Breathe

I would start with line from a song. (But I couldn’t choose from the 76 songs just entitled “Breathe!”) Holy Cow, breathing easily and without labor is not something I take for granted anymore! Those who are on oxygen can sympathize.

I experienced oxygen, a ventilator, and I possessed a ‘wonderful’ trachea after the stroke. (Wonderful is a sarcastic term, but it did successfully keep me alive so I can’t totally dis that God-forsaken contraption.) I know what it’s like to struggle for every breath. The ventilator assisted me at first. While I was on oxygen and the trach, I was tethered to that cumbersome tank. Lines, tubes, tanks, machines. Seriously, it was a three-ring circus. Luckily, I had a few Respiratory Therapists who were gung ho and tapered me off quickly. 

I had the trach (a hole in my neck with pipey-tube stuck in it) for four and a half months, and I prayed the incessant coughing would just stop. With a trach, I followed an approximately twenty minute cycle of clear and smooth breathing to increasingly mucused clogged, making the intake of oxygen difficult to impossible until I would either cough it out or, at the worst, I called them to manually clear it out. I would wait for help while fighting to draw in air. (Ughhh! Not a pleasant process! Not to mention the strap choking you to keep it on!)

When the clueless doctor told me near the first of December, (in 2016,) I would have it many more months. He triggered my stubborn obstinance. (I couldn’t speak with it, but the actual words on my lips were, “Baloney!”) From that day on, I self-started the ‘Trial,’ which meant I was required to wear it totally capped shut for three days with no clearing or any assistance. (Not an easy task!) If I could successfully do that, they would yank it out. You forget how to breathe by yourself when you have a piece of plastic helping for months. About a day into wearing a cap, completely closing the airway, frequently coughing it off, and shooting it across the room, the Therapist said, “Oh, you are serious about this!” She told me there was a trach cap that screwed on. (Thanks for that!) She officially started the ‘Trial.’ So really, I endured five days with the weekend. It was not a walk in park, but I was going to prove that doc wrong. Sometimes I came close to quitting and giving up, but I was h—-bent on getting it removed and returning to a facility near home before Christmas. When they did remove it they covered it with a bandage, and I would have to hold it or the bandage would raise up and down. I felt like a frog! 


I guess if breathing means that much – you’ll do anything.

Now, about a year and a half later, my breathing is quite normal, but a bit on the shallow side. Every so often I take a huge catch-up breath. It sounds like I’m sighing. (I am not exasperated or bored. I’m just taking a big breath. Sometimes it might be mid-sentence. That can be awkward.) I must be careful when I eat, and occasionally I cough for no reason. (I suspect it’s due to a trach scar inside my throat.)

Therefore, every breath I take is appreciated. It’s a blessing from my Heavenly Father. My friend calls the trach scar an ‘Angel Kiss.’ I think she’s right.


Don’t take your breaths for granted.

Beginning Again

At this time of year, my thoughts turn to the fresh new beginnings that come with Spring and Easter. Those age old bulbs in the ground are poking their heads out of a blanket of dirt, and revealing their inner colors as new baby sprouts. How they emerge and mature is up to them. The water and sunlight are available, they just have to stretch out and “Be all they can be.” (No pressure.)

I feel like that bulb. So much is at my disposal. God has given me so many abundant blessings, the air in my lungs and the nourishment to my body and the spirit in my soul. Even though on the outside my body might seem outwardly limited, I feel like I have a reset. (Like a good shake of the Etch-a-Sketch.) 

If there’s a will, there’s a way! 

My life seemed perfect before the stroke. I had a great job, new car, comfortable home, awesome kids, the definition of success. Right? But was I truly growing? God had different plans for me. I have grown in very different ways. I have learned very different lessons. I can start over, figuratively. I know I can do anything with enough faith and positivity.

We can all start over.

Whatever it is that is holding us back can be forgotten. Something that was done to us or something we’ve done – can all go away. Through Christ’s atonement, we have the opportunity to repent (or forgive) and start over like that buried little bulb. Whether it is a massive thing or seemingly small thing, this year can be the best. (The most bestest.)

This Spring, join me in a new beginning. It’s going to be wonderful!

Walk It Out

I haven’t given up yet. I know I look drunk, but, no I wasn’t plastered. (Although I’ve been tempted!) 

