Thursday, December 31, 2009

Running 'em Ragged in San Antonio

Once we all arrived in what THEY claim is the warm/south, the hub, having seen The River Walk and other downtown sites, craved a nap. Allyson, Zach and the boys did the town. They were gone for almost 5 hours.

What a great nap!

Anyway, the whole week we were there, Zach got to play with the nephews. It was good for everybody.

We had booked our first flights separately. We all flew together Sunday night back to Indianapolis. Then, 1 1/2 hours later, we crawled into our beds.

This week is all about home chores and getting ready for next week. I went to school on Tuesday, feeling a bit alien. But then I opened some drawers and thumbed through my books and I'm ready to go.

It's been, really, almost a year since I was in the classroom. I hope it's like riding a never forget.

Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerry Christmas

We gathered the troops in San Antonio this year for Christmas. It was a repeat of last year but what a lot has happened in a year!

Auntie took a trip home so it was just Bolingers and Fewells in what seems like a big house until we all descend. Allyson, resident superb, got 7 days off which is unusual in the Army. We had time to talk, eat, play, eat, read, eat, etc...

The pile of presents approached what Jean Shepherd called "the bacchanal that is Christmas" and the boys' eyes were as big as saucers when they spied the tree on Chrismas morn.

However, hard as it was for them, Mom insisted that her dad, as is our tradition, read the Christmas story before the paper ripping orgy began. So, reading this year from The Message, Mike turned to Luke chapter 2.

He read. He's a good reader. He intoned where he should and paused effectively, for the adults. The children were, let's just say, squirmy as they tried to divert their attention from the presents.

At one point, Mike said, "Then they withdrew..." and our eldest grandson lit up and said, "DREW!"

Who says there's not something in scripture for everybody?

The Bible was closed; the games began. It took an hour.

Then, performing a first-time Christmas Day task, the grandma prepared the dinner. Really, we have never done this in all our years. In our Kokomo home, I would make a big plate of yeast cinnamon rolls and an egg casserole and we'd eat it throughout the day, many times staying a-jammied. Not this year. WE had ourselves a feast, the meal I know how to make: Roast Beef and Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, green bean casserole, yeast rolls and butter.

Allyson set up her camera and took three pictures of us all....everybody has his/her best picture so I will post and let the readers decide.

At any rate, we past through another holiday season. What did I give my husband on this special day? What did he give me? Please humor me: we wrapped arms around each other, hugged, and told God thanks.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

San Antonio

It's a balmy 61 degrees this afternoon. At night, it gets a bit cool, 45 or so. How quickly you can acclimate to find THAT cold!

I'm going to be all gramma-ly here, relating those cute stories people love to tell about their grandchildren....folks with grandchildren and their own cute stories find themselves drawn to such tales. Folks without grandchildren wonder how anyone can become so 'into' such trivia and go on and on and on and on about it.

I belonged to the later until I became a grandma and then, poof, you morph into one of those tale tellers.

I remember that when Drew was an infant (and circumstances brought him to live in our home so I got to spend a lot of that first year with him) (oh, yeah, and his parents, too): I could sit and just stare at Drew for a what sounds like a ridiculous amount of time. He did not do much, being a newborn and all. But he held a magical fascination for me. Much more that either of my children did, and their draw was awesome.

Wondering only briefly if I was weird in this, I ran this 'stare at him' thing past other grandparents and what came back were knowing smiles and nods.

He's 5 these days; actually he's 5 1/2 and quick to tell you. He's all about kindergarten, riding the bus, taking his lunch, and learning to read. He's also a really silly kid with a giggling sense of humor. No one finds his jokes nearly as funny as HE does.

Today, we went to his basketball game. He's a LAKER. #5. The league is for 4 - 6 year olds and I'm guessing for the hard core fans, you might find it frustrating. But for this gramma, it was pure fun.

They play 6 minute quarters and they don't keep score. (Some parents/grandparents do.) You can see that the coaches are teaching the fundamentals...dribbling, passing, shooting (...well...) and guarding. "Hands up," from any coach, and all hands go up on both teams. It is not uncommon for a coach to pick up a player during the game and run him to his location.

Auntie warned me that sometimes the team loses interest in the action. Last week, I guess, several players noticed an in-floor electrical outlet at mid court and stopped to examine it. No one called foul.

Of course, MY grandson played well. He got to bring the ball down the court and dribbled like a 5 year old pro.

Then, because "5 year olds DON'T take naps," Drew and Gramma went on an adventure, just the two of us. We had a goal: new shoes for basketball. The current shoes are worn thin on the bottom and although Mom's advice was "lick your hand and rub it on the soles like MY parents made me" (???????), Gramma thought better of that plan.

So we drove to the mall as Noah stayed home and napped. We were successful and so stopped for ice cream. Drew noticed the frozen cakes and he asked me what kind of cake I had for my birthday.

"Oh, Honey, I didn't have a cake."
"Why not."
"When you get older, you don't get cake."
"You're not too old yet."
"Well, I'm pretty old."

Then, and here comes the cute story: he reached over and ran his index finger from my nose to my mouth. "You know those lines you have here?" (YES) "Well, when you have them all over your face, THEN you're too old. But you don't have them all over."

So we bought a cake and will celebrate tonight before I sprout more lines.

Not a lot of a point here. Just loving my grandbabies.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Prayer Requests

Mike has been a busy bee out in his workshop: standing for long hours in odd postures and so forth.

He is experiencing discomfort that does not go away in his hips, ankles, elbows, and knees. He told me that the bottoms of his feet feel raw.

If you know the hub, you know he's pretty tough when it comes to pain. I sneak some Tylenol at him and it helps somewhat. But if you've ever suffered from chronic pain, you know what a wear it can be.

So I will ask that you pray specifically for relief in this area.

Also, Mike's doctor decided to move up his next CT to the first week of January. We will meet with her January 8. As in the past, we covet your prayers on that day. We have experienced the tangible arms of the Father as we sit in this appointments.

Thank you, all dear friends, for your faithful prayer on our behalf.

May your Christmas be merry; may your holidays be joyous. May the new year...WE are looking forward to the new filled with God's blessings.

Our Christmas Letter

The year's recap

Health concerns in February culminated with
Mike's diagnosis of microscopic metastatic gall bladder
cancer in early April. We came home from the hospital and prepared for a funeral. He retired and I took a leave of absence.

And legions of friends, named and unnamed, began storming the gates of Heaven in our behalf. We know that many are speaking to the Father daily on our behalf.
Mike recovered from the surgery and gained strength and, at present, we have results of two CTs that show no tumor growth. His blood work, targeting likely targets, is normal.
Christmas 2009 is like Thanksgiving, his birthday, my birthday, our anniversary……..all celebrations we did not think we would mark together. We are living a miracle.

In the past, Mike had been too busy to 'smell the roses.' Now, roses are popping up all over the place, all the time. Christmas is a season of gifts. We have been given the gift of more time. Quality time. We have enjoyed a good 35 year marriage. In the last year, our good marriage has grown to a great marriage. We are loving life and savoring all it offers.

As we move into 2010 (imagine!), we will covet your prayers. You can keep up with us at our blog:

We are humbled and grateful for all of your love and concern. May the God that we serve bless you in the new year.


I’ve been thinking, a lot lately, about forgiveness. As believers, we all know that we should forgive others as God has forgiven us. Most of us have that head knowledge, as they say.

But down in the gut, where it really counts, I know that I can harbor grudges and justify my anger to myself, turning a deaf ear to that still small voice that would yank me back in line.

And I think I can recount a story that is vague enough NOT to target anyone specifically.

Many years ago, I maintained a ‘justifiable anger’ toward a lady who was a very public Christian. I don’t mean she was false, it’s just that everybody knew her stand on faith and most people respected her for taking that stand. To boot, she was just such a nice person. Always smiling. Always a soft word. In short, most people, Christian and otherwise, were drawn to her warmth and genuine love.

Except for one little thing. She disliked me. Actually, I think she hated me. I don’t know. What I DO know is that whenever it was just her and me, a different person emerged. Several times, I had to work with her and it was, well, horrible. Several times, I needed something that she could give me OR I’d have to manufacture myself, meaning lots and lots of free time spent on the task. And each time, her help was, um, not forthcoming. And when I’d ask and she’d say no, she’d shoot me a knowing, smirky smile.

No one else was witness and when we were in a group, of course, she warmed the room with her love. Smiles all round.

HM. I usually did a private burn and worked without her aid. Or anyone else’s sympathy. And, because she was a believer, punishing me for whatever, I decided that I was justified in my anger. I mean, she should know better, right?

The day came when she was going to be honored at a small, but not too small, program. I was included in the invitation. I made up my mind that I would not attend. No big deal, right? I mean, my absence would be noticed but no one but she would ever know my motivation. And even if she didn’t notice, I was striking back and lashing out and it felt good. Power to this people!

As I dressed for my day and looked in the mirror, fresh from my decision, I remember smiling (was that a smirk?), satisfied that in at least this manner, I could let her know what I thought of her.

