Starting October 25 of 2011, "InfertilityMom," 39-year-old Jennifer Saake (founder of Hannah's Prayer Ministries), experienced 6 strokes, all due to vertebral dissection at a chiropractic office. The largest two strokes were brain stem and cerebellum bleeds. Jenni remained hospitalized until nearly Christmas and was not expected to live (near death experience) nor recover, but if she even survived, she was slated to live out her days in a nursing home or, best case, to maybe come home but wheelchair-bound and needing 24-hour care (please read more and watch short video). Jenni is now walking (with a cane or wheeled walker), has recovered much eye-sight, some hearing, partial use of her hands, cares for most of her own personal/toiletry needs, and is currently writing three books, maintains multiple blogs, and stays active on both Facebook and Pinterest. Near the five-year recovery mark, Jenni has renewed her pre-stroke excitement about the unique Lilla Rose hair Flexi eight jewelry she sells and has finally regained enough hand/arm function to regularly use! (The biggest ongoing losses at the 4 1/2-year point of recovery are left-side nerve pain, inability to drive, loss of homeschool teaching capability, significant sound processing issues (often triggering nausea), and some profound physical ability limitations such as a limp, balance challenges, clumsy use of right hand and only large motor function in left hand.) Here is her resume.

Since Jenni's chiropractor carried no insurance and moved out of the country soon after the accident (thus avoiding any legal or financial consequences), if you would like to help contribute to the Saake (pronounced like the two small words, say and key) family's massive financial needs (medical expenses alone are estimated to cost between $1- and $1.5- Million in Jenni's lifetime), please visit Jennifer Saake's Stroke Survivor GoFundMe Page. (This support information has been added in direct response to several reader requests.) The Saakes sincerely thank you for your prayers and if God prompts and equipts you to send any monetary assistance as well, this is a significant added blessing.

Jenni is clinging to God's grace through the entire experience. Here is her unfolding story, documented in her own words (typing with only her right hand), as she perceives it happening in real time, messy, honest and to the glory of God...

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Promised Videos

OK, I don't DREAD the camera or mirrors anywhere near as much as I used to, but today I'm still being quite vulnerable to let you have a look. I couldn't do it until acne cleared a lot, I got pretty confident with my walking and talking, and got past several other insecurities, so here you go.

<iframe src="https://www.facebook.com/video/embed?video_id=3494383568250" width="720" height="1280" frameborder="0"></iframe> was me need 2 theripist and constant supervision to walk, last March. Here is our interview video (double click on "Saake Family," December 30, 2011, then the play button) recorded by our church, late last year. (Anyone know how to embed either of these videos here?) Here is both my walking and talking this week. Idon't have the endurance to stay on my feet much longer than the length of this video, but compared to not being able to take even one step without the heavy-duty specialty walker (that I drove into walls every day) at this time last year, it is certainly amazing progress. To God be the glory!


Here's a video I did for a Hannah's Prayer retreat, a few years before the strokes, for comparison. Unfortunately, I was sick when I recorded it, so it won't give an absolutely true benchmark of all I lost anyway, but at least some idea of where I am as compared to where I was before. I can no longer manage the robe I was wearing here - our daughter has inherited it, because I can' get/keep it on nor manage the tie now - and I sure wouldn't be able to climb over the side of the bathtub or perch or the edge, like I did here:
 


Here's my fun pink, rose pattered cane with pink and purple bicycle horn (thank to my brother and his family who found me a fun one when I kept saying, "I need a horn for this thing!" when I was still using my walker). I figured if I was going to need to start using a cane in my 30s, at least it was going to be a pretty one! - Jennifer Saake StrokeOfGrace.blogspot.com
   

And here is a still shot from Tuesday. Not bad for someone, a year ago, who couldn't even sit up in a chair without arms, and in an arm chair had to hold on to the handles with a white-knuckled death grip just to hope to keep from falling over or falling out! (Oh, and even just wearing jeans is a huge accomplishment as the texture used to leave me in tears.) It's not perfect, but I did the clip in my hair myself too! So much improvement, in so very many areas, I can't even hope to capture it in words!!!

Here are close up at about 6 weeks after the initial strokes and current (15 months):
In rehab hospital, December, 2011. - Jennifer Saake StrokeOfGrace.blogspot.com
 About 15 months into recovery. January, 2013- Jennifer Saake StrokeOfGrace.blogspot.com

Psalm 41:3

The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness.






























