Follow by Email

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


January 17--It's the day that Jim flies home and Sue VanEngen and her sister Esther fly in.  If all goes well, I should be able to time the drop-off and pick-up perfectly.  The weather here is great and so far the flights are scheduled to be on time.  But we know from experience that it can go quite differently.  The east coast and Texas are having terrible storms.

I woke up very early and so did Jim.  We were both restless during the night.  I am a bit apprehensive about taking over the rental car driving.  I am also sad to say good-bye to Jim.  At the same time, I am eager to share this beautiful place with friends.

Jim and I have a comfortable routine.  Sue and I have traveled together before on a memorable trip years ago to Scotland to see Lucie and George Marsden and did very well.  In spite of some uneasiness, I am happy to stay another week in this lovely place and warmer weather.  And Jim is ready to go back to his research and office and at least two job talks for replacements for him at Notre Dame.

The past three days have been quiet ones.  On Sunday we found the aquarium at Guy Harvey Resort and enjoyed watching the 131 fish and a father and two sons in with them.  Jim watched  NFL playoffs and I joined him for some sports time.

 On Monday we ventured to Tyrone Mall where I bought a cute top at Loft for 60% off the sale price--and then struggled trying to find underwear to supplement what I brought along.  I would not pay Dillard's prices, waited in a long line at Penney's to find I had misunderstood the price, and then ended up at Marshall's down the road.  I was foolishly stubborn about what I was willing to pay!  We enjoyed browsing at a 3-2-1 Bookstore but didn't buy anything.

Yesterday we took an hour long walk on the beach in warm weather.  Our sweaters came off!  We had supper in Pass a Grille at the Brass Monkey on the deck watching a long-lasting and spread out sunset.  At that point our winter jackets felt good.  When we got back to the condo, we suffered along with all Irish fans in a double overtime loss to Louisville.

This morning I have carried five bags of groceries to Unit 412.  Our suitcases and books, etc. are next.  The unit is smaller but may be even lovelier in its decor than this one.  Sunrise Resort is a winner!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

You're not in Indiana any more!

Of course, it is warmer here.  Not balmy but maybe 40 degrees warmer than South Bend.  We did wear our winter jackets again today.

The palm trees and tough grass and bright flowers and the water surrounding us--all so lovely.  It is more pleasant than slushy snow.

 The conversation in the elevators is of two themes--the weather and where are you from?  People are from Ohio, Toronto, and Cape May, New Jersey.  Everywhere there are retirees working part-time or maybe full-time--at the grocery store bagging, waiting on tables, driving for Uber or doing maintenance at the resort.

The local CVS had only a very short array of stationery supplies unlike our CVS near Notre Dame.   However, there was a long row of t-shirts and an endless supply of sunscreen.  There are dozens of restaurants and bars within a mile of us--mostly independent ones and mostly very good.  Only one disappointed us so far. 

We have done things we never or rarely do at home.  We have eaten breakfast out twice and had beer and BBQ for lunch once.  We had beach drinks while watching the sunset at a rooftop bar.  I have relished seafood risotto, stuffed grouper, and lobster.

We tried the paddleboats at Tradewinds across the street--where we have permission to use the amenities.  We were not experts.  A passer-by asked if he should call out the Coast Guard!  We watched a 5K and 10K race on Gulf Boulevard right in front of our condo.  We have enjoyed some sunsets and sunrises but also the fogged in mornings and silvery bay.

We went to a movie--The Post--with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks--and it was excellent.  We felt like rubes not being familiar with buying tickets online, getting the ticket on my iphone, and then finding the right venue among the 20 possible at AMC Sundial 20!  As it turned out, no one even checked our tickets at 11:20 am.  We could have saved $20.

We walk to Publix almost daily and carry our groceries back to the condo.  We miss sports on our large high definition TV but Jim is coping.  We get a daily Tampa Times and read the New York Times on line.

It's a good life!

