I love to receive your comments and get to know you a little bit better. I don't always respond to every comment--but I will do my best to answer any questions. Don't want to leave a comment for all to see? Feel free to email me at thesimplewife [at] aol [dot] com.
Maddie is my dog. She is atwenty-pound, nine-year-old Cavapoo (King Charles Cavalier Spaniel/poodle mix) and practically perfect in every way (just like Mary Poppins!)
We first met Maddie before we moved into the neighborhood last Spring. Driving in one day to check on house progress (Mom and Dad totally remodeled our house after they bought it)we saw a man walking the cutest dog. We pulled over, unrolled the window and asked if we could meet his dog. Bill said yes and we met Bill and Maddie for the first time. As we got to know Bill better, we offered to dogsit if he ever needed someone to watch Maddie. She came to visit for a week here and there, weekends every now and then, and the occasional Saturday when Bill had plans to be gone all day.
I fell in love with her and hated to give her back when Bill came to pick her up. This went on most of the autumn of 2014 until Christmas day when I received a card from Maddie, asking if she could live with me for always. I called Bill and talked to him for a bit, and said, YES! (of douse!) Maddie came over the week after Christmas and has been mine ever since. She is queen of the house, very spoiled, a total love. She brings me great joy every day and cuddles each night. In short, she is a wonderful gift!
And like all gifts from God, she is a gift that gets better when shared. My sister's kids adore her and she loves them right back.
When I was in the hospital for all those many months after my stroke, animal visits were too few and far between. When animals did visit, it made my day and all the other patients' days too.In therapy group at Spalding, everyone always said more animal visits were needed...
So I have this great and loving dog who loves people and is small enough to get on a hospital bed to love someone and be loved and petted and adored. How to share the gift of Maddie? Hospital visits, of course!
She and I went to Spalding Rehabilitation hospital about a month ago and met with the volunteer coordinator.She had her picture taken for her volunteer badge while I went through a quick training.
Yesterday afternoon we went back for our first afternoon of patient visits. We started with my old room (236) and worked our way down the hall, visiting people and hearing a bit of their stories. Maddie was beyond wonderful and behaved as if she were born and trained to be a therapy dog! We saw a couple of my nurses and my speech therapist, plus the woman who used to be the cook and took such great care of everyone by making delicious meals and knowing all the patients by name.
It was good to go back and walk through the doors feeling healthy and strong and to remember the progress I have made.
I talked with patients about hard work, perseverance, and hope. The afternoon was super rewarding and we will definitely be going back regularly as the calendar allows. I got my picture taken too so I will have a badge like Maddie does.
So what gifts has God given you that you could share with others?
In other news, well, there's not really much other news, so have a great weekend!
In our neighborhood, Friday means FAC or Friday Afternoon Club.
During the summer, there is a potluck at the clubhouse each Friday at 5;30.
FAC is simple: Bring an appetizer or dessert to share plus your own drink. Plan to stay a couple of hours, sitting out by the pool and chatting with neighbors.
It is weekly event we both anticipate and enjoy.The food is always good and nibbling on small quantities of great variety is satisfying if not as filling as a big meal.
The three of us began attending FAC last year, even before we moved into our house at the end of June. (Wow, this past year has flown by!) FAC is where and how we met most of the people we know in this neighborhood, including the grandmother of one of my former Girl Scouts!
It is such fun that I wish I had hosted a similar kind of thing in all of the neighborhoods my little family lived in during the years. I rarely really knew the majority of my neighbors and I bet I lost out on getting to know some great people. It would have been fun to host on the deck or at the community swimming pool or at the end of the culdesac and it would not have been too much work since everyone pitches in to prepare the food.... Paper plates and plastic forks, disposable name tags and you'd be set.
To be honest, I never really pictured myself living in an age-qualified neighborhood--especially in my forties and with my parents--but this is a great community and I thoroughly enjoy it. Mom and Dad (and others) sometimes worry that I am surrounded by so many people who are so much older than I am, but I don't mind a bit. In fact, I really enjoy the people I have met here. Their life stories are fun to hear and our neighborhood is super calm and quiet and friendly. People wave and stop to chat at the mailbox, the pool, and while walking their dogs.
In other news that I may have shared only on Facebook, I have been showering more independently and getting dressed by myself. It is a huge step of independence and is both exhilarating and completely exhausting. I told Mom this morning that I need to go right back to bed after I get dressed because it wears me out so much! I need another shower at least....
