Thursday, August 29, 2013

Keeping my Eyes Open

My small group meets every other Tuesday night, beginning in the fall. We take a break during summer.

I had received some communication about our next book study. In that message, I was sure I saw 8/27 as our next meeting date. So, I drove to my friend’s house for the 7 PM meeting. Why were there no cars in her driveway? Because there was no meeting that night. We’re starting back in September.

So what was I doing there? I need to stop asking such questions. One of our group had dropped by and was sitting in the back yard. I joined her and another lady arrived also. So, a small version of our small group gathered around a backyard pool, took off our shoes and dangled our feet in the pool water. Nice on a warm summer day.

As we hadn’t seen each other for a while and as each of us had moved into major life events, we had a lot to talk about. It was just a nice friendly get-together of friends, cooling their toes.
Then, about 8:15, I rose to drive home. We all said good bye and my friend reminded me of the next meeting.

“Got it,” I assured her.

And so, I drove home, headed north along a country road. To my right, the tall corn waved in a light breeze. On my left, the sun was sinking in the west. It was a hot day, summer sunset….blazing gold in the west. I glanced at the sun. I turned my head to look at the corn. It was glowing in golden glory. Beautiful.

Then, I flipped on the radio and guess what? Mercy Me: I can only imagine, a meditation on heaven. For now it’s faith. Someday, faith will be light. Maybe golden light.

"I Can Only Imagine"
I can only imagine
What it will be like
When I walk
By your side

I can only imagine
What my eyes will see
When your face
Is before me
I can only imagine

Surrounded by Your glory, what will my heart feel
Will I dance for you Jesus or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah, will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine

I can only imagine
When that day comes
And I find myself
Standing in the Son

I can only imagine
When all I will do
Is forever
Forever worship You
I can only imagine

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Missing him today

One of my favorite photos

                                  Michael Owen Bolinger  

                                      8/29/51 -- 6/14/13

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Whispers Part 1

            My very best friends will testify that I can be an arrogant little pilgrim. Headstrong, stubborn, and willful….theses labels stick from those who love me and pray for me.
            At one time, I joked (kinda) that this was, obvious to me, my spiritual gift…it’s not on the list but maybe it got lost in editing.  I mean, God created me and He created me with this nature. It’s strong and clear. And in my profession as a high school teacher, these gifts served me well, running and ruling my classroom with a firm, loving, AND stubborn hand.
            In the past, it was best that when friends asked me to pray, they not give me too many details. As soon as I thought I saw the problem AND the solution, I acted in an advisory position to the Creator of the Universe. “Maybe You haven’t considered THIS.” “Don't cha think that THIS would fix the problem?”
            So when the surgeon dropped the bomb on Mike and me, after tears and a few why-did-this-happens, I did not pray for healing. I mean I had heard of others, over the years who had gone to the doctor with something; the doctor had opened them up and looked around; the doctor had sewn them up and said, “Sorry, there’s nothing we can do.” We knew some of those guys. Now we were those guys.
            The doctor said that Mike should go home and get his affairs in order. His cancer was found “significantly distant” from the original site. This surgeon said that, statistically, the tumors would grow, quickly, and would end my husband’s life in approximately 6 months. I know that people like to announce, hands on hips and a shake of the head, that “doctors don’t know everything.” And that’s true. The doctors I know are the first to admit this and are overjoyed when they are wrong with fatal pronouncements.  What Mike’s surgeon said was based on statistics.  If you Google metastatic gallbladder cancer, you will see that the assessment was correct. Also, he knew that Mike was a practicing attorney, with an office and employees and clients, and that closing his office would need to be his primary goal as there was little else to do.
            He DID suggest that we meet with an oncologist to discuss treatment. “Treatment?” we asked.
            “Yes, there are things medicine can do to make you more comfortable and to buy you some time.” And then gently, “And it’s not too early to investigate hospice.”
            Hospice: end of life care. “They’ve gone into hospice.” They will be dead soon. “Hospice has come.” Tick tick tick.
            I left my contacts out of my eyes, switched to my glasses and cried for 2 days. I slept a little. Praying friends filled our room. Some prayed boldly for healing. Some said, “We will pray for healing until God shows us something else.” Mike told me that he prayed for healing once. In his own words: God isn’t hard of hearing.
            But not I. It wasn’t anger, actually. But I DID raise the question. Here we were, children of the King, skilled at our professions, bringing some glory to the kingdom, as far as I could see. And we were closing in on 35 years of marriage. Like all marriages, we had experienced some ups and downs but for the last 5 years or so, our relationship was so good. Supportive. Strong. Sweet.
            (Hands on hips) “Couldn’t You USE a good, solid Christian marriage? As an example? To demonstrate all that You teach about Christ and the Church in a sinful world?”
            And here’s one of the countless reasons I love and am loved by my Maker. He did not chide me for my suggestion…like He had overlooked this possibility. I can see Him smiling at me, (silly child of Mine), wistful for the day that I stop advising and fall, lavishly, into His all-caring arms.
            The adventure that lay ahead of Mike and me would demonstrate a good, solid, Christian marriage to those around us. He smiled, asking me to trust Him, and said, “Yes, I could and I will.”

