Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Quote Rings True

I happened upon a quote this week and it got me thinking.

There are several different themes and variations to this proverb, I found them researching this one, but this one struck home for me.

Most of us go through life just plodding along including me. We live each day one after another like a donkey tethered to a water wheel. It's not until we are hit/punched in the face with adversity that we get the opportunity to challenge ourselves. We have three choices: excel, or fail, or accept somewhere in the middle.

Now, nobody really wants to fail. Failures don't give you that warm fuzzy feeling and pride in your success, does it? Nah! Just the opposite. It feels like a punch in the gut by a wrecking ball. So the choices are really two: excel or accept somewhere in the middle. Somewhere in the middle works until you learn to excel.

After a stroke, it feels like you've been punched in the gut. Your whole life has been turned upside down and even twisted in a kaleidoscope fashion without the pretty image. Unless you are one of the blessed few that recover everything within a month after your stroke, you are looking at adversity that may last years, or even the rest of your life.

At first, it's frustrating to relearn what you knew how to do yesterday. It's a hard, rocky road. There is no smooth, grassy lane to side step onto. You just have to knuckle down and plod on to regain even the previously simple tasks you had been doing for decades before your stroke. Learning or relearning is never easy. Just after my stroke, I compared myself to my six-month old grandson. I was having to learn to feed, speak, walk, and toilet train myself all over again.

Once the basics was relearned more or less, I entered into childhood again. There were tasks of reading, comprehension, math, cooking, and cleaning. I'm still struggling with some of these items even five years after my last stroke. All this time, I'm also battling grief over the loss of what my strokes had taken away from me. Temper tantrums, think a two-year old, stemming from frustration. This is compounded by PBA (pseudobulbar affective disorder), tremors, and spasticity added as side effects of my strokes. Nothing like kicking a horse when it's down.

I ventured into my teen years by adding driving into the mix. I reactivated my immortal and I-know-everything teen attitudes too.  This I did as a survival mechanism. I was experimenting with what I could do and doing what I wanted to do. I was testing boundaries. I added activities I was doing before my strokes like knitting, spinning, and homesteading. It's not an easy process and I'm learning/relearning as I go. This time, I without wanting to date or deal with boys/men so it's easier. I also walk to the beat of my own drummer so it doesn't matter what others think. This a positive side of approaching the teenage years again being over 50.

All of this happened in a matter of months instead of years because I'd been here before. I was a head strong with a genius level IQ before my stroke. I still am somewhere in the deep recess of my mind. It's still trying to navigate around the dead patches in my brain. As I said before, I'm still trying to perfect my relearning in all the ages like toilet training from the toddler age, tempering my adventurousness, and rebellious side, but holding onto the fun.

This journey through adversity, I have learned more than I did the first time around this life and gained a level of wisdom I couldn't have learned without it. I've always thought that death was an absence of learning. A stroked brain is the mother of relearning a different way. I've used my creativity to a level that I couldn't have dreamed was possible by figuring out how to do what I needed or wanted to do. It's cockeyed, but it's getting done. So what if it isn't done the same way everyone else does. I'm a unique individual in a world of copy cats. You know what? I kind of like it like that. Why be ordinary in you life when you can be EXTRAordinary.

Nothing is impossible.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

We Survived the Storm

Well, we survived Irma. While watching this huge storm creep up Florida at 15 mph, we were preparing for it even here in the northeast Georgia mountains.Mel saw an Amber Alert on FaceBook for the state of Florida. The whole state was buried under the storm. The winds and outer bands of the storm proceeded to us before it even made landfall near Tampa.

At 6:45 AM, it was on it's way to us, but even bouncing off the coast, it was still a category 1 hurricane. Mel and I both moved away from Orlando and southeast Georgia to these mountains expecting never to have to deal with hurricanes ever again. This storm was too big. It was picking up warm water from the Gulf and the Atlantic.


Having lived for decades threatened each year by these storms, all our preparations were made. I'd been canning like a mad woman all summer long. Food would not be an issue. Loss of power for an extended period of time would be difficult but not an insurmountable issue. We cook with gas and we had a store of charcoal. The major snag would be the freezer stuff, but I could can all the meat products in a pinch so we really wouldn't lose anything. It would just take time to do. The ice would load the coolers in the meantime for milk and cheeses. The eggs weren't washed so they were still covered in their bloom so they would keep for a week or more at 60 degrees without spoiling.



We were as prepared as we could be for the advancing storm of the century. Sort of. The new chicken coop to protect our flock wasn't complete so they still roost on our front porch. They could go underneath the porches or trailer if it got really bad. The weather service was predicting 50 mph winds even though the storm status had been reduced to a tropical storm. We figured down in our hollow we'd get maybe 40 mph winds. We shouldn't have to worry about flooding with the creek 100 feet below the house.

