Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Can't keep a good man down....

Yesterday my dad got his skull piece back!  A few hours, some titanium, and a skilled doctor and his skull is all one piece again!  We sat in a different waiting room, with a lot more people.  We weren't considered ICU this time!  The doctor kept telling my mom that he stayed remarkably stable through surgery. When I went to see him this morning my mom told me that the doctor who saw him shortly after surgery had come by to see him.  He wasn't required to, he was "just curious."  I will let my mom tell it, "A doctor who saw him after the stroke came in to see him this morning. He was "just curious." I asked what do you mean curious? Well I remember your family and how bad the stroke was and I was afraid when you and the kids realized he would never be the same it would be very difficult for you all to handle but then Dr. B told me he was doing Vaughn's cranioplasty and that I would be surprised, so here I am. So he asked Vaughn a lot of questions and asked him to move his legs, move his arms, wiggle his toes and then some more questions. All of Vaughn's answers were appropriate. He shook his head, sighed and said, "I would have never expected him to do this well....and its only 2 months post wonder how it is he's done so well?" I smiled and before I could say anything Vaughn said, "God's got a plan for me." 

Before my dad could leave the hospital today he had to be cleared by the doctor and different therapists. When the physical therapist came in she asked if he needed assistance to walk, I told her no, she said are you sure, does somebody walk with him when he walks, I told her no.  She said she had read over his file and again asked if I was around him much and if he could really walk on his own.  They got him up and did some balance tests and then they took him for a walk.  Now let me back track a minute.  When he left Mayo on December 8th to head to Brooks, he could barely stand on his own.  50 days ago. He was in room 510 last time, this time he was in room 514.  We saw many of the same nurses he had right after all this happened.  It was quite a sight to see how encouraged they were by seeing my dad, remembering where he was and remembering our family and they all just stood in amazement when they saw him walking around the hall. I'm sorry this picture is a bit was due to a combination of trying to keep up with him- he was ready to be walking so he could be home - and just the joy and the overwhelming magnitude of realizing that 50 days ago, the last time we walked down these halls, he wasn't walking with us. 

From an inside, outsider (I've been there with my mom and dad every step of the way but yet I haven't been the one to recover from a stroke) is pretty neat to see how God isn't wasting this pain my mom and my dad and my family have had to endure.  Seeing how these doctors and nurses have responded to my dad is like God showing us all how he is using this, this stroke, for His glory. 

Oh, and I almost forgot - check out what we were able to get on video today - his fingers are working!  They say the hand is the last thing to come back after a stroke because of how much brain is used in moving the this is like the toe video of him barely moving the toes, but then eventually here is him moving those fingers!  

 "God's got a plan." I love my dad so much. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016


Have you ever experienced an overwhelming feeling?  You know the kind that take your breathe away and leave your heart racing?  Or the kind that drench you in sweat and awaken you from a deep sleep?  What about those moments that you are overwhelmed by joy and simply left speechless?  Grappling with words to try and adequately express something that words simply can not define? When no combination of letters and sounds can convey what is on your heart? 

Here lately there is a common thought that seems to be running through my mind. I have not been able to get it to leave my thoughts.  Ironically it has also shown up in a book that I am reading and in the movie that I watched yesterday with my husband. 

The lost.
Maybe its feeling lost.  
Maybe its being lost.  
Maybe its trying to reconnect with the lost.  
Maybe its about remembering the lost.
Maybe its about finding the lost.
Maybe its about never giving up on the lost.

My husband and I read together every morning and every night.  In the morning, we independently read the bible, usually during the same time.  At night, after the boys are in bed we read a book together.  We take turns reading aloud half a chapter or a few pages (depending on how deep the content of the book is).  It is a nice way to connect and discuss and its always neat when somehow whatever we are reading in the bible overlaps or adds to what we are reading in the evening together.  We are currently reading The Comeback by Louie Giglio.  I have to say that prior to this book coming in the mail we had started another one and it was a combination of stories of, "underdogs, misfits and the art of battling giants."  It didn't keep our interest and was hard to get into, so when The Comeback arrived, we were eager to start that one.  And guess what?!?  Its a book about others and their comebacks....So perhaps, for right now - the message we need to hear is about the comebacks that other people have experienced.  I suppose it is renewing our hope?!?!?

Last night we read about the frustration of feeling locked out when it comes to the church. He was talking about the image that some churches put forth, coming across as "high and mighty" or religious, using different language and indirectly coming off as closed off to others. He talked about exclusion that takes place in some churches.  Sending the message that you are in or out, you've done it right or done it wrong.  He brings us to Luke chapter 15. He reminds us that we are to welcome those who are, "failing and flailing." I love one line in particular when the people became confused by the fact that when Jesus appeared, he did things they didn't think he would -  he welcomed the sinners. In some strange amount of irony, sinners were getting closer to Jesus while the religious people were backing away from him.  

