressors in my life, it's definitely a no win scenario. Mentally, I know these are just excuses, but stopping is more trouble than it benefits right now.

Yes, added weight or obesity and smoking are changing risk factors, but for now correcting them is  on hold until I can do more about them. Am I on the verge of another heart attack or stroke? You betcha. Is there anything I can sanely do about them? Nope! Things I can't do anything about take a backseat to those things I can do. I'm taking it one day at a time on good days and one second at a time one bad days.

Yes, in an ideal world, I'd not smoke and be the perfect weight according to the charts. BUT this is not the idealistic world of Fantasy Island. This is the real world with all the joys and heartaches that a body can stand.  I don't sweat the small stuff. There are very few big stuffs around so long as my husband is breathing. Once he stops permanently, then it's all small stuff again. If he starts breathing again, it's still small stuff after he does. BUT the moments in between are killer.

I do what I do to survive in this moment. To handle this or that task in hand.  The past is the past and the future will unfold in spite of what is happening today. For today, I'm fat and sassy. I have a great sense of humor in spite of the world's roller coaster. Tomorrow's problems because of today's actions will be dealt with in time as will all things. Yes, I'd like to lose eighty pounds, but for today I choose to be happy and semi-sane.

Nothing is impossible with determination.

LOL These Came Across my Desktop Today

A friend emailed these jokes to me today and I had to share. The sad thing is I can relate to each and every one. Happy Easter, y'all!


'OLD' IS WHEN...
Your sweetie says, 'Let's go upstairs
and make love,' and you answer,
'Pick one; I can't do both!'

'OLD' IS WHEN...
Your friends compliment you on your new alligator shoes and
you're barefoot.

'OLD' IS WHEN...
A sexy babe catches your fancy and your pacemaker opens the
garage door,

'OLD' IS WHEN..
Going braless pulls all the wrinkles out of your face.

'OLD' IS WHEN...
You don't care where your spouse goes,
just as long as you don't have to go along.

'OLD' IS WHEN...
You are cautioned to slow down by the doctor
instead of by the police.

'OLD' IS WHEN...
'Getting a little action' means you don't need
to take any fiber today.

'OLD' IS WHEN...
'Getting lucky' means you find your car in the
parking lot.

'OLD' IS WHEN...
An 'all nighter' means not getting up to use the
bathroom.

AND

'OLD' IS WHEN...
You're not sure if these are jokes.
***

Lawyers should never ask a Georgia grandma a question if they aren't prepared for the answer.

In a trial, a Southern small-town prosecuting attorney called his first witness, a grandmotherly, elderly woman to the stand. He approached her and asked, 'Mrs. Jones, do you know me?' She responded, 'Why, yes, I do know you, Mr. Williams. I've known you since you were a boy, and frankly, you've been a big disappointment to me. You lie, you cheat on your wife, and you manipulate people and talk about them behind their backs. You
think you're a big shot when you haven't the brains to realize you'll never amount to anything more than a two-bit paper pusher. Yes, I know you.'

The lawyer was stunned. Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across the room and asked, 'Mrs. Jones, do you know the defense attorney?'

She again replied, 'Why yes, I do. I've known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster, too. He's lazy, bigoted, and he has a drinking problem. He can't build a normal relationship with anyone, and his law practice is one of the worst in the entire state. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three different women. One of them was your wife. Yes, I know him.'

The defense attorney nearly died.

The judge asked both counselors to approach the bench and, in a very quiet voice, said, 'If either of you idiots asks her if she knows me, I'll send you both to the electric chair!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Need a Kick in the Pants? Your Inspiration for Today

I have been reading blogs this morning. Not that I don't read all of the blogs, but some hit home more than others. Yeah, yeah, I have been horrible about not commenting lately, but I'm reading you. A couple of blogs stand out at me from the long list of bloggers I follow.

  • One is Diane's The Pink House On The Corner. Her husband had a stroke in 2010. Two-thirds of his brain was affected. In spite of everyone suggesting to put him in a long-term facility, she brought him home. She is his primary caregiver. They had a life and still do, but changed forever. She was a published author and he was a graphic artist. Neither one are doing what they once were. Today, she blogs about an end to a dream. She has been told her husband will never walk again. Hard blow for them, but as I told her in the comments, never give up hope.

