Monday, January 28, 2019

The Old and the New

This was the last of Dennis Pendleton Water Color Lessons 2018 calendar. I really enjoyed trying my hand at adding watercolor to the weekly sketches and then turning them into cards. I have always preferred to follow the original as much as possible.

This week I tried something new--a lesson following a VanGogh technique using two complimentary colors, broad strokes, observing lights and darks--basically just playing. And the result looks like it!

The whole week was a mix of the old and the new--delving into the many memories from the past and making new ones. 
My goal was to settle on the direction for the next chapter, and hopefully write it. I read letters from 1946, researched the historic context, and got started. I think I will need another week to work on this one.
Among the multitude of papers rescued from my father's desk, there are decades-worth of sermon notes. Eventually I'd like to put them in order. Each one I pick up is interesting to me. I recognize Dad's handwriting. I admire his carefully planned outlines, good illustrations and great use of the Spanish language. I learn from his Bible teaching, and the fact that he never wasted paper. I also observe the different periods of his ministry and can tell how busy he was at the time.

In the mix I discovered a tattered yet valuable document--Reseña de la Iglesia de los Hermanos - Don Bosco (1952-1962)--the ten-year history of the church I grew up in during my most formative years (8 to 18). 
After their first year-long furlough, my parents were given a new assignment--to start a church in a totally new town and area. The mission was branching out to another province, into one of the suburbs of Buenos Aires, the capital.

Even though that was the period I remember best, I was struck by how little I knew or understood of the challenges and struggles my parents faced during that new beginning.
The first paragraph describes how lost they felt when they arrived in Argentina for the second time, at age 30 with three children and five suitcases. They were in the main train station and had to figure out which train line to take to get to Quilmes where they had a contact, an English woman who had one room available for the five of us in her pensión. 

Mrs. MacLeish's boardinghouse
I think we spent several winter weeks in those cramped quarters before locating a house and retrieving our furniture from storage in Río Cuarto in late September. Yet another story for some future chapter.

I decided in chapter 8 to summarize the story of the Foreign Missionary Society in Argentina, and set the geographic stage and historic background for the existing mission points at the time of our arrival on the scene.

I came across interesting tid bits. The Coche Bíblico purchased by the mission in 1913, was still playing an important role during my childhood, thirty or more years later!

A few memorable moments of the week:

Tuesday, I volunteered for the first time at Madjax, serving snacks and cleaning up after. During build-season, the team meets for four hours Tuesday and Thursday evenings as well as most of Saturday.
At 7:00 o'clock they pause for snacks and sharing. Every one present stands up in turn and explains what they've been working on.

Michael surprised to see me.        Elijah describing his accomplishments.
Wednesday, we began celebrating our 49th anniversary on a leisurely afternoon/evening, knowing that the 31st is a Thursday workday for the robotics team. We enjoyed Ivanhoe's food, a special puzzle, and games--a sweet time, indeed.

Sunday, the 27th, was Elijah's 14th birthday. He is grandchild number four, grandson number three.

The growing boy
This year Elijah joined the PhyXTGears Team 1720, the robotics team that his grandpa Mike mentors. Here he is working in the woodshop area. Is he following in his father's footsteps? Son Sam is an excellent custom woodworker--Sam's Custom Woodworking.

Note: If interested in learning more about me, my writing, and to view the collection of watercolors, go to my website.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Starting over in a new country

 I came across this bumpersticker message, a perfect question to answer in this blog post. 

I know it is in the making; it is in progress, slow at times. I am digging up the stories from the past, distilling them from the vast collection of letters, discovering them in old photos, and researching the historical context.
In 2019 I am serious about pursuing this goal, and even willing to announce that I am writing a book,  a daunting task that requires discipline, focus, time!

Snow days help. Cancelled appointments, changes of plan that keep me grounded can become opportunities--extended time to write!

The snow is so beautiful to look at and wonderful to play in--that is for the greats and the grand!

Daddy Matt helped Rebecca build this jolly giant!
This week I worked on chapter 7 which tells what my parents went through to set up housekeeping in a small town in the center of Argentina in 1946.

I learned about the process of having a mattress made. I found a blog post that told the story of the family business of a colchonero (mattress maker) and how it came to an end when synthetic materials replaced raw wool. 
I also found a bit of trivia--why the players from Atlético of Madrid are nicknamed the colchoneros.

My mother wrote about having to cook over one kerosene burner, a calentador, for six weeks while waiting for a kitchen stove they had ordered.

She mentioned her frustration trying to get food on the table in a timely fashion for a little girl who seemed to have hit a growth spurt and cried and protested that she wanted to eat! Perhaps that is why she gave in and let me lick the beaters before dinner.

It appears I also had a distaste for boiled (non-pasteurized) milk and could only get it down with Toddy--the popular chocolate-flavored energy drink powder.

They had only an ice box to preserve food. During the summer an ice delivery man came around, but in the fall as the weather cooled down, his clients were fewer and he could no longer afford to make the rounds. Dad had to find ingenious ways to carry back blocks of ice from the market, such as take me along and balance the ice on the back of the push cart.

