Monday, January 29, 2018

2018 Week 4: Mentors, Mother, Meals and more

Spring-like weather this week, and still signs of Christmas remain. 

Did any of you know that this is National Mentor Appreciation Week? 

My favorite mentor explaining a design
Monday meals are a fun getaway for us. We can always expect good food, but we never know who will show up. The surprise guests this week were four siblings from the Blakely family and a friend who's worked on Sam's crew off and on. 

Sobremesa=lingering conversation after a meal
The plan was to spend the rest of the week at Grace Village in Winona Lake (an hour and a half away) clearing out Mother's Assisted Living apartment and help with her move to Health Care.
Tuesday when I arrived I was informed I must wear a mask due to an outbreak of the flu. In fact Mother had tested positive for influenza strain A. She insisted she did not have the flu and indeed was mostly asymptomatic, only an occasional rattly cough. The first Xray, taken there with the mobile device, concerned the doctor and he recommended a trip to the ER. That adventure for the day served to confirm that her lungs were clear! 
Mother's response, "So the trip was in vain?"
I suppose the long waits and two ambulance transfers were worth the good report and peace of mind.

Influenza A; obligatory masks; long wait in the ER; the "mummy" is back!
Mother was confined to her room till further notice, so we ate our meals there and indulged in our favorite activity--reading old family letters. 

As often as possible I worked in Mother's old apartment, mostly evenings until midnight. I sorted through clothers, jewelry, drawers, desk, closets, kitchen, bathroom, etc.

Thursday, while Mother was having her hair done, we moved her things into a shared room, her rehab skilled care had ended. Ivan and I transformed the space into a more cozy and comfortable abode. 

She has the window side with a lovely view, especially in the spring when the flowers are out.
Her roommate, Ellen, is a pleasant, cheerful lady, who likes to roam the halls.

The transition was smooth. Mother was no longer quarantined and could choose between two dining rooms. We tried both. She chose the one she was accustomed to already.

Ivan had packed the many bigger boxes and bags into my car. Friday I loaded the remaining accumulations. The car could hold no more and I was eager to get back home.

The best surprise of the day was mid-morning when I stopped in to see Mother. She was not in her room. I was told she was in the art studio. I was so thrilled. We had hoped she would get involved there. (Read the background story of her art box.) Back then she had gone once and gave up on the experience. "All we do is color," she said. She now understands the progression, and lives much closer to the studio. She also enjoys going to other activities, including Bingo.

Moriah had been gone since Tuesday as well--the engineering students intensive "retreat" to wrap up January term. She showed us her final team project, a girating lantern.

Saturday was Elijah's 13th birthday. The family celebrated this milestone by meeting at the Chinese restaurant of his choice on Sunday. What a great idea!

College-boy Malachi was home for the weekend.

Rebecca was enthralled with the fish.

Jude threw a couple coins in the water. 
A kid nearby said, "You have to make a wish."
Jude: "Wishes aren't true. Only Jesus."

And what was Stephan up to this week?

A photo-op hog cart at Wintervale in Fort Wayne; a penny-eating piggy for Baconfest; an elephant for Winter Blast

 Anything else, Stephan?

Monday, January 22, 2018

2018 Week 3: January Joys

The week began still cold and snowy. I drove up to Grace Village Sunday afternoon.

Mother had a last post-surgery appointment Monday morning. The PA showed me the Xray. The rod in her leg has not moved and the bone is already growing up around it. However, it will take time to build up strength to get around with the walker and even then Mother decided to stay in the Health Care unit rather than try to go back to her Assisted Living apartment. In the rehab conference that followed, everyone agreed it was the wisest and best option for her.

Mother has become comfortable and content where she is, enjoys the activities and the community atmosphere.
In her Assisted Living apartment that night I noticed the verse Sharon cross-stitched and thought of her enjoying that fulness of Joy. It was, in fact, her birthday, January 15.

The next morning I awoke to the sound of the snow plow going around and around multiple times.
When I finally left after lunch, my car was buried under 4" of powdery white stuff.

Snow plow whizing past below my window.         Is there a car under there?

Back home I trudged up to the mail box. It was a good day to wear my Canada boots.

