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Monday, June 18, 2018

The Remembering Self

Laura writes about the anticipating self, the experiencing self, and the remembering self in her latest book Off the Clock.  I am being the remembering self this week as I think of many good moments in our trip--already more than a week ago.  The anticipating self had some concerns about the energy it takes to travel and be the happy and appreciative grandma I want to be.  However the experiencing selves did very well.

Shall I do this in order?  Or just as the memories come back to me?

Reading Off the Clock on
New Jersey Transit
Getting off the train at Penn Station and coming out onto the busy 7th Avenue and 32nd Street.  This time Jim warned me to look like we knew what we were doing because one of the last times we accepted the help of a woman who then demanded $20 to feed her hungry children!  So we tried to act like New Yorkers, not tourists, even if we did have a roller bag.

Being upgraded by the Doubletree Hotel to a room with a view on the 22nd floor.  We could see the Empire State Building.  Later Dan had us changing the colors on the Chrysler Building with his app.  I thought he was pulling our leg, but he really did have an app for that!

Entering the room at Laura's book launching  party after a bit of a mistake in directions, greeting Laura and having her ask us if we had met Dan's friend Alex yet.  Alex was Dan's response to his Plus One invitation and we were very happy to meet her!

Shopping at Trader Joe's at 9:30 pm with long lines which moved quickly.  We were directed to checkout number 14 of the 20 or so.  I got my favorite candy bars, Jim got cookies and granola, and we got a $1 birthday card for Michael.

Getting out of the Uber ride on the very busy Flatbush Extension in Brooklyn and worrying how loud the traffic would be at the Hampton Inn.  But we were given a lovely room on the 12th floor on the quiet wing--a respite for us each time from the busyness of the streets.

Watching the sunset from the roof of Dan's apartment building--Alex's suggestion after our Habana Outpost supper.   The weirdness of the ride in Dan's elevator with the man with two dogs who offered them to Alex but then told her she would probably rather have children (!), and the man in a Superman body suit when the door opened on the 4th floor.  Remembering we were in Brooklyn and not South Bend!

Having churros for dessert--another Alex suggestion for the following night--at Dan's apartment building. Enjoying a really big hug from Alex when we said good-bye!

Having three-year-old A in bed with us at 6:30 the next morning in Gladwyne but playing silly games until 7:30 when we really had to let him out!

Listening to A who said he "sleeped " all night in his bed with R promptly correcting him "slept!"  When S said that people came from a seed from the mother and a seed from the dad, R said, "God made me."  When R insisted that we do a prayer in her room at bedtime.  I asked A if he knew about prayer  and he told me he knew what that was all about from his class (at church, I assume.)

Having R on my lap to watch J in his Son of Pinocchio play and delighting in it with her.  Going through the "rainbow" car wash with Michael and the kids and all the excitement that brought to everyone.  Looking at parodies of Mona Lisa and American Gothic on my cell phone with J--after telling him about the Grant Wood exhibit Jim and I had seen at the Whitney.  Seeing S in his Texas A and M shirt for baseball when he had grabbed the wrong one but the right color from his drawer.  And seeing him make two great catches to put others out.

Seeing Jeff dance in the Daddy's dance at the Dance Factory recital and seeing M's amazing tap dance skills also.  Having Katie explain how she choreographed a dance for her Momentum troupe at Duke last spring and then watching the video with her.

Seeing James singing expressively and doing the choreographed motions with his Princeton HS Choir at the absolutely marvelous Cabaret we attended.

And...having sangria and shrimp fondue with Jim at 10 pm as a final little party before we left for home the next morning.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

East Coast Trip June Part II

Wednesday:  We treated ourselves to an Uber ride again because it is so much easier than subways when there is luggage.  Plus you get to see NYC in all its glory and mess from above ground.  I am always surprised to see how large Chinatown is and how it seems to be authentic and not a tourist attraction.

We took NJ Transit to Princeton Junction--this time on an uncrowded train.  We have developed some expertise in buying tickets quickly from the kiosks.  Jeff picked us up again and we had lunch at his house.  Then it was on to Gladwyne to Laura's home.  Google Maps took us on a bit of a run around and we probably should have trusted our own instincts but we did fine anyway.

