Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fore Thought and Action After a Stroke

I'm realizing that my previous post is boggling most of you readers minds. How am I am to do what I do after a stroke. It takes a lot of fore thought and trial and error.

I have always been able to set priorities before acting. This stems from years of experience as a life flight nurse. I know you've all heard of the ABCs...airway, breathing, circulation in any first aid course. I tend to function like that after decades of following ABC steps. Critical first and everything else next. I call in my front seat/back seat method of prioritizing. Paying the electric bill before the power is cut off. Giving medicines in a timely fashion to prevent crises later on. Mopping up spills when they happen prevents falls later on. I personally dislike when others make their emergencies my emergencies. This takes a lot of fore thought to stop emergencies becoming emergencies.

A little fore thought before any action goes a long way in preventing a severe energy waste of do overs.

As in the case of my husband being on the floor my first concern was air because he didn't have his oxygen nasal cannula on. When he kept saying "no oxygen" it became a process of elimination before ever considering broken bones from the fall or trying to move him. It turns out that because the rails were up on the bed, the only way he could get out of the bed is over the foot rail. So rather than actually falling out of bed, he had done a slow slide intent on going over to the condenser. I didn't find this out until much, much later.

The way I balance him now is to brace my paralyzed side against him. With my spasticity in full force right now that side of my body is not going anywhere. This leaves my functioning side free to support, grab, reach, and lift or do whatever is necessary. I'll place what I need within easy grasp for my left hand before I try to do anything. It's not the perfect way to do it, or the safest, but it works for me. I get 'er done.

I fell a couple of days ago in my kitchen (the same day as my husband "fell"). I was turning around to leave the kitchen and I got my feet tangled up. BOOM! The Diet Coke I had in my hand went flying pouring its contents all over me, the floor, and down the hall. I did a quick body assessment ie, moved various moveable parts to check for damage. The main things that hurt were my functioning elbow and knee. This would be a major problem in me getting up but I'd have to grin and bear it.

My husband saw the can go flying and asked if I was okay. I yelled back yes. The last thing I needed after falling was him trying to get up and try to rescue me. We'd both be on the floor and no help coming. After I assessed the damage I sat there and looked around thinking of things to help me rise without hurting myself further. I scooted over to the stove. I could straighten out my braced foot and use the edge of the stove to pull my fat behind up. My knee and elbow screamed at me and I sat back down on the floor to rethink my options. I eventually figured it out and began mopping up the mess I'd made. The results were some really bad bruising and me guarding the injured parts for a few days.

I returned to my hubby with a forced smile on my face and got him up into his electric wheelchair. I grabbed a bag of frozen peas and propped on my knee and elbow for the next twenty minutes sitting at my computer. My hubby didn't know I'd fallen until after I got up to put the peas back in the freezer. That was because I did my loud old lady groan. Ya gotta love getting older. You make such interesting sounds when you move.

Since my stroke there are a lot of things I cannot do. I accept it for right now as a changeable fact in the future. Until that time, I'll do what I can with what I've got. Although I always tell others ...you never know what you are capable of unless there is something you have to do. Given the same set of circumstances, not that anyone would want my circumstances, they would surprise themselves at what they could accomplish.

Nothing is impossible with determination.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sleepless Sleepiness and Other Irritants

Recently, I started waking with the "Gotta go. Gotta go. Gotta go right now!" It doesn't matter if I went before lying down. It doesn't matter if I've slept two hours or eight hours, the results are still the same. I barely or don't make it to the bathroom before warm liquid is running down my legs.

Now I do the fluid restriction before bed. I use the clock as I've mentioned in other posts, but to no avail.  At first I thought it might be a bladder infection, but the copious amount of fluids issuing from my body rejects that notion.

This morning was one of those times except I awoke at 1:30 in the morning after only four hours in bed. After putting on my AFO and shoes, rolling out of bed, and walking the twenty odd steps into the bathroom I found myself peeing into my brace and shoes. I didn't even get my panties down before catching the bulk of the flood into the toilet. This is down right irritating! No wonder I'm opting for full diapers again.

After I cleaned myself up and changed clothes I noticed the living room light on. My husband's hospital bed is in the living room. I went to investigate and found him on the floor in a heap, heaving trying to breathe without his oxygen on. As is my previous emergency training and my nature, I act first to remedy the situation and then panic afterwards. I got him to his feet. As he leaned doubled over the foot of the bed, I put his oxygen on. He kept shaking his head no. "No oxygen."

I thought he was saying that he didn't want it, but what he was trying to tell me was the
tube was kinked. I put the nasal cannula on him anyhow. Then we did the hand signal thing until I understood what the problem was.  Then I back tracked the line, found the kink and straightened it. I half carried him into bed. A miracle feat for a woman paralyzed or partially paralyzed on one side. I got him settled and he was still saying, "No oxygen."

I pulled the cannula away from his nose and I could feel it. I told him to look at my nose and focus on slowing down his breathing. "In and out" I started a cadence to slow down his gasping reflex. Then he realized, that he was getting oxygen. The panicked look left his eyes and  he drifted off to sleep again.

While I knew I should go back to sleep, I couldn't. The adrenaline let down effect had me by the throat and mind. It was like Friday when his oxygen machine alarm went off. I placed him on his rescue bottle of air and called the oxygen supply company. I don't know about other stroke survivors with aphasia issues but for me stress plays a major part in how bad I talk. When they answered the phone my voice was gone. Just trying to say my name was like pulling taffy. I had to take a couple of deep breaths just to do that. Luckily, the person who answered the phone knew about me and patiently waited for the words to come.

The what ifs that made me such a good storyteller played over and over in my mind. What if I didn't have this bladder problem and had slept all night. All of a sudden I was thankful for the mess. By the time I got settled down enough to sleep, there were other issues to be taken of...the rabbits, guinea pig, and chicken needed to be feed. The cats and dogs wanted to be fed, and let out and in. Medicines dosed out. For my hubby this means raising the head of the bed, handing him a water bottle and giving him one pill at a time (including finding the ones he drops in the folds of bed sheets), urinal or diaper change, and then lowering his head some, checking his legs for skin breaks, and making sure the humidifier on his oxygen condenser has enough water. By this time he's asleep again. The morphine does its job well.

