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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Stroo Cousins' Reunion and My Parents' Grave Sites

Yesterday, I woke up and felt energetic so I decided to join my cousins in Hudsonville, Michigan for a potluck lunch.  I put together a corn salad, bought some deli meats and cheese and headed north--a two hour drive to Hager Park.

There were nine cousins there and two spouses.   The cousins from Ontario and Texas were in the area and that gave us a reason to try to get together. Two cousins live in Washington and Florida and that was too far to come!  Two other cousins are caretakers for their spouses and were not there. I don't know about the other four.   It is pretty amazing that all 17 of us are alive and even reasonably healthy.   In some ways it is even more amazing, because the Stroo siblings, our parents,  almost all died at an early age.  My own mother died at age 59. Several spouses have died--two in the last year and a half.

There was lots of talking and laughter and lots of good food.  Leo had a camera, tripod, and timer so he took a few photos.  Jim had a never-used selfie stick in the car, so I encouraged him to get it out so I could give it a try.  It was a pretty funny scene--all of us seniors attempting a selfie!  You can see by the results that I was intensely concentrating on getting us all in and pressing the button and it never occured to me to smile!

There were questions to which there never will be answers.  How did Uncle Dan have a combat medal found in his possession after he died when he said he never was in direct combat?  Was he in the Battle of the Bulge?  Did Aunt Mattie ever harbor refugees in her basement in the Netherlands during WWII as some of us had heard?   So much we could have asked, but didn't.

There were also Dutch expressions I haven't heard for years--and for which we could not give English equivalents.  Can I dare to try to spell these?  Banout, rummel, sanukking, feise.  Maybe they are not even classical Dutch and are just "Yankee Dutch." (correction for two of them--"vies" defined as "dirty" and "Banauwd" defined as "stuffy"--neither definition really gets the full meaning!)

There was no political talk and that was best avoided.   I am quite sure that we have some very real differences of opinion on our present situation.  Sometimes I really want to have forthright discussions but that was not the time or place.

After our hugs and good-byes, I drove to the Georgetown Cemetery about a mile away to pay my respects at my parents' graves.   I could not find them.  My sister said she had been unable to find them earlier. I find the  idea of cremation for myself and for Jim a difficult and uncomfortable idea, but why should the money be spent and the land used for burial when even those closest to you cannot find your grave years later?  And for us, there would be no central place where anyone would come to find such a grave.  We might as well be cremated.  I did say to Jim tonight I hope that our ashes can be combined if we're not buried side by side.  Morbid?  It made me feel better.

Today, however, after some online searching, I think I could find those tombstones for my parents--among the more than 7000 at Georgetown Cemetery.  Next time I'll take a photo and at least preserve their memory in that way.  (242-E 1 and E2)

I am so glad I made the effort to make the trip.  It was good to see everyone at something other than a funeral--and sadly, there have to be more of those in the next several years.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Nothing on the Schedule

Flowers at ND
For the last three days, I have had only one item on my calendar--tutoring M--and that was cancelled.  A friend who recently moved away emailed that she was busy now settling in but was concerned that she would be totally bored  once that was done.

I did wonder when I looked at three blank days what would fill them.  But now we are at the end of those three days and I have not been bored;  they have been three good days.

 I was not confined to home for three days.   There was a 30% discount trip to CVS where I had a good list of items.  I stopped at the library for a requested book that had come in.  I practiced the organ. Jim and I made our usual Martin's Grocery trip this morning. I averaged close to 10,000 steps daily according to my Fitbit in 40-60 minutes of walking.

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I lit a candle at Notre Dame out of thankfulness this time for many things, including Jim's eyesight.  I visited Jim's basement office and then his "new" third floor office.

At home, I did some laundry, clipped ivy and dead-headed flowers, and cleaned the very dirty screens in the three season room.  I played the piano.  I purged old photo albums.  I read lots and let my reading lead me into various Google searches.  Plus I researched potential trips to Arkansas, Nova Scotia and St. Pete Beach.  They may not all take place but it is fun to think about the possibilities.

