Tuesday, August 30, 2011

One Stroky’s Journey: Sunday Beach Walk

Wide, easy-to-negotiate walkway on Ocean Springs’ Front Beach
Sunday morning’s temperatures in the low to mid-70s precipitated a treat. Hubby Walter and I got out of bed, threw on clothes and ball caps and drove to our town’s Front Beach.

The paved walkway, part of a post-Katrina beach restoration, is well-kept and offers a fairly even surface for walkers facing mobility challenges. My physical therapist encourages walking as part of my stroke recovery. Walking outside is something I love, except when temperatures soar into the 90s.

And that has been what we have been experiencing for much of the summer. Nighttime has offered little relief with high humidity and lows in the 80s.We were out at about 7 a.m. Sunday in that window of opportunity before things heated up.

We parked our van and started walking, me with a side-to-side gait similar to a toddler’s, Walter holding on to my belt with his right hand while I was pressing down on his left hand with my stroke-affected left as hard as I could. The belt is because I am still in the at-risk category for falls. The hand interaction is a strategy that Ashley, the physical therapist, says helps my torso to start kicking in and getting everything to work together.

After a long walk, we headed back toward our van. Walter sat me down on the concrete barricade between the street and the beach and in the shade of the van. I wondered what he was up to. Usually I sit near an opening in the barricade that allows walkers and cyclists easy access to the beach and me easy access for maneuvering into the van safely.

This time Walter pulled out our camping chairs and I was soon on a much more comfortable perch than the concrete barricade. He then proceeded to take out our Coleman stove and start preparing coffee for him and tea for me.
Coleman stove expands our beach walk enjoyment.

As we sipped we enjoyed the cool, the water, the shorebirds and the sense of community that the walkway produces. Most walkers on this particular walkway, regardless of age, make eye contact and say: hello, good morning or, as Walter was making coffee, a greeting of “Is coffee ready yet!”

The paved walkway welcomes walkers . . . 

. . . and cyclists.

Enjoying our Sunday treat

We finished our tea and coffee, loaded up and headed home. We still had time for breakfast, getting ready for church and making it on time. Maybe early morning beach time is the key to resolving our post-stroke tendency to arrive late for church.

Friday, August 26, 2011

44 and counting

Hubby and me
Husband Walter and I met in the fall of 1964 when he was a student in the "backshop" of The Student Printz, the local college's newspaper in my hometown. The Student Printz had contracted to typeset, lay out and print our high school paper. As a high school senior and co-editor of that high school publication, one of my responsibilities was to work with the college paper staff on production and to proof galleys and handle the page proofs later in the process.

Hot type was still in use in the college's J-hole ( J for the Journalism Department, located in the basement of a classroom building), Printer's ink was to me a potent pheromone. We started dating in my freshman year, after I had abandoned what I considered agonizing studies required for a math major and enthusiastically switched to journalism.

By my sophomore year Walter had graduated and we were planning a wedding. Once we became Mr. and Mrs., I transferred to another college closer to Walter’s work and our new home in north Mississippi.

The years seem to have flown by as we worked, mpved to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, raised two sons, and saw them graduate from college, marry wonderful girls and present us with six grandchildren who totally fill our lives with love, light and laughter.

Today is anniversary #44, and I send out Happy Anniversary wishes to Walter, my best friend, my partner in life’s adventures, my hero, my husband, a blessing to my life!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Shoes: Up in the Air

Yesterday Ginny, blogging at Let Your Light Shine, posted photos and her thoughts about shoes tossed over utility lines and left dangling.

She regularly posts photos from the beautiful to the weird. She always ties them into the theme of her blog: How I see God in my everyday life. Yesterday’s photos reminded me of a collection of shoes that greeted husband Walter and me during a June 2008 trip when we were in Nevada traveling on U.S. 50, labeled “the loneliest road in America.”

We stopped to get a better look at a strange looking tree. It was covered with shoes. 
The shoe tree on U.S. 50 in Nevada

More of hubby’s photos of the traffic-stopping shoe tree and other sights along U.S. 50 are in his blog post here.

Have a great week!

Friday, August 19, 2011

What I’m Reading Lately

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, was written with Steve Erwin and is the personal account of Immaculée Ilibagiza, a 24-year-old ethnic Tutsi, a Rwandan native and a devout Roman Catholic.  She was also a bright and dedicated student, studying applied science on scholarship at the national university in the days leading up to the holocaust.

When the horror began she had just returned home for Easter holidays. Her father tried to keep Immaculée, one of her brothers and a young man who was visiting safe by sending them to the nearby home of a Protestant pastor who was ethnic Hutu.

