Friday, October 17, 2014

Visit from the Folks

My grandparents and Uncle Rick visited earlier this week. We never do much when they visit and spend a lot of time just hanging out here at the house, which is fine with me. My mom and grandparents always do the crossword puzzle in the newspaper; they are all extremely smart and just about always finish it. We also watched lots of the Cardinals playoff games together. The Cardinals lost the pennant to the San Francisco Giants last night. It was disappointing, but they gave it a good try.

We took some pictures, of course:
On Wednesday we went to go visit my younger sister Chandra at her new job. She is now working for AT&T and spent the month of September in a rigorous training program. There is sure a steep learning curve and A LOT to learn about all of the different products AT&T sells. Chandra is doing great so far. AT&T seems like a great company to work for and Chan gets excellent benefits. I'm sure she will be very happy and very successful.

I love my grandparents SO much and always enjoy visiting with them. Every time they leave I always wonder, "will this be Grandpa's last visit?" He's 92, after all, and is definitely starting to slow down. It's hard to see someone you love declining, but I guess that's just to be expected. He's lived a good, long life, though. He's amazing and I will really miss him when he does "go the way of all the earth."

I really enjoyed seeing my Uncle Rick, too. His family lives all the way in Tucson, so I don't get to see him very often. He is so funny, though, and he always makes me laugh. I'm grateful that he was able to fly to Rochester and drive my grandparents to and from Missouri so that Grandma didn't have to do all of the driving. It's always wonderful to be able to spend time with my mom's folks!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Memory and an Aging Mind

There are lots of pros and cons when it comes to aging. One of the definite perks of being a child (in addition to having a higher metabolism) is how their brains soak up knowledge like a sponge. Little kids learn SO much SO quickly; it's really quite amazing. I turned 30 earlier this year, which is by no means old, but I've noticed that I definitely do not learn new things near as quickly or easily as I used to.

Something I find interesting is that I can remember exact dialogue, quotes and plot points from movies I watched over and over as a child, even though I haven't seen the movies in 15-20 years. Yet, I can't remember what happened in the books/movies that I read/watched last month! I marvel at that sad fact all the time, and it's just crazy that I lose the details of things at a much more rapid pace now. I find that it takes a lot more effort to learn new things and retain that knowledge than it did when I was a child. I suppose it's all downhill from here...
The picture below is what I feel like is slowly happening to my memory. In addition to the increased difficulty in learning new things, I'm finding it more difficult to learn simple things, like new people's names (something that used to be no problem). So much for being "steel trap." ;) Steel trap is how some people have described my mind since I've always had (and still do have) a pretty remarkable memory and a gift for being able to recall even the smallest and seemingly insignificant details about people/conversations/situations. My memory is still keen, but it isn't quite as sharp as it once was, sadly.
I suppose the lesson I need to take away from all of this is that if I want to learn/memorize something, do it NOW before I get any older, as well as continue to do things to exercise my brain, something experts say will help prevent Alzheimer's (which is one of my many fears).

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Heart from Heaven

We have a river birch tree in our front yard, and river birches tend to drop their leaves early. Our front yard is covered with leaves under the tree, except for a bizarre patch that is devoid of leaves. It was puzzling, so after several days my mom decided to check it out. She came back in to say that the bare patch was heart-shaped. And it so happened to be my mom's birthday, so she said that it was a birthday card from my dad (who died 15 years ago). He always did love hearts. He even wanted a heart-shaped headstone, but my mom (who is not crazy about hearts) put her foot down since it will one day bear her name, too.
The weird thing is that the bare patch has lasted more than a week, even though we've had some windy, rainy weather. I was sure some leaves would be covering the heart-shaped area yesterday after the storm we had Monday night, but when we looked out the window Tuesday morning it was still there, still heart-shaped and still bare. Coincidence? Maybe, but I don't think so. :)

Monday, October 6, 2014

Defying the Odds

I heard a great story on the morning news a few days ago that I thought would make a great post since I can relate to part of this woman's story.

In 2012 Liz Mitchell fell 16 feet off her balcony while playing with her dog. She landed on her head, shattered her C6 and C7 vertebrae and damaged her spinal cord. Liz was put in a medically-induced coma at the hospital. Five days later she awoke to find out that she was a quadriplegic.

Liz's boyfriend, Bryan, broke the news to her. Liz told a news reporter, “He didn't just say, 'You're paralyzed; you can't walk.' He specifically said, 'One day, we'll move to Waco, we'll get married, and we will have a beautiful life. And it does not matter if you are in a wheelchair.'" Bryan also told her, "Whatever God is going to allow you to get back, we're going to maximize that."