 Edited to add: If you are feeling too terrible about yourself to want to be photographed, read this article to put things in perspective.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Crossing the Ocean



I have been working to finish up my current devotional to start submitting a proposal, and have most recently been writing about hope. I have been thinking about anchors, and Peter walking on the water toward Jesus, Jesus walking on the water, turning water to wine, and much more. This picture seems to go right along with these current lines of thought. Maybe my next theme word focus (after restore) should be courage?

I am so very sore today. Monday was probably my highest pain level in over a year, especially my shoulder and neck. It all started out with a tight knot in the side of my neck as soon as I sat up in bed Monday morning. Our little guy (7) had a migraine and threw up several times that day, so we were quite the pair. I hate that he felt so rotten, but if he was going to have a day down in bed, Monday was a perfect day for him to sleep much of the day away and I could mostly rest! He was back to his normal mischeif by yesterday, to my great relief.

I was still hurting yesterday, but not nearly as much as the day before. I had therapy (gym) yesterday morning and wasn't sure how that would go, but it went surprisingly better than I thought, just being careful that I still did exercise with my upper body, but without any weight. Yesterday morning I realized that therapy wouldn't have even been possible on Monday, so I was praising God for His mercy to allow me to even try yesterday, as scheduled! 

When a friend reminder me, "Let them know so they don't exhaust you too badly today. I'm sorry yesterday was so hellish. Just remember, for us Christians these trials are the only hell we will endure. And before we know it we'll hear well done good and faithful servant," and cautioned me to take it easy yesterday morning, I replied, "It is self-paced today (at the gym) so I probably in more danger of pushing myself harder than if I had supervision, but I'll try to be good. Thanks for the spiritual reminders too!"

Today I had regular therapy (at the rehab center, with a therapist) and did lots of leg work. On top of the weight machines for my lower body yesterday, and all of the work today, my legs are actually more sore than my shoulder, for once! They are shaking and quivering and the tops of my upper legs especially are so sore!

We retook a therapy evaluation test that we haven't done in 6 or 8 weeks or so ago. My score were unchanged from last time. There has been obvious improvement in my body over these weeks (like swimming!), but on paper I have pretty much "maxed out" my scores (12 out of 24, I think) unless/until I start walking smoothly, fluidly, "normally," so any further improvement, short of perfection, won't show with this particular test. On paper, it seems I have plateaued and am not gaining additional benefit from therapy. Unfortunately, this is the test the insurance company sight when making decisions about my care and coverage.

I am fighting another cold. So far not a bad one, just mostly making more really tired and sleeping a lot of extra hours. A few sniffle, a mild sore throat, a bit of a cough, and a really horse voice that fades in and out. As long as it doesn't go bacterial (like the ones in November and December both did) this one isn't so all-consuming so far. 

I'm wondering if this doesn't account for some of my elevated pain levels though? I have an area on my RIGHT (better) arm that seem scarred from a blood draw a few months ago (looks like a faded bruise, but just won't clear up, about 3-4 inches long and an inch wide) that hasn't even bothered me for weeks now, and today is quite sore. When my daughter came up behind me and tried to scratch my back, I yelled in pain when she started on my left shoulder. These along with my elevated stroke type pains and a return to poor circulation (purple or white) in my left foot, makes me wonder if the cold virus comes into play here.

On probably an unrelated note, for about a week I've noticed an exceptional amount of trouble walking on our (hard linoleum) kitchen floor. While I've had an easier time on carpet than smooth flooring for months, I'm not quite sure why this change now? If I take a few steps into the kitchen in sock feet, it feels rather like a skating rink. It is such a relief to get back onto carpet!

I am excited to say that I do have an appointment with an endocrinologist to start investigating my thyroid in two more weeks. I will be so glad to figure out some answers there! They had a cancellation, so plugged me into an appointment over two weeks earlier than I expected to be seen. Thank  you for praying!


I have a video of my walking and talking this week, so hopefully I can figure out how to upload and post that soon.
Isaiah 57:18
I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him,

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Paying the Price

I talked about swimming yesterday. I am paying the price this morning. My shoulder is tender, but not as bad as I thought it might be (it was pretty painful in the night, but seems to have calmed down a bit now that I am out of bed). My neck, on the left side, is so tight it hurts all the time, especially when I try to turn it. My jaw is pretty flared up to. How does one hurt a jaw/face by swimming? My hand aches from clenching itself so hard all night. I really should have worn my brace that forces it straight, last night!

