Thursday, April 28, 2011

Movin' On Up

For as long as we've owned our cottage, we've talked about moving up the lake for the summer. It's been all talk, no matter how much either of us wanted it: Mike was working long hours and I was teaching summer school. We really thought it was something if we got out of town by 3 on Friday. That gave us enough time to get to Winona Lake and enjoy Chicken Tortilla Soup, the Friday special, at The Boathouse Restaurant.

Well, this year, summer of 2011, we're going to do it. Mike, of course, is the man of leisure. My school ends with Memorial Day Weekend. So, hopefully, our new address will be 501 Adminstration Drive.

Many of you have visited us on the shore of Winona Lake. Perhaps some more, if in the area, will drop by.

So, I'm taking you on the tour of our place, complete with many newly-made pieces of furniture.

This corner piece dates back to Mike's earliest efforts. The item on top is a pewter replica of the Hunley, a confederate 'submarine' which you can actually see in Charleston, S.C. The wooden lighthouse belongs to our grandson, Noah.

Ahhhhhhhhhh. The new recliner with matching ottaman. Also, the side table that holds my reading material.

And this, not made by Mike, is the infamous 'Sleeping Couch.' Over the years, many guests have plopped down and then fallen into deep deep sleep. We wish, now, we had committed to photographing all of the sleepers. We'd have quite the album.

I, myself, took a snook this afternoon, after planting my flower boxes with Lynne-proof vines and flowers. I need my friend, Sande, but I followed her good advice, almost as good as her golden touch.

Some of you may remember this table. It has appeared before. And, as you can see, it's behind that addictive couch.

The cottage came with these pieced stain-glass double windows. We added this panel that Mike framed

We have a nice, airy space in front. A friend once described it as 'like the Cracker Barrel in Heaven.'

Our little piece of peace sits just back from the lake. We have no television or phone. You'll need to just show up. And if you do, we'll welcome YOU to the lake.

Hospital Tips

In 1920's Paris, Ernest Hemingway, who had already gained fame as a novelist, was a member of what was later referred to as "Paris café society." He would have lunch regularly with such luminaries as Ezra Pound, Henry Miller, Anais Nin, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and others.

I am a member of Kokomo's café society, which is made up of a number of the usual suspects, who are no less brilliant than Hemingway and his contemporaries, but have the good taste to be less public. As we all know, having a leisurely lunch with friend is a very special occasion and is to be treasured. It is rare that I do not have a lunch date these days.

I was having lunch with a friend last week and he asked me if I had learned anything during my sickness. I told him I had learned two things: 1) the meaning of life, and 2) how to get along in the hospital. He asked me several questions about staying in the hospital and commented that he guessed few people know what I know about hospitals and then opined that I should put it in writing on my wife's blog. Hence, this entry.

Let's suppose you are sick and your Dr. says you need to stay overnight for "some tests." How should you dress for the occasion? Simple. I arrive at the hospital wearing my boating shoes, a pair of athletic socks, my pajama bottoms and my Navy blue, hooded, floor length bathrobe. I have already put my toothbrush and toothpaste in tonepocket with my glasses and a bottle of Tabasco sauce in the other. I am sure I look like an ancient Druid on his way to worship at Stonehenge, but who cares? This is not a style show and the first thing the nurse is going to tell you to do is take off your clothes, put on that weird hospital gown with no back to it and get into bed. You might as well be comfortable in your own clothes, right?

A word about that cute little gown is in order. I always wear my pajama bottoms. Always. When I am told to put on the gown, I take my bathrobe off and say, "I brought my own. That's not happening". Never have I had a response other than "OK." Show a little backbone, but not your back end.

If you can swing it, try to get a room across from the nurse's' station. It is a little bit noisier than down the hall, but the staff can get to you more quickly if you are in trouble. Nurses have a tendency to check on you more frequently if you are across the hall and have a tendency to hang out with you and talk, which is a great thing. Nurses are very special, cool people with lots of good stories about crazy patients. Like me. If they send out for pizza and you smell it, they might give you a piece.

It may be that you have been there for a few days and your mouth tastes awful. A nurse might ask you if you want some ice chips. No, you don't want no stinking ice chips. What you want is "lemon ice," which seems to be stocked at all nursing stations in all hospitals. Lemon ice is essentially frozen lemonade. Big improvement over ice chips! From what I can tell, the supply is limitless, as I have personally depleted the stocks at two nursing stations during one recent stay.

