Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Cheer

Tis the season to be jolly.

Or not. Out there, the push is on. Rush rush rush. Spend spend spend. You hear less "Merry Christmas" and more "Whew, I'm DONE!!!

In here, we have ramped it down over the last few years. And with plans to be in Texas for Christmas, we weren't even going to put up a tree. WE. Well, THAT'S not accurate. Decking the halls falls on me, now that my daughter moved away. She took the task over when she got old enough to plug in the lights. We had really elaborate decor until she moved out.

I wasn't going to put up anything shiny in December. But then, Mike invited our good friends over for dinner. (He hauled out his rotisserie and bought a Moby chicken.) I knew I had to sprinkle some holiday cheer here and there. My solution: a trip to the bargain store where they had a special on a pre-lit tree. It's all of 24 inches so the light is intense. A few of our special ornaments and it is all a sparkle. Wouldn't you just know my luck? Our local department store was GIVING AWAY pre-lit door wreaths. My oh my, all I need is a Yule log. (0r that On Demand high definition Fireplace!)

The dinner, by the way, was spectacular. And then, here's why we continue to celebrate. Since February (i.e. "recurrence"), every planned trip has been penciled in. We did not know if we would be able to go, if Mike would feel well enough. And so was our Christmas trip, which involves air travel. Even after getting all flights coordinated, last weekend seemed to indicate that the trip would not happen.

I'm pleased to say (and this is how God is answering prayers THIS week), the trip is on. On Thursday night, I'll be hugging some grandsons! So, even though the crowds out there are pushing and shoving, I can thank our Father as I drag out the suitcase.

Mike had a scan today, scheduled but scheduled incorrectly, so what might have taken an hour filled most of the day. And then he came home to a letter. A mean letter.

It seems that during the chaos of the closing of the office, some client's case was mislaid. Some sort of inheritance allocation. They want a refund. They will get it.

But in the letter were some hurtful words, striking at the heart of this career attorney. I'm guessing that two years ago, he would have let the words roll off his back while addressing their concerns. But this is later, this is the tender Mike, who would go all sorts of extra miles to help. He said, "Mean, isn't it? No big deal, we'll fix it. They are wrong but it's not worth it...."

Then he lay down and took a deep nap.

When he awakens, he'll see what another former client sent to us. Along with the plant is a letter telling him, specifically, how Mike had helped this person. How she'll always be greatful and, as such letters often end, that she'll continue to pray for us.

I love how God sends unexpected blessings right when we need them.

From our house, cottage, workshop, and blog: May you have a very Merry Christmas. May you find joy in this holiday season. We serve a mightly God who loves us so much that He sacrificed His dear Son. May the miracle of Emmanuel, the Messiah, fill your hearts with hope and love.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

That was the week that was......

Whew. Ready for a new week here.

Last Monday, had I snapped a photo, you would have seen that the hub looked like his old self. Friends dropped by and they played. And lunched. And played some more. I was dragging from the end-of-semester busyness and he was flying.

Tuesday began with full vigor. THEN, I'm not sure what happened here but I think the hub unearthed something old in the refrigerator. Maybe some lunchmeat. Not sure. But the result was a rip roaring case of gastroenteritis by Wednesday.......sick sick sick by the time I got home. The list of chores lay where I left it. The hub lay abed, moaning and groaning, when he was not sprinting for the porcelain throne.

He slept fitfully but insisted that he was well on Thursday, so off to school I went. And it was 'root day' so I was late getting home, although my hair looked fabulous. But Mike would never know.....he was deep in the covers, pale and weak, and still sick.

It was a rocky night and this time, he wanted me home. Just in case 'this was it,' he did not want me to miss anything. His stomach was relieved of some stuff and then he felt a little better.

Several quarts of Gatorade later, his doctor returned our call. As he had no fever, she suggested that we come in on Friday to check his various body fluids. We did. Turns out that he did a 'good job of hydrating himself,' and after a few bags of saline, he was pronounced good to go.

Go we did. So HE was/is fine but I was/am exhausted. Saturday was a catch-up day.

Then, on to Sunday. Mike got to play with the church band. Few things make me smile as wide. And, I know from my friends, that when Mike is on stage, his church family smiles wide, also. He is, after all, their miracle man.

Watching, singing, worshipping, a thought crept in.....was this the last time he'd get to play? Will this be our last Christmas? And a tear began to form.

