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Saturday, December 31, 2016

The End of 2016

2016 has been a dramatic year in our lives.   I have looked over my posts for the last year in preparation for making another Blog2Print book and am glad for having recorded the events, good and bad.

A hospitalization for me in February and the idea that several hours of my life were gone with "transient global amnesia" is not something I want to think about very often.   Nor does Jim when he wondered if this was going to be the beginnning of his being a care-giver!  I have hesitated to go off on my own as a result, but have begun to do so again.  Jim has a "find my friends" app if he remembers to use it!   I have not taken care of my grandchildren alone but may feel confident again to do that too.

Jim's official retirement on July 1 has affected our lives in many ways.  Decisions had to be made about health insurance and finances and we made them with help from advisors.  So far, we have been happy with our medical costs and we should know what our regular income will be soon.  It will be enough and more than enough.  Jim continues to go into his Notre Dame office for at least a few hours each day. 

Another milestone was having our oldest grandchild begin college at Duke.  We would have loved to have had her at Notre Dame, but this was probably a better decision for her.

I am very pleaed with several home improvements made in 2016-installing kitchen cabinet doors, bedroom closet doors, and countertops in both the bathroom and kitchen.  Due to the "1000 year rain," we have had to spend plenty on extraction of water and carpet cleaning and are now in the middle of major landscaping improvements to draw water away from the basement.  All of these expenditures are based on our staying in South Bend for at least a few more years.  

I have a recurring nightmare about packing suitcases and missing flights.  When I looked back at 2016, I realized I did pack suitcases for seven flights, three train trips, and five car trips.  I did a lot of travelling this year--on my own and with Jim.  I'm glad that we are no longer limited by the academic schedule--although we may be again when Jim teaches his Wednesday seminar in the spring.  If I can't be Grandma-in-residence on the East coast, I will at least make frequent trips there.  

We are limited somewhat by our night driving.  I am the designated night driver now, but I try to avoid it too.  When Jim has cataract surgery on his good eye, he may be able to take over that duty again but for now we are postponing that inevitability.  The risk is low, but so was the risk on his failed retinal surgery.  

What will 2017 bring?  For us personally, we don't know, of course.  For our country and our world, we are very concerned with the election of Donald Trump.  We have not been reassured since November 8 with his continual impulsive and vindictive tweets and his radical appointments of advisors and cabinet officers.  In some ways, I hope he fails miserably and has to leave office early.  And yet I know we need for him to succeed for the sake of all of us and our children and grandchildren. I struggle a lot with knowing that he was elected with the help of many "evangelical Christians."

Today's lectionary reading is from John 1:

  In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God. 
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."  My prayer is to go into 2017 with a sense of God's presence among us--with Jim and me, our family, our church, and our world.  

Thursday, December 29, 2016

I Needed an Adventure!

  Today there was absolutely nothing that had to be done at any particular time.  I spent the morning getting a few groceries, vacuuming the basement, doing a load of wash, transporting some leaves to the back yard, and sending a few emails.  Jim went to his office after lunch.  I needed an adventure and I found one!

The "Through the Looking Glass--Daguerreotype Masterworks form the Dawn of Photography" exhibit at the South Bend Museum of Art was closing December 31.  I like looking at old photographs so I headed downtown to see it.  I had not been to the museum since I resigned from being a docent last spring.  To my surprise and pleasure, the collection was all changed around.  There were still familiar items but displayed in different locations.  Harold Zisla was honored by an entire alcove of his work which was quite appropriate for the year of his death and his importance for South Bend art.

The daguerreotypes were amazing.  Some were the usual family portraits from the 1840s; others were more unusual like the "Decrepit Woman Knitting" or "Man with Facial Tumor."  There were erotic photos of nudes for "private" enjoyment.

  Because of daguerreotypes, portraiture was no longer only the province of painters;  it was a big change in the timeline of art.

The museum is set at the rapids in the St. Joseph River and is one of the most scenic locations in South Bend.  I walked outside and watched and listened to the noise of the water.

Now the snow is falling again and I am contented to be home to finish the laundry and cook supper.  My adventurous spirit is satisfied once again!

Monday, December 19, 2016

Trips to the East Coast, Chapter IV

We woke up to plenty of slushy snow on the ground and decided a trip with Dan to the Farmer's Market was not a good idea.   We left the Even Hotel around 11, took one last subway ride to Penn Station, and then had to wait almost an hour for our crowded NJ Transit train to Princeton Junction.  Jeff picked us up and brought us back to Homewood Suites where we booked #320 again.

While we were traveling, Susan was picking up K from Newark Airport.  Her flight from Raleigh-Durham was postponed a few times but she made it home--many other flights were cancelled.  With Jeff and M, we went to the Holiday Concert at Princeton's Richardson Auditorium where we heard J sing with the Princeton High School Chorus and the Princeton Symphony Orchestra.  It was a very festive concert and we got to sing along with the orchestra as well.

Supper was at Jeff and Susan's and then J went back for concert number two.  We headed back to the hotel around 9:30 and treated ourselves once again to wine and shrimp fondue at Ruby Tuesdays.

We actually set an alarm for Sunday morning and headed to Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church where we worshipped with Laura and her children.  Dan had hitched a ride with Michael and the kids from NYC where the whole family  had partied Saturday night.

 The Princeton VKs joined us for a great ham lunch and gifts for all.  Jeff was kind enough later to email that now that their home was a place for coming home for Christmas, it was so good that we could make the trip their way.

Jeff and his engineering daughter
put together A,'s present
I said I would wake up early with A today but he was so good as to sleep until 6:30 when Jim and I both got up with him.  My morning was an exercise in frustration as R and I drove around to find some dress shoes.  We came home and ordered sparkly shoes from Amazon Prime--far easier!

Jim and I walked to town to get a package of split peas at Acme and I made pea soup in the crock pot using yesterday's ham bone.  We  observed J's swim practice for a while and were impressed with his strength.  Michael made his favorite fajitas for supper and now we are all settling down for the night.

Tomorrow there is nothing on the schedule but a long trip home.
And it was a long trip home!  We left Gladwyne at 1:15, returned the rental car in Princeton, took Uber to Princeton Junction, NJ Transit to the airport station, the Air Train to Terminal A and United Express to South Bend.  We arrived on time at 11:10 and then spent the next 30 minutes waiting for crew to open the gate and then get the gate-checked baggage to the ramp.  We were home after 12:15 and in bed by 1:15.   It was worth all the effort--a great trip!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Trips to the East Coast, Chapter III

Statue of Liberty from hotel
Yesterday was a NYC day in all its confusion, crowds, and fun.  It began with a trip on the A train from Hoyt-Schermerhorn station to Chambers station with an 11:00 reservation at the 9-11 Museum.  Somehow we missed our stop.  Maybe the express train never stopped at Chambers.  We got off at W4 (West 4th) and back--tracked on the E train which was labelled World Trade Center.  As that was the end of the line, we couldn't go wrong!