Once everyone gets home from school, the noise and activity picks up considerably.  I played Chutes and Ladders with R while Jim played another board game with A.  Gabrielle, the wonderful nanny, fixed chicken salad sandwiches for supper.  There was more kids time in the basement before everyone finally got settled down.  R insisted some of us at least had a prayer time before bed--which she remembered from previous trips.  She still likes me to sing the same songs with her--always making the on purpose mistake of singing Laura's name instead of hers.  I wonder how long she will think that is funny.   I will be sad when she gets too sophisticated.

We didn't watch the Warriors beat the Cavaliers in Game 3 or watch the Cubs beat the Phillies but Jim gets the wrap-ups on his iphone.

Thursday:  A woke us up by jumping into bed with us at 6:30.  By 7:30 all four kids were in bed with us at one time or another.   By 8:30 it was quiet again with three of them off to school and A off on his adventures with Gabrielle. After getting a much needed load of wash started, Jim and I walked to the center of town and enjoyed an outdoor coffee at the Coffee Bean--as we do almost every time we come to Gladwyne. Again, it's a quiet day until 4 pm when the pace picks up considerably.

Laura suddenly had the opportunity to have an essay in the weekend WSJ. That meant she had to write and edit with an immediate turn around.   So we brought J to Bluet Theater at St. Joseph University for his play call at 6 pm.  We got a quick supper of pizza slices and a burger at Larry's Steak--not recommended.  Laura and R met us and we enjoyed Son Pinocchio--me with R on my lap so she could see past adults blocking her view.  J had a short solo as the perfect boy Lorenzo and then a speaking part as a pig.  He was on stage singing in the chorus almost all the time so he was our star!

Friday:  After helping out with transportation for the van's servicing, Jim and I used Laura's membership pass for the Barnes Museum now located downtown.  We saw the special Renoir and Son exhibit and then toured the regular galleries.  The building was beautiful. The collection which was left as stipulated in Barnes' will was eclectic and sometimes a bit strange with its juxtaposition of nude women and scenery and flowers and even a crucifixion scene.  We avoided  a very busy I 76 and had interesting routes through the city and suburbs.

We celebrated Michael's 50th birthday with all eight of us at Coyote Crossing, a Mexican restaurant in Conshohocken.  I had crab tacos which were pretty spicy and a very strong margarita.  The kids behaved decently in a grown up restaurant. Michael had wanted it to be a family celebration.  Ice cream cake was a great birthday treat afterwards. A highlight of the evening was the "rainbow" car wash enroute and the Awesome Eggs sing-a-long on the way home.

S got the wrong maroon shirt
for baseball!
Saturday:  Laura's Fox and Friends scheduled TV appearance at a NYC studio was postponed due to the news of Anthony Bourdain's suicide (celebrity chef and writer).  So she was home to help with  simultaneous events of Jasper's play, Sam's baseball game, and our needing to pick up cousin James at his summer job orientation for Lavner Camps in Narberth at 11:30.  Google Maps helped us find our way!

M's dance recital Island Adventure at 2 pm in Trenton was next on our agenda.  A highlight every year is the Daddy's dance when we get to see Jeff do his thing!   M is a great tap dancer and jazz dancer.  Susan runs everything behind the scenes and Katie, a graduate of the Dance Company, helped as well.

We brought James back home, got ourselves some food and drink at McCaffery's and enjoyed a quiet happy hour at the Homewood Suites.

James's Princeton High School Choir presented a Cabaret in the evening.  It was a two hour show non-stop showing off so many talented and spirited singers.  It was fun to watch James in the chorus singing and making some choreographed moves.

All the Princeton VKs were too tired to join us at Ruby Tuesday's for our traditional late night shrimp fondue and sangrias so Grandpa and Grandma had to party alone!

Now it's time for the long drive home after a really wonderful trip.

We did the trip in one day this time--leaving at 9:30--692 miles via I 76 and I 80.  The rain was heavy and the fog with the rain on the Pennsylvania Turnpike was dangerous at times.  But Jim did well and we were safely home at 8:45.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

East Coast Trip--June 2018 Part I

We left home around 2 pm on Friday, June 1.  I had made a reservation at a Hampton Inn at Exit 173 on I-80 but I thought it was at Exit 180.  We went sailing by Exit 173 when we realized my mistake.  Fortunately, the reservation was easily changed and we found a room.  We had dinner at a TGIF and I chose poorly--shrimp on naan.

