Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Oh what a week...

I have been slacking lately.  It has been a week since I blogged any real update.  It has been crazy and hectic and scary and we are still trying to find some kind of routine.  Last week was a tough one for my mom and dad.  It seems depression made a comeback at perhaps the worst time. (Although there is never really a good time for it.) My dad struggled and is still struggling.  His progress has been amazing but he isn't as far as he wants to be.  He thinks he should be further a long.  A few nights last night he decided he wasn't going to take his medication.  One night got particularly bad and we were all trying to convince him to take his meds for close to three hours.  In that same time frame my mom briefly passed out or something, either way paramedics were called.  I will admit I was angry at my dad for stressing my mom out.  I hate seeing either one of them upset.  I had to step back though and remind myself that it was really depression, it wasn't my dad.  It was depression using my dad, it wasn't my dad.  I know that he would not have said some of the things that he did, but that depression would.  Just as we see cancer as something separate of the person, and not their fault....how could I see depression any other way?  He doesn't want us to go away, depression does.  The depression is not him. It was a perspective shift.  Being somebody who struggles myself, it gave me a glimpse from a different angle. Anyways, the next morning my mom ended up in the hospital where she stayed for observation and additional testing. Thankfully, all her tests came back good and an MRI revealed that she has some tears in her rotator cuff, which most likely caused internal swelling that gave her the feeling of pressure in her chest. My dad was very sad when he saw her in the hospital, we all were.  She kept saying she was worried that she would go to the hospital and that it would be nothing and we would all think she was crazy.  I kept telling her we would all be relieved to know she was ok.  I am grateful that it was nothing worse. 

We have been trying to keep my dad busy as best as we can.  He and my mom did a painting class with my sister and brother in law this past Saturday.  We took him out Saturday during the day to pick out some flowers and a card for my mom for Valentines day. He is getting back into his therapy schedule.  Yesterday he was doing so well in speech therapy that they worked with him a little longer. He has homework that we work on at home with him.  And walking and arm exercises and trying to send messages to his brain that his right arm is still there.  Today we went to see my uncle, and my dad got a big smile on his face when he saw that he had shaved his head, similar to how my dad always did his!  They sat and talked for a good half an hour or so.  Actually my uncle did a lot of the talking and my dad did a lot of listening.  Today in the Transitional Care Unit of Shands it felt like a dark day.  I was standing listening to them talk but I was hearing everybody elses story too.  It was like one of those slow motion moments where everything is so loud and nothing is really slow.  I heard about one guy who was on a motorcycle, just leaving after having made funeral arrangements for his father, his back tire was sorta shaking back and forth and the next thing he remembers is waking up in the hospital.  Apparently he landed 25 feet away from his motorcycle.  He was crying today.  Another guy was trying to get a girls number in a car at a stop light, the next thing he knew the windows of the car went down and they opened fire with automatic assault rifles - he was shot twice in the head, three times in his leg and two times in his arm.  He sped off to avoid any more shots and wrecked his car.  His best friend was in the car with him and died. Yet somehow he survived, he is able to stand.  He still has quite a bit of healing but he can stand and he can talk and he can wheel himself around the rehab gym.  They motorcycle guy told the bullet guy, "The big man upstairs was looking out for you too."  Then there is another guy who.....somehow in the midst of their trauma they look out for each other.  The connection they have is different.  In some way or another they are all broken.  They compare injuries, length of time in the hospital, and always, ALWAYS are quick to offer a word of encouragement to each other.  I stood in the midst of that room wondering if this is really a field of work I could go into.  Today they were all pretty down, and life had dealt them a hand that gave them every right to feel the way they did.  Yet in the midst of their pain and tears they were encouraging others. My dad was ready to go, and so was I.  It felt like my energy was being completely depleted.  It was like I could feel their pain and their hurt and it was very intense.  On the way home I tried to convince my dad to go visit with Mr. Pogany and we agree on 'tomorrow.'  

Upon arriving home I went to the DMV with my little sis, trying to transfer my dads tag from his truck to a van that he had bough one month before he had his stroke.  He wanted to fix it up and sell it.  With the truck going down, and my dad always being there to help the 'new' guy....well one of those guys were able to come back and repay the favor.  He was so happy to be able to do something to help my dad that nobody else could.  He fixed the van - water pump, radiator, complete brakes, calibers, rotors, valve stem on one of the tires and gas cap....he did this at cost for my mom!  So today was the day we finished it up - got a tag on it.  We thought we could do it but they explained they needed him since his name was on the title. This might have presented a bit of an obstacle as he told me all morning about everything he can't do....We stopped back by the house and  I told him he could have lunch with grandma and I would be back to pick him up around 1:30 so he could go to the DMV with me.  We sat in the DMV for an hour and twenty eight minutes....it took exactly two minutes and $4.60 for them to do what we needed them to......meanwhile my mom had snagged Seth and he was hanging out with her in her classroom.  

