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Friday, June 24, 2016

At Loose Ends

What a strange expression.  I am trying to think of a  better title.  I had one task for today and that was all--to make a salad for tonight's church supper and mortgage burning ceremony.  Oh, and to play the piano for the hymn "Great is Thy Faithfulness" for the service.

I was up early and on my own by 8:00 am and thinking about what I could do with the day stretched out before me.  I am feeling so much better than I was--and have more energy--and  I guess that makes me restless.  I used to think that the curse of my old age would be solitude because I wanted it so desperately at times when we had young children.

So how did this retired lady keep busy in her solitude?    I sent out an email and a Facebook message.  I called Jim once and a friend called me just to say hello.   So there was some contact with others.

I spent most of two hours going through old work files.  Two years after retiring I find that I could purge a lot more than I had originally done.  Articles on learning disabilities from the 1980s and 90s--dumped.   First day get-acquainted activities--gone.  It was an exercise in remembering--the good and the bad.  There were great notes of appreciation and then frustrating write-ups for staff members who were out smoking instead of taking care of children.

 I needed  exercise but didn't want to walk around the neighborhood again.  I got in the car and almost let it make up its own mind.  It drove me to St. Mary's College where I parked and walked to the old St. Joe High School.  I took a photo of the demolition and sent it to Dan who responded with a tearful emoticon.   It was a good walk and I felt grateful to be able to feel the breeze and see the wild flowers and the river through the trees.  I did wonder where I would be in five years--maybe in one of those assisted living places I passed?

I do wish we lived closer to our families.  I would have loved to have popped over to Laura's and taken the four year old out somewhere--or just hung out with the baby.  Or I could watch Jeff coach his 12 year old's Little League game.  But that is not the way our lives are right now.  Maybe someday.  But I hope that when that time comes, I am not too old or they are not too old to appreciate grandma time.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Singing with the Band

I had taken two months off from playing the organ in church and was glad to be free of that stress in my life.  However, this week, David, our worship director, asked if I would be willing to lead singing with the band.  All the young folks who sing were off for a weekend of service.  The older singers had other duties.  I was needed!  I did ask David if I had to wear very high heels as part of the dress code and he said, "No, but I will get back to you on the skirt length!"

 I thought it would be fun. But I still got stressed on Saturday night when the first song "The Lord be with You" just wouldn't get out of my head.

And it was fun to blend voices with Lisa, a strong alto, and sing along with the guitars, mandolin and piano.  It wasn't all that intimidating because the congregation is singing along and one is not a performer or soloist, but a leader in worship.

So I have made my debut and would be happy to do it again as the only grey-haired member of a contemporary praise team  in local history.

Medicare Musings, Part 2

We did it!  We signed up for a Medicare Advantage Plan.  Once again it took about 1 1/2 hours with David, the AON representative, on the phone as he patiently answered  our many questions.  We put him on the speaker phone so we could communicate easily while checking information on the AON website.

At least three of the questions began with something like this:  "One of our friends chose....because of ...."  Turns out that in one case, the option is not offered in Indiana.  In another, one doesn't know what was revealed. or what questions were asked.  And in the third, it just didn't seem like the right option for us.

Poor David.  He had to read long statements with legal ramifications and we had to say things like, "I understand."  Or "I agree."  And we had to do it one by one so he had to do it twice.

But it is decided for better or worse.  If we stay healthy, it will be for the better!

A few days later: We felt  good about the Medicare decision but that seemed to free my mind to think about finances and the next scheduled call from TIAA-CREF about required minimum distributions and how to manage those.  We are so blessed that Jim and his univesities have contributed to retirement plans for 40 years but I find it all very confusing and we want to be smart about retirement plans.  So I lay awake that night with my head buzzing.  Turns out Jim was lying awake too feeling overwhelmed about all those boxes in his office and how he can't find books when he needs them.

 We agreed it is a time of transition and we have to recognize that.  We will be glad when, in a month or two, we know what to expect for income and doctor bills and prescription orders and life will fall into a new routine for us.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

New York, New York

"New York, New York" was the theme of the Dance Factory's big show on Saturday.  On Monday we experienced the city ourselves.

We took NJ Transit to Penn Station and then walked 1 1/2 miles to the Hilton Manhattan East.  One of my favorite moments in New York is emerging from the train station and feeling the excitement of  the city--so many people and languges, noisy taxi horns, the immense buildings surrounding us.

Thanks to our being Hilton Gold members, we were upgraded to a large room by NY standards on the 14th floor with a slice of a view--and offered a free breakfast. Actually the whole booking was free with my 70,000 Hilton points (representing a lot of groceries!).  We put our feet up for a bit and then walked to 100 Park Avenue where Dan works at Sidewalk Labs.  Dan had given the front desk our names so we were given passes to swipe to enter the building.

Dan showing Jim traffic flow in El Paso
It was great fun to see Dan's set up and to meet his colleagues who had such good things to say about our Dan!  His boss, a former deputy mayor under Mayor Bloomberg, said that they were lucky to be able to hire Dan.  Of course, they were!

The view from Dan's apartment
We made a plan to meet at 7 for dinner in Williamsburg.  We walked to the East River Ferry and had a scenic ride before getting off at North Williamsburg right at Dan's apartment building. Dan biked from work and met us in the lobby.  After admiring his new furniture, and enjoying his view, we walked to Aurora, a pretty upscale Italian restaurant where Jim played it safe with chicken, I had a crab and zucchini dish over linguini and Dan had a rabbit ragu over rigatoni.  We ate outside in the middle of a lot of greenery and lights.