I started water therapy just before 10 months of recovery, a third of my rehab ago. It's so encouraging to see this kind of fruit out of the slow efforts! Again, this is far from expected medical progress, all grace! (Again, thank you, Misty, for encouraging me not to settle into my limitations. Sorry about the typo with your name yesterday. I do know you are a Misty, not Missy! ;) I must admit that I got a little mad when you told me you couldn't accept the word "can't" from me, but wanting to prove myself to you pushed me into even surprising myself!)

Any way, hurting as I may be, there is little I crave more than getting back in the water as soon as possible. (That's not scheduled for another week, but maybe I can bug folks enough to take me sooner. This is when I really miss the ability to drive!)

1 Peter 5:10
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Really 15 Months (Swimming)

I've already given my update for this month, but I want to post an update before I forget:

I SWAM today, really swam! I never got up on my sides like I had been trying last week (I'll have to try that again next week, but the other lap swimmer were eager to get the pool back after our class, so I ran out of time to try today), just a "crawl" (breast stroke?) on my belly, but I used both arms and did REALLY well. I wasn't even using any form of floatation assistance! I stayed on the shallow end, where I could touch the bottom at all times, when I needed to.  It was EXHAUSTING so I would huff and puff and take several minutes to catch my breath after each 1/4 lap, but I felt strong and able in the water, for the first time ever today.

I never was a great swimmer before the strokes, being more of a survival style doggy paddler when I needed to keep my head above water. I really didn't even like to fuss with swimming pools much, finding all the clothing change and such to be too much trouble for the limited amount of pleasure. Now I LOVE the water, the freedom of movement it provides, and hate the effects of gravity that seem almost crushing again when I get out. Today, I felt so strong swimming that I started entertaining ideas of competing in the Special Olympics someday (probably a silly dream at this stage, but honestly what plays through my head when I think of today's swim).

I know I still have a LONG way to go, but two comments that really made me feel good are when my mom told me that I didn't even "look disabled" in the water today and when a friend stopped me in the locker room after class to say, "You swim better than I do now!" I do think it is more than valid to say that I swam better today than I typically did before the strokes. I can barely straighten or extend my arm, out of the water. But in the water I could work it to take full swimming strokes. Lots of energy and concentration were demanded of me, but I did it!!! Crazy that just last week I couldn't even support my weight and hold myself up in the water with a floatation belt! Missy, thank you for challenging me when I was ready to accept a limitation!

The one draw back from using my arm so much (and I have noticed this before, just not to such an extent) is that rather than using my left arm more as a result of the exercise, I actually use it less and draw it up more tightly to my chest in the days following such exertion. Today I keep intentionally having to remind myself to relax my left arm and unclench my fist as I find it pulled so tightly into my chest and my hand so tightly grasping itself that my nails are digging deep, purple groves into my palms. It's like the more I challenge that arm, the more exhausted and uncooperative it becomes the rest of the time.

Also I have to say something to my beautiful blessing of my long-awaited daughter:
Love this quote: God will not protect us from what He wants to perfect us through. - FamilyLife Art of Marriage Session One
(Answers some of the questions I had about the strokes in light of verses like Psalm 4:8.)
Psalm 71:20
Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

15 Months

Tomorrow is 15 months since my first 2 strokes. I am writing a day early, in between our son's 7-year-old birthday yesterday and our daughter's 10-year-old birthday tomorrow. (Yes, busy week at our house. The youngest was in a hurry, coming a full month before he was due, and still coming home just two days later, on his sister's 3rd birthday. I told her I could never top her birthday present that year! Little would anyone have any idea of on infertility back-story, just hearing these dates and thinking how well we "planned" and spaced our children! ;) ) Our kids assigned today as our bird's "hatch day" since we adopted her without really knowing the real date. So our cockateiel is officially celebrating her 7th today too. :)



Kathy came today and cleaned bathrooms (after tackling her usual chore of the kitchen). My kids followed her around the house and fought over who got to help. Pretty bad when the kids gather to watch a toilet be cleaned because it is such a rare sight in our house! Thank you, Kathy. My toilets sparkle!!! She filled the kitchen sink with bubble for them to help her "wash dishes" (play) earlier and they were so excited. The little things...

