Thursday, September 29, 2011

BAD DAD Stories

My sister Lisa and I live two blocks apart on Winona Lake. It is a quiet, peaceful lake neighborhood, where most of our neighbors delight in living on the water’s edge on “the island.” The tranquility of the lake and community makes it the perfect place for our mother, who struggles with health issues, and lives with Lisa. My brother Matt and I try our best to help out with Mom’s care, so no one person is overburdened.

Since I live only two blocks away, I can walk over to Lisa’s place in three minutes or kayak from my pier to her pier in about five minutes. My daily job is to visit Mom once in the morning and once in the afternoon. All I have to do is sit and talk with her, if she is having a good day. Topics of conversation usually have to do with family and lake gossip. Nothing serious. Keep it light.

About two weeks ago, I was sitting in Lisa’s living room, with its panoramic view of the lake. Mom was having a good day. Out of the blue she asked me if I ever thought about Dad, who died fifteen years ago. I told her that never a day went by without me thinking about him. Something happens to bring him to mind.

I do not know how it happened, but I told her a couple of stories about what went on at the office that my dad and I shared for twenty-three years. Whatever else it may or may not be, practicing general law in a small, Bible Belt town is not boring. My mom was smiling and laughing about the antics of the clients I was describing. She was surprised at how silly and crazy they were.

After about an hour my sister came home and joined in the story sharing. I commented that I was certain that Mom had heard most of the stories I had told. My mom abruptly informed me that I had forgotten that she was not ever allowed to come to the office for any reason. She was right. For reasons that continue to escape me to this day, Mom never darkened the door at 215 N. Washington. Nothing ever happened there that would be embarrassing to him, to the best of my knowledge, but Dad did have that rule.

When Mom reminded me that the office was off limits to her, it occurred to me that she knew nothing about Dad’s life for sixty hours a week. She knew nothing about what he was doing or who he was seeing, other than what she might read in the newspaper. If you think about it, she just was not a part of half of his life for forty years.

As I got up to leave, I told her that I hoped she enjoyed my “happy dad stories.” She told me she like the stories, but wondered why I did not tell any “bad” stories about Dad. Surprised, I said that was because I did not know any. She did not believe me.

On the walk home, I tried to think of a bad story to tell about Dad. The truth is that I simply cannot recall any. When I told my wife I could not think of any Bad Dad stories, Lynne said, “What a wonderful gift he left you! Not a single bad thought! Nothing but smiles and laughter! How can a person be better remembered?”

As always, she is right. Dad cannot be better remembered by me. Every memory of him is accompanied by a smile or laughter.

It does not get better that that.

Mike out.

You Belong to Me

Isaiah 43 1 - 3

But now, this is what the LORD says—

he who created you, Jacob,

he who formed you, Israel:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

2 When you pass through the waters,

I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers,

they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire,

you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Mike met with his doctor this morning. Although I offered to go with him, he wanted me to go on to school. I complied. His buddy, Tom, went with him instead.

(When I am at school, I'm in that world. I'm with those kids. I'm surrounded by those friends. I'm deep into lessons and issues and drama, although I've learned to tune out those last two. At any rate, my brain is elsewhere than the doctor's office.And that was what the hub wanted for today.)

Before the school day began, I fired off a quick message to The Angels -- Laura's Angels: our community prayer/care network. I asked them to pray for Mike at 9:30 as he kept his appointment. I knew that they would. I think I felt some thunder and shaking at half past nine.

Someone must have shared the info with some students. There was an impromptu prayer circle during lunch. God's people are everywhere.

Here's the report I got after school: the CT shows three enlarged lymph nodes in his pancreas. Some ducts are enlarged. He has been fighting an infection. He had no fever this AM. His doctor's assessment: You are no more sick today than you were three months ago.

He will attack the nodes with another round of chemo. This time, he gets an infusion on Monday and then a pill a day for 6 days; then back to the infusion. I've got reading material here...something about a 28 day regimen. For the Googlites, the drug is capecitabine. Go for it.

Tom's message to me was: not as bad as he was expecting. Mike asked his doctor what her goals were. There was some talk about Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Our plan was to meet up at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles at 3 PM for some business. I left school and drove over. As they are closed on Monday, Tuesdays are hopping. It took us about an hour to conduct our business. I think that's a record. Between signing this and that, handing over licenses and credit cards, getting them back, signing more things and then getting the whole thing "approved,' the hub filled me in on the details.

Then, as we finished there, he said, "Do you want to go and get a drink?" Well, sure I would. Except our BMV is no where near anywhere to get something non-alcoholic.

