The summer has flown by. We are now almost to the end September, and I haven’t posted in quite awhile. I keep meaning to. Many times, I’ve sat down to do a blog post and then been caught up in something else like my other writing projects, or a Facebook page I run, and the next thing I know, there’s just no time left to write in this blog. I’ve even started writing this post, and then come back to it two weeks later.
It’s been a busy summer for Ben and I. I will share some photos, but it’s been so long since I posted last, I could overload the page if I’m not careful. Life has slowly been returning to “normal” and yet it will never be normal again. I guess perhaps it is more of a new normal. I started a new job, teaching from home online, while Ben’s neuropathy continues to get worse. Annie keeps growing and changing as she gets closer to being an adult dog, and our other two dogs have reached their senior years. Summer has felt like a whirlwind.
I’ve continued the physical and occupational therapy exercises throughout summer, but haven’t made it out to the gym as much as I wanted to. In the month of August, our puppy and I walked at least a mile every day. I’ve also continued to try to lift heavier things and build back my strength, as well as to do the physical therapy exercises I was taught to. It’s slowly paid off. A couple of weeks ago, I was finally able to lift a 50llb bag of rabbit food into a vehicle by myself. That may not seem like a big deal, but when you’ve lost as much strength as I had, it is.
I have good days and bad days as far as pain goes. When the weather changes, the pain often gets worse. I also had pain loading up the rabbit food in my left wrist, but that may be a life-long thing because of the damage. I tolerate it pretty well most of the time. My left leg continues to get stronger, and I can now lift it pretty high most days. When it rains, sometimes this all goes away and Ben will help me get into bed because it stiffens, and lifting it becomes very difficult. I am hoping that as it gets stronger, this will change. The quad muscle was damaged so much, along with nerves, and it is still weaker than on the right side, but I’m slowly getting it back. I also still have abdominal pain, although that’s gotten significantly better since last year’s surgery. I can always tell when I overdo it though, as the muscles in my core will start to protest.
The peripheral neuropathy that Ben has continues to spread. He is losing more feeling in his fingers and hands, as well as developing the same nerve pain that he has in his feet. We are hoping a nerve biopsy will be scheduled soon to try to determine what is causing it. He had cataract surgery in July, which has made a big difference in his vision. He was able to do the Farmer’s Market for most of the summer, but fall has been rough so far.
Summer Flew By!
Summer went by so fast! As I write this, fall has officially arrived. The leaves are changing, birds are migrating, and the nights are getting cooler. We’ve had a lot of rainy weather the last couple of days, and even turned on the furnace briefly.
We’ve enjoyed lots of blooms, especially from our native plants. I went to the rodeo with one of our nieces and one of our nephews. We got to meet a couple of authors at the AuSable Canoe Marathon, and enjoyed time outside. I’ll share a few photos below. Summer went by too fast, but I’ve always enjoyed the different seasons and am looking forward to the cooler weather and more rainy days. I’m counting the days until the first snowfall, as I always enjoy watching it come down. And yes, here in north-west lower Michigan, we often get snow in the fall.
Songs on Repeat:
Do It Again- Elevation Worship
It’s Going Down- KJ-52
I’ll Find You-Lecrae
If You Want Love- NF
Scripture and Quotes:
Now that I have returned to teaching, and summer is winding down, I hope to get back into blogging again on a regular basis. Until next time,
Sometimes it feels like time just flies by, and before you know it, it’s been over two months since I last posted anything. Time goes by too fast. We’ve been busy, and we’ve had a lot going on. This will be a longer than normal blog post, I suspect.
I’m not even really sure where to begin. I’ve started this blog post over and over again, but life gets in the way, and I haven’t published anything until now.
Physical/Occupational Therapy/ Medical Updates For Me (Cindy)
I’ve continued the PT and OT exercises I learned during my time in rehab. Sometimes it’s meant going to the gym to do them, other times going for a hike or trying to do everyday activities such as gardening and laundry. We’ve had a lot of medical appointments over the past couple of months too.
I’m not even sure how much I’ve mentioned it to anyone, but during the scans completed after the accident, the doctors found white spots on my brain. After waiting to get into a neurologist, and further testing, it is believed the spots were caused by a stroke many years ago, possibly even as an infant. So I’ve had more tests to confirm this, as well as to assess my risk for another stroke. I meet with the neurologist again in July and will hopefully know more then. So far, everything is looking pretty good, and we are hoping it will stay that way. But life has a way of throwing you a curve, so at the same time, we’re bracing ourselves for that possibility too.
Physically, I’m doing better and better each week. I’m able to move more, I’m not as sore as I was, and I’m gaining strength back. I still have days when I’m pretty weak on the left side, and I’ve been having a lot of nerve pain as things reconnect but am making good progress. Being on my feet for very long is painful, walking hurts if I walk for more than 15-20 minutes at a time, and my left wrist sometimes locks which is painful. I still have to be careful with all of the internal damage and nerve damage from the trauma. I may never regain full function of my left wrist, or the feeling in my left thigh, but I’ve come a long way. Most people would never know I was in a serious auto accident.
Ben’s Health Update:
Ben’s peripheral neuropathy continues to get worse. It is spreading into his hands and fingers, making it harder for him to grip things and open jars. The nerve pain, especially in his feet and legs, gets pretty intense at times. Basically, the nerves in his limbs are dying, but are going haywire in the meantime. So he doesn’t always feel when he steps on something, or grabs something sharp, but other times he gets super sharp nerve pain when he’s not doing anything at all.
We also recently found out he has a cataract. This is unusual for someone his age, and the doctors are not sure why he’s developed one, but his vision is pretty bad right now. He will be having surgery next month to repair it. It may be yet another symptom of whatever is going on with his body. We continue to pray for answers and seek out doctors who can help. We’ve tried a lot of things over the years, including natural remedies and elimination diets, but nothing has helped so far. In fact, some of the things have made it worse. We trust in all of this though that God has a plan beyond what we can understand.
Bring on Summer!
Summer is such a busy time of year for us. With a little help, I was able to get a garden in this year using buckets for containers and a couple of patches on the ground. I can’t wait to see what comes in for harvest this year!
I’ve started driving a little more again. I was driving again last summer, but after surgery in November, wasn’t able to for a while. As the warmer weather arrived and my body had time to recover more from the November surgery and infection in February, I was able to start driving again. It’s felt really good to get out and enjoy nature! I’ve been trying to stop between appointments to lakes and nature places, and on the rare day off, we intentionally schedule time to go too.
A few photos from the outdoor places and our garden:
Our puppy Annie is getting so big! She loves the outdoors and makes us laugh every day. We also had three baby rabbits born this summer, and introduced them to her. She LOVES the rabbits just as much as our older two dogs. A few photos of her adventures with us:
Songs on Repeat:
One Year Ago-KJ52
The Blessing- Kari Jobe and Cody Carnes
Goodness of God-Bethel Music
I’m Sorry- TobyMac
Give Me Your Eyes- Brandon Heath
Scripture and Quotes
Every Season Serves a Purpose
Life is full of ups and downs. For us, the past few years especially have been full of challenges and difficult times. Yet as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, there is joy even in the midst of the trials. We don’t know where this road is headed next. We don’t know where we’ll be a year from now, or if we’ll have any more answers than we do now.
What we do know is that there is a God in Heaven who has been with us every step of the way, and continues to be even now. What we do know is that He’s given us each other, and even when the road seems long and difficult, there is a plan and purpose beyond what we can comprehend. Every season serves a purpose.
This season we are in may seem long and sometimes never ending, but in the end, it is only a season. It will pass, like all the others before it. To quote Psalm 27:13:
“I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
Psalm 27:13, NRSV
Times may be tough, the season may be rough, but God is still good, and there is a plan and a purpose even for a season such as this.
It’s been over a month since I posted last. I feel like that’s kind of become routine. I’m hoping to build a better routine for blogging, but it seems like every time I start to build one, something else happens and it throws everything off.
Since I blogged last, I’ve been trying to get to the gym for physical therapy exercises and have done them at home quite a bit too. We ended up with a couple of ice storms this past month, both on days I had scheduled time open to go to the gym, so we’ve gone a little less than I would like to, but the weather should be getting warmer sooner. At home, we have a trampoline, balance board, balance ball, dumbbell weights, an exercise ball, mat, stretch bands, and a few other things so it’s better than nothing, but I prefer the gym. What we have still allows me to get in some physical therapy though. As the snow clears, I’ve been able to get out for walks more too. It’s felt so good to get out!
I still have some soreness from the November surgery, but it is slowly getting better. The infection I had in February seems to have healed up nicely, and we are watching closely in case anything tries to come back anytime soon.
As far as occupational therapy, I keep doing things around the house as much as I can to work my wrists and hands. Annie, our new puppy, helps a lot with that too. She loves to play tug of war and gets my wrist moving in a lot of different ways. We started seeing a new chiropractor as well, someone closer to where we live. She specializes in sports medicine and does physical therapy in addition to chiropractic. I’m noticing more movement in my wrist and less pain in the hip, so hopefully we will continue to see improvement.
Annie is getting so big! We are enjoying every moment with her. She LOVES being outside with me, and loves to play with Ben, myself, and our other two dogs. Her favorite toys are pull-ropes and stuffed animals. So far, she hasn’t been very destructive with toys though. She just plays with them and moves on to the next one. We are very thankful to have her in our lives! We’ve been tracking her growth week to week, and I’ve included some photos.
Songs on Repeat
KJ-52- One Year Ago
Grits-My Life Be Like
Start Over- Flame featuring NF
Scripture and Quotes:
Aslan Is On The Move
“Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight, At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more. When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death, and when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.”
C.S. Lewis, Chronicles of Narnia
The Chronicles of Narnia has been one of my favorite series since I was a child. I shared a couple of quotes above, and I think about them often, especially this time of year.
Living in the snowbelt of Northern Lower Michigan, it’s not uncommon for us to have snow until at least May, or even into June. Some of the “old timers” who have lived in the area a long time, will tell you they’ve seen snow pretty much every month of the year. So by the time we get to this part of the year, we are all ready for spring to come, yet it seems so far off.
I think often of Narnia. If you’ve never read the series, there is a witch who makes it always winter but never Christmas, and spring never comes. When the lion in the story, Aslan, begins to move, winter can no longer take its hold. It has to leave. The lion is more powerful than the witch.
For Ben and I, the last few years especially have sometimes felt like an endless winter. Sometimes it seems like difficult things keep happening. It’s like a cold, frozen, dark season that goes on forever and ever.
And yet, we know the Lion moves. In our Christian faith, the Lion in The Chronicles of Narnia is often viewed as being an allegory for Jesus. As Romans 8:28 so beautifully states, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”
Times may be tough, but it will not last forever. Spring will come. Better times will come. Even with all the difficulties we face, we know there is a reason and a purpose, and that better things lay ahead.
Today, looking out the window, we can see the sunshine. Tomorrow, it is supposed to snow. But we know it won’t last forever. Aslan is on the move! Winter cannot keep its hold on us, and eventually, we will get through the tough times of winter and move into a new season. Until then, we have each other, and our faith grows stronger in the trials. And soon, perhaps very soon, spring will finally arrive.