He and his missionary colleague seriously contemplated making a refrigerator. I haven't read far enough to know whether that is what they ended up doing. I do know that Dad spent a lot of time in the workshop making pieces of furniture and fixing things.
As they say often happens, "you marry someone like your dad." Michael is the ultimate handyman and a self-taught expert in many areas. He is not happy unless he is designing, making, building.
As lead mentor for Team 1720, the PhyXTGears, he spends much of his time in the Madjax shop in Muncie during build-season. The clock began ticking January 5. They have a very strict deadline, 52 days, to build a robot to play the 2019 game: Destination: Deep Space.

That is yet another factor that allows me alone-time to write, if I do not get distracted. I am striving to make this a priority, like a full-time job would be. There is a high learning curve. Your advice, encouragement and affirmation may help keep me focused on the task.

Monday, January 14, 2019

February 1946, A Move and More

". . . to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but spiritually."
Fredreick Buechner, Listening to Your Life, Dec. 10

I began to track down my life stories some time ago, but only recently became serious about writing a book. I joke about the fact that in chapter seven I am only twenty-one months old! I have yet such a long way to go, so many stories to uncover. Therefore, this goal must become my full-time job before I run out of time!

Years and years of weekly letters from my parents to theirs provide wonderful resource material. I have culled quotes and stories from these up to February 24, 1946.

In this post I will share some of what I remembered and learned as I researched the historic context. The big surprise was when I realized that Juan Domingo Perón was elected to the presidency of Argentina at that early date, February 24, 1946, and that Peronismo became a movement that endures today.

Evita y Juan Domingo Perón
Some childhood memories stand out:
  • Portraits of the presidential couple hung everywhere and we regularly sang La Marcha Peronista, the Peronist rallying song, in school. I did not remember it being so long--nine stanzas. I only recall the first one and the refrain.
  • The Eva Perón Foundation made and distributed clothing to school children. My little dress was a yellow flowery print. I think they were handed out indiscriminately in school. If I remember correctly it didn't fit, was not sewn well and I never wore it.
  • During our return voyage after our first furlough in the US, we were informed of Eva Perón's death and asked to observe a moment of silence.
As an adult I read about Evita and also watched the musical--an artistically accurate portrayal of that enigmatic period of history and of a person who became a legend. Madonna's performance in the role of Evita had to be her best ever.

The chapter focused on the move to our first home in Argentina. I was curious about location and distances between the places mentioned and any other interesting and relevant facts. The map helped. But I find that I can easily spend too much time researching and learning and not enough actually writing.

January 10, marked a significant anniversary--seven years from the day we moved into our rebuilt home. Seven months to the day from the housefire, and after a long day of packing, we were finally home.

Home Sweet home
Memories of the housefire remind me of why I feel compelled to write. As I watched the house going up in flames, I reminded God that he was able to protect whatever was important. He did just that and because letters and photos pertaining to our life stories were preserved amazingly in the rubble, I understood that these were important to him too!

Among the ashes

Other memories that surfaced this week:

Five years ago Sam was still hospitalized after mayor brain surgery Christmas Eve and a later return due to infection, but was on the mend. Every reminder fills us with gratitude for God's protection and healing.

A year ago Stephan was carving ice on the top of a mountain in Slovakia.
And this weekend he was in Carmel, Indiana, at their Festival of Ice. We went Sunday afternoon for the speed carving competitions. Such a fun and entertaining event!

Are you tracking your life stories?

Sunday, January 6, 2019

A new focus

A new year, a new beginning, a new presentation and a new focus--my word for 2019.
The new header, title and description reflect the change.
For years now, I felt increasingly compelled to gather and write down my life stories. Documents and resources have come to me and the memories bombard me faster than I can record them.
There are so many phases and layers to the long years and the many wanderings. Perhaps that explains my difficult progress. The task is overwhelming.
To aid in the process, I decided to take note of those reminders from the past as they come to me. In the first week alone, each day brought back a glimpse into a different time in life.
This transition from photo journal to memoirish posts will likely be gradual and experimental (it's hard to break old habits) and I may continue to include the memory-making highlights of the week.

January 1
The melody and lyrics of a Spanish hymn repeated throughout the day as a reminder of my life-long goal.
Jesús, yo he prometido servirte con amor.
Concédeme tu gracia, mi amigo y salvador. 
No temeré la lucha si tú a mi lado estás. 
Ni perderé el camino si tú guiando vas.

Jesus, I have promised to serve you with love. 
Grant me your grace, my saviour and friend. 
I will not fear the struggle if you are by my side. 
Nor will I lose my way if you are guiding me. 
That was the day we heard that Malachi became engaged to Lexi Meacham!

I thought about him and reflected on what he shared with the family during our family talent night. He is preparing for youth ministry, working toward an MDiv degree.
I could see him with his Bible and notebook, and wondered whether he keeps a record of each talk, date and place, like my Dad, his great grandfather.
One of the treasures I inherited is a large box of Daddy's sermons.

