The liver that got away

Roger looked more like a tall, lanky college student than a young adult with schizophrenia.  He was also smart:  well-studied as if to be a medical school student long before the days where WebMD could make the rest of us stand out from our peers on a particular topic of interest.  There was one problem with Roger’s course of study, however.  I met him shortly after what could have been his second fatal mistake.

Roger believed that removal of his liver would cure his schizophrenia.  Yes, truly, and he would talk about it with a straight face in earnest to his psychiatrist.  Roger had poured over medical books, secured all the tools and supplies of a typical surgical suite, and attempted a procedure at home in the past.  When he could not control the bleeding at some point during the procedure he called the paramedics and was rushed to a local hospital.  They patched him up and transferred him to the mental health unit where he stayed until his psychiatric medication could be “adjusted.”

Within a short time after discharge Roger re-doubled his efforts.  He gathered more supplies for a second attempt at a total liver resection.  Somehow he never read that the liver is a vital organ and that he would die if he ever succeeded.  And who knows where he found sterile drapings, forceps, lancets, and such in the days long before Amazon and Medline?  What he did not expect the second time was the intolerable pain he would experience as he got deeper into his surgery.  He was alone and got scared.  Again he called the paramedics, was hospitalized, and landed on the mental health unit.

I worked as an occupational therapist on that unit with the even lower functioning clients than Roger.  While he was not one of my patients, his notoriety was the talk of the nursing station.  What incredible bravery it would take to operate on oneself with what, a handheld mirror?  I mean, how exactly did he do it?  I think I recall that he was discharged to a residential facility after his hospital stay in an effort to preserve his life lest he make a third attempt.  The delusion that excision of his liver could cure his mental illness was simply too strong to believe that he would ever give up his theory until he died trying to make it so.

And so here I find myself four days before my own surgical procedure, banking on a theory that excision of two teeth will save my own life.  Have I too succumbed to the “Roger effect?”  When contrasted to sick thinking, we all like to think that ours is different.  After all, I have done my research and can find clinical and anecdotal evidence that what I have asked an oral surgeon to do will cure the worst of my ills.  Dr. R doesn’t agree with my suppositions (a biologic dentist did!) yet is willing to proceed to diminish years of dental pain AND after having required extraordinary precautionary measures!  Lord willing all will be completed on Thursday, March 26th:  my spirit will no longer be crushed with the virtual hell that has left me bedridden most days.  (See this blog for details: https://justjuliewrites.com/2015/03/01/only-my-potato-chips-remain-crushed-today/)

Looking back to my days working in mental health I realized that I have come a long way in my view of the world.  Today I am more willing to ask the tough questions of life than in the past.  I see that I am not so different from many of the patients who landed in a “psych ward.”  By the grace of God I did not have to be admitted or committed when my despair exceeded my ability to cope.  Somehow the Lord provided the hope, the help, the peace to carry on until the day when the pain was no longer unbearable.  Gratefully, much emotional pain has left my life for good.  Much joy has taken it’s place even in the face of this horrible illness.  My internal joy is no longer measured by my circumstances; He has allowed me to overcome immeasurable desperation.  I believe that things will begin to turnaround this week.  This week people!

If he is still alive today, I do hope that Roger has found some peace with his struggles.  Wherever you are today dear one, I pray these words from the Lord for you and your loved ones.  Sometimes letting go of that one thing that got away in our lives is the very thing that brings us to all that we seek:  the joy that passes all understanding.

John 16:33 (NIV)

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16.33

Where do you think I was taking you?

trust-in-the-lord-proverbs-3-5-6A dear sister in Christ shared with me a story today of another time in which she was struggling in her walk with the Lord.  A year later she ran into an old friend who was in a time of severe struggle.  As she listened closely to her friend she was reminded of how the Lord gave her victory the previous year and how he gave her an image that made a lasting impression. 

Picture this:  you are walking behind, faithfully following the Lord Jesus Christ who is walking in front of you.  Your hands are placed firmly on the back of His shoulders as He leads you forth.  You are not trying to get ahead of Him or push Him faster down the road.  But you are straining to look over His shoulders, attempting to peer around His sides, jumping to see over His head.  Where is He taking me?  Why don’t my circumstances show me what lies ahead for me?  Why can’t I see where we are going, the point to all of this agony? 

