Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Turn-It-Up Tuesday: November 29

Happy Tuesday after Thanksgiving! It being Tuesday, I’ve once again upped the electricity in my deep brain stimulation device by .10. I’m now up to 4.40 volts. This past week made me realize that I’m still not “there” yet in regards to the right amount of electricity. Oh, I didn’t fall, nor did I have any really bad days, but I just know in my heart, I’m not there yet. I can’t really explain it, you’ll just have to trust me.

I do want to share some exciting news: I walked the length of my driveway and back with nothing but my own two legs and feet!! No amount of words can describe my giddiness over this. This is going to sound weird, but I didn’t even realize what I had done until I was halfway down the driveway. I was “distracted” by the fact that I was lining my driveway with Christmas lights. But, halfway down the drive, I realized what I was doing and then promptly stumbled a little, but didn’t fall. I tried walking my driveway again today and I did it - no walker OR cane!! I realize that sometimes I’m my own worst enemy. When I start to think about walking, I stumble. When there's no prompting, no over-analyzing, no overthinking, no expectations, I do it - I walk! Grant it, there are days when not even “not thinking” about it helps – that’s when I know the physical symptoms outweigh psyching myself out. Sometimes mind over matter works but other times the physical symptoms are just too much. As like most things in life, it’s a balancing act.

My toes kept curling under this past week – more than usual. I actually have callouses on my toes where I couldn’t lay them flat (even when really concentrating on doing so) and they rubbed up against my shoe. My left hand has been a little bothersome as well. My knuckles hurt from where I’ve had my hand balled up in a fist. It’s not really noticeable to anyone because thankfully I hold my cane in my left hand and it masks the symptoms. I do a "Dr. House" thing. I'm actually supposed to hold my cane in my right hand since my problematic side is my left side, but, I've found that holding the cane in my left hand works on so many different levels that I don't care that I'm "doing it wrong." My doctors don't seem to mind either, which I'm extremely thankful for. If I used my right hand to hold my cane, I do believe my left hand would be more noticeable. Let me make it clear – I’m not complaining about anything, just merely stating facts. I am in a MUCH, MUCH better place than I was a year ago. I still get overwhelmed with awe at how God has and keeps working in my life.

My mom is an eternal optimist. She is able to find something good in every situation. Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit this quality from her. I’m more the “woe is me” type. But strangely enough through this whole experience, I’m starting to see myself being a little more optimistic. I just re-read what I wrote in that last sentence and it makes no logical sense to me. I should be more pessimistic, because that’s my personality. But, when it comes right down to it, I’m not. God is changing my heart. I WANT to be more optimistic. I WANT people to see what God’s doing in my life. I WANT to be able to find some good in every situation. How can I NOT be anything but optimistic when I have so much to be thankful for, so much to praise God for? More than my walking getting better (and don’t get me wrong, great walking days make me SO happy!!), I’m learning to rely more on God then myself. I’m learning that what’s been handed to me doesn’t make me who I am in my core. Yes, my optimism is growing. My faith is growing. God’s Got This and because of that, I can be joy-filled in my soul.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Turn-It-Up Tuesday: November 22

My birthday was back in June, but the fulfillment of one of my birthday gifts happened this past week: I saw Dolly Parton in concert! The irony of it all is that while I live 45 minutes away from Pigeon Forge and Sevierville where Dolly is from, I went back to the state in which I was born (Alabama) to see her. Her Pigeon Forge concert sold out in probably mere minutes, so my mom and I took a road trip to Huntsville. As my mom commented it was my first “walker-free” road trip. A lot can change in 7 months.

Dolly was superb. Mom and I had so much fun. We had great seats and I didn’t fall once. While I did hang on to Mom while walking, it was mostly so we could go fast. I am still exceedingly slow and methodical, but holding on to Mom made me speed up. :)

Mom and I stayed at a hotel that was less than a mile away from the venue in which Dolly was performing at. We found out that there was a shuttle service to and from the concert, so we took advantage of that and it turned out to be awesome. We were let off right in front of the door and picked up at the same spot. We didn’t have to fight for or pay for parking. I found it amusing that I recognized and actually somewhat enjoyed the “perks” of walking with a cane. When people see you coming, they immediately part the Red Sea for you – ha!