I experimented with a new recipe for a cauliflower salad and made a chicken risotto dish and a rhubarb crisp.

The only longer conversation I had with anyone besides Jim was a phone chat with my sister.  I did have email, text and Facebook contacts with a few other friends.

I am glad I do have regular obligations at church and with volunteer work at the libraries and with tutoring.   But I am also thankful that empty days fill up with good things including blogging!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Cataract Surgery

Jim's problems with his eyes began six years ago with a retinal detachment.  At first the surgery seemed successful but then it failed.  A second surgery gave him some vision but not a lot.  A cataract surgery in that eye gave him more light at least.

Then there was the herpes virus in the good eye three years later.  That was pretty scary.  But eventually that cleared up too although he continues to medicate with eye drops to prevent that from reoccuring.

And then there is the troublesome pressure in both eyes for which we also do daily drops morning and evening.

Mark Noll referred to our all being on "cataract watch" as we age.   Jim's was getting more and more troublesome.  I was the designated driver for all night driving.  He could not spot the ball after his drives in golf.  He couldn't read the words on the screens in church.  It was scary to think of any surgery on his only good eye but it was time.

So today was the day.  The surgeon, Dr. Davis, met with us earlier and was quite aware of Jim's circumstances including the fact that he couldn't correct to 20-20 or Jim would be very unbalanced in his vision.
Jim is number 5987
The preparation for surgery with many eye drops took about two hours.  The surgery itself took about 30 minutes.  The post-op time was about 15 minutes which included Jim's eating a muffin, drinking Sprite, and getting dressed.  We celebrated with Krispy Creme on the way home!  Jim felt he was seeing better immediately in spite of dilated pupils.

 A funny moment was when the anaesthesiologist, an older man temporarily here from Portland he said, asked me if I was a friend or co-worker and I smiled and said, "Wife" and asked if he had learned to be careful.  He said he had made a big mistake once in referring to someone as a son when I thought he implied it was a significant other.

 A not-so-funny moment was when, after a long 30 minutes and Jim was still posted as being in surgery, I was called from the desk asking if I was in the building.  Well, I was just three feet away from the caller but when she had asked for "Mary" earlier and I had turned to her she said I wasn't the one.  My heart jumped because I thought something had gone wrong.

We've added three new drops to the previous three.
Jim couldn't have a glass of wine tonight and he had to ask me to get out the ice cream from the bottom freezer because he can't bend low.  But he is doing a crossword puzzle and we went for a leisurely walk.  We are very thankful. I do think that without good doctors and modern surgeries, Jim would have very limited vision if any at this point.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Week in South Haven 2017

We arrived at 225 North Shore, Unit 301,  around 3:30 Sunday afternoon.  Jim spent most of the rest of the day watching the US Open and at times I did too.  We ate leftovers at the condo and then enjoyed a spectacular sunset.

Monday--We shopped at Meijers for snacks and desserts mostly.  Around 2:30 we headed to Hawkshead Golf Course where Jim played 18 holes and I accompanied him in the cart with the important job of spotting.  Jim has great difficulty picking up that little white ball on the fairway, let alone if it happens to go off the fairway!   Sometimes play was slow, but the back nine went much faster.  Very dark clouds came up as we neared the 17th hole.  The rain held off until he finished the 18th but at that point it got very windy and much colder.  The course was really lovely especially with the purple wildflowers everywhere.

. We called Clementines and were told there was no wait. We hurried for a rare chance to eat there.   Well, they were wrong.  There was a 40 minute wait which we do not do.  We walked to the Black River Tavern, a place we had never been to in all the years we have come to South Haven.  It was noisy and crowded and we had great burgers and drinks.

Back to the condo for another walk and beautiful sunset.   11,000 plus steps was a good day of exercise.

Tuesday--Jim pumped up the tires on my bike which he reluctantly but graciously had put in the car for me.  I rode down North Shore Drive to the end and then down 74th Street to its end, an annual ride for me.  I could smell the honeysuckle at times and stopped to pick some wildflowers to grace our condo.

