Sunday, June 18, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Lending a Hand

Just because you've had a stroke, it doesn't mean you can't participate and help others. I offer a hand in doing everything. I can only offer A hand because my right hand is paralyzed and spastic. But still, that doesn't stop me.

We recently moved all the angoras out of the present day rabbitry. No, I didn't actually totally move the rabbits by myself because I need my one functioning hand to support me going down the step. That didn't stop me though. Mel got them out of their cages and handed them down to me. I held them like you would cuddle a baby against your chest. They love to be cuddled and felt secure even with my lopsided gait. I had opened the hutch doors before we got started so it was a quick trip around the corner, popping them into their new cage, and fastening the spring lock before getting the next one. Think through the process twice and then do. It saves time and frustration.

Then came the hard part that Mel thought I couldn't do at first. Removal of the cages and litter trays. shredded insulation, rat nests, rabbit poo that had gotten as hard as a ball bearing. I'm still doing the supporting, carrying, and setting down the cages and litter trays to manage the step.

It's one thing moving these into the rabbitry but a whole 'nother thing moving them out. In moving them in, I just had to support them, walk to the door, set it down, climb the step and hold them while Mel attached the chain. In taking them down, the cages had almost a year's worth of rabbits living in them. Poo was stuck to the bottom where I couldn't reach to clean them. Rats had built nests under the litter trays and in the insulation in the walls.
 Now, I'm slipping and sliding on rabbit poo ball bearings, baby rats, and dodging grown rats scampering to get away while removing these things and so is Mel. I'm high-stepping trying to keep my footing. The last thing I want to do is fall into this mess. Flashes of scenes from Willard danced in my head. Do y'all remember that movie from 1971 or the remake in 2003 or Ben in 1972? Now, I'm not terribly afraid of mice and rats, but still, those movies still give me the willies. You get the idea.

We decided to pull all the wall boards down too after we removed the cages. What a mess the rats made. There was no way I'd be using it for food storage in this condition. I hit upon a brilliant solution to drive them all out and possibly kill them. If not kill them, at least neurologically impair them. Bug bombs. We set off two in the 8x12 storage shed. The results were as I expected. The ones left in the building 100% of the babies were dead, about 75% left of the adults were dying or had some nervous disorders (easy to catch and kill). The other 25% scampered out when I opened the door. Hopefully, they'll die later. We scoured the building with bleach, soap and hot water. Toilet brushes work great for this purpose. I ended up wearing a mask because of the fumes.

I'll admit Mel, with two hands and an able body, did more than I did, but with a job this big, even my one-handed-self was helping. So now all the insulation is stripped, beams and siding are cleaned and sanitized. I'm just waiting for the rain to stop to the call the electrician to rewire it with proper lighting and a separate, a dedicated circuit for the building. It will enable us to run the air conditioning, lights, and plug in the new freezer without tripping circuit breakers in the house. Then we'll put in the new foam insulation and paneling up. We'll add rat traps just in case too.

It will be ready for food then. I've been canning quite a bit, mostly dry beans so they'll have a proper home. With just two of us in a household, cooking kidney beans, limas, or any dried beans is almost ridiculous to do for one meal for us. A pound of dried beans makes four meals unless it bean soup. It also takes hours. This way, it's simply open, heat and eat it. It only takes about an hour and half total to do fourteen jars in a canner. A little time now and a little time later. No, I don't lift the canner with hot stuff in it. That would be nuts with one hand. The best part is, it's about 35 cents a jar. Of course, if you bought the jars for this it would be more.

My point is. Don't be afraid to lend a hand if you've only got one functioning hand. It can be invaluable. An extra hand is better than none. So what if you only have one like me. We get the job done. That's what is really important.You never know until you try. Remember, not all first attempts are successful. Keep trying and figure out how to make it work. It has taken me dozens of failed attempts before I succeed at something to make it look easy. Don't give up.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Budgeting Resources

Wow! I hate when that happens. I was writing my homesteading blog and came up with the idea for this blog. And then, BRAIN fart! It's gone!

It could be age. I am older. It could be CRAFT (can't remember a frigging thing). Or, it could be just because my strokes left me with brain damage. Let me go back and read my other post and maybe it will flash back into temporal remembrance. Humming the theme to Jeopardy.

Ah! There it is! I found it. Today, the topic is about budgeting resources. No, I'm not only going to talk about money (but that too), but time (yours and someone else's), energy, and space. While most of us knew what financial budgeting was prior to our strokes, a stroke, and living post-stroke entail new avenues of thought. It was a true SHTF (stuff hits the fan) event.We had to expand our resources into the vast unknown of no time limit to recovery. It could happen in that golden 30 - 60 days or it could be years...decades even.

I mean most of us were living our lives like nothing like this could happen to us, right? I know I was. Then BOOM! Everything changed. We take more pills than anyone should ever have to take. Our vocabulary has changed to include phrases like ischemic and hemorrhagic to name just a couple. Some of us have to rebuild our vocabulary (everyday stuff) from scratch, and we still haven't got it all back. We budget our word use to words that come easily to us or have to say many because we can't remember exactly what the word is. I'm in this corner now.

To top it all off, my comprehension is mush. I have to see the name of a character within three pages to remember who they are. This pretty well shuts down most fiction reading. Because I'm having to budget my words, it takes an immense amount of work to get my point across. Simply talking to another individual is exhausting. It also plays upon yours and the listener's patience. The more hurried I feel the longer it takes. 

Forget about simple math computations in my head. Now anything above single digit functions is history. I used to add multiple columns of triple digits in my head. Plus multiply and divide them too.

So I rarely read fiction anymore. Although, I did pick up a Harry Potter play that I had little trouble reading. Don't ask me how but it just made sense. I stick to single person nonfiction. Reading should be a pleasure, not something you have to work at. It saves me time and frustration. See I'm budgeting that too. If I have to read something more than three times to understand it, it is better left unread unless I have to.

Relearning how to do everything also causes frustration and wastes time if you do it too many times in a row. For me, cans will go sailing across the room while trying to open them too many times. My inner child breaks free in a major temper tantrum. Sometimes, you have no control over your inner child. Save time and energy. Limit your inner child tantrums. Nothing makes you feel more exhausted or wastes more time. The mess you make will be another chore you have to do.

