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Wednesday, September 19, 2018


Several years ago I noticed a plant with spectacular white flowers while walking to the boardwalk at night in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. The next morning I looked for the flowers again but could not find them.  This seemed very strange to me until I learned that they were moonflowers which bloomed only at night--and only for one night.

 Since then I have tried to grow my own moonflower plants with greater or lesser success.  I learned that one has to start with seeds because seedlings don't seem to be available around here.  This year many of my seeds germinated.  I was able to give plants away to friends.

 The three seeds I planted have done better than ever before.  Maybe it's the compost I have used.  Or maybe just good luck!  I planted two seeds under the mailbox and they are threatening to block our mail.  I planted just one seed by the garage and bought a trellis for the vine to climb.  The plant got so large that the trellis fell over.

Last night I counted 13 large white blossoms on each plant.  I went out to take a photo this morning and it was too late.  They were already curling in on themselves.  I will pluck them off later.

Once the first blossom appeared--and you have to wait until late August-- I posted a photo on Facebook.  A friend posted a recommendation of a favorite book  The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton.  The book was out of print but I got a used copy from Better World Books.

 What an absolutely lovely book!  It's the story of a family in Missouri around the turn of the century.  However it begins in the 1950s with the daughters of the family coming home for their annual two week stay with their elderly parents.  The first chapter is a happy and almost sentimental account.  So it is not a spoiler to say the book has a happy ending but as you go through the rest of the sections, each one featuring another member of the family, you see that there were times of rebellion, lust, alienation, anger and a tragic death.

The moonflower is definitely a theme in the book as the family hurries to get home to see it bloom at sunset.

"She looked around at the good thing she was granted-green fields, good pasture, shining weather. The air was fresh, the birds sang, and she had seen a white heron. Matthew was waiting for her. The children were coming home. And they would watch the moonflowers bloom. Oh, if she never got to heaven, this was enough..." 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Cataract Surgery Aborted

I have had trouble with auras around lights at night for quite a while.  This summer I began to struggle more with seeing the scores when playing the organ.  And I always take my glasses off for computer work and reading.  So it seemed time to start the process for cataract surgery.

First step--seeing an optometrist who referred me to Laser and Cataract Institute--a place Jim has visited for years for his eye problems.  It was a long and involved appointment there lasting almost three hours and ended with scheduling my surgeries and paying a down payment for their laser guided process.

This morning after fasting since midnight we checked in at Unity Hospital for my first surgery.  The whole process went surprisingly smoothly and easily compared to the more involved one for Jim last year at St. Joseph Medical Center.  I was given some anesthetic for "conscious sedation" and many drops for numbing and dilation.  But once I was rolled into surgery, the crisis began.  Apparently someone ordered the wrong lens for me and the surgery had to be aborted.

I was confused and angry and frustrated. I was partially sedated and very hungry and thirsty.  The doctor went to the waiting area and told Jim we had an issue.  Jim was concerned about what an "issue" could possibly be fearing the worst!  The doctor explained it to both of us and was very apologetic.  The director of the surgical area was also very apologetic and gave Jim a $25 Walmart gift card for our gas, she said, which I really just find insulting.   One assistant said this was the first time this had happened since the hospital opened.  I said I wasn't sure I wanted to reschedule and would have to think about it.

Cucumber Tom Collins
and Tacos
On the way home Jim got me a Krispy Kreme donut and some coffee which definitely helped!  I called the Institute to cancel a follow-up appointment and found that they already knew about the situation.  That eased my anger somewhat because I knew they were upset as well.

Meanwhile the dilation is slow to disappear from my eye and I felt a bit dizzy from the sedation or the eye strain.   We did enjoy Happy Hour at Granite City however!
 My blood pressure has been high all month and was really high today so I am going to see Dr. Blechl tomorrow.  I probably will reschedule the surgery--the office gave me my choice of times under the circumstances.  I feel like I should apologize to the doctor because it wasn't his fault.  I hope he can excuse me realizing that I was functioning under "conscious sedation."