It is hard to believe it’s been almost a month since I was in the hospital again. You can read a little about it here: https://talesfromnorthcountry.com/2022/02/14/its-not-always-about-us/. I ended up spending five days in the hospital. They found I had cellulitis, caused by a staph infection in my thigh and near my hip. We were afraid it had gone into the hip joint, and that I could be septic, but thankfully we caught it in time. After a lot of tests and nearly a week in the hospital with IV antibiotics, I was released with antibiotics to recover at home.
The infection has been slowly healing. I still have some soreness, discoloration, and a lot of itching, but that has been slowly getting better as well. I haven’t done a lot for physical therapy over the past few weeks as the leg heals but have tried to do a few at home as long as the pain is tolerable.
Occupational therapy continues to be everyday tasks at home. With the infection, I was pretty sick at first, but have been able to do a little bit more as I start to get better and stronger again. I still have some soreness from the November surgery, but it has gotten a lot better than it was. All of the trauma and surgeries have taken a toll on my body, and I’m just run down. 7 surgeries, at least 11 broken bones, and internal damage is a lot to recover from.
Songs on Repeat
Goodness of God by Bethel
House of the Lord by Phil Wickham
Here I am To Worship by Hillsong
Scripture and Quotes
A Little Joy
Towards the end of February, we added a new addition to our family. Meet Annie. She is a basset hound puppy. Her name means “grace” or ““God has favored me.”
Almost two years ago, I graduated with my second Master’s degree in the midst of the Covid Pandemic. The one thing I really wanted as a gift was a puppy. We searched shelters and many different sites, trying to find one, but people were grabbing up puppies as fast as they arrived. Both of our other dogs are rescues, and they were a little older when we got them. Still in the puppy stage, but halfway through it, so we wanted a younger dog this time around.
Then the accident happened, and everything got put off. After almost a year and a half of searching and waiting, we finally were able to find someone who had puppies. We went on the waiting list, and were finally able to get a puppy in February.
Annie has brought a lot of joy into our lives in the couple of weeks we’ve had her. A few photos…
Life is full of ups and downs, and she’s added lots of laughter and happiness during some very difficult times in our lives. Before the November surgery, I was hiking regularly and getting stronger with physical therapy. Since the surgery, it has been a long recovery. My body is just worn down, and I’ve only been out snowshoeing once all winter, before the infection and hospital stay.
I am hoping as my body begins to recover more, I will be able to take Annie and our two other dogs out for hikes. Not all at once of course, unless I have someone else with me willing to take a dog, but it will be good to get out again. I’ve missed it! I am hoping with surgery behind me, and the infection healing, I will finally be able to get back to getting stronger and feeling better again. It’s been a long journey! I’m so very thankful for the little joys in life, like sweet puppy snuggles, the kind words of a friend through a card, and beautiful sunrises despite the winter cold. Life moves forward, even in difficult times, and finding the little pieces of joy, no matter how small, makes the dark times a little easier.
Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and other updates….
It’s been a busy couple of weeks. As I’ve slowly recovered from surgery in November and getting sick in January, I’ve started doing physical therapy exercises more consistently. Ben and I also signed up for a Gym membership. I’m hoping to regain the strength I lost on my left side after surgery in November. I also have a great workout buddy!
I’ve also continued to do everyday things around the house, such as laundry and dishes. Thanks to the help of one of our nephews and one of our nieces, I’ve even been able to get some cleaning and organizing done. I’m really trying to get back to a regular chair, instead of a recliner most of the time. I was getting there in November, but the last surgery took a lot out of me.
Our niece and nephew also went out snowshoeing with me. I knew it wasn’t safe to go alone, so they went with me. My hip was hurting a lot by the time we finished, and it took us over an hour and a half to go less than a mile. We used hand warmers to keep my hip and wrist from being to cold. My pain increases a lot when they get cold. We had to take breaks a lot, but it felt really good to get out.
As I write this, I’m actually in the emergency room. Last night, I developed a fever and wasn’t feeling well. I figured I was catching something. This morning, I woke up to a red hip and thigh. The skin is hot to the touch and very painful and itchy.
After a lot of tests, they believe I have an infection. As soon as they have a bed open, I’m getting transferred to Traverse City with more tests to come tomorrow. They plan to do a hip aspiration to find out more about the infection and go from there. Sometimes it seems this journey doesn’t end.
Scripture and quotes:
Songs on Repeat
Goodness Of God, by Bethel Music
Believer, by Imagine Dragons
Help is On The Way, by TobyMac
It’s Not Always About Us
If there is anything I’ve learned along this journey, it’s that it’s not always about us. Things that happen to us, difficult things we go through, problems we face. They aren’t just about us
Sometimes what happens to us are really opportunities to make someone else’s life better. Maybe through a smile at a nurse whose had a rough day, or a prayer for the person in another room who is obviously suffering. There is a bigger plan than just us and what happens to us. We never know the impact we have on someone else.
Going through difficult things can actually have a positive influence on someone else. I truly believe everything happens for a reason. We never know whose life is going to be better because of our hard times, because of how we respond and how we react to challenges. Difficult times are a part of life, but they don’t have to break us. Instead, we can use them to hopefully inspire others and make someone else’s life at least a little better.
Life isn’t about us. It’s about so much more. When we look for opportunities to help others and make their day just a little brighter, no matter how bad our day is, we can give others hope and inspiration.
If you’re facing tough times, it may not be about you. It may be about the opportunity to inspire and bless people you encounter on your journey. Look for those opportunities.
January has been a very off month. I was planning to start back up with physical therapy exercises, and even had an appointment scheduled to tour a gym, but then got sick. Ben was sick over Christmas and New Year’s, and then I came down with whatever he had near the beginning of January. So, the gym tour had to be postponed. I love the hospital gym I went to before surgery, after outpatient physical therapy, but scheduling with their classes and everything else we had going on was becoming difficult. Instead, Ben and I decided to do a gym membership so we could go together and have a more flexible schedule. Between a long recovery from surgery, and then getting sick, I’ve lost a fair amount of strength. I think my body is just run down.
A few days after I got sick, Ben became ill again. It’s been a long month with both of us slowly recovering. I am hoping to schedule a gym tour soon and get a membership so I can get back at independent PT and strengthening my left side. In the meantime, I’ve been doing the physical therapy exercises at home that I learned during my time in in-home and outpatient physical therapy.
Occupational therapy continues to be mostly everyday tasks. With Ben being sick, I’ve been doing more of the cooking. I’ve never been much of a cook, but I’m learning to make a few things that are pretty good. One of our dogs used to sit and whine whenever I would attempt to cook because it never turned out well, but he’s starting to accept that I can cook a little. Sometimes I think he’s even looking forward to my cooking. 🙂 A few of the things I’ve made… Taco salad, fried chicken breast, Tator tot casserole.
I am noticing a big difference outside this year. The pain in my left wrist especially, which has two metal plates, gets pretty intense. The colder the weather is, the worst the pain. My hip and ankle sometimes get annoyed with the cold too, but are easier to protect than my wrist, especially if I want to do anything with my hands outside. I am hoping handwarmers will help with this some at least.
Living in the snowbelt of northwest lower Michigan, we tend to get a fair amount of snow. This year, we’ve had less than normal but got hit pretty hard over the last few days. I’ve been trying to take short walks around our yard. Walking in the snow isn’t easy for me, but I’m sure it will get easier with time. Like I said, I lost quite a bit of strength after the last surgery and am hoping to get it back. I do have snowshoes and want to try snowshoeing again soon, but it’s been so cold, and my body just doesn’t tolerate the cold temperatures well anymore.
Both of our dogs love the snow, especially our Catahoula. It can be pretty much a blizzard and he wants to go outside at least for a little bit. I’ve shared a photo of him enjoying some of the recent snow we had.
Songs on Repeat
Love Feels Like- TobyMac, Michael Tait, Kevin Max
Hurt -Johnny Cash
Ring of Fire- Johnny Cash
Keep Your Head Up- Andy Grammer
Quotes and Scripture From This Month:
When Life Gives You Lemons
This past year hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park. Between the car accident, deaths in the family, sickness, appliances breaking, and just life in general, things have been hard at times. The saying “When life gives you lemon, make lemonade” comes to mind in all of this. It’s a way of finding the positive, even in the really difficult times. A way of sweetening something that should be sour.
This isn’t always easy. But finding the sweet in the sour makes things a little more bearable at least. We’ve had a lot of lemons this past year. Yet there continue to be sweet moments too. Like the beautiful sunsets against the snow, or the chickadees coming to our birdfeeders to eat, or the extra time we’ve had to rest and recuperate because we both ended up sick.
For both Ben and I, our faith helps a lot with this. Knowing that even in the worst of times, God has a plan and a purpose for it all. Even before the accident, I would often try to find things I was grateful for. It helps put things into perspective and makes the difficult seem just a little less so. Life is full of lemons. But we don’t have to focus on that. We can choose instead to focus on the sweetness, and make lemonade.
Every year, I like to make and set goals for myself. You can read about the goals from 2021 and 2022 here: https://talesfromnorthcountry.com/2021/12/31/new-years-resolutions-2022/ Over the past several years, I have had people ask me about my system for setting and reaching goals. It’s fairly extensive and I realize it may not work for everyone, but it works for me.
One of the first things I do is to think about where I want to be a year from now, five years from now, and ten years from now. This can be career related, hobby related, location related, fitness related or anything else I want to change in my life. I like to work backwards. So I start with where I want to be in five or ten years and go backwards from there.
Also, I’ve been learning I need to limit goals. Charlie Gilkey (I’ll link to his book later) does a great job of talking about this in his book Start Finishing. He suggests picking no more than 3-5 goals (or projects as he calls them) at a time. So I limit myself every year to 3-5 projects, all based on where I want to be in 5 or 10 years but narrowed down so they are doable in a year.
I’m also learning to set SMART goals. Gilkey talks about this a lot. I made up my own pintables to help me to do so, but there are many out there. I will link to them below if anyone wants to print off the ones I made and use them. I shared a picture below that breaks down how I set the goals, thinking about each component (are they specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely?) Gilkey’s planner adds to this a lot. My sheets are just extras because I wanted more space to actually write out each goal and reflect on it.
One, Five and Ten Year Plans
It’s hard to plan too far ahead because life gets in the way. I start with an idea of where I want to be, but the real planning is for the next year. My 5- and 10-year goals play a role in where I want to be a year from now, but I don’t do a lot with them. For example, I want to be a published author. I want to write books. The reality is that writing books takes time, and it may take me closer to 5 or even 10 years to reach that goal. I could write out an entire five-year plan to write several books in the next few years and try to get them published, but life gets in the way, and I would likely never reach that goal.
So instead, I focus on the upcoming year. I know that long term, I want to publish several books. That’s a great goal, but too much can change between now and year 5. So instead, I make a plan for the coming year. What can I do this year? I can write a book, edit it, and begin to look for beta readers. I may even be able to get it sent out to publishers. So that becomes a goal for the coming year, knowing that in five years I want to have more than one book published, but I’m going to focus on one year at a time. I believe it is important to think about the future but planning too far in advance can lead to a lot of frustration if things don’t pan out.
