Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Keeping the Faith

Forgive me for being overly Christian in this post. BUT I am a minister, after all. And, I'm living post stroke too.

I know many of you blame God, or ask God about your stroke? How could He let this happen to you??!!

 I hear you crying out. You've been hit with a whammy of a turmoil. How could God have let this happen to you? You were His child, weren't you? You were walking in faith, weren't you? You went to church every Sunday? Or every Sunday you could.  You prayed daily? You praised and thanked Him continually. You had no other God but the Father.

The fact is you may be blaming the wrong source. Yes, God may even let this happen to you. Look at Job in the Bible. God allowed him to be tested. To have his faith stretched to the limit. He lost everything in this world, but remained faithful and praised God. This is important. Nobody wants to go through what Job did. Honestly, would you except for the reward part? But, here we are faced with paralysis and a host of things that go along with it.

God, I hate my life the way it is now!

 I've been guilty of saying this in sheer frustration from time to time. But do I really? The answer is a big, fat NO. I may hate some parts of it like falling, and not being able to use my limbs the way God originally made me. But on a whole, I am content and at peace. God gifted me with  a creative mind to accomplish most of what I need to do. Sure, there are many things I wish to do, but can't right now. But given time, I might be able to figure it out. Nobody ever told you that this life would be easy. If they did; they were lying.

God, where is the healing You promised?

 Coming. Expect it, even though it might be 50 years in the waiting. It takes patience. Again, I direct you to Job. It wasn't a day worth of trials. It was months and years. Have you proven yourself faithful to the Father. I've been living post stroke for almost five years now. I'm still keeping faith with Him and expecting. In the meantime, I continue to live each day to the fullest. I do more by noon than most regular folks do in a day. I focus on the blessings instead of the turmoil. I praise Him for the beauty all around me. I even thank Him when I make it to the toilet in time instead of wetting myself. That's a HUGE blessing to me.

When God, When?

It's coming. This is the answer I get every time I ask. So I make applesauce and lemonade until it's time. I do what I can do. Try what I can't do. And, just keep on keepin' on. That's really all I can do. I still do my PT exercises so that when it does happen my muscles won't be wasted away. I figure out how to do things with my affected side to help me with my daily routine. Like coining the phrase, "Arm pit tight" when screwing on canning rings while canning our food. It would be a horrible slap in the face when, "God says, you're healed!" and I've let my muscles waste away to the point they won't work, wouldn't it? But I've accepted the fact that it is coming and am expecting it. Each day I try to stand and take a step without my AFO.

Why God did you let this happen to me?

Tough question. Yep, it sure is. Maybe, God wanted to change something in your life and you didn't listen. Maybe, God wanted you to step out in faith and you didn't listen. Maybe, God wanted you to be an example to others. I don't have the answer for you. You have to ask Him for your case. I know these were my answers. I was impatient like a petulant child. Always demanding and not waiting. He wanted me to have a broader focus in my ministry except for a traveling messenger. He wanted me to be humble and ask for help. He wanted me to continue leading by example. When I fulfill what He wanted I expect to be healed, or maybe not. God reserves the right to change His mind just like us. Will I be disappointed by not being healed fully? Yes and no. By living this life fully each day, I truly lack and want for little. I am content and at peace. Really that's all I need. He has shown me a rewarding life just as I am.

As always,
Nothing is impossible.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Have You Given Up?

I'm fast approaching the four and five-year mark of living post stroke. I have to say that the idea of giving up the hope of full or even partial recovery of my right arm and leg has crossed my mind. But still I hang on with my finger tips to that hope.

The difference between me giving up hope and others is that I'm not standing still waiting for full recovery. I'm living my life to the fullest while waiting. Sure, I may have moments, days, weeks, or rarely a month on the self pity pot, but I eventually snap out of it. What about you? Are you still on it? How boring! Don't you want better for yourself? I know I did in spite of having two strokes.