Then, well, then God showed up. I was driving to work when a 5 minute devotional program came on the Moody station. Hosted by a specific gentleman, I had always found his voice annoying so I stretched forth my index finger to turn him off. Until…
“Here’s the thing about holding a grudge.”

Now, you’d expect, wouldn’t you, that he’d light into that forgive as you have been forgiven thing? But no, instead he spent 4 of his 5 minutes talking about how bad, physically and emotionally, it is for a person to maintain anger toward someone else.

“When you nurse a grudge, that person’s face is in front of you all of the time.”


“It makes your stomach tense and can give you a headache.”


“It serves no purpose, if you think you are getting back at the person.”


“It serves no purpose if you think you’re teaching someone a lesson.”


“It poisons your free time and invades your dreams.”


"It blocks your prayers."


There were other points but these stay with me to today.

THEN, he slipped in the ‘forgive as you have been forgiven.’By that time, however, I had pulled the car over and needed to have a little time with my Father, right there by the side of the road. I confessed (like it was news to Him) and asked His forgiveness.

Then, I forgave this woman.

Now, that is the strange part. She didn’t ask for forgiveness. It’s possible, but I doubt it, that she did not know she had offended me. It’s not like I could go to her and tell her I forgave her. In this case, it would have been for show and it would have been futile.

But I forgave her and guess what? The weigh came off my shoulders. I went to the program, congratulated her (no smirk on either face), and had a good time.

When I reflect on some of the things that others endure, I realize that this woman’s slights were slight. No one has ever hurt my physically or emotionally. If that were the case, would God want me to forgive such a person? I believe He would. I might need some help to work through it, but forgiveness is always the best plan.

It’s His plan and He set the example. Only through forgiveness can we be restored. Only by forgiving, can we shed that weight.

As for the object of my lesson, our paths have taken different turns but I will run into this woman from time to time. Are we buddies? I would have to say, No. Do we greet each other warmly, as Christian sisters should? I would have to say, Yes.
And how great is that? You don’t want to have to avoid certain boulevards in Heaven, now do you?

We had occasion to exercise our sense of grace recently when a person asked us to forgive him. It was hard to ask. It was easy to forgive. God’s grace has taught us that.

Monday, December 14, 2009


About a year ago, I discovered a radio gem:

Dennis Miller has a radio show which broadcasts 3 hours/day from his home in Santa Barbara.

Depending on your age, you will know who Dennis is: Comedian. Sports Announcer. SNL Anchor. Etc.

What you may not know, as his show competes with some other popular programs, is that he and his staff put together a most entertaining and thought-provoking offering: social commentary, discussion of books, movies, and politics, absurdist situational comedy, and dot dot dot.

I would catch the show after school as I drove on errands. The signal is weak from Indianapolis and sometimes, I would map out my path so I could get good reception for certain segments.

His staff offers subscription incentives, called the Dennis Miller Zone where, among other things, you can download the programs and listen when you can. I found that an inexpensive way to listen, as I was also saving gasoline.

So I'm a fan. You might search to see if you can get his show.

The web site also has numerous message boards where listeners can sound off. One that is active is where listeners, while listening, comment on the program. Now, as an employed person, I would read through these but never participated. However, as I spent more time at home (and at hospitals and at doctor's offices), I dipped my toe into the message boards.

Now I know we all have stereotypes of the kinds of people who live at their computers and have human contact ONLY through their keyboards. But, may I say, the people I've met on the DMZ, most of them, are active, interested, interesting people.

I mentioned this to my son who said, "Oh, isn't that nice? Mom has little Internet friends." When I mentioned this summer that I was going to meet up with one, his amusement turned to alarm. HE apparently knows the stalkers that linger in cyberspace. That turned out great, by the way.

I, on the other hand, have formed friendships with folks all over the country, including Hawaii and Alaska. And, as it has become appropriate, I've shared the challenges that Mike and I are facing.

So what? So, I have stretched the prayer web even further.

Last week, Dennis asked listeners to call in and record stories of Christmas for broadcast. I was able to tell him that the best present of the season is my husband's health. And he concurred.

I believe these will be broadcast on Tuesday 12/15. You might check it out.

Anyway, the DMZ has been and continues to be a safe harbor, a place for me to think, express opinions, and learn from others.

A Note from the Woodshop

I would agree that I am on occasion not the brightest bulb in the universe. I do not see a lot of things that other people see, particularly when it comes to personal relationships. Never let it be said that I ignored those that have been there for me recently.

I have figured out that you can tell who your friends really are when they drive great distances to come and see you when you are shot to pieces in the hospital. This is not to say that if you did not come to see me while I was at IU medical Center, that you are not my friend, but I am saying that the number of people who showed up astounded me. I was blown away by the number of people who came that I would not have ever predicted would show up.

Such loyalty and kindness should be rewarded, I think.

We live in an age of mass-produced crap. Rarely do any of us buy anything that is custom made for us or is made by someone who really cares about what they are making. I can think of a few exceptions, Ducati motorcycles and Porsche cars, being two. At these companies the engine builders still sign their names inside each engine that they produce. There is also a company that produces wood planes and handsaws that are works of art for craftsmen who understand the value of good tools. But for the most part what almost all of us buy, me included, is something knocked off quickly with an eagle eye fixed on the bottom line. Not so with what I build.

The tables, and indeed everything I build, are imperfect; look closely and you might see a scratch from my block plane or maybe a worm hole in the wood. What you won't find is Formica, fake wood or veneers. Again, what I build is not perfect, but it is the best I could do at the time. The next thing I build will be a little better, I hope. I like to think that craftsmanship is like playing music, flying aerobatics or practicing law. There is always room for improvement. I strive for perfection and always fall short. But it is a worthy goal.

Everybody that came to visit me in the hospital is getting a small oak table hand made by yours truly. Each table is made of the finest wood I could find, features mortise and tenon joints, has a custom inlay, and will last at least 100 years. Each table is signed by me and has a personal note to the recipient attached.

Here is a picture of the tables in my shop after construction was completed.

Mike out.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Too Late

Last Wednesday, December 9, was my 59th birthday. Birthdays are less of a big deal for me but I DO have several friends who insisted that I celebrate so they took me to lunch. Nice. And the hub and I had a sweet, quiet evening at home, on a cold and wintry night. Yet another celebration in this momentous year.

This photo is about 56 years old. Mom included it in a personalized birthday card, along with some other photos. Funny, it got me flipping through an album she made for me when I got married. I've looked at these photos before, some with my siblings, but this time, I honed in on one feature that shows up in all of them. I'm always looking squarely into the camera and there's a glint in the eye. There's the smile, sure, as someone (Dad, usually) directed us to SMILE. But there's a mischievous sparkle that belies the ornery little critter behind those orbs.

I was (am?) the challenging child, that one who claims the most parental gray hairs. Mom still likes to tell people (and the hub parrots this on relevant occasions) that
'when Lynne asked for permission, she wasn't asking whether or not she was going to DO something, just if she was going to have permission."

The significance of this pose is that when Mom would get us ready for church, we were to fold our hands to keep them clean. Often, we had little white gloves on those hands. Even as a preschooler, I enjoyed walking out to the car, hands folded, and then swiping a finger over the fender just before I got into the back seat. Yes, that was ME.

Really? Well, yes, although if I were a child today, I'd built a case for "NOT MY FAULT" as is the fashion.

After all, I came on the heels of the perfect child. Older sister Janis was (is) smart and kind, and walked the chalk when it came to parental rules. I was that second child, you know, so I pushed the limits and dared to challenge. Younger sister Kris, the cute one, the sweet one, told me that she looked up to me; she also told me that she worked really hard at being good to make up

All three of us were supposed to be Patrick Hayes in those simpler days when parents awaited birth to confirm the baby's gender. But then the youngest (Ken is firm that, although he was the youngest, KRIS was the baby)came along, and he was named after my dad.

We four shared a pretty good upbringing that we can now idealize as we and the memories grow fuzzier. But I have clear recollections of some of my more infamous challenges to the rules. And so do my sibs so I'll leave that for THEIR autobiographies..I'm sure they'll include me because it can only serve to shine their own halos.

So why was I such a stinker? My pastor has reminded me, on quite a few occasions, (as I have a short attention span and forget IMPORTANT things) that God has gifted all of His children in unique ways. Pastor's context is usually when I fret about my own children or some other kid in my sphere of influence. We parents (and teachers) can do what we can to train them up, to mentor, to guide, and to pray. And then we have to hand them over to the Father who sees the big picture.

Mom and Dad raised their Baby Boomin' Brood in suburban Detroit, took us to church, prayed for us and, I'm sure, paced the floor over at least ONE offspring. "It's Tuesday. Time to Worry about Lynne...." And the product has to step back and admire their faithfulness to their God and to their responsibility.

Like many teenagers, when I pushed the most, I simmered in my room and listed all the things I'D NEVER SAY or DO to MY CHILDREN when I grew up. And like many who have survived their teens and have raised their own, I've found their words coming easily out of my mouth as they make such good sense.

