Author Archives: admin

Frustration

Yes, it’s been way too long. And yes, I’m writing about frustration. In my last post I wrote about the joy of moving out of pain. And we did a month ago. But what I didn’t know then was that the deluge of paperwork was just beginning.

Yes, after those two weeks of torture, we still had to shuffle papers. We had to pay a consultant to travel to our office and do a total redo of our lab manual. We did proficiency testing. And we’re still working on the process. And it’s still not over.

At the same time, I’ve worked with the attorneys that are settling my father’s estate. That takes time and patience. And unfortunately family doesn’t always understand the process. They want things completed quickly, and they think it’s your fault when it doesn’t happen that way. Or they misjudge your motives. You’re trying to do what’s right, and everyone else attacks you.

Joy may be born of pain. I don’t know what comes after frustration. I suspect it will just be tired relief that the struggle is finally over.

The pain that comes before joy may be the valley of the shadow of death, but the frustration that precedes that true joy is climbing the mountain above the valley of the shadow of death.

We’re not there yet, but we’re getting close. If I sound jaundiced about the whole process, I am. I’ve never seen regulations so interfere with medical care or worsen medical care, as this. I’ve heard stories of the IRS shutting down businesses without cause. I’ve heard a myriad of stories about the EPA and their devastating effect on business. Now I know what it’s like.

So we’re in the frustration phase. I can see the mountain peak ahead. We’ll be there soon. We’re still climbing. Never give up.

Joy

Newborn-with-Mother-300x198

True Joy is Born of Pain

I don’t have to tell you, if you’re a mother, that childbirth is one of the greatest pains you can experience. And I don’t have to tell you, if you have children, that the arrival of your expected child is one of the greatest joys you will ever experience.

I learned recently that the link between pain and joy extends beyond childbirth. And that’s part of the reason why I have been so tardy in posting a new blog – I was in the midst of pain. Not physical pain, but emotional pain. And this was real pain, I mean REAL PAIN!

Without going into too much detail, my office was under siege – by regulators. Our office undergoes regular inspections to document that part of our practice, the lab, is up to snuff. We had come through all of our previous inspections without problems. Then suddenly, with a new inspector, we were told that we had not been doing something that we should have been doing for years. The previous inspector had just overlooked it. And ignorance of the regulation was not an acceptable excuse. It was “our responsibility” to keep up on all the myriad of government regulatory changes. And further, we were in BIG trouble.

The inspectors threatened to shut down our practice. And they gave us about one week to accomplish a month’s worth of paperwork and changes. I believe they really wanted to put us out of business.

Well, we scurried and hurried, found help, and worked night and day. And by the grace if God, we made the deadline. We got the changes and paperwork in under the deadline, and the threats were lifted. We still have some additional work to do, but now we can come up for air.

But I can honestly say that the past two weeks have been two of the worst weeks of my life – trying to keep the practice going and taking care of patients, trying to find the help we needed, trying to get page after page of paperwork completed and sent off in the proper format. I worried. Would we make it? Would they really put me under? What would I do? How could some regulation that was not being enforced with the majority of physicians be so important as to be treated as life and death? And I didn’t sleep. My ulcer flared. I was a mess. It was real emotional pain.

I didn’t birth a baby. I didn’t pass a kidney stone. But when we made the deadline, when the threat of professional death was lifted, I felt a joy like none I had recently experienced. And it taught me that we have to pass through the dark valleys before we can truly experience the exhilaration of the mountain tops. To experience true joy, we have to suffer first.

What pain have you experienced that has led to real joy?

 

Loss of Parents

Out of the Storm

A new book, Out of the Storm, was published about a week ago. It’s an anthology of short stories, winners in a short story competition hosted by a Texas chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers and HopeSprings Books. I have a short story in that book, “A Rumspringa Storm.”

I received my box of books three days ago. There’s something special about seeing the first book you have published and holding it in your hands. In this case I had written only one of the stories. But it’s still exciting. I won’t be making any money from the sale of the book. The proceeds will go to a scholarship fund for the American Christian Fiction Writers. It feels good.

