My Top 10 List: Tools of the Trade

Top 10 List

I had a supervisor one time that said, “you are only as good as your tools.”  She was referring to the splinting supplies in the occupational therapy clinic that included state-of-the-art warming trays.  Thermoplastics used in making upper extremity splints must be heated to the correct temperature or they become gummy; they also might burn your patient’s forearm when it gets too hot!  They had a thermometer on the splinting cart which was a luxury in those days.  Now with so many choices of materials from which to choose at a variety of temperature specs, having the right tools is standard practice.

Splinting never was my forte but the advice stuck with me.  My words came back to me when the men in my life would often repeat this phrase when faced with a decision of whether or not to add to the man cave “tool box!”  Yeah, it was usually o.k. with me.  Usually a new kitchen gadget jumped into the shopping cart too.  🙂  These days my tools relate more to gardening and my own health care.  Here’s a new spin on the latter:  your recovery is only as good as the tools you employ for recovery.  This post is an addendum to an earlier blog entitled, Keeping Sane While Recovering from Serious Illness.  With some tools that are tongue-in-cheek and not necessarily in this order, here goes:

1)  Treatment journal, online or in a notebook.  Keeping track of medications, supplements, medical appointments, changes in treatment plan, etc. is critical to success.  Who wants to make the same mistake twice?  My hand-written journal entries are more truncated these days since I’ve got my routine stuff down better and more social supports in place.  I do go back to earlier postings and am grateful for some progress.  Even if I am not doing better in other areas, I know that I am coping better overall; thank you Lord!

2)  Smart phone.  When stuck in bed I can still stay connected to the outside world via my social media favs, email, and text.  The Bible App is awesome and keeps me in the Word on a daily basis with its Bible-in-a-Year reading program.  On my mobile I can also look up what the heck is going on in my body and boost my lame brain with reminders of this or that on my calendar.  I was a late-adapter to the world of 4G+ and cannot see going back to a flip phone anytime soon!

3)  Fingertip less gloves.  My hands and extremities get chilled in the evening.  It’s a battle trying to do a few things when I am awake and feeling better in the middle of the night but feel like I’m freezing!  The drop in body temp can trigger noxious symptoms so I needed to find a strategy for keeping my hands warm.  I was Christmas shopping at Macy’s this past year and there they were in a colorful display:  a table filled with mittens that had removable mitts so you could expose your fingertips.  Your hands stay warm from the middle knuckles through the wrists.  Success!  These even come in handy when taking frozen foods out of the freezer or grocery shopping.  Grocery stores give me the chills year round.  Know what I mean?

4)  A really warm fleece jacket with pockets.  For the reasons noted above, I finally have something to keep me warm when roaming about the house later in the evening.  The softness of the fabric is comforting too.  What did we ever do before Polartec?  Or maybe for you it is a handheld fan?

5)  Fuzzy socks!  Yes they are warm.  It’s the cute designs and fun colors that make me smile a little when my feet are cold.  My cow socks (which were a gift from when my Aunt Patty lived in Vermont) are my favorite.  The thicker the better, over the ankle, and loose-fitting too.  Such a simple pleasure.

6)  Breakfast from a traditional lunch bag.  Mornings are the hardest for me.  Most days I awaken in elevated pain with noxious symptoms that make it difficult to use the bathroom let alone make breakfast.  Finally the Lord led me to a solution of making my breakfast the night before much like I used to make my lunch to take to work each day.  The freezer pack keeps it cold until morning.  Many times I am eating food cold that others might microwave/heat up before mealtime but that is not a requirement for me anymore.  I just gotta get food in my belly to feel better so a chunk of meatloaf for breakfast it is sometimes!

7)  Making the effort to cook or purchase special snack foods that fit within my restricted diet.  For example, I think I’ve finally mastered coconut flour pumpkin (or squash) muffins to comply with my Candida/mold-free/low oxalate diet.  Pulling a little essence of home-baked goodness out of my breakfast bag in the morning with Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread, I no longer feel deprived!  The recipe is a bit challenging so I double it and freeze them for yummy goodness each morning.

8)  Emergency remedies on hand at all times.  For me this includes high CBD hemp oil and a charcoal-filter face mask that have arrested an oncoming seizure attack when in a public place more than once.  We need to be proactive in managing the crises of our health condition where possible, saving the real emergencies for situations beyond our control, eh?

9)  Slip-on shoes and slippers.  Who wants to bend over and risk falling on one’s head when weak from illness and needing to cover one’s feet?  Yeah, not me either.

10)  Something or someone warm and fuzzy.  Yes, this can include the stuffed kind or your man with generous amounts of chest hair to comfort us when needed.  (O.k. maybe your lady in soft flannel pajamas would apply here instead!)  When my beloved is not home our German Shepherd pup gets a little extra massaging.  Who knew that a big, protective dog breed would love to cuddle?  Elle, you rock.