We were late and the security lines were long but the line moved quickly.  Jim had to remove his belt; everything had to be screened.   It was sobering considering what we were visiting.  The whole museum was sobering.  It reminded me of the visit we made to Dachau many years ago.  So many people and yet so quiet.  Seeing bent beams and melted fire trucks; hearing voices from last phone calls from WTC Building 2, watching the "breaking news stories" with a younger Matt Lauer and Katie Couric, walking next to the Vesey staircase which many took to survive--it was an amazing experience.  We didn't spend much time in the grounds.  The trees were bare, the ivy covered with tarp, and the fountains were off.

We had a more successful subway ride to the Franklin Street exit in Brooklyn and a pleasant walk past the Medgar Evers campus of CUNY to the site of Ebbet's Field--a request on Jim's list.  We walked past a huge housing project first and then had to double back to pay homage to "yesteryear" at the site of the project.  We shared a Subway sandwich and then another subway ride back to the hotel for some down time.

After several communications by text with Dan, we settled on meeting at Otto Enoteca Pizzeria (which I found through Open Table) and then an improvisational comedy performance at 8 pm in Greenwich Village.  We took yet another subway ride to W4 (Washington Square) where we had been in error earlier in the day--and a cold walk to the busy restaurant.  My glass of wine cost $1 less than my $16 pasta but both were great.   So was a taste of the olive gelato that Dan ordered.

We met Dan's friend John who does improvisation and had assured him that this performance would be PG13--suitable for Dan's mother who is not crazy about scatalogical humor.  We walked up two flights of old stairs into a very small and dark performance space and laughed for the next hour and a half.  The first group was essentially a class performance and they were great.  The second group was the pros and they were even crazier.   Dan is thinking of taking a class there.  For me, it would be a nightmare but John told us that you learn a skill like you do in a sport.  Again, Dan went on another engagement--drinks with the performers; we headed back to the hotel.

Over 16,000 steps--many of them on subway or museum stairs--and my leg ached all night.  But what a day for New York memories!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Trips to the East Coast, Chapter II

Our trip started with a very short planned rendezvous with a friend from Harvard student housing days in the terminal at the South Bend airport.  His plane arrived at 4:35; ours boarded at 5:00.   But we had time to hug and chat quickly--with the hope of a visit again later.

The non-stop flight to Newark is a joy with no need to connect in Detroit.  The hotel shuttle came quickly this time and we checked into the Newark Airport Hilton, a familiar place for us.  We shared a pizza and veggies and settled in the for the night.

It was not a good night for me.  There were pulsating noises in the hotel machinery and I felt much empathy for our friend's wife who we learned had been quite ill over the years.  I lay awake too long.

It was another shuttle ride to the airport in the morning and then NJ Transit to Princeton Junction where Jeff picked us up and brought us to the Hyatt Regency where we rented a Hertz Nissan Sentra.  We were able to check in early at the Princeton Homewood Suites.  We shared a half-pound burger at Ruby Tuesdays but each got our own sangria, a nice treat.  A nap helped my insomniac self and then off to the Dance Factory's demonstration in which Michael danced twice.

It was Chinese take-out for dinner and then on to the Princeton Middle School Choir concert.  It was fun to see the progression in skill and maturity from 6th to 7th to 8th graders.  Their conductor must be doing something right when there were 114 7th graders in their choir alone with probably equal numbers of "men " and "ladies" as she called them. She even had the 7th grade "men" singing lyrics from the Song of Solomon.  After the concert we headed down those dark roads by Carnegie Lake to the hotel and another Ruby Tuesday trip for our favorite shimp fondue appetizer and a glass of wine.

 We chatted with our waitress who had a great Notre Dame story for us. She was dating a fellow and asked him to go to a wedding with her.  He gave up tickets for the Shamrock Series game to do so and that really warmed her heart towards him.  She decided to surprise him with tickets later to a game in South Bend and they had a wonderful time together.  A romance sealed by a ND game!  She said it made her heart go pitter-patter just to hear we were from South Bend!
High Line, World Trade
Center, Statue of Liberty
and Jim
10 Hudson Yards
Day Two--Uber to Princeton Junction, NJ Transit to Penn Station, and a cold walk to 10 Hudson Yards where we made our way through security to Sidewalk Labs on the 27th floor.  Dan was there to greet us, show us around, introduce us to folks, including another South Bend native Steven Smyth, and get us some coffee and snacks from the drawers full of choices.

We walked back to Penn Station and made our way through the cavernous and crowded passageways to the Number 2 line to Brooklyn and the Nevins stop.  Another cold walk, but mercifully short, brought us to the Even Hotel, a pretty trendy and very new hotel.  It's all set up for exercise and good health, complete with eucalyptus scented sheets and an exercise ball in the room.  The place is full of puns that make me smile like "Oddly our hotel has just Even numbered rooms" or "Please push our buttons" in the elevator and "Well-come" on a whiteboard in our room.

Using the Even  trainer
One little vignette.  We looked lost at Penn Station trying to find the 8th Avenue exit.  A woman was eager to help us and insisted that she guide us the whole way--as it was to the 7th Avenue exit.  Then she insisted on $20 for feeding her hungry children.  Jim did give her a $5 and the whole incident made me feel like we were suckers.  We resisted the next beggar in line at the MTA ticket lines but did give a buck to the pretty good musicians in the subway.
Dan had an office holiday party after work so we met at 8:15 for dinner at the Bacchus Bistro and Wine Bar on Atlantic Avenue--another short, but cold and windy walk from our hotel.  The lights were so dim that Jim and I had to get out our cell phone flashlights to read the menu.  We ordered successfully and enjoyed our hanger steak (me) and branzino (Jim).  Dan took a look at our nifty hotel and then went on to his third engagement of the evening, a birthday party for a friend.  Jim and I are happily in our little room watching Thursday night football.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Advent Devotions with the Grandkids

The last several times I have been with the grandchildren we have all climbed into the big bed in the guest room and had a Bible story and prayer time at bedtime. A few times we each held a little lamp while we prayed--one of my Dollar Tree purchases.  It worked amazingly well but at this point it had burned out.

R asked if we could have prayers again when I was there last weekend.  Of course, I said yes--even if I was very ready for bedtime for all!  She improvised by substituting her magic wand for the light we had used before-a substitution that strikes me pretty funny even if theologically unsound!

Both boys were eager to read aloud the little Advent devotion booklet I brought from church.  Even for a good reader, words like Joseph and Zechariah were difficult and "Savior" became "survivor."  S has always been reluctant to pray aloud so we always say he is praying silently when he holds the light.  This time he suddenly realized that it was a prayer at the end of the devotion as it started, "Dear Lord..."   It gave him words to  say and then he wanted to read it again--and again  with his eyes shut!  R wants to pray the Lord's Prayer but only remembers the first line and then a few lovely words like "trespasses" and "glory."  I am getting her a child's book of the Lord's Prayer so that will help her learn a few more words.