Try to get a private room if you can afford it. Private rooms usually have their own shower. The nurses will not want you to take a shower, particularly if you are doped up. They worry you will fall in the shower, lose consciousness, or scald yourself. Maybe all three. Of course, you couldn't burn yourself if you had to because they have turned the water temperature to lukewarm, at best. Nonetheless, even a lukewarm shower will make you feel better. The trick is to get to take the shower. You can ask, but they will probably say no. I just tell them that is what I am going to do and do it. Sometimes the nurse will say she needs to check with the Dr's orders. While she is checking, go take your shower.

You may find yourself hooked up to an IV machine running off a wall plug. This might prevent you from getting to the shower. No problem. If you unplug it from the wall, it will continue to work under its own internal power system. You will not die. Hang the plug on top, get out of bed and maneuver it into the bathroom and take your shower. Be careful of the needle in your arm, Bozo!

What do all combat soldiers in Afghanistan have in common with hard-core hospital patients? They all carry a bottle of Tabasco sauce with them. I do not find hospital food to be bad. It just has no seasoning, so it tastes flat. Even Chicken ala Hospital can be tasty good with Tabasco sauce on it. Ditto for the commonly served scrambled eggs in the morning. The bottle can be kept under your pillow.

Always take something to read. Sleepless nights in a hospital can stretch on and on. I try to take a car or motorcycle magazine or something I am interested in with me. It is psychological. You can think about what you might do when you get out. I do not take a laptop. Why? Because every nurse has a story about walking into a room and finding the patient cruising a porn site. Laptops, by their very presence, are suspect. If you are stupid enough to bring your laptop, apart from insulting a professional who is trying to help you, may I suggest that the next time you need an IV, a bigger bore needle than is really necessary is going to be used. Ouch! Also, there is the possibility of an enema in your immediate future. Do we really need to go further? I think not.

Every nurse can find you a warm blanket, heated in their special blanket warmer. Once you have been tucked in a warm blanket, you will not forget the experience. The problem I have is that it is so unmanly to ask for a warm blanket. So what? You are a little cold. Be a man, right? But that blanket is so nice. I cannot bring myself to ask for one, but I will not turn it down if offered. It is my own weird little standard.

If you happen to be in Krannert at IU Medical Center or some rooms at St. Vincent (I am a veteran of both.), you might find yourself in a room with a view of the outdoors. Your bed has wheels. Ask your nurse to wheel you into the sunshine. She will. I remember a nurse did that for me at Krannert and made room in the bed for the Lynne. He said he wouldn't be back for at least an hour. I know what you are thinking. So was I…but not with 90 stitches down my abdomen. Even I am not that tough.

It is nice to have visitors when you are sick in the hospital, except when you are really, really sick. ( I have been there and I like to have the Lynne with me and nobody else.) Sometimes, visitors do not know when you have had enough visiting. Just say that you think you are going to throw up. The room will clear in a nanosecond. Trust me on this.

Most hospitals will assign a nurse to you during each shift. Always, always ask them where they went to nursing school. Nurses are professionals. They are proud of where they went to school. They do not give RN certificates away, especially when accompanied with bachelor's degrees. Always ask how long they have worked as a nurse. They will always tell you about their school and work. I have noticed that when you show some interest in them, you get separated out from the rest of the patients. Not a bad thing. Might get you a piece of pizza or, as one nurse did for me, a bowl of peach ice cream every day at the beginning of her shift. Love those nurses!

Always say thank you to whoever is working on you, if you are able. Apart from being common courtesy, which is rare these days, medical people appreciate that you acknowledge they are trying to fix you. I always say "Thanks for trying to help me, I appreciate it." They tell me so few patients ever thank them, just like the practice of law.

I do not mind being stuck with needles, having been drilled several hundred times by now. If needles bother you, then don't look, Bozo. Try to carry on a conversation when they are putting in the IV line. Watch the television or take a deep breath when you get stuck. It is not much, but it is the best advice I can give.