As I thought about the significance of the book and its title, I realized that I’m coming out of a storm of my own. Over the past two years my family has been through one crisis after another. My mother died in April of 2013, and my father died last month. My father had dementia and was in the nursing home while my mother died with cancer. Over the last two years my father’s dementia had slowly robbed him of any dignity and all of his memory. His Parkinson’s disease had slowly worsened to the point that he could barely feed himself. He’s in a better place now. That’s where he wanted to be. He’s with God. And he’s with Mom.

As I think back over the last two years and my life during that time, I remember how turbulent it was. Mom’s unexpected diagnosis of colon cancer, then her quick descent and early death. Family issues and conflict that always seem to strain family ties. Then problems with Dad’s health at any hour of the day or night. Phone calls during vacations. Always wondering what would pop up next. And then watching him die with complications of influenza and pneumonia, knowing there was nothing we could do.

Now there is an empty feeling, a calm after the storm. But it is unsettling. All of the connections to the past are gone with Mom and Dad gone. It feels like a space with no landmarks, disorienting. Which way do we go? Where are we, even? What do we do next?

Conflict with family will continue…for awhile. Time for things set aside in the past couple years will return. Life will go on. But an emptiness will persist in my heart.

God’s presence is needed now more than ever. And His promise to never leave us is the foundation I depend on.

I’m sad that neither my mother nor my father lived to see my first published book. My next book, Mark of the Fire, is dedicated to Dad and uses the theme that was his favorite Bible passage to recite: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

I now realize my father gave me the advice I needed for this period of my life. The storm is over. Now what? I hear a voice telling me, “Trust the Lord to guide your path. You are now out of the storm.”

Marriage – Keeping the Bonds Strong

Shopping is a Relationship

This one is for you guys. Here’s some advice that may keep you out of the dog house, which is where I ended up recently.

Women (or most women) love to shop. Many men don’t. And therein lies the conflict. My wife knows I hate shopping, and usually will spare me the torture. My idea of shopping is to research it online, order it online, and get back to doing something more important.

Earlier this week I learned an important lesson in marital relationships. We were shopping for some new chairs. I agreed to go along and help make the decisions. In fact, I actually volunteered. But by the end of the day I was tired. I had a headache. I just wanted to go home and watch the news.

Now my wife and I have always agreed that it is permissible to express how we “feel” when we’re having a “heated discussion.” We don’t attack each other. We don’t make accusations. We just say, “I feel like…” That usually works.

On this occasion it was not the right move. I felt like I had sacrificed to engage in my least favorite activity. I was being honest in expressing how I “felt.” As in, “I feel like I have really sacrificed to engage in this activity which I hate. I feel terrible. I just want to go home.”

Don’t do it this way, guys. We had a very silent, icy trip home. After we had processed things for about fifteen minutes at home, we had a heated discussion on how we “felt.”

What I learned was the following: To wives, our engagement in activities for them (and with them) is an expression of our concern for our relationship. Therefore it is something to be done without complaining. And complaining is received by wives as an expression of lack of concern for the relationship. So it is personal. And shopping is relationship…not an activity to be endured.

So guys, this is one time when the I-can-express-how-I-feel rule does not apply.

I hope this will save you some grief. And women (wow, I’m probably really setting myself up) if I have gotten this wrong, please set me straight. (Constructive criticism, please)

Guys, have you found any other exceptions to the rules, that can keep the rest of us out of the doghouse?

Take a Break

It’s been too long. I’ve been taking a break. My excuse: It’s been the Christmas – New Years break. I didn’t actually have any time off in the office, other than December 25th and January 1st. But it’s time to take a break anyway.

We all need a change of pace occasionally, time to get off the squirrel cage, time to slow down, time to recharge the battery.

With New Years Day comes talk of New Year’s resolutions. I don’t make those anymore. They all get broken. But my wife and I have agreed to set aside time during an upcoming vacation to discuss where we are and where we want to go – a time to reflect.

January should be a time for life planning. We get so caught up in the urgent that we neglect the important. We forget what plans we had already made. It’s time to reflect and start over.

Where are we now? Where do we want to be? What direction do we seem to be heading? Is that what we want? Where do we think God wants us to be? Are we working to achieving that goal? Is it time to “repurpose” our life?

