Saturday, January 28, 2012

One Stroky’s Journey: My Wise Mate

On Sunday, Dec. 18, the day after my mother’s funeral, I woke up about 6:30 a.m. Oh good. I had 30 more minutes to sleep before I needed to get moving in order to make it to church on time.

My first thought when I woke up the second time was that was a fantastic half hour of sleep. I woke up refreshed, without having to pry my eyes open. Husband Walter was leaning over the bed, asking if I had had a good sleep. He informed me that it was 9 a.m. I had slept more than two and a half hours instead of 30 minutes. Hubby issued the edict that I was staying home while he went to church.

His assignment for me was to rest, relax and do only what I wanted to with the stipulation that I would do nothing that put me at risk of falling. He knows my limitations during this phase of my stroke recovery better than I do.

I needed this downtime after the investment of emotional and physical energy in Mother’s final days, funeral arrangements, and sharing both the grief at the loss of her presence as well as the celebration of her life with family and friends by phone and in person.

The first thing on my list was to catch up on the reading I needed to do to finish reading the Bible through before the close of year 2011. It didn’t take long until my reading in Paul’s letters triggered tears. I can’t say it was entirely grief, but it was certainly a release. I was definitely moved by what I was reading. In the midst of my sobs, thanksgiving started pouring out of me, too.

I was thanking God for his care of Mother in her last days, for Walter’s care of me, for God’s care of Walter, thanks for our children, their wives, our grandchildren and his care for them all, for my brother and his family and Walter’s mother, his siblings and their families, for the love that had surrounded Mother, for the friends and relatives who had made it possible for me to spend time with my mother in her last weeks and final days. And the list rolled on.

After a time I had emptied my mind, my supply of tears and, with some effort, the disturbingly abundant output from my nose.  I marveled that instead I was filled with a lightness of spirit. And for that I also thanked God.

I know from when my father passed away suddenly that the mix of tears and joy will continue to be part of the grieving process: sadness because I miss my mother and joy that I have such wonderful memories and examples for living that she and my father gave me.

Adding to the joy is the fact that many of those memories are shared with dear relatives and friends.

And I appreciate that my wise and caring mate set the stage for a start to recovery of my emotional equilibrium. Thank you, Walter.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

One Stroky’s Journey: Breakthrough!

Today was a happy first in occupational therapy. I was able to wiggle the thumb on my left hand. I couldn’t believe it, and went for a repeat. Yep! It really was moving.

“Did you see that?” I asked therapist Amy.

“Yes!” she said. “Try the others”

I was able to move my middle finger, too. Then I started bawling, definitely happy tears!

God is faithful!

Monday, January 23, 2012

One Stroky’s Journey: Joy of Movement #3

Granddaughter Stella’s happy dance finale

I relish the opportunity to practice my walking. Indoors or outside, walking in any spacious, unobstructed area bolsters my sense of well-being. But being a spectator can be great, too. Observing the joy that my grandchildren derive from their freedom of movement is an unparalleled pleasure.

Our daughters-in-law share their joy. Both are dancers at heart, and so far their daughters share their moms’ passion for dance. All three little girls seem determined to fill their mothers’ ballet slippers.

Granddaughters Charlie, 6, her sister Stella, 3, and her cousin Molly Kate, a month shy of 4, all take dance. One of my favorite things when they are visiting our home, is how they frequently erupt into joyful dances of their own creation.

All three love an attentive audience. And I am more than willing to fill that role!
Stella dances for her daddy’s camera.

Photos are courtesy of our son Walt, proud papa of four active movers: two little ballerinas and two sons, Luke, 9, and Nate, 7, participants in football and baseball.

Friday, January 20, 2012

One Stroky’s Journey: Joy of Movement #2

Another walking buddy, Ann, on the right
Earlier this week I had my second walk with a new walking buddy, Ann Losset of Gautier. It was an enjoyable walk indoors at Singing River Mall in Gautier, out of the cold and wind.

