Update: The In Darkness Sing blog at JenniferSaake is experiencing prolonged technical issues, so I'm temporarily posting back here on my old Stroke of Grace blog.

Thirty-nine-year-old Jennifer Saake (founder, Hannah's Prayer Ministries), experienced 6 strokes via vertebral dissection at a chiropractic office, including brain stem and cerebellum bleeds, in Oct. 2011. Jenni remained hospitalized for nearly 2 months 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. At 5 years, 7 months God showed how He was writing her story from the beginning.

Jennifer is currently writing more books and stays active on both Facebook and Pinterest. Stroke of Grace became In Darkness Sing in early 2018 and has moved, along with all five of Jennifer's active blogs, to one location at JenniferSaake.com. (Please see above temporary update note above!)

Friday, August 21, 2015

When Doctors Are Wrong

It is often frustrating when doctors are wrong. But here are a few times I'm so glad God overruled their predictions!

I wasn't supposed to make it to the hospital alive. - Wrong!

Then, I wasn't going to live through the first night (the doctors were wrong again),

then the first week (wrong again), 

was not even a candidate for rehab and needed to be sent to a nursing home (so thankful that Rick Saake fought that battle for me, TWICE, and got me admitted to the rehab hospital). 

I was certainly never going to walk again (took me 8 months and I still use a cane or walker outside of our house, but WRONG again). 

I was sent home with a hospital bed for our living room, advised to ditch our waterbed because it was unreasonable to expect I might ever be able to sleep there (and get up out of it on my own) again - proved them wrong my very first night home and every night I have been home (over 3 1/2 years now), since! Stroke of Grace by Jennifer Saake 

Thank you, Lord, that doctors are so often wrong!!!

See the dark butterfly in the clouds? Not photoshop!


Sunday, August 16, 2015


Yesterday I posted to Facebook, At "1:30 O'Clock," 23 years ago, I was blessed to change my name from Miss Camp to Mrs. Rick Saake. We have had some rough seasons through chronic illness, business failure, 10 pregnancy and adoption losses, traumatic brain injury (and accompanying severe emotional processing and communication troubles), but also the blessing (and challenges) of parenting three amazing, long-awaited miracles, a beautiful (so clearly God-picked and provided) home, and EACH OTHER. It hasn't always been an easy journey, Sweetheart, the devil has tried so hard to end what God has given us in one another, but I'm so very thankful that YOU are the one God chose me to walk all the high highs and low lows together with! Love you more deeply today than the day I said "I do!"

I changed my bed sheets tonight. I tried to time the process, but forgot to check the end time. To my best estimation, I accomplished the whole project in just under half an hour though! Slow, but progress. I think my first solo attempt was something like 4 hours, right?

I love this dress. Probably could never afford it, but a girl can dream, right? I couldn't wear the heals and I would want my butterfly wings to be in blues, greens and purples, but love the concept!

So, I have now officially thrown up (exploded violently) at one Christmas dinner table and following a birthday celebration for Rick and two different anniversary dinners, all in the past 3 1/2 years. frown emoticon(Then there were all the times at the hospital too. I try not to think of all that, but times like this bring all the ugly memories crashing in upon my heart!) I'm thankful that we managed to make it out of the restaurant yesterday afternoon, but Rick had only backed the car out of the parking spot and we hadn't even pulled out of the parking lot yet, before, without warning, I SPEWED all over his parent's nice car, he was borrowing to take me out, him and drenched myself. 

I guess special celebrations - the richness and/or amount of food, the sounds, all that movement from so many people around, keeping up with a prolonged/focused single conversation while try to block out all others around me, the lights, the excitement, so many forms of stimulation at once - is just more than my neuro system can handle. frown emoticon  I try to remind myself that, compared to being Locked In my own body, as a brain stem stroke survivor should be, I have so little to complain of, so very much to be thankful about! Sometimes this journey is really, really hard, even still...

I'm not sure I'm really brave enough to pray such a prayer!
I just finished cleaning up their car (Rick would have but I couldn't handle the thought!). I cried myself to sleep last night. I struggle with taking up oxygen on this planet on days like this! Thankfully, I had JUST re-read Philippians 1:21-25 about an hour before we went out to dinner, so I rode home in my stinky, wet clothes thinking , "Since I am persuaded of this [God has a purpose for me here and now, on this earth and while I know Heaven would be far better, He isn't done with me here yet], I know that I will remain..." over and over. It was a long night and I did not sleep well so am really dragging today. 

Still, I am convinced, God is good, all the time.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Miscarriage and More

And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:7
Today I am thinking of our first daughter, Noel Alexis.

