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.
Another month has flown by and I haven’t given an update. Between doctors appointments and therapies, I’ve been pretty busy. I’m hoping to do updates more often, but will still be doing therapies for awhile.
Physical and Occupational Therapy
Within the past week, I got the all clear to stop using the cane, so I’ve been walking without it pretty well. I still have to be careful not to lose my balance, especially with holes or uneven surfaces as a fall could be pretty serious for me, but my walking gets better all the time.
I am moving to an independent physical therapy program. My main focus for right now is getting stronger. My left side is still weak, especially compared to the right, and I struggle with being able to lift my left leg very far. Climbing over things, such as logs, or stepping over a bench is still very tricky for me right now. Even stepping over our dog Wesley can be tricky, although with him it doesn’t help that he moves right as I step! We joke that he’s really trying to make sure I’m getting a good therapy session, and make it even more challenging.
My left wrist seems to have reached a limit for now at least. I can get it to turn about 40-45 degrees. I can see my palm, but can’t turn the wrist over all the way to put things in my hand, such as medicine and coins. This is still a long way from where my wrist was in the beginning, where I couldn’t turn it at all, but it is not as far as we would like. It may be stuck in this place for now at least though. I will be wrapping up occupational therapy sessions soon, and moving to independent at home sessions. Hopefully with time, it will be able to turn a little more. If not, we will be talking with my surgeon about it and looking at other options. It could be that with the damage done, this is as far as the wrist will be permanently, but it is also possible that the muscles just need more time to be stretched out. There was just a lot of damage. One of the therapists mentioned that years ago, they would have just amputated my type of brake. They were able to save my arm, but it may take a long time for the wrist to heal, if it ever turns fully again. I can use my elbow to compensate and turn my arm more, and I’ve already started to do this naturally.
During the accident, my liver, colon, small intestine and stomach were all damaged. Recent testing has shown that I also have an esophageal tear. We meet with a surgeon soon to see about checking on the liver and to see what the plan is with the esophageal tear.
I’m slowly getting into a new “normal”, whatever that is. I still have weakness on my left side, and may have that for a long time. I’m learning to compensate and also working hard to build it back. I hope to return to teaching this fall. A lot will depend on any upcoming surgeries and when they might take place. I’m moving around more and more at home. I can mostly dress myself like normal now, other than my left side, especially my foot. For that, I have a special device called a sock aid that I use daily for socks, and a shoe horn to help put my tennis shoe on that foot.
I also use grab bars when climbing stairs or getting in and out of the shower. I have started getting into a car a little more normally, but sometimes I still need to sit down sideways and swing my legs in. I drove for the first time last week! It wasn’t easy, and my left wrist was sore afterwards for a couple of days, but it will get better in time. I just need to keep practicing. My right side is really learning to make up for the weaknesses on the left!
I’ve been able to do some laundry, although I can only move small amounts at one time so lifting a basket like I used to isn’t as doable yet. I’ve also been able to do some gardening, with the help of one of our nieces and two of our nephews.
We put in more native plants, added stepping stones to one garden and got a new bird bath and a couple of owl garden statues. We also did container gardening this year, and planted a few pumpkins. I’m really hoping to have at least some green beans, tomatoes, and pumpkins, but we’ll see.
We visited the Concrete Statuary near Kalkaska to get the bird bath and owls. It is such a neat place! They have great quality work, and so many awesome statues!
We also added a little solar fountain to the bird bath as an extra to attract more birds, and butterfly rain gauges so we gauge how much rain we are getting. It has been a dry summer so far! The last couple of days, we’ve finally gotten some much needed rain.
I will try to update more often. As my hands get stronger and I can type more at one time, I don’t need to depend on the voice to text as much, and can type a lot faster than I can speak. I’m also getting into a routine so that I can work physical and occupational therapy activities into my daily hobbies, and since writing is something I enjoy, I’m hoping to do more on this blog.
It’s been awhile since I’ve given an update. I’ve been super busy with therapies, and started outpatient therapy several weeks ago. I go several days a week to physical and occupational therapy, and also get medical massage and trauma massage therapies. Between these appointments and everything else, it keeps me busy!
I have continued to make progress, and am now sometimes able to walk without a cane. I have to be careful I don’t lose my balance, but I’m gaining more strength and mobility each day. I am also making progress with my wrists. The right one is stronger, and almost back to “normal.” The left is still pretty weak, and we are working on getting a better rotation with it.
As part of my physical therapy, I walk 8-10 times or more a day. Often, I head to our backyard and have been able to see quite a few birds this season so far. My current list includes:
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (male)
American Redstart (female)
Swallow (Couldn’t identify which type)
Warbler (Couldn’t identify which one, but it was mostly yellow)
I know there are some I am missing, but we are getting quite a variety this year. Ben also found something that many people like to think of as a bird, but it’s really a mammal. See the photos below.
I have a fear of bats, but at the same time, we know they are really good for the environment, so as long as they are living outside. They get a bad rap for carrying diseases and more, but they are really important to the eco system so I’m glad Ben was able to save this one.
