Thoughts on Leading a Small Group Bible Study

Our unnamed west Manchester Thursday evening small group study (a ministry of Heritage Baptist Church) will be starting up again tomorrow, after several weeks in hiatus, and we’ll be studying Francis Chan’s Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God. Below is a brief YouTube introduction with the author.

I suppose if we were to call ourselves anything, it might be “RNA,” or, “Recovering Neofundamentalists Anonymous,” as we try to get out of the “Christian bubble” that many of us (especially me) have spent decades in, and seek to better follow the Savior.

One of our favorite studies in this regard has been Dan Kimball’s They Like Jesus but Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations, which I highly recommend.

We meet at the Gagnon’s house, which is actually in the exact geographic center of our congregation, or was the last time Erik DiVietro plotted it out.

Running a small group Bible study for the past year has been fascinating. Pastor Erik helped train me in running one, which was a challenge, because (by his own admission), he tends to take over all discussions. Nichelle will tell you I have the same tendency, so for me one of the most challenging things as a leader is to just shut up, and allow silences while people ponder the discussion questions, and give them time to come up with answers or further discussion.

Other challenges come up from time to time. One of my more recent decisions was to outlaw political conversation. Not only was this distracting (although we’re quite informal), to be honest I ultimately came to the conclusion that I was too often getting ticked off by the ridiculous nonfactual, counterfactual, and noncontextual statements that seem to flood the political arena, regardless of one’s political preferences. Let’s just say some of our attendees learn far enough right, politically to make me look like a liberal by comparison. (I suppose I should blame all the NPR I listen to.)

Always, I am thrilled by the insights and discussions we’ve had, and find the small group format to be a particularly rewarding way to study the issues and doctrine presented in God’s Word.

A quick family update….

When Naomi woke up this morning, I asked her if she slept well, and also told her that I was happy she slept all night in her own bed. With the cutest glimmer in her eyes, she then told me that she had “the most wonderful dream in the world.” She then explained that she dreamt about Speed Racer, and that she was 5, and they went on vacation and they visited her and they talked. She had this twinkle in her eyes and the sweetest smile. She said that she never had this dream in her whole life.

Naomi’s been using Isaac’s scooter in the house for a bit now and has great balance. Phil pointed out to her that she may be ready to use her bike without training wheels because she can balance so well on the scooter. Man, oh, man, did she like that idea. She was quick to ask Doug to take the training wheels off her bike and is doing amazingly well. We took video of her mastering her skill at the two wheeler. It’s too soon for my liking, although that’s a mom thing!!! I’m, of course, proud of her accomplishments, but she’s growing up too fast.

David, after years of begging for glasses, got his wish. Doug took the kids to their appts a few weekends ago (Naomi’s first eye exam, too), and David was told that he needed glasses. He picked out the ones he wanted, and was told that they’d be ready in a week, but … the week came and went and still no glasses. He was disappointed to find out that he needed to wait several more days because there was a problem with the lenses and needed to be returned to the company to have them corrected. He finally got his glasses yesterday, and of course, he’s thrilled.

Isaac celebrated his 13th birthday the end of April and we’ll be celebrating with a party this weekend. Can’t believe he’s already a teen. [Doug’s note: He’s had the attitude of a teen for at least five years now, it certainly doesn’t surprise me.]

At the end of April, Naomi and I spent 4 days in DisneyWorld. Yup, just us girls, with two of Phil’s sisters and niece. We had a great time. Loads of fun watching Naomi’s expressions on the rides and just the fun she had with MacKenzie. Doug and the boys had a great time, too, as expected by me anyways. He took the boys indoor skydiving, which I’ll be doing sometime soon. We have a video of that along with pictures that David took. Those should be posted soon, too.

More from Doug. Nichelle is the biggest weasel in the world for going to DisneyWorld without us. I would certainly never go on such a trip without my wife.

In addition to indoor skydiving, David, Isaac, nephew Andrew Roberts, and I visited the U.S. Navy Submarine Force Museum, which is home to the USS Nautilus, the world’s very first nuclear-powered submarine. For technophiles like us, this was a perfect trip. In fact, we were late picking Nichelle and NaNi up at the airport because we got to talking to a submariner who was stationed on the USS Henry Clay (a “boomer”—a ballistic missile submarine) in the 1960s. In addition to touring the Nautilus, we got to play with various submarine control stations, see a lot of weapons, including a disassembled Polaris 3 MIRV, use working periscopes, and learn a lot about the history of the US submarine force. Jim, the sailor from the Henry Clay, also answered a question that was very important to me: Which movies about submarines are actually accurate. He said the Widowmaker was highly accurate, but admitted that others could still be entertaining. I’ll post pictures from this trip soon.

