Sunday, April 26, 2020

Law of Diminishing Return and Age

There's a direct correlation between the Law of Diminishing Marginal Return and your age. I found this out a few weeks ago. Oh, what a difference just two years makes as you grow older. To reinforce the matter, I just had another birthday yesterday. Whoppie! Hoop-de-do! Not really, but I won't go into it here.

As is usual for me, I was prepping the garden for planting. My original thought was to just till it all under. But on closer inspection, much to my dismay, I took a good look at some of the weeds in the garden. Some of the weeds propagated by sprouting new plants along the string of roots. To till these weeds would equal an explosion of the weeds in my garden. Think weeds on steroids. I had no choice but to weed it by hand carefully pulling whole roots of these obnoxious weeds.

Mel's thought was to put weed killer all over the area undoing my four years of labor and expense building this five times larger area of organic garden than she initially had. I just wasn't having that. I am so much healthier with less allergic reactions by eating chemical free.

Mel hates weeding so she decided to plant fresh eating vegetables is self wicking, 5-gallon buckets this year. She thinks it will be easier on her. Me, I'm planting the old fashion way of dense, companion planting in a cross between row planting and square foot gardening techniques. That's how I grew 100% of our needs in tomatoes, corn, herbs, garlic, and green beans that has lasted us 18 months in 2017 on less than 1/4 acre. So I have to pull some weeds. I'm out in the sunshine, communing with my Heavenly Father, doing what I always dreamed of doing. Our approaches to gardening are different, but that's okay.

Getting back to the subject at hand. The law of Diminishing Marginal Return states...
The law of diminishing marginal returns states that, at some point, adding an additional factor of production results in smaller increases in output. For example, a factory employs workers to manufacture its products, and, at some point, the company operates at an optimal level. With other production factors constant, adding additional workers beyond this optimal level will result in less efficient operations.

In the chart above at the beginning of this post, I use age as an additional factor that impacts production. On my urban homestead in my 40s, my garden grew to 1/2 and acre. Then, I hit 50, While I still produced the same but over a longer period to get it done, my family dynamics also changed due to marriages and grandchildren. By my mid 50s, I started having strokes impacting my production further. I went back to a 1/4 acre garden again which was fine as an empty nester. The strokes continued to occur, but my stubbornness wouldn't let me sway away from my goal of living the most organic, self sufficient lifestyle I could.

Now, I'm in my 60s for a few more years. In pulling the dandelions, plantains, wild violets, grasses, wild strawberries, and assorted other weeds from my garden which is much less than 1/4 acre, I'm hit with more diminishing return on a daily basis.

Monday, I pull four 5-gallon buckets plus a 3-gallon bucket of weeds. The 3-gallon bucket feeds the bunnies (2) and chickens (17). We do have 15 more chickens and 24 quail, but they are too young for the fresh greens.
Tuesday- my lower back and thighs are a bit worse for wear, I pull two 5-gallon buckets plus the 3-gallon bucket of weeds.
Wednesday- I pull a 3-gallon bucket and a 5-gallon bucket. I've gotten only a little over half the garden done.
Thursday- I pull a 3-gallon bucket. I had a doctor's appointment 36 miles away so the rest of my day is shot.
Friday- is today. I've managed the 3-gallon bucket already, but the rest of the day remains to be seen. I'm hoping that the rest of yesterday will enable me to pull more. At this rate, it will be summer before I get my garden weeded. 😒

Meanwhile, I've planted the corn, green peas, and green beans. It's been so gorgeous outside, I couldn't not be outside. It's not hard work. It poking a hole with a stick, dropping a seed in the hole, and using the stick to cover it up. No bending involved. I can plant four to eight seeds before I ever have to move my feet. I made mine out of a stick we had in the yard. I painted the depth on the pointed end in 1/2" measurements, and then vanished it to protect it. The numbers are big enough for me to see without bending over. I've got another one  with inch spacing. On the opposite end, I screwed a piece of 1x2 to tamp the seeds down. Need is the mother of invention. The stick can also double as a cane if I need extra balance or lean on to admire what I've accomplished.😄

I know the garden will eventually be planted. I'm too stubborn to allow anything less. We've got to have a fantastic harvest this year to make up for the dismal failures of last year. But the law of diminishing marginal return and age are working against me.

