Thursday, June 2, 2016

Homemade deodorant that really works!

Let's face it: No one enjoys unpleasant body odor, right? I could go on a diatribe about how we as humans should accept the natural order of things, insisting that we embrace the earthy rawness of armpits unadorned with ahything that makes them smell better.

I could do that...but I won't.

I will say that there are plenty of reasons why someone would want to skip the chemical-laden underarm products and their lingering scent of a rainforest or rose garden. Do we really believe we can make our underarms smell like a rainforest? Would we want them to smell like a rainforest? I'm not sure about that. But I digress.

My article, "The jury deliberates...about our armpits!" addresses the specific concerns related to commercially produced deodorant/antiperspirant products, and I hope you will read it...your own armpits will thank you. Now I would like to share with you my own recipe for homemade deodrant so that you can try it out for yourself!

This recipe makes about 3/4 cup of deodorant, or about six ounces. Total cost to me for the ingredients is about $1, one more bonus as compared to store-bought products that can cost more than $3 for less than half the quantity. So without further delay, let's whip up a batch of deodorant!

You will need a small saucepan and a container for the finished deodorant, so gather those first.


1/2 cup pure coconut oil
1/2 cup arrowroot powder
10 drops Tea Tree essential oil
10 drops Peppermint essential oil
15 drops Lavender essential oil
2 T isopropyl alcohol (ordinary "rubbing alcohol")


  1. Mix the isopropyl alcohol with the arrowroot powder. I know that sounds odd, but trust me. The powder will easily absorb the alcohol, which prevents the alcohol from separating from the oil.
  2. Melt the coconut oil in the saucepan over low heat.
  3. Removethe coconut oil pan from the heat and stir in the essential oils.
  4. Mix the arrowrot powder thoroughly with the warm oil mixture, then pour it into your container.
  5. The deodorant will remain soft and rather runny until it is completely cool. I usually set mine in the refrigerator for a half hour or so to speed it up.
That's it! Rub about a nickel-sized portion under your arms and away you go! 

About the ingredients:
  • Coconut oil is mildly antiseptic all by itself, and is well-absorbed into the skin so it does not clog pores. Make sure you buy pure coconut oil and not one of the coconut oil "products" that contains petrolatum! Petrolatum is not absorbed into the skin and will definitely clog pores.
  • I prefer arrowroot powder because it does not irritate my skin. Cornstarch or baking soda can be substituted if you prefer, but if itching develops those are the likely culprits.
  • Tea tree oil is widely antiseptic and also well absorbed into the deeper tissue layers, reducing odor-causing bacteria and theoretically also benefitting the underlying lymph nodes.
  • Peppermint oil is mildly antiseptic and adds a pleasant cooling effect.
  • Lavender is mildly antiseptic, but the main reason for it in this recipe is to add a nice scent. You could substitute another essential oil that you prefer, or leave it out entirely. This is where you can personalize the deodorant with a specific scent that you enjoy!
  • If you prefer a drier texture in your deodorant, you can add a bit more arrowroot powder. Likewise, if you prefer it softer you can add less.
Bear in mind, this product is not an antiperspirant. Commercial antiperspirants inhibit sweating by using ingredients (aluminum-based, usually) that cause the opening of sweat glands to swell shut so sweat cannot exit to the surface...this deodorant does not interfere with sweating.

Lastly, if you have an empty push-up style deodorant container you can pour this deodorant into it while it is still warm and runny, and let it set up. You will be able to apply it directly from the container just as you would it's store-bought counterpart. 

If you try out my recipe, let me know what you think! I would love to hear from you!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Old things and new...

Our dichotomous lifestyle: two crocks of homemade sourdough starter...fresh garlic and dried homegrown cell phone charger plugged in so I can juice up my phone while I hand wash a few dishes.

Old fashioned skills and fresh homemade food right alongside modern technology that allows me to instantly share this moment of my morning with all of you!

Have a great weekend and I hope you might take your own moment to notice the old and new things side by side in your life! As always, I welcome your comments!


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The jury deliberates...about our armpits!

Many people are recognizing the dangers of constant exposure to toxic substances in products that we use every day...such as deodorant.

Let's face it: No one likes icky body odor, but everyone has to deal with it at some time or another. It's just a fact of life. So unless we live alone on an island somewhere, we will need to address this odiferous fact of life if we ever want to be invited to our friend's birthday parties.