I limit my attempts to three. After that whatever it is- is left for someone else to do. Or at least put it down and walk away. It will still be there in fifteen minutes after you've calmed down enough to try again. I DON'T ALWAYS PRACTICE WHAT I PREACH WITH THIS ONE.

The economy of space is another concept of budgeting I learned after my stroke. Changing a full-size bed is harder than a twin sized bed. Having a bed convert into a desk where I don't have to move too much was brilliant. You don't use your bed once you're awake. I don't even have to fix the bed if I don't want to. For me, I haven't had anything besides two cats sleeping with me for years. When I'm ready to sleep, I sleep. When I'm ready to work, I work. Because everything has a place on the bed or desk, space isn't wasted. There's less to clean up too. It's higher than most twin bed frames so getting off and on the bed is easier for me. I have had to close a kitty a time or two into the wall to get them off the bed. They weren't hurt and just learned when I said "off," they'd better get moving.  The Murphy bed is easy enough to move single handed.

Having less to clean conserves energy. I have found that since my strokes, it takes twice as much energy to do the same job as before. Coupled with the Chronic Fatigue I now suffer with, any energy savings is a plus. Cost wise, you knew I'd get around to the money part, didn't you? I spend more of my limited income on prescriptions. Before, I could take an additional job or two to cover the expense, but now that's a luxury. Cutting expenses any way I can is a necessity.

By reducing the stuff I had down to bare essentials, I rid myself of the cost of housing all those items. I needed clothes on my back. But the fancy suits, blouses, skirts, pants, and shoes (oh my God the shoes!) went to the Goodwill or Salvation Army. I needed my cold weather clothes...three sweatshirts and three sweaters. T-shirts (6), shorts(6), tank tops(6), two blouses, jeans (4), one cardigan, one pair of dress pants and two dresses is what I pared my wardrobe down to. Oh, yes, underwear 10 pairs, knee high socks, 12 pair, and three nightgowns was also in the saved pile. I'm actually happier with fewer choices. I have less to wash, dry and fold. It takes up one dresser instead of three closets. Even still, I could reduce my wardrobe even more if I wanted to. I think I wore my heavy quilted jacket only once this past winter, but I'll hang on to it.

Our household utilities can be pared down, but they are manageable. We produce 75% of our own vegetables. Animal feed is a necessary expense. They are also income producing so it balances out to zero at the end of the year. They are self-sustainable plus they feed us too at a  fraction of the cost of store-bought. For everything else, there are local farmers for meat and Zaycon Farm meats. Haven't heard of Zaycon before? They sell no hormone, no antibiotic meat products. We recently joined their Influencer program. Where we get a small percentage of anything others buy under our referral. It means free meat products for us with enough referrals. I recently got 36 lbs of pork sausage links and bacon for less than $2 a lb. A case of all beef hot dogs with no organ meat fillers was cheaper than a wholesale price. Yes, it takes freezer space or jar space if it's canned, but you can't beat the price. I'm currently waiting on enough points for their cases of beef roasts or steaks free. I'm currently saving double of what I did when using coupons. Now that's saying something because coupons saved me 65-85% each time I shopped.

Every penny saved is one more towards stroke recovery and living post stroke. Every moment saved is one you can spend on relearning something else or something new. Every inch of space freed is one less that you have to clean. Every ounce of energy saved allows you to feel at ease to enjoy your life. And that's the whole point, isn't it?

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Rain, Rain Go Away!

It's been raining here on the homestead for three weeks. I was thinking about building an ark. No, not really.  Living on the side of one of the foothills in north Georgia helps. It all runs down to the creek which is a 100 feet below us. But all this weather has stopped forward progress on the building/repairs we had planned on the homestead. Not that it's rained or stormed every day, but close.

We had a delay in the delivery of the new chicken /rabbit shed. So the chicks are still free ranging. We've had a delay in the regrading and installation of the new driveway. Nobody wants to slide in the slick clay including me. No electrician wants to play with rewiring the outside power box in the rain. If they did I'd be concerned. It would do no good to trench the replacement water lines, it would be filled in almost as soon as it was trenched. So we sit and wait for it all to be done.

Meanwhile, the wet weather has played havoc with my life. The cooler damp weather causes my spasticity to be worse. Does this happen with anyone else? Even with the Botox, muscle relaxers, and the dry needling. My arm draws up in a tight set of muscles and dares me to try and straighten it. When I try it cramps into a charlie horse. My leg is just as bad. I have to put my AFO and socks on first thing in the morning. I can't take it off until bed time or I won't be able to put it on again. Imagine trying to relax or nap with this thing on.

My shoulder on my affected side is painful upon movement. I think I've developed osteoarthritis due to the ACL tear and the rotator cuff injuries a year to five years ago. Fun fun. It just adds to my misery. I really don't mean to complain. It would help to know I'm not the only one out there with this going on. I still have animals to care for and a life to live even though it's raining.

Walking in mud and rain is never any fun in living post stroke. First of all, I'm walking with a cane. Even more so when it's rainy and slick. I've just had too many falls to walk around in the rain without it. I may be stubborn, but I'm not stupid. The soles of my shoes may be thick rubber (not really but you know what I mean) with deep treads for better traction, but that won't keep me from sliding. Well, they do to a point. But clog those nice treads with mud and all bets are off. Walk into a store with those high gloss tiles and BOOM. I'll fall in a heart beat without my cane.

This poses an interesting dilemma. I can't move my arm to put on a jacket. I can't use an umbrella because my only working hand is full of a what do you do? My daddy always told me that I didn't need to worry about getting wet "because poop floats." Yes, he was just being ugly in the comparison. He really didn't mean it I'm sure.

So all my life I've rarely worn rain gear. I would get wet, but I would dry. It's like saying " a little rain won't hurt you." But before, I could at least run to get out of the rain.  Not now. So I get soaked. I'll dry. But then again, I walk from the car into an air conditioned store. BRRR! A rain soaked sock under my AFO is very uncomfortable. It rubs and cuts even with the extra padding the brace maker put in. Then there is the clean up afterwards. Wiping the whole AFO in alcohol after drying it. Having my insurance only pay for one pair of specialty shoes a year doesn't help. I'm off my feet until all of it dries. No sense in putting on a dry sock and AFO if the shoe is soaked inside and out. But I'm tired of getting soaked!

I know Rebecca Dutton mentioned in her blog a couple of years ago about a strap up gollashes, but I can't find it now. So Rebecca! At the time, I filed it away under "that would be nice, but not really necessary." This past month has proved the necessity to me.