One Year Goal Month by Month
Once I have an idea of where I want to go long term, I make a plan for the year on how I’m going to get there. I lay out quarterly and monthly plans. I use a system through Productive Flourishing Momentum Planners. The owner also wrote a book called ‘Start Finishing.‘ I highly recommend the book if you really want to start finishing projects you start. Productive Flourishing Planners have pages to layout the year and months. You can get a month at a time free on their site, but I recommend purchasing the planner. You can choose a digital PDF version or a printed copy, and I believe they are working on an app as well which should be available next year. I don’t get anything for advertising their products, but their planners have helped me so much, I like to tell others about them whenever I can.
Using their planners, I layout each quarter and each month. I set goals for each quarter, then use those goals to set goals for the month. Going back to my writing goal, I would break that goal down. So instead of “This year, I will write a book,” the goal becomes “In this quarter, I will write 80,000 words in my story.” Then, In January, I will write 50,000 words.” In February, I might write “In February, I will write 30,000 more words.” In March, the goal might be “I will catchup any missed words and begin the editing process.”
Over the course of the year, I will break down what I need to do to reach the initial goal of publishing a book. This includes editing, beta readers, and sending it to a publisher. I lay it out in the planners and set deadlines for myself of when each thing needs to be done. Everything from the quarterly and month goals then gets transferred week by week to the weekly planners, with the goals broken down a little more.
Weekly and Daily
Every week, I look at my schedule for the week and my goals for that month. I set goals for that week, based on the overall goal for that month. For example, if my goal in January is to write 50,000 words, I divide that by the number of weeks in January (about 4) and make a goal for the week based on that. I would aim to write about 12,500 words that week. I would then divide this up by the number of words to write per day (1785) and by the end of the month, I should have at least 50,000 words.
Now, when I look at my weekly schedule, let’s say I notice Friday is a really busy day that week. As I move from writing my weekly schedule to my daily schedule, I will keep this in mind and set a lower goal for that day. Instead of setting my goal to write 1785 words that day, I’ll add extra words to another day and write more to make up the difference. In that way, I can still reach my goal, but I’ve got a better cushion when life gets in the way.
At the end of the day, week, month, quarter, and year, I try to take time to reflect on where I’m at with my goals. This doesn’t happen every day, or even every week. Life gets in the way. But it’s still important to keep track of where I’m at and consider where I want to go from there.
I also use visual trackers, such as goal ladders and habit tracker sheets, to help me stay on task and keep track of where I’m at with a goal. This also helps me see if I need to adjust my goal. For example, maybe in January, I plan to write 50,000 words, but then I get sick. (Let’s hope that doesn’t happen, but it has in the past.) My visual tracker would either be blank because I was too sick to write on it, or I would have just scribbled “sick” across those days. Now, as I write my goals for the rest of the month each week, or when I get to February’s goal, I may need to adjust. Maybe I’m not going to reach 50,000 words in January, but I can do more in February and push some into March. Or, maybe the goal needs to change all together because of what happened that month.
This isn’t to be an excuse for never reaching my goals. Rather it’s a cushion for times when life does happen; the tire is flat on my car when I am trying to get to the gym; the power goes out when I’ve committed to reading another chapter and I can’t find a flashlight; I get super sick right in the middle of trying to finish 50,000 words in a month. All of these are real life situations that happen. They can stop me for a day, or even a couple of weeks, but the important thing is to not let the setbacks stop me all together. I make adjustments to my goals as needed, and move forward, knowing that at the end of the year, I can look back and say I tried my hardest and did my best despite any obstacles that came my way.
Do I reach every goal 100% of the time? Nope. And that’s ok. I reconfigure and keep going. Change your plan if needed, even change your dreams if you can tell they are shifting, but don’t give up reaching for your goals.
Do you have to do every part of what I do? Nope. That’s the beauty of a plan. It’s your own. You can use what works for you, and even combine this system with another. It’s about finding what works best for you to help you reach the goals you want to accomplish.
The important thing is to find what works and stick with it. Don’t give up just because it gets hard, because it will get hard! I think I could do an entire blogpost just on chasing dreams and not giving up. But just know that once you start trying to set goals and chase your dreams, it will be hard, but it will be worth it in the end. There’s a difference between changing your dreams because they’ve changed and grown with you, and giving up on your dreams. Make a plan, be ready to adjust that plan, but never give up on reaching the final goal unless you know for certain that final goal needs to change.
Sometimes I can be wordy. So here is a quick summary of the above:
Amazing Resources I’ve found over the last few years:
(Most cost, but are so worth it!)
Links to Gilkey’s Planners and his book…. Because I can’t recommend them enough!!!!
Links to other helpful planning sheets I’ve found:
(Again, I don’t get paid to share any of these, I just like to share great products when I find them!)
What a year this has been! I’ve spent pretty much this entire year recovering from the auto accident. Ben’s neuropathy continues to get worse, with no known cause. We’ve had our share of ups and downs this year, with it sometimes seeming like the downs outweigh the ups.
Sometimes finding the good with all the bad can be difficult. As we look back on 2021, we are thankful that we are both still here. We are both alive. Most of the animals are still alive. We lost our rabbit Samwise while I was in the hospital but gained some new baby bunnies over the summer. We have a house to live in, and good food to eat. We can read almost anything we want to read at the click of a button, and worship as we choose. As I write this, I’m typing it from a decent computer that runs pretty well, and I have the ability to back up things as needed. We have cold, fresh water to drink whenever we want it, indoor plumbing and electricity. It’s been a tough few years, but there is still so much to be thankful for.
We look to 2022, with hope and anticipation of what is yet to come. And with that, we plan for the year ahead, knowing any plan made isn’t likely to stick 100%, but striving to reach at least some goals.
Review of Last Year’s Goals
Every year, I (Cindy) set goals for myself. Here are my goals last year, and how I did on completing them:
1. Regain my independence: I’ve regained much of my independence. I lost some of it after the latest surgery but am in the process of gaining it back.
2. Regain my strength: I’ve regained much of my strength, then lost some of it after the latest surgery. I will soon be beginning the process again to get my strength back.
3. Have any further surgeries that I need to have and come back from that: I had the latest surgery in November, and am in the process of getting stronger from it.
4. Finish my book series, Or at least get it organized enough that I can have a deadline better for finishing it: I did not complete this goal. Looking back, it was pretty unrealistic, all things considered. I did get a fair amount of writing done, despite having two broken wrists, and I started to organize things a little more. I also started a different series, with the goal of completing the first book in that within the next year, and coming back to my longer series at another time.
5. Start a book about my experiences: I started a book about my experiences. I’ve gotten about 11,000 words. It’s a work in progress.
6. Write at least 10,000 more words in my series before the end of January using Voice to text.:I was not able to meet this goal. My hip re-dislocated during rehab, and I ended up having four more surgeries by the end of January.
7. Blog more regularly: I have blogged more regularly on www.talesfromnorthcountry.com, but not as much on www.myamuseinglife.com. I hope to do more of both in the coming year. Just in case anyone is wondering, My Amuseing Life is not a spelling mistake, it is done this way on purpose, as a play on words. A-muse-ing, with muse being one of the keywords of the blog. It is my blog for creative writing, everything from fiction, poetry, writing prompts, and more.
Goals for Next Year:
Over the past few years, I’ve started using a system from Charlie Gilkey, author of Start Finishing. He also has a business, Productive Flourishing, that puts out amazing planners. I read a lot of self-help books, but his system is one of the best I’ve found. One of the things he recommends is only doing 3 to 5 projects at one time. So with that, I’m trying to limit my goals for the coming year to five.
Goals for 2022:
By December 31, 2022, I will write a book, edit it, send it to beta readers, and seek out getting it published. This goal might be too much for one year with everything we’ve had going on, but I do have quite a bit written already, and I really want to start pursuing publishing more. So I am hoping to meet this goal, or at least most of it.
By December 31, 2022, I will make time to enjoy a variety of my hobbies each week, including in music, reading, photography, birdwatching, arts and crafts, and writing. My hobbies are important to me, but I often don’t make time to do them. I read a book called Atomic Habits, by James Clear this year, and have been working on adding my hobbies into routines I already do.
By December 31, 2022, I will gain strength and become more physically fit. This one is extremely important after the accident. I really need to complete workouts and physical therapy exercises to regain strength. I am hoping in the process, I will become more physically fit, but my main focus for this year is on regaining strength and building my endurance.
By December 31, 2022, I will complete tasks around the house following weekly, monthly, and yearly checklists. I’ve actually done this one for several years now, but with limiting myself on goals and trying to do well with what I am doing, this really needs to be one of the projects I do. It takes time to complete chores and other tasks around the house, so I need to make it part of what I’m doing. Otherwise, I try for too many projects and don’t complete half of them, and then feel discouraged.
By December 31, 2022, I will create and carry out goals related to work, including teaching, blogging and photography. This was a really tricky one to write. Normally, I would narrow it down more. I had hoped to return to teaching in January, but recovery from the latest surgery is taking longer than expected. I try to treat my blogging and photography like jobs, as I do sometimes get income from them, and I want to do better in both areas too. When I am able to return to teaching, I will create goals for myself based on the current needs. In the meantime, Occupational Therapy encouraged me to blog as much as I can, as it helps build my endurance for typing. I was also encouraged to do more with my photography, as using my hands more can help build endurance with my wrists as well. So it becomes like a second job and third job in a sense. It’s really hard to write goals for these areas with things up in the air, so this area will become a series of mini goals throughout the year. I may also have to change some of my other goals a little bit, or may not meet them 100%, but this is just an unusual year with everything that’s happened.
Physical and Occupational Therapy/ Surgery Recovery
The recovery from the surgery I had in November continues to be longer than expected. I have been slowly building my stamina back up, and am able to do a little more most days. I still have days when I’m pretty sore, but have found if I rest for a day or two, the soreness mostly goes away and then I am less sore and able to do more afterwards.
Physical therapy has pretty much been put on hold until I recover more. I have been trying to do some simple PT exercises that my therapists taught me, such as lifting my legs as high as I can and rolling my ankles, but for the most part, I am not able to do a lot yet. I am getting closer though, and hope to return to PT after the New Year. For Occupational Therapy, most of what I do involves common, everyday things around the house such as pulling out laundry from the washer to the dryer, or folding it to put the laundry away. Sometimes I will use weights or a hammer with my wrists to help stretch the muscles out when they get tight.
My writing was slowed a little bit the past week, with the power outage. I’m hoping to catch back up in the next couple of days. I am aiming to write at least 50,000 words like I did for NaNoWriMo in November. So far, I’ve managed to write about 34,000 words this month.
I am also hoping to start posting a little more on www.myamuseinglife.com. It has been hard to get back into a routine now that I am able to type more, but I would really like to get my writing blog back up more.
Books On My Shelf
Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess, by Dr. Caroline Leaf
Feeding the Soul, by Tabitha Brown
Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers
The Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
Please note: I recommend books I am enjoying, but may still be reading some of them. It is always possible I may miss something inappropriate or may not have read a section yet that is inappropriate. Also, things I don’t have a problem with, others may find offensive and vice versa. While I am enjoying and recommend these books, please use your own discretion when picking out books to read.
