Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Comfort of Chocolaty, Chewy Goodness

I try to take care of my body as much as possible. I eat good things, try to exercise as much as I'm able to, and try to keep the junk to a minimum. But sometimes, life throws you a day that requires the comfort of only one thing. Chocolate. Preferably, chewy chocolate of some form or another. Usually a day like that calls for brownies. But it's been hot here lately, and I have no desire to heat this place up any more than it already is. So, today I settled on chocolate peanut butter no bake cookies. You CAN cook the chocolate mixture on the stove. But that would also heat up the house. So, I decided to use my microwave for these.

1 1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
a pinch of salt
3 cups quick oats
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter (smooth peanut butter is a mortal sin around this house!)
1 tsp vanilla

Place sugar, cocoa, butter, milk, and salt in a large, microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high for 3 1/2 minutes. Stir until just combined. Microwave, again, on high for 3 1/2 minutes.

Add oats, peanut butter and vanilla. Stir until just combined.

Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto wax paper and allow to cool. You will have chocolaty, chewy deliciousness faster if you allow them to cool in the fridge! :)

I have found the secret to perfect no bakes, lies partly in not stirring too much. If you over stir, you will end up with dry, chalky cookies. :P You don't want that. So stir just until combined and everything that should be melted is, in fact, melted. And then STOP!

Don't forget to leave yourself some of the chocolaty, oaty goodness in the bowl to enjoy warm, away from the kids in a locked room! :D Enjoy!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Times of Reflection

As you can see, I've done a little changing to my blog. There is new music, new wall paper, new colors... I have enjoyed summer, and the heat that comes with it (my leg muscles do NOT like the cold). But I am looking forward to the changing of seasons.

I love fall. Mount Ogden rests behind my home, and I enjoy watching the hillsides become alive with changing colors as I wash dishes, clean up my kitchen, help kids with homework, and make meals and treats. I missed it last year. By the time I got home from the hospital the colors were gone. One more thing I missed out on. But aside from the bright, changing colors, I also enjoy the crisp in the air. It's not hot, but not cold either. Vegetables are harvested, canning is completed, meals change from sandwiches, salads, and grilled meats and veggies, to stews, soup, chili, roast and potatoes. We pull out our sweaters and jackets. And we pull out the throws and blankets, and snuggle together as we watch tv in the evenings. We prepare for the long, cold months ahead by making our homes into cozy places to retreat to.

We also send children, and maybe even ourselves back to school. In our house, the boys are heading off to 1st and 4th grade, Elizabeth is going to preschool 3 days a week, and Corey is preparing for his last semester and graduation. I had thought about going back to school this year, and taking just one class while Libby was in school. In the end I decided I wanted to give myself at least one more year to get better at walking before trying to get around a busy college campus -- especially in the ice and snow. I'm okay with it. I plan to use the time when I have no children at home to get my home better organized, and then maybe learn some new skills, such as crocheting, or knitting, or even using it as a time when I can actually play the piano in peace. :) I actually may spend time with the piano, since pedaling is good therapy for my ankles.

August is still summer, and it's still hot, and I'm enjoying it. But I think of August as the prep month for fall. I update everyone's wardrobes, get new school supplies, get ready to start canning and freezing veggies and fruit, and sometimes even start on some things, I get kids ready to begin a new soccer season, and this year, Libby will start dance lessons.

I tend to recognize the beginning of the school year as a time to sit down and set goals for myself, the kids, and the family as a whole, rather than New Years. It's also a time when I look back over the previous year and ask myself what things I did that were good, and what needs to be improved upon.

As far as what I did that was good, I feel like I climbed a mountain this year. I'm not quite to the top just yet, but I have climbed a significant portion, and I'm proud of myself. I have found that I am much stronger than I ever thought I was. Still... there is always room for improvement.