Sunday, August 18, 2013

SO: What are you DOING???

Now that school is back in session and here I am, out and about, the question often comes up from folks around town. (What are you doing in the Main CafĂ© at 10:30 in the morning???Enjoying the best coffee in town) (How come I bump into you at Kroger’s during the school day? Meeting all sorts of new people)

It sinks in quickly that I am not at school, even though students saw my name when they picked up their schedules. Several….I have only a few…Facebook friends ‘messaged’ me, all excited that I was, in fact, going to be their teacher. Then I told them that, alas, I was taking a leave of absence.

During Mike’s illness, he wanted me at school, living as normal life as possible. And that worked well until this last semester. Then, school became tough for me. Mike’s illness started to really take the toll in January so I needed more energy and brain capacity that I possessed. It became hard to sleep when I should; meals and snacks became ‘grab and go.’ His weight dropped as his pain increased. We saw the writing on the wall. I knew that when his illness ended, I would need a break. I knew I would take a break.

I figured I’d just retire, even though every smart source says that someone like me should make no major decisions for a year. I had it in my PLAN FOLDER that when Mike’s illness ended, so would my career as a teacher. I hoped, I prayed, that I could leave as I had wished, still near the top of my game, still loving the kids with which I worked, still with a twinge of ‘missing it.’

A kind lady at the Administration Building explained to me that if I just quit, a portion of my money would ‘just go away.’ And as my financial guy keeps repeating, as I think he is concerned that I won’t remember, “You need to get everything you have coming to you.”  (He also reminds me and repeats that I should SIGN NOTHING unless he is by my side.)

And, now that I’ve committed these to ink (sic), I won’t forget.

It seems that there is a proper window for retirement. I believe it opens in March. At that time, I can make my final decision. 

As for school, I’m missing them but not it. Within the walls of my classroom, I have enjoyed the best job in the world. I get to build relationships with 17-year-olds, mostly, and encourage them to learn, practice, refine, and demonstrate what they know. Once we understand how it’s going to be, they emerge as delightful individuals, most with history, a little drama, and much humor in their lives.
I’m not sure, nor do I need to pursue: I see that God has gifted me in this area. Should the retirement idea become the plan, I know that He will open up other opportunities to me.

For now, I am working on closing out the house in Kokomo for a permanent move to the cottage in Winona Lake. Mike and I had been planning to downsize as our house is way too big for two. Then, he got sick and that idea was placed on a back burner. THEN, during his illness, we’ve had 4 (or 5?) 
major disasters at the cottage, including a leak that damaged the foundation and a tree to the roof. 

Over these years, our home owner’s insurance has helped us create a new home…new roof, new heating/air, new foundation, some new windows. It is clearly a gift, one that Mike will not enjoy. God whispered that this is where I will make my home base.

And, by the way, our very patient home owner’s insurance sent us in search of a different company. Who could blame them?

The cottage is a much smaller place so part of my work involves sorting, discarding or gifting, and making decisions. I have an army of friends who offer to help but right now, I need to make these choices slowly and thoughtfully. When faced with indecision, God points to the best answer.

For example, Mike was a reader. A voracious reader. A varied reader. On any shopping trip, we always ended up in a bookstore and he usually left with a book. So, I have shelves lined with wonderful books and various topics. As mentioned earlier, I have many CDs, also. I can toss the CDs when I need to. Throwing out a book is another thing entirely. It would hurt. I would pain me, no matter the topic. Will I read them? I will not. Our bookshelves demonstrated our differences. 

