Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wednesday Writerly Ways?

You may have noticed I've stopped writing my "Wednesday Writerly Ways." This is a temporary set back. How long it will last is anybody's guess.

There are a number of reasons for this. Mainly, it's hard to write about writing, self-publishing, and marketing when you aren't doing any of it. Yes, I could rely on memories but that hardly seems fair because there is no forward action these days.

The limited amount of energy I have because of my strokes, caring for my husband, and just life in general saps almost all my creative juices. If you've read my updates and my "Sunday Stroke Survival" you know what I'm going through. It's just too much junk! Well not really junk, but necessary distractions.

I could fight against the tide of overwhelming have-to-dos and write but writing should not be a chore. Now editing is ALWAYS a chore. I refuse to put writing in the chore category. I've gotten nothing but enjoyment from my many writing pursuits as it should be. Yes I still blog, but I'm even doing that with a couple heaping spoons of salt. But at least this is writing.

I mentioned in one of my stroke blogs how I read now and the way my brain isn't working anymore and said I'd give an example of how I write now without corrections and heavy editing...here goes. Squiggles be damned.

I wake up thiz mrning to (XXX lost) my husnd on the flour. I chek her ot to make sure their are no brkoe bones. Not broke so me hplelp him up and beck two bed.

Horrible isn't it. Now try to write small stories or attempt a novel writing like this! Now think of this whole blog post this way and you can see the struggle I have just to post one blog.

First I have to realize I made a mistake (some words aren't squiggled). I still mess up pronouns even in speech. My brain is healing ever so slowly. This is a lot better than just after my second stroke. My first left me unable to speak but I could write fairly well after a fashion.

No, I'm not whining or on the pity pot. I'm just telling like it is. I used to say, words are my life. Now it's changed to correcting myself is my life. Frustrating? Oh yeah with bells and cherries on top. So to alleviate any added frustration...I've stopped writing for now. It's just going to take some more time to get my brain in gear so bear with me.

Nothing is impossible with determination, BUT you also pick a few battles you can win.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday Stroke Survival ~ Rewiring the Brain with Games

Cognitive ability loss is often hard to determine in a hospital setting mainly because it is a away from your home environment. The patient isn't in their daily home routine. Sure you can count to ten or recite the alphabet, but getting back to your old, normal routine is that is the true measure of what was lost. The effects of the stroke come home to roost and are glaringly obvious and tragic.

Me for example when I arrived home, I sat in front of my computer. I had a month's worth of story ideas stockpiled in my head. I'm a writer and that's what I do. After switching everything around so that it was left hand accessible, I opened up my MS Word program to type. The first challenge I faced was how to type one handed. I typed 120 WPM with two hands and capitalizing letters, or numbers, or symbols was a no brainer before. Now I had to figure out how to do it all with one hand. There are still somethings I haven't figured out how to do even with a smaller, compact keyboard. It's almost a feat of magic holding two keys down by pressing a third.

What I see or pretty close. IT IS GETTING BETTER!
I started to type and everything got jumbled in my brain. Letters, spelling, and not to mention grammar was gone. I jokingly call it my Dyslexic/ADD (letters are backwards and twisted in order), but that's the way it seems when I try to put thoughts from my brain to the keyboard. Luckily Windows 7 has a spell checker for everything otherwise my posts in here would be jibberish. One of these days I'll show you a uncorrected posts even now and May will be two year since my first stroke.

In one of my outpatient rehab sessions I found out why. In reciting my alphabet verbally, I lost letters. What I thought was so easy and a no brainer when asked to do it was gappy like I was in grade school first learning my alphabet instead of using it for over fifty years. Numbers had the same difficulty once I was past ten and got into double digits. Forget simple math like addition and subtraction.

But yet I can read for the most part. It's very tiring to do and mentally taxing. That's because of my skim and context reading ability. I'm thankful every day that I didn't lose that. But editing written text requires being able to read each and every word and analyze the sentence structure. That, at this point, is beyond me in critiquing and editing. That's the baby step I'm working on by blogging.

I have talked at length ( here, here, and here)of how I use computer games to rebuild my cognitive gaps. I'll play word games and number games trying to rewire my brain back to normal. It has been a challenge, but I persist. Now imagine being an author with these kind of issues.