But here's the thing: does God want to rob me of my joy? No, that's the other side. We are so blessed and we are so vulnerable to attacks from the Evil One.

I wiped off the tear and upped my volume.

Jesus, Messiah
Name above all names
Blessed Redeemer

We are well and headed into the season that celebrates our Savior's birth.

Happy Birthday, Jesus. Thanks, Father for each and every gift.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Legend of the Two Toms

One of the interesting sociological facts about Kokomo, apart from its extensive Ku Klux Klan history, is that a significant portion of our population are persons who immigrated north from such places as Beaver Tail, Tennessee, and Coon Holler, Kentucky. These persons and their offspring can be identified easily, apart from being grossly overweight and habitually beating their mouth-breathers in Walmart, by the shotgun and compound bow they have on a rack in the rear window of their jacked up, 4-wheel-drive pickup truck. In addition, they all have police scanners in their home, right next to the 52 inch flatscreen which is always tuned to whatever channel is showing “wrasslin.”

Police scanners allow anyone to hear radio transmissions from the police, which can be really useful if you are hiding young Otis in your house, because the cops in Kentucky have a warrant for him for back support, said warrant now being in the hands of the Kokomo cops who are anxious to apprehend young Otis, put his sorry butt in jail and ship him back to the patiently waiting judge in Beaver Tail.

Also, the radio calls often say where the cops are going, which might tip you off that it might not be a good time to go weed that secret plot of ground that you are using to grow your own weed, for personal use only, or to access your stash of shine that you ran up here to Indiana from Uncle Floyd’s still back home.

Even better, you can hear the cops talking about being enroute to an often-visited residence, because Harlen is beating the snot out of Geraldine, yet again. If you get the call early enough, you can mosey on down to Harlen’s house to watch the fireworks, where four officers try to drag an irritated, liquored-up Harlen out of the house, clad only in his wifebeater T-shirt and boxers, while roaring that he will never be taken alive, all the while Geraldine trying to smack the cops, screaming that she will love Harlen forever and will visit him every Wednesday in the jail.

Rowdy, but home sweet home.

As it's understood that every kid whose parents have a scanner is listening, it has long been the tradition with the police in Kokomo that on Christmas Eve, the on-duty officers are to call in to dispatch about 9:30 to report that an unidentified flying object has been sighted over Kokomo. Another cop will then respond that the UFO has a red light on the front and appears to be stopping on the roof of each house.

Yet another cop will report that a very fat man with a white beard, clad in a red suit is going down the chimney of each house. This scenario is limited only by the creativeness of the officers, or their boredom, pick one. It is safe to say that a substantial portion of the police force view this task as beneath their dignity and professionalism. It is also safe to say that some police officers are in possession of, shall we say, a perverted, twisted sense of humor, sometimes not kept in check. Such was the case on one legendary Christmas Eve.

Which leads me to the two subjects of this tale of woe, Officers Thomas Dinardo and his evil accomplice, Thomas Kelly, who on a peaceful Christmas Eve were bored (not a good thing) and who managed cleverly to create a Christmas Eve, in our burg, that lives on in infamy. This daring duo cleverly managed to put countless mouthbreathers in therapy, thoroughly tick off half the community, and to incur the wrath of their commanding officers, all in the space of 5 minutes, and in so doing upheld the highest traditions of the Kokomo Police Department…

and became local legends.

Now before this tale continues, let the reader envision eight year old, buck-toothed Elmer, fresh out of his once-a-week bath, clad in his jammies, with his oversized left ear glued to the scanner, anticipating the report of Santa Claus being in the vicinity. Perhaps he frequently glances toward the Christmas tree, noting that there are no presents underneath and thinking that Santa has yet to deliver down the chimney and if he doesn’t bring him that set of broadhead arrows he asked for, well…Santa just might get to find out what a load of 12 gauge double ought buckshot feels like where the sun don’t shine. After all, Elmer left out by the chimney one of those special brownies that only Ma and Pa eat, just for Santa Claus.

All the while young Elmer’s parents are sitting by the scanner, also with their own thoughts. Pa is thinking that if the cops would just get on with it, Elmer could be sent off to beddy-bye, he could get a ball mason jar of shine out of the garage and he and Ma could maybe share a little toke and then hop into the sack together for some serious substance abuse-enhanced, sheet time. Little did they know of the diabolical plot concocted by the vile, two Toms.