Nothing is impossible.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Sunday Stroke Survival: Just When You Think You Can Breathe

You are taught to breathe through pain in Lamaze class. You are taught how to breathe in Yoga class. You are taught to breath in anger management  or to combat panic attacks. I usually say, "Take a deep breath. This too will pass." Now again, I'm chanting it to myself.

Last week, I had my six-month cancer check up on my thyroid. I knew it was going to be bad before I even had the scan. I could feel it. I started having difficulty swallowing and breathing while lying.  If I pushed on my throat there was a lump where my thyroid gland should have been. The scan only proved it. The mass is the size of half my thyroid gland and it's grown that big in six months. Never a good sign. So it begins again.

It shatters my goal of staying away from hospitals in 2020. A needle biopsy was preformed and surgery scheduled,

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Adventures in Specialty Shoes

My shoes are different. They have to specially fitted and modified so I can't just run down to the shoe store if something happens to them to replace them.

At first, just after my first stroke, my AFO allowed me to wear regular shoes. But then, my Achilles tendon contracted within the first year. No amount of stretching will lengthen it now with the spasticity in my foot and ankle. To get around this, I'd need surgery, intensive therapy, plus a long recovery time. I know because I was desperate enough to get out of my AFO to consult an orthopedist. And again, a year ago. I just want to be able to walk again without pressure sores and pain. Is that too much to ask?

Going back to my shoes. My AFO is  built up at the heel to make allowances for my contracted Achilles tendon so the shoe must allow for it. It's also a full size up from my size and extra wide also. But the left shoe for my fully functioning foot, has rockers on the bottom to account for the height difference and a special insert that helps my foot seat right because I tore my Achilles tendon on that side years ago. Then, there was the stress fracture problem with my AFO.  Yes, I got a new  AFO which alleviated some of the problem, but not all of it. The shoe with a rocker on the right shoe fixed the problem. So, as you can see, regular shoes are out of the question.

Getting these shoes was no problem before Medicare. I was an insulin dependent diabetic so my BCBS paid for them.  Because my strokes and AFO required me to wear specialty shoes wasn't a covered expense. My doctors had no problem continued listing with a diagnosis of diabetes even though I was on no medication because my remission could be temporary like my heart issues. It was to Abby Normal for a stroke to kick start my Pancreas. They still say it but after 7 years of being insulin free and low-normal A1Cs, they won't argue the blessing. I'd gone from A1C readings without insulin of 15 (normal is 5-7) to consistent readings between 4-5 over a three month period. Yes, they tried me first on assorted drugs for over a year to no avail before switching to injections of insulin. I figured I'd be on the shots for life like my aunts and cousins until my stroke changed things.

Now, it's been seven years. I no longer have diabetes listed as one of my ailments. But Medicare and my Medicare supplements will cover my shoes, but only one pair a year. There in lies the problem. Wearing one pair of shoes 365/7/15 hours, they wear out. By the time I get a new pair, my old shoes are just barely working anymore.

Luna and Frankie at my feet
As if that were not an adventure enough, let me introduce you to my newest problems...Luna and Frankie. Luna and Frankie are the newest community dogs. They belong to Reynaldo who lives atop the 50' rise that borders one side of our property. Our two dogs become the community dogs on his property and at Sheba's place. These dogs are great friends. Together they protect our total 5 acres of land from predators. We love these dogs as if they were ours. In a way they are ours because they have free access into our home via the pet doors.

When it rains or is freezing outside, we end up with a canine slumber party. Think dog carpeting.The other community dogs spend the night by the wood stove. Nnyus and Kassity are our only dogs but we tolerate the other dogs because of the protection they offer. Frankie, Pit Bull, is the youngest at 12 weeks old. Luna is a 9-month old German Shepherd, Sheba, German Shepherd, is 16 years old, Nnyus, Pit Bull/Ridgeback, is 12 years old, and Kassity, Pit Bull/Great Dane, is now a year old. Nnyus and Sheba are teaching the young one how to protect the properties and dog manners.

Now, Mel and I are training the two youngest dogs people skills like not jumping on us and various other things. If they are in our house, they've got to learn to behave, right? They aren't allowed in their owners' houses unless injured. So, it's up to us to teach them indoor manners like leaving our cats alone, or not using the bathroom inside.