It may not be the most serene and spiritual time especially when there seems to be some intrusion into personal space and discussions about who goes first, but I am glad R considers it a tradition we should continue each time Grandma comes.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

One Month after the Election

"Empathy is the quality of understanding and sharing the feelings of another person. Sympathy, by contrast, is understanding another’s situation, and feeling pity for them—it imposes a distance. Peace in relationships is built on empathy—on solidarity and sharing common understanding about the basics of human experience. This kind of dialogue and connection is just what our nation needs right now."

This is a statement from today's Notre Dame Alumni devotion site for Advent with its emphasis on 28 days of peace making.  I have been sitting on this blog post for two weeks.  I posted it once and then deleted it.  I do not want to offend anyone.  I however do want to record my reflections because thoughts and conversations about this election have been a dominant factor in our lives--in my life--in the last month.  

Jim watched the election returns until about 1 am.  I  adopted his attitude towards the Cubs and Notre Dame games.  I could not watch it and went into the bedroom. I could not read and I could not sleep.  I prayed as it became clear that it was not going to be the Clinton victory that was predicted--84% chance of her winning according to the NYT!  Where did they go wrong?

Eventually we fell asleep dreading the news of the morning.  It was a Trump victory of 290 electoral college votes.  We were stunned.  I was devastated and angry.  I cried. How could half the country vote for a person who had mocked someone with cerebral palsy, laughed at women whom he considered less than beautiful or thin,  made comments that bragged of sexual assualt, was married three times, made his money from casinos and other questionable practices, made racist comments about Mexicans and Muslims and more?  I know, the Republican platform was anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage.  That got 80% of the evangelical Christian vote and all else could be overlooked.  Plus there was all the hatred of Hillary Clinton and what many considered her corruption and lies.

For a few days, I was affirmed and comforted by the  Facebook postings of my "friends" who were also appalled.  It was good to know there were others out there who felt as I did.  Then I began to want to avoid the whole topic.  I could no longer watch the news while I exercised in the morning  or ate dessert at night. The NYT went mostly unread.  Maybe it was the denial phase!

I decided to delete Facebook from my phone so that I would not be exposed to as much chatter about the future.  I did not respond (although Jim did) to the postings of two relatives who shared Franklin Graham's thinking that God showed up in this election to put down "godless atheism"  although it made me quite angry.  I  don't see how anyone can question the faith of  the Obamas, the Bidens, or Hillary Clinton and I don't like the implication that those of us who voted for the Democratic candidates are "godless atheists."  In fact, President-elect Trump has said that he never asks for forgivenss and Marble Collegiate Church which he has attended put out a statement that he is not a member.

I shared three The Twelve blog postings in the last two weeks.  Each one expressed my own despair but also the need for action by those who feel as I do.  A friend from many years ago shared those postings with her set of friends with the words that this was a blog by "thoughtful Christians."  I felt pleased that those who may live in a more secular world could know that there were other Christians than the 80% who voted for Trump.

Our church--a place to pray
One month later, Trump is still sending out defensive tweets but he has backtracked on several campaign statements and that is reassuring.  Now that he is elected, he may alienate those who wanted him to "Lock 'er Up" when it comes to Clinton.  He is not so sure as he was about using torture for our prisoners and the wall he wanted to build may become a fence in places.  He called President Obama a "great guy." not the traitor he had said before.  He may keep aspects of Obamacare.  He will be open to talk about climate change. He has appointed three capable women to important posts--and Betsy DeVos is a Calvin College alumna (as we are) although I hope her ideas do not hurt public education. He has disavowed those who celebrated his victory with "Heil, Trump" slogans.   He has appointed several military men even though he said he knew far more than the generals.  Maybe there will be more changes as  he grows into the office. However he has also appointed an climate change denier to head the EPA and a "alt-right" (white supremicist) as his chief strategist and we still await his secretary of state appointment with concern. 

What am I personally going to do to "make America great?"  How am I going to improve the situation of others in this country who feel left out?  I will continue to give money to causes I have supported--gun control, care for parents who choose not to abort children, and other pro-life organizations.   I will  support our news organizations with my subscriptions because we need to be informed locally and nationally.  I will pray for our leaders more faithfully than I have done in the past.

However, at this time I am finding it difficult to think positively.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Solo Trip to the East Coast

 I am sitting in a very quiet house with Jeff in Princeton after a very busy three days and unfortunately, very busy three nights!

My primary motivation for this trip was to see J in his role as Prince Phillip in Sleeping Beauty at a community theater in Bryn Mawr.  That was worth the trip.  He did very well and avoided having to kiss the princess when a big screen was placed in front of the two of them which said "true love's kiss."

Very early morning art time
A bonus of the timing of this trip was being able to celebrate Laura's 38th birthday.  Laura and Michael went out for a birthday dinner on Saturday night; I had the kids make cards for her on Sunday; and on Sunday night we had ice cream cake.  My "gift" to Laura was three nights of getting up with A during the night and in the early morning.  She blogged that it was a wonderful gift.  I am glad it was three nights and no more!  Night two was not a problem--just a quick wake up at 2 am and a final getting up at 6 am.  Night three was disastrous.  He was wakeful from 12:30 to 1:30 and would not take his pacifier even though I had to crawl under his crib to find it.   He fell asleep in front of the door but I couldn't get out without moving him.  At 5 am he was awake for good and soaking wet because he had undone his diaper.   But I survived and three short naps during the day yesterday helped!
Thumbs down for bedtime 

There were lots of good times and there will be good memories.  J loved the regift of the Timetables of History we gave him--Jim's suggestion.  He poured over the historical events and quizzed us on them.  R picked up on any vocabulary word she didn't know.  What does "strategy" mean?  or "overcast?" or "shoulder?"  (when referring to the side of the road.)  S was eager to show me Minecraft on his Kindle and when he realized he had read a prayer at the end of the little Advent devotion guide I used with them, he wanted to read it three times.  Someone else gave the reluctant  "Pray-er" words!   And A is so cute as he is learning language.  "Sit, Grandma" he orders.  "No. thank you" he says when he realizes that a bottle means bedtime.

The kids had lots of fun on a great playground in Bryn Mawr.  They participated eagerly in the Advent Workshop at church after the service.  I did chuckle at S's writing on the offering envelope:  "Blah, blah, blah."

Transportation on my solo trips can be a bit stressful.  I took Uber from the airport to Laura's home and that took a bit of communication about where to meet the driver.  But he was very kind and helpful and it worked well.  Then taking trains from Philly to Princeton with a transfer in Trenton was also an adventure with a hostile conductor yelling, "Get on!" and then almost missing my stop when I was busy texting Susan about how to meet.

