Thursday, September 1, 2011

Man of the Cloth LLC is online

Hey, this is a really quick post to say that Man of the Cloth LLC is up and running on the web.  Getting the website up and running has been consuming quite a lot of my time.  First, I completed the brochure to introduce our service to seminary students,  Once we took it to the printer, the website moved front and center to our attentions.  We were so pleased to hit the publish button on it yesterday.  You can check it out at:

Just a little behind the scenes tidbit... on the "About Us" page Richard wanted a photo to be posted for each of us since a picture is worth 1000 words.  The picture he chose for me was quaint and manager-ish enough to lend credibility to me.  He was searching for his image as "designer" and this is what he originally came up with.

I agreed that is was eclectic, creative and free-spirited, but I also pointed out he looked like the ancestral church father, C.F.W. Walther.  We chuckled a bit and then reviewed photo albums to find further options.  You will have to make the call on which choice is better.  We would love to have specific feedback on anything you see that could stand improvement to make the website easier to maneuver.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Microcosm of Prayer Answers

We pulled off at the first cheap St. Louis gas station to fuel up ($3.159 per gallon looked pretty sweet to me).  I fueled the car while the girls went to the restroom.  When they came back I slipped off to pay my honorary visit to the little room of relief, so I was not there when the call came in to Erin’s phone. 

You see, Erin, Laura and I were on our way to see the neurosurgeon who had cared for Richard.  This trip was to establish Erin as his patient.  You may not have known that in May, 2010, Erin had experienced a grand mal seizure out of the blue. At the time she was referred to the University of Kentucky for medical care.  They discovered a brain tumor that did not appear malignant but was menacing in that it caused seizures.  They had been watching her closely with MRI studies every 3 months.  Since there were no changes they recommended that she go down to 6 months between exams. Moving to Missouri created the need to find a new doctor for follow-up.  Erin had scheduled the appointment a month back while she was still Erin Hay. 

We were only 30 minutes away from the doctor’s office when the call came in. The secretary from the doctor’s office was following up on new information she had discovered the day before – Erin and John do not have insurance.  The secretary told Erin the appointment was cancelled and that given her financial need she should make arrangements to be seen at one of the two teaching medical facilities in St. Louis. Erin took down the numbers and politely bid the secretary good bye. 

We all sat there bewildered.  We had come 1½ hours distance already and only had 30 minutes to go to be at the office. What should we do?

I turned to Erin and asked, “May I call the office back to speak on your behalf?”  

With a soft, near-tears voice, Erin replied, “I guess.”

Erin provided me with the number the call had come from and I was off on the chase.  The hospital computer picked up the call and I waited thought all the “if you want so-and-so, press this number” commands.  At last since none of the choices worked I stayed on the line for the operator.  She transferred me to another operator who finally transferred me to the secretary’s number which went directly into voice mail.  I introduced myself as one calling on behalf of Erin Cook. After stammering around about guaranteeing that today’s visit would be paid for in cash, I stated we were still coming to the appointment. Then I got down to leaving my number, but an ending tone sounded before I had all the numbers spoken.

I turned to Erin and said, “We will just go in and see what happens.”

I pulled back onto the highway.  About three miles down the road Erin’s phone rang.  The secretary was calling back.  Immediately she clarified on Erin’s name and Erin had the opportunity to explain that she had married in the past 2 weeks.  She apologized for not having made her name change clear.  She thought she could take care of that at the office.  The secretary simply stated acknowledgement that she would see us in a few minutes.  We all heaved a sigh of relief.

Once at the office Erin meticulously completed all the paperwork received from the receptionist.  The secretary came to the door to call “Mrs. Cook” in.  As she saw us both stand to enter her face lit up with recognition. 

“So, this is your new daughter-in-law,” the secretary declared.  “Now it all makes sense.”

Our doctor had promised on our last visit that he would be pleased to see our new daughter-in-law when she was indeed in the family and the area. The rest of the visit was sheer blessing.  As we left I was near tears myself as doctor told Erin not to worry about the bill, along with other encouraging words that things will work out. 

Now, what is my point of writing this long tale?  The bottom line is that I learned a HUGE lesson that day – a lesson about prayer, intercessory prayer. 

Prayer and courage go hand in hand.  Intercession, being held up by others, relying on the intervention of others is God’s way of weaving the fiber of His people together. Prayer ignites courage.  We needed to simply pull out on the road and move ahead as we prayed. Praise the Lord for His provision of courage and success and the future of hope.  

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fairy Tale Buster

Recently, Laura passed the driver's test to receive her licence.  She had been driving with a learner's permit for 1 1/2 years so she had never been alone in the car.  We were so accustomed to that it took a couple weeks for us to come up with an excuse to send her off on her own to run an errand thus making her maiden solo voyage.  We sent her to get milk from a local farmer.  The trip is about 5 miles one way.  She went and returned without apparent incident.  At least that is what we thought. Today, she finally leveled with us about the fatalities she caused.

Today as I was driving to church I had to dodge a turtle crossing the road.  Laura must have had a frightful flash back because she started to talk. I glanced in the rear view mirror because I was certain I had hit the innocent slow stroller.

"You didn't hit him, Mom," Laura piped up. "If you had, you would have heard a thump."

"Oh? How do you know that?" I inquired.

"I never told you," Laura confessed, "but I hit a turtle on that first trip to the farm to get milk. That wasn't as bad as the rabbit I hit a little further down the road. He ran out so fast that I couldn't even swerve."

"Let me get this straight.  You hit a turtle when you were on your way to the farm and then you ran over a rabbit, too. All this on your first trip?"

"I figured the race was finished, and the fairy tale was done. I'm just glad that didn't happen to me when I was taking my test with the state driving examiner.  The state driving test says if there is an accident with a casualty or death the tester is to automatically fail the testee.   A squirrel crossed the road while I was taking my test. The tester was shouting at the squirrel, 'Run little squirrel, run!"

Now we all have the lingering question.  Does roadkill disqualify a student driver from passing the road test in Missouri?  We have decided to get Peter's learner's permit to start moving toward an answer.  Meanwhile, it may take us a few years to have the courage to get him to the licence test, insurance rates and all.  So much for the fairy tale ending...

Friday, July 29, 2011

Newlyweds Inspire Memories

As I sat on the patio this morning cleaning onions my mind drifted to the days when we were still young.  It was at the time of our first anniversary.  We had moved into a trailer on the farm and had a garden for the first time.  I was enthused about learning to can, and I had always loved my mother's home-canned tomato soup.  Mom gave me the recipe and I gathered up the goods to produce it.  The cans all processed well, and the glowing red contents were beckoning us to sample them.  I popped open a test jar for Sunday dinner.  The flavor knocked us back in our chairs!  It was full-bodied but hot, hot, hot.  Mom's was never like that.  I scooped up a bowl and dashed to get her opinion.  One taste and she had the diagnosis - too much onion.  Really it tasted like concentrated onion juice with a hint of tomato.