Erik DiVietro IS Jack Ryan

Erik DiVietro posted this via his MySpace page. As I hate MySpace, and loved this, he gave me permission to cross-post it here.

Erik treated one of those inane e-mail surveys as if he were Jack Ryan, the protagonist in most of Tom Clancy’s novels. (Also, I should note that, just like Erik, I’ve read all of Clancy’s novels. Clancy peaked with The Sum of All Fears—avoid the movie, though—and really hasn’t done remotely as well since.)

I completed this entire survey as Jack Ryan, of the Tom Clancy novels. It is disturbing that I retain this much information about a fictional character, and more so that I do it about MANY fictional characters.

1. If you were to kill a man, horror movie style, which kitchen utensil would you use?
Horror movie style, eh? That’s a tough one. I had an Ayatollah killed by sending in the B-2 bomber with a bunker buster.

2. Did you ever swallow a coin?
No, but I did buy a helicopter once.

3. What was the worst gift you’ve ever received?
That moron Tom Clancy ruined my legacy by writing Teeth of the Tiger

4. What is your most embarrassing childhood memory?
That my father almost arrested John Clark

5. How many kids do you want?
I have four. For some reason, every time my wife and I slept together in another country or in a time of international crisis, she got pregnant again.

6. What’s your moms middle name?
She didn’t have one, but her maiden name was Burke

7. Have you ever operated a fire extinguisher?
In ways the manufacturer never contemplated.

8. What did you eat for breakfast?
I skip breakfast a lot, and Kathy is always getting on my case about it.

9. who do you hate?
Used to communists, then the Japanese and then the Asian-financed terrorists. Oh, and bureaucrats. MAN do I hate them!

10. what do you hope to have accomplished by the end of this year?
When you’re Jack Ryan – there is nothing left to do. I made millions on the stock market; I wrote books; I was a Marine; I’ve been head of the CIA, Vice-President and President. SHOOT…I single-handedly brought peace to Jerusalem. I stole an entire ballistic missile submarine from the Russians AND forced the head of the GRU to defect! There’s nothing I haven’t done.

11. do you have any reallllly crazy relatives?
Apparently, I have two twin psychotic nephews. My daughter is a little strange as well.

12. Did you ever wake up under the influence of NyQuil, completely unable to move?
I was addicted to painkillers after I almost broke my back, and had a drinking problem that forced me out of government service for awhile.

13. Are you feeling nostalgic right now?
I’m a former president of the USA, of course.

14. Did you own a Lite-Brite?
My grandkids do; but it is nothing compared to the NSA command center.

15. Can you dive?
In a wetsuit? No. I’m a terrible swimmer; but I did operate the dive planes of the Red October under Captain Marco Ramius

16. Do you own a mouthpiece for anything?
Not really.

18. Have you ever used a pogo stick?
Is that anything like a 9MM handgun? Or explosives?

19. Who was the most creative bum you’ve ever met, trying to get some money from you?
Probably Ed Kealty.

20. What’s your favorite Jelly Belly jelly bean flavor?
Can of INTERNATIONAL WHOOPIN’. That’s a flavor, right?

21. favorite food you CRAVE?
I love my wife’s cooking. Of course, every time she makes a special meal, people seem to try to kill us.

22. When was the last time you pulled lint out of your bellybutton?
What do I look like? A democrat?

23. Did you ever use someone else’s toothbrush?
There was this crisis where the president thought the Russians were launching nukes at us, but it turned out to be a BIG misunderstanding. But I stayed up for like 3 weeks without sleeping, so I probably did.

24. Do you REALLY floss everyday?
Of course. I’m a Georgetown alumnus.

25. what is your favorite cologne/perfume you always wear?
Cologne is for men who haven’t killed Irish terrorists with their own hands.

26. If you were on Double Dare, would you take the physical challenge?
Look. I’ve been dropped from helicopters onto submarines in storms; I’ve been shot at by drug czars; and I was there when a crazy Japanese pilot flew a 747 into the Capitol building. My wife and I survived nuclear blasts AND two different version of the Ebola virus. You got nothing on me.