Well there you have it:  my top 10 list of recovery tools.  Have some of your own?  I’d love to hear about them!  Please feel free to add your comments below.

The Winter Hiatus Just Might Be Over

So glad to be able to get creative again after a long spell of, as they say in the cereal commercial, “nuttin’ honey!”  Making wrap bracelets have become my favorite jewelry to make, incorporating macramé, traditional jewelry findings, leather, and just about every technique I’ve learned so far.  Having a creative outlet has been a blessing of late and here’s hoping this lovely piece is the start of more good things to come!

Boho Macramé and Mixed Media Bracelet From Trinity Jewelry by Design
Boho Macramé and Mixed Media Bracelet From Trinity Jewelry by Design

 

 

Click on the link below for more information.

http://www.etsy.com/au/listing/176883249/handmade-boho-macrame-metal-chain-and?ref=shop_home_active_1

A New Project to Keep Me Sane

An idea for a new project has come to mind so when I’m not here, I’m brain-dumping in Microsoft Word.  The topic:  helping others with chronic illness with the day-to-day practical barriers to living.

My career in occupational therapy included evaluating the daily “occupations” in the lives of my patients and the skills he or she needed to get through the day.  Occupations can include homemaking, pre-driving skills, functioning on the job, and more.  When the person was unable to complete the steps, tasks, and activities needed to perform those daily occupations then O.T. was offered.  Treatment began during an inpatient hospital or rehabilitation facility stay and continued in outpatient or home care therapy sessions.  I have had the privilege of working in all of these settings.  My favorite was always home care.  When you are working with a patient in their own living situation, the evaluation is often more accurate and the remediation more meaningful.   This was my part time work when I became sick on October 11, 2011.  Within a few months I was unable to continue.  Since then the remediation has focused on my own home and health!

I am grateful for my 30 years in occupational therapy practice.  The Lord led me to a profession as a high school graduate that would provide a fulfilling career my entire adult life.  I enjoyed serving others in both psychiatric and physical rehabilitation settings, with adolescents to older adults alike.  I have been with a patient just moments before she passed away and another when he realized that his disabilities would be permanent.  To look into the eyes of someone about to lose their independence because of his medical condition and another who needs a little nudge to realize she is ready to return to work are equally humbling experiences.  And these days when I look into the mirror, I have some of those same discussions in mind as I consider the challenges of my own life these days.  Gratefully, I have a rich variety of experiences and resources upon which to draw.  In many ways I have not had to struggle as much as my patients because of my training as an OT.

For example, I intuitively know the importance of planning ahead in the evening for the next morning.  If I wake up with seizure attacks and my husband is alone, I generally have a plan in place to meet my basic needs in case I would be unable to leave the bedroom.  The night before, I usually pack a breakfast with my a.m. medications, enough water and food (following my special diet) to make it through the first part of the day.  Low blood sugar can exacerbate my symptoms so this strategy has become one of numerous methods employed to cope with my limitations of late.  I am grateful to the Lord for the skills He has giving me, His help in my time of need, and His leading me to a profession that has allowed me to cope through many trials in my life.

So why don’t I see what I can do to help others with this knowledge?  When I did a preliminary search on coping strategies, I found a great deal of resources on the topics of emotional, psychological, and social skills for persons with chronic illness.  This was a great discovery and I benefitted from reviewing these blogs, articles, book reviews, and so on.  But where were the day-to-day strategies for example, in preventing falls when dizzy because of a medication side effect?  In my role as an OT, I could point to many disease-specific organizations that might have such resources, for example the Alzheimer’s Association or Multiple Sclerosis Society.  This information is also easy to find within the disability community.  But what about a person with Lyme disease?  Sick building syndrome?  A temporary illness?  Persons with a serious, multi-diagnosis, ongoing illness numbers in the hundreds of thousands or more.  I see them on Facebook forums, WebMD, and the like.  I would like them to know that there are simple strategies to reduce their daily struggles, improve their ability to function, and in doing so also keep myself sane while on the path to healing.

We have a saying within the therapy profession that goes like this, “therapist, heal thyself.”  While this is not entirely true, certainly a therapist can do pretty well at rallying some resources to get the healing process going.  My hope is that by sharing some practical information with others I will not only keep myself sane as I write but also gear myself up for returning to a productive life someday soon.  The complications of my own illness make it difficult to concentrate, use various thinking skills after several episodes per day.  The challenge of writing, editing, researching, and publishing my first eBook did help fire some neurons in a meaningful sequence here and there!  I’m thinking I’ll try it again.