"But, Mom," I insisted, "I followed your recipe exactly."

"How much onion did you put in?" she asked.

"I put in 12 like the recipe said," I confidently replied.

"How big were they?" she chuckled.

I held up my hand to indicate softball size.  That melted her into a full-fledged guffaw.

"The onions were supposed to be no bigger than a shooter marble."

We ate every bit of that soup confident that it was a once in a lifetime experience.   That memory fled back to me today as I sat and cleaned onions.  The men had dug all the onions the first of the week.  It has been such a wet summer so far here that about 1/3 of them came out rotten to some degree.  I sat and cleaned the rotten ones.  An onion that started out the size of a tennis ball would end up the size of a shooter marble.  Those were the size I should have used 35 years ago.  Finally, I understand.  I had Laura can a batch, and she did it properly.  Human progress.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Wedding Was Beautiful

Friday, July 22 was wedding day for John Cook as he took Erin Hay to be his wife. The wedding was simple and beautiful, making it simply beautiful.  John and Erin agreed on the wedding text in advance. I just have to share it with you as it was such a great text for newlyweds and for oldie-weds too.

2 Peter 1: 5-8
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge. and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affections with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (ESV)

I thought the wedding would be a breeze for me.  After all the mother-of-the-groom is a very minor character.     My greatest responsibility was in planning the rehearsal dinner.  We made it a no-brainer by ordering a sampling of pizza from three different pizza restaurants in Paris, Kentucky. No, the worst thirty seconds for me where spent right before I was escorted to my seat by Dallas.  I took a moment to give John a hug and to wish him well.  That was when the realization hit me - he is no longer my little boy, but rather he is Erin's man. How embarrassing to have tears streaming down my face as Dallas seated me.  But that was the end of the "water works" as I watched our family receive a tremendous blessing in adding Erin to our clan.  Realizations and additions, simply beautiful.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Quickie Update as We Run to the Wedding

Friday, July 22, John will be marrying Erin Hay in Paris, Kentucky.  Here it is Wednesday and we are dashing about to get packed and leave the house in order as we head to the rehearsal tomorrow.

With the business, we have received about 5 shipments of materials from three sources.  Richard is starting to move beyond the sample garments to some serious construction.  As he completes a new alb we are listing the original sample in his shop on Etsy, an online shopping mall.  We have one listed so far but hope to have more the week after the wedding.  We hope this will give us a little feel for the market, but at the least it helps us jointly work though the process of online sales.

I, Renee, have been selling on eBay for about 2 years so I have a little idea about working with writing a listing, shipping costs and managing Paypal. Richard had not given my eBaying much attention since I did it while he was away from home at work.  Now the slower pace of Etsy is proving a good teaching medium for his current learning style.  Here is his link if you want to take a look at his Etsy profile.  His shop items are on the right-hand side of the profile page, and you can click it for a closer look:

Meanwhile, back at the wedding, all the siblings are going to make it for John.  I have to confess to being a little excited about getting all our offspring together.  I hope we remember to get a picture.  In times past we just get so wrapped up in visiting that we forget the camera.  I'll let you know later how it comes out.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Paper Trained for Business

I, Renee, am on the edge of my seat.  Friday afternoon this document arrived in the mail.

This paper is our tax license for doing business in Missouri.  Companies across the county use this document to validate that we are a serious business worthy of receiving wholesale prices.

I hustled to Staples Friday and faxed it off to three wholesale sources.  Sadly, it was 6 pm by the time I got them off.  Since it was after business hours AND a holiday weekend, I am waiting for Wednesday to call the wholesalers to verify that we are in.  Meanwhile,  Richard and I are sorting through the websites to have our dream/shopping  list  ready to plunge right in. 

So I am on the edge of my seat to go ordering. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Call Out Our Pluck

2 AM Saturday
"So," Renee asked, "did you ever dream we would be doing this?"
"If I'd have known," Laura groaned, "I'd have gone to bed earlier."

Laura and I were standing elbow to elbow pulling pinfeathers from two little roosters we had just harvested.  You see, a raccoon inspired us to butcher these little beauties.  At about 1:30 a.m. we were all awakened by a ruckus in the yard where the chickens are penned.  Horrendous scream after horrendous blood-curdling scream exploded from the pen of the little cockerels.  The screams only briefly blotted out the flop and drumming of dozens of wings as they were fighting off the intruder.

Peter, Richard and I grabbed flashlights and ran out to find a raccoon scrambling about in the pen.  In the beams of our lights he was groping to find his exit point while we were circling the pen to find his entry point.  The areas we had feared vulnerable were still soundly fortified.  The pen still looked impenetrable but the presence of the coon was chilling testimony to our error.   We three circled and circled the pen, as the raccoon ran to the concealed roofed area of the chickens' roosts.  The poor little terrified and battle-weary cockerels cowered in the farthest corner from the raccoon.  I ran to enlist John and Emory, Peter ran to get the air rifle, and Richard continued searching the pen for the breach.

While circling the pen, Richard tried to keep an eye on the vermin, but with only one flashlight beam to illuminate the area the raccoon was able to slip out. Since Richard was near the cowering cockerels when he noted the raccoon's absence he deduced the breach in cage integrity was on the opposite side in the roofed chicken roost area.  Relaxed that the critter was gone, Peter and Richard opened the gate to the roost area.  Aha, the hole the raccoon had created - it had pushed the fencing away from where the roofing extended down.  Some clips and nails had given way letting a slit open in the construction. Emory held a flashlight while Peter wove taunt wire into the fencing to repair the slit.

As they worked Richard tallied the damage. The count yielded five casualties - one dead and four wounded. Two of the wounded needed recovery time and further assessment later at a more civil hour.  The other two were in critical condition needing immediate harvest.

In the time it took to boil water, Richard sorted out how to butcher the chickens.  He had to reach back in his vintage memories to a time when he was a young boy at his maternal grandmother's side.  For me, I discovered I had no memory of how to process a chicken.  By the time I was old enough to learn chicken butchering my grandparents were all dead, and my parents had discovered a butchery that would process home-grown chickens.  So much for being a farm girl!

Richard slaughtered, dipped in hot water and plucked the birds.  He brought the carcasses in for Laura and me to finish cleaning.  Since he plucked them by the light of a single yellow bug light on the porch many feathers were left behind.  Laura and I had our work laid out for us.  We mustered our pluck (courage) and plunged in.  A half hour later we came up for air. Together we survived our learning and grew in female bonding over the sacrificed cockerels. By 4 a.m. we all went to bed.

We relied on memories to build memories beyond our dreams.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Double Play

Our June started with a trip to Florida to meet the twins.  Sarah and Neal are currently foster-parenting twin boys in anticipation of future adoption. The mathematics of Sarah's double pleasure with those eighteen-month-old charmers is exponential for us; we go from two grandchildren to four in one fell swoop.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Birth Certificate of a Business

The "birth certificate" of our business arrived last week.