If you have to have an EKG, the technician will put these little rubbery thingies all over your chest. No big deal, except if you are a manly-man like me and have hair on your chest. ( Unless you work in the circus, this tip isn't for women.) You can handle this one of three ways. Shave your chest in advance. Not cool, because the guys in the YMCA locker room will look at you weird. Pull each one off in a quick, extremely painful jerk. Or just go take a hot shower. It turns out that warm water will melt the glue and the little thingies almost fall off. Very cool, right? I'll bet you didn't know that, did you?

I guess that is about it so far as hospital tips go. You want to stay out of hospitals, of course, but sometimes you can't avoid it. I should know. Take my advice and you will receive better care, the food will taste better, you will get a shower, and you will hear some great stories from your nurses.

Mike out.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Monday was chemo day again. And I took the day off as I had a doctor’s appointment so I got spend time with Mike and the angels who care for him at the oncology center.

The treatment room is a large, semi-oval room with windows around the outside. Just inside the glass are large, plush, cream-colored loungers, separated by curtains and walls. Each little cubicle has a television, a few chairs and a cabinet for books and magazines. You almost don’t see the chrome metal stand from which holds plastic bags with various fluids.

In Mike’s treatment, most of the three hours is about liquids other than the chemotherapy: hydration, anti-nausea med, and a few other things.

Mike’s doctor dropped by as the treatment was coming to the ends. She was smiling large with news. Mike’s tumor marker had dropped.

Here’s the liberal arts, concentration-in-literature, explanation: most of us have a certain protein in our bloodstream. Normal levels are below 30. I don’t know 30 what. Just 30. Raised levels don’t mean a cancer diagnosis but such a reading would send a doctor looking for an explanation.

Before Mike had his gallbladder and its tumor removed, he scored 350. When his gallbladder was removed, this dropped to 10 and stayed there.

Apparently, that number had begun to rise. When we began the chemo, Mike was up to 200. Dr. Moore’s hope was that chemo would keep the tumor microscopic for as long as we can. We know we are buying time.

Our good news is that, right now, it’s 75. What that means is that the chemo is doing what we hoped it would: it is attacking cancer and slowing its growth.

Much celebration at the oncology department.

But, here’s something I learned that day. Those angels are all about celebrations. If there’s something positive, they will clap and cheer.

One of Mike’s new friends was in the next room. This time, he only puked once. Usually, he throws up 5 times. So, it was time to celebrate.

And I found myself thinking about how great it is to live looking for real things for which to be grateful. I’m going to work on that.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


I was up early. Before I roused the hub, I drove to our local gas/convenience store to fill up the car and get a few newspapers. I knew I would be sitting for a time, while Mike had his second ERCP. The doctor would remove the old stent and place a nice, new, shiny one.

We know that we will do this in 2 to 3 month intervals.

As I pulled into the bay, this is what began on the Christian radio station:

I know it seems
Like this could be
The darkest day you've known
But believe you me
The God of strength
Will never let you go
He will overcome, I know

And the arms that hold the universe
Are holding you tonight
You can rest inside
It's gonna be alright
And the voice that calmed the raging sea
Is calling you His child
So be still and know He's in control
He will never let you go

Lyrics/music by 33 Miles

As a believer, I've learned to erase "coincidence" from my vocabulary.

We drove to Indianapolis; I avoided that U-Turn mistake from February. I dropped Mike at the door and parked the car.

University Hospital is HUGE. Many elevators, many hallways, many departments. All I remembered was that we were on the bottom floor. I think I took a less-convenient elevator but eventually found the right room.

The ERCP takes about 45 minutes. Mike was back in his room within a hour after they wheeled him out. According to Dr. Vogel, a jovial Canadian, Mike "did well." They inserted a "slightly bigger stent" which hopefully will stay clear longer.

The doctor was headed to Louisville with his daughter, for a soccer tournament. I asked if he'd like my newspapers. He smiled and took them, with thanks.

Then, we drove home.

Mike remembers none of this, including the after-procedure chat with the doctor. I"m not sure what they 'give' him (technically, it's not general anesthesia) but he has to abide a tube down the throat, to the stomach and beyond, to the bile duct. They want him compliant. He is.

When we got home, I tucked him in and he continued to be 'compliant' for the rest of the evening. He ate some jello and soup, wanted more but I stood my ground until about midnight when he got a grilled cheese sandwich. It was all buttery and brown, and melty, with grape jelly, just the way he loves it.