Don't take me wrong. Every stroke survivor has their own issues in resolving their past with their present situation. I'm just an author. It was my livelihood and will be again. I just have to work harder to achieve it. Just like we all do. We each have our own goals fraught with reality of impairments.

For me, regressing backwards one morning in my game playing ability gave me the lightning bolt that I'd had another stroke. Games that had become easy and repetitious to the point of dull were hard again. It was more than stress and my body's reaction to it. It wasn't a momentary thing but over days and weeks. Granted, I've got some serious stress factors going on now, but when I pushed them aside and analyzed the results, there was little doubt even without a MRI. A follow-up MRI proved it. A small new dead area close to the previous one. Just enough to set me back some but incurring only minor new damage.

The thing about rewiring the brain is that it has to be enjoyable to you even if it's a workout. We are and always have been a game playing family from a game playing family. Bingo was how I reinforced number recognition in my TBI daughter so it was natural for me to do the same for myself. While I may never play twelve cards at once online and thirty in real life again, I use it to rewire my brain to recognize numbers,  simple addition, and the concept of higher and lower. Addition, huh? In POGO one one of the types of bingo players will post how many they needed for bingo in chat. Three cards-three numbers. So I took to adding my three numbers together and comparing it to other players. There are all sorts of "tricks" you can do with games if you have an imagination.

Now for how far I've come playing online games daily. I can play Tri-peaks Solitare, that's numbers forwards and backwards without a cheat sheet. If you haven't read my previous post on this, my cheat sheet was a slip of paper that I put over my function keys that was numbered forwards and backwards A-K or 1-13.

I've progressed from Bingo Luau (three cards with medium speed of spoken numbers and the numbers light up when I pass them) to Fortune Bingo (three cards, medium speed spoken numbers, and the numbers don't light up when I pass them, plus no pattern help is given other than the diagram at the top of the screen) just like regular Bingo  cards. Yes, I'm still making mistakes with this new game. Numbers get reversed in my head as I'm searching for them and I'm still having to repeat the double digit numbers in my head or verbally while I search to keep them straight like 1-2 for twelve.

I also no longer look for the same number throughout the card. Somewhere in my mind I knew the number called would only appear once, but in playing I would search in multiple rows and even the same rows for the number repeating itself. Insanity was calmed in my method of searching for the number by only looking in the assigned row and realizing that they'd only appear once. Now I can place my cursor at the bottom of a row and read the whole row. This was a major breakthrough.

The point is the games have measurable progress. I can see myself making positive progress. As far as my writing goes... It's not going anywhere. I don't have the uninterrupted time I need to focus on getting my writing ability back. AND, the key to getting any cognitive skill back is repetition and doing it.

It would take all my concentration to write sentences in a cohesive manner. Right now, there are too many interruptions and an ear constantly listening for my husband. It's too distracting to focus with all of this going on. I have to respond at a moments notice and when I come back to my screen the thought is gone. By the time it comes back there is another thing which has me leaving the screen again. Too frustrating and maddening to even attempt writing other than my blog.

I have a humongously growing list of people waiting to read this book and that should spur me on to write, but it's too hard to do right now. I must keep calm and unflustered to handle my daily growing list of have-to-dos. Although part of my mind balks at the lack of forward progress of the book and I chastise myself for laziness, I also realize I'm a damaged human being that her wants won't kill her. All my efforts are focused on getting through this day and what it brings instead of want-to-dos. This is as it should be.

So as for my cognitive skills recovery, I'll stick to game playing. It's a measurable step forward in recovery each and every time I play. I'll continue to set mini goals for each game and try to achieve them. No effort is wasted. When my brain tires, I stop and do something else because it is mentally taxing to rewire the brain. That's the thing about recovery after a stroke, you start off with a clean slate and everything you do is a goal and achievement. Whether it is making a sandwich, doing rehab exercises, or playing games over and over again. I'm trying to get back to taking things for granted instead of looking for goals and achievement beyond the normal. Right now I'm striving for the new Abby Normal in my life. As should we all.

