Here are some general communication strategies from my rehab hospital. If someone you know is having trouble communicating, these may help:

  1. Eliminate distraction.
  2. Face-to-face is best.
  3. Allow extra time for a response (e.g., “What do you want to drink?”)
  4. If no response, try rephrasing the question to a yes/no and waiting (e.g., “Do you want a drink?”)
  5. Try offering a choice (e.g., “Would you like milk or tea?)
  6. “Mirror” back the response to ensure listener knows you have the message (e.g., “You want tea … sounds good.”)
  7. People with difficulty communicating may benefit from gestures and visual cues.
  8. Avoid rapid questions and “on command” style of communication (e.g., “What do you want? Tell me what you want? Which drink? What do you want to drink with your food?” etc.)
  9. It’s okay to accept a non-answer … go back it later.

Many of these answers would have helped me in recent weeks, as well as

10. Don’t try to put words in the person’s head. You don’t know what he is trying to say.
11. Have patience. Let the person attempt to get what he’s trying to say out of his mouth. He will get there.

Thanks, everyone, for caring and wondering how I’m doing. Speech therapist says I’m doing well. Gage says he has noticed an improvement in my speech.



3 weeks after my stroke (plus a few days), here’s what’s going on:

I had speech, physical and occupational therapy scheduled — 42 hours over the next two months! After a single physical therapy session, the doctor canceled the rest of the sessions — he said I passes the walking, climbing stairs, standing on one leg tricks with flying colors!

Occupational therapy has been pushed back by the weather, so I don’t have a session for a week.

Speech therapy has been challenging. I can talk to Gage and to friend and families with little impairment. But I get hung up on some words and my thought processes. The therapist is really good. She is using my experience with space and science to help along. For example, I read a NYT article about Apollo 1o the other day and then wrote a short synopsis about it. It turns out she picked that by random, then I told her to Google “” and my name. I will be entertained by her reaction …

She has other exercises for me to do. For example, she shuffles a deck of cards and then I deal them out one by one. For every red card, I name an animal; for every black card I name a vegetable. It’s a classic exercise in transitive reasoning. Try it sometime!

My biggest complaint is my eye. I have retinal artery occlusion, which causes blood clots to cover the retina. So there’s a big, gray blob over one-third of my viewpoint in my left eye.

When pisses me off is that I read how important it is to check it looked at ASAP, yet my appointment is THREE WEEKS AWAY!!!

Luckily, I am okay. Just spent a few days with family, had a nice time (fir a funeral). My days are spent organizing the collectibles I’m selling, making to-do lists for Gage (lol) and napping.

I need to thank all the people who have sent over food — pot roast with potatoes and carrots, pork roast, chili, carrot cake — much more and I’m going need to try to get back to gym (which the doctor says is okay with a light load).



Silverado is a Western done right, playing its big skies and wide-open spaces. And introduces you to a cattle call of Arthurian legends — the hero with a lot to prove, the villain who was perfectly foil, the dance hall girl with a heart of gold, a gambler whose mother called him Slick.

Hear this movie: The spin of a six-shooter cylinder, the clip-clop-clip-clop-clip-clop of horse hooves, the barroom baroque of whiskey rails, card fans and the chirrup of a spittoon.

See this movie: One pivotal scene takes plays at the duel between the hero and the villain. High noon, Main Street. And the church, its high steeple peering from the street, keeps a watch over the hero’s back.

When this movie, which came out in 1985, comes on, I watch it.

I’ve been nominated to post photos from my 10 favorite films. It a hard task. And I’ll explain what I made those picks.


A friend has nominated me to name my top 10 films.

“Psycho” is my first film

Anyone who wants to learn how to make a movie, must follow this movie.

It entices you to follow the story of a pretty women, Janet Leigh, as she goes through with her scenes — the bank, the police, getting a room at the motel, for a unfortune, grisly ending. Then the movie is only about half done.

And what is going on with the Mother? The Oedipus complex … the man’s cowardice … his homonormative nature … So much to explore in thiese characters.

And you can’t avoid The Shower. The scene is one of the leading movie scenes, right along with Dorothy’s cheers of Toto from the witch’s castle, Darth Vaper declaring his paternity, and Leo DiCaprio declaring he was king of the world.

With my stroke head, some things I remember about “Psycho”:

  • The blood is Bosco chocolate syrup.
  • The Catholic Church gave the film “a morally objectional” rating.
  • Amid all the bird motif Janet Leigh’s name in the script is Marion Crane and she’s from Phoenix.