 

Now that doesn’t look much like following in faith now does it?  Yeah.  I have been there too.  Trying to get ahead of the One Who loves me and has carefully crafted my life as His own child, under the protection of His loving arms.  Instead I am going to remember the image that my friend said came next:  she gently looked down, perhaps drawing a little closer to His mighty frame, and simply walked behind Him in His footsteps.  She let the Lord lead her through the trials and in due time they ended.  And a year later her tenderness for her friend encouraged both of them.  I am sure of it.

My friend shared that in her heart long ago she heard the words, “where do you think I was taking you?”  Where indeed.  May our answer always be, “anywhere you lead my Jesus.”  Anywhere.  JJ

 

A Pig for Sale

Only in Indiana.  Or maybe in any other State with farming.  Well that would include all 50 States.  I guess it’s just new to me . . .

The Facebook page for selling stuff in my town had a posting for a pig for sale:  $300 for the live beast.  I actually thought about it for a moment!  The biggest issue would be finding a place to store all of that meat.  Our lil’ freezer just ain’t big enough for my hubby’s ice cream and my bone broth in addition to a virtual bevvy of pork!  Darn.  I’ve been missing BBQ ribs for some time now!

I suppose that someone else with a chest or upright freezer will jump on the offer.  Maybe our neighbor who bought our used freezer will find it in her budget to feast on Porky Pig for the rest of the year?  Or maybe not.  But if she invites us over for some Famous Dave-style ribs I am sure that we would oblige!  We will even bring my Grandma’s famous potato salad.  Yeah I won’t forget the horseradish, pickle relish, and bacon grease (aka “secret ingredients”)!

Porky Pig here.

Porky Pig here.

We live in a time where you can buy and sell just about anything.  With the diversity of our world and our accessibility to most of it via the internet, we can get much of what we want for a price.  Do you want someone to paint your business logo on his hairy belly and sing a song for you?  Just check out the gigs on http://www.fiverr.com and it will be yours for the price of a latte’.  My preference for that one would be “NOPE.”  That is, in the physical realm.  There are other realms for which I would need a song you know.  And tonight my heart realm can’t buy me even a lullaby for peace of mind.  My heart is breaking and there simply is not much I can do about it but pray.

My brother, Mike, whom everyone else calls Michael, continues to live in a wretched inner city nursing home after a serious stroke.  He is four months post-CVA and three months enduring the “3 hots and a cot” provided by a one-star facility.  I flipped when I found out that he had an infectious rash on his hemiplegic hand!  I asked his fiancé and Mike to check for signs of bed bugs and call the State Ombudsman immediately if they found any signs of them.  Mike’s roommate itches too.  Hopefully it will be a case of an allergic reaction to the laundry detergent.  But why would the bumps become infected?  Good golly.  Water (no juice, milk, or coffee) for breakfast, a delayed response for significantly elevated blood pressure, and no follow-up whatsoever on a 6 cm kidney tumor ARE ONLY THE FIRST THREE items in the long list of substandard care complaints.  So sad.

Lisa, Mike’s precious fiancé, is at her wit’s end trying to get Veteran’s Administration or Medicaid benefits processed correctly to change his situation.  She faithfully visits him when she can, brings him home-cooked food, and follows up the paperwork nightmare as Mike’s legal guardian.  Just when I wonder if things moving forward fast enough or why she hasn’t returned my phone calls I find out that she has started a new job to try an better their overall situation.  She is such a trooper.  Thank the Lord for Lisa’s love and care for her Michael.  And our cousin, Lisa, helps out where she can as well.  Cousin Lisa is an optometrist for the nursing home and has more than once been able to positively influence his care by her presence, her visiting, her dipomacy, her support of fiancé Lisa.  They are doing the best they can and that is both a gift and all I can ask from 200 miles away.

This is such a curious situation, you know.  I am an occupational therapist with over 30 years of professional experience including patients with the very same medical condition as my brother.  Yet due to a severe illness I am enduring, I cannot even visit him!  The dirty conditions of his living environment would surely trigger seizure-like attacks for me.  Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, or whatever you want to call this nightmare is keeping me from seeing my brother.  And this is the Lord’s plan for both of us right now.  I don’t understand it.  My heart is hurting.  I would be honored to work more closely with Mike, even provide supplemental therapy or visits.  I cannot do it right now.  Oh sure, I send him something in the mail occasionally or make a phone call to his facility and get placed on hold for a very, very long time before actually getting through to anyone less than 50% of the time.  We are all doing what we can and waiting on the Lord.  It’s just so very frustrating for each of us!

