I have lots of great ideas, and thanks to my love of research, I have more information and trivia stored in my head than is probably good for me. What I have always struggled with is self-discipline. I was one of those fortunate kids who had a lot of interests and talents, so I was able to happily coast while following my bliss and be successful.

That came to a crashing halt the summer of 2006. Two strokes inside of five days is enough to shake anyone off their groove. My easy ride ended, and suddenly I had to work for every little thing. Whether I wanted to or not. Most often, not. For the next year and a half I dealt with heart surgery, a clotting disorder and a bleeding disorder, more strokes, more rehab, pain management for all the side-effects of the strokes. I couldn’t coast anymore. Due to my health I lost the career I loved and gained a lot of weight.

Valentine strength

It’s often said that you never know how strong you are until you don’t have a choice. I didn’t have a choice about fighting my health issues, it was do or die. But self-discipline–that was something I needed to learn and quick.

“Self-discipline is the ability to make yourself do something you don’t necessarily want to do, to get a result you would really like to have.”     ~~ Andy Andrews

I wanted to walk again, so I needed the discipline to get to rehab, to do what I was told even when it didn’t make sense. Soon I was walking with a walker, then crutches, then canes, then one cane, and now a service dog to compensate for balance issues. Where many go to they gym to look good and stay healthy, I was at the gym ignoring dirty looks from others to regain my stamina and strengthen my heart.

I wanted to read and write again, so I needed discipline to forget for a time that I had been a college professor. I picked up the fat crayons and learned to color. I asked my teenage sons to read me their favorite picture books from their childhoods. I quoted what I had memorized as a child while looking at the words as my husband pointed them out. Coloring turned to writing, being read to turned to reading. When my dominant hand wouldn’t work I learned to write with my left hand. Six months after my stroke I could read at a high school level. Now, eight years later I am reading and comprehending almost as well as pre-stroke. My writing voice is different, but now I’m writing a blog and making progress on a novel.

I wanted to get off a number of medications with nasty side-effects and lose the weight I gained lying around hospitals, so I found the discipline and worked to eat healthier and exercise. Becoming a vegan was pretty easy; exercising three times per week is still a struggle. But I am continuing the fight to get what I want.

 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”  ~~ 2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV)

Today I am stronger than I ever thought possible, but rest assured it wasn’t just self-discipline. That started the hard work, but many days it’s just not enough. I was blessed with a strong faith that was years in the making before my health took a nose-dive. Additionally I was blessed with loving and loyal family and friends. Too many to name, and I did my best to thank them all at the time.

My Valentine--1989

My Valentine–1989

But there is one who has not gotten the accolades he deserves. Not even close. When self-discipline just wasn’t cutting it, my husband has been my champion, advocate, cheer-leader, chauffeur, and provider. He has never hesitated to give me a shoulder to cry on or a kick in the proverbial backside depending on which I most needed in that moment.

Even now as I’m trying to blaze a new trail as an author and speaker, even while he is working full time and working on his Master’s degree, he holds me accountable and keeps me focused. It’s because of him that I have the tools I need to compensate for my stroke-related deficits. I was the nerdy geek, but now he checks my online calendar to make sure I keep appointments. I needed the service dog, but he takes Gizmo outside most mornings and buys the kibble. I have trouble remembering to eat and take my medicine, but he encourages me to use MyFitnessPal and to sort my pills by the week, and then double checks that I am doing it.

On our 25th Anniversary

On our 25th Anniversary

I may be strong, but I’ve learned that the more difficult the challenge the more important it is to have a champion in my corner. I am so grateful for my husband. He is my partner, my best friend, and my super hero.

I love you, Steve! Thank you. Happy Valentine’s Day.