Monday, May 30, 2011

Full Circle

   Three years ago, this week, I was supposed to be getting ready to go camping with my Girl Guide Unit and the rest of our Guiding District. We had an "Olympic" theme going on for that camp and I had done a lot of research and put a lot of planning into the camp but I had not yet pulled all of the materials together when I got sick.

I had the first part of my health issues begin in May and I blithely assumed that with a bit of medicine I was going to be fine. I wound up in the hospital and began thinking that  I really needed to get better fast, but just in case I better tell my family where all the camp information was so they could pass it on to someone.  I had no idea what was in store for me at that point.

This past weekend I was finally able to go camping once again. No, I am not back to planning the camp, I am not physically up to doing most of the tasks needed at camp. I was there to listen to the girls, to comfort worried girls  and help instruct and encourage them in some of the tasks they were doing.

I have learned the value in letting others help me. The girls did many tasks like cook meals for me and they served me with great pride. I had the privilege of enjoying their efforts, praising their skills and thanking them for the great gifts of their work,  their time, and for their company.

We are raised to think it is better to give than to receive. To learn to receive with grace and to allow other to have the opportunity to be the ones doing the giving has been a privilege. I want to give special thanks the other leaders who made it possible for me to go camping once again.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Shades of Fun Day

So Canada, what's your shade of fun?
Picture of a row of sunglasses

Picture of a row of sunglassesThursday, May 26, 2011 is Shades of Fun Day
The CNIB, Canadian National institute for the Blind is having a fundraiser and awareness event. Wear your shades, protect your eyes and join in a variety of fun activities in your community, your work place, in your school and at home with your family. They have a good down-loadable resource pack that even has fun things like stickers you can print out.


From their web page:

The Did you know?

  • 75 per cent of vision loss is preventable or treatable.
  • UV rays from the sun can damage your eyes and lead to long-term, irreversible vision loss. Sun damage is also a proven risk factor in cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss in Canada.
  • Eye doctors recommend wearing sunglasses with at least 99 per cent UV protection to avoid sun damage.

Vision issues have touched me and so many people in my life. 

My little 5 year old grandson is vision impaired in both eyes for different reasons.  He is wearing corrective lenses and we are patching his better eye in order to force him to use his other eye a little more.  He is going to play therapy and occupational therapy to teach him how to cope better for kindergarten next year. 

Our little guy is legally blind. He talks happily to me about how he is going to grow up to be a bus driver and I am just praying that he will be able to live a good life in a "seeing world". I am hoping that when he is 16 things will have improved enough that he will be able to get a license and be able to do Drivers Ed with the rest of the kids his age.

  My vision was badly affected when I first had my brain injury but I  have had a pretty good recovery. I still struggle to track when reading and I get a lot of headaches because my eyes do not work together as well as they should so I need to rest my eyes frequently, especially when reading.  A paper back novel is not fun anymore. Technically I only "need" a certain amount of magnification according to a regular vision test, but larger print and blowing up my screen size make a huge difference functionally. I am finding that wrap around sun glasses make being outdoors a whole lot more tolerable too.
I also have had trouble with my peripheral vision but I am lucky because that has come back pretty well. I still startle with anything coming from the left and movement on my left side causes me to feel dizzy and nauseated and sometimes I even fall, but we are still working on those issues.

Check out their website.. it has lots of fun fund-raising ideas and a lot of good information. Then go out and support your local vision health organizations!

Remember to wear your shades this Summer.

Friday, May 20, 2011

It is Almost Like Physiotherapy Bootcamp

Have I ever been busy doing physiotherapy these past few weeks! For the month of May I have physiotherapy 5 days a week with 3 different therapists!

I am very fortunate to still have physiotherapy, at almost 3 years past stroke. I was sent to a fantastic multi-discipline outpatient program "Easy Street" at a near by hospital where I have received excellent help in kind of a team approach. Things have been going extra well lately and my physiotherapist, T ,  was willing to work with me twice a week so I see him on Tuesday's and Fridays and he has me doing a good set of exercises at home.  I actually do them too.

Next I came across someone who teaches Tai ji. This lady, Rebecca started doing adapted classes at our local Stroke Recovery Association offices but I must admit I was a little sceptical and it did not catch my attention until person after person said how nice she was and how much they are enjoying the class.  I went to one session and found that she is actually a licensed physiotherapist who is has a passion for Tai ji. I have gone to about 6 sessions over the the past 7 weeks and I can't believe how much it is helping my stability and balance already. Her business is called ENVOLVE PHYSIOTHERAPY  I told T. about her and it turns out they knew each other from their student days and he has a lot of respect for her. He is very supportive of my participation in her group classes.

