Saturday, February 18, 2017

2017 Week 7: Very quiet on the homefront



It was a very different week. Mike announced at the outset that the robotics team, at least those on the mechanical side, would be working every day. That was no surprise, this happens every year  as the deadline approaches.
However, abuelo did enjoy playing with funny little Rebecca at our impromptu game night Sunday evening.

Silly Selfies

Matt farkled again!
Monday I made it through the four hours of teaching, but then the head cold that was coming on hit with full force. Several days the only way to get some sleep was sitting in the recliner, 

During those quiet days, when I was not resting, I immersed myself in a thick file folder found in my father's desk, labeled CULVER--Dad's correspondence with Uncle Bob, Dr. Robert Duncan Culver. (Here I wrote about my last visit with him.)

Grandma Hoyt and Uncle Bob, 1938
I came across a photo of Uncle Bob in his younger days with his mother-in-law, my grandmother, the one I have been learning so much about recently.

With no other distractions, unable to go anywhere, I read and took notes. so impacted and inspired by these two great men. My father highly respected the scholarly wisdom of his brother-in-law, and they shared  about life, family and travels. I discovered some precious nuggets of family history and gained a better understanding of the Culver family members. 
It occurred to me that we are placed in families to love and learn from one another, like the great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12:1 that inspire us to run with endurance the race that is set before us.

I was fascinated by a small brown envelope and its contents. I knew Mother had always used her artistic ability to enhance Dad's handouts. In this case, back when they were both in Seminary, she helped out her brother-in-law, who was just beginning his teaching career.



I had to use google to figure out the Hebrew alphabet and lay out the letters as best I could--these patterns so well used and now, seventy years later, obsolete.

By week's end, I ventured out briefly. I like to get together with fellow writers and learn from them. But when they got me laughing I began to cough and sputter and choke. Ughh . . . lingering congestion.

Book signing at the local library

Friday, UStream was back on and I occasionally caught glimpses of the goings on in the mechanical room at MadJax. Can you see Mike making sparks fly?


And, here is a Saturday screen shot, just a few minutes ago.



The group in the back left corner is huddled around the robot, which still remains nameless.
It's 11:00 PM. I wonder when Mike will be home?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

2017 Week 6: Steamworks Rules


Lasting Beauty
The enjoyment of the anniversary bouquet lingers, fewer blooms but colors still vibrant.

We were back at MadJax for Super Bowl Sunday. But, of course, it could not be only about football. Not even such a national passtime could stop the engineering minds. They kept testing their latest adjustments to the robot on the under-construction STEAMWORKS game field.


That was the end of Week 4 of build season. Read about it here: Satellites and Build Week Four.
As of today, they have only 10 days left to solve remaining problems and bring together the final components of this yet-unnamed machine. Lets hope tired brains and bodies hold out!

Mother's 95 year-old body and mind are still active, though we notice a very gradual decline. She fell again a couple weeks ago and now is more careful to rely on the walker. Slowing down and change are hard for her!
I am grateful for brothers and sisters-in-law who live nearby, who look in on her and help with practical needs, money matters, and decisions. I try to make the hour-and-half trip every two weeks, Tuesday overnight. It is fun to share with Mother my latest discoveries from the past and hear her added comments and memories. This time I only got through four thick file folders. I think Dad had a hard time throwing letters and old documents away. Such rich history there. Future generations will not have those records to look back on.


Wednesday night we had the first real snow fall of the season, 2" to 4" that lasted more than a day.


My planned morning visit with Patryce Thursday was nearly called off due to icy roads, but then only postponed. The main roads were fine and a lovely tea awaited me in the afternoon.


Friday, our second attempt at Game Night, lacked the guest of honor. Leah and all her family were sick. But we had lots of fun with Sam's family playing Farkle and then Hand and Foot.

"Did you Farkle, Malachi?"
So Leah's birthday gifts are still waiting, and her flowers starting to wilt.


Saturday was a very long day for Mike and the team. If you do watch the game animation video above, and understand the four tasks of this year's robot--hang gears, climb rope, pick up and shoot balls--you might even have some suggestions for a name! 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

2017 Week 5: #47

This was the week of our 47th wedding anniversary. Routines continued as usual at this time of year, Mike waking at 4:30 AM or so to work on the problems weighing heavily on his mind and going in to the team shop almost daily. He oversees so many aspects of building the robot and the game field, as well as trying to keep the team running smoothly. 
It was week four of build season and their goal was to have a functioning robot by Saturday.

Even so, there were some sweet surprises: cards, flowers, many greetings on Facebook, and more.


Leah's painted rocks, a hearts puzzle,

Monday is my teaching day. Mike took this picture last week. I was comparing several textbooks.(Confession--only four of the photos this week are mine.) 

