Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rah Rah Raleigh

This weekend is the big doin's in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Brother Ken's daughter, Britt, will marry her guy, Kenneth, on Saturday night.

Family is headed east from all over the country to be a part of this celebration.

That's all. Gotta pack and catch an early flight.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

it'sssssssssssssssssssssssss HOT

We have not dropped off the edge of the earth but we HAVE been living under a 'dome' as they call it, that covers half of the United States. This week, much of the nation is sagging under blistering heat.

You may remember that our little piece of heaven does NOT include central air. I guess it's fitting that I'm finally reading Gone With The Wind, as I grow ever empathetic with the field hands of that novel. Also, those girls wore all those layers of crinoline?

One little nod to current events is that I walk (drive, this week) every morning to purchase 2 or 3 newspapers for my breakfast entertainment. Each and every one front pages the weather story. Photos of children sitting under a sprinkler. Photos of workers, out in the heat. Photos, in this part of the country, of livestock getting sprayed and fanned.

Why is it, that as you swelter, you fill your brain with stories about how others are sweltering? I don't know but that's what I do. I care less and less about the deficit; give me a breeze.

On Tuesday morning, as I wilted in my chair, the headline locally was "On Thursday, you'll wish it was (sic) Tuesday." Great. Now it's Thursday. Drip drip drip.

The hub and I find ourselves sitting in the shade, near the lake, trying to catch a little whiff of cooler air. Last night, we cracked open a big cantaloupe; that, cheese and some ice water was supper. I have a honeydew on the counter, waiting for today's repast.

Our local village has a very nice coffee house/bakery with central air and free WIFI, so I decided I'd connect with my friends this afternoon. Who knows when this heat will break? Who knows when I'll get back to my novel.

Our brother-in-law Steve arrived Tuesday night from LA. He had planned this trip way before the heat arrived. He has a singing engagement in Chicago Friday night. But within the hour of his arrival, he got a call from his agent in LA and had to return the next morning. We saw him briefly, learned about a very good ice cream from Cincinnati, and waved him on his way.

Upcoming is my trip to Raleigh next week for my niece's wedding. I believe our weather will be following me east.

Then, the first week of August, the grand boys arrive for some lake time and Grandpa Time. And, THEN, the second week of August finds me back in my classroom at Kokomo High School.

But it's really NOT all about me. Mike continues to enjoy his chemo vacation. He has gotten back into swimming in the lake, although when it's this hot the 'algae is in bloom.' That means he can emerge looking like Swamp Thing. Google it.

Mike will return to his doctor on August 2 for extensive blood work and so forth. Then, we will meet with his doctor on August 9 to discuss the results. As you remember us, you can pencil in these dates.

And FINALLY: Saturday, August 27, 2011, we will convene again for the third birthday party we didn't think we'd have. Details will follow but we will blow out candles at 5 PM.

So, that's the news from the coffee house near the shore of Winona Lake. I need some ice water.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bridge Camp

Last week, my freshly retired friend/teacher spent several days at our cottage. She’s a sport: she got into the spirit of the place almost immediately. Took off her watch. Closeted the makeup. Jumped into the lake with abandon. Let the hair go natural. Acclimated to real weather. Grabbed an afternoon nap. She was just about the perfect guest.

AND, the intended purpose for dragging her north was for personal instruction in the highly complicated card game of Bridge.

My mom, an avid player, tried to teach me. This is the same left-handed woman who switched paws to teach me how to knit and crochet. But Mom started in way past my beginner status and I quickly got confused. And in areas of learning that are voluntary, confused usually leads to ‘quit.’ (Her first lesson was something about ‘No Trump’ and strategy.)

Now, teachers tend to be good at teaching and pretty good at learning. It’s our stock and trade. We DO seem to sense more quickly when we are not getting it. And ‘not getting it’ is fairly common in Bridge instruction.

So wise teacher that my friend is, she orchestrated and enforced little lessons with lots of breaks. A tidbit of information, several illustrations, a practice hand, and discussion, followed by a few questions from her, answers or confusion from me, and then lots of praise.

I bet they teach this model in how-to-be-a-teacher school.