I will do my best to keep this blog updated better. Facebook has not been wanting to allow me to share nature photos and posts lately anyways. Apparently nature goes against community standards. So, I will be using other media to share photos and updates more frequently.
First the updates on physical therapy and occupuational therapy:
I have continued to make improvements. Sometimes it feels very small, but they add up and my left wrist has come so very far!
Today I got the all clear to begin walking with a cane. As I transition from the walker to a cane, I will be going back and forth between the two, depending on my pain and energy level that day. I have made a lot of progress in a short time, but I’m also listening to my body, and some days, I just need to take a break.
From my mom….
Others to focus on…
From my mom…
Others to focus on…
On Collateral Beauty and Joy
I came across a #speaklife post on TobyMac’s Facebook page today that really stood out to me. You can find it here:
This quote really stood out to me. In December, my life changed forever. Certainly, I never would have thought I’d be facing so many injuries and challenges in the days ahead so quickly. But this is the story I’m in. This is what I’ve living day to day. Yet there is much joy among these challenges, even among the pain.
I’ve been thinking about the movie Collateral Beauty. It came out in 2016, staring Will Smith and Keira Knightley. Ben and I saw it in the theater. One thing that really stood out to me in this movie is the idea that even in great pain, there is beauty. The movie refers to this as “Collateral Beauty.” Collateral has several definitions, but one of them is defined as additional but subordinate; secondary. Secondary beauty. Beauty that wasn’t first choice, or something you even wanted to have happen, but beauty nonetheless.
Near the end of the movie, one of the characters says “Just make sure you notice the Collateral Beauty.” Since watching this movie, I’ve thought about the phrase ‘Collateral Beauty’ often. Collateral beauty involves the little things people do and say in the really tough times, like sending care packages and kind messages. It’s a butterfly flittering across the grass and into the sky the day after a storm has come through, and a neighbor helping someone clean up their yard when a tree falls. Sure, we might prefer that the accident never happen, the storm never come or the tree never fall, but there is so much beauty, so much good that can come of it.
If I had a choice in all of this, I would have chosen to not be in a wreck in the first place. That would have been best case scenario in my mind at least, to be whole and not broken from a wreck. But if this was the case, I wouldn’t have had all the good things in between, the kind words, the care packages, meals, and so many other ways people have helped out. Honestly, there has been more “Collateral Beauty” in all of this, than there ever would have been beauty had I been able to choose not to be in an accident. I think the more difficult the experience, the more beauty can be found. Don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t mean any of this has been easy or that I don’t have days that are rough. But even in that, there is beauty.
With finding that beauty, comes joy. Joy isn’t just about being happy. It is both a verb and a noun, so while it means ‘a feeling of great pleasure and happiness,’ it is also a verb meaning ‘rejoice.’ Looking for collateral beauty in our darkest moments can help us to find joy. We can rejoice, or show great delight even in tough situations because we see the beauty that is there too.
My faith helps me a lot in this. As a Christian, I believe that everything happens for a reason, and that God can and will work all things together for our good, even the bad things. The good isn’t always easy to see though. In dark moments, when the world seems so unfair and so very tough, it’s hard to look for the good. It’s hard to find joy in the Collateral Beauty around us. Our world wasn’t meant to be this way. It isn’t how it was created to be, isn’t how things were supposed to be and we know it. Collateral Beauty is second beauty precisely because it isn’t how the world was created to be. It’s beauty despite what has gone wrong, joy even in the darkest of moments.
When God works things together for our good, sometimes we don’t see right away. Sometimes it’s years down the road that we realize how He took a situation and turned it for our good. Other times, we can see right away, but I think more often than not, especially in very difficult situations, it’s not until years down the line, or perhaps not even this side of Heaven that we understand how God worked things together for our good. But we don’t always need to understand something to see the beauty in it. Joy is all around us, even in the toughest of times. It’s a gift, this collateral beauty that surrounds even the darkest of times. Sometimes we just have to look for it, but the light that comes from joy and collateral beauty will always outshine the darkness.
My first day of home occupational therapy was yesterday, and first day of home physical therapy was today. My left side is so weak, and we have a lot of work to do. I have moments when I feel a little overwhelmed, and wonder if life will ever be the same again. I know it won’t be. It can’t be, with so much that has happened.
At the same time, I also know this doesn’t mean I’ll never walk right again, or that I’ll never use my left wrist. It just means I have to learn to do it again, and maybe differently. It’s a new normal, like so many other things in life have been.
Looking through my timeline and old photos, I see photos I’ve taken from journeys I’ve taken before, and it leaves me with a longing for more adventures. Adventures that right now, I’m not able to take yet, but in so many ways, my journey is an adventure all its own.
I look forward to the day when I can go out for a hike in the woods again, snowshoe, take photos of nature around me. I desperately wanted to write again, without using voice to text, and stand on the shores of Lake Michigan as the waves roll on. I’ll get there. It just takes time.
For now, I’m just trying to enjoy this journey as much as it can be enjoyed, and to photograph the adventures along the way. It’s the little things I want to remember, like Wesley moving his dog bed closer to me just so he can watch me sleep, Chewbacca trying very hard to stay close without hurting me, and my sweet husband taking the time to make sure my legs are propped just right.