So if you’ve got an extra 300 bucks to donate to our cause, kindly send it to St. F—— Nursing Center in D—–, room 207.  Leave the pig and get my brother out of there please!  They might not notice Mike missing for awhile since a piece of meat is a piece of meat when you don’t care much for the sweet sense of humor that used to characterize my tall lanky sibling.  Oh geez, I’m getting a little upset here aren’t I?  Well at least the pig will stomach the food a little better without complaining.  Like the Cheerio’s commercial said many decades ago, “he’ll eat anything!  Hey Mikey!”  Yeah but it won’t be Mikey.  One day Mikey will be gone from the place he and his fiancé are calling, “the dump.”  May the Lord pour out His grace on those left behind when he does go.

I just hope that moving day will be soon.  O.k.  I’m done venting.  Gotta get back to praying.  JJ

sad pig

I get it Jonah!

Jonah was an Old Testament prophet called by God to warn the people of Nineveh to repent.  God’s judgment was eminent unless they changed their evil ways.  Jonah burned with anger because he did not like the people of Nineveh and thought they should not be the concern of the almighty God.  So instead of going to Nineveh, he headed off on a ship to Tarshish instead.  A mighty storm rose up, threatening the ship and crew.  In time they found out that it was because of Jonah that their lives were at stake.  At Jonah’s suggestion, they tossed him into the sea and the storm ended.  Jonah was taken up by a mighty fish and spent about 3 days inside before repentance  of his own disobedience towards God.  Eventually Jonah went to Nineveh, he warned the people, they repented, and their lives were spared.  Jonah still wasn’t happy . . .

******************

I was making some new necklace designs the other day, very late at night.  Things were not coming together well as I had to re-do a simple slider knot at least five times before I got it right.  Then I made the same mistake again on another piece!  Do you have a “little tiny voice” that sometimes nudges you in the direction you should go?  Yeah, it was yapping at me to save a particular scrap of hemp cord in case I would need it for another part of the new collection.  Fooey, I thought.  I have other colors and I really wanted to make some gift ties with the white cord not save it for something else that was not in front of me.  So I didn’t save the cord.  It was the last piece of that color and it got used as part of a gift box packaging that was sent out the next day.  I did not think about it anymore.  Or rather I did not think about it any more until I had to repair a mistake in one of the new necklaces six days later.

I lost an hour of my life trying to correct my mistake with anything but the white cord remaining in another gift tie.  I could not believe how many goofy mistakes I was making trying to avoid getting out the bag of gift ties, untying a braided strand, and using a proper length of cord to make the repair.  Finally I laid down my will.  It wasn’t working.  Repairing the wrap knot and saving the jewelry piece required me to dig out the supply that had been within arm’s reach all along.  Sigh.  Alright then.  Hunker down and take care of it already!  Moments later I was done.  But what had happened to me?  It’s just a piece of jewelry for crying out loud!  Yes, and I might as well have been a stubborn 2 year old for how I was acting.  I’ll never get that hour of my life back again.  The only person to blame is me, not some illness brain fog thang.

Has this ever happened to you, Gentle Reader?  Hopefully the stakes were not as high as a nation threatening to be destroyed because of the selfishness of a wayward prophet.  There probably were consequences of some kind though:  consequences that were unpleasant or harmful, wasteful.  Sure, we need to be gentle with ourselves when we make mistakes, live for a time in denial, procrastinate, and the like.  And yet when we are outright defiant to that which we know we should do we are hurting ourselves and maybe others too.  It’s a sign of immaturity, a lack of self discipline.  While we sometimes may need to delay making the right choice in a situation for a variety of reasons, let’s hope we get to task when there is a leading is from the Holy Spirit:  my tiny voice inside of me.  He has my best interests at heart even for the small events of life.  He cares for all of the details of my life just as He cares for the nations of the world.  That’s just how mighty our God is:  the great I AM.

Dear Heavenly Father, I am weak this night.  I am still capable of heeding the counsel of the Holy Spirit that ministers to my every need.  Thank you for the incredible gift of your indwelling Spirit.  I lay down my will this night in awe of Your love for me and majesty.  Strengthen me for both the mundane and more important tasks in the days ahead.  Grow my trust in you.  And if it is Your will, heal me of my infirmity so that I may be used for greater things.  Thank you for Your Word to teach us, guide us each day.  I love you Lord.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Adjustable Friendship  Necklaces from Threads of Hope and Trinity Jewelry by Design

Adjustable Friendship Necklaces from Threads of Hope and Trinity Jewelry by Design

The Genius Between Us

If you lived in the Midwest of the United States in the mid-1960’s chances are good that you knew about slot car racing.  It was the craze back then for hobbyists, car enthusiasts, boys, and the girls with brothers!