"Where shall we go?" I asked.

He thought. "Huh. You DON'T hang out, do you?"

Well, no. I'm at school.

He suggested a local coffee shop.

"Really? Do you go there? When?"

He smiled slyly. "You just never know," he said. "After all, I'm retired."

We drove over. I had my latte/he had the specialty frappe menu memorized.

Amazing. Marriage is one long revelation.

We sat for about an hour and then headed home. I think we have tied up a bunch of loose ends.

So, here's where we are in Kokomo, Indiana. Mike's treatment begins next Monday.

Thank you.

When You're Down, and Lonely....

Not a sigh is breathed,

not a pain felt

not a grief pierces the soul,

but the throb vibrates

to the Father's heart.

Ellen G. White

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Rainy Days and Mondays

This has been a blue weekend.

A steady rain has drenched the ground...sometimes drizzle, sometimes sputter, sometimes an absolute downpour. This amid gray skies and 50 degrees. Early fallen leaves, those we thought we'd get up, are now soggy and matted.

The weather has been crummy and Mike has been under it. We decided to stay at our home base.

His immediate ills began on Friday night, after spending the day repairing insulation in the garage. He and a friend had installed it originally; in the last year, several strips have come loose and one whole pad recently fell onto the floor. It needed to be fixed. I wish he hadn't tackled it by himself. It took him much of the day, stretching, bending, lifting, and so forth.

So, Friday night, he began to experience pain in his left shoulder. He announced that the pain was deep in the joint. "Do you think I'm having a heart attack?" he asked.

I suggested a quick trip to the ER.

"No. I'll just take something."

And he did. The meds did not dull the pain enough for him to get a good night's sleep. And so the weekend began.

Much of Saturday, he tried to catch up on sleep and tried to get ahead of pain. We are learning that some discomfort is referred pain, not directly related to anything specific. But the chronic pain he now lives with, in his midsection, seemed to radiate and then there was that shoulder.

He called to on-call oncology nurse: this means he gets the switchboard lady who, I guess, sends a message. When the nurse did not get back to us, I called to the same switchboard lady. I was less cordial. zip zip zip, I'm speaking to the nurse.

Her advice was for Mike to double up on his pain medications. He did.

After another rocky night, he asked if I was going to church. I said I was. "I'll go. I can always leave if I feel bad."

So it was off to our home church. It was great seeing Kokomo friends and finding our seats. Then, after an amazing musical set, our lead pastor continued a series on growing closer to Christ. His messages are supplemented by a 5 week small group study; we are 2 weeks into that.

As always, I came away with a few pearls just for me. More on that later.

Mike still felt bad, so bad he made the ultimate move: he called his doctor who got right back to him. Her voice is Pavlovian to him. Her instructions: come in Monday for a new scan.

So that's where we are. Not much sleep. Feeling blue. I'll ask you to pray again. Mike could use a good night's sleep.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

By Popular Demand: Ivy's New 'Do"

Say what? You want to see what my 'Dad' and 'Mom' did to me?

I'm naked, mostly.

Make-up! I'm not ready for my close up.

A little ruff around my face and I still have my tail.

Mike keeps saying, "Sleek!"

His sister, optimist, says, "Oh well, within a week, she'll be all white and fluffy again."

Frost warning tonight: BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRr.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

So Let's Trim the Dog

Our little Ivy, an interesting mixture of terrier, mutt, and terrier, occasionally needs a trim.

I, myself, am all about letting the professionals tackle the task. I drop her off messy; I pick her up all clean and fluffy and neat…..and really glad to see me.

The Princess does NOT like the grooming experience. One local ‘shop’ consists of the chain smoking owner and a succession of shady employees. The boss is the constant and the others change with the seasons. At her shop, though, I can drop off the dog at 5:45 in the morning and she’s ready by 3. Very convenient to my schedule. One hitch, however, is that they charge an ‘attitude’ penalty for the Princess. I believe she makes her discontent known throughout the procedure.

A lady in Warsaw groomed the dog early this summer: it was difficult to get an appointment as she is booked with regulars, but she found a window of time, three weeks after we called, and worked her magic on Ivy. There was no extra charge, although her base rate is higher.
No matter. The Ivy was clean and coifed for much of the summer.

When the hot, horrid July weather stretched on for three weeks, Ivy developed an itch that caused her much distress. The vet suggested Benadryl which helped. But her scratching left her droopy and matted, much like the rest of us.

One afternoon while I was somewhere else, Mike got the idea to trim the dog. He had watched, fascinated, as our nephew groomed HIS dog. The hub decided it couldn’t be too hard. Not sure how it went (or WHO actually clipped the dog) but when I arrived back, the trim coupled with a trip to the Laundro-mutt gave the Princess a renewed beauty.