Wednesday, Jan.11, was my first walk with Ann. And thanks to Ann, we handled a challenging complication.  We walked at the Ocean Springs walking track that winds around the Mississippi Vietnam Memorial adjacent to Ocean Springs’ civic center. I was thrilled with the blue skies, comfortably cool temperatures and a new place to walk.

After 15 minutes or so I could tell I was getting surprisingly tired. That is when I realized that, even though benches were plentiful near the parking lot where we started our walk, I could see none nearby. Suddenly my body started rotating—definitely not something I had initiated. I was losing my balance and beginning to freak out.

Not Ann. She held steady on my gait belt, resisted the natural urge to pull on it to keep me upright and instead stuck out her arm for me to grab. Her simple maneuver allowed me to recover my balance and stand erect. 

With my balance restored I looked down to see why my left foot was hurting. I had rolled my ankle and was standing there with my left foot rolled completely over. With almost no sensory input on my left side, I had no warning of what was happening earlier in the turning process. It was what had caused my loss of balance.

My therapist reminded me later that rolling that ankle was a result of the kind of tone that can come with a stroke. Fatigue, cold, activity, yawning and even laughing are some of the things that increase my tone. It causes my left hand to curl into a claw, my left elbow to pop up into a 90 degree angle or my left ankle to roll.

Once I righted my poor old abused foot, Ann noted that benches were available inside the memorial structure we had just passed. Still with my right hand clutching her forearm, we negotiated the slight incline and uneven turf up to the memorial entrance.

That experience could have made me a fearful walker. Instead, with Ann’s help, it bolstered my confidence in the ability to recover balance without injuring my companion or myself.

Ann’s calm actions, confident manner and engaging conversation helped a beautiful day deliver on its promise of joyful movement. And to top it off she was a good sport about my attempt at taking a photo of us together. The result is the photo at the top of this post.

I am now making sure, however, that I limit extra-tiring, early morning tasks to the days when I DON’T have walks scheduled for later in the day.

Thanks, Ann, for keeping me moving!

Saturday, January 14, 2012


The news and sportscasters continue feeding their and the public’s fascination with Denver Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow’s unabashed references to his faith.

In fact, googling “Tim Tebow” turns up 29 million results. Tebow’s practice of dropping to one knee in silent prayer or reflection has sparked a new word and a new craze: “tebowing.”

Son Jeremy and Molly Kate tebowing

The whole point of my posting this information is that it provides an excuse to borrow the photo above that our youngest son posted on Facebook of him and our 3-year-old granddaughter “tebowing.” The few other “tebowing” photos I have seen  have been funny and didn’t seem at all mean spirited.

Earlier comments that I saw about Teebow’s mentions of God and faith included opinions of a different tone. There was outrage, scorn and mockery at Tebow mixing faith and football. It puzzles me that the use of the words “God, “Jesus” and “Christ” as expletives are accepted by many Americans without a blink but that the same words used in the context of a personal faith would spark such negative reactions.

We will see if public opinion, whether positive or negative, shifts with the outcome of the Broncos vs. Patriots game later today. Right at this moment, however, I am agonizing over New Orleans Saints' turnovers. Arrrrrggggghhhhhh!

Monday, January 9, 2012

One Stroky’s Journey: Joy of Movement #1

Pat Black

This afternoon was my first beach walk of the new year and only about the fourth since my stroke April 22, 2011. This walk marked another first. The first beach walk with a non-family member, a generous and brave volunteer, Pat Black from our church.

Pat picked me up, drove to the beach and held on to my gait belt for about 45 minutes of vigorous walking on the paved beach walkway that graces our town’s beach. She had also spent time earlier in one of my rehab sessions where Ashley, my physical therapist at the neuro rehab center, introduced her to ways to keep herself and me safe on our walk together.

“She’s a natural,” was Ashley’s evaluation.

Just being outside was an invigorating change of pace for me. And the brisk beach breeze, moderate temperature, interesting conversation spiced with laughter, all added up to just what the doctor ordered. Until now, beach walks have been rare with husband Walter working nearly 40 hours a week plus his hours keeping up with cooking, cleaning, my at-home therapy and the other extra care and feeding tasks associated with being the caregiver of a stroke survivor.

