Filling Life

It’s funny how you think you really understand something about yourself–until you have to articulate it.
Tuesday evening I was sitting in therapy, saying an idea that I’ve said before, “I want to live life to the fullest,” and my therapist is sitting there nodding her head, notepad and pen in hand.  “Yes, that’s something you’ve expressed before.”
And it dawns on me–I’ve been saying this entirely wrong for the last 4 1/2 years. “Let me say it like this,” I began, “For people to know or read that I almost died is one thing but to live it is something else entirely.  To have doctors tell you that you’re a miracle, to say that you shouldn’t be alive or walking or talking or able to do the things that I do. . . . to have nurses say to you, ‘I’m not a spiritual person but there’s something special about you.  You’re alive for a reason.’  I know I’m alive for a reason.  And I might spend the rest of my life trying to figure out what the exact reason is.  But every day, no matter how awful I feel or how sad I am, knowing that I’m alive for a reason is always at the back of my head.  I never forget it and I’ll be damned before I do.  Every day people die from strokes or can’t function like me.  I cannot afford to blow the 2nd chance I’ve been given because I might not get a 3rd.
Some people almost die and they’re skydiving or trying to climb Everest just because they’re alive but those aren’t things they actually care about.  I want to fill my life with people and things that I care about, that make my life full.  I cannot afford to expend energy on things that aren’t fulfilling.  I do not want to be 50 and look back at my life and see that I filled it with things that aren’t actually meaningful.
So I know it might sound extreme to other people but this is my 2nd chance at life and I will not risk squandering it.  If you’re not a person who’s helping me fill my life, if you can’t accept me where I’m at then you have to go.  I honestly don’t mean that rudely but I just cannot and will not do it.”
There’s a way that truth hangs in the air, a way that once spoken you know the words can never be erased from the history of your soul, you’ll wear them like a proud tattoo all of your days.
“This is something you really feel.  It seems like it kind of guides everything you do.”
“It does, it has to.”
I left the office feeling lighter because I understand better this now spoken principle that guides my life.  Later that night I repeat it to Jen, one of my people who consistently helps me fill my life, and as I’m summarizing tears fill her eyes, “That’s beautiful.”
And I’m surprised because she gets it.  The more I think about it I realize that the people who fill our lives, the people who get down in the trenches with us and hold your hand while the two of you crawl out together, are the people who just get you.  And if they don’t get you they’re willing to accept you as you are, wherever you’re at.  No one can be a life filler to everyone and that’s okay, I don’t think that’s how life is supposed to be.
I’m filling my life, my 2nd chance, as fully as I possibly can because there won’t be a 3rd chance.  How are you filling the chance you’ve been given?

View More: http://fairbanksphotography.pass.us/kendra2I’m Stroked to Life aka Kendra.  After suffering a cerebral venous thrombosis at 25 I have found myself trying to drink in life, knowing that life is a gift and truly but a moment.  (For my entire stroke story you can click here and here) I’m a mother, a writer, an art lover, a design appreciator, and in my spare time I love to curl up with a book.
I want people to know that even after the worst of experiences there is life after the ickiness and it can filled with as much beauty as you choose.
If you can’t find me here you can reach me at strokedtolife@gmail.com or on Instagram @strokedtolife.

Happy Places

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A melancholy path

The last little while I’ve been in a state of melancholy.  I could list all the supposed reasons for said melancholy, most of which are probably valid. . . .actually they’re all completely valid but seeing the list wouldn’t help me feel any better.
Sunday night Patrice and the Red Knight were out of the house and I was left to my own devices.  There were several things that I could have done but I found myself being called to write.
I haven’t written at length for weeks, snatches here or there but nothing fluently.  So that night I sat down and attempted to write, I stuttered at first.  I listened to the music playing and forced the pen to paper and reminded myself that the goal wasn’t perfection but just the act of writing.
I kept at it for an hour, surprised at how the time moved so quickly and wished that there were more hours in a day.  Nearing the second hour I realized that the melancholy had lifted and-
I’d found my happy place.
We spend hours, days, months, years, searching for happiness-usually in the form of a thing or in the arms of another person.
True happiness comes from within us.  It’s when we’re listening to and honoring our inner voice, when we shut out all the voices that are clamoring for attention around us.  Happiness is when we use the gifts and talents that we’ve been given and we allow them to flow through us to carve our happy places.
Finding your happy place doesn’t mean that once found melancholy will pass you by, that times won’t be difficult and heartbreaking but those moments should propel us into returning once again to our happy place.
What is your happy place?
Do and be what makes you truly happy.
“Happiness depends upon ourselves.”–Aristotle

View More: http://fairbanksphotography.pass.us/kendra2I’m Stroked to Life aka Kendra.  After suffering a cerebral venous thrombosis at 25 I have found myself trying to drink in life, knowing that life is a gift and truly but a moment.  (For my entire stroke story you can click here and here)
I’m a mother, a writer, an art lover, a design appreciator, and in my spare time I love to curl up with a book.
I want people to know that even after the worst of experiences there is life after the ickiness and it can filled with as much beauty as you choose.
If you can’t find me here you can reach me at strokedtolife@gmail.com or on Instagram @strokedtolife.