If you can get yourself dressed in less than 20 minutes and without getting trapped in your shirt and yelling for help, take a minute to be very grateful! I am slowly getting quicker as I get the hang of it, but the process remains quite a physical and mental workout.
I am thankful it is today and not a week ago when I posted last. I was nervous about my foot surgery, but it turned out to be no big deal at all.
The check-in and pre-op stuff took far longer than the surgery itself, which was over in about 30 minutes.
It was very strange to go into the operating room while wide awake and then to get up on the table on my own.
In the past, I have had full anesthesia and have no memory of surgeries or recovery. So this was a totally new and strange experience for me.
The surgeon put a tourniquet around my ankle, which was uncomfortable and has caused some soreness this past week, Then she sprayed my foot with some really cold stuff that sort of burned a bit, which was the most painful part of the whole procedure. That numbed everything effectively before she injected my foot with lidocaine, which I didn't feel at all and made everything completely numb.
We chatted throughout the whole operation and I studied the ceiling intently to keep from accidentally lifting my head and catching an a unwelcome glimpse of what she was doing down there...
When we were done, I could sort of feel the bandages being wound around and between my toes, but I did not feel any pain at all!I still can't quite believe that and thank God for that multiple times a day.
I have been wearing a huge and ugly surgical shoe thing for the past week, walking only when necessary, and using my cane when I do just to be safe, even though it feels like a sgianttep backward in progress. I shower with my left leg in a waterproof cast bag from Walgreens to keep it dry and I have been able to stand as usual thanks to a nonslip shower mat Mom put down to keep me from skating around on the shower floor.
I go back to see my surgeon tomorrow morning for my first post-op visit and have been praying hard that things have healed enough to remove the stitches so I can go back to wearing two shoes and get my foot wet in the shower so I can shave that left leg, which needs it badly. Oh, how it itches!
I will update the results of the appointment on Twitter (@joanneheim) and Facebook (Joanne Heim) right away.
I hope you are well and have a great rest of your week! Chat with you soon!
Mom and Dad got home from Vail earlier this afternoon; they had a terrific time away and Mom even slept past seven both mornings--a direct result of your prayers--so thank you so much!Your support means a bunch to me and I appreciate you more than I can say.
Maddie and I did fine being here and holding down the fort. Neighbors checked up on us and so did my awesome sister... We watched movies, sat in the sun on the deck, and kept each other company. I went to the Stroke Center for art yesterday and PT this morning--which is my usual schedule for the week.
And after help with my unmentionables from the senior care home health worker we hired after my shower this morning, I got dressed on my own! shorts and a tank--nothing too hard--but I DID IT! Shoes and socks too.
Wegrabbed a quick dinner out at Pei Wei after Mom and Dad unloaded the car, and now we are all doing our own thing until bedtime.
Tomorrow morning, I am having minor foot surgery to fix a couple of things that cause me daily pain.
Because of my stroke, my muscles are tight and my left toes curl under painfully, making me walk on the knuckl. I am getting a tendon release on my second toe, which should prevent it from curling under and help it lie flat in my foot and ankle brace inside my shoe. I am also having part if my big toenail removed, since it has been chronically ingrown for months,which does not feel very good at all.
I will be in a walking boot for at least a week and showering with my foot in a plastic bag until the stitches come out after a week or so.
I won't have full anesthesia--just a few novacaine shots in my foot, which is supposed to be the only thing I will feel. I hope that is true, because thinking about the whole process makes my tummy feel funny.
I am so glad I won't have to be in a cast so I can continue walking. To go back to a wheelchair now would feel like going backward at this point for sure.
Happy (almost) Wednesday to all! Time to put on jammies and brush my teeth...
Mom and Dad just drove out of the garage and are headed to Vail for a couple of nights away from home. I am so excited for the two of them to get away together with some friends for a few days.
They are meeting my counselor and her husband up there and staying at a super swanky place that I wouldn't mind going to for a night or a week, even. They will eat out, wander Vail village shops and restaurants and have conversations that aren't about me. I think they really need the time away together and I hope they have a blast, sleep great, and and come home on Tuesday afternoon rested and refreshed.
Maddie and I are holding down the fort here. I am excited to take this big step of independence! My phone is programmed for all of the neighbors on our street, the church directory is handy and my sister is only phone call and a few minutes away.
Tomorrow and Tuesday morning, a home health caregiver is coming over to be here while I shower and to help me dress, walk Maddie, and see me off on the bus that will take me to my usual activities at the Stroke Center.