We now have a valid, state-recognized name for doing business.  We have also purchased a County Merchant's License for Phelps County, Missouri.  We are heading to business.

The only paperwork we are still waiting for is the tax-exempt number from the state.  When it arrives we will start tackling the next hurdle - finding quality, appropriate materials.

During this waiting time Richard and I have been negotiating to define our jobs in the business. We have come to the agreement that Richard is the ARTIST responsible for product design and production. I, on the other hand, shall be called MANAGER responsible for finances and marketing. Small steps they may be, but progress by any other name is still progress.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Getting the Business Going

All the necessary papers have been submitted for our business to be valid in the state of Missouri, so we are simply waiting for the numbers to arrive.  Armed with the complete tax numbers we will be able to wholesale purchase the materials for the robes.  Well, that is if we can find the materials.

On May 10 we made an exploration trip to St. Louis to try to connect with a couple sources we had identified on the internet.  When we arrived at the first one I think we were mutually shocked. We walked through the door that we thought led to a showroom only to find some stacks of papers and a couple women with desktop computers.

The lady nearest the door politely informed us, "I'm sorry, but we only do internet orders.  If you have the item number we can order it for you."

"Could we see some samples? Renee asked.

"No, we don't have any samples here; our goods are drop-shipped from several different warehouses."

We kept on moving.  A retail store nearby was more promising.  We found a couple bolts of fabric that would work well.  After buying samples, we went home and started some more research.  We came upon their source of one fabric, but when Renee telephoned about ordering it they were surprised we had found that one on a store shelf.  "We quite carrying that one about ten years ago," the representative said.

The other fabrics were unfamiliar to the company rep. Now back to the drawing board to search for a source for quantity and quality fabric.

Meanwhile, Richard is sewing up the samples for the materials we were able to get.  This week it looks like the rain may be letting up so he is pursuing his seasonal passion - gardening...

... and Renee's seasonless dream.
Richard has taken on keeping the laundry done and Renee is euphoric.  The Lord has mysterious ways of providing even in earlier assumed adversity. {wink}

Monday, May 23, 2011

Botswana in Our Backyard Briefly

A few days back we were taken by surprise. For Mother’s Day Sarah had sent me a 5-gallon bucket of white sorghum grain, the traditional grain of Botswana.  

On Thursday, May 12, Betty Mathiba, a friend from Botswana whose husband is studying at Missouri S&T in Rolla, came to our house to show us the proper traditional way to process the grain into a usable flour for porridge.  Here is a photo record of the process.

We had brought a kika and motsi (mortar and pestle) from Botswana as part of our artifact collection.  This small one was really designed for pounding meat, but the grain pounding one was too large to fit in our shipment back.  Betty was resourceful in helping us make this one work.  

Betty moistened the four cups of the grain in the mortar with one and a half cups water. The water helped the grain swell slightly to push off the outer shell. She then set to work pounding the grain kernels to crack off the hulls. 

The slow and arduous task of pounding the grain was followed by the even more challenging work of winnowing the husks off of the desirable part of the grain.

Betty was able to keep the edible part of the kernel in the basket while making the hulls dance off the edge.

The growing drift of hulls on the floor mat were ideal to save for chicken feed later.

Betty made the grain fly.

Peter tried his hand and after much effort became pretty talented.

The hull-less kernels were then clean and ready to go to the next stage of the grinding or flour making process.

The hull-less grain went back into the kika to be ground into a fine flour for cooking. Betty again put water on the grain to help it swell slightly to be easier in breaking down.  

The "thud-thud-thud" of the motsi carried on for a total of 6 hours by the time we got about 8 cups of the grain processed.

We tried to use a metal sieve to speed separating the finer flour form the course chunks, but...

The basket still proved to be the best tool to get the finest and most consistent product.

Finally, we were finished.  We had about 3 quarts of bopi jwa mabele or sorghum flour.  The following week we had porridge for breakfast.  The porridge is made from a starter that takes about 2 days to sour a bit.  I have no proof of the effect of the fermentation on the food quality, but I suspect it improved the amino acid formation and mineral/vitamin content.  Regardless of the nutrition data, it was delicious!  Frankly, I was so excited that I forgot to take pictures to share the final product's appearance.  Oh well, I guess I will just have to do it again.   

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Getting to Business - To the Accountant

When Richard did personal tailoring for men at seminary 25 years ago the rules must have been dramatically different.  Granted, we were living in a different state, but today tax practices have intensified the money end of running a personal home-based business.  Wanting to be cautious and above board, we made an appointment with an accountant to help us set up reliable and simple record keeping.

Molly Malone, our accountant, graduated from high school with Richard.  I have been greatly honored to have met Molly many times over the years and have sincerely enjoyed her.  Now I feel empowered by her sound advice.  She is helping us submit the federal and state papers to acquire the necessary numbers and permits to do business with integrity and legal compliance. We will be known as an L.L.C. which means Limited Liability Company.  As a married couple it is the most efficacious way to go. Therefore, I am disciplining myself to always write Man of the Cloth, L.L.C. when I am formally speaking of business.  

Back to business... Molly has clarified current business and tax record keeping so that we feel empowered to equip the business for production and integrity.  Our plans are to purchase a stock of standard fabrics Richard can use for producing robes of various weights and fashion.  That goal has created a challenge. Fabrics are not as readily available as in decades past. 

Last Tuesday we were in St. Louis all day searching location to location.  One national chain store had marginal quality fabrics for premium prices. Another store was not a traditional store.  The woman at the desk said, “We only sell online. If you have the product number I can enter your order for you.” Finally, a locally owned fabric store had premium fabric for premium prices. Another locally-owned merchant had very no fabrics that would work for ecclesiastical garments unless the pastor would want to be a drag queen in satins and taffeta – it only supplied bridal fabrics.     

That dismal search has led us to the internet where we are not exactly impressed with our findings.  We are ordering samples of fabrics and continuing our search.  Meanwhile, we will work with the St. Louis shop with the premium fabrics to get started.  Next Tuesday, we are back in the city for a doctor’s appointment and a buying trip.  Hopefully, we will have more info later.  

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

The reality is sinking in that Richard is home full-time now.  As of April 22 he was “resigned in good standing” at the Missouri Veterans Home as is their policy when a person enters long-term disability.  The maximum time of disability support will be four years given Richard’s age. At that time he will be rolled over into early retirement without penalty at age 62.  Since his time of service within a state agency was only eighteen months, his state retirement will be quite small, significantly smaller than disability.  Also his retirement from any other sources will not kick in until he reaches 65 or older. 

Anticipating a gap in income, we see a time to take stock of our future by looking at the past. We recalled that Richard had received a parcel a few months before his incident that led to his diagnosis and brain surgery. The parcel was from Jane Hillhouse, a cousin and graphic design artist. 