I'm also looking into purchasing a rain slick that I won't have to put my arm into the sleeve, but can fasten one handed over the top of my affected arm. It may just mean getting one a size or two larger. The fasten easily one handed is the imperative. A zipper wouldn't be bad but joining the two sides into the zipper would be maddening. I would be exhausted by the time I finally got it fastened and zipped up to do anything else.

I know, Murphy's Law, that by the time I get all this new gear the rains will probably stop. But it won't truly stop. Even with last year's drought, it's has still been a very wet spring. I'll just be prepared. For as my mama used to say, "there will always be an again."

So that's it for this week. Remember...
Nothing is impossible.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: What Are Your Fears?

Are you afraid you'll stay impaired for the rest of your life? I just past my 5th anniversary living post stroke.  I can tell you honestly, that the thought has crossed my mind quite a few times over the years.

If I'd had my way the recovery process would have taken a couple of months. I imagine this is true for most stroke survivors. In my case, I was making great strides towards just weakness rather than paralysis for the first couple months. If strength of will was needed I would have succeeded. Unfortunately after the first two months an injury occurred stopping most forward progress on my right upper limb. Then, within six months another stroke set me back to square one in my recovery and took some other things with it like my reading comprehension. Plus the high tone that was present with the first stroke became the dreaded, constant spasticity.

 But looking back over the past five years, I haven't lived my life in a vacuum waiting for my recovery. There have been many times over the years that I have had fears; both great and small. Who doesn't, right? Everyone has had periods of being fearful. I'm no different, although I don't focus on them as many do, but look up to my Heavenly Father for relief. I don't focus on what might happen or never happen.

When you are afraid, where does your focus lie? When you are a child, you ran for comfort to your parents. But where do you go now that you are an adult? I can no longer run to my earthly father. He loses ground on his earthly toe hold daily. I run to my biggest, baddest Daddy anywhere...God. But still the thought still nags at the edges of my consciousness after five years... will I be like this the rest of my life?

Truthfully, I hope not. But it sure looks that way from where I'm sitting. All the gains I make with the Botox and the dry needling is one step forward and two backwards. It gets really frustrating and tiring. I'm constantly in battle mode against my spasticity and weakness/paralysis. I'm still trying to get to the larger steps forward and smaller steps back stage. I am beginning to doubt and waver. Is this a fight I can't win? I've never had one of those before. Yeah, I've done my fair share of adaption and compromises. I consider those a win because I do get what I'm working towards. I'm thankful for even partial wins.

My solution...
As I said before, I'm not living my post stroke life in a vacuum. I attempt something new every day. I used to say learn something new every day, but I'm still in the relearning stage. Part of me fears that I'll be in this stage forever. After a stroke, there's too much to relearn. It all takes hard work and almost daily reeducation just to keep my mind working properly. Ah heck, my mind has always had quirks that enabled me to be creative in all ways. Just never this huge of a quirk to overcome.

Alive, awake, aware, active
I found this "Truth Time" clock on the internet. I found it to be an excellent example of living post stroke. On the quarter hour are the words: Alive! Awake, Aware, Active. First of all, as survivors, we are alive! Our stroke didn't kill us. Some of us wish that it had. I know that feeling, but it didn't.

Awake appears next going clockwise. Get it, clock wise. Your brain just had a big insult happen to it. Wakey, wakey time and shake it up. Nothing is worse than wasting brain power. Granted we have less brain cells than we did before, but the average person is purported to use less than 10% of their brains so we killed off a few thousand cells, we still have 90% that we never used before. Okay, it's like 75% left in my case, but still time to wake it up and use it. We're alive!

So it's on to the next quarter, Aware. Because we are impaired both mentally and physically, we always have to be aware of everything. Our surroundings so we don't hurt ourselves. HAHA! This doesn't work for me to well. Aware of what's going around us. If we just lay around feeling sorry for ourselves we miss out on life. We are alive!

The last quarter is Active. You remember the old saying; "if you don't use it you lose it?" So you are paralyzed. You can't talk right. You're brain damaged! Accept it and go on. Nothing will never be the same ever again even with full recovery because there will always be an again. You have PT exercises to regain the use of useless  limbs. These exercises also exercise your brain too. Make your brain do jumping jacks. Play hopscotch over those damaged areas. Each day I push myself against my limits. I may fail today to accomplish it but there is always tomorrow. Make your brain figure out how to do those things that you really want to do. Get creative. This exercises your brain also. Don't live on the pity pot. Self pity can be an morbidly obese, lazy way out if you over feed it. Allow yourself moments. Set an alarm to time it. When the alarm goes off, get active. We are alive!

You have fears. That's understandable. Strokes or any life changing event can bring them to a head. I just had one of those crazy images pop into my head when I typed the previous line. I pictured a zit. So when you have a zit comes to a head, what do you do for it? Pop it. Realize that the fear stems from a problem or perceived problem. Face it. It might happen. In my case, I will be like this forever and not recover from my strokes. So my attitude is to live each day the best I can. Will I have good days and bad or horrible days? Yep!  Am I limited in what I can accomplish? Yep! But if I don't figure out how to do it, it's my fault! Sure there are some things that would be easier to do with two working arms or legs, but I'm not the only one on earth facing this issue. Just like everyone else on earth. So is it really so different? Fears are fears. My question is what are you going to do to resolve them? Things my be difficult, BUT...

Nothing is impossible.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

It Totally Amazes Me and Thank You All

I was going through my stats this morning and am floored. I do this periodically. Since I changed my blog over to stroke survival, I'm getting pretty close to 5K to 10K hits per blog. I realized that there was a need to talk about surviving and living post stroke, but the response to my weekly blog?!

When this was strictly a writing/author website, the numbers were fair. But this was a shocker to me. I'm no expert in this area. I'm just a person who was fortunate/unfortunate to survive multiple strokes. I lived to tell the tale.

I actually don't see comments or emails from all these views, Thank God! I would need a team of office assistants to get them answered in a timely fashion. I just wanted to say "Thank You!" It truly humbles me.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Well, I'm Finally Doing it!

We've got some changes occurring on the old homestead in the coming months. With the sale of my Golden Isles house brought some added/needed dispensable income. Not as much as I would have liked but I'm thanking God that I got some. I'm finally doing it. I'm having two ramps built for easier access for me into the house. It's only about time!