Here’s a video of me walking with assistance after about 18 months! I did the entire 150 foot track, without sitting, in about five and a half minutes! I am a little more brave to lean to the left against the walker. With the use of my right hip I can get the right (mostly paralyzed) leg to advance. Standing up feels great! (Since I sit a lot!)

We might laugh too much, but it’s serious business! (Shooting for five minutes!)


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Compassion

What do you think of when you hear the word “compassion?” (I used to think, oh, poor homeless people, or oh, that sad unfortunate person, I feel ya.) There’s fake compassion exhibited in word or verbosity to only make yourself look highfaluting and pretentious, or there’s true compassion portrayed in deed, when you genuinely serve in reaction to how you feel for the other or heartfelt empathy. The stroke (I had) has really taught me and my family true compassion. 

Our daughter has recently taken compassion to a new level. (If you know my daughters, I’ll bet you can guess which one!) She told me very matter-of-factly what happened in her class the other day.  She described how a handicapped kid in a wheelchair entered as a new student. The teacher proceeded with the awkward introductions to the class and asked who he could sit by. There were no offers. (Cricket sounds.) My daughter, one of the more popular girls, was sitting on the isle with an empty seat to her other side. Since she’s quite a caring thinker, she quickly moved over while offering the space and her friendship. She speedily became his friend while showing understanding and kindness. She told me, “I knew what he was going through, because of you and what we’ve been through. Before, I wouldn’t of thought to help him. I would’ve just continued on, not thinking about it.” (Proud momma moment.) She also told me he was a really good artist. (Which showed she was looking for the good.)

Our knowledge of where each location and amount of handicap parking places has become quite extensive. I have to laugh when my children (and husband) complain about use of the spots that are taken unnecessarily. But, I must remind them, some handicaps aren’t as outright noticeable as mine. (Whoa, get out of the way when they see a car parked in a handicap stall with no sticker! Oh, the anger!) 

When people go far out of their way to help me through a door or successfully navigate a small space, I appreciate them and their parents. (They were taught well.)

Now, I didn’t write this to brag, (well maybe, a little) but to show that even though I have endured a great hardship – positive things have resulted

Maybe, it was required in the big scheme of things that this happen to teach me and all who know my story – compassion, patience and faith. 

The ultimate way I have learned compassion is through the many earth angels who have shown their genuine feelings through their self-less acts of love. I have learned patience not only by my endless tests of (literal) long-suffering, but by the patience I have witnessed in others as they have helped me with daily tasks. And lastly, my faith has been strengthened by witnessing the faith and prayers by others on my behalf. (A huge thank-you to all that fit in those categories!)

We All Deserve a Little Bling

I got a chandelier for my closet! It started out as a joke, but the more I said, “I want a closet like Barbie’s,” the more I really did want one. I found it on Amazon (duh?) for about the same price as a normal light fixture, so my husband said, “Go ahead.” (It was probably just to shut me up, and he’s a pretty awesome husband.) We didn’t have the correct light bulbs, so my hubby put in a few Christmas lights. When you flip the switch it looks like cotton candy on the walls!

My interests have always been piqued by sparkly things! I guess in this milk and meatloaf world we all need a bit of something fancy to jazz up the mundane existence. We perpetually work so hard, and usually end up with so little. If you discover a chance to spoil yourself, shiny object or guilty pleasure, jump at the chance. (Just don’t do it constantly. You might go broke!) You never know when your time is up. Don’t wait to indulge yourself. (Your kids don’t need an inheritance to fight over.)

We are all worth spoiling. (I just gave you permission!)

Adaption

I used to be pretty good at calligraphy. (If I say so myself!) Handwriting has been a sore subject for me since I lost the use of my dominant hand. It was a big part of my identity. Today I gave it a shot.

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” 

You’ve heard it a thousand times, but has it personally hit home? Well it was a grand slam for me.

At this moment in time, not forever mind you, I have very limited use of my right side. (It’s taking a little vacation.) But seriously, folks, I am not about to sit idly by. I have things to do! When you only have use of your port side (I looked it up) you must adapt and get creative to do everyday tasks. And I manage to find a little humor along the way. (Look out Jeff Foxworthy!)

You know you have right side paralysis when:

~ You notice something that needs to be done, but you attempt to get up and nothing happens.

~ You can’t do the “Touchdown” signal.