Back in 1994 he had been corresponding with Jane about publishing the patterns he had developed while he was in seminary.  In the 1980s during his seminary years he had supported the family with a home-based tailoring business specializing in ecclesiastical garments.  He had developed his own patterns for albs, cassocks, surplices and other components of the clergy wardrobe.

In 1994 he was seriously seeking to publish the patterns but even with Jane’s help he could not find a printer to reasonably produce an affordable product.  Botswana then came into our picture and Richard told Jane, “Thank you, but we can forget this.  It isn’t going to work.” Jane set the parcel of samples aside.

In 2010 Jane was cleaning a closet and found the parcel.  She posted it to Richard.  He looked at it and placed it on his I’ll-get-to-it-later shelf, dismissing it at the time.

As is the natural nudging nature of a wife, I reminding him of the pattern parcel when we were waking up to our financial future.  He pondered it a few days and then declared, “I’d like to try my sewing business again. I’d like to be my own boss.” 

We have embarked on the new journey back to tailoring.  This time I am more intimately involved because Richard is not certain about managing the financial and marketing side.  We are not living in a seminary community, thus we will have a different challenge in connecting with customers. 

To assure himself that he can do it, Richard decided to construct some test garments to confirm that he can manage the patterns.  It looked like watching a man take to a bicycle after years of sitting on the curb.  He was a bit wobbly at first, but then the momentum grew.  Soon he had the small, medium and large albs completed.  What a blessing that the Lord so conveniently provided models for test fitting them.  He was even able to try different styling features on each one.  Voila!

MAN OF THE CLOTH is born again.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

...and Another Thing...

From One Thing to another Thing, John was also in Seussical the Musical as Thing Two. He was assisting in the technical side of the performance also. 

Over April 9 – 10, we – Richard and I – were honored to accompany John to Berea, Kentucky to visit his alma mater, Berea College. While John was off doing his thing we had the joy of visiting with Dallas who is in his second year studying at Berea. 

So what was John doing?  He was making a quantum leap into his future.  On Saturday evening he asked Erin Hay to marry him.  She agreed and now sports the engagement ring of proof.  Erin will be graduating on May 8 at the top of her class.  They hope to achieve a summer wedding but more information on that to follow.  Meanwhile, John ducked closer to the happily-ever-after side when he was affirmed this week that he is now a full-time counselor at South East Missouri Behavioral Health. He had wavered about proposing while he was in only a part-time job situation.  He is rejoicing that the Lord honored his step of faith. 

Future Things?

Sarah has added her share of excitement to our lives again – this time in the form of twins.  About a year ago Sarah and Neal began the application process to qualify as adoptive parents.  Last month they received fifteen-month-old identical twin boys to foster with the anticipation of adoption.  Having been placed into the public foster system only nine months before, the boys were still in the legal process of termination of parental rights. This past Wednesday the courts gave the nod to proceed with the legal transfer of parenting rights to Neal and Sarah. They anticipate the process may take up to six months, but in the meanwhile the boys are thriving in Sarah and Neal’s home.  We hope to make the journey to Florida to see them in May.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Clown Sighting? No. Thing Sighting.

It is no wonder that Richard can have challenging days with moments of confusion when one looks out and sees a Thing in the yard.

Emory was quite a Technicolor spectacle while he was mowing the yard today.  That green mop on his head is really his hair dyed for his part in Seussical the Musical.  You see, he is a Thing - Thing One to be exact.  You may recall that the Things were the blue-haired helpers The Cat in The Hat let loose to liven up the rainy day for the poor boy and girl left at home.  Emory has dyed his hair blue so he can serve as part of the technical crew for the play that ran last week. He has to touch up the color tomorrow so that he is back to neon blue for the last four performances this week.  

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Waiting is Over... Again

Wait for the Lord;
be strong and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!   Ps.27:14

I looked at the expiration date on the small can of tomato sauce – January, 2013. That snapped me back to the reality that we are living in a new series of timetables. The tomatoes would expire before Richard’s first term of disability. The waiting was over. The anticipated disability notification letter arrived yesterday with all of the time frames laid out for us for up to four years.

To qualify for disability support the first two years, Richard must be unable to perform at the capacity to fill his most recent post. The next two years will require that he try working at any profession in which he has the ability.  With any job, disability will supplement his pay up to his former pay scale. After four years he will be moved on to early retirement with the state for a fraction of the price they pay for disability. 

Over the past months I had collected verses on a little bookmark in my Bible.  The verse at the top of this entry was the first one, and it was so very appropriate for the days until now. Whenever I risked despairing I would recite that verse to get re-centered.  Now that we know some time restraints and just what our financial resources will be, it seems to be time to move on to the next verse which happens to be –

Hear, O Lord, and be merciful to me!
O Lord, be my helper!   Ps. 30:10

When I would give a child a challenging task I would often have the child appear at my elbow with the complaint that so-and-so sibling was not helping with the task.  My retort was always, “How can he be helping you if you are not working? Get back to work to show your sibling what obedience looks like. Then he might just be inspired to help.”  When I saw the child return to work I could then deliver an inspirational speech to the idle sibling to pitch in to help, and we would all live happily ever after. 

The one called on to help could not help when the caller was not working. It seems our Heavenly Father may have that advice for us now as we search out His will, His work and His plan.  

Sunday, April 3, 2011



Over the past weeks we have been submitting letters and applications regarding Richard’s work future.  Last Wednesday, March 30, he submitted a letter to his employer requesting an old-fashioned leave of absence.  He is currently off work under a federally mandated Family Medical Leave which expires April 19.  Since there is no way that he could be ready by April 19 to return to a nursing position providing care for 50 residents, he hoped the old-fashioned leave of absence without pay would push off the date of return while keeping the job door open. 

Back on March 9, Richard had submitted application through his employer for long-term disability. He had been informed that the disability application was received and the material he had sent was adequate to support a ruling. As the time moved on he felt the time pressure of the April 19 deadline to return to work. 

Yesterday, he received a reply from his employer declining his request for the additional four months of leave, but instead was granted two days. His employer said that he had been approved for long-term disability and the two days she granted would create a seamless transition from his leave to his disabled status.  Once he enters the disabled status he is automatically classified “voluntarily resigned in good standing.”

We took that all in with mixed emotions. This was a second-hand report about his disability status being approved. After all this is Missouri, the Show-Me State, so show me the official papers.  Anticipation will heighten our vigil for the postal carrier until it arrives.


Meanwhile, other things have arrived this past week.  In all, 26 chicks arrived on Thursday – Buff Orpington cockerels.  The little fluff balls are so very entertaining as they scamper around of the brooder area.  I could just pull up a chair to watch them for hours on end. 

That brings to mind a story…
In Africa, Sarah was on a safari trip with her cousin Carla.  Sarah happened to comment to a guide that there are seven children in our family.  The guide snidely asked, “What, don’t your parents have television?”  “No,” Sarah retorted innocently, “they have chickens.”  He didn’t get it, but Sarah had a good laugh at his puzzlement.     