This isn’t original with me, but I highly recommend the following:

  1. Set aside a time for this purpose.
  2. Get away from your normal setting.
  3. Do this with your life partner, if you have one. What a great time for a brainstorming date.
  4. Prepare yourself by reading or rereading books that have inspired you in the past. Find new ones that will help you plan for the future.
  5. Write down your decisions – achievable goals, plans, a path to get there.
  6. Put your written plan someplace you will see it everyday.
  7. Review it regularly and make changes as appropriate.

Now get out there and take control of where you are and where you’re going. And let us know about what you’ve changed, what successes you’ve had.

Special Moments with Parents

Sparkles of Clarity – Glimpses of Sanity

Two days ago I visited my father in the extended care facility. He has Parkinson’s dementia and needs twenty-four-seven care. The dementia unit at the facility gives him excellent care, but it is still depressing to visit.

First, there is the guilt of putting him in the “nursing home” when he made it clear (before his dementia became severe) that he wanted to be taken care of at home. Then there is the reality and sadness of his condition, sitting in a unit where everyone is napping or staring off into space. The residents are there, but the mind is empty. Such a sad disease.

But the most frustrating part is the inability to communicate. If he is awake, which is only half of the time, he can’t carry on a coherent conversation. Most of the time my boring voice puts him to sleep. And when he does stay awake, he doesn’t have anything to say.

Two days ago was different. Dad was awake. He was happy to see me. He clung to my hand and wouldn’t let go. He told me repeatedly that he loved me and how happy he was to see me. He even made a few brief forays into philosophy, mentioning the difficulty of finding Biblical truth in an evil world. He hadn’t been that “with it” for a year.

I realize that Parkinson’s dementia, in particular, has it’s on and off periods. But this was so out of character for Dad, that it brought moisture to my dry eyes. And it reminded me of the final connection with my mother while she was still alive.

The icing on the cake came when one day later I talked to my sister. She visits Dad almost every evening. Yet Dad doesn’t remember for five minutes that either of us has visited. She had visited Dad the evening after I had been there (in the morning). When she greeted him, he asked, “Where’s Steve?”

Wow!

What special memories do you have of time spent with a parent or parents?

Still Procrastinating

Well, I haven’t done much better. At least I haven’t blogged for two weeks. My goal was every week. I have found some time to write. I reviewed a chapter of my critique partner’s work in progress. And I’ve had some time to do a little exploring of children’s literature.

I bring this up, because part of my plexus has to do with my children and grandchildren – wanting to leave a legacy. Wouldn’t it be neat to write a short story or two (or a children’s picture book) with the main character being one of your grandchildren. Or better yet, wouldn’t it be nice to write a book for each of them, in which they are the protagonist (the main character).

Today I sketched out a rough drafts of three stories. One for each grandchild. And next year there will be four. Now I need to read the books and study how these stories should be written.

In any case, it’s wonderful to find some time to write. I hope that I can incorporate leaving a legacy with my grandchildren.

So what legacy do you wish to leave with your grandchildren? What special activities do you do together? What gifts do you make for your grandchildren? How do you want to be remembered?

Hypocrisy

Back on the Rack Again.

All of us who give advice must admit to hypocrisy, occasionally…or often. Well, it’s my turn now.

I’ve been writing about this grand idea of determining our plexus, and arranging our life in a meaningful and fulfilling way. I wrote about ridding our lives of the things that bind us to the rack, and finding those things that we weave into the plexus (network) of what we want to be doing with our life. In other words, getting rid of things that waste our time, and hanging on to things that are important and fulfilling.

Well, I haven’t been doing that, not lately. My wife and I are fixing up the house I grew up in. We’re planning to move into that house next summer. I have haven’t been doing much of the remodeling, but I’ve been involved in the decision making. We traveled to pick out counter tops. I’ve met with subcontractors. And now it’s time to get ready for winter: cutting firewood, cleaning out some areas of the house, refinishing some old cabinets. Plus, there are things to do at the office to winterize the office. I’ve been so busy I haven’t been writing…not at all. No time in the mornings at the office. Too tired in the evening after all the paperwork is done. None. Nada.

And it’s killing me. It’s turned me into an old grump. My wife is a saint to put up with me. But I have to get back to the writing…soon.

My plan is to begin reserving some mornings for writing as soon as the firewood is cut. But until then, stay away. I’m breathing fire.

So what are things that demand your time, and keep you away from what you want to be doing? What solutions have you put into place? Did they work?