Ivy also loves grape jelly and she got some on her whiskers.

By the AM, he ate a real breakfast and then went back to bed. We turned on The Food Network and watched 6 episodes of Man vs. Food. As it concluded, the hub said, "I want some barbecue." So we were off to our local 'real' pit BBQ place.

We knew that Monday was his next chemo. For the remainder of the weekend, we walked, and played, and talked. Saturday's cold and driving rain made way for a sunny Sunday.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

My Sister

Most people are content to shuffle along through life barely emitting a whisper, let alone a shout. A minority charge through life as if standing on top of a fire truck with all the bells, whistles and sirens going shouting "I'm here! Let's do something fun!"

My sister, Lisa, known to those who love her as The Wignet, is in the latter group, except she would be wearing the fire chief's hat.

My sister is very modest and would never brag about her accomplishments. A lot of outstanding people are that way. She probably doesn't even know how remarkable she is. Therefore, I am going to shamelessly brag on my sister, who will probably be embarrassed by this piece.

Lisa has been married to her childhood sweetheart for 35 years. She is the mother of 5 children all of whom are, shall we say, unique? The family home has always been on Winona Lake. In this day and age, just these three things are remarkable. But there is so much more.

Since she graduated from college, Lisa has always worked as a nurse. She is now a licensed nurse practitioner, holding both bachelor and master degrees in nursing. She has completed countless postgraduate hours in nursing. She has taught nursing at the college and graduate levels. She has written textbooks for nursing students. She has worked in the ER, OB, Med-Surg, Psych, and Orthopedic departments. She has turned down Director of Nursing jobs, because she likes the patient contact. So far as nursing goes, she is a pro.

She is one of those nurses you want taking care of you. She has seen it all, isn't going to panic, and isn't going to screw up. Over time, most people in Winona Lake, particularly those of modest means and/or no health insurance, know that they can stop in a Lisa's house and receive care, within limits. Cut yourself with a chainsaw? She will clean you up, stitch you up and tell you to see a Dr. Think you might have broken your arm? She will check it out and drive you to the ER, calling in advance, so they will be ready. Break your neck mountain biking, like I did? She will make a house call and insist you get into the car to go to the ER. Young, unmarried and pregnant? She offers midwife advice, calm assurance and a private ear. Having trouble with your child who won't behave? Maybe a referral to the Bowen Center. Think you may have picked up an STD? Maybe a scrip and some friendly advice. People simply trust her. And she can keep her mouth shut.

My sister figured out about ten years ago that she needed to learn Spanish so she could better communicate with her Mexican patients. She went to the library and the local high school and got first year textbooks and tapes. She began by teaching herself. The problem was she thought she wasn't learning it fast enough to suit her. How to fix it? She adopted Juan and Esmerelda and their family, who agreed to help her learn Spanish, if she would help them learn English. Shortly thereafter, she was asked to teach the English classes for Mexican immigrants in citizenship classes. She is now completely fluent in Spanish. A kind of impromptu cultural exchange arose between the two families. Lisa goes to Mexican church Sunday evenings. Juan has learned that you should not park your truck in the yard and why white folk refer to Mexicans as "beaners." Lisa has learned why we are called "gringos," and worse. She has also made the acquaintance of Corona beer, margaritas, mariachi music, and she's learned how to swear like a Mexican cowboy.

A few years ago, Juan's brother got married in Mexico. Juan said his family would be honored if Lisa would attend. She agreed to go. She flew to Mexico City, took a dilapidated bus crammed full of people 200 miles south and was dropped at an unmarked crossroad in the middle of nowhere. She sat for about an hour before Juan's brother picked her up in a rattle trap pickup and drove her another 75 miles into the mountains where people still lived in adobe houses and cooked tortillas on stones heated with a campfire. She loved it.

The next morning she was awakened by a line of people, patiently standing outside her door, waiting for Nurse Lisa to tend to the old, sick and frail. Fortunately, she had brought some of her medical tools and supplies. She said the wedding was great fun and the trip was unforgettable. Would you do that? My sister did.

