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.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Miss them much; see them soon

Our grandson visited us in September. We spent the weekend at the lake

Now, they are busy in San Antonio.

Gramma and Grampa, plus Uncle Zach, will hug them soon.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

How We Live Here

Roller coaster? No, more like climbing up to a mesa and then trying to avoid a drop off.

So, we come to the most recent blood work/CAT scan/Dr.'s appointment. All hospital staff are up beat, smiley, glad-ta-see-ya. We even are veteran enough to have a routine: if you opt for an early morning CAT, you can 'drink the lemonade' rather than chug the chalk in two sittings.

(Ask Mike)

This week, the Dr.'s part was scheduled for 9:45 AM. That's now school time for me. So, for about a week, I suggested that Mike call the hospital and reschedule. Then, I could be with him. Don't know why; thought it might be a good idea. He's not much on details so I get better info when I'm in attendance.

He kept forgetting to call: dragging his feet. Finally, he said, "Oh, that's just too much trouble. I'll call you."

Got the hint. Went to school. Flashed out a prayer request for our Laura Angel warriors. And worked with my juniors for the rest of the day. Several friends sent inquiries around noon. What I told them was, "I'll check my voicemail after school. I have three more classes to teach."

You can't get a signal in my classroom, usually a very good thing.

The final bell rang at 2:05 and I was at the outside door by 2:05.5. NO message. Not from anybody. And I knew that Mike had headed out to a distance learning class and would not be available until 4:30. Should I go the hospital for my own report? I could but decided to just go home.

He came in the door, petted the dog, stalled................
"Ok," said I. "What's the news?"

"Blood work is, in the words of my doctor, pristine."


"CAT is clear. No evidence of tumor growth."

So, dear friends, this is where we of the mountain.

And, most importantly, praising our God for another gift.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures, here below,
Praise Him about all heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

And we thank you, friends for your continued prayers.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Birdfeeder Update

Squirrels: ZERO

but no birds, either.

Hub says they are not hungry yet.
I don't know. Maybe they LIKE the company.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Another True Flying Story

The young lieutenant, clad in his flight and G suits, walked briskly out to the flight line where the sleek Grumman Banshee crouched, waiting. The pilot walked around the aircraft, checklist in hand, inspecting to make sure that the jet fighter was flight-ready. When the pilot finished the preflight inspection, the chief petty officer who was responsible for the maintenance on the aircraft, handed his clipboard to the pilot, who signed off for the fighter, signifying he was satisfied with its airworthiness.

The pilot climbed up onto the wing and used the footholds in the fuselage to climb into the cockpit. He strapped in, connected his oxygen mask and radio cable, ran the preflight check-list, and closed the canopy. He started the engine, then did a quick radio check to confirm he had good communications, and taxied to the runway for takeoff.

The flight was to be a night cross-country navigation training flight. Such flights were rarely flown solo, but the intended wingman's aircraft was a no-go because of mechanical problems. The flight was to begin in El Paso, Texas and end at Miramar Naval Air Station in San Diego, California, a. distance of about 700 miles. The course of 320 degrees would take the flight almost continuously over desert and mountain ranges, before a let down to Miramar, which was on the ocean. The flight would take about 2 hours. The fuel would be just enough to get there with about 20 minutes worth to spare. If all went well.

The weather-guessers predicted a moonless night with a westerly wind at 30,000 feet, the cruising altitude for the Banshee. There was a string of thunderstorms well to the north of the flight path, but were expected to stay put. Cloud tops on the thunderheads were higher than 40,000 feet, beyond the climbing ability of the Banshee. Moderate to severe turbulence was predicted near the storms.

The pilot informed the tower that he was ready to launch. He immediately received a clearance to takeoff and was advised that his instrument flight plan had been approved. This meant that air traffic controllers along the way knew his path, knew he was coming, and knew about when to expect him. The flight would be handed off from controller to controller as he flew toward his destination, until the last controller would handle the final approach to landing at Miramar.

The pilot lined up on the center line, locked the brakes, and advanced the throttle to full military power. The jet engine howled and the aircraft strained against the brakes. A quick check of the engine instruments, a last control surface check, and the brakes were released. The Banshee rocketed down the runway and leaped into the night sky, trailing flame from its exhaust. At 170 knots, the pilot snapped up the gear, retracted the flaps, and set the nose trim for a steady cruise climb of 250 knots. Almost immediately, the Banshee was swallowed up in the black clouds and all reference to the ground below vanished.