It seems that when 9:30 rolled around and the Santa Claus schtick was scheduled to commence, the two Tom’s decided to deviate from the script and do a bit of, shall we say, ad-libbing. As ordered, Officer Dinardo called in to report an unidentified flying object. Right on cue, Officer Kelly reported the red light out front. Dinardo then reported that the UFO was east bound at low level and appeared to be a sleigh being pulled by reindeer. Kelly observed that a fat man in a red suit was going down the chimney of each house. Dinardo opined that Rudolph was doing a good job guiding the sleigh, but that the bad weather was making it difficult to see. Kelly then observed that Santa was now crossing the Delphi and Chrysler plants at low altitude. And then the fun began… with thousands of tiny ears glued to the scanners.

Kelly: Man, Santa is awfully low.

Dinardo: I hope Rudolph sees those high tension wires east of the Delphi plant.

Kelly: Oh man, he’s too low! He’s going to hit those wires!

Dinardo: I see sparks! Pull up, Rudolph! Pull up! You are going to hit the wires!

Kelly: Oh my God, they’re in the wires! Oh no, the sleigh is tangled up in the wires. The sleigh is burning! The reindeer are on fire. They are going down! Oh man, Santa just fell out of the sleigh! Oh, the humanity!

Dinardo: Santa just hit the ground! He’s splattered! All the presents are burning! I smell burning reindeer meat! Call the ambulance! Santa is on fire! I am at the scene and it looks like Rudolph and the other reindeer are extra crispy and Santa is well done!

Kelly: You think we could get some of that reindeer meat? I hear it tastes just like deer meat. I think we better get out of here. You know, some people can’t take a joke and might not appreciate this.

Dinardo: I am thinking that it is an hour before we get off for the night. I am heading to Dunkin Donut for a donut and coffee. I am going off the air, too. Meet you there. I think we had better lay low for the rest of the shift.

Of course, young Elmer and hundreds of other mouthbreathers, realizing that Santa was toast and Rudolph and the boys were on the way to the weigh station, screamed and promptly went into a catatonic state. Children all over the county were traumatized by the vision of Santa and Rudolph going down in flames and being turned into reindeer steak and Santa burgers. Even worse was the collective wail that rose over the city as the mouthbreathers figured out that their presents were incinerated, despite assurances from their parents that that was not the case.

Of course, the Sheriff and the Chief of Police were, strangely enough, not amused by the deviation from the script. The dispatchers were furious as their switchboards melted down with hundreds of incoming telephone calls from furious parents. The Sheriff and the Chief sent out directives to the two Tom’s that they had better “fix this thing," or their heads would roll. But, of course, the two Toms were nowhere to be found.

So, there you have it. The legend of the Two Toms. Where else could this have happened, but Kokomo, Indiana. Smokin’ Santa and barbecued Rudolph! Merry Christmas!

Mike out.

Madison Elaine Miller

Born 12/15/2011 around 11;30 PM

20 inches 6 lb 3 oz

And, Great Aunt Lynne got to cuddle her 10 hours later!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Slowing Down

It has been thirty-three months since four doctors told me I had ninety days to live. I guess I fooled them, didn’t I? They have no explanation for my apparent reprieve. They just shake their heads, throw up their hands, and say things like “medicine is an art and people are unpredictable.” Gee, I would never have guessed that! I know why I continue to live and I could tell them, but they wouldn’t put in stock in what I would tell them, so why bother?

Being sick with cancer with the attendant radiation, chemotherapy, and related drugs has a tendency to slow me down. I am tired most of the time. I would also say that the tiredness is not the same as if I had run a race or worked really hard. It is a completely pervasive fatigue that is bone-deep and long-lasting. It has to be experienced to be understood.

Nonetheless, the constant fatigue has brought with it some good things. It has forced me to slow down and has given me the opportunity to appreciate what is around me. There are many little things that we each experience that slip by unnoticed most of the time. For me, this is a brand new, enlightening experience. Let me give you a quick example.

Back when I was playing lawyer, it was not unusual for me to be on the road to court in four different counties in a single day. There was no time for breakfast, lunch or anything else, for that matter. I got skilled at driving with my knee, while looking at a file, and talking with a client or one of the secretaries on the cell phone. Stopping for lunch was out of the question. You may not believe this, but in thirty-three years, I never stopped one time to have lunch while on the road. Really stupid. This obsessive behavior became a habit.