27. What’s the largest living organism that you killed?
Shoot. I’ve killed so many things. Probably my father-in-law’s ego.

28. Did you ever take a lighting bug and smear its guts on your arm so you get a cool glowing effect like war paint?
Who writes these stupid questions?

29. What’s the best toy you’ve ever gotten in a McDonalds happy meal?
an armored limousine Hot Wheel

30. if you could be anywhere in the world doing anything right now what would it be?
Back in the Oval Office, ordering Clark and Ding to take care of people.

31. Can you juggle?
HELLO! Fearless leader of the free world here!

32. how do you feel right now?
nostalgic, see 13 above.

33. Do you remember that square candy bar called “Chunky”?
I do. Ate many a Chunky bar out of the CIA vending machines.

34. Predict the length of the next Peter Jackson movie.
Longer than Bear and the Dragon felt but somewhat shorter than Executive Orders actually was.

35. What was your favorite toy as a kid?
G.I. Joes.

36. Are you willing to go the distance?
That’s one heck of a question to ask me. How many of you have even TRIED to read all my books?

37. Did you answer question 17?
How could I? It was stolen by Arab terrorists bent on bringing down the free world through Internet hacking.

Week of a Million Smiles

Well, we’re back from vacation and what an amazing and wonderful time we all had.

To start off the vacation was Mom’s wedding. What a lovely couple Mom and Dad make! They are truly in love and so very sweet together. (Pictures taken by our “official” Wedding photographer Mike Matheson are available here.)

We spent a few days with Mom, Dad and family before heading to Orlando, where the Hinxmans arranged for us to stay at a borrowed apartment. They also are tireless park-attenders, and took us around Disney World and Sea World on a six-day sprint.

NaNi tells Cinderella a story about a ball she plans to attend.

What an amazing time, jammed packed and loads of fun. So much to share, too late now to do it, but you can check out the pics in the Picasa album. We have loads to share so check back in a day or two.

Picasa Web Album
Disney PhotoPass Album

Isaac and David pose with Stormtroopers at the last of MGM’s “Star Wars Weekends.”

Naomi’s First Piercings: Preparing for and Celebrating Her 3rd birthday …

Naomi poses with some of her favorite pictures as a backdrop.

This past Friday was Naomi’s birthday. She has known for a while, and been talking about, two other things that would happen when she turned three:

  • One, she would get her ears pierced,
  • and second, her pacifers would go in the trash before she got her presents.

The big day came, and we headed to Wal-mart to get her ears pierced. A couple of days before I was having second thoughts about doing it, and then on Friday while I was filling out the form I was really having second thoughts; I nearly walked out. NaNi had to use the potty and that gave me an opportunity to settle down. She, of course, was fine.

We got back and I selected the earrings. I got to leave Naomi in the carriage for better positioning and also to keep her better constrained.

They do both ears at the same time. Both ladies approached her from the side and I stood in front of her. They did it. Naomi didn’t make a sound until they stepped away, and then she cried, but a muffled cry and held me close and kept saying, “it hurt.” She cried for a few minutes and was done.

The reason I was concerned was because I didn’t want any mistakes on putting the earrings too low, and also the pain factor. They did a great job, and her earrings look beautiful.

A rather “toothy” photo, but here’s our princess!

As for the pacifers, I recall before she got her presents that she had them in her hand. She actually gave one to her Dad, but what happened to the others we didn’t know.

At bedtime, she was fussy after having a jammed-packed day—during which she was totally sweet and adorable—but by bedtime she was beyond tired, and desperately wanted the pacifer, which we found. She did throw one away, but kept claiming, “I only have one.”

Basically, Doug and I caved and let her have the one that night; on Sunday I took the pacifer and tossed it. She did so much better the second night, and has been fine without it.

Naomi with MacKenzie Miller: These princesses aren’t afraid to get dirty.

Isaac and David were only two when I took theirs away, and it wasn’t an issue with either of them. But I couldn’t do it that early with Naomi. The other difference was when the boys were three months old, I said, they would then sleep in their own bedrooms. Naomi was five months old. Guess with her being my last baby, I needed to hold on a little longer.