My sister is the master of making something out of nothing. Lisa and her husband own about 25 acres of woods a few miles from Winona Lake. About two years ago Lisa wanted a small "getaway" cabin built in the woods. Rather than buy the materials at the local lumber store, Lisa started cruising the alleys and construction sites in Winona Lake, looking for junk construction material. She found stray 2 by 4s, doors and the like in alleys and came back to get them in her truck. She would stop by a construction site and ask the foreman if she could have that single roll of insulation or roofing. More often than not he would say yes. She would scoop it up, throw it in her truck, and haul it home. Once word got around what she was doing, some foremen started saving her stuff and calling her to come and get it. Her three boys helped build the cabin. Here it is. Not bad for salvaged material, huh?

Lisa's brain never stops. She is always learning something new, even if what she is learning is a bit off the beaten track. About a year ago I stopped at her house to find Lisa sitting on her living room couch in from of the wood stove with an 8 foot piece of rope in her hands. I asked what she was doing with the rope and she told me she was learning to tie knots. Beside her were 3 or 4 books about KNOTS from the library. I asked her why and she told me that knots had always interested her and "You just never know when you might need a good knot for a special purpose." She then said, "Check this out." She quickly tied a knot and proudly displayed it. "What is it?" I asked. She said, "It is for carrying a bottle. See how the knot tightens around the neck of the bottle when you put weight on it? Is that cool, or what?" Like I said, off the beaten track a little.

A few weeks later she called me to tell me that she had something to show me. When I arrived, she had a rope tied between two of the main vertical support beams in the living room. It looked like a clothes line to me, which is exactly what is was. Proudly she said, "Check this out." She then loaded about 20 hangered shirts on to the line, which began to droop with the weight. With a single flick of the wrist she tugged on one end of the line and the rope pulled taut. She then took off the clothes and with a single flick of the wrist, both ends of the rope came undone and the whole thing dropped into a tangle-free pile on the floor. "Pretty cool, huh?" she said. Can you do that? My sister can.

My sister takes the position that there is almost nothing she can't do, learn to do, or be taught. She has been in the rental business for years. She has learned to hang a door, fix a broken window, fix a screen door, run a hot and cold water line, set a toilet, replace a sewage line, replace a lock, plumb a shower, bathtub or sink, build a partition wall and wallboard it, and a hundred other small tasks. There isn't anything she won't try.

When she and her husband were building their lake front home, it came time to roof it. Lisa told Jim she could do it even though she had never roofed before. Jim showed her how to lay the shingles, load the nail gun and how to operate the air compressor. Away she went. She laid 50 squares of roofing in her spare time after work. A single square of roofing weighs 240 pounds. 50 squares weigh 12000 pounds, not including the underlayment, which is about the same. She hauled it up onto the roof herself. Can you do that? My sister can.

My sister has a soft spot for wounded animals. The neighborhood knows that if you run across an injured animal, Lisa will try to fix it. She also feels strongly about trees. She isn't a greenie or a tree hugger, but believes that trees, like people, should be left alone until they die of natural causes. I have known her to leave her house, so she would not hear a chain saw cutting down a healthy tree. I have known her to stop her car in the middle of the road to move a carcass off to the side, so cars do not continue to run over it. "It is not right. People should show a little respect," is what she says.

A few years ago, the Park Department in Winona Lake decided that a healthy tree near my sister's backyard needed to come down. Lisa was upset and took a drive. After the tree had been felled, cut up and hauled away, a neighbor noticed something moving in the grass where the tree used to be. It turned out to be a baby squirrel with its head torn open, exposing the brain. Of course, the neighbor brought it to Lisa, hoping she could fix it. Lisa took the squirrel and made a nest for it in a stocking cap, putting the squirrel next to a reading lamp to stay warm. She began a routine of feeding the squirrel every two hours with warm milk in an eye dropper. Surprisingly, the squirrel, now named Rocky, did not die. In fact, she saw the squirrel try to turn over in the cap. She rigged up some kind of tiny bandage and helped it turn over. After a few days, she noticed that the squirrel was trying to sit up, but kept falling over. Permanent brain damage, she guessed. But then Rocky began sitting up longer and not falling over as frequently. Rocky got bigger. Soon, Rocky then began to crawl around a little, still falling over occasionally. Rocky could then sit up without falling over. Then he could crawl around his cage and began trying to climb the walls, but still fell over. But, finally, he could crawl around the cage and climb the walls just like a regular squirrel. After about three months, Rocky was released into her backyard, apparently as normal as the next squirrel. For weeks afterward, Lisa and Rocky would chatter at each other, speaking a strange language known only to squirrel-patient and pseudo-nurse veterinarian.

