Friday, September 12, 2014

Shadows of My Heart....

Every day will be a new journey.  Something will come up that I haven't had to deal with before and I will have to learn to operate in this new world with that item.  Every day is a rollercoaster of emotions...frustration, anger, joy and exuberance...all rolled into one big happy mess that is my new life.  But I'm alive, and I am getting healthier each day and I am so very blessed to have my awesome husband/warden/best friend by my side and Shadow, my faithful furry companion on my other side.  With that being said, I will still update this blog at least weekly with medical/stroke/rehab/life stuff...but I'm going to also open up my other blog for the passions that are on my heart and my new I invite you all to follow me there as well at Blessings And Dreams.

Rehab Ain't for Sissies...

Peace, Love & Wags!

Friday, September 5, 2014

My new road map.....

I have made a major breakthrough at Boundary School.  For the past week or so, I was letting some bullies that I had in my world send me into paralysis and control my recovery.  I knew that I was "safe" as long as I was at home with Shadow, but the minute that I ventured anywhere outside of our home or online in some social media arenas, I would see the bullies out of the corner of my eye just waiting to jump on me and drag me back down and back to the beginning.  I spent an hour with Dr. S the other day practically in tears because of the defeat that I felt from these bullies.  But ya know what, I win! 

I was hunkered down in my safety dome knowing in my inner soul that what I was creating and doing and achieving was magnificent, although different from what I had been doing, it was magnificent in the terms that it was being created by a TWO TIME STROKE SURVIVOR, a daughter of the King of Kings.  That's the part that makes it magnificent.  Not because it looks cool, or is hot and trendy, but because I am beating this monster.  But then the bullies would start to linger around the edges and the main one, the Demon of Doubt, would start bellowing about how "you ain't done squat....just go back to what you know...ain't nobody got time for this new stuff..." blah, blah, blah...and the tirade would continue until I literally was in a paralyzed state sitting at my desk wondering what I was doing. 

Then, Dr. S pointed out that I was using avoidance as a method of coping.  I was avoiding showing the new stuff to a lot of people.  I was avoiding making hard decisions and announcements to the bulk of my customers.  I was avoiding some people because I didn't have the strength to say, "enough is enough.  I am tired of your drama." Even though I had stated those decisions and boundaries privately to those in my inner circle.  Those in my inner circle were supportive and yet, I still had a hard time saying "no" to those outside of it.  Then, I would beat myself up after I had said, "yes" to something that I knew darn good and well that I could not do.  I didn't say "yes" to challenge myself, I know if I absolutely HAD to do the and death situation, I could, but at what detriment?   I had to let folks know that there were new boundaries.  I was living with the Bully of Other's Expectations.  I feared that people would expect the same stuff out of me as I had produced previously.  But I just can't do that.  It's not in my heart to do that.  It physically hurts me to do that on some instances.  This left me paralyzed a lot recently too. 

But then, I spent one night just truly praying about things.  Asking God where I needed to go, what I needed to do.  Do I close my business for good?  Which direction do I go?  Remember when I said that I get lost a lot when I'm driving?  I get lost a lot no matter what.  Even sitting perfectly still, my brain works overtime and now after the damage from two strokes, there are still some roads in my mind that are blocked and I don't realize how to get around them....that if I just go up one more mile and over a smidge, in my brain that I have a clear path to where I need to go.

Finally, yesterday, I woke up feeling physically better than I had felt in the past week, more rested, more alert.  And I did the one thing that has held me paralyzed for so long.  I announced to the world (or at least my little section of the world) loud and clear, my boundaries for my business.  I left no room for self-interpretation (or at least hope I didn't).  I left no wiggle room where folks could squeeze in and say, "but you said, xyz so didn't that mean it was okay for me?"  It was probably one of the scariest things I've done so far in Boundary School.  Because even though I knew that I had my inner circle and I have God on my side and even if every single one of the 2800+ fans that I have on my social media site was to rebel and say, "Well forget you, we're going to play in another sandbox."  being a people-pleaser, it was scary to have to say, "no more".  But I did it.  I outlined the way I was going to proceed from here on out.  The boundaries that I am setting. 

Only a handful of the 2800 have left to go to another sandbox, and ya know what, I'm okay with that.  Because I know that they were the "dirty kids in the pool" know what I'm talking about.  There are always those kids at the public pool (at least there was when I was growing up) that during the summer, it was as if their mother sent them to the pool to swim instead of taking a bath all summer.  When they got in the water it was like the water changed from a crisp, cool blue to a weird yellowish green color (may be that some of them took this opportunity of immersion to also pee, but who knows)...but we were always given "the eye" from the guardian we were with to let us know to stay out of the area of the water that the dirty kids were in for fear of being drowned (these are the same kids that had no idea of how to act in public) by one of the fools or catching some horrid water-borne disease that our guardians didn't know any better about back in the 70s and 80s...

Those folks that have left were the "fit-throwers" and high maintenance beyond the point of stressful...those folks were the ones that I would have to redo orders for 3 or 4 times because the bow just wasn't angled right or the color of purple was just a tad shade more blue than red.  Didn't matter that the bow was SUPPOSED to be angled or that the color of purple was what they specifically picked out from my color deck of over several thousand colors.  They didn't like it.  Re-do it...and by the way, those same folks were the ones that would want a discount and it to be redone with no further compensation.  As if it was a huge inconvenience to them to have to wait another minute for you to get it magically fixed.  Good riddance and safe travels to them.

My heart is calm now.  I feel more at peace.  The paralysis has lifted.  God has started drawing me a new road map, complete with a color legend and a working compass.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

God has a sense of humor....

God has a sense of humor.  He really does.  Remember when I said I was feeling under the weather last week?  Well, I had also been overextending my boundaries and slightly tiptoeing close to the lines that I set and I think that He decided to pull the carpet straight out from under me and remind me of my limitations.  Not only did I NOT start feeling better, I started feeling worse!  First a flare-up of rheumatic fever (first one in a long time) and then, what I thought was allergies ends up with me in a deep sweaty-feverish sleep and a cough that makes me sound like a walrus.  I totally get it.  Don't even play with the lines.  Look the opposite direction and proceed to the other side of the street.  Do not pass not collect $200.  Just stay away from the boundary lines. 

Now I'm going to jug some cough syrup and wait on the doctor's office to call me back while I snuggle with Shadow. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Truly, madly...deeply....not going on your guilt trip

Entering week 3 of Boundary School...or "my new normal" or whatever it is going to be called...Ya know that feeling you get when you see somebody that you TRULY, madly, ENJOY being around and how you get all giddy and happy inside?  And when you know that you are going to see the person on a particular day you absolutely cannot wait for that day to arrive?  Now take that giddy, happy, can't wait feeling and apply it to my workshop.  I have cut a LOT of the junk out that I used to make.  Now, mind you, it wasn't junk, it was just items that I was making because customers wanted them or because people suggested that it would be a good "booth filler"...NOT because that was what made my heart soar or what I enjoyed or what God really wanted me to employ my gifts and talents doing.  This week, I can truly say that I absolutely cannot wait each day to get to my work.  I enjoy it.  Each day, there is not the long list of "Oh my goodness I have to make 10 bazillion of item xyz for this show I'm doing in 2 months".  Nope.  Each day it is, I am working on "THIS", whatever it is...and if that is the only thing I get done all day in my workshop, then so be it.  But it is done with joy and happiness and to the absolute best of my ability and with attention to the little details.  Not just assembly-lined together like a bunch of Made in a SweatShop type of things. 

I've even been under the weather a bit the past few days and still coming into my workshop has been peaceful and stress-RELIEVING.  Used to be, if I didn't feel well, coming to work would make my headaches worse and my stomach knot up more because I knew I wasn't working at my premium speed and I would stress about quantity.  Not anymore.  I don't care about quantity.  I may have only 1 item in my booths at my stores when I re-open after Affair of the Heart, but by golly, it is gonna be beautiful, it is gonna be awesome and amazing and it will be done well.  The store owners may not like that, but it will be what it will be.  I am constantly getting harped on that I "need more inventory".  I expect that complaint anymore because I've heard it so much.  And I used to let it weigh me down because I felt like I was failing them.  I may very well be failing their expectations.  But I don't have to answer to that.  If they are not happy with it, then I suppose they can ask me to leave, and I will oblige.  It would be sad.  But it would be understandable.  And fair.  This is a part of my life that I am reconciling right now.  I'm working through the "guilt trips" that I've been on with outsiders and frankly these are not the types of vacations I enjoy.  I've already cut a few of these trips out of my life, but there are still a few others that need to have their "agendas" checked before I board that ship for that voyage again.  In the meantime, I have a creation to go work on....

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Yes life stinks, literally, some days.....

It's been a rough week.  Just calling a spade a spade.  I know some people that even if it had been a rough week that they'd be like, "Oh things are going well, life is beautiful and my farts don't stink."  Well, it's been rough and sometimes mine do stink....and sometimes it is rotten egg stink.  I'm having a hard time not comparing the "new" me to the "old" me.  As in, not comparing, the pre-stroke Susan to define the post-stroke Susan.  And likewise, I'm having a hard time not allowing others perceptions of me currently to define the post-stroke Susan. 