Two months ago the university was looking for clients with neuro issues to attend the physiotherapy department clinical lab. The were offering free physio with the final year PT students under very close supervision of their professors. T told me they needed a few more people for May so I put my name in and now I get to work with a very nice student 2 days a week for this month. It has been interesting and I am learning a lot along with the student. The only draw back is that he is giving me "homework" too! lol. I am sorry that I only have 3 or 4 more sessions there.

Another week or so and the Tai Ji group and the student program will both be over, and my physiotherapy will go back to normal.  I will still have lots of new exercises to work on at home and I plan on having lots of fun outside this summer.

The top graphic is  Clipart from

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Conference Training Day

 It has been a week already since The Manitoba Guiding Conference. I have spent most of the past week doing only my required activities and trying to catch up on some extra rest. All that fun last weekend was exhausting! I had fun and caught up with lots of old friends and tried to do everything there was to do. Basically I overdid it and paid for it all week, but if I had another chance I would do it all again.
I went with my Guider daughter Alicia and 3 of her teenage "Rangers" unit. We stayed at the conference hotel and got adjoining rooms and it worked out really well with Alicia and I in one room, and the girls in the other.  I was glad not to be going back and forth to my house. During lunch hour I went up to the room and stretched out and then again later in the afternoon. It gave me a second wind so I could enjoy the banquet last Saturday evening. Swimming, hot tub, junk food and a cheesy movie with the Rangers all added to the fun.

There were 4 training sessions that I attended. You got to pick from a list of options for each of the 4 different time slots.

 First was  "Going Green" to develop and teach environmentally responsible activities for the girls, and I was just about convinced to go get some red wiggler composting worms for my kitchen. It was a pretty good session. I learned a few new games and it was pleasant. The presenter was full of programing ideas for youth. Did you know that families use 5 gallons of water a day just for brushing their teeth? Turn that running water off while brushing! 

We play a game in Guiding and Scouting called a Kim's game. You get a collection of objects together,  show it to the kids briefly and then you cover it over and they try to remember what the objects are. We played it at this session and as we tried to remember the objects we were supposed to suggest a way we could recycle or reuse the object we listed. When I was first being assessed for cognitive impairment two years ago,  I was surprised to find that a "Kim's game" was part of the assessment. More shocking to me was how bad I did on it it back then. Last weekend I did okay. ummm kids jammie bottoms, yogurt container, lid, book, envelope and.... I forget what else she had now, .. but I retained 7 out of 11 items when it mattered.

My next session was "Bullying" Girls United. It was a bit tougher.  I had one of the teenagers with me for that session  and she didn't follow a lot of the details and she was petty bored, but at the same time I think the topic was hitting a bunch of painful buttons. I should have taken her for a juice run instead. Truth be told I was finding it a little hard myself to think about the topic. I have been overweight since I was a kid and I suffered a lot of bullying and discrimination based on my appearance. Sadly I have now experienced discrimination as a woman with disabilities.  For more information about Bullying you might find the following site useful.

After Lunch I did a Restorative Yoga session while my daughter did a very active Dance session.
I was such a natural and I did great! It was pretty well all done sitting or lying on a mat so no advanced poses that required balance skills. I am pretty flexible, but I guess all that physio has me moving pretty good! I was surprised at how hard it seemed to be for many of the other Guiders. I felt very proud of myself  (I told my Physiotherapist and he was very proud of me too LOL) 
I might very well want to take  yoga in the future.

The last session was a Mosaic Tile Picture Frame. That turned out pretty good looking too.  Only thing I had trouble with was that I was supposed to nail a picture hanger onto the back of the wooden frame base. I tried to hold a little nail in my weak left hand and hammer with my strong hand.  Let's just say I should have gotten someone else to do that part.

Evening was the dinner and awards, followed by visiting small parties in different Leaders rooms. It was a chance for the teenagers to meet Guiding members outside our immediate area and even from around the province.

I had a great weekend and am glad I went, but I was sure happy to get home to my own bed for a nap once the conference was over.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Friday at a Hotel

This past weekend was the annual conference and training days for members of Manitoba's Girl Guides of Canada.  I debated a bit if I wanted to go, but what if I missed something exciting? I just needed to see what was going on with Guiding around our province, and it is also a great opportunity to meet up with Guiding friends that I do not see very often.

My 26 year old daughter was going too and we decided to rent a room and stay at the hotel. It gave me a place to rest, and leave our belongings. Running back and forth to the hotel would not have been a long distance and it sure would have been cheaper, but it would have added to the confusion and stress especially with neither of us driving. (I want my drivers license back so badly!) Besides the hotel has a pool and a hot tub! There was an exercise room but I never checked it out. I was tired enough from walking all around the hotel!