Scripture and Quotes:
Tis The Season
We are hoping to get a family photo at some point, but I thought I would share photos of our dogs for now, with their Christmas Bandanas. Christmas has been my favorite holiday pretty much my entire life. I like to go all out, with decorations both inside and outside the house as early in the season as we can get them up, and Christmas music playing, as well as special treats throughout the month of December. Last year, it was a very different celebration which I wrote about here…https://talesfromnorthcountry.com/2021/01/01/a-christmas-to-remember/.
This year is still not going to be a “normal” Christmas for us. Between me still healing from surgery, a power outage, and Ben’s health, the entire season feels off. It’s not our normal. But it is a new normal. We’ve been having a lot of conversations about starting some new traditions and finding a new normal in all of this.
Ultimately, no matter what we end up doing, what matters most is the reason we even celebrate Christmas to begin with. Now I realize there are many different beliefs out there, and not everyone agrees on Christmas. To me, Christmas is the time of year we celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. I know this likely isn’t His actual birthday, and I am also aware that much of Christmas as we know actually came from pagans.
But I choose to celebrate because I want to honor the One who came to save the world. I need to be reminded every year, not only of the fact that He came, but how He came. Every year, we put up a tree and I reminded that my Savior gave His life on a tree for us. We add tinsel, and I am reminded of how Jesus is the One true King. We put up the lights, and I am reminded that He is the light of the world. We add ornaments, and I am reminded of all the years He’s given me on this earth so far. So much of this season reminds me of my faith. No matter what happens, no matter what traditions we miss out on, or how difficult things are, the one thing that remains constant is the Reason for the Season.
Last Christmas was a Christmas to Remember. This Christmas is as well, in different ways. In many ways, every Christmas is special, unique. Yet some stand out more than others, and the past couple of years are an example of this. Tis the season for lights, tinsel, gifts, time with family, decorations, and so many other things. Yet it is also the season of hope. Of a belief in a better tomorrow, and a time to celebrate a Babe born so long ago who came to save the world.
I know for non-believers, it doesn’t always make sense. There is so much about the Christian faith that relies on belief, not seeing. To quote from The Santa Claus movie “Seeing isn’t believing; Believing is seeing.” Sometimes, I think more often than not, we aren’t going to see the entire path in front of us. We just have to believe that it’s there.
This season may be different for us than many others in the past, but we choose to celebrate no matter what circumstances we find ourselves because it isn’t just about tinsel, and lights, good food, time with family and all the other little things we do. It’s about so much more. It’s about hope, faith, and love. It’s about a love so great that a baby would be born, and grow up to suffer and die for us. Our circumstances cannot change that. Tis the season for joy, for reflection and peace. Because in this season, we got the greatest gift we could have possibly dreamed of, and nothing on this earth can ever change that.
With today being the one-year anniversary of our accident, this post will be a little bit different. I had hoped to post earlier last week, but we lost power due to a wind storm. I hope to do another regular post and update before Christmas.
December 19, 2020
One year ago today, our world changed forever. You can read about that day here:
It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since that horrific day. It’s a day we will remember for the rest of our lives. We set out on an everyday common adventure. A trip to the store, a trip for Christmas items. It was something we’d done many times before and since. But that day was different.
That day we were swept off to an adventure of epic proportions. A dangerous, life-threatening adventure that nearly took my life, but an adventure, nonetheless.
Life is full of adventure, danger and challenges we must face. Some of them are mundane, every day tasks that take us from one thing to the next. Some of them are much more exctiing and fun. Others are dangerous and even deadly. We don’t always get to choose which adventures we take. Sometimes life chooses for us.
This past week is another example of that. Thursday night, we had a major windstorm where we live, with hurricane level 1 force winds, even though we don’t have hurricanes in northwest lower Michigan. But this storm was strong, and the strength of it took down trees and powerlines. We ended up without power and heat for several days.
The first day, we lit candles and opened up window shades the best we could so we could see. I huddled under blankets for warmth as the temperature in the house dropped into the 50’s. Ben and I spent the day reading books, enjoying good conversation and checking our phones to see when the power might come back on. We have a couple of battery packs, so we were able to charge devices, but by the end of the day, the batteries in those were pretty well drained.
By Friday morning, our cell phone batteries were draining, and the temperature in the house had dropped to 48. Originally, the power was expected to be restored Friday morning early, but it wasn’t, and the new time was for Sunday (today), early morning. We packed in a rather dark house, taking what we could find and see that we might need for a few days, then headed downstate to where my parents live for a visit.
We’ve spent the weekend at their house, on the family Homestead in Sanford. I’m sure another time I’ll do a separate post on the Homestead, but for now, I’ll just share a couple of photos. As a child, I helped to plant these white pine trees. It became kind of an annual tradition on Earth day. They have gotten so big! There are so many memories of great adventures on the Homestead, but that is another story for another day.
I am still sore, and wasn’t able to do a lot, but we could ride around to look at lights, and enjoyed time just sitting and talking. One of our nieces is also recovering from a recent foot surgery, so we got to visit with her as well and share stories of my own experiences with her.
It was very nice to visit with family, and we got to see some Christmas lights too. One of the light displays is a part of Sanford Shines. You may have heard about the dams breaking in the Sanford area in 2020. You can find ways to help the community through Sanford Strong, and footage of the flooding here:
Some of the lights we saw:
2020 was a rough year for so many people, and for my parents, their town was basically wiped out when area dams burst in May of 2020. The year would end with a bang, literally, when our accident happened.
Ordinary Becomes Extraordinary
I know I’ve written several posts this year about getting through tough times and finding joy even it’s hard. I saw a post from someone on Social Media awhile back that talked about finding the extraordinary in the mundane, and I think this concept really helps getting through even the worst of circumstances.
Instead of running an errand, I’m completing a side quest. I’m not cleaning under the couch, I’m looking for buried treasure. I’m not a victim of a car accident. I was sent on a dangerous, extraordinary quest, and along the way, I met incredible people who helped me recover from the injuries I received during an encounter with the ice beast. Mindset is everything.
When the ordinary becomes the extraordinary, I think the really difficult things in life get just a little easier. We can face dangerous, even deadly situations, knowing that it’s all part of something greater than ourselves. There are no ordinary days, no regular people. Everyone has a roll to play in a story so much greater than any of us could ever imagine.
Sure, this year has been dangerous. Even scary and life-threatening at times. But it has also been an adventure. An adventure that continues to this day. But what would life be without it? If everything was always safe and warm, and cozy? We need adventure, even with all of the dangers that are faced along the way, the monsters and beasts we fight, the life-threatening situations we find ourselves in. Without adventure, life may be safe and calm but we would also miss out. We wouldn’t meet the incredible people we do on adventures, or find ourselves looking at life in another way because we can’t just turn out a light switch or turn up the heat. We would miss amazing sunrises and waves rolling in off the Great Lakes, or the silence in the woods after a fresh fallen snow. There are gifts, sometimes very special gifts for us on the most dangerous of adventures, if we will just stop and take the time to see them.
So I choose to see this as a great adventure, as part of a plan far greater than myself. I choose to find the extraordinary even in the ordinary, to find adventure in every single day. It’s not always easy, but the greatest adventures never are.
What a year this has been! I look back on this past year, and I’m amazed at how far God has brought me. I look to the next with anticipation of what adventures lay just ahead, and I watch for the ordinary to become extraordinary.
Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Surgery
About three weeks ago, I had surgery to fix some of the internal damage caused during the accident. As I mentioned before, I had two hernias that needed to be fixed, one large and one small, involving a couple of my organs. The surgery itself went pretty well, but during surgery, they discovered that what they thought was a small hernia was much larger than expected, and more of my organs than initially thought were involved. The surgery took longer than planned, and recovery is also taking longer. It ended up being a pretty major surgery, but thankfully the doctors were still able to do it robotically with just a couple of extra small cuts.
I have a weight restriction until at least the first week in December, and have to limit exercise to walking. I haven’t been able to do many chores over the past three weeks either. Most of Physical therapy has been put on hold until I recover from this surgery enough to start back up. I will begin increasing how much weight I lift in the next couple of weeks, and see how it goes. Recovery has been much slower than we expected, but each day I am able to do a little bit more.
One of the few perks of not being able to do much after surgery is having more time to write. I have a wireless keyboard and mouse, so I’m able to sit back with an ice pack on my stomach and write while I rest. I mentioned writing briefly a couple of posts ago, and again in my Thanksgiving post, but wanted to talk more about it.
I’ve been a writer since I could put pencil to paper. I’ve written articles for others blogs and newspapers, run my own blogs such as this one and www.myamuseinglife.com, and had a little something published in someone else’s book, but I have yet to publish my own books. Over the past eight years, I’ve really started taking my writing seriously and tried to write more each year. For the most part, even with getting two Master’s degree, I’ve been successful at writing more and more. Until this year at least. Not being able to write has been really tough. I found ways to keep trying to write, like speech to text, but it hasn’t been easy, and I’ve found myself feeling anxious a lot. It’s made me realize just how true the following quote is:
Writing has become as natural as breathing. November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo as we call it in the writing world. If you aren’t familiar with it, it is where you write 50,000 words or more in a month. Some people are what we call “NaNoWriMo Rebels,” and they may set smaller goals as well. I did this back in July, knowing I wasn’t likely to hit the 50,000 with everything going on. My goal in July was 15,000 and I was able to meet that.
I usually do NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo (which run in April and July) every year, every chance I get. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I succeed. But I try to remind myself that every word I write is more than what I would have had otherwise. NaNoWriMo has changed my writing life, and I often write 50,000 words under normal circumstances during non-NaNoWriMo months as well. Before the accident, it wasn’t uncommon for me to have 5000-6000 word days, especially after I finished my second Master’s degree and had more time to write. Sometimes I would even have 8000-10,000 word days.
Since the accident, I’ve been able to write very little. Most of the writing in this blog after the accident was done at first using a microphone and speech to text software. As I started being able to type, I began writing more with the keyboard, but it’s been a long road back.
This month, November of 2021, I met my NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words. I averaged about 2000 words a day, took a few days off for surgery recovery, and had a few 4000-5000 word days as well. I even managed to finish a few days early, and started writing more in another series I’m working on. All together, I’ve written over 60,000 words this month. This is huge. It’s still only half of what I could write on an average day, which means if I had the time and physical ability, I could probably write almost twice that in some months, but I managed to meet my goal. It was a pretty big deal, and another step on my road to recovery. It’s also helped to keep my mind busy while recovering from surgery, since it is taking much longer than expected. So this week, I celebrate not only meeting that goal but going over it.
We’ve mentioned Ben’s health a few times. Most people know that he has idiopathic peripheral neuropathy. We still don’t have any real answers on his health, and the neuropathy has started spreading to his hands. We try to just take it one day at a time. He has several medications that he takes. One of them makes him sleepy a lot, but it has helped him get more rest and improved his overall mood and pain level when he is awake. Hopefully one day we will have more answers than questions, but for now, we keep searching and asking those questions.
