A Whitman’s Sampler

21 12 2015

  We went to listen to the school’s Christmas program on Friday evening. One of the first times I’ve been well enough to go out in a crowd in quite a long while. It was a lovely program. I very much enjoyed myself.

On our way out of the church, we stopped to grab our mail from our church mailbox. Among the cards was a small rectangular box wrapped in red tissue paper. A tag read: Joe & Andrea, Merry Christmas.

When the wrapping was removed, it revealed a Whitman’s Sampler of Premium Assorted Chocolates. 

“Ohh!” I sighed. I love chocolate.

“Babe, you know that’s not good for you!” Joe cautioned. 

I opened the lid anyway, and we both gasped and stared. There was no chocolate, instead the box was full of twenty dollar bills.

We have no idea who the creative and generous giver is. But this gift came with perfect timing, as my medical bills are a bit higher right now.

If you were the anonymous giver, please know we thank you from the bottom of our hearts! 


I Was Normal Three Cats Ago

24 09 2015

My husband loves cats. I’m not such a great fan of them.

When we got married, we agreed on one cat. Then Joe said, “but he’ll get lonely. He needs a companion.” 

So one cat became two cats. 

When the kittens were old enough to leave their mother, we drove home with three. 

I named them Dumb, Dumber, and Dumbest.

One night just as we were falling asleep, we heard a very strange noise. It began right above our room and then faded as it went the length of the trailer. But then it was back above us again. Joe went outside to see what could be on our roof and saw the kittens peering down at him. They had climbed a tree beside the house and leapt onto the roof. He carefully got them down, thinking perhaps they were stuck and came back to bed. A few minutes later we heard them again. 

Joe's shop cat

Joe’s shop cat

“Enough of this!” Joe decided. “I’m gonna fix them!” He went out, got the water hose and sprayed those kittens until they jumped off the roof. 

“Well that’s done,” we thought. But no. The very next night they were back at it. Joe went out with the hose again.

After several nights of this, we finally gave up and now they are as much at home on the roof of our house as anywhere! 

Now they are grown and much to my dismay, two of them have become mothers.  One of their offspring has become Joe’s shop cat.

 Yesterday, I was scraping chipped paint from an old plantation shutter I wanted to paint. The repetition of running the scraper back and forth set off my brain. I could feel that I was pushing it but I really wanted to get it finished. Suddenly I was walking backwards, unable to stop until I hit the porch rail. With my back against it, I jerked as my body slowly bent forward.

One of the matriarchs of our cat family looked up at me and meowed, trying to get my attention. She seemed to sense something was wrong and when I failed to straighten, she leapt to the rail behind me, hooked her claws into the fabric of my dress and attempted to pull me upright. Next she jumped on my back and then to the floor, swatting at the scraper in my hand. About this time I had bent forward far enough that the momentum pulled me to the floor. The cat then, licked at my hand and bit my ear. I crawled to the rail and pulled myself up. Then walked along the rail back to the shutter and continued scraping. The cat curled up beside the door. 

I wouldn’t call her smart, but I guess she isn’t “Dumbest” either.

Scared Speechless

31 08 2015

The following is an account of my brief experience with Speech Apraxia which occurred six months ago.

It was about 2:30 AM on March 4th, 2015. I woke after only a few hours of sleep and after shifting around in bed, trying to get comfortable, I got up and stumbled to the bathroom. I tried to be quiet so I wouldn’t wake Joe, but the past several days had included a dystonic event brought on by catching the flu/cold germs going around, and my gait was still unsteady enough to bump into a few too many things.

I was standing in the middle of the room, when Joe decided to come make sure I was ok. His appearance in the doorway, right in front of me, and “Babe, are you ok?” startled me and I screamed. And screamed. And screamed. I could not stop screaming.

Joe picked me up and carried me back to bed. I was as stiff as a board. I knew it was Joe, but I simply could not stop screaming. When at last I did, I could not talk.

The only sound I could form was, “aaaaaaaa”. Watch this video Joe took to show my doctors. I was trying to say, “it’s ok, you didn’t try.”

We tried to communicate with hand gestures and eventually discovered I could type out what I wanted to say. Poor Joe was distraught. He felt it was all his fault for scaring me and worried that something permanent had been damaged. Bless his heart.

Twenty-four hours later I still could only produce one sound and my means of communication was my ipad. Slowly as time went by I was able to form garbled sounds resembling that of which the English language is made.

I made progress though! Soon I was able to make the beginning sounds of the words I wanted to say and later the ending sound. The middle of a word and the different syllables caused a great deal of trouble.

Here is another video of when my speech had improved.

Speaking was very difficult and trying to get people to understand what I wanted was tiring!

Alex loved to hear me try to talk and laughed and laughed. It really did sound funny.

There was a part of me that felt a bit scared and yet, there was nothing to do but keep trying and why not laugh? It’s much better than crying! Oh and it was kinda fun finding ways to flirt with my husband while my vocal cords were on vacation!

One day I sat in front of the mirror and just worked on the names of my family for practice with the sounds and syllables. E-ri-ca, roz-ma-ry, brad-lyn… the toughest names were Bruce, Aaron & Alex. Bontrager took a long time to master! This was where my experience as a first grade teacher came in handy! In all those times of teaching my students how to use their tongues, teeth and lips to correctly form the sounds of the alphabet, I never thought I’d use those same techniques to give myself speech therapy!

But slowly my speech became clearer and about two weeks after the incident, I was speaking normally again.

Why did this happen? Not exactly sure. One of my doctors feels it was a combination of my body & brain being weakened by the flu and then my brain was overstimulated by the scare. Why I lost my ability to speak? I really have no clue. It’ll be a great story to tell the grand kids though! “One time, grandpa scared, grandma so bad she couldn’t talk for 2 weeks!” (Of course it will need to be exaggerated!)

This event ushered in two more symptoms which have continued to show up whenever they feel my brain is sufficiently stimulated. One: I repeat words or phrases over and over and over. I can be repeating the same phrase for up to a minute sometimes. One thing I’ve learned is if I hold my tongue down so it can’t move for a time, the repeating will stop. And then I just better not talk for a few minutes! Two: in the same way that I repeat words, my motions can also become repetitive. For instance, I may tap Joe on the shoulder to get his attention, and my hand will just keep tapping until he takes it and holds it still. Or I may start rocking back and forth until someone stops me.

We’ve found these symptoms can be quite amusing. I say, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry….” Joe says, “it’s ok, you can stop saying it now.” I say, “ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok, ok….” And we are both laughing till I get it stopped.

While we’re on the subject of amusing symptoms, I have also begun this thing where I randomly can’t walk forward. I may be able walk perfectly backward and even at times, sideways, but not forward. Sounds bizarre I know, but that’s the truth of it. Recently on a road trip, Joe was helping me into the car when suddenly I just started going backwards. So he turned me around and I backed into the car just fine. My cousin, Tinslie was along, it tickled her funny bone and she giggled away. =)

I was placed on an anti-seizure med called lamictal and this has helped dramatically in the number of these events and in helping to protect my brain from over-stimulation.

Joe says in the past year, life has never been boring!



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