I think I have decided that since I am not going back to school this year, I am going to use this year to become closer to my Father in Heaven and His Gospel. I have felt Him so close to me through this past, very hard year, and I still fall short in so many areas. I want to make reading my scriptures and the Ensign a habit. I want to become more diligent in my prayers. I want to be a better journal writer (through this whole experience, this past year, not once have a stopped to write any of it down in a designated place. It's all scattered everywhere! And I hope that it is something that I can continue to learn from, and my children and their children as well). I also want to become a better spiritual teacher to my children. And I want to go back to the temple. I haven't been since before I went to the hospital almost a year ago.

I also want to continue in trying to take better care of myself, get rid of the excess pounds, stop putting so much junk into my body, and using my body to be as active as I possibly can. Never again do I want to take the body that I have been blessed with for granted.

Going back to school is not the only thing going on around here this month that makes one stop and reflect. I have now been in my calling -- Ward Music Specialist and Choir Director -- for a year. I am enjoying it and have some ideas for improving the choir that I plan to implement in the next month or so. Sometimes I do miss being the performer. I would rather sing with the choir than lead it any day. But I am still grateful for the opportunity I've been given to run the choir this past year. I have gained some leadership skills, and have been drawn out of my shell a little bit.

On August 19th, my sweetheart and I celebrate 11 years of eternal marriage. I think if this past year doesn't break us, nothing ever will. We don't always agree with each other, but our love for each other is as firm as steel. He has been so good to me this past year, and I can't say how much I appreciate having a worthy priesthood member in my home. It makes such a difference.

Finally, August 20th will be one year since I was affected by Transverse Myelitis. I still find it ironic that it happened the day after my wedding anniversary last year. We don't really know what we are doing that weekend yet. I just don't want to be given much of a chance to dwell on my situation, so I told my dh that whatever we are doing, we won't be home. He actually has been asked to help work on a film the evening of the 19th and the morning of the 20th in Alta. So we will probably go out there for the night, and then ..... I don't know.... What exactly is out in that area??? We may head back to Salt Lake to spend another night. We'll have to see. If you suddenly became paralyzed when no accident or anything like that was involved, and then spent the next year learning how to dress yourself, learning how to get around in a wheelchair, learning how to transfer to a bed to a wheelchair, learning how to catheterize yourself, learning how to stand, learning how to walk with a walker, progressing to two forearm crutches, and then to one, and then finally walking around short distances with no assistance and using a cane the rest of the time???? How do you celebrate that? It's a major feat. I feel like the day needs to have some time spent in remembrance. But it also needs to be a celebration of all I've accomplished... I need to think on that for a while...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Good Things to Come

When I am having a hard day, and feel that the trials I've been dealt is too much to bear, I listen to this talk. I have such a love for Brother Holland. He is a magnificent speaker, and this if my current favorite talk of his.


"Don't you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead. Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don't come until heaven. But for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come."

-- Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Friday, July 30, 2010

Something New! I'm Excited!

I got on my library's website today to reserve a book, but before I did that, I decided to take a look at their events calendar. It's been down for a while, and I noticed it was back up. They do a lot of movie days, and the kids have enjoyed doing that in the past, so I thought I would see what they were planning on showing over the next few weeks. As I was looking around I found a new even that I'd never seen before. It was called "Gentle Movements". It is available at the library on Thursday mornings as a way to "Improve your mobility, balance, stability and strength during this low-impact, gentle exercise class."

I haven't been to physical therapy since the beginning of summer. My insurance company refused to pay for anymore visits. My physical therapist works at a small gym and I was able to buy 12 supervised open gym visits, that I used. I went when I wanted to without making appointments. My therapist was able to keep an eye on me and suggest new things to be doing. But eventually, I got so I didn't want to go anymore. I was tired of fitting it into my life. And about 90% of the things I was doing were things I was able to do at home anyway. I couldn't see paying the money again. So, I quit going.

I still have been doing things on my own. There is a track at my kids' school that has a sidewalk going down the parking lot halfway through the track, and I've been walking that most days. It's convenient because if I feel like I'm getting too tired to make it all the way around the track, I can just do half of it. I also have been using the "Chair Aerobics for Everyone" DVD. Then in the evenings after the kids are in bed and the house is quiet, I do crunches, bridges, modified push ups and some simple balance exercises while I watch tv.