Tonight, a friend is coming over to eat dinner, watch a movie and eat lots of theater candy!
I will get myself and Maddie fed and to bed each day, so life should go pretty smoothly. I will keep my phone close just in case and will be extra careful around the house.
Will you please pray? Especially for my sweet mama to really rest and relax and not worry about me...
Thanks so much!
And get a load of this one-handed typing!! Not very quick...but I got it done in the end with some corrections here and there!
So, I did announce this on both Twitter and Facebook, but the news is BIG and deserves its own post here on my poor, neglected blog...
I AM CANE FREE!!
I began to wean myself from my cane a couple of months ago--using it only in the shower and outdoors and away from home. And then I stopped using it at home altogether, only taking it with me to new places, or out if the weather was bad.
I began to leave it in the car for church (since it's a familiar place where I am comfortable and safe).
Then I began to leave it in a corner at the stroke center, only using it to walk outside to and from the bus.
I went cold turkey and left it at home all the time. And the last time I used it at all was Mother's Day since we had five inches of snow and safety seemed prudent.
So I have been totally cane-free for weeks now--shopping, church, appointments, the stroke walk this morning (two quarter-mile loops around a lake at a local park).
It feels great! With a my right hand free, I can set and clear the table at meals, cook some,walk Maddie and make and carry my coffee in the morning. It's awesome! A miracle even! Something I wasn't certain would happen. But all this hard work at PT and perseverance and prayer (thank you!) has paid out some big results!
Seeing progress like this has motivated me to keep working hard to stay positive, to refuse to consider giving up.
Just had to share my big news with you!
Enjoy your weekend!
With love and gratitude for your support and prayer,
Just like Kate, I have been past due--not for a baby, thank goodness!--but for a blog post. And since Kate delivered her baby yesterday, I'd better get busy too.
What used to be such a simple task has become so much more difficult for me. And I miss it so much. I hate that I've neglected something so good for me and that always brought such joy.
We are back in Colorado after a lovely and WARM March in Arizona.
I've been cold ever since. But with my electric blanket and my Maddie-girl to snuggle, I have yet to turn into a popsicle!
It is good to be back home and back into our normal and busy schedule.
We hope summer will bring some emptier days that require brainstorming at the breakfast table to fill, but until then, there are appointments, activities at the Stroke Center and errands to run in between...
I did qualify for bus service with Access-a-Ride, which is part of Denver's RTD service. I am taking the bus to and from my activities at the Stroke Center on Mondays and Tuesdays each week.
The bus comes to the end of our driveway and then takes me right to where I need to go. The drivers are kind and helpful and walk me to the door to make sure I arrive safely. It gives Mom and Dad a break from chauffeuring and I've met some interesting people.
The independence is good for me and only requires a simple phone call to their reservation line to schedule my trips each week.
In other news, I am joining our church after attending for the past year and teaching Sunday school with Dad. We are now teaching the middle school class and enjoy our time on Sundays with a group of great kids.
Physical therapy is super hard work, but I am seeing progress and have even begun to leave my cane at home on a regular basis! It feels good to have better balance and some ability to get around more easily - even if Tuesday's PT class keeps me sore through Friday each week!I am also doing lite gait therapy on Saturdays. It is a pretty cool treadmill that I couldn't fall off, no matter how hard I tried. You can google "litegait" to see pictures of it, if you really want to see it for yourself.
Dad is now unwired from his broken jaw in Arizona and is now eating with a fork instead of a straw and is able to talk more easily too.
Mom and I are thrilled for him and are quick to tell everyone that he never once complained during his six weeks of being completely wired shut. He is amazing! I'm sure I would have done nothing but complain...
We don'yt have any big summer plans except to be home and to be warm and to spend some time at the pool each day. I can hardly wait!
Counseling is going well and I am becoming more and more independent and confident, all while hearing God tell me that dependence and neediness are good things. I, of course, struggle with that balance as I long to become independent and more self-sufficient in daily life.
It's hard to believe that I have been living in Denver with my parents for a year now, but it really has been that long. I have not seen my girls during this year and I miss them each day and pray for them constantly. I have heard from Toben that they are doing well and I imagine they are excited for summer vacation and for school to be out.
Wishing you all a happy spring filled with blooming flowers and warm sunshine.
P.S. Maybe independence is really about living in dependence rather than being totally self-sufficient. Hmmm... Independence by living in dependence. Something to ponder...
