Thursday, January 30, 2020


I'm writing this from my daughter's hospital room, which explains why this post is late. But that story belongs in the next blog post. Suffice it to say, she should be discharged soon.

About the week being chronicled here. . . one of the surprise lilies closed up, another beauty opened.
One of my eyes was increasingly irritated, nearly closed, and caused me some distress. I realized how grateful I am for the blessing of eyesight.

Memory Monday:
My alma mater has been posting historic photos all week.
Were you there on that snowy day in 1969 when the entire student body formed a long line from the old library in McClain to Morgan Library, passing boxes of books along until everything was moved? 
Yes, I was, though I may not recognize myself in the lineup!

I've been reading my mother's diary account of their last visit to Argentina, one month mid December - mid January, 1996-1997. This was especially interesting to me for two reasons: at the time they were the age I am now, and I was with them on that trip! So, I went looking for my photo album of that memorable month. Here is a favorite photo--my parents standing in front of their first home in La Carlota, the one I am currently writing about in my memoir.

Here is Mother at age 98 on my visit Tuesday. The many YouTube versions of an old hymn became our dinner music--Day by Day, with such an appropriate message for us all.

Michael found time to hang a couple of gifts this week. An impressive framed relief print depicting St. Francis, who is known for his strong bond with the animals, hangs in our entryway now.

And, the commissioned portrait of us,  given to us for our 50th anniversary, completes the arrangement above the dining room window.

This year my desire is to celebrate each family member's birthday with a together experience. Wednesday I took Elijah out for a shopping trip. We both look forward to that time each year. He is 15 now. I don't know how much longer he will enjoy this kind of birthday celebration. 
Friday, Kayla and I went to Emmens at Ball State University for the Shanghai Ballet performance of
"The Butterfly Lovers." Her birthday was actually back in October, but this is what she had requested.
Can you believe it, both times I forgot to take a picture? I'll blame it on my increasing eye discomfort.
Saturday, then, for lack of photos, I got one of my lonely evening meal. Michael's Saturdays at robotics are twelve hour days. I would've gone to Elijah's birthday "brinner" (breakfast for dinner) but I didn't feel up to it. Mostly I wanted you to see the bees wax candle that kept me company, Matt's creation!

When Michael is at the shop, I can watch the activity in the mechanics end of the shop live streamed via YouTube. Can you find him?

Sunday morning I enjoyed the worship service from home thanks to Livestream, again because of what was going on with my left eye.
Later, however, we did go out on a special date to Fort Wayne--an early dinner at Texas Roadhouse,

and a very special show at the Embassy Theatre.

Have you ever seen this very talented young lady?

It feels like we've been celebrating our anniversary all month long, and the day is not even here yet. Cards and gifts trickle in almost daily. Most of all we marvel at God's gift of love for one another.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020


Some weeks back I found a long-forgotten bulb in a paper bag, so I planted it. A beautiful surprise awaited us. Daily we watched it grow, first a long stalk, then one by one these nameless beauties.

Memories from years ago also surprised me. I'd been going through Mother's diary and came across a detailed account of their travels when my parents were the age I am now. It was the last time they visited the places where they'd lived and served for most of their lives. That in itself is interesting, but there is more. I was on that trip along with my brother Ivan and his family. I located the buried photo album to revisit that pilgrimage. Since then I've been scanning, enhancing and digitizing the old photos. Here are a couple favorites.

Reunited with my BFF Mirtha, January 1997
Enough for this week's Memory Monday.

Tuesday, I met with an Upland friend who helped me adjust to life in America thirty six years ago. We enjoyed a vegan lunch at the new Rabbit Food CafĂ© in a neighboring town.

My friend Darlene

I keep plodding on with writing goals, bringing back the stories of my early years in Argentina. This week I focused on finishing the chapter about the locust invasion we experienced when I was a toddler. 

