Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Bench

As I’m navigating a life without a partner, I’ve discovered that I can venture out without feedback and it’s OK.

We had the blessing of so much time. Often, we’d discuss a scenario of something that might happen in the future. “What will you do?” he would ask. And he’d wait for me to mull and answer. As we were life partners for 40 years, many of my responses would please him. Once in a while, he’d say, “This is what I’d do.” And then he’d follow closely with, “But I won’t be here so do as you want.”

He knew that we had lined up friends who would/do serve as advisers. So far, so good. Mostly our patterns were set and unified. But I’ve stepped out and made some choices that, together, we might not have made. The planet is still spinning.

The only thing Mike asked me to do: when we walked along The Nickle Plate Trail up north, we came to a resting bench, secured in cement. He said he’d like to have one of those in his memory along the trail so walkers and riders could take a break if they needed to.

After the dust settled on his passing, I kept this one request in mind. However, I found it difficult to find someone connected to the trail who could help me with this. When I marked the one-year date of Mike’s passing, I knew I would be relocating to Texas in the fall and I moved his request to the front of my concerns. So in early summer, I asked my sister-in-law, a runner/biker and general all-around community person to guide me. She suggested a name and I contacted that name through a message on Facebook.

I told him that I wanted to place a bench somewhere along the trail and asked him to direct me further.

I heard nothing for several weeks and then the day before I was coming to Kokomo, I contacted him again.  “You may not remember me but….”

His return jumped off the monitor with enthusiasm. “We’ve been working on this and would like to show you what we have in mind.” Plus directions on meeting up at the city building.  This gentleman is a trail guy; he also knew Mike having met him at The Huddle. He had taken my initial request and met with the city engineering department.

In the months since Mike and I first discussed a bench, the City of Kokomo has undergone a renaissance in the downtown area; this includes the extension of the trails right past the west of the courthouse. Would I like a bench there? Wow.

I smile as I sit here, far away, with the photos: the city has installed a really nice bench along with a plaque right near were Mike practiced law.

I can see his face, nodding and smiling, at how this turned out. Thanks Charley, Terrance, and crew.

Friday, October 3, 2014


I have reasons to spend some time in south Texas. I will miss much of Midwestern autumn, certainly my favorite season. I will miss much of Midwestern winter, not even in the running for favorite season. I’ve been that Midwesterner: the one who says he/she loves the change of season. We even say that as we stand mid-waist in snow drifts, trudging out to the frozen automobile, hopeful that we can escape to a mall, cinema, grocery. Hopeful that the engine turns over after a night out in the garage.

Nope, I’ve heard that in San Antonio, once in a great while, they get a layer of ice on roadways and close down the city:  I’m ready for that. The other day, the temperature dipped into the 60’s. The high 60’s. I slipped on my UGGs and was quite the item wherever I went. “Where did you get those boots? I need those boots.”

So, when you come for a visit, of course we’ll drive downtown to see The Alamo and to stroll along The Riverwalk, both right in the center. San Antonio has, in the verbiage of planning commissions, “exploited their major waterway” for economic gain. It seems that everybody has heard of San Antonio’s Riverwalk. Any and all visitors make sure they have walked along the concrete banks, lined with restaurants, shops and hotels. There’s always live music as you move past other attractions. It’s fun. It’s beautiful. It’s A Place To Be.

As for The Alamo. We’ve all seen iconic images of this famous fortress. When you stroll by, well, you’ll share the communal reaction: That’s IT??? Well, yes. It strikes you as odd that it’s RIGHT THERE, snuggled between parking lots, shops, and hotels. The city grew up around it.

It’s worth the trip and it’s worth the time to enter and explore. It’s just that your first reaction is that, well, yes there it is, right there.

Downtown San Antonio is gorgeous. Park like. Walking trails. Bike sharing stations. Trees and benches. A great place to stop. Nearby you find museums, art galleries, concert stages and live theater venues. And I’m not even a native. I have much to learn.

And then there’s the rest of this place which continues to amaze these Midwestern eyes.

If you look at San Antonio on a map, the roadways resemble a wagon wheel. The rim is 1604, which circles the city.  (Using a different word picture…a clock…I live at about 1:30, inside the rim.) My daily trek involves a 5 mile stretch along Texas 78, a 4 lane highway with a 5th inside lane, a double yellow on both sides. It’s a curious path, heavily trafficked. Weekly, I maneuver around a fender bender along this route, nothing bloody or airbag deployable, but oh so often.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far: you don’t need to pass any sort of Driver’s Ed. to get an operator’s license in south Texas. That explains a lot. All too often, someone on the other side of that double yellow will decide he must turn left and cross two lanes of traffic and he will DO IT. No warning, no measure of oncoming traffic. He will JUST TURN in front of traffic. One must just be aware of him. He’s often driving an enormous truck, confident, I believe, in the fact that in a collision, he will win.

I am happily driving in the Granny Lane, keeping myself under the non-posted, ever changing speed limit; yesterday, he honked angrily at me as I did not see him and so almost didn’t yield. Amazing, isn’t it, that a honk can express emotion? I get several of these a week, even as I am following driving rules like a monk.

As for the speed limit: long-time readers will understand that I have been speed challenged in a former life. I try to be vigilant in obeying speed limits. Along Texas 78, these change and are not posted. I’m not kidding. It’s 50 and then it’s 30, and then 50 again until it’s 45. My little GPS flashes RED when I exceed the limit….Ms. Garmin knows how fast I can drive, even as Texas tries to keep it a secret.