Another hour monitoring his vital signs and I'm free for two hours. I guess I could do away with his vital checks, but old habits die hard. I toy with the idea of just drifting off to sleep but fear of not waking up in time for the next round of meds keeps me awake. I still head nod my way through the time praying he doesn't try to get up out of bed on his own again.

Don't tell me I should have had the rails up because I did. He scooted off the foot of the bed to try and get to his rescue oxygen and fix the problem with his line. The bad thing about being one handed is the bed rails. They are the type that have a knob that you have to pull out while you slide it down on both sides of the rails. One handed becomes a two part operation in increments to lower the rail to get him in his chair.

By 10AM I am able to once again lay my head on my pillow because my youngest daughter is here for a couple of hours before she has to go to work. Two hours of heavenly sleep for my sleepless sleepiness. Unconsciousness disturbed by the "Gotta go. Gotta go. Gotta go right now!" So it all begins again.

Nothing is impossible with determination.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

This Just in~ Choclate is Good for You

I was browsing my e-mails and ran across this from my great <cough> Stroke Association. In Stroke Smart this month was an article, "Chocolate: Go Ahead and Indulge." Well Doh! I already knew that, but it's nice to have permission. Having a degree in naturopathic medicine aside.

The article talks about flavanols which reduce your blood pressure and the antioxidant qualities of the cocoa bean. It can even reduce the bad cholesterol. It says dark chocolate is the best. For years I spent a great amount of money on dark chocolate. My chocolate of choice is Ghiradelli's because it is between 60% to 86% cocoa. But watch the sugar and fat content on what you pick. Those two things will do more harm than good for your body.

My main reason was the endorphin kick I get from chocolate. Yeah I'm heavily dependent on it to offset the constant pain due to my fibromyalgia. Chocolate helps boosts the effects of my husband's morphine too for when there is break through pain. It's a comfort food with the benefit of being actually good for you too. I used to keep Peanut M&Ms at my desk for those times I'd get stumped while writing. Yes, I was an insulin dependent diabetic, but I'd limit my intake to six of my creative cycle enhancements...a bad thirty point rise on my glucometer for thirty minutes, but worth it.

I was spending a tremendous amount of money on those little packages of instant hot cocoa mix in the grocery stores until I got smart and started blending my own.
2 cups nonfat dry milk
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup Splenda sugar substitute
1 cup nondairy fat free sugar free creamer (if you can find it)
A pinch of salt

I triple the recipe and place it in a gallon glass jar. 1/4 cup of cocoa mix to 3/4 cups of boiling water.  If you are not watching your sugar or fat try Ghiradelli's Dutch Processed Cocoa. The cocoa powder is less but OMG delicious. There isn't a day when the weather is cooler that I don't have a cup of cocoa or Earl Grey Tea in my hand. This comes out a lot cheaper. I usually make a jug of powdered cocoa each season when most of the ingredients are cheaper around Halloween.

Thought I'd pass this along. Honestly there is not much I take that the Great <cough> Stroke Association or Stroke Smart magazine worth mentioning but found this interesting. Mostly the emails are deleted because it is begging for donations. Like I really have enough money to tithe and donate to them post stroke. They would do better asking for funds from non strokees.

Have a great Christmas y'all

Monday, December 23, 2013

Tick, Tock Time Runs a Marathon

Ever notice when you walk away from something for a bit and the time flies by without a second glance? It runs by like some super fast marathon.

What did I actually accomplish this month. I mean tomorrow is Christmas Eve already and I haven't posted since the 4th. Now looking back absolutely nothing! Well almost nothing. No it doesn't seem like Christmas either. The 70+ temperatures do nothing to enhance it. Even with the lights and decorations up, the Grim Reaper is overshadowing all the merriment sucking it dry.

Have I done anything towards my stroke recovery. Nope just trying to do too many things at once. It's become a dull routine now. I haven't recovered a lick. In fact, I've regressed back into diapers and barely able to walk...more on that in a bit.  It's more to do with having so much to do than actual regression. I've had my own version of locked in syndrome with my husband so ill.  I have no desire or money to go or do anything except play games on the computer. Yes that does help build my mind up some but not the rest of me.

At this point I'm not achieving much in a recovery sense, but just am. The things I'm trying, I'm failing miserably at...like spinning all this nice wool from Buddy. I just can't hold the tension right one handed on the wheel. I tried using the hand held spindle and wound up with a tangled mess. I did achieve some measure of success with knitting one handed. It is s-o-o-o slow tucking one needle up under my bum arm but at least I've got that and I am knitting just what...I dunno. I'm still practicing stitches. Casting on is a real headache.

The spasticity is back in the arm again so it is frozen in a 90 degree angle but it makes a good prop for carrying things since it doesn't relax now, but I can straighten out my fingers but not my thumb. The wrist is a lost cause.  It won't budge to even allow any kind of bracing. You ever feel like the more you try to get ahead the farther you fall behind? Yep, you got it. I'm there. Botox again in January. But at this point I'm wondering whether I can justify the expense. It's $6,500 (before insurance) per cycle 3 to 4 times a year. I'm just not seeing the improvement I expected after 18 months almost of injections, but there is the pain relief factor too.

Bad news on the ankle inversion/drop foot front. After an additional three months, a new orthodic, debreidments and doctor appointments, the pressure sore has come back in full force rupturing from the inside out this weekend.Talk about a painful event. All that new skin and callous just blew outwards leaving the biggest cavity to date. Just what I needed to usher in the holiday. I snapped a rivet holding one of my straps this weekend so I'm hobbling around for two reasons. Come my husband's death, I'll have to have a full ankle fusion and the tendons cut. There is now no other option.