By nightfall, we hunkered down and were watching Netflixs when we heard a loud cracking sound soon followed by the a loud boom and vibration of a large tree falling. Yes, we felt it 1/4 mile away. The lights went out. We were ready with lanterns. We watched the trees bend and sway as the wind tried to whipped them into submission. The chickens on the porch were blown off the porch rails. The hens uttered shocked cries as the wind knocked them onto the porch. Soon they gave up trying to roost on the rails favoring the shelter of the wood pile. By the morning, they were tired, wind blown and alive none the worse given the night's events.

Also by the morning we found that while we survived the tropical storm, we were hit by tornado Flynn. Ah, come on Jo! Tornadoes don't have names. But I tell you honestly, this one did in the form of our 16-week old kitten, Flynn. He had blown through the inside of our home like a tornado during the night. Cat food food dishes were upset and their contents littered the floors. Towels had been unfolded and dragged hither and yon, candles separated from their candle sticks. The guitar case had been used  as a monkey bar. There was nothing on the end tables and two dining room tables that escaped his notice. Everything was a toy to be played with and dropped on the floor.

It took the better part of the day just cleaning up the mess he made! He was so-o-o naughty that when I went to Walmart for extra paper towels, I saw this dog coat and HAD to buy it for him. He still can't figure out how to really walk around in it yet. He'll appreciate it this winter. Flynn definitely had a flashback moment to his feral beginnings. I chock it up to him being bored out of his gourd from being inside for a day and a half because of the rain.

Anyhow, back to my tale of the storm.

We ventured outside to survey the damage. The rain had stopped around 7 AM. Branches were strewn all over the place. Mel grabbed the larger branches and limbs to clear the driveway. I grabbed the smaller one starting a pile for the debris. We made our way up the drive to the main road. We found the cause of our power outage. A large popular tree had fallen during the storm. A power line was visible underneath. Going half a mile down the main road in the other direction, an old oak tree blocked any forward progress downing even more power lines. The impact of these huge trees with the road actually broke the trees into large sections. We headed back home to work on more clean up work and await our electric company to restore power. Power was restored to our section within 19 hours. We are lucky. Over 75% of the county lost power and still 40% is still dark. After three days, we are still picking up the smaller sticks. Volunteers are still clearing trees late into the night. We've got a good start on the kindling pile for winter. This area just isn't used to tropical storms like this blowing through.

The refuse, chipped up trees, have found a new home...our garden. We've volunteered as a dump site for some tree services. Our orchard area and garden will soon be covered a two-foot thick layer of the stuff. It will decompose over winter and be ready for an additional layer of compost (chicken and rabbit manure, straw, and kitchen scraps). It'll be ready to plant in the Spring. For every cloud there is a silver lining. This is ours.


Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Adapting Using YouTube

As I've said, I've become a YouTube junkie since my strokes. Most videos are short and to the point. Some offer in depth details on how to accomplish certain things. There are also a pile of videos on anything you can imagine. For many, this is a untapped resource.

Now I don't think everyone that makes a video is an expert on what they are showing. Far from it. A lot of YouTube creators are novices just like me. Me, I'm Abby Normal so I enjoy quirky creativity. Otherwise known as thinking outside the box. If there was only one way to do things, let's face it as a stroke survivor, we'd be up the creek without a paddle.

I like options. I guess that's my saving Grace. I don't like things to be the same. I honestly like change as long as its for the better. I know life is about adapting to change. Otherwise, I feel like a smelly, stagnating pond yearning for a refreshing input of clean water.A chance to rejuvenate into something more. That's not to mean I welcomed my strokes. I would be certifiably nuts to want that. But still, being paralyzed, recovering, the spasticity battles, and everything else has been a challenge to overcome. I've never faced a challenge without giving the old college try of beating it. This was has been daunting. But I still haven't given up.

I watch assorted YouTube channels and think, "How can I do that?" If I reach a decision that it's impossible right now, I watch several others and see how that creator did it. If I watch enough ideas, I eventually figure out a way to do it or not. Somethings even with adaptation isn't possible without help.
sweet potatoes
Last week, I harvested sweet potatoes and left them to dry. It being Sunday, homesteaders never have a day off, it was either process them or start to losing them. I wasn't going to allow that. They weren't huge, but enough that two would make a nice side dish. We are still amending our soil for better harvests. Next year, will be better.