Noel's due date was Sept. 2, 1995. Every one of our children who survived birth came 1-4 weeks prior to their EDD (estimated due date), so I figure Noel would likely have come sometime in August that year, rather than September, had I been able to carry her that long. Tomorrow is our 23rd wedding anniversary, Noel would likely be celebrating her 20th birthday around now. My thoughts on miscarriage and my perspective on time, drastically changed with my strokes. Anyone grieving the loss of a young child might wish to read http://strokeofgrace.blogspot.com/2013/07/time.html.
I had an exciting accomplishment this morning!!! I honestly cannot remember if this is a true "first" or not, as I may have tried before, but today has been my most smooth attempt, I'm sure! After the kids were already gone to school, I realized they had left a MESS on the kitchen floor, looked like about 20 corn chips (OK, maybe only 3, but still!) had been crushed onto the floor and left. Ants were having a party! I had someone coming to show me window covering ideas in 20 minutes. There was no young one around to call to come sweep up his or her mess.

I walked to the other room, retrieved the broom, and successfully swept it all up myself! I was sweating profusely, but surprisingly not that much more dizzy than normal by the time I was done. I wouldn't rank the task as "easy" but not as hard as I expected either.

Really, I should earn extra credit for doing the job twice though...

When I tried to sweep everything into a dust pan, I simply could not figure out how to bend over, stay balanced, and work the broom all at once. So I dragged over a chair to sit in and worked the dust pan and broom from multiple angles and for several more minutes, until I finally was relatively satisfied with the results.  Then, I picked the dust pan up by the handle using my LEFT (more profoundly stroked) hand and promptly managed to fling the entire contents of my debris pile across the kitchen floor, all over again! The good news is that I DID reach to accomplish the task with that hand without thinking nor having to coach myself. The bad news is that hand is still not at all reliable.

So I did the whole sweeping thing for a second time, then after second and third lengthy attempts at getting rid of my pile, got everything back into the dust pan, and with my right arm this time, managed to get it all into the trash can! I even had time to drink a cold glass of water and sign a few papers that needed my attention before my appointment arrived!

A funny aside. I did not sleep very soundly last night. I have very vague memory of what I was even dreaming about, but it must have been good. I kept waking myself up, over a 2-3 hour span of the wee hours of morning, physically LAUGHING! I know part of one dream was that I was in an all-girls singing group (I used to sing in performance groups in high school and college, and be in a church worship team our earliest years of marriage, so I imagine that where this idea came from). We all wore large floppy hats (I love hats) and did one performance in an aquarium (the Monterrey Bay and aquarium are where we went to our honeymoon and my favorite place on earth) and another out on a bright white sandy beach (walking on sand, with a cane, was a new experience for me a little over a week ago - harder than I imagined). 

When I first tried to remember and analyze things, I though that perhaps the very thought that I could sing again (my voice has healed greatly, but no where near the level of public performance!) was laughable, but in a sarcastic way. But then I realize my laughter was not the kind that stems from a ridiculous notion, rather a bubbling-over, irrepressible joy. I think it just felt so very good to live without limits again, to enjoy cane-free beach walking, have vocal control that allowed me to sing loud and glorious praise to God without hesitation, that I just couldn't contain my delight. If that's the case, can you imagine all the outpouring of laughter in Heaven?

I have been working on trying to cut my antidepressant dosage in half. I wonder if the laughter is in any way related to that?

A couple of things to be aware of:

Tomorrow, August 15, is Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Awareness Day. As a person with a few relatively mild food allergies, but with a latex allergy severe enough to require me to carry an EPI Pen (epinephrine injector), I will be sporting my teal colored glasses (at least if I can find them - both my glasses and medical alert necklace are missing right now, so please pray I can find them very soon!). I have already changed my Facebook avatar for tomorrow anyway. "What is #tealcoloredglasses? It's a proactive eye toward identifying factors which may contribute to the development or progression of life threatening food allergies, anaphylaxis and the "allergic march" epidemic in our modern world.‪#‎teamanaphylaxis‬ "

Along these same lines, while my strokes and resulting deficits are very visible, I have lived with other significant yet "invisible" chronic health issue most of my life, most significant being 24-year of various degrees of debilitation from a condition benignly named "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" - sounds like "always sleepy-ness" but feels more like perpetual flu symptoms such as fever and deep flu-like body pain, for weeks or months or even years on end :( , Thus I'm thrilled to partner with Lisa Copen and Rest Ministries in this year's Invisible Illness Week. It isn't scheduled until the end of next month (September 28-October 4), but because I'll be down recovery from surgery in a few weeks, I wanted to start talking about IIW (invisible illness week) now! This year's theme is My Invisible Fight.

Over 130 million people live with a chronic condition–

and most of these conditions, from lupus to back pain, migraines to COPD, are not visible to a person who is even standing next to you.

And yet. . . we are fighting. We are fighting for so many things . . .