 The first one is off the front porch. My recent episode with my knee made this an imperative. Lesson learned. We are leaving the stairs at the left of the front door and adding the ramp to the right side. The new driveway will loop around to that side of the porch making it a shorter walk into the house for me. Also all the chickens and rabbits will be on that side too. You may remember that this side of the property is bordered by a high ridge. Also ivy that caught my AFO causing my fall.

The second ramp will be off the back screened porch. With the purchase of a metal carport, we are moving all the rabbits out of the rabbitry. We are also building a dual chicken coop and run in and off the rabbitry. Less chicken poop to slide and walk on. Since I need my AFO to walk wearing muck boots is out of the question. I guess I could alter them by splitting one up the middle, but that defeats the purpose. The second ramp will be a dog leg fashion with a 6' deck off the old rabbitry shed. It will be wide enough of an area to pull my wagon up and down it. The old rabbitry will be converted into a food pantry. The air conditioner will cool it during the summer and with all the insulation it won't freeze inside during winter. I have to store all our canning and dehydrated garden stuff somewhere. Lord knows, trailers aren't built for storage. The ramp and deck will make "grocery shopping" a breeze.

I've lived here a year without the ramps, but I realize that it was only a matter of time before the stairs became an issue. It will also be easier for Mel. I see it as a win-win. We both aren't getting any younger. I think a year of doing without is enough proof to myself that I can do now I'm taking it easier. Yeah, I'm stubborn like that.

Something like this
The new set up with the chicks and rabbits will work out better for me also. All under one roof so to speak. All the grains and food in one place instead of opposite sides of the house and/or barn, a handy water source for all, grooming station, etc. During the winter, we can hang tarps to keep out the chilliest winds for our comfort while working. The cold does not bother the angoras. They love it. Most important to me, it will all be level. No steps up or down. No sweeping floors only raking out the muck into piles to be carted off. It's what we hoped to do with the old rabbitry building, but we fast out grew the space.

I'm still hoping for the long ranged plans of four tiny houses on the property, but I didn't get that much capital. So we are making do with what we got. I plan to still clear some trees out for better sunlight and we still need to bush hog a lot of the property into usable space but again these are hired out jobs to be done. One step at a time.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Things That Make You Say Owie!

I've had a very interesting two weeks. Not in a good way. This should have my Tumbles and Stumbling heading to it because that was the start. A stumble followed by a hard fall. I was walking towards the rabbitry trying to unkink the garden hose.

The south side of the property is bordered by a 10-foot high ridge line covered in small trees and ivy. There is a sort of leveled patch (about 16 feet wide between the ridge and the house). This is where I was walking. There is a thick undergrowth of ivy now
covering the area until we get the new driveway built. I'm focusing on the two hundred feet of hose and trying to straighten it.My AFO clad foot caught on the vines. I pitched forward without anything handy to grab for regaining my balance. I went down hard on my left knee, finally stopping my forward momentum with my forehead colliding with the ground.  Seeing stars was an understatement. My whole world was cockeyed for a few minutes. I tried to get up. I failed. I failed again and again. There I was sitting on the ground. It was a "help! I've fallen and can't get up: moment. I hollered for Mel to help me up. This was one of the reasons for me not living alone anymore. We had been planting the front vegetable and herb gardens. The last thing we had to do was water them in...thus the need for me straightening the hose.

Well, my body was already hurting because of my post stroke spasticity and the Botox wearing thin. With my advancing age, I knew I'd feel worse tomorrow from this fall. I always do. As expected, I had the bruising and scrapped knees and elbows that usually accompanies such falls outside. I found each and every one of them when I showered later. I truly did not know how banged up I really was until my Botox started kicking in. Similar to my bad fall just after my stroke when I tore my AC ligament in my shoulder. This time it was my left (functioning) knee.

About two weeks later, I could barely able to bear my own weight. Climbing stairs to get out of the house or back into the house brought tears to my eyes. Of course, the Botox was kicking in again so I noticed the pain more. I couldn't brush it off as my left knee compensating or being strained by the affected side.

I went to my PC. Sure enough, a badly sprained left knee and deep tissue bruising down to the bone. Nothing broken or torn, thank God. But then comes my dilemma. His orders...stay off of it. Now for normal folks this is fairly simple to do with crutches or a cane. But, for a stroke survivor who only has one fully functioning side? It's impossible. Sure my roommate can cook , clean, garden, tend to the animal, etc. But what about things she can't do for me like going to the bathroom. Sitting down and rising up from the commode has been killer. Even with a wheelchair there are transfers in and out of bed, and such. While I can walk with my AFO, I still depend on my functioning side to do most of the grunt work.

The "stay off it" lasted about three days. I went stir crazy. I wanted to be out with our new chicks, our rabbits, and the garden. Those three days felt like weeks by comparison. There's only so much time you can spend on the computing, knitting, and watching television. My mind was turning to mush and for an active person like me, that was as long as I could stand inactivity. Yes, it hurts to move my knee and honestly, it was close to a week before I tried the stairs. Going down I always lead with my impaired leg, but climbing up I lead with my functioning leg. I knew that if I was going to climb four steps down, I'd have to be able to make it back up again. I satisfied myself, grudgingly, with a porch view of our homestead.

Today, I'm back to taking the stairs again. I still grimace at climbing back up the four steps, but I'm doing it ever so s l o w l y. But cane in hand, I walked around the garden beds today. I couldn't help myself picking a few weeds that have popped up with the rains. Should I be? When has that ever stopped me? But then again, if you don't use it; you lose it right? Yes, I should probably have given it more down time to heal, but if it ain't broke then I should be fine. It's stiff from all my inactivity, but I am using my cane. I had gotten to the point that I rarely used it close to the house but until the pain is gone, my shadow (cane) will be with me constantly again. I'm taking things slow for the time being.

But it makes me wonder. What if I had broken or torn something. How could I function? I mean they make a hemi walker for us one functioning sided folks, but what if you had no functioning side? What could I do then for weeks or months it would take for me to heal? Would I be bed bound the whole time? What a scary thought. I'll just resign myself to being more careful so I won't have to find out. Yeah, you believe that, don't you?!

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Support Systems

You've been stricken with a stroke. It's devastating for you and those around you. What kind of support system do you have around you? If you haven't had an earth shattering event or SHTF happen to to yet, give pause to think about it. Being prepared is forearmed. Nobody is immuned. Life happens and sometimes it sucks lemons.