If this resonates with you, please let me know what you would like to see in such a handbook.  The current outline begins with the morning of a typical day and continues through all of the activities of daily living until bedtime.  I will include information on fall and injury prevention with references for sample adaptive equipment, such as a sliding tub transfer bench or automatic night lights.  Many of us will be familiar with parts of the information.  My hope is that by systematically reviewing a person’s typical home environment that there will be new insights:  a little something for everyone and his or her caregivers.  I have seen the power of a simple strategy in making the day a little brighter in the life of a person battling a serious illness.  Maybe this will even lead to a forum where there will be an exchange of information as well.  I am looking forward to the possibilities . . .

Parking Lot Poem #1

Sure was a tough time in my life when transitioning from married life to single life.  The refining fire was intense, laden with more trauma than I ever thought I would endure in such a short period of time.  Separation, divorce, 5 moves, 4 jobs, 2 injuries, a condo fire, death of 3 family members, and my mother’s cancer story contributed to over-the-top stress.  I have so much to be grateful for these days, that’s for sure!

So how did I cope?  First my faith in the Lord grew stronger.  Second, I needed counsel and found it through a few remaining close friends and a professional or two.  Three different support groups related to grief and divorce convinced me that it was not me who was going crazy:  my life circumstances were crazy!  I began journaling more regularly too.  Perhaps if blogging was in vogue in 2004 I would have started mine back then as well.  But one of the most useful tools was the smallest:  a little spiral notebook in the console of my car . . .

I’m not quite sure where the idea came from to journal in my car.  I found a small pocket-sized steno book called the “fat lil’ notebook” and kept it with me for making notes to myself.  One day it hit me when I felt completely lost that maybe I needed to write a little something more to clear my head, right there in the parking lot on June 10, 2004.  The first entry that I can find went like this:

It’s another parking lot poem this noon

Alas a month later in the rainy part of June.

My new job must end to save my integrity

And the work ethic I’ve carried with me for decades.

So now which way to turn, oh Lord

The great authority and provider of my life?

This makes no sense and yet it does:

To trust you no matter the chaos my days do bring.

For in the end or looking back when down the road,

I’ll see this day as one leaned on faith

And be glad I knew you when and where

I napped in the parking lot before a great swim once again.

 Years later it all made sense to me why the parking lot poems were so meaningful to me.  When we take a drive somewhere, we park our cars and go into a business or residence of some sort and leave our vehicle for a time.  We return later, put our belongings somewhere near us, turn the key in the ignition, and take off for our next destination.  The time in the parking lot or driveway is a point of transition from one destination to another.  We have completed one activity, gathered our things, and prepared to make our way to the next location.  During the short time when we are sitting and stationary, we might have a quick thought about what has transpired (did we accomplish something or did we encounter difficulties?) and think about where we are headed next (how do I get there and who will I see/what will I do there?).  The brief moment allows us to re-group, re-gather, re-launch until it’s time to go back home again.  This time goes quickly for most folks, I reckon.

That time did not go quickly for me at all.  I often got stuck in the parking lot when I was trying to move from one activity to the next.  I cannot explain it exactly.  I just know that the overwhelming burden of my life at that time made it nearly impossible at times to make transitions, change activities, or gear up for the next item on my “to do” list.  Have you ever experienced this Gentle Reader?  I just could not move on.  I couldn’t even tolerate music or news on my radio as it became like noise in a crowded bus terminal laden with diesel fumes.  I would often sit there in my little black race car (aka Honda Civic) in silence for what felt like a long time before I organized my thoughts and initiated the steps to get going again.  This is where the Parking Lot Poems changed everything.

Poetry is a looser form of communication than prose.  There aren’t as many rules in free form poetry, you can stop and start at any point, and emotions can blurt themselves onto the page in incomplete sentences.  It gets the words out quicker, eh?  Do you want to hear something else crazy?  After that 3-year period of time when writing poetry was such an instrumental tool in coping and healing, I stopped writing poetry.  I guess I didn’t need it anymore.  Oh I tried a few times but the words simply did not flow freely.  No more parking lot poems for me!  My favorite poem that was initially written in a parking lot became part of a 9-foot mural on a wall in my home, the one with the custom window treatments I wrote about earlier this past week.  I’ll save the story about “The Wall” for another time.

For this early morning writing, I’m just using my newer friend of blogging instead.  I am having trouble sleeping this day due to some noxious events.  Sure got some good thinking done tonight though and for that I am grateful.  Better go park myself back in bed before the sun comes up and try to make a go of sleeping again.

Thank you Lord for your gift of words.  Your Word is how we know you and fall in love with you.  Hmmmm.  Reminds me of a song.  May I sing it in my heart to you Lord?

Words