Last night was very pleasant here at Jeff's.  We had a great dinner followed by a good walk with Jeff and then apple pie.  Susan was busy updating the Ancestry.Com website and we made some corrections.  She has taken even our Dutch families back several generations.  We were checking out church rolls and cemetery lists for data.  And I slept so well--looked at the clock a few times but never even left the room.

I hope for no more adventures today and just an uneventful trip home and supper with Jim.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Adventures in San Antonio

This Society of Biblical Literature convention is the 43rd one for Jim.  I have accompanied him for the last several years.  It is always fun to stay in a nice hotel and explore a new city.  It is possibly our last SBL convention.  Jim had some facial pain (possible RA flare-up?) and we almost cancelled.  He no longer has to sit through hours of possible Notre Dame appointment interviews; he rarely presents; and he is trying to resign from some of the boards he is on.  Can he give up a 43 year habit?  We shall see!

We are in the Hilton Palacio del Rio.  It was constructed in 1968 in a record 202 days in a modular fashion.  It looks like it from the outside--a big, boxy hotel.  However, it has the trendiest, most efficient elevators we have ever encountered.  You program it outside the elevator bank and are told which one to access.   There is virtually no wait but you do have to resist the impulse to push some button when you get in.

Saturday morning Google Map led me on a very lonely walk through an industrial part of town to the San Antonio Museum of Art.  I very much enjoyed the Latin American emphasis and then chose a more picturesque walk back along the Riverwalk.

We spent Saturday afternoon watching Notre Dame's football team lose a 17 point lead to Virginia Tech.

Sunday morning I heard Justin Strong, a graduate student in our church group,  give his paper on Lazarus and the Dogs.  I was the woman in the back row grinning with pride.  On the way back, I stopped in at mass in St. Joseph's Church, built in the mid-19th century by German-American settlers.

In the afternoon, Jim and I enjoyed a stroll through Hemisfair Park following a branch of the Riverwalk.  The Notre Dame reception in the evening is always a good chance to meet former students but the crowded, hot and noisy conditions are exhausting.

We have eaten well here!  Schilo's Deli with its ample pours of wine and great bread pudding, Guadalajara Grill with a beauitful margarita, and Rosario's with pollo con mole--plus the bountiful free breakfast buffets because we are loyal to the Hilton brand--we need to get those 10,000 steps a day and we have done that plus more.

The weather has been beautiful--sunny and warm enough during the day with cooler nights.  We've had meals with the Reas, the Schreibers, Kindy DeLong and Dan Machiela.

Later this afternoon, Jim will attend a memorial service for Peter Flint, a former student, who passed away this month at age 65.

And then, tomorrow it's a long trip home.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Thoughts While Raking Leaves on Election Day

The trees are almost bare.  Every day I try to rake and fill five wheelbarrows to take to the curb for pickup.  Today I did 9 or 10.  I lost track while thinking about the election and memories of other elections.

My first memory is of driving to school with my childhood friend and learning that her parents were Democrats!  They were voting for Adlai Stevenson and not Dwight Eisenhower.  As everyone else I knew including my parents said "I Like Ike," I was quite horrified.

Then it was John Kennedy and Richard Nixon.  Some in our community were worried that Kennedy would do whatever the Pope said.  We suspected my dad, in his secret ballot, may have voted for Kennedy because he said he was a very smart man.

In 1968 I walked to our voting place in Grand Rapids with a good friend, also a spouse of a seminarian.  She voted for Humphrey; I voted for Nixon.  We left feeling amused that we had cancelled each other out.

My next vote was in Massachusetts when I voted for McGovern and we were the only state to do so.  Not so long after that Nixon had to resign.

A few years later it was North Carolina where I campaigned with baby Dan on my back for James Hunt in his race against "Senator No," Jesse Helms. It was a cold and wet day.   Hunt lost and Dan got sick.  I also campaigned for the Equal Rights Amendment and had a great t-shirt that said "Men of quality are for women of equality."  I stopped wearing it when the men at our local ABC store (liquor) were too eager to read the words on my bosom.

I have split my ticket on occasion but have voted for a Democrat at the head of the ticket ever since that first election.  I don't remember being as concerned about winning or losing before--with the exception of my fear of Sarah Palin being a heartbeat away from the Presidency--as I am this year. I cannot imagine Donald Trump with his vindictiveness, mockery of others, and foul mouth being President.  He has preyed on the misogyny and racism of far too many in our country.

  I have been angry at relatives who have posted untruths on Facebook, sometimes from fake news sites that have not been checked.  I have been saddened about those who vote one issue--abortion--and those who use the phrase "pro-abortion" instead of "pro-choice."   I  told a phone interviewer that I was "pro-life" and voting for Clinton.  She ended the call politely but abruptly.   I fight the urge to argue on Facebook and have sent a couple private messages asking relatives to check their sources.  I got no responses to those requests.

Yesterday, the young lady I am tutoring was wondering if she could read well enough to read a ballot.  We talked about voting and she asked for reassurance, "Now, the Repulicans, they are the Christians, right?"  She said that was what she had always been taught and was eager for me to tell her why I thought Democrats could be Christians too.  We had a good chat. I don't know if she voted or if she did, who she voted for.  Her perspective made me despair. I was in tears driving home.

In several hours, we may know who will be our next President.  I hope it will be a clear decision. I am hoping and praying it will be Hillary Clinton.  I am also hoping and praying that if it is Clinton, Donald Trump's supporters will not object with violence as some have threatened.

God help us.  Christ have mercy on us.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Advantages of Aging

It is too easy to think about the things we are giving up as we age--and there are a few.  Last week on our road trip Jim and I decided to list some of the positive aspects of aging.

1.  Vacationing in mid-October and having lovely trails and inns almost to yourself.

2.  Getting the senior discount for coffee at McDonalds without  requesting  it.

3.  Your host offers to help with luggage when you are at the bottom of a steep staircase (an upstairs room in Pepin Mansion, New Albany.)

4.  Passers-by offer to help when you look a bit bewildered (French Lick Resort with its 430 rooms and three wings.)

5.  Being able to sing along with the Madison, Indiana church chimes on "The Little Brown Church in the Wildwood" even if you can't remember the names of the new people sitting in the pew in front of you in your own church.

6.  Breaking up longer days of travel with more stops--even over-night stops.

And then a few not related to last week's trip:

7.  Happily and confidently, letting the young folks at church be the "elders" this time around.

8.  Golfing with friends who don't mind spotting the ball for you and sometimes, not always, using the senior tees.  (Jim!)

9.  Having your daughter plan and book a family vacation for next summer.

10.  Hiring outside help for cleaning and home maintenance without guilt.

11.  Defying convention and buying the skinny jeans Stitch-Fix sent in their personal styling package.  It does help that they also sent a long cardigan to go over them.  (Mary!)

