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.
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 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 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.