I told my dad we would have to go get Seth, he didn't want to go in the school, it was about 40 minutes after dismissal.  I knew there wouldn't be a lot of people but I also knew he was nervous about going in and being around people, some of whom have not seen him since before his stroke.  This was way out of his comfort zone.  I finally convinced him to go in - he walked the long hallway and the two flights of stairs and another long hallway before walking into my moms classroom.  I think she may have been a little surprised.  My moms team teacher came down just to say hi to him.  He started trying to talk to her and he go frustrated and started to get sad.  Today seemed to be a more difficult day for talking than what other days have been.  I told him it would a short visit and I didn't want him to get too upset in front of her because I know that would have made him more upset.  We headed out the door to get the boys home so they could finish homework.  As we were walking down the hallway I could see tears gathering in the corner of his eyes.  I hated the fact that he was getting upset. I encouraged him that all this would come back in time. As we took our final step down the flight of stairs, God intervened and somebody who I don't even know, a teacher at my moms school who has been following my dads story online, happened to cross our path.  She looked at him straight on and said "You are amazing!  I have been following your recovery on the internet and facebook and you have an amazing support and amazing family.  You have made so much progress, keep working hard.  You are amazing!"  My dad said "thank you, bye bye."  He gave her a hug and as she turned to walk away I noticed tears in her eyes!  She has been inspired by my dad.  My dads entire attitude seemed a little brighter from that moment on.  His shoulders were back, he was looking up.  I can't tell you how much it means to me that Ms. Iryna Conway was bold and stepped up to tell my dad how amazing he is. She nurtured a human spirit that was in great need of encouraging. What she provided, what she gave, in her words....is the greatest thing we could have asked for today.

So much of the afternoon was 'off'....the DMV wait was long and the long wait put me late to get Seth which meant having to go into the school to get him from my moms classroom which meant a lot of convincing to get my dad to go in....but had all that gone according to 'my plan' then he might not have been given that dose of nurturing to his spirit that he greatly needed.  

I often times wonder what somebody would say at my funeral, and if there echos would find me where ever my soul was....but the longer I live, the more I realize the importance of speaking life and love and encouragement to others....don't wait - as cliche' as it is - it still holds true - life can change in an instant and we aren't guaranteed tomorrow. Is there anything you would want to say to somebody today, that if they died tomorrow, would leave you feeling sad that you didn't say?

Oh yeah -- I spent the ride home telling my dad how PROUD I was of him for pushing through the fear of going into the school and going into the DMV and getting the car registered.  I told him how PROUD I was of him for getting up today, even though he didn't feel like it.  I told him that his life is an inspiration to people he doesn't even know.  I told him he has to keep trying.  I told him he has to keep practicing.  I told him we still need him.  I told him I would get him a chocolate milk shake for how great he did today!

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Comeback

The Comeback
Written By: Louie Giglio
We all know what it feels like to have life disappoint us and not work out as we’d hoped. We all know what it’s like to long for something different, something better, something more.
The Comeback celebrates new beginnings. It offers encouragement and perspective, and it’s for you if you feel frustrated or confused, if you’re sorrowing or in pain, if you’ve made mistakes or are grieving, if you’re disappointed or feel as though life doesn’t make sense.
The good news is that God is in the business of giving fresh starts to people. He gives hope to the hopeless. Direction to the directionless. Help to those who need help. God is always good, all the time, and God’s plans will always prevail, even when our plans don’t.
God already knows what the solutions are. No matter what kind of disappointment or grief or pain or trouble or heartache you encounter, God always offers a new beginning, a change of heart, or a powerful spiritual turnaround. God offers the way forward, and his pathways are always good.
Your current circumstances will not get the final say in your life. God is the God of the comeback, no matter what kind of challenge you’re facing.
And your story can become a great comeback story too.
My Thoughts:
A must read! This book is amazing!  I received in exchange for an honest review from Booklook bloggers.  I love hearing all the comeback stories of individuals who Louie Giglio has met on his life's path.  It was encouraging to hear about how others overcame the challenges and obstacles that were being placed in their life. I love hearing how things worked out in situations that seemed beyond repair.  I was hesitant to read it when I heard it would be a compilation of other peoples comeback stories but I am so glad that I stuck with it and read it through to completion.  I highly recommend this book.  The last comeback story in this book, is my favorite comeback story.  