I’ve been nominated by Jane Burns to post photos from my 10 favorite films. It a hard task. And I’ll explain what I made those picks.


I’ve been researching areas in the stroke field and the most seductive is lining up some folks to play games.

The website Seabo, “a leading global provider of affordable evidenced-based therapy solutions for individuals suffering from impaired mobility and function” has an article called “35 Fun Rehab Activities for Stroke Patients”

I’m scheduled to start rehab next week and the quicker I get with that the better.

On the Saebo article states, “Physical activity is important for increasing the chances of regaining function after a stroke. Through the power of neuroplasticity, exercises help stroke survivors reclaim abilities they had before their stroke. Over time, even light activity such as going for a walk or cooking will contribute to physical improvements and help prevent the deconditioning that leads to further deterioration.”

That’s been my goal from the get-go. Play some games, talk to some people, get out of my xxxx. And here is a condensed list of some activities and games:

Board and Card Games

1. Scrabble

Scrabble involves a variety of skills that stroke survivors can work on. Adding up the scores uses simple math, coming up with words requires cognitive flexibility, and the mechanics of the game involve simple grasp-and-release tasks.

2. Jenga

Playing jenga involves physical and mental coordination while stacking blocks and trying to keep the tower from falling.

3. Checkers

The mechanics of checkers involve simple grasp-and-release movements that can help stroke survivors improve their motor skills while cognitive flexibility and problem solving are required to perform strategic moves.

4. Battleship

Playing Battleship is good practice for stroke survivors with speech or word retrieval problems. Players have to use the simple words “hit” and “miss” and “sunk” to communicate. Inserting pegs in the board also helps with fine motor skills.

5. Connect Four

Connect Four improves attention and motor skills. Players pick up and drop small disks, and they pay attention to both their and their opponent’s pieces.

6. Scattergories

Scattergories involves listing words in different categories that all start with the same letter. This helps with language and word retrieval. For stroke survivors with more severe cognitive impairments, Scattergories Junior may be more appropriate.

7. War

War is a simple card game in which you flip over a card, and the person with the highest card wins. Playing war requires attention skills and hand coordination.

8. Poker

Playing poker helps challenge cognitive skills like sequencing and categorization.

9. Slapjack

Slapjack is played by flipping over cards and slapping the stack whenever a jack or two of the same number in sequence are played. Playing Slapjack requires attention and motor skills as well as hand eye coordination.

10. Uno

Uno helps stroke survivors work on decision making, attention, and visual discrimination.

(11-16 were boring …)

Creative Activities

17. Knitting

Knitting is a relaxing activity that can help stroke survivors take their minds off of their recovery. For survivors who are limited to one functional hand, a knitting aid makes one-handed knitting possible.

18. Photography

Taking pictures is a great way to practice creative expression without much physical effort. It also provides a great excuse to get outdoors and take in the surroundings.

19. Writing

Whether putting together letters, poetry, or stories, writing can be a great creative outlet for a stroke survivor. Journaling can also be therapeutic and help a survivor keep tabs on their emotions and recovery process.

20. Making Music

If the stroke survivor was a musician before their stroke, then they will likely enjoy it after as well. Singing along to music is an easy and fun activity. They can also play on a keyboard or piano with their unaffected hand.

21. Painting

Painting uses fine motor skills and helps stroke survivors practice their grip. Using different colors and textures also helps stimulate the brain.

22. Drawing

Drawing uses many of the same skills as painting, but it requires less equipment and is easier to clean up.

23. Pottery

Making pottery is an excellent activity for stroke survivors with limited arm and hand function. Clay is soft and easy to work with, and sculpting can help improve fine motor skills. Pottery can also be made with one hand.

24. Cooking

While it may require a few adaptive kitchen aids to help, cooking is an activity that can be both practical and fun.

25. Woodworking

Woodworking requires attention, problem solving, memory, and sequencing skills, in addition to various fine or gross motor skills.

Activities that Stimulate the Brain

26. Word Search

Word searches help a stroke survivor work on their perceptual skills and attention.

27. Crossword Puzzle

Crossword puzzles are available in a variety of skill levels and font sizes, so there should be one within almost every stroke survivor’s capabilities. Crossword puzzles help with word-finding skills.

28. Reading

Whether the material of interest is newspapers, magazines, or novels, reading is a great way to pass the time and engage the mind. Audio books are another great option for those with visual deficits.

29. Learning Sign Language

Activities that allow a stroke survivor to learn new skills are beneficial in multiple ways. Learning sign language both stimulates the brain and exercises the hands.

30. Meditation

Meditation can help lower stress, relieve chronic pain, and stave off depression.

