Sunday, May 24, 2015

2015 Week 21: Birthday Week

The beautiful spring season has its temperature ups and downs and the flowers that bloom and fade away.
As birthdays come and go, we are ever more aware of the aspects of life that slip away with each passing year.

Thanks to a student who opened a Facebook account for me years ago, I was flooded with loving birthday messages that brightened an otherwise ordinary day.
After a board meeting at church that evening, we were greeted by a beautiful rainbow.

And when I arrived home, Michael surprised me with an ice cream cake which continues to sweeten our days. Such richness can only be handled in small increments.

Tuesday, I visited Mother and attended a ladies' tea for the residents of Grace Village. The special speaker spoke of the life of Ruth Bell Graham, an amazing woman. Sadly, my mother and her good friend (we called her "Aunt Margaret" when we were growing up in Argentina) could only hear half of it. Both are in their nineties. I wonder how many other white-haired ladies were unable to follow the talk. I certainly enjoyed the fascinating and inspirational presentation.

I set aside Wednesdays for a weekly writing commitment, but at noon we take off for the senior center to enjoy a good meal and fun people. We don't usually stay for the entertainment. This time, however, they gave us each a little wooden car and insisted we stay for the Senior 500. Wouldn't ya know my little car won! Was it birthday luck or because of the name--"Life is a Bowl of Cherries"? Once again an appearance in the town paper (smile).

I had more fun later at my weekly tap class because little Rebecca was our distracting entertaining spectator.

Thursday we met traveling friends for breakfast. They played a very significant role in our lives, work, and move to Upland more than thirty years ago.

Bob & Linda Craton, Kochs, John & Elvida Kastelein
Bob added the following description on Facebook:
Reunion of some of the group that was responsible for the initial computerization of Operation Mobilization. John Kastelein was the Director of IT and the Director of the Computer Assistance Program at Taylor University. John provided expertise, inspiration, and support. Mike Koch installed the first computer system on the ship Doulos. Mike built key hardware components of the Doulos system that were not available or affordable commercially. I installed the first systems in the OM USA and OM UK offices. With the help of Taylor faculty, staff and students, I designed and prototyped the OM Standard Software that was eventually used in more the 60 OM offices worldwide. Our wives Elvida Kastelein, Rita Koch, and Linda were our key supporters.
Immediately after, I was on baby-sitting duty. The plan was to take them to the park in the neighboring town to see the animals in the mini zoo. Despite the interesting variety--llamas, emus, peacocks, turkeys, pygmy goats, pot-bellied pigs, geese, strange looking hens--the little guys did not linger there.

 I was quickly rushed off to one of the playgrounds. . .

. . . and then on to the next one

It was a cold day, so after a quick lunch in one of the shelters, I was happy to get in the car and drive them home for a nap and to wait for mom to get back from Indy.

 Just one more photo, borrowed from Facebook, to prove that the weekend was warmer and Rebecca got to estrenar (try out for the first time) her new swimsuit.

Can you believe such cuteness?

I think I'll borrow another photo to show off one of son Stephan's sculptures for Indy 500 festivities.

I will save many more weekend pics for next week. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

2015 Week 20: Plodding

 Twas a  more tranquil week of keeping on keeping on, much as my turtle collection reminds me to do. Here's my latest little tortoise, crafted by daughter Leah. The place mat is for spatial reference and its message speaks of how faithful plodding is interspersed with moments of happiness, love, and joy.

Sunday evening we had a beautiful tandem ride to a favorite eatery nearby, only four miles away. While we were there, a family of good friends also arrived at Payne's Custard and Coffee Shop.
They recently brought back a second adoptee from China to complete their family of seven.

By the time we rode back home, Mike's leg pain had returned and was quite severe. I don't foresee us bicycling again until we have some answers to this mysterious problem. 

Monday afternoon we enjoyed Hannah's performance at a library in Muncie--a program to encourage children to take up music. They were allowed time at the end to try out various instruments in a format they called "the petting zoo."

(Photo borrowed from Facebook)
Hannah is one of the mechanical students in robotics, those who learn to use the shop tools and actually build the robot. Her hands can make beautiful music as well! My favorite photo in the last post pictures her with a portrait of one of the most famous or best violinist of the 20th century.

Team 1720 continues to meet Tuesday and Thursday evenings. They are working on significant changes to improve the robot's performance in preparation for an off-season competition in July. Michael and some of the other engineering minds are very focused on design right now, often rising early with new ideas on the brain.

