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.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday Mailbox ~ Blogger and Internet Friendships

Over the past years of turmoil that make up, in part, the Murphey Saga, I have been repeatedly touched by the kindness of "strangers." These people have opened their hearts to me and laid them bare.

While I have never had a face to face meeting with 99% of them they offer me their encouragement, support, compassion. friendship, and a whole lot more. They offer me laughter and knowledge, and tears and concern.

All of these things are precious to me.

I wish to offer back my sincere gratitude to all of you! Sometimes just saying thank you isn't enough. For once words fail me.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sunday Stroke Survival ~ Enjoying Life

Yes, This is the new me!
My daughter posted this picture on her FaceBook page. I didn't even know that she took it. The point spite of my stroke, I am living life to the fullest and being me.

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in being a stroke survivor and full of regret over what we lost that we lose sight over what is really important.

Yes, the destination of trying to be whole again is  important. We get so wrapped up in relearning and rehab that we fail to remember that journey is just as crucial if not more so in importance.

I was reminded of that this day. I was making corn dogs in my cake pop maker. They are little and just the right size for my 22 month old grandson, James, to eat. I was engrossed with being grandma and spending time with my grandson. Yes, the fact that I'm paralyzed on one side is a factor. Yes, I'm having to sit on a chair to cook because of balance issues with an ear infection. Yes, he's having to hold a bag so I can put them in so he can take some home. He got the hot dogs out of the package so I could cut them up. James stirred in the hot dogs into the corm muffin mix while I held the bowl. He set the twisting wind up timer for the cooking time. Not always correctly, but he isn't yet two years old.

BUT the value of the time spent with him was priceless.

He didn't care that I couldn't do some things. James only cared that I was spending quality time with him. He's a helpful little bugger with a giving spirit. Gee, I wonder where he gets that from? Currently, he's entered the terrible twos tantrum stage so it's best to keep him busy.

You may notice that I've cut my hair into a pixie style. No fuss. No muss. Though I've tried keeping my longer hair neat  and out of my face, it was a no win situation one handed. Hair is not important besides it will grow back. Back to the issue at hand...

Embracing what you can achieve after your stroke is a positive. Rocking your child, cooking a meal even if it's a nuke 'em meal, or if you're managing to do one thing with some adaptation of your old life it is precious.  It should nourish your soul and encourage you to try other new old things. I often compare myself to James since my stroke except now in some ways he has surpassed me in learning. I watch his trial and error how he accomplishes goals. In his trial and errors he has actually taught this old grandma how to do a few other things. Adaptability is common in youngsters, it's just that we, as survivors, have aged out of the exploration stage so it's harder.

Yes Jeremy, I swiped your pic!
In the advents of all the news and magazine touting "40 is the new 30, 70 is the new 50" etc. I wrote a new story in my WIP, Don't Get Your Panties in a Wad, about this very subject except it was 60 post stroke is the new 2. Yes, I'm writing again. Yipee! Wahoo! I was thinking of all my grandson and I have in common. Things like diapers, having someone cut up your food so you don't choke, nap time, drooling, etc. The list goes on and on. Now it might offend some stroke survivors as stereotyping, but I call it like I see it.

I should be so lucky...
  • as to be two years old instead of my age and having to relearn certain things.
  • as to have a young, nimble body that doesn't revolt.
  • as to have the joy of exploration for the first time.
  • as to having a loving and caring person show me the ropes.
Yes but instead I take joy that I can share any moments with my grandchildren because the worse thing that could happen to me is not being here to share in their lives and creating these moments to remember. My mother died when James' mother was just a little bit older than James, but still she has some memories. A fleeting glimpses of a smiling face and certain things she did with her. Life itself is precious and a gift. Don't waste it.

Nothing is impossible with determination.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Happy Birthday Beloved

Today is my husband's birthday. Happy Birthday, my beloved!

Once again, he's proved us all wrong by opening his eyes to see another one. This is an important milestone.

Yesterday, we weren't sure if he would. He went into congestive heart failure again. A slew of rapid phone calls between his cardiologist's and pulmonolgist's offices and me on a course of action. I popped him with a large amount of heavy duty diuretic and potassium, but not without consequences. A "quick" trip to the Emergency room to semi-stabilize him lasting four hours with my ex-husband burning up minutes on my cell phone to call the squad. But for his comfort we (two daughters and myself) transported him via my van to the hospital.