Meanwhile the reasons to be upright on my feet grow exponentially as my husband's health slowly declines. I'm administering meds every four hours, changing diapers about that often, and bedding twice a day. The good news is that there is now a hospital bed in my living room. It definitely makes things easier just in smaller size alone and having the ability of raising, rolling it around, etc. It's a good thing I was formerly a nurse. The only fifference is that hospice can spell me. It makes for long weekends though when mostly it is just the two of us. I refuse to ruin everyone else's weekend. My hubby is no longer allowed to be up on his feet unsupported. He has taken some really bad falls in the past couple weeks and I'm surprised he didn't break something.

The good news is every morning he opens his eyes and smiles at me. Then he breaks into his version of the old Rare Earth song, "I Just Want to Celebrate." He bobs his head, bounces in the bed, and sings about every third word.

I know this post is sort of down in the dumps, but I felt I needed to answer all the emails concerning us this way.

I also wanted to wish each of you a Merry Christmas. Here's to a better 2014 because 2013 was a roller coaster. Thanks for all your support.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Apology, Rant, Retrospect, and Goals for 2014

I've been pretty scares from the blogging world for the past two months in writing, reading, and responding to all of your blog posts, and I apologize for that.

Life has really gotten the better of me. Part of me wants to bury my had in the sand, but that's against my nature. But the though is nice and tempting.

I tend to lead by example. That's my approach to life and ministering, but it's hard.

Financially, we are at a place where I never wanted to be again...borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. The cushion we had in case of emergencies and unforeseen necessities, is gone. Prolonged illnesses can do that- husband's terminal disease and my stroke. Come in January 2014, we will be in debt again with no way of circumventing it. So much for my debt free life style. SIGH! I did enjoy it.

Now for the rant #1. My quest for Social Security Disability is over. According to the I'm not disabled right!
Administration I am able to work. Meanwhile, others who milk the system continue to be approve. It's down right irritating when pastoring a flock and leading others to salvation is considered a hobby. My book sales are down and I'm currently unable to write and publish anything new to boost sales...another dying career with my stroke, but

Rant #2. On a blog I follow there is a pastor's wife going through the same situation with her strokee husband. Helpful to know I'm not alone in my misery. She mentioned that the way people view hardships suffered by pastors and their families as leasing by example. I bristled at that. Go figure, it was an opposite view point against my nature. Yes, it's true I lead by example but I live in the world just like anyone else! Just because I'm a woman of God, doesn't mean we are better than the rest of you. We are not exempt from adverse feelings the same pressures you face when situations arrive. We just cover them with prayer and faith, but it doesn't change the facts.

Now this is going to sound totally crazy after the last part. In retrospect over what has been accomplished since 2012 and 2013. I've been blessed.

Given all the bad stuff over the past two years...my hubby being moved to hospice care, my stroke, and financial woes. I have excelled in other ways for personal triumphs.Yes, all the bad stuff happened, but with each hit I've managed to keep my head above water. I've met new friends online, continue to get support from a handful of regular friends and family. Not financial but in other ways. Actually, it could be financial because without them I would have to pay someone to do it otherwise.

Looking ahead to 2014...
  •  I can expect more of the same. Doesn't that sound inviting? I'm more at peace with burying the love of my life. I can now say with certainty that life will continue.
  • My stroke recovery will happen when I least expect it. I no longer expect 100% but the more the better. Yes, I've finally learned patience.
  • I will be having surgery on my affected ankle to release the contracted Achilles tendon. I have no choice if I want to improve the paralysis of the muscles involved with the inverted foot.
  •  I plan to breed my rabbits and build another out building (larger) to house the increase. I will be selling the excess meat rabbits. 
  • I plan on getting a trio of breeding Angora rabbits. No one is doing that in a twelve county area.
  • I plan on ministering more and possibly getting officially back into service full time.
  • My youngest daughter and son are moving in permanently after my husband dies. I'm under no illusions that I can live by myself. My caregiver instinct will not allow it.
  • I will wait on the Lord.
  • Try and write more. Small projects (quick cash) while continuing to work on "Don't Get Your Panties in a Wad."
So that's the look ahead.

Keep writing and loving the Lord
 Nothing is impossible with determination

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Oopsie Daisy! My Bad

Boy oh boy, when I do something wrong, I really do it. Today I was giving Babs the Bunny her brush out and I made a discovery. Part of rabbit grooming is checking their vent periodically throughout the day to make sure feces hasn't matted over the works. This is crucial for a angora rabbit like Babs is.

As it would happen there was junk matted in her hair. It becomes a whole huge production with one hand. Luckily for me she's a good bunny. I gathered the bowl of warm water and an ample supply of paper towels and q-tips. I placed her on her back on my now non-functioning arm with her head tucked between my arm and my side. Meanwhile I'm talking to her calmly and rubbing her belly. She likes that.

As I was cleaning her up, I pulled on her vent to make sure she was clean and out popped a tiny 1/4 inch penis. So long story short, Babs the Bunny is now Buddy the Bunny. I'm sure glad it isn't Spring when I would have tried breeding him. Oy vey! That would have been a nightmare! Now I know to purchase a Babs for him.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sunday Stoke Survival ~ This and That

I find that I'm spending quite a few hours on You Tube these days. One because it's quick snippets of information and two because it's entertaining.

With my current lifestyle of crisis management and turn on a dime decision making, I can't really do much else that is time consuming. You Tube is the answer.

No this isn't mine but close.
I've watched tons of videos about square foot gardening... something I'm going to try in the Spring to get a better handle on planting and harvesting my above ground garden. When energy and time spent are governing factors it made sense. I've also been researching how to build a bigger cage for Babs, my gorgeous bunnykins, she's getting a bit cramped in hers, and different ways to feed her other than store bought pellets. But that's not all...