If you've read this blog very long, I know you've shaken you head in amazement about what I have done since my strokes. It honestly has taken some hard work and thinking outside the box creativity to get here. I'm still without us of my left arm partially. The shoulder works, Thank God! But from the bicep to the fingers, nothing except some serious spastic muscles. I truly believe if it wasn't for the spasticity, I would have regained full use back. I was well on the way before it set in full force leaving contractures in my wrist and fingers. My ankle is another story. I couldn't strengthen the Extensor Digitorum or Peronesus Longes (outside, lateral calf) muscles enough to control my ankle from inverting. See, I know which muscles are affected by my strokes and are causing the trouble. But I can voluntarily evert my foot and dorsiflex when the spasticity is not present. I still am working on these issues with exercises. But, I'm thankful for my AFO, it allows me to stand and walk.

My attitude has been my saving grace and my frustration point. It's no secret that I'm stubborn because of this I'm resilient and tenacious. It's also no secret that I'm a cheerleader. I'm always rooting for the underdog even if it's me. These traits have carried me through a lot over the decades. I used to say learn something new each day. Yeah, I'm a nerd. But, since I had a stroke I've added to that. Attempt to relearn or try an alternative of something you used to do each day. Nothing is easy the first time you try. Heck, it may be difficult the first twenty times you try, or even the 500th time you try. Who would have ever thought a video of me cooking or canning one handed would get 4,000 plus views, but it has. The same goes for a lot of videos we produce where I'm in it just doing.

There isn't much I need assistance with and that's the way I like it. Mel has learned to ask before jumping in. I really appreciate that. I could have been like many I see being rolled around in a wheelchair post stroke. Nah, not really. I would have fought my way out of it. See, my attitude is showing. Not to mention that it would have been impossible for me to get around my house with a wheelchair. Circumstances and sheer will got me up on my feet again. The same can be said for everything I can now do. I keep pushing my boundaries.

Nothing ventured is nothing gained. It's true. Are you satisfied with your life living post stroke? I sure wasn't. I had dreams and goals for the rest of my life before a stroke sideswiped me, didn't you? I know you did.I didn't have the luxury of time after my stroke. I had a terminally ill husband at home who needed me to function. I had to do to the best of my ability and fast. I spent a total of 30 days in the hospital and rehab unit. Then I went home to what awaited. I knew my children would help, but not for long. Within six months, I was doing almost all again. I was walking, talking, driving, cooking, and caring for my husband who was only slipping away, and able to less and less.  Did I feel hopeless or helpless? Truly yes! But I didn't have a choice.This was my saving grace plus my attitude.

Your stroke did not kill your brain, only parts of it. I know you still are thinking trapped inside that nonfunctioning parts of paralyzed body. I know I was and am. My mind is going ninety to a million miles an hour. I could spend hours, days, weeks, months, and yes, even years bemoaning my lot in life. But inside, I use all that brain power in thinking of things I can do and how I can do it. Yes, I will continue to fail at trying to use a manual can opener. But that doesn't mean I won't pull it out of the drawer and try it from time to time. There's got to be a way to use it. I just haven't thought of the correct way yet. When I do, you'll be the first to know.

Yeah, I'm hard headed, stubborn, and have an attitude. Beep, beep! Get outta my way! I might just run you down if you get in my way with the speed of my brain power. I ain't dead yet. That which does not kill me, makes me stronger. Want my attitude? What's stopping you?

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sunday Stroke Survival: Chicken and Adaptive Gardening

As y'all might know for the better part of a month now, we've had an injured chicken in our house. Her leg was injured in a predator attack which killed three of our birds a few weeks ago. The trial of incorporating her back within her flock was a dismal failure. She was attacked by hens and rooster alike. We kind of figured this would happen because she's been away from the flock for so long and is still a one legged chicken. I fear she will never regain the use of her hurt leg even with the range of motion therapy I've been doing with her.