Another arrival with a future to be invited to dinner was five or six baby bunnies.  As a part of Richard’s therapy, the family made it clear to him to decide when our bunny couple could strive for progeny.  While they had come of age back in November, they had been held back from breeding, first to avoid a winter birth and second simply overlooked amid the surgery hustle. Early in March Richard declared that it was time to permit them to be fruitful and multiply.  With a 30-day gestation period, we are proud to announce the arrival of the baby bunnies today.

But this brings to mind another story…
Let me share a flashback to clarify just how passionate Richard is for rabbits.

One of his last comments before his surgery involved the rabbits. When he was in the pre-op holding he had vowed that “the next person who asks me if I have any questions, I have one for them.”  He was prepared to ask his then-most-recent favorite joke. 

The joke goes…
As the rabbits were put together for mating, what did the male bunny say to the female bunny? “This won’t take long, did it?” 

Sadly, after he made that resolution, no one asked him if he had any questions.


The socks were done three days before the temperatures got warmer.  Yippee.  Let the warm air come in. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Decisions Making

Sunday we enjoyed the opportunity to visit with a friend from South Africa.  David Tswaedi, former seminary classmate of Richard and former bishop of the Lutheran Church in Southern Africa when we were in Botswana, was in St. Louis.  David had a couple free hours Sunday afternoon and we were able to visit on the St. Louis seminary campus. At the end of our visit David asked if we could give him a lift to a church in St. Peters, Missouri.  “Sure,” we said in good African form, even though we had no idea where the church was. 

In the car Richard got out the St. Louis map.  My heart raced mildly as I remembered the last time he was armed with a map in St. Louis. (See March 9 entry)

I climbed into the driver’s seat and asked, “Are you sure you can figure this out?”

“Yes,” he said, condescendingly, giving me a side-glance and unfolding the map.

As we pulled out of the seminary, we discussed how to get to I-70 which had the most direct route to St. Peters.  Richard relaxed to permit me to find the best route.  I chose I-170 but was plagued with left hand exits that furrowed Richard’s brow briefly.  Soon we were on I-70. 

As we crossed the Missouri River I realized I had no idea which exit to take.  I was totally dependent on Richard’s map reading since the road we were seeking did not have a direct exit from the interstate.  He projected that the fourth exit after the river would be the best option.  He was correct, but off the interstate I failed to get in the correct lane to execute a right hand turn.  By the grace of God, a couple cars at the first light were slow and I could play the jackrabbit to get into the right lane.  Soon we were on the road searching for the church.  Bingo, Richard saw it.  He had successfully read the map, and I had successfully listened!   Progress again!

Setting the Alarm

We were both gratified that Richard did so well at making decisions with the map and in delivering such clear direction. But by the time we returned home he must have used up all his precision brain power.  I was delayed at getting to bed as I completed some writing business for an article I was submitting to the advertizing tabloid.  I thought Richard had simply gone to bed, but the truth came out in the morning. 

Richard invested his waiting time in adjusting his cell phone settings.  He has a spare non-network cell phone beside his bed that he uses only as a clock.  He had set the calendar to alarm at one time and the alarm clock at another time.  On his ATT cell phone he had set his alarm to go off at still another time.  Starting at 5:30 this morning an alarm went off every little bit until we got them under control by 6:05. 
I took a moment of silence while I contemplated what to do with that man.  I decided to simply give him a hug. We then disarmed all the alarms and schedules on both of our cell phones and agreed upon one time that our phones would simultaneously ring every morning.  I never would have guessed that decision-making would be such a target in therapy. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Close Clip

Yesterday (Thursday) was the clearest day Richard has had since surgery.  He started the day out saying, “I feel great! I am thinking clearly.”  He was as sharp as my best kitchen paring knife.  As the day progressed, he tapered to be more like a nice quality butter knife, but he still had a cutting-edge wit. 

At bedtime, we talked about plans for the next day.  He offered to give me a haircut since I was looking a bit shaggy.  He has been my primary hairstylist throughout our 35 years of marriage, so I said, “Let’s plan on it.”

Today, Richard sat up in bed and said, “I’m cloudy today.”

I instantly thought – do I want a brain-damaged man taking a sharp instrument to my head?  Should I let him give me a haircut?

I voiced my reserve at the breakfast table.  My children were so consoling.  They came to the comforting consensus, “Dad won’t do anything that a buzz-cut can’t fix.”

They all offered to do before-and-after pictures to document Richard’s prowess with the scissors.  I was afraid they were really thinking of making a bizarre Power Point to post on YouTube.  I declined the photo documentation.

After breakfast, Richard asked, “Well, do you trust me?”

How could I say “no” to such a sincere offer? We chatted further, and I agreed that the children were close to correct in that even if Richard failed I could have it repaired elsewhere. 

I smiled a weak smile and resolved to sit in Richard’s stylist chair.  He draped me with the barber’s cape and set to work. I closed my eyes, as was my usual, to keep hair chaff from flying in.  Snip, snip, comb, part, snip, clip.  Soon he was finished.  

I loosened the clamp on my eyes and peeked out. He was smiling a wide silly self-satisfied smile as he held up the mirror for me to inspect his work.  The mirror only reflected the barber’s cape.  I reached up to try to reposition it, but he kept tilting it down.  He didn’t notice the mirror’s angle. He was grinning with pride at my haircut.  I couldn’t see it very well, so I said it was fine as I scampered off to the shower for a wash. 

After I was out of the shower with squeaky clean hair and with a wall-mounted mirror I could utter the verdict – PERFECT.  It was one of the best cuts he had given me in at least five years.  I gave my stylist a big kiss and “thank you.”

“See,” he declared. “Your brain-damaged husband can still cut hair. It is only the communication I have a problem with.”   

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Week's Snapshot

The sock is finished.

The next one is underway. 

Richard is decreasing his post-op anti-convulsion medication and will be completely finished with it this coming week.  As that medication has been decreasing I feel he has been having an increase in good days.  Once, he actually spontaneously stated, “Things are getting clearer.”   While he has not had Level 4 or 5 (defined in March 6 entry) episodes this week, he was still dismayed when he digressed to Level 3 once or twice.  His progress is a combination of consistently clearer thought or more effective coping with his deficiencies. Either way seems to be a winner.  

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Driving Home the Point

The seatbelt locked as I was thrust forward in the seat.  I looked up to see the flash of a dog clearing the passenger front corner of the van bounding off to the ditch.  Richard let up on the break and accelerated back to 65 mph to take us on home last Sunday – his second experience driving. 

Yesterday, Richard drove into Rolla, his first foray into “city” driving.  We needed to go to K-Mart to refill a prescription and to the bank across the highway. Since we could take back roads this third driving trip was bound to be a no-brainer.  He did perfectly until we were in the store.

As we entered we met Richard’s Aunt Darlene.  In the course of conversation he mentioned that the drive to the store was his second driving experience. 