As for personal gifting, I doubt that 'rule pusher' appears among the SPIRITUAL GIFTS in Galatians. Mom and Dad did not read books. They modeled their own parents. And in the case of the second child, they fell back on their WWII military training and always always presented a united front and always always stuck to their word when it came to, um, punishment. "Grounded for six weeks" meant grounded for six weeks. That one was brutal and they only had to do that once. However, had they relented or eased up, they would have bought themselves more trouble from ME.

It's too late for me to thank my dad, although I'm sure he knows. But hey, Mom, thanks for guiding this second child, and all of your children, to adulthood and beyond. I know you pray for us.

God's blessings continue to flow for us in Kokomo. My family has grown even more dear. And I'm ok, all.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Princess Ivy Needs a Trim

It had been a while. Our Princess, she of undetermined breed, although we are certain that there courses royal blood throughout her body, was in need of a trip to the groomer.

A new place in town, offering all sorts of perks, including a paw-de-cure, caught our eye. Zach, with coupons in hand, drove the Princess to the salon.

The owners required a detailed check in history including 'Breed." hmmmm. Zach wrote,

Siberian SnoutHound

The hub has determined that this is her breed. He also tells anyone who asks about her unique tail which, when she's in high gear, rotates in giant circles. He says that this rare breed was bred to chase rats out of sewers in Medivial England; the circular movement enabled the dogs to drive out the rats.

Mike is so serious and straightforward with this explanation that many people not only believe him,they go home to read more, only to find that they can't seem to locate the source of such lore.

Ivy DOES have some terrier in the mix and her face and whiskers can reach the droopy stage where a trim is essential.

So off to the salon. Zach drove back at 5:30 and voila! The Princess emerged, place.

According to Z, others in the outer office applauded her. I'm sure she looked around for treats.

NB: The Princess has been enjoying Waaaaaaaaaaaay too much rich food. She's porking out and when we last saw the Vet, HE was displeased. As she has some hip problems, the mom of this house has now put her foot down about feeding from the table. The only thing that worked, because all of you would feed Ivy if you looked into those eyes, is my reminder that dogs sometimes have to be put down for hip problems.

So, right now, my men are minding me in this area. And look at the Princess!

She DOES know who has effectivly dried up her extra food source so she does not smile at me. I can live with that.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Over the river and through the woods, to Charlotte, NC, we go
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh in the white and drifting snow-oh

Over the mountains, actually, as in Great Smokeys, in eastern Tennessee. Even as the trees are bare, for those of us who spend our days surrounded by flat, winter cornfields, any hills rise magnificently in front of you anytime you head south.

The hub and I decided to invite ourselves to my brother’s house in Charlotte for Thanksgiving this year. As we prepared to leave, I realized that in 35 years of marriage, we have never celebrated the great feast with my side of the family. As Mike always worked on the day after, it seemed like a too-big effort to drive to Michigan, eat and leave so the easier choice was to stay in Indiana with Mike’s people. (mine, too, by marriage)

This year was different. My brother and his angel of a wife Janelle host the feast each year with Ken doing all the cooking. He’s a math guy so he prepares a spreadsheet with tasks, times, and comments, and the meal appears, all of it, on time and hot. The guest’s job is to show up on time, get those hands folded, and eat. We got the easier job. I practiced.

Janelle, by the way, is a woman of many talents, not the least of which involves living with a Hayes for so long. She authors a blog you should check out:

I knew that they had hosted this party every year but when I called, I asked first if they had made other plans this year. Wouldn’t it be just our luck that on this year of new adventures, they might be going somewhere else? But no, they expected a crew, around 20 hungry pilgrims, to break bread…they were having other things as well…at their table on Thanksgiving. So I told Ken that we’d like to come; he said that we had made his day.

We set out on Tuesday morning in Mike’s Chevy truck, loaded down with sandwiches and sodas, plus some beef jerky. We also stockpiled books on CD. Our destination was near Deals Gap, that stretch of road where Mike and Dale like to tempt fate with their motorcycles.

Driving south is usually a joy, as Indiana’s southern hills turn into various parts of the Appalachians. As the hub required, we had REAL MAPS and we fired up the GPS and the radar detector. Traffic was light although we spotted many many many state patrolmen, those sneaks.

The hub had instructed me to find a simple place to pass the night: small and cheap. And I did. When we pulled into the ‘parking lot’ and located ‘the office,’ an autumnal woman walked slowly to the locked door and let us in. It was cheap. It was small. And the hub said, “Let’s go on to Asheville.” So we did.

Although the hub, world traveler that he is NOT, says he doesn’t like ‘vanilla motels,” (please, someone, WHERE did he get THAT term?), we moseyed into a Hampton Inn, my new favorite as I am amassing points. I think I need only 50,000 more for a free night somewhere. Or maybe 100,000. No matter. We racked up another 50 or so and enjoyed a great night’s sleep. Then off to Charlotte.

Except there is a Ducati dealer in Asheville so we paid them a visit. We found several bikes that we really need and heck, we have the truck and all….of course, they will ship to us…but the hub said, not yet.

Then, as we drove into Charlotte, the hub, who continues to surprise me every day, said, “I think they have an IKEA store in Charlotte.”

Huh? A store? YOU want to go shopping?

In case you don’t know, and before November I didn’t know, IKEA is a brand of Swedish goods that can fill one’s home, from furniture to cabinets, to rugs, to dinnerware, to doo dads and goo gaas.

The store is huge, the biggest one I’ve ever seen. And everything you look at is beautiful and it’s all displayed beautifully. AND, once you begin to stroll through the store, you really cannot get out until you’ve walked past every item. The aisles twist and wind back and forth past plates and glasses and mirrors, and couches, and kitchen utensils and frames, and tables, and …..

As you finally think you’re approaching the check out, there’s a snack bar selling fresh cinnamon rolls and coffee, you know, to revive you from your hike. And even if you don’t fall for the goodies, that aroma wafts around you.

We thought we were just looking but we left with a step stool, a cabinet and a chair for the workshop.

Then, on to Ken and Janelle’s. They live in a lovely, roomy house. I’m betting when they are the only ones home, its size seems adequate. However, we were adding to their homestead, as was my mom and niece Brit and her young man, Kenneth. All these folks slept soundly and then breakfasted as the Man of the House began his chef tasks.

Mom was between cruises and parties so Charlotte was a chance to catch her breath. She returned to Melbourne, FL the next Saturday for a flurry of holiday get-togethers before she will fly out to Los Angeles for Christmas. Just hearing her click off her December agenda makes some of us tired.

Janelle’s table was decorated with her handiwork and I can’t do it justice here, so let me just say, you have to see it to believe it. Check out that blog, I’m serious.
Mike built a small table with a drawer for Janelle and Ken. I think they were pleased. The photo above is us with our niece Britt and nephew Ian at the table ‘after.’

Thank you, baby brother (I know, cringe, but I mean it with love) for setting out a traditional feed with all the goodies.

Although Ken and Janelle are kin, we haven’t spent a lot of time with them over the years. So, they were pleased that we were coming and hoped it would go well. What they did NOT know was that God was setting them up to do special things for Mike.
Mike hates turkey. Our family Thanksgivings have included ribs, tacos, egg rolls. Mike likes orange juice in cartons and really really likes what he calls ‘Lumpy applesauce.’

The other day, Janelle sent us a card (hand made, of course) and in it, she recounted what she saw as some special hugs that God had given Mike at Thanksgiving.

“1. OJ and SPRITE. We rarely have either in the house…(they purchase, if at all, small amounts) If we had done that this year, there would’ve been none left for you.”
“2. Chunky Applesauce…Ken has never bought chunky applesauce before. In fact, he usually just grabs the smooth…this time he read labels and chose different. Different isn’t normal for him”
“ 3. Ham..we’ve never had ham for Thanksgiving, no matter how many people we were expecting. Always turkey. Always. Never even thought of ham. Never even considered that someone might not like turkey. Now we know.”

More hugs from our Father.

I was seated next to a neighbor, a junior in high school who loves literature. Imagine! We had such a good time, eating and talking. Cousin Jeannie and Mike discussed the South and the Civil War. Ken smiled throughout and Janelle, ever serene, never fluttered an eyelid.

It was your normal American Thanksgiving….food, talk, football, more food, more talk, until heads began to nod. Another great night’s sleep and we turned the truck northward for the drive home.

We had so much fun, both together and alone in the truck and with family and new friends. Ken and Janelle have made notes for next year: Mike likes ham.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Deep Thoughts on Toy-related Injuries, Ducatis, and Cool Wives

Those of you who have spent any time at all with me know that I love my toys. Especially those that have a lethal aspect to them. I have often said that if it goes fast and will kill you, I am all for playing with it. Unfortunately, lethal toys carry with them infinite possibilities for damaging your body. I know all about this. Consider the following:

I love windsurfing. The faster, the better. Several years ago, I was bored, so I decided I would go windsurfing. I loaded the board and headed to Mississinewa Reservoir. There was a nice breeze. Enough to plane the board. The wind picked up considerably and I was having the time of my life…until the mast snapped in two. Not good. The fact that it was December and sleeting did not make it better. However, I had my wetsuit on with my booties, so I was warm. Until I had to get in the water to take the mast apart and roll up the sail, so I could lay on the board and paddle it to shore. This was not hard to do, but I had no gloves. It took me about half an hour to make the shore. By the time I made it, my hands had frozen. I staggered to my car and turned on the heater. I screamed for an hour as they warmed. It was three days before they were any where close to useable. My lovely wife just shook her head and made a comment about not having a lick of sense.