Tuesday and Thursday evenings and all day Saturdays, the robotics shop is a buzzing busy place. You can glimpse some of the activity in this video--Kicking-off the 2020 build-season.

Thursday I joined the Upland/Matthews Working group of Thriving Families/Thriving Grant County in their meeting to talk about how they could support the PhyXTGears team and then we had a tour of the shop.

I spied a grandson among the busy robot-builders! He can always sense when I am about to take a picture. 

Fridays I look forward to the lunch hour with fellow-writers. Our hostess showed us these small musical instruments she used to play. Do you know what they are?

Saturday I ventured far to visit and celebrate with a young mother, her son's first birthday. The bad weather forecast held off, and I made it there late but safe.

Life is different this month: Moriah gone all month; Michael totally absorbed designing, building, mentoring;  I have more time for household chores, cooking, and writing. Sorry to say, I have failed to walk and exercise. How has winter affected your routines?

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Moments of Fame

In the process of unpacking I found the perfect place to display the wedding veil--at the bottom of the stairs next to Mother's wedding dress and on one of Michael's sculptures.

Post Christmas events and clean-up:
--the Schlenker gift--Sunday after church Moriah took us out to eat at a favorite restaurant.
--Karen used one of Mother's art cards for her beautiful after-Christmas thank you note.
--all the Christmas decorations come down on or around Epiphany, January 6

Moriah's and Mother's art
January 6 was also departure date for several of the J-term Lighthouse teams, including Moriah's.

Sending Moriah off to Central Asia
Monday Night Dinner was livelier than usual with three additional guests and a repeat performance by Stephan and Karen of the "Mike and Rita song" they wrote for us. (I so wish you could hear it, but can't seem to transfer the video.)

Tuesday was the big day when the robotics team reconvened and each presented the ideas they had come up with and worked on over the weekend. The 25 students present filled the whiteboard with their many good ideas.

With Michael gone most of the time, I find things to do. I had wanted to see the Mr. Rogers film, so I invited Diane and Leah to come along. 

What a powerful story, described by one reviewer as:
. . . a dramatic profile of a quiet, gentle, self-effacing, and genuinely kind man--a legendary children’s entertainer who, in his own words, devoted his life “to the broadcasting of grace through the land.”
As a writer I just had to read the feature article by Tom Junod, basis for the film--Can You Say...Hero? 

Our family experienced a touch of fame this week. 
Thursday morning early I began hearing from friends that they had seen Stephan on the news. He organized the Ice Festival in Carmel and was interviewed multiple times.

One of Stephan's interviews

Meanwhile, downtown Indianapolis, at the State House, the opening act of the session was to pass a Resolution recognizing the positive impact and achievements of Indiana FIRST, and later named specifically the PhyXTGears and Mike Koch! WOW! 

Cute little Space Walrus made a final appearance and even had a fun interaction with the Speaker of the House. The latter enjoyed it the most, given that robots have no emotions. (Find the robot in the photo.)

Where was I all this time? Certainly not being interviewed for TV, nor being recognized by 28 or more state representatives for any contribution. I was spending time with two 98-year-old women who dedicated their lives to serve and glorify God in Argentina. Their reward is yet to come. Earthly limitations increase as heaven draws near.

Mother and "Aunt Margaret"

Thursday's expedition to the State House did not interfere with the team work session that evening. Multiple prototypes are popping up. And everyone is learning and having fun, young and old!

Another Stephan interview at the end of the Ice Festival.

 The weather did not cooperate with the planned schedule. Due to torrential rains and mild temperatures, the main carving competitions were postponed a day. The carvers worked through the night, starting when the temperatures were low enough. The event proved exhilarating, but mostly exhausting!

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

New Beginnings

For new beginnings some things must end. The 2019 sticker-calendar came to an end. Our family getaway ended.  

I was going to title this blog post "The End" and questioned whether it was time to discontinue this habitual blogging--chronicle of our lives. However, the need to process and tell the story of our family adventure, led to not one but four posts. And here I go again, at the start of a new year. 

