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Monday, November 20, 2017

November Travel--Part II-Boston

We boarded Amtrak 172 at 11 am on Friday at Penn Station along with a mass of travellers funneling into one escalator.  Fortunately we were able to find two seats together and the four hour trip went quickly and smoothly.  Our iphone map instructions were confusing  when we exited the station.   We followed the blue line and were very happy to see the last letters of the big HILTON sign ahead.
Later after wandering and trying to follow our iphone suggestions, we fond Legal Sea Foods and had a wonderful dinner. We reminisced about the old Legal Sea Foods in Ianman Square.  It has definitely gone upscale from those days.  Again we did some wandering to find the Hilton but we're back in the hotel.

I am not good about hotel noises.  Tonight it's the elevator across the hall but still loud and very busy.  Ear plugs should help!
That was a rough night.   In the morning, I was so bold as to ask for a different room.  The clerk was very kind about it (I was amused that she called me "Miss Mary" just like my former students!) and put us into a quiet corner room.

We didn't do much all day. We met an old friend to chat and later met one of Jim's colleagues for drinks and a snack.  We watched Notre Dame beat Navy--not as easily as they were supposed to do.  We didn't need a big meal and so we had the great idea of going to Star Market where we picked up enough fried chicken, salad, and fruit for two days--along with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for Jim.  Good thing we are not "foodies!"

 The new room gave me a great night of sleep.  Jim had an early am breakfast meeting.  I went to the 9:30 mass at St. Cecilia's Church right next door.  The music was lovely and the priest had a good message on the parable of the talents.

Holden Green
We met with another old friend--a former graduate student--for a chat,  Jim went off to another meeting and I summoned my courage and called for Lyft to take me to Harvard Square.  It went smoothly enough and I had my sentimental journey through Harvard Yard.  I climbed the steps to Widener Library where I worked for Folklore and Mythology for a year.  I walked up to Memorial Church where we often worshipped.  I walked to Holden Green, our home for three years.  It was still there and the memories of the families that lived in each unit came back quickly.  I had a big lump in my throat!

  Savenors, the corner grocery where Mrs. Savenor sat on her stool by the cash register and Julia Child sightings were recorded, was still there too--but as an upscale butcher.
Van Gogh's Three Pairs of Shoes
I walked back to the Harvard Art Museum--the Fogg--and enjoyed touring the main floor exhibits.  I treated myself to a cup of decaf espresso--turned into Cafe Americano- and a muffin and then took Lyft back to the hotel.  That driver couldn't stop talking but I still rated her five stars.

I had some quiet time in the room while Jim was at another meeting.. We ate our leftovers from the day before and then walked to the Notre Dame reception which is always hot and noisy and full of folks to talk to.  I managed to stay the whole time even if I went out into the hall a few times for some air!

It was a long walk through passageways and malls back to the hotel.  I had a craving for something sweet which was not available at the reception.  So it was a Dunkin Donuts treat--perfect--and then eventually another good night of sleep.

We are now on the Amtrak from the Back Bay Station to Philly--a 5 1/2 hour ride with dubious internet connections.  Ready for Phase III of our trip--time with Laura's family in Gladwyne.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

November Travel Part I--New York City

November--just before Thanksgiving--is always the time of Jim's annual Society of Biblical Literature convention and this will be his 44th one in a row.  He said last year it might have been his last but here we are again!   This year the trip is extended however to include pre-convention speaking at Boston College and Yeshiva University and post-convention time with family for Thanksgiving.

Jim left on Sunday, spoke at BC, and then took the train to NYC.  I left home yesterday and we met up at the Krispy Kreme donut shop at Penn Station.  I got confused getting off the train at an unusual place and had to ask an Amtrak policeman where it was!  But we found each other--and were so glad to see each other again--and could walk to the hotel together.

Hilton Garden Inn Times Square South--"only" 50,000 Hilton points a night--and now I might know why.  Noisy construction is going on across the street so there will be pounding all day.  The "white noise" of a fan bothered me last night until I put a pillow over my ears.  The view from the 17th floor is of a working garment factory--we are definitely in the Garment District.