He was eventually released for home. It is his ultimate wish to die at home surrounded by things and people he knows and loves. My girls and I know this, but I'm glad I have their support even though it is very difficult. I, being his Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, made sure he would be released before I even took him. Difficult choices

So now he is in his own bed. I can't give him his Lasix because his blood pressure in only 50/20. He needs the fluids to maintain that blood pressure. He lost eight pounds of fluids yesterday with the Lasix and it only marginally reduced the extra fluids putting pressure on his heart, and filling and compressing his lungs. It's an oxymoron at best.

Our youngest daughter stayed here last night to help me and allowed me to get some rest.So I'm doing well. Or as well as can be expected. The hospice admit nurse from my #2 daughter's job will be by today. It helps that they are like family. I've married a couple of them, I knew a few of them from the hospital, and some even helped when my father in law was dying. It is time. Not because the end is imminent and we are not capable of handling what is needed, but it gives us a break.

The girls will be by with the grandchildren like any other birthday. My husband will blow out his unlit candles because of the oxygen with his grandchildren's help. He'll eat maybe two bites of the cake and maybe a bite of his ice cream because it's required. We will try to make it a jovial event with this heavy cloud hanging over us. For the second time this will be done at his bedside. The first time he was in the hospital.

Once again we take humor of the situation. In the past it has always been around a holiday and a Thursday that my husband has had a crisis event. Yesterday was time for an 11-year old joke. "It's Thursday, do you have gas in your car?"

And the wait continues...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Saying Goodbye~ It's so Darn Hard

It's no big secret to anyone following this blog that I've cut back on my blogging. I've even changed what I do blog about and when except for those blogs I'm committed to do. This is another of those times.

For the last couple months I've been struggling with the care of my husband. For those who do know, he is terminal with a bad heart, bad lungs, and cancer. Yes, he's been terminal for a long time...11 years and counting.

It's my anniversary today! Happy Anniversary to us for passing the 21 year mark in spite of life's hard knocks. That's what faith, forgiveness, and fortitude has done for us, but I'm afraid this is coming to an end.

No not divorce but death.

My husband's condition has rapidly deteriorated over the past year since my stroke. He has honestly given his disease ravaged body a good fight for staying with me. This year so far he has fought numerous bouts of pneumonia and congestive heart failure. At the end he's bounced back, but had not bounced back fully. Each time has taken its toll to the point where there is almost nothing left.

I watch him struggle to draw a breath and stop breathing completely for a few moments, and can see the truth. We've had the revolving door of in and out of doctors' offices, the *ologist's brigade, over the past several months to where we are all exhausted. All of it to hear the same thing, ""It's time."

They all wonder why he is still breathing and talking. I wasn't sure myself, but for years I've been praying for peace and comfort. I no longer pray for healing. That has been given to us in spades although it might not seem that way to most. I've been blanketed, no cocooned, in peace and comfort that I've forgotten all my worldly training.

This week that revelation was brought home to me by my hospice nurse daughter while we were discussing his condition. For the past month now, my beloved has imposed on our children to take me out and do fun things like the farmers trade and swap, movies, lunches etc. for several hours a week. Another child, or grandchild, or extended family would sit with him and take care of his needs. I couldn't see why he was doing it or at least refused to see why.

The reason was to get me involved with life again. To make me realize that life goes on even after death. It was his gift to me. My daughter said, "Mom, you need to tell him that you will be fine without him. It's time to say goodbye."

Now I have counseled umpteen gazillion people to do the same thing. I've even done it with family members like my mother, sister, assorted others. I've counseled others as a nurse and a minister. BUT it never dawned on me or recognized that it was time to do this with my husband.

So this week as I stroked his face and kissed his lips, I told him goodbye. I will be fine that he could stop fighting. He could look into my eyes and see it was the truth. I gave him permission to leave me until we meet again. This was my final gift to him and there is nothing more precious left to give.

And now I wait, because I refuse to mourn his passing until he breathes no more.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sunday Stroke Survivor ~ Inappropriate or Overkill Emotions

I've talked about my inappropriate responses on this blog for over a year. It has a name that I haven't discussed yet. It's called Psuedobulbar Affect (PBA). You may have seen recent television commercials about it recently. Now you are meeting someone afflicted with it. It's not depression.