Pre-Stroke Susan was not a healthy, happy Susan.  I was stressed, busy, bouncing a million directions a million miles an hour.  It was just not achieving anything worthwhile.  I was constantly a "yes ma'am, of course ma'am" person.  I was not at peace, at all.  I rarely slept.  It was a hot mess of ugliness! Post-Stroke Susan is trying to build the life that alleviates the mess, hot or cold.  It's hard right now because, yes, I do have clearance to drive, but I get lost because it taxes my brain some days.  I do not have scheduled physical therapy or occupational therapy sessions any longer but I still am not as strong or as coordinated as I once was.  So on the outside, especially to 95% of the people, I look better, I sound better, because I'm not stuttering or slurring, so I MUST be better.  And I am better.  Just different.  Different than the pre-stroke Susan that I keep catching myself and allowing others to compare me to.  I will never be back to that, and that's fair.  When I do regain everything: strength, stamina, and focus, it could be up to a year away...this is a marathon, not a sprint but I am setting the boundary to not allow myself to go back to the mess.  And That's Fair.

My business is going to change drastically.  I'm already starting to see the changes both physically and mentally and the percentage of change makes my heart beat race because I know that it will be a shock AND a lot of work.  But it's going to be ok.   My heart races because I'm allowing myself to compare Pre-Stroke life to Post-Stroke.  Pre-Stroke, I would know that when I reopen my business on October 24th, that I would be totally and completely stocked with inventory for that entire 3 day show and that it'd be magical and wonderful and I'd have beautiful displays that I've been dreaming up and blah, blah, blah...and then I'd take the Monday after the show off and then on Tuesday I'd start turning my stores into their new magical selves that they are going to be.  And because I've been comparing pre-stroke self to my new self, I was feeling the tension and the stress ALREADY and we are still over 60 days away.  I cannot do that.  I refuse to let my business run on tension and stress.  If it does not make me happy and I do not feel peace about it, it's not happening here at the DogHouse anymore. 

As I was talking to Tommy last night and telling him about some things that have been on my heart and mind the past few days, I admitted that I know that physically, that 4 day weekend of the re-grand opening is going to wipe me out.  (I say 4 days because the setup day is a full-day of hard, physical work.  Followed by 3 days of sales.)  I admitted out loud, and it was tough, that I probably will be totally useless physically for the week following the sale and that my stores may or may not get stocked that may be another week or so after the show.  I have to accept that AND I have to set the boundary to NOT let other people's expectations, based on Pre-Stroke me, influence the amount of rest I allow my body when I need it. 

 When I talked to him about worrying about inventory and if I'd have enough for the show, he said, "ya know what, if we run out of inventory, we'll stand there and give out hugs.  We'll make a sign that says, Hug a 2 time Stroke Survivor! and that's what we'll do all day."  It makes me laugh to think about doing that, but he always knows how to make me laugh.  And it made me realize that just being there is good enough.  It has to be good enough.  And That's Fair. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Lost & Forgetful

Want to know the scariest thing about my life right now?  It's not the fact that I fear having another stroke, or the zombies or any of the other stuff that could scare me.  The thing that is the scariest in my world as I set about rebuilding a new normal is getting lost.  I fear that my family is gonna turn on the tv one day and see a "not so Silver Alert" with a description of my 15 year old minivan and myself roaming the countryside in search of something that I thought should be there.  In all seriousness though, I do get lost...a LOT.  More than just the "dumb blonde" kind of lost too.  For instance, yesterday I was going to a friend's home.  I've been to this friend's house at least a good bazillion times before in the past.  She only lives about 5 miles from me.  Before I knew it, I was seriously wandering up and down the back roads near Guthrie trying to figure out where I was and where I needed to be. 

Of course, any good Okie knows that these types of roads are not marked with street signs at intersections, so I couldn't even call somebody and say, "I'm at crossroads ABC and do I get to SPOT W?"  This is when panic sets in.  True, pure panic.  Because even if I call somebody, the only description I can give them is "a field on the left...a field on the right...oh wait...the field on the right as 14 black cows in it..."  And because my lovely van is 15 years old, don't think the compass works on the dash.  Nope.  It went out a long time ago.  As a general rule, I normally know which direction is North, South, East and West.  But when I get lost, I seriously lose all orientation.  I remember last year after stroke1 that I had exited another friend's neighborhood the wrong way and truly could not figure out where I was.  I sat at the little pull off to an oil-well (ya know the partial driveway things that lead into a field) for at 10 minutes before I called Tommy for help.  Of course he was at work so he couldn't help me because I had no nearby street signs to give him.  After 30 minutes of driving, I found out I was literally just 3 miles north and 2 miles west of my house.  I had no clue of that the entire time. This part of my brain has just died. 

The other thing that scares me and that I am trying to figure out a good way to resolve is my forgetfulness.  It's on everything it seems.  I forget to do tasks around the house (like charge the iPad, or move the laundry from the washer to the dryer...which I know is normal, but I have to seriously concentrate on these things to keep from forgetting them).  I forget to take my medicine some mornings.  Even though it is sitting in the same spot every morning.  I have been known to forget it.  This morning I got up and got dressed and walked around my house for 20 minutes and most of the time I kept thinking, "I've gotta get new shoes these are fitting weird" and then I look down and I only have one sock on one of course the other shoe is gonna fit weird.    I've tried setting reminders on my phone, but they are too easy to turn off or just ignore and they disappear after about a minute and I don't even know where they hide after they pop up on my screen that first time.  Couldn't tell ya.  My phone is like a big black hole to me.  I've tried writing notes to myself, but have yet to find a good place to put them.  The bathroom mirror doesn't work.  I've tried the computer monitor but what happens is I take them off of the monitor and set them on the desk next to me to do "after I finish whatever I'm doing at the computer" and then get up and leave the pile of reminder papers sitting on the desk.  Only to come back the next day to a pile of stuff that I've forgotten to do.  I swear I am experiencing some type of earlier dementia or something.  It's super scary. 

These are reasons why I stick close to my home.  I don't like the idea of being lost in the middle of nowhere or forget where I am going.  One time in the past year after Stroke1, I was driving down 39th street in OKC.  I got to the intersection of 39th and Tulsa and was at the stoplight.  As I sat there I looked at the street sign that said, Tulsa on it.  I suddenly had a panic attack because I couldn't figure out how I had gotten to Tulsa.  Why was I in Tulsa?  Didn't remember where I was going.  I pulled off onto the side street (Tulsa) and had to call Tommy because I was in a true state of panic because I didn't know where I was. 

This dear friends, is StrokeBrain at it worst and it happens at least once or twice a day.  Some days it is little stuff....some days, it is big, wandering through the fields, talking to the cows stuff.  And it's scary. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Queen wears XL panties....

Boundary School has been going on for a week now and for the most part it's going ok.  Not great, not super...just ok.  I almost think that this part of Rehab is harder than the Physical Therapy part of rehab.  At least with PT I could see improvements each day as I went, whether it was able to move a different way that I previously couldn't or go a little bit further on the treadmill, or whatever and usually once that improvement was achieved, then the next day it only got better and built on itself.  Boundary School, not so much.  One day may be full of great achievements and understanding and living within the limitations and the next day may be full of overstepping the boundaries and not knowing any limitations to the point of exhaustion.  Which is a weird thing, this stroke brain of mine.  It gets exhausted super easy doing what most would think were menial tasks. Doctors say it could take up to a year before it all comes back at full-strength.  Doesn't it realize I've got stuff I need to do?  Ain't nobody got a year to hang out and sit on the bench for a year.  But I'm trying to be patient.

One thing that has been a freeing experience during boundary school is the fact that I'm taking this time to get our house in order. We are decluttering and getting rid of stuff that we do not absolutely love or need.  This is so hard as I argue with myself about "well you could just keep it and use it for XYZ later" and then I have to remind myself that I haven't done XYZ with it to this point, am I ever really going to do it.  For instance, Tommy & I cleaned out a cabinet in the kitchen over the weekend.  It was one of those kitchen cabinets that you don't go into because you are afraid that you really won't be able to get everything back in and you aren't truly sure what all is in there.  What we, among other things,  found was 8 large serving platters.  Not all the same size or shape, but still...we are a family of 2 + 1 furbaby.  Do we really need 8 large serving platters like you'd use for a family of 4+ or at the holidays if you were entertaining?  Absolutely not.  Sadly, I can recall where and when and from whom we received each one.  Fortunately I am able to disassociate the person with the thing and say, "out it goes"....kinda like the queen in Alice in Wonderland said, "off with their heads". 

For the most part, every person that has stopped to visit (and we have had more visitors lately, which I love!!) has been very excited to see the house and see what changes are being made.  A handful are a bit shocked.  One or two mutter negatives like, "we'll see how long this lasts" or say things like, "I can't believe you have kept it this way without dragging your business back into the main areas".  That's their issue.  Not mine.  And each time one of those negatives is said, I have to remind myself, although it is hard not to take it personally when they say those things, that the person saying it has to deal with those expectations and what they do or do not choose to embrace.  They obviously cannot embrace a change and understand that things are changed permanently and this is the "new" way things are going to be, always.  Not for a few weeks.  Not for a month.  ALWAYS.  This has to be the new constant because it is one of the things that anchors peace in my life that currently has a lot of changes swirling around in the other areas.  I have to have a safe-haven from the storm of rehab. 