And if you were into performance slot car racing, then you would have selected either a Mura, Champion, or Dyna-Rewind motor to win.  Not familiar with it?  Check out these pictures:

 

Dad's Slot Car

Dad’s Slot Car

 

Dyna-Rewind Motor

Dyna-Rewind Motor

Typical Slot Car Race Track

Typical Slot Car Race Track

 

 

 

 

 

 

A slot car racing enthusiast in the mid to late 1960s would bring his best cars in a wooden gear box to a local track.  For about $.50 he (or she) could rent a lane and race whomever showed up that evening for 30 minutes.  Competition was always fierce with fans and racers taking turns spotting cars around the track that had spun out or flown off in the heat of the battle.  Each car had rubber tires, an electric motor, chassis, body, and plastic tongue-with-flat-metal-brushes on the bottom.  The cars ran on a track with a groove in the middle of the lane and tiny metal or wire filaments on either side of the groove (which conducted the electricity as it made contact with the metal brushes).  Each “driver” held a controller by which he (or she) could adjust the speed of the car by squeezing or releasing the lever on the handle.  If you went too fast your car would either spin out or fly off the track!  While the latter was quite spectacular it would often damage the car beyond repair — at least until the next Thursday night of racing!

Formal competitions and even professional drivers became legendary.  In 1966 one racer in particular began beating the pants off of everyone in the Detroit area and carrying off all the trophies with his car powered by a special motor.  Ted Lech had discovered how to make the motors faster by employing the adhesives, balancing principles, and rewinding concepts from his work at the General Motors Tech Center in Warren, Michigan.  Soon others were clamoring to purchase the motors.  Ted and his co-worker, “Bud” Stordahl created Dyna-Rewind and were quickly overwhelmed when orders came in from just about everywhere (including the UK and Japan) with each successive motor.  In an interview with Pete Hagenbuch in the Car Model magazine of July 1967, “Mr. Motor” as they called him reveals the genius behind Dyna-Rewind motors.  All was well and very exciting, however the slot car racing industry was beginning to diminish when toy manufacturers could not keep up with the performance output of the small-shop car guys.  But the small-shop car guys couldn’t support the overall industry either.  Then suddenly Ted Lech absconded with some of the business assets and vanished in 1969, never to be heard from again in the slot car racing world.  Bud Stordahl closed Dyna-Rewind.

What happened?  Well I guess you could say that not everyone handles success well.  Ted Lech was my father:  born March 30, 1937 in the Detroit, Michigan area.  He married my mother, RoseAnne, in 1959 and I was born 9 months, 2 weeks, and 3 days later.  We were living in a trailer park when I was born:  a red and white mobile home at the beginning of the block.  There was a sidewalk out front in which I rode my red and white tricycle with a bell and streamers on each of the handle bars.  I loved riding my bike.  Life was good for a 3 year old!

We moved into a house that my dad had selected in a new subdivision in Warren sometime in 1963.  Michael was 2, I was 3, and Robert was on his way into the world thus necessitating the move up to a 3 bedroom ranch.  We didn’t have much furniture so there was plenty of room in which we kids would play.  The best spot was the basement:  we could make all the noise we wanted to ’cause mom would just close the door at the top of the stairs into the kitchen!  We had the coolest toys with which to play down there too.  I remember a wooden train set on wheels that my dad had made where the cars hooked together and were big enough to hold each of us kids in our own train car.  When we were lucky dad would whoosh us around the basement, carefully navigating around the black metal poles supporting the house upstairs!  And if he would open the hamper shoot on us as we rolled under the hinged box he made in the ceiling, well that was really cool!  Splat!

My dad built Dyna-Rewind in the basement of that house.  I have come to understand that some of the operation was at the home of his business partner, Bud Stordahl, but I do not have any recollection of  him or seeing the part of the operation that was in his garage in Birmingham.  After all, I was a young kid back then.  What I remember is all of the wooden tables that my dad had built and the increasing amount of tools and machinery that filled the basement.  I remember playing with most of it, especially the rewinding machine, drill press, semi-circular magnets, black plastic display boxes with a clear lid, and even the motors.  On a good day my dad would take us with him to race at “The Groove Raceway” in Royal Oak or perhaps another local track.  In time he would take Mike and Rob more than me; perhaps I had developed other more girl-y interests too with my best friend who lived next door (Tammy Orlando).  My brothers had a blast during their time with my dad.  Mike became quite good at slot car racing and his ability to beat most anyone in games of all kinds continues to this day!

