Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New: Biggest Challenge Yet in the Woodshop

Today, a photo essay. Mike has been working on this for the last two weeks. It's cold in the workshop.



Slats. Many slats.

Look at the grain. Mike takes special pride in the quality of the wood. He shops for it like a gourmet at a green grocery.



Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Christmas Morning 2010

Oh so early! Little ones can't wait. Santa had come, had eaten the snack, had fed Rudolph, and had left the goodies. Don't tell a 4-year old or 6-year-old that you need a few more minutes in the sack. So, here we are, no make up, no special effects.
Our grandsons.
Our kids.

Let the festivities begin. Grampa reads Luke 2, and then onto the loot.

Legos are a big deal. Not those nice easy Legos. Oh no. NOW we have Lego sets that must be assembled, following complicated plans. (I spent 3 hours on some sort of MONSTER-On-Cycle-Who-Shoots-Cannon-Balls.) "Oh sure, I can do this."

One revelation: at 6, they wipe off the kisses.

Noah decided to help me with the MonsterLego. He has skills that I do not possess.

Shall we mention? Another Christmas with our kids.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Affirming Life

In our darker days of 2009, we worked to simplify the life that I would lead after Mike's passing. We sold off; we gave away; we traded down; we packed up.

Doctors' stressed that if there was anything Mike (and I) wanted to do, NOW was the time to get to it. From my perspective, I found myself wanting Mike to realize some enjoyment from what he had earned as a lawyer. But, the idea of travel was crude when suddenly Home and Family and Friends were everything.

He sold his plane. He sold his motorcycle. He donated the office and parking lot. He gave away guitars and equipment. He hired a gun expert to assess our weapon arsenal and then sold it off. I saw all of these acts as his trying to make things easier for me. Plus, as to the guns, I imagine he feared I would have a monster garage sale and just let them go for a dollar apiece. (This is Indiana. People have guns. I don't much care for guns.)

Up in our attic, way off in a corner, was a collection of equipment purchased over the years, with a thought toward hiking the Appalachian Trail: something Mike has dreamed about, read about, mapped out. He really didn't plan to walk the entire trail, from Georgia to Maine, but he knew the dates and time to begin and end, just in case, to avoid dangerous weather.

Over the last year, we have restocked our toy chest. Mike bought back 1/2 interest in his plane. He added a few more guitars, amplifiers, and 'etc.' to the music arsenal. A vintage Ducati is wintering in our bedroom.

And last week, Mike began to drag down camping things, a little at a time, until one side of our bedroom (the one without the motorcycle in it) was filled. He opened up the tent and he weighed his loaded pack. He and his sister (and maybe his brother) are penciling in a week in May to hike the Trail.

I don't recount this for any other reason than I see all this as affirmations of life. We need to stop living with dying at our door.

And that's the 2011 resolution for us.


January 2011

Here's in Kokomo, we are busy.

I'm back to school and working with 6 new classes of students.

Zach, the new graduate, is job hunting in a most depressed market.

And Mike, the retiree: swimming at the Y daily; teaching two classes at IVY Tech; tackling his most ambitious furniture project, a slatted, reclining chair; preparing a speech to a local men's group; hosting a couple's small group; oh yeah, and meeting with his doctor.

We eye the calendar these days. 2 years. We are approaching 2 YEARS. As many of you have been with us for the duration, let me remind you that, although this blog was birthed in May 2009, our medical adventure began in late February.

Discomfort/ER/scan/'something weird with your gall bladder/and a huge kidney stone. March brought the removal of said stone and gallbladder. The weirdness was a 4 cm cancerous tumor. So, into April, when the surgeon explained, sketching on the white paper that covers examination tables, that this just might be the one caught early, we expected no less.

April, the surgery. The finding of spread to 'distant locations.' The news. The prognosis. The about-face of our lives and the preparing for passing. Mike's oncologist sat next to him on her examining table, held his hand and said, "Mike, this will take your life."

Last Friday, again she held his hand and said, "This wasn't supposed to happen."

THIS being yet another clear scan.

And why? Her expert take: God doesn't want you yet.
We'll take it. Actually, over many long talks, we marvel at God's grace to these two frail children.

As we are the middle of this, it's difficult to see any big picture. I know, however, that Mike's very existence gives hope to several friends whose fight with cancer is hard these days. I do know, as I've been told so many times, that Mike radiates a new glow that draws people to him.

So, let me share this news with you. Feel free to pass it on. We will continue to update you as we live our life.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

FIRST GRADER Extraordinairre

Teachers sometimes wonder if what we're teaching will stick, prove useful, enrich a student personally. I tend to operate on the 10 - 20 year plan: my students will intersect with something that they may trace back. As I preach regularly, "Knowing stuff is fun."

I will almost never know. Oh, occasionally some student will pop up with, "Hey that thing you said….I hear someone on TV talking about it." But it's rare. I have to move on faith.

But here, I want to praise a couple of public school elementary teachers in San Antonio, who have connected with one special boy.

I have neither the training nor the temperament for 1st graders. Too jumpy. Too loud. But I’m sure part of their appeal is their hunger and eagerness to learn. This wanes a bit when to "get to smart," you have to wade through Hawthorne and Melville.

Grandson Drew is a singular 1st grader whose skills are exploding. First in reading. Yes, I know that 1st grade is when the formal instruction starts. Since September, when he spent a week with us, his reading has taken off. He is reading. Not memorizing. Not paging through familiar books. He picks up NEW and reads. When he hits a word he doesn't know, he tries to sound it out. Often the question, "How do you spell _ _ _ _ _?" These are usually words that stray from phonetic rules.

Ok, maybe not everybody finds this exciting. For me, I know that a reader has the whole world in front of him. Nothing can stop a reader. I'm jumping up and down. Inside. I'm a Gramma, after all.

Then, there's math. The kid amazes. He can add and subtract in his head although, yes, I know, his teachers will want him to show his work.

"Hey, Drew, what's 3 + 12?"

"Uh, 15." (no question in his voice)

"Yes. How about 15 + 3?"

"18." No hesitation.

"Wow. Now here's a hard one (he smiles really wide at this.) "Try 23 + 9."


(I included the answers for those of you who may not be as quick as Drew.)

In addition to these accomplishments, his Health/Fitness teacher has made a dent by teaching this 6-year-old about good nutrition. Really. My daughter mentioned she never really got the Food Pyramid; this teacher uses something else.

Drew explained that there are three kinds of food. GO, SLOW, and WHOA. You can probably start filing items into those categories and if you're like most of us, you have a lot of WHOAs.

So, Gramma the teacher decided to use out-to-eat for lesson time. "Drew, what on the table is a GO Food?" He pointed to his milk, his brother's mac and cheese, their side orders of broccoli -- I'm not kidding, they love broccoli -- and their mom's salsa.

"What about Mom's chips?"
"They're a WHOA! Food."
Gramma smirks at daughter.
"And what about Gramma's salad? Isn't that a GO food?"
He waved his finger over my plate. "Not with all that salad dressing. It's now a SLOW or maybe a WHOA."
Daughter smirks back.

I figure the teacher drilled them, as much as you can, in a limited time, in a gym, with many pairs of sneakered feet just itching to run.

I need to tell Drew's teachers: they're doing a great job and he's learning their lessons. And Gramma wants to thank them.