 Louie dives into Luke 15 a little deeper and talks about how Jesus responded to these 'religious people.' I can honestly say I have heard this story quite a few times.  Even people who are not familiar with the bible, when they hear, "the parable of the lost sheep," they know the basics - a shepherd goes off to find the one lost sheep, even if that means leaving the other 99.  He carries it on his shoulders and rejoices because he is safely back.  Another parable in the same chapter talks about the hunt for the missing coin and the rejoicing that happens when it is found.  And the other common parable in Luke chapter 15 is that of the lost son and once again, rejoicing when he comes home.  In each parable, they didn't give up on what or who was lost.  Sometimes to the extent of putting things on hold.  An example was provided for the lost sheep parable - "Let's take any gathering where there are supposed to be, say, 2000 people.  If 1 percent of the crowd doesn't show up, just 20 people, God would say to the other 1,980 in the room, "Hold on," and he would go after the lost ones. After he found them, he'd say to them, "I know I have a whole room full of people, but I want you in the story too.  You see, I know your name, and you matter to me."

This left me with the question, is that how we treat the people who are in our life? Do you notice when somebody isn't there?  Do you tell the others, 'hold on I need to go find___.' Or do you just move on? Sometimes I feel forgotten. I feel lost. I feel like my presence does not matter.  I don't think this is how God wants us to feel.  I think our society has become so absorbed with "knowing" what is going on in somebody elses life that sometimes we fail to stop and talk to the person.  We read a status update on facebook, we follow somebodies blog detailing their struggles, we tweet and pin and share - but somehow remain lost.  This has to change. 

The Lost.
The lost sheep.
The lost coin.
The lost son. 
The Lost. The found. The rejoicing.

This concept has been close to my heart for some time, and for once I feel like it is not an unrealistic expectation.  But rather I feel that this is the way it should be! I think we should notice when somebody is missing but not stop there.  We need to reach out to others when they are not present because the struggles they face may be huge, and they may be just one person, and it may mean leaving a crowd behind to reach them --- but the message you share by your actions when you do that --- changes them forever.  It tells them they are important and their life matters.

So that was how the book tied into my thoughts of feeling lost and then my husband and I were watching one of Robin Williams earlier movies, titled Awakenings and it was sad and hopeful, an inside look of a mental institution and the people who ran it and the struggles these patients faced.  Many of them appearing to be "lost" but still alive.  One doctor comes in and tries a new medication, and for the chemical window that it worked, these people (many of whom were in a catatonic state) came back and shared how they were taking in everything that was happening.  While this is a movie, it was very touching.  Perhaps it was some of the final words shared by Robin Williams that stood out to me the most and somehow ties together this idea of being lost and looking out for others.

"The human spirit is more powerful than any drug and that is what needs to be nourished.  we have forgotten the simplest things."  Robin Williams Awakening

Look around.  Think about the people in your life.  Think about the people who have crossed your path.  Did some fade away because of life - new job, moving to a different state, etc.? Some lost to the expiration of life? Are there any people who just quit showing up and you don't know why?  Be grateful for those people who check on your, who notice when you aren't present, who reach out to let you know they noticed.  Be grateful for those people who grab your hand and hold on no matter what.  Life is short.  We are not guaranteed tomorrow. Everything can change in an instant. Let others know that you notice them, that they matter, that they are important. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016


It has been a few days or so since I really wrote much on the blog.  I feel like we are all still trying to get into a routine and just about the time we find it, well it will change!  My dad has been working hard.  I was able to go with him to therapy yesterday afternoon.  The timing of his appointments has not worked for me to go with him prior to yesterday.  They started by strapping his right hand onto the bike that he pedals with his hands type device....he had such a look of pride and accomplishment, like he was showing off what he could do while I was there.  I loved seeing him proud of himself.  Strokes affect so much.  And as much as I try to give a lot of details about our day to day life and what we do to re learn and re teach and help dad, there are many details that get left out.  I try to remain positive.  He still has his rough moments, but a certain part of that is just life. It is hard to see him get frustrated when he is trying to tell us something and can't find the words to verbalize it.  You can tell by the look on his face that he knows what he wants to say, he just can't figure out how to get it out.  This has made us all a little more in tune with each other and also with him.  We have to really pay close attention to what he says, what we are doing when he tries to talk to us, what hand motions he might be showing us, all to try and figure out what he needs or what he wants us to know.  It is a labor of love that none of us thinks twice about, but it isn't an easy road to walk.  Anyways, after the bike pedal thing then they put his arm in an air cast and strapped his hand to a bar and had him lifting the bar.  They did some other exercises with his arm while it was in the air cast.  One big thing that he has to work on is continuing to breathe while he is trying to move his arm.  The occupational therapist said, "the last thing we want is you learning how to move your arm but holding your breathe every time you move it."  He gets to concentrating so hard on moving that right arm that he forget to breathe and has to be reminded to take a deep breath.  We found that if he says push or pull or whatever they are trying to do while it is in the air cast, him saying the word as he does it then forces him to breathe while doing the activity.  Every single day I am reminded of how much we do all at the same time without so much as a second thought.  I mean do you breathe while you lift your arm?  Can you imagine having to tell yourself to breathe when you do something so simple as lifting your arm?