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

St. Pete Beach--Sunrise Resort

We have been here almost a week.  Today we rented a car from Hertz--right across the street.  Agent Nick asked us, "So you decided you needed a car?"  I had postponed our rental for four days saying that we were doing fine without a car.  We responded, "We do not need a car, but we want a car."  I'm sure Jim would have been fine without one, but I do get a bit restless.

We did not take the car however for our daily trip for groceries at the Publix about a 15 minute walk from Sunrise Resort.  We did take the car to Pass a Grille, the southernmost part of St. Pete Beach, where we walked on the beach walk with a great view of sea grass and the Gulf--not blocked by condos and resorts.  We treated ourselves to a pina colada and a marguertia at the Hurricane Rooftop Bar and watched a quiet sunset.

Otherwise the week up to this point has been one of walking, eating, reading, and watching sports on TV.  We have spent a lot of time doing our 1000 piece puzzle, a gift from Susan and Jeff that pictures the beach at Ocean Grove.  Jim said at one point, "This is addictive."  It is amazing how fast 30 minutes can go looking for just the right pieces.  It is somewhat of a mindless activity, but still so satisfying when you find the piece that fits!

Our first few days here were cool.  In fact we had the furnace running and set at 71 or 72--just to keep warm with the poor insulation and lots of windows.  The last two days however we have shed our winter coats and turned the heat off and it has been lovely. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

-12 and Snow to 54 and Palm Trees

Yesterday it was -12 degrees at 7 am in South Bend.  That was the real temperature in degrees, not the wind chill.  We did not even venture out until noon when the temperature rose to 0 degrees.

Tonight we are in St. Pete's Beach where it is not warm but it is 60 degrees warmer than -12!  We have a lovely condo on the 6th floor--Penthouse 3--at the Sunrise Resort.   We walked to Publix and got some groceries, had a happy hour in our condo, and then crossed the street to Tradewinds for a seafood risotto for me and gnocchi bolognese for Jim at Palm Court.   The full moon is beautiful over the harbor.
And the sunrise was also spectacular over the harbor in the morning.

My first night here was not one of great sleep.  I wandered some and adjusted to unfamiliar sounds and hip pain.  But eventually, I found a place of peace and plugged in the heating pad and slept enough.

 I don't plan to blog daily.  This vacation should be one of routines of reading, walking, and eating!  I wish it were warmer (it was 39 degrees at 7 am) but it will get warmer this weekend.   At least we are away from snow--and for our kids, the "bombcyclone" in the Northeast.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Reflections on 2017

 I am looking at my last post from 2016 in which I said "What will 2017 bring?"  This past year brought a major health crisis for one good friend and a tragic death for another.  Maggie Noll  has made an amazing recovery from her stroke on her 70th birthday in March;  she continues to work on her rehabilitation.  Jeff Bain-Conkiin's sudden and tragic death in September has affected all of us in our congregation; we continue to mourn for him and try to support Kelly and her boys.

The political situation with President Trump as our leader has not improved.  We have not gone to war with North Korea but the threat is there.  He continues to tweet with nasty name calling--just this week it was Crooked Hillary again.  He bargains the DACA status by saying the Democrats have to agree to his expensive and futile wall between the US and Mexico.  And he denies any "collusion" with Russia over the election which could very well be true, but he spoke of it 16 times in an informal 30 minute interview with a NYT reporter this week.

Was 2017 really worse in terms of climate and crises?   There were devastating hurricanes in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico and fires in California.  There were mass shootings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas and still no progress on gun safety.

For us personally, this year had gifts.   Jim's cataract surgery was wonderful.  He drives at night again and I don't have to!   We have been in good health and able to work, volunteer and travel.

Our week to celebrate our 50th anniversary with all 14 of us in Ocean Grove was a highlight with memories to last a lifetime--as long as that may be!  And that is something I do think about.  Maggie's stroke and Jeff's death have made us very aware of vulnerability--even in those who seem healthy as we think we are.

