Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

... From our homestead to yours.

Although we haven't decked the hall,
We haven't put up or cut a tree,
We haven't hung a single light,
We haven't made or bought the first present,
nor have we sung the first carol.

We hold the birth of Christ within our hearts
Always thankful for the sacrifice made.
A gift so precious more than jewels or gold
Remembering the day of salvation's grace enabled,
Rejoicing the promise fulfilled for life everlasting. 

Merry Christmas to all believers or not. Y'all have a blessed day.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: Winter and a Rant

Even though winter doesn't official begin until December 21st, it sure doesn't feel like it to me with my way southern roots. It's down in the 20s at night. The daytime temperatures aren't too bad fluctuating between highs in the 40s to 50s. No snow, but every morning I have to crunch through the frost and break the ice barriers which form on the waterers, and tend to our rabbits and chickens. I found a length of 1" PVC works wonders for this task. I used to use my heel and end up with a soaked leg misjudging the thickness of the ice. The song about Jack Frost nipping at your nose (Merry Christmas to You or the Christmas Song) rings true. But even still, my thick cardigan keeps my body warm enough.

I do wear a glove on my left hand most mornings. (Just griping here) My right hand is snuggled in my sweater sleeve.  Since it doesn't move, this works great, but have you ever tried buying one glove? It almost seems wasteful to buy a pair when only one will be used.   Plus, having a small hand, I often unable to find small sized gloves. I wear the pig leather work gloves almost exclusively now. They are flexible for fine work and sturdy enough for the tough stuff. And of course, there is a definite left and right hand. Unlike the tube socks I wear over my old lady compression socks. Gloves, or should I say a glove, are fun to put one handed. It's a repeated rubbing motion of the glove against my pants leg to get it on, and resorting to my teeth pulling them off.

The advantages of dropping almost 40+ lbs since I've been here, all my last winter's clothes are too big. Larger sized clothes have several advantages living post stroke, #1 they're easier to get off and on, or up and down as the case may be; and #2 I can layer dress for warmth easily. I was taught how to dress in layers at a very young age living in Nebraska. Wearing one of my summer time tank tops under T-shirts hold my body heat against my body where it's needed, or a combination under a flannel shirt enables me to stay out on the porch stacking firewood or tending to the animals without bulkier outer garments. I know the time for these are coming soon. Mel is seriously cold-natured and she is already in a heavy coat. After all, winter is still a few days away.

That brings me to Christmas approaching. I've definitely got a "Bah Humbug" attitude towards this holiday and have for several years. It's not a religious reason of it not being Christ's actual birth, nor the date was picked because of paganism. Even though over the decades, I've tried to keep the true meaning of Christmas alive (not what you buy vs what you give from the heart) the joy has slowly ebbed away especially this year. I won't be going home for Christmas, instead I'm opting to stay on the homestead partially because of our financial situation and the other part is not wanting to infect others with the "Bah Humbugs."

Let me stress that this is not depression. I'm thinking of me also. The drive home is almost 6 hours one way. I was just home for Thanksgiving. At my advancing age and health issues, the trip is hard on my body. The threat of my Triple A still hangs like a sword over my head. Not that I'm seriously worried about it. Also each trip takes longer to recover from. Next year, I'll do it in reverse...maybe. It's hard planning some things in advance.

But all that being said, I feel blessed in our little hollow. Money is tight but what's truly new with that? Our bills are being met that's the important part. Yes, it would have been easier to sell my old home and pocket the cash. But still we are warm, safe, and comfortable. Our wants won't kill us. The needs are taken care of. God is good and faithful to us lowly children. I'm excited about our future plans.

As always ...
Nothing is impossible

Thursday, December 8, 2016

I'm an early riser. I awake before the chickens by at least an hour or two. I spend my first thirty minutes, before my feet hit the floor, in prayer. It's an uplifting way to start my day on the right foot. Or should I say left foot because my right foot is still partially paralyzed and spastic. My cat, Little Bit, demands some one on one time. Then I'll don my socks, leg brace, pants, and shoes in preparation of actually getting up. I'll grab a sweatshirt from the drawer because I know the night fire in the wood stove has gone out. In the predawn darkness, I'll make my way into the dining room after a pit stop to the bathroom. And so begins every morning.