Dolly, Dolly, Dolly….what can I say?! She was amazing, genuine, funny, at home, the consummate performer. Her voice was beautiful. I am so blessed and thankful that I got to see her. As Mom put it, “We have to see her before she either retires or dies.” I mean she is 70…so retirement may be soon. ;)

Mom and I had a wonderful stay at our hotel. We slept in and then ate breakfast. On our way back to Tennessee we stopped at Ollie’s discount store. Neither one of us had ever been in one. It was awesome. We spent quite a few hours in there. ;) The reason I bring Ollie’s up is two things happened there. One, I bought an umbrella!! OK, I know this isn’t breaking news, but I have not had an umbrella in 11 years, so it is kind of breaking news for me. I haven’t been able to carry an umbrella - much less use one - while using a walker. I’ve been contemplating buying one for the last few months, however I wanted a YELLOW one because it can quickly be identified in a sea of black umbrellas and because I wanted a cheerful color to brighten a rainy day. I had been looking for a yellow umbrella, but had not found one. That is until Ollie’s. I found and bought my yellow umbrella! Now, I just can’t wait to use it.

The second thing that happened at Ollie’s was that I bought some candles. But being the clumsy person I am, as soon as I got to the car, I promptly dropped them and they shattered. By this time, my legs were starting to get tired. But, I had to walk back in the store and tell the clerk what had happened. I was completely willing to pay for new ones, but she was super nice and didn’t charge me at all. I got to pick new ones out. I think it did help somewhat to be walking with a cane. ;) She made sure to bundle my new candles up so I wouldn’t have any more accidents and thankfully, I didn’t.

Mom and I had great conversation in the car and throughout the entire trip. I am so incredibly thankful for this gift of time with her and making memories.

I turned up the electricity in my DBS device again today by .10. I am still curling my toes under.

One of these days though, one of these days, I’m going to write a post and be able to proclaim success. What am I saying?! I’ve already had success! I mean, all I have to do is look back to last year and see that I’ve had success. Thank you, Jesus! I do have faith though that I will continue to see success. God’s priming me for something big. Maybe that something big is already taking place and I’m just not aware of it yet, but I know, without a shadow of a doubt that God’s plan is a million times better than anything I could ever even dream or imagine. I didn’t fall once this past week. I got everywhere I needed to go without using a walker. God’s working and I see it. Life isn’t perfect, but God is. He knows what He’s doing. I rest in that. God’s Got This!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Turn-It-Up Tuesday: November 15

I’ve stopped and started this post numerous times. I can’t find the “right” words to say. I want to be so very happy for the progress I’ve made, but on the other hand I read of people in utterly devastating circumstances, reeling from the loss of loved ones and I can’t help but feel a little guilty for my happiness. In the scheme of things, being able to walk or not walk seems completely frivolous when others are dealing with life and death situations. But, in the end, I’ve decided tonight to share my joy. I hope it helps, even for those who are hurting so deeply they don’t know where their next breath will come from. My heart breaks for those whose heart is broken. I ache for those who ache. I rejoice with those who rejoice.

This past week has been wonderful. Not perfect, but so very wonderful. I haven’t fallen. I feel (for the most part!) a lot steadier on my feet. It’s been what I needed. I’m coming to grips with the fact that I may just have “off” days/weeks/months, but in the end God makes everything beautiful again. He may bring me to the brink, but before He lets my foot fall, He pulls me back to safety. If only I remembered this in the moment that I feel like I’m falling off a cliff; that would be icing on the cake! Ha. But, seriously, God is good all the time. It may take me a day or two to realize what He’s done, but I am so, so thankful He gives me the ability to realize it at all!

I am going to say something that I never in a million years thought I’d say. It may be completely shocking to some. I confessed to my mom yesterday that I may, just may, actually, kind-of, a teeny-bit, like my hair the length it is now. For someone who has had long hair most of my life, I’ve completely shocked myself with this revelation. Grant it, I don’t love my hair every day. Who does?! But, it’s growing on me (and no, that wasn’t meant as a pun!). It took a co-worker acquaintance to help me realize this. Last week, she was walking through my row of cubes at work, stopped, turned around and said, “I’m no stylist, but I LOVE your hair. I don’t think you should grow it back out. It was one heck of an ordeal that you had to go through to get it, but I love your hair.” For the past few weeks, dare I even say months, people have been telling me how much they love my hair, but it’s been people that are close to me, whom I love. I thought they were just saying that to be nice. But hearing it from an “outsider” made it hit home. I still have time to change my mind, but as of today, I like the length. I LOVE the curl. I also love how easy it is (at least most mornings). There are terrible, no-good, bad hair days though too. On those days, I’m just grateful to have hair at all.