Going along with the theme of her party, which started at “princess” and was expanded to a more general fantasy theme to accommodate the boys who would be attending, I made her a princess and castle cake, complete with a Barbie doll with a dress made of fondant. That was a lot of fun! (Doug said he liked an earlier version of the doll better.) I made the cakes on Friday night and decorated them early Saturday morning. Naomi got out her rolling pin and I gave her some fondant and powdered sugar to play with. She had a ball. (She had sugar up to her shoulders and through her hair.) I haven’t put that much detail into a cake in years, although I did cheat and used a mix.

All the time Nichelle spends watching cooking shows is paying off …

I was also able to make her a bed-in-a-bag to match her newly painted bedroom, deep pink and purple w/ the princess decor. Naomi helped me paint, too. She did a very neat job, I was surprised. I gave her my small roller, she wore her smock and had a ball. It’s been a busy month and a half working on the kids bedrooms (David’s is next to be done) and preparing for her birthday party, but what a blessing to be able to do it all! I do praise and thank God for all that has taken place. It does seem that I’ve been well for ages, but it’s only been since July. It’s been wonderful!!

Naomi with one of the many dress-up items she received as a gift. She loves playing dress-up.

Thank you to all who helped with various tasks. Couldn’t have pulled it off without your help. Hey, Phil and Cindy, I found my balloon pump while I was searching for my crafting supplies. 🙂 We had many friends and family join us to celebrate NaNi’s third year and what a blast it was. Everything went so well and the weather was beautiful. The kids got to “slay the dragon” and that was hilarious. The dragon (Doug) stole the loot for the piñata, and the kids needed to slay the dragon in order to capture the loot. What fun they had, and the dragon, too.

Some of the many warriors who attended Naomi’s party pose before venturing off to slay the dragon.

This dragon has been slain!

It was present time and Naomi’s expression upon opening each of her presents was lovely. She beamed with each one. She was a completely gracious hostess.

NaNi opening a CD gift—the soundtrack from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, one of her absolute favorite movies. She was so thrilled with every gift, and always remembered to say, “Thank you.”

Thank you to everyone for making her day so wonderful. We have loads of pictures, ones that we’ve taken and from others, too. Those should be up in a couple of days. So please check back. You’ll love them.

More pictures as promised.

The Wilcox Family’s New Look

Above (click to enlarge): The Wilcox Family has a new look.

  • Isaac is Hordhunter, a Night Elf druid. (He can polymorph into a bear at present.)
  • David is Stridar, a Dwarf paladin.
  • Nichelle plays sometimes. (She is actually afraid of becoming too addicted to the game.) She is Jassariss, a Night Elf warrior.
  • I chose to be a Gnome rogue, skilled at stealth and assassination (with trade specialties of mining and—of course—engineering. I can make bombs and dynamite now, and will progress to a host of interesting gadgets.)
  • Even Naomi has a character, Chritine, a Human rogue. (I’ll have to talk to her about that outfit, or buy her a nice dress the next time I’m in Stormwind or another big city.)

Our friend Phil Luchon convinced us to get a trial subscription to Blizzard’s World of WarCraft fantasy-based MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game). The kids had begged for months, having used his account to play when he visited and brought his computer, but it wasn’t until trying it for myself that I realized WoW (World of WarCraft) goes way beyond wandering the game world killing monsters. Approximately 7 million other subscribers (as of this September) worldwide seem to agree.

The game world itself is huge. There are two main continents at present, and an expansion is promised later this fall that I expect will make the game world even bigger, and introduce new races to play. There are eight races, each with six different class types, such as hunters, rogues, or priests. You can pick different occupational skills—I chose engineering (of course), and can now build things like dynamite and bombs. David in particular loves to design characters; I still have the first one I created, but will definitely add more later.

WoW has an excellent social aspect as well. Quite often I team up with my friend Phil, or other people who regularly game on the server I use at the time I use it, and go out adventuring. Besides teaming up for quests, there are ways to set up official guilds of similar-minded gamers within the game, including creating one’s own guild insignia.

I love exploring. The terrain is vast and wonderous, and varies as much as the terrain on Earth. There’s an underground tram that runs between two large cities, and you can rent a griffin to fly on to get between most other major locations. The game has e-mail, banking (including safety deposit boxes), an auction system much like eBay, and quite a bit of humor.