No plans for today at all.  We shall see what evolves.
We walked to Times Square, we walked to get lunch at Pret A Manger, and we walked to the NY Public Library--104 minutes of walking according to my Fitbit.  After all of that, we were happy to eat at the hotel bar again and watch sports on TV for the evening.

I have been to all the major museums in NYC with the exception of the new Met Breur (the old Whitney).    I'm not a shopper.  I am beginning to think that NYC doesn't hold the attraction for me it once did.  And that makes me sad in a way!  The thought of coping with the subways is daunting.  I have observed previously that I was often the oldest person I saw on the trains underground.

So the highlight of our day was really our trip to the New York Public Library where we found the reference desk on the third floor and Jim made his inquiry for the 10th edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica's index.  It took three librarians to help him and not one asked for his credentials.  We could have waited for the volume or picked it up today but Jim chose to have them scan the relevant pages and email them to him.  Amazing if it all works out.

The view from our 17th floor room is of several floors of a so called "sweat shop," a garment factory.  I have been watching people cut patterns, sew fabric, and one poor fellow ironing quickly with repetitive motions.  I wonder what they are making and who owns the place.

Other vignettes today--the man ahead of me at 7-11 buying breakfast--a Red Bull and a huge cookie.  The barrista at Gregory's Coffee who, when I asked her, said she gets up at 3:30 am to get to work at 5:30 am but she's "used to it." The stooped over man standing on the sidewalk with a puddle in front of him--his drink or his place to urinate.  It's the big city and a long way from Deerfield Loop in Granger!
The "Vessel" (a sculpture)
A bonus of the day was being able to meet Dan briefly at 10 Hudson Yards.  He had flown into Newark on the red-eye from San Francisco that morning.  He had several meetings but was able to take a break and see us.

We took Uber to the Lucerne Hotel at 79th and Amsterdam Avenue where Yeshiva had booked us a room for one night.  The Lucerne is a step up from Hilton Garden Inn which means that  instead of free bottles of water, you could pay $6.75 for a bottle in your room.

At 5:20 Jim left for Yeshiva Unversity where he had dinner and gave a presentation to about 15 scholars.  I walked to Lincoln Center for the concert The Routes of Slavery--but after some confusion, I learned that my concert at the Rose Theatre was not a part of that campus.  I walked another six blocks and saw "Jazz at Lincoln Center."  I found i!.  But no--it looked like a shopping mall--and it was.  The theatre was on the 5th floor hidden away but actually seating hundreds in tiers.

  I made it in time for the pre-concert lecture.  I had thought that if the concert was not great I would leave at intermission.  However, the music was lively and dance was colorful and the narration about slavery was profound and my seat in the first row on the edge was right under the action.  I stayed and loved it--except for the encores when I was ready to go!  Jordi  Savall  is known for bringing musicians together and these folks were from ten countries and three continents.

Jim met me walking back and we had tacos and drinks at 11 pm at Playa Betty's on Amsterdam Avenue.
November 16, 2017

.  My breakfast was a NY one--a roll with egg and cheese.

The Sick Room
We took a short exploratory walk in the morning ending up at Bloomingdale's Outlet Store which I rejected quickly.   Our major jaunt was across Central Park to the Met Breur for the Edvard Munch exhibit.  I had renewed my Met membership just in time--the card came on Saturday.  The exhibit included several rooms with themes like Despair, Nocturne, Passion, and Self-Portraits (which he called self-scrutinies).  There was no "The Scream" except for one lithograph. Almost all of the works came from the Munch Museum in Oslo.