Earlier in the day my grandma had come to visit with him and while I had walked my sister and brother out and talked with them before they left for school, the phone rang and my grandma in an attempt to find paper to take a message, found a coloring book and used the back page.  Well my dad didn't like that so we found paper and I had him copy the phone number and name of the person who called.  We set that paper aside and then I opened up the coloring book and asked him if he wanted to color...he told me no but I told him we had to do something and couldn't walk outside because it was so cold.  So we found a page and we colored.  He did the entire picture.  It took a lot of concentration.  He is not left handed and looking at this picture, I was impressed that it was so neat!  It took almost two hours to complete this picture.  We did take a few breaks in between to stand up and stretch and to put the dishes away. Coloring isn't just coloring though.  I had his right arm and hand on the table, as if it were holding the paper as he colored with his left hand.  This involved putting my arm under his to hold it up and also hold the paper, because even though his hand was positioned as if he was doing it, he isn't quite there yet.  I was so proud of him for sticking with it.  For the final circle he told me he just couldn't finish it, I told him he had no choice!  It was a lot for him to focus on and stay in the lines and pick the colors, but once it was done it gave him a sense of completion and something tangible to look back on that he did!  Sometimes he doesn't always remember what we do in a day.

 I told him yesterday that I would take him to see Uncle Jay today.  He was happy about that.  This morning I got back to the house around 9:15 and asked him if he was ready to go, "oh yes." He got his shoes on and his jacket on and we were out the door in about 15 minutes.  When we got to Shands we found that his brother had been moved to a different room.  When the nurse started telling me where that room was, at first I got a little nervous because while my dad can walk, I am not sure about his stamina and we have been warned that his leg is still weak. Our walk to his new room also included a ramp.  I kept asking him if he wanted to take a break and he said very clearly, "no!"  Once we got to his new room then we were told he was in the gym for his therapy so it was more walking.  The good news is my dad got a lot of physical therapy in today!  It was kind of neat to see my dad sitting beside my uncle while he was in therapy, it was like my dad was on the other end of it.  Usually people are with him in therapy and today he got to be with his brother!  I listened to my uncle encourage my dad and tell him about improvements he saw in him from last week to this week and just telling him that God has a plan and that everything is going to be ok.  It was nice to see him be so encouraging to my dad. He was even telling the other people in the gym that I wanted to be a physical therapy assistant and thus began a conversation about physical therapy and occupational therapy with the person who was working with my uncle. My uncle seems like a different person now, it is hard to explain and there are no words for it, but it is nice to see.  He and my dad both have fought back and defied the odds in their situation. It is inspiring and also makes me stop and think that some of that fighter blood is in me too!  My uncle was telling my dad how he is a good man and he raised good kids and has a good wife because we are all helping my dad through this.  He told my dad that what we are all learning by helping him, is that we are strong too! I enjoyed reading the ceiling tiles as we got ourselves all mixed up with where we were going....I found my heart for today!

 After leaving Shands we went to the bread store and then headed for home.  On the way home my dad said, "Rachel's house."  and then started shaking his head and pointing is finger towards the left and saying "go back."  I couldn't figure out what he was trying to say I thought maybe he wanted to go back to see his brother at Shands.  Eventually we worked together and figured out that he wanted me to park at my house and he would walk back home.  He told me to go inside.  I had to figure out how to let him walk home, but not really.  I didn't know if he would stop to look for cars before crossing the street or what if he tripped and fell as he crossed the street and then somebody didn't see him in the road and hit him or what if he got tired and tried to push it.....yeah...he isn't ready to walk home alone yet - even if that is only 400 feet away.  I told him I had to take Vaughn to class so I would walk back with him.  He agreed, and I was grateful!  I know he strives to be as independent as he can, but its hard when it comes to protecting him in the process. We got home and he put the dishes away and then my grandpa came.  They hung out and had lunch and watched a movie and did some arm exercises and then my dad walked the front yard while my grandpa trimmed the trees. I went to get Ivan and when I came back my dad had just laid down for a little rest so we put a puzzle together and then pop headed for home!