31. Jigsaw Puzzles

Putting together a jigsaw puzzle improves both concentration and motor skills. Picking up and placing the pieces is a grasp-and-release activity.

32. Sudoku

Completing a challenging mental task like Sudoku stimulates and maintains the brain, creating more complex connections between brain cells.

Video and Computer Games

33. Wii Sports

Virtual reality games like Wii Sports have been found to motivate and help stroke survivors stay more committed to their exercise routines.

34. Computer Games

While traditional computer games do not incorporate physical exercise, they can help stimulate the brain. There are many brain games available on the computer that can help with skills like problem solving.

35. Dance Dance Revolution

For stroke survivors who are able to safely participate, playing games like Dance Dance Revolution can add to their exercise routine and encourage them to get moving.

So who is in for board games? Leave me a msg and let talk.


From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow.

Marcus Aurelius
Roman emperor 121-180

The feeders on the deck are full of bird seed that spills out when the sparrows descend and pick their way through to the good seed. The cardinals, finches, blue jays and tufted titmouse let the sparrows have their way, like a gang for protection money.

I have some starter seed for some thoughts about recent events:

I have a slight stroke, basically called a TIA — transient ischemic attack. My literature that I carried home from the hospital says “an ischemic stroke is the sudden DEATH of brain tissue” (my emphasis), right there on Page 1. I have 15 pages of tips and pointers on occupational therapy, speech therapy, and physical therapy; nutrition change, lifestyle changes, and other changes. But there is that sentence.

The doctor tried to get at my stroke in the brain … via my groin … not going there with much …

The doctor attempted to snag the stroke via repeated stabs at the scar. He got most of it. Imagine: Stroke the Dragon is pinholed inside Castle Brain. There are several avenues and channels that reach the dragon, and the doctor tries each way.    

In my visual field — my left eye — I have a wide band of gray cloud over about 20 percent. It’s predominant. I see that image every sight in sigh. If I stare at it for a bit, I can make out lines of distinction. It’s like you drew a circle over and over again. Until it pulls together this blip or cloud. I don’t know if it made a difference, but if I … it’s like scarring the scene or the Dragon battle.

These are my current thoughts as convalesce.

Keep smiling.  

Sons of Kansas

Me and Flint Hall, home of the school of journalism. 30 years apart!

‘Cause I’m a Jay, Jay, Jay, Jay, Jayhawk,
Up at Lawrence on the Kaw —
‘Cause I’m a Jay, Jay, Jay, Jay, Jayhawk,
With a sis-boom, hip hoorah,

Got a bill that’s big enough
To twist a Tiger’s tail,
Rope some ‘Horns and listen
To the Red Raiders wail –

‘Cause I’m a Jay, Jay, Jay, Jay, Jayhawk,
Riding on a Kansas gale.

Kansas is a great place to be from. I say that without irony, without remorse, without regret. I am proud to be from Kansas.

I grew up in a community that valued education, supported the arts and instilled common sense in its people. Don’t ask me what happened to Kansas, because I don’t know. I shake my head as I read the latest shenanigans from the state government.

I especially feel like I received an excellent education — in grade school, high school and college. I return to the University of Kansas only rarely — maybe once every five years. But when I’m there, I feel like I’m home. (I also love my hometown, which I’ll write about later.)

Probably like everyone, sometimes I do feel bittersweet about my time at KU, though. For a long time, I never felt like I fit in — not at my dorm, not on the newspaper staff, not even in the neo-hippie co-op house I shared with six other people. But also like everyone else, college introduced me to the greater world. I discovered who I was, found out where I wanted to go, and figured out how to get there.

I just love the campus. Wide Jayhawk Boulevard curves along the stately limestone buildings; the Campanile towers over Potter Lake; the Chi Omega Fountain gushes and Prairie Acre remains pristine. In all my travels, it remains the most beautiful campus I’ve ever set foot on.

Off to See the Wizard

From Lawrence, we set off on our two-week exploration of the state I grew up in. I really had never seen much of western Kansas, so I wanted to check out some places I had always heard of and some I only discovered when researching this trip.

Our first stop was in Wamego, which has a very good Oz Museum. With costumes and recreated sets and collectibles and memorabilia. We had visited it before, about 10 years ago. Unfortunately, this time we arrived about 20 minutes before closing, which did not give us enough time to go through the museum.

img_0006Back to O-town

Next we bypassed Manhattan. Nothing to see there.

But we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to go through Ogden, Kansas. Founded in 1854, it’s a proud little town of 2,000 people. The welcome sign at the city limits says “Gateway to Fort Riley,” so they must feel a connection with the nearby army base.