  • The second blogger is Nathan Bransford. He interviewed a published author with Cerebral Palsy, Steven Salmon. Steven writes his books in Morse code. So far he's published three books.

  • I'm a stroke survivor fighting my way back to become a better writer than I once was.  The hurdles are great, but I'm fighting one of the hardest battles I've ever faced and trying to do it with grace. My strokes are relatively young so there is definitely some mighty high hurdles to leap over to get where I want to be. You can find her here. Oh wait! You are already following and reading me.
So my question is...what hurdles are you having to leap over that you think are insurmountable? Yes, life will always put hurdles in front of you to leap over or trip you up. It's what you do with those hurdles that counts the most.

If you've tripped and fallen, do you sit on the ground nursing your boo-boo, or do you pick yourself up and finish the race?

Are you a quitter, a person that leaves things started but never finished? If so, why in the world would you want to become an author? It takes many hours, days, weeks, months, years of dedicated work to make it in publishing.

Are you a one hit wonder like the musical groups in the 60s? Whew, I wrote and published one book! Where do I go from here? Well, I put everything into this one published book and haven't got enough gumption to write another. Guess what! You're a one hit wonder. Write another one and put the same amount of effort into it. So many authors put everything into the first book which sells very well, and their second book is a stinker. Have the same intensity of effort into each book you write.

That's my two-cents for today but with inflation I think it's worth a quarter.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wednesday Writerly Ways?

You may have noticed I've stopped writing my "Wednesday Writerly Ways." This is a temporary set back. How long it will last is anybody's guess.

There are a number of reasons for this. Mainly, it's hard to write about writing, self-publishing, and marketing when you aren't doing any of it. Yes, I could rely on memories but that hardly seems fair because there is no forward action these days.

The limited amount of energy I have because of my strokes, caring for my husband, and just life in general saps almost all my creative juices. If you've read my updates and my "Sunday Stroke Survival" you know what I'm going through. It's just too much junk! Well not really junk, but necessary distractions.

I could fight against the tide of overwhelming have-to-dos and write but writing should not be a chore. Now editing is ALWAYS a chore. I refuse to put writing in the chore category. I've gotten nothing but enjoyment from my many writing pursuits as it should be. Yes I still blog, but I'm even doing that with a couple heaping spoons of salt. But at least this is writing.

I mentioned in one of my stroke blogs how I read now and the way my brain isn't working anymore and said I'd give an example of how I write now without corrections and heavy editing...here goes. Squiggles be damned.

I wake up thiz mrning to (XXX lost) my husnd on the flour. I chek her ot to make sure their are no brkoe bones. Not broke so me hplelp him up and beck two bed.

Horrible isn't it. Now try to write small stories or attempt a novel writing like this! Now think of this whole blog post this way and you can see the struggle I have just to post one blog.

First I have to realize I made a mistake (some words aren't squiggled). I still mess up pronouns even in speech. My brain is healing ever so slowly. This is a lot better than just after my second stroke. My first left me unable to speak but I could write fairly well after a fashion.

No, I'm not whining or on the pity pot. I'm just telling like it is. I used to say, words are my life. Now it's changed to correcting myself is my life. Frustrating? Oh yeah with bells and cherries on top. So to alleviate any added frustration...I've stopped writing for now. It's just going to take some more time to get my brain in gear so bear with me.

Nothing is impossible with determination, BUT you also pick a few battles you can win.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Stroke Survival ~ Rewiring the Brain with Games

Cognitive ability loss is often hard to determine in a hospital setting mainly because it is a away from your home environment. The patient isn't in their daily home routine. Sure you can count to ten or recite the alphabet, but getting back to your old, normal routine is that is the true measure of what was lost. The effects of the stroke come home to roost and are glaringly obvious and tragic.

Me for example when I arrived home, I sat in front of my computer. I had a month's worth of story ideas stockpiled in my head. I'm a writer and that's what I do. After switching everything around so that it was left hand accessible, I opened up my MS Word program to type. The first challenge I faced was how to type one handed. I typed 120 WPM with two hands and capitalizing letters, or numbers, or symbols was a no brainer before. Now I had to figure out how to do it all with one hand. There are still somethings I haven't figured out how to do even with a smaller, compact keyboard. It's almost a feat of magic holding two keys down by pressing a third.