I corrected him bragging, “No, this is your third.”

“Oh, yeah,” he replied with a sheepish look on his face.

I knew he did not remember. When the conversation closed we strolled on to the pharmacy. As we browsed in the store I mentioned to Richard his first drive home from church.  Yes, he remembered the sweet success of the first time.  I asked if he recalled this last week and he went blank. That was when I recounted to him the close call with the dog.  He paused for a bit and then the light bulb went on.  (How very appropriate in a K-Mart that uses a blue light bulb as the store symbol)  He did remember. 

Now on Thursday morning I asked him about his recent driving history, and he was quick to account for all three times stating the dog incident as a marker.  I count that as progress in short-term memory.

Memory loss, brain damage and performance restoration all nudged my mind.  I puzzled if scripture holds an example to testify to these.  Nebuchadnezzer, the first Babylonian king under whom the prophet Daniel served, came to mind.  I have always puzzled at the account in Daniel 4:28-37.  In Sunday school material and in children’s books, I remember reading the tale of the king’s humiliation and subsequent restoration.  The presentations made it seem trite or even whimsical for me. Now I see beyond the juvenile material. 

Richard had genuinely been at risk of a stroke also known as a cerebrovascular accident.  The doctor said the brain tissue around the vascular anomaly they removed was stained as if a small bleed had occurred.  Is that not what may have occurred for Nebuchadnezzar? Thinking that, I have a new appreciation for Nebuchadnezzar’s condition.

Had Richard been a king when he had his rough day (reported on March 11) the court attendants probably would have left him to himself.  After all, we read in the story of Esther just how risky it was to approach the king and how binding his word was.  Had he possessed the power to have me beheaded for speaking to him, Richard could have wandered out to the Missouri landscape in his distemper. 

In due time, King Nebuchadnezzar was restored to his full mental capacity by the grace of God.  In the process, Nebuchadnezzar received an incredible theological education in his adversity. Recovering from his impaired mental condition the king made a unique declaration about God’s majesty and sovereignty. 

Now what does this have to do with our situation? We wait resting assured that God in His grace has all in control.  

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Turned The Heel – Pivotal Proof

Back on February 13 I told you about Richard’s knitting project – wool socks – he’d started pre-operatively with the idea he would have it to occupy his recovery days.  Little did he believe that he would be “brain damaged” and thus challenged to perform the knitting.  The knit-purl ribbing of the sock top was a breeze, but the heel with the intricate stitch-by-stitch directions had the better of him. He grew weary looking at it and finally put it away, out of sight, to bury the nagging reminder of his brain weakness.   

Today, March 13, one month later, he dug it out and completed the heel! Happy dancing was in order. I danced not only for that cognitive progress, but the socks are for me.  I am now ½ foot closer to warm toes.  The race is on about which will happen first to facilitate warming my feet – warmer temperatures or completed socks?  Regardless of the winner, Richard now is obligated to admit he is improving!!

Richard and I are moving on to doing some tag team sewing.  We proved our sewing compatibility last week by completing a quilt for our latest great nephew.  This week we are moving on to design and construct TWO quilts for a most delightful reason.  Sarah and Neal are anticipating the arrival of TWINS in three to four weeks.  The twins are 15 months old and joining the family by way of adoption.  The twins are an “at-risk” adoption meaning the final papers will not be completed until after a waiting period to assure no previously unidentified extended biological family members come forward to request the children.  Looks like we will have a full and busy week.  

Friday, March 11, 2011

Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde

We just came out of a couple rough days.  I was ready to throw in the towel, but only if I would get to throw out the patient.  Let me explain. 

Richard had been on two medications post-operatively – one was an anti-seizure medication and the other was an older medicine used to stimulate restoring connections in the brain. At his doctor’s visit Tuesday Richard was instructed to discontinue the anti-seizure med by tapering off.  The connection stimulator could just be discontinued if he felt it had not been making a difference.  Richard immediately stopped the connection stimulator and began tapering the anti-seizure one.  Gradually over the next two and a half days we did see a change, but it took us until this morning (Friday) to get the full picture. 

First back on Wednesday, Richard started to turn grumpy. By bedtime he no longer saw humor in anything, not even obvious word plays as the children bantered in the living room.  Then Thursday morning he started the day like a raging four-year-old.  A grown man with the temper of a spoiled four-year-old is not a pretty sight, so the sensible family members provided ample room for Richard to have things his way. He was growing into a regular Mr. Hyde. By bedtime Richard was beside himself in agitation.  I finally talked him into accepting a backrub, the very thing that I had used with irrational four-year-olds in years past.  He finally relaxed and went to sleep.

Friday morning he arose feeling quite sheepish over the agitation of the day before, but he still felt powerless to avert another such day.  He kept repeating, “I’m so confused.  I’m in a fog.” His blood pressure was fine along with his other vital signs, but his gait was so unsteady that I ordered everyone in the family keep the basement door closed lest he tumble down.  Also, I insisted that he not even think about going to the basement to fold laundry while he was so wobbly.

After breakfast he simply sat in his recliner with his robe hood pulled over his face.  I held a discussion with the talking robe and we decided to resume his connection stimulator medication.  An hour and a half later he put the robe hood back and it looked like we had pleasant Dr. Jekyll back with us. Today has been fine.  Richard is more like his old self, enjoying a jest and a story.  Why, twice in the kitchen as I was preparing supper he even came up to me for a little kissy-face.  Let me tell you, it will be some weeks before I let him put that connection stimulator medicine aside.   

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Know When To Laugh

In a nutshell, this week so far has been interfacing with medical care and changes.

On Monday, we said goodbye to Richard’s home-based speech therapist since her insurance-approved time was finished.  We all agreed that transitioning to an outpatient hospital-based therapist would be a good promotion.

On Tuesday we had a return visit to the neurosurgeon in St. Louis.  He completed his part of the disability papers so we could submit them on Wednesday. 

On Wednesday Richard had his first interview with the hospital-based therapist.  Her initial assessment revealed some clear areas to approach for continuing improvement.  After that appointment we headed to the Missouri Veterans Home in St. James to drop off the disability papers. Michael Kleisser and Donetta Iven made our day.  [Could one of you MVH readers, please, pass on to them kudos from us?] We entered armed with papers and plagued with fear and trepidation. We exited recharged with hope and anticipation.  [Tell them – thanks!]