I don't have much by way of update today, having just given a pretty full report on Tuesday, but these "anniversary" landmarks are a pretty big deal to me, so I've still got to mark each month. (Edited the next day to add a link to the amazing accomplishment that took place on my actual 15-month day! And here are some video and pictures of 15-month progress, posted the end of January.)



I have been told by many folks now that my current recovery has well-passed their lifetime expectations for me. Well, guess what? I'm not where I want to be for this lifetime yet (come quickly, Lord Jesus - I'm so very homesick for Heaven!), so I'm still not giving up. I don't know what ultimate plans God has for me, but He has already given more than many folks expected and we don't seem to be done with the gradual (or not-so-gradual, by medical reasoning) gains yet. How ever much He plans to grant me to accomplish the purposes He has uniquely designed me to fulfill, I willingly accept! And any limitations that may remain, I know are only for this terribly finite lifetime and I am slowly learning to equally accept them as well.
Jeremiah 15:19
Therefore this is what the LORD says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman...

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Normal?

Interesting morning here. In one massive incident of lying and pure rage screaming and yelling (on the part of our youngest son - I actually kept amazing calm :) ) we are off screens (t.v. privileges, computer, x-box, etc.) for the day and he owes me 45 quarters (he owes me one for each time he outright challenges my authority) for this morning!!! Great start to the morning. :( (Not!) Now he has been fighting me for the past 8 1/2 hours to get one paragraph of handwriting copied! Tomorrow is his 7th birthday. <3 Praying we will have a much better day! I'll be posting a cute story from our youngest over on my InfertilityMom blog, shortly.

School is going OK over all. We have a couple lost books right now that are really hampering progress in those two areas, but otherwise we are doing well, here at home. Our oldest seems to be doing great at the charter school too (though we would still appreciate your prayers). A tutor is coming for our daughter twice a week now (for her dyslexia) and we are all still adjusting to our oldest being away. We just got our class list for this semester of homeschool co-op. It's hard to believe this will be our last semester ever!

On Friday, my water coach said it was the first time she had ever (in the 5 months she has been working with me) heard the word "can't" come out of my mouth. She was asking me to swim on my left (weaker) side, and after trying to drown myself several times because she would tell me "now kick that left leg" when I thought I already WAS kicking it, I was indeed discouraged. Thank you, M., for the reminder that I don't need to rely on my own strength, but to let Christ shine through lack! Yesterday I made it across the width (not length yet) of the pool, on my left, with only the support of a pool noodle holding me up. It wasn't smooth or pretty, but I did pretty much stay above the water, and even without the flotation belt I had been wearing when I was so disheartened last week!

I am meeting more and more people who obviously know something is "off" with me (the cane and limp are a bit of a give-away!) but say they never would have guessed I had had a stroke if I hadn't told them. I wonder if they are just being nice, or this is their real perception? I tend to think maybe it isn't so visibly obvious any more, as this reaction is a fairly new fenomina. 

The checker at Wal-Mart said she didn't even notice that I held one arm drawn up to my chest and did everything with only one hand, until I told her about the strokes. The ladies at the gym are always quite shocked to hear my story. I know my memory is not what it should be and certain areas (geography, higher math, sometimes using one word when I really mean quite another, etc.) are pretty compromised now, but my counselor says that my ability to verbally express myself seems pretty normal, that she would have no idea from chatting with me in every day conversation that I was really even struggling to conduct conversation now.

I know I still talk a little funny, but I heard a recording of myself recently and it mostly just sounded like a soft lisp now. I was pleasantly surprised. I don't sound like I used to before, I can't sing at all (very little range, no sense of timing, little control over note movement), but I'm not just monotone or robotic sounding like I was for many months. 

I produce a lot of extra saliva and have a hard time controlling that, but other than kind of sounding like I'm talking with a bit of food in my mouth, I don't have to repeat myself nearly as often as I used to. The left side numbness in my mouth has gradually improved (still not gone with some totally numb spots still and the rest with far-from-normal sensation) so I'm sure that is part of not being able to control all the drool.

