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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.