Once halfway in the dining room I'll ask, "Where's my puppy?" Herbie will sleepily come to me for his first morning head rub. I'll walk into the kitchen and fill the electric kettle with water, and then make myself a cup of Earl Grey tea. Some people make coffee, but that acrid liquid hits my stomach and comes right back up. Nobody likes to start the day that way. I'll take my cuppa tea to my desktop to read my emails and watch some YouTube to see what the homesteaders I follow and touch bases with them. I usually will start writing this blog and my other one. (this takes me many hours to complete) I may or may not put on my sweater because the inside thermometer on my desk is registering the temp this morning at 64 inside while outside is a blustering 42. Warm enough for my sweatshirt and keep the chill at bay.

I'll clean the wood stove and empty the ashes from the overnight burn into the outside pile. Since we only use hard woods in our stove, they'll be great for the garden later. They are still some hot embers in this right now so shoveling this into the compost pile is not a good idea. I'll put the pan back under the wood stove and set up the fire for later. Mel will want it warmer in the house when she wakes up. But it will a couple of hours before that happens. I'll be fine with all the morning activities. Besides, I have enough body fat to keep two people warm and insulated.

Can you smell it?
Every Wednesday and Saturday is baking day. I'll bake the bread we need on the homestead, convert a loaf of bread into french toast, make Mel's crepes (what she calls pancakes), cinnamon rolls, or crumpets. At least get the crumpets, rolls, or/and bread mixed and rising. The excess will go into the freezer for later in the week. I may also make hamburger and hot dog buns depending on the week's menu.

Of course, making bread on our homestead takes some preplanning. Two days before, I'll soak the whole wheat kernels overnight. The following day, I'll rinse it and spread it out on a baking sheet to dry by the wood stove. The next day, it will be ground into flour for whatever I'm baking. It will take about three passes through our manual grain mill to get it as fine as I like it. Yeah, I know I can go to the store and buy my flour, but have you seen what's in that?! Is it GMO? Is it organic? What kind of pesticide or insect droppings or particles may be in it? YUCK!

Devon in his healthier days
Next comes the feeding the inside animals. Assorted dogs, get fed half their daily rations per weight. We feed them twice a day. The cats normally have free choice of their dry cat kibble throughout the day except for Devon Angel. This male gets two tablespoons of wet cat food twice to three times a day. He is Mel's special needs cat and is mentally retarded. The reason for feeding him wet rations is simple. All his teeth have rotted in his mouth. He can't chew the dry cat food. He tries but he lost so much weight over the summer, we thought we would lose him. He was literally skin over bones before I started him on wet food with goat's milk supplements. After three months feeding him this way, we can no longer feel his ribs and hip bones under his skin. He's back to his semi healthy state enough to play in the fallen leaves.

After the dogs have eaten and I make sure the other cats haven't nudged Devon away from his food, it's time to take care of the outside animals. First stop is the chicken pen. Not that the chickens are in there. They hear me coming down the covered porch steps and greet me from under the porch. Once the sun rises, they fly out of the coop and run area. They follow me back into their pen for their snack. I usually have leftover bread, leftovers, or stale crackers handy. I'll scatter these and their pellets rations around their run area for them. We do have a chicken feeder, but this week has rained too much to use it. I'm not complaining mind you. We still haven't tarped around the coop or finished the roof yet. So I really blame the chickens for not staying their coop.

Next come the rabbits. Since we have J feeders in the rabbitry, I only have to fill them every couple of days. I'll go into the rabbitry to pet and talk to each one of them every morning. Mel is charge of their watering them. The idea of taking all those water bottles down to fill and them, and hanging them back up is a nightmare. I do the morning feeding and check up, and she does the evening. We split the chores evenly.  The outside rabbits are last. I'll repeat the process all over again.

I'll gather the eggs. Since we are in winter mode and it's early morning, there's only about two or three eggs. They easily slip into my pocket. Now, I've gone almost full circle around the outside of the house. Luckily my balance is good enough that I can do this without my cane. I climb up onto the front porch, pick up a couple of pieces of firewood and place them on the small table outside the front door. It's all I can carry with one fully functioning arm. I'll repeat this procedure until I have six or eight pieces stacked on the table. I'll go inside carrying two pieces. I'll drop them next to the wood stove. Then I'll take the eggs out of my pocket and put them in the refrigerator. I'll light off the wood stove, fill the canner pot with water, fill the pet water dish, and bring in the other wood I stacked on the table. By this time, the wood stove is ready to be loaded with more wood. Within half an hour the house is a toasty 76 degrees.