In recent years there has been quite a hullabaloo in the press about potential links between underarm deodorants and antiperspirants and certain cancers, particularly breast cancer because of the close proximity of the underarm area, underlying lymph nodes, and breast tissue. Because I have family and friends whose lives have been severely affected by breast cancer, and because I myself, like most humans, happen to have breasts this obviously concerns me. After quite a long time researching the subject, reading others' opinions, and pondering the general topic of routine chemical exposure on our bodies, I have a few of my own opinions.

I will ordinarily side with the most natural, chemical-free, non-toxic varieties of any product over their chemical-laden alternatives simply out of common sense. Yet, I also prefer not to run around screaming, "The sky is falling!" until I know for a fact that it is indeed tumbling down upon me. Without dragging you through a data-dense pile of conflicting medical jargon, here is what I have decided to focus on and why.

First of all, the four main ingredients that concern me that are commonly in deodorant/antiperspirants are triclosanpropylene glycolparabens, and aluminum

Triclosan is an antibacterial agent that is meant to reduce bacteria on the surface of the skin. Triclosan is also a main ingredient in antibacterial handsoaps and body wash. Because bacteria is the main cluprit in body odor, including this ahtiacterial agent in deodorant products would seem to make sense, except that triclosan itself has come under fire for possible health risks as well as the general question of whether constantly bombarding ordinary bacteria with a powerful antibacterial agent might just contribute to the evolution of bacterial superbugs that are nearly impossible to kill. Hmmm... Personally, I prefer to avoid antibacterial soaps and such and instead we use good old fashioned soap in our house. (Castille soap is definitely my all-time favorite, and if you need a little extra antibacterial action for a specific reason a few drops of non-toxic tea tree oil can be added.)

Moving on to propylene glycol. In short, there are several grades of PG used in foods,
grooming products, and industrial items such as antifreeze. While food grade PG is found in everything from ice cream to frozen dinners (one great reason to avoid a steady diet of pre-processed foods), the fact remains that it is a toxin in any of its forms. Certain industrial products use a higher concentration and therefore more dangerous form, while cosmetic and food products of course use a much lower concentration which would seem to carry less risk. My question is: Arsenic is arsenic. Eating a high dose all at once will kill you quick. Eating a tiny dose day after day will kill you slowly over time. Same substance, different application, ultimately the same icky result. So is propylene glycol the same way? It appears that no one is exactly certain so once again, I choose to err on the side of safety and avoid it when I can. If it turns out to be unequivically proven safe one day, great! I have not lost anything and can let my concerns about it go. But if it turns out to be proven UNsafe, then I may have saved myself some harm.

Parabens, acknowledged endocrine disruptors (fancy terminology for "they get in the way of hormones being produced in correct amounts and then doing their jobs properly"), have been found in higher concentrations in the breast tissue of women with breast cancer in some studies. The catch is, no one seems to know what the actual effect is of those parabens being there or how they even got there in the first place. But considering the breast is comprised of glandular and fatty tissue, and some breast cancers are encouraged by certain hormone concentration abnormalities, there is reasonable cause for concern about an endocrine disruptor making itself at home there. Parabens in any form, introduced to the body by any means, are generally considered unhealthy and are probably best avoided.

"I'm kinda worried 'bout this!"
And now we come to the ingredient that actually concerns me the most, aluminum. Now, bear in mind that aluminum is the third most common element and the most abundant metal in our earth's is not a rare substance that only shows up when some mad scientist sneaks it into our granola cereal. The average American consumes 7-9mg of aluminum daily in our food, but aluminum is poorly absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract so most of it leaves as unnoticed as it entered. The question arises when we consider applying concentrated amounts of it daily to human skin in an area only millimeters away from clusters of lymph nodes, and only inches away from glandular breast tissue. Also of concern is the habit of shaving the underarm area, which may lightly abrade the skin and make it easier for applied substances to enter the deeper tissues. There is obvious cause for a thoughtful "hmmmm..." right here. But wait! There's more!

Aluminum is not an antibacterial agent or a perfume, so what is it doing in our pit-stick anyway? Well, the presence of aluminum is usually what transforms a simple deodorant into an actual antiperspirant that not only battles odor but prevents wetness. (This is where your antennae should pop up and start vibrating.) But aluminum does NOT prevent sweat from being produced in the sweat glands! It works by entering the tiny outer opening of each sweat gland where it causes micro-irritation of the lining of the duct, which causes the duct to swell closed. Sweat is trapped within the gland and cannot exit through the swollen-shut duct, therefore no underarm wetness!