I love sailing. I bought a 16 foot Prindle 10 years ago. A Prindle is like a Hobie Cat, except a Prindle is lots faster. It was equipped with a twin trapeze so two sailors could hike out, suspended by a harness. Very cool. Lee Moore and I were sailing it in about 20 knots of wind one Saturday. Lee was the only person silly enough to get on this boat with me. On a blazing downwind run with both of us hooked up on the trapeze, I let the hull in the water dive down into an oncoming wave. It is called "pearling." The boat cart wheeled, and the shackle that held the boom broke and cracked me right on the bridge of the nose. I was momentarily knocked unconscious and ended up in the water. It is not a good thing when you get hit so hard, it doesn't hurt. For about one minute, I was dazed and bleeding all over the place and was certain that my lovely schnoze was broken. Then the pain started. I still have the scar from the shackle. When the lovely Loon heard about this little mishap, she shook her head and made a comment that she did not know that sailing was a contact sport.

I love mountain biking. One Saturday morning at the Boy's Camp at Winona Lake, I was at the top of a hill where the trail runs down to the river. There was a free-swinging suspension bridge at the bottom of the trail crossing the river. I had already made the run twice. I was tired. I even thought to myself that I needed to walk the bike across the bridge to be safe. So I did that, right? No way! I let it go all the way. Half way down I knew I wasn't going to make it. I didn't. This little trick cost me a broken third vertebrae and a punctured left lung. My left arm was partially paralyzed for six months. The Lynne wanted to know when I was going to grow up and stop acting like a 10-year-old.

I love motorcycles. I had a 2006 Honda CBR 600 RR a while back. 118 horsepower in a bike weighing 350 pounds. That bike was terrifyingly fast. I was riding it at Deal's Gap one sunny Sunday morning, when I let the back wheel slide on the yellow boundary stripe on the road. Down I went. I slid for a while and then tumbled into a deep ravine. I was still OK, until I hit the rock. I did not know it at the time, but I had managed to break six ribs and puncture (yet again) my left lung. I rode the bike back to the motel, loaded it and drove nine hours home. I didn't tell The Roommate until I could no longer deal with the pain. Off to the ER. It was about four months before I could take a full breath. Lynn-o suggested I get a slower bike. Yeah, right.

I love airplanes. Particularly my beloved Mooney Mite. It is a single seat wooden airplane with a stick, a variable pitch prop, retractable landing gear, and a sliding canopy. It was fast and a trick to fly. One day I flew over to Glendale airstrip to show it off. I landed too fast and bent the landing gear. I couldn't lock it up or down. Not good. I ended up belly landing it at Kokomo. In the last few seconds of the flight, I released the canopy lock, slid the canopy back, tightened my harness, turned off the electrical system, closed the fuel valve, turned off the radio, and braced the land gear lever with my right knee. After the plane stopped sliding I jumped out of it and ran. I was uninjured. The point of this tale is that I told Lynners what had happened. She looked me over and determined I wasn't hurt and did not say much more until that night when we were in bed. She will deny that we had this conversation, but every single word set down here is true. Out of the darkness, she said, "I have only one question for you about what happened today and I don't want any of your lawyer b******t answers. I want the truth. OK?" I said I would tell the truth. There was a momentary silence and then she asked, "Did the airplane break or did you F--- up." I responded that I had F---up royally. She then said, "Well, don't do it again, OK?" I told her I would do my best not to.

(editor's note: Yes, she will deny this. She MAY have said 'lawyer b******t,' as that was an understood quantity; she would NEVER utter the "F" word. It just doesn't emerge from her lips. However, the hub has this befuddled memory imbedded and says that it is so memorable because of the level of language. He's confused. The editor is sure she used SOME sort of word, perhaps 'messed up,')

It was after the Mooney Mite conversation that I realized that I was married to an incredible woman. Most wives would be screaming at their husbands that the airplane was going, or they were. Not so with LCB. She knew better. After the bike wreck, you would think that she would have put her foot down about fast motorcycles. But nope. Not a word. What a woman!

Recently, I was in my Dr's office after a checkup. I asked how long I had to live. The Dr. said he didn't know, that everyone is different. I said I should have been dead in June, but here I was. I should have been gone by August, but here I was. He asked what I was doing with the balance of my short life. I told him that if I had a year I would buy another red Ducati motorcycle. He said, "Buy the bike." "So I have a year?" I asked. "I don't know that," he said. "Just buy the bike." I left the office thinking about another Ducati.

Which gets me to what I really wanted to say all along. On the way to Charlotte for Thanksgiving, we spent the night in Asheville, where there happens to be a Ducati dealer. We stopped and looked at the bikes. LCB asked which one I wanted. I pointed it out. She said, "Buy it, we can load it up in the truck and take it with us. Or you can ride it to Charlotte and I will drive the truck. Buy the bike." I told her that I wasn't going to buy it because it was financially irresponsible, given my short life expectancy.

Lynne-let said, "Mike, you only go around once and you don't have much time, I want you to have that bike." She paused and then said, "You know that cruise to Alaska we are going on in June? We will cancel it and use the money for the bike." I did not buy the bike.

Back when I was recovering from surgery, expecting to be dead with in 90 days, Lynnie made arrangements for a cruise to Alaska. I begged off saying I was not well and that I didn't need a trip. I just wanted to be with the people I loved at home. All of which was true. I had no idea how much Lynnie-loo wanted to go on that trip. Because I am a stupid man, I thought the trip was all for me. Wrong. She needed the trip. I did not see that. I have often told her that I have the easy part of all this. I just have to die. She has to be the caregiver, which is much harder. If it was Lynners that was sick, I do not think I could bear it. I could not deal with watching the woman I love die and be unable to do anything about it. I just couldn't handle it.

And here she is offering to give up the Alaska trip so I can buy a Ducati. Astounding! What a woman!

I am not going to buy the bike. I am going to do my best to make that Alaskan trip. According to the Drs., there is no chance that it will happen, but then I'm still here and I was supposed to be dead in June. You never know, maybe I will fool them.
Mike out.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Mikes

Son extraordinaire prefers his perch as an observer. He's one of those quiet mullers, taking in the scene, the noise, the undercurrent, and then making a quick remark that sums it all up.

He chuckles at his parents and their quirks, habits and choices of expressions.
Apparently, NO ONE calls it a clicker. "Maybe back in the '80s." NO ONE calls it 'The Net" as in 'surfing the net.' And, believe you me: NO ONE comes within a foot of a computer screen with his/her finger.

Not that he doesn't have his little ways, having lived on his own for a few years. This is why, if I purchase extra milk, I will find all cartons open in our less-than-huge refrigerator. And, of course, there's that ritual of opening up said refrigerator and staring, wistfully, at what is NOT there.

A growing amusement for the Zach is the growing friendship between the Mikes, his dad and our next-door-neighbor. I have mentioned him before, he with all the tools, all the equipment, all the skill, and an infinite source of optimism.

Our Mike has had a nodding acquaintance with neighbors as he has been busy at his law practice. Now, with that distraction gone, he is discovering that we live in a great neighborhood and have pretty cool neighbors. I'd say Next Door Mike is the coolest.

His wife Ann once told me that she knew when she married him, she'd never have to worry about fixing things. Defining THINGS as broadly as you will, she was right on.

Next Door Mike has tools big and small. Where you might have multiple screwdrivers, he adds to that clipping tools, mowing tools, blowing tools, and many many other tools. I have no idea what their uses are. As for storage, well, there's the requisite garage and basement work room. Plus, a recent acquisition, a nearby oversized storage unit, has been named the ManCave by the hub. I cannot do it justice but besides toys, it has a movable staircase and flashing lights, a snack room, an outside picnic area, a car lift and engine hoist.

At any rate, when the hub decided to tear down our old dog fence and replace it, Next Door Mike said that he hoped we'd wait until his day off from the water company. He wanted to be a part.

And so he was. Ann snapped The Two Mikes.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Let me get all Thoreau on you....

Henry David Thoreau was the most famous disciple of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the father of American Transcendentalism. Those wacky 19th century people LOVED to use their three names.

Anyway, as most people who have dozed through American Literature know, Thoreau spent 2 years (and 2 months and 2 days for you trivia junkies) in a rented cabin near Walden Pond outside of Concord, Massachusetts. His aim was to live out the principles to which he ascribed. He had quite a time.

Never a hermit but certainly ok with internal dialogue, he entertained visitors when they trekked the 2 miles out to see him. At other times, he slept when the sun went down, rose when it came up, farmed, fished, and lived a simple life. AND he journaled extensively, creating WALDEN, his best known work.