Now realistically, I am a realist, you can't prepare for every eventuality that happens in your life. I have a terrible family medical history. You name it there are several cases within my family on both sides. It's a constant battle of Russian roulette with all the chambers of the pistol loaded for bear. Take my grandmother. She had seven strokes before the last one killed her. She had that same pistol on both sides of her family. With that history in the mix, you'd know, even if I lived perfectly avoiding all risk factors, I'd probably have a stroke. No, I haven't lived my life up until my stroke with having no risk factors, I was living my life just like the rest of the world. I still don't. Living in fear of what could happen is no way to enjoy and live your life.  Sounds almost like an oxymoronic statement, doesn't it?

But as usual, I digress from the topic of today's blog. Sigh, It's just the way my brain functions these days living post stroke and saying what needs to be said. Back to support systems.

Who you have around you is important and a choice. Yes, I know families aren't chosen, but those who you keep closest and can actually help you is. Sounds materialistic, doesn't it. Actually I'm just being honest here. Everyone has in laws, outlaws, users, and true members despite adversity within their families. Some of you have none left when you sort through the lot. When I honestly searched through mine, I found less than one hand full. Now keep in mind between my four children and ten grandchildren, my in laws (2 sets), my blood sister (her children and grandchildren), six adopted brothers and sisters (and their children and grandchildren), my father and his wife that's a huge amount of folks in my immediate family. But a hand full (four fingers and a thumb) worth???!!! Yep. A lot has to do with distance between me and them. I'm talking about miles not emotional stuff.

When I first had my stroke, they were all around falling over themselves to help. Then, as time wore on (less than six months), they all had the attitude of being put upon. I don't blame them. It was time for me to figure out how to live again. They had their own lives after all. I did it all or did without. What other choice did I have? A heart attack and two strokes didn't kill me. I was still alive. I'm actually grateful to them for the attitude. If you have someone who does everything for you, they are hurting you rather than helping you.

When I was first thinking on this post, my first suggestion that entered my mind was the church. DOH! I'm a minister, right? But the problem with using your church as part of your support system, is it's great for your soul, but lacking in everything else. Most stroke survivors blame God for their strokes and are angry at their deity. I've written about it HERE and HERE to name a few places. You won't meet very many stroke survivors in church. Your pastor may be consoling, but he/she really doesn't know what you are going through. He/she hasn't walked in your shoes.  Christ may understand what you are going through, but a regular minister, me as the exception, can't fully understand.

 But, I ventured out into society to seek my own support system. I had my writer's blog (this one) and started writing about my life living post stroke...because only 1/4 of us actually die from our strokes. At best, it's the blind leading the blind. Except, there were people like me who'd had a STROKE and survived. Some were more experienced (had their strokes years ago) and some were newbies (just had a stroke). There were caregivers of stroke survivors and a whole world of researchers who were reading my blog and reached out to me. It sounds kind of tooting my own horn to say this, but with over 20K hits a month, I think it's worth mentioning. Of course, there were my regular readers of my writer's blog who have continued to read this blog because we had formed a relationship over the years too. Can you believe that next month marks my five-year anniversary of my first stroke??!! Time flies by when you aren't sitting still feeling sorry for yourself.

It's all part of my support system. I know I'm not alone in this surviving business. There's nothing worse than being in trouble and feeling like you are alone. That's how many of us stroke survivors feel. We are shut out of what "normal people" do because we can't do that anymore. Or at leeast not yet. It can be a pretty lonely existence. Except for folks like me that fight kicking and screaming. <Grin>

For me, I had a stroke and a second one being caregiver for a dying husband. I was before and after my strokes until he died. I lost my ministry job. I was unable to drive, barely speaking intelligible, paralysis in half of my body, and a caregiver to boot. In comes part of my support system five months later in the form of my cardiologist. She had known me for decades before I was her patient. A simple question..."Are you driving yet?"

I honestly hadn't tried. But that simple question spurred me into action. I started driving. Very hesitantly at first and only short distances. Luckily my grocery stores, multiple restaurants, and my pharmacy was only a mile away. I also had driven with my left leg only after my hip and knee replacements. So it was just a question of practicing again. See, no experience is lost. But this was a major hurdle of successfully living post stroke. I gained confidence in my ability to live a normal (or new normal) life again. I always say life is about adapting. I gained back a major source of independent living post stroke. So are your doctors part of your support system? Why not? If they aren't fire them and find a better match. They should be and it is your choice.

I needed more one on one support than just the internet. We all do. I found a local stroke support group. Actually, my speech therapist nagged me into going to a meeting. After about a year post stroke, I went and joined them. I had arranged for hospice to be with my husband so I could go. I liked the people. They had an active group. Lively, even. Nobody was in the poor-pitiful-me mode of thought. It was just the group I needed to be in. I was more absent than attending for almost a year, but that didn't stop them from calling and emailing. They still do.

I know some of you are in the same boat as I was. Pick up the phone and call. Can't find a listing? Call your local hospital first and ask. Next try the county council on aging. Even your local Chambers of Commerce may have some information. Ask your neurologist. Ask your therapist. Don't give up.  There are support groups for almost everything. You are not alone.

I finally started going to the support group here in NE Georgia. It's only taken me a year. They are not as big as the one we had in SE Georgia, but it's a start. They are very happy to have me. Last meeting there were 6 members. A far cry from the 50 out of 200 that regularly attended my brainREconnect group. It is run by the local hospital. Or, should I say the neighboring town. At 35 mph on back roads that's close. In a rural community such as this. One town runs into the other. It's only a 10-minute drive from my home. I'm going to shake them up and revamp it like my previous one. They have pretty close to 100 member total. Currently, I'm picking the brain of some long time residents to see what's available. I've found a pottery studio, and possibly yoga instructor that's willing to work with us. The only problem is financing. We need some financial backing and a nest egg to fall back on. Until then, I'm thinking of picnics in the local state park as an outing. There are other such venues available too that are free or very low cost.

This group has reorganized and has new leaders so the possibilities are endless. It's just up my alley as a leader not a follower. It gets me off the homestead and around others. Not that Mel isn't people, but "normal people" just take too much explaining.  So this year, I'm not only growing a garden, rabbits, and chickens, but a support group as well. I've got an appointment with the hospital administrator to talk about a survivor's visitation group. My being a member of the clergy doesn't hurt to grease the wheels in this endeavor. I'll also be visiting neighboring hospitals that will treat stroke survivors. There's power in numbers. It also gets our group out there in the public eye. First I need to know the resources.