Flash forward to 2013.  Out of the blue, my brother Mike makes contact with a French gentleman, Philippe de Lespinay, who was writing a new book to expand on his first publication, Vintage Slot Cars.  Mike met with Mr. de Lespinaly, and shared the wooden gear box he had gotten from our dad containing a collection of Dyna-Rewind motors, slot cars, and my dad’s own hand-painted favorite too.  Within a year from now the LA Slot Car Racing Museum is scheduled to open in California.  I’m glad Mike didn’t sell out the family mementos, caving to Mr. de Lespinay’s repeated requests to both of us!  I have one motor with a wire still attached to it.  This was my memento actually from my brother Robert’s mobile home in Monument, Colorado when we were settling his affairs after he passed away in 2003.  I displayed that motor where I could see it each morning for a long time.  I already had several empty black plastic boxes like the one pictured above.  A couple of them still store my unused gum wrappers from my 300+ foot gum wrapper chain tossed out long ago.  Sure wish I had some of those magnets used inside the metal motor housing.  We used to see how high we could stack them up before tumbling over and . . .

My brother called me about the book after his interview with Mr. de Lespinay a couple of weeks ago.  So when Mike offered the opportunity for me to fill in my own details of this story I jumped in too.  Mr. Stordahl had misreported some facts and perhaps was still a little sore about the sudden closing of the business in 1971.  Evidently my father stole some of the business proceeds when he left with his technical genius as well.  I am sad about that.  The details of his leaving left scars with me too for a very long time.  He had gone to California with another woman and did not return for a few months.  The heartache for my mother and us three kids continued after his return to the Detroit area, through their divorce, and deepened when he left a second time:  for decades.  No one really knew where he was when he finally left Michigan.  When we did discover that he was in Florida (and I later learned that he had also lived in Texas for a time) there was really no need for me to contact him.  I had grown up, gone away to college, and moved to the Chicago suburbs to start my career in occupational therapy.  Life had moved on.  Sure I missed him.  But life had to move on you see.  My Heavenly Father filled in the gaps.

Flash forward about 30 years and our father has since reconciled with Mike and me.  In 2007 my mother passed away and would never have contact with him before she died.   She had moved on as well so I am not sure that it would have mattered to her anyways.  Thaddeus Lech Jr. died in his 30-foot travel trailer along the Gulf Coast of Florida in 2011.  He had become a renowned local fisherman; I can prove it with a few hundred photos I inherited of him holding up virtually every kind of fish that either spawned or was native to the Florida panhandle region of the Gulf of Mexico.  He was also renowned in the automotive industry:  inventor and co-inventor for Borg-Warner Automotive, holding over 20 patents for various types of clutch assembly and drive train components.  His genius had continued!  It makes sense that it would.  When I was a kid he’d crafted the most phenomenal gerbil cages you could ever imagine for our pets Agatha, Ralph, and Dee.  If I insert the word “sundeck” here you might be able to imagine the other rooms, elevated walkway, and security door too . . .

Everyone has a “past.”  Everyone makes mistakes.  Sometimes there are reasons for those mistakes and sometimes it’s simply the manifestation of sin in our lives.  My childhood is filled with a few more sad stories than happy ones yet gratefully the sorrow has faded away.  There is much more to the story of my father that could be written here to fill in the details.  Others have attempted to share the sordid details perhaps to give the retelling of Mr. Motor’s story a little more spice.  I do not believe that is necessary at this time.  When my father contacted Mike then me before my father passed away, we were able to both get re-acquainted and speak words of regret, words of forgiveness.  I got to hear stories I never knew about myself as a girl and about this adventurous, brilliant, complicated man.  His smile and sense of humor warmed my heart in a place I did not know existed when I had moved on so many decades ago.  To hear the words, “I love you” was a salve I did not know I was craving for when they finally came at just the right time.  Even my husband, Steve, was touched by my dad’s gentleness, incredible way of handling the characters of the travel trailer park he had managed, and sense of humor.  They hit it off well:  car guys always do.

I hope the sequel to Vintage Slot Cars is a success.  I hope that racing fans from around the world visit the LA Slot Car Museum and talk about the amazingly fast Dyna-Rewind motors.  As for the genius between my brothers and me in the photographs below:  I will always love you dad.  Thank you for the memories.  With my orange motor labeled with the foil Dyna-Rewind sticker and stray wire hanging by a thread, I’m good.

Ted Lech for Slot Car Book