The left side of my jaw/face still hurts a LOT. Maybe it always will? I still can't chew on that side of my mouth because of lack of feeling in some teeth and super pain sensitivity in others (and my jaw). The neurologist says he not really surprised that I interpret most touch on the left as pain, but that we would have to "keep an eye on" that, whatever that means. My neck and shoulder (especially since my harder swimming efforts) are grumpy too.

I have surprisingly little facial paralysis. I see it plainly, but others don't notice much at all. I notice it MORE as we get farther out, as the right side strengthens and the lack on the left becomes comparatively more profound. Mostly it looks like someone has injected me with Botox around my left eye and my left lips don't really lift much when I smile, so I grin pretty lopsidedly. I used to have deep dimples. I don't think I have them on the left any more at all, on the right not very deeply any more.



I am still fighting through daily exercises and lots of therapy and medical appointments. Many relationships remain altered, some far from what they used to be, but I think maybe I am starting to find that illusive "new normal," this side of so much change? Will life ever be the same? Will I ever be the same? Will our marriage ever be the same? Will my interaction as the Mommy of my children ever be the same? Will I ever walk gracefully again? Dance? Drive a car? Play my flute? Be responsible for the education of my children? No, probably not. 

But I am learning new lessons, new skills. Today I was remembering how it wasn't so many months ago that I seriously thought I would probably never walk the length of our hall, unaided, again. Now I do that every day. Then, the hall seemed so terribly long, even with my walker. Now, it still seems long, but not nearly so much so, and within our home I am walker-free, often even cane-free, since I can easily grab onto walls when needed and don't have to mentally compensate for other movements around me, like I do in public.

My first puzzle, in the rehab hospital. 24 pieces and how I struggled! Last week, my 6-year-old and I snapped together a 99-piece puzzle in almost no time at all. (The 500-piece I tried with my mother-in-law at Christmas was still too much for me, but I was encouraged by the progress to do the 100-piece one with relative ease last week!)
Psalm 85:4a
Restore us again, O God our Savior...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Just Another Day

Today was our one day all week without appointments. Actually I had planned to meet with a friend, but she had to take her daughter to the doctor when they got up this morning, so it felt rather giddy to have a free day (though sad L was so sick and to miss the time with V). You would think the extra hours would have yielded a better school day, but by 1PM we were still on our first subject of the day, so thing didn't unfold too smoothly here after all! :( The school day ended up pretty much being successful, other than one book (we just used at the beginning of this week!) still being missing, and thus unusable, for the second day in a row. But I have no idea where it might be as we spend nearly two hours cleaning and reorganizing just about ever crevice of that room at the end of our day!

I spent much of the morning making phone calls (trying to keep kids moving between them, so they were never neglected) and now have the next several weeks of therapy and doctors appointments scheduled (other than several call returns I am now awaiting), so it was a productive day on that front. I've shared how much I (DON'T) love talking on the phone now, so I feel rather proud of myself for getting all of that done today. In researching some current symptom concerns, I'm beginning to think the stroke also triggered my thyroid into imbalance, so a couple calls I am awaiting scheduling or returned calls are concerning yet another new doctor to start seeing. :(

I have been really off balance the last couple days. Not quite sure why? I've taken several pretty yucky falls around the house this week, but the worst damage just seems to be a pretty sore left shoulder. Please pray that I will have wisdom to know if there is anything I should be doing differently in getting myself around, to hopefully prevent some of these falls. I even fell (one of my hardest and most shoulder damaging falls all week) crawling across the floor, yesterday!

Now to throw see how things turned out for dinner tonight. Last night I had a MASSIVE FAIL in using a new-to-me Pintrest idea (like my family was trying to get it down without gagging) from a recipe that was touted as being "delicious" on there. Since I have had way more successes than failures from Pintrest (some absolutely simple and brilliant ideas, in fact), I'm being daring and giving Pintrest another shot tonight with a turkey, Mexican "chili." We shall see...
Zechariah 9:12
Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Doctors Wonder

What to write about? The thing biggest on my mind is that today is Kendra's 9-month mark. Emotionally, that's a big landmark!

I saw my neurologist yesterday. (I go back in 3 more months.) He said that every time he sees me I have made visible improvement and that my speech is clearer. I told him, "Not bad for someone who should be dead, right?" He laughed and said I was certainly "playing on house money" now. (Don't get that figure of speech? Maybe it's a Nevada / gambling state thing, because I totally understood that he was agreeing that any degree of living I experience now is on borrowed time, all grace! I simply shouldn't be here. My continued recovery shocks all the "experts.")

