Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sunday Stroke Survival: Making Plarn and Broken Bones

Being on a fixed income is never fun. Now being on Social Security Disability, I can't work or produce an income outside the limited allowable limit. It amounts to pocket change over a year's time. I still receive a small amount of income from my husband's pension that mainly pays for my part B, my supplemental insurance, and my monthly drug bill. I also receive a stipend from book sale royalties each month (it may buy a couple cups of coffee each month). Suffice to say, I'm luckier than most. At least I have that.

But I have an additional income, so to speak, from Mel. Technically, Mel hasn't held a job in 18 months. She has been working the homestead. All the egg sales, recycled products sales, and vegetable and sales of everything else comes under her. She's not my spouse or relative, but a separate entity. I may contribute to the production, but truly reap no benefits from it to speak of. She pays for the property tax, her car insurance, tags, certifications, and licenses. It is her property after all. So I guess I reap some, but not enough to constitute an income source.

So this is how I can contribute and also keep myself from going stir crazy. Besides caring for the animals.

I mentioned in an earlier post about making plarn. One man's trash can be recreated into usable objects. Call it recycling, repurposing, upcycling, thrifty, frugal, or whatever catch phrase you want to use, I call it income producing. Whether I sell it as plarn or make market bags with it. With a little bit of labor on my part, it can create a product to bring in income. I ultimately bought a Fiskar rotary cutting set so I wouldn't have to use scissors. Scissors and my left hand do not play together nicely. The cost of the plarn materials is basically free (grocery and merchandise bags).

The reason for selling both the plarn and market bags is- that we are not the only crafty people out there the world is full of knitters and crotcheters. How do I know? Take a look at how many YouTube videos, forums like Raverly, and magazines there are at the book stands. But then again, there are uncrafty folks out there that need finished products too. Not that we expect to get rich with this item alone. Far from it. If we sell enough to even pay a couple of electric bills each year, every little bit helps. I've included the video inspiration with you below.

It's easy enough to do. Spinning it with my Heavenly Handspinning Vespera electric spinning wheel is a breeze.  Jan at Heavenly Handspinning is a true gem to work with and now she lives in a neighboring town too. Yes, it uses electricity, but hey, one handed spinner here. I gifted myself this machine after I retired my great-grandmother's spinning wheel. Yes, I relearned how to spin one handed again after my stroke. I spin the plarn for added strength and a more consistent product. Knitting and crocheting one handed has enough challenges. I can make yards of plarn watching my favorite show or movie via Netflix in one evening. I can comb fiber or spin while rotting my brain with the boob tube. Otherwise known as relaxing in the evening before bed. Spinning is one of my old favorite winter pastimes. And, it is winter. Mel is learning and producing as well.

Of course, there are our other handmade products as well. Mel and I are avid needlework gals. Whether it's dishcloths, socks, sweaters, caps, or anything else, we can make it. My knitted beaded evening shawls are a sure fire money maker. It all takes little startup capital and higher profitability. It won't make us rich, but every little bit counts.

There is the farmer's market. Offering chemical-free, heirloom produce won't make us rich either. But as I said before, every little bit helps. It all depends on the harvest. There's also my pickles and jams we can sell. Growing our own produce makes this even more profitable.

With the farmer's market, we can sell other things too. Mel made me a fantastic harvest tote for Christmas. It was made of scrap lumber. She used welded wire mesh on the bottom so I can rinse the vegetables outside with the hose
before bringing them inside. She also made me a folding board out of cardboard first, and then out of 1/4" plywood so I can fold laundry easier. There are a tons of wood working projects she can make and sell.

The only drawback to farmer's markets is that they are for a limited time. Events in our local area also are a possibility. But then we have the website too that is doing nothing right now. There are other websites like etsy and ebay which offer year around access to sell on. There's always business cards for word of mouth off season referrals.

So making money on the homestead or under SSD is challenging, but not impossible. You just have to put your mind to it and maybe a little creativity. What will sell and what won't is a trial and error method. All you can do is try. Wish us luck.

On another note, Thursday I returned from my podiatrist's office in shock. This is a fairly long, convoluted story. It started last week. I noticed my foot was giving me more pain than usual. I was having to sit more than usual because of it. As the week progressed, it got more frequent and the pain increased as I walked. I chocked it up to weather and my increasing spasticity. But the next Tuesday marked my return to physical therapy for dry needling and stretching. This usually works well for a couple of weeks duration, so I wasn't overly concerned.