It is hurtful though when those things are said because it is almost like the person is taunting me and saying, "I don't really believe that you can do it.  Heck, I didn't believe you could get this far."  I really want to tell a few folks that if they have any feedback to give me on any area of my life that I would much prefer them to tell me straight up, how they feel.  I'm a big girl.  I put on my big girl panties this morning (size XL).  I can deal with it and if I can't Dr. S will help me process it, but I refuse to be talked to with sarcasm and the tongue-in-cheek backhanded sarcastic "compliments" anymore.  It's not helpful, healthy, or positive. 
"Peace be within your walls and security within your towers!”   Psalm 122:7

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What is Boundary School?

Boundary going.  That's all I can say.  I wish I could tell you that "I've got this" and that "it's a breeze" but I'd be telling you a fib.  So far this week in Boundary School I've had to really look long and hard at a lot of things that make my heart hurt and even admit that I'm going to have to let some of those things/people go.  They are no longer healthy or helpful or uplifting and they do not make me the least little bit happy to be around or think about or any of the positive things that I am allowing into my life from this point on.  Sound a bit selfish?  Yep it is.  And I'm not apologizing.  God sent me two very large messages a year apart to refocus and refine things and I guess I'm a slow learner because after the 2nd one I finally got the message.  I don't dare not take action now, because I definitely don't want to have to receive a third message from the big guy!

That's not to say that I'm not feeling the heartbreak of letting things go that have been a part of my life for a long time.  I do feel it and it hurts.  Badly. There is a void where I used to have those things.  But instead of focusing on that, I'm choosing to focus on what I can now see (peeling that onion) because I've eliminated the junk.  Same way with some of the people in my life.  I'm having to go through and really look at why I let some people into my life and into my life so deeply.  Were they just a means to an end?  Are they a true friendship?  Can I count on them to have my back when the going gets tough?  Some of them, the answer is definitely, without a doubt, yes.  There are some, that sadly, they must go.  They have been voted off of this island.  There will not be a reunion show for this crew to appear on at the end of the season.  It sucks, it hurts, but it is good.

This is Boundary School.  Is it to say that I am sitting around thinking about this stuff constantly?  NOPE.  I am living my life.  Going to appointments, running my local errands that I can run on my own, keeping my home in order and working on some art therapy each day.  But as items pop up, instead of pushing them away or thinking, "I don't have time for that right now, I'll get to it later and deal with that hot mess after while" I'm stopping and reflecting and going down my new itemized list of questions that I'm asking of everything in my life, almost as if I am interviewing the item, and I'm dealing with it right then.  I'm not sweeping stuff under the rug and just hoping it will go away.  I'm no longer trudging along doing the same stuff because "that's the way I've always done it".  There's a reason that God gave me the talents He gave me and that He left me here on this earth not once, but TWICE when I could have so easily been called home either time.  It's my job to discover that reason and use those talents.  That's my new job. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Boundary School, Day 2....

Day 1 of Boundary School went ok.  Not great.  I still have a LOT to practice and learn. And a ton more strength and stamina to gain before I can do another day like that.  I have two words to sum up yesterday.  Grocery shopping.  But, God is good and He sent me EXACTLY what I needed to start Day 2.  He sent me this verse in an email:

1 Thessalonians 2:4  "On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.  We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our heart." 

It goes back to the question that Dr. S gave me to ask myself before I do anything....what are my intentions behind the action or decision?  We go rambling through life on auto-pilot without really understanding why we do things and yet, there are intentions, whether we understand them or not, behind everything.  To this point, 85% of my intentions, unbeknownst to me, were to do everything I could to be a people-pleaser, not a God pleaser, because if I pleased people then they would like me, I would have affirmation that I was okay, that I was good. 

Yesterday I had to say "no" to a customer that messaged me asking for a custom order.  I was polite (shocker, I know!) and explained that I was still closed until October Affair of the Heart and could not do what she was asking.  Her response was less than understanding, but knowing that I gave the answer based on my new boundaries, I did not fret about it.  Which is a huge deal for me, because the pre-stroke Susan would have worried about it all day and half the night as to whether or not I should message her back and apologize profusely and tell her I could "squeeze it in somewhere between appointments and therapy and such".  And today, I'm still okay with that decision. 

I do have to toot mine and The Warden's horn though for a minute.  If you recall, I mentioned a while back about finally getting our house in order and getting a good schedule of when to do things and that anybody was welcome to drop in anytime and we wouldn't have to do the mad-dash scramble to make at least one room presentable...well, last night he came into the room I was in and said, "we are having company over Thursday evening for dinner and to hang out".  I didn't panic, I just said, "ok" and I meant it.  NO heart racing.  NO brain going a million miles a minute trying to figure out how to get everything done that needed to be done to make the house presentable.  I knew that we were good.  Company is coming and we are ready.  I don't have to spend the next two days doing anything that I wasn't already planning on doing, dusting the living room and unloading the dishwasher today.  Vacuuming the living room and sweeping the kitchen tomorrow.  I honestly can say that I have never ever felt this much peace about company coming...ever.  I'm actually looking forward to visiting with them and having a nice evening.  THAT, I guarantee you has never happened this early before a visit. 

So, Day 2 of Boundary School is here....let's hope it continues to go well.  So far so good, but the day is still young. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

The First Day of Boundary School....

Today I am scared.  Scared of everything.  Because today is the beginning of the first week without the structure that I've known the past three months.  On Friday of last week, I finished physical therapy.  Mama and the gang took me as far as they could and now it is up to me to get stronger and keep growing stamina.  The journey is still a long one and that's what scares me.  Because I knew that as long as I had the structure of PT and OT that they wouldn't let me overdo it, or step outside of my boundaries.  They knew how to help me say, "no" to things and forced me to do just that.  This week, I'm on my own.  I have to start implementing the tools that they have given me.  Fortunately, Dr. S is still right here to help me but I only see Dr. S every week or two.  It's a gradual weaning of all the support system. 

I suppose the fear of overstepping the boundaries that I have set as I get stronger is what is going to keep me vigilant about constantly enforcing them.  It's a good thing to be vigilant.  Supposedly if I can survive the next 3 weeks (because they say it takes 21 days to create a habit) of living within my boundaries on my own, I will feel better about it.  We'll see.  I am praying and hoping and really trying not to freak out. 

On a side note, I don't like the white tips on my finger nails anymore but don't know how to get rid of them. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Where do I go?

As my strength and stamina are having to be rebuilt slowly and my ability to set reasonable boundaries is having to be established, I am daily reminding myself of who I am and what I am and what I can and cannot do.  Today, especially though, I am feeling a great sense of pressure (which I'm sure is self-inflicted) and guilt still because I get the impression that I am letting down those around me.  I know that it shouldn't matter as long as I am trying my hardest to do what I need to do to get healthy, but people who I have in my corner and who smile and nod and say "of course, I understand things take longer and you are not what you used to be" are expressing disappointment and frustration.  Not through their words, but through their actions and lack of words.   This is something that I have to work through.  Part of me wants to yell, "DEAL WITH IT" at the top of my lungs in certain instances and yet, for some reason I sadly am having trouble cutting the cord to the people pleasing monster. 

Is it my fault that I had a stroke?  Nope.  But, because I did have a stroke, it therefore led to my stores not being stocked like they should/could be....and some customers not being happy and store owners not having their stores look the very best that they can in my area, but ya know what?  Unfortunately, I cannot control how they CHOOSE to react to these situations.  I am disappointed too because I don't like being out of commission.  I don't like things taking me two and three times the normal amount of time to complete.  Ever folded a basket of laundry?  Not a big basket.  Just enough in the basket to constitute underclothes for two people for a week.  Shouldn't take long, right?  It takes me a good half hour or more, at least.  And no, I am not multi-tasking.  I don't even have the television on when I am doing it.  But we have clean undies when I'm done.

I am OWNING that disappoinment and dislike and realizing that it is ok, though.  My prayer today is really asking God WHERE He wants me to be.  I have always allowed my customers to control which stores I am in and the amount of potential revenue to control my decisions on where I set up and where I didn't.  Those are no longer my guiding factors.   As I mentioned yesterday, that will come....IF I am where I am SUPPOSED to be. 

It's a hard question and a scary question because where I am is sort of like a security blanket.  I know the places well, I, for the most part, love the places.  What if God doesn't want me to stay there?  What if He chooses to take my blankie away?  I know He wouldn't do anything that would hurt me, but what if.....What if, what if, what if....I disappoint people when I have the answer?  What if I may not agree with the answer right now?  I'm also begging God to tell me that when he gives me the answers that He gives me the peace and the power to make the appropriate moves that He needs me to make.  In the meantime, it is taking all of my power to not yell "DEAL WITH IT"....and to focus that energy instead on the positive. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Who Am I?