Then there is that curious double yellow lane. What exactly is its purpose? Some people use it for merging. Some people drive ½ mile or more within its confines. Every once in a while, there are painted turning arrows that…guess what... point you to no place to turn. AND, way too often, there are pedestrians that seem to be just hanging out.

I pulled over next to a traffic officer the other day to ask him. He was vague at best. “Can you just drive along in that lane?” I asked.  “We discourage it but it’s not against the law.”  Oh. “What about the pedestrians?” “THAT’S against the law but we don’t ticket pedestrians.” HMM.

I have ventured out into the lane, trying to merge, as I’ve witnessed others doing. Last time, I got another of those angry honks coupled with the driver taking his hands off his steering wheel and giving me the double palms up, like ‘what are you doing???’  (Did you think he was going to flip me off? Nope, Texas. They may drive like maniacs but there’s a modicum of southern manners, even on the road.)

You also have to watch out for semis. The other day, during the going-home-crazy-traffic, I came upon a truck in my Granny Lane, with his flashers on. It slowed traffic and I couldn’t seem to pass him. Then, I saw him get out, walk into a Taco Bell and come back out with a sack o something. Amazing. At least he had called ahead.

There are some colorful road names that, if streets could tell tales, might have something to say:  Gibbs Sprawl, Showdown, Stubb Pass, and Spit.

I’ve been told that San Antonio’s growth exploded without time or concern for any sort of planning. Try to find a Post Office. They are tucked away in curious corners. The one nearest to me is nestled in a residential neighborhood, without extra parking or even some semblance that it’s not just a house. There’s a flag and a sign but you could miss it. Another one is near a high school. There’s a green sign with an arrow but if you turn there, you’re in a gas station parking lot with no side street. You have to turn at the high school, drive 50 feet, turn in the general direction that the sign would suggest and then there’s a flag and the building.

Also, it’s not uncommon to be driving along a residential street when BOOM, one house is a BBQ restaurant with, again, no extra parking. But there’s fragrant smoke seeping out of the roof, IF the place it open. Some of these are open sometimes.

I’m not quite a resident but I can now get around without Ms. Garmin’s aid most of the time, and it’s a lovely place. Amazing to me is that after a week of 100+ temperatures, we get a reprieve of high 80’s and it’s so refreshing. Unlike my other home, where on a hot day, the day starts hot and stays that way, down here the days begin more temperature and then creep up up up into the afternoon.

I’ve yet to see a scorpion or snake although they are out there, lurking. We DO have those lovely reminders that this is NOT Heaven: the fire ants.  We kill ‘em.

So, yes. Come. Or just freeze up there and envy us.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Adventure Begins

My mission to San Antonio is covert: am not at liberty to discuss in it this public venue. Suffice it to say that I am on an adventure, the next chapter I had asked God to open.  Exciting and new.

I AM at liberty to discuss my relocation to this southern city. We took to the road, Ivy and I, a week ago. We’ve done this drive before. Our preferred route, via interstate highways, takes us to Lonoke, Arkansas on the first day. That little city is about 20 miles east of Little Rock and is just over half way to the final destination. Right as you turn off, there are 4 nice dog-friendly hotels that serve a warm breakfast to its human guests so, as in the past, we planned to arrive before dark, get a good night’s sleep, rise and eat, and then hit the road again.

That part went by flawlessly…even in Illinois, the driver did not get stopped for speeding. When we commenced on day two, after I had filled up my tank, I started to click away on Ms. Garmin, GPS, when she began to flash something. What? I don’t know what. I had on sunglasses, not readers. I could make out a middle area that might have said CANCEL. Not sure. But after several punches, she settled down to show my route back on to the interstate so we were off.

STILL not positive what the GPS was saying but I am pretty sure she asked me if I’d prefer to avoid interstates and instead travel on picturesque little roads that wound through east Texas. I believe I nodded that message to Ms. Garmin as electronics are only as smart as those who operate them. And that was my second day drive. As I did not have any other map (!), I didn’t think it wise to freelance. There’s a lot of open space down in Texas. Plus snakes and scorpions if you get lost and venture on foot. I knew that Ms. Garmin had the final address and she also told me when I’d arrive, which was acceptable so I obeyed her as we traveled through Tyler, Plano, and quite a few ‘population 900’ little towns. At one point, I was on the NORTHERN LOOP….Houston? Dallas? Sumpin else?  Don’t know but stayed the course.

I discovered The Texas Pass, a neat little habit down here when you’re driving on 2 lane roads, as I was most of the day. Every so often, a right lane appears and slower vehicles --- trucks and such --- pull to the right, not slowing down, so you can pass. We could use that in Indiana during planting/harvesting seasons.

I discovered lot of traffic lights and when stopped, I could see that many pedestrians wear their weapons on their belts.

When I stopped for gas, I got Yes ma’amed a lot; in the adjacent convenience store, there it was, the 20 foot trough filled with ice and beer, the bottle tops just barely showing. It’s a common sight as you travel into Texas.