I turned the deep brain stimulation device up, just one notch to 4.20. I feel like I may be on the cusp of being at the right level, but just not quite there yet. So, I’ll see what 4.20 does. Eventually, I may want to test the waters with level C (I’m on level B now), especially before I go back to Vanderbilt at the end of January, but for now, I’ll leave it on B. The goal: to walk walker AND cane free.

Someone asked me today if the surgeries, the disappointments, the frustrations, the doctor’s appointments, the shaving off of all my hair were all worth it. I didn’t even let her finish her sentence before I blurted out – YES! A million times over yes! I would go through it all again if I had to – it is SO worth it. And this is coming from a perfectionist who is NOT seeing “perfect” results, but results just the same. All of this is so worth it. Last year at this time, the only way for me to get from point A to point B was using a walker. Today, I can use a cane. I never thought I’d be so happy to say I’m using just a cane, but perspectives change!! Here's an example of this: I got to an appointment a few minutes early today. I was kind of glad because I had enough time to use the bathroom before it. But then I remembered that the bathroom there was super small. At first, I thought, “Oh shoot, I can’t use the bathroom here because it’s too small and my walker won’t fit in it.” But then, a HUGE smile came across my face when I realized I wasn’t using, nor had the walker with me. It’s a small thing for most people, but for me, it’s so, so big.

The next “big step” for me will be to actually remove the walker from my car.;) It’s my safety net now. I haven’t used it in months, but it’s a comfort to know it’s there if I need it. I know it’s silly, but it is what it is. Maybe by the end of the year I’ll remove it. Maybe. I’ve learned and am continuing to learn that I have to do things on my own timeline. If I rush it, it won’t work. If I try to fit in to everyone else’s expectations (or what I think are other’s expectations of me), it won’t work. I just have to walk to the beat of my own drum. God’s timing is perfect.

This morning, I quickly got on Facebook for about two minutes and one of those “memories” posts came up. This very day last year, my sweet friend, Kristen drove me to Vanderbilt. I checked into the hospital and prepared for the spinal tap I’d have the next day to see if a Baclofen pump would help me in any way. I was very grateful that it ended up not working. It lead to where I am today and what a difference a year makes. I am so incredibly thankful and blessed. All the tears and frustrations and tests and worries – God worked (and is continuing to work) them all out.

I’ve experienced every emotion possible in this journey and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so, but for right now, I’m rejoicing in happiness. If you know me at all, you know I tend to have more of a worried/melancholy view of life. My immediate reaction to things is to be pessimistic – to always expect the worst. I think in some ways I look at life that way so as to protect myself, to prepare myself for when things go horribly wrong. I use it as a coping mechanism. But the beautiful surprise in this journey has been how God has worked and is continuing to work in my life. This journey overall has brought me more optimism then I ever thought possible. I’m seeing things through a different lens these days. I’m more joyful and content. I'm happier. It takes work to see things more optimistically when my tendency is not to see things that way, but I am seeing changes. I had heard that DBS surgery could change people's personalities for the worst, but never had I heard it changing people’s personalities for the best. In reality, I know it’s not the surgery that’s changed my outlook on life; it’s God that’s changed it. Could it be that the greatest blessing(s) I get out of this whole journey is/are something even greater than being able to walk without assistance?! God’s working on me. I still have a way to go, but GOD’S GOT THIS!!!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Turn-It-Up Tuesday: November 8

After having some not so great walking days in the past few weeks, this past week was wonderful! It’s amazing to me (but shouldn’t be) how a streak of good walking days can brighten my outlook on life. I shouldn’t be amazed by this, for I know the Lord is behind and in every fabulous day. I also know he’s there on the not-so-fabulous days too and for all of this, I thank him profusely. I continue to marvel at how He’s working in my life.

My second week of being at 4.00 volts of electricity was MUCH better than my first week at that level. I didn’t fall and felt more stable than I have in a while and yet – my toes still curled under. So – today, I upped the electricity up to 4.10 volts to see if that will allow my toes to lay flat.

This past weekend was soul reviving. Soul reviving because I got to spend some quality time with my 2 year old niece. Seeing life through her eyes is truly magical. An example of this was: She started digging in gravel and I asked her what she was doing. She said she was digging for treasure. When her treasures are rocks and pebbles, sticks and grass, it reminds me of what truly matters in life. Faith. Family. Friends. Relationships. That’s what matters most. I took Genevieve to Cades Cove.