I called our local library, certain that they get bombarded with books whenever someone dies. Silly me, I assumed that everybody has rooms and rooms of books. The head librarian told me that I can bring her all of Mike’s books and The Friends of the Library will sell them on EBay. I’ll even get a credit. (Financial guy smiles)

That’s great.

Then, last week, I attended a Leadership Conference and ran into an old friend, former teacher, a mother of the guy who started a unique private prep school in town. Teacher to teacher, I mentioned how I was going to dispose of the books.

She smiled and asked, “Could Acacia teachers look at them first?”

Of course.

So, I’m happy about the books.

Kokomo Schools started on August 6.


My grandsons’ school starts on August 26. (WHATEVER happened to 'after Labor Day'??)So, I wanted to take them on a trip before school. We just returned from several days at Niagara Falls. It was a hit. You can’t best Mother Nature.

So, what am I doing? Right now, I have a task.  I’ve penciled in April to close the house. I usually give myself ample time and I think I have done so. In between sorting, I’m taking a few road trips to visit friends and moving prized possessions to the cottage.

Also, I am setting aside a scheduled time, every day, to write. You may not see any of that product, but it will be my exercise in moving along.

Speaking of exercise, yes.  Regularly. A must.  Ivy and I are getting back in shape.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Happy Birthday Month, Mom

 So, on July 27, 2013, we boarded the Oasis of the Seas, Royal Caribbeans largest ship. Friends Mike and Debbie dropped us at the port of Fort Lauderdale. We were booked into the Sky Loft Suite, on decks 17 and 18...the tippy top. (2 story windows leading to our private veranda.)

Mom announced that she was hearty enough to climb and descend the stairs so she elected for the loft bedroom.
 Sister Kris and I shared a very nice sofa bed; our personal butler (!) sneaked in each evening and made up our bed.

Likewise, he entered during our breakfast and returned it to a couch.

We had GOLD pass cards which unlocked our room and opened some special places to us.
 As Kris is the senior traveler, she got right to work, planning our days: Ice Shows, Water Shows, HAIRSPRAY, stand-up comedians, and more and more....she wanted to make sure we got to everything

You might want to google to see more but what follows is our trip..
 Can you believe it? There's an open air park in the middle of the ship.
Some staterooms open on to the park. All of the specialty restaurants are along the park paths.
 In the center is the Royal Promenade. Shops, restaurants, of course bars, all sorts of goodies.

If you got hungry between meals, you could drop by for a pre-meal pizza slice.
 Mom really liked this chair. She wanted a photo sitting in it.

There she is.
 The main dining room, appointed with linens and crystal. Many diners dressed for dinner.

Our table was right next to a porthole so we could watch the ocean go by.
 You can jog/walk along deck 5. Its outward border is lined with lifeboats. I happened to peek in and see what looked like a mini-bar. I asked. Righto...."Not much in it...some beer and snacks." So glad to know that as one is waiting to be rescued, one can nosh a bit.
Caribbean colors in Saint Thomas

 I took several shots, trying to capture the size of the ship. I also spent way too much time looking up.  My TWO skinned knees testify.
Kris getting hooked up

The Water Crew is trained to make sure that everybody on top deck has a good, wet time. Kris and I both tried the wave runner, a surf simulator. We flopped (Kris has a bit more style) on our bellies and rode the wave up and down and up and down and out.

Also, on top is the Zip Line, 90 feet long and 8 decks high.
Kris egged me on....she told me that my kids and nieces and nephews would be disappointed if I didn't try it.

They strap you into a complicated harness that take all of the weight.
 I asked, "But what if 'someone' passes out?"

"No'll just zip down there and we'll catch you.

 Oh yes....there's also a boardwalk. Ice cream, candy shops and of course, a donut case one needs a post-breakfast, pre-lunch snack.
 Also, here's the full sized carousel, with hand-carved ponies

Pretty cool.
Just looks like shrimp, yes?
 Although the specialty restaurants cost extra, our private butler(!) gave us that night, at Chops Grill, in Central Park.

MMMMM. They boast that it is a Chicago-style steakhouse.

This was my shrimp cocktail. Kris reminded me that sister Janelle always photographed the food and told me to do it. I found that like many of the things Janelle did, it takes an eye and talent.  Ah.
One of SEVERAL birthday dinners, complete with dessert and singing.
Carved ice candelabra
 Kris and I took a stroll to downtown Charlotte Amalie.  The street sign indicated that it was 1/2 mile.  Nah.  More like 2 1/2 or 3.
In the blazing sun.  In 95 degree heat. BUT I had a coupon for FREE EARRINGS so we were on a mission. Got 'em.