~ You try to dress yourself, and finally throw your hand up in frustration.

.~ You can’t retrieve things off the floor, because you’ll fall out of your wheelchair. (Been there, done that!)

~ Zippers are impossible

~ You can’t pull your pants off. (Not to mention on.)

~ You can’t wipe your derrière.

~ Doing your hair does not go well.

~ Post earrings are out.

~ Doing up a necklace on your chest takes eight hours.

~ Driving a car gets complicated. (Why is the gear shift and the gas pedal on that side?)

~ You can’t catch food falling off your fork.

~ Removing lids, forget about it. (I must say I can’t hold and screw off a lid with my left hand pretty well! If it’s loosened!)

~ You can’t place clothes on a hanger. (They don’t hold still!)

~ Speaking of laundry, try folding anything up to my perfectionist standards.

~ You can’t take pills without setting your cup down each time.

~ Doors, try opening a public door by yourself and then getting a wheelchair through! (Aw-naw, I don’t do doors!)

~ You want to wash your hand, but you only get the palm with your own hand.

~ You can’t carry a box (or anything with bulk or weight) and drive a wheelchair.

~ Reading a real paper book gives you left hand a cramp. (Oww!) And try turning the pages without putting the book down. Then pick it up again!

~ Make-up done with your left hand looks like an “IT” clown face, but worse.

~ You pull yourself up to grab something, but you can’t grab it because your hand is busy pulling you up!

~ You must stop driving your wheelchair to wave at someone.

~ You can’t eat and hold your plate. Use your lap? The plate slides off your lap.

~ No multi-tasking whatsoever!

Thanks for indulging me!

We won’t even start on my hearing loss challenges.

Being able to move with the winds of change is critical to survival in this crazy transforming world. Those who don’t deal well with change will be in for a world of hurt. I have learned to adapt, geez, I hunt and peck with my left hand everyday! (It helps to know the keyboard.) A person with two good hands and legs should be able to easily adapt to changes big and small. Everyday changes that seem so tough on the surface should be a walk in the park when you possess all your faculties, right? (Roll with it, baby!) I am trying.

Life Goes On

My home has been my address for about twenty days, and I thought it would be sheer bliss. But I must admit it has been a learning process and utter chaos. It feels like our home has been transformed into Grand Central Station! Various aides come in three times a day to help me. I have had to train a new batch! Then you add in construction workers with annoying drilling, sawing, and pounding. (I’m not complaining, it’s just a little headache inducing. We are nearing the end of remodel. “After pictures” coming soon.) My writing time has been heavily impaired. (But I love it!) I live out in the sticks, so I have rarely had this many visitors!

New schedules, new faces, new challenges face me daily.

Me and my hubby traveled down to St. George this past weekend to settle his mother’s estate and generally clean out. I spent a lot of time waiting on him sitting in the front seat. (Gas stations, hotels, quick trips inside when he wouldn’t want to go through the process of getting me out.) I watched a lot of people rushing in and out, and I came to a personally significant conclusion.

Life goes on.

No matter what your history previously entailed, the sun keeps rising and setting, the world keeps spinning, and the people keep on moving. They continue on with their lives in autopilot. Like ants constantly scurrying about through the anthill, making things happen. Busy, busy busy. No time for complicated drama. No time for illness. No time for silly inconveniences.

I wondered if I’d be in the same rat race if I didn’t experience my change of life.  (I dislike the term “my stroke.” You can tell most people see me and wonder how they would handle my predicament. Some have even verbalized it! I’m evidence of an uncomfortable reality.)

One’s perspective is really altered when you endure a hardship. You see things with new eyes.

After going through my sweet mother-in-laws home, the “life goes on” outlook was solidified. We work so relentlessly hard all our lives for stuff. Our homes are overflowing with stuff. The accumulation of stuff might seem important and pivotal to our lives, but it’s plain and simple: we can’t take it with us when we leave this dimension. I admit some items carry timeless memories, and must be kept. (That’s what I continuously told the dump-happy men.) The memories of love, our accumulated education, and our mutually shared experiences are what we take with us. We split up the temporally needed and sentimentally wanted stuff that remained, said goodbye to her loving walls, and our lives went on.

The moral to my story: 

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Life continues even if you have earth scattering hardships.

Live life to the fullest.