Sunday, April 23, 2017

2017 Week 16: The earth is the Lord's

 His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made.           (Romans 1:20)

 Divine Cycle

The acorn fell into the soil
Slowly, surely and without toil
Became one with the earth
Eventually giving birth
To a small sturdy sapling
Stretching, grappling
Branches reaching high
Ever toward the sky.
Seasons came and went
The oak tree groaned and bent
At last like weary arms
Tired limbs gave way
To battering storms and scorching sun
Then fell and gently lay.
Cupped hands cradle
The hope of life to come
Moist leaves welcome
The tender green acorn
Till new life is born.

Rita Koch, April 10, 2017

In honor of Earth Day, I asked my friend Georgia if I could include her photo along with my poem in the blog. 
It was the art I chose to write about at the opening evening of the Barton Rees Pogue Poetry and Arts festival a couple weeks ago.
[No copying allowed, both are copyrighted, but Georgia sells her cards.]

One afternoon I walked around the path through our woods to see how many different spring flowers I could find.

Wednesday afternoon Rebecca was here for a couple hours and we had fun visiting and playing with the neighbors. 

Mother had not been well, so Thursday I made another overnight visit. Again we enjoyed reading more of Aunt Margaret's letters from December 18, 1950 through February 8, 1951--their first Christmas in Argentina, Lynny-boy's 3rd birthday--so many interesting comments and anecdotes.

We invited Margaret to go to dinner with us. Afterwards I showed them many photos from the early days in Argentina, my album titled Fotos Antiguas. We found one picture from the time when her letters were written.

Aunt Margaret and Uncle Jim
The next day, April 21, was Uncle Dan's 99th birthday--my mother's only living brother. I had just received a copy of a book his granddaughter created some years ago about the Daniel Hirschy family. I was glad to have it and be able to leave it there for Mother to peruse.

Throughout the week, whenever Mike is at the shop, I can watch live streaming and maybe catch some action, or see when they turn out the light and know he'll be home soon.
In this frame, they were probably on the playing field testing the latest improvement to the robot.

The mechanical and programming students (and mentors!) have been working hard preparing for the FRC World Championship in St. Louis, April 26-29. Most of the team will travel Wesdnesday. I leave Thursday with a couple others.

Indiana Weekend with John Strauss, aired an interview with two of the girls--Robot Fighters.
"A group of talented Muncie-area teen-agers is headed to the world robotics championships. The students of Team 1720, the PhyXTGears, talk about their passion for technology - and their determination to bring home another victory."

A big week ahead, indeed! Added to the excitement of Worlds, a very serious event is coming up Tuesday the 25th--Kristie's major surgery (median arcuate ligament release and partial celiac ganglionectomy) to correct MALS, a rare congenital anomaly.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

2017 Week 15: Focus


The focus of the last several weeks culminated Easter Sunday. Happy Easter messages and decor abounded, most having to do with spring flowers, bunnies, chicks, eggs--the popular seasonal themes.

I was intrigued by the window art at our local hardware store. Notice anything peculiar about the rabbit?

I try to gather and wear items that speak to the events we remember and celebrate this week--the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Hobby Lobby is where I find the most meaningful decorations, like the cross on the shelf above our dining room window, and the candies and jelly beans with a message.
I can't remember where I got the cross necklace. I love the prayer written on it, "Señor, guía mis pasos." (Lord, guide my steps.)
The  GRACE bracelet is actually from my alma mater and reminds me of the school's theme verse: Ephesians 2:8,9--the free gift of eternal life.  And the Psalm 23 bead bracelet speaks to me of the life-long living-out of that life--the daily walk with the Good Shepherd.

One day this week we had a surprise visitor! While they were out running errands, Rebecca begged her mom to stop by abuela's house. Happily both abuelos were home to enjoy her company.
The first thing she asked for was my cell phone to take pictures of us! She didn't do too badly--a budding photographer. Then we picked flowers together and it was her turn to pose. She's quite good at that too!