I don't know what to say about counseling. My gal is WONDERFUL and such an answer to prayer! Our lives have been too crazy to be fiction for probably 5 years now (well, our whole 20+ years of marriage, really, but some absolutely unbelievable things in more recent years, even aside from the strokes). Last week was the first time I was able to walk R. through the whole timeline of these past few years leading up to the strokes. She kept stopping me to clarify and confirm what I was saying. At the end of the hour she just was shaking her head and exclaimed, "Wow! Now I understand a little better!"

She had heard various references to my immediately pre-stroke years and how certain past experiences colored my current thought processes and recovery journey, but she hadn't heard it all as one continual timeline, as I perceive events. I guess any one of a number of events and circumstances should have landed me in her office, and she seemed genuinely amazed and overwhelmed by so much in such a tight time frame. She's made several comments to the effect that she is rather in awe of how I am doing. All I can say is that any credit is due to God!!!

The funny thing is, that after going to her for all these months, I think R. just today figured out that I am actually a published author. :) (Lots of people talk of writing books, but few really ever do.) I got to walk her through my whole story of how I became published. Talking about writing is something I'm passionate about, so that was fun! I'm going to try to remember to take her a copy of my book one of these weeks. I also need to refocus my effort and attention on finishing the last bit of the current manuscript I'm working on and start the process of querying publishers!


I'm physically really tired these days. Crawling into bed before 8 PM and dragging myself back out of the covers after 8 AM. But while I'm up. life is usually very full and busy. I think I've been home a combined total of about 5 hours since I woke up this morning (and am headed back to bed as soon as I finish this post). Two appointments tomorrow, water therapy Friday, and somewhere in the mix we need to fit in school for the younger two (still home with me for the rest of the school year).

Our oldest started public school last week and is still feeling the stress of adjustment (thank you for prior and ongoing prayers) but is doing well, all things considered. I am doing, emotionally, better than expected with this change. It helps so much knowing that he will be home again at the end of each day, so in many ways our eight months of prior separation make a change that would have otherwise been absolutely devastating for me before, quite bearable now. It has been hardest on the younger two who have had their big brother with them pretty much 24/7, since birth, and now aren't seeing him at all, during daylight hours. Rick, as the only driver in the family, is feeling the strain of schedule juggling too. We covet your ongoing prayer as we all have our lives pretty dramatically shaken up with this change!

I guess that's about it at the moment. I'll try to hit more of the physical report (no significant changes on any pain levels or areas of functionality) at my 15-month update in another 10 days.
Psalm 80:7
Restore us, O God Almighty; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Walk of Faith

I found a brief video clip from last March (4 1/2 months into recovery) and am thrilled at how far I have come since then!

https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=3494383568250 (I don't know how to post it directly here, or I would!)

 Psalm 80:3
Restore us, O God; make your face shine upon us, that we may be saved.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Why Blog

Some people wonder why I'm documenting my story so publicly. The reasons are many, but let me give you a few. A couple of month ago I shared Why I Write in general. In addition to all these, the specifics to why I detail this journey include:

My friend  Kendra. She was the reason this blog was even launched in the first place, why it exists today. Anyone is welcome to read along, but when I'm writing her, she is my primary audience. Every stroke is SO different, but we do share many commonalities, and I want to leave sort of a road map, a document of both the hope and struggles, to give her what I've always wished I had, I view from a little farther down the road. I go into greater detail in our private email exchanges, primarily because there are some things only understood by personal experience, and so that is where I share the nitty-gritty. But for day to day journaling purposes of the main points and big picture, this is a great reference point for both of us to see exactly where and when I am hitting each stage of recovery. There are some landmarks I hit sooner than she does and some she accomplishes before I'm even ready to try, but this is a good generalization of the process. It is amazing to look back on some of my earliest posts, home from the hospital and see how far I have come just in writing ability and duration! I am in awe to see similar progress on Kendra's blog!

To educate and share an experience I hope you can ever only know in your imagination. I know I have often wondered what it would really be like to live with various kinds of disabilities. The only way I can (or would ever want to) gain more understanding is by reading or hearing the personal stories of those who do actually live it, day in and day out. So if you have the same "rubber neck gaucking" curiosity that I've always had, or if you have a friend or family member (or patient - I know of a few therapists and other medical personnel who read here) you are trying to gain a better understanding into their experience or possibly into their thoughts, I want to give you a fair picture of a bit of the daily reality of my journey, again realizing this is very unique and personal for each experience.