Since Broody is the only one of our hens to go broody (sit on eggs until they hatch), we've decided to let her live a little while longer. But we'll have to protect her from the rest of the flock also. The other concern we have is that she hasn't laid an egg since she's been injured. A nonlaying chicken won't go broody, I don't believe. But still we are giving her the benefit of the doubt. She may lay again. Being injured can stop egg production. So the plan is this. We'll give her another month or two. In the meantime, I'm building a small chicken tractor 2x6 out of PVC and chicken wire. I realize chicken wire is not much protection from predators, but it will be in a fenced garden area. The plan for such a small tractor is to put it between the rows in our garden. She'll be on bug patrol. The extra fertilizer leeching into our garden beds with each rain will be one less chore we'll have to do. Chickens weren't meant to live indoors with people full time. This tractor can easily be moved every day by me and my one handed self. Since the rows are four feet apart, there's plenty of room for me to tend the garden and the chicken tractor. It only weighs about 15 pounds.

If after two months she still hasn't laid an egg, she can be culled. Why wait so long? Well, we have four fertile eggs in the incubator due to hatch on the 9th. We needed to replace our hens. Now watch them all be roosters destined immediately for their next stage of life. These new chickens will need a grow out pen. I can cull a chicken any time. I, unlike Mel, have no problem doing the deed. It's part of homesteading and being self sufficient.

Seedlings after a freeze.
It's still too cold to plant or even start seeds yet. This morning I thawed twelve water bottles for the rabbits and cracked a 1/4" layer of ice off the 5 gallon buckets we have around the house of rain water for the cats, dogs, and chickens outside. It might break 60 degrees today. Yes, I know we can start seeds inside, but I hesitate.  I started seeds in the greenhouse last Easter and an arctic blast killed all my seedlings two weeks later. An overnight frost is one thing but this was three days of below freezing temperatures at night and the daytime temperatures may have been in the mid 40s was too much for the seedlings. I'll wait until mid April to start anything even indoors.

This year, I'm trying something new. I built a soil block maker. For years, I've sworn by my biodegradable toilet and paper towel core pots as a way to start seeds, but I saw this idea on YouTube where they used PVC pipe to make them. But I thought of a better way. Each month I refill my prescription of Lovaza for my cholesterol. It comes in either the big manufacture package as shown or, I imagine, the largest prescription bottle made. Since my pharmacist doesn't cap my prescription  in child proof caps, my request. I always used to hand my childproof lidded caps to my grandchildren to open. The inner lid  fits snugly into the inside of the bottle. I was saving my prescription bottles for MAP International, who recycles these bottles to third world countries, I simply cut the narrowed end off with an Xacto knife and drilled a hole in the other end for a long bolt. Now making a hundred or so soil blocks would be tedious beyond belief, I made four of them and held them together with duct tape. To press all four bolts down at the same time, I simply attached all four bolts through a piece of 1x4. Voila! I can make four blocks at a time. They are 2" around by 2" high. Much bigger than the cell seed starting trays shown above. So now I can make four at a time in one go.

I'm not the first one to make this
As far as operating my new toy one handed, I put a row of hot glue near the plunger end of the bottles and cut strips of burlap to wrap around them. That way I can hold the plunger down with my thumb and anchor the tubes with my little finger as I pull the contraption upwards to release the pots. I do plan on doing a video of this. Both the making of the soil block maker and using it. All it cost me, other than the original prescription, was $4.00 for four bolts and nuts. I had assorted washers in one of Mel's soup can holders in her shop. Duct tape, burlap, and hot glue gun and glue sticks, we had on hand also. What self respecting homesteader and/or crafter doesn't have these? I found bolts and nuts around the shop, but not all the same length that I needed. If I had had them, it would have been a free, totally recycle/repurpose project. So this soil block maker used up some of my chomping-a-the-bit waiting to plant time. But it was well worth it. I'll still recycle my toilet paper and paper towel cores, but for rabbit toys and fire starters. With only two people in a household, we don't go through paper products that fast. Plus, like many self reliant folks, we use cloth alternative more except for toilet paper.

Well, that's been my week. How has yours been?

As always,
Nothing is impossible.