It rained much of the afternoon and was extremely windy.  At suppertime, it stopped and we walked to Amicarelli's Vineyard Restaurant to pick up our lasagna order.  They included some focacia bread and it was a great meal with a much nicer view from our condo than in the restaurant.

Wednesday--Jim dropped me off in town on his way to the Young Life Golf Tournament, one of the highlights of his year.  He had put together a great team and the weather looked amazingly dry.  My first stop was the Wednesday Farmer's Market where I bought Michigan strawberries, local cheese and two $5 packages of cards made by the disabled.  One supposedly was made from blueberry dye.

My next stop was Black River Books where I browsed a bit.  I wanted to buy something just to say thank you for the time spent browsing but when the owner looked at the paperback I picked up and then looked at me and decided $4 was the right price, I was offended and said No thank you.  It was in good shape but for a book I didn't really need or want?
After walking back to the condo, I took my bike out to another one of my favorite haunts down Baseline Road to The Preserves.  I was happy to see that there was construction again after years of the development looking pretty forlorn.

I put on my bathing suit for the first time this week and put my toes in Lake Michigan.  There were children playing in the water but I was not as brave as they were.  The warm pool felt wonderful and I enjoyed that more.  Jim got back around 7:30 and we ate leftover lasagna.

Thursday--John and Lois joined us for some of the day with the fellows playing golf at Hawkshead and Lois and I enjoying the area around the condo. We dropped off two bags of donations from John's mother's move at the Lakeshore Rescue Mission shop.  And then we were tempted by shorts for me and a top for Lois.  We told ourselves it was a donation to a good cause!  We didn't have our usual trip to Captain Lou's but did have Mike's Hard Lemonade and chips and salsa in our condo after the game.  Jim and I enjoyed another take-out meal from The Vineyard--this time a sausage pizza.

Friday--I walked in the rain to get some pastries for a breakfast treat.  I had the best morning glory muffin ever and a bonus was being able to buy a NY Times.  We are so glad Bunde's Bakery is back after a few years of an empty storefront and a hotdog cafe.

Jim walked to North Beach and I biked to the Celery Flats site and then the South Haven Cemetery, another one of my favorite destinations for biking.  I am reminded of the long history of South Haven when I see the dates on tombstones including those with GAR markers from the Civil War.  I searched for the tombstone I once saw which said "He was finer than a frog's hair split four ways" but I could not find it again.  What an epitaph!

Later in the afternoon we had a long walk to South Beach and the refurbished lighthouse at the end of the pier.  Leftover pizza was an easy supper.  The sun has set with great shows every night--each one different.

Saturday--We are going home tonight rather than early tomorrow morning.  There has been noise from roadwork from 7 am each morning--enough that at times the building shakes.  I don't always sleep well.  There has been rain but we have enjoyed the dramatic clouds that go with it. Jim struggles with his golf game and I wonder how much of that is due to his eyesight.  We'll see after Tuesday's cataract surgery. Once again it has been a good week in a place we love to visit each year.

Friday, June 23, 2017


I do like to explore cemeteries.  Every year I bicycle from our condo to the South Haven Cemetery, an expansive and historic place east of town.  There is a large and separate Jewish enclave with dates in chronology dating from the creation of the world and little piles of memorial stones placed on the grave sites.  There is another large military section marked with US flags with some graves labeled GAR, the Grand Army of the Republic, and a statue commemorating the Civil War dead.

A very large oak tree that has probably been there since graves were first dug stands next to a tree stump tombstone symbolizing a life cut short.  The wife of Uzziah Conger, a name of an early South Haven settler, was buried at age 20 in the mid 1800s and next to her is buried a woman from the same family who lived from 1852 to 1953.

I looked and looked for a marker I know I saw once that said "He was finer than a frog's hair split four ways."  I cannot find it again.  But I could not have made up a phrase like that! Apparently it is an old Southern saying.   I've written to the South Haven Historical Association and maybe someone can satisfy my curiousity on that one!  (update--Section 7 on the hill--Tom Tinsley, 1940-1969)

 When we visit with groups of friends our age as we have done a couple of times in the last weeks, I wonder who will leave each circle first.  What will the next ten years bring in our lives?  That may be morbid but it is realistic.