This is especially true with Frankie. Luna learns quick, but Frankie is a baby. Luna has chased down and killed two of our hens. And, Frankie has decided he wants to carry my scent with him home. He tried to carry one of my shoes up the hill but ended up dropping it before he got to the rise. They are so heavy with all the additions and he's relatively small yet. He did manage to carry off one of Mel's short Wellies, but I think Luna may have helped him with that two weeks ago. So it's not just mine. Today, they left and went up the hill for breakfast and came back down. When I got out of the shower I went to get dressed. I was missing a shoe! The little scamp had taken off with it again. It's not like I can put on any shoes either. I only have the one pair too.

I put on Mel's Wellies and went to search for my wayward shoe. It doesn't work well with my AFO because I can't do the lower straps of my AFO. So here I was walking very wobbly around the 1/4 acre of fairly flat land around the house. I looked everywhere to no avail. I called Reynaldo, but he wasn't home. I was stuck. Well I thought, I was about due for a new pair of shoes anyhow, I might as well get the ball rolling. I called my podiatrist to have her fax her notes on my foot care to my PCP, and then called my PCP to fax a prescription to Hanger Orthotics. Then, I called Hanger for an appointment. Yes, it is a long process. It will take about a month to get new shoes by the time it's all said and done. But that didn't fix my immediate problem.

Eventually, Reynaldo returned home. I heard him whistling. He's always whistling when he's outside. He searched his yard and found it! It is badly chewed with almost half of the Velcro closure straps and tongue chewed off. But I got my shoe back! I was so relieved. I was honestly trying to figure out how I was supposed to do what I needed to do for a month without shoes. From now on, my shoes will go on my dresser or on the back of the toilet. I don't need the new grey hairs.

Now for a scary podiatrist faxed her notes to my PCP, and then my PCP's office called me asking if there was a form that she could fill out  and get the doctor to sign to save time. I answered that I didn't know. Their office is two blocks from their office, instead of me being 36 miles away, for her to call them directly. Both of us have been trying to call Hanger for a week now. We've left messages and no return calls. Do you think they've closed down their office due to the virus? There are 54 cases of active Corona cases in that county. If so, now what? Wait another month and chance not having shoes to wear? Actually two months because it's a month's process after I place the order.

 Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Sunday Stroke Survival: Flipping the Wardrobe Time Again

I was beginning to think this day would not come until later, but the daytime highs are broaching 80 again. Thank goodness! I really knew it would happen, but the question was when. My sweaters, sweatshirts, and flannels will be packed away for another few months. It's shorts and t-shirt weather!!!!

I've transitioned back into wearing urinary incontinence pads full time again. I got fed up with having to get undressed from the waist down to change my pull up diapers. It took me months to reach this stage. I'm still not mostly in control like I was before the surgeries last year, but in control enough to pitch the diapers. I'll still have accidental floods. I can name two causes. One is running water. I don't care if I relieved myself five minutes prior, I'll stiIl flood the pad. The second one is partially my fault of not minding the time and my fluid intake very well.  The simple act of trying to stand will cause a flood upon gaining my feet and every step to the bathroom.

As most people who wear an AFO to stand and walk can attest to, having to get up in the middle of the night to urinate is a possible fail. When you are awakened by your bladder, you just can't jump out of bed and go. If it were that simple, I'd have no problem. But first you have to put on your AFO fastening the straps most times in the dark. I keep a nightlight on. Don your shoes, and then get up to go to the bathroom. If your bladder is really full, nine times out of ten, your bladder starts to release as soon as you are upright and gravity has its two cents to add. It takes really strong pelvic floor muscles to contain the urine. Unfortunately, mine were impaired by my strokes and surgeries. Having gravity's pull on the sphincter, is too great. I oft time do not make it to the toilet. I do manage enough control over the onslaught to get it from running down my legs.

That leads to another issue with colder weather. I can't wear flannel bottoms of my pajamas. The more that gets in my way between my bottom and the toilet is too much to deal with. So my legs are freezing by the time I finish the chore. Hello, warm weather! I can sleep in a XL t-shirt and panties. But even that, often my panties and t-shirt are soaked, and then I have to clean myself up too. After all this rigamarole, I'm wide awake and can't go back to sleep. It doesn't matter that I just went to sleep a couple hours before. I'll have to get up and do something for a couple hours before I can sleep again. Talk about a messed up sleep pattern.