January 2
Michael discovered what had caused the "sonic boom" we heard and felt on New Year's Eve. The strong winds that night brought down a large tree that had the zip line attached to it. The cable in turn brought down, and broke in two places, the corner post holding up the deck. That was memorable.
He has been working every day since then to repair the damage.

January 3
My brother Lynn was born 71 years ago in Río Cuarto, Argentina. This is his second celebration in heaven, if such happens there! We are left here for awhile with only the memories.

January 4
We were reminded of the day 31 years ago when the first O.M. ship ran aground. Here is a good collection of photos and the story of that memorable event.
Before the M/V Logos set out on its first voyage, we were onboard for a couple weeks. Michael was helping repair navigational equipment.

January 5
Ivan, brother number three, was born sixty one years ago on this day. We were in the US for a year living with my grandparents in Pennsylvania. I was in eighth grade.

This is also a big day for the robotics team, the Kick-Off to reveal the 2019 game--Destination: Deep Space. Michael gave a fascinating presentation titled, "What's Up In Space?" Unfortunately, the brilliant sunshine pouring in through enormous windows made it impossible to see the power point on the big screen. Fortunately, it was readable on a tv screen on the side.

January 6--Día de Reyes (Day of the Magi, King's Day or Epiphany)
A memory, appropriate to the holiday, both sweet and sad, is this favorite photo of the foster grandchildren we were blessed to enjoy for sixteen months before they were relocated. They were dressed up as the Three Kings for our Nativity scene that Christmas.

We may never understand why they were taken away, nor ever know what became of them. We trust God to look after them, now teenagers.


Throughout the week communications arrived from different sources around the world, each representing a different era of my life.

Mari, from Yucatán, Mexico, sent a very meaningful greeting for the New Year. We met when I was teaching at Indiana Wesleyan University and took student groups to her small town, Xocenpich. She was a very bright and promising teenager. We saw her through college. She is now a manager at a large department store.

Her mother, Herlinda, was the cook for our team. She and I jogged together, talked and shared about faith and life. The little town has since entered the cyberworld and even the humblest have access to the internet. Herlinda signed onto Facebook as Linda, sent me a friend request, and later attempted a call. I am just as inexperienced using that feature, so our atempt at conversation was very awkward, but we did see one another after ten years!

Jazmine was a most helpful student assistant the year I was the only full-time language instructor at IWU. I wished her a happy birthday and she responded that she now talks about her experience as lab assistant in a Pilot Program that prepares students to survive college life. Many of them are headed to American universities. She lives in China with her husband and daughter.

Another chat was with Celia, who lives in southern Argentina. We were in the same graduating class and were paired for our student teaching experience. She sent me a photo of the note I wrote in her memory book back in 1962!

My life growing up in Argentina will be the focus from now on. My grandmother's five-year diary (pictured in the header) was one of the resources I started with.

Which of the stories mentioned will be included in Part 1 about my early childhood?

Which one of the eras or memories would you be most interested in reading about?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2018 Week 52: The End

The day after our Christmas gathering, we set off for a family getaway in a vacation rental house near Madison, IN.

Upon arrival each family chose a bedroom and explored the premises. 

I found a corner to finish writing last week's Meemaw Moments so as to move on to all the new adventures awaiting us.

Each family was responsible for one or two meals. Michael started us out with a chili supper. 
Kayla and Matt made breakfast the next morning--french toast, bacon and eggs.

Matt and Kayla--french toast, bacon and eggs

Some are eating breakfast. Abuelo is teaching Rebecca how to play chess!!!

The ping pong table in the room beyond the dining room was a busy place, almost in constant use.

And so were the dining room tables, for a variety of games. 
Settlers of Catan went on late into the night, or was it morning?

The most memorably hilarious moments happened while playing Superfights. Unforgettable! 

It was so sweet to watch the two youngest playing together almost constantly.

The downstairs office, claimed by Leah as their bedroom, also became a  general gathering area with a good desk for art projects and more.

Notice Rebecca's snake

Leah's gift, a 500-piece puzzle, was the perfect-size family project for a three-day stay.

Karen encouraged us to exercise by setting times when we could join her in a run or yoga routine.

One afternoon we all drove to Clifty Falls State Park to explore and do some hiking. 

Madison's landmark smokestacks

The weather was perfect and the views spectacular.

Trail # 7

The three vehicles got separated and one ended up on the other end of the park.
Trail #4

For our last night together, Leah promoted and planned the first annual Koch Klan talent or variety show with the following acts:
  • Sam Koch family Nativity play, Karen as narrator, actors reading their parts off the cell phones.
  • Malachi shared an example of what he'd been learning at a recent seminar about contemporary youth.
  • Elijah played the trumpet and solved a rubik's cube puzzle under 1".
  • There were several dance acts
  • I read a story from my childhood--Christmas 1945.
  • Michael recited a mixed-up version of one of Aesop's fables - "The Mion and the Louse.
    Top: Mary, Joseph and baby in the stable; Malachi's talk
    Bottom: Grandpa's funny story; Kayla and Rebecca do the "Baby Shark"

This ends the summary of our family vacation and also marks the end of Meemaw Moments.
After 10 years I am considering a different focus. Wait and see.