I am having a lot of fun learning watercolor techniques,  attempting to copy the variety of styles, and then making cards.

We started a 1,000-piece puzzle that now lives on the table where the chess board used to be. Some evenings we work on it together, and once I whiled away a couple hours waiting for Michael to get home from robotics.

Stephan arrived back midweek from his mountain-top adventure in Slovakia.

First and last sculptures: an abstract and "Flower Power" 

Elijah and I had fun shopping for his birthday. He becomes a teenager on Saturday! I found out that  he LUVS shoes and amazed me, and the salesgirl, with how much he knows about brands, styles, purpose and  price range! 


We stopped by MadJax to see what the robot-builders were up to. Mentor Mike was welding. Others were admiring the efficient performance of the drive train--first time using a swerve drive, all four wheels can rotate completely around. The mechanism is mounted on one of the old robots during the experimental period. And we saw the board game they play to learn the rules of the game.

That same afternoon, right across the street Kayla was teaching little princesses at a "ball." So Nana went along to help with Rebecca, so Mommy could focus on the group.

Rebecca at home performing her own little show.  With Nana at the Princess Party. Princess Becca.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

2018 Week 2: A Quiet Week

A quiet week for me, but not for others. Michael had to clear the long driveway and lane several times.

On the one warm day, the snow gone, the temperature was such that the bees should have been venturing out. The beeman went out to feed them if necessary to make it through the rest of the winter. Sadly, there was no life.

Sunday evening we were still in puzzle-mood and Moriah did not have homework (unbelievable!) so she brought one up. It was a photo I took last year when the family went to MadJax to celebrate our anniversary. 

Speaking of robotics, the intense build-season has begun!  Not such a quiet week for Michael.

Monday meal was provided by Steph and Karen's neighbor-friend Jasmine--pulled pork and cole slaw, and Karen made gruel, a bean soup. 
[1. a thin porridge 2. from to get one's gruel to accept punishment, chiefly British punishment]

Karen: "This is so good."

Meanwhile Stephan had an exciting week so I collected his Facebook posts for your enjoyment.

The Adventures of Stephan Koch
Today I'm flying to Slovakia. It's a carving reunion with my first Ice Alaska team Captain, Stan Kolonko. We are carving in the High Tatras Mountains. We Americans like our power tools but their outlets are different over there. Should be interesting...Top of Form

And the delays begin. All through my youth my parents travelled and travelled and we did a lot of driving and waiting in airports. It seems like anytime one has an opportunity to try overseas travel delays are the name of the game. Though in Canadia I'm sure the word is different--or the word is the same but means something different...

I thought I was going to Vienna tonight. Wrong. It's London--such is the rebooking process...

The good people of London went ahead and learned English in preparation for my arrival to their airport. How generous!
Top of Form

The Toilets in London are for men [with shoulder pads]and women in hoopskirts...

Trying to figure out what these signs at the Vienna airport mean. I'm thinking the first has to do with wind blowing towards people and the second has to do with wind blowing away.

Do you have any idea how long it takes to figure out how type out an email address when the @ is in the wrong place on this QWERTZ keyboard?

As an American, transplanted at a young age though I was, I'm really glad we can show our patriotism by appreciating the red, white, and blue!!!
...just like Russia, France, England, Slovakia, Australia, Holland, New Zealand, etc, etc...

I can't figure out which channel to watch--German, Dutch, Russian, French, Italian, Portuguese, Arabic, Japanese, or English...
VeggieTales in Ukrainian. Now I've seen it all.
Well I finally made it to Slovakia but my carving tools did not...

I'm feeling very fortunate that my parents thought it prudent to teach me the main trade language in Europe.

Unfortunately I can't flush gravel down Slovakian toilets. I'll have to leave that American tradition at home...
 Slovakian saunas make me realize I really didn't know anything about saunas...the tea towel they ask you to change into is interesting...

Tools are back in my possession and with hours to spare...

The Slovak word for pharmacy is here to remind me of my wife... Karen

I had great fun carving this fairy and butterfly in Slovakia today. It's called Flying Lessons--the fairy is teaching the butterfly to fly...or maybe the fairy is learning how to fly, from the butterfly. The carver support at this competition is amazing and it's also an experience taking a cable car to the carving location.