Mom had left me a book for beginners. I found that even THAT needed context to make sense of it. So, once I had my first two lessons, I could open that booklet and read it with some understanding. I am, however, a learner who needs tangibles. My teacher understood that and complied.

She taught/I wrote: deal all cards; everybody gets 13. Arrange your cards and count the points in your hand.

ACE = 4
KING = 3
JACK = 1
And some additional points for singletons/doubletons/and a few other arrangements.

Write write write.

Then, the suits are ranked for bidding:
NO TRUMP (we got to it, Mom)

Watch me show off: If someone bids, oh, say 1 Spade and you want something else, you have to up it to 2 of something else.

This was much of the first lesson. However, EVERY lesson included Bridge Etiquette. My sense is that rabid Bridge players will get a bit testy if you violate the rules of polite Bridge society.

Bridge is SO unlike other partner games like Euchre and Pinochle, where partners make eyes, thank each other sincerely or sarcastically. Also, in Bridge, you seek help from your partner….there are ways, politely, to indicate whether or not you can help. Also, less cigar chomping. Bridge players’ drug of choice is chocolate-covered nuts, yet another motivation to learn this game.

Break time: shopping, coffee, etc. etc. and then back at it. My gifted teacher came armed with 8 decks of cards so we could place out many hands and talk about them. She brought a variety of learning aides, as students use different things to help them.

My notes, scribbled on two small notebook pages were found on neat, laminated booklets. But it was good for me to write them long-hand first. She knew that.

There was another book by some dude named Goren, “DON’T call him a dude. He’s a grand master!” and a wheel reminiscent of that talking animal toy you buy babies: “The GOREN (again) Point Count Bidding Wheel.”

Break time and into the lake. Dinner on the porch prepared by the hub: a nice salad with fruit and wine.

Back to the table and more hands. And more positive reinforcement. “Good move.” “I like that.” “Oh, well, that might work.”

Two days later, she had to get home for HER Bridge group. And here’s the thing. Two days of very good mini lessons only take a nick at what needs to be learned. Yes, as she reminds me, you need to play. A lot. Often. But you also need to find willing players who won’t lose it (bad etiquette) if you bid something bizarre or throw the wrong card.

Her parting instruction involves those Bridge Columns that appear in daily newspapers. “You can now look at those. They usually come up with interesting hands. Just don’t read what they do. YOU think what you’d do and THEN read.”

I’m on it, teacher!

So, I’m thinking we have a plan here for a summer (what the heck, she’s retired) or autumn camp where campers can be paired with great teachers, study the game, take lots of breaks, and then play some games together under the watchful eyes of their instructors.

I don’t know that she’s looking for a second career but this sounds promising.She told me that the secret for her is that she loves Bridge. Maybe, but she also leaves my formal profession with gifts and skills that I hope she’ll continue to use her gifts.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sleepy Village, World Hub

Regular readers are getting to know our sleepy little community, Winona Lake, that surrounds its namesake body of water.

Life is easy; life is slow. Today, even at 4:30, the summer heat is a bit much for us so we're inside. I'm on my next puzzle.

This evening, we'll drive back to Kokomo as Mike has an appointment. Then, returning with us will be my buddy, a freshly retired teacher, who is just dying to teach me how to play bridge.

Anyway, a stone's throw from our lake is Warsaw, Indiana. If you drove through, you'd compare it to most mid sized Midwestern cities. However, many make this a destination: Warsaw is the world headquarters of 3 of the 5 makers of artificial replacement joints. It calls itself, rightly, the Orthopaedic Center of the World.

Now what does that mean? For starters, Warsaw has a very low unemployment rate. A neighbor who works on the line can work 7 days a week, if he wants to. My brother-in-law, a local technical educator, says that the three companies are a source of money and technology to the local schools.

And then there's one founder, Dr. Dane, who adopted Winona Lake about 20 years ago and with historical grant money, has lead to a renaissance on the lake. We looked up one day and all of our utility wires were buried; our street was newly paved over improved sewer lines; new curbs and lots of plantings.

Last year, Winona Lake gave every resident 2 trees, free, if we would let the Boy Scouts plant them on our property. We said, "Well, sure." The place is looking good.