With tribal hatreds inflamed by the death of the Rwandan president, a three-month killing spree slaughtered more than one million ethnic Tutsis. Members of the government’s youth movement set out in packs to eliminate all Tutsis, even their former friends and neighbors. All Immaculée’s family, except for one brother studying abroad, were among the murdered.

The pastor hid Immaculée and seven other women in a tiny bathroom for three months. During the rigors of silence, immobility, limited rations, and the constant threat of brutal death, Immaculée resorts to ongoing internal conversations with God. So begins the spiritual journey that takes her through her own hate and fear and out the other side to total reliance on God, and to compassion and forgiveness for the killers.

This book is not a history of the Rwandan holocaust. If it were an ordinary book, I would have found the 210 pages a quick read. But even though Immaculée’s chronicle is riveting, I had to put it down at intervals for a time-out to absorb the magnitude of the words on the printed page.

The holocaust was in 1994. The book was published in 2006, but Immaculée’s story of faith in the midst of brutality and hatred is as relevant today as ever.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

One Stroky’s Journey: Mirror, Mirror!

Kacie, my miracle makeup angel
My first showers after my transfer to Singing River Hospital Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center left me feeling human again and a little euphoric . . . until I had my first encounter with a mirror since a stroke on April 22, 2011.

What surprises me as I look back at that moment, is that I wasn’t disturbed by the mouth twisted to one side, a result of the muscles on the left side of my face that were weakened by the stroke in the right hemisphere of my brain.

No, I was aghast at another effect of the stroke, and scrambled, as much as a stroke survivor can scramble, to take action. What ignited my determination was the gray, flat expressionless appearance of my face. The absence of expression made me feel like Linda was gone. I knew, however, that I was not missing. I was just camouflaged behind that gray, strokey face.

Color! I needed color to chase away the gray! Never particularly adept with cosmetics, my pre-stroke regimen included moisturizer, a light application of a “natural” light-weight foundation, a little cheek color, and light applications of eye-liner on the top lash line and eyebrow pencil to fill in thinning eyebrows.

I encountered some difficulty as I attempted to start my routine. I was still in a stage of sinking into my safe and comfortable amniotic sea, a state of internal consciousness that did not fully register external surroundings. In the days . . . or weeks . . . that followed, I discovered I could turn on lights in my room and better position my wheelchair to get my nearsighted eyes closer to the little mirror in the bedside table.

This morning, however, I had not made those helpful, and logical, discoveries. I was having trouble seeing. That is when Kacie appeared. A tech from second floor, she was temporarily helping out on fourth floor where the rehab center had a full house. She had been a makeup artist in a previous occupation. She asked if I would mind if she helped. Mind? I was ecstatic!

I did get a little uneasy, however, when she went to work. With unbelievable speed she was applying what seemed like more cosmetics than I had ever used in my life, patting, smoothing, brushing, and chatting with total confidence. She even worked on my hair.

When she was through I knew she really was a heaven-sent angel. Other people may have seen the face of a stroke’s impact that day. But I felt great, looking happily out at the world. I no longer felt camouflaged behind flat, strokey gray.

We met again shortly before I was discharged. I was able to thank Kacie once more and tell her how much her generous sharing of her make up expertise lifted my spirits. A lasting gift from that experience was that I have a little more relaxed attitude, confidence and even enjoyment about my makeup application, although it is still in the minimum category.

I am also still unsophisticated about the whole process. But I think Kacie’s comment as she was wielding an eyebrow pencil that morning somehow forged a new neural pathway for me. I still smile when I think of her cheerful pronouncement, “Eyebrows are supposed to be sisters, not twins.” Thank you, Kacie.

Angels of abundant variety surround me during my recovery. I had fun snapping pix of this little one below that was  lurking around my laptop a couple days ago.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

One Stroky’s Journey: Perfect Timing

“Then shall thy light break forth as the morning . . .”
I know it is no coincidence that cards, calls, emails, blog comments and visits arrive right at the moment when I need extra encouragement or a reminder that the God who created the universe is certainly capable of keeping his eye on me as I recover from my April 22, 2011 stroke.

Either while I was in ICU or inpatient rehab, I received a beautiful card from Bessie, one of my son’s colleagues in Atlanta. I was touched by the Bible verse and her personal message inside. Not too long ago I received another card from Bessie with another encouraging note including her alert that she is continuing to pray for me.