It has been a very frustrating day.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Cottage Week

A few cottages from us--no beach at all!
Tuesday:  Maybe it will be our last week renting this "historic"  cottage right on Lake Michigan north of Tunnel Park.  We didn't rent last year and if we move East next summer, we may not rent again!

Riley Woods
It's a beautiful day right now but Jim and John had to give up golf when the weather was so wet overnight that the course couldn't open this morning. We have had one very cold day and night and then the last two nights were very hot--and no air conditioning.  The breeze off the lake helps a lot but 80 degrees inside at 11 pm is still warm.

Cobb Salad--Boatwerks
We have had three good walks--to Tunnel Park, in Riley Woods, and on the boardwalk at Ottawa Beach. We ate on the patio overlooking Lake Macatawa at Boatwerks twice--with Jim's sisters and spouses on Monday and with Lois and John after a happy hour on our deck today.

We've been here five nights without a spectacular Michigan sunset.  It's been so cloudy that the sun slips quietly away.

Wednesday:  Last night it rained so hard during the night that I woke up feeling rain on my face in bed.  It rained much of the day.  When it cleared in the late afternoon, we walked the trail and climbed the 239 steps to Mt. Pisgah and enjoyed a great view of Ottawa Beach and Lake Macatawa.

At last tonight the sunset was glorious and kept getting better and better over the next 45 minutes.

Thursday morning:  The changing weather has been a factor all week.  Last night was so cold that I put a sweater on and used an extra quilt.  This morning it was 52 degrees outside!

We have adapted to our surroundings when it comes to doing crossword puzzles together.  Without a daily New York Times in print, we go to the archives and do a puzzle together but each on our own laptop.  It certainly is neater when you make a mistake to delete a letter or two.  It is also easier when you are giving up to ask for "reveal" or "check" for a letter or word.

I've missed watching the Cubs which we have been unable to get televised after last Saturday.  I listened to a bit by radio but Jim does not enjoy that.  He gets updates and enjoys (usually) the recap on his phone.  They  won seven in a row but lost yesterday.  A new pitcher (Hamels) and a new infielder (Murphy) have been sparks for them.

Jim finally got on a golf course today.   Meanwhile I met a friend from my childhood, Judy Spanninga Schickel, at Ottawa Beach Inn for lunch.  We had not seen each other in 50 years and had a great time catching up and looking at old photos.  I wish I had asked someone to take a photo of us.  The waiter was very patient with us and said we could stay until closing at 9 pm if we wished!

Friday morning:  The sheets are in the dryer; we'll make up the bed when they are ready. We are drinking our coffee and almost ready to pack up and go home.
It's about a two hour ride and then I jump into my activities--practicing the organ for the service on Sunday, getting ready to tutor a new student on Tuesday, checking out the yard for issues, planning meals, getting groceries, and back to my purging of our stuff.

It's been a good week.  It was good to be out of our usual routines and now it will be good to be back into them.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Digging into Jim's Stuff

Bluebooks from student
days in the 70s
I have gone through most of my stuff.  I am hesitant to tackle my journals because I tended to write in them as therapy.  They may be depressing.  The photo albums look overwhelming so I'll postpone them until later too.  I can't get rid of everything.  Just yesterday I received a request to tutor another adult at Hope Ministries so I'm glad I saved some of my teaching materials.

So I started in on Jim's stuff!   Rather than asking him to do it on his own, I have been bringing up several folders each day from desk drawers in the basement.  He has recycled almost everything I bring to his attention.  In fact, I am the one who says we need to save this or that.

 I saved the letters of employment from North Carolina State University--the first one offering him a tenure track position as an assistant professor for $13,000.  This was 1976 and we thought that would do very well for us.  Each year there was another complimentary letter from Bob Bryan, the department head, with a nice raise.  There were letters recommending Jim for a teaching award and a research award.  They were worth keeping too. We did throw out  rejection letters and there were a few of those as well.  We don't need to be reminded of the tension of job searches.

There were lots of Dead Sea Scrolls clippings.   For several years, the release and publication of the scrolls was quite controversial with accusations of bias and withholding information.  Jim was quoted in our local papers as well as some national papers.  I kept single copies of some of the articles, but we did have in one case, at least four of the same thing!

