Hip Surgery

I say! I thought once all the festivities around the graduations and Dan’s wedding and the open houses were over, it was going to be a quiet summer for a few weeks before leaving for Jon’s wedding. Well, circumstances would have it that we were going to lose $1600 in medical money if we didn’t spend it by July 1, and I was the only person with a condition that actually could be treated by then.

So, instead of thinking about hip surgery in the fall after returning from Jon’s wedding, I decided to go for it …tomorrow! Everything sort of fell into place for me, so I’ve been scurrying around getting lab work and testing, X-rays, an EKG, and generally everything one needs to get permission to have her hip replaced. The hardware going into my hip has been tested for 30 million steps and the theory is that it just might keep me going for another 30 years (if all goes well and I treat it right), and that sounds long enough for me. Dr. Golladay is a youngish (5 years older than Aaron) bright star who has done hundreds of hip replacements. He was trained at Harvard (Mass. General) and works out of the busiest joint-replacement hospital in Michigan, so I have high hopes. HOWEVER, I would appreciate all the prayer support I can get. Complications are rare but include things like getting the wrong size implant so I end up with a permanent limp, muscle or nerve damage, infection, and other gory options.

Once I’m up and running again (or, at least able to sit up and type), I’ll let you know how it goes!


A Used Car Saleman?

Alan just called to say that instead of 6:15…make that 8:00 for our date tonight, so I’ve got a few unexpected minutes to share meandering thoughts. Joel just helped me advertise three of our cars on Craig’s List, so that’s on my mind. Do you get attached to your cars? We do. We give them pet names and treat them almost like they are part of the family, so it’s a bit traumatic to think of giving them up. So many memories…etc!

However, we’ve  decided that we’ve made our last trip to Florida with a van packed with 12+ kids. With only two kids left at home, and none of the married ones actually living in town, it’s a given that any future camping extravanzas are going to have most members fly in or driving from their own home towns. Soooo, it’s rather impractical to be too sentimental to trade in our 15-passenger van. It would be great for a church van or for a super large family, but it’s just not so hot for a one-person shopping trip to Meijer’s Thrifty Acres because it doesn’t get very good mileage. (What vehicle would and still be able to haul 15 people plus gear?)

Want to see our cars?Van sideHere’s the van, in all it’s glory. It’s nickname is the Ghost Ship, but don’t ask me why. It is a 2002 and has 85,000 miles. New tires and a real road burner. There have been more good times in our vans than I can count…hauling our youth group on mission trips as well as many, many 24-hour runs to points south! We have so much fun that Aaron once flew home from Boston to ride down to Florida with us rather than simply fly down to Florida and meet us there!

MR 2 leftWe also think it’s impractical to keep Alan’s little 1985 Toyota MR 2, since the trunk is a bit on the small side for hauling the week’s groceries, and it’s not really big enough for the four of us to go anywhere. Alan fell in love with this little beauty 18 years ago when we were looking for a car for Aaron to drive to Northern Michigan University when he turned 16. It was TOO CUTE and became Alan’s pet. He drove it faithfully on his 16-mile commute to work down the busiest highway in town for years, but after one of his closest friends got in an accident, and then one of his partners was killed in an accident on this same highway, Alan decided to get a bigger, safer car for his rather lethal daily road rally. It has 186,000 miles but still runs like a top. (It is time for a new timing chain.) We don’t think it would be very safe for distance driving in case of an accident (too little) such as Jon and Gerlinde might need to do when Jon runs over to Chicago to teach at Trinity or whatever.

Merc SideLast but not least is our beloved “Adolphus,” alias our 1983 Mercedes Benz. It also has almost 186,000 but the engine is so quiet it’s hard to tell if it’s on! I use it every day, and I could happily keep it. However, the air conditioner is out, and it’s no longer a car we’d like to send on long missions either.

So, there you have it. We have three fully functional cars, but none that really fit our needs anymore. We need about two cars: one for hauling groceries and commuting the family around town, and one for reliably and safely driving distances. We’d keep any of them, but we’d really love to sell all three and get two that are more practical.  If you just happen to know anybody who’s looking for a car like any of these, they’re on Craig’s List now. Or, you can give whoever our number!

Ben Stein on What’s Important in Life

Don’t you just hate email forwards? Well, actually, I don’t. I’m one of those crazy people who like silly little rabbits waving roses and wishing me a happy day. I also get most of my news and inspirational thoughts on line these days. NOT to replace my own time each morning and evening of meditating of the Bible and praying with my beloved husband, which is bread and water to my spirit, but beyond that—I do enjoy forwards. Here’s one that really touched me (and the rest is all quote):

For many years Ben Stein has written a biweekly column called ‘Monday Night At Morton’s.’ (Morton’s is a famous chain of Steakhouses known to be frequented by movie stars and famous people from around the globe.) Now, Ben is terminating the column to move on to other things in his life. Reading his final column is worth a few minutes of your time.