I wanted to leave the nicer ones whole and store them in a box for fresh baking. I do love baked sweet potatoes. I could make a whole meal with them. Meanwhile there was a slew of them which were misshapen and sliced by my shovel that had to be canned. I've never frozen sweet potatoes before so I didn't even consider it.

left whole for storage, >than 1/2 the harvest
Now as a person with one usable hand, I have extreme difficulty peeling vegetables. Most times I leave the skin on and just scrub them. But sweet potatoes have to be skinned before canning. I asked Mel to peel them and she was disinclined.  I placed them in my big 23-qt water bath canner and boiled them for 5 minutes to soften the skins. I was hoping to loosen the skins enough too peel them with my fingers. It worked. I sat by my jars and peeled, sliced, and filled my jars. After about an hour, I had filled five pints jars this way. Mel took pity on me and peeled the rest with a paring knife. Soon, my pressure canner was full of 18 pint jars of sweet potatoes. It took Mel an hour to peel all the rest. It was so much faster with her helping. Not that I couldn't have done it myself, I was getting it done. I did adapt, but allowed for expediency.

Today, it's on to the corn. I saw a YouTube video on how to make a cut corn off the cob easily with a drill and thought, I can do that.
Of course my buckets were larger than my corn device so it took so adaption for me to do it one handed. Although I could have built it.  I left it to Mel to build. Up until now, I froze the corn whole in its shuck, but now I have corn kernels and creamed corn canned too!

With YouTube I've relearned how to garden, knit, spin wool, cook, and assorted other skills I thought were lost to me forever since my strokes.

So if you've ever sat in wonder of how I do all that I do living post stroke, now you have the answer.

Nothing is impossible.


Sunday Stroke Survival: Waiting and Waiting and...

Pause! Still!
This week, I'm still feeling like the Energizer Bunny on pause. I finally heard from the nurses at my PCP's office...they lost the paperwork. Geez, thanks a lot! Let me just drive an hour round trip and let me fix your mistake. No, that's not going to happen. With the big hurricane hitting Texas, gas prices here have gone up 70 cent a gallon. I made that trip once to get it for the first time. Now, it's on them. Hanger Orthotics and my PCP's office are only a mile apart.

Now, I understand I'm not my PCP's only patient. It's a huge practice with eight doctors and support staff. I'm going to let my fingers do the walking yet again on Monday.

I'm still in a holding pattern with my neurologist also. I haven't heard BOO from them yet. Yes again, another huge practice with ten neurologists and five satellite offices, but still. I've been patient. More than patient and in pain. I'm taking the full dose of Dantrolene (100 mg a day). Side effects have been irritating including
headaches (not migraine strength, but dull and constant), diarrhea, and general fatigue, but no extreme sleepiness or abnormally low heart rates at night.  The last two are a plus over the Zanaflex and Valium. But, at least it keeps my pain levels just below uncontrollable tears or screaming. So I guess it's working. I'm also thinking of buying stock in Imodium. Supposedly, the diarrhea will stop as my body gets adjusted to the medicine. Here's hoping.

If I don't hear from them, I think I may drive to my closest satellite office for my neurologist on Friday to speak to a real person. It's only fifteen minutes away instead of an hour plus one way. Put that person on the spot for answers. That poor soul. I won't be my abby normal, pleasant self. I'm never at my best in pain, although I do try. I'm tired of listening to computerized voices and leaving messages.

Question...should I go ahead and get my Botox?

The Botox is expensive and does relieve most of the spasticity pain for two months out of three, and it does improve my mobility a little at the red line dose. I know in the past when consulting other doctors for treatment, they have asked that I be Botox free for at least six months prior to being seen. I'm at the five-month Botox free month now. This my major hold up. I'm hoping for an alternative that works better now instead of next year. Decisions, decisions, and building levels of frustration.



Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival:When the Muse Fails

The title is taken from my writing days. I've been writing about my stroke, dealing with my strokes, living post stroke, etc for over five years now. This week inspiration fails me on what to write. I try to be inspiring, knowledgeable, comical with my own brand of  humor and insights, and a host of things with this blog. This one may be a whine rather than what I want it to be.

I guess it's just that kind of week where the hurry-up-and-waits, aggravation, and just plain busyness of life on the homestead is weighing me down to much to be inspirational. It's been a blah week.

I've been waiting on a call back from my neurologist about a referral to the Shepherds Center for three weeks now. I don't care if the appointment is three or four months away. Actually, I do because I'm in pain and limbo. But to hear nothing is aggravating! Even with my calls to my neurologist's office...NOTHING. The same thing goes with my PCP, I'm waiting on them to fill out the paperwork so my new shoes can be ordered. With the build-ups on my AFO, I have to have specially altered shoes.  Have I mentioned that I'm impatient? I don't know if it's so much as impatience as it goes against my guiding principal of treat others as you want to be treated. I wouldn't do this to someone else.