Last year, while walking in her woods, Lisa came upon a baby dove that had fallen from its nest. She put it in her pocket, took it home and reactivated the stocking cap/squirrel cage. The every-two-hour feeding schedule started. Wouldn't you know it? The dove, now known as Squab, flourished. It learned to fly in Lisa's bedroom and would land on her shoulder.

Lisa did some research on the life expectancy of doves. Eighteen months is all they get. She released Squab at the woods in the early fall not expecting Squab to survive the winter. In the spring she was in the woods for a walk when she saw Squab, who flew down and landed on her shoulder. Squab had survived the winter and started a family. Is that cool, or what?

I could go on about my sister, but this is enough. I think she is one of the most remarkable people I know. She makes life interesting and fun. She cares about other people, animals and trees. And if they are sick or wounded, she tries to heal them. That's what nurses do.
Mike out.

Friday, April 15, 2011


Monday came and went and, except for that 3 hour stay in the oncology department, it was much of the same around here.

Same = Mike: fatigue; pain in gut; pain moving along the 'waistband'; a new couple of projects; sorting and straightening up various loose ends.
Same = Lynne: school; home after school; continued and ignored crushing tightness in chest; poor sleep; slipping energy. Time to get our ducks in a row.

First, the wife. I stepped back from ignoring it all and realized that since our first ERCP, I have been experiencing a lot of chronic stress symptoms. Sometimes, I feel like a fist is crushing my chest. It's not constant but it never really goes away. But I, rationalizing at a time when rational does not fit, assured myself with that fact that I have the good genes: low cholesterol and low blood pressure. So this is nothing, right? Just shake it off, kid. Get busy.

Well, when I dragged home on Tuesday, the crushing was on. Why then? Could it have something to do with several empathetic friends who had approached me at school. I know they wanted me to know that they were with me in my experience. How they did that was by relating their personal family cancer stories and particularly graphic descriptions of THE END. The stories snuck up on me before I realized what was coming. Would it have helped anyone if I had stopped them and said, "This doesn't help me." ? I don't know.

At any rate, I plopped down at the kitchen table with my take-home giant latte and decided randomly to check my blood pressure. We are of the age that we keep a cuff handy.

Let me just say that I set a person record. Wow. That can't be right! So I sat and sipped and tried it again. It dropped but not nearly enough. So much for relying on genes. I flipped on the computer and went on line. "CHRONIC STRESS" Let's see. Headache? Check. Ringing in ears? Check. CHEST DISCOMFORT? Check. ETC. Check. ETC ETC. Check check. Ok, let's see: see your doctor. OK. Called her and will see her soon. Exercise helps. Wow, but I'm beat. OK, I'll get back into my morning habit of a mile around the neighborhood.

Cut back on caffeine. Really? But, I don't drink much coffee, do I? Actually, since February, I have absentmindedly ramped up my intake: 2 at breakfast, 2 or 3 at school, 3 after school. Ok, I can cut back. And I did. Wednesday and Thursday, I had a bit of a withdrawal headache and now I don't. And guess what? The Chest thing is greatly decreased. Still seeing my doctor next week.

As for Mike. Every medical person draws blood and examines its various makeup. He DID have three weekends where his fever spiked. Just before we left for Florida, the hospital called to tell him that he had e coli in his bloodstream. Perhaps that's the source of the fever. So they put him on a pricey antibiotic for two weeks. The gut pain comes and goes but never go goes. This is, of course, distressing. So, his doctor decided he should have another ERCP.

That doctor called Thursday night and told us to get to Indianapolis for a 9 AM appointment, which we did. Today's ERCP went well.

Mike "did well." They put in a slightly larger stent that hopefully will work better. He's woozy right now but feeling much better. His biggest complaint is that he is hungry and the medical people said, "Liquids." He wants grilled cheese. I made chicken soup.