When he left I went in and told dad that his nap time was over and it was time to get up and do something else.  I asked him if he wanted to sit on the porch and watch Ivan play.  When the sun came out it felt really nice. Ivan had taken a penny outside and decided to use that penny to play basketball....after a few penny's got stuck on the roof my dad walked down the ramp and said, "I'll get the ball, throw it, you throw it back."  I agreed and said we would have to go in the shed and find the basketball.  He went right to it!  Once outside, with his old familiar basketball in his hand, he was determined to make the shot!  I didn't take too many pictures as I felt like I needed to stand guard and make sure the basketball didn't hit the rim and bounce back and hit his head.  He was so into it thought.  The look of concentration and how he would steady himself and aim....I told him he could not chase after the ball, he had to stand and not try to run the ball down.  He still has it though!  Even though he is shooting left handed and it was a little adjusting for him as his right side isn't all the way back.  Just by nature he kept trying to pull his right hand up so I encouraged that!  After about 12 minutes I told him ok, lets sit and take a break!  He really seemed to enjoy playing some ball!

While were sitting on the porch taking a break and drinking some ice tea, I got to experience his relaxed conversations....he told me about feeling down but that he was going to be ok and that he was coming back.  He told me it had been a while since he had chocolate cake and that he wants to go to college next year.  The sky is the limit!  I bought him his cake today!

Sunday, January 17, 2016


If you are in the mood for a movie that will captivate you from the beginning then this is it. I can't imagine being in a place where I have lost everything over an addiction.  By everything I mean everything - your husband, your child, your home.  Having to start over, but not wanting to give up that which got you to the point of having to start over.  As she picks up the pieces to try and start over, and is taken captive - only then does her life truly change.  This movie reminded me that we all have purpose, even if we can't clearly see what that purpose might be now.  It reminds me of times we find our self in situations we don't necessarily want to be in, but yet find some wisdom or grow because of that experience. Knowing that this movie was based on a true story, made it that much more eye opening.  It was neat to see how what she thought was trash, ended up being something she would read to her captor that might have softened his heart.

Based on a miraculous story about the power of faith, Captive is an "amazing, inspiring" drama about the spiritual collision of two lost souls, Brian Nichols (Golden Globe Nominee David Oyelowo), on the run from police and desperate to make contact with his newborn son, takes recently widowed mother Ashley Smith (Kate Mara) hostage in her own apartment. Fearing for her life and desperately hoping to see her daughter again, she turns to Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life for guidance. Ashley and her captor face a crossroads where they discover hope and light in the midst of despair in the moving film that Dick Rolfe, CEO, Dove Foundation hailed as "powerful."

Enter for a chance to win a copy of this movie! a Rafflecopter giveaway.  
The contest begins today and ends on the 21st! 

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Friday, January 15, 2016


It has been a busy week.  We are all adjusting in one way or another.  My brother and sister started back up at UNF and my dad started his therapy sessions.  I am happy for that, can't wait to see how he continues to improve. I saw my dad throughout the week, well didn't see him today.  He and I were off on our own adventure on Tuesday.  We went to see his brother who is at Shands, he told me how to get there and how to get back - when I say told, there was some guessing as to what he was trying to convey and hand movements - but he got us there and he got us back!  A lot of his life skills right now are being relearned. Everything from getting dressed to brushing his teeth to putting clean dishes away to finding the right key to open the door.  Sometimes these things are difficult and take a little extra time but I am sure he will get back in the swing of things. When he was at Brooks he couldn't spit after he would brush his teeth, but now he does!  There are so many little things, that all together show very big improvement.  It is easy sometimes to be searching so hard to see the big picture that we fail to see all the beautiful little changes before us.  It is almost like, at the end of our life, we look back and see a massive collage, the blues we go through add just as much color to our life as the bright sunny times do.  Think about the sequence of the way you do things - and then imagine having to re learn every single step of the process, for every single sequence of events you do.  Even just the simple act of remembering to breathe when you lift your arm.  Looking through a mint magazine that came in the mail gave us an opportunity to talk about what we saw!  It doesn't take much to help somebody as they re wire their brain, it just can be exhausting as you talk through every single step of the process, realizing how many things you just do without even thinking about it but having to patiently go through saying it all aloud...  I think sometimes the most draining aspect is that as much progress as we see, we are always hungry for continued improvements.  Patience is a virtue. We do so many things every single day without so much as a second thought.  We take so much for granted.  I have always been one to think a lot, but now I think even more.  Below are some pictures of my dad as he re-learns these "simple" life skills.  We also enjoyed putting together a puzzle. We are proud of who he is.  We are proud of how far he has come.  We know he has already defied the odds.  We know this has been used to glorify God.  I love my dad so much.