This time the Bible verse was a verse about healing that I did not have in my collection of verses that I would read throughout the day in rehab ( and still do read now that I am home). I remembered it was in Isaiah but I couldn’t put my hands on the card from Bessie for the exact Scripture reference. Keeping up with my “stuff” has been a major frustration from the first moments in my early post-stroke days when I would temporarily surface from my peaceful secure “amniotic sea” into my physical surroundings.

A couple of days ago, I received a wonderful note from Elihu assuring me that he and wife Susan are holding me in their prayers. We have known Elihu and Susan for decades. They are gifted artists who have made their own journeys through health challenges.

Included in Elihu’s note was a wonderful verse that sounded familiar. I think it is the same one Bessie had referenced. Thank you, Bessie and Elihu. This verse gives my spirit wings:

Isaiah 58:8. Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy reward. Isaiah 58:8

I took the accompanying photo when Walter and I visited the Florida portion of Gulf Islands National Seashore in 2010.  We hit the beach early with our cameras and waited for light "to break forth as the morning"! My post about that trip is here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

One Stroky’s Journey: A Neccessity of Life

My international sign of relief
Yes, the symbol above makes my heart beat faster with joy. My physical therapist still officially has me  “tethered” to a responsible adult when I walk with my cane or transfer from one surface to another. I have that canvas belt that the responsible party has to hold on to.

Usually that responsible person is husband Walter. Although my balance is much improved, I am a chicken about taking a chance on a fall surrounded by the hard and sometimes slippery surfaces of restrooms. So I follow the therapist's rules. Whether I am ambulating with cane or wheelchair, a visit to a restroom right now means Walter has to accompany me. Finding “family” restrooms is not a given, and many thanks to those businesses and local governments that have included them in their buildings. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Nana and Baboo's Super Saturday

Saturday was a delight. Youngest son Jeremy and daughter-in-law Katie and grands Molly Kate, 3, and 14-month-old Walker spent lunch and a large part of the afternoon with us. All our grands are at delightful ages. And it is such a treat to see and hear this pair in action.

Molly Kate’s first choice for entertainment was Walker’s big blue ball that resides at our house.
MK strikes a pose.

Walker headed for a yard sale find that has entertained every one of the six grands at toddler age.
Walker enjoys orchestrating animal sounds.

As the afternoon waned, duets on our upright piano, a rousing episode of brother-sister chase complete with excited sound effects (Apparently Nana and Baboo have a higher tolerance for high-pitched squeals than the youngsters' daddy does) and a game of hide and seek with Baboo burned up enough energy that this on-the-move pair started winding down.

MK chooses a ride in Nana’s “chariot.”


MK convinces Baboo to share his reading glasses so she can play teacher.

Little teacher!

Ready for a father-son YouTube video session


Sesame Street music videos!

Yea, Sesame Street!
Thanks go to Katie for these last four images. I was sitting on the sofa by Jeremy and Walker. I handed my point and shoot camera to Katie, and she captured some of my favorite images of the day!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Better than Tylenol

Dianne at SchmidleysScribbling posted an entertaining commentary here yesterday about an article on sleeping published in the Washington Post Health and Wellness section.

Sleep patterns, both satisfactory and not must have infiltrated the collective blogging consciousness. Friko at Friko’s World posted an enticing exploration of the subject via photographic image and verse.

My own contribution about sleep is that mindless, escapist fiction is better than extra-strength Tylenol for taking my mind off pains that inhibit easy snoozing. I was taking two caplets at night to relieve shoulder pain that was not totally excruciating but was just aggravating enough to make going to sleep difficult.

With reports that the recommended dosage was being lowered, I took a look at possible side effects and decided I needed to make a change. I am happy to report that heading to bed a little earlier, getting my stroke-affected parts arranged fairly comfortably with assorted pillows, and becoming absorbed in one of my free paperbacks from the swap shelves at our local library have successfully weaned me from regularly popping the over-the-counter Tylenol.

So far, the most effective alternatives to the Tylenol have been the novels of David Baldacci, especially his Camel Club series, romances of Debbie Macomber, and anything else that looks interesting on the swap shelf. Too much sex or bad language and back to the swap shelf or even into the trash it goes with no guilt since I didn’t pay anything for it.

There are only two downsides to my books-as-painkiller sleep aid. One is my difficulty holding a book open and successfully turning pages with my right hand only. A number of my dear readers have recommended the Kindle for one-handed reading.

The other downside is on the occasion when a book is an exceptionally good read. It still relaxes me, but it is also likely to tempt me to stay awake and keep reading, not a good idea when the physical and mental exertion of therapy is a priority the next day. Still, I welcome those well-crafted surprises.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

One Stroky’s Journey: At the Ladies-Only Table

Fay’s Story
Faye shares her story of medical advances
Faye joined us at the ladies-only table during the last week of my stay at the Singing River Hospital Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center, and she was scheduled to go home a few days after my departure.

