We must rise to life’s challenges

This is a quote is by Lady Mary in season 4, episode 8 of the tv show Downton Abbey. If you read the post I did last year on ‘Adjusting the Sails’, this is the big picture. A way we rise to life’s challenges (and don’t I know about that) is by adjusting the sails.

Most people know my first name is Evangeline. I was named after the poem Evangeline (published in 1847) by Henry Wasdworth Longfellow. It’s a great read. My mother loved that poem as a youngster. (Good thing she wasn’t a huge fan of Hiawatha!) The official nickname for Evangeline (face it 4 syllables is a lot) is Vangie. At a very young age, I decided I would omit that ‘e’ and my parents were very supportive. Evangeline means ‘bearer of good news’. I have very strong opinions of the stroke and consequently don’t see myself as a bearer of good news, but I see myself as a good bearer of news. With the stroke, I have risen to the challenge!

I have said that I have ataxia. I am not paralyzed. I was right-handed before the stroke and the ataxia is worse on my right side, so I’ve learned to do things with my left hand. There are some things I still do right-handed (like using the mouse on the computer), but those are things where I can stabilize on something that doesn’t move.

We love Jessica Rabbit from the movie “Who framed Roger Rabbit?” My favorite line from the movie is where Jessica says “I’m not really bad …. I’m just drawn that way”. I love that line. She knows that people form an opinion of her based on her looks and is constantly behaving in a way to refute that image.

In October, there is a World Stroke Day and they have a statistic that one in six people will have a stroke in their lifetime. That number is higher than I thought. An AVM was the source of my stroke. Strokes which have AVMs as a source are more rare. I have learned heaps about the brain, AVMs and strokes. This whole thing has been a learning experience and I’m thrilled to share any little bit. Believe me, Matt and I have learned heaps. I did not chose to have a stroke — but I did. Like I’ve said before … “no one says someday I want to have a stroke!” So now I just deal with it. I recall that friend who said “the stroke is what it is”. That is my rising to the challenge (and taking every one along)!

There is a great quote by Doug Larson that goes “A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows. Be a weed.” I really like that quote. I think it’s ok to not grow in rows. It is a good example of rising to the challenge! (Straight rows are over-rated!)

Another one of my favorites by the Persian poet Rumi goes “Out beyond right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” Now imagine in that field there is a tree and on that tree is a swing made from a tire. Now think of the fun you can have on that tire swing. I think this is a great example of rising to the challenge. It’s difficult to rise to the challenge or to think of that place or time beyond right-doing and wrong-doing might be scary but think of the fun on that swing!

These are two of my favorite quotes which put perspective on things and give us a whole new light as we rise to the challenge. One is a saying from the cartoonist Maxine which I have shared before. “A hundred years from now, this won’t matter. It barely matters now.” The second is my quote … “I’ve been thrown out of better bars!”

“You get a lot further with honey than you do with vinegar”

That quote is about people and what we say, but I see it all as collaboration. (I especially like the idea that we can use inanimate objects in what we do.)

We went to an event recently at the Magic Theater in San Francisco where they announced a collaboration with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It’s a David and Goliath thing, but that’s the whole point. One of my favorite playwrights is the artist in residence at OSF and so he is involved in the collaboration. A long time ago, I did a post called It Takes A Village which was about all the people involved in any stroke survivor’s journey. So now (years later), I see how everything is/can be involved!

Along with Pilates, I’m doing Physical Therapy at home. Both of the women who are my facilitators are fabulous. We have a big leather chair in the TV room. Both of them have given me exercises to do with that chair. I am a huge advocate of current technology and making use of it. I see it as a way of making things more accessible. Most people have iPads these days. They are affordable, so people who have had strokes can buy one and make use of the apps and the internet using the iPad. A couple of years ago, we saw a software vendor who had a demonstration of a software application for the iPad that they were developing for ambulance drivers. Using the gyroscopes in the iPad they could ask a person to hold the iPad with their right hand then their left hand to determine if they were having a stroke and the effects on strength and forward the results directly to the hospital where they were going. I like that because we can be subjective about something. We usually have our opinions (I do) and this objectifies the activity. So we may call it creativity, teamwork or collaboration, but it’s phenomenal what can be done. It’s about doing it together!

There is a great commercial for GoldieBlox Toys (it’s an Upworthy video on the Super Bowl ad) and I totally see that as collaboration. Individually what we have is not much, but collectively it’s huge! I love what they are doing. There’s also the Dignity Health Human Kindness commercial on surfing. Both of these are great examples of what we can do with collaboration (and duct tape).

I am a fan of the TV show American Idol. This season I am particularly interested in the judging. There are three judges and one is very focused on the marketing aspects of the person (can they sell albums), another is focused on the talent (can this person perform) and the third judge is a combination of marketing and talent focus. That’s great collaboration as far as I’m concerned! I am also a fan of the TV show White Collar. It’s a show set in New York City. One of the things that I consider collaboration and a reason I like to watch the show is that they use NYC as a character of the show. The setting is as important as any person (and that’s a huge piece)!

People have asked me about these posts. It takes me a while to think about them and a couple of days to type them in. Before I do a post, I send a copy to Matt to check . He does say frequently …. after all, I am the nice one. It’s from a movie. I think he’s right! I figure these notes should have the sound of nice. Life is difficult enough. (See, honey!)

I have a friend who says “I tend NOT to make New Years resolutions. I find a word that seems to carry me through the year.” What a great idea! My word would be bonus.

The last book Nora Ephron wrote was called I Remember Nothing. Isn’t that great? In it she talks about many things including her mother. One of the things she says her mother taught her was “you can leave the table but you may not leave the table.” That’s a bonus! A good definition of can and may.