I'll set up Mel's morning tea things. She loves Yorkshire tea with cream and sugar. I'll pour myself another cuppa tea and make myself some oatmeal. Then I'll go back outside and stack about ten pieces of firewood by the door for the next time. Between 9 and 10 Mel will wake up. Her tea will be steeping and she can sit in front of her laptop and wake up. I've already been up for 4 to 5 hours by this time. I'll fix her breakfast and put the bread in the oven. I'll plan what cooking videos I want to film. Hmm, this week I've got to do the promised dog treat/training biscuits and my caramel apple gingerbread cake. Oh, and there's the sugar free hot cocoa mix. Tis the season and all that.

Some time soon, we've got to do a "Tea Time" video. We haven't done one since October. Time flies when you are running around like a chicken with your head cut off preparing for freezes. A list of my prospective video topics will take take us into February next year doing my segments once a week, and then it will be planting season again. Or, at least seed starting season. Our first hard freeze of the year was this Friday. The high was 32 degrees not counting the cold, arctic wind that came with it. It's been quite a few years since I've endured temperatures that low for more than a day or two. That's just winter here. Still not as bad as the winters I lived through in New York, Nebraska, Michigan, or other places up way north of the Mason-Dixon line.

Mel told me to hay the outside rabbits preparing for the freezing. Being the smart butt that I am, I went to each cage waving like a crazy person and yelled "Hey!" to them. Once she came around and saw me with a quizzical look on her face, I stopped and put the required hay in their cages. My Buddy immediately started eating it as did most of the bunnies. I had to repeat the process several times to ensure they'd have enough to burrow in to keep warm. For the really hard freezes we tack up tarps to block the wind.

So how has your week been? Y'all have a blessed week and remember...
Nothing is impossible

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: Things that Make Me Go ARGH! Revisited

Everyone has them. I'm not immuned to "ARGH!" moment, but the past couple weeks there have been almost daily events.

ARGH! #1
 I tried something new with this blog. I tried to link this blog to our website. Instead it redirected to our google + page. So I believe all my previous posts are there. So if you were trying to find's there, I think. I also think I've got it all back to normal to appear here now. We'll see when this publishes.

ARGH! #2
Before I left my previous cardiologist, she had performed all of the necessary information gathering for my new cardiologist except for an ultrasound of my legs to check for PAD (peripheral artery disease). So I had one done once I got established with my new cardiologist. The results were troubling. Coupled with severe leg cramps several times a night and pain, I agreed to another heart cath and angio of my legs. If there was significant blockages, stenting would be performed or I'd be sent to a vascular surgeon to have it corrected.

At this point I should mention, I had a coronary artery disease and a heart attack before age 50. I also have a very bad family history in heart disease from both parents. The heart attack damaged two valve in my heart and with time (10 years) the stress on my heart has damaged a third of four total valves. I'm heart broken which limits me even greater than my strokes. Oh, and my strokes were from blood clots forming in my heart which went to my brain. All my doctors agree that I'm a very sick woman, but that's only their opinion.

Angio of triple A like mine
Okay so I go through all of these tests, after waking Mel at 4 AM to take me, and the results...the cramping is NOT a blood supply problem. So now I'm still having leg cramping and pain from some mysterious, unknown cause. So this test didn't do anything. Surprisingly, what the angio did show was an Abdominal Aortic Aneursym (Triple A). It's still small so it bears watching although it could rupture and kill me. My thoughts on the matter, everything else is trying to kill me, why not this too? But hey I'm still here in spite of everything.

Don't think I'm taking this lightly. I'm not. This is serious. It has less than a 10% survival rate if it ruptures. It will be taken care of. It should be as easy as a stent placement with only a day in the hospital.

ARGH! #3
We built the new coop and run for the chickens. The chickens have flown the coop literally! It took less than two hours for the main rooster, Whitie, to figure out he could fly over the 4' fence safely and show the others how it was done. They were back to roosting on our front porch.

I got irritated with it all. I swiped them off with my cane. They just waited a few minutes and were right back again. I grabbed a sleeve of stale crackers and led them back to their new roosting spot inside the fence. A couple of them decided to fly the coop again. My trusty cane had a workout until they decided to see it my way. I had to do this for a few days before it became a habit for them. Now they at least roost in the new chicken area instead of our porch. I take victories when I can because once daylight shines they are back free ranging everywhere. They still lay eggs in Mel's tool box and behind the front storm door, so I can at least gather eggs. The egg laying bins need to be built. The hens like their privacy and security. Then I'll have to train them to the new set up.