Stan Kolonko and I had fun carving this 10 block calf roper. The conditions were right for a certain amount of risk and of course we were concerned when we cut the supports but Stan's work was proficient and the rope did sag but did not break!

American Rodeo

Sunday, January 7, 2018

2018 Week 1: A New Year

2018 opened bright and freezing cold! Even so we enjoyed an adventurous walk through the woods in the afternoon.

Stephan and Karen also ventured out in the cold this week. It was Karen's first time ice skating. I was very impressed watching the video Stephan posted.

Thanks, Stephan for this selfie and the video!

Wednesday, I visited Mother again and was surprised by the progress she's made getting around in the wheel chair on her own. She is taking in the reality of her options: work hard to reach the functionality required to return to her apartment in Assisted Living, or stay in the Health Center where she would get more care.

I've enjoyed the watercolor calendar my neighbor-friend gave me. Though I am not able to replicate the artist's sample, I am enjoying the practice exercise.

Michael, Moriah, and I attempted to put together an insane photo-puzzle, a reflection on a glass-encased beehive. I don't think I knew how difficult it would be, nor did I realize when I ordered it that it included an entirely white border. FYI we did finish it the next evening.

Saturday, Happy Kick-Off!, a BIG day for the robotics team. Michael left early. Moriah and I drove in later in time for the simulcast of this year's game--Power-Up. For the first time it was held in their own premises in the MadJax building, and they hosted two other teams as well. Hard to believe that last year at this time, they had barely moved into their new shop.

I was very glad to have Moriah's company and she was able to explain the challenges the team faces. The first couple days are critical as they determine the course to take, what will their robot be able to do to contribute to an alliance (and win!).

Team 1720 has a new mentor with much experience in FIRST. Michael was happy to let him lead the discussion of the Game Manual & Strategy Breakdown.

Moriah would have stayed for that afternoon session. But, alas, engineering students have very little leisure time, only unending hours of homework! Ryan, a junior engineering major, tells her it will get better.

Ryan and Moriah--PhyXTGears alumni

Last week Michael had a carcinoma removed from his ear and skin grafted on. (No photos, please!)
This week the stitches were removed and he also received the good news that they got all the cancer!

Do you have good news this new year?

Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 Week 52: Christmas and beyond

 We had a white Christmas indeed, though not necessarily or intentionally dreaming of one.

However, I was praying for a "Christmas miracle,"  i.e. family togetherness and love no matter where each of us is on the journey of life.

Sunday, Christmas Eve, began with our church family. We love our community so much. Then we went to Stephan and Karen's for their annual brunch where friends and family come together for wonderful food and fellowship. We love this gathering of regular and sporadic Monday Night Meal attenders.

A few hours later, the Koch-clan trickled in to our home bearing gifts and food. All members present and much fun, laughter, and love, was the answer to my prayer.

The mountain of gifts and Elijah, the photo-bomber.
The program, in an attempt to include everyone:
1. Zion and Jude's jokes and riddles session (Jude was usually overly eager to give the answers ;-)
2. Zion shared Christmas customs in other countries from a booklet he made in school. (Our spiral staircase becomes the stage.)

3. Poems read by Karen, Stephan and Malachi (our family thespians) focused on: Mary's inner struggles of how to tell Joseph, her betrothed, that she was pregnant; Joseph's turmoil after the angel lets him in on what's going on--the ridicule and shame he must endure for not putting her away, and the utter unworthiness he feels for this holy responsibility.
This part always reminds me of years ago, the one year we lived in Omro, Wisconsin, and Mike got roped into playing the part of Joseph in a community Christmas pageant, with a very young Mary (highschool age) riding on a donkey. He grew a beard for the occasion, and has kept the mustache ever since.
Beyond that memory, I think of the men who take on the task of raising someone else's child and caring for their mother. I am grateful for those in our close circle.

Jump ahead in the story of Mary and Joseph to their arrival in Bethlehem. Enter the villain (Malachi's most recent theatrical role)--the innkeeper who has no better room for them than the stable.