I have to be honest here, I've been less than enthusiastic about my recovery of late feeling like somebody was kicking me when I was already out for the count. I ran across this particular video this week and it gave me a needed boost. While I've heard this song too many times on the radio, I never related what it could mean to me towards my recovery until I saw this video. A totally a eye opening revelation for me. It's my new favorite song.

Just the fact, that the video was pantomimed (actually singing although muted) by an otherwise 8-year old, nonverbal, autistic child got me thinking of aphasia affected stroke survivors and how it felt to me being nonverbal after my stroke but having a millions thoughts running through my head and not being able express them. My brain never stops thinking. The images may be of cancer kids but it could easily relate to us as survivors.  Listen to the words. I hope it will do the same for you that it did for me.

I've been researching stroke recovery too. Reading blogs, abstracts, and books are okay, but nothing beats the visual progress of stroke recovery and adaptive techniques survivors use. As I've said before I have an incontinence problem, as well as few other hundred things wrong with my stroke. I try to apply what see and think outside of the box in all things.

For me, urinary incontinence is not really embarrassing but a nuisance. I hate wearing pads.I didn't like it when I had to wear them during my monthly cycles. God bless menopause and a hysterectomy. See some good things come with age besides hard won wisdom. I use all the techniques I learned in physical therapy like the clock and fluid intake measures. I may wiggle in my seat to see if I've got to go like a woman with a crotch itch in church. That's one way men have an advantage, they just scratch or adjust themselves in public and pinch it off with the handle they've got, but for a woman...it just ain't lady like.

But also for me, there is the added bonus of a diuretic, Lasix, which keeps the fluids from pooling in my body and my defunct heart. For the first few hours after taking that miraculous little pill that keeps me out of congestive heart failure most times, it's a crap shoot for bladder control. It's a fine art of juggling most mornings and I'll explain why and how I adjust my clock to cope.

I take relatively high doses of Zanaflex with my Baclofen for muscle spasticity. The Zanaflex drops my blood pressure too low when I lay down. We're talking about low double digits. To combat this before bed I ingest something salty before I sleep, this causes my body to hold fluids thus keeping my blood pressure raised. Not a perfect solution but it works. My cardiologist thought it was ingenious and great problem solving. But as a result of ingesting the added salt and retaining fluids, and taking Lasix in the morning becomes a nightmare while it tries to get rid of this extra fluid. I adjust my time schedule for the first hour for twenty minutes after taking this med. On average that's how long it takes for my kidneys with Lasix to fill my bladder. The second hour, I'll add ten minutes making it every thirty minutes. I'll keep adding tihis way until I'm back to the original every two hours time frame.

If I have to somewhere while this counting up is underway, I'll urinate before I leave and when I get wherever I am going and keep the schedule. I'll admit that some days are worse than others, but the important thing is, I don't let it stop me. If I don't make it to the bathroom, that's why I wear a pad.

But with pads comes another problem. Diaper rash! They really aren't meant to be worn 24/7. Now this condition in an adult is painful and embarrassing! I'm sorry, but no one else is going to put diaper rash medicine between my legs, but me. Picture this... a woman with a brace on one leg and one useable arm, bending down to look between her legs and applying Balmx between her legs. Since my recent stroke, I  some renewed balance issues. Oft times my head is thumping the wall across from the toilet. Not hard mind you, a sort of a semi controlled lean forward, but just enough to stop my forward mometum. Luckily for me in this older home, the bathrooms are only 5x7. If it were any bigger, I'd more concerned. But for now, this works for me.

Nothing is impossible with determination.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sunday Stroke Survival ~ Tablets

I know I'm late this morning.

First there was the ipad and now every maker has got their version of this handy tool. For a stroke survivor , it sure beats a laptop. In weight and size alone makes them transportable. But the bells and whistles makes them extra special.

We tend to be technophiles in this house. If there is a new techno gadget out there, we'll have to try it out. More on my husband's part than on mine. I prefer to wait until they get most of the bugs out before I buy although I will go to my nearest store and play with it.

I felt the same way about my Kindle before I bought one. I waited for the Gen 3 with a keyboard before I purchased one. Even though I bought it for my husband's almost exclusive use two years ago, I now use it more than he does especially since my stroke. I'm an old foggy when it came to reading. I love paper books. But with my stroke and being one handed pretty much took the joy of reading paper books away with the juggling act I had to perform turning pages. It is light weight so I can carry it in my tote bag. It turns itself off and opens back up to the page where I stopped reading. The joy of reading is back.

A couple of years ago, my hubby approached me about buying an ipad. While I could see a benefit for him who scans websites, play games, and watches videos, there wasn't the same attraction for me to give up my desktop or laptop. Surfing the web with one of these was fine but I actually depend on my computer to do more interactive processing like novel writing, spreadsheets for keeping track of sales, and database functions for contacts. It had to do work so I asked him to wait. If there is one thing I know about technology, it is always changing and it has a built in obsolescence (of maybe six months) before a newer model comes out. I don't know about you, but I can't afford to upgrade every six months.

I wasn't proved wrong. For Christmas this year, we decided to buy a Surface 2. We usually buy a combined big gift that both of us can enjoy and a few other little things. All the rest of our  budget goes towards our huge combined Christmas gift giving list. With all that is currently going on in our home, Christmas is coming early this year. It is on layaway as we speak. It's due to be paid for before the end of the month while my hubby can still enjoy it.

But for me, the ease of the smaller keyboard or no keyboard is appealing. I fact that it is light weigt a can sit on my lap is another selling point. My laptop puts off too much heat to sit on my lap for very long without burning my legs especially in shorts. The simple fact that I can work on my book anywhere is also a selling point because the Surface comes with MS  Office already installed. The USB port makes transferring files between computers a breeze. I can also use my printer unlike others on the market. Of course now that I think about it my printer is wifi. Okay scratch that selling point.

The touch screen is an added bonus. With a flick of of a finger or two I can enlarge, these eyes aren't getting any younger, searching without clicking a mouse is cool. The prices and aps have come a long way since when they first came out. The prices have dropped drastically. A few months ago I bought my daughter an Android Jellybean for under $75 with a keyboard and cover. Now price has becomes is a very big issue.