I am hoping that weather will allow regular walks. Today, even in the first few minutes, I could feel the tight, hurty, stroky places in muscles and joints loosening up and feeling better. And the outing provided a major attitude adjustment, too.

Thank you, Pat!

And thank you, Walter!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A New Year

Although my computer has languished untouched for almost two weeks and for fairly long stretches even before that, I appreciate visitors who dropped by as well as comments of comfort and encouragement published on my blog, on Facebook, and offered in person, through email and traditional mail following my mother’s death.

I think it will definitely be a good sign for me when I finally get back to visiting other blogs and posting at least semi-regularly on Retirement Daze.

In the meantime, I appreciate daughter-in-law Katie’s post “Grandma Carpenter," about my mother” on The Daily Skup. I also appreciate that she and daughter-in-law Sarah made sure that the grands were secure physically and emotionally during my mother’s visitation and funeral.

Katie’s post included images that assured me that good memories from being with cousins were created for our grandchildren. Funerals and visitations (“Wake” wasn’t in my vocabulary until I was older.) were a regular feature on the terrain of my early years and the childhood memories are good ones with the sadness of the occasions seasoned with loving family and time with cousins. I know I will be returning to Katie’s post and those photos.

I will also return to the memory of arriving at our motel after the Friday night visitation. Sarah, and maybe our son Walt (I am sort of fuzzy on details), arrived at our door with pizza, ice, soft drinks and a salad assembled just for me sans any ingredients with high sodium content.

Sarah went to work and turned the room’s sturdy wooden bench for luggage into an inviting table for husband Walter and me. She arranged utensils and my salad conveniently for me to negotiate easily with one hand. She set out napkins, a plate for hubby’s pizza, loaded cups with ice, popped the top on soft drinks and filled our cups.

I was so tired and thirsty and hungry, and her care was extra special to me. During this experience I have seen the spirit of my mother in Sarah and Katie as they quietly and without being asked met physical and emotional needs of Walter, me, our children and our grandchildren. My mother is no longer physically with us, but the love in action that was part of her character lives on. Thank you Katie and Sarah.

Monday, January 2, 2012

One Stroky’s Journey: One potato, two potato

Wendy’s baked potato, a newly discovered low-sodium treat, eliminates any temptation presented by Walter’s fries and cheeseburger lurking nearby.

Following my stroke of April 22, 2011, my doctor issued an edict that put a serious dent in my addiction to fast food – no more than 1500 milligrams of sodium per day.

After going online to ferret out sodium content of favorite fast-food items, I came to the conclusion that my fast-food days were over. In fact, eating out anywhere seemed to be a chancy proposition. I was serious about going low sodium.

My stroke was a hemorrhagic stroke, described by the National Stroke Association’s Web site as caused by a hemorrhage, the breakage or "blowout" of a blood vessel in the brain. According to the NSA, “Hemorrhages can be caused by a number of disorders which affect the blood vessels, including long-standing high blood pressure and cerebral aneurysms.”

Although my blood pressure in recent years fluctuated, it was usually about 120/70. I never quite pinned any of the physicians down on the exact cause of my stroke.

I do know, however, that ever since, if I veer off the low-sodium course, my blood pressure soars. I am definitely motivated to stay on course. Travel and holidays are a challenge, though. That’s why discovering Wendy’s baked potato has been great. The generous-sized spuds give me a quick, convenient and fairly healthy option on the road. Plus, one individual tub of margarine at 30 mg and sour cream at 15 to 25 mg doesn't add excessive sodium but does add a taste of festivity and makes the simple and satisfying meal into an event for me.

New Year’s Eve day, hubby and I enjoyed a visit to our favorite coffee shop made even more enjoyable thanks to a Christmas gift card from our children. Then we took the scenic beach drive west on U.S. 90. We stopped for lunch at a Wendy’s. With my baked potato lunch, a sunny view of the Mississippi Sound, and the company of my favorite traveling companion, life was good, a relaxed and enjoyable close to an eventful 2011!