It's a side effects of my stroke. No, I'm not crazy for laughing for no apparent reason, or bursting into torrential sobs at someone saying "boo," or going ballistic with rage when you drop a pin. I just can't help myself and I have no control over it either. No I'm not exaggerating or taking an author's license.

Some of you may remember the blog about the one and only wedding I officiated since my stroke. For those who didn't get a chance to read it, it's here. Since my stroke, you won't find me without a box of tissues and my incontinence pads for this very reason.

Everyone has something that tickles their funny bone. That's normal within the confines of the situation. People tear up at commercials or movies. That's normal too. Everyone has an instance where anger explodes for a just cause. That's normal too. What I'm talking about is no control and no outward event which triggers this response.

I can start crying for no apparent reason or laugh outrageously over something sad. Even if it is as image that I saw on television months ago of one of those starving children. All it takes is the picture to flutter through in my mind. The same thing goes with laughter and anger, or any emotional response. It is beyond appropriate to the extreme. I can laugh until I can't breathe and pee my pants. We used to joke about one of our daughters who would get so tickled that she always ran from the room saying, "I gotta pee!" Well I can't run nor have significant control of my bladder so I'll pee my panties.

My family and friends look at me with concern and ask if I'm okay. My usual response is an attempted nod of my head and a wave of my hand until I finally get control back. It can last several seconds or several minutes. That's why most of the events I go to revolve around family. I rarely go places surrounded by strangers because they will not understand what is going on. But I'm lucky, I have a huge family.

If it happens in public, I always have family or friends who will talk me down off the ledge. They will laughingly tell the truth to strangers, "She's okay. She's brain damaged." It gets some strange looks and people will sidle away with questionable looks and hope it's not catching. By the same token, I burst into tears at The Olive Garden one night because they ran out of what I wanted. It was like someone had told me my favorite dog had died. The poor waitress. Luckily that particular episode didn't last too long.

  • Embarrassing? Oh yes! 
  • Will it scar me for life? Nope because I realize it is part of my stroke affects me and not really me. It's no stranger than my AFO, cane, the way my arm won't move, or the way I speak. Although I will admit it is disconcerting to others. 
  • Stand out in a crowd? Yep, I sure do more than my physical impairments. But then, I've always considered myself as a unique being in a crowd of dull people anyhow.
  • Isn't there anything that can be done to fix this? Nope there isn't a cure. All they can do is prescribe drugs to ease the response. It doesn't stop it from happening. It's how my brain functions since the stroke.
Say hello to the new, and glorious me after a stroke. I was on Cymbalta before my stroke because of Fibromyalgia. Not depression. Now it seems that this same drug is used for PBA sufferers. It helps me keep control of my emotional outburst but not stop them entirely. There are many new drug therapies also. Welcome to my post stroke roller coaster- it's either a riot of laughter, crying in bucket loads, or exploding in indignant rage, but it's still me!

I refuse to hide under a rock.
I refuse to die.
I refuse to give up trying to be better.
I refuse to be ashamed of myself because of my circumstances.
Won't you join me?

Nothing is impossible with determination.

Sunday Stroke Survivor ~ Caregivers- the Unsung Heroes

In the past I've  blogged about caregivers. This makes the 10th post regarding caregiving. They are the unsung heroes in a person in need's life. Yes, I'm a caregiver, but I'm also a stroke survivor.

They are often taken for granted just because they are there. Everyone depends on them- doctors, nurses, rehab therapists, and a host of others not to mention the person they are taking care of. No one really gives them a second thought most times. This is a mistake.

Take a look at any caregiver site online. There are tons of them. Recently I was contacted by Cameron Von St. James. He runs a caregiver site for Mesothelioma group. He googled "Caregiver" and read my posts. He's one of hundreds of thousands of caregivers searching for ways to be a better caregiver for their loved ones. See we do more than give care. We research. We talk to others. We talk to anyone and everyone to find answers.

Before my husband was diagnosed with his cancer I was searching for what his ailment could be because the symptoms did not add up. A relatively healthy man having two heart attacks and a stroke within six months, crazily fluctuating blood pressures and heart rates, and a host of other symptoms like blackout and seizures. I ran across a small global internet forum and spoke up. It turned out he had not only this disease but an even rarer form which metastasizes like wild fire. Of course all the doctors here were skeptical because it is so rare but I was armed with facts to back up my hypothesis and demanded investigation.