More than once, I’m sure, someone asked him what the heck he thought he was doing. I’m guessing they phrased it better as a study of their writings would uncover. Perhaps he needed to mull it a bit himself. He had the time and lacked distractions to formulate a great answer. At any rate, this is what he came to: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

What is it with the woods, with its sights, sounds and aromas that draw modern day seekers to find some part of themselves?

At this house, we all find a walk in the woods to be a therapeutic exercise. If you can get so far in that you can’t hear motors, you can hear the chirps, crunches, trills, clicks, and other tones that combine into a most soothing melody. We have a place nearby that we often have to ourselves: no matter what time of day or night, nature sings in waves as the wind rustles through tree limbs and along the grassy ground.

I was raised in the suburbs so I’ve come to this outside thing lately. The hub, however, has sought the great outdoors for most of his life. He and his siblings have taken various camping trips and even hiked part of the Appalachian Trail. Mike said just the other day that he wished he had taken the time to hike the whole route.

(I’m thinking the idea of Hiking the Trail is much better than the actual trek.)

He has tried to engage me in ‘real camping.’ That means outside, rain or shine (and why does it aways rain?) sleeping on the ground, cooking over a fire that you start from wood that you gather. I must say, my definition of ‘roughing it’ means a motel with only basic cable.

At any rate, as we are savoring our gift of extra time, Mike and I have are filling our days with novel experiences. He will not come to die and discover that he has not lived. Not if I can help it.
Thoreau also said that, in his opinion, most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.

It is our goal to sing that song, loud and as long as God gives us breath. Sometimes it sounds like a guitar. Sometimes it sounds like a table saw as it zips through timber. And sometimes, it’s the sweet whispers that we share, just the two of us, with each other.

We’ve passed Thanksgiving 2009. It was one of the best celebrations of our marriage. We have much to be thankful for.

Friends are wishing us a happy holiday as we head into Christmas. We had not believed that we’d spend these holidays with each other and with family and friends. What a wonder. What a gift. What a special joy for us all.

Please join us in singing:

Glory to God in the highest
And to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be:
World without end.

Amen Amen.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Going on an Adventure

“You want to go on an adventure?’


“Surprise. If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise.”

“Uh, ok.”

“Put on some sweats and get a hat.”

HMMMMMM. So much for the fresh haircuts.

You might think that I’m all excited. I mean, an adventure! Sounds …

But this is from the boy I love, who has taken me along on other adventures where I was either ill equipped or lacked the skill or did not possess the experience to participate fully. Disaster and/or pain followed on occasion.

Also, the hub, who is very fit and has great natural ability, is not a detail person. (see ‘hat’ above.) Rather than anticipate what might go wrong, as in, what to guard against, he will dive in, fully assured that he is competent to manage the task or handle any contingency that might crop up. He does not, however, give brain space to what skills may be lacking in his compatriots. And to be fair, most other fellows are more coordinated than am I.

How many times, as I picked myself up, rubbed a bruise, bandaged an abrasion, called 911, did I hear, “I never thought THAT would happen?”

Quite a few.

He tries to remember. I certainly try to remind him. He is usually patient with my lack of athletic agility as he says, “Ok, watch out for the….” as we approach a hazard. Or “Ok, that didn’t matter, do this” as I’ve failed to perform what he thinks is logical. Or, when the temper is short, “THINK.” Which, of course, means ‘think like me” which is a whole ‘nuther story.’

But I’m game for some fun and at least, my performance will be entertaining to him. So into sweats, sneakers, jacket and hat I jump up into my place in the truck.

Hat: in our house, we don’t have many hats. I DO have a collection of flimsy, frou frou hats that I have acquired from the hub who ‘loves hats on women.’ These come out for special occasions. I also have some baseball caps, none with baseball logos. From those two categories, I assume the second will go better with the sweats.

We drive 10 miles west, past a little town called Burlington and then onto a country road and then onto a smaller, curvy country round until we stop at a wooded hill on which is a two door garage. Beyond the woods, as the trees have thinned, you can see a large, harvested corn field. Ok, we’re in for some outdoor adventures; I figured it out.

The hub walks to the side of the garage, feels under something and retrieves a key. Said key opens a side door and when he enters, he is able to open a larger door and what do I see?
Many, many, many 4 wheelers, all splashed with mud. He chooses two and drags them out into the sun.

SO, THIS will be the adventure.

Until Saturday, I had never driven or even ridden on an All Terrain Vehicle. What I know about them is that kids tip them over the break things, mostly within themselves. I am long past the age where I fantasized that I am immortal on this planet or, at least, that I don’t break. So, as the hub explains that subtleties of steering, I’m all ears.

“Look, just keep it on level ground and you’ll be fine.”

Level. Got it.

Since I will control the speed, it should not be too hard to stick to the plan.

Except the next instruction is, “Ok, follow me,” at which time, he takes the lead toward a gully…that would be heading down…and then a hill….that would be heading up, and then onto the cornfield, which has countless rims and ridges left from the combine. So much for level.

Also, as we have had two days of rain, many indentures are full of water and mud. Now, I’m ok with mud. I’m also ok with driving this thing, but the leader keeps heading off to the hills around the field.

I have one speed control and with only an occasion gunning, I’m going to set the land speed record for S L O W, I can tell.

I have a flashback: after a few lessons on a very big motorcycle, the hub set me up and pointed me toward the same Burlington on a busy highway. I knew how to shift but was so scared of the power, I drove the whole thing in first gear. Many honks behind and around me.

I have another flashback: the first time I took a wave runner out, it was at Marco Island in Florida and I headed out to the Gulf of Mexico. Didn’t get too far as I idled the whole time. NOTE: you CAN make progress in neutral with the help of waves.

Onto the flattest section of cornfield I go. And is the case with power toys, once I get the hang of it, my speed increases. ZZZZZZZZip, ZZZZZZZZip, spash, and then I slow down. Again. And Again. Hey, this is fun!

It’s windy and the baseball cap falls off somewhere. What I needed was a stocking cap and when the Conqueror of Great Hills reappears, I grab his from off his head.

He’s a gentleman, all the way.

Yes, we had fun. Indiana DOES have glorious weather in the fall, between rain and sleet. This day boasted of blue skies and a breeze.

And special time together.

(tense change, here)

Later, I ran into some students who asked what I had been up to. I said, “We went ATVing.” Blank stares. They know of Mike’s illness and did not know if our activity was connected with it.

Then one little bright light, who has active grandparents, executed that elaborated eye roll and nod, and looked to her friends.

“She means they went 4 wheeling.”

Giggles and then, collectively, “OOOOOOOOOOOOOh.”

And to me, “No one calls it ATVing.”

Except me.

I was surprised by the trip and then by how worn out I was at the end of the day. However, no bruises or blood. I’d say it was a success.

Monday, November 16, 2009

San Antonio Revelations

My jaunts to San Antonio are always filled with new experiences. We’ve ‘done’ the River Walk. We’ve driven through the live zoo with its voracious zebras and aggressive ostriches. (If you’ve never been within pecking distance of an ostrich, you’ve not truly lived on the edge.) We’ve eaten at Rudy’s.

And Sunday night, I got to experience the wonder of watching my grandson think his way through some math homework. Yes, it’s kindergarten and yes, it was simple, but as he labored to get it right, I could sense his concentration and I could almost see the wheels turning inside that magnificent skull.

As a high school teacher, I’m more accustomed to building on a student’s foundation, laid by an earlier teacher and, hopefully, fortified by his own thinking. It’s a different process. I work to bring new information to my students, to craft thinking experiences where they can stretch those gray cells. Often, I bring in an editorial or some news item where they can read (read!), think (think!), form an opinion and then verbalize the same. It’s good exercise and it primes that pump for more learning.

But as Drew colored three cubes to match the three race cars, as he matched two cubes with the picture of the two puppies, as he laboriously traced the dots to create the number 3, he was intense in his concentration. He’s a lefty; he holds his pencil (with name embossed….gift from Gramma) a bit awkwardly and after the tracing, the freehand 3 needs a bit more practice. But, there is no frustration, only deep effort to get it right.

And these are the fundamentals on which he can build as he continues through school.

He brings home something to do almost every day. It requires around 30 minutes of table time with someone nearby. And as this home values education, the school work will get done, ahead of basketball practice, shopping trips, television, and any other interruption.

He’ll practice writing numbers and letters and he’ll learn to organize his day around getting homework done. But even more important, his brain will nurture the seeds that have been planted, where he’ll continue to make those amazing connections between symbol and tangible amount; between individual letters and words; between sounds and actual reading.

What an amazing creation is the human brain.

Last night, my grandson ran through the alphabet, saying each letter and then making the sound of that letter. He looked at an advertisement and sounded out “Office Max” as a place that holds many wonders, like makers and clips. (“Hey, they sell clips!) And then, ta ta ta DA! Drew read to me.

Thank you, Miss Brown, for the work that you are doing.

Drew is in the class with the youngest kindergarteners. It’s all day and the teacher is not permitted to give them a rest period. And as this 5 year-old would still take a nap if given the chance, I’m betting the afternoon gets l-o-n-g. But she has to know that these little blooms are growing strong and wise within her care.