Very soon I'll be joining all of you with the nifty handheld devices. Adaptation is key to enjoying life post stroke.

Nothing is impossible with determination.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Indie Life ~ Time is Precious.

I am sitting here this morning wondering what I was going to tell you about the indie life. I'm having a BRAIN FART moment. My MIND IS EMPTY, but full of thoughts at the same time. None of these thoughts have nothing to do with writing. This is the gist of this blog. What happens when a writer can't write because their real life interferes with their work? And believe you me writing is hard work even if you self publish.

What do you do when the writing muses escapes you? When the desire to write is high but the inspiration or fire to put words on paper just isn't happening? I'm there and have been there for almost forever. This from a woman who penned six books inside of eighteen months and spent almost eighteen months post stroke trying to write one book.

The realization hit me the other day when I was to the point where I wanted to scream out of frustration of wanting to write...no check that, needing to write and not being able to. Right now, I need the escape factor that writing brings to my troubled mind. That's what writing is to me, a chance to escape my everyday life. While writing I can breakout of reality and dabble in different locales, be someone else, and have a scathing comeback right on the tip of my tongue to be directed at the person that deserves it. I can get lost in research and search for over used words. But I'm needed in reality and don't have the luxury of this escape.

So what did I realize? Sometimes, you just have to let some things slide to the back burner of life. When my mind and body have to be alert and present in the now, my writing just has to wait. Not that I have to like it, but it is what it is.

My daughter recently opened a photography business. When she had to pick a name for her company, she hesitated, and then she came up with the perfect name...Time is Precious Photography. Why is it perfect you might ask... a baby (wedding, friends and loved ones) is a baby a very short time. You can't go back and redo it. The only things you might have are pictures that jogs your memory in the future. Pictures document a life the way a diary can. Isn't that what reading and writing does? It captures moments and highlights in your character's life.

When we indie publish, we are saying we are breaking the mold. We are inventing a better mousetrap. We are blazing our own trails. We are controlling our own destinies as authors. Yep, all of that and more. When we don't write because real life interrupts us there has to be a pretty important reason for it. For me, it was having another tiny stroke, spending time with my grandchildren (they are growing so fast), and having a husband moved to hospice care for his final month or two. In my particular case...being in the time is precious mode is more important that committing words in my WIP. I make no excuses. It's a choice. So while real life takes up all of my should be writing time... I'm making every moment count.

Y'all keep writing and loving the Lord.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

May You Rest in Peace ~ Andrew McNaughton

I've been caught up in my own little world of late that I almost missed this.

You may have noticed the donation/blog hop logo on this blog for a young man named Andrew McNaughton. You may even remember that I am a contributing author in Nick Wilford's anthology, "Overcoming Adversity." You may also remember an interview I posted with Nick hen the book was published

It is with a very sad heart that I report that young Andrew passed away this weekend.

My heart goes out to Nick and his family. To lose a son even if he is a stepson is hard. Being a stepson is no barrier to the heart to grief. To Nick, Andrew was his son too in all senses of the word.

Having walked in those shoes before, I know from personal experience how hard it is. Andrew, may you walk, run, and do all the things in heaven that you couldn't do on earth. To Nick, his wife, and his sisters- may God send his Holy Spirit to wrap you with the comforting blanket of His love in the trying days and years to come. May He bring remembrances of the joys this son gave you and fill your heart with laughter. May He bring your heart peace.

Andrew may your rest in peace and reside in joy.

Monday, November 11, 2013

...Ad Yes, I'm Taking Care of Myself Too

Thank y'all for the concern expressed for me to take care of myself during this waiting game with the Grim Reaper. This is in response to all the comments and emails I've received.

I still sleep fitfully part due to my hubby and the other part due to physical pain. Last night I fell into a deep sleep at 10PM and didn't wake until 7AM. I didn't move a muscle (as in change position) all night long. This became a huge problem when I tried to get up...namely a painful back. I moaned and groaned into a seated position. Rice Krispies sounding with each increment of movement. As much as my desire to check on my hubby was, I couldn't get my body to move. Each step sent reverberating painful shock waves up my spine. Yes, it is a thrill a minute getting older.

But I am taking care of myself too. Rarely a day goes by when someone isn't in the house with us to lighten the load. I usually spend that time napping. I'm still fighting the fatigue accompanying my stroke. The spasticity has worsened in spite of the Botox due to the added stress. Meditation and deep breathing helps bring things into perspective. I have a cardiology appointment next week for my FUBARed heart. The ventricular fib has worsened to the point where I'm having to take medicine every day again. It's just another way of proving me as Abby Normal. Stroke patients have issues with atrial fib before a stroke not ventricular fib. It was a nice vacation from my heart condition while it lasted.

The neighborhood has started burning all the Fall leaves setting my allergies on high alert again. Why can't everyone just compost their yard trash like I do instead of paying hundreds of dollars in the Spring to fertilize their plants? It makes too much sense maybe. Calm, Jo, calm.

I've started my Fall/Winter garden in my raised beds. I've planted garlic, lettuces, mustard and turnip greens, and some sweet and white potatoes. Since we don't get a hard freeze usually until January, I think I'm safe. But just in case I've bought some PVC pipe and plastic. I'm getting a late start this year because it has been so warm up until October. We are still in the 70s and 80s here with night time temps hovering in the high 50s. Anyhow it gets me out of the house and in nature mode but still within ear shot when everyone else's fires and smoke allows.

As far as my therapy goes, I've basically quit for now. Movement causes pain although I'm still working my hand. I'm beginning to think my leg is a lost cause without surgery. The ulcer has healed once again. Wohoo! But I'm still being cautious about the time I'm actually on my feet. I don't want to go through another six months of that stuff.