Alicia had 3 Rangers who wanted to attend the conference too, so we arranged to have 2 adjoining rooms. Rangers are  high school aged members who are involved in Girl Guides. I loved that the girls could attend and it was the right thing for them to be there, but being responsible for them definitely added to the exhaustion level of the weekend.

We checked in on Friday and then went to a banquet room that was set up with soft drinks, tea and coffee and snack foods. Our Guiding people set up several stations with information and displays and a variety of activities. The theme was "Thanks for the Memories".  You could make a picture frame, do a beaded key chain using letters that spell out the word memories and there was a card making station where you could use scrap booking supplies to make a nice card.
We had a wall where we to put up older photos (photocopies) about past Guiding friends or activities and it was a lot of fun to be seeing the pictures people brought to share. We have an award wining archive for Girl Guides of Manitoba and they shared some of their resources too.

There was a display about travel opportunities to the International Guiding Center in Mexico. I had a long talk with a couple of ladies who had been at "Our Cabana". I desperately want to go there and it is  high up on my "bucket list". They do one session where you can go to an amazing location where the Monarch Butterflies Migrate to in the winter and I think that would be so cool. There are monarchs coming out of their cocoons at our cottage and it would be so great to have an opportunity to follow them to their winter home. Getting to the location, according to these ladies is a pretty difficult hiking trail, but they assured me that it was not a long trail and there was lots of extra time so I could go slow. One more big reason for working hard at my physiotherapy! This prairie girl wants to go hiking uphill in Mexican rain forests! (grin) 

Many of my close Guiding friends are leaving in just a few days to go to Switzerland to tour and visit  the International Guiding Center there. If I had not had a stroke I am sure I would have been going with them. I have lost out on a lot of opportunities since I got sick and I have had to be content with hearing the stories of other travelers. It helps to plan for my own Guiding adventures in the coming years.

We also got to learn about the Scholarships and Bursaries available to youth members. I am hopefully that a couple of our girls will apply sometime in the future. There was a giant jar of candy where you could buy a ticket and guess the number of candies in the jar. They made a bit of money from the contest but mainly it was a way to draw attention to the scholarship opportunities we offer.

I will write about  Saturday and some of the interesting trainings and speakers in my next post.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Me Making Music?

My grandfather was a good musician and my dad was a really talented pianist with a lifetime joy in music. I took piano lessons as a kid and I sang in the school choirs. In fact high school choir is where my husband and I met. 

It was no surprise that we sent our kids to music lessons. We embraced the Suzuki style of music lessons where the parents are considered the at home teachers. Parents participate in lessons and learn how to coach their kids in a positive way through their home practice. I had one daughter who adored the violin and singing and she still teaches music to several lucky students.

We found that the music lessons were a real help for one of our children who has serious learning disabilities. It helped with concentration, memorization, and there was such joy in playing the performances and pride in accomplishments.

Well here I am needing to work on my own cognitive skills and I also wanted to get my weak left hand working up to speed again. Music seemed like such an obvious next step in my self imposed therapy program. At the same time, I am being really hypersensitive to sounds so that was going to be an extra challenge for me to get used to the extra noises. Here I am trying to learn guitar and I even joined a community choir.

Last summer my social worker/ therapist asked me to pick a short term goal and I found myself saying that I would find out about guitar lessons. Apparently I did not follow the concept of a short term goal! There is nothing short term about my Guitar challenges.

I went to my first lesson and found that I was really not coping on so many levels.  I had trouble even carrying the guitar into the teachers studio. My left hand was not working well enough to do the guitar exercises properly and my right hand had a sore lump that turned out to need surgery, so I took a medical leave after only one lesson. 

Five months later my right hand was healed. I had great physiotherapy for my sore finger along with the rest of my stiffened right hand and through all this I had remarkable healing of my left affected hand.. I was forced to use my affected hand with my strong one out of commission and the improvement of my hand function was huge.

I resumed guitar lessons in January and have been working pretty hard ever since. My efforts are starting to actually sound a bit like music! It really does force me to think about what I am doing. I need to concentrate really hard. I used to read music easily but I am finding that I need to relearn those skills all over again just like I needed to start over with numeracy. Tracking across the page when reading is really challenging too. My fingers are slow and clumsy but I can see steady improvement and increasing strength. My next big challenge will have to be memorization because I am having trouble remembering even little phrases of the music due to issues with my short term memory.

Years back, playing piano was a huge source of comfort to me and I always managed to relax when I was playing. In the past few weeks I have noticed the occasional glimmer of joy and peace when playing the guitar.  There is hope again.

Images courtesy of
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