We fight to get up each day and continue to live even when our body tells us we should crawl back into bed.
We fight for relationships, because no matter how draining it can be to parent a 3-year-old when you are ill, or go to a concert with a friend, we want people in our lives.
We fight to experience life–whether it is trying to find something on the menu at a restaurant we can eat without being sick, or accepting that we need a handicapped parking spot so we can continue to go to the grocery store on our own, we fight to not let our illness get in the way.
And we fight to not allow our circumstances to define us. We focus on the positives, we take selfies in hospital gowns, we share our latest ventures with the nurses, we go in the bathroom and throw up and then come out smiling and say, “I am all ready to go now.” We fight to not allow depression and fear to suck us up.
We fight to be who we really are.

This year in 2015 our campaign focuses on our #invisiblefight.

What is your #invisiblefight?


Friday, August 7, 2015

Summer End

Harsh pruning a few weeks ago has brought an amazing harvest now!
Today is the last weekday of summer school break. My garden creek got mostly done this summer but is not quite finished. My bedroom is no where near as restored as I hoped it would be by this point. But, we did get through 5 of a 6-book series I  read aloud to my kids all summer and had some great memories. And we even got through the whole summer with no major injuries, for the first summer in 4 years! Come Monday, we start a new school year.

The past few weeks have been full of surprising, sometimes sobering, sometimes amazed profound moments of realization about my reality:

A couple of weeks ago, as I was lagging behind my family and struggling to stay caught up, it nearly brought me to tears, the breath-taking realization that I WAS PUSHING A SHOPPING CART, BY MYSELF, IN A STRAIGHT LINE! 
Slow? Yes. But doing it, none-the-less! My mind flashed back to multiple days at the rehab hospital when I attempted laps and laps around the gym, unable to even moderately control a shopping cart half that size, weaving irradically, in wide arches, crashing into and bumping off of anything and everything in sight.

Maybe I wasn't breaking any speed records this day out in public, with my family, but the simple strength required to keep myself upright while both propelling AND controlling the movements of our family's shopping trip cart, nearly did me in with awe, pure wonder!

A couple of days later I was caught by equal surprise, this time in frustration, that, after nearly 4 years, I still could not take 3 steps in a standard sandal without it flinging off my paralyzed foot and simultaneously sliding and turning that ankle. Sometimes I simply forget that I am still "disabled" or have physical (or mental) limitations that were not there for nearly 30 years of my life. Being confronted by the raw reality of limitations I have honestly forgotten existed, is like a sudden splash of ice water in the face, leaving me gasping and striving to align my thoughts and circumstances!

At least my dreams have generally integrated my new reality now, as it was agonizing to constantly be jolted between pre- and post-stroke existences upon waking each morning, in those earliest day, weeks, months and even years when my sub-conscious was still scrambling to adjust my self-perception to account for my new realities.

Eating, or more specifically, chewing quickly and efficiently then swallowing, continues to offer regular moments of surprise and frustration. If I have a bite of food in my mouth when I think of something I want to say, it seems to be an agonizingly slow process to clear my mouth. Think of a time when you have JUST taken a large bite and the waitress drops by to quickly check if everything is OK on her way back to the kitchen, but it is not OK, and you need to ask her for more napkins, or your meat to be more fully cooked or her to deliver the side dish that is still missing from your order. You can gesture and she might guess you need a drink refill, but the more advanced requests leave you both scrambling for you to finish your bite in order to more clearly communicate. Amplify that situation by about 10 (because I am now such a slow chewer, only use half of my mouth and have a very poor swallow reflex), then make this nearly a nightly scenario, for years on end, sometimes 2 or 3 times in a single meal.

Remember that if you try to rush you might bite or otherwise hurt yourself (maybe painfully trigger your trigeminal nerve into at utterly debilitatingly painful TN attack) and that if you try to force yourself to swallow, in what your body deems to be a premature fashion, you will choke, get food uncomfortably stuck somewhere between your lips and tummy, and/or only get part of the mission accomplished anyway and end up attempting to talk with mouth still filled with partially chewed food anyway.  Now add in short term memory issues to the mix and know that if you don't say what you are thinking RIGHT NOW you likely won't be able to say it at all. And did I mention that the stress of this urgent combination BOTH slow/prolongs the chew/swallow process AND memory capability? So above all, never rush, panic or feel flustered or frustrated or the whole thing becomes much, much harder!

