Saturday, August 24, 2013

365 Days Later

As many of you know, last year I was thrown into an unexpected medical crisis of epic proportion.  What I am sure that very few people outside my immediate family realizes is that it was exactly one year ago today (one year ago today at 3pm to be exact...but who besides me is keeping track at THAT level of detail).  While for a number of reasons I have not fully disclosed on this blog, the story of what happened in its full entirety, what I will say is that in a nutshell, a year ago today someone injured me and that injury resulted in my having a series of strokes.  They cannot tell me how many strokes I had - from what I understand, in my case there is really no way to tell for sure, the Neurologists can only speak about them in plural and tell me that the do know that there was more than one.

As you can imagine, I have replayed that entire day in my head no less than at least five billion times, re-thinking it over and over looking for answers, clues, or signs that I could or should have seen to avoid this entire thing, or the answer to why this happened, or the answer to why did I survive when others with this same injury have not - but one year later, I can tell you - none of those answers are there - at least not in the memories that remain of that day.  I won't say that I have wasted my time thinking through August 24, 2012 so many times in my head - but I will say that it was not productively spent time, because it has yielded none of the answers that I was so desperately searching for.  Medically, I am doing extremely well.  From the time of my terrifying diagnosis to today, my recovery has been phenomenal.  As I have learned from hearing stories of others with this same injury - people typically do not recover as well as I have.  They simply do not.  I have been blessed beyond measure in my recovery and I am fully aware and humbled by this.  I am not saying that my brain works perfectly the way it used to - it does not.  I have brain damage.  It never will again.  But taking that into consideration, most people who do not know about this, upon meeting me would typically not guess that I have any sort of permanent brain damage.

Needless to say, there are many, many, many life lessons and realizations that I have learned over the past year, and in my own little way of marking this day - I wanted to share a few of these with you.