I thought a drive around the 11 mile loop would be awesome, but it turned out to be so much more. We got out at almost every stop. We explored the cabins and walked and walked and walked in fields of grass. I didn’t fall once. I didn’t trip. I didn’t slip. I was able to move and explore and just live life without worrying about falling.

Randomly, I would say, “I love you, Genevieve.” And she would respond, “I love you, Teplanie.” Melt my heart! I took pictures of her and then she asked to take pictures of me. I gave her my phone and she went to town!

Then she chased butterflies. She chased me. We had a blast. She declared a wood shack “her house”. She doesn’t see me as “broken” or “disabled” or “different” in any way. The first time she saw me with my real hair (after I stopped wearing the wig) she said, "Hair! Pretty. I touch?" (We taught her not to touch the wig since it would get dirty faster if she did). Then she said, "Curly. I like." This past weekend, when I held her, she'd mindlessly run her fingers through my hair. Those little moments are what I'll remember forever. She’s so pure and innocent and I love that. She’s not prejudiced. She loves me for me. I love her for her. I’m her aunt and she’s my niece. She laughed and giggled all day long. Because she laughed and giggled all day, I laughed and giggled all day. That was soul reviving to me. I didn’t know how much I needed that until I had it. The only thing I could think to pray all weekend was, “Thank you”. Thank you, Jesus for giving me, TWO precious treasures to love. I have two nieces that I love with all of my heart. I can’t wait to take the other niece to Cades Cove when she’s older. When I look at my nieces, I ask God what I did to deserve them in my life. I know the answer is: I did nothing. I didn’t do anything to be this blessed, but I realize that God gave me these beautiful treasures as a gift and all I can say is, “Thank you, Jesus!”

God’s working on my fear of walking in front of people. The fear is dissipating. It’s not gone entirely, but it’s better. I feel a little more confident. I still get jittery in certain situations, but I realize that I can’t live life without having to walk in front of people – ha! So, I just have to walk and trust God that I won’t fall. And if I fall, I have to trust God that I’ll get back up again. I may be embarrassed for a moment or two, but in the grand scheme of things, I’ll be OK!! I’m a little scared that I’m typing this tonight and that I’ll fall tomorrow and not be so confident. But you know what? That’s life. I can’t just lay down and die. I have to get from Point A to Point B. No matter how hard it may be, I have to do it. Make no mistake, this past week was not perfect, but no one is perfect except God Himself. So – I walk. I pray for courage. I pray for confidence. I pray for healing. I trust God that all will be OK.

In the past, I’ve had multiple days and/or weeks of feeling like I can’t walk without falling followed by multiple days and/or weeks of good walking. Even if this remains the case, I know God’s in control. I will REJOICE greatly if good walking days remain forever, but I’ll REJOICE in whatever God’s plan is, because no matter what, God’s Got This!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Tune-In Tuesday: November 1

I’m starting this entry off with good news: no falling this past week! Oh, there were near misses, including one today, but NO FALLS.

More good news (for you!): I’m exhausted tonight and it’s only Tuesday. ;) But because of that, this blog entry will be rather short.

Nothing “big" (good or bad) happened walking wise this past week. Sometimes it’s good to be mundane!

Today, I decided to leave the electricity in my deep brain stimulation device on 4.00 volts. I’m not keeping it at 4.00 because I can suddenly walk without issue, but rather I want to see if my walking gets any better as the days go by. I would have said yesterday, that the answer to that would have been no, but God likes surprising me and today walking was just a tad bit better! My toes still curl under but not as drastically as they had been. At times, I see signs of too much electricity, but at other times, I see signs of too little. So, I’ll keep experimenting until I don't need to experiment any more. I can't tell you when that will be - only God knows! It'll happen when He speaks it.

Someone at church commented that I’m “slow and steady”. I said, “Well, I’ve got the slow part down, but not so much the steady part.” ;)

I know that God is for me, so who can be against me? God gives me everything I need, when I need it. Sometimes, I have to remind myself daily, hourly, minute-by-minute, not to worry or fear, but that’s what keeps me humble and in prayer. There is a reason that my life verse is Philippines 4:6: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

Thank you for the continued prayers and love. I am blessed beyond measure. All I need to remember is, "God's Got This!"