So what is your support system if the SHTF? Do you know? Do you know how to find it?

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Going to the Dogs

Yes folks, quite literally, today we're going to the dogs...and cats, and rabbits, and chickens, and maybe to those animals known as homo sapiens. Today's topic is animal husbandry after a stroke.

I've moved to a mountain side to be able to keep more animals. With that comes responsibilities. This winter we've had one cat teetering on the edge of meeting his Maker, coyotes and stray dogs killing and maiming our chicken flock, assorted injuries and aging difficulties, and just everyday care of our brood. That's not to say I do all the work, but I do my share. Sometimes, more than my share of the animal husbandry around here.

This winter was a case in point. My roommate suffers with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). She goes into a deep, dark depression as the days shorten. She can't even leave the house for weeks at a time. That leaves all the chores to me. But this is beside the point. With animals come responsibility. As a stroke survivor, most of you, have difficulty taking care of yourselves without the added burden of something else to care for. But I actually feel better taking care of others and not focusing wholly on myself. To me, that's just depressing. Caring for others gets me up and moving. It gives my life a purpose to accomplish. Yes, even so, at times I've bitten off more than I can chew.

After I feed and water the inside critters- 2 dogs and 5 cats, it time to feed the other critters on our homestead. In this case, for the rabbits it's water bottles to refill and clean. Our water bottles are held in position by springs attached to the cages. Although I've bought the automatic watering nipple for the rabbit cages, we haven't installed them yet. Springs are much better than the conventional wire holder which takes three hands to remove and put it back up. While the lower cages I can balance the bottle with one knee to pull the spring, the
upper cages were problematic. My knee didn't reach that high. I ended up holding the bottle against the cage with my head while pulling the spring. (hoping I didn't catch my hair in the process) I realized the difficulty with these type bottles early on after getting Buddy. So I bought top filling bottles. I didn't have to remove the bottle to fill it. And even if I had to removed it for cleaning, it just slipped back in place. But moving up here, I didn't have enough bottles or cash to buy all new bottles for all the rabbits. The down side to the top filling bottles is that they dripped constantly so I was having to refill them several times a day and clean up the water mess as well. With a total of 15 bottles to fill, it can take upwards of thirty minutes to do them all. Not so bad now, but during winter all the bottles had to be replaced because of freezing twice a day.

Then there is the feeding of these adorable creatures. During the spring, summer and fall we grow wheat fodder for them. During the winter, it's 100 lbs organic commercial feed a month. Not that I'm complaining. Commercial pellets are an easier feed to distribute. A 3-inch J feeder will supply them feed for two days. Unless Mel's Lionhead/Jersey Woolies are concerned. They detest fodder. No amount of coaxing will get them to eat it. But they are only 1 1/2 to 2 lbs total weight so the J feeder filled will last them a week. So feeding the rabbits is no huge chore except walking down the slope to the outside hutches and the rabbitry. Climbing back up is another story. Let's just say that you burn less calories walking down a slope carrying a 3-gallon bucket of rabbit food (roughly 6 lbs) and a gallon of water (8 lbs) than going uphill at a 20%- 30% incline.

Shown with now deceased Whitie
Our four grown hens come when called so feeding them is no issue. I usually do a sprouted grain and organic layer pellet mix for them, and then there is the goodies...leftover vegetables, beans, rice, stale bread on baking day, and assorted other things like grits and eggs leftover from breakfast, etc. Yes, they eat very well plus they free range for bugs and weeds throughout the day. I make sure all the 5-gallon buckets positioned around the house are filled usually with rain water. Like I said the adult hens are easy.

The chicks on the other hand are a handful. They go through 4 1/2 cups of organic chick starter and a handful of granite gravel a day. I'm so glad that I changed out their little feeder to the big one. Each day I clean out their waterer because they poop and kick straw into it. It's a two-gallon waterer so I fill it once a day for right now. We have a young Buff Orpington rooster (I think) that I've aptly named Houdini. He escaped the brooder and was uncatchable for two days. I've since tightened up the wire cover. He's fast. He even out ran the adult hens when they went after him.

Providing none of the rabbits have escaped their cages during the night, this week It's Kieran, my meat rabbit buck off sowing his wild oats. It's time to bake. I'll make bread, cinnamon rolls, danishes, or baked apple fritters. I make full use of Mel's Kitchen Aid mixer for the heavy stirring, mixing, and grinding if I'm making turkey or pork sausage. This I do twice a week. I actually start the sourdough or yeasty baked goods before I go out to the outside critters. By the time I'm finished with them, it's ready to go into a second rise or in the oven. 

Then it's on to other chores. The angoras need to be groomed weekly if not twice a week. We have six, so if it's just me, I brush two a day. It will eat up the rest of the morning and early afternoon in a heart beat. Usually, I'll start my prep work for dinner. It takes time when you are doing all that slicing and dicing one handed.

This week I'm videoing a Homestyle Dinner Collaboration with Two Family Homestead over on
YouTube. So far I'm one of about 60 other channels to participate. It's suppose to start airing the first week in May. I'll be cooking smothered chicken or rabbit in onion and mushroom gravy, green beans, roasted corn on the cob, hot sourdough rolls, with a cool strawberry pie for dessert. I'll do the chicken or rabbit and veges in one episode, the sourdough rolls in another, and the strawberry pie in yet another. What is the deciding factor of which one I'll do, rabbit or chicken? Whatever I have the most of at the time. Right now, it's a toss up. Although the table will be set with all of it. I try to keep my episodes to under 20 to 30 minutes each. Video taping an episode adds an hour in cooking with all the starts, stops, flubbed words, and setting up the shots. I do try to video tape most of what's really good to eat for the channel. Except for those whoops moments when after I prepare dinner I think, 'I should have taped that.' See I'm still getting photos together for my cookbook too.

I don't bathe the animals because they won't behave well enough. I leave that to Mel. Now cleaning pasty butt chicks and baby bunnies, and ear mites, I do. They are little enough for me to work on. But if I had to I would. I'd figure out a way to mummify them in a towel to work on them. I'll scoop and empty cat litter boxes, clean boo-boos on the dogs and cats, and assorted other tasks that go along with owning and caring for animals. During the winter, I was also buffering Mel's emotional storms.