Songs on Repeat
Help Is On The Way- TobyMac
Lauren Daigle- Rescue
Lecrae- I’ll Find You
This one really isn’t a song, but worth the share…Jordan Peterson; A Wing and A Prayer
Scripture and Quotes
It’s Enough to Keep Going
This year really hasn’t been an easy one. If we’re honest, we’ve had a lot of really difficult years. A lot of loss, pain, death, sorrow.
Ben and I will celebrate ten years of marriage on Friday, and even in all the loss, even with all the pain and grief we’ve faced, there is still light and hope. Our relationship is strong, and good. God has given us each other to lean on even in the really tough times. And there certainly have been a lot of them, but that seems to be so much of life. Just when we think things might get easier, better, something else happens. Life is full of surprises. To quote Michonne from ‘The Walking Dead’ TV show:
“But it hasn’t gotten any easier. Sun keeps rising. Days keep passing. World keeps spinning. Time- it just keeps moving forward. Weeks, months, even years go by., while you try to make sense of it all. Try to find where you belong, try to look ahead to a better future. But the truth is, the path ahead has only grown darker. It’s harder to see. You can feel so lost, so alone, so desperate for something, anything that might show you the way.
But even now, after all this time, surrounded by darkness, there are still flashes of light, tiny beacons that shine out, calling to us. It’s not enough to light the way ahead, but it’s enough to keep going. Keep trying, keep fighting, Keep dreaming. So that’s what I do. Every second of every day. For you, for us. I haven’t given up, and I never will.”
Life is full of so many twists and turns. Sometimes it feels very dark, and yet the light is always there. Our Christian faith carries us through these dark times. Our trust that God is there, lighting the way, even if all we can see is a small flicker of the way ahead, is enough. Years fly by, and sometimes we can’t understand everything we are facing, but we don’t have to.
The little flickers of hope are always there. The love we receive from others, sometimes strangers we barely know, the messages from those who don’t even know us but want to reach out, the love from family and friend are all beacons of light. Our story becomes part of others stories too. All of it speaks of something greater than all of us, of a purpose for everything that happens.
I’ve always loved the Christmas season and enjoy watching Christmas lights blink on and off. It’s amazing how much those little tiny lights can light up a dark room. In the Christian faith, Christmas is important because it is the day we celebrate the birth of Christ. Now I know that He wasn’t really born at this time, but it is when we celebrate. Every year, when I see the lights, I am reminded of the Light that came to the world.
Sometimes when life throws us so many curves, it can be really hard to see light through the dark. But light shines through the darkness, always. Sometimes only in small flickers, but it is always there.
Look to the Light. He’s enough to keep us going, even in the midst of dark times.
This blog post will be a little bit different than the ones I’ve been doing. I will do an update in another blog post, but with today being Thanksgiving, I wanted to do a thankful for post. During the month of November, I will often post something every day that I am thankful for on Social Media. I actually do this other months as well, but November tends to be the typical month for many people to share what they are thankful for because of Thanksgiving.
We had so much going on this year, and I knew it was going to be a challenge to try to keep up with daily posts on what I’m thankful for. At the same time, I think it is important to take the time to stop and count our blessings throughout the year. I thought a blog post with 30 things I’m thankful for would be the way to go this year.
30 Things I am Thankful for:
1. My faith
My Christan faith has been an important part of my life since I was very young. I am so thankful for many different aspects of my faith, including the gift of Salvation and the fact that I am never alone in this journey.
2. My husband
Ben and I met online through eHarmoney. We’ve been married for almost 10 years now, and have been together for almost 12 years. We’ve been through a lot in our (almost) ten years of marriage, but have an amazing relationship. I am so very thankful God brought Ben into my life!
I am so very thankful for both of our families!
I am so very thankful for the friends we have. I figured it was a lot to try to share photos of everyone here, and I wouldn’t want to miss someone, so instead I’m sharing a photo of a quilt a friend made for us.
5. Our pets
I am very thankful for our rabbits and dogs!
I am so very thankful to be alive and to be able to celebrate life!
7. Clean Water to drink and good food to eat
I am thankful for clean water to drink and delicious food to eat!
8. The ability to write
I am thankful for the ability to write, and for finally being able to write more again! This month, I was able to complete 50,000 words in my fiction series as part of NaNoWriMo. This is the most I’ve been able to write since the accident.
9. The Bible
I am very thankful for the Bible!
10. Good books to read
A few of my favorites…
I am thankful for music! I play a little bit of guitar and piano, but I’m also very thankful for the many amazing bands out there who make some awesome music!
I am thankful for the amazing opportunities I’ve had to learn, and to teach. I am thankful we live in a country where we can all get an education in a career of our choosing.
13. Sunrises and Sunsets
I am thankful for the beautiful sunrises and sunsets we have!
I am thankful for the wide variety of technology we have.
15. A house to live in
I am very thankful for a warm house in the wintertime, and a cool house in the summer time!
I am thankful for food we can grow, harvest and preserve!
17. The great outdoors
I am thankful for the great outdoors!
I am thankful for art, for how it allows us to be creative and unique, and the beautiful pieces we have as a result.
I am thankful for planners that help me to focus and get things accomplished. I am also thankful for authors like Charlie Gilkey who share their insights and tools on organization with the world.
20. Good pens and highlighters
I am thankful for good pens and highlighters. I love Mr. Pen highlighters and pens for lighter pages, such as the Bible or thin paper, and Pilot pens for other kinds of writing.
21. Streaming services
I am thankful for streaming services that provide us with a wide variety of entertainment. (We don’t have all of these services; this was just the photo I found.)
I am thankful for the freedoms we have in our country!
I am thankful for those who came before us, those who helped shape me into the person I am today.
24. Good footwear
I am thankful for warm boots in the winter and sandals in the summer time.
25. Snow belt living
I am thankful to live in the snowbelt of Northern Lower Michigan!
26. Changing Seasons
I am thankful for the changing seasons we have in Michigan!
27. Amazing Medical Staff
I am thankful for amazing medical staff and therapists who have helped me this year.
28. The little things we pass by
I am thankful for the little things we pass by every day. Sometimes we see them, but more often that not, we pass right by.
29. Open water
I am thankful for the Great Lakes, and other bodies of open water we have here in Michigan!
30. Wonders of the night
I am thankful for stary nights, full moons, views of planets, and so many of the other wonderful things we can see in the night sky!
The last few weeks have been packed with appointments, preparing for surgery and trying to get our dog Wesley better from an ear infection so I haven’t had a chance to blog.
Physical and occupational therapy is at a minimal right now. I did manage to get some short walks in before surgery, and for OT, I’m trying to use my wrists as I would have before the accident as much as I can on a daily basis. I have been writing almost daily, other than the day of surgery and for a few days after. More on that later. Before surgery, I was doing most of the basic chores around the house again without much support with some accommodations for my left wrist. I was also doing physical therapy stretches throughout the day.
I had surgery this past week to fix some of the internal damage caused in the accident. Going in for another surgery was scary. It was my 7th this year, and I wasn’t looking forward to it, but I’m glad it’s behind me now.
My liver and colon were both herniated when my abdominal wall was severely damaged. This all needed to be fixed. The surgery went well overall and they were able to do it laparoscopically. However, once they began the procedure, they discovered one of the hernias was much larger than expected, and my gall bladder was effected as well. The surgery took longer than planned, and I had a really hard time coming out of anesthesia once surgery was over with. I spent a night in the hospital. I came home on Wednesday.
The next few days after that were pretty rough. I have a high pain tolerance and don’t think about taking pain meds until I’m really hurting a lot. I also react poorly to a lot of meds, and they leaving me feeling worse with them than without unless my pain gets too high. Adding to that, I had really tight muscles in my back from all the trauma, and in addition to that, they filled my body with gas for the surgery and after surgery, you have to move to get that out. It’s been a balance between remembering to take pain meds regularly even if I don’t feel like I need them right then, trying to relax the muscles in my back, and trying to make sure I’m up and moving around as much as possible.
Today (Sunday) we’ve gotten the muscles to relax some with heat and muscle relaxers. As long as I keep the meds in my system for the majority of the day, I limit my walking, and frequently change how I’m sitting, the pain isn’t too bad. The pain from the surgery itself is minimal compared to the back pain. It’s uncomfortable to walk, but unbearable, and hurts when I cough, hiccup, or sneeze. I’ve been able to do a little more each day, but this surgery has definitely shown just how much I was relying on my right side to overcompensate for the left side.
I wasn’t able to get many photos during my hospital stay, but I did have a nice view and got a snapshot of the sunset the night I was there. I’ve also shared a couple of photos of our dogs. Chewbaca has been very worried about me, but Wesley doesn’t like change and has been annoyed that I’m not keeping up his regular schedule right now. If they could talk, Chewy be the one cheering me on, and Wesley would be the one telling me I needed to get up and get moving so he can get what he wants (which is usually food.) They are both sweet dogs, just different and one is way more empathetic than the other.
Snow Belt Living
Living in the snow belt, we often get snow when others don’t. In the first part of November, we got quite a bit of snow (almost a foot!). I had several appointments before surgery, and wore my winter boots due to the snow.
I had to drive through some of the worst of the storm, passed the exact spot where the accident happened. I was terrified, and yet I knew I had to do it. I quoted Philippines 4:13 a lot, as well as a C.S. Lewis quote I’ll share in the quote section.
Throughout my appointments, people would comment on my snow boots; how they were overkill and it was too early for them. Driving out of the snowbelt, I would find green/brown grass and if any snow at all, only a dusting. The snowbelt is basically it’s own microclimate and life here can be drastically different when it comes to weather than even 15 minutes away.
I was able to get some cool photos, both when we had almost a foot, and when it had melted some. We are getting more snow this weekend. Winter starts early here and leaves later than many other places. I know many people don’t like winter, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Songs On Repeat:
Help is On The Way (Maybe Midnight) TobyMac
Giants In the Land- Grover Levy
Good God All Mighty- Crowder
Scripture and Quotes:
This Road We Take:
The past (almost) eleven months have been quite a journey for both Ben and I. Along this path, I’ve heard over and over again what a miracle I am and that most people don’t survive this. I’ve had medical staff tell me that God guided the doctor’s hands as they fought to save my life, and that He must have great plans for my life. People tell me I am strong, that I am a warrior. But the truth is my own strength was gone a long time ago.
This road has not been an easy one. It isn’t over with yet, and likely won’t be for awhile. Yet Ben and I have never walked this journey alone. God has always been with us. We’ve had friends and family with us every step of the way, and strangers who became friends. Even as long and as hard of a journey this has been, we’ve seen God move and impact many along this journey.
Sometimes we’ll face fear on our journey. I know I’ve had a lot of that lately. But facing your fear head on helps move the journey forward. And what would an adventure be without a little fear and danger along the way? All good stories have elements of fear and danger. In the end, it’s how we face it that matters.
Our journey may not be finished yet, but even when this part of life’s journey is over with, our lives will never be the same. How could it be, after so much has happened and so much has changed? Yet our faith has grown stronger through all of this.