The climb was timed for 11 minutes. The pilot concentrated on the softly lit instruments, confirming that he was climbing to intercept the planned course and altitude. He leveled off at 30,000 feet and set the throttle for 350 knots and adjusted the trim settings for cruise.
The pilot settled into the ejection seat and began his crucial, life-preserving instrument scan, his eyes darting rapidly to each instrument and gauge, every 15 or 20 seconds, looking for any little flicker or flutter in the needles that might be an advance warning of trouble. The pilot synched the directional gyro with the compass every few minutes and checked the radio navigation equipment, while charting his progress on the navigation chart/ flight plan strapped to the kneeboard on his right knee.
The pilot busied himself with his workload, checking in with the controllers, one by one, noting the passing of navigation waypoints, calculating ground speed and the all-important fuel burn.
There was not much airspace activity at midnight. Just the occasional pilot on a long cross country checking in with a controller. While the jet fighter's canopy was clear, providing visibility for 360 degrees, there was nothing to see, but the blinking red, green and white strobe lights. The towns, cities, mountains or desert below were under the cloud layer below the speeding jet and were invisible to the pilot. No stars, no moon, no horizon. No up or down. No left or right. Just all-encompassing, endless, three dimensional blackness.
The Banshee's engine roared behind the pilot, who was comfortable with the noise it produced and the mild vibration through the airframe, as happens to all aviators. He sat alone in the cockpit, concentrating on the instruments, chewing Juicy-Fruit gum and humming to himself.

Maybe the officer's club would still be open for a hamburger and a Coke? A clean bed in the officer's quarters and a good night's sleep before the return flight the next day.