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


Nourishing the human spirit is so important, and people remember that well into old age and even when they can't remember anything else.  They remember the people who were consistent. Today my dad and I went to Shands to see my Uncle.  It was kind of neat to see my uncle and my dad both working together during my uncles speech therapy!  They talked about the game, and seemed happy to be around each other.  Heading home, we got stopped by a train where my dad tried to grab the wheel and convince me to just drive around the railroad cross things that were down because a train was coming.  I told him we couldn't do that, it wasn't safe. It delayed our arrival home but we made it home in one piece!  Just about the time we walked in the door I got a call from my mom that the elderly gentleman my dad always used to visit, bring his paper, his coffee, and just spend time with him, was not doing well.  Some time ago he was moved into a nursing home.  He and my dad have a special connection.  The nurses said he hasn't been eating and all he has been asking for is my dad.  The past month I have been trying to convince him to go see Mr. Pogany, even going so far as to drive him down there and sit in the parking lot hoping he would change his mind and go in.  My mom has done the same thing.  Today when I told him that Mr. Pogany wasn't doing good and just asking to see him, my dad said 'no no no'....I told him that he was all Mr. Pogany had and right now he needed him.  So he said ok and we jumped in the car, before he had a chance to change his mind.  Its no surprise to me that once there - it was just what my dad needed - as much as it was what Mr. Pogany needed.  They are good for each other.  The nurses were so happy to see my dad, they all had been told that he had a stroke and they were amazed by his recovery.  They kept telling him that he is a miracle.  Mr. Pogany kept telling my dad that he was a good visitor and that he was glad he was doing better and that he was so happy to see him.  The way they each lit up, just being in each others presence - was pretty cool to witness.  It really drove home the importance of just being there for others. All anybody ever wants is to know that they are cared about and loved and that doesn't have to be shown with elaborate gifts - Mr. Pogany doesn't miss what my dad brought him or did for him - as much as he misses his time with him.  Begs the question, how many people would miss the time you spend with them?  Or are we so wrapped up in the day to day life and struggle that we don't make time for others?  We bring gifts and meals but when the dust settles and the food has been eaten, all that remains is time.  (Consistent) time spent with somebody is priceless, as was proven to me today. Mr. Pogany doesn't remember any thing, but he remembers my dad.  My dad spent time with him.  My dad made him feel important.  My dad made him feel loved.  Mr. Pogany is 93 years old.  My dad is 52 years old.  An old man, a young man - and life's greatest lesson! ( Tuesdays with Morrie)  No matter what storm you are going through in your own life, make sure you make time to spend with those you care about, because when its all said and done that is what is remembered. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Leo Love

I haven't seen my horse friend since November.  Well not my friend that owns the horses, but the actual horses themselves...actually come to think of it I haven't seen either since November.  I was excited about going to see him this morning.  When I walked in the gate, he looked up, quit eating and walked towards me.  It made my day.  I don't know if he remembered me or was just curious.  Either way it was like he dropped everything for me and it made my heart feel so good.  He feels so soft and looks like he has gotten bigger since I saw him last.  While petting him and walking around with him and talking to him and telling him how much I missed him, a sweet little cat appeared.  I tell you - the peace I find and the hope I feel with Leo is amazing.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A busy week

This week proved to be a bit of a roller coaster ride....one where we all wanted to get off, but somebody more in charge than we are, kept us on a little longer.  Sometimes we think we can't take anymore and God shows us just how much more we can handle.  Mental illness is just that - a sickness affecting the mind.  It tends to creep in at the worst time, well really no time is ever 'good' for it.  My family has been walking this difficult road and while we have much to rejoice about, the challenges and setbacks can be very discouraging. This week it seemed like my dad was losing his fighter spirit.  I noticed that it was more difficult for him to talk and then he seemed really discouraged.  I think progress comes in waves and sometimes, just like when a child masters something new they regress in another area, so I think its similar when you are talking about brain trauma. He seems to have bounced back though, and we finished the week up strong! 