We had supper with Dan at Whitmans in Hudson Yards.  This involved our first subway trips which we did not handle with perfection.  We neglected to see the Uptown sign, slid our cards through, and then realized our error.  We had great and greasy burgers with Dan and he told us of his adventure of the afternoon--descending 26 floor by stairs because of a fire on the 22nd floor.  After supper, he helped  us combine our Metro cards at the new Hudson Yard subway station and get us on our way.  We're now back in the hotel, ready for Thursday night football, and planning on leaving NYC in the morning for Boston.
 About 17,000 steps  each of the last two days according to my Fitbit!  Jim was congratulated by Uber for being rated five stars by each of his three drivers on Wednesday.  First ever purchase from a food cart when we got rolls and coffee at the corner near our hotel.  And now on Amtrak to Boston.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

A New Vocabulary

This fall while taking the class in Feminist Theory I have learned many new words and new meanings or specific meanings for words I thought I knew.  I have been at times exasperated at the rather obtuse and complicated vocabulary in our readings but I am also beginning (sometimes) to appreciate the need for words that have a richness of meaning for the field.

Let's start with "intersectionality."  Feminism needs to recognize diversity.  Concepts of oppression do not act  independently of each other.  You need to think of race, class, age, disabilities, economic status, radicalization, language, as well as gender.

And then there's "standpoint."  Knowledge is socially situated.  You start with inquiry from the "marginalized."  (There's another word--marginalized!)

And "performativity."  Performativity produces a series of effects.  Nobody is a gender from birth.  Performance is what produces the individual. (from Judith Butler)

And "discourse."  The language you use--how you talk about something

And "discursive constructions."  Discourse can create reality--example, referring to  transgender as a disorder.  I always thought discursive meant rambling, but not in this context.

And "Othering."  Dehumanizing--making an object of someone.

And "praxis."  Practice, as distinguished from theory.  Why not just say practice?

And "identity politics."  This is highlighting just one aspect of one's being.  Can there be a "feminist standpoint?"  Coalitions are what are needed.

And "heteronormativity."  This assumes desire is for opposite sex.  Is this performative?

And "historisizing."  This is making something seem as if it is history or real, such as trying to historicize stereotypes.

And "fields of power."  Juridical power produces what it claims merely to represent.  We are born into certain constructions of power--interpersonal, disciplinary, cultural, and structural--that can be found in family, classroom, workplace, government, police, etc.  And what is "juridical?" Just relating to administration of law.

And "geneology."  How did man and woman come to be?  What is the origin of these concepts?

And now we're getting into "queer theory" and the definitions of transgender.  More to come.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

A Few Days in South Haven

60 Lakeshore
We have rented 60 Lakeshore several times over the years but not recently.  Our last posting in the guest book was from October 2014.

The cottage was built before 1900 I think and enlarged bit by bit.  It could sleep 14 with six beds stacked in very small rooms on the second floor.  However, it has just one bathroom!  The location is wonderful in the off season--right on North Beach.  During the summer, it would be very busy with cars parked in front and plenty of traffic.  There have been some problems with mobs of teenagers gathering there on summer nights.

But in October, it is quiet and lovely.  Most of the time!  Within a half hour of our arriving on Monday, there was plenty of excitement.   I was resting in the back bedroom when Jim called to me to look out the front.  There was a boat in flames with smoke billowing out of the top just off shore.  An emergency vehicle had sped by and soon there was a fireboat shooting water or retardant on the burning boat.  It took a while to get the fire out; the boat drifted ashore north of us.    Later that evening I googled "boat fire in South Haven" and learned that two boaters were rescued by a couple in a passing boat.  They had no flotation devices; they had no choice but to jump into the cold water.  The woman apparently could not even swim and just hung onto a buoy.

The rest of the three days were spent in walking, reading, eating, and this year, watching the Cubs on TV.  Jim golfed on Wednesday with friends from Grand Rapids and South Bend--the former "pastoral support team" from a few years ago..  He had been concerned about an RA flare-up on his hand but with the help of Aleve, he was OK for play.
The view from inside

Monday night we ate at a new restaurant in town--Kitchen 527.   I had a pretty spicy Tiger Shrimp and Gnocchi dish; Jim played it safe with a burger.  Restaurants in South Haven come and go as the ones that stay open are really profitable just half of the year.  However, the ever popular Clementines had a 15-20 minute wait even on a Tuesday night so  we went to Black River Tap and Grill for burgers for both of us.  And then for night number three, it was takeout pizza from The Vineyard.