 But it is not because I am morbid that I enjoy walking through cemeteries.  I think it is the lovely peacefulness of the grounds and the sense of local history memorialized there.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A New Role--Church Librarian

Paula Triezenberg asked for volunteers to take over the church library because she was moving away.  I volunteered along with David Lincicum, a New Testament professor at Notre Dame.  David Eisen, a retired librarian who headed the Mishawaka Public Libraries, is assisting us.

First, I needed to learn to use the Delicious Library system which I did not find intuitive.  I can check out books  and am learnng how to check books in.  There is more to learn.

Because I read Ann Berends' lovely book, a spiritual memoir written with Maureen Hallinan, I was inspired to create a bookshelf dedicated to our own church authors--present members and former members of our congregation.   We have 20 books ready to go and more donations are coming in.   The books range from poetry, philosophy, self-help, Biblical studies, biography, one novel and quite a bit of church history thanks to former members, Mark Noll and George Marsden, prolific writers.

There is plenty of work to do in the library.  We need to purge books and CDs and even video-tapes that no one is using.  I think we could break down the large section on Christian Living into categories of Parenting, Prayer, etc.  Maybe we should have a section for Women's Spirituality because there are several such books.  I just hesitate to do so without a special section for Men's Spirituality.  Maybe I could label it Feminisim for Men and Women!

I have a new summer project and I am happy about this adventure.  I love books and a church library can fill a role that a public library or academic library does not necessarily have.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day Weekend

It has been a busy weekend.  Friday was a day for a visit from Maggie while Mark had meetings at Notre Dame.  It was wonderful to see her remarkable progress in recovery from her stroke on March 20.  After dinner with six of us at the home of David and Judy Hatch, we left on a rainy ride to Kokomo, Indiana where we spent the night en route to Indiana Academy in Muncie where Laura was giving a commencement speech--20 years after her own graduation.

We were able to spend some time with Laura before the speech and had a Subway lunch with her afterwards.  It was a long ride but it was so good to hear our daughter in action.  Speaking for civic groups, corporate groups, and women's groups has become one of her major sources of income lately and she does well at it.

Her speech, even though she graduated before the seniors were born, was full of references to Indiana Academy life.  The students laughed hard at her mentioning the practice rooms at Burris Hall--where plenty of romancing went on 20 years ago--and must still do so today.  She called out a couple of her teachers saying they were 15 year old professors at the time.  She sympathized with the teacher who took a group tent camping 20 years ago--now that she is a Cub Scout mom.

Her advice for the graduates--Do one memorable thing each day.  Learn something new every day.  Make one human contact each day.  And pay attention to what you really enjoy doing and follow that. She felt that her work involved many areas that she liked--research, writing, entertaining, and even math with her time studies.  She avoided  the "n" word and the "p" word--network and passion.

I have thought about my life.  Do I follow my daughter's advice?  Yes, I do look for "adventures" or memorable things although they may not happen daily.  I probably learn something every day--even if it is a new word like "portmanteau" from our crossword puzzle yesterday.  I may not make a new human contact daily, but I try to be aware of someone I can encourage via an email or text.  What do I really enjoy doing?  Hmm.  I'm not looking for a career any more but I follow lots of interests online.

Sunday was my day to play the organ at church.  I was too tired to practice again Saturday night  but was blessed with a great night of sleep, after a few off nights.  I  practiced Sunday morning and did the service with joy--even if there were a few power-point glitches.  (Always a bit disconcerting to wonder why no one is singing a stanza!)

Sunday afternoon I went to an American Guild of Organist meeting where Hillary Doerries encouraged us as church musicians to promote good mental health in our churches.  It was good for my mental health to be there and to sing many hymns, new and old, that recognized depression and anxiety and the need for faith.

Today is Memorial Day--a day to prune bushes, do laundry, run errands, go for a walk, and not much else.  We were ready for a quiet day.   We have tried to be aware of the sacrifice others have made for our country and to lament the tragedies of war.