Also, these three businesses invest lots of money in 'Quality of Life' activities for their employees and for the rest of the city. So, Friday night, as the sun was just thinking about setting, the hub and I sat on the grass in Warsaw's Central Park, for BLUES AND BARBECUE. The featured performer was Duke Robillard and his band. Further back in the park, at the edge of Central Lake, large BBQ half drums were smoking and cooking. The ribs were also gratis.

This week it was Depuy. So, thanks, Depuy!

Friday, July 8, 2011

FIRST Week of Chemo Vacation

Summer, really nice Midwestern summer, has arrived around our lake.

The nights are clear and pleasant. The dawn....who knows as we are on lake time.
The days see temperatures climb to the mid-80s without all that bothersome humidity.
And as the sun sets, a cool breeze takes the temperature back down to the low 70s.

Windows open at night for great sleeping.

We've settled into a routine. We decided that we should 'kinda' do things like chores in the morning, cutting it off at noon. Then, after a nap, we should climb into the boat and motor about the lake, stopping in the middle for a swim. Then, back to the dock, thinking about a light dinner that becomes something like salad as we sit on the porch.

Life is good. Life is slow and good.
Currently, and my children will find this amazing, EVERYTHING works on the boat. (This is so 'not us.')

We will drive back to Kokomo for Mike's next appointment with his doctor. Hopefully, we'll learn that the transfusion has kicked in and his numbers are headed north. Then, we'll be back to our life around Winona.

A few nice things got inked in on our 'calendar.' Brother-in-law Steve will drop by for a few days. Then, as the month ends, there's the family wedding in Raleigh. As soon as I get back, THE BOYS are coming for the next week.

Then, can you believe it? My school starts August 9.

August 9!

And finally, we've got another birthday celebration to plan for the end of August.

My. It's almost 3. Time for my nap!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

...and the rest of the week was a wash

We were both pretty beat come Tuesday. The headache was gone but with no sleep, we lazed around even more than usual.

By Wednesday, Mike was still feeling rung out. I happened to brush his forehead (kiss!) and realized that he was hot hot hot. Time for the thermometer: 103 degrees.

Because chemo messes up the immune system, Mike is susceptible to infection. And we have instructions to go the the hospital if he runs a fever. I reminded him.

"I want to go back to Kokomo, to my doctor's hospital," he said.

So we called ahead to let them know. (On one 'emergency' visit, we sat among the coughing and sneezing, in the waiting room for an hour. Mike's doctor insisted that this would not happen again.) It took 80 minutes in afternoon traffic but I DID hit all green lights. Inside joke.

Again with the tests: various fluids, X-rays, CAT. The hospitalist, a tiny man from Pakistan who looked 18 (face it, when you get to be my age, they all look like kids.) It was late late late when he said Mike would be admitted; I drove home for a restless night.

By mid morning Thursday, with fluids in and fever down, the hub was looking much better. On a regular diet, he took two trays; then friend Tome brought him a large Frosty and the nurses kept him supplied with lemon ice.

Here's where we are: his oncologist sat on his bed and said, "Mike, I don't want you to EVER leave this earth. But, I sure don't want to write 'infection' on any certificate." So, since Mike has had two infections since March and because his WBC is very low, the doctor announced that he's getting a vacation from chemo.

Woooooo whoooooo!!!!!

So for the next two months, no trips to the oncology center, no needles, no poison. She wants hims to build back up and he will.

ALSO, she said that his latest CAT shows "no change." That means


Woooooo whoooooo!!!!!

Friday, they let him leave after a transfusion. It was about 6 PM and we both decided to crash at the home base, driving back up to the lake on Saturday.

Saturday was to be the big fireworks. The day, hot and humid, had been one big blue sky. Town folk were setting up their places for the show. Then, out of nowhere, the wind picked up,the sky turned dark and the sky opened up again, complete with its own light show. The storm lasted until almost midnight.

So this evening, 24 hours later, I see a clear sky, I see the barges on the lake, and I see our chairs, waiting for us on the pier.

We know, friends, that so many of you pray for us. And that's one reason that I want to keep you in the loop.

Tonight, all is well. I hope, like us, you'll have a great Independence Day.