Last night I set up NaNi’s in-game button bar to include some of the commands we normally type, like “whistle,” “train,” “silly,” and “dance.” (“Silly” makes the avatar tell a joke. “Train” is one of our favorites, as it makes any of the characters pretend to be a locomotive, including appropriate gestures and whistles.) Anyway, when NaNi was away from the keyboard, David walked up and started clicking the icons I set up for NaNi. She noticed, and yelled, “Hey! That’s my character!”

I’d write more, but I’ve been itching to play, and the kids are finally in bed …


After nearly a month playing World of WarCraft, our appearances have changed somewhat. On the left is Nichelle’s Night Elf character, with much improved clothing/armor, as she nears level 14. Nichelle is funny, she hates the idea of leaving Teldrassil, the island plateau on which the Night Elves live, because it’s so beautiful.

In the middle I’m wearing the goggles I made for my Gnome rogue character. (Engineering rules!) I have discovered that I really enjoy the real roll-playing aspect of the game, having been awed by a character named Sinisterlady’s excellent roll playing skills and imagination. My regret is that more players don’t stay in character or treat the game world as “real” and behave accordingly, even though the server we use is designated a roll-playing one. Our friend Phil Luchon and I often quest together, and we’re both developing consistent personalities for our characters. We do quite a bit of dialogue where we trade humorous insults—many involving size—back and forth, and that has been great fun.

On the right Naomi’s character is wearing a new dress that Nichelle purchased for her and mailed using WoW’s in-game e-mail system. I have sent her another one, but she has to get to level 13 before she can use it. The boys and I have helped level her character up to level 5, because NaNi loves to walk around the game world, and she kept getting killed nearly immediately once she stepped outside of her starting location.

Adventures in Movement

For the past several weeks I had been longing to take Naomi—the boys, too—but especially Naomi, to the farm/petting zoo in Candia, N.H. Well, today, just three hours before they closed, we got everyone together and headed to Charmingfare Farm.

We had been there in the past for their hay rides and bonfires on a couple of church activities. This time we were able to explore the whole farm. That’s right, I said, “we”! I made it through, and saw all the animals, too, I walked the whole way. Of course I was a bit sluggish by the end, but it was worth it. We had a great time. We were also able to get tickets for a pony ride for each of the kids. They loved that. We have loads of pictures and video on all that took place. Watching the kids feed the animals was great as well, especially the goats.

On the way home, I suggested to Doug that we call the Sohmer family and see if we can visit. It’s so rare that we make it up to their area. So very glad we were able to drop in and say hello. I was thinking it was going to be a short visit, but we ended up hanging out until 9:30. How impressive is that! We got to meet their newest family member, Gabriella Danielle Li Ying Sohmer. What a sweetie. Doug took lots of pictures of her, too. She’s newly adopted, just two weeks or less now, from China. What a wonderful story they have to share. It was indeed a great blessing to be with the Sohmers again. Thank you guys for your hospitality, too. Love you.

Not so bad for me, it’s nearly 11 p.m. and I’m doing quite well, and for all of that the praise goes to God. What a blessing to be able to do more than just the “little things” again. For all that have been praying for us, thank you. 🙂

Sunday morning came and I was able to join the family and go to church even after a busy day on Saturday. Last week and also today, I decided to go to junior church with Doug and help teach. What a blessing! I haven’t been in class with the kids in many, many months. Hearing their sweet voices singing praises … how I’ve missed being with them, too. I had hoped to go on another shopping trip this afternoon, but the pain was back and said to me, “Yeah, right.”

To be with my church family, to hear preaching (in person), to give prayer requests and to take those that are shared, to give praise and to hear how God is working in the lives of other members, to be able to give and receive a hug and words of encouragement, to be a blessing and to receive one. To all of those things, I give thanks and praise to God for each opportunity that I am able to partake in a service.

[Note from Doug: While Nichelle was feeling better, I was worse than I’d been in years. More on that later … We’ll try to get pictures up tomorrow night.]

Another great day on Monday. Last night at about 10:30 I finally layed down to rest a bit and realized that I had gone the entire day, even with a much earlier start to my day and worked and cleaned without the need to nap. I’m of course thrilled. Keep the prayers coming. 🙂

Moving, walking, running … little things for some, but not to me …

How wonderful it was to wake up yesterday morning feeling no pain and being energerized!

