Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Bible Bees Kick-Off

A few months ago I presented a proposal to the elders of our small church congregation. Because we have so few children in our Bible class program, I felt they were missing out on the opportunity to be together in a larger group for a time of fellowship, singing, memorizing Bible verses, and learning Bible facts. I wanted them to feel a sense of belonging to a cohesive group. What this turned into was a Sunday morning pre-session (before our regular Bible classes) that we've called The Bible Bees. I originally proposed it for all children, age two through fifth grade, but it was finally approved only through second grade.

I asked for help in the planning phase from all of the Bible class teachers, and got a very good response. Our kick-off will be this coming Sunday, June 1.

The room where we'll be meeting had not been used in a long time and had evolved into a messy storage room, so getting it cleaned up and decorated was a big task. Some of the men helped move the heavier things. A couple of us vacuumed and steam-cleaned the carpet. And several of the teachers on my team came and decorated the walls. I couldn't have been ready by June 1 if it had not been for these good people because I've been preoccupied with Dan's surgery and hospital stay the past couple weeks. I spent this morning, along with my friend, Wynn, finishing up. I think the space turned out very cute.

The children will sit on carpet squares, on the floor. We have come up with an incentive program, involving tokens and dog-tags. Every eight tokens earned = another dog-tag, to be worn around their neck on a metal chain. We have also ordered Bible Bees T-shirts, which will be awarded to children as soon as they have attended eight times. The other teachers and I are excited about the program, and hope we can stir up an equal or greater excitement among our precious children as they learn Bible verses and facts. Nothing would make us happier than to have more children attracted to our Bible classes through the Bible Bees.

Thanks for any prayers as we launch the program this Sunday.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Dan . . .

. . . is HOME! Came home around noon today, and is doing well.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

How Is Dan Doing?

Dan is doing great. He's been a real trooper and is giving his ALL during physical therapy. The meds are doing a pretty good job of keeping his pain under control. I was there, this morning, when the doctor came to see him. We all agreed one more night in the hospital was probably wise, so I anticipate his home-coming to be tomorrow - Sunday.

Dan has a big window in his room, with a nice view. As you can see, it's somewhat cloudy today. But we're hoping to brighten his day this afternoon with a Skype call from the grandkids. Seeing and talking with Clara and Robert will be the perfect medicine!

St. Louis, Arkansas, and Home

The morning we left Bingse's, in Iowa, the thermometer read 39 degrees! Our destination for the night was Chesterfield, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. 

We spent the next morning, before heading south to Arkansas, at the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. It really is a stunningly beautiful structure! Pictures can't really capture its grandeur. It rises 630 feet in the air, which is the height of a 63 story building. The reflection of the sun on its stainless steel skin adds to its beauty. 

The legs of the arch are each 54 feet wide at the base. If you look closely, Dan is standing at the far right corner of this leg, to give some perspective.

 The Arch is a part of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and is a monument symbolizing the westward expansion of the United States. Beneath ground is the Museum of Westward Expansion and a couple of nice gift shops.

We decided to go for the tram ride, which takes you to the top of the arch. It was quite an experience. Going up they crammed five of us into one car. They are VERY SMALL, and we were all smooshed up together like sardines. We got to know our car-mates more closely than we ever intended! It takes four minutes for the tram to get to the top. Well, ALMOST to the top. There are still quite a few stairs to walk up to get to the very top. Poor Dan . . . just days before his knee replacement surgery, and his knees were complaining loudly. But we made it. Coming back down, later, I cracked the top of my head on the door to our tram car, giving me quite a goose egg to take home as a souvenir. The descent is about a minute shorter, in time, than the trip up. And we only had four people in the car, which made it much more comfortable.

Here's Dan at the top.

The inside of the arch feels a little like being inside an airplane . . . tight, crowded, with very small windows.

In fact, the windows are only 7" tall and 27" wide. You have to lean over and lie on your stomach to see out.

From the top, looking east, you see the Mississippi River and the Eads Bridge, which crosses over to the state of Illinois. 

Looking out toward the west you can see the skyline of downtown St. Louis.

This building with the green dome is the Old Courthouse, the site of the famous Dred Scott trial.

And farther south you can see Busch Stadium, the home of the St. Louis Cardinals. When we were leaving the Arch, and trying to find our way back to the freeway, we got caught up in some game traffic. Turns out it was a Cardinals vs. Cubs game (and the Cards won).