Resurrection Sunday, we all gathered (except Matt who had to work) to celebrate together and enjoy one another. I was too busy hostessing so I only got two photos of the lovely girls--Cassie (Skye's girlfriend) all dolled up for Easter, and Rebecca in her outfit picked out by Papaw (Jimmy) and riding her tricycle which lives here.
I'm so glad I thought to pass the phone over to Karen for a pic of our fun game time! Unfortunately, there is no photo of her nor a few other family members.

BTW, congratulations are due Karen who won a Teaching Excellence award last week!

So, I've been thinking a lot about focus  this week, hence the title.

Michael's focus lately reminded me of the absolute dedication he exercised while building our house over a period of three or more years. All other interests were set aside for a time, except his day job!

Now his focus is on mentoring the robotics team. Very little else draws him away (except taxes this past week). He is an expert at time management and never wastes time.

I have much to learn from his example. My focus is on those God has given me--family, friends, students--and the writing goals he has put on my heart.

This week our town paper ran a front-page article written by team members.

The opportunity to go to St. Louis and compete with and against the best teams in the world is truly awesome, though not entirely deserved. Spitfire did not have a flawless performance. There were electrical, mechanical, programming issues, as well as human errors, and even playing-field failures.
I like to think that God has His own purpose and plans in allowing the team to go. This unique view of the PhyXTGear trailer through our front door brings to mind God's different perspective. We want to eagerly and humbly do our part. 

P.S.: Kristie's surgery is now scheduled for April 25th.

Monday, April 10, 2017

2017 Week 14: State Championship

Sunday Daddy would have been 96 years old. The abundant and varied daffodils always remind me of one time when we celebrated together here. They bloomed late that year but just in time for his birthday.

Throughout the week I continued to read Aunt Margaret's weekly letters to her family in 1950 when we lived next door to the Marshalls in a large 15-room house. "Sam [Dad's nickname] is running himself ragged," she wrote. At the time he was preaching in several towns, teaching in the Bible Institute, and involved in church construction, there were three little ones in the family, including a baby that kept them up at night.

I've heard it said that you tend to marry someone like your father. I proved the saying true, even if I didn't know it at the time. Michael lives a very full life, carries a heavy load, always grateful for sufficient health and strength. He had an intense week preparing for the State Championship.
However, he made time to go to the Monday meal at Stephan's where we had great food--crab cakes, rice and chutney and a pear tarte tatin--and fun conversation.

This week Rebecca got a new pet, Oreo the cat. They both look very happy to enjoy life together.

Photo credit: Kayla Kern

And she visited our ladies tap class, but with different pets.

Thursday afternoon Mike set off to pick up Spitfire and the drive team and head to the FRC Indiana State Championship in Huntington.

Friday, after my various errands, I caught up on Team 1720's matches online. They had a series of problems, but ended they day in seventh place.

The drive team came here that night to watch their nine qualifying matches of the day and discuss how to improve their performance.

Saturday I went along to get in on the excitement. You might recognize us in the PhyXTGears cheering section.

It was an exhilirating and exhausting day. There were many robot failures, and a few human errors as well. We made it to alliance selection, still 7th seed. No other team invited us to join their alliance. So we formed our own.

At lunch Mike said, "It'd be a miracle if we made it to Worlds."

I may write the story of how we made it to the finals, ended second, and rank first in the state in ranking points! Then won the Innovation in Control Award, and the "miracle"--we were invited to the World Championship in St. Louis!

"Lead Mentor Mike and Team Captain Moriah get the official invitation to the St Louis Championships along with the FedEX robot shipping forms"

Team 1720 is privileged to have a full playing field in their new shop at MadJax Maker Force. A nearby team asked to practice there and made a special thank you hat in return.
Team 1720 lead mentor and team president
Speaking of hats: how do you like the one Kayla is wearing? She was honored to be the Mayor of Munchkinland at her workplace for a special gala fundraiser Saturday. 

As life goes, this week brought some very sobering news as well: 

  • April 19th, Kristie is scheduled to have major cardiovascular surgery for a rare condition--Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome (MALS).
  • Yesterday, while we were celebrating the team's success, I learned that Karen's sister's house was destroyed by fire. The family of nine are okay, but have suffered a huge loss.