Last weekend WIPBPublic television featured the PhyXTGears in their Indiana Weekend show (at 19"). Very well done. Enjoy!

Wednesday, after lunch at the senior center and a fun and humorous poetry reading, we stopped by The Bridge Cafe, saw Mike's recent UPLAND mugs on display and picked up a check for the ones sold.

The usual Friday schedule includes a writers' critique group at noon, and a walk or coffee with a neighbor friend. 
I decided to visit my friend Dorothy. She had just had her hair done by another neighbor friend, my own hair dresser.

Later two little guys came to spend the night and  kept us very entertained the next day. 

It was raining off and on Saturday morning so we didn't go to the park. Instead we hit a couple sales and found some fun things, including toys the boys picked out. We were very close to Kayla's house so we dropped in for a visit and playtime with little cousin Rebecca.

She took Zion's newly acquired combine. He pretended to be angry. 

Then laughed so hard when he saw the expression on his face that he tried to repeat it for the photo Mom took later at home to send and show me how the John Deere attached perfectly to the tractor he already owned.

I see why he insisted on that item--a perfect match. He won the antique-store owner over when he ran in and exclaimed enthusiastically, "This is awesome!" Not surprisingly she lowered the price by 50%. Zion already has the Koch business-savvy.

How was your week interspersed with happiness, love, and joy?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

2015 Week 19: Celebrations

Today sweet messages flow between family members and friends celebrating mothers and all women who give life and nurture.
On this Mother's Day I share with all of you this beautiful greeting piece created by son Stephan.

And now about our week:
Monday, at Stephan and Karen's, we checked out all that was new to us: an outhouse they built and set up in the back of their property; nine new little chicks; and several growing bunnies.

Tuesday was the BIG day--the annual robotics team social!
There was no way Mike could get our yard under control and looking presentable in time for the celebration, so we hired the owner of New Life Landscaping, our very own Kristie! She says she loves this kind of work, but admits that long day was a killer workout!

The crowd began to arrive mid afternoon. The indoor and outdoor fun continued till 11:00 at night:

The swing
The slack line
Piano Talent
Story telling
And my favorite photo:

Hannah, much like Yehudi Menuhin

After the talent show, each team member received one or two certificates recognizing their strengths and contributions.
Then we proceeded outdoors where the students honored their mentors with an award ceremony in the style of FIRST events where each one received a certificate describing their contribution to the team and then high-fived every one in the team line up.

Team 1720 preparing to honor their mentors; Senior Ryan presenting the awards; the Grande Finale

The final award was for their lead mentor. Imitating one of FIRST's highest awards (the Woodie Flowers' Award), they named it the Mike Koch Award, and gave him a certificate and a banner!

There were a couple of humorous awards. You'll have to ask Mike about the stories behind the car and the safety glasses. (smile)

I was going to suggest we were in recovery-mode the rest of the week. That would only be partly true. Mike was back in robot-design mood and mode very soon after.

Friday we had another Game Night. Karen chose Apples to Apples, and won both games!

However, Rebecca remained the center of attention.

Saturday Mike was on Greenway bike mechanic duty, and I enjoyed taking Elijah to his soccer games, so mom could go to a landscaping job.

His team won and we had a fun adventurous afternoon together.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

2015 Week 18: Comings and Goings

"The grass withers, the flowers fade, but the word of our God remains forever.”  (Isaiah 40:8)

Yes, flowers do come and go.

One lone tulip.                                                Fading narcissus.

In the light of eternity, our lives are also fleeting.
Every year around this time,we are privileged to attend a special event at Taylor University to remember a beloved professor who died suddenly at age 42. We did not know him well, but his widow became our dear friend. And his daughter was our granddaughter Kayla's friend and dance teacher. Heather and her family moved to Indiana so were able to attend this year's Rick Seaman memorial chapel and luncheon.

Both Heather and Kayla have little girls now. I haven't seen Rebecca in a few weeks, but here is a recent favorite pose borrowed from Facebook.

Wednesday, our ladies' Bible study group gathered at The Bridge Cafe for breakfast and fellowship. 

All week we've been preparing to host two events in our home. Mike asked me to pick up his bronzes from where they've been displayed at the local jewelers ever since the Poetry and Arts festival. 

Now they adorn our home once again to welcome our many guests.

The first group arrived Saturday afternoon, only two,Tim and Barbara, visiting from far away SE Asia. We've known them for many years, but rarely seen them in person. Mike and Barbara were in college together at John Brown University in Arkansas.