Teachers get used to the other kinds of kids, those whose homes don’t value education. With no incentive, few kids will choose the grind of table work when other adventures beckon. Can these students learn at school? Well, of course. And many do just fine without home encouragement. But so many do not.

It’s essential to school success that a child learn to read, to write a bit, to work some basic ciphers and to value what he learns. More than almost anything else, these skills will help him become a successful student. Go Drew!

Mom also got an inside view of the life of a first-year resident. Think Grey’s Anatomy without any of the social life. Her schedule changes from month to month. Right now, she leaves her home by 6:00 AM with every hope of getting home before the boys go to bed at 7. Sometimes, she makes it and there are hugs and reading time.

But, she’s a doctor, you know? Several times, as she was about to come home, a sick person arrives and she must stay. It’s ultimately her responsibility. She tells me that it’s common for first year residents to feel burned out. And it should get better, in about a year and a half. When you have little ones, that’s a long stretch.

Thank God for Aunt Sherry, who has arrived and is now caring for the children. Sherry is a most organized, no-nonsense kind of nanny. And she cooks really really well. And she LOVES to cook. She also sings like an angel and keeps the boys on schedule.

Since her arrival, there are many tangible evidences of order and calm: all the socks are sorted, matched and put away. The counters are cleared and the pantry is stocked.

Drew must catch the bus at 7 AM, about 1 block from their door. As we walk to the stop, a small mob is forming; many are now friends on this trip to school. He returns home at 3. After snack and wind down, he will get that homework done.

So for now, Noah, 3, sits a few feet away, playing marbles with Aunt Sherry. Then there will be reading with Aunt Sherry. “I love this book,” she says to him. “Do you love this book?” He does.

Another reader some day soon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tear down that wall!

2o years ago, the Berlin Wall was torn down, uniting that city and marking the end of the Cold War.

Monday, Zach, who was 6 at the time, commemorated the event by tearing down a fence at our house.

We (actually Zach and Mike) had built that wall about 10 years ago. It was wood and ran from the garage to the shed on the side of our house. It was the DOG FENCE.

We have shared our lives with three (not all at once) Golden Retrievers....Buster, Beau, and Bob....alliterative infusion. These were wonderful dogs who were, um, not very well trained. After we (I) got them housebroken, we kind of let them train themselves.

This meant that they jumped up on visitors (sometimes) and ran the neighborhood if they escaped from the back door. They did NOT, except with one exception. ever do much as guard dogs. One time, some slime balls broke in while we were gone. They got some chicken out of the frig and fed the dog. Slime balls but smart. The dog probably wagged them right to what feeble goodies they could pinch.

The only time we got a menacing growl from the dogs came when our friend, Tom, walked up to the door. He came and comes over a lot. The dogs knew him. Yes, he's a retired cop and yes, he probably has that 'aura.' But even out of uniform, the dogs would growl and bark when he came hear.

At any rate, we found that we needed a fence to keep them in so Mike and Zach built the wooden structure.

Last week, as we were seized by a frantic need to clean (no one, believe me, is pregnant), Mike said that he wanted to replace the fence. Our current dog, Princess Ivy, doesn't actually run the neighborhood. When she gets out, she has a route that takes her to four back doors, all of which have a stash of snacks set aside for her visits.

It took Zach several hours to dissemble and take down the fence. That was Monday. Neighbor Mike, the man with all the tools, came over to offer some suggestions and then asked the men to wait until Wednesday, his day off, so he could help with new construction.

The three had a carnival of a time today, building a new fence. I will have to wait until I get home from San Antonio to see it but the hub reports that it is grand.

Celebrating Veterans'; Day in San Antonio

Allyson and Mom needed a little daughter/mom time so I'm down at her home in San Antonio for this week.

Sister in law Sherry has moved in, organized and got the lay of the land. She is a blessing to my daughter and her boys. Drew (5) is starting to read. So exciting. Noah is back at preschool.

And this is a beautiful place. We are sharing good times in the bright sun. EEEEE-ha!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

How to get channeled, I think...

My lovely wife and I recently took a short vacation to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, which is just north of Ft. Lauderdale proper. We stayed at a wonderful, small inn, which had only seven rooms. Very quiet, very clean, and literally two steps from our door to the beach. It was a small piece of heaven for adults.

One morning I was up before Lynne and skipped to the beach to play in the surf. I think the tide was coming in. There was a strong wind, which was causing the waves to be bigger than the previous day. I spent a half hour or so, diving through the waves, getting knocked down, and just having a wonderful time, acting like a 6 year-old kid at the beach.

When I was worn out, I went to sit on my beach towel at the ocean's edge. A woman of about mid-thirties age came up to me and commented that I seemed at ease in the surf. I told her that I had been practically born a swimmer and was quite comfortable in the water. She said she did not swim well, but wanted to play in the waves, anyway. She asked if I would watch her in case she got into any trouble. I told her that I would go out with her and would look after her, if she had any problems. Out we went. She seemed to have a good time and she certainly did not drown on my watch.

When she was tired we both went to sit on our beach towels and dry off in the sun. She asked if I was staying at the inn. I told her I was and we both commented on how perfect it was.
"You are from Seattle, aren't you?" I asked.

"Yes, I am. How did you know that?" she asked. I could tell that she was concerned that I had information about her that she had not volunteered.

"I have a good friend who is a doctor. She is from Seattle, too. Your accents are similar. I am from Indiana and we do not meet too many Seattle people in the corn fields there. Your accent is quite distinctive." She seemed relieved that I wasn't an obvious creep.

"Are you here for fun or business?" I asked.

"I am here to take a class in Miami", she said.

"What are you studying?" I asked.

"I am going to school to study channeling for a week," she informed me.

Now before I go further, I acknowledge that I can upon occasion be pretty ornery. Couple that with being an obnoxious lawyer and I can make myself difficult with people. This is particularly true with people who are perceived by me to be flakes. Such turned out to be the case here. I should be shot for this, but I saw the opportunity to have some fun with this curious person.

"Is that where you try to contact and communicate with people who have passed on?" I asked.

"Yes," she said. "That is it exactly."

"Well, tell you what. I am going to be dead very shortly. I wonder if you might like to channel me in a couple of months," I stated with a perfectly straight face.

"That is not funny," she said. "Are you making fun of me?"

"Absolutely not ," I said. "I don't think my dying is funny at all."

"You shouldn't kid around about such things," she responded.

"But I am not kidding around. I am terminally ill with gall bladder cancer, they tell me. The doctors say that I am not going to last much longer. Maybe a few months." As the commercial for MasterCard says, the look on her face was priceless. She was at a complete loss of words.

"So about this channeling business, do you need my name, or what?" I wondered if I needed to volunteer my date of birth and Social Security number. I thought of it, but did not have the heart to further torment this poor soul. And what about the class? A whole week? What were they going to talk about? Were all the spirits (channelers?) going to be converging on Miami for a week?

Would there be vaporous armies of dead loved ones stacked up over Miami like airliners in a holding pattern, waiting to talk to the channeler? Does it take all week to contact one dead person? How do they pick who to contact? Does the teacher pick? The students? A group vote which would be democratic? Do they ask Obama? Who decides what questions to ask? I mean, I'd like to know what happened to my prized baseball glove that I lost in sixth grade. Could I ask that? Could somebody ask for me? If that's possible, then I have a whole list of questions someone could ask on my behalf.

I'd start with, "How's the food?" I'd also want to know if anyone had run across Amelia Earhart and could anyone tell us where to look for her? I could go on but I won't.

"I am very sorry to hear of your illness," she said with what I could tell was genuine compassion.

"Yeah," I said. "It is the pits, but what can you do? What I usually say to most people is that we all have to play the cards we are dealt as best we can. That is pretty flippant, but most people do not really want to talk to a person who is dying. At least, that has been my experience. It makes them uneasy, because they know they could be next, I think. And they don't know what to say, anyway."

"Well, it has certainly been interesting to talk with you," she said. "I have to get packed, because I am leaving this morning for Miami."

"I hope your class goes well and you find out whatever you are looking for," I said. She walked away toward the inn. I haven't seen her since.

I cannot help but think that with the trouble she had dealing with a very much alive, but terminally ill person, that to actually talk with an already deceased person just might be more than she bargained for. I probably should have given her my email address, but then that would have been ornery, wouldn't it?
Mike out.

Monday, November 9, 2009

It's Always Sunny in Florida

I have three girlfriends (ladies, all) who have interesting relationships with the hub. One insists on hugs whenever they meet. Now, the hub has not been one for hugging much until his illness softened him. When we run into her, we know what’s coming. She will grin with her entire face and say something like, “Comeeeer, you. Where’s my hug?”

And they hug.

One loves us both but has trouble reading the hub, who has been known to say and do obscure things where it’s difficult for her to react. Is he kidding? Is he needing something? Is he nuts? She just smiles widely and says, “Oh, Mike.”

Another is a neighbor at the lake who has been known to get in heated discussions with the hub. When he gets cantankerous or says something just to provoke, she will call him on it. He loves it.

She is the one who mused recently, “Who knows why God has chosen to answer these prayers? We can’t know the mind of God.”