My desire, is expressed in Hebrews 12:1: "Let us put every thing out of our lives that keeps us from doing what we should." Is this blog one of the works God has prepared for me to do, or is it a distraction from what I should be doing?

Meanwhile, I will keep on keeping on with what I know until God redirects. Reader, He may use you to give me advice.

Life is a daily keeping on, often tedious. Michael jumped right back into the work of sorting and settling into the Matthews shop after our trip without much of a break, still so much to do to prepare for Kick-Off.

I was happy to see the art that had graced the walls of the Muncie shop now had a place in the new team headquarters.

Meanwhile, I kept busy unpacking and finding a place for the new gifts as well as taking down Christmas decor.
The pour painting Leah gave me found its home. This technique allows colors to flow with little control. Imaginative minds can see into the fascinating patterns and sometimes add their own touch to bring out a theme or image.
In this piece I can see a cat, a couple birds, a dog, and many eyes. How about you?

Leah, and other members of her family, came down with a bad cold, had no voice, and still recovering from the accident, and more bruises popping up. She badly needed some Jewish Mother's antibiotic--chicken soup. Instead I took over some of  "Dad's turkey soup." It worked just as well.

Vestiges of Christmas outside Leah's door
Kayla, also under the weather, needed a Grandma-visit. Can you see four faces in this silly pic?

We had a fun New Year's Eve get together with a small group of friends. Each brought a gift, but not to give away,that was different. The idea was for each to pick an unmarked present, guess who brought it, and then hear the story behind the item. We learned a lot about one another.

I spent a lot of time preparing food to add to the varied and abundant options for the Kick-Off. Surprisingly, or maybe not, there was not that much food left.

Two other area teams joined us, so it was a very full house. There was the anticipation for the long-awaited reveal of the 2020 challenge, after the usual long speeches and introductions. Finally, the game animation, Infinite Recharge, followed by a lively discussion of the new rules, strategies, and initial ideas for building this year's robot.

So, here we are, off and running. And again Hebrews 12 has timely advice: "Let us keep running in the race that God has planned for us.  Let us keep looking to Jesus."

Monday, January 6, 2020

Crises - Grace upon Grace

The crises that followed our family celebration were near-death experiences.
Here is our lovely daughter in the morning. As the day wore on she became increasingly ill. She literally nearly killed herself preparing for our wonderful anniversary celebration. 

What brought on the near fatal asthma attack? Probably a combination of factors:
  • The heavy basement air, where she and Jimmy had their bedroom. 
  • Going up and down stairs was an added stress. 
  • It's possible Rebecca's cold was already taking hold. Once back home, the symptoms became full-blown and several other family members got sick. 
  • Then there was the spray paint she may have inhaled while creating our beautiful centerpiece?

Leah managed to hang in there during the family talent show, trying to hide the fact that she was feeling worse by the minute. Immediately after, she lay down, but in a little while, let us know that she was really sick. We didn't know how to help, and initially she was not willing to go for help. However, our "Dr. Koch", a.k.a. Kristie, was the one who recognized the seriousness of Leah's condition. Then we were all scrambling for what to do, where to go, who would take her. By the time we got Leah upstairs and out the door, Kristie's car was ready to head to the closest hospital, some 25 minutes away. Kayla and Jimmy went along.

That ride was most traumatizing for all of them. Kayla leaning forward, yelling for her mother to come-to, stay with us, telling her how much all needed her. Leah unable to breath, losing consciousness, hearing it all (she told us later) couldn't respond. Kristie trying to drive and help, speeding to reach the ER before it was too late.

Then the stop sign, the corner, the wet road, unable to stop, the deep ditch. . . It all happened so fast. Jimmy was calling 911 at the time of the impact. The phone flew out of his hand. A car stopped. A man and a woman (or were they angels?). The woman (a CNA ?) held Leah's hand calmingly, then turned to the man and yelled to get help! He (a detective or ?) found the phone, 911 still on the line. An ambulance was nearby already headed in the direction of the hospital. 