But again, I have to wonder if such a total interference with a natural process is a good idea. We must remember that sweating not only cools us off, it is also one of our most effective means of removing toxins from our bodies! So when we essentially padlock the exit door to a whole bunch of sweat glands, we are literally trapping fluid inside. Now, that fluid can and will be absorbed into the lymphatic system and removed from the body through our circulation and eventual excretion through the kidneys...seems like no problem, right? Another "hmmm" right here...
"Ick...I'm a lil' worried too!"

Those are the same lymph nodes that already handle fluid balance in our bodies, doing their part to maintain homeostasis. That's a big word, "homeostasis", that literally means "keeping things constant or stable". Our bodies, including all of the fluid in them which is about 60% of our total body weight, exist in a living state by a miraculous system of checks and balances keeping millions of tiny variables always stable. The lymphatic system plays a key role in that stability, so it could be reasonable to assume that adding more strain to its workload might not be to our benefit healthwise, nevermind the possible effect directly on the lymph node tissue itself by a high concentration of an irritating metal.

So, what to do? Again, for myself I prefer not to run to the streets shouting death-by-deodorant rhetoric so the neighbors all think I'm crazy. But I DO see an opportunity to take the safe route of avoiding the substance in question when possible and save myself the stress of worrying about it. I have perfected a recipe for homemade deodorant that I have become quite fond of, which you can easily try out yourself. I find it to work very well, and I don't sit quietly in an air-conditioned room all day.

As for whether or not any or all of these ingredients increase cancer risk, the jury is still out. Some studies suggest a possible correlation while others are inconclusive...but none have actually ruled it out as a possibility altogether. We can look at it from two sides: On the one hand, there are so many health risks thrown at us every day just by stepping out our front doors, maybe we have bigger fish to fry and shouldn't worry about a litle thing like deodorant. Then again on the other hand, if we already have so many other risks throw at us is it a good idea to burden our bodies with yet one more toxic situation to deal with? Common sense dictates that we not ignore risks to our physical health, while also reminding us that fretting over every tiny possible threat could send us straight to the looney bin from the mental stress of it all!

Meanwhile back at the ranch...I leave it in your hands what you decide to do with your armpits. If you do try out my deodorant recipe, let me know how it works for you. I don't want anyone missing out on any birthday party invitations on my account! And if you have words of wisdom, new data, intresting articles, or gut feelings to share on the subject, I want to hear those too!

Here's to our health! Thanks for reading.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Begin today

"Whatever you think you can do or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, grace and power in it."
~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Do you dream of doing something? Anything at all...planting a garden, going for a hike, starting a new business you love? Or maybe you want to make a few dietary changes and add some exercise in order to improve your health. Perhaps you have always wanted to write a book, compose a collection of songs, or start selling a product you're particularly good at making.

Do it now. Just begin! Start that garden by planting a few seeds, start writing down those songs that come together in your head. Realize that other people really DO like that product you make so well and would love to buy it from you! Write down that story forming itself in your head because someone might really like reading that adventure tale, too.

Just begin. Somewhere small, some quiet act of taking a sleeping bull by the horns...and then see what happens later when that bull wakes up!

It could end up being the experience of a lifetime, so go ahead.


Begin today.

Monday, April 25, 2016

What in the world is plarn?

Don’t worry, you’re not the first person to have no idea what “plarn” is! But truth be told, it is a rapidly growing trend-slash-hobby that uses repurposed plastic bags to create beautiful and functional items. Now, I dont mean useless fluffy stuff that just takes up space on a shelf, but truly useful items that are pleasing to the eye as well. A short list would include:

  • Tote bags, carry-alls, and purses
  • Floor mats and rugs
  • Baskets of all sizes and shapes
  • Hats! Great for keeping rain and sun off of one’s head!
  • Sleeping mats for camping or other outdoor use
  • Seat covers to dress up patio furniture