Actually each friend has said something like this to us. One suggested that Mike would have never retired if he hadn’t gotten sick.

“True,” he had to admit.

She adds, “And look how God has used you, is using you.”


One said that she thought that one reason was so that Mike could find out how many people love him. He will wriggle here but she’s absolutely right.

In the weeks following diagnosis, cards, letters, phone calls, e-mails clogged our various repositories. We received over 500 cards from friends, clients, colleagues, and people from our pasts, all telling us that they were praying for us. You know who you are out there.

Mike had me save all of them.

Some included written narratives of something Mike had done for them, with them, to them, that had changed their lives and/or for which they will always remember him.

Those are stacked carefully in a designated drawer. Some moved us to tears. Some we read over and over and over, out loud, to each other.

Now here’s the thing. As a teacher in this town for 35 years, I’m actually used to being told I’m loved, certainly not by every critter who has sat in my class, but by enough that I don’t doubt that somewhere out there, when they talk about teachers, my name will come up affectionately.

Mike, on the other hand, had no idea how many people care for him, how him, and how his life and work have made a difference in so many lives. While that’s sad on some level, we can all praise God that he’s given so many people a chance to say to him what they might have said about him, when he’s gone.

So awash in all this love, let me tell you about our little trip to Florida during the first week of November. When it looked like I’d actually get the hub to agree to go somewhere, we started to do the research and make the plans.

He had said that he wanted to “rent a convertible and drive to Key West.” Plan A: We would fly to Miami and drive down.
But wait. We have a friend in Fort Lauderdale. Could we fly in there? Yeah, sure. Plan B: We shifted location and would make the drive after spending the day with the friends and a good night’s sleep.

Long time ago, we had lots of Brians in our life. Canoe Brian created a patented kayak carrier. Boat Brian fixed boats in Winona. The Fort Lauderdale Brian was Clothes Brian. Mike met him a decade ago when he was selling custom made suits and shirts in Indianapolis.

Now Clothes Brian is F.L. Brian, who along with his brother Brent, owns The Catamaran Company. They sell ocean-going ships. We did not realize that 11/2 was the last day of the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, where dealers make 60 – 70% of their annual sales, so Alternate Plan B: We added a day to Ft. Lauderdale so as to not interrupt their business.

By the way, I believe this was a first time we have traveled during the 'off season.' We learned that you miss a lot: noise, crowds, kids, lines.

It was great fun hanging out with the Bs and their families and then we started our trek to Key West. As followers of this blog know, the hub and I have different travel motifs. I thought we’d just get on Highway 1 and drive until we ran out of Highway One.

Hub wanted a map. “A real map, too. Not one of those Google maps.” Imagine.

It was a good call because my plan would have taken us through miles and miles and miles and miles of stop lights where HIS helped us by pass on a bypass.

Even on the better route, we hit heavy traffic. I was amazed that about every 5th billboard was selling liquor. We’re not big drinkers, but in the Florida sun, I can see the attraction. One that showed up regularly was for some sort of whiskey. The sweating glass was half full with those clear, irregular shaped ice cubes and a little swizzle stick tilted rakishly to the side.

Don’t recall the brand. So much for successful advertising.

The Keys are notorious for their laid back attitude and life style. I saw lots of spas and massage places and, not coincidentally, no law offices. As you get farther down the keys, certain words and phrases take on altered meanings:

Open at 9
No (smoking, jaywalking, parking)

As it was Election Day, folks lined the streets in Marathon, holding placards for their candidates. One vintage lady was dressed in a long white gauzy number. She had nothing on under it.

“I’ll vote for her guy,” said the hub.

We had not eaten since breakfast, thinking we would find something Alas, there was no place to eat south of 77 mile marker. I guess restaurateurs figure that it’s too close to all the places in Key West. We, however, had not eaten since 8; it was 2:30. We pulled into several “Lounges.”

“We don’t have actual food here. Beer nuts and chips. I have some frozen taco bites in my freezer. Ya want me to go and get them?”

Well, no. We found a Hampton’s Inn with an empty (but open) Outback Steak House. We were ready to gnaw on our waitress’s leg so the fact that they didn’t have some menu items did not dissuade us.

I hope I don’t disillusion you. It turned out that the idea of Driving to the Keys in a Convertible was much better than the reality, at least for us. It’s about 120 miles, much of it through heavy traffic. It was hot. Yes, I know, Florida. Twice we were stopped because a drawbridge has slipped a gear.

Having left a beach in Lauderdale, we remembered that the Keys aren’t known for their beaches. Fishing, drinking, diving, drinking, sightseeing, drinking, and did I mention drinking? We decided to cut short the Keys part and get back to the beach. Plan C

But, before we turned around, as we were close, I wanted to find a bar that is owned by our neighbor at the lake. His name is Don. His place is Don’s Bar. We found it, several miles east of the funky historic district. We met the bartender and shared some liquid with several Ernest Hemingway look alikes.

It was getting dark as we turned around to return north. Right there, in front of us was a huge orange full moon, rising and reflecting on the water. Allyson used to call this ‘a face moon.’ That face was smiling as we drove back to Lauderdale by the sea.

With an extra day in Lauderdale by the sea, we had more time with the B’s. They took us motoring in an electric boat, up and down the coast of Fort Lauderdale and through numerous waterways lined with huge, I mean huge, houses. Really, I thought some were hotels. In front of many were moored sea-going yachts.

We also had time to play, really play, in the waves. The wind kicked up white caps and huge rolling waves. We waded out, not too far, and either rode those waves or let the water crash into us, tossing us around. We laughed and laughed.
Down the beach, some younger men were kite boarding, something I had never seen. We walked to them and watched as the wind sometimes lifted them and as they rode waves powered by the wind.

Mike said he’d like to try it. I think that means a return trip.

(November 5, 2009)

Where, oh where, are they?

In Florida last week. Yes. Yes.

Info coming soon.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Another Mostly True Flying Story

As most people know, my lovely wife, Lynne, is a very talented writer. Several years ago, she had the opportunity to attend a writer's seminar at our alma mater, Wheaton College. Since her employer would pay for the seminar under the guise that it was continuing education and she would still get her regular pay, she decided to go. It was my job to get her to Wheaton on time.

Initially, I thought I would just drive her up there and drop her off at the college. When I mentioned this to my dad, he volunteered that we would fly her up there in the Cessna 310 and I could log some instrument time as a bonus. As my dad and I never turned down the opportunity to go flying, particularly when we could rationalize the trip as being "useful," we were set to go.

At six o'clock that evening, we drove out to the airport, strapped in, and took off for Dupage County Airport, which is about 25 miles southwest of Chicago and about 3 miles from Wheaton. Under normal circumstances the flight would take about 45 minutes, but as you will read, the flight was anything but normal.

The weather as we departed Kokomo was pretty good. We had a 5000 foot ceiling with about 5 miles of visibility. The weather guessers predicted that we would have light rain showers later in the evening, but nothing of any great concern to aviators like us. Lake Michigan, it turned out, had other ideas.

Once airborne, we requested an instrument clearance to Dupage. What this means is that we submitted a flight plan that had us flying from radio station to radio station, eventually arriving at a point close to Dupage, at which time we would begin our approach to land.

Flying from radio station to radio station is a lot like one of those connect-the dot pictures you made when you were a kid. You drew a line from one number to the next and eventually the picture was formed. Similarly, on an instrument flight plan, you fly along the course until you reach your selected station and then turn to a new compass heading which takes you to the next station. The concept is simple. Sometimes, however, it is not so easily done, given difficult weather.

The first half of the trip was uneventful. We were cruising at 8000 feet on an IFR clearance, making about 220 knots. What this means is that we were on instruments with a clearance. Chicago Center was talking to us, monitoring our progress and waiting to hand us off to Chicago Approach, who would line us up for Dupage and then hand us off to the tower at Dupage, who would control the landing. We could not see the ground, any lights, or the horizon. With no visual references, we were "in solid" as aviators say.

Flying on instruments is one of life's great pleasures. It is difficult to describe to a non-pilot, but I will try. Go out to your garage and get in your car. Put dark towels over all the windows, so you can't see out. Turn on the instrument lights, which will be readily visible. Now back out of the garage and go for a drive. Can't do it, can you? The difference between your car and an airplane is that you know your car is always on a relatively flat surface and you are driving in two dimensions. In an airplane you are traveling in three dimensions. Airplanes have instruments that tell the pilot how high he is, whether he is going up or down, what direction he is traveling, as well as how fast he is flying through the air. All of these instruments must be constantly checked during the flight, about every 15 seconds, or control will be lost over the airplane. The information received from the instruments is constantly changing and must be continually re evaluated by the pilot. Throw in monitoring the engine gauges, changing radio frequencies on two or three different radios and talking to the controllers, and you can be a pretty busy boy. Factor in nighttime and howling weather and it can become quite challenging to say the least. But as we say in our family, "Mere child's play, for men like us."

Seriously, instrument flying is a challenge for most pilots to learn. Consequently, the training is broken into segments, so you learn to perform one task and then go on to another, the multi-tasks piling up, until you can multi-task it all. If you can't do it, the airplane gets "ahead of you," and you are in life-threatening trouble. After all, the ground never loses.