Before Dan left for his next engagment, at 10 pm, he contacted Uber and got us a ride.  We were picked up in six minutes, watching the progress of our car on his app as we waiited.  Dan paid for the ride with his app and off we went back to Manhattan enjoying the bright lights of the city as we crossed the Willlaimsburg Bridge.

After almost 18,000 steps, my hip hurt and besides that,,  I was thinking about Dan on his bike in the late evening on Brooklyn streets. It's a good thing we are not usually aware of his adventures. My motherly concern is still there!  Eventually sleep overtook me after a very good day.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Grandma and Grandpa on the East Coast

For two and a half days, we were able to do all the grandparents things many of our friends and relatives do all the time.  And maybe even more that what they do because most of them do not get up at 6 am with 17 month olds who are ready for action--lots of it!

We went to Sam's kindergarten play in which he spoke loudly and clearly as the narrator.  We saw Katie dance beautifully in her last recital as a member (and captain) of the Showstoppers at the Dance Factory.  And as a bonus we saw Jeff in the Dad's dance and Michael doing funk.  I watched Jasper's swim practice and Jim watched Sam play baseball.  We praised Laura for completing a half-maraathon.

And on Sunday afternoon, there were 18 of us for Katie's graduation party  with a cookout, cake, and a swim in the pool.

And there's a  bit more family time to go.  We will have lunch with Jeff and James and then head to NYC to see where Dan works at Sidewalk Lab and then have dinner with him.

However, it has been quiet time for the old folks since 6 pm last night and that is good too!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Two Days in the Poconos

We have travelled along I 80 so many times from South Bend to Route 206 in New Jersey over the last 20 plus years but we have never been lured off the road to the Poconos until yesterday.  The timing was right with our destination being Katie's last dance recital on June 11 and maybe a feeling that Jim is retiring and we could take a few more days to make the trip.   I had made reservations already last October for the Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort and eight months later, here we are!

The Inn is over 100 years old.  Our room is small but comfortable and the view of the Delaware River and the hills beyond it is beautiful.

Jim golfed today and as I consider golf "a good walk spoiled," I showed up for the "guided hike"  at 10 am.  I was the only hiker and hesitated to have the guide do this outing just for me.  But Cory, the guide, convinced me it would be great and he really wanted to do it if I felt comfortable.  So, off we went--through the picturesque town of Delaware Water Gap and down a couple of narrow, steep roads to a dirt parking lot.  Cory led the way briskly up a somewhat primitive, overgrown trail to our destination--Diana's Bath--a lovely little waterfall.  He kept up a steady conversation about his work and the joy he had in it and was eager to share his knowledge of the trees and wildlife we saw.  We did NOT see the black bear another hiker mentioned to us that had just crossed the path!  Cory asked me several times if I was enjoying myself and I assured him I was--and decided a private tour was worth a generous tip.  After all, Jim doesn't even know how much he was charged for his 18 holes of golf here!

I am often a farily restless person, but after our hike, I sat in a lounge chair along the river for over 45 minutes, just looking and listening and smelling.   It was a wonderful time of being totally in the present moment for which I was truly thankful.

After Jim finished his  golf match,, we drove about 20 minutes to Bushkill Falls, a place my friend Maggie suggested seeing.  I wonder how many steps there were to the bottom of the falls--and back up again.   It was worth the effort--the falls were impressive.

We had a glass of wine on the veranda followed by a very good supper at the pub on the premises and  now we are back in the room--over 13,000 steps for me today and 93 minutes of registered exercise.  A good day of fresh air and relaxation.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Moving Day

Tomorrow is a very important day in the long process of getting ready for Jim's official retirement day of June 30, 2016.  The student movers are coming at 9 am to take the books and files that go into the office he can keep in the Malloy building at Notre Dame.  At 1 pm, the IT people will come to take his computer over to that office.  At some point, the Wiltfong Moving Company will box up everything else that is left and bring it to our house.

And there is a lot left when you have accumulated books and journals and papers ( and paper clips!)  for 25 years and have had three offices to spread it all out in.   I would hesitate to call Jim a hoarder but we did throw out  3 1/2 inch floppy discs, purchase records from the 90s, and early drafts of many student dissertations.

Today Jim showed me a paper he found that he  had written as a graduate student in 1974 at Harvard--typed on that thin paper we used at that time with comments in the margins--and an A on the cover.  Some stuff is worth saving I guess!

Jim assures me that the shelves are emptier than they were and I know that is true.   A dozen  books will be mailed to Sister Luma in Iraq.   Several graduate students have come to his office numerous times and left with bags and boxes full of books.  The recyclable bins have been filled weekly and were overflowing today.

What are we going to do with all the stuff that comes home?   Boxes will be left in the garage for the Theological Network to pick up and distribute to third world seminaries.  Jim hesitatingly told me this morning that he is going to ask Scott and Sons, our remodelers, if they build book shelves because we are going to need more of them in the basement.

Jim is a pretty calm and low-keyed person, but even he woke up at 4:30 this morning pondering the big move.

I am confident Jim can adjust to retirement.  He will continue to go into his ND office and finish the major Jubilees commentary  he has been working on for six years and he has ideas for other projects. He will teach one seminar in the spring term.  He has a few PhD students who are writing dissertations.

I have not regretted retiring.  It was time for me to do so and life has been busy and full enough since then.  I hope and pray that Jim  can feel the same way.