I just saw my neurologist about me back sliding in some of the areas I had previously  recovered but then lost. Yep, I had another tiny stroke. Part of me knew I had. So writing will have to wait until I recover some words and I regain my balance once again. But the good news is I'm recovering those skills fast than before on my own without going through additional PT sessions. I just have to rebuild my mind some more. Too many red and green squiggles are getting frustrating even with this blog. More game playing and such. Lord knows, I get enough practice with speaking with everyone in and out of my house, and the phone.

My hubby had another bout of severe chest pains today. At first (a few seconds) I  freaked out thinking this was it, and then I  calmed myself down. I grabbed his nitroglycerin and the rest of the items in my jump bag. I took his vitals and called his hospice nurse. What a relief it's not on me anymore. The pain subsided and he fell asleep again. I chanted a centering meditation ditty and breathed. Checked his vitals one more time and walked outside. The neighborhood is blanketed in low hanging smoke.

 I've been busy with my husband's family trickling in at my request. He's got a rather large and extended family also. My hubby still feels the need to entertain them. He has so much he wants to say to them but lacks the energy or breath to do so. He asked me why he was sleeping so much because his medicines have not changed drastically, but he has trouble staying awake. I simply told him that it is taking all of his energy to breathe that there's nothing left for anything else. You can't run a car on an empty gas tank.

I know my readers of this blog are standing in the wings as a support group for me. All the prayers, hugs, and concerns are gratefully accepted. But know that I'm alright. Also know that I appreciate each and every one of you. Hugs back at you.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sunday Stroke Survival ~ Losing a Motivator and Doubts

For most of you that do not read my blog regularly, you may not know that my husband was transferred to hospice care two weeks ago. This has been a long time coming. He's been terminal with a bad heart, bad lungs, and cancer for ten years. It is now time to say "See you later" but never "goodbye."

With hospice nurses, aides, social workers, and clergy in and out of my house three or four days a week, it's been a nonstop care-a-thon for my husband. So for those hours I'm basically free on other non essential essential tasks like cooking or cleaning. No more revolving door trips to the doctors and wasting hours. No more have-to-get-it-now trips to the pharmacy or pharmacies for his medicine. It all is delivered to my front door. Trips to the oxygen supplier are out too. They are now a phone call away. How many times have I prayed for this over the past six months? How many times did I wish this carnival ride I was on to stop?

Was it only August and September I did a series on grief counseling? It seems like a lifetime ago. How apropos in hindsight. Now, it is knocking on my door once again and I don't want to let it in. Honestly, who really does?

So what does all this have to do with stroke recovery?

During my initial recovery phase, I based my needs with him as a priority. Walking, forming words properly with my lips, drawing a syringe of pain medicine one handed etc. Now almost 18 months later, I'm wondering what I can base my recovery towards with my husband not in the picture anymore. What will be my focus point for my goals?

Myself? I hardly feel worthy of the dedication needed for the prolonged process of recovery. Not that I feel bad about myself, but doing things for others has always been my driving force. An external motivator to push me harder to reach it. If it's only for myself, it would be put on a back burner.

So now I'm stumped and am looking for another motivator. Doing it for me just doesn't cut it. Yes, I'm still determined to recover but I need that extra push to achieve. I've already proven that I can be a fun and creative grandmother as I am. I have proven that I can minister to those in need even if it's not from the pulpit. I have proven that although difficult, I can write again. I have proven that I can still be the counseling voice to guide my children. And life will still go on without any help from me, so I'm lost. I've accomplished so much in my recovery so far since my stroke. I don't want to stop recovering, but I know me. It would be so easy to give in to the dogma of plateau and it's the best it's gonna be.

It's not really an identity crisis, but then again it is. I know who I am and know my limitations. Doesn't everyone have limitations in one form or another? I know this and accept it. I need to be slaying dragons, but am lost on what weapon to use. I'm at my best climbing mountains and slaying dragons.

Any ideas out there?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sunday Stroke Survivor ~ Video Games?

A new research study out of Canada is using video games for stroke rehab. I thought "Wow, that will be a challenge!" My second thought was, "How could I do it one handed?" My third thought was, "Doh! You old timer you."

The reasons my thought processes worked like this is I've long been a supporter of making rehab fun no matter what your age is. If something is fun then you are more apt to do it. In fact I've mentioned the computer/internet games that I "play" to rebuild my cognitive deficits. Those are easy with a click of the mouse, but video games?

I've played video games since way back when. I even had one of the first Atari systems ever built. Yeah I'm a geek and proud of it. I was a computer programmer back then. Matter of fact, I still have it in my attic. It came with Space Invaders. I even bought a few more games for it before I switched over to a Nintendo. But I digress.

I've always like the way it built eye-hand coordination and logic skills. Before my stroke I even bought a X-Box 360 hoping to get my husband to play as a way to keep his mental acuity strong. I believe if you don't use it - you lose it. Video games would be a great way to rebuild cognitive deficits like logic, progression, and sequencing. Plus it didn't hurt to have it for my grandchildren either.

But how would I play one handed? I've often thought since my stroke that it would be great to play with my grandchildren BUT I only had one working hand and it takes two. That pretty well left me out of the loop. I became the spectator cheering on others while they played.

Just like texting is faster with two thumbs, the control is not handicap friendly.

My third thought was when I realized that with a WII or X-Box Kinect it was possible to play the game without two functioning hands. That was was my Doh! moment. By moving my body for the body on the screen, it becomes a PT workout AND a cognitive work out at the same time. Unfortunately, I don't have the Kinect. I bought my X-Box when it was the "new" system out there. As with a technology based product, it has a life of six months before a new, better model comes out. Built in obsolescence.

I can see the movement, the eye- body coordination, balance training, stretching, and the fun factor helping us help ourselves. The more we attempt to move the more neuron pathways we build thus recovery. It's a win/win situation to me.

I PROPOSE MORE FUN IN STROKE SURVIVORS' LIVES! Lord knows, we've been through and still going through a lot. I've got an idea!

It couldn't hurt. Tis almost the season.