So there we were winging our way to Dupage. When we were about 75 miles from our destination, we noticed that the air was getting bumpier. Nothing out of the ordinary, much like driving on a rutted gravel road. It also started to rain. No big deal. Since it was dark out, our blinking strobe lights on the wingtips outlined the rain smashing into us at 220 knots.

Chicago Center called us and handed us off to Chicago Approach, who would keep us from running into another airplane. Flying in the Chicago area is particularly worrisome as Midway and O'Hare are the busiest airports in the world.

It was about this time that our radio made a startling sound I had never heard before (and only once since). It went Whoop, Whoop, Whoop! Then a very stern voice said, "This is a sig-met. (Significant Meteorological Notice) All aviators in the Chicago area are advised that severe weather is predicted for the Chicago area. All aviators are advised to land at the nearest available airport." Now, that will get your attention!

Since I was flying, I picked up the map and began searching for an airport. Dad looked over at me and asked, "What are you doing?"

"Finding an airport, so we can put this bird on the ground," I replied.

"We are not going to do that, we're fine and we are going to Dupage," said Dad, who had a lot more flying experience than I did. Who was I to argue? On we went.

The air was getting more and more rough. Dad and I were strapped in with seat belts and shoulder harnesses. Lynne, who was pretty much oblivious to what was going on, was loosely strapped in by her seat belt and was reading. I commented that the air was getting more turbulent. Dad said it was only "light chop" and no big deal. On we flew.

And then it happened. We took a shot from a ferocious downdraft that picked Dad and I up off our seats. Lynne bounced her head of the top of the cabin and was now paying attention. Instantly, Dad and I had both of our hands and feet on the controls in a struggle to maintain control of the airplane, which was being slammed by updrafts and downdrafts, one after the other.

The flight instruments were reading erratically because of the violence of the weather. We quickly reduced our airspeed to "maneuvering speed," which is a speed that the engineers say you can fly at, taking severe turbulence, without exceeding the airframe's design limits. Theoretically, the wings will stay on.

It was taking all of our strength and skill to keep the airplane upright and on course. The powerful turbulence would shoot us up at 2000 feet per minute and then slam us down. It was like being on a maniac roller coaster in three dimensions.

At about this time, we heard this radio transmission:

"Chicago Approach, this is Delta flight 246, we are declaring an emergency at this time." An airline pilot was in trouble.

"Roger, Delta flight 246, understand you are declaring an emergency. Are you requesting immediate landing?"

"Affirmative, Chicago Approach, we are experiencing severe turbulence and are requesting vectors to the nearest available runway."

Then I heard another radio transmission. "Chicago Approach, this is American flight 123, we are declaring an emergency. We are in severe turbulence. Requesting instructions for an immediate landing." Then I heard yet another distress call. "Chicago Approach, this is United flight 867, we are declaring an emergency."

"Roger, Delta flight 246, American flight 123 and United flight 867, standby one for instructions."
This was when Dad got upset. He looked over at me and said, "These people need nurses to look after them." Then he called Chicago Approach and said, "This is six niner five seven five, a light Cessna twin, inbound to Dupage and we are not declaring an emergency. We intend to fly our flight plan."

Chicago Approach then said, "Anybody else want to declare an emergency or are you going to put your big boy pants on fly like men? How about you 123 and 867? Still want to go with the emergency?"

"I'll pass on the emergency. Cancel me," said 123.

"I'm out," said 867.

"All right, then," said Approach. "Let's see if we can get everybody where they are going tonight".

Chicago Approach then said, "six niner five seven five, contact Dupage Approach for the instrument approach."

We changed radio frequencies to call Dupage and checked in. "Dupage Approach, this is six niner five seven five in bound for the ILS.

"Roger, six niner five seven five, report the initial approach fix and you are cleared for the ILS to runway 36. Report intercepting the localizer."

What this meant in pilot jargon was that we were to fly to an imaginary point in the sky designated by the crossing of two radio beams, turn to a prescribed heading and fly that path until we hit the glide slope which is another beam coming up at us from one-third down the runway. Picture an "x" made by two criss-crossing radio beams. We were to fly to the point they intersected, then turn to a course that would fly us into, the beam coming up from the runway, then fly down to beam, known as the localizer or glide slope. As always, the concept is simple, but it's easier said than done, particularly in ferociously bad weather.

We reported that we understood the directions and began the landing checklist. This was when we got another interesting call from Dupage Approach.

"Six niner five seven five, we have lost all electrical power to the field. We are transmitting on backup generators. We have no runway or taxi lights and we have lost the glide slope. Say your intentions."

If there is no glide slope, then you cannot intercept it and fly down it to land. If there are no runway lights, then we would be unable to see the outline of the runway and might also have depth perception problems figuring out how high we are off the runway, if we could find it. This was not good. All of my flight training to that date taught that we needed to regain as much altitude as possible, make a 180 degree turn and get out of there as fast as possible. But then, that would not be completing the mission, would it?

"Roger, Dupage Approach, understand no lights and glide slope. How soon will they be online?" asked Dad.

"Uncertain. We are working on it. The runway lights and glide slope are on separate systems. We might get one before the other. What are your intentions?"

"Dupage Approach, six niner five seven five, inbound for landing as filed and cleared," said Dad.

"Six niner five seven five be aware that we have winds at 270, at 25 knots gusting to 40 knots in heavy rain. Say your intentions."

"Roger, Dupage Approach, inbound as filed on the ILS, understand cleared to runway 36. Will report the field in sight or declare a missed approach." said Dad as calmly as he was ordering a hamburger at the drive thru.

"Dad," I said, "we've got no way to identify the glide slope and no lights. Let's call it a night and head home. I will drive her up. Besides, the crosswind component is exceeding the structural limits of the landing gear."

We were going to land to the north. The 40 knot wind was coming from our starboard or right side, tending to blow us off to the left of the runway, even if we could find it. To counteract the drift to the left, you bank the airplane to the right, so that the starboard wing is down into the wind. You then feed in as much left rudder as needed to keep the airplane tracking straight ahead. When you land, the right wheel hits first and then you throw out the right bank and left rudder and let it sit down on the left main gear. The problem is that if the landing is not made perfectly, you can twist or tear off the landing gear. Bad form as the British would say.

The maximum crosswind component in the Cessna was 17 Knots. Since the crosswind was gusting between 25 and 40 knots, we were going to be 8 to 23 knots over the maximum. This was clearly not going to work.

"What are you going to do?" I asked.

"Look, Son. We are flying into Dupage from the South. The wind is blowing us from the right. The initial approach fix is 10 miles from the airport due south. We are going to slow to 100 knots. We will report the fix, then crab into the wind to the right for about five minutes on a heading of about 30 degrees and we ought to line up with the runway, if we can see it. Simple."

"But we still have no lights. We won't be able to see the runway to land," I squeaked.

"Well, maybe, in which case we will shoot another approach and do better. It isn't going to be any harder than a night trap to a carrier deck. We've got plenty of fuel. We will see what happens."

"Even if we get the runway, the crosswind is too strong for the landing gear. We are still out of luck, Dad," I said.

"Son, the controller said the wind was gusting. It is not constant. If we get the field, we will look for a break in the wind and land. If we don't get one, we will go around for a second pass and see what develops. No problem." I couldn't believe we were going to shoot this approach.

Shortly thereafter, we reported passing the initial approach fix. Both of us clicked on our very manly pilot chronographs to time the five minutes inbound. May I remind you that we are both still having to jointly control the airplane because of the turbulence in the black rain.

Dupage Approach called again to confirm that we were still inbound and they had no lights. Onward we flew, hurtling toward what I thought would be a certain, fiery death in the black rain.

At four and three-quarter minutes, I said, "Times up, pull up and go home."

"Not quite yet, son, we are not beat yet. I have a good feeling about this approach."

At that exact moment, 200 feet off the ground at 100 knots, the runway lights came on. We were about 400 yards to the right of the runway. Unbelievable!

"Six niner five seven five, our lights are operational. You are cleared to 36."

"Roger, Dupage, on final to 36." Well, we had the lights, but there was still the crosswind problem. We immediately turned left to line up with the runway.

We came over the end of the runway, banked to the right with full left rudder deflected. The airplane was still drifting to the left despite our corrections. We banked almost 30 degrees to maintain the center line. Down the length of the runway we flew.

"It's not working, declare a missed approach and go around," I pleaded.
"Not yet, son, observe and learn," said Dad calmly.

And the wind stopped blowing for a few seconds. Dad deftly flicked the airplane level, neutralized the rudder and gently greased it on to the runway between gusts. He made it look simple, like anyone could do this. Not true. It was a brilliant demonstration of Naval aviator training, consummate flying skill, coping with the weather, and completing the mission, despite formidable obstacles.

As we taxied to the terminal, he looked over at me and said as he did after every flight, "Piece of cake, son. Cheated death one more time."

"Mere child's play for men like us," I replied.

Lynne's ride was waiting for her. We refueled and flew home. No problem.

Mike Out