The last few weeks have given Ivy the chance to scamper and scavenge in two locations and she was looking pretty ratty. I suggested a bath. The hub said, “Let’s give her a trim first.”
Assuming he knew what he was doing, we walked down to his sister’s house where the trimmer is stored in the garage.

The standard Dog Grooming Trimmer Kit consists of the electric trimmer and several ‘guides’ or ‘trimming heads’ that are snapped on the trimmer. Without the guides, you’re going for the Hoosier buzz cut so popular with mothers of little boys.

“Hold her while I start on her back,” directed the love of my life.

I leaned over and grasped Ivy by the collar and circled her upper body with my arms. My head was resting on her shoulders. The buzz of the trimmer commenced.

I concentrated on two things: holding the dog firmly and guarding my hair. In 37 years of marriage, I’ve suffered a few ‘accidents’ while engaged in partner activities. The oft heard reply from the hub, “Hmmm. I never thought THAT would happen.” A quick slip of the trimmer and I’d be minus bangs or chunks of hair on the top of my head.

After about a minute, Mike suggested that we take a break. I loosened my grip and sat up.

There were no guides on the head of the trimmer. Mike had buzzed much of the rear flank of our dog.

“What do you think?” he asked, smiling.

“I love you,” said I.

“Doesn’t it look better?” he asked, smiling.

“I love you,” said I.

“She likes it short like this, doesn’t she?” he asked.

Smiling, “I love you,” I said.

You see, once you start on the buzz cut, it’s a commitment. You can’t exactly scape ONE part of the dog naked without continuing.

So, we continued. I held, I turned, I lifted. This went on for an hour. Under the white coat, Ivy has dappled skin and some old age bumps. They now gleam. We have removed the camouflage.
Finally, Ivy’s fluffy tail and the scruff around her face, the part that is ALL terrier, were all that was left to face the trimmer. I suggested that we trade places.

I clicked on the trimmer guide and basically combed through the remaining coat.

So, now our Princess is sporting her new ‘do.’ So fortunate she’s not very vain.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Quiet Thursday Night

This week began with high temperatures but by midweek, we started to sense the coming of fall. This morning, I needed a coat for the drive to school and tonight, the full moon has begun to wane.

Mike has been home this week....misses me, I guess. He started in on a new project. Also, our home became a gathering place as friends dropped by and sat a spell on the porch. As I want to catch up and get ahead with school work, I talked the hub into riding up to the lake this afternoon. Caught up, I"ll be able to leave right after school.

I get this question all the time: How's school going?

It's going great for me. Without thinking, I'd say that as an experienced teacher, I'd give myself all sorts of credit. Ah, but thank you Lord. You're whispering in my ear.

Honestly, although I love what I do, I really enjoyed just not doing much of anything this summer. I like spending all that time with Mike and likewise spending almost no time on anything much else. But he wanted me to return to school and I know that we are blessed as we follow God's lead. So back to school I went.

I was anticipating some new problems: I have two classes of freshmen. I haven't taught 15-year-olds for 10 years. As the youngest in the building, they can be hyper and loud and emotional and disorganized and tearful when disorganized. Also, there's not much mental challenge to preparing lessons and executing the same. I wasn't too thrilled with my change of assignment.

But, God's gift is that these youngsters sit in my room during the first two periods of the day. They are still just waking up. There are no disruptions. And, you know, they are charming in their newness. Each and every tidbit from their teacher is a golden coin to them.

I was also apprehensive about the other end of my day: two sections of most challenging students. Non-academic juniors. These classes are for a wide range of students....some are poor readers; some are locked into vocational courses and THIS is the class that fits their schedule; some are those kids that, a generation ago, would have dropped out by now. Several of mine are in school under court order or threat.

Even those of us with some management skills find the mix volatile. In any classroom, a teacher can handle up to three really disruptive students. But any more is too much. They feed off each other and it's difficult to keep lessons flowing. AND I have these classes during the last two hours of the day, when this teacher is tired and THEY are getting wound up.

So, I anticipated these classes would be problematic, as they always are. Also, because our school had to reduce the teacher force, we were expecting huge classes.

I was surprised that my classes are small....14 and 17 enrolled students. I figured that the computer programs would balance my classes as this is what happens every year. By the end of the third week, when the class lists were still this small, I then figured that everybody's classes were small. When I checked, I found out that, no, other teachers were working with much larger classes.

Huh. Lucky me?