Occasionally, an unseen gust of wind bounced the Banshee around. It was just light chop. Nothing to worry about. He tightened his safety harness, but did not look outside the canopy. He maintained his scan of the flight instruments, as he had been trained to do. Nothing out there to see, anyway. Just cruising along. And then it happened.
The aircraft took a solid shot from above that sent it into a screaming dive. Before he could react, an equally vicious shot came from below that bottomed out the dive and slammed the jet nose-up in a climb. The pilot, realizing that he had entered severe turbulence, tried to even out the controls to maintain level flight. He reduced the throttle to slow the aircraft. It was taking both hands and feet to keep control of the jet. It got hit again and again by the turbulence. The aircraft rolled violently over on its port side, only to be flung to the starboard side. It was still getting hammered by the up and down drafts. The compass was unreadable, swinging 90 degrees. The directional gyro was constantly moving, making it impossible to maintain a constant heading.
Lighting and the torrential rain started a few seconds later. The lighting lit up the whole sky around the jet, with flashes arcing from cloud to cloud, which was now visible for split seconds in the flashes surrounding the jet. The pilot tried not to look outside for fear of losing his night vision. Maintain the scan! Ride it out!
And then all of the instruments went black! Electrical failure! The pilot remembered that he had had to sit in the cockpit and identify all the switches, fuses, and controls by feel while blindfolded before being qualifying to fly the Banshee. Where were the fuse breakers for the instrument panel lighting? He began to check the breakers with his fingertips, feeling for a popped breaker. Was he right side up? He felt like he was turning! Was he climbing? Descending? Without his instruments, he could not tell. No breakers had popped. He tapped the small instrument spotlight which lit up the instruments. Nothing! The turbulence was getting worse. Keeping the aircraft under control, if it was even under control, was almost impossible. If he did not regain the instruments, he was dead! He would lose control, the aircraft would inevitably spin in, and he would be a smoking hole in the desert or on the side of a mountain somewhere below.
Desperately, he unsnapped the flap on a pocket on his life vest. A small flashlight was there. He turned it on and scanned the instrument panel. The instruments were going wild with the turbulence. He needed both hands and feet to keep control of the plane, so he put the flashlight in his mouth and pointed it at the instrument panel, trying to regain his scan, jerking the light from gauge to gauge.
He keyed the transmit button on the stick to call the controller. No response. He tried again. Nothing. Again. Nothing. The communication radio was gone! At least he could not transmit.
Where was he? Off course, no doubt. The navigation radio was gone, too. So there he was, in the middle of a thunderstorm, lost, with no navigation or communication radios, and no instrument lights, at night, over mountains, in instrument conditions.
The pilot wryly thought to himself, "Well, Bolinger, you say you are pretty hot, let's see you get out of this one!" He throttled back to minimize fuel consumption and began to fly rough triangles in the sky, trying to maintain a constant altitude. This was standard procedure for lost navigation equipment and communications on an instrument flight. The theory was that a controller would note the aircraft flying triangles and try to establish communication with the pilot. The problem was that the pilot could only hope he would be noticed. It was not guaranteed. And then there was the fuel problem. How much was left? Could he get down? Was he going to have to eject?
A calm voice came through his headset. "Navy flight 634, if you copy this, turn to a heading of 060". There might be some hope! He turned to the heading ordered. And waited. "Navy flight 634, if you copy this, turn left to 270". He turned. "Navy flight 634, we have you 125 miles north east of Miramar. If you have enough fuel for the approach, turn to 300". He scanned the fuel gauges with the flashlight. It was going to be close. Real close. He turned to 300.
"Navy flight 634, turn left heading 220." The pilot turned, all the while swiveling his head, pointing the flashlight at each of the instruments. He glanced at the compass which was showing a left turn as expected. A cross check of the directional gyro, which was designed to show which direction the aircraft was flying, showed a slow turn to the right. A quick check of the turn and back indicator showed a turn to the left. Unbelievably, the directional gyro had failed! He could no longer rely on the directional gyro to help with turning the aircraft to a desired heading. He would have to rely on the compass alone and the turn and bank indicator, while forcing himself to ignore the directional gyro.
"Navy flight 634, you are right of course. Turn left 200." The pilot banked to the left, lining up the wingtip depicted in the turn and bank indicator with the small block that would give a three degree per second turn, a standard rate turn. Just take the number of degrees you need to turn and divide by three. Hold the turn for that many seconds and then roll out. Simple, but not when you are being hammered by turbulence. The compass was swinging wildly, the directional gyro was history and the second hand on the clock was hard to see with the flashlight in his teeth.
"Navy flight 634, you are not correcting. I am going to assume you have no directional gyro. On my signal start a standard rate left turn…now". The pilot banked to the left, trying desperately to focus on the turn and bank indicator. Hold it, hold it!
"Navy flight 634, roll out…now". The pilot rolled the wings level.
"Navy flight 634, correcting to right…start right turn…now. The pilot did. All the while frantically trying to maintain the scan on the instruments and keep the jet right side up. The turbulence was throwing the jet fighter all over the sky. For the next 20 minutes, the controller guided the jet by calling out the turns in a desperate attempt to line up the jet for the approach to Miramar.
"Navy flight 634, you are 20 miles from touchdown. Descend and maintain 2500 feet for the approach. Landing checklist should be complete. Confirm gear is down. Crash trucks will be standing by". On the pilot flew, frantically scanning the panel. The fuel warning light popped on. Low fuel! Scan!
"Navy flight 634, you are 5 miles from touchdown. Descend and maintain 1000 feet. Correcting left…3 degrees. On course, on center line. Correcting right 5 degrees. On course. Correcting left 2 degrees. On course…drifting right of center. Left 3 degrees. The pilot struggled to keep up with the minute corrections called by the controller, knowing that his very life depended on his ability to concentrate and flawlessly fly the plane. There would be no second chances this night. There was no fuel for a missed approach. He had to be right on, the first time.
"Navy flight 634, you are one mile from touchdown. Drifting right of course…turn left 3 degrees". The pilot maintained his scan, but began to take quick looks out the canopy over the nose, straining to see any sign of a runway. And then out of the torrential black rain and furiously blowing wind, the runway lights appeared! The pilot chopped the throttle, pointed the nose down, and slammed onto the wet runway. He was down safely! He braked to a stop and turned the jet around to taxi to the ramp. The rain was so heavy, he could not see which way to taxi. A lineman in a jeep with a flashing light appeared to guide the jet to the tie down area. One hundred feet short of the tie down area, the jet flamed out. It was out of fuel. He had made it by less than 3 minutes!
The pilot climbed out of the jet fighter and walked into the operations office, manned by the duty officer. The pilot stated, "I need a Jeep to get to the Officer's Quarters".
"No problem, lieutenant, one will be right here shortly. Cup of coffee? The pilot declined the offer, because he did not think he could hold the cup steady enough to drink with his shaking hands.
After patiently waiting about 5 minutes, the pilot said to the duty officer, "Where's my Jeep?"
"I haven't called for it, yet, because I was waiting on your crew to come in".
The pilot, now frustrated, said, "There is no crew. I am the crew. There is just me! I am all there is".
The astonished duty officer looked at the pilot and said, "You were up there…in that…alone?"

And that, as my Dad said to me, is the difference between the fighter boys and the bomber boys.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Washing Windows for Jesus

It was a privilege this morning to serve with my small group, a special collection of ladies. We volunteered to prepare the church building for Sunday. We started at 7:30. By 10, the job was done. We were a small but mighty army. And the hub joined us as he is an unofficial, honorary member.

Our leader had the keys and the check list, and she pointed me toward the windows. Our church has a lot of windows.