Of course, every ceative individual could come up with their own ideas, these are just a few! But how in the world does it work, and why would anyone go to the trouble?
Consider this fact: In the United States alone, there are aproximately 100 billion plastic shopping bags used every year. You read that right, every year. While recycling them seems like a good idea, the sad reality is that most of those bags end up in our landfills with all the other garbage. What’s the big deal about that, you ask? 
First, it takes 12 million barrels of oil to produce that many plastic bags, another ridiculously scary number, but it’s true. And as if that is not bad enough, it will take at least 1,000 years for those plastic bags to degrade. That’s a really long time, and every year the bags just continue to pile up. Sounds pretty icky, right?
And if that isn't startling enough, consider the impact those plastic bags have on the critters who inhabit the planet. Our oceans and waterways also accumulate plastic bags which can be literally lethal to wildlife.       What can be done?
Well, one obvious answer is to stop producing such a huge amount of non-biodegradable material in the first place. That’s a given. Beyond that, we must consider the material that has already been produced and is right here…waiting. What do we do with it?
This is where “plarn” arrives on the scene! Rather than pile it all up in landfills, these plastic shopping bags can easily be turned into a material quite similar to yarn made from cotton, nylon, wool, or any other textile, except that it is plastic. Obviously, there are limits on what sort of items one would want to make from plastic, but as we can see from the short list above there are many items that work perfectly well. And while even those items will eventually themselves break down and need to be discarded, the point is to try to use that material in some positive way while it is still here.

Consider these handsome   baskets, made entirely from plarn!

The process of producing plarn varies because there are several varieties of finished product ranging from very thick strands made from entire bags, down to very fine threads made of narrow strips of plastic bags spun on a spindle that can be used for very detailed projects. For example, a mat used for sleeping on while camping would be made from intact bags so that the finished product is thick and cushioned, while a small purse might be made from much finer material so that a finer, detailed product is the result.

Curious as to how this all works? Stay tuned, because we are developing a step-by-step tutorial that will be ready soon! Meanwhile, start saving those plastic bags and get ready to create something beautifully useful with them!
Thanks for reading... Lorrie

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Who knew tying a bow would be difficult?

Well, here we are two days after Christmas Day, still alive and kicking through all the holiday hubbub. The fact that I have not posted here for two full weeks is some indication of how far behind I feel in many ways! My plan was to post once or twice a week, which was perhaps a bit too ambitious for my current energy level during a holiday season, but better late than never, right? Ok. So, here is what has been going on here during weeks five and six post-stroke.

First, let me say that the organization has been an amazing lifeline to me. Through talking with others who have experienced strokes of various kinds and with every level of outcome, I have been greatly encouraged. Some days are just harder than others and being able to chat with folks who have similar experiences makes me feel like less of a weirdo and reaffirms that I am getting better all the time.

One of my amazing discoveries these last two weeks has been how many things I have always done on "auto-pilot", but now must re-learn from scratch. For example, I decided that wearing my running shoes would probably provide more support to my left foot and help me  to avoid  turning that ankle. Stability, or rather the lack thereof, in my left foot and ankle is an issue because I can't feel anything there yet. That numbness would make it very easy for me to injure myself without realizing it. Well, what I had not considered until I was right there putting on my shoes was that I couldn't remember how to tie a bow! I could tie a knot just fine, but the bow completely eluded me. Fortunately a dear friend was here t the time and walked me through it several times unail I do it myself...until the next time I tried, and had already forgotten again. Enter: Youtube! A quick search brought me to a video of a Mom teaching children to tie their shoes. Yay! So back to kindergarten I went and tied my shoes about twenty times u til I was sure I had it this time. No dice. Round three found me on the edge of the bed with my for propped on the seat of my walker and that Youtube video playing right next to me. Voila! You would have thought I had won the lottery by the way I whooped and hollered! My Mom reminded me to celebrate every victory, no matter how small...though I considered being able to put on my own shoes to be kind of a big deal. (Thanks, Mom!)

Another victory came in the form of a large spring-clip barrette for my hair. This might seem miniscule, but if you have ever tried to put long hair in a ponytail with one hand refusing to cooperate with twisting a run berband, you now what I'm talking about! I briefly considered just having it cut short, but that seemed a bit drastic. Ever fear, barrettes are here! I can get all my hair pulled into it and clip it with my right hand! No more hair hanging in my face anymore. Another small/huge victory! Fingernail clippers are a whole different story that I won't even go into for fear of stressing myself out just thinking about it and causing myself another stroke.

Just before Christmas I actually finished the crocheted bedspread I had been working
on for over a year. This is actually a miracle of sorts not only because I go at the pace of a snail on queludes, but because I realized suddenly that I couldn't remember what the stitch symbols meant even if my life depended on it! Ugh. So I read the worded pattern over and over while I looked at the portion I had already done until I figured out how to proceed. What usually would have taken me one day to finish instead took me two weeks...but it's done!