  • Life is delicate - do not take yours or anyone else's life for granted - I KNOW this is the super cliche one that you expected.  But I only use it....because it is true.  It. Is. True.  I had no idea that when I blew out my front door on the morning of August 24, 2012 and shouting a fleeting, hurried goodbye to my husband, that later that day I would find myself fighting to live so that would not be his last memory of me. And believe me, the opportunity to see my husband again was at one point the single thought that I was clinging to in order to stay conscious until the paramedics arrived.  Likewise, value the life of others. Always.  Every single day, in every single thing you do.  Do you really want your own feelings of complacency or your own hurried haste to be the reason that someone else lost their life?  I feel sure that the answer to this question is no, you do not want to live with that baggage.  
  • More people than you realize care more about you than you (or maybe even they) realize.  I have had so many people tell me what their feelings and reactions were when they heard about my situation.  I was, and continue to be astounded by this.  It isn't that I did not consider these people to be friends, or even close friends, but to find out that my crisis also became their crisis, has been touching.  You aren't just important to your family and closest friends, it turns out that you mean far more to the world than you realize.  
  • You cannot live in the 'what if' world of scenarios.  You will waste your life on moot, non-existent scenarios created by your own devilish psyche, and in some cases you will drive yourself insane.  I had to learn this one the hard way.  Prior to this happening, I was the Queen of the 'what if' analysis.  My husband and I had a joke that I was a human "worse case scenario calculator".  But when this happened, the 'what ifs' became too dark and too ominous to think about.  The negative thoughts of these scenarios were overwhelming.  You cannot do it.  You just cannot do it.  There are too many good things in life you should be spending your time and energy on.  I've learned that when the good in life happens, relish it - enjoy those moments, soak it up.  When the bad happens - you handle it, the best way you know how.  You pull together your closest friends and family and whatever other resources you can get your hands on and you go into crisis management mode.  Then you get through the other side of it and assess what you have left and where life goes from here. 
  • Sometimes, there is no "back to normal" there is only "re-defining the new normal"  Many people have asked me "Are you back to normal yet?" and this is a perfectly legitimate and natural question, this question does not upset me.  It has never upset me and it never will.  However, my answer cannot be a simple yes or no.  The answer is that it is medially impossible for me to be 100% of my old, normal self.  Part of my brain that used to work, no longer does.  While I can say that I am fairly close to what I used to be, I can never say that I am what I used to be.  No, in my case, normal had to be re-defined.  I am okay with that.  This is something that I realized and accepted early in my recovery.  I cannot strive for exactly what I used to be, so I now strive for what I can be.  What I will be.
  • You are never too old to ask for help.  Even with the basic age 32.  For some time I simply could not do a lot of things on my own that I never gave a second thought to doing.  Once I started to become able to do some of these things again, still it was not safe so I needed someone nearby just to make sure that I did not get hurt.  That is humbling and your humility is exposed in its most vulnerable form.  It can be terrifying, it will be terrifying.  But also, it will be okay. 
  • As human nature, even though we hate to admit it - people are fascinated by carnage.  We can deny it, but at our core, I have found this to be an undeniable fact of human nature.  It isn't that they always (or maybe ever) have bad intentions, or are even aware that they are doing it.  But we've all done it, myself included - like when passing by the scene of a car accident, when it is your turn to go by it, you are sure to get your eyeful, just like everyone else in front of you has.  My story in its entirety, is crazy.  Some parts of it are nearly unbelievable.  If it had not happened to me,  my reaction would be 'What?  HOW does that happen?' I get it.  Really, I do.  But there have been times of telling my story to people, when I have realized mid-stream....that they care more about hearing this crazy story first-hand than they do about my well-being.  I can tell.  It may be subtle, but I can tell - and I am sure that others who have been through crazy or 'unbelievable' traumas can too.  Thankfully in my case, this has thus far been a VERY limited occurrence - and not with what we thought were close friends or family - more so among more distance acquaintances.  So, when you are asking someone about these sort of events, be sure first that you are doing it for the right reason.  Because if you are just wanting to 'see the train wreck'....they know.  They don't forget and it will always be reflected in what they think of you.  Disclaimer - by NO means am I saying not to find out about someone you are genuinely concerned about - but that is the difference in its purest form: genuine concern versus 'OMG, I'VE GOT to hear this'.  
  • Strive to live by giving kindness and compassion first.  This is a difficult one.  It shouldn't be, but it is.  We live in a world that is polarized by political, religious, and socio-economic lines that are drawn in the sand.  Many people approach society and others as "you are either with me 100%, or you are against me 100%"....this is not true.  There are many grey topics in the world.  We may agree on 75% of our views, but maybe there is one point of view that we will never agree on.  That is fine.  We do not need to hate each other, we just need to respect each other.  There is no reason to get defensive and hurl insults at one another - when we could just say 'this is why I feel this way' to which others should listen and respond 'oh, I see (or don't see) where you are coming from - thanks for sharing your point of view, here is mine...'  Wouldn't that be a much more pleasant conversation than the hate fueled commentary that we are so quick to lob at one another?  I am NOT saying that I am not strongly opinionated, willing to state my strong opinions, or that I have never had a show-down or throw-down over what I feel passionately about.  However, as long as I feel an open and respectable discussion, I am happy to discuss or even debate my opinions with others.  Where I lose my mind is when it turns into insult hurling, fact-less use of propaganda that is designed to sway people by playing a single aspect of one's emotions.   I also have a much deeper compassion for those less fortunate.  Admittedly, on some level, I used to equate poverty or socio-economic struggles with laziness or unwillingness to work.  That is not true.  I was wrong to make that association.  Of course there are exceptions where that is the case, but it is not the status quo.  I now try and put myself into a particular situation before I judge someone in that same situation.  What would I want others to know about me before judging me in this situation?  It is simply the kind thing to do, and it only takes a few minutes of logical thought to accomplish.  My final though on this is a story...about 6 months ago, I was at my regular grocery store, in the produce section and happened to notice a severely disabled lady shopping.  Nearly simultaneously, I also noticed a couple of teenage girls following this lady and laughing at her condition.  They were using this lady to keep themselves entertained while their own parent shopped.  I nearly lost my mind and temper.  I wanted to pull those girls aside and scream at them, I wanted to find their parent and scream at the parent.  But I did not, knowing I would lose my temper I had to walk away - I am not saying this was the right course of action, but I know my temper and it was about to explode - no lessons would have been learned, they would just have another story to tell about the crazy lady who accosted them in the produce department.  But really, the message I had and would not have effectively communicated is this: that lady who is struggling, who you are making fun of - she doesn't care what you think about her - whatever gave rise to her current medical condition, on some level she has won the battle.  Why?  Because she is alive and and she is at the grocery store fulfilling her needs as best she is able to.  That is her victory and you have no right to laugh about that.  You may do it anyway, but she does not care what a small-minded person thinks of her.  Yes, it may hurt her feelings, but she has been through struggles that you can probably not imagine.  In the end, your immature way of thinking does not matter to her.
  • Finally (save the best for last, right?) - I did already know this, but it is now permanently cemented into my soul - I married the best man in the world.  My husband was there through everything.  Whether it was sitting in the hospital room keeping me sane, or whether it was fighting to get my scan image readings expedited, he was there.  He has been to every subsequent trip back to the ER.  He went to every Physical Therapy appointment.  The things he has seen, cannot be unseen.  The things he has been through cannot be un-experienced.  But it has only made him love and appreciate me even more.  It takes an amazing person to walk through this nightmare that we were thrown into and come out on the other side stronger than ever.  
And to everyone around me, whether close or far, on this day, I humbly thank each and every one of you.  I would not have come so far without your unwavering love and support.  Each and every one of you mean more to Mark and I than we could ever possibly tell you.  Every note, message, text, phone call, you name it - every single one has touched our hearts and we are eternally grateful and humbled by your outpouring of love and support.  