And for my long-time readers, I DID get stopped for speeding. He clocked me at 73 in a 70.  Yeah. I think he wanted to check out my car. He certainly wanted a closer look at my license plate. “What state is that from, Ma’am?” (Got a Warning)

Oh, and in fairness to the driver, the speed limits change often and not just in and out of small towns. And the posting signs are few and far between. Further south, you can opt for a toll road and cruise along at 85. I paid that toll.

We arrived, tired and hot, and were greeted by all sorts of special folks. Then a quick night’s sleep and on to the adventure.

I know I said this to several friends: I felt a bit uneasy, uprooting from my cottage for an indeterminate time period. I tried to pack up all that I would need; I had arranged a backup doctor, dentist, hair person, and car repair shop, trying to prepare for all necessities. But I couldn’t really place this nagging feeling until I recognized it from a past time.

When my dad dropped me off at Wheaton College in the fall 0f 1969 (!), he drove away and as I turned to enter my dorm, I realized that for the first time in my life, I was alone. I knew no one. I had no refuge, no friendly face to greet me. It was uncomfortable and it didn’t last: I’ve never been accused of being shy. However, it WAS a new emotion. I felt much the same way as I drove to south Texas.

I have family here but no other acquaintances, certainly no friends. So what? Well, here’s something I discovered this summer. I had spent my entire life, that brief Wheaton moment to the contrary, surrounded by friends. I could find someone to talk to, ride bikes with, walk the path toward, always someone. And I have friends in Winona but what I lacked and knew that I missed: my Christian sisters with whom I could pray and talk and share and learn. Such a simply thing and oh so sweet. A few days before I left Indiana, I was pulling out of my driveway when next door, three young ladies were saying their goodbyes. They formed a circle, held hands and prayed. It surprised me how it made my heart ache. I was tempted to stop the car, get out and join them. Yes, I know it would have been OK, but although I was/am a sister, I was/am a stranger: these were intimate Christian friends.

Philippians 4:19  “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus,” I know this is true. Right now, my needs involve spiritual nurture. I purposed to find a church. It made sense.

San Antonio is flush with churches. Like so many other things in Texas, most are huge. And though I’m not intimidated by bigness, I wanted…needed…to find one close enough to me that would begin to nurture my heart. I prayed about it and I tell about it here because I know that there are plenty of friends who pray for me.

On Thursday, walking 5 doors down to my place, I saw a man scrubbing an RV. I introduced myself to Frank and his wife Lynn. A quick conversation and I learned that he was newly retired from the chaplain corps so I asked him where they went to church. Smiling, they handed me a card with their churches services. On Sunday, I attended and learned about how we should test the veracity of scripture. I was reminded that the Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed a document from 900 AD with 95% accuracy….the 5% involved spelling and punctuation.  Even back then!

Long story short: God has led me to a church. And soon, a new Christian family.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Party on the Island 2014

5 years ago, my friends on Winona Lake gathered at our cottage. We celebrated my husband's birthday.

Earlier in the year, doctors had offered us no hope that Mike would still be around at the end of summer. But God showed up with His miracle moves and we had that party. It was glorious but tinged with a bittersweet scent. We certainly believed that this would be Mike's last party.

But no. 2010 and 2011: each lake season ended with a birthday celebration. And then, in 2012, Mike's long time buddy and his ever-energetic wife offered to move the party outside and open it to any and all who showed up.

So, in 2012, we roasted a hog and invited the town. People just kept coming, everybody pitching in some goodies, and the party grew.

Last year, the 2nd Annual Island Party was even bigger and much more fun, even as Mike did not get to attend. We DID send some Sky Lanterns into the darkening sky, in case he was checking in.

Out my window, right now, there's a big barrel in which some pork is roasting. Soon, a team of ladies will gather around my dining room table and begin to pull the pork and place it in trays. There will be a kettle of sauce simmering on the stove.

The band will set up by 6 and the party will commence. I get to spend one more night with my special friends here at the lake.

Tomorrow I head out for a 2 day drive to my next adventure. But for tonight, the party is ON!

Monday, August 11, 2014

The FIVE --- not the TV Show

My home church began a project at the start of this year. B  L  E  S  S, each letter a prompt for some intentional living. I was in the service but I was not paying enough attention. I drifted after B which is  BEGIN THE DAY WITH PRAYER. No matter what else we should do, that’s got to be a great way to start the day. 

So I purposed to do just that, each and every day. And because I need a little structure (note: not ‘little structure’), I chose to make a mental list of 5 things I would mention to the Creator of the Universe. I also decided that, this time, I would present my list without my suggestions as to how He could meet those needs and requests.

Among the life lessons I’ve been filing: God has a much bigger imagination than I have. I think I know how things are going and how things should go and how things will go, as what makes sense to me. And time after time, He blows me away with something completely different. And so much better.  In fact, pretty close to perfect.  Yeah...well...perfect.

So my daily discipline is to roll over, one stretch, and then my  BEGIN. First and foremost, it connects me with my Father. We know that He delights in our prayers so I’m all about delighting Him. And from my church background, I know I can be as casual and conversational as I choose. “Hi, God. Good morning and here’s what I want to bring before you….”

For all of you who are champions of faith, for all of you who have already discovered this, please enjoy and be refreshed that God’s lessons can be learned at a later date, far down the road of life.
I’ve seen answers. I’ve seen miracles. I’ve had my metaphoric socks blown off my metaphorically sock-clad tootsies. A recap:

Three of God’s children who were looking for a job:  JOBS

Two of God’s children who needed a house and who had hit the wall multiple times with offers lost:  HOUSES

Several of God’s children who were stressing over a test in a difficult course: tests NAILED! (When they asked for prayer, understanding that I’m a teacher and all, they promised that they were doing their part)

Several of God’s children, facing hard life choices, sought clarity.  God supplied.