I’ve talked about how much I like Almond Joys and while they are really not better than Mounds — that almond is a bonus!

There’s a website called The American Recall Center . The goal of every medical advancement is to help individuals maintain their quality of life. Safety and proper medical care is a key concern for many who have had strokes. To keep that focus and work towards getting their skills back, there are many therapies (including medicine) that are used for a variety of secondary conditions related to strokes. The question then becomes, can we stay on top of all the changes and alerts happening in medicine?

The news that affects many personally often cycles through the news quickly and is difficult to keep track of, let alone clearly understand. Does this mean we need to go without information? Absolutely not. It is vital that we stay informed about developments in the medical device industry especially as it pertains to safety alerts that matter most to health. The American Recall Center will be providing current information that is essential to the person’s well-being. The resources and bulletins we find here will provide us with valuable insight that can help enhance the next visit to the doctor. All of the posts are presented in easy-to-follow format that is heavy on the facts and light on “fluff.”

A special feature of the American Recall Center is the ability to set up Patient Safety Alerts. These are detailed notifications that will be forwarded directly into an e-mail account. These alerts will contain breaking news about medications, surgical procedures, and implants. Just like setting up any other type of e-mail alert, a person designates which categories they want to be included in the Patient Safety Alerts. Thanks to these alerts, when the FDA puts out a bulletin, they are among the first to know. That’s the kind of “peace of mind” one can depend on with The American Recall Center. That is totally bonus! This concept of addressing secondary conditions is phenomenal!

We have a few pieces of art by John Cogan. He captures the beauty of creation on canvas, painting the landscapes in a unique style. He works in acrylic, focusing on color and the effects of light. John earned his Bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University, then an MA and a Ph.D. in experimental physics from Rice University. He worked briefly in the corporate world, but in 1982 he left his job to pursue painting full time. His art reflects the chemistry of light on color. Now that’s a bonus! He used his chemistry knowledge in his artwork. The art completely changes based on the light.

Several years ago we heard an artist speak. Her artwork was something else. She had a stroke and had numerous MRIs consequently. She has incorporated many of those MRIs into her artwork. What a great idea!

I love fish and chips, so when I find some made with beer batter that’s a bonus, because I can taste beer. I am also aware that both of these items are fried — another bonus! When I found out that Matt did construction in addition to being smart, funny, a great father and easy on the eyes, I said BINGO! With others, Matt was recently recognized by the City of Palo Alto for his outstanding community volunteer work in emergency preparedness. He makes time to give back to the community and uses his skills to do that during his time. (As we know he has other considerations on his time.  A great example of bonus!) I see this concept of bonus being a precursor to gratitude. Every day, every experience, every person is a bonus.

I am blessed!

“That was easy!”

One of the gifts I’ve received recently is an easy button. It’s a red button (my favorite color). When you push it, a voice says “that was easy!” I love it and push it every day. It makes me smile. It has been used in a commercial. I figure life is hard enough, so we might as well find the easy parts of it. I have a friend who tells a story of someone who got caught in a dispute while shopping, got shot in the arm and was paralyzed in that arm. In retrospect she says “at least it wasn’t the face!” I think that’s brilliant and funny. That was easy! I am going to make this concept of easy, my resolution for the year. It’s optimism and looking at the glass half full all rolled into one. As a friend of our says “let’s call that spade a bloody shovel”, my stroke was major and getting skills back has been a challenge but having the stroke was easy!

For the holiday card last year, we had a photographer take a picture of the four of us and he asked me if there was anything special that I wanted. I told him that I wanted to be the same height as the boys for the picture. He said “we can do that, but you’ll have to have to stand on a really big stool”. So I did. That was easy!

Since the stroke I look for things where I can use multiple skills (it’s not that easy to find things)! It’s one of the reasons I like live theater (plays/musicals). I enjoy hearing the words and letting my imagination paint the picture. That’s why I like reading or listening to something on the radio. I also like the aspect of something being “live” … you don’t really know what you are going to get. I enjoy the Magic Theater in San Francisco. I describe it as more “experimental”. They do plays that typically have not been performed before. That is totally like a stroke! Something new. We don’t know what to expect.

There was a documentary on CBS by Queen Latifah on teaching. It was fabulous! It featured four teachers who were trying to make a difference. We all are trying to make a difference. When something doesn’t work, we try something else. In the end, when it works we look back and say “that was easy!”

We try to do lots of different things — not just to keep busy, but the exposure to different things helps me to see what’s new, what I can do and find out what is of interest. There are many things I like to do but I’m realistic about how difficult some things are for me. Since Matt has to do so much for me that’s a consideration also. It’s something I think about. I still say stroke survivors can do everything they did before the stroke but it looks different now. There is a saying “I survived a stroke. What’s your superpower?” I think that’s great and I think all stroke survivors ought to be proud of everything they do and have accomplished. I certainly do. I treat each day as special and try to acknowledge it as a gift.

I said we gave the boys a trip to Austin, Texas for the South By Southwest Music Festival last year. Matt went with them and got someone to take a picture of the three of them. I had the .jpeg and got a local photography store to print, mat and frame the picture for me. A friend picked it up for me since I don’t drive and and that’s what I gave Matt for Father’s Day. Some of my friends came over to prepare dinner and visit while Matt was gone. We have the picture on the kitchen table so we can see it regularly as well as others can (we know everybody hangs out in the kitchen). I love the picture! It totally captures everybody’s personality. I would put the whole thing in the category of easy. In this case, easy is creative and memorable. Just because something is easy doesn’t mean it’s easy to forget! The trip was memorable, the photography store doesn’t usually do that kind of thing and my friends were amazing!

That was easy!


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