Nothing is impossible with determination.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sunday Stroke Survival ~ Recumbent Bikes



With the weather getting nicer, I've been thinking of alternative modes of transportation. A motorcycle is out, even though I have a totally restored 1950 Indian Chief Black Hawk sitting in my garage. It's destined for my #2 grandson in a couple of years. I haven't been able to ride it in a decade but it's in top shape.

I bought it and restored it back in the early 70s. It is cherry! Oh the fun I used to have riding it. Imagine being teenager or twenty-something and tooling down the road on it. But we all age.

The plan for golf carts sort of fizzled when I put our property up for sale and my husband entered hospice, home based services. We have to do something to get our upside down finances right side up. *Sigh* Tough decisions.

But still with the weather being nicer and gasoline being close to $4.00 a gallon, I want to be getting out in the fresh air more. The exercise is an added perk. With continuous pressure sores on my AFO clad foot being a constant worry, walking is out of the question. A bicycle seemed a logical choice.

At my age and medical constraint, an actual bicycle was out. I thought about a trike. Yes, I'm regressing. From three-wheeler, to two-wheeler, and back to a three-wheeler. It's just more stable. But with rack and pinion steering in my back, the bounces in the road cause pain. It's just too much for the muscles over immoveable joints to handle.This was the main reason I no longer ride my Indian too. *tear, tear*

Last year The Stroke Tattler ran a series of articles on recumbent bikes or trikes. That got me thinking
of how to alleviate a lot of problems I faced. I toyed with the idea of getting one.

I could see cars running over me not paying attention to the flags. Believe me, I'd put huge flags on mine to prevent this from happening. Of course that wouldn't stop some people. There's always the "Oops factor." It just sits so low to the ground for aerodynamics sake. *Bump, bump* "Oh, Jo was there on a trike. That's the end of Jo."

They come in all different models and some even have shock absorbers. That would handle the problem with my back. Of course, it comes with a hefty price tag too. Starting at $600 and going up to several thousands of dollars.  I imagine I could Velcro a strip on a pedal to hold my bum leg similar to what they use in PT.

It all comes down to money and me not working per se. I didn't earn enough from writing last year to have to pay quarterly taxes and for the first time in decades I qualified for low income credit. That's how dire our situation has become. As much as I've griped about having to pay Uncle Sam in past years, our taxable income this year is zero. Sad! I just ran the figures for my tax preparer. The amount we paid in medical was astounding that's with good insurance! When it goes out little by little over twelve months, you don't really see it but at the end of year...yowser!

This would be a dream purchase at best. Although, it definitely has added perks like better health and exercise. I'd be able to transport myself a mile down the road to the grocery store and dollar store. I wouldn't be burning fossil fuels. I'd be out in the fresh air with a little alone time. A doable dream purchase for sometime in the future. It's definitely on my list for future purchases when the strangle hold of finances ease up some.

Nothing is impossible with determination.



Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday Stroke Survival ~ Bonsai- Banzai!

When I first scrolled this topic to write about I immediately made the correlation between Bonsai and Banzai. Being half Japanese, I knew that Bonsai was the art of creating little trees that live for decades even centuries. The art of design teaches mind/eye coordination, imagery, patience, and even relaxation and  meditation states.

Yes, I know I should be talking about these little trees, but I'm not. So there! :oP I'll leave that to others.

Now this is where my mind gets quirky. No, it isn't because of the stroke. I was like this before as an author. The little nuances of twists and turns possible with a couple letters changed in a word and slight variation of the meanings. With this revelation, I found I may not have lost all my language skills also. Or not totally.

My mind immediately leaped to the Japanese word "Banzai!" You may remember hearing it in oldWWII movies before an pilot dove his little fighter plane into an American ship. A bold move of harakiri, or Kamakazi, or suicide bomber. Ooh! Two Japanese words! Seeing how this is the first language I spoke, there's hope for my mind yet. I even remembered how to spell them right too!

You probably thought the word meant "Here we go" or something like that. But it doesn't mean any such thing. It's became a battle cry but it could also be a toast at a wedding or christening too. Know what it means? If not you'll have to wait a minute while I shift to the third thought that jumped into my mind.

The third thought that popped into my mind was a movie. Can you guess it?

The movie was based on a comic book series. Buckaroo Banzai. Having it showing on my television didn't hurt either. Awe, the pictures gave it away, right?