Despite the melancholy weather and other change threats, we had some laugh moments.  Here are three:

When we were driving into St. Louis, we planned to meet a friend for lunch but the restaurant was in the opposite direction from the doctor’s office.  I was making some quick re-routing plans because I was weary of interstate highway driving in the rain.  I decided to turn off to use a state highway to another state highway, both improved roads and the same distance to the restaurant as the interstate.  As I turned onto the state highway Richard scrambled to find the Missouri map in the glove compartment. I was not bothered when he spread it out and refolded it to view the St. Louis metro portion. He asked about my route choice and I waved my hand at the lower corner of the map saying, “It’s somewhere down here.  You know, that road we use to get to Culvers and Starbucks.” Suddenly, he interjected, “You need to turn at the next light. This is Highway 30.” It didn’t look familiar, but he spoke with such clear authority I pulled into the turn lane much to the dismay of the horn-equipped young lady racing up behind me.  As I sat in the left-turn lane at the red light, I knew it was not where I wanted, but Richard was so satisfied with his directions.  I did not have the heart to challenge him.  As I pulled onto Highway 30 I gently said, “This wasn’t the way I had in mind.”  He started to point out another road I could turn on as a “short-cut,” but I said I’d go straight since I saw it took me back to the interstate leading to my destination.  The next day Richard had a hardy laugh when I told him my moral of the story – never trust a brain-damaged man with a map making impulsive route changes. 

Later amid a discussion of job benefits I was bragging to Emory about how clever I was in performing my job as family medical historian. When faced with the admission history form for the new speech therapist Richard simply thrust the form into my hands to complete. I had a list of Richard’s medications in my purse, so I could dispatch the form with haste. Emory looked un-impressed, so I went on to explain that if anyone in the family needed to complete such a form for me there would be no medications to include.  Laura chimed in that such absence of medicines was a part of my professional benefit package as a mom crediting my good health to all those years of lactation.  In the background Richard uttered, “Life sucks.” End of conversation.   

But who could be surprised when noting what Richard had just been up to earlier? He had at times been unable to answer questions with more than a word or two today. In conversation he would just give up. That was until he decided to master his cell phone again.  Back in November we had all upgraded our cell phones, and Richard was the only one to get a phone capable of taking verbal commands. There he was in his recliner today intensely focused on trying to answer the cheeky, British-accented lady’s voice demanding, “Say a command.” His face was one of intense concentration as if he were going to grab the golden ring when she spoke again. “Do you know how funny that looks,” I asked, “seeing you with expressive aphasia let that saucy woman hold you captive?”  He laughed at the spectacle he was making and went back to the phone with a command – “Check … messages.” The saucy voice reeled off an answer. He looked up with a triumphant grin. He had the gold ring.   

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Progress Measured; Progress Driven

In the first four weeks after surgery Richard would commonly clamp his eyes shut and say, “Too much!  Too much!”  On gentler days he would dismiss anxieties with a shrug sighing, “Got me.”  Now we are hearing those words less.  Richard is slower in replying, and we can see on his face that he is working his mind to formulate an answer.  While he is having fewer episodes of distress, I am able to see in his eyes when stress is mounting.  I was trying to share with the children the marks to read in their father’s face to gauge his mounting stress using a 1-5 scale.

Level 1 – relaxed, smile-ready eyes
Level 2 – smile-absent eyes
Level 3 – two vertical lines appear between his eyebrows
Level 4 – vertical lines plus eyebrows resting on top of eyeglasses
Level 5 – eyes clamped shut

Richard heard the list and approved.  That alone was a sparkle of progress. 

Oh, yes, speaking of progress. Back in January we, as a family, decided Richard with the brain cyst was an accident risk in driving the car.  He appreciated being chauffeured.  Post-operatively, it was obvious that he should not be driving if the decisions of mere conversation stressed him. Well, today he drove home from church, all 45 miles.  He performed very well.  The route was perfect for a first trip since we take a county highway that is not heavily traveled on Sunday mornings.  He was focused and deliberate in the spontaneous decisions necessary for safe driving. Nothing seemed to bother him – not even the turn signal.  With two left turns and three right turns to get home, he only signaled once and that was when he was turning into our driveway.  After entering the house I complimented him on being so energy conservative that he didn’t waste any energy on the turn signal.  He put his head back and laughed heartily. With or without the blinker, today’s journey signaled success and progress. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Sunday we crested the one month mark past surgery.  Amidst the celebration I realized I had not blogged explicitly about his final diagnosis.  Richard entered surgery with a tentative diagnosis of a colloid cyst in the 3rd ventricle of the brain. After surgery the diagnosis had changed to read “intraventicular vascular malformation.”  Rather than finding a colloid cyst which would resemble a gooseberry they met with a “mulberry type appearing lesion” with evidence of past bleeding.  My personal speculation is that Richard may have experience that bleeding on December 28 when we first went to the emergency room and discovered the little lesion on his CT scan. 

Regarding his rehabilitation, to measure Richard’s improvement I need look no further than his e-mail sent box.  He has only sent three e-mails.  On February 7 he sent a four word note with a major misspelling. On February 23 he sent an 80+ word message with clear grammar and perfect spelling. 

Remaining challenge?  Fatigue and thinking are top of the list right next to getting Richard to see that he is making progress.  He sees taking several minutes to write that 80+ e-mail as insufficient improvement to call progress.  He gets fatigued just thinking, so he easily gets upset with simple tasks.  Making choices wears him out.  “Honey, do you want a burrito or a frittata for supper?”  That’s enough to bring on the desire for a nap.  We keep trying. We keep praying. We keep working.  That adds up to perseverance as only the Lord can grant.   

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Dinner

With a name like Cook, it only seems natural to measure progress by the Sunday Dinner. 

Recalling his January 27 surgery date, his first Sunday, January 30, was hospital-based where he moved from the intensive care unit to a standard surgical floor. The hospital had an interesting food service in that the patient needed to telephone an order for each meal just as one would order room service in a hotel.  Richard struggled on his own ordering that first meal - pork roast, mashed potatoes and cheese cake with lemonade. It was an odd selection for him lacking vegetables, but it was what he could read and speak.

On his second Sunday he was home and willing to eat at the dining room table with us.
He assembled his own beef fajita as the ingredients were passed around the table.

On his third Sunday he helped with preparation.  Richard cleaned the beef into chunks and I mixed the ingredients for the oven casserole.  Richard then peeled the potatoes I set out.  I finished preparing the meal from there.

Today on his fourth Sunday, Richard and I discussed menu options and decided to prepare the following:

Chicken Parmigiana (a simple oven-baked chicken with Italian toppings)
Pasta tossed with a basil-tomato-onion sauce
Green beans with onions and
Lettuce greens

I thawed the boneless chicken breasts, cut them into manageable pieces and gave Richard the recipe to prepare them. He did it. He prepared the entire meal with minimal help.  Part of the minimal help was in determining sequencing.  He started to cook the pasta sauce before he started the chicken, risking scorched sauce. Otherwise, his performance was delicious.     

Yesterday Richard was willing to help out by baking the week’s supply of bread.  Saturday afternoon I handed him the simple white bread recipe.  I learned that Richard is very concrete at this stage of recovery.  When Peter makes the recipe he achieves 3 or 4 loaves using narrow bottom pans. The recipe said 2 loaves and Richard was determined to obey the recipe. He found some over-sized pans to keep it that way.  The recipe said “yields 2” so two it was.  Scrumptious and wide-bottomed – I guess I should rejoice that he likes wide-bottoms.  