It's like dominoes lined up where one has to be set just right to they another in succession to fall. This has to happen before you can go forward. I really don't like depending on others. Because, invariably there are delays.

On the homestead front, things are progressing finally after a delayed start. USIC has done their job (earlier than expected) and marked all the cable, telephone, and electrical lines. Work can continue on the electrical and plumbing issues we have. The driveway is in making access better. The ramps are in so all my home canned goods can be stored in their proper place instead of overflowing on every table, and tucked here and there. Now, my aggravation point is medical and waiting on others to do what they should/have to do.

We've lost an Angora rabbit and hen that I've spent months healing and rehabilitation so they could continue to have a productive life. This hasn't helped lower my aggravation levels any. But then again that's part of homesteading too. It's still frustrating to see them happy and full of life one day and dead the next. I take small comfort in knowing that they were living and thriving because of my efforts.

I always analyze my view points. Am I being too critical? Do I have realistic expectations? Am I being too pushy? The answer is that I don't believe so in this case with the medical hurry-up-and-wait. I know my time schedule of wanting it done now isn't always possible. I know things take time. But is communication unreasonable? If I knew the reason for these delays, I could cope better and be less aggravated. Instead of feeling that I'm not important, my request is unreasonable, and that I'm asking the impossible. I know deep inside that this is not true, but it sure feels that way.

I guess I did find my muse after all, but it's not the text I wanted to write.

Nothing is impossible.
.

Sunday Stroke Survival: The Ramp is In

I believe it was a month ago or longer that I mentioned that we were putting in ramps off our porches for easier access for me into the house. Well, one of them is done and it is the Taj Mal of ramps. Or at least cost wise it should be. Building materials especially pressure treated lumber ain't cheap.

I should mention that we started on the back ramp because it would give me easier access to the food storage building and the animals. Well let me say that this one ramp cost me more than I allotted for both ramps because of an addition I made to the ramp in back. So I'm stopping with the one. A deck that would allow a wheelchair or my wagon to turn around on. I will say that the finished product was nicer, stronger, and more utilitarian than I could have imagined.
porch L store room R

We held off moving my home canned goods into the storage room until the project was completed. Last night, Mel and I moved 16 cases of goods into the store room. Yes, I've been busy. The garden had a lackluster performance year because of a late cold (freezing temps in May!) followed by a blistering short lived heat wave. But I more than made up for it with local contacts. Not that anybody had a stellar year, but homesteading is a community. I traded off herb for vegetables. I even bought a few cases of produce off local vendors. Next year, I'm hoping not to have to buy anything.
Rabbits and chicken at the bottom


Among the weeds are watermelons, tomatoes, okra, cucumbers, and black eyed peas. But then again, these same weeds like grasses, clover, wild plantain, wild violets, etc offer free food for our rabbits. Nothing goes to waste here. We are stock piling straw, grass clippings, cardboard, and compost for a major revamp of the garden area late fall. We are going to till it and bury the area in about 24" of this extra material. I'm also going to line the area next to the barn drive through with old, molded straw bales and trying for a living fence in the spring.

Broody/Gimpster's new home
In the rabbit hoop barn (pictured top left), our injured hen from last winter has a safe and secure habitat. She's got a cage up with the rabbits at night. During the day she has the entire 12x24 area to roam around. We set water and food down for her. She can see the other hens and roosters through the chicken wire clad pallets enough to be sociable, but isn't jumped on by the roosters and hens. I did notice that the twice daily physical therapist I did with her wasn't a complete waste of time. She bear weight on the leg to help support her after a dust bath and long enough to scratch with her fully functioning leg. It's only for a matter of
seconds, but she has adapted.  I wish all humans living post stroke like I am the same resiliency and adaptability.

Her new digs even has a nest box just for her. She still gives us an egg a day. This was her saving grace. Otherwise, she would have been culled her months ago. She's so tamed now that even one-handed me can pick her up with barely a ruffled feather. Her head and neck still bears the scars of her narrow escape from the figure with the scythe. Her comb on top of her head is a short, mangled mess instead of her once beautiful comb, but she's a keeper. Like a puppy she comes and greets me whenever I enter the rabbitry.Then, she'll hop up to me and cluck askance for treats. For the past couple of weeks, it has been deer apples that were so bad I couldn't make applesauce, apple pie filling, or apple butter with them. Out of the 65 lbs of deer apples I got for $13, there was about a 3-gallon bucket of bad apples. The chickens go nuts for these.

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