Liz moved to the Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation, where she started learning how to be independent in a wheelchair. Every day Bryan encouraged Liz by motivating her to try to wiggle her toes. One day they moved. Bryan said that it was the most miraculous moment he'd ever experienced. With therapy Liz steadily improved, regaining the movement she'd lost. She took her first steps in a pool, then on a treadmill and used an exercise bike to strengthen her legs. Liz first walked with a walker and then on her own... even up stairs. 
Bryan stayed by Liz's side and he encouraged her every step of the way. Bryan said that seeing the person Liz became in the darkest depth of her struggle really deepened their relationship and he knew he couldn't live without her. Liz first walked out of the rehab facility, and then eventually down the aisle.

Even though Liz can now walk on her own, her mobility isn't what it was before she fell. She walks slower and with a noticable limp. I doubt she would change things, though. She said, "Before I seemingly had everything, I was successful and healthy, and from an outsider, it looked like I had everything. But I wasn't grateful, I never said 'thank you.' One day you wake up and you have a breathing tube in and you can't move a muscle... you realize the body that you thought was so important and defined who you were is useless." Bryan said that the transformation Liz made in the rehab center physically paled in comparison to the transformation she made emotionally and spiritually.

The doctors initially thought Liz wouldn't be able to get pregnant. Until this point, her reproductive system wasn't working. (I'm not sure if Liz always had this issue, or if it was a result of her injuries; the articles I read weren't that specific.) Miraculously, Liz defied the odds again by getting pregnant. Liz can't feel pain or temperature from her neck down and she said that her body feels like it is asleep. Liz's doctor initially told her that they weren't sure if she would feel contractions or fetal movement, but one day Liz felt her baby kick... another miracle. Liz and Bryan are so excited and have chosen the name Dorothy Marie... a name that means "gift of God."
My mom and I both enjoyed listening to the news clip on Liz and the miraculous set of events that have occurred in her life over the past few years. My mom exclaimed, "Why not you?!" (I'm always amazed when people damage their spinal cord and completely recover, or regain much of what they lost.) Knowing how close we are, I asked my mom if she would really want that for me if it meant that I got married and lived far away, like most of my other married sisters. She said, "Of course I would!"

What would I do if I spontaneously recovered? It's something I've never given much serious thought to since I believe my accident and becoming paralyzed is part of God's plan for my life. So the answer to what I would do if I recovered is: I have no idea! I would be absolutely lost and it would take me a while to reinvent myself and come to terms with it, just like it took me time to get used to my disabled life.

So what would I do? I still like the idea of nursing and caring for people, but the thought of undergoing several years of schooling really doesn't appeal to me... I'd just want to jump in and get going. One thing's for sure, though, I would make an excellent nurse! There is a huge component of nursing that cannot be learned in books; things that I've learned as a patient. If I were able to care for others, my experiences as a dependent/disabled person would help me better care for my patients and their families.

There are a lot of other things on my wish list of dreams that I would take on if I were suddenly physically able to. However, as I've said before, if completely recovering meant that I had to give back all of the valuable life lessons I've learned since my accident, I wouldn't do it because I'm a far better person NOW than I was BEFORE and there are just some things more important to me than being able to move!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Oliver Twist"

I finished listening to Oliver Twist this past weekend. How I love Charles Dickens! I was always too intimidated to give long classics a chance, until a few years ago. I'm so glad I changed my mind because I've discovered some real gems. I was familiar with the story of Oliver Twist since I've seen movie versions of it before, but it's always nice to read the real thing. I also read Spark Notes' synopsis of each chapter and analysis of each section which is always illuminating. I'm pretty dense and there's a lot I don't pick up on until it's pointed out to me.

I liked Oliver Twist very much, although I didn't enjoy it as much as Great Expectations. In Dickens' stories there are always characters that are really good and pure (like Oliver and Rose), some that are downright vile (like Sikes and Fagin) and others and that fall somewhere in between. It was a great story with a happy ending. I suppose it's unrealistic to have everyone get what they deserve, but it's kind of nice. There's enough sadness and unfairness in the world. I kind of like unrealistically happy endings. :)

I've seen several different adaptations of Oliver Twist, but the one below is my favorite. It was made in 2007 and it's really well done. It's about three hours long, so it's a little more detailed and true to the book than some of the other ones I've seen. I think the different actors that portray the characters do a really good job, too. I'm excited to watch this again now that I've finished listening to the book.
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