John Haas preached about the juxtaposition and contrast of Simeon's saying that Jesus would be a "light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel" but also that he told Mary "a sword will pierce your own soul too."   Once again, we don't know what 2018 will bring in our lives of joy and of sorrow.  I hope we can live with courage and hope and faithfulness.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

I Miss My Laptop!

My Asus laptop has been fickle in the last month.  When I have been ready to give up on it, it seems to revive again.  Actually, dropping it once seemed to help.  But now it is really being recalcitrant and I need to get another one.  I don't think the day after Christmas is a good day to go to Best Buy so I will wait until tomorrow.  But this means transferring stuff and making decisions and I prefer to stick with the one I bought three years ago.

My laptop and I have been inseparable.  I can use my phone for email checks and even Facebook checks.  But I miss my therapy journal and my spiritual journal for processing my thoughts.  I missed my blog but have figured out how to access it on Jim's laptop.  And I just figured out how to add photos to it so I can publish again.

I accessed hotmail so I can write longer messages and have just done so.  Jim is being generous to allow me to use his device but I really like my own little PC.  But he wants it back as soon as I am finished with this entry!  I think I probably should agree.

_________A trip to Best Buy and I have another Asus laptop for $249 and a 3 year Geek Squad membership for $89.  I have successfully found my usual sites and some of my documents although they are not totally up to date.  I don't remember what I am missing--so maybe I don't need to work on retrieval of my downloads.  i woke up this morning feeling stressed about this, but I think it will all be just fine.

Old First Reformed Church

I "met" Rev. Daniel Meeter through the TwelveBlog.  He was one of the originators of that blog of  Reformed writers with a liberal perspective and continues to comment on the writings of others.  At some point,  I must have emailed him.    When he learned that we lived in South Bend, he mentioned knowing the VanEngens.  He grew up in West Sayville and my friend Sue VanEngen's dad was a very formative person in his life.  And his wife grew up in Hudsonville and went to Unity High School as we did.

I noted that our Brooklyn Holiday Inn was just a bit over a mile from the Old First Reformed Church where he is pastor so I asked if he would show it to us.  He was happy to do so and wanted to include lunch as well.

We walked up Flatbush Avenue, turned right on 7th Avenue, and found the church at the corner of Carroll Street.   This was a pretty commercial area of Park Slope.  A homeless person was sleeping in his bag on the front steps.

No one has been able to worship in the sanctuary for five years now--after a portion of the ceiling fell on a Rosh Hashana service for a Jewish congregation using the space.   This meant that the rather small Reformed congregation needed to enter a time of discernment.  Should the church be torn down?  Was it worth restoring at great expense?  The wooden ribs above needed repair, there is asbestos under the floor, and the organ has been damaged.

The sanctuary is huge and could seat over a 1000 worshippers.  The stained glass windows are treasures--by La Large, Tiffany, and the Heinigke and Bowen studio.   It was built in the late 1800s as a showpiece and was the third location for a church that originated in the 1660s.  Meanwhile, the church worships in one of the two large all-purpose rooms.

A decision has been made to go ahead with renovation. They consider themselves a "parish" church serving the community including meals for the homeless, a nursery school, and a place for the arts.  They are open to the LGBT community and Rev. Meeter has performed same-sex marriages, but only for members of the congregation.  He says they are Christ-centered with traditional worship but they have porous walls.  While walking with Rev. Meeter to lunch we observed his greeting several folks along the street.

Money has come from outside sources.  I know some came from selling grave plots owned by the church in a historic Brooklyn cemetery as written in a NYT feature article last fall.  The congregation of younger folks could not afford to pay for what might be a $6 million price tag.

Is it worth it?  I hope it will be.  It would be a shame to tear down such a beautiful historic building.  The present congregation will not fill the sanctuary but I could see using the space for musical groups and concerts.  I'm glad they have a vision for their  goal of "a great and unique space for our community and neighbors to find God, spirituality, and community in a crowded and clamorous world."