Ben Stein’s Last Column:
How Can Someone Who Lives in Insane Luxury Be a Star in Today’s World?

As I begin to write this, I ‘slug’ it, as we writers say, which means I put a heading on top of the document to identify it. This heading is ‘eonlineFINAL,’ and it gives me a shiver to write it. I have been doing this column for so long that I cannot even recall when I started. I loved writing this column so much for so long I came to believe it would never end.

It worked well for a long time, but gradually, my changing as a person and the world’s change have overtaken it. On a small scale, Morton’s, while better than ever, no longer attracts as many stars as it used to. It still brings in the rich people in droves and definitely some stars. I saw Samuel L. Jackson there a few days ago, and we had a nice visit, and right before that, I saw and had a splendid talk with Warren Beatty in an elevator, in which we agreed that Splendor in the Grass was a super movie. But Morton’s is not the star galaxy it once was, though it probably will be again.

Beyond that, a bigger change has happened. I no longer think Hollywood stars are terribly important. They are uniformly pleasant, friendly people, and they treat me better than I deserve to be treated. But a man or woman who makes a huge wage for memorizing lines and reciting them in front of a camera is no longer my idea of a shining star we should all look up to.

How can a man or woman who makes an eight-figure wage and lives in insane luxury really be a star in today’s world, if by a ‘star’ we mean someone bright and powerful and attractive as a role model? Real stars are not riding around in the backs of limousines or in Porsches or getting trained in yoga or Pilates and eating only raw fruit while they have Vietnamese girls do their nails.

They can be interesting, nice people, but they are not heroes to me any longer. A real star is the soldier of the 4th Infantry Division who poked his head into a hole on a farm near Tikrit , Iraq . He could have been met by a bomb or a hail of AK-47 bullets. Instead, he faced an abject Saddam Hussein and the gratitude of all of the decent people of the world.

A real star is the U.S. soldier who was sent to disarm a bomb next to a road north of   Baghdad . He approached it, and the bomb went off and killed him.

A real star, the kind who haunts my memory night and day, is the U.S. soldier in Baghdad who saw a little girl playing with a piece of unexploded ordinance on a street near where he was guarding a station. He pushed her aside and threw himself on it just as it exploded. He left a family desolate in California and a little girl alive in Baghdad .

The stars who deserve media attention are not the ones who have lavish weddings on TV but the ones who patrol the streets of Mosul even after two of their buddies were murdered and their bodies battered and stripped for the sin of trying to protect Iraqis from terrorists.

We put couples with incomes of $100 million a year on the covers of our magazines. The noncoms and officers who barely scrape by on military pay but stand on guard in Afghanistan and Iraq and on ships and in submarines and near the Arctic Circle are anonymous as they live and die.

I am no longer comfortable being a part of the system that has such poor values, and I do not want to perpetuate those values by pretending that who is eating at Morton’s is a big subject.

There are plenty of other stars in the American firmament: the policemen and women who go off on patrol in South Central and have no idea if they will return alive; the orderlies and paramedics who bring in people who have been in terrible accidents and prepare them for surgery; the teachers and nurses who throw their whole spirits into caring for autistic children; the kind men and women who work in hospices and in cancer wards.

Think of each and every fireman who was running up the stairs at the   World Trade Center  as the towers began to collapse. Now you have my idea of a real hero.

I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters. This is my highest and best use as a human. I can put it another way. Years ago, I realized I could never be as great an actor as Olivier or as good a comic as Steve Martin or Martin Mull or Fred Willard or as good an economist as Samuelson or Friedman or as good a writer as Fitzgerald. Or even remotely close to any of them.

But I could be a devoted father to my son, husband to my wife and, above all, a good son to the parents who had done so much for me. This came to be my main task in life. I did it moderately well with my son, pretty well with my wife and well indeed with my parents (with my sister’s help). I cared for and paid attention to them in their declining years. I stayed with my father as he got sick, went into extremis and then into a coma and then entered immortality with my sister and me reading him the Psalms.

This was the only point at which my life touched the lives of the soldiers in Iraq  or the firefighters in New York . I came to realize that life lived to help others is the only one that matters and that it is my duty, in return for the lavish life God has devolved upon me, to help others He has placed in my path. This is my highest and best use as a human.