After the sun goes down, we are still busy but multitasking. We are knitting, crocheting, weaving, or spinning while relaxing and watching NetFlix or YouTube. Maybe it's just age creeping up on me but have you noticed that computer monitors are now bigger than our first TVs? Mine is 27" and I was an adult with children before I got my console TV with a huge 25" screen. My first TV was a 10" screen, only black and white, and that was considered a huge screen.

Then, there is the garden. We are still building and planting it in between other stuff like pharmacy, grocery, general shopping, stroke group meetings, and doctor runs. I'm as busy as I want to be by design. When you have this much going on in a weekly, if not daily, basis who has time to feel sorry for themselves living post stroke? I know I don't except for those few seconds as I wake or go to sleep blissfully exhausted, or fall down when trying to accomplish something. Then, I'm right back and at it again. Yes, I'm going to the dogs, and cats, and rabbits, and chickens.

Next week, I'm battling the rats. Both human and animal types.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Spasticity and Botox Again

My next series of Botox injections is May 1st. So is it any wonder the effectiveness of my Botox is wearing out. I hope upon hope with each series of injections that the effectiveness will carry through until the next appointment, but I'm literally sorely disappointed. The spasticity returns full force weeks before the next series is due. Not that the spasticity disappears with the Botox, but it brings the pain down to a dull roar and the tightness into manageable levels where some movement is possible.

Keep in mind that mine is not the average spasticity that quite a few post stroke survivors suffer with. It isn't sporadic episodes, but a constant bane to my existence of living post stroke. It is classified as severe spasticity. There no cure or treatment that works 100% for anybody. Heck, they (the researchers) are still trying to define it. It's that different in everyone stricken with it. So there isn't even a sure definition for it.

But from my standpoint, it's clear as crystal that the muscles tighten involuntarily, and then cramp. These cramps can last from several seconds to hours. Of course me, being Ms. Abby Normal and Ms. Overachiever, the cramping has to go on for hours around the clock. The only thing that saves me from nonstop agony and crying is my dry needling sessions. Unfortunately, I would have to have dry needling three times a week to keep the spasticity from worsening when my Botox wears off. I'd be in debt up to my eyeballs at $45 a session during these periods. I think even Bill Gates would have a problem with this kind of bill looking at the expenditure for the rest of his life. I'm not a spring chicken or even a fall hen any more, but still I have quite a few years left in me. I'd kind of like to live out my life as relatively pain free as possible without being drugged out of my gourd, wouldn't you?

I'd love to not have needles poked into me up to a hundred times a dry needling session also, but it's one of those love/hate relationships. It's where you tell the physical therapist to "hurt you good" so you aren't in continual pain from the spasticity. It's almost like a sadist/masochist relationship where no sexual pleasure is derived just pain relief.

My inside elbow after dry needling
I'd love not to look like a junkie (drug addict) from all the bruising that can be the results of dry needling too.  Within hours my arm will look like pictured. After 24 hours, all the nice black bruising is evident. Yes, I ask for it. Heck, I'm even paying for them to do it to me. How desperate is that? Like a junkie I have to have my dry needling fix to keep moving.

If there were one drug I could take to stop this cycle, you know I'd be the first in line for it.

But there isn't one. So I accept this treatment as a last resort. It's the only way I've found that works and keeps me moving. If it wasn't for the spasticity being so bad, I'd almost have full movement again. I can voluntarily straighten my elbow, open my right hand and straighten my fingers, with strong concentration, with the full Botox and dry needling. From week 2 after Botox to week 4, I can do this. It's slow going but I have voluntary movement on command. But I gradually lose function after that. As you can imagine, I work the Dickens out of my arm, and fingers during that time in the hopes of strengthening my weak muscles to combat the spasticity. For the past two years, I've been on this cycle of excitement, and then frustration. But still I'm fighting. It is tiring. Frustration does get the better of me, but I keep at it.

My inverted right foot and foot drop still makes walking difficult. After two years of dry needling I haven't progressed farther than one step without my AFO, but I'm still working at this too. I've noticed that the calf muscles have decreased in size over the past year. A loss of muscle mass is always concerning, but it can be gained back with time. My right calf is about half the size of my left. It's not because I don't work both calf muscles, I do. It's because of the AFO. Only half the support of my body is actually done by those muscles. But then again, I've always had very muscular thighs and calves from weight lifting in the past too. I may on occasion lift 50 lb bags of feed now, but it is a rarity rather than the norm these days. I've got a Mel for that.

I'm just going to have to work my right side more to build the muscles back up.You've heard of the One Hit Wonders? I'm a One Step Wonder. The ankle is weak and wobbles. My foot will actually bend and be locked into a greater than 70 degree angle of supination without the Botox and dry needling. Oh, and my toes? My big toe will point straight up and the rest of my toes will curl under. Try bearing weight like that! If it wasn't for my knee and hip being artificial already, I'd be worried about the continual strain they'd be under. Even so, my muscles holding these joints are strained with every step I take. Does this stop me from moving under my own power? Nope! I'm enjoying every moment I can on my own two feet. Every day I try standing and taking steps without my AFO. One day, I might just be surprised and take off.

Until then, it's Botox and dry needling.

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Adaptive Gardening


Is there a sure indicator that spring is on the way, it's this holiday. So what does this mean? To gardeners and adaptive gardeners alike, it's time to get planting! I've organic gardened for the better part of half my life. Having to give up my over twenty year plot of gardening space was a true hardship about moving here. It meant starting from scratch again. But, starting over is not new to me. I had to rethink my gardening strategy after my stroke. I couldn't operate a tiller with one functioning hand. Turning the rich dirt with just a shovel was a ridiculous idea when looking at the size of my was 30x50. Sure, one shovel full at a time would have worked, but REALLY??! With one functioning hand and arm. Nah! I wasn't going to do it.

Milk crate garden with Lil Bit
I built raised beds out of pallets, raised growing areas with milk crates, and hung gutters at a more accessible height. Granted my harvest wasn't as great as just planting in the ground, but I was doing what I loved and needed to do. It wasn't easy, but it brought me joy to raise plants from seeds and produce harvestable produce to eat. With my allergies, it was a necessity. I suffer far less with organically grown food. When I started gardening organically, organic food were rarely in standard grocery stores. But I continue growing my own even though it is. I like knowing where my food comes from and what's in it. To me, it's just a healthy, both mental and physical, best option.