 

Pedestal For (Not So) Regular Folks: Defying the Odds Daily

I’m thrilled to share our next pedestal with all of you (I know, I know, it’s been much too long since we’ve had a pedestal interview)!
Our interviewee is the one and only Vickie Dawson, who happens to be the sister in law of our StL contributor Alli.  Vickie is a wife, mother, kick butt athlete, nanny, blogger, and Disney travel extraordinaire.
Almost three months ago Vickie suffered a stroke but every day she is inspiring all those around her by thriving.

Vickie1
Okay Vickie, first off,  when people look at your picture they are going to immediately assume that you’re too young to have suffered strokes. So how old are you?
31

What caused your stroke/how many did you have?

My strokes were caused by a vertebral artery dissection. I pushed so hard at a workout that I actually caused the artery that runs through the vertebrae in my neck to tear and separate from the artery wall. The injury site is where clots began to form. Later that day I felt well enough and decided to help move a heavy wooden swing set out of my yard. The strain from this exertion loosened the clots from the dissection and it lead to 2 blockages in my brain to have a stroke.

What were your symptoms?

When the dissection happened I felt like I had strained my neck, nothing major, just a little discomfort. I also had a bout of light-headedness, but it only lasted about 20 minutes. I had no idea something so serious was going on.
When the stroke happened, I felt like I was going to “melt” to the floor, and I did. My entire left side felt completely disconnected and very heavy. I also had numbness on my whole left side as well as weakness.

What are the side effects of your strokes
?
I have patchy numbness on the entire left side of my body.  The sensory is slowly remapping, but the feeling on my left is completely different than my right and much more dull.  My proprioception is also very impaired.  If I’m not looking at my arm I most likely have no idea where it is in space.  I also lost almost complete use of my left side when the stroke first occurred.  However, with lots and lots of hard work I am now independently mobile and able to do most tasks that I did before.  I may not do them exactly the same or as quickly, but I still get most things done.

What was a typical day like prior to your strokes and what is a typical day like now?
Before the strokes I was a busy mom who was passionate about family, fitness, travel, and having as much fun as possible. I would wake up, get my family off to work and school, go running, clean, cook, shop, garden, pick up my girl from school, do homework and girl talk, take my girl to cheer, go to the gym for a strength workout, run a little more, pick up my daughter from cheer, eat dinner and crash. I also showered in between all that exercise and running around, promise.
A typical day now is not much different it’s just scaled back. I still take care of my family and home, but I don’t do things quite as elaborate as before. I also have replaced my hard-core running and workouts with stationary biking, walking, and lots of physical therapy exercises.

Has anything surprised you post stroke? Biggest frustration?
I am surprised by something everyday! I feel like I’m constantly changing. I wake up to a slightly different me every morning. Sensation and coordination are changing all the time and it’s usually for the better…not always, but mostly.
My biggest frustration is overall coordination on my left side. It gets better day by day…but sometimes getting my hand to do simple tasks, feels like I am trying to send psychic messages to Mars.

I know you’ve had to do some intensive physical therapy- what kinds of exercises do you have to do? How many hours a day?
I went to an inpatient intensive rehab for a couple of weeks where I worked with physical and occupational therapists for 3 hours a day. Currently I attend outpatient therapy twice a week, but I do my own training everyday. Typically I work on therapies 2-3 hours a day.
I started out with extremely basic exercises like tapping my toes, moving my arms up and down, and kicking my legs out while sitting. I have since graduated to exercises such as walk/jog intervals, squats, lunges, planks, crunches, and light-weights. I begin every workout with 30-60 minutes of cardio and then start on circuit training. My list of exercises from physical therapy is seriously a novel, but I don’t do them all everyday. I choose 10-15 different exercises and make my own WOD (workout of the day). It’s definitely different than my old workouts, but I’m grateful for my current capabilities and the progress I’ve seen so far.

Biggest accomplishment post stroke?
My biggest accomplishment has been in the little things. Walking my dog, doing the laundry, cooking dinner, fixing my daughters hair, and passing my drivers evaluation. It’s all the small everyday tasks that I may have robotically done before that add up to my one big goal of living my life.

If/when you feel down how do you keep going? What’s your motivation?
When I feel down or frustrated I usually just need a break from all the recovery stuff. I will call or text a friend or family member to see how they are. Focusing on the people I care about gives me a sense of normalcy.

How has having strokes changed your outlook on life?
The biggest change in my outlook is that I am now making all my family and friend relationships a top priority. Before the strokes I was going a mile a minute and if I had time to chat for 2 minutes while waiting in the school parking lot, reading grocery ads, writing “to do” lists, and eating a late lunch, I felt like that was adequate. Now, I realize how important it has been for me to have so many wonderfully supportive people in my life and I don’t want to take them for granted.