But, I have the bread and cheese ready. Maybe about 10.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

On the Beach at 60

I remember as a girl reading magazine articles about physical appearance. Something like “highlight your good parts and hide your less good parts." But as one wag once said, “It’s liberating when you get to the age where you no longer care if you’re cool.”

And so, when you get close to the ocean on a hot day, all pretense of camouflage fades.

We spent a few days at our favorite stretch of ocean beach. Lauderdale-by-the-Sea is a Snow Bird community. Lots of tanned septuagenarians walking little pocket dogs. We were the young-uns here, except for the occasional grandkid.

Let me report: when you are 60 and on the beach, it’s ok that you bare a little cottage-cheese thigh. It’s ok that men sport mats of white chest hair on top of tanned skin. It keeps former pecs and abs nice and warm.

The comb-over becomes a RED dome with curtains.

That guy in the really tight shorts believes that this makes him look gorgeous. You can tell by the strut. Same for the European guy in the teeny wheeny wheeny Speedo.

Strolling past, yippy dog in tow, a gentleman sporting that brown socks/sandals look, completed with bright pink plaid Bermudas and a matching Panama hat.

You may remember “It was an itsy bitsy, teeny wheeny, yellow polka dot bikini” a hit from the early ‘60s. A gramma nearby purchased on back then and, dang, she still getting some wear out of it.

And not to be mean at all: we’re pretty beat up ourselves. YEARS is YEARS and Time Stops for No Man. But, as all will someday discover, with age comes not only privilege but fading sight. Wrinkles and sags lose their definition. Smiles, after all, are what matter.

It’s a great day at the beach.

Friday, April 8, 2011


No matter what else is going on in my life, it's time for the annual ritual. The pile of unmatched socks is about to meet the trash can.

The hub wears brown or black or grey when he suits up. Considering that he has been suiting up less these days, it is a curiosity that the pile is about as big as usual. We have brown with gold toes; brown with smaller gold toes; brown with solid toes; brown cotton; brown fuzzy. And similar varieties in black and gray.

I have never figured out where the odd socks go; they do NOT go into the vent; they do NOT go behind the dryer. We no longer have a sock chompin' golden retriever. But there's the pile. Whenever I cannot match socks, the odd guy moves optimistically to the top of the dryer. There it remains unless and until its mate comes through. But today, when I finish the wash, all those oddballs will be gone.

I did not mention the white socks. Yes, of course, there are the random whites. Many whites. Thick rim, no rim, stripped toe, pink toe, yellow toe. Way back when we had two teens in sports and whites, it seemed like I was always sorting socks. Sometimes, I'd drift off with thoughts of, "For THIS I got a Master's Degree in English?"

Once, in frustration, I asked our neighbor, the mother of four sportos (one current pro baseball player!) for her tips on keeping her sanity amid even MORE white socks. She told me that she purchased 10 dozen of the SAME KIND so she never had to sort socks.

Brilliant, I'd say.

I know that I contribute to this mess by resupplying the sock drawer when it gets low.And 'they' keep changing the styles so the new ones never match the old ones. And so the cycle keeps going. Tell me, then, why I NEVER lose my socks. Never. That florescent orange and pink striped knee sock matches up perfectly with its mate. Same with the black argyles. And the Red and Blue, Kokomo Spirit stockings. It may be that I wear fewer pairs; I don't know. I have no odd socks on top of the dryers. In about a hour from now, neither will anybody else.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


For years, it has been practice for a large number of Kokomo citizens to hit the road and motor down to Panama City Beach for spring break. No kidding. Whole neighborhoods have relocated in large condos and spill out to the sand and sun.

(Contrary to The Beach Boys, there IS no Kokomo Beach….except our municipal pool.)
We joined the exodus three times when our kids were in grade school. We’d take the middle seat out of the Aerostar, load it with coolers, snacks, clothes and the all important etc., and head south. Don’t get this wrong. I like my neighbors. But when we’d be in Panama City, we saw lots of friends everywhere we would go: restaurants, mini golf, go cart track, mall. The trip down and back took us on I-95, a two-laner. Traffic would back up, advance sporadically. Each time we changed location, we’d wave to Kokomoans.