To provide hope, help, and resources for other stroke patients! I had such a hard time finding information or even anyone with personal understanding, once I started using the computer again. Resources ARE out there, I just wasn't finding them. By sharing what I have discovered, hopefully my list will save someone else a little of the frustration of searching.

To turn our eyes to the eternal. We all get so caught up in the troubles of this finite lifetime, that it is easy to forget where our lives really fall in God's great timeline. I don't have it down pat, don't have all the answers! But if one person gets right with God because of my costly sorrows, the entire situation is redeemed and so worth it! I do not feel I have a right NOT to be vocal about the great things God is doing here, especially my glimpse of Heaven!
Edited (April, 2014) to add : Can You Explain Your Hope encapsulates why I am so passionate about sharing (over-sharing?) details of my story, than any other article I have read! After you read the article, be sure to take a couple minutes to watch Matthew West's Do Something song at the end of the post.

As a personal log to document and process my own journey. As you know, I have very poor short-term memory. I want to be able to look back at milestones, in my own words, as they unfolded. It is both a good therapy tool for me and I am building some notes for my book. As my mom says, "I can't not not write." It is something I must do to emotionally process and decompress events.

From my writing Pintrest board
I continue to explore my theme word for 2013, Restore. I will be including many "restore" verses in the weeks to come, but here is the passage that started it all:
Let me hear joy and gladness;
    let the bones you have crushed rejoice....
Hide your face from my sins
    and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me...
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will turn back to you...
the God who saves me,
    and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
    and my mouth will declare your praise...
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart,
    O God, you will not despise.
-Psalm 51:8-17

P.S. If you think about it, today is our 13-year-olds first day ever in a classroom.  Your prayers are greatly appreciated. I don't know who is more nervous, him or me! We are EXCITED too, but this is a total lifestyle change for all of us! The little ones and I start back to a new homeschooling semester today too.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Happy New Year

My first post of 2013. I am doing better than I was when I last posted. In fact that hard cry seems to have been good for me. Though I was still emotionally fragile that night and the next day, I have only cried once since, and even then got the tears stopped again pretty quickly!

From Facebook
I have been focusing on my prayer word, Restore, and have been trying to tackle about one new project a day, as we strive to bring our home as close as back to the "normal" we knew before the strokes as we can.

My garage is still packed full of boxes of things that other packed away during my hospital stay. It is too cold (and the boxes too heavy, and there is no railing to get up and down the step) for me to get out there are start to tackle that project yet, BUT I have totally sorted through my closet this week, getting rid of any clothes or shoes that will no longer work for me with a semi-functional hand or foot.

There was one pair of pretty, pink sandles that I bought just before the stroke that I never even got a chance to wear, that were especially hard to let go. But anything with heals or without a back or at least a strap on the back (most of my shoes) had to go, because I will likely never realistically hope to wear them again, even if I regain significantly more stability. Clipping thing onto hanger was still a real challenge, but I eventually managed, mostly with my right hand.

My one cause for tears came when I tried on the beautiful purple silk dress I wore to our last fancy pre-stroke date. No matter how I contorted, I just couldn't manage it now. In fact I got so stuck, I thought my mom was going to have to cut me out of it! I had no idea there could be some much emotion linked to clothing.

It was a hard purge, but I'm glad I got brave and did it. I rediscovered several favorites that I haven't been wearing that I still can and even two shirts that I didn't recognize at all, so can only presume I acquired them both shortly before the strokes. Everything is orderly and organized in my side of the closet now, and I feel as if I have a whole new wardrobe. I don't think I was physically or emotionally able/ready to tackle this chore any sooner than I did, but it does feel like a big step in the "restore" process. :)

A couple days later Kathy and I went through my entry area, re-matched gloves, sorted out old newspaper, and cleared out the entry bench. It looks so much better! It wasn't particularly a hard or emotional task, just took energy, really needed to be done, and made a big difference in our home. The hardest part was probably getting up and down off the floor, but Kathy helped with that too. :)

Yesterday, I braved my bedroom sink area. I have never really felt "at home" here ever since I came home from the hospital over a year ago. It was lovingly and amazingly cleaned and reorganized while I was gone from home, but little was where I knew how to find it, many of my daughter's things mixed in with my own, and things I used to be able to grab without really even looking were moved around and re-organized. I went through my entire under-the-sink area and my jewelry, sorted, rearranged, gave things that were no longer usable for me (clasps I can't dream of learning to fasten, etc.) and her own things to my daughter, and cleaned (my first time cleaning a sink on my own, post stroke!) and re-organized my sink area that I had so badly neglected (mostly in lack of physical ability, but more recently out of emotional frustration as well) this year.