I Like Ike

So on to Abilene. Foreboding dark clouds told us to forgo our plans to camp out, and for the first time on our journey we stayed in a motel. We weren’t the only ones finding shelter there, either. In the rafters above a stairwell, there was a nest of baby birds — five or six of them — peeking out and waiting for Mama Bird to bring home dinner.

2016-09-09-13-39-34Abilene is the hometown of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. His boyhood home is open for tours on the grounds of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum. He and his wife and an infant son are also buried in the Memorial Chapel.

The museum has exhibits not only on Ike’s life, of course, but also on World War II, from the big players — Churchill, Hitler, Stalin — to the unnamed heroes of the French resistance, and the unfair treatment of Japanese-Americans who were sent to camps in the United States.

There are detailed maps and photos and plans about D-Day, of course. Then it goes into the Cold War and Ike’s presidency. They get their point across, I think, that many people consider the 1950s a very bland time in America, and Eisenhower a bland president. But, it was the time of tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union, especially in post-war Europe, but also in Southeast Asia, where communists took over China, the beginnings of the Vietnam conflict were brewing, and on our doorstep, when Castro took over Cuba. Amid all these crises, the museum maintains that Ike was a firm, steady hand that kept the tensions from boiling over.

Of the many Eisenhower quotes the museum displays, one stood out to me: “The proudest thing I can claim is that I am from Abilene.”

You and me both, Ike — sons of Kansas.


Kansas: Land of Ahs

Welcome to Kansas
Welcome to Kansas

Come out, come out, wherever you are
and meet the young lady, who fell from a star.

She fell from the sky, she fell very far
and Kansas, she says, is the name of the star.

Kansas, she says, is the name of the star.

* * *

Ahhhhhhhh! Kansas!

Who can resist the serenity of the open space, the allure of the rolling prairie, the hopefulness of the endless horizon, the potential for twisters and thunderstorms …

No? Well, maybe Kansas is an acquired taste … and I love it.

I grew up in Kansas, went to college in Kansas. But I got out just as soon as I could. When you can see all the way to the horizon and everything in between, it makes you wonder what’s beyond it. I developed — or inherited — a strong wanderlust. Maybe that’s why I have moved seven times since college, and why I’m enjoying this trip so much.

I planned the leg through Kansas as a zigzag jaunt meandering from the Northeast to the West to the Southeast. We had some time to kill before arriving in Winfield for the Walnut Valley Festival, so we (I) decided to explore places I never did as a kid. I didn’t intend to prove to anyone that Kansas is not (only) flat. But, it does in fact have a wide variety of geographical and geological features found nowhere else on Earth.

We entered the Sunflower State by following the Missouri River, which takes a bite out of the northeast corner, crimping what would otherwise be a perfect rectangle. This section of Kansas was once covered by glaciers, which carved deep valleys and piled deposits of fine silt into high hills. The Missouri River along here is lined with limestone bluffs. On one such bluff in the teeny-tiny town of White Cloud is Four State Lookout. On a good day, you can see Kansas under your feet, Missouri across the river, Nebraska up north a bit and Iowa off on the horizon. Unfortunately, we were there on a rainy day, so it’s doubtful we saw Iowa.

Four State Lookout
Four State Lookout in White Cloud, Kansas. On a clear day, you can supposedly see Iowa.

Chanting with the monks

img_0002Atchison, Kansas, is a town on a bluff above the Missouri River. Founded in 1854 when the Kansas Territory opened for settlement, it later became a stronghold for the anti-slavery movement and the eastern terminus for the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad. The city is the home of Benedictine College and St. Benedict’s Abbey, where monks chant the liturgy four times a day. The services are open to the public.

We entered the sanctuary of the abbey and a brother approached us.

“Just looking around, or are you interested in the service?” he asked.

“The service,” we replied.

“Follow me.”

And he took us to the front of the sanctuary and sat us in the choir section with other monks, students and members of the public. We weren’t just going to hear the chanting — we were going to be a part of it!

Luckily, there was a hymnal and a bulletin. It was a short service, just a couple of call-and-response chants and prayers. Very uplifting and so unexpected!

Where’s Amelia?

IMG_0004Atchison is also the hometown of Amelia Earhart, and her childhood home is now a museum. The museum foundation has painstakingly preserved family furnishings, dishes, paintings, photos, etc. A resident caretaker lives in part of the upstairs in the upscale wood-frame, Gothic Revival cottage perched high on the west bank of the Missouri River.