So, in order to try to compensate for all this, the talking (or pathetically attempting to talk) with my mouth full is a bad habit I frequently fall into. This drives Rick crazy! He works very patiently with me to try to avoid these situations, but when I (regularly) grow impatient with myself and just want to talk normally over our dinner, he CANNOT understand me, try as he might. Then there is the whole lack of manners thing too... The other night he gently stopped me and asked me to finish my bite then try again and I rolled my eyes and shot out a look of exasperation, then we had to have a whole talk about how my frustration was not intended towards him, that it was an aggravating situation, but how I need to work on learning how to express my irritation at stroke issues without making another person feel like they are the target of my wrath. :( Stroke, the gift that keeps on giving. *sigh*

A friend's new gate.
Speaking of gift that keeps on giving, it seems that our years of infertility (or at least the physical conditions that contributed to that decade of sorrow and frustration) are not yet fully played out.  If you have been following this blog for a bit, you likely know that I have been facing significant abdominal pain off and on since late March, sometimes vomiting, have seen multiple doctors, had extensive testing and even taken a couple emergency room trips over this. The current consensus is that my remaining ovary (on the left, my more profoundly stroked side) is fostering a very small cyst that should not be big enough to be causing all this trouble, but because of stroke issues, seems to be referring and magnifying pain into the right (missing, since my partial hysterectomy nearly 7 years back) ovarian area. Since my left kidney stone a year and a half ago initially and primarily demonstrated with right kidney pain, this seems to be a viable theory! In addition, it is highly suspected that I have Endometriosis regrowth throughout my abdominal cavity, including on my appendix, thus the generally cyclic waves of lower right quadrant pain, a chronic, low-grade appendicitis. On September 11 (first mutual opening between the hospital Da Vinci operating robot, my gynecologist and general surgeon), presuming I can make it that long without an acute episode that requires more immediate, emergency intervention, I will be having my "second hysterectomy" (finish the job we started 6 1/2 years ago and enter full menopause) and an appendectomy.

My arm and shoulder hurt enough to remind me they are still not as strong as I think they are BUT I didn't even half to prop my arm up this time!
Back to the good news stuff, I got to hold a baby this week!

Here;s what my precious friend posted with her picture. "Jenni is one amazing woman. One day a few years ago, she went to the chiropractor for an adjustment and as he incorrectly adjusted her neck, she had a chiro induced stroke. She was rushed to the hospital by ambulance and proceeded to have several more strokes over the coming weeks. She has had to relearn how to walk, eat, talk. She is my hero. Bean is only the 3rd baby she's held since her stroke and it was such a blessing to see her holding my baby girl"

Jenni Saake Stephanie B., Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe (Nevada Side), August 2015.
Obviously, the baby didn't come by herself. My dear friend and pre-stroke neighbor, Stephanie B., met us for a visit at Lake Tahoe (a little under an hour from our house, my parents and I were already planning a day up there with the kids anyway) on Wednesday. Stephanie and I picked up right where we left off. Time, distance, 2 moves and 6 strokes just didn't matter. Blessing! Wow, do I miss her more than ever now though! And I GOT TO HOLD HER BABY! 14 months old! Conceived and born since we were last together. Children and animals are skiddish of me since the strokes, but "Bean" came right to me and I held her a good little while! Stephanie just so naturally treated me exactly like she always has, while simply stepping in to accomodate stroke needs (like I had never tried walking in sand with a walker or cane until this week and when I struggled, without hesitation or seeming complex though, she pulled the front of my walker or offered me her arm without skipping a beat in conversation or acting like it was any kind of unique situation). So refreshing. I don't think anyonr but my mom and Kathy have been so natural about being around the "new me" as Stephanie seemed to be!

What we spotted on our way up to the Lake. That 6 foot+ tall guy in my 15-year-old who was only 4 pounds, 13 ounces at birth! Also pictured are my mom and our youngest. :)

From Facebook this week: I get people all confused over my birthday! Yes, the date I was born just passed, and I was SPOILED by my family, celebrated and SO BLESSED. A few of you know that actual date, but generally that is not the "public" birthday I "advertise". Yes, the date FaceBook recognizes (and is likely to remind you about) will be coming up on October 25, the anniversary of my first two strokes, the date our entire family was shaken to the core, our lives started over and I had to learn to breathe, swallow, eat, potty train, walk, think and try to figure out emotions (still have a way to go on that one!) all over again, my "re-birthday". I will be "turning 4" this fall. Here are some pictures from the day my family just celebrated:

Mom and our girl made me an incredible "triple moist" chocolate cake with raspberry filling and fresh raspberries on top!
My new prayer journal, <3
Amazing and delicious breakfast in bed!
Totally designed and prepared by my girl, who even fully cleaned up her own mess afterward!!!

It was delicious!
Add caption

And was served with my very favorite kind of gift, a homemade card from one of my long-awaited miracle babies! <3
Did I tell you she won grand prize, a year worth of free singing and acting lessons, in a talent contest one week before my birthday? Amazing girl! What a blessing from God. :)

Later on my birthday she also made me lunch!


And the next morning, a butterfly caught her!

My birthday watch

My hubby got my a portable walker (rollator) I can take in the car (been wanting for years), I walk so much better with this than a cane in most circumstances! I'm SO excited!
And this great little gadget, a handle that lets me safely and more easily get in and out of cars!