I know that our work is important, not just in the serving. Each Sunday, folks walk into our church for the first time. The front doors (all windows) are one of the first things they see. Along with greeters, a gleaming floor, and comfortable, nicely arranged furniture groupings, visitors are primed to make judgments about our church. I wanted to make sure that those windows were clean and shining.

This was difficult for several reasons. First, the windows face south but this morning, the sun was gleaming on them, making it tough to see streaks. Also, although there are wide door openers, these are not kid-level so there are lots of sweet little fingerprints and whole-hand marks on the lower portions. On the outside, there is an assortment of natural goo.

And, let me confess: I am unskilled in housecleaning. Contrary to what some may think, domesticity is not hard wired into the DNA of every woman. Certainly not this one.

Many a mom has trained her daughters to clean around the house. Several of my nieces were brandishing mops and brooms as soon as they could walk. Today, they are grown-up ladies whose homes gleam from their efforts. They just ‘know’ how to clean. Their auntie, on the other hand, often doesn’t get it.

Growing up, I believe my mom just threw in the towel, along with all of those towels I tossed around my room, after trying to teach me to keep house. (The same is true when it comes to planting flowers and such….all I knew about gardening was that you had to weed…..a common punishment for this second daughter.)

Early in my marriage, we lived in a teeny place where dusting and vacuuming took only minutes, when there was time. Then, when we moved into bigger digs, as I was working and had a bit of discretionary cash, I discretely hired help who would come into the house when I was gone and leave me with gleaming bathrooms, floors and kitchen.

Only when the ick became unbearable (and believe me, I have a high tolerance), would I clean. And, as my kids will attest, I’m more of a ‘spray and wipe’ kind of cleaner. Mom loves her chemicals.

I joked, once, that I didn’t really know how to clean. This got me a book on cleaning from my mother-in-law, who didn’t get the joke.

I read it.

I learned about starting at the top of a room and moving down. I learned about how when you wash windows in and out, you should wipe horizontal on one side and vertical on the other.
But when I actually get down to it (oh, wait. I have a full time house husband now), I usually forget until I reach the ceiling fans last and see the dust floating to the vacuumed floor.

So, as I worked my way down the line of windows this morning, I initially did that side-to-side thing inside. I started with the idea that I’d do the top part, do the bottom part, moving in order from left to right.

Window washing gives you lots of time to think, to let your mind wander a bit. After a few panels, I was washing every-other-pane, kind of checker-boarding my way around. As for up and down and side-to-side, I had abandoned that as I forgot which I was doing where.

So, I’m a bit random. Part of my charm.

And part of the way God uses what He created to teach us.

Just yesterday, I fired off a quick e-mail, criticizing another of God’s servants. A rather public spelling error had made it into circulation. I cringed when I read it and then hard-tapped a message. And sending that message was a less-than-sweet spirit. I’m pretty sure my lips were pursed as I made judgments about care and effort.

Doesn’t everybody know how to spell?

Well, no. Even with all the helps available, some goofs slip through. Just because I have some skills in this area, it does not mean that everybody does.

And this floated into my head as I floated back across the windows, making sure I got each one and hoping my leader would not find smudges. (She did.)

Not her fault: our leader is a master housekeeper. I believe you could eat off of her baseboards, even when guests are not expected. She was cheery and subtle as she ‘just touched up’ my work.
And I realize that she did not criticize: she showed me grace.

And I must do the same.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Closing Up Shop

Autumn is running its course at Winona Lake. Some trees cling to their color.

Many are now bare against that shocking blue sky.

The Shops in the Village are decked out and readying for holiday shoppers.

Deep color hugs sidewalks and stairwells. One last breath of the fall.

A few flower boxes still light up in the sunshine

We are locking up the windows; sealing the doors; turning the furnace to a safe 50 degrees. We always plan to drive up on weekends but have rarely taken the chance. Perhaps this winter will be different.

A glimpse from our porch.

The piers are piled up on the shore, ready to stack and stash.

Geese take off for warmer climes.
Until next year.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The end of October is Fall Break for our school. Mike kept talking about ‘going somewhere’ and I kept telling him that ‘just staying home’ would be a great vacation for me.

For all sorts of reasons, my plan won. (Mike says it's because it was LYNNE DAY. He also says that EVERY DAY is LYNNE DAY.)We stayed in Indiana but took a quick trip anyway. On my suggestion, we decided to try once again to see the foliage in the south part of the state. We decided to climb into the Ciessna and flew down and over Brown County.

Mike sold his plane in early 2009. By the end of this spring, he bought back ½ ownership. It’s a great arrangement. He loves to fly his little Tweety Bird.