I joke often about being a candidate for that show on tv about hoarders, but in all honesty, especially after having a few months to clearly look at everything, I realize my business was on the verge of exactly that.  I thought I was being a smart businesswoman by purchasing in bulk because I could get a much lower price on things which in turn I could then turn around and pass along the savings to my customers.  However, I'm realizing now that that exact mentality is what caused so much of the stress and took so much of the enjoyment out of my work.  Often times when we would cut things, we'd cut 20 or so at a time.  We only needed maybe 10, but since we'd have excess wood or not sure when we'd get a chance to cut this item again, the thought was, "might as well use it since we are already cutting".  Besides, the extra could be ready for next time and I could go ahead and paint and decorate whatever it was and be ready for the next time, ahead of time.  Which sounds like a brilliant plan....if only it truly worked like that.  In reality, we have "extra" of lots of things sitting in the garage waiting to be painted and decorated because as soon as the original 10 were dealt with, I was already busy hopping to the next "fire" or customer project or whatever other item I had agreed to complete and so those extras were assigned a spot on a shelf in the dusty garage and I'd get to them later, an infamous time that never seems to show up on my calendar. 

Then, at any given time, when I would come home (I enter through our garage), I'd be slapped in the face with all of the EXTRAs that I had not dealt with yet.  Then, during dinner one evening, any random evening, Tommy and I would talk about the grand plan to get the garage organized and the Extras dealt with so we knew what we truly had out there (because, again in reality, I don't really know what all is out there...just a lot of stuff that I use in my business).  And I would get excited about that upcoming weekend when that would happen and then it wouldn't happen because I would get busy jumping through another set of hoops on another project and more stuff would end up piled in on top of the Extras. 

The past few days, I have been facing the Onion that is our garage.  Each day, I go out there and just stand at the doorway and look and then focus on one little section, section peeling away a box or two or a shelf or two at a time.  Then, I set my timer on my phone for 15 minutes, any more than that and I'm overwhelmed and doomed.  Armed with my heart monitor ticking away to let me know when I need to slow down, I look and see what it is that is in that little section that I am truly going to keep and immediately make a decision on the rest.  I'm not letting it sit there any longer for me to contemplate and guilt myself into keeping or working on something that is not going to move me forward.  Because one other thing that I'm realizing is that just because people ask, I don't have to say, "yes" and it's ok.  A dear friend reminded me yesterday that it is not my concern how others CHOOSE to accept that response.  It is only my duty to myself and to the stability of my household to decide when to employ it.  I have a lot of EXTRAs from projects piled up that I should have said, "no" to eons ago. 

I also didn't use the word "no" because I didn't know my true identity for so long.  I know that sounds weird because yes I knew my name, social security number, birthday and all of that stuff, but because I wrapped WHO I was around WHAT I did for a living, and what I did for a living was please people and customers.  I did that because I felt like I had to in order to make an income.  Keep all of the plates spinning and people will be happy and happy people equal happy customers. 

That is NOT who I am.  I am a child of God.  And that should be enough.  Every day I need to be answering "yes" to whatever it is that HE is asking of me for that day, or using the gifts as an artist that He is begging me to use.  Gifts I haven't used in so long because I've been busy pleasing others.  Gifts that barely even edge on similar to what I've been creating for so long.  And I've been battling with God about this for 2 months now.  The usual content of our battles include a conversation similar to this, "But what if they (the customers) don't like what I am creating?"  They will.  I am preparing you for a new batch.  A group of people with open eyes and hearts to hear the story in your art.  "I don't know.  I have some folks that come back year after year looking for the same stuff.  I HAVE to create that so they won't be disappointed."  Really?  I'm leaving the decision to you.  You decide. 

It's a daily decision.  One that I have put off for too long.  Some people may have to be disappointed.  It's up to them to CHOOSE how to accept the changes.   I, personally, am so excited to travel this new road.  It's freeing and exactly what I have wanted to do for so long in my work that I get giddy and giggly thinking about it.  It's also intimidating and challenging and scary.  But I am learning to hold on to my identity.  It's not to say that I won't create the special projects that people ask of me.  But I will examine them closely to see if they are in line with what I SHOULD be doing and not just jump on the project because I see income.  Income will come.  God will provide.  He always does.  He always has. 

Now it's up to me to deal with the Extras and not take any extra Extras on.  Our garage overfloweth (and not in a good way). 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Good-bye Mr. Miyagi

My trip down Rehab Road with Mr. Miyagi has ended.  It was a bittersweet ending.  I don't think he'll miss me, but I will miss him and the routine and the schedule.  Remember on my first visit when my grip strength was 10 pounds on my left side while my right side was almost 70 pounds?  On my last visit with him, my left side got up to 50.5 pounds when I squeezed the handle.  Still not perfect but within the "acceptable" range (acceptable for who I don't know, but he said it was so I'll believe him.  After all, I didn't stay at a Holiday Inn last night, so what do I know?)   I have some work to do at the YMCA on my own to increase the grip strength more, but it is a definite improvement.  Of course I still can't properly apply enough pressure all around on a rubber stamp and on one of my creations to get a clean copy on the first try, but that just means I'll have to practice more. 

The first day of Occupational Therapy I could hardly lift a 2 pound weight to do simple bicep curls.  And then, I could only do maybe 10 of them at a time with a long break between sets.  The last day of OT, I was up to a 6 pound weight (don't laugh, I know it isn't a lot, but for me it was!) and doing curls for a full minute.  Again, still a ton of room for improvement but it gives me hope, and a goal. 

I absolutely hated the Wax on/Wax Off exercises that Mr. Miyagi made me do.  I could not imagine doing them for more than the 2 minutes at a time that I was forced to endure in the beginning.  Last day, I went 15 minutes!  Now, before most of you say, okay, no big deal.  Try standing and holding your arms up for 15 minutes straight at shoulder level.  It's harder than it sounds.  I'll wait, go try it for 1 minute.  Get your kitchen timer out and try it.  Your shoulders get a harder workout than you realize by this simple exercise.  I wont even ask that you hold anything in your hand when you do it.  Just hold them up.  Ready, Set, Go! 

Okay, now that everybody is rubbing their shoulders and upper arms, let me say that the folks that work at Jim Thorpe are, in my opinion, Miracle Workers.  Mr. Miyagi was the first of them that I met and from that first day I have been dazzled by how they make simple tasks into exercise so that you don't even realize you are exercising, while at the same time building your body up. 

My first trip to the YMCA with The Warden is this coming weekend and I'm a little afraid to see how that goes.  This is  where I'll have to definitely employ some boundaries and not try to keep up with the person next to me, but just go at my own pace to keep increasing my strength and endurance.  But for now, I have to hustle off to PT because Mama isn't done with me yet. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Just breathe...

Do you ever have those days when everything just seems to zap the life right out of you?  Today has been that kind of day for me.  Actually the past 2 or 3 days have been.  I don't adjust well to change.  I like my schedule and my life to be very stable and settled and just the way I like it.  I don't like conflict, whether it be in scheduling, ideas, lifestyle or anything else.  Both change and conflict drive me absolutely batty.  This is why I have to have boundaries.  But sometimes the things that I need boundaries from is myself. 

For years, and even after Stroke1, I was so busy flying by the seat of my pants trying to appease everybody that I rarely used the word "no" or words like, "that's not my issue" (or applied the sentiment even if I didn't use those exact words).  I would constantly take on any issue that anybody around me was having and try to "fix" it for them so that everybody could live happily ever after.  If a customer didn't like a particular color or way I did something, "no big deal!  I can customize" even if I didn't want to, I did it. Because that would make everybody happy and then we could all just move along.  If a friend or family member was having a complete meltdown because of their failure to plan or their lack of proper expectations for themselves, I'd try to coax them back to believing all was well and that everything would be ok and coach them on how to get there. 

I know that my life now, once I learn to live with all of the changes, will be so much better.  More peaceful.  Less jumpy and panicky and tiring.  But honestly, right now, I just want to float through this next section of rehab and get on with living.  Unfortunately, it's not that easy.  I have to keep meeting with the medical team to keep adjusting physical and mental expectations and just work through building the boundaries.  And all of this change scares the ever living hell out of me because I don't know what the finished product is going to look like. This is not one of my creations that I can sketch out and then create to perfection.  I just have to trust that God is stepping in and controlling it all currently and that every minute of every day He is holding in His hand the precise direction of how things are going. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

White Tips meet Vietnam

On all fronts therapy and my rehabilitation is going well.  My speech still has its days, moments, hours, it seems, but it is mostly I find when I'm overwhelmed or tired that I start stuttering or slurring my speech or can't remember words.  And it happens at the most inopportune times too.

Yesterday, after letting my nails grow for the past 2.5 months, I decided that I wanted to treat myself to a manicure.  They had grown long enough that they were all a respectable length and decent looking and for the first time strong, it seemed, so I decided to take further care of them.  After my appointment with Dr. S on the way home I stopped by a local shop called the Nail Lounge because their sign said that walk-ins were welcome. 

As I walk in the door I am immediately accosted by an older than normal Vietnamese woman.  In her broken English she said, "you need help?"  I explained to her that I'd like a manicure.  I really wanted, a French manicure but for the life of me I could not think of that terminology so I just said, "white tips".  From out of nowhere, the old woman pulls a box of colored nail samples with every color and design under the sun.  She shoved the box in my face and said, "what color".  I motioned toward my finger tips and said, "just white tips please."  By now I was getting a little unnerved and trying to figure out how I could leave the place quickly since I had obviously bitten off more than I could probably realistically handle at the moment.  By the way, there were no other clients in the entire establishment.  Just me and three Vietnamese women.  She waved her hand in front of me and showed me that every single one of her nails had a different color and design on them, she said, "gel?"  I said, "no, just my nails, white tips."  Then she tells me to sit at one of the three work tables that they had set up.  I sat my purse down and sat down.  The second worker came over and said, "acrylic?  You get design.  Design very nice."  I said, "no thank you, just white tips."  Second woman said, "ooohhh....white tips...."  and went back to her seat.  The old woman came back and said, "no white tips here, you go sit over there" and motioned to the back table closest to the third woman who was eating some weird fruit and had it all smashed in her face like a gorilla eating a cantaloupe. 

