Saturday, March 31, 2012


March 31, 2012

We'll start today's blog with one of the greatest quotes we have heard that sort of relates to Elaine's determination and strength of character. One of Fred and Elaine's friends said,

"Elaine, you are truly amazing. I admire your unbelievable determination and courage. It is much better than I could do. If this would have happened to me, I just would have laid in bed and eaten bon-bons until I exploded!"

Elaine had a great (and tough) therapy session today. She spent her time walking up and down the stairs - pretty amazing progress! One of the funny things that happened was how Elaine would be heading up the stairs and she would realize that she had forgotten Little Darlin' - who was still attached to the railing a few stairs back. She was able to do a squat today that she has been working on unsuccessfully since her first day of therapy. She was so excited to see and experience the progress firsthand. She still has a grin on her face!

The rest of the day was filled with some visitors including Freddy and Mynda and family who were in town for a volleyball tournament.

After therapy, Fred and Elaine tried to get some well-deserved rest while watching golf. They were watching and cheering for Natalie who was sporting an ETS bracelet at the Dinah Shore down in the desert.

Friday, March 30, 2012


TGIF. Friday is Elaine's day off from therapy, and we were happy to see her have a day of rest. She has been busting her butt all week at therapy and she definitely needed some time off. She was even able to take a nap today! Just like the doctor ordered.

Of course, Elaine would never settle for doing nothing ALL day. She even mixed in a visitor. Sharon came by to spend some time. She also brought an interesting gift. It is a glove that Elaine can wear on her left hand! It has pretty painted fingernails, a ring, and will be good practice for Little Darlin' as she increases her role in Elaine's life. The photo below is worth a thousand words.

After a relaxing day, Elaine added all kinds of excitement to her life by heading to Staci and Ben's for dinner with everyone - including Richie and Julie (and Bella) and their son, Scott, and his two children, Ally and Tyler. And of course, the Francois children were in attendance. The whole crew had a great time with a ton of laughs while the kids ran around for hours.

On the rehab front, Elaine continues to work on incorporating Little Darlin' into her daily activities. It is a struggle, but we can see marked improvement even since yesterday. It was nice for to work on things at her pace today (and Fred's pace) after a grueling week of daily two-hour therapy sessions. But no rest for Elaine. She is back at it again tomorrow, and she is ready to take on the world!

Thursday, March 29, 2012


March 29, 2012

Today was another really great day – all because of Elaine’s determination! She is truly amazing! Staci took Elaine to therapy at Hoag today. She had a one-hour session with her physical therapist (PT) then another hour with her new occupational therapist (OT). It was such a privilege for Staci to take Elaine and watch her work. It was an incredibly humbling two hours! Although we have all been there every step of the way from the first day, there are days when we truly marvel at what has really transpired over the past eight weeks.

Elaine started with  PT. They worked the entire hour on walking on her left leg focused on keeping her left knee straight.  It tends to have a slight bend in it initially due to muscle weakness resulting in muscle memory. She did incredibly well!

Elaine tends to “drag” her left foot a little and she feels like her toe is going to get caught. In an effort to correct that feeling, they built up 3-inch wood lines that she had to step over. She did SO well! It was really amazing to watch her not only walk with a stronger left leg but also with some air under her step.

After that drill, she went straight to OT. It was technically an assessment that turned out to be a very productive session that left her feeling that these therapists could really help.

They went through the series of questions, one of which was, “Have you ever lost vision on your left side? She answered, “No.”

Staci jumped in and said, “Yes you did! That day in the ER you had complete paralysis on your left side and couldn’t move your head from side to side.”

Fortunately for Elaine, she doesn’t remember that day very clearly.  Although her lack of memory of that awful day is mostly for the best, it is unfortunate in the sense that she doesn’t always realize just how far she has progressed!

They did a grip test on her as well. Her right hand measured at 59, her left at 10. She was discouraged, but both the therapist and Staci were happy and reminded her that not long ago it was ZERO! She then had to take out really small pegs out of a box and then put them back in. She shocked Staci by even being able to do it with her left hand! She did her right hand in 22 seconds and her left in 1 minute 59 seconds. It was very impressive!