What I see or pretty close. IT IS GETTING BETTER!
I started to type and everything got jumbled in my brain. Letters, spelling, and not to mention grammar was gone. I jokingly call it my Dyslexic/ADD (letters are backwards and twisted in order), but that's the way it seems when I try to put thoughts from my brain to the keyboard. Luckily Windows 7 has a spell checker for everything otherwise my posts in here would be jibberish. One of these days I'll show you a uncorrected posts even now and May will be two year since my first stroke.

In one of my outpatient rehab sessions I found out why. In reciting my alphabet verbally, I lost letters. What I thought was so easy and a no brainer when asked to do it was gappy like I was in grade school first learning my alphabet instead of using it for over fifty years. Numbers had the same difficulty once I was past ten and got into double digits. Forget simple math like addition and subtraction.

But yet I can read for the most part. It's very tiring to do and mentally taxing. That's because of my skim and context reading ability. I'm thankful every day that I didn't lose that. But editing written text requires being able to read each and every word and analyze the sentence structure. That, at this point, is beyond me in critiquing and editing. That's the baby step I'm working on by blogging.

I have talked at length ( here, here, and here)of how I use computer games to rebuild my cognitive gaps. I'll play word games and number games trying to rewire my brain back to normal. It has been a challenge, but I persist. Now imagine being an author with these kind of issues.

Don't take me wrong. Every stroke survivor has their own issues in resolving their past with their present situation. I'm just an author. It was my livelihood and will be again. I just have to work harder to achieve it. Just like we all do. We each have our own goals fraught with reality of impairments.

For me, regressing backwards one morning in my game playing ability gave me the lightning bolt that I'd had another stroke. Games that had become easy and repetitious to the point of dull were hard again. It was more than stress and my body's reaction to it. It wasn't a momentary thing but over days and weeks. Granted, I've got some serious stress factors going on now, but when I pushed them aside and analyzed the results, there was little doubt even without a MRI. A follow-up MRI proved it. A small new dead area close to the previous one. Just enough to set me back some but incurring only minor new damage.

The thing about rewiring the brain is that it has to be enjoyable to you even if it's a workout. We are and always have been a game playing family from a game playing family. Bingo was how I reinforced number recognition in my TBI daughter so it was natural for me to do the same for myself. While I may never play twelve cards at once online and thirty in real life again, I use it to rewire my brain to recognize numbers,  simple addition, and the concept of higher and lower. Addition, huh? In POGO one one of the types of bingo players will post how many they needed for bingo in chat. Three cards-three numbers. So I took to adding my three numbers together and comparing it to other players. There are all sorts of "tricks" you can do with games if you have an imagination.

Now for how far I've come playing online games daily. I can play Tri-peaks Solitare, that's numbers forwards and backwards without a cheat sheet. If you haven't read my previous post on this, my cheat sheet was a slip of paper that I put over my function keys that was numbered forwards and backwards A-K or 1-13.

I've progressed from Bingo Luau (three cards with medium speed of spoken numbers and the numbers light up when I pass them) to Fortune Bingo (three cards, medium speed spoken numbers, and the numbers don't light up when I pass them, plus no pattern help is given other than the diagram at the top of the screen) just like regular Bingo  cards. Yes, I'm still making mistakes with this new game. Numbers get reversed in my head as I'm searching for them and I'm still having to repeat the double digit numbers in my head or verbally while I search to keep them straight like 1-2 for twelve.

I also no longer look for the same number throughout the card. Somewhere in my mind I knew the number called would only appear once, but in playing I would search in multiple rows and even the same rows for the number repeating itself. Insanity was calmed in my method of searching for the number by only looking in the assigned row and realizing that they'd only appear once. Now I can place my cursor at the bottom of a row and read the whole row. This was a major breakthrough.

The point is the games have measurable progress. I can see myself making positive progress. As far as my writing goes... It's not going anywhere. I don't have the uninterrupted time I need to focus on getting my writing ability back. AND, the key to getting any cognitive skill back is repetition and doing it.