ARGH! #4
We finally got a good drenching rain!! It's been a long, dry summer and fall. We actually had puddles on the property that weren't from a busted water pipe! They lasted for two days before they dried up/soaked in. Of course, it would storm the day we had to drive at 5 AM to the hospital for my procedure. But we were thankful anyhow. It's supposed to rain today according to the forecast, we'll see. It gave us a reprieve of sorts.

As far as our water conservation techniques go, it looked something like this.
  • Early AM, while the well had overnight for the spring to refill, I'd draw five gallons of water.  
1 for the household animals
2 for the canning pot on the wood stove
1 gallon for cooking
1 gallons for outside animals (rabbits and chickens)
  • Early afternoon
6 gallons for washing clothes (1 load by machine)
  • Early evening
2 gallons for iced tea
Mel's 5 minute shower and my sponge bath.
  • Late evening
2 gallons for the wood stove
3 gallons to run the dish washer.
1 gallon for incidents or in case the well goes dry overnight so we can at least have tea in the morning. Hot tea is our coffee in the morning.

Hope all is going well with you. As always ...
Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: What's Going On

Thanks to Obamacare <choke, choke>, my medical insurance changed as it did for most of us. As a result, instead of having 75 hours for PT, OT, and speech a year coverage I had 40 hrs of PT, 40 hrs of OT, and 40 hrs of speech therapies for a calendar year. This was good and bad. My premiums definitely went up. Big surprise there...not.

Old history, right? It's been enforce for a couple of years now. With these limitations in mind, here's how I work my therapy visits to last a whole year. Or, at least since I lost my old physical therapy group. I'll start the year with physical therapy (PT). Since I normally get Botox injections in January, it makes sense. I get both dry needling and PT stretching to gain the most I can. Since I've got a year of dry needling behind me, I can track when dry needling is for the optimum results. I use this accumulated data accordingly. I get Botox injections every 3 months so my therapies schedule sort of goes like this...

OT once a week for for 30-minute session the two weeks before and after Botox is scheduled. Just general heat, e-stim, and stretches to the best of the therapist ability. Believe me when I say, that even a 20 degree stretch on spastic muscles in my arm is a great relief. It hurts so good.

Two weeks after Botox is twice a week PT and dry needling. They are 30-45 minute sessions. This will continue for about 6 weeks.

I'll take a break from therapy for two weeks, and then start all over again. It comes pretty close to all of my PT and OT hours used by the end of the year. The beautiful part is the $30 copay disappears by February each year because not only have I met my deductible, but also my maximum out of pocket expense for the rest of the year. That equals to 80 hours of PT and OT a year. I actually gained 5 hours of contact time not including speech. What a novel concept.
Notice I only used my PT and OT hours. I still have 40 hrs I can use for speech therapy each year. I haven't yet used any speech therapy hours since the change. While in the Golden Isles, my stroke support group also had free, weekly communications meeting where we practiced speech and writing. Which was a blessing when my insurance only paid for 75 hours of all three. But since the change, the weekly meetings were enough, but I got plenty of practice with this blog and speaking for my husband.

Since moving to north Georgia, I don't see the need for structured appointments either. I write two blogs a week, videos on YouTube, and have a roommate who was in graduate school for speech therapy before moving here. No, Mel didn't graduate nor become an actual speech therapist, but she is an excellent prompter. Having someone around to interpret is a valuable resource for the aphasic. You get plenty of practice speaking.

My writing as in holding a pen to paper hasn't improved much, but then most of the time I'm on my computer typing. It takes me three to four days to write out a blog post so sometimes this blog suffers from the effort I use up on my homesteading blog. The YouTube channel keeps both of us busy producing quality products. Yes, I may mess up my words, but as with the blog, I can edit it out or correct myself while filming. I'll often mention my aphasia especially when I mess up too bad. I've coined phrases like "arm pit tight" instead of fingertip tight while canning and "using the tools God gave me" when using my teeth to open or close zipper lock bags. They have been endearing phrases to my two able handed viewers. To my disabled viewers, it's shown them nifty tricks of doing things. If I make a mess, I'll always clean it up while cooking. For pouring things from one big pot into another, I have my lovely assistant to help. I make no excuses and tell no lies. What you see is what you get just like this blog.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: Incontinence Revisited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


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

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

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: Keeping Hope Alive

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: Relearning Something New

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sunday Stroke Survival: So Life Goes On

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

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

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

According to

The Taurus Woman

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

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

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

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

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

Your husband just died.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing is impossible.

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.