12.  Having the luxury of leisure time and being able to make choices of how to use it--including more visits to see family 700 miles away.

Over the years when I looked at my hands on the table and compared them with the younger hands of the student I was helping, I was very aware of aging even then.   My skin is wrinkled, the veins stand out, and the fingers are bent. But these hands can still type a blog, play the organ, cook a meal, and send an email, and for that I am very grateful.

I just used the word "still."  We are quite aware of its use in our aging lives when folks ask, "Are you still working?"  At least they are not yet asking, "Are you still in your own home?  or Are you still driving?"  Those days may come and I may have to blog about that too!

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Third Annual River Road Trip

Two years ago we enjoyed a lower Mississippi River road trip and last year it was the middle Mississippi River.  The Ohio River Scenic Byway in southern Indiana was our choice for this year.  I am blogging as a way of keeping our memories fresh.

Our first stop was Clifty Falls State Park where we stayed at the inn overlooking the river--and a coal-powered electric plant.  We drove to the nearby town of Madison and walked down several historic streets and then ate at the only place open on a Monday night--the 1834 Broadway Tavern.  I had a true Southern meal of chicken and dumplings.

Tuesday was my day for 21,000 steps and 180 exercise minutes as recorded on my Fitbit.  We walked to each of the four falls at the park.  One had to look long and hard to see any water dribbling down the rocky ledges.  The dry weather apparently also affected the colors because the trees were either still green or bare.  But the walks were wonderful anyway.

We left the inn around 11:30 and drove to Charlestown State Park where we had another view of the Ohio River at the boat landing.  We walked a bit there too and then on to New Albany where we had reserved a room at the Pepin Mansion, a home dating from 1850 and located on Mansion Row.  We walked again along the top of a levee with a great view of the river, went back to the room for a glass of wine, and then walked again ten blocks to town for supper at the Exchange, a newish restaurant featuring local foods.  Back at the room, I watched the Cubs on a TV in the parlor while Jim read in the room.  At 10 pm, I gave up on them and joined him.

The next morning Mimi served us a fabulous two-course breakfast of fruit and yogurt and then eggs, sausages, tomatoes and an apple-French toast combination.  Ron, the owner, sat with us and talked about restoring an old mansion and about New Albany's history.

We left again around 10:30 and had one last glimpse an hour later of the Ohio River at Leavenworth.  A coal barge was in sight so we waited and watched it make its slow progress around the bend.

The scenic road to St. Meinrad was lovely and our timing was perfect as we eased into Central Time Zone and were able to join the monks for noon prayers.  We walked around the campus for a while and then headed to the French Lick Resort.

We got a bit lost more than once in the 400 plus room hotel before walking a mile to the even more historic West Baden hotel. We sat in the great atrium for a while before taking the shuttle back.  We enjoyed drinks on the veranda and then supper at the Power Plant Pub.  I watched the Cubs take an early lead while Jim sat in the hall with his book and puzzle.  I turned the TV off at 9:15 but we did keep checking the score and were very happy with a win!

It was about a five hour ride home, some of it spent listening to David McCollough read his book The Wright Brothers.

It was a great trip with interesting places to stay and walk.  Our fourth annual river road trip?  We will have to think about that for a while.

Friday, October 21, 2016

A Clean House

Yesterday, for the first time in years, I came home to a clean-smelling house.  Not that our house usually smells bad or that it is filthy, but it was beautifully clean and I did not do the work.  I paid a professional to do it well.

My cleaning is usually in bits and pieces.  Something looks dusty; I take a cloth to it.  The floor has spots on it; I mop it (and now swiffer it!)   But it is never all clean at once and I always feel like I don't do it well.

So even though I am retired and not working for money, I decided to hire a cleaning person.  My neighbor recommended hers and knew that she was willing to have more clients.  So I am helping her out and helping the economy, right?

There is a bit of guilt in all of this.  I made sure that I was not going to be home while she was working so hard in our house.  And I do still have to clean the less used upstairs and basement.

And there was some stress in that I was determined to pick up all the piles of stuff on the floor and to hide any personal items in closets.  And I had to get going earlier than usual in order to eat, be dressed, and empty the dishwasher before she arrived.  Jim referred to this as the "tyranny" of the house-cleaner!

But there is also joy--the joy of coming home, opening the door, and smelling that lovely, fresh aroma of a clean house.

A Visitation and a Vigil

I have written before about T, a former GED student, in a blog last February about "Courage."  She was my inspiration when I needed courage.  We have continued to have contact via Facebook.

Two weeks ago I saw a Facebook posting from someone else directed to her that made me aware of a death in her family.   I went to her postings and saw that she lost her father.   A few days later the obituary appeared in the South Bend Tribune with a notice about the visitation.

I went to the church and waited a bit for the family to arrive.  I was able to speak briefly with T and give her a hug.  She seemed stunned but thanked me for coming by name so I knew she was aware of my being there.  I messaged her later via FB and she thanked me for my encouragement and said her father was the only one who really cared for her.

A few days later, I was shocked to get an email forwarded through our church from the larger religious community here in South Bend inviting us to a prayer vigil for JG, a homicide victim.  This was T's father.  I had no idea his death was a violent one.  I did not ask T how he died.  It wasn't the time or place to do so.  I grieved for her even more.  This was not the first violent death in her life.

Last evening Jim and I stood with our umbrellas in hand and prayed along with about ten others in front of the house were JG was stabbed.   There were pictures of him on the tree along with some artificial flowers below.  We followed a liturgy with prayers and Psalm 23 and there was time for spontaneous prayers.  I prayed for T and her sons in their "overwhelming loss" as the liturgy had previously stated.  Others prayed for peace in our city.   There will be two more such vigils in the next two weeks because since JG was murdered, there have been more violent deaths.

I will send T copies of the liturgy.  I hope they will give her some strength and comfort--and the courage that she will continue to need.  I am thankful for the small group of people who pray regularly at these vigils.  I pray that they will not be needed.

A post-script.  There was no published news about an investigation into JG's death.  I asked our friend Joel Gabrielse about it.  As I suspected, he was stabbed in self-defense.  That makes it even more sad in many ways.

Monday, October 10, 2016

A Sunday of Worship and Praise and Regret

Jim was asked to preach this Sunday.  After years of declining when asked,  he has preached three times in the last year and a half.   He preached when there was the crisis of our losing our previous pastor. He preached for our pastor Chris Rea's installation because he was her advisor at Notre Dame. This time, Chris had said to him with a big smile that she was eager to see what he would do with the passage--Ezra 9 and 10.

The problem passage was about the sin of being married to heathen women and Jim didn't avoid the issue.  He chose the New Testament passage from Corinthians about being married to unbelievers.  His focus was on being holy--and he brought the idea to the political campaign and Facebook posting--not spreading lies and nastiness.  He did well with his usual humor and self-deprecating remarks. Along with a great children's sermon and my friend Maggie Noll's wonderful prayer, it was a very good service.