Bet you are dying to figure out how I tie these three together.

Bonsai are long lived trees given immense care and attention.

Banzai means Long Life. So it could be used as a battle cry, wedding or christening toast.

Buckaroo Banazai, well that was just a movie, but the hero can't die so he should have a long life.

The moral of all this...Even after a stroke we can have long lives. It may not be what we thought or planned our lives to be, but we can still enjoy it.

As a side note, my maternal grandfather was an engineer that helped bring the Mitsubishi A6M into reality. Otherwise known as the Zero fighter plane. I happen to be very proud of that fact. And, you thought Mitsubishi only made cars. Geez! I also have a Toyota sewing machine circa 1935 that's still working. So much for the "Made in Japan" post war stickers.

Nothing is impossible with determination.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday Stroke Survival~ Lessons Learned

Here lately I've been thinking of a mini vacation. The fact that Dean just got back from Italy really started the thought. Darn you Dean!

But then I remember two years ago I blogged about needing a vacation to get away from it all. I was actually planning a writer's retreat of sorts. The gist was to tie up all the loose ends of various books I'd planned to publish shortly. Eat food someone else prepared, no having to worry about housekeeping, to be waited on hand and foot, giving no thought to time, or my husband's care, you know getting away from my regular routine. The kind of pampering everyone needs or wants to recharge their batteries.

Getting away from it all for the first time in ten years. I'd planned for a Memorial Day weekend.  I was planning several months in advance because as any caregiver knows, there are a million things to take of. Spontaneity flies out the window as a thing long forgotten.

Well I got what I asked for. I had a stroke. Now, I can think of several hundred other things that would be more fun and infinitely cheaper. But I got what I asked for. No housekeeping. No cooking. Time away from home. No caregiver duties. Half the time I had no idea whether it was day or night or even what day it was and didn't even care. Waited on hand and foot by others. Every need was taken care of by others.

So these days I'm careful what I wish for. Yes, I would like to go shopping just because and take my time instead of rushing, but my ongoing pressure sore issue makes that a problem. I'd love to go swimming or to the beach, but wiggling out of a wet swimsuit and changing into street clothes is too energy draining just thinking about it. I'd love to take a trip anywhere, but the hospital and I don't mean the falling down kind either. I need a break instead of jumping every time something crashes. I just need a break and I don't mean breaking bones.

The days of my husband wanting me to go out and remember that I'm still living or not on death watch are over. My kids have moved on with their lives as they should. Finally after almost forty year, it's not Momma to the rescue. I should be happy, but I'm not. If not happy then relieved, but I'm not. I am truly an empty nester. Yahoo! Huzzah! I trained them well.

This is not what I expected it to be like. I pictured being free to travel. To be able to do what I want, when I wanted to. Didn't I deserve it? Didn't I earn it? To be honest, I traveled more in the first forty years of my life than the past twenty and that's with kids in tow. I had more freedom with five kids than I do now. My hubby that I was supposed to grow old with is now dying earlier than anyone expected. I'm trapped in a half paralyzed body that just won't behave.

But life is like a roller coaster with dips, turns, and loop-de-loops. It makes the journey less boring and never dull. Every turn brings something new. Lessons learned through pain and trial bring a hard won victory. If it was easy, how boring would that be? Yes, the dips, turns, and loop-de-loops could be less drastic, but then would victory or the triumph somehow be less?

At times I jokingly say to someone, "Want to trade lives?" They shake their heads vehemently in the negative. They walk away being grateful that they don't have my life. But then again, my life isn't so bad. It could always be worse. I could be sitting on the pity pot nonstop and regretting what is gone. I could refuse to see how enriching each twist, dip, and turn away from the expected is. I could stop looking at the glass half full instead of empty...NAH! That just ain't me.

As "bad" as my life is on the roller coaster, there's another one just another one a little farther down the strip that has more plummets, is twice as tall, and has mega corkscrews. On second thought, I'm happy and content with my own coaster. I could be that guy white knuckled, eyes wide with fear, the g-force pulling his facial features out of the norm, and too terrified to scream. While breaking away from what you know is a wonderful thought, there is the unknown out there to be afraid of.

Nothing is impossible with determination.