Several of God’s children, walking the path to the cemetery, asked for comfort. I don’t even need a report on this one: God supplies.

Plus, there are some long-term requests that He's taking His time to address. In His time.

I can testify: this is a great way to build up your faith and to remind you that God IS the one who sees the big picture.

No coincidence: God led me to Psalm 37 yesterday. As Mike was winding down, the one thing he really wanted was to finish his semester at IVY Tech. He lived to meet that goal.

PSALM 37: 3-5

3 Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:

Thank you, Father for this. And for all answers to prayer.  Including those whose answer is WAIT or  NO, TRUST ME.  

I've grown a little protective of my FIVE. It seems that each time one request gets scratched off the list, another surfaces. If not, I can always insert my own needs but I prefer praying for others.

BTW:  somebody got a job....there's a vacancy on The FIVE.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

King David and the Tomato

This morning’s sermon took 2 Samuel 12 as its text. Here is reported the climactic scene in the story of David and Bathsheba. King David had taken another man’s wife into his bed. This man was the King’s champion, serving on the battlefield. Bathsheba became pregnant, the king tried to cover, the plan failed. So, David sent a note to the front, carried by his champion, that this soldier should be placed in the thick of the battle, assuming he would be killed. Assumption correct. David married the widow and the baby was born.

And David went on kinging and all. Yeah, he was God’s man and yeah, this was messy, even sinful, but now it was over and on we go. Except that’s not the way God works and so the prophet Nathan was tasked with the job of calling out the King. That had to be an interesting exchange between the Almighty and His human voice. You want me to do WHAT??? The prophet had to know that with one flick of his wrist, David could call for his death.

Nathan showed up and told David about a guy in the kingdom who had killed his neighbor’s pet ewe for a party dinner instead of taking one of his own...and he had a bunch. David seethed, but not for long. He proclaimed that this sheep killer should die. And then Nathan made the metaphoric leap:  You are that man.

BAM! David heard the word and felt the judgment. David sought forgiveness and Nathan kept his head. However, and this was the point, David’s sin, though forgiven, still carried penalties. In this case, Nathan told him that the child would die; and there were a few more consequences that, if you believe in biblical history, affected the nation of Israel to the present day.

And then after church, several congregants gathered around a kitchen table and held discussions about guilt and forgiveness in today’s world. One erudite observer opined that it seems that the uttering of “I’m sorry” is seen as a wipe-the-slate kind of thing. Like there should be no consequences. If parental/school/employment punishment is advanced, the rule breaker will whine “But I SAID I was sorry.” Like that should erase any consequences for bad actions. We discussed how things were when “we” were little and how nobody worried about our self-esteem when we screwed up. We also, all of us, have vivid memories of choosing badly, experiencing the consequences and then never repeating the wrong. Folks used to call that good learning.

So, feeling a bit smug…those Things Were Different/Better discussions will do that…I place my hand around a perfect, round tomato on the table. 

Big Eyes: WHERE did you GET that???

Well, as I was strolling through the neighbor’s garden, I spied this beauty, deep, deep, deep inside the tomato plants. Plural as in dozens. You almost couldn’t see it as it was hidden by the lush greenery. But I spied it, slid my hand into the bush and plucked it. It took no effort. It was ready to fall. And this is a friend’s garden. I just figured No Big Deal.
However, apparently at least one at our confab had suffered some distress when she plucked a similar fruit. She had been told she was NOT to do that. “But, it’s ok that you did. In fact, it’s a relief,” she said.

Ok. I don’t know what all that drama was about but I guess it’s purloined spoils but  it’s not like you can put it back.  I also knew that 1) there are so many, so so many tomatoes ready and more coming and 2) it’s not like I was stealing: I’ve been given carte blanche in the same garden for raspberries and blackberries. Although another sermon note is that when we sin or screw up (whatever term you choose), we look for ways to justify what we have done so this is my illustration of that very good point. 

I guess I could apologize but, honestly, it would be insincere.
All of this gave me pause until I walked home, sliced up that beauty and lay it across green beans from some else’s garden. I had a very good lunch. And then, I remembered a poem, which embraces in the taking of fruit, and fake regret.

This Is Just to Say
by William Carlos Williams
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold 

Hmmmm. Time to ponder.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Vacation Bible School

When I was a kiddie, summer meant  VBS at my home church. It was a 2-week affair, daily from 9 until noon. Mom would load up the station wagon with her own plus a few neighborhood kids and we would drive to First Baptist Church in Lincoln Park. Mom drifted off to help while the kids found their places in their various classes.

It was carefully planned and I can still recall the schedule: 9:00 Opening. All the kids and teachers met in the sanctuary. Then at 9:15, we would dismiss to our various age-appropriate classes. Once there, we'd get a story plus a memory verse; we were encouraged to memorize for the next day for a prize. We'd practice that verse until about 9:45 when we moved to crafts.

Over the years, I discovered all sorts of things you can make with Popsicle sticks, string, and clay. The craft projects would spread over the entire 2 weeks, being ready to take home on the second Thursday.