This week in school for the elementary grades is “spirit week.” Each day the kids get to dress up according to the predetermined selection of ideas. “Hats, glasses and slipper day” was yesterday, and today was mixed-match day. Yesterday, I was able to run downstairs and lie on the floor looking for stuff under their beds, helping the kids locate items that were deep underneath. That, of course, is a big deal. And I was able to get back up without help. On Sunday night, although in some pain, I was able to help Isaac make a meat eating plant (pitcher plant) for costume day. You’ll see the outcome [Doug: Pictures coming tonight.] and he won second place, too. I was thankful that I was able to do that with him, too. David was a fireman, and he had the costume for that, easy work there. Today being mixed-match day, the kids needed assistance buttoning up their clothes backwards, wearing weird ties, suspenders and a bow tie, I believe from the 70’s. Ah, the ties may have been from that era as well. [Doug: I’ve kept a couple of boxes of “costume stuff” for the past nearly two decades. Weird ties are easy to find at any thrift store.] It was great fun. Doug did take pictures of their final results, and I’m sure will get the pictures posted soon. [Doug: Nag, nag, nag …] I’m still feeling well, too.

On one of the days that I was unable to get the kids from school, Isaac and David were eager to watch a new movie that Doug had bought for Isaac the night before, and Naomi joined them. John hung out with me, and we talked for—what I was amazed at—the entire length of the movie. We were just talking about a lot of things/issues. It was great to spend that length of time with him and hearing what God is showing him. What a blessing.

After Naomi got up this morning, I went and sat down with her in her room and just had a praise and worship time in song. I sing along with CDs that we have, but I haven’t just belted out song after song by memory in such a long time. How I long to be back in choir again and singing specials, but for now, I pray the songs continue to come back to memory again, so such a time or praise can be had again.

Something else I was able to do was play with Naomi yesterday in the backyard with her on the swingset/gym set with the monkeybars and “clubhouse.” She is now able to climb completely up to the clubhouse and get down without help. That part is at least 7 feet high. That’s pretty impressive climbing skill for a 2 1/2 yr. old. [Doug: You should see her climb down the center of the ladder assembly; she hoists herself on both arms, legs flailing, and pretends-screaming.] Naomi also for the first time yesterday used the monkeybars. I was under her, of course, for assistance if necessary. She was able to do three rungs by herself. Oh, she also scales the poles on the indoor gym equipement we have. Her upper body strength is amazing, too. I think Doug took pictures of those. [Doug: I have video of the clubhouse climb, but no pictures.]

Doug again, has been amazingly helpful and quite busy. Doing all he can for us. He joked with me that God has blessed me with all the grace. He’s given it to each of us in different ways and I can see that in the kids and in Doug. They have each had to go through a lot, and with more to come, a couple of good days so far, but…. Many people will say, “I don’t know how you can do it,” and that can be said to each person in my family—but the answer is the same, in my eyes anyway. It’s by God’s grace and that alone. For the kids to go about and do things, at times for themselves or just with little help, not having a Mom to do the typical Mom things I once did, can be hard, and the same goes for Doug. The things he’s taken on and does great with are excellent.

This past Saturday, Phil was up visiting and he and Doug went out in search of a new TV. [Doug: We weren’t really searching; I’d already done the research via Consumer Reports and a number of other online product reviews. Conclusion: The 34″ Sony WEGA HDTV is amazing, and, although smaller, exceeds plasma TVs by a huge amount in quality, at a much, much cheaper price.] They found one and it’s awesome. I got to operate it yesterday for the first time. Hadn’t been out of my room since Sunday, except to get a couple of things and then return. It’s also been great seeing Steve Deyesso again, too. He was around one day early enough to pick up the kids for me. David remembered his face, but couldn’t come up with the name. Naomi played the shy girl for a while, but finally came around. Now when he visits, she’s her typical sweet self and goes right to him.

I thank God and praise Him for the grace and strength He has given through this illness and again thank the many of you who have helped for your care, many prayers, and for the assistance you given.

How God answered prayer…

First off, I need to thank each of you for prayers. The way God answered was that He brought us to a doctor that not only listened to the massive list of symptoms but also had questions for us. One of which was why I was taking iron tablets. I told her that I am anemic and she wanted to know why. Doug and I looked at each other and thought, hmm, well, I’m not sure why? (Her question was whether there had ever been an underlying cause determined for the anemia.) She was very thorough and up front and also gave an explanation of why some doctors may have passed me on, mainly due to the extent of the work they would have to do in order to properly diagnose and care for me. Doug and I were quite impressed by her and her honesty. We were told that if she can’t help me, she will do all she can to direct me to someone who can.