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Regeneration Moments

Thursday night at 10:47 p.m. I was awakened from a sound sleep by Richard’s tossing and turning.
“You okay, honey?” I asked.
“No, I’m awake and my mind is running.  I can’t get my thoughts in order and …”
“Go on,” I invited, drowsily.
“I can’t!” he exclaimed and struck the mattress with his palm.

Oh, duh! I couldn’t believe I could be so dumb. Now I was fully awake and a partner to his racing mind.  I needed to help him defuse his running mind and maybe help him open his gates of verbal expression. 

I began by asking some simple questions about his physical comfort.  “Do you want a pain pill?” “Are you a comfortable temperature?” Those were fine.

Then I moved to his emotional comfort. “Would you like a back rub?” “No,” he replied but I could hear the edge softening in his voice.

I moved on to his spiritual comfort. “May I pray?” I asked.  “I guess,” he rasped amid his rapid breathing.  I began to pray. It was an easy prayer to begin as I reflected on the beautiful warm day it had been, filled with sunshine and hope.  I spoke on, pouring out my heart and I could sense Richard relaxing. His breathing slowed down and his arm muscles relaxed. The bottom line of our prayer time was seeking courage, patience and peace.  We slept.

Now two days later, I retold the story to Richard and he had a good laugh over it. He is steadily improving, especially evident by being able to initiate laughter at his own challenge.  Friday, he worked on various brain games to recapture reading.  Late in the afternoon I had to collect the car from the garage after some routine maintenance.  Richard came along for the ride.  We took a meandering ride home covering some of his old school bus route from his childhood – 45 years ago. He told tales of who was related to whom all along the road.  I could see a satisfaction in his eyes as if he were caressing each memory as it surfaced.  We have vowed that on the next sunny sweet day we will drive the rest of the route to complete the catalogue of 45-year-old memories. 

I look back and think of those as turning point moments of regeneration.  Not only are those moments regenerating Richard’s brain circuits, but they are also proving healthy for our marriage.  In a sense we are growing up together.  More down these paths later…

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ten Easy Steps

I can do it in 10 easy steps. I have learned to go from being a homeschooling mom to being a rehab nurse in 10 easy steps.  How do I do it?  Right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot, etc. It takes ten steps to go between our kitchen table, the base of our homeschool work, to our living room couch, the seat of our rehab efforts. 

All jesting aside, Richard’s time with the speech therapist yesterday was fruitful.  She was impressed with his improvement since she had last seen him on the Tuesday before.  She asked if we had photo albums from our past.  She wanted to give Richard an opportunity to tell the tales behind the pictures.  In a flash we had the photo album chronicling the restoration of the old Missouri farm house we moved into in 1993.  Richard enjoyed telling the tale.  Tomorrow she will be back, and he is armed with the photo collection of the construction of our office-guest house in Thamaga, Botswana.  African construction techniques will fuel lots of talk time since the African way was different from the American way of construction.

The other event on Monday that seemed to have an impact on Richard’s rehab was a visit to the Missouri Veterans Home (MVH) in St. James, his place of employment.  He called it bitter-sweet.  The sweet was in the warm greetings and encouraging words of the staff, his co-workers.  The bitter was in the stark reality of the time pressure of leave-time, the economic risk of disability, and the brain demand of the environment.  “It reminded me of how far I had to go,” he said, “and of how far I’ve come.”  The cherry on the top of that visit arrived today in the mail – greeting cards signed by what looked like every employee at the St. James MVH.  I tell you he is pumped to keep working. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Rehab Lesson Planning

Back in Botswana in 1998 when Richard had Hepatitis A, he needed to take a couple months of rest to recover. To keep him down in bed, I brought home skeins of yarn.  He started knitting and did not stop until he had produced 2 sweaters, several pairs of socks and a hat or two.  Intense knitting was just the thing to assure compliance to bed rest recovery.

With that in mind Richard was thinking ahead to have a knitting project at hand for his post-operative recovery this time.  Socks worked last time, so why not again?  Before his surgery he had started about 3 inches into the cuff for one sock in a pair of nice wool socks for me.  When he returned home from the hospital, he picked up the sock and blankly stared at it. After a day or two he was able to remember enough to get another inch or two on the ribbed cuff before he came to the heel.  Turning the corner of the heel requires knitting row by row while reading the pattern. He just could not make his brain circuits operate to coordinate the reading and the knitting.

I offered him my simpler project underway - knitting a scarf on a circular needle.  In two weeks I’d only completed about 8 inches toward the 48-inch scarf and was frankly feeling overwhelmed by the single knit stitch effort.  I really am not a knitter.  Well, today (Sunday) he finished the scarf! A mere 7 days after taking it up. The sock heel is still beyond him, but bit by bit he will get there. 

On another manual craft, he is starting to perform some simple sewing projects on the machine.  Hemming vintage plain white feedsacks was his first production.  Slowly he was able to perform all the little stages of sewing – threading the machine and needle, loading the bobbin and folding the edges of the feedsack.  I have great hopes that manual performance is the gateway to verbalization.  So far he can do and show but is limited on verbally explaining his performance.  The next goal?  It is time for the therapist tomorrow to help us sort out the plan.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

From Flashback to Forward

Flashback to the Super Bowl commercials viewing – our family favorite was the Volkswagen commercial with the little Darth Vadar. Why?  The dad was the hero who empowered his little boy to succeed.  Now that is family values at their best.  

Now more about dad the hero and the most recent news…

Friday was Richard’s first outing since his ride home from the hospital. We headed to St. Louis for his post-op visit with the neurosurgeon.  On the way I needed to stop past JoAnn Fabrics to pick up some supplies for Laura.  Richard had the option of waiting in the car while I dashed in, but, no, he wanted to come along in.  I was delighted strolling into the store on his arm.  Being in the fabric store was splendid therapy for him.  He was wide-eyed and radiant with wonder at all the possibilities, but he kept his hands to himself, a difference from his normal stroking the fabrics.

We arrived at the hospital an hour early to have an intimate lunch at the Bistro Coffee Shop, an unbelievable hospital-based eatery. It was my turn to be radiant as I flashed back to the reality that a mere two weeks ago I’d been eating at the Bistro while Richard lay in the Intensive Care Unit. Here we were celebrating the recovery and restoration side of life.     

At the neurosurgeon’s appointment, the nurse removed the staples from Richard’s incision; he no longer looks like he has a zipper across the top of his head. The repeat CT scan of his head yielded a favorable picture of satisfactory healing without complications.  We were all pleased with the report.  Dr. Matz assured us to continue in our patience.  Gradually stimulating Richard to think and perform will yield the greatest dividend, but Doctor also projected that it will be at least 6 months before Richard will be ready to return to work.  Monday, I will be visiting with the personnel clerk at his work to sort out the paper work to go forward.