There was game time outside; there was a real missionary who told his/her story throughout the week. We took a daily offering for this missionary.

And, of course, there was snack time. My church was big on some sort of red fruit juice (Hawaiian Punch?) Whatever it was, we never got it at home so that made Bible School even more special. Plus there were real, made-by-a-mom oatmeal cookies.

By 11:30, the entire group moved back into the sanctuary to decompress and recall what we had learned, and once again, we recited the memory verse and the Bible School song, and then we were sent on our way until the next morning. Second Thursday night was the program for the parents. And we repeated it on Sunday for the home folks.

Mom continued the schedule: we would load up the car and drive home. Then, it was tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Bible School filled the first two weeks of summer vacation. Every year. Did I memorize some scripture? Sure. For a bright, shining moment, I could recite and win the prize. Was I able to recite those verses in the months that followed? Well, no, not so much.

So had I 'hidden the word' in my heart? I guess that could be up for discussion. What I DO know is that any such training...any effort to learn the promises of not wasted. Somehow, somewhere in those brain ganglia, the Spirit planted seeds. And when the need came, those seeds had sprouted and taken root.

That's the way it goes when it comes to teaching children the truths of scripture and the promises of God.

This week, it was my privilege to serve at a local VBS. I asked to be a helper, to be used wherever they could use me: it landed me in the 6 - 8 year-old class with a gifted teacher and another helper. This VBS was for one week, from 6 until 8:30.

From the director to her teachers and helpers, you could see their sense of purpose. They knew that they were doing God's work with these little ones. I was also reminded that where many an adult finds it tough to memorize scripture, brains young and agile can soak like a sponge. How great is it that this little group soaked up such truths as  "God will supply all my needs."

The memory verses were set to music and fleshed out with videos. The kiddos smiled as they sang and worked the motions. And they learned.

The church's pastor was 1/3 of the skit team, playing an important role in teaching about character. What I did not know, until today, is that the pastor had to summon a lot of strength for the week. Monday night, after he had locked up the church, he took a different route home only to be stopped by some sort of traffic blockage. It took little time for him to see that there had been an accident up ahead. He told us that he donned his CHAPLAIN vest, left his car and walked up the road. He came upon a tragic scene.

A 10-year-old boy, riding his bike, had be struck by a car and lay in the road. The boy had been near his home: his mother had heard the crunch and had run to the a scene. She was kneeling by her son who was drifting in and out. She was telling him to stay with her. She was praying. He closed his eyes and left her and us.

And God had purposed that our pastor be on the scene to be large for these people.

A tale told over and over: no alcohol, no rain, no reason: a young life ended right there by the side of the road. The boy was a believer. His family is active in a local church, as is the driver. And we're all left with why oh why oh why?

It's probably impossible to find a reason. As one friend said, "It's hard to realize that this was God's plan for this boy. That he was not going to graduate from high school. That he was not going to go to church this morning." And we are left wounded, bruised and aching.

I'll leave it for the nonbeliever to find his answer. For those of us to whom God is real, it's times like this that we much cling to the truths of scripture, to those things that we know are true. God is good. God loves us (him). God has a plan and it is perfect.

That doesn't erase the pain. Or the very human longing for a different plan. It WILL bring peace eventually as we await reunion.  Our God will supply all our needs.  Phillippians 4:19.

Please pray for the family of Kurt Allen Engler.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Other Big C

 One of God’s champions was on deck at the home church and sent out a request for people to prayer for him as he prepared his message. I signed up. Frankly, this is an easy one, both for me and for God: the guy is gifted when it comes to presenting God’s word. I knew he’d be great and God would be pleased.

Then, smarty-pants here sent him a text:  showing up Sunday to see how God has answered my prayers.  It’s a drive that takes about 90 minutes; I miss my church family and long to worship with them in that warm, familiar place so I took my seat…next to his wife…and was led to God’s dais through great music and worship. Then, my friend took his place and brought the message.

Of course it was great. Well-organized, skillfully delivered. And, BOOM. A kernel just for me. That’s the OTHER Big C:  Conviction. For those of you who walk with God, it does not surprise that He tugs, nudges, smacks or flattens His children to get their attention. These days, with fewer distractions, I get the nudges most often.

Morgan’s text was I Cor. 5. Flipping through that mental file, I remembed that the Corinthian church had some major problems and Paul wrote this letter to address those problems. There’s a lot about how the church should handle members who practice various sins. The book is a 1st century National Enquirer except it was not widely published. It was in-house. And that’s where the nudge came

Morgan directed us to I Cor. 5:10  in the context of dealing with practicing sin within the fellowship….10 “But I wasn’t talking about the immoral people in the outside world by any means – or the greedy, or the swindlers, or people who worship false gods – otherwise, you would have to leave the world entirely.”

And then, he reminded us that there’s a lot of acrimony these days for Christians in the wider culture and suggested that we dial it back with the judgment statements outside of the club.

So that brought me some clarity about a situation I had found myself in a few weeks ago:
I got in a tussle with some folks on Facebook that left me sad and unsettled; I needed to find a way to avoid another incident.

Ok: Facebook….it means different things to different people. In my case, I’m able to connect with folks of so many backgrounds. There are my retired-teacher friends who are scattering farther away; there are former students from several key graduating classes…late 70’s,  mid-80’s, late ‘80’s and then recent graduates who invite me into their families and lives. Then there are my DMZ pals and others who found me through this blog or through Mike’s illness.