Right then and there, Leah received three strong breathing treatments in the ambulance before it took off. "The best air I've ever breathed. It was beautiful." she told us later. 
Kayla went with her and was also protected with a neck brace.

Four of us arrived minutes later to follow them to the hospital. This is what we saw.

Both mother and daughter were badly bruised, but xrays showed no broken bones! Jimmy, who witnessed how they were thrown around on impact, agrees that was God was with them.

The ladies were released a little after midnight. 

We have talked at length trying to reconstruct the events of that night. Each one has pointless regrets. There are too many what ifs, the most unthinkable is "What if Leah had died?

God was gracious to us.  Somehow, He used the accident to save Leah's life. In her own words, a few days later.
"Dear Family, it's taken a few days to completely process how very close I came to no longer being here. I want to thank each one of you, God put everyone right where they were supposed to be.I love you family with all of my Heart."
A friend wrote recently, ". . . sometimes suffering is scheduled and He knows and can see all that will come with my testing times." 

First-responders pay a price for their caring sacrifice. Kristie's car was totaled and she is still dealing with the insurance company and looking to replace the vehicle. 

Bodies are healing. Emotional trauma, and the memories stirred up in the aftermath, are more painful and difficult to deal with. However, those were also scheduled for our total healing. God is at work in our family.

Grace upon grace. . .

Saturday, January 4, 2020

50th Anniversary Celebration

 An appropriate sign hung in the hall of the big house as we walked in.

Because God brought us together many years ago and kept us by His grace these 50 years, and because our children worked so hard to honor their parents, we had a spectacular celebration.
We had left the planning up to them, suggesting a festive finale to our family vacation on Sunday, our last day together.
However, when you have a professional ice carver, an event planner, a decorator, a technology guru, (and many hard working minions) in the family, the event becomes extraordinary.

Saturday some of us were downstairs working on a puzzle, playing games, watching shows.

Interesting round puzzle

We learned a couple new games during our time together. Splendor was for four players.

Playing Splendor

Another one called Shifty Eyed Spies, for eight players, kept us hilariously entertained trying to send secret signals and clues (winking) without getting caught.

Meanwhile, a crew upstairs, was busily staging the grand fiesta. Every so often someone would be summoned upstairs to contribute to the preparations.

At 5:30 or so, we were called upstairs for the evening meal. This was the surprise that awaited us.

Including a Stephan-special--an ice-sculpture that sat in a protective carrier in his car for two days [ah, that's why Saturday not Sunday!], and that Jimmy spent time decorating with a million gold stars!

Several cameras were out busy documenting our reaction. Before having our photo taken in the frame, I ran to our room to get the bridal veil I had brought for the occasion. (Interestingly, after the house fire the restoration company returned it alone, even gray and discolored, but the dress never came back.)

Others made use of the photo op.

However, we did not get as many photos of the entire celebration as we could have. Even if we had, there is no way photos or a blog post could ever do justice to the wonderful way we were blessed.

The best was yet to come. After dinner, we went downstairs again for the family talent show, now a two-year tradition. 
The very first act was a technically-perfect 24-minute video that Matt put together--select photos of our life and family, and many tributes that people sent in (hounded by Kayla). Every member of the family honored us with beautiful words, and friends thanked us for things we could not possibly remember (and even wondered whether they were true!). 

A few of the acts that followed were part of the celebration. There may be more photos and videos still out there. But for now, and for this post, these are enough.

The ice melted considerably overnight, and several large buckets watered the lawn. But the love we were shown will ever be remembered. We came home with a couple visual reminders--a portrait (rendered by a fellow ice carver and artist) and sweet written words.

Next episode: Two Crises/ Grace upon Grace.