The therapist also said that she needs to incorporate Little Darlin’ into her life. A perfect example of this: Elaine learned to tie her shoe on her own today! She needs to use her as much as possible and have her help do everything that is safe to do. It will take some getting used to but we have no doubt Elaine will do it. Staci was thrilled to be there today (and every opportunity she gets) to watch her mom. It is impossible to be more proud of her as she deals with all she is faced – and especially when you see what truly hard work she has to do. There is nothing to compare it to and the fact that Elaine continues to work so hard and push herself to do things that come so naturally to the rest of us (and used to her) make her our idol, a true hero, and the strongest person we have ever met!

Today was also an incredible experience for Staci to be reminded of how much Fred does for Elaine.  As Elaine was answering a series of questions, often times the answer was, no, my husband does it or my husband helps me. The two of them are dealing with such different challenges and yet both handling with courage, love, determination, and passion.

No one can pretend they know how Elaine is feeling or what she is going through and none of us pretend we could handle it the way she has either. Fred had been incredible too! We often say, it is easy to take care of someone when you love them. It is true that for us taking care of Elaine is easy. This situation sucks, but we are also the luckiest family in the world because we have each other! No one or no circumstance or situation can change that. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, and you appreciate every minute of every day! 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


March 28, 2012

The day started with a wonderful two-hour therapy session with Paul. We wish we could have shared an entire video of their banter. They have a really fun relationship and manage to entertain each other day-in and day-out. He spends most of the two hours in awe of Elaine’s determination - and her feistiness.

Staci came over after therapy to take Elaine to lunch.
Staci: “What sounds good for lunch? Want me to go pick something up or do you want to go out?”
Elaine: “I want a milkshake! Doesn’t that sound so good!”
S: “Sure, what else do you want?”
E: “a milkshake.”
S: “You can’t have just a milkshake for lunch. Remember you have to eat healthy too. Do you want a burger or something with your shake?”
E: “not really.”
S: “ok well how about a salad or sandwich?”
E: “ where can I get a really good milkshake?”
S: “ I will go get you the shake but what do you want to eat????”

We settled on a peanut butter and honey sandwich at home and  . . . 

Staci went to get the shake. 

Elaine took a nap and then headed to Textures Salon. She is amazing, trying to get back to a "normal"life and always so conscious of how she looks. Looking at her, you would never guess the hell she has been through and is still going through. She is our idol! 

She wanted to spruce up her hair and Fred was trying to talk her into cutting her hair really short. As you know, she has A LOT of hair and Fred has to dry it after each wash. She did get a cut, but not super short. She looks beautiful! 

We had to send her Coumadin to the salon with her. Staci had everyone in there set their alarms so no one would forget. At 4:45, Elaine was the first to remember then everyone’s phone alarms went off  - plus Staci calling and then Fred. It was quite funny, but better than forgetting! Laura and her assistants couldn’t have been nicer to Elaine and did a wonderful job on her hair.

Staci has been trying different recipes this week, in hopes of making food sound good again to Elaine. Tonight was Christi’s taco recipe and everyone enjoyed it! We are a family of picky eaters so a recipe that all seven of us like is hard to come by!

Tomorrow, Elaine has her assessment at Hoag and then more therapy. We are anxious to see what her assessment will show, although we can see the improvements first hand. We are just trying to keep up with her, literally!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


March 27, 2012

It was busy day for Elaine. Fred and Elaine headed to Hoag for physical therapy this morning.  Her therapist worked her really hard. He focused on her left leg exclusively. He had her trying to be really conscious of bearing equal weight on both legs. He worked with her on walking at a quicker pace and turning around more “normally.” She did great! She even advanced to an elliptical type machine, again with the sole focus on her left leg, and did incredibly well. She was sore and tired after. After you watch the video, you will understand why! 

Kevin, who drove down from LA to see Elaine stopped by before her quiet time. He was so happy to see her doing so well and shocked by her progress. He is anxious to get her back out on the golf course to redeem himself. Last time they were partners, he didn’t hold up his end of the team. After seeing her in person, he is confident he will get his chance at redemption with Nammie again!

Monica and Nancy, her friends from Rancho Santa Fe, came up this afternoon as well. They couldn’t get over her progress and appearance. Monica is also a doctor and even she put her through a few tests. Elaine passed with flying colors! They assured her that they believe she will make a full recovery and reminded her to think about her incredible progress and how amazing she is. Fred and Elaine were so thrilled to have seen them and they really boosted Elaine's spirits. It was a wonderful afternoon!

The parade continued until dinner as Richie and Julie brought over their son and two grandkids, soon to be joined by Staci and her circus. They brought lots of noise and sunshine into the house. Then everyone was quick to get out and let them enjoy a quiet dinner and hopefully an early night after their big day.