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Daily Photo: June 2

Sometimes the Prettiest Things in Life are Right Above You!

We were boating today; the weather was warm but alternating between sunny and overcast.  At one point Mark and I noticed how pretty the sky was with the the blue sky, white fluffy clouds and we could actually see the sunshine broken out into rays!  I felt like this image was worthy of sharing!

Daily Photo: June 1

Summertime in Kentucky!

Austin chillaxin' in the screenroom...chillin' & grillin'...this is how we do summers at our house!

Welcome to summertime in KY, where the humidity makes the air seem thick enough to chew on and our state bird becomes the mosquito!  June 1 and already at 90% humidity....

Friday, May 31, 2013

Daily Photo: May 31

The Best Things in Life Smell Great

LOVE Scentsy!!  This is one of my new favorite scents....if you wanna try it out...or any of the other great Scentsy products, contact Dayna!  Her contact info is printed on the label in the below pic!

One of my fabulous Scentsy warmers (the Corinth full-size warmer) heating the above scent, Lonicera!  And wait!  Is that another this daily pic?  It is...indeed, it is!

Daily Photo: May 30

Dog Days of Happy!!

Happy, handsome boy!

Slap fight!

Puppy Love!!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Daily Photos: Mass Update...April & May

Okay, I've fallen behind, no, make that WAY behind on the Daily Photo challenge.  So, I am putting my best effort into a mass update, to (somewhat) bring them up to date.  I'm not including individually dated photos since there are so many...but they are in a *somewhat* chronological order...

Eli: will never get this warm, warm heating pad back...ever!

How Austin copes with Mark being out of shoes....

Best. Game. Ever.  As long as you don't mind being a totally inappropriate, non-PC a-hole in front of your friends...which I don' game ever.

Derby weekend came and went....nearly as fast as the fastest two minutes in sports!  Spent Oaks evening having drinks in the screen room at our house & playing some Cards Against Humanity.

 Molly...our 'niece dog' hanging at my sister's Derby Party.  Sweetest girl ever...Molly that is...LOL

My Mom & I on Mother's Day:

Thanks to my friend Dayna, I found the PERFECT Mother's Day gift for my mom.  A custom/personalized locket/charm from Origami Owl....this is the one I got my Mom:

And I don't have to be a mom to have gotten myself one as Origami Owl locket:

Inquiring minds MUST know...the true size of the hand versus Austin's ears:

Both fighting...bed was made...perfection:

You can just see the sass oozing out of it, LOL

Austin & I on National Hi-Five Day!

A day at Churchill Downs....didn't win money...but we drank bourbon with friends all day....I'll mark that in the 'win' column any day!

Mark & I track-side at Churchill Downs:

Cannot tell you the degree to which I cannot stand his ears being turned inside out...they were both that way, so he came & sat next to me:

Still turned inside out....just before I couldn't take it any longer and fixed them, LOL

"I want a cat named Larry"...we needed a barn we got one and named her Larry.

Austin has no idea how tall he is....

"Look, Ma...I found the only bit of shade in our yard!!" ~Austin

Mark enjoying some sushi & sake at Sake Blue:

Ah...the freedom of sticking your head out the car window! 

Went on a walk with the dogs, and saw these trees.  Pretty and smelled great.  Some type of Magnolia, I think.

Finally, water added to boat!

 FIRST in the water...75 degrees!  

Mark, just chillin' on the boat:

Memorial Day at the lake:

Hey there!  Look who finally decided to get in the water!

The dogs in their patriotic scarves for Memorial Day....who said these two couldn't be civilized??  Wait...that was me...yep...I'm the one who said that.

Dinner out on the deck at Havana Rumba!

Dinner at Havana Rumba!

"I don't always just sit around looking gorgeous...but when I do...I must have decorative pillows to sit on..." ~Eli

NOT a morning person...

Take me out to the ball game....the Louisville Bats home game at Slugger Field.