It would take all my concentration to write sentences in a cohesive manner. Right now, there are too many interruptions and an ear constantly listening for my husband. It's too distracting to focus with all of this going on. I have to respond at a moments notice and when I come back to my screen the thought is gone. By the time it comes back there is another thing which has me leaving the screen again. Too frustrating and maddening to even attempt writing other than my blog.

I have a humongously growing list of people waiting to read this book and that should spur me on to write, but it's too hard to do right now. I must keep calm and unflustered to handle my daily growing list of have-to-dos. Although part of my mind balks at the lack of forward progress of the book and I chastise myself for laziness, I also realize I'm a damaged human being that her wants won't kill her. All my efforts are focused on getting through this day and what it brings instead of want-to-dos. This is as it should be.

So as for my cognitive skills recovery, I'll stick to game playing. It's a measurable step forward in recovery each and every time I play. I'll continue to set mini goals for each game and try to achieve them. No effort is wasted. When my brain tires, I stop and do something else because it is mentally taxing to rewire the brain. That's the thing about recovery after a stroke, you start off with a clean slate and everything you do is a goal and achievement. Whether it is making a sandwich, doing rehab exercises, or playing games over and over again. I'm trying to get back to taking things for granted instead of looking for goals and achievement beyond the normal. Right now I'm striving for the new Abby Normal in my life. As should we all.

Nothing is impossible with determination.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sunday Stroke Survival ~ Recumbent Bikes



With the weather getting nicer, I've been thinking of alternative modes of transportation. A motorcycle is out, even though I have a totally restored 1950 Indian Chief Black Hawk sitting in my garage. It's destined for my #2 grandson in a couple of years. I haven't been able to ride it in a decade but it's in top shape.

I bought it and restored it back in the early 70s. It is cherry! Oh the fun I used to have riding it. Imagine being teenager or twenty-something and tooling down the road on it. But we all age.

The plan for golf carts sort of fizzled when I put our property up for sale and my husband entered hospice, home based services. We have to do something to get our upside down finances right side up. *Sigh* Tough decisions.

But still with the weather being nicer and gasoline being close to $4.00 a gallon, I want to be getting out in the fresh air more. The exercise is an added perk. With continuous pressure sores on my AFO clad foot being a constant worry, walking is out of the question. A bicycle seemed a logical choice.

At my age and medical constraint, an actual bicycle was out. I thought about a trike. Yes, I'm regressing. From three-wheeler, to two-wheeler, and back to a three-wheeler. It's just more stable. But with rack and pinion steering in my back, the bounces in the road cause pain. It's just too much for the muscles over immoveable joints to handle.This was the main reason I no longer ride my Indian too. *tear, tear*

Last year The Stroke Tattler ran a series of articles on recumbent bikes or trikes. That got me thinking
of how to alleviate a lot of problems I faced. I toyed with the idea of getting one.

I could see cars running over me not paying attention to the flags. Believe me, I'd put huge flags on mine to prevent this from happening. Of course that wouldn't stop some people. There's always the "Oops factor." It just sits so low to the ground for aerodynamics sake. *Bump, bump* "Oh, Jo was there on a trike. That's the end of Jo."

They come in all different models and some even have shock absorbers. That would handle the problem with my back. Of course, it comes with a hefty price tag too. Starting at $600 and going up to several thousands of dollars.  I imagine I could Velcro a strip on a pedal to hold my bum leg similar to what they use in PT.

It all comes down to money and me not working per se. I didn't earn enough from writing last year to have to pay quarterly taxes and for the first time in decades I qualified for low income credit. That's how dire our situation has become. As much as I've griped about having to pay Uncle Sam in past years, our taxable income this year is zero. Sad! I just ran the figures for my tax preparer. The amount we paid in medical was astounding that's with good insurance! When it goes out little by little over twelve months, you don't really see it but at the end of year...yowser!

This would be a dream purchase at best. Although, it definitely has added perks like better health and exercise. I'd be able to transport myself a mile down the road to the grocery store and dollar store. I wouldn't be burning fossil fuels. I'd be out in the fresh air with a little alone time. A doable dream purchase for sometime in the future. It's definitely on my list for future purchases when the strangle hold of finances ease up some.

Nothing is impossible with determination.