And it’s amazing how, um, compact is the interior. It takes me a lot of twisting the get my long legs up, around, and down on my side of the cabin. Once we are belted in, well, we are hip to hip and elbow to elbow.

So, we lifted off and headed south. As we fly over the state, you now see acres and acres of harvested fields. Tractors have left miles of parallel lines, prepping the earth for next spring. We looped around Indianapolis and on to Bloomington and the Hoosier National Forest.

Funny, as we got deeper into southern Indiana, the trees were greener. I tried to snap some photos of colorful trees but had trouble finding any significant clumps.

This means, of course, that we will need to do this again.

We banked and headed back by way of Muncie. That airport has a nice restaurant so we stopped for a late lunch.

It was only when we got back to our neighborhood that we saw nature’s fall colors in all varieties.
November will bring a return to Charlotte for Thanksgiving. Before that, Mike will have another scan. And a meeting with his doctor.
So, friends, we thank you for your continued prayers.
I hope you get to enjoy the seasons, too.

Another Autumn

Several years ago, we built on to our garage, giving Mike a place for his wood working. It looks a bit like a cabin, with a porch out front. There are benches and rockers on that porch. We also ran several electrical outlets to the outside. I think the idea was that Mike and friends-who-dropped-by could sit and strum their guitars during a break from sanding.

Mike’s former workroom was in the back of the office. And although he would retire to that room from time to time, it was way too close to his desk and the telephone. He found it tough to dedicate hours, uninterrupted hours, to his creations.

His at-home work shop and porch continue to get quite the work out. Friends, with guitars and without, drop by throughout the day, sometimes into the evening, to sit and visit. And, if you’ve been following the blog, you know that our furniture inventory has grown.

Right now, Mike is in the middle of building an arts-and-crafts sideboard that will hug the wall near our new table at the cottage. I will post pictures soon. Besides his craftsmanship, it will feature glass inserts from Kokomo’s Opalescent Glass factory; also a local artist is glazing her specially made tiles for the backsplash.

We were perched on the porch this weekend, doing nothing more than chatting and watching the leaves as they drift down from our trees. We are enjoying a glorious fall and in our neighborhood; many mature trees shake in the breeze and then drop their color to the ground.

I’m not sure how long we sat but it was more than a few minutes. We particularly enjoy looking at two trees, trees that our children helped us plant 20 years ago. We named one Allyson and the other Zach. Right now, Al is almost cleared of leaves. As usual, Zach will hold onto his until deep into the winter.

We watched walkers as they traipsed up and down the block. We waved to neighbors, on foot and in cars, as they passed.
Mike thinks he may have come up with the perfect birdfeeder placement. It swings from a tree branch, clearly 15 feet from any solid surface. “It’s squirrel proof,” he claims.

We’ll see. We have tough rodents in this ‘hood.

We have tried many birdfeeders over the years, many that claimed to be squirrel-proof.
There was the small feeder that snuggled next to a window by the kitchen. We thought we’d enjoy watching the birds close up. It took less than a day for the squirrels to find it, empty it and kick it to the ground.

We tried one that claimed to be squirrel-proof. It featured a hard plastic screen with holes only big enough for a beak. It took the squirrels a day to gnaw through the screen, spill the seeds, and then kick that feeder to the ground.

We also tried to feed the squirrels along with the birds. We purchased seed the “squirrels don’t like” and then plopped a full cob of corn on a nail to a tree. We were led to believe that the squirrels would dine on the corn and go on their way. Not our squirrels. They demolished the corn cobs and then moved on to the seed, finding it a culinary curiousity, well worth their effort.
So, here we have our new try. Mike says that he can’t see how any squirrel can get to the feeder.

We’ll keep you posted.

Anyway, as we sat and chatted, Mike mused that back when he was working, he never had time to just sit and enjoy the season. He never took the time to soak in the beauty of nature at this time of the year.

He also was out of the loop on our various squirrel-fooling tries that failed.
Just last week, our neighbors invited us over. Their son, who plays college basketball, was hosting the team for a get-together. I passed but Mike hopped over the fence. He stayed for more than two hours.

The next day, he was telling me what a good time he had. “Those are really nice kids,” he said.

And then, “You know, a year ago, I wouldn’t have gone. A year ago, I wouldn’t have been invited.”

We’ve had this reflection in various shades. Mike worked hard and long to provide for his family. He rarely took time to enjoy the life his family enjoyed. And, when he reflects on this, he will muse that he missed so much.

Maybe. Maybe not.But, is it not gracious of our God to give him this chance to enjoy life? And, another autumn.