Some wax political. Some want me to follow some links to other’s positions. Some just want to enjoy life. And, like many, I bet, I got into the habit of ‘liking’ and posting, without too much thought.

I’m guessing some PhD candidate will study social media and its effect on discourse: what I know for sure is that a long lament of mine….that schools were moving away from literature study to embrace math and science…has implications here. We don’t take time to mull the metaphor…to stop, think, consider a word or phrase. And in social media-ville, many just put it out there without stepping back for a few thoughtful moments.

In the years before I retired, we had several incidents of kids getting off the school bus in the morning, ready to fight because of something someone had posted. I noticed that some posters complain about how mean their chosen ‘friends’ are on line. I see that quite a few of my younger friends are closing down their Facebook page. For me, mostly, it’s a place to stay connected and it’s harmless.

However, a few weeks ago, a friend posted something about ‘free will’ and ‘Christianity’ and that we are free to live as we choose.  Oh. I should have let it go but I did not. I thought I was gentle and I thought I sent a private message. Neither, it seems, was true. What followed was the slings and arrows that come to those who disagree. I should have just stopped reading but it was a little like a traffic accident…..and when someone took a direct shot at me (Obviously, Lynne has not read the book of Mark), I just HAD to defend myself.

I stepped away, beaten and sad that there are some young people out there who have been wounded by judgmental believers.

The Big C for me: step back from such forums and just become a positive poster. A little candle of God’s love without the doctrine.  So, from now on, as Morgan suggested, I will tell stories about what God has done for me and for friends. God is alive, we know. We all have stories about how He demonstrates His love and care. In my case, that’s what I’m supposed to write about.

Saturday, July 12, 2014


The Kokomo house is now on the market. I spent about nine months sorting and choosing, saving and tossing an accumulation of stuff from 40 years in that city.

At the lake, I'm almost finished finding walls and shelves for my lovelies; I've identified cubbies for storage of important papers and collectibles.

I was never much of a  saver; I found that paper could pile up to unmanageable heights so I got skilled in dealing with paper when it appears and then dealing or discarding.

However, I have saved a few special things that have meaning mostly to me. Whenever is was away overnight, I knew I would find something in my suitcase. A note from the hub. These were usually scrawled in long hand, on any scrap of paper he could find.

Here's one.  I have a few.
Lucky lady, me.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Gift from a Friend

 This past year has been filled with adventure, purposeful work and much joy. Plus, every so often, here comes an unexpected gift from a friend.

**Mike's and my friend Linda asked me, almost a year ago, if she could make me a quilt. Why sure.

But wait. Did I have some piece of clothing of Mike's that she could incorporate? Actually, I did. Anybody who saw Mike professionally probably saw, if they were undistracted, his familiar blue and white striped shirt. It was his favorite part of his lawyer costume and he had several so the laundress could keep his closet stocked without missing any sleep.

At the time that Linda asked, I was in the middle of the initial purge from the homestead. Most of the casual summer wear had found its way to various donation locations as, well, it was summer and why not get the T-shirts to those who could enjoy them?

In the main closet, I found one of these dress shirts so I handed it to the quilter.

Over the past months, I've received quilt updates, some with technical quilter language that, frankly, I didn't understand but I DID know that much work and care was happening across town and then to a quilter buddy's house where some much more technical equipment resides.

Anyway, then Linda and I tried to coordinate the hand off....she's been traveling and, well, I've been flitting about a lot but we found that we were both in the state for the 4th of July.

Linda drove up to the lake and brought me the quilt. What can I say? It's lovely. It's good that it's practical; it's washable...again, so good that my friends understand me; ...and even I can tell that it took a lot of time, labor and love. The segments of shirt are incorporated in a subtle manner and perhaps you'd have to know what you were looking at.

I know. Thank you, my friend.

** OK, all you grammarians/punctuation experts. I THINK is this correct.  If not, I'm confident that I will hear from you shortly so I can correct and NOT be responsible for further destruction of the language.   Thanks

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Wisconsin Roadtrip Redux

I have reasons to be driving in northern Wisconsin. On any map, it looks like just a little hop but that’s no accurate. I’ve logged about 1500 miles in the last week.

My route has taken me away from those interstate highways, with their familiar and comfortable blue signage and understandable clover leaves. This time, I’m navigating on state roads and county roads and seeing a lot of the state. Where my part of Indiana is all flat and corn, here the fields rise in gentle, rolling hills and there’s much green everywhere. Tucked in, here and there, are picturesque farms with red barns and silver silos.

I have a loose agenda so the drive has been a leisurely trek with a few pull-offs just for fun. I arrived in All-Lakes-All-Over-The-Place, where the gas stations sell more bait than junk food. I also found Campfire Giant Roasters, tennis-ball sized marshmallows. I had never seen them before but up here, they tell me, they are a staple. A friend told me that if I saw ‘cheese curds’ for sale, I must get some. “You’ll like them,” she said. And she was right. My further route is along Dirt Road X which winds all over and around the lakes. It’s nice to take my time and not need to rush. I can’t help but remember that last time I drove so much through the Dairy State, Cheese State, Brew State, among others

Way back in the early 90’s, the hub and his dad purchased some sort of teeny airplane. A single seater. Fixed landing gear. And apparently to them, really cool. However, before the ink was dry on the payment check, someone…no one ever manned up here…set it down a little hard and the landing gear punched through the wings. What a mess. Some quick research, I was told, found the only two places in the United States that could mend the wings: waaaaaaaay down in south Texas and ‘just outside of Minneapolis.’  It was further determined that one could crate up the plane and ship it…of course THEN you risked it shifting and becoming unrepairable…or you could drive it yourself to the airport with the skilled technician.

