Monday, December 27, 2010


Friends want me to tweet.
Students want me to tweet.
I'm following a few tweets.
I think I have more to say.

BUT, if I were to tweet, this would be my first:

Amusing sight this AM. San Antoniones huddled in their puffy coats as the temperature hovers around 50 degrees.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Texas Polar Bears

Big article in this morning's newspaper: a group of brave people will meet on New Year's Day, on South Padre Island.

On the SOUTH tip of South Padre Island.

They will again bravely plunge into the frigid waters, running in from the beach.

Give me a break: up north, WE have hardy souls who do the same. Why, I have no idea. But up north, the water is cold; the air is cold; the Bears must run run run, splash ever so briefly, and then run run run back to the waiting towels, arms and portable hot tubs awaiting them on the shore.

It's all relative, I know. This morning, as we left for church, it was 40 degrees outside and for a moment, I thought, "Dang. It's cold."

Saturday, December 25, 2010

SanAntone: Waiting for Santa

CAGED in a bouncy house

We've walked The Riverwalk. We've dined at Rudy's. We've ridden up the Tower, toured the Alamo and climbed around in Hemisphere Park. So, this week, as Mom got home from the hospital, we drove over to "Bouncy Town." ("They have WIFI, Mom.") and let the boys run their engines out, hoping for a deep and quiet sleep later in the evening.

However, anticipation plus bright lights plus some, um, dietary alterations make such restful nights impossible.

Mom's a bit beat but smiles when she can hug Drew.

The next day, Noah joined Gramma in a nap and awakened with a smile.

"Do you want me to show you something, Gramma?"

Of course, you little doll.

Instruction on the Droid.

Who says, besides me, that technology is dificult.

Now, we await the arrival of Grampa and Uncle Zach. And then, SANTA, who will have many LEGOS in his sack.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Bolingers at the End of the Year

So, here we are, as the school semester ends for me and Christmas holidays begin. Mike took a break from the woodshop to make the other kind of music.

Santa made a surprise visit to American Literature.

Life is good here. May you and yours find the joy in the season.

A Few More Little Things

For daughter Allyson, a maple desktop organizer.
This is similar to the one we gave Janelle for Thanksgiving except hers was built of cherry.

A work in progress, about a week ago.

Now on its way to San Antonio.

Then, just to 'dot the eye,' Mike made a pencil holder for Janelle.

Busy with Projects

The most recent creation: an oak sideboard to compliment the table at the cottage. The Craftsman at work.
Glass from Kokomo's own Opalescent Glass Company.

Details, details, details


Out of the shop, on a frigid morning, and on to its new home.

Mirror/table/sideboard: made to last.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Wife of the Year Award

Christmas 2011: Living the Miracle

Greetings from Kokomo, Indiana, once again. This afternoon, I sit here, warm and snug, and watch the snow whipping across the roof of the garage. "They" say there’s a possible blizzard headed this way. Around here, you often hear folks decrying those Snow Birds who flee to the south. Hmmm. As I age, I’m falling out of love with the ‘change of the seasons’ and all.

Daughter Allyson, dug in in San Antonio, says that yes, she’d like to see some autumn colors but “there’s nothing I miss that a weekend trip can’t fix.” We will be headed her way shortly. They swim outside in December down there.

Speaking of Allyson, she has been selected as Chief Resident at Brooks Army Hospital so looks forward to regular hours and more time with her boys. And those boys! Drew is half way through first grade. He signed the Christmas card all by himself, with excellent printing. Noah is learning his letters and colors in preschool. He already has the ‘spin a story’ skills down pat.

Son Zach is closing in on his degree from IU. We have a date for celebratory dinner next weekend.

I am closing down this first semester at Kokomo High School and am looking forward to the next one.

And Mike. Well, he remains the miracle man. In November, he received another clean bill of health from his oncologist and his blood work, in her words, was “pristine.”

So as you have been praying for a miracle, let’s celebrate the season by sharing in this miracle.

Lately, I’ve been reading in Romans. I find it comforting that when I don’t know how to pray, the Spirit helps me by taking my confused yearnings and prays in my place. (Romans 8:26,27)

Join us also in praising God for His amazing gift to us all, His Son, Jesus Christ. With God’s arms around us, we lift our faces to 2011.