So as I type this, I'm clad in my t-shirt and panties, and enjoying a cup of Earl Grey tea. Good morning. The fact that it's two o'clock in the morning is besides the point. It's going to be a long day. Maybe, I'll catch a nap this afternoon...probably not. More than likely, I'll doze off while watching the two shows we watch after dinner. I guess I could be lazy and just put on a pull up diaper at night again. Nah, where's the adventure in that?

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Sunday Stroke Survival: Making Mud Pies

As much as I've complained about my difficulties moving around because of the mud, this week I was having fun making mud pies intentionally. With all the rain we've had, the garden area is staying high and almost dry with all of it. Not a single mud puddle in the whole area. The soil is that great for growing in. I actually made a layer of mud pies to plant in.   The garden is now halfway planted and additional summer crops (started indoors) will fill it up with yummy goodies for us. A year before I moved here, Mel made a video of her flooded garden. Boy, what a difference of time and labor wrought.

The same can be said living post stroke. Sometimes you have little choice to make mud pies where the heavy torrential rains (adversity) come. None of us like it very much, but our ideal choice is swept away in the flood. Still, the flooding can't last forever. It will gradually abate and the waters will drain away. That's just life in general, isn't it? It ebbs and flows between bad times and good ones.

Sometimes, you have to make mud pies and make a horrible situation better. At least you're having fun in the midst f it or you'd cry out in despair. I'm in that position now with my spasticity. I need to go to therapy for dry needling to reduce the escalating pain I'm feeling with a good stretch. The problem is our county is in lockdown mode with the COVID-19 virus (now in week 3). All nonessential appointments are canceled for the duration. I've tried the hot showers, I'm taking my medication, but I'm back in pain mode until at least the end of April...possibly longer. ARGH!

So, I'm trying distraction. Is it a distraction if it has to be done anyhow? I'm planting the garden and tending it closer
than I should be at this point in time. I'm plucking weeds for the bunny rabbits we have left. It's only a few ounces per day until they get through transitioning off the commercial, winter feed. But we only have two rabbits left, Buddy Baby and Cara, instead of the eleven this time last year. So I can go slow because of my pain levels. This time last year, I was schedule for a Baclofen pump placement to combat my spastcity. SIGH! You readers know how that turned out.

Everyone is facing hardships now. But they are short lived because the end is in sight. Everyone else will go back to their jobs even if they hate them with gusto. I will have to stand in line with others needing outpatient therapy waiting to be put back in the queue. It only took two months the last two times for this to happen. But, it's not like it will be never ending pain without the hope of a reprieve. Of course, there will be the lucky few that will have aged out of the need for therapy. I will get my appointment before those unlucky new atients behind me needing therapy. So I won't be stuck in the mud as long as they will be.

Still, I'm looking at several weeks like this with the painful spasms increasing until then. So until then, I'm making mud pies in the garden trying to keep my mind and body focused n other things. I'm still picking up kindling (twigs and branches) for the wood stove. There are still a few chilly days and nights ahead before the temperatures stabilizes warm constantly. Even so, kindling can be stored in the barn.workshop until its needed later. The cockeyed critters still need to be cared for and life goes on

Nothing is impossible.

Sunday Stroke Survival: Keep on Truckin'

This week begins the hurry up and wait portion of gardening. Seeds, and transplants are planted. Now, we just have to watch them grow.

This leads me to the topic of today's post. Keep on Truckin'. Yes, I'm dating myself. It was the time of convoys and everyone had a CB radio in their vehicle. Although this decal is still around today. But, it's more than that to me. To me it means no matter what just keep going.

Yes, we've had a stroke, or related to someone whose had a stroke. But right now I'm talking to the survivor. Yes, you may be disabled permanently. Yes, you can't do all you used to do. Now, wait a minute is that entirely true?

Many people bemoan the fact of what they can't do. I say you aren't trying hard enough. I'm not wheelchair bound because I fought my way out of it. Even if I were, it wouldn't entirely stop me from doing what I have and want to do. Can you guess I'm stubborn? Yes, that's true enough. I don't lay down and just take anything.