Come on! THIS is the Father's gift. He's not setting me up for a stress out.

And here's another plus: with these supposed problem students in small classes.....teachers crave small classes....some of our challenging students are getting special attention and in several cases, they are blooming into really great members of the class. Some of those really problematic kids really cry out to be noticed.

So, my school year is going great. God whispers to me often in ways that I can do a good job and work for my students without overworking myself into a frenzy. So far, I'm able to drive north soon after that final bell sounds on Friday.

And then, there's the love. As their teacher, most students find me a bit of a dictator, that woman who makes them do a lot more than they would choose to do. They learn to behave and they learn their lessons and by the end of the semester, we're all ready to say, "Goodbye" to each other.

As one scholar said last spring, "It's been a looooooong semester."

But, once we don't see each other every day, many of those kids morph into my biggest fans. At least once a day, some big senior guy walks past me and says, "I miss you, Mrs. B." or "Can I get back in your class?" or "I love you, Mrs. B."

I don't know how much love is too much. So, far, it's all good.

So here in central Indiana, as the cool breeze rustles those first fall leaves across the lawn, it's time to tuck in for the night.

Looking forward to a great weekend.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"I'm Still Here" Birthday Party 8/27/11

Well, it's now a tradition. Before the candles get lit and blown, the birthday boy addresses his friends.

So, here's the latest installment of the Birthday Party Remarks.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Kokomo Huddle

Mike was asked to speak to The Kokomo Huddle, a regulary scheduled meeting of local men, held at our YMCA.

I share this here because Mike is conviced that this is one of the reasons God has continued to bless us and extend his life. It is his prayer that he can serve our Father in this way.

If you'd like to hear his talk, to do where it is posted.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Labor Day Weekend 2011

We grabbed a bite at the Windmaill Grill in Kokomo. It features, besides windmills, a train that circles its track near the ceiling. Alas, the train was off the track.

But, as always, the food was great.

Take a peak at our weekend at Winona Lake. No less than the US Army gave Dr. Al an unexpected leave so she said that she knew she needed to come home. She and the boys arrived on Wednesday afternoon for a long weekend.

Drew had been playing with a loose tooth. Uncle Jim offered a sure-fire tip; Drew "manned-up" and flipped out his own tooth. His reward? A Golden Coin from his great uncle.

Grampa watches the Water Olympics at dock side.

Drew's first kayaking trip.

Local folks joked that the Texans had brought their hot weather with them. One of those not-really-so-funny jokes. While we were sweltering, our guests felt right at home.

That meant, of course, lots of time in the lake.

Noah at the stern of the ship.

A typical sunset.

We also ended up with a whopper of a thunderstorm. Allyson was so pleased, she just sat outside and got soaked.

Boat time with Gramma

A not-so-typical quiet moment by the Winona Lake Duck Pond.

Saturday was also so, so, so hot: 97 degrees but a nice breeze. The boys and our niece's son, Titus, spent the afternoon by the pier. They spent hours and hours of running and jumping off into the water, climbing up the ladder and back to the run. As the afternoon wore on (and the adults wore out), they took a watermelon break by the sea wall. Each grabbed a chunk of cold watermelon and rested for just a moment.

Early Sunday morning was time to drive to Indianapolis. As Allyson has been away for 4 years, she wanted to visit with her former neighbors. Here Dad and Daughter share a brief word of wisdom before we climbed into the car.

The boys, Allyson and I checked into the airport Hampton (I love Hamptons) for the night. Allyson parked herself in the work center while the boys and Gramma hung out in the pool.

Monday morning, we drove across the way to the Indianapolis International Airport. Aunt Sherry waved from inside the terminal as the boys waved back. Once Allyson loaded her bags on a dolly, a quick hug and they were gone.

What could be better than some really great fun with our children and grandchildren? Not much.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Long Weekend: Back to Work

Tomorrow will mean I'm back in the classroom. And the hub? Well, he's preparing for something special this week.

Mike and I have had lots of talks, introspective kinds of chats, about all sorts of things. One topic that continues to rise: that, whether or not we understand it all, we are part of God's master plan. What Mike has found here are many lessons; how gracious that our Father has given him time to try these out.

Twice Mike has been interviewed by local churches. One of those videos has been posted on line. Although Mike is not so big on being public, we both know that the lessons of the past two years are part of what his life is all about.

So, the interview can be viewed at

And Wednesday, Mike will be speaking to the fall kick-off meeting of Kokomo Huddle, a lunch time meeting at the YMCA. Around 200 men will hear his testimony.

So, as you pray for us, please pray that our Father will use this testimony to His glory.