I also managed to get most of the family laundry for the week pushed through the washer (and often even transferred to the dryer) on my own this past week too! Our oldest son still had to sort laundry piles for me and my mom still had to fold, but I can remember trying from my wheel chair, not so long ago, and wondering if any of this would ever be doable again? I almost made one really awesome crock pot meal, feature a jar of my husband's homemade bacon jam on Thursday - turned out to be the BEST roast I have EVER eaten. (I'm finishing the left over for dinner tonight! Yum!!!)  Maybe our "restored" lives won't look much like they really did before, but it feels so good to be regaining a measure of new normalcy now!

It feels great to walk though my re-ordered and cleaner bathroom, on my way to an orderly closet now! I feel that "restore" is already very much coming to fruition. I am physically exhausted, my right foot was in extraordinary pain yesterday afternoon (from taking the bulk of my weight balance when I was standing at my sink), and know I can't keep up this pace very long, but maybe a household reclaim project per week or so is do-able? We re-start a new school semester on Wednesday (our oldest starting public school for the first time, the younger two still at home with me for the rest of the year) and I suspect this will really stall most of my reorganization for a while, but hopefully we will still manage to keep moving forward with both education and re-settling our home?

I have managed to get my hair pulled back like I like (requires two hands) a couple more times this past week. Still requires some creative contortion to accomplish and isn't as smooth as I would like, but I am slowly getting there with greater measures of consistency. :)

My jaw and side of my face are still REALLY sore (and front of the left side of my mouth fairly profoundly numb), but I think my left shoulder, while still quite sore, is slightly improving finally? Other than my mouth, I do have restore sensation in the left side of my body, but it remains rather diminished and I'm still prone to interpret pretty much any touch (even very slight or gentle) as pain, especially if I am not aware it is coming in advance. My foot (and somewhat my hand, although it is less feeling than my foot in general) reacts in pain with pretty much any slight bump, even when I know it is coming. It usually isn't terribly excruciating pain, but pain all the same.

Our marriage seems to be continuing to grow and improve by the week. I am so very in awe and thankful for the man God has giving me to share my life with. For the gift of marriage itself, though it is hard at times, that God is so obviously restoring and rebuilding that which I feared was all but lost. I know it is all more grace than we deserve. To God be the glory!

Picture from Pintrest.

Today on Facebook, I read, "If the devil only knew what your marriage would be, after the storm, he wouldn't bother you. He does have a clue that God meant your union for greatness but his job is to distract you and your mate so it won't come to be. Declare war on the enemy and stand for your marriage and the future thereof! If the devil can see greatness in your marriage enough to want to stop it from existing, then surely you have to realize that it has a magnitude of value. The enemy hates anything Christlike so he hates your union and anything you include God in. God word gives us ongoing hope because it has stood the test of time being "tried & true"... Even when you don't see it yet, learn to "Say it til you see it!" ......DEVIL IF YOU ONLY KNEW WHAT WE WERE GONNA BE, AFTER THE STORM, YOU WOULDN'T EITHER BOTHER US! - The Diggs

I have become quite the Pintrest addict lately. I've had an account for a while, but never really did much with it. Recently I discovered it is a great "online brain" for short term memory loss. When I get an idea, read a quote, or see a picture I want to remember, I know I won't be able to find it again (or remember the details, or even likely that I even ever saw that the idea existed) unless I "pin" it and put it down in my digital memory some way. I now have already made over 30 different boards (most quite active), covering quite the range of topics. I can't actually "do" most of the things I pin, but it is fun dreaming. I really like all these ideas, anyway! No matter what you are into, it is likely I am sharing SOMETHING of interest to you. Please come follow me at pinterest.com/InfertilityMom! (Let me know your address, so I can follow you back!)
From Facebook

You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.
- Psalm 65:11