I sat down at the back table and held my purse in my lap, at this point really trying to gauge how on earth I could escape.  My head was starting to hurt and I couldn't understand this woman and she was obviously not understanding me.  She came over to the table and tried to turn on the work lamp and it wouldn't come on.  It was unplugged I could tell because the cord was dangling down on my side of the table.  I held the cord up and showed her.  She muttered something and said, "no white tips here...go there."  And motioned for the middle table.  I finally moved to the final of the three tables and was getting more and more nervous with each move.  Then, old woman came back and sat down and said, "so sorry, white tips" as if White Tips was my name.

I nodded and held my hands out and she looked at my fingers and said, "ok...white tips only".  I nodded and said, "yes, please".  My mind was racing.  I needed a nap.  She pulled out nail clippers and before I could yank my hand back she said, "just straighten".  I admit I had a few nails that were a little longer than others so I thought she was just going to even them all out.  Nope!  She cut my nails.  My long beautiful nails were cut.  Not completely off, but they were no longer as long as they had been.  I was mortified.  I wanted to cry.  She just kept patting my hands and saying, "it ok, white tips". 

For the next hour and half, she slowly, and when I say slowly, I mean incredibly painfully slow, painted my finger nails.  At one point she asked me a question that I swear was, "do you like Coke?"  And I said, "yes, I like Coke."  To which her response was, "nah....fllllpppp" (just some uttered noise that let me know that she was not asking about my preference in soft drinks).   When I mentioned with a smile, about an hour or so into the process that I hadn't had a manicure in a long time and this seemed to take a lot longer than usual, she said, "I hurry, white tips".  Then within the next 15 minutes she was done and massaging my hands and arms.  Which I would definitely return just for the hand and arm massage but not without taking a nap and an native speaker with me. Needless to say, my speech rehab probably needs to get a bit better before I attempt non-English speaking as a primary language conversations again.  But in the meantime, I have beautiful white tipped fingernails and if I do decide to go back, ya never know, I might just get a color or design.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Flowers of my Heart....

You know the quote about some people being seasonal?  How they are in your life for a season and then their friendship or purpose that God wanted them to serve blooms and they move on like a seed in the wind.  Over the past year I have really learned what kind of flower garden I have and which ones I want to plant more of in the future.  What I want to spend my time cultivating and what I want to enjoy while they are here, but when they go, learn not to be heartbroken, because this blooming season is over and they did not come with the little plastic card labeling them as a perennial. 

Amazingly, when word gets out that you are in the hospital, people you haven't spoken to in YEARS come out of the woodwork wanting to know what happened and how they can help.  When they hear the story, they slowly go back to doing whatever it was that they were doing when the Newsflash of something interesting happening on Aisle 1 came across their screen.  I'm just as guilty of doing this in the past.  I'm trying hard not to do this anymore.  It's part of the new boundaries that we are setting in our home also.  We used to be really transparent and open with everything pretty much.  But we are learning to guard ourselves more and more.  Not everybody is on a need to know basis. 

Proverbs 4:23 tells us to "above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." I read recently how this verse can be easily equated to physical hearts as well as spiritual hearts and the correlation between the different physical heart ailments and the different spiritual heart ailments.  I've made it a goal of mine that as we are getting healthier at our house, we are not going to have any hardening of arteries, physically or spiritually, good bye high cholesterol and regret and anger and denial.  Even though I may have a physical heart murmur, we are going to make every effort to not have any spiritual heart murmurs.  I can't help the fact that the valves that act as doors to my physical heart sometimes let blood flow backwards into the heart.  I CAN help the fact that my spiritual heart complains, takes part in gossip, disputes and arguments.  No more.  It is not healthy.  It is not what my purpose is.  If you, dear flower, come to me with these types of things, please understand that the door may be shut and not opened.  It's a new boundary.  As we are working on our high blood pressure in our home to keep physical congestive heart failure out so we won't have a weakness in the walls of our hearts, I'm getting rid of the spiritual equivalents of it...being quick to anger. 

Now the question becomes, what kind of flowers do you have growing in your heart's flower garden and are you an annual or a perennial?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Firing my Pink Boss...

I used to live in the corporate world.  If you recall back at the beginning I mentioned how I (we) made the decision for me to tackle the world of small business ownership in the middle of 2010 full-time.  Prior to that, we had a person come in once every week or two to help clean up the place.  Do the heavy cleaning.  I mean, I had a small business I was trying to run in the late evening/nighttime and a corporate job and Tommy had a full-time job and so it helped to have a third person helping out.   When I jumped into being my own boss, we let that person go because I had visions (although they were sugar-coated and probably sleep-deprivation hallucinations) of running this business that I had been doing in the wee hours of the morning during the actual daylight hours, and since I had been doing so much from 9pm to 2am or so, I could just imagine what I could accomplish with an entire 24 hours!!  I could keep a clean house, cook a great meal (so no more fast food drive-thrus on the way home from corp job), and STILL get my business work done.  Right?  WRONG. 

I tried really hard to do that juggling for a few months.  And for a few months (maybe May through August of that first year) I did okay.  But then the fall came and that is my super duper busy time.  So in September things started slacking a bit.  No big deal, Tommy understood.  And by the time January and my busy season was over he had tax season and a plethora of work projects of his own, and I had a big show coming up in February so we'd catch up in March.  Needless to say, by the time we got a second to get "caught up" on everything, we had created a nice little hoarders paradise.  Or the beginnings of one anyway.  Nothing horrible.  I mean, our house was still functional.  We just had a pile of this or that in that corner or on the end of that table, or whatever and predominantly it was stuff related to my business because it had taken off like a jack rabbit on steroids and seemed to explode in those first 6 to 8 months of my full-time focus.  Which was good, right?  That's what you want a small business to do. 

The thing was, neither of us had our priorities or time budgeted properly.  In fact, it is a brand new concept to me, honestly.  I have always lived by the power of the DayRunner (in my corporate days I can't even begin to count the number of classes or seminars I had attended on planning and time management...but none of them like I'm learning now).  I have an awesome pink leather 3 inch thick monster of management that has the crazy color coded tabs and notes sections and what have you.  If it isn't in my dayrunner then it isn't happening.  To give you an idea of what a typical day in my dayrunner looks like, I will tell you that I have been planning for 3 very large shows this fall.  So in April, I sat down with my pretty pink boss and listed out every single thing that I would do starting May 1 through mid-September...every day.  How many of each item I would make, what designs, and so forth.  I even could tell you what days I would be at which of my stores to restock and clean and what days I was planning on making deliveries, if needed.  I had my plans and my marching orders and this is what was going to make it a successful, stress-free fall.  Or so I thought. 

What I didn't allow for was time for rest, time for domestic duties, time for health and wellness, time for creativity and fun, and time for church and family and all the other things that needed to be at the very top of the list to keep going.  I know I said it before and I'm going to say it again, God allowed 2 strokes to occur in my life.   This second stroke, I was still a bit unsure as to the lesson in it, but I knew there was one.  As I am slowly exiting the physical therapy section of my rehab and entering more of the mental and emotional rehab portion of it, I'm now seeing the lesson.  It's still very fuzzy, but for the first time I was told to get rid of my lovely pink dayrunner and all of the lists and get a very basic calendar without all of the bells and whistles.  That was almost cause for a heart attack in and of itself.  I remember having to remind myself to breathe when I was told that. 

So, I've tucked my beloved master of time and lists into the back of my filing cabinet where it will take a very extended sabbatical and I've purchased the simplest calendar that I can find (just wish it came in hardbound form instead of a soft-cover) that will still fit the current situation.  All of this causes great anxiety and concern because this is not how I was "trained" to effectively budget time and projects.  I mean, I've been through the classes and seminars and I am certified in Priority One planning.  This is NOT how it is done.  The only thing is, I was certified to be a business planner, a project planner, a corporate planner.  None of that, even though they roughly touch on "your outside life" in those classes and seminars covers life.  Real life. 

We used to do the mad-dash cleaning when we caught wind that somebody is coming over.  Everybody has done it at some point in their life and you are lying if you say you haven't.  Grab as much stuff out of the common areas as possible and throw it in a room with a door that can be closed and not visited and then pray the guests don't stay long.   No more.  You are welcome into any room in my home.  There is one room (the storage room for the business) that is still lacking, but you are welcome there if you so choose.  Just don't expect it to be comfortable and peaceful yet. 

What I am finding though, with my pink beast quieted, is that my creativity is coming back.  Through Art Therapy I'm starting to explore new ways of creating and finding those things that were tucked back in the corners of my brain are coming forward.  For 3 years I had a winning formula and set colors and designs and would just repeat the same stuff over and over because it was working. 

