Normal

What is normal to you? Day in, day out, running errands, shopping, commuting to work, kid’s activities, paying bills. I used to abhore normal. But now after almost 23 months in my altered state, (Yeah that’s right!) I crave the old normal. This summer has been a busy one, but not your normal summer busy. My day consists of Netflix, my iPad, grandson entertaining, a little sun, watching others have fun. Then I drink a little Dr. Pepper and eat a little somethin. My recliner is the most comfortable, until it’s not. Then get help and transfer to my motorized wheelchair for awhile, til my tailbone hurts. Get help to the bathroom. Then back to the recliner. (Rinse, and repeat.) Three days a week the normal rigmarole is interrupted with a trip for an hour of physical therapy. (Ooo, exercise. So exciting.) I would do more Amazon shopping if I had the money. Taking a life hiatus (via stroke) is not as fun as it sounds. I had to get away from this, even for a little while.

Me and my husband took a trip this last month up the pacific coast on i-1 from San Fran to the top of Oregon for our big 3-0. I planned and booked it all from my iPad. (As much as you can plan!) We imagined getting away would be fun. A road trip seems quite normal until my disabilities became all too apparent. We did behold many awesome sights. Numerous stops along the road required a quick hike down a hill to the beach. Nope. If you can access a beach, try riding on the sand in a wheelchair! Not possible, or quite hard. And most so-called handi-capable bathrooms, well we’ve seen bigger, lets just say that. Every time I wanted to disembark the vehicle to take in a vista, my husband had to retrieve the wheelchair, bring it around, then help me into it. Then take in the sights and do it all again. (Not just your normal hop out and run.) And try taking a picture one handed! Assessible rooms are difficult to find. (I think people get them just for the increased floor space!) Since I require extra supplies, the nightly hotel move-in (when we finally did secure one) was a ginormous task for my hubby. (Sure wish I could’ve helped.) Vacations are hard. Add an air-bed and all my extra stuff to the mix! Every morning he had to get me up, shower me, dress me, feed me, and replace all the stuff (and me) back into the van! (Thanks hun.) I did figure out how to do my own hair and make-up. (Men are useless that way.) More travelogue to come.

As we spent countless miles on the road (usually windy and slow,) I would look at other people with their first-world problems (like the need for gas or food,) seeing them so careless and free, and think, “Do they know how good they’ve got it?” I tried to use this get-a-way to “get away,” but the real facts of my life would always return to haunt me. 

Things can change very quickly. 

Enjoy your normal. Don’t take it for granted. Even though it seems so… normal. Appreciate it. Bask in it. (Summer joke.)

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.