Another local acquaintance, also a Tim, has followed their work overseas for more than thirty years. We were all invited for a delightful dinner that evening to his beautiful home on the hill overlooking Taylor Lake.

Barbara was not well, probably bronchitis, brought on by lower temperatures even snow in Colorado and Minnesota earlier on in their travels. 70 degrees is cold where they come from.    

We did get out, however, for a walk in the woods and a visit to Ivanhoe's.

Today, Tuesday, we anticipate our largest group, 50+--the robotics team members and their families--for the annual social. There is so much to celebrate this year. (Read about our trip to the World Championship here.)

The "team grandparents" watching the competition
 Photo courtesy of Eric Wood.
More about the big day next week.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

2015 Week 17: Off to St. Louis

This week was consumed with either preparing for or intensely living the 2015 FIRST World Championship.

Monday, when the parents and mentors met there was an exciting reveal--all the money was in for the trip!

Tuesday they put decals on the trailer and packed all the equipment.

Wednesday very early we boarded the LightRider double decker bus. The plan, as we traveled in the bus each day, was to have Mike share reflections on life. His first talk was titled "Breaking the Mold" about how his own ambitions to become an astronautical engineer took a different direction when challenged by college chapel speakers from Operation Mobilization.

We arrived safely shortly after noon and had a tour of the St. Louis Christian College where we stayed for three nights.

The event was held in the Edward Jones Dome, an enormous stadium set up with eight playing fields for simultaneous qualification matches. Our team played in Newton.

In this aerial view of St. Louis (borrowed from Google images) you can see the dome on the middle left and next to it an L-shape building, the America's Center, where the 600+ pits were set up.

The drive team and pit crew had a busy afternoon: unpack the trailer and set up the pit; make adjustments and add the improvements to the robot; have it inspected. If possible they would have opportunity to test the robot on the practice field before their one practice match on the Newton field. As it turned out the line was too long so they were unable to test the robot.

"Not Yet" and the ME and lead mentor; PhyXTGears pit (above right); judges talking to the drive team (below right)
Robot "guts"
The complexity of the inner workings of the robot blew my mind, and so did the enormity of the stadium.

The day before we left, I had a request from a former Doulos girl who joined a few months before we left the ship:
"Estoy buscando una persona que haya trabajado en OM para escribir unas palabras de introducción a mi librito."
(Would you be willing to write an introduction to my book?) 
I accepted the challenge. She emailed the document immediately. For two days, between matches, I was enthralled reading her stories and reliving our own experiences on the M/V Doulos.

Meanwhile. . .
--Recycle Rush was in progress: robots "can burglaring" (stealing RC's, recycle cans, from the center platform); stacking totes six-high with an RC on top; the human player throwing "litter" (pool noodles) on the opponents side and/or placing one in each RC.
--announcers enthusiastically retelling the moves, pointing out strategies or spills.
--teams cheering loudly.
Multiply all of the above by eight = one loud noisy stadium.

Each team played ten qualifying matches during the two days in randomly selected alliances.
PhyXTGears played four on Thursday and six on Friday always adjusting strategy in accordance with the varying strengths of the alliance partners. Once we were very fortunate to be allied with #1 and #2 seeded teams and get the highest two-day score.

By the end of qualifying matches, we were sixth out of 76 teams in our field and therefore in a position to choose alliance partners for the playoffs.

Jeremiah, one of the drivers, wearing the team captain hat, chose alliance teams based on the hard work of the scouting team and their careful analyses the night before. Unfortunately, the favored teams were taken by the time it was his turn to pick.

Above: Jeremiah, team captain; Captain +1
Below:Captain +2; Captain +3, discussing strategy

Above:Opening ceremony; drive team setting up robot for a match; the finals fiesta!

We never imagined we'd make it to State, much less to Worlds, and then to finish seventh--unthinkable!

On the way home I shared "Seafaring Stories" and threw in stories of how Mike and I met.
All in all it was a wonderful adventure and team-bonding experience. We are feeling very grateful, and tired! It was 3:30 Sunday morning when we finally arrived home. Now, I must recover from the sore throat and cold. And Michael still has bouts of immobilizing hip pain that plagued him during the event. The long distance he had to walk between the stands and the pits brought it on every time and became more frequent and intense. He practically lived on Ibuprofen. It is the same mysterious pain he had after surgery last year, but now on the other side.

Coming back we faced some serious realities of life on the home-front, like a valley after the exhilirating mountain-top.