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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Getting Ready for Retirement--Jim's Turn

We went to Jim's office today so he could apply for Social Security online at his large screen computer and with my "expert" and "experienced" help.  Mostly my help consisted of saying things like, "Just put something down.  If they don't like it, they'll let you know."  There were questions about what is the official postal address of Notre Dame and maybe more importantly, what actually is the spelling of Jim's middle name? 

When I go to Jim's office, I shudder.  First, there isn't just one office.  Each of the four is full of books and files and offprints and photos and kids' drawings and---even floppy discs.  Well, no more floppy discs.  I packed up a box of such items and we sorted through it at home tonight.

Jim assures me he is dumping papers daily.  I witnessed him giving up a file of old student recommendations to the shredder on the 8th floor of Flanner Hall.

 We are clearing bookshelves here at home to make room for books from the offices. Maybe his graduate students will take books off our hands but so much is available online now-and who needs offprints and back journal issues and even dictionaries in our era? 

Progress was made today.   Somehow it will get done.

Somebody, please take these books!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Fitbit and Facebook

A few days ago USAToday published an article on Fitbit taking the fun out of exercise.  When I first opened the Fitbit Jim gave me for Christmas, I was not so sure I was going to like it.  Anything that has to be set up electronically is a threat; however we got through that hurdle quite easily.  And I do like it!  A lot.  I have not been compulsive about the 10,000 steps recommended but I have come close many days and have gone over on others.  I have been more compulsvie about recording "exercise" for 40 minutes or more each day.  I'm not sure how this works because walking around the house never counts but 18 minutes of walking through Walmart did record as exercise.

I have set two limits on my Fitbit use.  I take it off at 10 pm whether I have met any goals or not.  And last Sunday I never put it on.   I think I will make Sunday a day of Fitbit rest.

It is a small miracle to me to know how that very tiny object on my belt can record all that data on my iphone.  I need to avoid being obsessive or compulsive about looking at it.  I'm not losing weight even with trying to be more mindful of what goes into my mouth but my blood pressure was so good that the doctor says I could try going without any medication soon. Hooray for Fitbit!

Next, another temptation for compulsive behavior is Facebook.  I am alone a lot these days and I enjoy the interaction with others that I get via Facebook.  Some of my "friends" are not folks I know well at all or they are people I knew well in the past.  Some share far too much and some I have even "hidden" from my page.  I have never unfriended anyone yet!

When I post something or share something, I do so with misgivings.  There have been some that I have had great fun doing--like the mystery of the slot in the Waldorf-Astoria hotel bathroom or Jim's reading Hebrew with little Ruth watching Sponge Bob on TV keeping him company.   There have been some more controversial posts that have caused others to take over with their opinions about gun control, abortion, or politics.  It has made me post anything political with great hesitation.

Yesteday I posted about an incident with a question as to "what would you have done?"  Mostly the responses were fun but one was so unpleasant that I deleted the whole interchange.  This truly bothered me and made me reluctant to be anything but an observer and "liker" on Facebook.

Life is a balance.  So much is good but I need to keep learning how to use these good things.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

In a Vacation Mode

If our luggage was not already on the Allegiant aircraft, the interminable delay in the South Bend airport with very little information given out last Saturday made us very close to asking for a rebooking or a refund.  One half day of our five day vacation in Clearwater Beach was gone not to be recovered.  
But within minutes of our arrival at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, holding a plastic glass of the champagne with which we were greeted, and looking out from one of our two balconies on our spacious 8th floor room, it all began to be worth the effort.  And it has continued to do so.   
A sundial in the rain