After our lengthy interview, when it came time for the physical examination, Doug was about to enter the room and she basically said it wasn’t necessary and that he could wait in her office or back in the waiting room. When all was set, she started off by asking me about our relationship and if Doug is adding any stress to my life. I told her what a great husband I have and what a tremendous help and support he is to me. She then told me that she sensed that and that it was great for him to be there with me, too. Typically, her patients’ husbands tend to leave these visits up to the wife (seeing that she’s a reproductive endocrinologist), and figure that they are all set. Also, many times when the husbands do go to the appointments, she finds that they are not so helpful. Needless to say, she was quite impressed by the care of my husband.

I had six tubes of blood drawn for numerous tests. Some to re-do what has been tested in the past, but others to do what hasn’t been considered yet. I go back in approximately six weeks or sooner, depending on the results. I will call her office on Monday to make a follow-up appointment because her receptionist was gone for the day.

Ah, I forgot to mention that the pain did kick in a great deal while sitting in the waiting room, I was uncomfortable on the trip down, but yikes! did it increase. I was ready to lay down on the floor, because no position in the chair was helping. That lasted for quite sometime, but thankfully stopped. Doug went to grab us some lunch nearby, and brought back a chicken shish kebab wrap and a felafel wrap from a Lebanese restaurant, the Phoenicia, at 240 Cambridge Street, just a block away from where we were. Awesome food! I was only able to finish half of my sandwich, but, by the time the appointment was done, we were both hungry and headed back to eat there. [Doug’s note: I was amazed Nichelle felt up to walking the one-block distance to the restaurant. That put her health—at least at that time of day—better than average, although we did have to walk very slowly.] It was absolutely delicious. We couldn’t finish it all of the food—Felafel, tabooly, meat pie, and spinach pie—and brought plenty back with us.

I do need to thank Sandy, Trish, and Cindy for taking care of our kids for us, too. Thanks again for all that you did for us today.

Doug’s Impressions:

I actually had a little speech planned for Dr. Hall, but didn’t get to use it. Essentially, I intended to ask that she leave no stone unturned to find out what was wrong with Nichelle, and if she believed things were out of her field or specific area of expertise, refer Nichelle to a doctor she knew would do the same. To my delight, Dr. Hall declared almost exactly that, right at the beginning.

We spent a long time in the preliminary interview. We covered a lot of ground. I felt at times like, given the immense amount of information we were trying to convey, that we weren’t communicating perfectly (there are a couple of corrections/clarifications we need to make), but Dr. Hall took all the relevant records from us, and intends to read them. Dr. Hall said Nichelle was, “very observant”: Possible translation—In our increasing desperation to find answers, we’re becoming hypervigilant, and noticing unrelated symptoms which might be meaningless in a larger context. I’ve noticed a little bit of that in Nichelle’s online research. She’ll locate and pass on to me documentation on illnesses that match on one or two symptoms, even though the overall pattern does not match at all. One of the hardest questions to answer was what the most pressing problem is. Do we go back to the odd and persistent fibromyalgia-type problems? How do we divide the fibromyalgia pain from the odd and debilitating symptoms (many of which are pain-related) that occur now?

We still don’t have any real answers. Dr. Hall is not convinced that the problems are endocrinological in nature. (We all believe that they are not all caused by endocrine problems.) It is clear to her that there is not one single diagnosis that would cover everyting. She is also considering some things that have not been looked at, such as an autoimmune disorder, or a hemoglobin problem such as spherocytosis. She also asked quite a few questions about what cortisol tests had been done. I was particularly impressed with her willingness to look at some of the items that we tend to now take for granted, such as Nichelle’s anemia. I can’t remember a test that Nichelle has had that didn’t show anemia, but I don’t think anyone has ever looked for the cause, just as I don’t think anyone has ever followed up on why the anemia hasn’t responded well to iron supplements.

The tests Dr. Hall ordered required drawing six tubes of blood. We wait for the results, and for a follow-up with Dr. Hall some weeks hence.

Nichelle is in very poor health today (Saturday).