    We rest in God's faithfulness and His promises: "I have made you and I will carry you;
        I will sustain you and I will rescue you." (Isaiah 46:4)

Sunday, April 2, 2017

2017 Week 13: Flowers and Fun

The encroaching woods, fallen trees and branches, couldn't keep me from gathering beautiful blooms to enjoy indoors. Always wearing rubber boots, of course. It has rained a lot, the ground is saturated.

I promised last week to share Sunday's photos in my next post. Here they are.

Jimmy's 43rd birthday celebration
We enjoyed one of Jimmy's favorite meals: chicken and noodles.

Fun at the Kerns. Kayla hosted the party
We learned a new game
Monday when we arrived at Stephan's, he wasn't there, still making his way back from Canada. Karen had prepared a wonderful soup meal.
There were three men out back who had just installed a car port as per Stephan's order except that they were not told by their boss that Stephan had requested they come on a different day. Not only would he have been home on another day, but the ground might have been dried out a bit.

And wouldn't ya' know the big truck and loaded trailer got stuck in the mud. It took longer to maneuver the vehicles out of the ruts they dug than to build the shelter. After the meal we all went out to watch and help.
I had fun talking to the workers in Spanish and learned that they live in Warsaw and know my brother!

Tuesday morning I wrote and submitted the report on the Perry Meridian district competition before heading up to Winona Lake to visit my mother.
We had fun sharing, reading old letters, watching a couple shows together.

We invited Aunt Margaret to join us for breakfast in the dining room the next morning, Wednesday. We enjoyed the pancakes and smoky links, and had so much fun talking about the memories from the letters she wrote home in 1950 when they lived next door to us in La Carlota, a town in central Argentina.

In one letter she wrote, "Guess what we had to eat? Sam [my father's nickname] bought otter and gave us some. There is an otter farm near here."  Margaret said it was mild tasting, something like rabbit, but with a little wild flavor.
That is merely one small detail from the many interesting anecdotes. They help me remember and piece together a very distant early childhood, the year my brother Aldo was born.

La Carlota, 1950

Thursday, I saw that my article did appear in the SEGway News, in fact a whole page spread with more photos than I expected!

The milder weather has brought the bees out again, so the bee-man was out checking on them and feeding them some sugary concoction till they find enough flower food.

I suppose we will be as busy as bees this coming week looking forward to Indiana FIRST state-level competition. At the moment Team 1720 ranks very high, even at world-level. That is not to brag. I believe the drive team salute is very meaningful pointing to whom the credit belongs. 

Follow the event Friday and Saturday by going to

Monday, March 27, 2017

2017 Week 12: Spring is here!

 And with spring come flowers and milder weather conducive to outdoor enjoyment; robotics competitions, and even ice carving events.

Spring break ended before the official arrival of spring. Students questioned whether it should be called winter break instead. "Aren't we due a spring break?" Good try. But, no, classes resumed Monday, and with a chapter test!

A surprise awaited in the mail--a handwritten card (always a delight!) with a photo from some 50 years ago. I wish I could remember what happened to that accordion.

Many other memories and images from even further back are stirred as I read "Aunt Margaret's" letters. I may not have mentioned yet that when I go to see Mother in Grace Village, she and I visit her dear friend and neighbor, also former fellow missionary and neighbor in the first town they lived in--La Carlota.
Margaret wrote such detailed letters to her family, some handwritten, but most typed single spaced on both sides of onion-skin paper. The entire collection was recently returned to her and she is slowly perusing them. She writes about life in the 15-room house they shared with our family in 1950.
This diagram and her detailed descriptions brought back many images from my early childhood.

I had to beg Aunt Margaret to let me read her letters. Now I look forward to a new installment each time. Then I scan and make copies of these treasured documents and pour over them throughout the intervening couple weeks.

Tuesday, I had a little visitor. We went for a walk, but Rebecca was determined to turn it into a run.

"Run, abuela."
Michael was very focused all week on preparing for the second district competition. Thursday afternoon the drive team went ahead to Indianapolis with Spitfire, the robot, carefully packed with all their tools and equipment, ready to set up their pit and begin competing the next morning.