Being a forever student helps narrow the search from years of practice.

Everyone that knew my position as caregiver, over the years, told me to take care of myself too. No real thought is given on how to achieve this when we are on-call 365/7/24. My flippant answer was "Of course, because who is left to care for me." More truthful words were never spoken. I suffered a heart attack which I lived through but it damaged my heart irrevocably, but still I was the caregiver.

Now I've suffered and survived a stroke, but still I'm the caregiver. During my hospitalization others stepped forward to care for my husband because I was away. My rehab point of view was what did I need to continue being the caregiver that spurned me forward. I needed to walk. I needed to give injections. I needed to read lips because my hearing impaired husband read them. I accomplished it all in a short period of time.

What did all of this cost me? Nothing really. I would have had to relearn these things anyhow. Now I didn't do it alone upon returning home. I depended heavily on my children and even my husband to his detriment. He's a caregiver and protector to his core.

I started seeing what this effort was causing my caregivers. Caregiving has a high price to pay. My husband's downhill battle for life has deteriorated. Not that it wouldn't have anyhow, but it has happened at an alarming rate over the past year. Two out of four daughters are now divorced from their spouses. Not entirely because of their caregiver roles, but I can't help but see the strain it caused. All my children have taken the "if you need me, call" stance and I really hate to do it.

Yes, caregivers are the unsung heroes in your life. Take a moment and give them an extra hug or tell them thank you for all they do.

Nothing is impossible with determination.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wednesday Writerly Way ~ The Indie Two Step

Being an indie author is no easy task. It's the Indie Two Step. It's the latest rage and everybody is trying to learn this dance craze. Including you if you're reading this.

This dance has intricate twists and turns.  It has no particular moves because different steps work for different authors which makes it ever hard to teach to someone else. There is no magic formula in spite of all the blogs, articles and books.

So why do it?

Well that's what I'm telling you to ask yourself before you even attempt it. You have to be honest with yourself.
  • How much time are you willing and able to invest in your project?
  • How much money can you afford to invest in your project?
  • Is your project good enough to withstand the market and shine?
These are the three questions you should contemplate before going indie. But situations change. There are always evolutionary changes within your life which affect your first answers.

I side stepped traditional publishing. I understood what was at stake by doing this. It's a bold new world. I am an innovator type person although an introvert. I've always made things happen. Because of real life situations made it possible for me to publish, market and sell my books in spite of having a terminally ill husband.

How much time was I willing and able to invest? Every waking moment when I was not
doing my duties of ministry, caregiver, and a living, breathing person. That averaged out to about 50 hours a week. But I was realistic, life would intrude on that 50 hours so I devoted 30 hours a week to my publishing, marketing, production, and selling efforts. That equated to a part time job. Now with a part time job you don't aim for the stars but a realistic high mountain peak.

How much money could I afford to invest? Almost none. That meant I had a whole lot of learning to do on how to put together a book in various formats, cover art, editing, the best way to market my book, and be realistic about the returns for my efforts. Currently meager effort = meager return on investment (ROI) but more on that in a minute. 

Is my book able to withstand the competition and shine? Possibly. I'm still working on the Indie Two Step moves. I started with good intentions. Don't we all?

But a funny thing happened on my way to success as an indie author. Life bumped me out of the running. My husband's cancer got worse. In fact he's on a downward spiral and he's looking forward to meeting his Maker. I had a stroke. So I'm treading water because my life as an indie author came to almost a screeching halt. My marketing efforts have dwindled down to nonexistent.

As a result, the new formatting of my books to Kindle have been derailed. Kindle once accounted for 85% of my sales. The second books in the areas espionage/suspense, southern suspense, horror/suspense, and six children's books in the Sweet Haven series sits idling on my hard drive while I await my brain recovering enough to set the next stage in action. Also books 2 &3 of my survival nonfiction series, and the full text of the "Author Business" sit in equal idle mode. Hard life blows for any writer.

Everyone knows to sell more books you have to have a bunch of them to get noticed? That's true with traditionally published authors too. The more books; the more exposure.

So how do you learn a dance when there are so many conflicting moves for the same dance? You don't. You do the best that you can and pray for a miracle!