We couldn’t be more proud of both Fred and Elaine. They are in this together and exemplify what true love is all about. Elaine and Fred feel so much love from you all. Thank you!

Monday, March 26, 2012


March 26, 2012

The rest appears to be helping! Elaine felt less dizzy today and enjoyed a day full of therapy, company, and her family. She started off this morning with therapy, which went well. She even walked up a hill today, which definitely wore her out, but she did it! It was awesome and she was excited. She continues to make great strides (literally and figuratively) in her recovery. She is getting sick of therapy and her new routine of therapy, rest, and therapy again. She knows that it is what she has to do, and that the reason she is recovering so well is because of her hard work. Her frustration is understandable, but her determination is incredible!

Fred and Elaine had a wonderful afternoon lunch with their good friends who drive up from Del Mar. Ron, Tami, Jim, and Sue (who has visited often and first-hand witnessed her progression) were amazed at her beauty - and her progress. Fred and Elaine were grateful for the company and appreciative of the effort it took to come up the coast. 

Elaine had some quiet time this afternoon( a new two-hour block we are incorporating into her day). She still has a hard time getting comfortable since she is always in pain, especially in her left arm, but at least she gets her feet up and relaxes. Her brain needs a break, too It is constantly in over-drive trying to keep up with all her requests and aspirations.

Staci made dinner for everyone tonight, and then Natalie stopped by for a visit before she heads to the desert for the Dina Shore. She will be sporting her pink ETS wrist band this week which should bring her the luck she needs to win the trophy - the missing pieceJ Good luck Nat! We are we are cheering for you, and we are a loud group!

Elaine goes back to Hoag tomorrow for her therapy and hopefully some more zip lining, if she behaves!

Sunday, March 25, 2012


March 25, 2012

After yesterday's dramatic turn of events at the spa, Elaine's Sunday was considerably more low key. She mixed in a great therapy session in an otherwise relaxing day (FYI: the therapist did not stand her up yesterday, he called and left a voicemail that never checked).

Elaine did the smart thing and called her doctor about her dizziness and yesterday's trouble at the spa. He explained that it was positive that the room was spinning which apparently is a lot better than being light-headed. Doctor's orders are to drink more water, eat more food, get more sleep, and get more sleep.

She followed this orders today (at Fred's insistence). She was able to take a pretty good nap today that lasted until the parade of kids came through around 4:30 PM this afternoon. Christi, Taylor, and Brian woke her up with hugs and kisses - at her request!

It was a perfect way to spend a rainy and cold day in Newport - relaxed and resting up for another tough week of therapy on the road to recovery!

Saturday, March 24, 2012


March 24, 2012

Dizzy Days are here again. Saturday was an odd day at the Smith House. The main event – Elaine’s therapy session – never happened. The therapist was a no-show!

Things became weirder after that.

Elaine and Julie thought it would be a good opportunity to head to the spa for some relaxing massages while Fred and Richie hung out and watched golf and basketball.  Unfortunately, the massages did not go exactly as planned.  As we mentioned previously, Elaine has been experiencing some dizziness.  Well, this dizziness expressed itself today while she was at the spa. This caused a bit of drama at Pelican Hill. She had to stop the massage, the staff went to find Julie, and Elaine spent a few minutes convincing her massage therapist not to call the paramedics.

All’s well that ends well. The episode started with Elaine not feeling too well and ended with her ordering a steak for dinner! It turns out that even her stomach is resilient and determined to succeed!

Here is a little peek into what we consider to be the biggest surprise of the day.  Watch this video taken by a very sneaky Elaine who was more shocked than anyone that Fred could actually VACUUM.  It might the first time in their 36-year marriage that this phenomenon has occurred!


March 23, 2012

Happy Friday! It was a nice an easy day today. Elaine had a day off from her rigorous schedule of therapy and was able to enjoy the day. She had a nice lunch with Fred, Richie, and Julie. Fred picked up one of the new iPads for Elaine today so she can be absolutely state of the art when she plays solitaire.

The Smiths are completely moved of Pelican Hill as of today and are (mostly) all the way settled into their new home!

Elaine - keep up the great attitude! You'll need it tomorrow when Ben comes over with all three kids!

Thursday, March 22, 2012


March 22, 2012

Another great doctor's report today! It has been two weeks since she saw her physician. He and his nurse were in complete amazement. Not only did she walk in without a cane, but she did so at a much quicker pace than anyone expected (it must be all of that encouragement from Fred - "No Moping!").