Most people tell me they can't tell by my speech that anything happened to me, and I am so grateful for that. I notice the difference because I have to think so much when I'm speaking, to make sure what I'm saying makes sense. Now and then a completely incorrect word jumps out of my mouth before I can catch it, such as saying "Have a great evening" when I MEANT to say, "Have a good morning", etc. Or just losing a word or phrase THAT gets frustrating. I changed my passwords on every computer-related account I have and kept a list of them because I couldn't remember any of the old ones. I even scrambled my own email address, though I have used that same address for over six years! I have become the Queen Of Cheat Sheets, and my kingdom is ruled by reminders to  heck my reminders bout the reminders that tell me what I am supposed to be doing at any given time.

One reminder recently kept me on track to wrap Christmas gifts! Forget the fancy
shmancy bows and such, I was doing well to get some paper onto them and a name tag so each goes to the correct recipient. Scott was immensely helpful, making sure all the paper, tape, scissors, etc were in easy reach and reminding me to stop when I started to appear tired. Honestly, I don't know what I would do without him. Not just for physically helping me with things I really can't do yet, but reassuring me when I feel frustrated. It is hard some times to separate the facts of reality from my emotions. I know that I am not a stupid person, but when I have trouble tying my shoes, re-capping  the toothpaste, or pouring water into a glass it is easy to feel like the first prize winner of the Dunce Award.

Meanwhile, I have finished one adult coloring page and Scott gave me a new set of coloring postcards in garden themes! Not just for the kiddos anymore, I have discovered the amazing hobby of coloring in books designed for adults. Some are far too detailed and definitely beyond my coordination just yet, but it is very good for relieving stress and helping me to see a project through to completion. The post cards also fit perfectly with my desire to send frequent handwritten notes to loved ones!

Now if anyone is interested in the techie stuff, I am seeing improvement in my left arm and hand. Coordination has improved and it only curls up tight when I get really tired. I have a great deal more strength than I did six weeks ago, though I still avoid holding anything in my left hand that would be a problem if dropped. My leg is coming along a bit slower but there is improvement there, too. I have an ankle brace that holds my foot close to a 90 degree angle so my toes don't drag when I walk. This makes it much less tiring to get around and saves my ankle and knee from possible injury. My energy level is still below the basement. I am told this is normal, as it takes six months just for the brain to heal and inflammation to subside. Hence, naps have been commonplace and I often sleep twelve hours a day or more. Headaches are also a constant norm, but if I pay attention and rest when I need to they don't always become severe. My vision is still a major adjustment. Lack of depth perception is always disconcerting and results in my bumping into things quite easily as I learn to judge distances. I can read for short periods of time without triggering a new headache, so I save up "eyeball energy" when I want to read before bed.

If I seem to have moved to Hermitville USA, you are at least partly correct. Loud noises, lots of movement, crowds, fluorescent lights, multiple people talking at once, are all a recipe for an anxiety meltdown for me. The healthy human brain can only process a certain amount of input at any one injured human brain can process far less, so sensory overload sets in quite quickly. No one should feel slighted or as if I am uninterested if I decline an invitation of any sort, as I am just trying to engage in activities that work for me and avoid those that don't. Hanging out with a friend for a while might be just fine for me, while visiting with a group where there is also music in the background and lots of moving around might send me right into a tailspin. One thing I have learned is that things that are overwhelming today might be okay next week, so I take it slow and give my brain time and space to heal.

That's about it in a nutshell! If we happen to meet, my shoes might be untied, I still can't get my earrings back in, and I may have forgotten exactly why we were meeting in the first place! But in the words of my brother Sonny, I am a Perencevic...and "Perencevics don't break, we bounce!". Some days feel like treading water and barely keeping my chin above the waves, while other days are more positive. Seems like the ebb and flow of the tides, controlled by a very fickle moon.

I appreciate your comments and emails, so please feel free to say hello before you go! And always remember:

                  "The sky is NOT the limit...there are footprints                                                on the moon."

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Really, I'm not trying to be the Grinch!

Well, here we are again. I have been very blessed to have joined a support group through, and am learning a ton from other's experiences and wisdom. Like most things, learning from someone who has actually experienced something is far more helpful in some ways than random theoretical knowledge.