Nothing is impossible with determination.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thursday Turmoil~ Something Spooky Passes This Way

Over in Compuserve's Books and Writers Forum (link on the  left) last month, the exercise was to create a story that included certain words in the story line. Five words each week for five weeks. The kicker was a 100 word limit. Each week had a writing theme like Introduction, Developing Conflict, Twists and reversals etc. It was going to be a challenge even to those with undamaged brains.

For anyone that knows how I write, I rarely write under a 1,000 word story, and prefers writing novellas versus short stories. Words are my friends. I've shied away from fiction because it is confusing for me with my stroke and short-term memory loss. Let alone writing it. I just can't keep multiple characters and scenes straight in my mind.

 This was my first venture back into fiction writing and I was terrified. What if I couldn't write fiction anymore or at least not the way I used too? What if I fell flat on my face and couldn't finish what I had started? What if I got overwhelmed in some giant brain fart? The what ifs after a stroke will get you every time.

I didn't join the exercise until the second week but included the first week into the entry when I joined in. It took me three days to write the 200 words with the given ten words and form a fiction story. The third week one day and the rest the same day the words were announced.

When I started, I wasn't sure I would finish the five week exercise.  You couldn't plan the story ahead because you had no idea what words would come up next. It was turning on a dime. Something I haven't been real good at since my stroke. But I knew I had to jump start my writing again and the exercises had always helped in the past.

In retrospect, which is always easier, these were the goals and words you had to work within.

Week 1: Intro of setting and characters and inciting incident.

Words: over, drive, pact, endless, incite
Week 2: Rising action, development of conflict.

Words: astray, blood, toast, cursed, boardinghouse
Week 3 – Twists and reversals

Words: grain, obey, approach, backward, eyetooth
Week 4 – Climax and resolution
Words: bizarre, forgotten, abomination, feast, black
Week 5 – Denouement
Words: inner, pinch, belong, treasure, dove

My mind was in Halloween mode already having gone out to buy cobwebs and  candy for the ghouls and goblins that would be visiting tonight. So wihout further ado this is what I came up with and it's a perfectly good story for Halloween retelling.

Friends to the End


After the endless drive her car loaded with three other people, they were at each other's throats. The first half hour was fun reminiscing about old times, but then that stopped. They led different lives now after years apart. It was now who would incite a riot first. After only driving for 50 miles they were now in deep the Smoky Mountains. They met at Charlotte's International airport. Of course, she'd drive them all. This was her stomping grounds. Whoever thought some stupid pact made back in college would come back and visit just over ten years later.
Now Jeff fidgeted in his seat, Andrea peered through the windshield, and Barry snored irritatingly in back. Candice could barely see the front end of her metallic red, 2012 650i BMW convertible due to the heavy blanket of fog. She wanted to get this done, but safety concerns made her pull into the Boardinghouse Inn. According to local lore it was cursed, but damn the wives tales about children going astray and blood curdling screams in the night. She held up an imaginary glass. A toast to the beasties of the night and given this group, they might scare them.
The elderly woman behind the reception desk must have heard their approach and she beckoned them forward with thin, gnarled fingers. Candice's first reaction was to take a backward step landing squarely on Jeff's foot and he hissed an all too familiar string of curse words into her ear. He shoved her forward to obey the elderly woman's gesture. Candice would have given her right eyetooth or willingly drank wood grain alcohol rather than lead this group towards the skeleton framed woman. Saying she looked like death warmed over would have been an exaggeration. Turning, "Maybe we should keep driving."
Soon as Candice reached the car, she regretted her decision. She could barely make out the black main road. The others had followed her and were chastising her for her childish cowardice. The old woman was too bizarre for words. They continued on towards their destination. It would surely be a feast of death relegated to her nightmares of a forgotten abomination. Andrea next to her let out an eardrum piercing shriek. A deer! She instinctively yanked the wheel to the right not thinking of the mountain road. And then, there was the sensation of falling.
The JAWS made short work of the roof. There honestly wasn't much left of the beautiful convertible and they found the treasure they sought. The inner struts imbedded deep within the chest of one male. A Nomex clad firefighter dove under the dash finding a small raven haired woman underneath like a rag doll thrown where it didn't belong. He pinched the flesh to get a response.
Eyelids fluttered, and then opened wide in fright. An unearthly scream followed, "The old hag is coming for us!"
Candice drew her last breath. The woman had come for all of them.
The End 
 I think I still got it! I'm proud that I put my doubts aside and tried. Not too shoddy result, I might add.
 Happy Halloween Y'all.
Keep writing and loving the Lord. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Stroke Survivor ~ Follow My Finger

No, I said follow my finger not pull my finger. Yep, I'm back on track again. Today's discussion is on eye tracking. We have all had this mini focus type thing run by doctors where they move their finger up, down, and every which way.

What I didn't realize until I recently asked my neurologist was I couldn't do it right after my stroke. I thought I was following her finger but I wasn't really. Every time I had to close my eyes to regain focus or turned my head were counted against me performing the activity. Even now when watching this video, I have to blink my eyes...15 months later. That shows I still have a problem.

DOH! I didn't appear to have a problem reading or so I thought. I started paying attention on how many times I had to go back and read a line of text or use my finger to read to keep my eyes focused on where I needed to be. I didn't notice it while driving because my head is always turning to get a clear picture of what is going or coming and measuring distances.

I can look straight ahead and see fine. For the first six months I couldn't look up or down without getting dizzy or disorientated. Yes, I could quickly resolve these issues with the none impaired executive function part of my brain. Now I can look down with no problem, but I can't look up the change a light bulb in the ceiling fan or snag cobwebs without feeling like I'm falling.

The same goes for scrolling text like twitter. My brain just can't handle the input from my computer screen. So for now, I've sworn off Twitter and tweets. But instead I get digest of what has been said.

Reading left to right is better because of the small screen on my e-reader. I actually have the font enlarged so that only about ten lines of text appear on the screen too.