Today's pile includes Jim's seminary and Harvard notes.  Yesterday's was the notes from his years of teaching undergraduates at NCSU.  Tomorrow's may be the pile of sermons he delivered as a guest preacher. 

When Jim retired, he gave so many books to graduate students and donated others to the Theological Network which meant some ended up in an Ethiopian seminary.  But there are so many more.  Downsizing from really two rooms at home with books along the walls and an office surrounded by books is going to be painful and difficult for him.  Good thing we have plenty of time to do this with no date for a move set yet.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018


Boxes seem to be muliplying.  I thought I was finished with boxes of cards and letters and programs and clippings and then another one shows up.  Once again, the trash and recyclable bins are getting full.  Many items are hard to throw out.  Maybe when the moving time gets closer, I'll get more disciplined about that!

I took apart a scrapbook I made at age 15 when my family took a trip to Quebec and upstate New York.  I have a friend who collects postcards so she got all of those.  I remember parts of that trip well.  My dad who may have been leery of driving on steep Quebec streets hired a driver to give us a tour.  That driver offered me and my sister cigarettes and I was thrilled to be treated like a grown-up.  He also brought us to a convent, rang a bell in this dark entryway, and a nun came out of the darkness with a skull in a jar--supposedly some explorer from early times.  No wonder that sight has stuck in my mind all these years!

I found clippings of the 1956 Hudsonville tornado that killed several in the area and devastated many homes and businesses.  I remember being in our basement and wondering if our relatives were OK and Jim who lived much closer remembers seeing it.  Our high school Latin teacher was a woman who went back to school after the tornado killed her husband and child.

There was a touching photo of my Dad smiling from his hospital bed in a veteran's hospital in Detroit where he spent a year recovering from back surgery in 1950.  For me that stay was an adventure; for my mother and him it must have been so difficult.  They wondered if he would ever walk again.  But in later years of his life he was known as the walking man as he walked miles to get his morning donut with his buddies.

And then there was the album of high school graduation photos.  As I pulled them out, I tried to remember names.  I quizzed Jim on them.  Long forgotten folks came to mind--especially when we looked at the back for identification!  With some reluctance, I threw most of them out.  We have yearbooks that will preserve those names and photos.

There was an autograph album from 8th grade full of silly rhymes like "By hook or by crook I'll be the last to write in your book."    "1 car 2 kisses 3 weeks later Mr. and Mrs."  It made me smile and I decided to save it--for now.

So many people have come and gone in our lives.  There were lovely notes from my 6th grade students, letters from Scotland friends, letters from graduate student days at Harvard,  and  letters from North Carolina friends.  There were letters from family members mailed to the many places we have lived over the years.  It's hard to think how important all those people were in our lives and now some of them are gone and most of them have disappeared from our lives. 
At the same time I am feeling grateful for new friends here in South Bend.  Emails from two of them brought tears of gratitude to my eyes yet yesterday.  Texts from Dan and Laura and Jeff were also received happily yesterday as was a phone call from Dan.   But of those there are no records for me to peruse, Lord willing, ten years from now.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Closing Several Chapters of My Life

There is a certain sadness if not mourning about getting rid of stuff around this house.  It's saying that I am probably not going to need these things again--things that were important at the time.  In some cases, it's recognizing that someone else could use them so why should they sit in our closets or in our basement?

Yesterday I gave a younger friend our Thermos gallon jug.  I carefully wrapped up the remaining pieces of our wedding glassware for the Salvation Army.  I should give away our large picnic cooler and the wicker serving trays.  I'm hoping our daughter will take my mother's silverplate and my aunt's 12 piece china set.  We're not going camping again and we probably won't be hosting any more large parties.

I put the notes from a Math Academy summer course I took in the recyclable bin.  I dumped some--not all--the notes we had from the Snite Museum docent class.  I will bring the books on Family Literacy and Early Childhood Development to the central adult education office and see if anyone wants them.  I parted with piles of reading charts but kept a few along with some books just in case I tutor another beginning reader.