Many readers read my blog and say I'm inspiring. My progress, what I can do, and achievements are awesome. But the fact is, I'm handicapped by a half not working body too.I struggle against clonus tremors which may cause my leg to buckle. I have PBA, and cry when I should be laughing, burst out in anger for no reason, and laugh instead of cry (inappropriate emotions). I have constant spasticity to the point where it stops me from walking or have the ability to straighten my arm. I  have aphasia and have difficulty finding the correct words. At times, I still have difficulty uttering a single word. None of that has changed in the past seven years. I also get set back to square one with repeated strokes and have to fight my way back again. Each time, I regain a little less. All my strokes have been basal ganglian ischemic and self rectifying, small hemorrhagic in nature.

I don't say this for self pity. I'm just stating facts. It's what I face each and every day of living post stroke. Sure, I tell you the "rosy" side and what I've conquered this week. How I achieve certain things to do. Several other stroke survivor blogs that I read do the same thing. Why? Because we feel it might help someone else who may be facing the same thing.  We choose to inspire "CAN DO" attitudes.  All other stroke survivors have to do is try. Will you succeed the first time? Probably not. But keep on truckin' and keep trying. As a child, how many times did you try to tie your own shoes? How did it make you feel? The word is self empowered. It was something you could do for yourself and nobody had to do for you ever again. Well, not never again. A stroke has set you back some.

My shorts that I wore after my first stroke had a tie in the front of them. This was after I progressed back to them from men's boxers. I sat on the toilet trying to tie the ties. Finally, I figured it out. I proudly went out to show my husband. After his beaming praises and his generally cheerleading, he untied my shorts. "Now, do it again."

After I did it, I looked at him for praises. He did and untied it again. "Do again." After I retied the shorts a third time he asked, "You got it?" I nodded. He didn't do this to be mean. He knew that repetition was the key to learning and having it stick. Now, I can't tell you how many times I tried to tie my shorts and didn't have positive results, but I did figure out a way for me to tie my shorts with them on my body with one functioning hand. I still haven't forgotten. My point is this, I knew what I wanted to do and I didn't give up trying.

Some things I try and after I achieve the ability or relearn, I'll allow others to do it. When I first started writing this stroke blog, I mentioned that using hedge trimmers was impossible one handed. But, I hadn't tried to figure it out. Not to let anything daunt me, I figured it out. I can use hedge shears. It's clumsy and looks really weird watching me do it, but the point is I figured it out. But, I'll allow someone else do it for me. I can lift a 50# bale of hay or feed, but only if I have to. Mel and I moved two rounds of straw off her truck bed when we started the orchard because we had to and there was no one around to help. Each of these bales weighed 700#! Both of us were exhausted when we finished putting them where they needed to be. But we did it. After that fiasco, we settled for the more expensive 50# bales the next two years. They are more both of our speed. Lesson learned.  Some things are just fool hardy. This was an example of one. I'll do something once, if it's not necessary, just to prove I can or in this case, we can.

Now, I'll take some chances like operating power tools for the first time. For example, the chop saw. The thought of a one handed person operating one of these makes many persons' blood run cold. Unlike Dean, who does this fairly frequently (grin). I blame Dean and the picture of him in his workshop that he used to have on his blog for even giving me the idea. I use clamps for the hand I'm lacking. I've gone on to use my battery operated tool Ryobi set to build and repair things around the homestead to take the place of my nonfunctioning hand. Things like chain saws and weed whackers require a harness attachment. But, my point again is I can. It just takes some finagling to figure out how to do it. I can't let Mel have all the building fun and doing it safely.

If I didn't try, I never would do most of the things I used to do. Or, even want to do. Just because I'm disabled doesn't mean I'm worthless. I just figure out a way around obstacles and do it. Now there's some things I can't do with my left hand that I can do with my right. I'm definitely a right hand dominant individual with my creativity. I lack a lot of dexterity in my left hand for fine detail like drawing. I can barely write legibly with my left hand. It has to do with damage I've done to the hand over the decades. For example, my left thumb and wrist. It has been crushed, repeatedly fractured, cut to almost being severed so the resulting permanent damage and from the repairs has left it with only limited function. The rest of the hand has suffered similar abuse to where it is only half functioning. Does that stop me. No, it's a hindrance and inconvenience. It's my one functioning hand so I work around the problems to keep on truckin'.

Well, I've put off folding my laundry long enough. I really dislike folding laundry. I disliked it long before I had my strokes. UGH! It's sitting in the basket waiting on me. I better get to it and keep on truckin'.

Nothing is impossible.