There you have it, blog fans and dog fans!  Life as we've known it over the past month or so!  Hoping to get back on track with ToT, soon!  I promise!!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Together on Tuesday: Sometimes...There are No Words...

Happy Tuesday, everyone.  After yesterday's terrible explosions in Boston, we are taking a pause in our weekly postings to try and say some words when there just doesn't seem to be any words to help us understand.

First Things First
I first want to extend my thoughts and prayers to everyone involved in yesterday's deadly bombings in Boston, MA.  Especially to those injured and to those who lost family members in this tragedy.  First and foremost, our wishes for physical and emotional recovery are with each of you.  Our thoughts are also with the First Responders who risked their own safety to get the injured to medical treatment and secure the safety of everyone in the vicinity of the explosions.

The World We Live In
It saddens me deeply that we live in a world where we have slipped from only hearing about these tragic events happening here in our homeland from time to time, to hearing about them nearly every week, month, etc...nearly anytime we turn on the news.  In less than the past year, we have had the Aurora, CO movie theater shootings, the Sandy Hook school shooting, and now the bombs at the Boston Marathon.  As a society, how should we respond?  How should we react?  I fear that because these things are occurring so much more frequently that we may build up some sort of complacency toward hearing of these terrible things.  As a kid, I only remember these large-scale tragedies happening infrequently in the United States; and they only happened frequently in far-off lands of war torn and third-world countries.  Places so far away, that my mind as a suburban American child didn't truly really register the full breadth of what had happened - I now realize that mindset was a luxury - it didn't fully resonate with me, because it didn't need to.  Those horrible things weren't happening anywhere near me, as a child, I did not have to fear for my safety in school, or in any other public places.  So, I was afforded the luxury of having a sort of detached empathy for the victims.  However, as we all know, this has changed dramatically in recent years and we, as Americans, are no longer afforded the luxury of far-removed sympathy for victims half a world away that we will never meet and will likely never hear of again.  From Columbine to Sandy Hook,and many, many other school shootings in between to September 11 and yesterday's bombings at the Boston Marathon are just a very short listing of the tragedies that we have endured as a nation in recent years.  If we do build up some sort of emotional tolerance to these events, then will people stop looking and fighting for the answers of how to make this stop?  I hope and pray that does not become the case.  It is NOT okay for an eight year-old boy waiting in excitement to see his father cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon to die for doing that.  It is not okay, and it will never be okay for that tragedy to have happened.  There are now too many voids in the world left by the legacy of each person who has been lost to these senseless acts of violence.  This is not okay.  It is not okay to have many, many holes in the world where a great person once existed and now does not because of these events.

I really wish I knew the answer to this, so that I could go and fix it and these things would stop happening.  I know that in the wake of these tragedies there are always multiple political platforms of blame and finger wagging at some one or two hot topic issues 'du jour'.  However, in my gut, I feel that there is NO single answer to stop this.  I think that there are multiple different aspects that have given rise to this sort of large-scale violence.  It isn't because one person was able to buy gun(s), it isn't because of one specific type of mental illness, it isn't just because of how one person felt that society was outcasting them as an individual, it isn't just because a movie and/or video game had a particular level of violence.  In the conversations and debates that follow these tragic events, people want to try and finger point to one specific catalyst that set off or aided the people who carry out these violent acts.  Rather, I believe, it is a multitude of these negative forces all working in tandem that is giving rise to these acts of senseless violence.  Sadly, there is no one-deal-fixed band-aid solution for this problem.  There just isn't.  Until we stop fighting, arguing, and debating and admit that we have a much more complex issue than just one political hot-button topic, we are never going to find a preventative solution.  We have to set aside what political party we are registered with, our religious differences, and our staunch opinions of who we want to be elected.  We have to set aside our personal agendas and our ulterior motives.  We have to work together.  We have to talk.  More importantly, we have to listen and be willing to listen to people who are from different walks of life than we are from.  No one person, and no one magical piece of legislation will stop any of this.  Until we kick down the barriers we've built to wall ourselves off from one another and start showing kindness to one another, this will keep happening.  We must start being kinder to one another.  Clearly this "me, me,, now, now" society we have created is not working.  Lest we forget that our country is called the UNITED States for a reason?  We need to reinvigorate our ability to unite as a country and take a stand against this violence. The answer starts with simple kindness.  If every single person would be kinder just one time each day, imagin what a better place this world would be.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."

*There are a number of resources that debate the origination of this quote; however, a number of academic resources credit the quotation to Plato.  This exact version of this quote is most commonly attributed to Plato.  There are also a number of variations of this quote that are attributed to others, or to unknown speakers.