"Rita's new 4 monitor display"  Mike
After lesson planning all morning and then teaching four hours in the afternoon, I am always happy to go to Stephan's Monday Night Dinner. Alone this time, but worth the drive for the food, fun and laughter with friends. And the drive is not so bad with a good book to listen to and a beautiful sunset.


Tuesday, January 31st, the actual day of our anniversary, and also a team work day, would have been uneventful, but for a strong impression that had been brewing in my heart and mind all month--to take the party to MadJax, as a family! (I had checked beforehand with those in the know to make sure it wouldn't seriously disrupt the intense work schedule if we came during their half hour break time,) Stephan created a very meaningful centerpiece for our surprise celebration.

"My parents, Mike and Rita have been married 47 years today. This sculpture was created to celebrate both the longevity of their marriage and the fact that my dad is the lead Mentor for the Phyxt Gears Robotics club. I consider my parents' long commitment to each other to be one of the greatest gifts they've bestowed upon me." Stephan

Michael was surprised, maybe even in shock! And deeply honored to have his family see the work he does and loves so much.


It was the best gift ever to have the family together. Only a few were missing or came later.




Rebecca made herself right at home and especially liked following Moriah around or "working" with her. Safety glasses are required (even for toy bears).


Rebecca: "Is this Mecanum wheel oriented correctly?" Moriah: "You sure are cute." (Mike)


I don't have much else to say about the rest of the week, except for the usual--Michael roboticking and me putzin'.

I was thrilled to see that Sam has been able to work on what he loves--skateboards! Notice new colors and graphics. The top right design is based on Genesis 3:15--God speaking to the serpent, announcing His plan of salvation for mankind. 


Saturday was Leah's birthday. We will celebrate as a family next week. However, I did post a greeting on Facebook along with an old photo that reminded so much of Rebecca.



I attended a directed painting event at Let There Be Art, a studio out in the country. I got lost on the way there and was an hour late. Poor Leah never found it! We will have to try again another time.


And now, on to Superbowl fun. I think I'll root for Atlanta. We have friends there.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

2017 Week 4: Stories and robots


"This little light of mine . . ." 
I suppose we all question at different times in our lives what our purpose or focus should be. This week I've been asking in what way and where is my little light supposed to shine?  Why do I feel so compelled to write? Is it a futile dream? Will it make any difference?

Sunday was one of the occasional Open House evenings for Pastor Dan's college class, which we've been privileged to join. We had such a good time interacting with a different generation who are asking similar questions for different reasons. They are just starting out desirous of making the right choices. I want to focus on what is really important in this last stage of life and finish well.
Important or not, I had a lot of fun learning how to play euchre.

Open House moment at Pastor Dan's
Monday was the first day of the second semester. Seven students this time.
I sat down and scribbled some goals for myself and for them. I was amused by the similarities and by the fact that I wrote to myself in English and to them in Spanish.


Tuesday as planned I drove up to spend a day with Mother. Hopefully that will become my weekly routine. It happened to be celebration day for January birthdays--a program in the chapel and a dessert in the dining room after. We sat with a newer resident who had met our little family of three (I was a toddler) in New York City on our first attempt to leave for Argentina in December of 1945.


That was only one of the many stories from the past that Mother and I talked about. I discovered several very interesting pieces as I carefully went through my father's files and emptied one of the drawers in the big desk: Dad's sermons carefully typed single spaced with the location and date on the back; a packet of Mother's messages and interesting writings she did not remember; other resources and photos.
In addition, I had brought with me a treasure discovered last week in a random folder: the itinerary from birth to age 72 of my paternal grandmother, the one I hardly knew, and the diary of her last year. I read these to Mother and we counted how many times she moved or traveled from one place to another. We gave up toward the end, after  number 83!

Meanwhile the robotics team is done designing the robot in CAD. Wednesday, after I got back, Michael gave me a short demonstration of how it works. I'm trying to learn more about the whole process, and hopefully be more supportive. 


Looks like Michael is not afraid of the machine that threw him off so forcefully a few weeks ago. I watched him from my loft window as he was bringing back the garbage bin Thursday. And he had already been out for a bike ride!


Friday my neighbor-friend had a surprise for me when we met for our usual coffee hour--she introduced me to her first and only grandchild!


I think little Emmy warmed up to me when I spoke Spanish to her and called her preciosa.

Our own little preciosa is growing up so fast. I loved her photo this week wearing my favorite gray-pink outfit and painted nails.

Rebecca at 29 months
 Saturday was another of those long robotics work-days, something like 14 hours. Thanks to a mentor who takes a lot of photos, I have this glimpse into Mike's day.
I have enough to do around here and stay pretty busy, but it does get lonely.