I'm sitting in my pajamas and slippers in my room, looking out the window at the snow.
There are about 5-8 inches outside, and 4-7 more expected overnight.
I used to think that I loved winter. I was wrong.
I LOVE being warm!
Winter after stroke makes getting around harder than ever, makes muscles ache more,and makes total inactivity indoors super appealing.
When Dad and I were teaching Acts to our middle school class at church, I noticed a verse I'd not noticed before: Acts 27:12. On the journey to Rome, Paul's ship stopped on Crete. Just as winter began, Luke wrote:
"Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided to sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there."
Instantly, I drew a smiley face in the margin and a quick doodle of a camping trailer to mark its spot.
So in light of Scripture and my lost love of winter, I will be applying Acts 27:12 as close to literally as possible:
"Since the weather in Denver is unsuitable to winter in, Dad, Mom, and I decided to move not...to reach Casa Grande,(between Phoenix and Tucson), and winter there."
We aren't sure what the weather will do this week, but our goal is to pack up the fifth wheel and hit the road on Thursday, arriving in the warm sunshine on Sunday, March 1.
There we will spend the month, reading, playing Bingo and shuffleboard and horse shoes and lawn-bowling--all while not shivering. I am also going to teach myself calligraphy.
Maddie-dog is, of course, coming with us and ready to make new friends while we are there. She alone will miss the snow--it fills her with glee and energy, causing her to revert to puppyhood and go completely nuts when she is out in it.
I will do my best to keep in touch--always on Twitter and Facebook and here too, provided I can get the dictation mic to work again. It's not cooperating today, so I am scribbling away on paper and will ask Mom or Dad to type this up in a bit.
I know that you are not a person and cannot understand all that I have to say to you, but this isn't really for you, it is for me.
And because I have some things I want to say to you, I am going to personify you a little bit; I hope you don't mind, but even if you do, I don't really care. So here goes...
Four years years ago this morning, you attacked me and tried your very best to kill me. I have news for you: you lost! I am still here, alive and living my life. True, you did take me out of the picture for weeks. I do not remember much at all about those days and weeks of being in a medically induced coma while the doctors did worked to bring down the pressure in my brain. I only know what people have told me about those days.
To tell you the truth, I don't really want to remember. From what I've been told, it wasn't all that terrific or very much fun.
My memories don't really begin until I had moved out of the ICU at Littleton Adventist Hospital and into long-term acute care at Kindred Hospital further north in Denver.
The only thing I really remember about that January morning is forgetting to open the flue when I lit the fireplace and filled the house with smoke. It was a freezing morning and I had to open all the doors and windows to clear the smoke from the housewhile the fire alarm wailed at full volume. It was icy outside and so I decided to run indoors on the treadmill in the basement, rather than to slip and slide along the neighborhood streets. My kidswere busy playing while I ran and everything was going well until my head started to hurt. It felt as though there was a huge metal zipper on my skull that someone was unzipping from my neck to my forehead. It was cold and felt like icewater was dripping down my head from my crown toward my neck. I remember thinking that something was wrong – very wrong. And that is the last thing I remember for more than a month.
The next thing I remember is Mom holding my hand one morning and telling me a story about someone who had had a stroke,brain surgery, and was very, very sick. As she told me the story of this poor person, it slowly dawned on me that she was talking about me! Again, I remember thinking that something was very wrong.
Despite all that was wrong and the things that had been lost, you didn't kill me, I was alive and conscious and my memory was starting afresh at that very moment.
True, I could no longer sit upright, breathe on my own,get out of bed, talk, or even eat, but as the weeks and months passed I worked hard to learn to sit up, to breathe for myself, to talk, to swallow, to stand, and eventually to get out of bed, to walk, to eat, to speak again – even in French with my nurse, Jean-Marc from the Ivory Coast, who refused to listen to me if I spoke in English once he learned that I had studied French in college. So French it was...
True, there are still things I cannot do. I can't drive or move my left arm; I can only walk short distances without a cane.
But each and every day I get out of bed and face the day and so I am taking back more and more of what you took from me; the war is not over!
All in all, you tried to kill me, you tried to destroy my life and my family. Her's the deal--YOU LOST! I won!And I am still winning,I will not give up and I will keep taking back my life and my health one day at a time.Yes, you were powerful and strong, but you've got nothing on the power of God for those--like me and those who pray for me--who believe.
So there, Stroke! Take that!
With great loathing for you and victory dance/hobble for me,