Faith is not believing that God can. It is knowing that God will.
By Ben Stein

For Those of You Who Couldn’t Make it to the Open House

Our last big “tado” for the spring was having a graduation open house for Daniel and Joel. For all you who live in faraway places, here are a few pictures. This is Joel’s picture table:

Joel's picture tableAnd here is Daniel’s table. He didn’t have time to help me organize picture boards, but he had a DVD of the slide show that he and Brianna showed at their wedding:

Dan's Picture table

And, here’s the cake. Our family favorite celebration cake (for large groups) is the Dutch Chocolate Torte from Arnie’s Bakery:

Graduation Cake

I was a little disappointed by the turnout, but given that there were 8 known open houses for the kids on this particular Saturday afternoon ( 19 kids from our chapel graduated from something this spring!), I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Friends checking out Joel's picturesWe really did enjoy the great group of friends who did show up to wish the kids well!

Having funAnd, Joel’s very favorite friends, affectionately known as the “Splendid Seven,” stayed until the wee hours playing volleyball, swimming, and watching a marvelous old spy film (based on a true story) called Five Fingers.

The "Splendid Seven" + cousing who remainedFrom left to right: Joel, Stephen, Steve Cooper, Christian Mundweiler, John Cooper, Jessie Scherer, Olivia Mundweiler, and Katie Cooper.

I realize that makes 8, not 7, but Jessie is a cousin of the Coopers and also comes over to our home every week for a Bible study with me, so she stayed this particular night too. When Alan and I were in high school, we ran around with a group of seven kids affectionately known at the “General Principles,” because we did everything “on general principles.” Joel’s group is really made up of friends from three home schooling families from our chapel, and I am so happy that these really awesome young people like to hang out together! Each one is a treasure. So, Joel wasn’t disappointed that a zillion people didn’t come, and we all had a wonderful time. Aren’t friends the greatest?

Just How Safe is Safe?

While attempting to catch up with my email this morning, I found this clever forward. (Of course, I never know if such are real or just meant humorously.)

“There was an interesting letter in the Australian Shooter magazine that went like this: ‘If you consider that there has been an average of 160,000 troops in the Iraq theater of operations during the past 22 months, and a total of 2112 deaths, that gives a firearm death rate of 60 per 100,000 soldiers. The firearm death rate in Washington , DC is 80.6 per 100,000 for the same period. That means you are about 25 % more likely to be shot and killed in the U.S. capital, which has some of the strictest gun control laws in the  U.S., than you are in Iraq.’  Conclusion: The U.S. should pull out of Washington.”

Thanks for Being There!

Okay, so I’ve totally fallen off the face of the earth…almost! Can’t even remember where I left off with life…maybe with Daniel and Joel’s graduations, Stephen’s recital, and our annual camping trip to Disney.

Camping at DisneyOur entire family—all seventeen of us including fiancees and grand children—had a wonderful week together! All too soon we had to say goodbye to our German families. Here they are just before leaving (although we were VERY blessed to be able to keep Grace and Eowyn for a couple of weeks; poor Michael had to return to his dental practice in Germany, coming back just in time for Dan and Brianna’s wedding):

Mike, Jon, and CrewTwo weeks after we returned home, Daniel and Brianna got married. Here are the cool dudes who were the groomsmen:

Dan's Wedding Cool DudesFrom left to right: Aaron, Joel, Stephen Armstrong, Daniel, Stephen Cooper, and Michael. Of course, they were just having fun! This is what the wedding party really looked like:

The Wedding PartyIt was a wonderful wedding in every way. The bride’s maids included Kathy (first on left) and Brianna’s sisters and sister-in-law. Eowyn (sitting on the floor in the middle) was one of a troupe of darling flower girls, and Reuben had his second turn as ring bearer! The bride was beatiful, the groom radiant, and the happy couple escaped to a cottage on Lake Michigan for a week of honeymooning before moving to their new apartment in Ann Arbor, where Dan will be doing a one-year residency in hospital-based dentistry at the U. Michigan and Brianna (who is an R.N.) hopes to find a job doing home health care.

Mackinac with Steve and JoelAfter all the company left and the house was somewhat back in order, Alan and I took Stephen and Joel to Mackinac Island to celebrate Alan’s birthday. We had a super time bicycling around the island and meandering through the streets. Steve and Joe had never been into the Grand Hotel, so we took them through just to enjoy the ambiance. It was a lovely retreat weekend and a good way to bond before the onslaught of summer activites. This week I’ve been catching up on business and getting ready for Joel and Daniel’s graduation open houses coming up on Saturday from 2-5. Be sure to stop by if you’re in town! Dan and Joel are just two of nineteen graduates from our chapel family, and there are 6 simultaneous open houses going on Saturday. Either this is very bad timing, or everybody will just float from house to house and never have to cook all day! Hopefully, by next week, things will be down to the peace and quiet of the home crew and a sprawling summer ahead!