Friday, after several appointments, I watched all of their qualifying matches online. 1720 only lost one out of nine and made the first highest score of the day.

The game this year is quite complicated. During the game gears--hung on a peg, hoisted by the pilot, positioned and rotated--accrue the most points.  Then in the last 30 seconds robots that grab and climb their rope receive another 50 points. Fuel (yellow balls) delivered (shot) into the boilers are worth very little, but can serve to break a tie, as in this very first match.

Michael came home that night and I went along Saturday to experience the event in person.

From my perspective
The following photos I borrowed from the team 1720's Facebook page.

I especially watched (and prayed for) the drive team--operator, coach, driver (pictured below in that order), a pilot up in the airship, and a human player delivering gears.

Drive team saluting when they are presented
It was a good day. Once again we were #4 in the alliance-selection line up. However, the #1 team invited us to join their alliance. We heard later that 1720 was the top choice on all three lists because Spitfire was the only robot that could place a gear and throw fuel into the boiler during automated mode.

The girl reps from teams 71 and 1720 chose 1529, the Cybercards, to partner with them. Their mascot cardinal represented the team. This alliance had a fun cheer leader who had them huddle together, gave them a pep talk, and then as a group use each team's unique salute in turn.

It was a very close competition with some tired robots, and we came in second. We also received a presitigious award.

The same day, Stephan and his ice carving partner got second place for their owl and squirrel sculpture--Survival: Furry Flurry.

See more here: Long John Jamboree Yellowknife Ice Festival.

Then today, Sunday, we had a second March-family-birthday celebration, but those pictures will have to wait till next week. It's late. Good night!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

2017 Week 11: Growing and Aging

In my haste to download photos from my cell phone, I hit delete (so sad) and lost five most recent and favorite pics (so very sad).

Yes, God's love is as multifaceted and His children as diverse as the colors of the rainbow.
Yet each one of us are His unique creation.

Leah received her Christmas gift at last--the results of an Ancestry DNA Ethnicity test.
She is thrilled to know more about her background. Not surprisingly there is a lot of European in her. The Native American percentage was of special interest.

Monday, as soon as I could get myself together after the exhausting robotics weekend away, I went to visit my friend Viola and witnessed a sweet mother  and eldest daughter reunion. Sadly, her youngest daughter passed away last week.

Tuesday I could look out at the bright outdoor scenery while I cleaned and tidied the house all day long. As usual, I needed a deadline to motivate me--the Bible study ladies were coming over Wednesday

I was able to rescue some bent over frozen daffodils for the occasion. They've been much happier indoors.

Thursday evening Jude was dropped off to spend the night. We enjoyed many things together: we read books about fish and sharks and Jonah; watched the squirrels eating bird seed off the ground; played "war" a card game; and had a Crazy Clown sundae at Ivanhoe's. That is one of the cute photos I lost. :-(  And while I slipped away to attend Maggie's funeral, Jude helped watched grandpa start the fire.

Friday I saw this week's SEGway and the article I submitted!

Also, a wonderful video wrap of the event was posted online:  St. Joseph District robotics competition.

Saturday was a big day for both of us. Mike went in earlier than usual for their regular workday and came home later than normal, and was very pleased with the progress on the robot.

I went to my Mother's and met with two area brothers and their wives (that is another photo I deleted, sadly). We gathered to discuss with Mother the opportunity to move to an Assisted Living studio apartment that became available recently. However, she does not feel it is time yet.

I returned in time for the special (lamb burger) and Phil Linehan's art talk at The Bridge Cafe. (I didn't know they were videoing the event!)

Today, Sunday, we gathered to celebrate Stephan's 46th birthday. We hung his Christmas gift just in time for him to admire his handiwork in its perfect location.

Michael put together a wonderful meal while I went in to Marion to pick up Diane.

We surely enjoyed our little ones. Zion and Jude prepared a "joke show" for Stephan, our family comedian. And Rebecca bossed entertained us all.

How comforting to know that though we change, grow old, and die, God's love and faithfulness are ever the same.