This verse stood out to me during my hospital and rehab stay, and became something I quoted to myself during tough times. It was also in a coloring book a family friend gave me, and I realized yesterday that it’s on a plaque in our living room too. It’s the perfect reminder of where my strength comes from. My journey is far from over with, but I’ve come such a long way.
This journey isn’t one I would have chosen, and it’s not an easy one, but one day, maybe not too far off, I’ll stand of the shores of Lake Michigan again, and watch the waves roll in. I’ll hike through a forest and listen to the sound of birds in the trees, and I’ll finish the books I’ve been writing. And when I do, it will mean all that much more because I’ll know just how far I had to go to get there.
Today in occupational therapy, we practice with the Shower bench. We played several games, including Connect 4, Chinese Checkers, and Solitaire. We also played a couple of ball games where I had to put balls through a hoop and into baskets. I then stood up and we played the same game, adding a target for me to touch.
Today I was able to walk 128 feet , 90 feet, and then 105 feet. We practiced getting in and out of a car, and practiced a bed roll as well.
Today was Family training day. Ben was able to come in, and we played games in OT together. He got training on how to get me in and out of bed, and use a shower bench. They also taught him how to get me in and out of a car safely with my hip restrictions.
In Occupational Therapy, we worked on getting dressed with the reacher and sock assistant. I was able to get a shower in, and we practiced sliding on the shower bench to get in, leaning back far enough to not break my restrictions. I will most likely be using a shower bench when I get home.
In Physical Therapy, we practiced walking with the regular walker again. I walked 100 feet the first time, and 75 feet the second time. We practiced getting in and out of bed, including a higher bed, and practiced getting in and out of a car. We also practiced walking with the walker on a mat for a different type of surface and practiced going up on a board to simulate crossing over a threshold.
Today I enjoyed coloring in a coloring book, and continued to work with family on the plans for me to come home. This week is flying by, and there are still a few things to do before I hopefully get to head home!
Songs to Focus on:
From my mom….
Other songs to focus on…
Scripture to Focus on:
From my mom….
Other Scripture to focus on…
These movie lines have been standing out to me. After something like this, a person is never the same. And why should we be? Trauma changes you but it can make you stronger.
There is no going back. There is no returning to normal, only moving forward and finding a new normal. For events such as the accident I was in are not meant to send us back to who we were before. They are meant to change us, to help us grow and become stronger. It’s up to us to decide whether we will allow the trauma to change us for the better or worse.
You can’t be the same after something like this. Sure, you can return to a sense of normalcy, but it will never be the same. And it shouldn’t be.
Today in Occupational Therapy, we worked on putting socks on with a sock helper. It’s a special device that assists with putting on socks when you can’t bend down.
We also play Solitaire, with me standing for part of the time. My legs were pretty stiff with it being first thing in the morning, so I wasn’t able to stand long. In the afternoon, we played a game of Suduko, with the game propped up and weights on my wrist so I had to practice reaching while building my muscles.
Today in Physical Therapy, we practiced walking with a non- platform Walker. I was able to walk 86 feet the first trip, then 90. We also practiced navigating the wheelchair through an obstacle course.
In the afternoon, I walked 90 feet, then we played a balancing game in which I stood with my feet apart and bounced a beach ball back to someone. My walker stayed in front of me and the wheelchair behind me on case i lost my balance, and the PT person stayed by my side. After a round of that, I put my feet together, and then for the 3rd round, we placed a foam board under my feet. This made it harder to balance and I had to grab the walker a few times to keep from falling. We finished the session with another 90 foot walk in which I tried to pick up the pace to see if I could go faster.
This morning, I was able to use the reacher to dress myself, all except socks and shoes. In between therapy sessions, I was able to work on this blog, practice wheeling myself around the room, and chat with Ben on what is needed for my return home.
Today i also enjoyed a visit from one of the harp players. The music they play is always so calm and peaceful, and I enjoy it a lot when they can come.
Today in occupational therapy worked on me getting dressed with the reacher. If you are not familiar with a reacher, it’s a special tool that allows people to do things for themselves when they otherwise couldn’t. I have a lot of restrictions with my total hip replacement, among them not being able to bend down for anything, so the reacher comes in really handy with picking things up and helping me to get dressed.
We played a card game with me standing up to practice my balance and strengthen my fingers. We also played a game in which I handed a bean bag from one hand to another through a loop, and then tossed it into a crate. We played a board game with dice, where you put numbers down based on the dice rolled, and we played Jenna.
Today in Physical Therapy, we practiced walking with the walker. I was able to walk 47 feet, and then 42 feet before needing to take a break. We then tried a walker without a platform. I was able to walk 75 feet all together, with several breaks.
We also practiced rolling out of bed with the log roll, and wheelchair mobility. I am able to operate the wheelchair fairly well with my arms.
If all goes well, I may be going home soon! It’s been a long road with a long road to go, but it would be nice to get back home.
Our pets will be very glad when I’m home. Chewbaca is really having a hard time without me there. Ben sent me a picture of him being all sad and clingy.
Songs to Focus On:
From my mom…
One of the churches we used to go did a skit with this song years ago…