I don’t know where this journey will take us next. But what I do know is I serve a God I can trust. A Good Father, a personable Savior, who looks after His children. And I know that His plan is greater than any I could ever possibly attempt. Come what may, I know I’ve never been alone on this road, and I never will be. None of us are. He waits for those who do not know Him, like a shepherd looking for his lost sheep, and walks with us, no matter how long and perilous the road may be. One day, He will call me home, but for now, we’ll keeping walking down this road called life.
The past couple of weeks have been packed with appointments. This week is another very full week, but I wanted to try to get in at least a blog post. A word of warning, it will be a longer post.
One of those appointments was for Ben with the University of Michigan. They’ve started him on a new medication, which causes drowsiness. Ben’s primary doctor also started him on some new meds. His health has continued to change over the last few months. We’ve gotten a few answers, but those answers have led to more confusion, questions and concerns than anything. At some point he will be going to have a nerve biopsy to hopefully find more answers, but we are not sure when.
In physical therapy, I’ve continued to do the independent sessions. Occupational therapy is really about the day to day things I do, such as laundry, pouring liquids from one dish to another, and gripping things with my hand. I have weights and strengthening equipment at home I use sometimes as well to help strengthen my hands.
With surgery coming up, I’m hoping I won’t lose much strength during the time I can’t do much. I am trying to build as much strength as I can before the operation in November, but my left side is still pretty weak. I have a come a long way since the accident, but I still notice differences in what I can do, especially when it comes to swinging or lifting my left leg or trying to turn my left wrist over. I am able to compensate in many ways, such as using my hands to move my left leg when I need to swing it over a chair, or using my arm to turn my wrist when I need to pour something, or squeeze a sauce out of a bottle such as ketchup or barbecue sauce. It feels strange to turn most of my arm over just to get some ketchup for a meal, or use my hands to move my leg over a chair, but it allows me to be more independent.
With the upcoming surgery, I will be limited on what I can lift for at least 2 to 6 weeks. I am hoping this won’t be a setback for strengthening my left side. As I mentioned before, this surgery is to fix some of the internal damage caused by the accident. I am hoping it will be a fast recovery, but a lot depends on whether they can do robotic surgery or have to do more in-depth surgery.
As an introvert, I’ve always needed alone time to recharge. It has been really hard to get that time with so many appointments, and I often find myself feeling exhausted and run down when we have so much back to back. We’ve really tried to make it a point to schedule down time. I know that may not make sense to some people, but for me, scheduling down time allows me much needed time to relax and recharge. Without it, my schedule gets so packed, I barely have a moment to breath.
The past couple of weeks, it has been really hard to get much down time in. Some days, we have had three, four or even five appointments on the same day, all back to back with very little time in between, so it’s been go-go-go. This has meant almost no hiking or walks for me, and only brief stops to parks to try to breath a little and take some time to get photos.
We are hoping this will change soon schedule-wise, but are also working on adding some down-time specifically into the schedule to help provide time to rest and recharge. Ben and I both really time to process everything that has happened this year, and you can’t really do that when it’s constant businesses. Everyone processes trauma differently, and for the two of us, we need time away from the craziness of life to try to deal with everything that this year has brought to us.
A few photos from our yard and brief stops at parks:
Photos from the only couple of hikes I’ve been able to do in the last couple of weeks: Grass River Natural Area, and Hartwick Pines
Books I’m reading or recently read
I’ve always been an avid reader, and sometimes people ask me what’s on my reading list, so I’m going to try adding in this section at least once or twice a month. I tend to read multiple books at once, reading parts of one then going to another before I’ve finished that one, and back to the first until it’s done.
Atomic Habits, by James Clear
Redeeming Love, by Francine Rivers
Mistaken Identity, by Don Van Ryn , Susie Van Ryn , Colleen Cerak , Whitney Cerak , Newell Cerak
Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess: 5 Simple, Scientifically Proven Steps to Reduce Anxiety, Stress, and Toxic Thinking, by Dr. Caroline Leaf
Captivating, by Stasi Eldredge
I’ve never enjoyed cooking very much. In our family, Ben does the most of the cooking, including making the dogs food. One of our dogs has a lot of allergies, so we started making their food a few months ago. Occupational therapy has encouraged me to do more cooking, in part because when you cook, you use your hands a lot and this will help strengthen and increase the mobility of my hands. I tried cooking the dogs food for the first time over the last couple of weeks, and they enjoyed it so much, one of them came to get me the next time Ben cooked it for them. In the past when I would cook, they would sit by the stove and whine and paw at me because I have a tendency to burn things and mess up recipes, so it made me feel good to know they actually liked what I made this time.
We also do canning every year. We have a few of our own grapes, but thanks to Ben’s mom, we were able to get some more and canned some grape juice. Thanks to my mom, we were also able to get some carrots canned up as well. We also found a reusable microwavable popcorn bag at one of the local Farmer’s Markets. A few pictures from our cooking and canning adventures:
Scripture and Quotes from the last couple of weeks:
Songs on Repeat:
Goodness of God- Bethel Music
My Life Be Like- Grits
Rescue, Lauren Daigle
The past couple of weeks have been so packed. I hope to get some time to hike in the next week or two, before I go in for surgery. Life has brought us a lot to deal with this year. But our faith has helped us greatly, and been strengthened through this process. We’ve also been on the receiving in of so much love and care from family and friends. I wanted to share a photo of this beautiful quilt a friend made for me. It is pretty amazing!
Life isn’t always easy, but as Romans 8:28 says, God is working all things together for our good, and we trust Him, even in the hard times.
This week, I was able to get up to 2 miles in about eleven minutes on the indoor bike. To my athlete friends, this may not seem like much, but it was a new record for me since the accident and something to celebrate. I haven’t added more weight since last week (I’m still at 40-75 lbs) but am trying to do more repetitions with each machine I use.
I have been trying to walk at least a mile a day. This week, I made it out to Hartwick Pines after an appointment, as well as a marina in Petoskey and Deadman’s Hill. I’ve really made it a goal to hike somewhere after every appointment I have, and most of the time, I do. This week was packed with appointments, but I managed to squeeze in a few hikes.
It looks like I will be having surgery in early November to repair some of the internal damage from the accident. My abdominal wall was nearly destroyed in the accident, and my liver and colon had to be stitched, so there is still some work to do. Hopefully the surgery will go well, and recovery should be about 2 to 3 weeks.
Adventures This Week:
A gallery of some of the photos from this week, taken at Hartwick Pines, Deadman’s Hill, a Marina near Petoskey, and a few other places in North-West Lower Michigan:
Fall is in the air!
When I took photos this past week, we weren’t in full color yet but getting close. I love this time of year! The colors are so bright and cheery! A gallery of color:
Not All Sunshine and Rainbows
I try hard to keep a positive attitude about things, but this doesn’t mean I don’t have bad days. This was a week with several days where I was late for appointments because it was just one thing after another. I overslept one day, got stuck behind a construction vehicle another day, and stepped in dog poop a couple of times on my way to places. I always leave extra time, but it just wasn’t enough some days.
I also discovered I can’t use a video-teller or drive-up ATM machine, at least not with my left wrist. It just won’t turn over enough. I have a hard time in drive-throughs too, such as at fast food places. I have moments when I get really frustrated, but I try to allow myself to feel the frustration and work through it. I’m learning to live with a new normal. Hopefully I will get more and more of my left side back , but there are no guarantees, and when you’ve lived certain ways most of your life, it takes time to adjust to something different.
We also spent part of an afternoon in the emergency room again for Ben. He has a toe with what the doctor says is a blood blister. It looks very much like it did the last time it developed an infection, so we are keeping a close eye on it. With Ben’s Peripheral Neuropathy, he checks his feet regularly anyways as he has no feeling in them.
Today (October 10) is also the birthday of my sister-in-law, Morgan who passed away several years ago. I wrote about that loss, as well as several others here:
Today is both a sad and happy day, bittersweet. Sad that we have had all of this time without her, but happy that she is living her forever in Heaven. Happy Birthday in Heaven Morgan!
If I’ve learned anything in my lifetime so far, it’s this; even in loss and in pain, there is happiness and joy. Even in the darkest of moments, there is light. My faith plays a big roll in getting me through all of the things I’ve been through. It’s knowing that I will see loved ones again, knowing that anything that happens to me here on earth is just a blink of an eye, that helps me get through even the toughest of days. Philippians 4:13 has stood out to me time and time again during this journey, and is something I keep going back to when life gets really tough.
Songs on Repeat:
I’ve always loved music. Throughout the week, I often find myself playing certain songs on repeat. This varies by week, although I have a few that I tend to play often. This week’s songs include:
Goodness of God- Bethel Music
Graves Into Gardens- Brandon Lake/ Elevation Worship
The Stand- Hillsong
Say I Won’t – MercyMe
Life has this way of throwing unexpected curves at us. Sometimes those curves take us to unexpected places. Sometimes we find ourselves in the most amazing moments, and in the next breath, in the most horrific moments. Life may not be all sunshine and rainbows. But it is still good.
Independent Physical therapy feels like the same routine each week, but it is helping me to get stronger and I try to mix up which machine I’m using when to keep it from getting boring. I’m still at 40-75 lbs. It took me quite awhile to get up to even 30-50 lbs, so I expect it will take a bit to be able to lift more weight. Before the accident, I hadn’t done weight lifting with my legs and back for a while, so it’s hard to say how much I’ve improved. But with my arms, I could lift at least 50 pounds when it came to everyday life activities like lifting apple crates and dog food bags. Right now, I’m lifting about 40 lbs, so I’m getting back to where I was. It just takes time. My left side is still weaker, and I have a hard time using my wrist fully because it doesn’t turn all the way and it’s painful to grip some things.
I don’t really have a specific goal in mind to be able to lift. We don’t know if my left side will ever work fully the way it didn’t before the accident. It likely won’t, but I’m learning to compensate and find ways around it so I can still do as much as possible like I did before. I’m trying to walk at least a mile every day. This is still a ways from the 3-4 miles I was walking before the accident, but I’m trying to slowly increase this over time. I have to remind myself sometimes a mile is a lot further than the few steps I was able to take when I started walking again back in February. I may not be exactly where I want to be, but when you have injuries to the extent I did, it takes awhile to come back from it. Up to two years is the general timeline I’ve been given from most of my doctors before I will be mostly healed and as back to normal as possible. I’ve always been one to set goals and strive to reach them, so I have to remind myself of this when I am wanting to be back to normal faster than my body is ready.
I’m noticing less and less discomfort when I walk. Standing is still tough. Over time, I’ve been able to increase how long I can stand. I couldn’t stand for more than a few seconds starting out, then increased it to a few minutes, and now I can stand for at least 15-20 minutes before the pain really starts to set in. I thought that most of the weakness in my legs was gone, until my husband and I took part of a day to get some canning done, and I found being on my legs off and on for several hours brought the weakness back. My legs were shaking and felt as though they weren’t going to hold me, something I hadn’t experienced since I’ve built my stamina for standing longer. By last night, I had nerve pain in my hip and legs, something else I hadn’t had in awhile. It was a reminder that I’ve come a long way, but physically I still have more limits than I did before.
My husband and I always try to can at least a little bit each year. We often have help from family members too; many hands make light work! This weekend, Ben and I tackled tomatoes. I am used to standing for most of the time it takes to can something, but my body just won’t allow it anymore. We have a red stool that I’m able to sit on for at least part of canning, so that helped a little bit.
Our black lab supervised and our Catahoula did cleanup duty, waiting for any scraps that would fall off the table or stove on to the floor. He LOVES tomatoes, really almost any fruit or veggie, but doesn’t get tomatoes normally because dogs aren’t supposed to have them. From everything we researched, the very small amount he got shouldn’t hurt him.
A few photos from our weekend project:
We also celebrated my birthday this week. Every year, I try to bring in my birthday with the sunrise and end my birthday with the sunset. I wasn’t able to get the greatest photos of the sunrise, but the sunset was pretty cool. My ankle has been swelling some, so rather than trying to hike on my birthday, we went on a drive. Photos are below.
Just three photos for this section. I know the old wives tale says these caterpillars predict winter. I’m not really sure what this one says about winter, but we’ve heard a lot of people saying it is going to be a rough one, and some of the nature signs are pointing to this as well. Winter is one of my favorite seasons. I do have some anxiety about driving in the snow after the accident, but am hoping that will get better with practice once the snow actually does come.
Christmas is my favorite holiday, and the Christmas season has always been very special to me. Last year, we celebrated Christmas in the hospital. It was a very special Christmas that I wrote about here: https://talesfromnorthcountry.com/2021/01/01/a-christmas-to-remember/ One thing I really missed though was the traditions we have at home for celebrating. We never got to finish decorating our Christmas tree. Ben had the idea of putting it up slowly, adding ornaments as we counted down the days until Christmas to extend the special day and the excitement of decorations, so we never finished getting everything up.
We celebrated Christmas in March, and took awhile putting our tree down. There was a sadness with it, a reminder of what had been lost even with all that had been gained. When we finally got everything off the tree (it’s artificial) there was again sadness and it felt so empty. We had noticed Fall lights and decorations in the store, and decided to try this instead. We decorated our tree for fall, and will redecorate it at Christmas time. It is a reminder that even when things are really hard and dark, there is still light, brightness, and good in the world.
-I’m going to skip quotes and songs for this week. This is getting pretty long. Until next time
This is going to be a longer post this week, so I’ll try to keep this section brief. This week, I continued with Independent Physical Therapy. I’ve up to 75 pounds with parts of the exercises I do, and 40 pounds minimum for most things. This is a long way from the 1 pound limit I had with my wrists after the accident! I continue to work on building strength, especially in my left side.
I was also able to attend a class at Grass River Natural Area. We did a short walk, and learned how to collect seeds from Native plants. It was a great class, and I learned a lot. My left side was sore afterwards, but it was worth it, and very nice to be able to take another class.
Most days I am able to walk close to a mile. My goal is to get up to at least 3-4 miles a day. Right now, pain and weakness stops me from going further but it gets better each week.
This week, we lost my Aunt Esther, my mom’s sister. Loss seems to be so very much a part of life. C.S. Lewis in ‘The Four Loves’ says:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
C.S. Lewis ‘The Four Loves’
Between 2003 and 2010, there were at least 11 family and friends that passed away. We also lost my dog Cora and my brothers’ dog Bear within a couple of weeks of each other. Losing a dog may not seem like much of a big deal if you’ve never owned one, but they become family and those who have owned dogs or other pets will likely understand that loss. From 2013-2017, we lost at least 11 more family members and another dog we’d loved for many years. Since 2020, we have had at least six family and friends pass away, my husband and I were in a serious car accident, and we’ve dealt with everything the pandemic has brought about.
I say all of this not because I want people to feel sorry for us. I don’t. In fact, I hesitate to even say anything when someone I know passes away anymore or something bad happens because it feels so surreal, so unbelievable. I need to process all of this, and one of the best ways I can do that is to write it out. I could go back further, where there were more losses as well, but right now, I’m processing the past 18 years or so. So very much has happened. Some positive, but a lot of really hard difficult things too.
My mom comes from a family of 14 kids, the oldest died shortly after birth. Most of her siblings had children and many of them have children so it’s a big family. My dad comes from a smaller family, but the cousins on his side of the family are close, so we have relationships with family we might not have had otherwise. With that comes loving and dying. The more people you know, the more you have a chance of losing someone you love and care about. Death is as much of a part of life as living is. Loss is a part of the world we live in, like it or not.
When you’ve lost as much as I have, when you’ve been through one thing after another, it becomes normal, even if it’s not. Sometimes I feel like I’m just waiting for the next loss to happen, for the next bad thing to take place. I’m not just talking about all the death, I’m talking about the loss of our “normal” lives with the pandemic, the loss of the use of my left side as I “normally” would, and the loss of a year of my life that I will never get back.
And yet. I feel as though two simple words hang in the air despite everything we’ve been through. They give us hope. And yet, we will see many of our loved ones again. And yet, there is hope for the future. And yet, despite everything we’ve been through, all of the loss and pain, there is still so much good in the world. And yet, despite our hearts breaking over and over again, there is joy. And yet, when it seemed as though all the world was ending, Jesus came to save it. And yet.
Death isn’t the end. No matter how much death and loss we experience in our lifetime, no matter how much loss I experience myself, it is not the end. Praise be to God for this! And yet, death does not win. Even in great loss, we have this hope.
Ben and our Pup
Ben continues to deal with his peripheral neuropathy and all the issues it brings with it. His feet have been swollen and painful a lot this month, and it has spread up to his legs and into his hands. He has also had some problems with blood pressure and blood sugar levels in the last month or so, which he hasn’t had before. We are working with his primary doctor and the team at the University of Michigan to try to figure everything out.
We’ve also been dealing with our dog Wesley having an ear infection. He’s had one for well over a year, off and on getting worse. We’ve been to the vet many times, changed his diet, had him tested for allergies, and tried lots of medication, including sending a sample to Michigan State to get a specialty made antibiotic for him, but his ear infection just doesn’t want to give it up.
We are trying several medications at once this time, in the hopes we can knock it out. Otherwise it will be a trip to a specialist for him.
This week, I took a little drive with our two dogs. I needed to clear my head. I needed to process everything that has happened as much as I could. I headed out to Lake Michigan, where the waves were supposed to be somewhat high. We weren’t disappointed. There were people taking pictures and videos, someone windsurfing, and someone collecting rocks. It was chilly, with the wind blowing hard, but a beautiful day. The sound of the waves was so peaceful and relaxing, and I returned from our trip feeling at least a little more clear. Life can be tough. And yet…..
And yet there is still so much to be thankful for. We are dealing with a lot. Some days are really tough. And yet there are days like this, when the world is as it should be….
It’s been almost three weeks since my last post. Between a busy schedule, losses within the family, the changing weather, and allergy season, it’s been a crazy few weeks. With so many appointments since I came home from the hospital, we finally tried to schedule a week off so I could relax a little more. I couldn’t do a full week because of all the appointments, so we split it, doing appointments Monday through Wednesday one week, and Thursday and Friday the following week, so I would have Thursday to Wednesday off in between. We planned to visit Ben’s cousin and her store, wanted to do some birdwatching and hoped to relax at home some as well.
Instead, I ended up getting sick. It started as allergies, and then the congestion got worse. I never ran a fever, never lost my sense of taste or smell or anything that would indicate Covid, but we stayed home just to be safe. It lasted a few days, just long enough for us to have to cancel any plans we’d made. I have pretty severe allergies and sometimes when the weather changes a lot, they get really bad and can turn into an infection. After resting for a couple of days, I felt much better.
The changing weather hasn’t been easy on my body. August was a very rainy month, and while September hasn’t had as much rain so far, we’ve had a cold front and then a warm front move in. For both Ben and I, this impacts our bodies with the changes in Barometric Pressure. My right ankle has been swollen and sore, and my left wrist aches a lot. It’s a new normal for me. Ben’s feet tend to swell up, and his pain level increases a lot when the weather changes.
On Loss and Living
We’ve also had several other deaths in the family. I was closer to some of those who passed away than others, but it is still a loss either way, and my heart hurts for family members who are grieving the loss of loved ones. Loss seems to be so much a part of life.
Most of the time, I’m doing pretty well and don’t think much about what has happened. I do have moments though when it hits me, and the magnitude of the loss we’ve had can be overwhelming. It is something I have to work through, have to give myself time to grieve and acknowledge the losses. It’s not only the loss of loved ones, but the loss of this past year, the loss of the normal use of my left side, and the loss of our normal that I grieve. I know that life will never be the same again. How can it be, when so much bad has happened?
Yet I think of the Lord of the Rings, and Samwise. He gave a speech to Frodo that has stood out to me so many times.
I know there is still good in this world. I know that good things can and will still happen, despite the bad. And that is what I hold on to. On difficult days, I pull myself out of nightmares that will never fully go away, but I look for the good, and it helps. The little cards and notes people send, the gifts, someone opening a door for me, a beautiful sunrise or a butterfly gently landing on a flower. There is still good, even on the darkest of days. Finding joy isn’t just about being happy when things are good. It’s about finding good, even in when it’s really tough.
I’ve continued to go to Nature Places for walks between appointments, as part of physical therapy. Northwest Lower Michigan is such a beautiful place! I was able to hike about 1/2 mile at one of the nature places before I found a place where I could actually sit down. It was challenging, and really pushing it, but I made it. One of the biggest challenges about nature places is that once I get in, I have to walk back out. There’s no one to rescue me, no way to get picked back up, no one to carry me out. Even when people are with me, it would be very difficult for anyone else to try to carry me, so I have to walk it. It’s challenging, but in a good way.
I also made it up a rather steep hill for the first time, and then back down. It was a very good challenge, and again pushed my limits a little, but in a good way.
We’re moving into fall, and Harvest Season. I love all of the food that is ready to harvest, and the color that comes with the leaves changing into fall.
I don’t always share our animals, but I snapped a picture of the dogs on the only trip I’ve been able to take them out birdwatching so far since the accident. We didn’t go far, but they were excited to travel. We got new seat covers and rugs for the vehicle, as well as a dog seat cover to help keep the dogs where they are supposed to be and safe. We are also working on converting a chicken coop into a rabbit cage for some of our bunnies to live in.
This week, I continued independent physical therapy at the local hospital’s rehab outpatient center. I’ve continued to increase the amount of weight I’m lifting. Depending on the machine, and what part of my body I’m using to lift weights, I’m now lifting between 32 and 70 pounds. Instead of walking the track at the outpatient center, I’ve been trying to get in walks at local nature places or in our yard. This allows me to have more of a variety. This week, on a trip to Grass River Natural Area with one of my nieces, we were able to walk about a mile, and I got as many steps in as I do on a low day when I’m teaching. It felt really good to be able to go a little longer this time! Last week’s walk was about 1/2 mile, for a reference. We also stopped to rest a few times during our walk, but I’m slowly building my endurance back. I still have pain when I walk, and numbness in my left leg from all the surgeries. Some of this may be permanent. I have a pretty high pain tolerance, so usually I can go awhile before I have to stop because of pain, but I’ve learned to not push it too much or my pain level will greatly increase later. I also have twinges from the internal injuries still. We are hoping the surgery coming up this fall will fix this, but time will tell.