I don't accept anything less than the best from my dad, as he always expected the same from me.  Just as he knew, as a parent - when I wasn't trying my best....so I have learned, over time - when he isn't trying his best.  This week he wanted to lay in bed and he was not really wanting to keep fighting and keep pushing forward.  I stood beside his bed and would tell him that I wasn't leaving until he got up. My mom and brother and sister also had to do this, the evenings were even more difficult than the days  I reminded him that I had the best teacher when it came to learning about being stubborn.  Eventually he would get up, and I know, being one who struggles myself - sometimes 'just' getting out of bed is a big accomplishment.  I am glad that my dad and I have a good connection and we can read each other.

We spent time on his speech homework.  He has to say the word and match it to the picture.  He was able to read most of the words.  Matching the word with the picture was a little more difficult for him and even though it seemed like it made him a little sad sometimes that he couldn't make the match, he still pushed on.  The fact that he could read the words is huge progress, when he was at Brooks he was not able to read any words.  

Here is a video just to give you an idea of how much concentration goes into this task.

I didn't like to do too much speech work, with out a break.  It can be a bit discouraging for him.  In between work sheets we would stop and stand up and toss bean bags into a bucket - they are shapes and colors - so really speech continued just in a different way.  Other times we would take a break and do arm exercises.  It is amazing to put his arm on the arm skate we made him and see how much more he can move it on his own.   At one point during a 'break' he and my brother were arm wrestling!  I love the look on both of their faces - true personality! 

 The following pictures were taken almost one month apart - oh the difference your skull makes! And you can see how much more the muscles in the right side of his face are coming back!

We spent some time looking through photo albums.  We talked about the memories the picture represented. Just before this we were talking about birthdays.  It is interesting how my dad goes through the thinking process, sometimes out loud, to arrive at his answer.  We would ask him, "when is Vaughn's birthday" and he would say all the months and stop at November and then he would start at 1 and count until he got the right date.  He was saying all this though!  It is pretty neat to hear his thought process. He seemed to enjoy looking at the photo albums.  I would ask him point people out or just ask him who he was looking at, so he could point to the person and/or say who they were.  The week ended up on a much better note than it began.  I can't even begin to imagine how hard this is for him to live through.  Being a man that liked to be in control of situations and always be going and doing for others; I can't imagine how upsetting this is to him, that his independence has been greatly lessened. I see the impact that it has had on each of us who have been with him day in and day out - but we still can't really grasp it from his perspective. 
This afternoon we went for a walk.  Last night I was browsing the world wide web, and was reading the Brooks News section and saw something called a challenge mile. "The Challenge Mile is not meant to be a competitive race, but rather a way for people of all ages and abilities to celebrate their personal accomplishments." My dad, my family - we certainly have a lot of accomplishments to celebrate.  The date is March 12th and we are registered!  I can't wait!  By the time we participate in this even it will have been just about 4 months since my dad had his stroke.  My mom was telling me that today she was looking at statistics.  She said that 50% of people who have an ischemic stroke never walk again.  She told us this as we were just about back to our house, and had just finished almost a 2 mile walk!  

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Rain, rain....

Rain, rain go away, come again another day....
I am not a fan of the rain, especially when it is constant.  It has rained all day today.  No sun.  Just dark, pouring rain...all.day.long...  I suppose that in this storm the plants and flowers and trees rejoice. A new meaning to "praise you in this storm." The way I view this storm, might not be how somebody else views it. I guess you could think that way about the storms of life too. This picture I took this morning just really resonated with my soul. The calm before the storm.  The ability to stand in light but feel the darkness encroaching all around.  The one lone little bird.  So many other birds on the beach, so many other people in this world and yet I stand alone.  I mean the bird stands alone.  This could also be the light returning after the storm. I need the Son to return again.  I don't do well with all the darkness in this world. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Behind the scenes....