The following are some videos.  The first two are examples of how conversations go with my dad.   Speech is something he struggles with, right now.  I am confident he will regain all that in time.  Either way, we have gotten pretty good at figuring out what he is trying to tell us! The other video is from one of my dads therapy sessions.  My sister took that video earlier this afternoon and she told me that what they asked him to do in the video today, he was not able to do yesterday.  Today he was able to pull his arm in on his own.  In just one days time....he never fails to amaze me!  I'm glad my sister was with him and able to get a video of it.  I can't wait for the day that we go back to November 21, 2015 on this blog and he reads through and watches the videos and sees just how far and how much he has accomplished!  I have read the book of James a few times this week - morning reading.  I keep coming back to James 1:2- 4 - it is very hard to consider any of this pure joy, but so easy to see how it is testing our faith....I am looking forward to the perseverance it creates in us.  We have all learned a thing or two about staying the course. 

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Nothing happens by chance....

Every single day, every single moment of our life has been planned out for us.  Every breathe we will take, has been carefully measured.  The longer I live the more I realize that nothing ever happens by chance, coincidence, accident.  Everything is intentional.  Where we live, the neighbors we have, the friends we meet, the people who sit in the pew next to us, our bus driver in middle school, the teachers we have.  Sometimes even people that enter somebody else's life.  I think about the elderly neighbor across the street, its no 'luck' or 'chance' that she is in my life - God knows I need to help her as much as she needs the help.  It wasn't by chance the therapists who worked with my dad at Brooks - they weren't even the therapists he was originally going to have - he got moved to a different hallway, had a new team and some of them impacted my life in deep ways, it was about my dad, but it impacted me too. It was no accident.  I think about my dad suffering this stroke and how it has pushed me in a direction that I wasn't previously traveling.  It was intentional, even if it is very confusing and has drastically changed our lives in the process.  I think about the connections we make with others.  

And today I was once again reminded about how we end up right where we need to be.  We took the boys out for a walk on a new nature trail that really turned into a disaster because we all got covered in ticks.  I have never seen so many ticks in my life. I still feel itchy even though I know we went to great lengths to ensure that all the ticks have been removed.  Anyways, it was time with Dennis and the boys that we will probably never forget.  On the way home Dennis wanted to stop and get some scratch off lotto tickets, I couldn't justify spending $30 on something that you have no guarantee you will at least get the $30 back....I might have been being difficult....he reminded me that it wasn't money we were counting on and that he wanted to stop and get some - but he wanted me to go in and pick them out because I always pick the winner.  I had a big attitude about this, let out a big sigh as I got out of the car, and as soon as I stepped into that convenience store, I realized it was right where I needed to be.  The lady who walked in before did not have any arms, she stopped and opened the door with her foot - I was impressed with her flexibility.  She asked the lady behind the counter for help pumping gas but the lady said she couldn't leave the store and was by her self. I stepped up and told her I would help her.  I got the scratch offs and then followed her out, she already had the gas cap off and gave me her card with her foot, gave me her zip code.  As the gas was pumping we talked about the weather - she likes the sun as much as I do and said she is ready for more sunny days.  I gave her the receipt, she thanked me for helping her and talking with her and not making her feel different.  The fact that she thanked me for not making her feel different was sad to me. Why should anybody be treated any differently because they are differently- abled?  I felt like I had done my good deed for the day.  My heart felt so full and happy. For those of you who know me, you know how far out of my comfort zone this was - talking to a stranger?!?!  But then again helping others is not something that is out of my comfort zone.  

I realized that God put me right where I needed to be, even if it wasn't where I wanted to be at first. I started thinking about how many other times in life that God put me right where he knew I needed to be, even if I had an attitude, or didn't want to be there, or didn't see the point.... I am glad that my husband kept pushing for the stupid lotto tickets - oh and guess what we got $20 back....but really we got more than that - I got the opportunity to show up right where God needed me.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The charm in the right arm....

I took my little sister to school today - I haven't done that since she was in 8th grade and I believe she is just starting the second semester of her second year of it has been a while!  I took her to school and went and checked out a thrift store where I found a book that I just had to have. I picked up a few things from the grocery store and picked her up before heading home and walking down to see what my dad was up to today.  He and my brother were playing Yahtzee. I brought down perfection and we worked on putting the shapes in the right places, by giving him the shape and asking him where it goes and also by putting all the shapes together and then pointing to the game board and asking him to find a specific piece. The look for concentration as he completed this was just amazing. I also brought down the bucket of bean bags where we went over colors and shapes and counting.  He has always gotten green right, the others have been a little more difficult but he has great accuracy when tossing the beanbag into the bucket after telling us the color or shape. Vanessa told him to pitch the beanbag into the bucket and he simply replied, "No ball."  Of course you don't pitch using bean bags! We got out a little ball from the boys toy box and he was throwing it and catching it with Vanessa. I was surprised when Vanessa asked him to try a knuckle ball and he remembered and threw it - all left handed, even though he is right handed. She also had him saying something after he made it into the bucket....uploaded that video just for her!  