Keep writing and loving the Lord.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sunday Stroke Survival ~ Failure is NOT an Option

A few weeks ago Barb Polan talked on her blog about failures as a stroke survivor. I say failure is not an option I will not accept it in recovery ever. How about you?
  • Do you look at your rehab efforts and recovery as failure?
  • Do you look at you rehab efforts and recovery as humbling?
  • Do you look at your rehab efforts and recovery as setting yourself up for failure?
Stop that! ( Dean that's for you grinning)

You are not empowering yourself, but demoralizing yourself and setting yourself up for failure. It is a self fulfilling prophecy. Ever heard of it? The thing about stroke recovery is that it's all about the brain...damaged brain, healing brain, thinking brain, and the visual brain. The human mind is powerful and is constantly learning until the day you die. The neurons are constantly firing to remember, to store, produce movements, and has redundant system operating systems just waiting for re-education and activation.

You've all heard the phrase, "You are what you eat." The same applies to stroke recovery, "You are what you think." I often use a quote from Edison and always screw it up. I find 10,000 to big of a number to visualize. Have you ever visualized it? It looks like a crowded mess. But the point is taken...keep trying until success.

To feel successful is awesome to anyone.It is strived for and just as elusive to obtain for everyone. Granted we just want to have our old lives back prior to the stroke. But realize this...even with 100% recovery, it won't be the same lives EVER. We are forever changed by circumstances we live through.

Okay, so you want to be a little more normal. Like me, I'd love to have my right arm back. Life would would be semi-sorta normal if I could use two arms, elbows, wrists, and fingers. Just the thought fills me with abundant joy, but that just ain't happening right now.
I remember my in hospital based rehab just after my stroke, I was determined and very optimistic about making it happen before I came home. It didn't happen. Okay, I thought, two months of hard work and I'll have partial use. It didn't happen. Then the date was within six months of my stroke. Nope, but I did manage some voluntary elbow movement. A victory to be sure, but was it enough to me? Nope. I extended my goal to a year, my first anniversary of my stroke. In fact, I back tracked due to a separated AC tear in my shoulder and spasticity set in. Was I disappointed, yes! Was I a failure, no.
All of this was very disheartening but a failure to achieve? Because that's what failure or the sense of failure really is. Nope. I was still attempting my goal. I am still attempting my goal after almost 18 months post stroke. Just what have I achieve and grab onto as successful. That's the key to any good cheerleader. "That's okay. That's alright. Now get up and fight, fight, fight!"

But what if you've been going at recovery for weeks, months, or years without success? How do you keep going and not accept failure as an option? I don't know about years because I'm not there yet, but it helps to have a good support network. Even if it is one person. A spouse, a dog, your kid, another stroke survivor, even if that one person is me. 

I'm donning my high school cheerleading outfit. Actually, truth be known, I never was a cheerleader, but I did dress up as one for Halloween. Hmm, it rides up at the midsection. Grumble, grumble. Darn these spandex panties. one leg fits into the waist band now. Ah heck, good enough. Here I go. Squeezing the pom pom into my paralyzed hand and grabbing one in my functional one and waving them wildly visually.

"Go Strokee go!
If you can't do it
Nobody can!" 

It's all basically up to you.

Nothing is impossible with determination.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A New Addition to the Murphey Saga Family

No it's not another grandchild. I mentioned her in a comment response, but I didn't introduce y'all to her.

My grandson James, 22 months old, named her Babs.

She's a California and Angora mixed bunny rabbit. I've long wanted one to spin the rabbit's fur into yarn. As you can tell she's already getting long baby fur. As far as I can tell that their is any Californian in her is the she has a small black patch on her back, and several black patches on her leg and hind paws. She's two months old. Her eyes are not the standard blue with a pink lens like her ruby eyed breed but pure blue!

Her story...
My youngest daughter and I had been frequenting the Northeastern Florida Farmers Swap and Trade Market. I even follow them on FaceBook to chat with other farmers and urban farmers. You already know if you've read my various blogs or my book, I'm all about self-sufficiency. My goal is to be almost totally self sufficient by the year 2016. That is still my target date in spite of my stroke.