He said to see her walking the way she is after only 6 weeks of therapy is incredible. It typically takes months and months to make any walking progress, much less walking as well as she does. Elaine was most excited that he took her off her diuretic medications. That means less trips to the bathroom for Elaine and Fred! Since they have been so joined at the hip, when one has to go, so does the other!  That might be a little TMI, but at this point, we are all family right?

The appointment went great, and Elaine's Coumadin level finally seems to be evening out. Fred is now the official blood drawer in the family. This morning they had a little trouble with the finger prick. After two failed attempts, they decided to let the doctor do it. The problem has been fixed, and Fred is ready to try again on Tuesday.

Fred and Elaine had a nice afternoon relaxing before the NCAA basketball tournement started. Richie and Julie came over to watch the games and have dinner. Julie brought over a wonderful meal, which was especially good news for Staci (the lead grocery shopper) and Franny (the cook). Elaine set the table and even helped prepare the food with some assistance from Julie. Her good humor and positive attitude continued. The four of them have so much fun together that laughter must have been heard throughout all of Big Canyon. They might be getting their second violation notice soon!

Staci and the kids stopped in for a whirlwind visit, enough time for the kids to raid the lazy susan and leave an evidence trail behind. Elaine, just before a nap, said she was not going to worry about her house being so clean or a pillow out of place.  Stay tuned to see how long that lasts!

Fred does leave a trail of his air puffs (we don’t listen to his claims that they are food, it is nothing but flavored air) everywhere he goes, and (so far) Elaine doesn’t mind a bit. She is just happy to be alive and finally feeling like SHE is seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

Little Darlin’ has been really sore the last few days. It could be a combination of muscle fatigue, new movements, cooler weather - any number of changes in her body really. She put a brace on today and that seemed to ease the pain a little. Hopefully, Paul will be able to stretch it out for her tomorrow.

Her brain is still trying to train itself to send signals from a new part of the brain. The damage from her stroke was significant, which makes us marvel at the way the body and brain works even more. She literally is relearning to use her left arm and leg. Her persistence, determination, and hard work make it possible, with a huge help from her biggest supporter and cheerleader, Fred. They are quite a team!

Sleep well, therapy starts bright and early tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


March 21, 2012

Elaine’s new attitude continued today and even her therapist noticed. He was as excited as we all are that she finally believes she is going to get better and just how lucky she is. He told her that if she could compare herself to other people in her same situation, she would understand our amazement at her progress. He also reminded her how lucky she is to have so many family and friends loving and supporting her. He said he has never seen anything like the support she is receiving. He understands why she is so loved!

Elaine’s two hour therapy session included walking up and down their stairs (three times!!) and working on balancing a ball on a tray using both hands (even Franny couldn’t do it). She also explained to Paul that she intends to wear high heels again. He laughed, thinking (out loud) “no way” but he has learned that if she has her mind set on something, nothing will derail that train, even statistics! In an attempt to prepare her for her heels, he put ping pong balls under her heels and had her stand on them. I don’t think there is any doubt that when she is recovered, she will be not only wearing high heels, but dancing in them!

Staci, Elaine, and Brian went out to lunch at True Food Kitchen. They had a delicious lunch and Brian and Elaine even dressed alike. At one point during lunch, Elaine and Brian were blowing air at each other through straws across the table. We are used to everyone starting at us anyway and at least this was actually a speech therapy exercise. I’m not sure who had more fun. :)

After lunch, Elaine rested for a little then Julie and Bella (their dog) came for a visit. Fred and Richie played golf, and then they all had a nice dinner together filled with lots of laughter. 

Elaine has a doctor appointment in the morning. I am sure she will continue to amaze them! 

Tonight seems like a perfect opportunity to again thank you all for your love, support, and prayers. The outpouring of love our family has felt has given us so much strength through this very difficult time. Elaine has cherished each and every visit, card, call, email, message, floral arrangement, and all the goodies she has received. It has truly been incredible to feel the love and compassion you have all given to Elaine, and to all of us. We all feel so lucky to have such strong friendships that have certainly been tested over the past few months! You have stepped up and been there for us all and we will never forget it! It gives Elaine gets so much strength each day hearing from all of you . Your words of encouragement and your friendship get her through each day and increase her burning desire to get better! This started almost 8 weeks ago and the love and support she still feels is priceless. From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU AND WE LOVE YOU! 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


March 20, 2012

Elaine woke up this morning and said, “I really believe I am going to get better!” She said it with conviction and belief.  She had an extra skip in her step today and stood a little taller. Another big event happened today! Anyone who has called her has likely noticed that when she answers the phone, she answers with this awkward, exasperated voice like she is holding her nose and says a drawn out shouting HEEELLLOOOO. We spent some time trying to break that habit today, per Elaine’s request. Her personality was out today!