Sunday was a cloudy, rainy day but I enjoyed my trolley ride to the Publix supermarket and to St. Brendan’s Church.  Monday and Tuesday were sunnier but not warm.  The wind is powerful and we have not wanted to sit out on the beach or pool deck.  But we have walked 15,000 steps plus each day and reveled in looking at the Gulf and the palm trees and the white sands. 
How have we filled our hours?  Reading a lot.  Doing crossword puzzles.  Walking in all directions.  Eating seafood and drinking tropical drinks or tonight, after a seafood surfeit, eating pizza and drinking sangria.  For me, researching restaurants and blogging. 
The difficulties of flying and the trapped feeling of being stuck in the airline system and the thought of returning to snow and ice after just a few days is making us think about the possibility of staying here or somewhere else for a month next winter.  Jim most likely will be free from his Notre Dame duties and I can beg off my volunteer obligations.
Sunset over the Gulf
Sunrise over Tampa Bay
But I wonder how we would like that kind of life for a month?  We have been good company for each other for these few days but would we miss the contact of others we know?  Would I have enough to do without my almost daily duties as a docent, tutor, or organist?   What if we needed our doctors or dentist? 
 We would not be in vacation mode for a full month but would need to buy groceries, cook, clean, and do laundry.  If we drove, Jim would have his own golf clubs and would enjoy getting out on courses.   And we could be outside getting exercise and enjoying warmer weather without the threat of ice and snow.  

I don’t know what next year will bring, but it is fun to think of the possibilities. But for now, we are just hoping for an uneventful day of travel home tomorrow.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Worshipping: Four Churches in Seven Weeks

November 22:  Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta Georgia

December 20:  Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

January 3:  St. Brendan Catholic Church, Clearwater Beach, Florida

All other weeks:  Church of the Savior Christian Reformed Church, South Bend, Indiana

Today's theme is the visit of the magi and the Epiphany of Christ among the nations.  As I worshipped this morning, I reflected on the greatly varied experiences I have had in churches in the last seven weeks. 

11 AM--church was full by 11:15
I was glad when Sarah Schreiber invited me to the Ebenezer Baptist Church with a few of her colleagues from Calvin Seminary.  We were in Atlanta for the Society of Biblical Literature convention and I had hesitated to make the journey by myself.  Walking through somewhat sketchy neighborhoods and knowing I'd be in a racial minority made me uncertain.  It was a great experience to worship with Martin Luther King's former congregation.  The music was loud and spirited.  The sermon was loud and even more spirited.  People were dressed up and standing up in support of what they heard.  The theme was from Psalm 34 on giving thanks--and was definitely an Old Testament challenge more than a specifically Christian message.  The pastoral prayer, delivered as we held hands, came from my soul along with the pastor's words.

A few  weeks later we  met our daughter Laura and three of her children at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church.  The church was beautifully decorated for Christmas and full of congregants, young and old.   The music was grand and the organist was an expert in interpreting the hymns at the organ. The pastor spoke meaningfully on the Magnificat.  She said it was banned in parts of Latin America and left in Latin when the rest of Scripture was translated into the vernacular during the Reformation because it was so disruptive to the powers in charge.  It was a joy to watch the rehearsal for the children's Christmas pageant afterwards and hear Jasper read his part and see Ruth and Sam practice being sheep! 

Then there was this morning's service at St. Brendan's Catholic Church.  I had taken the shuttle from our hotel and bought groceries at Publix.  Wearing my sneakers and informal clothes, carrying my bag of food, and realizing my unfamiliarity with the mass,  I took a back seat.  I was greatly moved by the music and the words--even the familiar words of the carol's refrain " Gloria in Excelsis Deo" brought tears to my eyes.   The monsignor's slight accent and occasional stumbling over the words of the liturgy made me really concentrate and take the words into my heart. I had a great sense of the "mystery of the faith."  The sad part--the words "I am not worthy to receive..."-- are so true for me in a Catholic church and I knew I would not be welcomed to participate in the mass.  So at that point I left.

Deacon Bill Gorman wrote about Epiphany in St. Brendan's worship folder:  "Don't be looking for stars to follow.  Christ is right in front of you.  Sometimes you will find Christ in your family, your friends or the poor, homeless and the migrant."

 I guess that is why worshipping in our own church is best.  We do have honest and excellent preaching and our music is praise and not performance.  But we look around and we know the stories of many around us--their joys and some of their sorrows and needs--and they share in that for us.  Many of the stories in our church's Advent devotional booklet told of how Christ came through the love and concern of others.

When I struggle with my own doubts and unbelief, I need to live with the mystical aspects of faith and look for Christ in my community.