Build season is at the half-point now so they are big-time into actually constructing the real robot as per their design, two robots in fact. They are allowed to hold back certain parts (up to 30 or 35 lbs.) that can be attached to another practice model after the six weeks are up and they have "bagged" the official yet-to-be-named robot.

Let week # 4 begin . . . tomorrow!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

2017 Week 3: New Beginings

A week of looking back and looking ahead; considering, remembering and moving forward on this journey called life.

Monday Elijah and I spent his school holiday together celebrating his upcoming birthday (12 on the 27th) with a movie and shopping trip. We saw the new movie Hidden Figures, perfect for Martin Luther King Day! Every time the colored were disrespected, put down, and much worse, we were disgusted and Elijah would say, "Slap him!" When NASA finally did away with distinctions of color, we clapped, and others joined in!


Mother was released from the hospital so the next day, Tuesday, I traveled north for a meeting with an administrator to talk about the possibility of her moving into the Assisted Living area. We went to see an available suite (one bedroom apartment).
Then the brothers started crunching numbers. Financial realities combined with the fact that Mother really does not want to move right now, led us to work on an alternate plan for her safety and well being--meal plan, med alert, and outside help.


Wednesday at tap class we started practicing a new routine and had a friend practice with us who will hopefully join our team of mature women tappers! 

The Tap Dancing Divas
This was the first time I saw our group photo and videos taken of last week's performance.
New York New York

Thursday's PhyXTGears' progress report included greater success with the ball shooter, ongoing prototyping; chassis building. Here you can also see the field taking shape. Week 2 is over, four more to go!


Friday, from the comfort of our home, we joined the millions watching the proceedings  in Washington D.C. Along with our former governor now Vice President Mike Pence, I claim the promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14.


That same day my 2016 Meemaw Moments blook arrived, another good way to look back and reflect on the past year.



I met Dana virtually some eight years ago through the blogging circle called Project 365. We met in person when she came for a visit a few years back. Before moving further away from Ohio to N Carolina she was able to drive up from Indianapolis Saturday after her niece's national cheer competition the night before. 

The obligatory pic with Garfield
Thank you, Dana, for your friendship, your faithful and thoughtful comments on my blog, and for making the effort to visit one last time before the move south.

The message of the weekly coloring I completed today, Sunday, seemed very fitting.



Tomorrow a new semester begins.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

2017 Week 2: Firsts

Last weekend, in addition to the exciting FIRST Kickoff, I was thrilled to hear later that our son Sam and many friends were able to give the skateboarding bowl new life. (These are NOT my photos. Thank you Facebook, Seth and Sam for sharing.)
I am intrigued by the Spanish writing, still trying to figure out what the person meant.

Hard at work resurfacing the bowl

Before and After

 The LIFE Bowl montage proves that they were able to have great fun after the hard work! (Again, I don't know who to credit for the video.)

Sam has been passionate about skateboarding ever since I can remember. He posted this old photo yesterday.

Cleaning out the shop found this photo @mycoman took of me doing a heel flip in 94 
 All of the above takes on extra special meaning as we've been reminded almost every day this week of what was happening three years ago and how he came through a very serious health crises. We thank God for restoring Sam to our family.

A second article about the PhyXTGears robotics team came out in Sunday's Muncie Star Press.
One of the photos featured the lead mentor doing what he loves.


The first week of the 2017 FIRST build season had its serious relational challenges--how to agree on strategies to prioritize and how to achieve them. I believe the worst is over and now the minds are working non-stop on coming up with the best design. They have three team work days--Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Now for some photos of my own!

Tuesday was a good day to travel to Winona Lake. After my last visit a couple weeks ago, Mother fell and has been fighting an infection in her leg. Kim or Ivan had been checking on her daily and changing the dressing on her wound. So I got to visit with them and have some of their wonderful sopa toscana.


Mother wanted me to help her work on a new door decoration to replace the Christmas wreath.
This is what we put together.


The next day I had to leave after breakfast and be back in time to practice with the Tapping Divas and then perform our two numbers for the weekly lunch crowd at the senior center.
Mike took a few pictures. Not our best performance, but we had fun.

New York, New York 
This is my favorite photo of the week: grandson Skye and I worked on a sudoku puzzle while enjoying a Payne's custard dessert, after our post-Christmas shopping trip.




I was excited to see my article in the town newspaper!


I wrote it last Saturday, after the Kickoff, to make our town aware of the program and introduce the five team members from Upland.

This Saturday, while Mike was gone all day having fun with kids and robot parts, I had the gift of time, so I focused on cleaning house, not my favorite, but I got'r done!

P.S.: About Mother--shortly ofter my visit this week, she ended up in the hospital for observation of the infected leg wound and to regulate potassium and Coumadin levels. She is supposed to be released tomorrow, Monday.