After church, Lisa Oglesbee asked us to go  to the VanderGriend's place near Vandalia for the afternoon.  Jim had a golf date but I was happy to accept her invitation.  What a serendipitous adventure it was!  Ron and Lou have built what they call a Gnome Home into a cliff--one cozy and lovely room with everything one would need including hot water, heated floor, and a running toilet!  The 23 acres they own include part of Lime Lake.  I enjoyed a quiet pontoon ride around the lake with Ron narrating about the area.  The Oglesbees and one other couple canoed peacefully while the kids ran around with walkie-talkies. And we all ate and chatted.  Lisa posted on Facebook with a hashtag "church family."  I seconded it but don't know how to do hashtags!

It was enough activity for the day.  I decided our tickets to a ND event that evening would be considered a donation and we would stay home.

Jim was watching football when a phone call from "Van Engen" came up on the screen.  My friend Sue was warning me not to watch the presidential debate.  I had no intention of doing so but she said that Donald Trump was presenting three women who had accused Bill Clinton of assault--just moments before the debate.  He subsequently had them seated in the front row.  What a show! It was his way of taking attention away from the 2005 video in which he spoke in vulgar terms about taking advantage of women himself.  The ugliness of this whole situation is enough to make one weep.  During the debate (if one can call it that), Trump said that if he were president, Hilary Clinton would be in jail.   Isn't that what dictators do--put your opponents in prison?

So a good Sunday of worship in church and praise for God's creation ended in regret and sadness.    My prayer while lighting a candle at the Notre Dame Grotto on Saturday was for civility during the debate--and for an amicable solution to this campaign--one to which each family member who is a life-long Republican can find a way to support  the ticket without "holding his nose" as one of them put it.  The answer to that prayer is pending!  My prayer this morning was just "God help us."

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Why Christian? Day 2

Jeff Chu, the first speaker today,  attends Old Reformed Church in Brooklyn, just a mile from my son's new apartment.  He has found it a place of acceptance for him and his husband and says it is one of the reasons he is a Christian.  He also gave credit to his grandmother who sang and prayed with him as a child although he did fault her for her saying many times, "Be quiet.  Boys don't cry.."  He said this kind of toxic masculinity hurts us all not just gay men.   As Rachel Evans did, he did not put down his conservative evangelical upbringing but said it was a part of why he was a Christian.  He said,  "The church passed me up but the love of God would not let me go....God's love waited for me."  He had to get over "choosing pain and shame over the grace of God."    I chuckled at his comment that some of his friends were gifted in many areas--one friend was gifted in text-messaging! Maybe I can claim a gift of emailing or Facebook messaging--probably not text-messaging yet!  Although that is becoming more familiar to me as well.

Asher O'Callahan was born Mary O'Callahan.  He said that as a 6 year old he tried to be a good little girl, but he found it very hard.  He wished he was a boy.  As a 12 year old, he was baptized due to a fear of hell made more pronounced by the Columbine shootings in his city.   As a 20 year old, he was exhausted and wanted to die.  As a young adult, he found his way to Nadia's church and found his belonging in the Eucharist--as a part of Christ's body and the body of that church community.  He found the courage to follow through with changing his gender and his name and is now a Lutheran pastor.  Asher spoke to us barefooted because he said he was standing on holy ground! He said, " I blame Jesus for all of this.  He chased me out of hell.  He was the only force more positive than my own shame and fear...I am glad to be alive."

As with Jeff, he is convinced that he was not a mistake or a genetic confusion but that he is loved and accepted by God as he is--and that his sexuality and gender identification is not a curse but a blessing. He said, "God chose who I am.  He intended me to be this way."

I was very moved by both of their stories and by their awareness of the love of God for them as they were--even if the church of their youth was not accepting of them.

Unfortunately, I had a very hard time due to my seat and the echos in the church and a softer voice in understanding what Sandra Lopez had to say but it had to do with overcoming trauma.  I know she credited Pepperdine as a place of sanctuary for her.

Rozella  White was definitely a minority in the ELCA but it didn't bother her until the last few years when she has been very hurt by the black lives lost to police violence and the lack of reaction by her church.  She refered to the "sin of whiteness" which I would like to have defined.  I did appreciate her emphasis on the incarnation as a core of the good news--Jesus becoming man and thus there being the image of God in all of us.  She certainly challenged us to be "incarnate in the world" and "to see people like me and love us."

Neichelle Guidry preached at the Eucharist in black cadences and patterns--one I am more used to from hearing men preach.  It was a powerful message that centered on the theme "Jesus is still at the table"--and it led to the celebration of communion for all 800 of us.  I had the privilege of taking the bread from Nadia who lifted it high and said it was for me as a child of God--and then using tincture in the chalice held by Rachel.

So now what have I learned and felt?   I heard the name of Jesus over and over again this weekend.  It was encouraging to see such a diverse group of men and women, gay and straight, black and white, old and young, all there because of a desire for faith and a desire to make the church a place where everyone can feel included.  It supported my own feeble faith to have others express doubts and concerns and to recognize the flaws in the church but still want to be Christians.   Hearing the stories of gay men and women and a trans-gender pastor was good for me and made me far more understanding of their differences.  I can rejoice in their feeling that Jesus loves and accepts them.

I look forward to worship in our own church tomorrow--and celebrating communion there.  I think I will have more of a sense of it celebrating it as a part of the body of Christ.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Why Christian? A Conference

I need to process all I have heard today at the Why Christian? conference held at 4th PresbyterianChurch in Chicago.

The day didn't start out smoothly.  I tried three doors before I found the obvious one into the church.  There seemed to be no record of my registration and my search on my iphone didn't bring it up.  The rather androgynous person helping me asked if he (she) could look on my phone and it was found--under EventBrite--the internet presence.  So I was registered.  I thought the conference started at 9 but it was 9:30 so I had a rather long wait.  But the church was already full and people were saving seats for others.

I had read Nadia Bolz-Weber's book Pastrix in preparation for coming.  The book jacket shows a very fierce looking tatooed woman glaring at the camera.  Nadia was chatting with folks in the row ahead of me so I got a good look at her and noted that, yes, she is heavily tatooed, but she is very pretty--strikingly so.  While waiting, I continued to read Rachel Held Evan's book on A Year of Biblical Womanhood on my iphone.  Rachel was the other convener of the conference.

I had heard of this book but had never wanted to read it, thinking of it as a stunt book.  When our pastor Chris Rea said that she had laughed out loud reading it and as a result her husband read it and invited Rachel to Notre Dame, I decided I should shake my prejudice and give it a try.  Rachel was very transparent about getting a publisher who wanted to support her crazy idea--and so far, the book is very funny and yet informative.  I too laughed out loud several times!