Kal-Haven Trail
The second night I had insomnia and ended up on the couch for about three hours of interrupted sleep.  I had been overwhelmed by some obligations that occurred to me earlier in the evening.  Yet the next day was such a day of peace in this restorative spot.  I spent time recording bits from Frank Cunningham's Vesper Time, a serendipitous find on a shelf in the cottage.   He talked about his 8th decade as being one focusing on memory, intimacy, diminishment, acceptance, and gratitude.  I felt I had to recognize that it is OK to feel diminished in ability to take on obligations and just to accept that as part of aging! The next night I fell asleep trying to watch the Cubs.  They won anyway without my help!  (after three losses, they had to win to stay in contention in the NLCS)

We told ourselves we would do this more often.  The next three months will be busy but we could have a wintry stay in February  and we could try 60 Lakeshore again in May instead of our usual condo.

What is Really on my Mind!

Lord, Have Mercy
I wrote this post ten days ago.  I have hesitated to post it because I don't want to offend those I love but who disagree with me.

I haven't blogged about the political situation in our country since March during Lent.  But it is on my mind constantly.  I am angry and worried.  In the midst of despair,  I will start with one very positive story.

I think this is how it happened.  Last fall, after the election, D knew that her colleague L really appreciated our church.   D began attending worship and the Women's Study on Tuesday mornings.  In the last few months,  her husband P who has been attending with her, began participating in the Lord's Supper.  D did not come forward because she was never baptized.  Last Sunday D and her 2 year old daughter were baptized and P reaffirmed his faith.  I wept.  I find it so affirming to my own faith to have D and P make this commitment.  D really has been hearing the gospel for the first time in recent months and she has found faith.

And another positive is the many times I have prayed for our country and for wisdom for its leaders because we are in grave danger of going wrong in so many areas.  I don't know when I have ever prayed as often for peace and justice.

I am angry at all those Christians who voted for a man who has been married three times, who used vulgarities to speak of women when he bragged of his sexual prowess, and who regularly sends out insulting and name-calling tweets from the White House--to North Korea, to Democrats, but also to his fellow Republicans. He has tweeted words that have had to be bleeped out of news reports.  He has lied about  President Obama's wire-tapping the Trump Tower, about the size of the inaugaral crowd, and just last week about how Senator Corker, a Republican,  begged for his endorsement and  wanted to be Vice-President, both of which Corker denied.  Senator Corker has referred to the chaos in the White House and the danger of WW III if it was not kept under control.  He is not running for re-election and feels free to speak what he says almost all Republicans in the Senate are thinking.

The country is getting more and more divided along racial lines.  President Trump's tweets seem to encourage this division with his contrasting reaction to hurricanes in the mainland USA and Puerto Rico, with his misunderstanding that kneeling during the National Anthem is a protest against racism,  not veterans, and his defense of  the Confederate monuments which serve to remind "people of color" of a very sad past.

Every day the newspapers are full of news like this.  I take little pleasure in reading the news any more.  I have taken the news app off my phone so I am not tempted to check it so often.

In some ways, I cannot fault President Trump.  He has been a reality show star and he continues in that vein.  I fault those who voted for him who knew what they were getting into when they did.   Some hated Hillary Cliinton so much that they couldn't possibly vote for her. I fault the evangelical Christians who voted "pro-life" as their main issue when to me "pro-life" means so much more than "anti-abortion." 

It is possible that President Trump will find some common ground with the Democatric leadership on improving the Affordable Care Act.  I don't see much hope for gun control or immigration when Building the Wall is still on his agenda as expensive and foolish as that is. It is possible that evidence will be uncovered linking him with Russian influence in the election but that is all pretty murky.  I wonder what I will be blogging on December 31, 2017.
I just read Margaret Atwood's 2017 introduction to The Handmaid's Tale.  I don't think I have the emotional strength to read the book right now.   Her last few words apply to this blog!

"In this divisive climate, in which hate for many groups seems on the rise and scorn for democratic institutions is being expressed by extremists of all stripes, it is a certainty that someone, somewhere--many I would guess--are writing down what is happening as they are experiencing it. ...Will their messages be suppressed and hidden?  Will they be found, centuries later, in an old house, behind a wall?  Let us hope it doesn't come to that.  I trust it will not." 