I went to go pick up my Ivan and Vaughn and Vanessa hung out with my dad.  When I got home I saw him out in the yard, walking around the yard and also doing squats and lunges!  He tells us he just has to go to work. My Aunt Pam stopped by to see him and visited with him on the porch.  We then loaded up to head to his eye appointment.  We were concerned with vision issues since the stroke.  The doctor he saw at Brooks said sometimes with a lot of swelling it can affect the eye sight and it might just correct itself in time.  They scheduled this appointment as a follow up, and oh what a great follow up it was.  We learned that my dads vision has NOT been affected, he still has all peripheral vision as well! The therapists were concerned about that at Brooks.  I am so grateful that it has not been affected.  And the best news about the eye appointment today is that while he and my mom were sitting there waiting for the doctor to come in my dad lifted up his right arm.  We all got a text from my mom that she was calling a family meeting and panic set in.  We were back to their house before they were, and when Dad walked in - this is what he showed us:


The look for total pride and accomplishment in his eyes is a great thing to see.  He kept saying, "I have a plan, you can't stop me."  The crazy thing about this is every day his arm has been on the arm skateboard - and even this morning - setting his arm on the crate in the video above when he was throwing the ball.  At one point in that video he drags his arm off that crate to go pick up the ball and then when he goes to throw the ball he stops and uses his left hand to put his right arm back on the crate.  So even this morning, that arm was not moving, at least not like this.  I think it is neat to have video of him from this morning and then video of him from this afternoon....what a difference a few hours can make! We have to remind him to breathe because he gets so focused on moving that arm that he forgets to breathe.  I am so happy for him that at the end of this week he has such a great feeling of accomplishment.  I pointed to his arm and said, "it is working!"  And my mom followed it up with, "she told you it would work again!"

I can't wait for that next follow up at Mayo with those doctors who said he would probably not get use back of that right side...I can't wait for him to walk into that appointment....

I wish I had some profound insight to share but really I am still kind of speechless.  I have always been a firm believer that actions speak louder than words - my dads action this afternoon definitely speaks volumes! It speaks to the power of love and family. It speaks to the importance of never giving up on those you love. It speaks to the power of prayer.  It speaks to the power of hope and belief.  It speaks to the power of God to bring healing, a healing that man says was not possible.  

I love my dad so much!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Game day!

Today started with me taking Ivan to school and then taking my brother to school and then dropping off a gift for somebody and then going to Brooks.  I went to talk with the volunteer coordinator but she was busy, they took my information and gave me some paperwork..  I (not so) patiently waited for her call! She told me everything I needed to do and sent me more paperwork to schedule observation hours and yet more paperwork to be a volunteer with them.  This all seems bigger than me - I know I want to help people.  I know I want to see the progress.  I know I have a gentle nature. It will be hard to get into the program through FSCJ.  It will be hard to complete the requirements.  I feel so unsure yet totally committed all at the same time.  I have said before I am not a fan of change.

After all that I stopped by mom and dads and we practiced colors and shapes and counting.  We threw bean bag shapes into a bucket so that if the color was hard at least he had the success of being able to throw it in the bucket. The look of concentration as he looked at each bean bag to name the shape or color was truly priceless. We also played a little fishing game, followed by Chutes and Ladders (no ladders or chutes, just counting).  After picking Ivan up he and my dad played fishing again, it is one of Ivan's favorites and also played Connect 4.  This warmed my heart because everything that has happened with my dad has been hard on all of us and it is a lot for me wrap my brain around and I am 30 years old.  Ivan has not wanted to be around my dad much which was sad, we never pushed it, he still would be in the same room but was very reserved.  They were such good buddies, he and my dad, and I know they will be again.  Today was good progress towards that goal. When we got ready to leave to go pick up Seth I told Ivan to give grandpa a high five but my dad went to give him a hug, and Ivan agreed!  He gave my dad a hug for the first time in 49 was a sweet moment!

After picking Seth up I picked my brother up and we talked for a while.  Then there was a knock on my door and it was my youngest sister, yelling through the door, "Don't worry Buddy, I am not a killer!" And about 15 minutes later I got a call from my other sister asking if I was home and if she could come down.  We were all together, talking about life and it was kinda neat that me and my brother and sisters can come together like this, on a random Thursday evening, because we live so close and are so close! Vaughn and Vanessa were heading home to get dinner started and I couldn't resist a picture of the four of us! I am so proud of each of them.  We all have stepped up in different ways to be there for both my mom and my dad during this difficult time, while each living out our own life as well. Be it finishing the semester with A's or A's and B's or adjusting to married life or raising children...each of us have kept up what is expected in our own lives while also being there to support and encourage our parents.  We have our fair share of arguments and disagreements but at the end of the day, nobody better mess with our siblings.....we always have each others back....and when all is said and done we don't generally stay upset with each for any length of time.  I am grateful that my parents had four children, because I have the best friends in the world, in them!

 I love my family!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Cooking with Dad!