I did not dump the notes I had from teaching math puzzles and games.  Maybe  our grandchildren will do them with me.

My daughter said that Yes, she does want her Barbie and Ken dolls.  My younger son wants his Arthur Clarke books.  The older son said to give him the old videotapes of high school quiz bowl matches and Duke basketball games.  They can decide what to do with the reports and emails and programs I saved for each of them over the years.  I have not received answers yet about the Nancy Drew books and the old laptops.  If I don't hear from them, they are out of here!

One friend was happy to take the postcards I had saved.   Two others took recipe boxes and old cookbooks from my aunt and my mother-in-law.  It makes me happy when someone else can have delight in things instead of my consigning them to the recyclable bin.

And then there are the hundreds of slides we have taken over the years.  I threw out all those that were faded, unrecognizable, or just plain boring.  So many memories especially of the 13 weeks in a pup tent in Europe in 1970 came back even if it was almost 50 years ago!  I know I will never see Rome or Athens or Istanbul or Paris again. 

 I am thinking about doing a free book giveaway at church next spring.  I could give a cup and saucer set to several good friends--as a memory of our friendship.  I've already given away two original art works and there are many more that will have to go to good homes.  It's good to be able to do this over a period of time.  It's amazing that I have found things to get rid of every day however for the last month. I wake up in the morning and wonder what it will be today!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

50 Years--So Many Students, So Many Stories

I have been purging student records and photos and reports and lesson plans.  I do not know why I saved so much.  Maybe because it was painful to throw things away at the time.  It is still painful now.

I think of the 5th graders and the 6th graders at Seymour Christian School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I remember Kevin who wrote on his spelling paper, "I am dum."  I remember John who taught me to recognize Orion's Belt in the sky.  I remember Lynn who has become my Facebook friend and said she went back to school to become a teacher because I inspired her.

Then there was my year as an "assistant music mistress" teaching 15 little girls at St. Leonard's School in St. Andrews, Scotland to play the piano.  Four of them were named Fiona.  None of them played very well!  Especially the boarders, one of whom told me, "Daddy has millions of cattle in the Hebrides."

After a year as a secretary at Harvard, I spent three years tutoring in a program for the "perceptually handicapped" in Newton, Massachusetts where I learned a method for teaching reading that I used over and over again with dyslexic children and adults.  I will always credit Dr. Jesse Grimes for a method that he developed and many use today.

At this point it was my turn for an advanced degree--an MS in special education from North Carolina State University.  For the next several years children came one by one or two by two for tutoring in Raleigh, North Carolina --at a clinic office or later, in our own basement classroom.   This was teaching and learning at its best--focused on each child and his or her needs with recorded progress.  It was hard to recycle the reports that I once worked so hard on.

Next were the years of adult education here in South Bend--at Hope Rescue Mission and at Family Literacy which met at four different sites over the years.  When I look at the rosters, there are so many names I don't remember but others I think I will never forget!  Dale, my first successful GED student, showed up for the graduation ceremony all dressed in black with  gold chains.   And Eric, when I complimented him on his gentle spirit, told me that I should know that he had spent time in prison for murder.  Tiffany, Tequila, Noelia, Latisha, Shaina, Jennifer, Jackie, Dishona--so many mothers of little children-- had so many obstacles to overcome.  And occasionally a father, too--John, Gerald, Adell, Ralph, Dion. 

Before retirement, I decided a transition to regular adult education classes would be good--fewer administrative responsibilities than I had at Family Literacy.  One day a young black man walked into class and told me he knew nothing about computers because he had spent the last 15 years in prison for a crime he had not committed.  I was skeptical.  But he was right.  The Northwestern Exoneration project helped to free him and three others.  He got his GED quite easily but transition to civilian life had its perils for him.  It probably has even more perils now that he has his very large settlement from the city of Chicago. 

It's overwhelming to see these names again and see the photos and read the writing in the the monthly newsletters we published.  Where are they now? How about the Family Literacy children who are teenagers and young adults?

I don't want to return to teaching.  I'm glad I had the opportunity to serve others in that way.  But sometimes it seems sad that so many chapters in my life are over.