When she arrived she was weak and feeling awful. Even then it was clear she was probably an entertaining storyteller, drawing out her comments in a droll voice seasoned with a dry wit. As she gained strength she perked up.

Here is one of my favorite Faye stories, mostly in her own words and totally with her permission:

“My husband Roy and I got married very young. I was 14 when we married. He was in the Air Force. I had our first child when I was 15, our second child when I was 16, and our third child when I was 17.

“I had a tubal pregnancy when I was 18 and they had to abort. That was when the doctor came in and said ‘Faye, Faye, I’ve got something for you.’

“I wondered, What in the world? He said, ‘I’ve got you The Pill. You aren’t going to have to worry about this anymore.’

“I thought What? How is that going to help?

“I hadn’t heard about The Pill. The doctor said, ‘We’re going to have a talk.’

“I had had pregnancies at 15, 16, 17, and 18 and had three children. I said, ‘I’m ready to listen.’ I got on The Pill.  I stayed on The Pill until Roy and I decided to have Baby Doll (their fourth child, born when Faye was 25). And then, just as soon as I had Baby Doll, I went right back on that Pill and stayed on it until I had to have a hysterectomy when she was five years old.”

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

One Stroky’s Journey: At the Ladies-Only Table

During my first meal at the Singing River Hospital Comprehensive Rehabilitation Center I wondered why ladies were on one side of the room and men on the other.

The women, who outnumbered the men, were at a long table created from shorter tables shoved together. The men’s table was shorter, and unlike the ladies’ table, had a number of unfilled spots. Typical of my post-stroke experience, the question about segregation of the sexes dissipated from my consciousness as abundant distractions claimed my attention.

In the days that followed, however, I noticed two things:
1)    When every spot was filled at the ladies’ table, there was no hesitation about placing a female at the men’s table. The opposite circumstance never arose while I was there. The men always had extra room at their table.
2) I liked having a ladies-only table.

 At the ladies’ table we eventually started sharing, mostly funny stories about ourselves. The presence of men probably would have dampened the hilarity since no matter our age (none of us remained in the “young” category), race, size or our reason for being in rehab, all of us shared a certain sense of modesty.

A conversation that started about the horror of discovering that a male tech was going to help with our shower, evolved into laughter at all the details from each of us. And we realized that we shared more than the initial shock. By the end of that meal, each one of us had articulated our realization and acceptance of the reality that these male techs were just doing their jobs, and we needed to let them do their jobs.

Our personal chronicles also inevitably included the fact that the male techs made a conscious effort to help us maintain modesty. Their strategies differed, but their respect and compassion were evident to us and appreciated.

Before my admittance to the rehab center, I had already accepted the help of male nurses and techs in personal situations. I admit, however, that I was in for a surprise on my first morning at the rehab center. My female occupational therapist, was on hand that Saturday morning, acquainting me with safe showering and other skills I needed to develop to take care of personal needs post-stroke. I was startled when she dragged a male therapy tech over to introduce him to me – while I was on the toilet.

Never able to let a moment of silence exist without filling it, I blurted out, “Well,  I’ve never before been introduced to a good-looking man while I was on the potty.”

And, yes, I shared that bit of embarrassing information with the ladies. You can see why we congregated at the ladies-only table. Our humor, while often low on the wittiness scale, lifted our spirits and was definitely healing.

Next: Fay’s Story

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

One Stroky’s Journey: Insurance Comes Through

There was good news last Friday when I went to outpatient therapy. My insurance approved 24 additional sessions with both my physical and occupational therapists.

That is more than twice as many as they approved upon my discharge from inpatient rehab on May 24. And that means I will probably have three sessions a week for about eight weeks. Previously the sessions were spaced out further apart with lots of “homework” assigned. 

The homework was sometimes overwhelming simply because of Walter’s and my inexperience in deciphering the exercise instructions and applying them to my specific set of challenges. We will still be doing homework, but with more contact with the therapists, I think our level of confusion will decrease.

Yesterday’s physical therapy session was especially  exhausting and exhilarating, as two physical therapists worked to identify and correct deficits in those small and constant adjustments of left knee and hip that I would have done automatically pre-stroke for balancing and distributing weight appropriately as I walked.

Woohoo! Blessing upon blessing! Thank you again to all those who have had a part in these blessings, whether your terminology for your contribution is prayer, positive thoughts, best wishes or something else. Thank you!