Then on the walk back, right by the Pizza Hut, what do we SEE?
MAGIC ICE:  Ice Bar.
Ice Throne
 Amazing. After we shelled out a few bucks, we donned hooded parkas and leggings and gloves and entered this amazing exhibit.

BRRRRR and fun!

Last Port of Call
And so, as Mom celebrates her 90th on the official day (8/24), she'll need to mull what we will do for 91.

Friday, August 9, 2013

I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy: down in my heart!

As a liberal arts grad, I enjoy making pronouncements that I do not need to prove.
I believe that a positive attitude is a choice; optimism is in the genes. But Joy? Joy is a gift from God. So thank you friends, as you continue to pray for me and the Father fills me with joy.

There is much joy in my life: and should I not notice at once, a gentle tug turns my attention to it.

I’ve often been the target of wonder: way back in the early 80’s, I typed out my first thing on a computer, hit the PRINT button, and then watched the whole time while the machine next to the keyboard brought forth my paper.  WOW!

(Younger readers won’t get this)

Several years ago, with a new textbook, I received a projector. I thought I knew what a projector was and decided I’d never use it. It sat, secure, in its box for several months. Finally, one of my students said, “Mrs. Bolinger. You should open your projector.”

“Nah. I won’t use it.”

“But you should take it out, at least.”

“Well, ok. Come up here.”

So I let him help me and we pulled it out. It was, of course, what a modern projector is. Foreign to me. I set it on a table, put a vase on it and moved on.

Weeks later, I said something like, “You know, I saw a great video on You Tube. I wish I could show it to you.”

Student pointed at my projector. Then he pointed at the screen I used for the overhead projector.

“No!” I exclaimed with questioning eyes.

Nods. A classrooms of nods.

Changed my life, certainly my teaching.

Of course, our trip with Mom was full of fun. And, as she closes in on 90, I’m so blessed to have my mom with me. Among other things, when we can pull her away from Facebook and email AND (internet) surfing, she is a prayer warrior who charges to throne in behalf of her children, grandchildren, greats, nieces and nephews, friends and acquaintances.

Out in my street, I have an army of friends/angels:

The City of Kokomo began to replace a sewer several weeks before Mike passed. His last days here (if he was NOT listening to heavenly music) were filled with cement crashers, heavy equipment and such. Several times, I really needed a strong guy when neighbor Mike was at work. I hailed the guys and they helped me. No names, though, as they were “not supposed to leave their job.”

I’m not complaining: they are moving at a glacial pace. They turned the corner (we live on the corner) in the middle of June. When I got back from Florida, by my measure, they had progressed 30 feet. I hear this project will continue to the end of the street; 50 feet to go. Halloween? Thanksgiving?

They’ve become buddies: they greet me and wave when I come and go. They take care to make way for me. They’ve become protective….they keep an eye on the house when I’m out running errands. (plus, I’ve got all sorts of cool, yellow, heavy equipment outside.)

More joy: the other night, as I drove back from Warsaw, I played with the AM radio. As I am rarely up so late, I had not done this for a long time. For some reason I’ve forgotten, AM signals travel great distances at night. I think it has something to do with the curvature of the earth and the Physics of Music course I took to complete my Wheaton College degree. Anyway, I would tap the search button on my steering wheel and rotate through an amazing world: New Orleans, Sacramento, Arkansas, Virginia, NYC of course, and few Chinese/Japanese/Vietnamese talk shows. The kooky American talk shows air at night along with Dave Ramsey, who is NOT kooky.

This kept me entertained for the 65 mile drive. Many giggles.

Other joys: God keeps showing me the people around me who are in place to help me. They stand ready to take care of me whenever I need them. Often, they show up and help me before I know I need it. Talk about your angels!

I’m getting for a road trip, an experiment really. I THINK I will enjoy the drive. I’ve always like driving. Back in the 60’s, a major form of entertainment for teenagers in suburban Detroit was ‘bombing around,’ filling the car at 25 cents/per and driving the streets on a Friday night. This trip will let me see if the thrill is still there. I have a few books on tape, SX radio, AND Ivy.

So, without choosing a positive outlook, without relying on my guileless optimism, God wraps me with joy.