But I would still like the input of another person to suggest new ways of working toward better mobility, stability and balance. My strength is great. The nurses in the hospital couldn't believe how strong I was. I don't worry about that. But strength only goes so far when you don't have the balance or stability to go with it. My favorite word in the whole world is "free", so when I saw this I was intrigued.

It turned out that my library card had expired anyway, and I was unable to reserve the book I wanted. So, I called the library to take care of it. While I was on the phone, I asked about the class. I told the librarian about my situation, and asked if he happened to know whether the class would be good for someone like me. He was very encouraging. He said that most of the people who come to the class are senior citizens who are trying to increase their mobility, or people who have had injuries.

So, I think I will go and check it out on Thursday and see what I think. If I like it and can find someone to watch Elizabeth during that hour, I will go to it every week. I think I can handle something like this once a week and then do what I learn there at home the rest of the week.

I told my mom about it, and unless I can't find anyone else to watch Libby for me, she's going to come with me, since she's been having some difficulty with her balance as well. Awesome! I'm really excited to have found this. I am so grateful to have access to such an awesome library that make opportunities such as this, and Discovery Time, and the chess club that Johnathan enjoys, and free movies, etc available for free to the public. What a wonderful resource!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Goal

I can walk. I don't have very good balance, so I use a cane when I'm not home. I also don't have much endurance. I am beginning to walk faster, but that depends on how much energy I have. I do most things by myself, and rarely need help. I have felt that if this is the best it ever gets, I'll be okay.

I haven't gone to therapy since the beginning of summer. After almost a year of going I'm tired of scheduling my life around it, and I feel like everything we do are things I can do at home anyway. So, I quit going. It doesn't mean I've given up. I'm still working on things on my own at home -- doing as much around the house as I can standing or walking, some chair aerobics that I found a dvd for, some walking at the track at my kids' school, and some simple balance exercises.

But I have come to terms with things for the most part. It's possible that I may never fully recover, and it has been 11 months. I'm still within the two year recovery window, but most progress in Transverse Myelitis patients is seen in the first 6 months. Don't get me wrong, I'm progressing. But it's slow now. If I never progress beyond where I am now, I'm comfortable that I can at least take care of myself, my kids, and my house. I can drive thanks to the use of hand controls. I do my own grocery shopping, I cook for myself. There are things here and there that I need help with. I am unable to get things that are high off the ground. I lack the strength needed in my legs to be able to climb onto a chair, and even if I had something like a step stool, my balance is off too much to feel like I could get something down safely. I also need help carrying heavy or cumbersome things. But for the most part, I take care of things myself. And I've been learning ways to still enjoy my life.

So, I could live like this. But after two vacations this month, and seeing people all around me running and chasing their kids, getting in and out of a swimming pool or lake with no help, climbing into a boat, etc. Plus the stares I get from people when I'm out. You know just what they are thinking. Why is someone my age using a cane? It makes people feel vulnerable.

So, with all of this I suppose I've gained a new sense that it HAS to be better than this! It HAS to be! I am always thinking of things I can do to help me progress. And I've come up with a new goal.

I have two nephews, ages 8 years and 8 months. They are brothers, and they have Cystic Fibrosis. Every May there is a Great Strides walk here in Ogden that our family participates in to help raise money and awareness for Cystic Fibrosis. It usually goes on during soccer season, but unless I've had a kid that has a soccer game at the same time that year, I have always participated. Last May, I didn't. It was partly because Johnathan did have a game. But it was also partly because I knew I couldn't have walked it. It's a 2 mile walk.

I have been working on my endurance lately anyway. So, I've decided. Next May, provided neither Johnathan or Elizabeth have soccer games, I am walking it. That should give me something tangible to strive for. It will take some hard work, but I think I can do it.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Life is Still Beautiful

I am feeling more and more like coming back to the blogging world. I may even pick up the hair blog I tried to start with Libby back before my whole ordeal with Transverse Myelitis began. I LOVE doing her hair. It is so fun. I love making her feel pretty and special, and it is our special time just for me and her. I have yet to decide about the food blog. I started putting it together but that's about as far as I've gotten. Things take longer to do now. I am getting faster at everything. But, still, baby steps, you know.