It was then decided that the hub would rent a truck, load up the plane, and drive it. He said, “Don’t worry about it. YOU don’t have to do anything. My brother and I are leaving Friday and will be back Sunday night. YOU don’t have to do anything. I’m just telling you so you’ll know.” And did I mention: YOU don’t have to do anything.

I believe he forgot to run it by his brother. So, when I got home from school, in the driveway was a truck and a foot tapping attorney. “Where have you been?” as I was late. The quick version was that I needed to suit up for a long haul and we needed to get on the road.

Our transport was the smallest diesel you can drive without a special license. The hub announced that he would do all the driving and I was coming along for company. Oh, ok.

We headed north and hit Chicago rush hour on a Friday night, in the rain. Trucks DO get a special lane through the toll booths but it took about 2 hours to drive 40 miles. Once we escaped, we headed to the Wisconsin State Line. When it was time for gas..diesel, we turned into a truck stop fueling place, complete with showers and gambling machines. It was bright and clean and had only one restroom marked TRUCKER. Mike stool guard as I entered and utilized the facility. About midnight, with Mike showing no sign of stopping, I asserted that I would be a much better companion if I had a few hours to sleep so with a grimace on his part, we pulled into a small roadside hotel near Eau Claire.

The next morning we were off again, headed to Minneapolis and “right beyond it.” It was a bright and sunny Saturday and, coincidentally, Tennessee Ernie Ford passed away the day before. So, almost every radio station was playing tribute songs. And, in those days before CDs and MP3, I wanted the radio to break up monotony. Alas, on this rental truck, the radio was stuck in the SEARCH mode, so every 10 seconds, the station would switch and we’d hear another snippet of Ernie. Or polka music. There’s ALWAYS polka music wherever you go.

We drove through Minneapolis and just beyond. We drove some more. And then some more. When we saw the sign for Fargo, North Dakota, 45 miles, Mike announced that we had arrived.

We found the airport where several large Norwegians stepped forward to view our truck’s contents. They did not, by the way, help unload our load. Some low level discussions and some exchanging of cash and we were off on the return trip. We arrived back in Kokomo Sunday night, a bit road weary and in need of a bath.

When repair was completed, Mike and his dad flew up there and both flew back, wingmen once again.

I did not get to enjoy Wisconsin slow scenery on that trip so this time, I’m all about seeing the sights. All over, it's gorgeous and green.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Victim of my Devices

The other day, I sat pecking on my laptop as my tablet streamed live TV.  My cell phone rang and as I answered it, I glanced over my stuff and felt all 21st century and a bit overwhelmed.

As one of those antiques who remembers 3 television stations, party lines, and shut downs at midnight, my travel through technology has been an adventure.

It was handy to be a teacher when computers invaded society. During my second year, I was housed, temporarily, in the new COMPUTER ROOM of the remodeled high school. It was an oversized classroom with floor-to-ceiling windows, many electrical outlets and lots of small, red, blinking lights. I believe we were expecting to automate the reading of ‘key punch’ cards that we filed manually at that time. At any rate, the school folks expected huge machines, walls of them, to bring the school up to date.

Those machines never appeared; the lights remained and my students liked the d├ęcor.

About 10 years later, I sat at my first word-processor, typed something on a keyboard that appeared on a screen. THEN, as directed, I hit the PRINT SCREEN button, heard a CLICK hooozze, and turned to the right as my typing started to print out on a separate device. I believe I sat transfixed until the document was complete. Amaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing.

At that time, the school purchased whole rooms of word processing machines and started requiring all students to learn them. And then, that requirement became an amusement as students started owning their own devices at home.

As for me, I recovered from the thrill of the over-there printer but continued to learn and then purchased my own computer for our home. It sat on a large desk in the corner of our bedroom, tethered to a phone hook-up (‘land line’). I needed a crib sheet of basic DOS commands to make the computer work. I asked, looking for an answer I could understand, what DOS was. Yeah, Disk Operating System. But what IS that? Never got a satisfactory answer but I could follow my notes   C:/bitmax/run    (something like that)

My father-in-law, who was always in front of technology, could sit at my computer, punch in a few commands (didn’t need notes!) and the screen would fill with scrolling coded phrases of the contents of my computer. Whew!

Into the 90s and the Office Stuff: schools wanted kids to learn OFFICE. Logic: they will be able to get jobs. So, although I was not expected to train anyone, I WAS expected to be at least marginally familiar with WORD, EXCEL, and POWERPOINT. A bright someone created step-by-step instructions for use during training that could teach a 4th grader. Some began with:

“Sit down, adjust seat for comfort, locate power button and turn on computer.” And then pictures of what screens should look like at various stages of the program.

Although I could and still can maneuver through Office, as I use WORD regularly, that is my go-to program. I spent 10 years writing a weekly newspaper column using Microsoft Works and could navigate without checking the booklet. Then WORD replaced WORKS and I had to renew my education for a while.