Now I'm starting down a different, new, untraveled path.  It's exciting, it's curious and it's scary but it is also controlled with boundaries.  Safe boundaries. And these boundaries are going to slowly be implemented across my entire life in all of the caveats that I had neglected previously.  People, some of them customers, some of them family, and some of them strangers, will be upset with these boundaries.  And that is okay.  That is their issue to deal with, not mine or Tommy's.  The first phase of the boundaries have been set in place, and I will say, our house is much neater, more stress-free and peaceful.  It has not been easy.  It has been very hard.  And it will be very hard.  I'm a people pleaser and I don't like to say "no' or 'I can't/won't". But I will learn how.  I HAVE to learn how. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Do the Kangaroo Hop.....

Physical Therapy is going well.  I'm feeling good.  Still not 100% and they say it'll be a while before I'm back to the way I was pre-stroke but in some ways I'm better than I was pre-stroke.  I rest more.  I am learning my limitations (a lesson I think that will take a really long time).  Tommy, as he has always been, is super helpful throughout this entire process.  We've started taking nightly walks around our neighborhood with Shadow to help build endurance.  Me wearing my bright pink heart monitor and us taking readings every block or so to make sure that my ticker isn't running overtime and Shadow rabbit hunting. 

When I say rabbit hunting, she is not really hunting them, to catch and kill.  We have her on a harness and leash and she is the funniest thing to watch because as we are walking in a straight (or as straight as two uncoordinated people can walk) line down the street she is "on patrol" checking the yards on BOTH sides of the street to see if there is any living animal she might be interested in "going after".  I call it the drunk prance because it is in no way similar to the way she normally walks.  She is on full alert and on her tip toes it seems and she is maneuvering back and forth from side to side looking at both sides. 

She LOVES to rabbit hunt.  When she spots one, she will immediately stop and stare.  Then for a long few seconds/minutes, she will stare down the spot, which is good because half the time it takes Tommy and I that long to figure out what it is that she has spotted and locked in on.  Then starts her slow creep.  Tommy usually humors her and with his super strong grip (Shadow is the strongest dog I've ever felt on a leash when she is after something so he has to hold her leash when we walk.) will give her some leeway.  Which usually means he lets her get from the street up to the sidewalk but not into the actual yard.  So she creeps quietly towards her rabbit.  And then its as if she knows she is almost at the end of her leash and when she gets there she tries to lunge at the rabbit but it turns into this really funny kangaroo hopping that makes me laugh so hard.  She hops a few times and then circles back to us with the saddest, begging eyes as if to plead with us to go play some more with her new friend.  By this time the poor rabbit has darted off and we continue our walk.

We also play catch a lot at our house.  I know it sounds silly but we have a kids bouncey-ball (about 10" around, just smaller than a basketball) and a couple tennis balls.  We play catch a lot.  Shadow is really good at fetching too so she even helps me.  I throw the tennis ball with my left arm and hand (helps so many muscles) and she will fetch it and return it to me.  Then I throw again and we repeat the process. 

My arms are getting stronger but they have even further to go still than my legs to get back to pre-stroke condition.  I have gone from lifting the 3 pound dumbbells at OT to the 6 pound dumbbells.  It wasn't an overnight change, we've been working our way up.  I laugh every time because again I keep imagining my 5 foot nothing super-strong cousin as she lifts her 25+ pound weights.  Here I am, I have a good 6 to 8 inches on her and I can't even do a quarter of the weight she does.  It's all about perspective.  Just because you are bigger, doesn't mean you are stronger or better.  It just means you are not there, yet. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

That's Fair....

I've learned a new medical term over the course of this rehab.  It's a magical set of words.  I think they teach it in some class like "beginning anatomy" or "intro to the human body" or some other human-related, non-liberal arts, science department course because EVERY medical professional that I have on my team has used this word with me at some point since Stroke2 occurred. 

Mama uses the phrase constantly.  Dr. M has used the phrase a handful of times.  Oz has used the term.  Wheelie has used it.  All of them.  And then today when Dr. S used the term, I had the light bulb moment that this truly was a medical phrase.  The phrase could have a number of meanings but I've never heard any other professionals in other fields use it as consistently as in the medical field.  Are you ready for the phrase? 

"That's Fair" when I think of the word fair, I think of the county fair.  The carneys that come rolling into town and the animal barns with all of the manure stinking up the place and the ferris wheel that you don't dare ride even though the department of public safety has issued their big "it's ok today" certification to it.  Building after building of Miss So & So's homemade rhubarb pie and her neighbors handmade quilts.  All with shiny ribbons hanging on them.  That's what a fair is to me.  But when the medical team uses it, they use it in a different way.  Not to be a noun.  But as an adjective.  (Didn't know you were going to get an English lesson today, did you?) 

Usually when Mama asks me how a certain exercise is affecting me and I respond, she will say, "That's Fair."  Because it is.  It's unbiased.  It's candid.  It's sincere.  When Dr. M asks me how I'm sleeping or doing or whatever and I respond, she will say "That's Fair."  Because it is.  It's straightforward.  It's reasonable.  When Oz or Wheelie ask me how my medications are working or if I've experienced certain side effects and I describe what's going on, they respond, "That's Fair".  Because it is.  It's frank.  It's Honest.  It's Legitimate.  And today when Dr. S asked me how I was doing on thinking about what we discussed last week and how I felt we should start with the implementation of the plan and I responded, he said, "That's Fair."  Because it is.  It's Objective.  It's Praiseworthy.  It's Respectable. 

My life as I knew it has changed.  And That's Fair.  My life moving forward is going to be amazing.  And That's Fair.  It will not happen overnight and I have to understand that.  That's Fair.  It's Sincere.  It's Good.  It's Trustworthy. And it's Fair. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Ten Commandments of Self....

Today's post I am borrowing from a friend, with permission, Mary Costanza wrote the Ten Commandments of Self and she says it so much better than I could ever say it.  However, my commentary is in the italics under each one. 

The Ten Commandments Of Self

1. I shall not hide, be ashamed or embarrassed of who I am. I shall embrace everything about me. My imperfections, age, beauty, talents, intelligence, all of it.
This includes the times when I am tired and start to stutter, and when I feel like that girl on the tv commercial that says, "Use Your Words" to the door-to-door salesman.  I would love to use my words sometimes, but they just wont come out.  It also includes the times when I have to go slower. Slower than I normally would because this is the new way that I operate.  I'm no longer in the fast lane.  Call me a slowpoke or whatever, but my body doesn't go that fast anymore.

 2. I shall not hide the pain that I have experienced, I will acknowledge it, work on it, and learn from it and let go. I shall not keep it buried deep down inside of me anymore.

I'm all for being transparent.  I've tried my best to be that way here.  I will always show the whole side of everything, the good, bad, and ugly.

 3. I shall not speak words of negativity about myself. I am whole, and yes, life may have wounded me, but I am whole. The wounds need time to heal, I shall be patient with myself during this process, and give myself as much time as I need.

This one is super hard for me.  I have a lot of frustration with myself daily.  Minute-by-minute is a new journey.  But it is one that I am taking.  I will not just say, "well, strokes suck, time to curl up and die now."

 4. I shall speak words only of kindness, words that empower, words of compassion and love to myself daily, even on the toughest day when I am angry at myself. I shall have unconditional love for myself.

Another super tough one.  Mary really is pushing my limits here.  I mean, I just agreed to be positive and now she wants me to be kind and show myself unconditional love.  I have had a talk with her and think that she may be asking a bit much on this one, but I will try. 

 5. I shall nurture my heart, mind, body and soul. I shall create an environment both inside and out that is supportive, loving and no judgmental. I will feed my heart and soul with love, and fuel my body with nutritious foods , and exercise it daily. I shall feed my mind only with thoughts that provoke curiosity and wonder and strive to seek the answers.
I'm learning to do this.  It is definitely easier said than done.  But, let's just say I have the provoking curiosity and striving for answers part down pretty well. 

 6. I shall not take the negativity that others say so personally, everyone has an opinion about me, but that opinion does not define who I am.
Ouch.  This one is super duper hard.  I think that Mary may be overstepping the line here.  But, I'm willing to give it a try.  After all, I'm a people pleaser.  How can I not take opinions personally. 

 7. I shall give myself rest, forgiveness, and attention.

Rest.  Okay, I got this one.  Trust me, my pillow and I have become close friends over the past several weeks.  Forgiveness.  Yeah, we'll glide over that one.  I have a lot of screw ups.  Attention...okay Mary, really?  Attention.  no thanks.

 8. I shall learn my limits and say “No” when feeling overwhelmed, without guilt and shame.
Well, this one, dear friends, is going to happen whether I like it or not.  The Warden will make the "saying NO" part happen even if I don't/can't.  The without guilt and shame part is a different story but Dr. S and I are working on this one so that The Warden doesn't have to step in and so that I can do it all by myself.

 9. I shall not allow others to dictate my decisions; I am strong enough to make my own.
This kind of goes in line with #8.  Dr. S and I are working on it.  I am very strong but I cave in to guilt trips a lot and those are vacations that I don't want to, nor need to take any longer.

 10. I shall no longer beat myself up about past decisions, choices and mistakes that I have made, because now I realize they were lessons that had to be learned. I shall have no regrets.
God has an interesting way of using the very last one.  I am still learning.  This whole journey has been a lesson that I am not sure I will graduate from any time soon.  But, for today, I will accept it.  And that's really all I can do.  Just today.  Tomorrow, however, is a different story.  ;)


Monday, July 21, 2014

The Carnivals of Chaos end here...