Christmas 2011: Mike's Addition

This is the first time I have been permitted by Lynne to contribute to the Christmas letter, probably for fear that I would write something embarrassing. I would, too, if I thought I could get away with it, but I know that this brief note will be censored of any inappropriate content.

As most of you are aware, I was supposed to be dead 20 months ago. I like to tell people that "I decided not to die on schedule." The truth is that I had nothing to do with it. I think that I am still here because literally hundreds of people, including fifty nuns in a convent up north, pray for me regularly. I also like to think that my usefulness on this earth is not yet over. I think the Lord still has something lasting for me to do, although I am not sure what it is. We shall see.

For what it is worth, I have had the best year of my life in 2010. I do not play lawyer anymore. Yippee! I spend my days working in my shop, flying airplanes, riding motorcycles, and hanging out at Winona Lake with my dog, Iverson. I still swim a mile most days and have taken up bicycling on the Nickel Plate Trail or at the Boy's Club at the lake. I teach one class at Ivy Tech, which is fun and a challenge. I've taken up cooking and housekeeping. I am still trying to play the guitar and practice every day. After 33 years of unrelenting stress in the legal world, I delight in each day.

Lastly, I have not lost sight of the fact that I have been given a second life. I do not deserve it. I know that. Each new day is a treasure for me. I try to live it like it is the last one I am going to get, because that will be true all too soon. I am still hopelessly in love with my wife. She just gets better. A good day is any day we get to hang out together. I still love it when I can make her laugh, which seems often these days. I am continually amazed at the number of friends that "just drop by the shop to see what I am building." We are both so proud of Allyson, Zach, the grandchildren, and Joclyn, too.

Like I said before, I do not deserve this, but do not think I do not appreciate it. Mike out.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Favorite Chrismas Song

Buddy Green and Mark Lowry collaborated on a very special song, that has bccome a Christmas standard and, as Green said, has paid for his kids to go to college. (link below)

Mary, did you know?

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb.

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great I am.

A Real Man

It saddens me to say that part of the human condition is that some of us have neglected to take the time to get to know an individual, usually because we are busy doing other things that we think at the time are more important. Sometimes, usually much later and when it is too late, we come across remarkable information about that person and we regret not having taken the time to sit down and talk to them. Such is the case regarding my father-in-law, the late Kenneth Hayes.

In 1970 I had pretty much decided that Lynne Catherine Hayes was going to be my wife. For reasons that to this day are unclear to me, she was interested in becoming Mrs. Michael Bolinger. Accordingly, it was decided that when school ended for the year, I would drive to Detroit, Michigan to meet her family and to announce my intention to continue to court their daughter.

On a Friday after exams I packed up my belongings in my 1970 VW Bug and headed to Detroit. The trip was uneventful, except for the fact that I had to take my pet duck, Turdina, with me. She traveled well in a cardboard box, sticking her head out the window most of the way. Quacking occasionally. She might as well meet the parents, too, right?

Of course, I did not think to tell Lynne's parents that there would be an additional guest for the night. One who quacked all night. And who would crap all over the basement floor. About a thousand times. Or more.

I was greeted at the door by Mrs. Evelyn Hayes, a former Army lieutenant-nurse, who kept a spit-shined house. I can only guess what she thought when confronted by a tall, skinny red-haired oaf, carrying a cardboard box, containing a large, very vocal, white duck with a collar and leash. (I can assure you that taking Turdina for a walk on a leash around Wheaton College campus was a source of great amusement.) Astoundingly, I was granted entrance to the Hayes home, presumably because Lynne had advised them that I was "the guy."

I was formally introduced to her mother and father and shown to a spare bedroom, while Turdina was put in the basement laundry room. She was not pleased with her accommodations and was vocal about it. Turdina was very social duck and liked human company. A dark basement just did not get it.

That night over dinner, Mr. Hayes asked me if I would like to see where he worked. Figuring that was his method of getting to spend some man-to-man time with me, I agreed. You need to understand that I had previously asked Lynne what her Dad did for a living. She simply said, "He goes to the office." No further information was forthcoming from her, despite my frequent inquiries, prior to my arrival at the Hayes household. You can imagine my astonishment when Ken and I arrived at a large plant that handled the chemicals for all of Chrysler in the United States. Mr. Hayes matter-of-factly stated that he had overseen the construction of the entire facility and that he helped run the purchasing division of Chrysler. Wow! So much for "He goes to the office."

From then on, I would see Lynne's parents maybe two or three times a year. Piece by piece, I learned more about this remarkable man.

He shared some common threads with rural farm boys during The Great Depression. His father and mother, along with their large family, helped many others in their community, with food and other aid. Ken decided to quit school around 10th grade, as he could be of use at home and didn't really see the relevance of Homer's Orations and The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner.

He was knocking around on various jobs until he was old enough to join the Army because, he said, that was at least a steady paycheck. In 1940, just before the World War II began, he told me his first sergeant took him aside and said, "Ken, there is going to be a war soon and the Army is going to need good officers. How would you like to go to officer candidate school"? Ken accepted. What did the sergeant see in this marginally educated farm boy? Probably the same thing Chrysler management saw in later years.

Ken was commissioned a second lieutenant. The War began and he was in charge of training a reconnaissance company in the California desert. I heard tales about roaring off to the nearest town on Harley-Davison motorcycles with his buddies. The officers had been issued Jeeps, but Ken preferred his Harley, especially riding it at night way too fast. He also grew an Errol Flynn moustache. Very cool.

I once asked Lynne what her Dad did in the War. Lynne told me that he told her that he rode around in a jeep and that was about it. She told me that she asked him if he had been in combat. He told her that he had not, other people did that. Little did she know.

Ken, promoted to Captain, went to England for the build up for D-Day. He landed on Omaha Beach two days after the initial assault. He told me that bodies were still floating in the surf and there was still blood on the beach. He led his company off the beach and started his trek across France. (Ten years ago, my son and I stood in the surf on Omaha Beach as our private guide showed us exactly where he drove his Jeep off the beach between German bunkers to head inland with his company.)

Years after I first met Ken, I asked him about getting off the beach and fighting through France. Instantly, he said, "I hated those hedgerows. You couldn't see the Krauts, until it was too late. They would stick the gun barrels through those damn hedgerows, shoot and then pack up and move to another hedgerow. Time after time. It was terrible. My first sergeant was standing next to me talking, when an 88 shell took his head off."

When I was in my second year of ROTC at Wheaton College, I was discussing what we were being taught with Ken. Viet Nam was hot at the time and was where all second lieutenants were going. We got on the topic of the importance of following orders. I asserted that following orders was what the success of any military operation was based on.

Ken got a very serious look on his face and said, "Son, you will learn that not all orders are to be followed. You need to learn how to avoid bad ones." I asked how you could possibly figure out which orders were good and which were bad. Ken simply stated that "orders that will needlessly get your men killed were stupid and not to be obeyed." That, he said, was the difference between a good officer and a bad one.

Ken told me that his company's job was to operate as scouts in front of the main column of the army. He would frequently be given an order to send a jeep with a squad of men ahead to a crossroad to see if there were any Germans there. Ken said, "Of course the Germans were there," he said, "and anybody fool enough to drive up there and look was going to get shot." He then told me that he often directed his first sargent to turn the road sign 90 degrees, so that his lead element would head north or south instead of east. He told me that sending his men up the road got them killed often enough. He was not going to send a squad to a cross road just to "see if any Krauts were there."

Ken led his reconnaissance company across France and into Belgium, as part of Patton's Third Armored Division. His company fought in the Hurtgen Forest. When I asked if he had been there, he was surprised that I had read about it. He said it wasn't famous like other battles, but it was the worst fighting he had seen. He said the forest was so dense that he could not keep control of his company. No officer could. He said it was just groups of three and four men fighting similar groups at ranges less than ten yards. He said he was surprised anyone survived.

When I learned that he had been in Patton's army, I asked him if he knew him. He told me, "Not really, but I met him." Anyone who has seen the movie Patton, starring George C. Scott, might remember the scene during the Battle of the Bulge, where Gen. Omar Bradley says they need to get reinforcements to Bastogne, where the airborne troops were hanging on by their fingernails. Patton matter-of-factly states that he will be there in three days and would attack immediately upon arrival. Patton's men traveled over 100 miles in three days and they did not stop…for anything or anybody. Ken was there, riding in his Jeep, his men out front of the main group. He remembered driving through Bastogne. He told me that they saved the airborne troops, but they would never admit it to this day, which irritated him.

There is another old war movie, The Bridge at Remagen. I have watched it countless times. It is about the U.S. Army crossing the Rhine River into Germany over that bridge. I asked Ken if he had seen the bridge. He laughed and said he had been driven across it by his sargeant. I could not believe it. What is more, he did not tell me the whole story, either. For years after learning he was there, I would call him up and tell him "your movie is on". He would just laugh and thank me for calling.

Here is the rest of the story. After Ken died, his wife gave me a book about the Third Armored Division. At three am one morning I was reading it and came across a description of the crossing of the Rhine River. There, in black and white, was Captain Kenneth Hayes credited for giving the order for Lt. Larry Vipon to take an inflatable boat across the Rhine River with a squad and reconnoiter the other side. He had given the order for the first American troops to cross the Rhine into Germany. Unbelieveable! I awoke my wife and read it to her. She had no idea.

About 15 years ago, Ken was here to visit. He was sitting in my basement watching baseball on tv. When I came down the stairs to say hello, he handed me a shoebox and asked if I knew anything about small arms. I replied that I knew a little. He handed me the shoebox and asked me if I could "put it back together." Inside was a Belgium 9mm Hi-Power pistol, complete with German Wehrmacht markings. I was astounded. I put it together, since it was the same as a Government .45. I asked where he got it. He told me that a German Major had walked out of the Hurtgen Forest and surrendered his battalion to Ken. The pistol was the Major's sidearm. Ken told me he had taken in apart when his children were little, so they would not get hurt. The pistol is now with his son, Ken.

Captain Ken Hayes' reconnaissance company was given a Presidential Citation for their heroism in the Battle of the Bulge. Ken was ordered to hold a crossroad "at all costs." They were attacked at night by a German infantry company, supported by four tanks. Ken's men stopped the Germans ten yards from their lines. They knocked out two of the four tanks. They had no bazookas or other anti-tank weapons. How did they do it? I never got a got a chance to ask, because I never knew about the decoration, until after he died. To my astonishment, his wife and children did not know, either. Remarkable.

In closing, Ken Hayes was a real man to my way of thinking. He loved his God, his wife and family. He loved his country. I think the War made him appreciate them more. He was an excellent provider and he worked hard. He loved golf, baseball and the Civil War. He admired FDR. He liked big cars, particularly Chryslers, and he missed his Harley-Davidson. He loved his daughter "Lynney" and he let me marry her.

I should tell you that Ken was shipped back to the U.S. just before the War in Europe ended. He had developed bleeding ulcers, probably from the bad diet, danger and constant stress from being in combat. He fought continuously from Omaha Beach into Germany for nine months. Few men could do that. Few survived. He always said that he was "just lucky." Such courage. And modesty.

When Ken was shipped back to the U.S., he ended up in an Army hospital, where he was cared for by a tiny, but powerful, nurse, Lieutenant Evelyn Losen, who became Mrs. Kenneth Hayes. Is that cool, or what?

Mike out.

Road Trip 2010

A return trip to Charlotte for Thanksgiving. Much to be thankful for this year. My brother Ken and his unflappable wife gather a gaggle and place TRADITION on their table.

We visited last year and had much fun. They invited us for a return but at that time, we really didn't think that would happen.

However, once again, we jumped into the truck, a roomy, comfy thing and headed south. We left Tuesday after school and drove to Lexington, where we had found a Pet-Friendly Hampton Inn. That meant, of course, that Ivy got to go. We explained to her that once in Charlotte, she would have to share table scraps with another dog. She considered it and decided that yes, she was up to that.

Uninterupted time: what a gift. He with his Blues Tapes and me with my 75 essays, comparing characters in The Great Gatsby, and Ivy all stretched out between us. The weather was fine. The roads not too crowded. The rest stops spotless. And that Hampton was spotless. So the trip was good.

As a child, I had taken many car trips, to Herrick, Illinois and Decorah, Iowa. These were so long but occasionally, Dad would turn on the radio and let us listen to popular music. I assume Mom was asleep. So, what fun! Mike tuned into XM 50's and we found that we knew a lot of the words.

"OOO EEE, OOO Ah ah, bing bong, walla walla ding dong"

"Hello mudder, hello fodder, here I am at Camp Granada"

"A WEE ma wappa, WEE ma wappa, Wee ma wappa, WEE ma wappa....the lion sleeps tonight"

On Wednesday, we toured the Smokeys, the Blue Ridge Skyway, and the hills leading to Asheville. Even with a GPS plus my brand new smart phone tracking system, we ended up a bit south, as in South Carolina, and then stopped at a rest stop. There stood two state policemen who were being interviewed by a television crew.

"Go ask them where we are," said the hub.

I approached them and waited for the camera man to wander off.

"Excuse me, I hate to interupt," said I.

"No may-hem. This is ma job. What kin I do for you, may-hem?"

He gave us great (GRAT) directions. Son Zach filled in Wednesday as a substitute teacher. He caught a late flight and so joined us.

So off to Charlotte, Ken and Janelle, their kids, several neighbors, my mom, and a cousin or two. Son Zach had filled in Wednesday as a substitute teacher. He caught a late flight and joined us.

Thursday, THE DAY, is Ken's day. He starts at 5 AM and follows his spread sheet. "In oven 12:30, Out of oven 12:49" They have a working kitchen with two ovens and by noon, there's a flurry of activity. As guests, our job is to wash our hands and show up at the table at 1:45. Got it.

Friday morning, it was time to hit the road for the return trip. We have a standing invite for 2011.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

December 9. 1950

OK. I'm only going to do this once. Because I'm only going to turn 60 once.60. 60! The BIG 6-0. OH! The Hayes brood circa 1958.

THE SON. The SMART one. The PILL. The Cute one.

Flirting with the Democrats. It was fleeting.



GradSchool. That's a manual typewriter. Google it.

SURPRISE birthday party. What's with that beard?

Wedding attendants.

Baby girl: I'm showing her a silver (actually Dyralite) spoon.
She was not impressed.

Baby boy. Came fast. Hair and makeup good.
He was not impressed.
Briefly, I thought I had it all together.
An Easter Sunday Morning


Hayes Brood Once Again: Cute/Smart/Pill/SON!!

Every day, every moment: a gift from God.

And THIS is what 60 looks like today.

Ok, done.
uh, Lynne OUT.

Makes my heart sing!

Just in case you are not one of the 15 million viewers, spend 5 minutes to celebrate the season.

click here

Monday, November 29, 2010

I, Juror

Every six months, letters are mailed from our local courts: You have been selected for potential jury duty. Over the years, I’m sure friends have told me that they received such letters. I probably reacted with feigned interest. Some people respond with, “I’m so sorry.” And there are those with the sure-fire methods for getting disqualified.

The hub has told me numerous times that I would never get called. “The first thing they ask is if you know either attorney or the judge,” he explained. “Since you know all of the judges and most of the lawyers, if you get called, you’ll be dismissed.”

Also, he added that, as a defense attorney, he never, ever wanted TEACHERS on a jury. Why? Well, they’re too smart. And they are rule people. “They tend to see things in black and white. Not good for the defense.”

So, I’ve lived in Howard County since 1973 and never got a jury letter. Until about 6 months ago. Names are lifted from voters’ registration. A pool of potential candidates gets these letters. We are asked to fill out a two sided form with information about ourselves, like whether or not we’ve been victims of crime.

Then, in the course of the term, if a jury must be called, 40 of these prospective jurors get another letter, telling them to show up, in a specific court, on a certain date and time.

As did I.

I made arrangements for a substitute teacher and then showed up on time (teachers are GOOD at this) in Judge Jessup’s courtroom.

The viewing gallery was packed. I looked around and recognized no one. One gentleman was Amish, fresh from the fields in his overalls. I mention this only because the next event caused him obvious distress.

First came the judge who greeted us, thanked us, and then showed us a video all about the court system. The Amish gentleman…they shun things like television…turned to the wall and squirmed nervously.

Next, the bailiff called 12 names, mine being one, to fill the jury box. The prosecutor greeted us. The defense attorney greeted us and then the judge greeted us again.

The questioning of prospective jurors is called voir dire, where we were screened for obvious biases or other reasons we might not make good, impartial members of the panel.

The judge reminded us that during the process, no one should take it personally if he is excused. And if we were excused, it’s no reflection on us personally.

And then they began to question us about our personal lives and opinions. The prosecutor started with the first candidate and began to ask questions. He referred to their notes. He had read those profile sheets.

When he got to me, he greeted me as Mike’s wife. He asked how my husband was doing. He said he heard that Mike was back flying. When I said that yes he was, the prosecutor smiled and said, “That’s great.”

Then, the defense attorney asked questions and also asked me questions about my husband.
At this point, the judge interrupted and explained to the defendant, and everybody else, that he and both attorneys were friends of my husband. He also said that they had asked the defendant if he had a problem with me as a possible juror; the defendant had said that he did not mind.
I added that the Detective was a student of mine when he was in 9th grade. Smiles from him.

After questioning all 12, the attorneys scrawled some notes and handed slips of paper to the judge.

The challenges: each side gets a certain number of challenges. For the non-lawyers out there: there are challenges for cause where the attorneys can submit reasons to axe certain prospective jurors. They can also challenge without supplying the reasons: these are peremptory challenges.

Each attorney scribbled on little sheets of paper and handed these to the judge who read them and, I think, approved them. Then he dismissed several members, including the woman who was the sole employee of her business.

I made the cut.

Mike knows almost everything, but not EVERYTHING.

Another first round choice sat in front of me. She began shaking as soon as she was seated. She answered questions in a waivery voice. Still, she made it on the jury.

Five more candidates were called, including the Amish man. The main question for him involved clarification if his religion blocked him from judging others.

He said that this was true. So he was dismissed, also.

I kept watching the back of the shaking woman. Did no one else see her? I leaned forward to ask her if she was ok. At that time, the lead detective, at the prosecutor’s table, also noticed how much distress she was in. He whispered to the DA who asked her if she was alright.

They decided to dismiss her. Shortly after she left the court room, they called paramedics. I think she was just really stressed out.

A few more from the peanut gallery joined us and soon an entire jury was seated, with one alternative. We retired to the jury room to await instructions. So here we were, a group of 13 strangers that would hear evidence and decide a man’s fate.

Strangers, mostly. Two former students. The son of a retired colleague. One of Mike’s clients.
And one said, “Let’s make the teacher the foreman. All in favor?”


We returned to the jury box. On each seat was a loose leaf notebook with papers and pens.
We were instructed that the opening statements and the closing statements were not evidence. We were to listen carefully to the judge, who knows the law. We were to consider only the information that came from the witness box. If, for some reason, we wanted a question directed to a witness, we could write it on a slip of paper and give it to the judge. When the time came to deliberate, we could take our notes.

So came the strut and fret. Prosecutor introduced his case: defendant was charged with a Class C felony; he had tried to grab a purse and had used threat of bodily harm. Defense said that she agreed with 90% of what the prosecution avered. However, she said, that her client denied threatening the woman so was ready to plead to a Class D felony but was denying Class C.

Prosecution witnesses. No defense witnesses. It took 2 hours for the evidence to be presented. Then, they summed up their sides and we marched to the jury room.

Deliberation took long enough that we ordered lunch. One juror, who was angry about his property taxes, put in an order for lobster. The judge suggested that he’d have to answer to the county council for that, so juror 5 got a burger.

We took an initial vote and were evenly divided. As the hours went on, we leaned toward the defense.

Our problem with the prosecution came down to 1 point of 5, that had to be proved. Some of us were not convinced that the policeman who took the initial report had done a complete job.
And just like in the movies, we had one dig-in-your-heels hold out. Poor guy. His wife had been killed 20 years ago and because the police goofed, the drunk driver went free. He wasn’t going to let a sloppy cop ruin this conviction.

We argued. He argued. Several admitted that they leaned toward the C but since the majority was moving to D, they were going to go with the group.

Our hold out got a bit angry, said something about the rest of us just wanting to go home…..but eventually gave up.

So we returned our verdict: guilty of Class D felony, which is what the defendant wanted in the first place.

As foreman, I had to sign the official paper that would go back to the judge. Someone forgot to tell me that the unsigned other verdict also had to go to judge. Force of habit, I tear up papers I don’t need. So as I ripped the unsigned form, the bailiff came in with envelopes for both sheets.
I stuffed the ripped one into its holder and both were handed to the judge.

We reentered the courtroom. The judge opened the envelopes, smiled and asked if we had been making paper art in the jury room.

(Cringe….I really wanted to do this right. Courts are all about THE WAY to do things.)

Anyway, the defendant hugged his attorney, the shackles were back on and he was on his way back to jail. We handed in our notebooks and got to go home.

Several take aways: from what I know about criminal law, I was surprised that all of this time and expense went for a trial that could have been dealt. I mean the guy was ready to plead, just not to the C.

Second, I was surprised that the prosecutor kept me on the panel. As the wife of a defense attorney, wouldn’t you expect that I would have sympathies for the defense?

Third: I hope this doesn’t sound corny. I felt that I was doing something important. I knew I was part of the civic fabric of our community.

But mainly: I got to see, up close, what my husband had done during much of his career. I could picture him there, strolling before the jury, cross examining witnesses, winning his cases. That was a treat.

They assure me that once called, you don’t get that letter again for 2 years. So this is it for now.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Toe Socks for Christmas

We walk closely with God these days. I am reminded of that regularly, in ways subtle and less subtle.

While we continue to live the miracle of His gift, and while legions pray for us daily, God nudges, probes, leads and pushes, helping us grow closer to Him. So a lesson this month.

In my English classes, I have given one particular assignment for, oh, probably 20 years. As many of my blog readers are also former students, they will nod and remember. Every week, in addition to whatever else I dream up for them, each student must write, long hand, a brief journal entry.
It’s a snap, really. I scrawl a prompt on the board. They can write about the prompt. Or they can write about something else. Although I try to come up with topics that will stimulate them, we’ve all probably been faced with a topic that struck us as obscure. For example, one of my friends specializes in such inspirational prompts as “You’re a tomato. Now write…”

There are those kids whose juices come to the surface when they get to create around such a topic. But most want something much more structured, like “If you could change one thing about school, what would you change and why?”

Their entries must have a name and date on it and must be turned in, to the designated place, by 3 PM on Friday. That last part seems to be the toughest part. By assigning once, no one reminds them. No one nags. No one cuts them slack when, oops, they wrote it but forgot to turn it in.

The hand-written component makes them slow down. I remind them (they smile and nod and roll the eyes) that many great works of literature were penned with pen and ink from an ink well. The writer could get 4 or 5 words down on paper before he needed to revisit the pot.

Let’s face it: it also cuts down on recycling something they wrote for another class.
When the semester ends, I pass them back and, whether they know it or not, they get a personal slice of history at this time of their lives. I always tell them that if they can put these away for 10 years and then bring them out, they will find them great reading.

I wonder if anyone actually does that. I should be hearing from former students soon, yes?
Anyway, recently the prompt was:

Christmas is coming. Tell Santa what you want.

I don’t know how well we’re fostering ‘critical thinking,’ in public education, but we ARE raising consumers. Most dove right in, smiling, to create their personal gift lists.

A car. A vacation. A WI. A smart phone. A flat screen tv. Clothes. Money. Plastic surgery. (really)

And as prom was looming, there were adjacent ‘needs.’ Hair, nails, shoes, limo. And, etc.

By now, some of my students feel close enough to include their instructor:

Hey Santa Bolinger, take out that big fat wallet and…..
Let’s go shopping with your gold card. I’ll buy you a latte.
Tell Mr. B to bring the checkbook
Why don’t you pass me your car and get yourself a new one?

And, prior to turn in, it’s common for them to share their wishes with each other. Kind of a consumption contest.

Then, it was my turn. So, as I read through them, smiling mostly, one caught me
off guard.

“For Christmas, I would ask Santa for one thing. I would really like some toe socks.
They are my favorite. They are hard to slip on, sometimes. But they keep my toes really warm. We have to keep the heat down now and my feet get cold so toe socks would help with that.”

Ok, I know that Kokomo is going through hard financial times. I know that, this year, lots of our students get free breakfast and lunch; many more get help with books. But this request, in the midst of class frivolity, came from her very real need.

She’s one of 150 kids. Quiet. No trouble. Nothing to make her stand out. Except this.
I came home and told Mike. Our minds work along the same lines mostly these days. “We need to buy her some socks.”

And we did.

So the lesson learned is that in the middle of busy, in the middle of lessons, personalities, assignments, tests, and etc of school, there are those right in front of me with real physical needs.

I will raise my chin and look for the needy. God places them in front of me. I must see them and do as He directs.