What is the most important thing you want the world to know about strokes?
A stroke can happen to anyone! I was the healthiest I had ever been and guess what? I had a stroke! Know the signs and be educated about what to do in an emergency situation.
I also want people to know that even though terrible things can and do happen, it doesn’t mean life is over or that you have to change all your plans. There is plenty of joy and fulfillment in life after having a stroke. Lots of things change, don’t get me wrong, but by focusing on the things I can accomplish and striving for improvement, I am able to move forward.

 

Vickie after passing her recent driving evaluation
Vickie after passing her recent driving evaluation

For more on Vickie be sure to check out her blog (which is on a brief hiatus while she focuses on her recovery): http://presentlyobsessed.wordpress.com/
Stroke survivor or not, you have the opportunity to defy the odds today, the opportunity to rise above.  How will you defy your odds today?

 

View More: http://fairbanksphotography.pass.us/kendra2I’m Stroked to Life aka Kendra.  After suffering a cerebral venous thrombosis at 25 I have found myself trying to drink in life, knowing that life is a gift and truly but a moment.  (For my entire stroke story you can click here and here)
I’m a mother, a writer, an art lover, a design appreciator, and in my spare time I love to curl up with a book.
I want people to know that even after the worst of experiences there is life after the ickiness and it can filled with as much beauty as you choose.
If you can’t find me here you can reach me at strokedtolife@gmail.com or on Instagram @strokedtolife.

 

 

 

Willow

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Willow

(Forgive me, loyal readers I am way behind schedule and am just now posting Willow’s picture and bio.)

Hello, my name is Willow. I am a wife, mother, aunt of many, daughter of few, but wonderful people (yes, my in-laws included), and on occasion an artist. I have sensitive skin, enjoy my cheese melted, and don’t like wearing socks. My husband often calls me a tree hugger and my 16 moth old sometimes calls me mom (frequently I am just the ASL sign for milk). Spontaneous singing and dancing is the norm in our household. If you know me, you know that I can be flighty and lose track of time easily. I’d like to chalk that up to a “creative temperament,” but let’s be honest, sometimes this is just my lazy butt not paying attention to details.

I love making lists and will often add completed tasks just to have the satisfaction of checking them off. I am scuba certified. I own my own handgun. I have lived in Paris for a brief time, been part of a hot air balloon chase team, trained for two marathons (and ran one), and read too many books to count. I have worked as a caregiver, carousel operator, nanny, speech tutor, waitress, receptionist, secretary, maid, cashier, ophthalmology clinic coordinator, and currently I work as a librarian. Did I mention that I love lists? In high school I had several blind and deaf friends. So, between learning brail in order to pass notes and learning sign language in order to communicate better, I believe they helped me see the world differently. I also took Latin and was in the old English club at the time, but I count that as part of my nerdy phase.

Right now a lot of my time is spent doing mundane and repetitive tasks: dishes, laundry, pick up toys, cook, and repeat. It’s easy to lose yourself in the everyday things, but I believe it’s important to see the beauty in the moment, no matter how insignificant it may seem.

To Live in the Moment. . .

Sometimes you have to let go of some things.
Last night I had to stare a decision that I have avoided right in the face.  A decision that I’ve tried to make before but to no avail.  One that I’ve been so torn up about that it took no less than three of my closest loved ones to help me make it.  It sounds exciting but trust me, it isn’t.
For a while now, I’ve been wrestling with the decision whether or not I could/should keep Facebook.  I wanted to disconnect.  My dilemma came when I realized that if I disappeared from Facebook then the StL Facebook page would have to disappear too.
StL joined Instagram, which has been great, it helps us remember our mission to live life in the moment because the next moment isn’t promised to us.  On Facebook though we’ve been able to bring over some new readers which we so appreciate. What to do, what to do?
When I went to bed last night I still didn’t have the answer.  So this morning I called Kjirsten, I had already talked to Alli and Dana who each made great points, and laid all the cards on the table.  Knowing how important it is for me to disconnect, Kjirsten has graciously taken over the StL page.  That means if you’re checkin’ for me on Facebook I’m not there.  I’m on here, on Instagram, or to paraphrase Camus I’m busy living to “the point of tears.”
After I let go of Facebook, I realized that there’s a bigger lesson in this.  We all have things that we are clinging to that keep us from living in the moment.  We probably don’t even realize how much we’re clinging to them because they seem too small to be holding us back.  Is that stack of dishes keeping you from enjoying the fleeting sun?  Are you so focused on work that you’re barely enjoying your lunch break?  We cling to these ideas- I have to do the dishes or I have to get this work done that we don’t live in the moment.  So today ask yourself-
What can I let go of so I can live in the moment?
“Forever is composed of nows.”–Emily Dickinson

 

View More: http://fairbanksphotography.pass.us/kendra2I’m Stroked to Life aka Kendra.  After suffering a cerebral venous thrombosis at 25 I have found myself trying to drink in life, knowing that life is a gift and truly but a moment.  (For my entire stroke story you can click here and here)
I’m a mother, a writer, an art lover, a design appreciator, and in my spare time I love to curl up with a book.
I want people to know that even after the worst of experiences there is life after the ickiness and it can filled with as much beauty as you choose.
If you can’t find me here you can reach me at strokedtolife@gmail.com or on Instagram @strokedtolife.
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