We were both glad we had gone to the top. It's an experience worth doing. But I doubt that I'd do it again, if I went back to the Arch. I would definitely warn anyone with any claustrophobic tendencies against the experience. The car was tight and the area at the top is also very confining. We took a few good looks out the windows and went back down within five minutes or so. Nothing else to do up there - no observation deck or facilities of any kind (no bathrooms, by the way - be prepared).

Leaving St. Louis, we headed farther south to Paragould, Arkansas, where we spent the night with more long-time friends, Larry and Dianne. We first knew them in Abilene, when Dan and I were college students and Larry was in the Air Force. We were in the same "young marrieds" Bible class. We saw them one other time, since those long-ago days, when they came to see us in Albuquerque.

This part of Arkansas is quite pretty, and sitting on Larry and Dianne's back porch is peaceful and relaxing.

We didn't know that Arkansas is a big rice-growing state, but it is, and we saw lots and lots of rice fields.

We spent one more night away from home, in Texarkana, Texas - right on the Arkansas/Texas border. and then left out for Temple on Saturday, May 17. It felt good to get back to all things familiar. We had a wonderful vacation, renewing old friendships, and making new memories.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Dan's Turn

I mentioned in Wednesday's post that we had a very important reason to stay on schedule and get home from our vacation on time. That very important reason was Dan's date with the orthopedic surgeon for his total (left) knee replacement. And today was the day.

Dan managed a smile for the camera while he was waiting to be taken up to the operating room.
We checked into the hospital, as directed, at 7:30 a.m. They prepped him for surgery and then we waited in pre-op until after 9:00, when they whisked him up to the operating room. I went to the family waiting area. About 10:20 someone on his surgical team called the desk with news that his surgery had just begun and everything was going well. 

I was getting text messages or emails from friends and family all morning, which was so encouraging. Our preacher, Rodney, showed up and sat and visited with me for most of the morning. It was a wonderful distraction. Had he not been there, my eyes would have been glued to the screen that showed Dan's patient number and a green bar that was excruciatingly slowly creeping along to indicate the estimated time to completion. 

As it turned out, the doctor came down at around 11:55 to tell me that the surgery was complete, and that everything had gone well. Dan spent a little longer than expected in the recovery room, but finally, around 2:00, he was brought into his own room, where I was waiting for him. 

He made his entrance on a gurney, joking around with the nurses who were pushing it. He bravely scooted himself off of that gurney and onto his bed (hard work!). He was in good spirits. 

I stayed until about 4:20, then ran home for a quick bite to eat, and went back to the hospital around 6:00. Right after I got there Dan stood and walked his first few steps, using a walker, to the bathroom. I think he's off to a great start. I know that the doctor injects quite a concoction of pain killers into the leg at the end of the surgery, and that tomorrow those pain killers will have worn off, so his leg may not be as happy as it was today. But I'm proud of him, and expect him to do well through all of the ups and downs of the recovery. He is hoping to come home on Saturday, but that will depend on what the doctor says.

[I will post the pictures and narrative of the final leg of our vacation soon. Dan's new knee took precedent today.]

Iowa and Illinois

Bingse was concerned that he wouldn't be the best tour guide without Gaby there to plan out the itinerary, but he actually did a super job of showing us around the area. We went to numerous small towns in Iowa, including Strawberry Point. This giant strawberry put a big smile on my face.

Most of the towns, even the small ones, had large Catholic churches with beautiful steeples.

And, finally, we got to see the mighty Mississippi River. It was a misty, moisty day, so the river looked a bit moody.

If you look carefully at this photo, you will see that these farms lie along the bank of the Mississippi.

Bingse drove us to the little town of Festina, Iowa. A few miles outside of town is where we found this little church (St. Anthony of Padua Chapel) - actually known as "the world's smallest church." The sign reads: "On this site in 1849 the first Catholic Mission north of Dubuque was built of logs. In 1885 nearby landowners quarried stone and built the little chapel. Construction resulted from a vow by Johann Gaertner's mother to build a chapel should her son, who was drafted into the French army and served under Napoleon, return safely from the Russian campaign. Relatives of Frank Huber maintain the chapel and grounds, which includes the grave of Johan Gaertner."