I can now get my left foot almost up to my knee on my right leg. I still need a sock aid to get a sock on, but this is progress.
For Occupational therapy, I do exercises the therapists taught me, and do everyday tasks such as laundry and vacuuming. I also draw, color and write to build endurance in my hands. When I first started, I couldn’t go more than 15 minutes without pain. Now I can usually go for at least an hour. Sometimes progress feels very slow, but it has been steady and looking back, it feels like it comes in leaps and bounds.
Art at Grass River Natural Area
Grass River is the local nature center, and they offer art classes throughout the summer. This summer, between appointments and my limited mobility, I wasn’t able to make most of the classes but I did make it to two. One a couple of weeks ago on clay, and one this week on watercolor drawings.
I’ve never been much of an artist, but I enjoy drawing. I could really tell the difference in my wrists though, as it was hard to hold a pencil and shade the drawings compared to before the accident, but it was good to work the wrists that way. There was some pain, but not a lot.
When I was in the hospital, I set a goal for myself to one day walk the boardwalk trail at Grass River. This week, we did part of it. It felt so good!!!! As always, I took a lot of photos. Here are some of them.:
Besides appointments, and walking at nature places between appointments, I spent a lot of my time at home. We were able to visit with a niece and two of our nephews this weekend. They helped us plant native plants in our yard earlier this summer, and we’ve gotten some really pretty flowers in our yard from them! The birds also planted a little sunflower garden for us from the birdseed. It’s also a busy time of year for Ben, with harvest season beginning. My mom was able to come up and can some green beans for us, that Ben’s mom gave us. Both the beans and the canning were greatly appreciated!
It’s been a rainy month in August, and this has led to some awesome cloud cover. We’ve had a few clear nights too.
This week, I have a lot of photos to share from birdwatching this summer, so I’m doing an extra post to make it a little shorter. As part of occupational and physical therapies, we’ve worked in my personal interests, as you are more likely to stick with something if you enjoy it. So photography, writing, birdwatching, art projects and hiking have all become a part of my daily and weekly routines. Over the summer, I’ve tried to get in a small amount of birdwatching between appointments. I have yet to hike very far, but you can see a lot from a car too. Some photos are better than others. I’ve been having some problems with my camera, and I also struggled to hold the camera at first with the weakness in my wrists. As it gets easier to hold the camera, I’ve been able to take better photos as long as the camera isn’t acting up. I also put in a couple of photos of other critters, like a chipmunk that likes to visit our backyard and our black lab, who LOVES to birdwatch with me.
This was an off week for us. I will talk about this further in more of the blog, but I really didn’t get much physical or occupational therapy in this week, aside from a little bit of walking. I hope to be back at it this coming week.
See You Later
We started off this week with a message from my mom that my Uncle Bill had passed away. Uncle Bill was married to my Aunt Ruth, my dad’s sister for many years before her passing in 2003. He was 77 years old at the time of his death. He will be greatly missed by his family and friends!
I was able to attend his funeral on Thursday. It was really good to see a lot of family members I haven’t seen in quite awhile.
Sometimes it seems like life is getting through one struggle only to move on to the next. Sometimes it’s dealing with multiple struggles at once, trying to move through each one until something else comes along. Death often seems like it is so much a part of life. Love anything at all, and eventually you’ll lose it. You’ll hurt, you’ll grieve, and you’ll miss the person, animal or thing you loved. Yet when it comes to people and animals, especially people, it’s so very worth it in the end. Collateral beauty. Beauty even with great pain. I wrote about this in another post, which you can find here:
After we lost my my sister-in-law many years ago, I wrote something that has stood out many times when others have died too.
“One day soon, we will all see Morgan again. And though it is hard to understand now, we know that there is hope and a future. Though our hearts are heavy, we are happy for Morgan. Morgan is living her Happy-Ever-After. She is with the King of All Kings, and her battle is won. Though we must continue our journey without her, the same King who took her home is holding us in His arms and carrying us all through as we grieve her loss from this earth. The life she lived, the impact she had, will forever be with us. She touched so many. Every time I see a field of winter wheat, I will remember both her and Grandma, and remember that even when it seems like we have no impact, even when what happens seems pointless and meaningless, it’s not. There is a purpose for everything, and Morgan impacted as many (or more) people as you can see golden grains in a wheat field.
And so for now, we grieve and are happy all at the same time. We continue on with both sadness and hope, knowing that there is still work to be done, that God still has a purpose for all of us who are left on this earth. So we hope, we trust in our King, we keep the faith, and though it is not easy, we travel on, for there is so much yet to be done. And we look to the future with anticipation. After all, today brings us that much close to the home we all long for. And who knows? …home may just around the next bend.”
Even now, these words are still so very true. As a Christian, I know I will see those who have gone before me again. I know some would argue I have no way of knowing this for sure, but I believe we can know things in our hearts even if there is no evidence in front of our eyes. This year, home almost was just around a bend for me, but God has a plan and He wanted me here longer. This week, He called my Uncle Bill home. And though I long for the day when I will be reunited with so many loved ones who have gone before me, I also know there is still a purpose and a plan for us here. Life is never easy, but even when times are tough, we have the hope of a better tomorrow and a glorious home around the next bend. Death is not goodbye. It’s “See you later.”
Update on Ben:
Ben’s toe has been slowly healing. We finally had a week with no ER visits, and the meds he is on seem to be working. Hopefully he is on the road to recovery!
Photos from this Week:
I still had several appointments this week, and managed to get a few photos in between.
Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and other appointments
This week, like so many other weeks, was packed with appointments. I’ve been able to do more weights in physical therapy. After the accident, I had a 1-2 pound limit with my wrists and couldn’t put any weight at all on my feet/legs. As my body began to heal, that slowly increased. This week, I was able to lift between 30 and 70 pounds, depending on what part of the body I was using to lift. I still need to be careful, but I’ve been able to lift a little more each week. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like I’m really seeing any progress at all, and then suddenly, I’ll be able to do more than what I could before.
My left wrist is still pretty limited with movement, but it has come a long ways from where it was. I still have a hard time with tasks like driving, moving laundry over and carrying items such as a plate from one place to another with this hand, but am able to do it some. This may be a permeant thing, where I have to learn to adapt in other ways, but we keep working it and massaging it.
I started going back to our chiropractor, and also get massage therapy so that should continue to help loosen everything. Between all of my appointments though, my weeks are packed and I end up exhausted by the weekend.
After my appointments, I’ve really been working on stopping somewhere I enjoy, such as a nature center or preserve, to increase my walking endurance and allow me to spend more time in the great outdoors. It means my days are longer, but it is helping me to get back to normal more and hopefully build my endurance so I can go a full day without needing to rest as much.
Some of my adventures from this past week include a pottery class at the local nature center with my niece, a couple of different hikes on nature trails and a visit with my family. I’ll include more on that in the next section, but here are some photos from my hikes:
Family Camping Trip
Last year, my family did a camping trip. We had so much fun, we decided to try to make it an annual thing. This year, with my injuries, Ben and I weren’t able to stay overnight, but we went for a daytrip. We took a walk down memory lane through the cemetery where my great-grandpa used to be the caretaker, and to the house where my dad was born. We celebrated several birthdays and enjoyed most of the day together. A few photos from our trip:
The house where my Dad was born:
My great-uncle and great-aunt lived here. He was a farmer, with sheep, goats and cattle. He was married to my grandma’s sister. My grandma went to her sister’s house to have the baby, so my dad was born on his farm. This is the house he was born in. We went there as children, and got to spend time with the animals.
Quotes, Scripture and songs from this week:
This was a week full of walks down memory lane and making new memories! I keep getting a little stronger and able to do more, but healing can take a long time. I am so very thankful to have some beautiful places in Northern Michigan to visit as I continue to make progress.
Once a month or so seems to be about what I’m updating right now. I intend to update more often, but life has been pretty busy so it doesn’t usually happen. Life is full of appointments right now and the days go by fast. I will try to post more frequently, as I know this is going to be a longer post.
Physical and Occupational Therapies:
We’ve had a pretty crazy month. I’ve continued to get stronger, and am doing independent physical therapy sessions twice a week at the hospital, and the rest of the days at home. For the hospital sessions, I am able to go to the rehab portion of the hospital and use their equipment to workout and strengthen my body. At home, we have several pieces of equipment I use most days when I’m not at the hospital sessions, and I continue to take walks regularly. These are mostly around our yard and neighborhood, but I am beginning to venture out a little further.
I started driving back in June to some extent, and have been increasing that slowly each week. The hardest part of driving for me is my left side, as my wrist gets tired pretty easily with the steering wheel and I struggle to get my left leg into the vehicle a little sometimes. I’ve come a long way, but the left side was really damaged so I still have a ways to go. I am hoping to begin walking at local nature preserves soon. My balance has improved greatly with a lot of therapy. I could still fall, but the chances of that happening have greatly decreased from where I was even a month or so ago.
Some of the photos I’ve taken either in our backyard, or while stopping to various lakes and side roads between appointments:
I’ve mentioned this previously, but there was a lot of internal damage during the accident. I was going to have a surgery for this in July, and it has been postponed until fall, likely October. We are hoping this will fix some of the stomach problems I’ve had, like stomach aches and nausea, but if not, I will need more tests. So far, all of the tests I’ve had indicate the problems largely stem from injuries in the accident, and that once those are fixed, there is a good chance they will clear up.
It took quite awhile, but we were finally able to get my records from the first hospital I was at. The doctors did a temporary fix after the accident, but my abdominal wall was greatly injured so they couldn’t fix things the way they need to be. We’ve had to give the abdominal wall lots of time to heal. Most of the time, I don’t notice a lot of pain until I’m more active and then I get twinges that sometimes get worse. Orthopedically, I’m now cleared to return to work, but with all of the internal damage, I will need to be off just a little bit longer. I am hoping to return to teaching by January.
As some of you may already know, Ben ended up with a staph infection in his leg after the accident. He has fought this infection since December, with it coming and going a couple of times. Last week, he noticed it was coming back. Within a few days, he noticed his big toe was also infected. He went to the emergency room where they told him it was a staph infection. They called in an antibiotic for him and told him to follow up with his primary doctor. When he followed up with his primary doctor, he sent us straight to the ER for more tests. They believe it may actually be MRSA. He ended up needing his entire toenail removed. I have shared some photos in the gallary, but I will warn you some of them are pretty graphic so you may want to skip past them.
August has been a pretty rainy month so far. It has led to some gorgeous skies! You can see some of the storm clouds moving in up above in the photos I shared, but here are a few more photos from our rainy days, and a video:
Native Plant Garden
We are really getting some pretty flowers in our Native Plant garden!
Quotes for this Month:
A vendor at our local Farmer’s Market makes awesome decals, and you can do custom made ones. I had some of the quotes that have meant a lot to me over this journey made into decals. Two of them, we placed in our stairway. The rest will be placed on objects, such as journals. She does a great job! You can find her Facebook page here…..