Later, as I would supervise my students as they composed in writing labs, I saw them using different keys and commands to accomplish what I would do. I asked someone to show me a few….that right click on the mouse can get some things done faster than taking my arrow up to the banner at the top and dropping down…too technical for you?...and kids are all about fast. I find, that for now, I like the way I use the program.

Side note and one I’ve shared with my teenage students, this after asking, “Has anyone ever tried to teach Gramma how to use her computer?”  This always creates heavy sighs, nods, pained laughter from the kids. I tell them, then, that they have nibbled at the wafer of patience (English teacher, all about metaphors), and that the way to curb their frustrations is to remember to teach her ONE way to do something. Not three. Not the fun, fast way. Not the cool way. The SIMPLEST, the MOST VISUAL, and JUST ONE.

As a Gramma/student, when the teacher begins with, “You can do it this way, and that way and then…” I feel my eyelids curl. So, one way, ok?

Several times in the last 15 years, I have announced that I am DONE with Upgrades. I’ll just muddle through the rest of my life with my vintage computer with the floppy disk drive.

What? They don’t use them anymore? Flashdrive? Cloud? Huh?

At our house, we cleaved to our landline and figured we would not ‘do’ cell. I mean, why? And then we found out why. Mike could drive to Wabash while dictating AND communicating with the office. How many times had he driven 50 miles to Indianapolis, parked and entered the courthouse, only to find out that the case had been canceled, rescheduled, something? Now his assistants could alert him and he could save time and money and get on with the next case.

Me? I found the cell phone a convenience but never carried it with me. My kids would say, “Mom, I called you. Where is your cell phone?”

“In the car.”

Long, sighing pauses.

Eventually, that little, bright blue flip phone found its way into my purse but it was still an afterthought. Upgrade? Nah. Why?

Then, at one of Mike’s birthday parties, my pastor led me astray: I announced that I was going no farther with cell phones. He dipped his head (tall guy), smiled slyly, and said, “I think you will. Check this out.”

At which he fired up his phone, touched a few buttons, and up came a live link up with a most adorable grandson. His eyes were on his phone. “How you doin’, buddy?”

“Hi Gandar.”

“Gotta go. See you soon. I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Then, he turned his smile at me and said, “Huh?”

So, with grandsons 1100 miles away, my tempter swayed me to a smart phone and now it’s invaluable.

I think some of us, the 3 channel folks, struggle with trying to UNDERSTAND how it all works. As that is beyond most of us, we use but we are wary. Then, we keep hearing all warnings about how others can get to our stuff and all.

My stuff is pretty boring but I don’t want strangers into it. I’m betting that if ‘someone’ ventured ‘in’ he would quickly see that there’s nothing ‘there.’

I HAVE had a few interesting adventures while strolling through the internet. Once, when a student asked me how to find a graphic for his poem about Little Red Riding Hood, I sat down among my students and typed LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD into the search line. (This was JUST before I learned about Google Image.) When I hit ENTER, I observed my screen filing with pornographic images, in strips of pictures. I tried to stop it….hitting random keys…as my crowd of freshmen gathered and giggled.

When the computer was done belching the images, I called to computer people to report this as we had been warned that anything we viewed on school computers was public property and could be linked to us. The computer guy laughed also and then told me about Google Image. Day saved.

I’ve also endured e-mails that contain ‘tone,’ amazed at how words on a screen can convey emotion. One time, I opened a message from a parent. It was in ALL CAPS and BOLD RED. She was unhappy with me. I remember leaning away from the screen like I had been punched.

Email, by its nature, is abrupt and to-the-point. When the reader has context, it doesn’t matter but many writers don’t establish that context. Personally, after the RED CAP caper, I started always beginning emails with a salutation.  Hi.  Dear…  Something. It softens the blow if a blow is, in fact, to be delivered. Also, on those occasions, rare now, that might ramp up the emotion, I always save and think before I send. Sometimes, a cooler head should run the SEND button.

My newest device is a SURFACE, a tablet which I bought as a lighter writing device. It’s pretty neat and does travel well. But it’s a curiosity to me. The salesman demonstrated all sorts of touch, move, enlarge, swipe things that I don’t use and don’t understand. But sometimes, I touch something and then what I’m working on goes somewhere. I’m learning how to find my stuff but I end up swiping through all sorts of things I don’t use.

There are some lovely perks that I, again, don’t understand. If I close the tablet onto the Velcro-snapped keyboard, it shuts down. Usually. But yesterday, I discovered something new.

I had searched for “All the Poor and Powerful” on YouTube. Up came the most delightful video of All the Sons and Daughters AND several small children performing this wonderful, worshipful song. I believe…but am not sure…that the site is WorshipMob. Or WorshipMob Channel. Or WorshipMob something.

Anyway, I sat through the 5 minute video, enchanted. So I fired it up again. About half way through the second time, I had to move on, so I closed the tablet. The song continued. On to the finish, 3 minutes later. Huh. THAT has never happened before. My Surface salesman might offer an explanation…he’s my go-to guy… but I chalked it up to a blessing. This is better for me on many levels. I wouldn’t understand what I ‘did’ to keep the music going.

Then, this morning, as I ventured into the internet to research something important but tedious, the site reactivated and played the song again. Ok THAT’s a major blessing.

I can abide victimization of devices and the muddle of my understanding: I don’t want to know ‘how’ it happens. I will smile and feel hugged, once again.