Friday, October 6, 2017

New Glasses

In July 2016 I got a prescription for new glasses.  I shopped for frames several times and could not make up my mind.  As the months went on,  I decided I might as well wait for a year and get another prescription.

September 2017--I kept losing my glasses because I had to take them off to read--or to eat--orcook-or to do anything close by.  And then I couldn't see well enough to find them!  So it was back to Troy, our optometrist, for another exam.  My presccription had changed with less strength needed for distance so that would make a difference for the close work too.

I hate buying glasses.  I hate making that major decision.  But I made myself go to Eye-Sight, a place recommended by Dana, the stylish director of the local library where I volunteer.   The salesperson and I pulled out several pairs of glasses and decided on the very first pair we looked at.  I asked them to take a photo and  said that I would go home,  think about it and bring in my prescription later.

They were great salespeople!  They told me they could get my prescription faxed.  They did not take insurance but could knock off 20%.  I told them to go ahead.

Yesterday I picked up my new glasses.  The good news is that I can see better.  I keep reaching to take them off to read, to eat, to look at my cell phone--but I don't have to do that.  I can see very well.  The bad news is that I don't think I like the way I look.    I feel as if I look too old in them.

This morning I told my walking friend that I wasn't sure about them.   She looked at me and said they were a bit severe.  Severe!   I wish she had lied and said they looked great!

So what shall I do about this dilemma?  Troy says that my cataracts are bad enough for Medicare to pay for surgery.  Then I would not need any glasses!  But I am not eager for surgery.  I could buy a cheap and fun pair at Wal-Mart for when I want to be more upbeat. However,  I paid far too much for these already. Or I can just get used to these and be thankful that I can see so well and stop being so vain.

I told Jim I will just have to smile a lot so that I don't look too severe! 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Templeton Prize Awarded to Al Plantinga

The announcement was made a few months ago.  A 1.1 million pounds sterling prize would be awarded to Alvin Plantinga for his contributions to "affirming life's spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works"--the goal of the Templeton Foundation.

I will quote the first line of the program tribute:  "Alvin Plantinga is an American scholar whose rigorous writings over a half century have made theism--the belief in a divine reality or god--a serious option within academic philosophy."   His Warrant Trilogy published by Oxford University Press in 1993 and 2000 stated that "religious beliefs are proper starting points for human reasoning and do not have to be defended or justified based on other beliefs."    His five minute acceptance speech distinguished between two types of beliefs--one that accepted that George Washington was our first president because we had read about it or been told about it--and the second one (in his quirky style) was a belief that you had an annoying itch in your left leg.  I think he was saying that belief in God is like that second type of belief.  You know it and no one has to tell you that and it is not irrational.  That's seems pretty deceptively simple, he stated, and I am not sure I understand how that can be the basis of many books and words and lectures--and a Templeton prize--but there it is.

We were surprised to be invited to the Templeton Prize Ceremony but we accepted this invitation.  As Al said he was not sure he deserved this honor but he was not going to turn it down!

Our connections with Al are through several channels.   Jim studied logic and modern philosophy with him at Calvin College in the 1960s.  Years later, when Jim was appointed to the Department of Philosophy and Religion at North Carolina State University, his colleagues in philosophy were impressed to hear that he had studied with Al Plantinga and may have given him more respect because of it!

In 1991, when Jim was appointed to Notre Dame's Theology faculty, he became a colleague of Al's. .  But more importantly, we worshipped together at the South Bend Christian Reformed Church and became friends.

The memory of Al that comes to mind for me more than any other is worshipping with him during the often sparsely attended evening services we used to have at our church.  There were opportunities for prayer requests and Al often asked for prayers for his family or his many acquaintances.  Somehow that always struck me that this world renowned scholar was humble enough to ask for prayers for people he cared about.