Her morning started off with a special treat from our dear friends Christi and Morgan. They drove up from San Diego to see Elaine and she really enjoyed their company. They shared some laughs about some funny stories from the past. They shared some boy stories with us and told us that Brian’s crazy phase will only last another year and a half. That didn’t make us feel betterJ

Taylor and Elaine played a card game that Taylor made up. Taylor was trying to get Little Darlin’ more involved in the game and then she said, “Ok, just use Mr. Hand instead.” Apparently her right hand has now been given a name, too. Taylor was so sweet trying to give Nammie a table to use. Watching them, we are pretty sure they were both just making up things as they went. They had a good time doing it, and it seemed to make sense to them.

Elaine then went to the esthetician. One of her least favorite things is getting in and out of Staci’s BIG car, but with all the practice and her advanced exercises, it is getting much easier for her.

She then enjoyed a fun visit from MJ, who was in from the desert. MJ is always happy and so pleasant to be around. She brings positive energy with her.

Elaine had a great day. She is ready for therapy tomorrow and to continue on with her no holds barred attitude and working towards getting better! She never ceases to amaze us! It was so incredible today to start to see the old Elaine coming back. We will never tire of saying or believing what a true miracle she is! 

Monday, March 19, 2012


March 19, 2012 No Blue Monday at the Smith house. Elaine had a great day today (especially once she made the daily decision to shower). This sums up her therapy session: Ben pulled up to pick up Fred for a lunch event. As he was driving down their street, he saw a young lady going for a walk. It turned out that the young lady was Elaine. She was navigating the sidewalks and driveways wih absolute perfection. It truly was a tribute to her determined spirit and hard work. After the lunch event (Fight On!), Fred stepped up by picking up Taylor from school. That was definitely a treat for both of them, and a big help to Staci and Ben. Fred and Elaine enjoyed a nice night or rest and a dinner at home in preparation of another big week of progress!

Sunday, March 18, 2012


March 18, 2012

Lazy Sunday was anything but for Elaine and her crew. On the advice to GET MORE REST from just about everyone, Elaine had the day off from therapy. That doesn’t mean it was all rest and relaxation. Every move she makes requires so much physical and mental energy. She never gets a break! Not to mention the constant reminders from everyone to stand up straight, keep her leg straight, don't forget about Little Darlin', and the list goes on. We know she's going to whack one of us with her cane soon:) Taylor did spend some of the evening trying to teach Little Darlin' how to snap. Just what Elaine wants, one more therapist!

Fred and Elaine went out into the high winds for brunch at Big Canyon. Then, they went back to the house where Staci, Ben, and the kids came by to say hello. The original plan was to have dinner over there, but Brian was on a search for destruction that was too difficult to corral so we initiated a venue change to Staci and Ben’s house.

This is going to sound odd, but we “won” the tickets in a charity auction - Fred and Staci sat on the ice tonight at the Anaheim Ducks hockey game. While they were out, Ben hosted Elaine and the crazy kids for dinner. It was a bit of circus and Elaine helped out by distracting kids and getting them to eat dinner before their dad lost his mind. Ben was hoping Daddy would arrive with extra candy tonight, no such luck! Elaine was ready for her's and her quiet house. She is always a trooper. Thanks Ben for babysitting. It was nice to get Fred out tonight too. He can cross a hockey game on the ice off his bucket list. 

It was a fun night with a house full of monkeys as evidenced by the photo below!


March 17, 2012

Top O’ The Morning! That rascally Leprechaun caused us some technical problems last night. Sorry about the tardy post!

Elaine and Fred had an active St. Patrick’s Day complete with real Irish weather. Elaine had a great therapy session in the morning. Then, Ben, Staci, and the kids came over for a quick visit after lunch. 

Fred and Elaine enjoyed their new home by sitting next to each other in their new chairs watching the wall of TVs Fred had installed. Brian has turned out to be a huge help to Elaine. As soon as he walks in the door of their house, he goes on a search mission for Elaine’s cane and promptly brings it to her wherever she is!

Elaine is looking forward to a relaxing Sunday!