One of the things that stroke patients experience that there is no amount of PT or OT or any other kind of therapy for is the fatigue.  Not the kind that you get when you've done yard work all day or pulled a 12 hour shift at work, but the brain fatigue.  You see, my brain now has to work even harder at keeping up and remembering things and following simple evolutions in conversations that previously I may have been light years ahead of.  Prime example was a few weeks ago I had some relatives visiting from out of state and there was a family get together at my grandmother's house.  Any normal time pre-stroke, I would have been able to keep up with the conversation between Aunt A and cousin B and the one with Aunt B, Aunt C, Uncle D and grandma in addition to whatever conversation I was personally having with the person right in front of me.  It's always a carnival of chaos when these family members get together because everybody is talking all at once and every body is loud but I could always manage to communicate with them all.   Guess that's a nice way of admitting that I have a big mouth too.  During this particular visit though, it was too much.  Too much noise, too much chaos.  I struggled, and struggled is the true word in this instance, to keep up with the one conversation that I was having with a loved one sitting next to me.  I can't handle the carnivals of chaos any longer.  My brain shuts down and says, "it's closing time...exit here". 

I joke that I've become a hermit but in reality it is my own way of protecting my brain.  After a handful of outings to loud, energy-filled places (the grocery store, Wal-Mart...which is a story all in and of itself.., other family gatherings, etc...) I've realized that God doesn't want me to be part of the carnivals of chaos.  I think that He wants me to focus.  Focus on what is right in front of me.  Not what is happening in the half-mile radius to every single person around me.  But just what He has placed right there square in my lap at the moment. 

I fear that my new reclusion may turn some people off and make them think that I'm being rude.  Realized this the other night during our first outing to a local sporting event.  I had a hard time keeping up with the game, the conversation of the people we were with and the entertainment provided by the team.  It was another a-ha moment when I found out that I can either have a conversation with somebody or I can watch the game, but I cannot do both any longer.  When we left, the whole drive home I felt bad because I am sure that I missed parts of conversations because I was focusing on the game at the moment. 

One thing that this brain fatigue is causing, other than the one-track mind ability, is lots and lots of naps.  I have no choice any longer.  Yesterday after a particularly peaceful outing, but one in which we met a lot of people that I hadn't seen a great while, I came home and within 20 minutes of being in the door fell asleep...for 4 hours.  I would probably have slept the entire night had Tommy not woken me up and asked if I was hungry (I fell asleep before we even ate lunch).  Then I was awake for about 3 hours and then fell back to sleep for another 7 hours.  My mind, in the peaceful setting, was overloaded with names and faces and the beauty of the place that most take for granted.

I remember growing up, we were always out of bed at the butt-crack of dawn it seemed on the weekend and the mantra was "you can sleep when you're dead there are things to do now".  Let me be the first to tell you....that's overrated.  There is nothing so important that rest should be deprived.  I'm still battling with the fixation that if you sleep or nap you must be lazy (again one of those mindsets that is planted deep in my brain from sometime long long ago) or if you are awake you MUST be doing something productive.  It's just not how I'm programmed.  Needless to say, we (my medical team and I) are doing some reprogramming in the next few weeks.  We have to.  It's the next step in rehab. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The exit of Rabbi...

The Tin Man has been oiled!  The IV infusion went so much smoother than anticipated (the new infusion nurses at Oz's office rock!).  I think there was a bit of a misconception based on my last post so I want to clarify.  With RA, you may find drugs that help, but you will never, ever be 100% pain free.  You will have days of lesser pain, or medications that make it endurable, but RA patients learn to "suck it up sister" and move forward.  Otherwise you are gonna end up wallowing in your own little world of "I hurt" everyday and you will be of no use to anybody.  I honestly can't remember the last pain free day I've ever had.  There are days that maybe my hands are killing me or days that my knees feel like they will crack open at any moment or my feet want to scream if I take one more step on an ankle that wants to just stop working.  But you learn to quietly deal with it.  The medication I receive via IV is the one over the years (and I've been on a lot of them in the course of 19 years) that has given me the greatest relief and the one that works best for me. It may not be the best one for somebody else, but it is for me.  Consult your physician before starting any new medications, blah, blah, blah....end of commercial about that. 

I'm at a weird point in rehab right now.  My strength is gaining and my stamina is building, but I'm still not 100%.  If you didn't know me and were a stranger looking into my world from the outside, you wouldn't know that.  But, if you interacted with me on a daily basis and really knew me pre-stroke, you'd know I'm not back yet.  So the point I'm at currently is one of frustration, but determination.  I have to break through that barrier and finish this race. 

The frustration comes because there are some things that I CAN do that I couldn't do just 2 weeks ago.  So in my stroke-brain, I think "oh I can do that, so I must be able to do THIS also (whatever THIS is...) but that's not the case because the second task may be heavier or harder or require more complex thinking or whatever and I just cannot do it.  That's a hard thing for me to say.  That I cannot do something.  You see, I'm a people pleaser and my standard line up to this point in my life is "of course I can do that, I'll get right on it and let you know when it's done".  I think it's on a tape reel in my head that automatically comes on when I nod my head.  Like a little robot.  Nod the head, mouth opens and out comes the words.  And it plays constantly in my mind as I'm working on tasks around my home in weird and demented ways.  For instance, if I'm folding laundry in the living room, I suddenly look at the wall and think, "I can fold laundry, surely I can paint that wall."  Two completely different tasks requiring two completely different sets of ability, but dadgummit, I really want this one wall in my living room painted.  So I'm working hard on wearing the Warden down to let me try.  It's just one little wall.  Of course I can do it (so I tell myself).

Sadly, as all of the hard work and determination is paying off and progress is showing, we had to say goodbye to Rabbi yesterday at PT.  It was the last day of his clinical rotation.  He really was an awesome asset to my rehab team.  He made me laugh, he worked really hard to keep me safe while still pushing me to my limits so that I could see exactly how far I could go and I can tell that in the future wherever he ends up he is going to be a great physical therapist.  I'm a little sad to think of what PT will be like next week without him.  But, Mama, LittleBit, Irish, DuckLady and Mr Miyagi are all still there to torture me appropriately so I'm confident that we will continue to make amazing progress...I think, I hope.  We'll see next week I guess. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fat girls like Cake.....

After battling the black beast known as The Arc trainer for 2 minutes and having an explosive heart rate in such a short amount of time the other day, Mama and Rabbi determined that they would devise a plan to work on my cardio health as well as my balance.  Tommy went to Academy and purchased an awesome heart monitor for me to wear so we can see what activities and movements are causing the sudden bursts in heart rate.  So now not only do I have an implanted monitor recording things for the docs to see, I have one I can wear around my wrist and get immediate results.  Having the bubblegum pink accessory attached to my wrist reminds me of something that I would have worn in elementary or junior high and every time I look at it I almost expect a Hello Kitty face on the front of it instead of the time, heart rate, or other of its various features that it can flash at me. 

But having this monitor has also allowed us to be more progressive at physical therapy.  Now, instead of walking tracks with Jack, I'm able to get on the treadmill and walk a certain time or distance because not only is my gait getting more fluid but my balance is becoming better.  We just have to make sure that my heart is not deciding to do a break dance. 

Rabbi also determined that this would be a good time to work on something called "Ice Skaters".  It helps with balance and strength and I don't know what all else.  Imagine if you will, an ice skater skating laps around a track.  Stand up, bend your knees slightly, then with one leg at a time (like balance on your right leg and do all of this with your left or vice versa) reach your opposite leg out and touch the toe down on a given point straight out to the side as far away as you can (extending your stride).  It's easiest, much like an ice skater, if you fold your hands behind your back for balance rather than letting them flail about in the front or the side.  Do that for a solid minute and see if your thighs and butt and whatever else isn't screaming!!  And if Rabbi forgets (like he sometimes does) to push the start button on the stopwatch, you get to do it for TWO minutes!  Trust me, this fat and sassy girl is working muscles and becoming more flexible than I was pre-stroke I think.  Heck, I even sat criss-cross applesauce the other day (indian style) at PT on one of the stretching tables. 

Another exciting (is that the word you use in this instance?) thing that is happening this week is that I am going back on the IV infusion of my RA meds.  Yes, it means I'll be sitting in an infusion lab for an hour or so being fed medication through a tube in a vein that I'm hoping and praying that they don't have any trouble finding, and yes, I will be drowsy and likely sick for a day or so afterwards but then I wont have to endure it for another month.  That's what I'm looking forward to the most.  The month (or practically a month) of relative pain free movement.  When I say relative pain free I really mean endurable.  Right now I have what I call the Tin Man syndrome.  Only it wouldn't really matter how much oil Dorothy put in me, it wont stop the ache and creakiness of the joints.  So, I'm off to be "oiled" in about an hour.  I'm just hoping that I feel well enough for PT on Friday because it's Rabbi's last day of his rotation and I want to be there.  I heard a rumor that there will be a party, which means cake, and as a fat and sassy girl, I like cake!  So crossing my fingers that this infusion goes well and I'm eating cake on Friday. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Demons of Doubt drive a Dodge

Although I try to hide it or don't talk about it very often, one of the main things that stroke2 has taken from me is my self-confidence and assurance.  Pre-stroke I thought I could conquer the world and I wouldn't mind telling anybody and everybody, loudly.  Now, I really have to stop and think about that whole conquering thing.  I mean, the world is a really big place after all. 