 My dad had a busy day, started off with some evaluations for therapy.  Pop sat with him after those were finished while I helped grandma with some grocery shopping.  I then left to go get my Ivan and later in the afternoon my grandma came out to drop off some goodies for them all.  She was helping my dad spell out words.  I love watching how people interact with my dad.  Actions speak louder than words!  And some people have just spoken volumes to my heart without ever opening their mouth!  After she did the letters we then got out some dice and had something like a Yahtzee game going on - we would each take turns rolling the dice three times to look at the numbers we got, full house, small straight, similarities and differences!  We didn't write anything on paper but dad seemed to enjoy playing.  He had some jello as a snack which is a great therapy snack, you should try scooping jello out of a little cup and eating it some time....but you can only use one hand.  He got frustrated but he finished it!  After grandma left I told dad he was going to help me in the kitchen.  He helped put the clean dishes away - I put the silverware on the counter and he put it all away.  He put the bread back where it went, he put the tea back in the fridge, I then handed him a clean plate and asked him to put it away - he took it over to where the bread goes and then said, 'no no no' and then I opened the cabinets so he could look in each one and see where it went. Then I asked him if he wanted to help cook dinner and have it ready for when mom came home.  He told me "I can't."  I got out the hamburger and walked him through the steps, let him brown the burger. Waited for the water to boil and had him pour in the noodles.  Showing him the steam and telling him the water was very hot.  He started trying to put some of the dirty dishes away and I showed him where the dishes had to be for him to put them away.  While I was finishing up the dishes he was standing in the kitchen with me and I told him he did a good job helping out to which he replied, "thank you."  My dad is amazing!  

He keeps saying that he has to go to work.  Work for him nowadays is speech therapy and occupational therapy and physical therapy and re learning everything. He gets frustrated but we are all around to hold him up in those moments. 

Gods timing is nothing short of phenomenal.  I was kind of sad today to learn that my dads therapy sessions might not work out for me to take him, just because of the way the times fell.  My husband told me that perhaps that was because God wants me to pursue the physical therapy assistant program.  I didn't really want to hear that but if I waited until I was ready to make a change then it would most likely never happen because I am not a fan of change.  Good thing God loves me enough to not just leave me how I am! Good thing God is all about change!

 Every night when we put the boys to bed, we read the boys a bed time story and then we lay with them for a few minutes before telling them good night and that we are proud of them, etc.  Every night I tell Ivan, "Ok now its time for mommy and daddy to go read their story you get some sleep."  To which he always replies, "Can you stay for just 500 more minutes."  I always say sure and within about 15 seconds he says, "OK that's it."  I get up to leave his bed and cover him up and he says, "OK, I will give you one more minute." So I start counting in my head, "one thousand one, one thousand two, three mississippi, etc."  I count the minute out and when I get up to leave he tells me that it hasn't been a minute yet.  Ok, so he is five and his concept of time is not yet developed but I feel like every night I am reminded about God's timing through this moment with Ivan. God's timing is perfect even if it doesn't feel that way in the moment.

I love my dad! My dad is a fighter! Our family is amazing!

Coming Clean

A Story of Faith
Coming Clean By: Seth Haines

Book Description

“I suppose we’re all drunk on something.”
Seth Haines was in the hospital with his wife, planning funeral songs for their not-yet two-year-old, when he made a very conscious decision: this was the last day he wanted to feel. That evening, he asked his sister to smuggle in a bottle of gin, and gave in to addiction.
But whether or not you’ve ever had a drop to drink in your life, we’re all looking for ways to stop the pain. Like Seth, we’re all seeking balms for the anxiety of what sometimes seems to be an absent, unresponsive God—whether it’s through people-pleasing, shopping, the internet, food, career highs, or even good works and elite theology. We attempt to anesthetize our anxiety through addiction—any old addiction. But it often leaves us feeling even more empty than before.
In Coming Clean, Seth Haines writes a raw account of his first 90 days of sobriety, illuminating how to face the pain we’d rather avoid, and even more importantly, how an abiding God meets us in that pain. Seth shows us that true wholeness is found in facing our pain and anxieties with the tenacity and tenderness of Jesus, and only through Christ’s passion can we truly come clean.

My Thoughts

I received this book in exchange for an honest review through Booklook Bloggers.  The title and description of this book were interesting to me because I have been closely involved with people who drink.  Some to the point that it has greatly impacted their life and their relationships, with others it has not yet reached that extreme but is still something they struggle with. I have also had the privilege of seeing the transformation when somebody makes the choice to overcome an alcohol addiction.  I wanted to get a better understanding from somebody who has drank and who has overcome that struggle.  I wanted some insight into how those who I am friends with who also have struggled, might be feeling.  I was surprised to find that it was, overall, a great book. I thought it would be perhaps better suited for somebody who might come from the same place he has, but I walked away with great tidbits of information and thoughts to ponder, even though alcohol is not something that I struggle with. It talks about truth and about how God heals and how sometimes he doesn't.  It made me think about a quote from Randy Alcorn, "God permits what he hates to achieve what he loves."  I really enjoyed this book, and while I think it would be good for somebody who is overcoming an alcohol addiction, I see where it is just also a really good read. There is a lot of insight into his thoughts about God and the questions that have all run through our minds at one time or another.  We all struggle with something and addiction knows no boundaries... 