After about seven hours driving on Saturday we arrived at the Somerset, NJ Homewood Suites.  Princeton was all booked up for the reunion festivities.  Jeff, Susan, Katie and Michael joined us at Ruby Tuesday's for dinner.

On Sunday we drove to Jeff's and he brought us to the Princeton Junction Train Station where we joined a multitude of alumni wearing orange pants, sweatshirts, or at least bracelets giving their year of graduation.  From Penn Station we walked to the Doubletree on 29th Street.

Laura's book launch party was from 6 to 9 at Rouge Tomate on West 18th Street.   We met several people who were important in the process of publishing--her editor, publicist, and others.  The wine was offered freely and so were some pretty fancy and unusual appetizers.  We  enjoyed meeting Dan's friend Alex.  The party after the party was at our room to watch the last quarter of the Cavaliers-Warriors game.

Our golfer admires 'The
American Golfer"
On Monday morning we saw the Grant Wood exhibit at the Whitney Museum of Art.  We walked the lovely and lush High Line back to our hotel just making our late check out time.  An Uber ride brought us to the Hampton Inn in Brooklyn where we had an early check-in.   We took it easy in our room--especially because I was really feeling sick to my stomach.

NYC Parking
Dinner was at Habana Outpost outside where I carefully ate one chicken taco and drank ginger ale.  We watched the sunset from the roof of Dan's apartment building and then walked back to our hotel.  I felt pretty sick for about half of the night.

On Tuesday morning we walked the Brooklyn Bridge and then wandered through a neighborhood to the south of it. Later we walked to the Fulton Street Mall area where I gave up on a very long line at a TJ Maxx and instead bought another top at Nordstrom Rack.  So many people were on the streets even on a Tuesday afternoon--and there was so much noise from cars blaring music and building construction and subways under the street.

Dan and Alex joined us for dinner at Caffe e Vino where Jim and I had eaten last December.  I ordered the very same meal and it was wonderful again.  So was the bruschetta and the Chianti.  Once again it was cash only--no credit cards.  Alex suggested churros for dessert--another eating adventure for us--which we enjoyed at the new restaurant on the first floor of Dan's apartment building.

We had five good nights in four different Hilton brand hotels.  Brand loyalty pays off with free breakfasts and upgrades to rooms with a view plus late checkouts.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

South Haven 2018

We had our South Haven week early this year taking advantage of pre-Memorial day rates.  Jim can enjoy golf without crowds and we don't need to swim in the cold Lake Michigan.  Our first three days were cold--highs in the low 50s--but the last three days have been glorious.

We ate in restaurants twice--Clementines on a Monday when there were none of the usual long lines--and Hawkshead Inn after the traditional annual golf match for Jim and brother-in-law John.  We ordered take-out pizza once from Maria's this year because The Vineyard was closed.  Over the years we have seen many restaurants close and new ones open.  Apparently there will soon be a new wine shop and a new brewery.  It's sad in a way to see South Haven go more upscale over the years.

I've read two books and am well into two others.  Jim has worked on his index of names for his Jubilees commentary.  My sister Lois and I shopped at the lovely Janny's Beach House.  I purchased a top for me and a birthday gift for her.  We have watched NBA playoffs in the evening. I have had a couple of good bike rides.  Jim has played 45 holes of golf.

 Our new adventure was using the tickets Jim's eye doctor gave him for the Senior PGA tournament at Harbor Shores Golf Course.  We parked in a free public lot, took a free shuttle to the course, and walked nine holes along with golfers Pate, Mize and Kite--three gentleman whose names Jim knew and had won major tournaments in years past.  Jim was in awe of their beautiful drives and fairway shots.  It was a lot of walking on a very sunny day.  We both got sunburned.  The $5 lemonade I bought was worth every penny.

I learned a  new South Haven story when I stopped on a bike ride to rest and asked a gardener about her home.  Yes, it was old--built in 1890--as a hotel on Baseline Road, the border between Van Buren and Allegan Counties.   Van Buren was dry so the hotel but the hotel bar was open for anyone who wanted a drink.  I can add that story to the ones we remember from other years-like the tombstone I found that said someone was "finer than a frog's ear" or the boat fire we saw last fall.

We can't think of any other place we'd rather vacation than this little town on Lake Michigan where walking is easy and convenient and the sunsets are wonderful and different each night.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Festival of St. Matthias

I haven't blogged as much lately because life has been mostly routine and I haven't been sleeping well--which leaves me uninspired to blog.  But last night I slept well enough and today is St. Matthias's Day and that brings back a memory.