It has been a while since I blogged. Dad's progress since his skull piece was replaced has continued, as many said that it would. Unfortunately my dad thinks he should be further along than what he is.  You know how sometimes we don't see the progress we have made but other people can?  We see how much he is doing and has done and yet he thinks its just too hard and he should be further along. Yesterday he seemed a little discouraged and I got him up and we went for a walk.  He didn't seem like himself.  Last night was rough.  He is losing the fighter spirit.  That can't happen!  He made it through the night, thanks to my incredible mom.  You know I sit back and think sometimes (well all the time really) and I reflect on just everything.  I can honestly say that when I think back to him going in for the surgery on November 21st  and the days that followed, and the many doctors in and out, mom kinda gave us no option but to believe the best.  She is the one who would correct the doctors and when they would say, 'if his right side comes back it might take a year' and she would follow up their 'if' with 'when'.  She would go in the little meeting room to talk with the doctor after surgeries, by herself.  I'm not sure if that was on purpose or just how it worked out.  Even though we are all adult children, its like she was shielding us from as much pain as she could.  I guess that's just a mothers love.  Somewhere in the mix of my thinking though, I started wondering, who is shielding her from the hurt?  Everything is raw and most of the doctors have definitely given her the worst case scenario.  As hard as it has been on all of us, I can't even begin grasp the magnitude of the impact this has had on her.  She gets up every day and goes to work.  She keeps pushing.  She keeps believing. She keeps encouraging my dad.  

Anyways - yesterday was a walk and my sister also had him making faces while looking at the phone.  Believe it or not that is part of speech therapy. Making the faces and the sounds with the lips will help bring back the muscle in his face.  So the next time you make a silly face for a picture - just know that for some people that takes great concentration.  
Today I went to pick up my dad around 9:15.  I told him we would go see Uncle Jay today and when I got there and got in the door he looked at me and said, "I'm ready."  I have to say, we must have some miracle blood that runs in our family or something....my uncle was in a car accident on October 23, it was bad.  He was in taking to Shands trauma with two collapsed lungs, shattered ribs, broken shoulder and leg. Fevers, infections, cardiac arrest. He spent a good while in the ICU and is still in the hospital, in a transitional care unit. There were many times that my dad would call me in tears because he didn't know if his brother would pull through.  None of us knew.  Somehow he did, and he will tell you, well he told me today that God has a plan for him and my dad and that for some reason he is still around.  He was encouraging to my dad.  Its beyond me to think that back in November we didn't know if either one of these guys would make it through.  Yet today they were encouraging each other.  My uncle is so proud of my dad and when his buddies would come say hi to him in rehab he would always introduce my dad.  It was sweet to see.  They understand each other so well. 

On our way back from Shands he got his next 'assignment' for the day - here is a grocery list - lets go shopping!  I needed a few things from Walmart.  While we were there I got him to push the cart, mostly he did this with his left arm but I had him put his right hand on the handle to get a feel for it.  He had to find the milk and the cheese and the peanut butter and the broccoli....what a combination?!  I told him his reward was a bag of chips and some dip!  I have been told that he will do things for me that he won't do for others.  I will that out to his advantage....and help him progress on this journey. When it was time to check out, I had him find the barcode and scan the items and place them in the bag.  EVERYTHING is a a re-learning experience for him.  I enjoyed the time we had together.  When we came home, he had a little snack and rested for a bit before having lunch.  In the afternoon we worked on matching letters and saying what each letter is.  We also walked outside and enjoyed the warm weather.
I have included a video to give of his latest achievement.   

 I close this blog tonight, asking you all to really lift him and my family in prayer.  I try to highlight all that we do in a day when I do blog, and I try to show his improvements and what he is doing and keep it positive.  But in reality, every day is challenging.  Today the brakes on the truck sounded funny, the truck needs some work and is no longer safe to drive. This is one of those little reality checks for me.  If none of this had happened, we could easily go to him and ask what was wrong.  He could tell us and fix it and we would be on with our day.  But who do you trust with getting work done on your vehicle when he has always been the one to do it?  It feels like a slap in the face - your dad had a stroke - he is not currently able to diagnose nor fix the problem.  It doesn't make me sad that he can't fix it right now, it makes me sad to think about how much life has changed. My dad seemed really discouraged all day, he gets this certain look in his eyes and kinda just stares. We try to keep him busy when he is feeling like that but sometimes he just flat out refuses to do anything.  It takes my mom encouraging him and sometimes just pleading with him to keep trying.  Tonight was rough.  He is struggling.  He is frustrated.  He is sad.  He is discouraged.  He doesn't want to keep going like this. As strange as it seems he and I are oddly connected.  I face my own struggles, just like the next person.  Somehow we can both be struggling, not know it and find out later that we were both having the same thoughts and feelings at almost the same exact time.  There is always more than what meets the eye.  There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes.  Be gentle with those you meet and be gentle with the words you use.  And most importantly N-E-V-E-R walk out on somebody.  Even if you can't relate or fully grasp the extent of their pain, the worst thing you can do is say nothing or back away.  I love my dad so much.  I love my mom so much.  They are both fighters.