As a pioneering female aviator, Earhart was one of the most famous people in the world. She met with kings and presidents, wrote newspaper columns and even designed fashion and luggage. The museum displays photos and clippings and dresses and suitcases.

Of course, a good portion of one room is dedicated to Earhart’s disappearance in 1937. Newspaper clippings, photos and telegrams about the final flight adorn one wall. Maps of the search area and possible fates for Earhart and her co-pilot adorn another.

The elderly caretaker, a dear old woman, left us pretty much alone to explore the house, although she explained that she would normally show us around, but her Crohn’s disease was acting up. She caught up to me in the kitchen and told me a tale.

Several years ago, an elderly woman arrived in a black limousine, accompanied by two men in suits and dark glasses. The woman spent a long time looking through the house and examining all of the artifacts and objects.

She came into the kitchen — “right where you’re standing,” according to the caretaker — furrowed her brow, left through another door and came back in, still looking perplexed.

“I know it’s here,” she reportedly said. “I just can’t find it.”

After some more time looking around, the two escorts told her it was time to leave. They got in the limo and drove off.

A few weeks later, the caretaker got a call from an author who was researching Earhart’s disappearance. He asked her if she has received a visitor — an elderly woman in a limo. The caretaker replied that she had. The author said the woman thanked her for maintaining the house and wanted him to pass along a message: “It was I.”

The author and caretaker maintain that the woman was none other than Amelia Earhart herself, that she had faked her disappearance with the help of the U.S. government, which gave her and her daughter a new identity. In her old age, she wanted to visit her childhood home once more. And what she could not find was the dining room because a rewiring project had blocked off the door from the kitchen.

I asked, what about the teams of researchers who still search certain Pacific islands looking for clues, wreckage, etc.

“They’ll never find anything, because there’s nothing to find,” she said.

I didn’t challenge her further. Far be it for me to argue with a woman who has dedicated her life to preserving the Earhart legend. I smiled, thanked her for the story, and left it at that.

End of Kansas, Part I.



Out of the Corn and Into the Stars

Field of Dreams
See more Field of Dreams photos

The next leg of our journey saw us taking literal steps in the cultural past and into its future. Leaving Wisconsin, Jane followed us to Dyersville, Iowa, to visit the farm where the movie “Field of Dreams” was shot.

The baseball diamond is still there, and it was the perfect season because the corn was tall, so we could emerge from the corn like the movie’s ghost ballplayers do (Is that the plot? I dunno — I’ve never seen the movie. When I admitted that, Jane said, “What?! Are you a Communist?”) We walked the bases and I pitched a few balls and we took some pictures and said our goodbyes to Jane.

Wet and slippery path to Maquoketa Caves.
Wet and slippery path to Maquoketa Caves.

Next, we camped at Maquoketa Caves State Park, and we had our first rainout. Or rain-on, because it started during the night and we didn’t have a rain-fly (we had lost it long before starting this trip). The tent got soaked; we got soaked; our sleeping bags got soaked. We had to pop up our pop-up canopy in the rain. Yay.

Gage, Tim, Amy & Alex
Gage, Tim, Amy & Alex

Because the rain made the paths wet and slippery, we didn’t go exploring the park’s namesake caves. Instead, we hit the road and headed for Muscatine, where Gage’s fellow seminary student, Alex, and his wife, Amy, hosted us. On Sunday, we attended Alex’s church and heard him preach.

After exploring the frontiers of faith, we ventured to the final frontier. In “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” Capt. James T. Kirk reveals that he’s “from Iowa. I just work in space.” Riverside, Iowa, took hold of that idea and ran with it, promoting the town as the “future birthplace of James T. Kirk.”

Riverside, Iowa
See more photos from Kirk’s future birthplace

They even got the blessing of series creator Gene Roddenberry. They have an annual festival that often features visits by actors in the series and/or spinoffs. The streetlights are hung with banners depicting the faces of Trek characters. They have a sweet little museum with memorabilia.

Gage & Tim Gothic
Gage & Tim Gothic

Our next stop was in Eldon, Iowa, home of the “American Gothic” house. You know the one — It’s an iconic painting with a farmer, pitchfork in hand, and his daughter, standing in front of their farmhouse with the church-like window. There’s a museum about the painter, Grant Wood, and the house, and the people that were Wood’s models — his dentist and his sister. We also learned that someone named Sharp helped find the house for Wood. Some genealogical research is needed to find out of he is related.

That ended our sojourn through Iowa. We high-tailed it for Nebraska to rest up and prepare for the next leg — a zig-zag trip in Kansas!