I read books while I was in the hospital and didn't notice any problem.  But what I really wasn't focusing on what I was reading either. Ask me what I read or what happened in any of the books and I couldn't tell you. That's because I was speed or skim reading. It was a trick I learned by having to read mountains of text books, IRS Code changes every year, and hills of research I do. By having a photographic memory, now kaput, it was easy to do. I could mentally flip the pages in my mind to recall what I had read.

  I did notice the eye tracking difficulties once I came home. In part because I was having to focus more on everything because their wasn't someone available with just a push of a button. I started following my finger across each written word so my eyes wouldn't dance across the page or screen like some Fred Astaire/Ginger Rodgers musical because I couldn't make my eyes behave.

How did I achieve this ability since my stroke? I cheated and used focusing tools. A cursor, a ruler, a finger all helped me focus on one word at a time. I constantly tried to look at my left ear and then my right. No, I can't see them. Can you see yours?  But it's a focused exercise in focus. I would do one side for a ten count and then go the other direction. But even with this I can't look up yet, but I can look left and right diagonally up so that's improving too, but not straight up.

My sister had what my mother called a "lazy eye." But I remember her doing eye exercises with her every day to strengthen weak muscles. Now when I'm tired or been reading to much I find my head moving along sentences instead of just my eyes. I'll put whatever it is down and close my eyes. Usually it's about nap time anyhow so it works out.

I once told a sister in law that yes, I was now visibly handicapped, but it's the muscles you don't see that cause me the most problems. Little things like stomach, bowels, diaphragm, throat, and even eye muscles are affected too. At least that has been the way of my stroke.

Anyhow, this is something I'm still working on. At times I feel like Marty Feldman who had no control over which way his eyes pointed. Although his condition was permanent, but with God's help mine won't be. I've set a semi hard goal of changing a light bulb by Christmas. Wish me luck.

Nothing is impossible with determination.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Fun ~ Bunny, Husband, a Post Stroke Scare, and Assorted Updates

The one fun thing I haven't been doing is writing.
But here's what else is going on...

Babs Bunny is now three months old. Her forelock between her ears now measures four inched and her body hair measures three inches in length. I can't wait to get enough fur to spin it. Another months tops before she loses her baby coat.

And see Alex, she does have ears rather long ones at that. I recently bought a pen so she could go outside. She went outside for the first time yesterday. I bought it for her protection plus she's too darn quick to catch. My stroke aside even my healthy children and grandchildren have a hard time in inside of the house. My new family room, the old office, is her playroom. With the tiled floors she can't hurt anything in there. She's got some powerful legs!

The pups are doing well and are house trained already. They are cute when they try to negotiate the pet door to go outside. They were taught by the cats how to use it. Speaking of my cats...they've adjusted well to the new influx of animals into their domain. Little Bit looks at them all as new toys to play with. Of course now, they are all smaller than her. This cat's favorite game is to lie stretched out on the sofa and reaching a paw down to swipe the youngsters' heads.

Wouldn't you know Babs, the smarty pants rabbit, would figure out how to jump up on the couch. She is quite pleased with herself for doing it. Not only did she figure out a way to jump up on the sofa to be with her buddy up she also followed her up on the back of the sofa and onto the windowsill to look outside. The look of surprise on Little Bits' face was precious!

Patches, our other cat, takes a guarded attitude to all the new additions. She tolerates them in typical cat like fashion. Unlike the chickens and meat rabbits who she regularly plays with, she gives the pups and bunny the evil eye and they back off. The cats definitely rule the house.

My beloved is doing poorly. You would figure with four caregivers in the family (2 RNs, 1 CNA, 1 LPN) we wouldn't need hospice in our home also, but in my case it's a necessity and the reason is not what you might think.

Yes, there is the ability to step back and be the wife which is a godsend, but I've had some serious doubts in my ability to care for him. A prime example...

When he went into congestive heart failure again last week, my first thought was to give Lasix to reduce the amount of fluid compressing his heart and lungs. It is after all the standard treatment for that ailment. What the stroke has done to the cognitive function part of my brain could have killed him. One of the MAJOR contraindications for Lasix is low blood pressure. Because by reducing the fluid in the body you lower the blood pressure as well. I forgot that very important thing.

When I was reminded, I was rattled. I became unsure of what I knew and more importantly what I did not remember. Now, I'm second guessing EVERY decision I make. I'm filled with self doubt and no this isn't a fun thing in general, but surprisingly it's liberating!

We argued constantly before about his care. Now, not so much. I let the hospice nurse be the heavy. I would argue with him to stay in bed with his feet elevated to combat the swelling, to wear his oxygen, and assorted other things. I was making life miserable for us. They made me see that his noncompliance was his choice in how he lived the remainder of his life. That he was happier sitting at the computer dozing than being in bed. I've often said that I'd die happy typing a novel at the computer so that they'd have to pry my hands off the keyboard. They made me see he's the same way. It was a light bulb moment for me. I'm still beside him with his oxygen at the ready for when he feels he needs it. I'll still get him something to drink or eat. I'm still here helping him die the way he wants to.
The Great Raised Bed Garden Experiment is now over. Three bushels of tomatoes or 153 lbs, 180 lbs of green beans and black eye peas, 40 ears of corn, 20 lbs of sunflower seeds, 100 lbs of cucumbers now pickled, 33 lbs of Japanese Eggplant now frozen and dehydrated,  57 lbs of potatoes and onions, and 102 lbs of assorted squashes. I've also got three good sized pumpkins for Halloween and baking for the holidays and about 20 lbs of cantaloupe fruit leathers. My fig tree produced 50 lbs of fruit now canned and dehydrated. My lime and navel orange trees are heavy with fruit. While my pecan trees are in their dormant year. So all in all, not too shoddy of a harvest on less than 200 square feet of growing space not counting the trees and potatoes and onions. The trees are planted in the yard and the onions and potatoes were grown in 5 gallon buckets.

Hope y'all have a good Friday and make it fun.