Nine years ago I celebrated St. Matthias's Day in an unusual way.  We were staying at Campion House, the home of the Jesuits in Oxford, England.  Jim was giving the Speaker's lectures for two weeks and  I  joined him for the last week.

Mass was celebrated daily so I thought I would start my day by getting up a little earlier and finding the chapel.  To my dismay, I was the only worshiper other than the priest, the reader and the acolyte.  The celebrant told us about St. Matthias and how there really was nothing much to tell.  He was chosen by lot to replace Judas as an apostle (Acts 1: 26) and then not mentioned again.  I think his message was that Matthias was pretty ordinary and yet called to do good things--like all of us!

I was uneasy during the preparation of the elements for Mass.  The celebrant may have known that I was not a Catholic.  So should I participate or not?  When I saw that he cut the wafer into four pieces, I knew I was welcome at the Lord's table.  It was a meaningful  and memorable celebration of the Lord's Supper for me.  But I didn't go again the next day!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Our Church Family

We live so far away from our children and grandchildren.  Many friends who are our age have retired and moved away--often to be nearer to their own children and grandchildren. Our church family has become a place for multi-generational friendships for which we are grateful.

The Baxter-Banga family has included us for Easter dinners.  There are often more than 30 people there with David providing the main course of meat and everyone else bringing side dishes and dessert.  I always hope there will be some little ones to help me make my bunny cake.

Saturday we were invited to a 10 year old's birthday party at The Ice Box where he plays hockey.  There were several families from our church there.  I watched for a while and then decided that with the help of a "walker," I too could skate.  So I did--twice around.

Saturday evening I was asked to join a group of women from church to go out for dinner and then to a movie.  We had a table of 14 at a crowded and noisy Evil Czech Brewery.  I was the only white-haired woman there and at least 25 years older than anyone else and probably 35-40 than most.  I was honored to be included!

Our church is so small that we know everyone there--at  least by name--and probably much more than that.  When someone new comes in, we know to welcome them. When folks are missing, we wonder why--or often, we know why.  We share each other's joys, but also each other's sorrows. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018


Last night I told Jim that I looked forward to our Sunday morning breakfast--a boiled egg, a sweet, maybe some fruit, and of course, strong coffee.  We always say the Lord's Prayer together on Sunday mornings. We like our routines in our retirement.

We have other routines that center around food.  Saturday mornings are pancake mornings and we have recently started enjoying a cooked breakfast on Thursday mornings when I usually have no obligations.  We have a happy hour around 5:15 which lately has been orange juice with a cucumber slice for me--so I can have my one glass of wine with dinner.

Most of my activities are in the morning when Jim is home doing his research on RH Charles or proofreading his Jubilees commentary.  We eat lunch together even if we prepare it separately and then Jim goes into Notre Dame to work at his office.  He is very pleased to learn that he can keep that office next year.  He hopes.  Last year that all fell apart temporarily with a move downstairs and then back upstairs at Malloy Hall.  In the next two weeks he has three mid-course reviews and two dinners so there continue to be obligations.

We have exercise routines. I do back exercises every week day while watching the morning news.  That routine has changed somewhat; I am boycotting WSBT because of its Sinclair ownership and its required reading of their denunciation of "fake news."  I try to walk 30 minutes a day as recorded by my Fitbit.  Jim walks from the Bulla parking lot, a long way from his office.  He faithfully does the exercises prescribed by Kelly Penrose, our physical therapist.

So are we "set in our ways" like the old folks?  Or are routines a good thing?  When I sleep well and feel well, I get restless and want to break up my routines with a trip somewhere.  Maybe this week it will be South Haven for a night.  Maybe it will be a train trip to Chicago soon.  And maybe I'll just be content to stay home.
----------We did spend a night at Old Harbor Inn in South Haven.  Jim golfed at Hawkshead and we had supper with Harvey and Audrey Stob at Black River Grill--because Clementine's--even on a Wednesday in April--had an hour wait.  But we got out of our routines.  We both forgot our phone chargers; we both forgot to take our AM drugs or drops, and Jim actually forgot to bring his 30 minutes of Hebrew reading along.  We were home again by 10:30 am and back on track.