I am making tons of progress at physical and occupational therapy.  But just like moving from walking with Charlie to Jack was enlightening and freeing, it was also very scary.  Now that I'm starting to move from walking without Jack, it is absolutely terrifying.  I have to remember a ton of stuff.  Keep my head up, feet pointed straight, lift my left foot, move forward...these things that people normally just do, I have to actually remind myself of because otherwise I'll end up looking at my feet to make sure they are pointed straight and being lifted and I'd end up running into something I am sure.  It'll all come back to me, they say, but it just takes time.  And in the waiting, is when my self-confidence gets whittled away.  The demons of doubt show up and whisper, "you can't even walk like you are supposed to, how are you going to be able to do anything else?"

With the doctor's approval, The Warden has allowed me to be the driver in the car a few times as long as he is in the passenger seat.  After not having driven for 2 months and not liking the art of driving pre-stroke anyway (I only did it out of necessity), it was extremely nerve-wracking to get behind the wheel.  Keep in mind that I grew up driving a lot with my grandfather.  This is the man who once told my cousin and I as we were driving to a family reunion along the highway, "The speed limit is 60, you can go 45 if you want" and he sincerely meant it.  I often reflect on these words as I'm driving as a reminder to slow down and pay attention to what is going on around you.  If you are going 60, did you see the billboard that somebody paid good money and an artist worked hard to create for you?  If you are going 60 did you see the one cow huddled in the pond while the others are over on the other side of the pasture and wonder why the one cow is alone?  And furthermore, do cows have bullies and do they shun their own, like people do?  These are the types of things that if you are not going 60, you can ponder.  So getting behind the wheel again after the hiatus and having to face the driving like a bat out of hell drivers that seem to be on the roads nowadays was NOT a joyous occasion for me.  Yes, it brought me a step closer to independence but what if I didn't react quick enough to something and caused a wreck?  What if I went 40 instead of 45?  The demons of self-doubt crawled right up there on the dash of the car and chattered the whole time.  Then they had a cheerleader behind me as I was waiting to make a left turn who decided the demons needed to have a little music to help their cheer because the old man in the Dodge behind me laid on his car horn when I wasn't turning quick enough into the oncoming traffic for his liking.  Sure, I might have been able to make it, but then again, I couldn't really tell.  Doesn't hurt anything to wait an extra 45 seconds for a better opportunity, does it?  The Demons and the Dodge driver seemed to think it would.

Trying to beat the demons of self-doubt, I think I've read every single positive affirmation quote on Pinterest lately.  I have even created a few of my own and stuck them out on the ever revolving super highway of Facebook NewsFeeds.  Let me just say it is so much easier to read something than it is to believe something.  I can read the quote a million times, but deep down, God and I have the same conversation every time before I have to tackle something new or something new for the moment.  Every time He assures me that He's right there and I'm trusting that He is because inside I am shaking like a leaf and scared to death.  When you have a stroke, it not only robs you of your physical strength and ability but it robs you of mental strength and confidence.  Fortunately, I have a great team of cheerleaders that have bigger mouths than the demons of doubt do, and can make a louder noise.  I will get back to conquering the world.  Just not today.

Friday, July 11, 2014

You Are Invited....

You'd think by this point in the process that physical therapy and occupational therapy would be getting easier.  But it isn't.  It's getting harder.  Not because I'm getting weaker, but quite the contrary...because I am getting stronger and Mama, Rabbi, and Mr. Miyagi have a personal vendetta against my abilities and are upping the ante on everything, which is their jobs after all. 

Remember when I first started therapy and Mr Miyagi tested my hand strength and my left hand squeezed 10 pounds and it was supposed to squeeze around 55-60?  He retested me the other day and now I can squeeze 32 pounds.  Woo-hoo!!  Not nearly where I need to be, but it is getting there.  Babysteps.  I realized how weak my hands still were the other day when I was doing Art Therapy and attempting to use a rubber stamp.  My hands were not strong enough to press hard enough on the stamp for a clear impression. These are things that most people don't think about.  How much pressure you put on your hands, whether it is lifting a full pot of pasta from the stove (you have to have the grip strength to hold on) or opening a heavy door, we all take for granted these simple things most days.  

I know I've said it before but when a stroke patient, or at least when THIS stroke patient, left the hospital, I had no concept of boundaries and limitations.  I felt, mentally, like I could do anything that I used to be able to do pre-stroke.  You suddenly realize those limitations when you are sitting in the passenger seat of a vehicle and you've gone through a fast food drive thru and the driver hands you the sack of food, then when you get home, the driver gets out of the car, and you go to hand him the food with your left hand and you can't grip the sack of food like you used to be able to do.  Think about that.  A simple paper bag with two hamburgers and two small fries.  Too heavy to grip and hand across 4 feet.  THAT, my friends, will put you right back in your place real quick and that is where I am with my upper body, which also means that I still can't do a lot of my creations that I'm used to doing pre-stroke.

Lower body, I'm rocking it!  LOL.  That's a bit conceited, isn't it?  Really though, just 2 months ago, I had trouble walking with a walker as assistance.  I was constantly afraid to move about without help because I knew my legs were not strong enough to do it.  I felt how weak and trembly they were.  So, I would get to a spot, the sofa or kitchen table, and spend hours there because that was what felt safe.  Now, I've graduated to walking with Jack.  Back the first day of physical therapy when they did the evaluations I couldn't even stand for 5 or 10 seconds on my left leg without holding on to Mama's hand.  This week in PT I managed to stand on my left leg for a full minute and only reaching out my fingertips to balance for a few seconds part of the way through.  Babysteps.

My goal, and Mama agrees that it is a reasonable goal, is to walk a 5K for my 40th birthday (in November).  So, here's the invitation...who's with me on this one?  Anybody wanna celebrate my big 4-0 with me?  It may be cold, but it's Oklahoma so it could very easily be warm and "shorts weather".   Not sure where the 5k will be (somewhere here in the OKC area), but it's going to happen.  And when it does, there will be a major party afterwards!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Can you be Content?

When I had the second stroke, which seems like eons ago now even though it was just 2 months ago yesterday that I came home from the hospital, I was running my business of creating things out of my home.  I had stuff scattered here and there.  The Warden, aka Tommy, quickly relegated all of that stuff to the back two bedrooms where it was meant to stay originally anyway, just so I wouldn't have it sitting in front of my face taunting me and making me feel guilty that I wasn't working on it.  It created a more peaceful feeling in our main living area of our home, I will admit.  However, I have been chomping at the bit wanting to get back to creating and each evening after he has already worked a hard day at work and taken me to therapy,  I ramble on to Tommy about things that I have thought up to work on and create. 

The other evening he and I were eating dinner and as we sat across from each other at the dinner table, him listening to me ramble about how I wanted to get better so that I could do this craft show and that craft show and going on about how I was going to build my business bigger and bigger and bigger because I was going to be even stronger.  He looked at me and said, "why?"  A simple question.  Just "Why?"  I think I was in shock for a minute from this question because I actually stopped rambling and looked at him and said, "well why not?  Isn't that what small businesses are supposed to do?  Grow bigger and bigger?"  I could tell that perhaps, without knowing it, he had been percolating the things that he said next in the back of his head.

The next thing he said (or I heard anyway, God has a way of taking some people's words and twisting them into what He needs you to hear) was, "Why can't you just be content.  Can you just be content?  We are not flashy people, we don't need extravagant things.  We are provided for with my income.  We have built our lives so that we are safe and stable and secure.  It is your job to get healthy, get strong, and enjoy creating rather than jump back into the madness of it all.  Can you just be content in what God's provided for us already rather than trying to chase the world?"  As I sat there in stunned silence, his phone rang or the doorbell rang or something broke up the moment, but every since that conversation, I have been thinking about those words and wondering....why can't we all just be content in what God's provided?

God allowed me to have two strokes.  They were not ideal, they were not wanted, but they were necessary.  I know that sounds weird, but it is the truth.  Stroke number 1, I firmly believe was to pull Tommy and I back together.  You see he was working like a crazy madman on a project at work and was pulling in 50-60 hours per week.  I was busy doing a bazillion orders, keeping up with 4 retail locations and doing every stinking show that was presented to me because for the love of Mary & Joseph I couldn't say, "no" because I thought that that was what I was supposed to do.  He was not enjoying his work and I was starting to dread creating some of my stuff because it was becoming very assembly-line, no heart attached, type of creations.  We usually ate fast food and often argued about whose turn it was to do the laundry or whatever.  The first stroke was a wake up call.  Stroke number 2 was God putting the finishing touches on the work that He had started.  I would have never known about some of the medical issues that we've discovered since the second stroke.  I would have never changed rheumatologists, even though my previous one was not ideal for my health.  And I would have never realized exactly how big of a cheerleader for me that my husband truly is.

He goes to every doctor's appointment and every therapy session and is there with positive reinforcement and affirmation every new, unsteady step I have taken.  And no matter what the therapy plan turns out looking like long term, I know, without a doubt that God has a bigger plan for both of us.  We just have to wait until tomorrow's PT session and be content in the here and now.