It is open to the public at no charge, although donations are welcome.

Inside there are two rows of pews, each of which seat about three people.

The ceiling is painted a pale blue and decorated with gold leaf stars. It reminded me of the ceiling of the Dubina church - one of the "painted churches" we visited, here in Texas - which was also painted blue, with platinum stars.

This bridge, at Dubuque, spans the Mississippi between Iowa and Illinois. Notice how swollen the river was this day. Bingse told us that the sign, out in the water, which reads "No Swimming Or Wading," usually stands about six feet in the air!

After crossing the river, we drove a little way into Illinois, stopping in the town of Galena, where we saw the home of Ulysses S. Grant. The home was given to Grant by residents of Galena in 1865 as thanks for his Civil War service.

Galena is built up the side of a steep hill, and this is a view from one of the hillside streets, looking down onto some park land.

Galena's economy is heavily dependent upon tourism. The narrow downtown streets are lined with old buildings, housing all sorts of wonderful shops and restaurants. I'd love to go back and spend more time there. Maybe on another visit.

We drove outside of town on what is known as The Great River Road, just to take in some of the scenery.

 Bingse also took us to Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, where we ate a great lunch at a little pub, but I didn't take any pictures in Wisconsin.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Missouri and Iowa

On Saturday morning we said our good-byes to Larry and started out for Iowa. Somehow I missed spotting a sign that said we were leaving Kansas City, Kansas (known as K.C.K.) and entering Kansas City, Missouri (known as K.C.). These pictures, I determined after getting home and searching the Internet, are of K.C., which is considerably larger than K.C.K.

The bridge in this first picture is the Christopher S. Bond Bridge, and spans the Missouri River.

Skyline of K.C.

The shiny, flat, curved roofs are the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

After spending the morning hours on the Missouri road system, we finally reached Iowa.

As we drove toward Bingse's home, we passed by farm after farm. Although the soils had been prepared on most of the farms, it was a little too early in the season for planting. Of course, Iowa is a major Corn Belt state, so in a few weeks there will be fields and fields of corn.

The main reason for taking this trip was to see Dan's old college roommate, Bingse. While we hadn't seen Larry (our Kansas friend) for 43 years, we had more like 45 or 46 years of catching up to do with Bingse! He had been about to leave for Vietnam when we saw him last, in 1968 or 1969.  Sadly, we didn't get to meet Gaby, his wife, because she was in Germany visiting her family. But we heard story after story about her from Bingse, and feel like we almost know her now! Bingse says they will be coming to Texas in the fall, and will, hopefully, make a stop at our house. We're really looking forward to meeting Gaby then, as well as repaying a little of Bingse's great hospitality.

We spent three days and four nights at Bingse's house, and they were the most peaceful, delightful days of our vacation.

Bingse lives on a 20-acre farm in the middle of Amish country. His neighbors, Daniel and Sarah (and their many children), are Amish, and they actually farm his land for him. I was pleased to get to talk with Sarah a couple times when she came to the door to ask about work to be done in Gaby's vegetable garden. While the Amish do not want full-face photos taken, they are alright with photos taken at a distance or from the back. Out of respect, I chose only to take a couple photos from Bingse's window, discretely, of buggies going by on the road below. But you don't know how hard it was to resist taking a picture or two of the little ones that tagged along behind Sarah when she came to the house. They were adorable  - the girls in their bonnets and the boys in their wide-brimmed hats.

Bingse's house sits in an idyllic part of Iowa. Here are a few photos taken of his beautiful yard.  We would have been happy to stay longer, had we not had a very important reason to stick to our schedule (more about that in another post).

Because the Amish don't use motorized vehicles or tractors, the silence was seldom broken except by the constant singing of birds. I'm not a bird-watcher, but couldn't resist snapping a few pictures of various ones that I saw. The orioles were the most common birds. There were also bright yellow finches, which I failed to get pictures of. The picture I took of the wild turkey was my favorite, because when I showed it to Bingse, he was surprised, having never seen one on the property before.




Woodpecker ???

Wild turkey
 On the second and third days of our stay, Bingse played tour guide. He drove us all over the area - around the Iowa countryside and across the borders of Wisconsin and Illinois - and gave us a running commentary on some of the major sights.

I'll save those pictures for my next post.