4. The baby is born! Each of the children were given a missing baby Jesus to replace in one of the  Nativities scattered around the room.

5. Celebration--Jesus our Saviour is born! Elijah played two Christmas songs on his trumpet, and the other children made joyful noises using wrapping-paper tubes.

6. The long-awaited gift opening (at least for the littlest ones)! Starting with the youngest and on up, we focused on each one in turn, letting them open all their gifts before moving on to the next oldest. We really enjoyed this system, even if it did take time. The short-attention-span young'uns could move away and begin playing with their toys while the rest of us enjoyed the reactions and comments of the giving and receiving experience. (For more photos go to Christmas 2017.)

I love our kids' creative handmade gifts. Stephan gave each of the guys a pocket knife with their name carved in the handle. Sam made beautiful cutting boards. Kristie makes her own soaps and wraps them so beautifully. Leah spent countless hours coloring, designing, coating colorful bottle/vases for each family, and each with meaningful symbols. Mine included a heart and a key, my role in the family, according to her. And for her Dad a very unique rustic art piece with sculpted faces. She didn't know what meaning to give it. I named it Voices.

Oh, and two families had the same idea (Pinterest?) and made specialty butters! Other gifts are meaningful and funny.

I've only covered one day and we haven't gotten to Christmas yet! You may want to read this blog in stages, a day at a time!

Christmas Day:
We took Diane home and headed on up to Winona Lake to spend time with Mother. The plan was to eat with her and Ivan and Kim in the main dining room at Grace Village, but when we arrived around noon Mother was at her regular table in the Health Center and had already begun. It is hard for her to remember even what day it is, and for the nurses to keep track of everyone's plans, especially on Christmas Day. 
No problem, Ivan and Kim were running a bit late returning from Christmas with daughter Tina's family. So, while Mother ate and we waited, I played Christmas songs on the piano nearby as I had done a couple of times before on my visits there. I usually get a sitting ovation, they are very grateful even if they can't stand ;-). This time one woman insisted on the aid bringing her over to talk to me. I stopped playing. She took my hand very firmly and told me that the first time she heard me play, she thought, "Some mother brought her child to practice here." Then when she learned how old I was, she thought, "How quickly she learned to play."  Yes, I do make mistakes, ha! Whatever the dear lady said, I understood it as a very sweet thank you.

We spent a couple hours with Mother putting together a photo-puzzle of when we celebrated her 96th birthday in July. Then we tried to take a selfie, ha!
Ivan and Kim live nearby and have a guest room we are welcome to use anytime and we like the bed!
After a siesta we had a wonderful meal (Kim is the ultimate hostess!) with our nephews (Alan and Sharon's sons) and great fun playing Hand and Foot. 

Practice round teaching Daniel and Nicolas

The next morning we prepared to leave and the car wouldn't start. The guys worked in the frigid weather to charge the battery while I sat in the car and looked out on this wintery scene. 

During this relatively lazy week several of the photo-puzzle Christmas gifts were assembled. First Stephan's, carving in Canada, I believe; Karen's (the only photo I can take credit for) Dove's Crossing, their home; Mike's, the celebration of our 47th anniversary in January, (photo credit Ashley Martin). 

The above were all 252-piece puzzles. Jude also completed his 52-piece one this week.

What a surprise to learn that the first colleague I worked with at Indiana Wesleyan University some twelve years ago, had moved back to the area. We got together for coffee the very next day!
When she left the department, I was the only full-time language prof left. She passed on two mandates, one was to start a study abroad program. The two years before I left IWU we took students to Xocenpich, Yucat√°n, Mexico. Here Sandra peruses the album of those many and varied experiences.

Another visitor was a student from my first Ivy Tech Spanish class seven years ago.

Saturday, still snowing . . . I think I'll postpone the cousin/grandma shopping trip.

Sunday, bitter cold but sunny and the roads okay, so the older grandboys and I went on our annual shopping trip. We met for lunch at Culver's and one of the highlights of our day was to share that time with Sam and the other boys (Kristie was home sick)--they are such a fun and silly bunch. I think that's why I couldn't decide which pic to post.

The End of 2017

Blessings in 2018!