A few people close to me have asked about not only "how I'm feeling", but also about particular things that are helpful or botnersome, if there are things I want to do but need help with, and even why the heck I sometimes suddenly just "hit the wall" and fall asleep. Hopefully this entry will answer some of those questions.

Now, anyone who knows me personally understands that I am usually the Queen of Multitasking. If I am watching a movie, I am also crocheting or catching up on emails. I very often have music playing while I am cleaning or cooking, and having laundry running through while baking bread is very common. Or it WAS common, anyway! One definite change my stroke has brought to me is that of singular thinking...multitasking is OUT.

Let's say for example, I am crocheting. I have crocheted most of my life and have written scores of original patterns. I can usually  figure out a stitch pattern just by looking closely at a finished piece. Nowadays, I have a two-pronged battle: my weak and uncoordinated left hand, and my thought process. While my hand will cooperate if I work slowly and take frequent breaks, my brain struggles with remembering patterns, counting stitches, and generally keeping the entire piece pattern in mind. Add to that any extra noise or distraction and I lose count and have
to pull a section out and do it again. Finding a mistake in the middle and figuring out a way around it is just not going to happen! So, while crocheting is a treasured activity to me and is now excellent therapy for my left hand as well as my eye/hand coordination, it can also be a source of great frustration as I learn patience to do something I used to do easily without thought.

About that "eye/hand coordination"...
I have a thermal coffee mug with a screw-on lid, perfect for avoiding spills as I carry my cup in the basket of my walker. Here's the catch: I have to stop and think about which way to turn the lid to screw it on. Duh, right? "Righty tighty, lefty loosey"! Yeah, well sometimes left and right directions, especially in a circular motion get lost somewhere and it takes a minute to get that lid on. In the meantime, avoiding spills of a hot liquid is obviously important, especially since my left hand is entirely numb so I would not know immediately if I had burned myself.

But forget about the coffee mug. What about other things that engage eye/hand coordination that we rarely give a second thought? Here is a short list of things that used to be a no-brainer but that now require real effort:

Plugging in a cell phone charger...
Filling a teapot without spilling water all over...
Pouring sugar onto a spoon to put into a cup of coffee...
Capping and uncapping anything with a screw-on lid (remember the coffee mug?)...
Reaching for things that are on the floor without losing balance and falling over...
Typing (Yes, this one is a killer for me)...
Tying a shoelace, or basically tying anything into a bow...
Using a handheld pencil sharpener...
Cutting anything with a sharp knife (same caution as with hot water)...
Peeling an orange (who knew this required thought??)...
Buckling a bra (not happening at all)...
Navigating a stairway...
Reading regular sized type...

There are undoubtedly more things that could go on this list, but you get the idea.

Those are some of the ordinary day-to-day challenges, so let's move on to another inevitable event: shopping! (Shudder) Doesn't everyone want to get out of the house when they have been cooped up for a while? Of course! Especially this time of year, it can be a lot of fun being out and about, seeing the sights, and  running errands. At least it always was before. Nowadays there are a few challenges I had not foreseen but am learning to compensate for.

First off, the concept of "sensory overload". We are literally bombarded with sights, sounds, smells, different surfaces for walking on, temperature fluctuations, and various versions of hubbub. Usually these are taken in stride, processed as our brain perceives them and either given attention if necessary or ignored as we pass by. But what happens when the brain cannot easily filter all that stimuli can be a pretty intense experience, and not in a fun way!

Consider the average grocery market. Even during a non-holiday season, they are busy places...during the holidays they become a constant assault on the senses. Ordinarily, I would perceive all this commotion as just a "really busy store" but now it can lead to headaches, fatigue, anxiety, nausea, and an all-out desire to bolt for the door if I could only walk or run without assistance. For now, I limit my excursions to such places because the exhaustion that follows is too high a price to pay for a frivolous trip out. When I DO go out, sunglasses and earplugs are my friends! Dimming the lights and reducing the noise helps a lot, and I try to avoid getting stuck in crowds. Too much bustling and general movement around me is overwhelming, so staying to the periphery is also helpful.

Speaking of periphery, let's discuss vision for a minute. I experienced an ischemic stroke in the right side of my brain, so the left side of my body is affected. My vision is affected toward the left side of my visual field. This means that I lost the left-most portion of my vision...the far outside in my left eye, and the far inside in my right eye. Neither of these are horrific losses except that I already had a peripheral vision loss in my right eye unrelated to the stroke, so the vision in that eye is now reduced to one very small area in the center. Imagine looking down a long, dark corridor to a small open doorway in the middle.