My beautiful Libby girl turned 4 on Friday. I have pictures, but have just been too tired to even think about uploading them, so my apologies. We just had a small family gathering at a local park for presents, cake, ice cream, and let the kids play for a bit.

That day we were also preparing to leave on another vacation. Saturday morning we left for a beautiful 3 days at Bear Lake. We camped at the Sunrise Camp Ground. I was unsure of how difficult getting in, out, and around a tent would be for me, so Libby and I slept in my parents' trailer with them, and Corey and the boys slept in the tent.

My parents rented a jetski one day. I have always been terrified of them. But there was one point in the hospital that we even wondered if I was dying. Believe me, I will never take my life for granted again! So, I promised myself that if there was some way of getting me onto that jetski, I was going to ride it!

I'm not sure if anyone got pictures to document the occasion or not. It was difficult getting up. At one point, I got into a position that made it physically impossible for me to move in any way, and Corey had to help me. But I got on. It took a little bit for me to relax, but it really wasn't as bad as I had imagined it would be, and I think I will most likely go again. Getting down wasn't as difficult, but I did need the help of two people -- one to help keep the jetski steady, and the other to guide the foot that was stepping off so I didn't hit the propeller. I am pretty proud of myself! And I'm happy that Corey and I have something new to enjoy together.

Those days at the lake were beautiful. In places like that you can see the Hand of God everywhere, in every creation. I have been through so much this past year. And through all of it, I have felt my relationship with my Heavenly Father strengthen. I know He will never leave me alone, and I know He will never set me up to fail. I WILL get through this. One of my favorite quotes has always been "I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it." I am telling you it's true! I have never been through anything harder than this. It would be so easy to quit and just waste the rest of my life. But what would I get out of it? I would miss being all I can to my sweet kids. I would miss out on growing old and enjoying life with my husband. I would miss out on... LIFE! And life, though hard, is STILL beautiful.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Just Keep Swimming...

It's been a while again. I wonder if anyone even checks this blog anymore? It's been difficult to WANT to blog since my injury last year.

It hasn't been QUITE a year, but next month, August 20th will mark a year to the day. I still haven't decided how I will spend that day. I may be in DC with Corey. He may be selected to go back there for three months on a work detail. If he does, I will join him until just before school starts. Secretly, though, as much as we could use the money that would come from it, I hope he doesn't get it. I feel like I still need him here too much, and I'm kind of scared to be alone that much.

Back to the injury, most people know this, but I walked around and around my house for the first time in February. I still use a cane away from home. I do still have some balance issues, and it's helpful when I get tired (which still happens way too quickly), but I also feel like it gives people around me a signal that I am a fall risk and to use precaution around me. At home, I use nothing. I'm beginning to gain some speed when I walk, unless I'm tired. I've started putting myself on an endurance program. My goal is to get to being able to walk for one hour without a break. So far, I can go 15 minutes. I know, I have a long ways. But as Dory would say, I have to "just keep swimming".

A week ago, we spent some time at Lava Hot Springs and Yellowstone. Ironic for me because that's where I was a week before the virus attacked my spinal cord. It was kind of emotional for me. There were things that I couldn't do that made me feel left out. But there were other things that I was able to do with some help. I got in a swimming pool for the first time since my injury. That was an interesting experience.

Before I was able to get about waist deep in the water, I would feel top heavy. But, thanks to now having sensory issues, if I got down on my knees and went around the pool that way, the rough, cement surface at the bottom would feel like broken glass. We eventually did get me out chest deep, though, and that was so nice. My swimming leaves a lot to be desired, and I don't dare put my head under the water yet, but otherwise, I feel free in the water. And... I "stand" in the water as well as anyone else. In the water, I'm just like any other 30 year old woman.

The school that my boys attend does free lunch for kids during the summer. Recently, when we've gone, I've noticed another woman with a cane, who looks like she's around my age, and always has young children with her. I wish I weren't so shy. I would love to know who she is. Sometimes this whole thing can be lonely, when everyone around you is doing all the things you used to do, and you just want so desperately to do it too.