Nadia was the first speaker.  She introduced the conference by saying that we need the faith of others to support us.  She talked a lot about us as smelly and disobedient sheep.  She distinguished between our ideal selves and our actual selves and God loving us with our jagged edges--our actual selves. When we share our failures, we allow God to be God.  She was once a stand-up comedienne and this was obvious in her expressions and timing.  She threw in a few obscenities but I was prepared for more.   Her book had far more!  I appreciated what she said but didn't find it particularly related to me.  My "actual self" is not what I would like it to be but I don't struggle to be perfect and I have no sense of God rejecting me for that.

Next Rachel Held Evans spoke.  She said only in Christ could people like she and Nadia come together beause Nadia was the kind of person she was afraid of in high school!  She talked about being a Christian because of her parents and her youth pastor--all who were very conservative evangelicals.  She seemed to have made peace with her background in a way that so many I know cannot seem to do.  She said it was because of this background, not in spite of it, that she was a Christian.  Granted, she now loves the liturgy of the Episcopal church and has rejected the patriarhal structure of the church of her youth as well as its rejection of LGBT people.   Why did she stay a Christian?   She admitted to habit, security, maybe fear, but also said that the story of Jesus is worth the risk to be wrong about.

Neichelle Guidry compared her own story of a suffocating marriage and Jesus' speaking to her through her separation and divorce to Jesus' treatment of the woman taken in adultery.  Neichelle was a powerful black preacher but I kept wondering about her husband's side of the story.

Onleilove Alston was also a powerful black preacher who said she knows God loves the poor and homeless because that's what she was.  The Holy Spirit was working in her as she read her grandmother's Psalms--well before she was converted at age 14 in an AME church.  Her beliefs are centered in the Jewish tradition and she celebrates the Jewish holidays and uses the terms Yah and Jeshua but she insists that she is a Christian.  She researches her African people--the Ibo and the Hausas as the lost tribes of Israel. She thought Augustine and his mother were black as was the disciple Mark.  Not all would agree.

Rachel Held Evans moderated an afternoon session with Julie Rodgers and Deborah Jian Lee, both of whom had been hurt by conservative traditions in the church because of being gay.  When asked if they had found good churches to belong to now, one of them said that the churches that accepted her lacked the passion of seriously following Jesus that she was looked for and needed.  The comment was made that what was the church for if not to accept those on the margins.

 Julie had been hired by Wheaton College to counsel their LBGT students with the understanding that she would abide by their covenant about sex only in marriage.  This did not go well.  She ended up resigning and said she understood the pressure donors put on a college.  She talked about life being messy and that was one of those chapters.  She was thankful for those who stepped out to suppport her.  There was no rancor expresssed.  Now she is free to say that she can be happy as a gay woman.  She said Jesus took on flesh because he believes our bodies are beautiful.  And that the Bible is full of sex!

I am thinking about our own church and its latest synodical decision.  I am sad to think that a same sex couple might not be officially welcomed even in our local church.  The issue has not presented itself yet, but it will at some point.

Anna Keating is a Catholic mother of two little ones.  She was a less forceful speaker and in some ways, more genuine that some of the others today.  She said that her church oppressed women, but also canonized them.  Why am I a Christian?  She asked what was the alternative?  She found community there with a diverse group of people.  It was a place to ask for mercy and express gratitude for her life.

The last speaker of the day, Jenny McBride, spoke about her relationship with Kelly Gissendanner, a woman who was executed in Georgia after a torturous series of appeals and requests for clemency.  She had been Jenny's theology student in prison and had received the attention of Jurgen Moltmann, the German theologian whose books she had studied.  Our session ended with us all singing Amazing Grace which Kelly sang on her gurney before her lethal injection.  It's pretty moving to hear 800 voices singing without accompaniment.

I have more to think about and hope to read more of what the speakers have written.  It is a support to one's belief to know that others treasure their faith even in the midst of their doubts and in the midst of an imperfect church.  And there's more to come tomorrow.

A Room of My Own

My sister and I always shared a room.  I left that childhood room with its twin beds to get married and share a double bed with Jim.  So when I have a room all by myself in a hotel--a room of my own-I enjoy it.

I usually treat myself to a nice hotel when I travel alone-sometimes a very nice hotel.  Tonight I am in the historic Millenium Knickerbocker in Chicago, just off the Magnificent Mile and two blocks from the 4th Presbyterian Church where I will attend a conference tomorrow.  The room is not large, but it is pretty luxurious.

Across the street from 4th Pres
I took the South Shore train to Millenium Station and then walked over a mile up Michigan Avenue.  After a short rest in my room, I walked back to Trader Joe's for a salad for supper and yogurt for breakfast--plus a bottle of wine and of course, my favorite candy bars.  I did stop at Nordstrom Rack and bought a skirt.  I told myself I would get it if it was under $25 and it was--$24.95.  Some of their "bargains" of designer clothes were just hanging on ordinary racks and priced at over $150--or even one or two for over $400.

Now I am enjoying the Cubs on TV.  I'm not totally alone because I've talked to Jim twice and texted a few times also.  We will talk again at least once tonight.  He has practiced "find my friend" on his iphone just in case I would have another TGA episode--which is pretty unlikely.

I'll blog about the Why Christian? conference later.  For now, it was another good day.  I am enjoying being on my own--making my own decisions about what to eat, when to eat, when to go back to the room, what to watch on TV if any, etc.   But I know Jim is there at home and we can talk and that is great.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A Week on the East Coast

We left South Bend on September 17 at 5:40 pm with a view of maybe 100 private planes at the airport because of the ND football game.  Our flight was a United non-stop to Newark.  With a shuttle ride to the airport Hilton, we were at the bar for pizza and drinks around 8:30 pm.  We have good memories of this Hilton because it is where we were stranded last Christmas.

Sunday: We took a $50 Uber ride to 250 Ashland Place in Brooklyn, Dan's new home.  He showed us around the neighborhood with a good walk to Ft. Greene Park.  We stopped for brunch on the way back to his place--and then took another Uber ride to the Brooklyn Museum.  I loved seeing Judy Chicago's iconic feminist Dinner Party installation and Dan and Jim enjoyed the sports photography exhibit.  It was another easy Uber ride back to the apartment and then still another to Penn Station.  That was a long ride in heavy traffic partially due to the bombing in Chelsea the night before.  From there we took Amtrak (just 1 1/4 hours)  to Philly's 30th Street Station where Michael picked us up and a busy evening with four little ones.

Monday:  We met Gabrielle, the new nanny who stays from 8 am to 8 pm Monday through Thursday.  She was wonderful--pleasant, firm, organized, cheerful. I spent the morning sorting boys' clothes from one of the closets, coming up with plenty of size 2 fall and winter wardrobe hand-me-downs for Alex.  Gabrielle and J went for a good walk to get acquainted while we took the other kids.