PC is your typical spring break kind of place: lots of ‘best deal’ T shirt shops, lots of ‘souvenir' stands, lots of caramel corn and fudge stands. The kids enjoyed it, playing in the sand with friends from home. But the weather is dicey: sometimes in early April, it’s 70 degrees and cloudy. Sometimes, the weather back home is considerably better Also, each time we went, we would drive home on Saturday and arrive late, with a car full of dirty clothes, exhausted children, and no more food. The hub would spend Sunday catching up at the office and I would scramble to get the house in order for the next day, back to school.

I think those three years were the only spring break trips we took. So I was taken aback when, two weeks ago, the hub said, “When is your spring break? We should go somewhere.” That SOMEWHERE, for Mike, would be a return to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, a small community 5 miles north of spring breakers. We have visited 3 times in the last two years. On our first trip, we discovered a small, private beach house, 10 rooms, no fuss, and 100 feet from the ocean. We’ve stayed there three times. Mike wanted to return.

Note: although married for 38 years, we have different travel modes. I’m all for adventure and the unexpected. Mike prefers to known. He likes to know where we’re going, when we’ll be there, what we’ll do when, and so forth. Return trips fulfill all those needs. His style may sound less exciting but, honestly, MINE has gotten me and whoever was in tow into some potentially precarious situations.

I did not even broach the subject about the impossibility of finding affordable air fares at this time of year. Or an empty room anywhere in south Florida. I just nodded and went on line. I plugged in a few dates and saw what I expected: no flights or fares 3 and 4 times higher than normal. Then, I spied one fare, surrounded by all the others, for $200 round trip. “Can’t be right,” I thought. But I jumped on it. The site confirmed that we had purchased seats.

God hug.

I figured we could find somewhere to stay, even if we had to drive miles to the beach. So, expecting nothing, I called to our little beach house. Not only did they have a room, they had OUR room. So I booked it.

‘Nother God hug.

Look, I know that so many of you pray for us every day and you know that we are facing some new challenges with Mike’s health. So could this be how God answered your prayers? I have to say, Yes.

Our plan this time was to set a record for minimalist packing. Both of us always bring too much stuff. So we laid out our separate piles and decided that two small duffle bags would do.

Then, on Saturday, Mike began to feel ill again. Pain in his gut. No fever but feeling crummy. Sunday morning, he nudged me and said, “Come on. We have to go back to the ER.” Ok. And out we drove. He kept apologizing for messing with the trip. I kept saying, “Look, it’s ok.” More tests. More results. And doctor said that nothing was changed and we should go on our trip.

It was 11:00. We needed to be on the road by noon. It was a snap to load our piles into the bags and we were off. (We now believe….this is OUR diagnosis…that Saturday’s 4 authentic tacos were 2 too many.) We made our flights: Indianapolis to Atlanta and then Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale.

Seasoned travelers warn against ‘going through Atlanta.’ With our cheap tickets, we weren’t in any mood to worry. Well, Atlanta was packed. Lines and lines and lines of numb-faced humanity, marching to this gate, that smoothy stand to the coffee kiosk.

When we got to our gate, we found that our boarding passes did not have seat assignments. I explained that Mike was less than well and needed to sit down. I hoped to board early. “Don’t worry,” a jovial gate agent said. “You’ll be on the flight.”

We kept watching the screen that announced sporadically, that the flight was full, that the weather in Fort Lauderdale was fantastic, that the stand by people were out of luck, that quite a few people were cleared to board. But not the BOLs.

Mike was getting really tired. I was getting really nervous. But gate guy just smiled and said, “Don’t worry. You’ve got a seat.” We were the last two passengers to board. The gate agent escorted us. He pointed to First Class where there were two vacant seats.

Yet another hug.

So here we are, in from our first glorious day playing in the surf. We open up our French doors so we can listen to the waves as they lap the shore, 100 feet from our room. Ocean breezes and salt water relax and heal. Thank you for your continued prayers.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Newest Project: Wall Cabinet

Roughing it out in the workshop

Once again, Mike chose the wood carefully and match the grains.

With damp weather, it took longer to dry but finally, this Saturday, we placed the cabinet in its new home. Mike's inlay work gets better with each piece.

Mike decided to paint the inside.

Once again, friend Jay Moody milled the solid brass pull.

Close up of pull

And here it is, in its place at the cottage.