Vacation in Holmes County

Holmes County and Tuscarawas Counties

A week ago I was on vacation, and my wife and I went to one of our favorite places, Holmes County, Ohio. The purpose of the trip was to research a site for my next book – TRILLIUM TANGLE, THE PLEXUS PRINCIPLE. But it was a welcome retreat from the day to day grind and an enjoyable look at a slower time from the “olden days.”

East of Holmes County is Tuscarawas County. Sugarcreek is a small town just across the county line, in Tuscarawas County. It is an Amish community like much of much of eastern Holmes County. But Tuscarawas County has a history of coal mining. And coal mining history is very interesting.

As you drive the highways and back roads of Tuscarawas County, you see rolling hills with hay fields and pasture land. Behind those hills are large “hilly” forested areas. From the road, those hills look like part of the terrain. And they once were. But they’ve been mined – contour mined. Generations ago, the mining companies dug into those hill, taking the coal, and leaving huge “hills” of “coal spoil.” Now with trees growing on those spoils, those spoils look like part of the terrain. But look at the area from a satellite image, and you can see the ridges of coal spoils. It looks like ridges of mountains on a map.

I had the opportunity to hike back into some “unreclaimed” mine land. The Norma Johnson Center is a conservation center east of Sugarcreek. It has large areas that have reclaimed mine land, and some areas that are “unreclaimed.” The trails back into the coal spoils give a close-up look into what the land is like now. Steep hills, acid lakes, thick tangles of undergrowth, and many trees that have been growing for 40 – 50 years. Quite a jungle.

The director of The Johnson Center, Marsha Zoller, was kind enough to to answer my questions and give me some history of the area. I even discovered she had grown up in my home town and I knew her mother. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ director for abandoned mine land, Tyson Lamielle, met with us and gave us a history lesson on the mining in Tuscarawas County. Wow. What a rich history. So much more to learn.

I came away with the realization of how little I knew of Ohio history. But I did find the perfect setting for my next book, a large area of coal spoils with few roads into the area, and right on the edge of Amish country. It will be the perfect place for the antagonist to have a seclusive health clinic where unusual things are happening that affect world peace.

So, where are your favorite vacation locations? What kinds of activities draw you there?

Grandchildren

Whew! Who needs an exercise program when you can chase grandchildren?

I returned from a two day writers’ conference last weekend, just before two of our grandchildren arrived. I had time to lay my bag on the counter and answer the door. Our son, Andy, and his wife, Trisha, were going out for the night and would get in late (early the next morning). We were watching Leighton and Averie until the next morning.

Leighton is two and is a real joy. He’s quiet, but he doesn’t stop moving…until he falls asleep for a nap or bedtime. He gets into everything, not to make a mess, but to explore how things work, how to take them apart, how to put them together. His curiosity amazes us. I’ve always called him “Scout,” because he is always looking for something new to explore. This past weekend he was in high gear, overdrive, turbo drive. So I changed his name to “Turbo Scout.” As a proud grandparent, I predict he will be an engineer. He loves lights. In fact “lights” (whispered reverently) was his third word. Maybe it has something to with the fact that grandma and grandpa patiently held him up to the switches so he could explore which switch turned on which light. Maybe he’ll be an electrical engineer.

Averie is just three and a half months. She’s so delicate, so beautiful, so quiet…until she’s hungry. Then she knows how to let you know she wants something to eat. And she’ll keep letting you know until the bottle is ready. There’s something about holding a granddaughter in your arms that makes you feel tender. I remember the feeling when I first held my infant daughter. She’s an adult now and has her own daughter. But, back to Averie. It takes two people to care for children, or at least it felt like it. I don’t know how mom or dad, alone, can do it. I certainly have regained a new respect for a parent who stays home to do child care.

We have one more grandchild, Regan, daughter of our daughter, Tessa. She’s fifteen months and lives outside our community. We don’t get to see her enough. She has the most beautiful smile. She reminds you of sunshine. If life weren’t so busy, we would visit her more often.

It’s so important to keep up on the grandchildren. And I admit that I do a poor job. They are our legacy. And it’s so important to ensure they are getting started in the right way.

What memories or special moments have you spent with grandchildren? Or what special things do you plan to do with grandchildren someday?