Here on the cockeyed homestead in NE Georgia, we also grow organically. This property was abandoned for seven years before Mel bought it. So the soil has healed and it is truly organic. Granted there are too many trees and most is heavily overgrown. She has done well over the past three years of cleaning what she could, but now it's time for bush hoggers and trees cutters, if we are going to open up more than a quarter acre space. Having the wood for the wood stove cut and ready for years to come doesn't hurt either.

Last year, I started with raised bed built low to the ground and growing in gutters. It was a dismal failure not because it doesn't work, but our darn blasted chickens wouldn't stay out of the garden. This year we are opting for elevated raised beds for herbs, lettuces, carrots, and strawberries. A YouTube creator that I watched just after my stroke shows how to make them. Watch below. It's not that hard to do and you have plenty of growing space in them.
YouTube standard license
What we did differently than these folks is that we filled the bottom 2/3rds with used straw from our hen house, leaves, etc, and are allowing it to compost down. So it's doing double duty. Yes, the inner ground will drop as it composts, but we'll have plenty of compost rich soil to raise the level again. By the way, we didn't use a nifty air compression staple gun, I wish. We screwed the pallets together for easier dismantling if we decided to move the beds. At one end, we wired the pallet, so if we decided to use the composted material elsewhere, we could. The beauty of doing it this way with the bed filled with compost, is that when the season is over, we can plant sweet and regular potatoes in them.

We also didn't zigzag the planting beds like shown in the video. We left them two pallets wide by one across with a four-foot walkway in between. This allows for weeds and grasses to grow for our chickens and rabbits. Everything is double or triple duty on this homestead. It has to be to be more productive and efficient. 

We did, or should I say Mel did, till the former garden.The soil is hard packed clay and needed a lot of organic material to make it soft enough to plant and grow healthy vegetables in. After two years of Mel working at it and adding organic amendments to it, it now has an abundance of worms in it. You can't turn a shovel full up without getting a few.

This will be for the taller plants like corn, sunflowers (we grow our own Black Oil Sunflower seeds for the angoras), peas, cucumbers, and pole beans. But all the low harvesting plants, like zucchini or yellow squashes and stuff, went in the elevated raised beds. This makes it very accessible for me and not so hard on everyone's back. Nobody is getting any younger. It's also less of a fall hazard for me. Yes, I may still have to bend over and stoop down, but not as often. We use the 5-ft fence around the garden for these tall plants to grow up and add support.

A word or two about tools you will need to for adaptive gardening. Garden hand pruners can be difficult to use if you have small hands. I found a smaller pair built for smaller hand widths at Gardeners Supply Company. My hand from the tip of my pinky finger to the tip of my thumb is only a six inch reach. My hand width is only 3 1/2 inches wide at the widest point so standard bypass pruners are too big for me to use one-handed. A good pair of pruners are worth their weight in gold in the garden. I also have another pair for butchering rabbits and chickens, and soon quail.

A standard watering can (2 gallons) is handy to have when working in elevated raised beds, but it weights over 16 lbs when full. I opt for a gallon milk jug or a 2-qt pitcher. Yes, I have to refill in more often, but watering plants with one hand trying to control that much weight is chancy at best for me.

Shovels, hoes, and rakes, even mops and brooms, can be hazardous and awkward when using them one handed in the best of times. Most often, IT IS NOT the best of times. First of all, I'm stuck with using these with my nondominant side. So using these items are always awkward for me. Plus, I'm short (5 ft squat). I found cutting off a foot to a foot and a half of the handle works well. Yes, the reach is shorter but my control of these things is better.

You can buy the adaptive gardening tools for beau coup buxes. But I'm a cheap skate. I'm already having to adapt a whole lot of things in my life because of my stroke. I'm choosy about what I buy to do what I want. That's not to say that I don't love my adaptive cutting board and Ulu knife because of the ease of use they provide me, I DO. But when you compare the use factor of these two items and their cost, and the amount of use a set of adaptive gardening tools, there's no contest. I do a whole lot more cooking and food prep work year around.

Gloves, I rarely use them. I find soap and water works just fine. I ranted about the waste of money by having to buy a pair of gloves when only one is used. But I have justified my cost of my favorite leather work gloves finally! Mel is right handed. So usually her right handed glove wears out faster than her left. She just swaps out her worn glove for my nonused right handed glove. How's that for an economically sound practice? Now I don't feel so wasteful in buying a pair of work gloves. But actually buying gloves to garden with? Nope. I just wash my hands more frequently. I do make a scrubbing bar of soap by adding a little sand to my regular soap recipe. It clean me up pretty well.

For when I want to move more dirt than my hand trowel will do. I found a trip to a second hand shop was the ticket. I found an old military shovel. A little rust remover (used motor oil in a filled sand pot) and some spritzes of WD-40 restored it almost to it's former glory. The handle makes control of this shovel a breeze. It even came with its old canvas cover. My cost was $5.35 plus a little labor. I use it when planting and removing plants from my raised beds, and harvesting potatoes.

$64.95 plus tax or more
Now my leg muscles strength have deteriorated with advancing age and strokes. I find it's easier the sit down more when gardening. Not to mention, the rack and pinion steering in my back, and arthritis setting in to my upper spine. I wanted a gardening stool to do the job but most were too costly or too low to the ground for me to rise easily. Again, my second hand store to the rescue. I found a heavy duty, double resin toy box. I just slapped some bolts, washers, nuts, and wheels (from discarded tricycles) on it and VOILA! A wheeled garden stool with storage. I did drill two large holes on in end and threaded a piece of old clothesline through it, so I could pull it along as I moved down
My solution
the rows. It's just the right height for me to rise and lower myself with ease. My cost total with adaption $10.00. Did I mention I'm a cheap skate? The seat of my "new" garden cart is wider that the purchasable one so it's more stable when lifting my wide hinny up and down. I can actually shuffle my body around it to get both sides of the garden rows without moving it unlike the other one.

Are you disabled or getting older and thinking about gardening. Maybe not as huge as mine that provides a year's worth of produce. What are you waiting for? Even growing one tomato plant in a pot will be ten (or more) less tomatoes you will have to buy in the store. I guarantee it will be the best tomato you have ever eaten. Nothing beats a tomato sandwich on a hot summer day. Especially if you make your own bread too with it. A little homemade mayonnaise, some salt and pepper, you have a meal fit for princes and princesses... which you are by the way through Christ.

Nothing is impossible.