A few months ago I had business in Warsaw. I drove there in my truck, took care of the matter and headed home. About fifteen miles from Warsaw is the small farm town of Silver Lake. On the corner is a tiny mom-and-pop diner called Keisling’s Iron Skillet. It looks like my kind of place. Quiet, good food, you will be left alone to read, and reasonable prices. Fine dining it is not. Comforting it is.

So I rolled into Silver Lake about noon… hungry…and rolled right on through… because I needed to get back to Kokomo. About three miles out of Silver Lake it dawned on my tiny brain that I was not working anymore, there was no office to go to no appointments to keep and I had no reason at all not to stop and enjoy a leisurely lunch. I will not tell you I turned around and went back to Keisling’s, but I did stop for lunch at The Red Apple diner five miles up the road, where I enjoyed a cheeseburger, fries, cole slaw and Coke, followed by apple pie and ice cream for dessert. I spent an hour having lunch and reading a book. That is the first time I have ever stopped for lunch.

So where am I going with this? I am learning to slow down and sometimes even stop to enjoy little things that I used to blow right on by and not notice. I am working on making this an art form. Consequently, I thought I would make a partial list of some of these little things that I have noticed, so you get the idea. Acknowledging these little events make life better, even if you are sick.

1. A long, hot shower, followed by crawling into fresh sheets on my bed and opening a new book to the first page.
2. One frozen peach wine cooler in bed at night.
3. The clatter of my Ducati’s dry clutch and the shriek and snort of its motor at nine thousand rpms.
4. Peach salsa and Tostito chips.
5. Any road trip in my Silverado with the Iverson and Lynne, providing it ends at a dog-friendly Hampton Inn for the night.
6. The sound of river water slipping by the hull of my handmade wooden kayak.
7. Eating a roasted chicken cooked on my Ron Popeil rotisserie.
8. Waking up in the morning and celebrating with Iverson (or Lynne) that we have new day to goof off together
9. Meeting up unexpectedly with a friend and having lunch or dinner together.
10Playing anything written by Mississippi John Hurt.
11. The sound of my razor sharp plane as it slices off a ribbon of wood.
12. Watching any sunset from my pier on Winona Lake with Lynne and Iverson.
13. Listening to my son, Zack, play his guitars.
14. Driving by any courthouse or my old office and laughing, because I do not have to do that stuff anymore.
15. Playing music in the band at Oakbrook Church.
16. Watching the coots land on Winona Lake in the late fall.
17. Seeing a hawk on a telephone line anywhere in Indiana.
18. Looking up and seeing a perfectly trimmed sail on my sailboat.
19. Being inverted on the forty-five degree down line on the backside of a Cuban-eight, followed by a loop and roll in a Decathlon.
20. Puttering along at 80 kts five hundred feet above the ground, watching cars, cows, people and land go by.
21. Asparagus cooked in soy sauce with lots of salt and butter.
22. Any peach ice cream anytime. Or strawberry.
23. Any barbecue joint with pulled pork, cold slaw, baked beans, cornbread and sweet tea.
24. Gymnopedie No. One played on my Martin guitar through a Fender amp with slight chorus effect.
25. The curve of Lynne’s waist.
26. 19 kts in my wooden hydroplane.
27. Talking with my mom, when she remembers who I am.
28. Lunch with Tommy D.
29. The stock market over 12000.
30. Walking out of a church service determined to try to do better.
31. Giving Iverson a bath.
32. Any song by Leonard Cohen.
33. Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.
34. “52 Vincent” by Richard Thompson.
35. Cooking dinner for friends.
36. The smell of lilacs blooming.
37. Seeing my daughter, who will always be two years old, anytime.
38. Taking off our shoes, and walking ashore on Omaha Beach with my son, Zach.
39. My oncologist saying that nothing is showing up in the CT scans and “come back in three months.”
40. Any new story from anyone about my dad.
41. Waking up in a sleeping bag on the Appalachian Trail and fixing oatmeal over a backpacking stove.

This is a partial list. I could go on all day. I never used to notice these things. Not so nowadays. I would urge you to make your own list. You would be surprised how much good it does you.
I have still not had lunch at Keisling’s, but I swear I will get that done.

Slow down. Life is short. Enjoy the little things. Share them when you can.

Mike out.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Update: James Caird II

Here is the latest picture of my Maine Peapod, which I have named James Caird II. All of the stringers, which run the length of the boat, have been installed and await planking.

I hope to start tomorrow, if I can kick the after effects of my most recent Chemo treatment. Further pictures to follow.