Tis The Season

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.

Writing

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.

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

-Until next time,

Cindy and Ben

What Would Life Be Without Adventure?

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.

Powerless Adventure

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.

Sanford Strong

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.

Until next time,

Cindy

It’s Enough to Keep Going

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.

Writing

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.

Ben’s Health

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.

-Cindy

This Road We Take

Physical and Occupational Therapy/ Surgery Update

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.

Until next time,

Cindy

Crazy Busy October

Physical and Occupational Therapy

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.

Recharging

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

Cooking

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

Closing Thoughts:

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.

Until next time,

Cindy

Not All Sunshine and Rainbows

Physical and Occupational Therapy:

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.

Surgery Update:

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.

Until next time,

Cindy

Fall Life

Physical and Occupational Therapies:

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.

Canning

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:

Birthday Celebrations

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.

Fall

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

Cindy

And yet….

Physical and Occupational Therapy

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.

Another loss

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.

Road Trip

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….

Quotes and Scripture from this week:

Songs on Repeat this Week:

Life is full of trials and difficulty. And yet….

Until next time…

Cindy

Slow and Steady Progress

Physical and Occupational Therapies

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.:

Summer Beauty

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.

Quotes from this week:

Until next time,

Cindy

Birdwatching Photos

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.

Photos: