Friday, April 30, 2010

Smelling Roses

I have several diminutive friends who are giants when it comes to prayer. They goad me, they teach me, they push me to that goal: conforming to the image of Christ. I think every believer needs such friends, people who love you no matter what and tell you what you need to hear, no matter the cost.

One such friend bustled up to Mike and said, "You know, if you hadn't gotten sick, you would have never quit the practice of law."

There's no reason to dispute this. I can count on one hand the number of local attorneys who have successfully retired and gone on to live out their years in peace and happiness. Wait, I can count them on one finger. Wait, no I can't.

More typical, and spoken in ironic cadence: "He died at his desk" or "They carried hm out from his office."

So my friend is probably right. We'll never know. What I DO know is that Mike continues to step into new arenas and experiences new sensations as he also continues to confound his doctors.

In our Christmas letter, I know that I made mention of smelling roses. I have been and continue to be grateful that God has given Mike this gift of extra time. And, as we working mothers used to say to assuage our guilt, it is quality time. The swan song desk and chair are now old pieces of furniture. He is nearing the completion of a boat (earlier blog); has located a small engine; will christen it by summer.

But, recently, through the mentoring friendships I have, God pointed something out to me. This extra time isn't really for Mike. We know, both of us, that whenever the sand finally runs out of the hourglass, Mike will take up residence in heaven. No matter how great might be the beach, the lake, the ocean, his workroom, our private times, Heaven is Heaven. He (and I) will run into the Father's arms and be ushered into unspeakable glory.

No, this extra time is for me. For our children and grandchildren. For his mother and mother-in-law. For siblings and spouses. For nieces and nephews. For friends old and new. For our believing brothers and sisters. For those in our circle who have yet to take Christ into their hearts. For the community, local and world-wide, who continue to join with us in prayer.

What a gracious and loving God we serve.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

No Idle Hands

On many occasions when I was growing up, my mother told me that "idle hands make idle play." I did not know then, nor do I know now what is meant by that saying. I think it means that you are supposed to work hard all the time and that those who do not, get into trouble. I certainly have run across a few people (my clients) who did not work very hard most of the time and they were certainly in frequent trouble (which is why my services were needed).

However, I have to say that few people ever worked harder than I did when I was playing lawyer; yet, I still got into trouble all the time. So I am not sure there is any validity to the old saying about "idle hands."

Having said all that, I now find myself retired. No longer am I tormented by the task of earning a living (thank you, Matt). My days are pretty much made up of whatever I want to do. I refer to it as goofing off with dignity. Or I like to think so.

First of all, I do not have to get up at any particular time. Although my alarm goes off at 7:00 each morning, instead of an obnoxious beep, I wake up to a CD that I have loaded in the previous night. This morning was Lightning Hopkins playing acoustic and old electric hollow-body blues. That guy could play! The CD shuts off automatically in one hour. Some days, if I like the music, I get up when the alarm shuts off the CD. Some days, I am out of bed in 10 minutes. The important principle in action here is that when I get up is determined by whether I like the music, or not. Nothing else.

The rest of the day is spent, as I said before, doing whatever amuses me. I know I am spoiled, but I figure I earned it after 33 years of trying to fix everybody else's problems. Lately, there are airplanes to fly. Aerobatics in the Decathlon. Motorcycles to ride. Sailboats to sail. Ice cream to eat at the Frozen Custard with the Lovely Loon. Scott Joplin music by Scott Joplin to play. (Neighbors say that my house sounds like a guitar conservatory with Zach playing upstairs and me playing downstairs.)

I have always been someone who has to be doing something all the time. MY hands must be building or fixing something every day. There are too many interesting things to do and life (particularly mine) is too short to waste. I have to be building something every day. Just because I am sick offers no exceptions. My latest project is the construction of a small wooden boat called the Cocktail Class Racer. It is 8 feet long and made of marine-grade mahogany plywood. It has no useful purpose other than to go fast with me in it. There are few things in life more pleasurable than building a wooden boat. I have built five of them over the years. Each one really did float and performed as it was supposed to. Building each of them was a delight. Here is a picture of the current boat and my shop.

I intend on continuing to do those things that I like to do for as long as I can do them. I am trying to improve my skills, whether it is in flying, sailing, playing the guitar, building furniture or building boats. Idle hands? Nope. Staying out of trouble? So far. Having the time of my life. YES.

Mike out.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Typin' for the Man

Among our regular readers, this entry may specifically tickle 4…wait, 5….no, 8….hmmmm, I think at least 10 women in our community.

In the last year, I have become my husband’s legal secretary when he has needed “just a little typing.” I’ve labored at what I had previously only observed when I would drop by the office to help with the filing. I took on THAT task to free his very skilled ladies to do the hard work of the office.

On many occasions, I would watch the hub hover over the shoulder of one of his 4 employees and dictate a letter or a pleading or an agreement or some other legal sheet, as the worker stared straight ahead to her screen, fingers flying across her keyboard.

Often, as is the case, his speaking would speed past even the fastest typist and, depending on his level of frustration or immediacy; he might encourage her with something like, “Come on, what’s the hold up?” Or he might repeat a phrase or sentence; or say, “Wait, that’s not right,” and continue with what WAS right, ending with “Now erase that other.”

Or, he might have misplaced that paper, the one he needed right then as he was running out the door to court. “Get me a copy. Right now. Times a-wasting.” And no matter what pressing concern was pressing at the secretary, she had to push it away to get a copy of something he couldn't find.

Just prior to the office’s closing, Mike kept 4 ladies very busy 5 ½ days a week. He would dictate on little tapes as he flipped through files and then stack the files on someone’s desk, the tape as a little garnish on top.

Mike’s dictating style was and is precise. “blah blah blah semicolon. Blah blah blahhaaah period. New paragraph.”

At his apex, Mike was a work-producing animal: when he closed the office and divided up his current clients, he doubled and tripled 4 other attorneys’ case loads.

And try as he says he might to retire, certain old clients call and he takes the bait. He ends up going to court about once a week for some sort of something.

And that means he needs a staff to prepare the documents, type and mail the letters, and keep his calendar. His staff has shrunk from 4 to 1.

It’s quite the new adventure for me.

First, at his prompting, I would type a document and then save it in a random place because he was all about the next document. I would try to go back and organize. My methods were not always so clear.

Secondly, he wanted letters on letterhead. Except we have no letterhead. In fact, the office had prepared its own letterhead and saved it on those computers which are now no where to be found. I had to recreate….not hard but it took some time and the first time, the boss was breathing down my neck….”Come on. Come on.”

Thirdly, it’s difficult to type with someone standing behind you barking dictation. When I type for myself, I let my fingers go fast knowing I will make mistrokes and will go back to fix them. When Mike is watching, he freezes me at each mistake. “Correct it now. You can’t leave it like that.”

Then, there is this dictation thing. Mike is a very smart man but he isn’t always right with his punctuation. (Well, Budds, it’s true.) Nothing major but things I pick up on. Will he let me correct it? Not without a fight. Also, he and I took typing class in the mid ‘60s when we pounded on manual typewriters….google it. Back then, we were taught to space twice after every period. In the following years when I worked as a journalist, my editors wanted me to cut that to one space. It was hard to change but I finally did and now it’s hard to do it differently.

“Two spaces.”
“Really, one is best.”
“Two spaces.”
“Ok, I’ll change it later.”
“Change it now.”
So I do.

(Then I go back later and fix it. “) )

Also there is a style of writing, a verbiage, that works in the legal system but it’s soooooooooooooooo boring.

Whereas. Whereas. Whereas.

It may be that in the future, the legal universe will embrace electronic communication but for now, at least here, people want their hard copies. So, there’s the pleading, with names and case numbers. Then, there’s the decision, almost the same wording with a few twists. There are affidavits, discoveries, and more letters to tell clients about all of this.

I like a little passion in my writing and reading. The legal world’s job is to squeeze the emotions out of what are often emotionally charged situations. It’s all reduced to droning words. And more and more words.

Now, frankly, I can’t work for long without a bit of game so I did and do find what fun can be wrung out of this. I’ve typed some words for the first time in my 59 years: annullable, promissory, disaffirmance. I’ve typed a few words that were new to me like affiant.
And, a Law and Order groupie, I get a little charge when I type NULL AND VOID, BREACH OF CONTRACT and PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE.

So with a renewed sense of appreciation, I want to recognize and celebrate:

This week, April 19 – 23, is National Administrative Assistant Week.

I’ve lived long enough to remember when the true unsung champions of the office were called secretaries, Gal Fridays, girls, and gals. Somewhere, sometime not too long ago, they finally achieved the status name of Administrative Assistants but the work remains hard, unglamorous, sometimes tedious and usually stressful.

When the boss wants something, (using traditional roles here) he wants it yesterday; needs it immediately; can’t imagine you don’t have it done; doesn’t understand why his instructions were not crystal clear or why you STILL can’t read his mind. His secretary (etc.) has few options except to get it done, get it to him, and depending on what day it is, she may even apologize.

And much like the laundry, an administrative assistant’s work is never done. Just as the polished work leaves her desk, she turns to see an ever growing pile of more things that needed to be done yesterday.

So here I’m raising a glass to you ladies and gentlemen. We won’t go out and party because, frankly, at the end of the day, what you want most is to put up your feet.

I know.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Those of you who are joined with us in prayer

You are some of the many gifts that God has given to us. We thank Him for you daily. Some of you remain anonymous, which is just fine with us. Quite a few of you have stepped up, stepped in, stepped over to introduce yourselves; and our families and close friends...and that list has grown and grown...keep offering us words of encouragement and the grace to act normal around us.

Just this week, we experienced three clear, special gifts that we were not expecting. I came home from school Monday to announcement one. Tuesday was two and Wednesday was three. We smile and shake our heads and thank our Father.

Twice, recently, casual friends have asked that question, "So Mike, how are you doing?" and have raised their eyebrows when he's answered, "I'm having the time of my life."

"How can you say that?" they both asked. And then Mike has explained our perspective. God has gifted us by showing us the hour glass, with its sand running through that tiny hole. That vision puts so many things in a different light. Much of the mundane day-to-day that we all stress about, well it's just not important to us. Tossing it aside liberates us to revel in our live.

Did I say THREE GIFTS? Oh, wait, there's another.

Mike met with Dr. Moore on Friday to review latest test results. She studied them and then said, "Your results are pristine. Normal. Healthy."

She prodded him because he still gets weird pain in his midsection. She said that if she had pushed on a tumor, it would have hurt. As it did not, well, then?

She suggested that Mike continues to feel discomfort from the two rather large surgeries has has had. Some stomach pain is from

wait for it

not eating well. Huh. Just like a normal guy.

If ever there was a time for a smiley face, this is it.
Last night, special friends held one of their monthly parties where the hostess and others of the culinary gifted, make homemade pizzas on bricks; others contribute random goodies; the guests range from 1 on up. Mike made the rounds of circles of friends, laughing and joking. We used to be too busy or too tired on Friday nights to visit with friends. Wasted Fridays.

On our drive up to Winona, we agreed that we are blessed beyond anthing anyone could imagine.

Have a great weekend, yourself, our friends.

Praising our Father 24/7 in northern Indiana.

Mike and Lynne

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Trip to Indianapolis and Out of the Galaxy

Last Saturday the lovely Loon and I had a date. Unlike younger couples who have "date nights," we, who are older, have "date afternoons," because we oldsters have a tendency to fall asleep early in the evening. Also, we have both noticed that our various age-related aches and pains make their appearance in the evening, making the afternoons more useful for goofing off.

I love the IMAX theater in Indianapolis, particularly when they screen a 3-D movie so I asked Loon to find out what was on at the IMAX. She reported that we had hit the jackpot: there were two 3-D movies playing. One was about the space station and the Hubble space telescope. James Cameron's Avatar was the other. We were gone in a flash, but one advantage of the empty nest.

(Before I go further, I am sure that someone reading this piece is going to take it apart if I use an incorrect term and I can assure you I am going to do that. Forgive me in advance. I am a lawyer, not an astrophysicist, so cut me some slack.)

The space station movie centered on the repair of the Hubble. Apparently, shortly after the telescope began its orbit, NASA determined that its camera lens was warped. This modern marvel was unable to produce any better pictures than could be obtained by telescopes on earth. ( I'll bet someone got fired over that.) So, three years later, NASA launched a mission to fix the Hubble.

The fix involved the rendezvous of the space shuttle Enterprise, in space with the Hubble. Spacewalking astronauts had to open up the Hubble's innards and then replace the faulty parts. All the while, other crew members controlled the Hubble with an ingenious arm that extended out of the cargo bay of the Enterprise. The mission was an amazing feat of astral navigation, applied engineering, human courage and ingenuity. The 3-D images -- astronauts maneuvering in space and performing the repairs -- took my breath away.

As amazing as the repair feat was, the best part of the movie presented photographs taken by the repaired Hubble. As narrator Leonardo DiCaprio explained what the audience was seeing, I heard people in the theater gasping in disbelief and awe at the images on the six-story high screen. My mind could not wrap itself around the magnitude of the photos.

One of the photographs showed an exploding nebulae. It looked like a butterfly with its wings outspread. The wings were the color of coffee with cream just added. It looked like it had density and form or solidity to it. The entire image was made up of stars and galaxies 90 trillion light years away from earth! (My mind cannot comprehend that number.) It was then explained that the distance between each of the billions of stars in the nebulae was farther than the distance across our solar system. Yet when you looked at the photograph, it seems that the stars must be so close together to give the impression of solidity. Again, my mind cannot comprehend the content of the photographs.

Next came photographs of entire solar systems, separate universes, nebulae, exploding stars, dead stars, galaxies, and other space phenomena. I could have looked at each of the photographs on the screen for an hour. Each one was simply dazzling.

I cannot imagine what scientists thought when they first saw these photographs. I can imagine the conversation between the astrophysicist, who took the pictures, and his wife, who asked how his day was. Did he do anything interesting? He probably sat there at the table speechless, Words would fail at a time like this. Perhaps he just slid a copy of the photo across the table relying on the old saw that "a picture is worth a thousand words."

Maybe 90 trillion words.

Or here are a few:

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
Psalm 8: 3 - 4

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,"
declares the LORD.
Isaiah 55:8

So simple. So true. I do not see how anyone could look at the Hubble images without sensing the existence of God. And then he would be humbled by God's awesome majesty. It is simply inconceivable to me that anyone viewing those photographs could question the existence of God. They reinforce that all was created by the Master Planner. There is order and magnificence in the sky.

He thinks it's a Dolphin

Or a Duck. Or a Porpoise. One of those cute nautical names given to boats by their manufacturer.

IT is the little, single-seat, fiberglass sailboat that he launched yesterday. We had no champagne and it has no name as of yet.

What it DOES have is a serene skipper, hoisting the main sail and jib, and tacking across Winona Lake at a healthy clip. Wind gusts reached 30 mph so the tiny, mighty craft deftly maneuvered through white caps and shallows.

Mike and his sister went halfsies on what they said was a bargain last spring. The ship, however, lay in dry dock for most of 2009. I believe Lisa rigged it and went sailing a few times. Her brother was mostly out of commission to take her out.

That was last year. This spring, the yellow and white craft saw its first foray of what will be a busy summer.

Spring in Indiana: last weekend (NCAA, by the way. Go Butler!) the skies were clear and blue. An occasional cotton ball cloud drifted overhead and a light breeze combed through one's hair.

Then, Monday and Tuesday, we saw the temperature rise...50s....60s...70s...almost 80.
Time to dig out the shorts and T shirts and move those heavy sweaters to their seasonal resting place.

Wednesday, forecasters said something about a front. Wednesday night, the thermometer read...surely it's broken...39. Then, by Thursday afternoon, as we drove to find some Greek salad, what was that on the windshield? Sleet? Hail? And the weather guys warned (ominously, because we must have drama with weather) that we might cover tender plants to protect from frost.

Frost? Well, yes. But as friends of this blog may know, we steer away from tender plants at this address. Our vegetation must be tough. Really tough.

No matter the temperature, on Friday we hopped into the Silverado with Ivy in the middle and headed north to the lake. Whether it's cold, cool, warm, or stifling hot, this place is the healing place.

We spent some time at the cottage last summer but performed few maintenance tasks. Our good friends next door filled our planters and mowed when we were not looking. As for cleaning and painting, those never-finished chores, it seemed to us that we had better things to do.

However, THIS spring, as we look forward to summer, the chores list is posted and we begin. Personally, I tackled all baseboards. Some, I confess, have not seen a dust cloth for, um, more than just a year. But today, they not only gleam, they smell really good as I performed a one/two....dusting and then washing with a strong-smelling chemical cleaning product. I LOVE my chemicals.

In the guest room, under the beds, I found so many of the books purchased for the boys. They kept losing them and I kept buying them more. HM..Could have bent over and looked, I guess. No matter. Boys: check the mail!

In the same guest room, I discovered what remained of a brave little bird who had entered our cottage through, I'm guessing, the chimney and then tried valiantly to find a way out. His last, finest effort was aimed at a large, lake-facing window.
Alas, closed. And so he went down, right by a rather dusty baseboard.

Time at the lake affords us so many pauses, for leisure and for talking. We faced each other yesterday, between sailing and retrieving dead birds (bird), for one of those good talks.

Mike said he sat out on the pier and just inhaled everything. He watched fishermen in waders and others in bass boats; he listened to the beginnings of motorboats and lawn mowers; he waived to anyone who walked by and greeted them as if he were the sole proprietor of this place. And, as he said, he "thanked God for giving" him this time, this place, these people.

Even sleet is sweet at such times.

So as the new week begins and my break from school ends, we will pack up shortly and return to our home south of here.

Friday, April 2, 2010

So here we are in April

At our home, we are seeking God's face daily. Hourly.

And this is a new thing. In the past, we would run to the Father when we perceived a problem that WE could not solve.

Silly children!

The adventure we're on continues to teach us many things. Chief among the lessons is our need to walk hand-in-hand with God.

So many of you have been with us. Do you realize it's been a year? April 6, 2009, was the date of Mike's surgery. Then came the dianosis. Then came the prognosis. Then came the reeling of our world, the return to our home, the stepping into an uncertain future.

And here we are. We are one year older. We are surrounded by friends, known and unknown, who pray for us. How many times have we felt your prayers palbably, as God wrapped His big strong arms around us?

We ramped back our natural tendency to plan for the future. Then, Mike nudged me toward returning to school; at least in THAT arena, I must plan. There are deadlines. Exam dates. Vacations. And etc. I must organize our class activities with 140 students in mind.

So I moved back and forth, from that planning necessity place to what our home life has become: an unrushed, less concerned-with-the-clock kind of haven.

We covet your prayers always. We have some specific needs coming up.

April 12 Mike will have more blood work done and then we will meet with his doctor on April 16. As in the past, we know now that God will be in the room with all of us. And we will keep you posted, dear friends.

Community leaders have asked Mike to be one of the principles at our National Day of Prayer observance. He will pray for the legal community and the courts.

There are some things that Mike would love to do. He fluctuates between thinking about limited time and a look to summer and some activities. We whisper these things and we pray that God will give us another summer.

However, we are more ready than we were to face what God has for us. His plan for our lives is perfect.

May you all rejoice in the Resurrection of Our Lord.

Death, where is thy sting?