Tuesday morning arrived bright and sunny. Snow and temperatures in the teens was predicted for the night. I went to my therapy session with my old PT. I did all the intake paperwork because I had a new prescription by a new doctor at Emory. I mentioned to my therapist about needing to work on my foot and ankle because the pain had increased over the past week. After all the measurements were taken... elbow full extension is now at 50 degrees which was a 5 degree gain. I've never worked so hard for 5 degrees in my life. Foot inversion is 20 degrees so that was a bit worse. It would account for my increased pain level. My pain level was a constant 6 out of 10. Plus all but my big toe would curl under when bearing weight on the foot which plays havoc on balance. My big toe would try to arch straight up but a strap on my AFO holds it down.

Anyhow, the therapist worked on stretching, needling, and range of motion on my foot. We both admitted that we had enough of a workout. I stood up and my toes lay almost flat inside my AFO which was better. I knew the discomfort/pain from the manipulations would ease by the next morning. It's always like this after therapy. These muscles rarely get the same workout between me doing them and a therapist. The therapist can stretch the muscles better. It's a question of working angles.

By the time I drove home, 15 minutes, I got out of my van and the pain hit me. Every time I put my weight on my affected foot was like someone stabbed me with a knife. Somehow, I made it up the six steps into the house. I was almost in tears. I sat in front of my computer, took off my AFO, and massaged my foot.

The next morning, it was more of the same, if not worse. It didn't hurt when I wasn't weight bearing only when I was standing or walking. "Well, if it hurts, don't do it!" I tend to follow this advice, but at the same time I was trying to figure out what was wrong. I watched videos and knitted until I was cross eyed. I absolutely abhor being inactive! It's one thing if I choose to be inactive, but an imposed inactivity has never been my cup of tea.

By Thursday morning, I called my therapist and asked her what had she done to my foot?! Heck yes, I was irritated, grumpy, and the pain when walking was 10 out of 10 when I bore weight on my foot. She told me to come in. I did. Walking from the house (steps included) was painful. Walking from the parking lot into the therapy office was teeth grinding affair. Walking from the lobby area to the mat undid me. I had tears running down my face and I couldn't talk coherently. When I was better composed, we talked as she examined my foot, my shoe, and my AFO trying to determine the cause of my pain. We went through more stretching and range of motion. There was point tenderness but no obvious break or displacement of the joints. The pain reduced down to a more manageable 7 out of 10. We were Sherlock Holmes and Watson trying to figure out what was wrong. The truth of the matter was the therapy was just the straw that broken the camels back. It was the only conclusion we could come up with.

The next trip was to my podiatrist. Lucky for me, she'd had a cancellation. Once again, I hobbled painfully to my car, drove to the doctor's office, walked in with literal baby steps. Pain wouldn't let me do anything else. The first stop was the x-ray machine. You gotta love the digital x-ray machines. Talk about instant gratification. The definition is so much better too. The first thing the doctor noticed was an old family nemesis of ours now plagued me too... arthritis degeneration in several joints of my feet. Between my spasticity trying to bend my foot and my AFO trying to straighten my foot a silence war was raging. The small bones in my foot was the casualty. Zooming in on the top view of my foot were not one but THREE fractures in my foot. What can I say. The overachiever in me wasn't happy with just one fractured bone. No wonder there was point tenderness and knife like pain when I was weight bearing. While I had considered stress fractures as a cause, I discounted it because there was no pain when not weight bearing.

So the plan of action is to be nonweight bearing on my affected foot for 3-12 weeks. I'd go stark, raging mad being in bed that long, and then there is the issue of bathroom needs. Most everything else Mel can handle but this I have to do myself. It's not like I can use crutches. Hello! Nonfunctioning arm here. Well, my podiatrist had the answer an Iwalk hands free crutch. I may be buying a quad cane too for added stability and from a sanity stand point. It ain't cheap as a pair of crutches. There's too much of the white stuff on the ground.

Or, I can manhandle my husband's rollator around. I found out Medicare doesn't cover the Iwalk, but my BCBS does as a out-of-network charge. The deductible is twice as much. In other words, I'd have to pay for it out of pocket. I guess, it's the rollator for the time being. Funny how I gave away my hemi walker and wheelchair when I had no further use for them but kept this, huh? I think I planned on repurposing it. A good thing I hadn't gotten around to it. For now, at least I'll be off my foot. I don't foresee having to use the hand brakes so it should suffice. I may still purchase the Iwalk, but for now, this works. It's definitely stable.

Nothing is impossible.

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