 Gabrielle  had the kids and Jim making their own pizzas for supper and she and I enjoyed a Caesar salad with shrimp.  She put Alex to bed and then left us on our own for 12 hours.  Laura and Michael flew to Paris in the late afternoon where Michael had McKinsey meetings and festivities.

Tuesday:  Alex was awake at 5 am.  We kept him in bed with us until 5:38 when I went downstairs and fed him.  At 6:30, I called Jim on his iphone and asked for relief.  He came down shortly and I went back to sleep for a full hour!   J and S were on the bus at 8:40 and Gabrielle took R to school at 9.  She and Alex met another nanny and child for a play date.  I drove to Ardmore to visit a friend from our church who had moved there last summer.  It was good to see her and her little ones doing well.  I stopped at Trader Joe's for my favorite candy bars.  Later in the afternnoon Jim and I picked up R in Bryn Mawr where she had a play date with a friend.  Gabrielle took J to play practice while I put mac and cheese and Gabrielle's chicken salad  on the table.  We gave everyone baths and showers and she put A to bed again.  He sang and talked in his bedroom until 8:30 and then went to sleep in front of his bedroom door.  Jim picked him up and put him where he belonged in his bed.

Each night we  had a prayer time with the older three in our bedroom.  We took turns holding a battery-operated candle I bought at a dollar store--which worked beautifully.  I had done this with the kids in July and they remembered and asked for it again.  J does not need much sleep so each night he spent some time with Jim going over one of his encyclopedia style books.  At that point, Jim and I indulged in a little more wine.

Wednesday:  Jim and I walked to town for a few groceries and a cup of coffee.  We left for Princeton around 2 pm and checked in at a Holiday Inn north on Route 1.  It was one of the few places in town for less than $150.  We met Jeff and Susan and J and M for supper at Ruby Tuesday's and then went to their place to see all the changes they had made since K left for college.  We spent an hour afterwards with the Moorheads chatting with them and Olivia, their daughter, now a public defender in Trenton.  I do the after dark driving these days--and we did make it safely back to the hotel.

Thursday:  We had coffee and a scone in the hotel room, followed by a real breakfast at a McDonald's hidden in a Wal-Mart along Route 1.  We were back in Gladwyne by 10:30.  Gabrielle had been with the kids overnight so we encouraged her to leave by 4:30.  Supper was scrambled eggs and bacon.  Jim took S and a neighbor boy to Cub Scouts for an hour from 6 to 7.  I gave baths to the little ones and put Alex to bed.  He went right to sleep and then woke up every hour from then on until midnight--very congested with a new cold and crying hard.  We took turns holding him and rocking him.  At 12:15 am I left him for the last time and we all slept until 6 am!  Not bad after all.

Friday:  The other Gabrielle came at 8 and took charge of kids.  Jim and I walked to town again for coffee. I took J to swim practice from 5 to 6.  Laura came home and fixed supper amidst the needs of two little ones who wanted her attention.  Jim tried to help but it was their mommy that they wanted! R and I had made brownies for S's birthday treat and we gave him our gifts--including a large bubble maker.  We wrapped gifts for S's birthday and Laura went to bed early.  Michael came home around midnight and was greeted by J and Jim, both of whom were still awake.
Saturday:  The three older ones had  swim, football and soccer practice  in the morning so Jim and I took Uber to the airport via a Ram truck!   We had good flights with a three hour layover at O'Hare and were  home around 6:45-just in time to see ND lose to Duke.

The week was a blur of activity and yet we had plenty of time to ourselves with the nannies there during the day.  Jim did quite a bit of work on his Jubilees project and I have to admit that I napped daily.  We tried to do things with one or more children when all were home and we helped with laundry and dishes and cleaning up.   It's a busy life with four little children!  I am so grateful we could spend the time with them and have the energy to enjoy them.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Scanning and Inducting

Every Wednesday morning  you can find me  "scanning and inducting" at our local public library.  If you look inside your own borrowed books, you will see a little white patch-- an amazing gadget that gets read by a scanner.  It recognizes that your book is returned and checked in and sorts it into bins for fiction, non-fiction, juvenile picture books, and several other categories.

My job is pretty mindless.  I get the books and audio-visual materials from the outdoor check-ins, place the item on the reader and then wait for the monitor to say "Please scan" and then "Please induct."  l push the item forward to the conveyer belt.  Sometimes I lose my rhythm and get ahead of myself and get an error message.  Sometimes the book or CD is not from our library and I get another error message.  And sometimes I get distracted by an appealing book jacket and the machine has to stop and wait for me.

But that is my reward for my work.  This morning I came home with five books from the library. Two of them were previous requests; the other three were serendiptious finds as they passed through my hands through the process after which I quickly retrieved them from the bins.
I did pull out a few books that I decided to leave for others.  I resisted A Child's First Book of Trump but did photograph it to share.  I loved the four blurbs all stated by Trump himself on the back of Trump Revealed.  I decided I'd wait for some other time to check out a Danielle Steel book and see why she is so amazingly popular.

Our library has been a source of much enjoyment in reading for me.  I request books that are newly published or at other branches and there they are with my name on them waiting for me within a few days.  Scanning and inducting is an opportunity for me to give back.  Plus I get 2000 steps on my Fitbit walking back and forth--and I come home with some great finds.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Beach and the Bees

239 step up Mt. Pisga
 We are home after a week at a cottage on Lake Michigan north of Holland State Park.  We entertained Jim's siblings and spent a day with my sister and her husband. I swam almost every day and biked several times.  Jim got in his 10,000 steps each day and I did too on some of the days.  Jim golfed twice.  I read four books and Jim read one just for fun when he wasn't doing the Jubilees work that always comes with us.

Every night we were treated to a magnificent sunset.   I would take photos every few minutes because the sky kept changing.  The morning sky over the water was also beautiful.

Yet that beautiful water could be very dangerous.  Two teenagers drowned Wednesday night at Holland State Park.
 Swimming off the pier when there are rip tides was fatal.  We heard the sirens and then saw the helicopter and police boats looking for their bodies on Thursday morning.

We came home Thursday evening and when I walked into the hall, I said, "Jim, we have a problem."  I saw hundreds of dead bees on the floor.  It got worse when I walked into the bathroom.  The floor was covered with dead bees (and a few still wiggling) and there was a hole in the ceiling they had created to get through.  We spent the next hour cleaning up and plugging the hole with duct tape.  Two days later I was still finding single bees in odd places--like the toilet brush container or the window sill.

How awful it would have been to have come home to live bees buzzing us and threatening us!  Dead bees were an ugly sight but not frightening.

So there is yet another home repair awaiting us.  A financial planner told us to spend our money and enjoy it!   We are spending our money in large amounts but just for necessary mopping up after the "1000 year rain" and now ceiling repairs.  That's not what he had in mind!

We're thankful for the good memories of a week at the beach--and for the means to recover the losses at home--and to do it together in our 50th year of marriage.