Jenn and I are all about doing it ourselves. She's been gardening and raising chicken for a couple of years now. Anyhow, we've been looking at the livestock trying to get a feel for which breeds would work best with the minimum of care for our area. I'm all about researching before jumping in with both feet. I don't want to be in a situation when my family depends on something and I don't know.

We saw a variety of animals rabbits, chickens, goats, turkeys, pigs etc. I walked up to a stall with these bunnies and was talking to the vendor. I really had no intention of buying anything last Sunday, I was just researching and browsing. I spotted this litter of five bunnies. My grandson, Triston (11) picked up one and I was explaining to him how to hold it and the care it would need. He had three says earlier lost 10 chickens to a neighborhood dog. Needless to say he was heart broken. He had raised these chickens since they were a couple of weeks old and they were now broody and hatching babies of their own.

The one he picked up was blue-black but still had the Angora long hair, when I spied this bunny. I explained to Triston that this sweet girl would be the one that I would pick if I were buying one today. Her fur would be easy to dye into a variety of colors. While the one he had could only be dye dark colors. Of all my grandchildren, this grandson has taken the self-sufficient mentality to heart. He loves building things and raising things be it pens and houses to growing crops and harvesting harvest, etc. The preserving and storage of goods he leaves to us womenfolk. <g>

We put the bunnies down to walk to the next stall. We walked all around the market examining and discussing the livestock. My daughter fell in love with the Frizzle Bantam she saw. This chicken was so ugly, it was cute. Black lacy feathers like a boa with white feathers that almost look like glitter in the sunlight. She wanted her as a pet not a livestock purchase.

It was close to the time when the market would close so we made our way up to the front.

The lady with the bunnies we had held rushed up to me. "Do you really want the bunny?"
"I haven't the $40 to pay for her today. I'll catch up with you in a couple of months," I told her.

I wasn't set up for an Angora rabbit. Sure, I had the meat rabbits outside in their hutches and runs but an Angora I wanted to house inside as a pet provider like my dogs and cats. Angoras need a lot more grooming than meat rabbits. I would need a cage, waterer, small feeding dish etc. My meat rabbits have a five gallon watering system outside and I mostly free range them.

The lady persisted. She explain that she didn't have the room for a rabbit with more new kits to take her place. That she could tell this bunny would be going to a good home. "Why don't we do this", she started bargaining.
But I was just as adamant against taking a bunny home today. Oh my hubby would have been proud of me had he been there because I didn't give in.
Finally she said, "I really can't take her home. Her and her brother have got to go today."
They were the last two in the cage. Both perfectly healthy just not a solid color. All the violet, black and white bunnies were sold.
Desperate she looked me in the eyes, "I can't take them home. I'll give you both of them for free."
My resolve about this just being a research trip faded when I looked into the bunny's blue eyes. So her brother went home with Triston and my new little girl came home with me.

I gave her a bath when I brought her home. She's so tiny without all the hair poofing out all over the place. I've managed her daily care and grooming even one handed. She's only nibbled at my hubby's finger once and much prefers carrots to fingers. She gives little snuffling bunny kisses and licks when held. She loves to tuck her head under my chin when carried and is a holy terror to my cats who don't know what to think of this funny looking animal Momma brought home. So far she chases them around the family room and lies in wait for one of them to pass by a hiding space so she can jump on them. I think she'll hold her own.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Friday Fun ~ Cooking with a New Toy

White Rabbit: [singing] I'm late / I'm late / For a very important date. / No time to say "Hello, Goodbye". / I'm late, I'm late, I'm late. From Disney's Alice in Wonderland.

It Friday Fun at the Murphey Saga. One thing I've missed since my stroke is freshly ground pepper. The chef in me cringes at pre-ground stuff. Now, I have the McCormick's Spice grinders and pepper mills galore, but have been at a loss of how to grind it one handed. So I searched for a one handed pepper mill. I didn't want a battery operated one, but a manual one. Like you, I have a ton of stuff that runs off of batteries.  Batteries get down right expensive.

Now I could have gone with a standard looking, manual grinder, but you know me...I didn't. That just wouldn't be me or a Friday Fun. This is what I bought.
It arrived today and can't wait to use it. Squeeze the ears and out of the base comes the freshly ground pepper. I also got one for salt that's white. Filling it posed a problem. You fill it at the tail. But my handy dandy funnel and a pan of rice fixed that.

I'm off to try it out. Have fun today!