While adjusting to the vision reducton is a little challenging, almost more troublesome is the utter lack of depth perception. Our understanding of our presence in a given space is based on the relation of other objects around us inside that space. So, sitting in a room that also contains a sofa, a chair, a television, a bookcase, and a coffee table, we perceive the entire room and our place in it based on the relation of all of those objects. Even the size of the room is hinted at by the size of the objects in it and how close they are to each other. Now imagine that your perception of those sizes and distances is warped. You cannot determine if the couch is near or far away, therefore it's size means nothing (Usually the further away an object is, the smaller it appears). The coffee mug on the table might be only a few feet or actually several feet away, and misjudging that distance could result in knocking the mug over and burning oneself with hot liquid. Now add a few more people to the room. People usually move eventually, so you could have three moving people in a room full of objects. And they might be talking, adding the distraction of sound to the equation. Got that? Ok, take it one step further and imagine that room being an entire commercial store full of vastly more items, sounds, lights, and moving objects...and you can't tell how near or far any of them are in relation to you, or exactly where the sounds you hear are coming from.

Still with me? I will add just one more thing, and that is the complete inability to
leave the scene alone. So now you are overwhelmed, need to find a quiet space without bright lights, and unfortunately you might not be physically able to leave on your own without assistance. That feeling of being somewhat helpless in an overwhelming g situation, unless you truly enjoy a lifestyle of being molly-coddled (definitely NOT me!), can be an exhausting trial. Bear in mind, that helpless feeling pervades many ordinary daily activities which definitely leads to times of emotional slumps, discouragement, and sadness for me. Everyone else I have asked about this have shared similar emotional difficulties at various points in their recovery. One new friend shared with me that she had a particularly hard day recently and a family member rather flippantly suggested she go soak in a hot bath and "chill out". She said she almost cried as she thought about the effort it would take to even get into the bath, as well as the fact that she would still need help getting out of the tub at the end. She was already exhausted and adding more fatigue seemed simply intolerable. Sometimes even the soothing comforts we remember enjoying in the recent past can be more work than solace.

Speaking of exhaustion, I will wrap up with the subject of fatigue. We have all experienced the awesome feeling of tiredness resulting from hard work, perhaps studying for long hours as a student, or the deep fatigue following childbirth or a serious illness.  Stroke, like any brain injury, carries what for me has been a feeling of fatigue unlike any I have ever known. As the brain itself has been injured, it makes sense that fatigue will occur as cells are rejuvenated, inflammation subsides, and nerves begin to connect and function again. As we talked about the sensory stimulation constantly occurring, there is also fatigue associated with that overstimulation. Add to that the extra physical effort required for tasks such as walking, sitting/standing, and generally moving about during the course of a day, and you have a recipe for one extremely draining daily experience. Throw in daily physical therapy exercises and the mental fatigue of figuring out new ways to do all the thingsthat need to be done, and the proverbial "wall" looms large just waiting to be slammed into. The fact that it makes sense that this fatigue is normal does not make it any less troublesome to deal with every day.

Why am I sharing all of this? Quite simply, things we don't understand tend to be either frightening, irritating, or some combination of the two. If you are a stroke survivor, you could add many of your own thoughts to mine here and you understand the challenges I describe. If you have a loved one recovering from a stroke, you have probably been irritated as a chicken with fleas by things that "shouldn't be a big deal" or even by the moodiness that so easily befalls your loved one as they navigate these waters. It is extremely difficult on both sides.

Imagine receiving a great big
model ship kit as a gift. What fun it will be to put it together! Until someone dumps all the tiny pieces out into a big pile on the floor, hands you the glue, then walks away...taking with them the picture of what the ship is supposed to look like as well as the directions for assembling it! You shake your head and stare at the pile in utter confusion. This is what recovering from a stroke can feel like at times. If your loved one is a stroke survivor, remember that YOU still have access to that finished picture and the directions for assembling that ship...your loved one does not. They are not trying to be difficult or unkind, they may very well be overwhelmed with the immensity of the task before them. None of us can tell anyone else "how to do this stroke recovery thing" from EITHER side. But a little understanding goes a long way...I am not trying to be the Grinch, really!

As I mentioned above, I am so blessed to have great support from family, friends, and a wonderful stroke support organization. I am grateful to all of you who are following this journey with me, and I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions, either here on this entry or send me a private email.

Onward and upward,

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."