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Monday, January 4, 2016

I'll be there....

Two unique videos today - of course both were far better in person but to see his progress is just amazing!  We worked with the arm skateboard a little this morning and then got out the letters.  Vanessa would give him a physical item he could touch and then give him the scrambled up letters that spelled that word.  He would then move the letters around to spell the word of whatever object was placed in front of him. It was interesting to listen to him hum a little tune while he worked to figure it out, spelling another word and then spelling the word that matched the object in front of him.  He was also tapping his foot while he did this. This afternoon we did all his arm exercises while being nosey and watching the police and some kind of accident involving a school bus and another vehicle, that we could watch from my parents from window.  Vanessa got her ipad out and we started singing songs.  Some songs that I have never heard but just listening to my dad sing them is amazing!  He always enjoyed singing, and would sing with his brothers or around the holidays. For some reason the song he sang about always being there really hit a nerve.  

People take so much for granted. I love my dad so much!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Out of limitations comes creativity!

 I lay in bed at night and try to sleep.  If I am lucky, I will get a few good hours of sleep.  Most of the time my mind just goes and goes, the thoughts are rapid and fast and dark and deep and profound and enlightening....and exhausting. Here lately I have been laying in bed thinking about things I could do for my dad or with my dad now that he is at home to help him continue to progress in his recovery. I thought about all the things he did in a day, and how I could sort of re-enact his therapy sessions at home.  My dad hasn't been too still since he has been home, he gets up and goes for walks around the yard, does squats and lunges and sits on the porch for his breaks.  My mom has done great helping him with the occupational side of brushing his teeth and helping him with showers and feeding himself and getting dressed.  I saw the banana grams out this afternoon - that covers speech.  I guess I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I could do, consistently to help him get that right arm moving again.  I remember going to see him every morning at mayo and holding his right foot up and moving each toe and telling him they all still work, even when the doctors said it would be a long time before he could ever use that leg.  I look back at that video now of him barely able to move his toes, and then I look at him, and the fact that when I knocked on their door today - he answered it! So now they say the arm is hard to get back and takes the longest and that it might not come back.  I refuse to believe that.  SO---I started thinking about what he did while at Brooks to work on that arm and it hit me - the arm skate.  I remember his arm being velcroed to a little arm skate board of sorts.  It helped him see the movement more clearly and also helped the therapist sort of do things with his arms that were natural movements and motions and patterns for his brain. I started thinking about how I could make one of these for him.  In my minds eye this seemed really simple, go to harbor freight, get some coaster wheels, and then mount them to a board.....I figured hot glue would be good enough.  When we got to harbor freight we found furniture movers that were sorta triangle shaped which seemed even better, I figured I could hot glue two of them together and that would work.  My husband looked at me and shook his head and said I would need more than glue to hold it together, I also needed something for his hand to rest on, in a more natural position. I found a candy container and we put nails through it and put it on the movers.  We then headed down to see him and see how this would work.  Due to the fact that I didn't account for the weight of his arm or the position of the weight of his arm on this arm skate that we made, it was causing it to buckle on one side, but my dad did seem very interested in using it! My mom had some paint stirs that seemed to help it a little from buckling....and then Dennis said I don't know why we don't just use one of Ivan's little skateboards, take the wheels off and put the coaster style wheels that would allow it to go in all directions not just forward and back.....

meanwhile the boys were playing "I Spy: Gingerbread House Edition"

My mom and Dennis took all the hardware off of the little skateboard and my mom had some extra wheels that turn in all directions.  Dennis put those on the bottom of the skateboard but it was hard to keep it level. My dad was definitely into watching us complete this project.  He looked at the board after the new wheels were on and he was clearly pointing out that the wheels were not level.  Some things never change - he was always worried with things being level. I suggested just putting the skateboard on the original furniture movers we had brought over - and it worked great.  Mission Accomplished!   Now he has his own arm skate to practice moving that right arm when ever he wants to.

My dad seemed satisfied with the finished project!  The skateboard says 'street flyers' we were joking around and said we are going to rename it 'arm flyers'!

Here is a video of him moving his right arm.  I found myself saying the same thing I did when we started with his toes - "Look dad, all your toes still work" and we would get very slight toe movement.  Today it was - "Look dad your muscles in your arm are working" and we got slight right arm movement....I will take it!

I love my dad so much!