The event itself this past Sunday at the Field Museum in Chicago was an adventure.  We took the South Shore train into Chicago and stayed at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel--where we were upgraded from our "hip and historic" room to a business class room on the 20th floor--spacious and with a lovely view.  We met our friends Julie and Nathan Hatch in the lobby and had pizza and drinks with them--catching up on families and the years gone by since they too were at Notre Dame and our church.  A shuttle bus took us to the Field Museum where we listened to six speeches, three chorale numbers by the Calvin College Alumni Choir, two videos, and one piano solo by Al's brother Leon.  A reception followed in the large museum hall--home of T Rex.

Al apparently had been taken to the hospital at 1 am with what he thought was heartburn.  The hotel staff was concerned because it could easily be heart issues instead.  In typical Al fashion, he may have neglected to  bring his usual meds along for the weekend.  In any case, he was released at noon and was able to participate in fine fashion in the evening.  This information was not publicized but we chatted with family members while waiting for the shuttle.

A great aspect of the evening was reuniting with many graduate students who had been members of our church during Al and Kathy's years there--some coming from Grand Rapids, but also from Florida, California, and the Netherlands.  Al has had an amazing legacy of influencing generations of philosophers and he stated that he hoped this prize would encourage them towards "greater creativity, integrity, and boldness."

Monday, September 18, 2017

Jeff Bain Conkin

Jeff Bain Conkin, husband of Kelly, father of Asher and Carter, elder and musician in our church,  a PhD in history from Notre Dame, employee in IT at Notre Dame, and friend of many, suddenly passed away a week ago Friday afternoon at 4 pm in his home.  It has been a week of many tears and questions and plans and hugs.

The phone rang at suppertime last Friday and we ignored it lest it be another robo-call.  Later Jim went to the phone to see if he could get in a few holes of golf and heard the voice mail signal.  He called Eric, our elder at church, knowing it was probably bad news and it was.  In shock, he came into the family room and told me it was Jeff and he was gone.  We sat in disbelief--and Jim did not go golfing.

I texted Chris, our pastor, to say I was praying for her too because I knew she would have to be in the midst of it all.  She texted back with her thanks.  And then shortly after that, she asked me to get meals started for the family.  Joanne called and said she would bring breakfast; I said we would do lunch.  I then passed it on to Mary who is in charge of meals at church.  I was so glad I did because with many, many offers it got to be a complicated undertaking.

Early Saturday morning, I went to Martin's and bought a large sub--of which they had many for game day at Notre Dame.  We added brownies, fruit, carrot sticks, and a potato salad and brought it all over to the house at 12:30.  Little Asher, age 5, came up to us and said, "You go to my church."  Later, as he was bouncing all over the room and under the blanket on a make-shift cot, he said, "My daddy died."  Those words haunted me all day.

I prayed and prayed, "God, be with Kelly."  As I did, I thought of D who would care about Kelly a lot but not yet having made the commitment to join our church, might not be on the elder list to call.  I didn't want to have her hear about it on Sunday morning so I contacted her.  She was very appreciative.  I thought about how prayer works.  In this case, I could do nothing more for Kelly but did God put D into my mind?

Sunday's church school was changed into a time of support for each other.  The worship service was changed also into a time of lament, not only for Jeff, but also for the horrific hurricanes experienced this week.  Chris had a short meditation in which she admitted to "being shaken to her core."  She spoke of Jesus calming the seas and raising Lazarus but not Jeff.  Yet Jesus was in the boat and he wept--and then he died as the ultimate gift of being one with us. Joel's congregational prayer was so meaningful--also full of lament and questions.  He mentioned that there was no drummer this morning--Jeff's role.  He expressed the guilt we all felt when we laughed or smiled in spite of this tragedy.  He was so bold as to refer to two "unstable men" on either side of the world threatening nuclear war. There were many hugs and tears and tissues in each row ready for use.

David asked me to play the organ for the service.  There was just one congregational hymn for organ  but I had to find music for before and after the service.  I did so with care--choosing strong hymns but not sentimental ones.  I could not play "It is well with my soul"  for now. "For All the Saints" was an easy choice for the postlude.  The idea came to me to ask the guitar players to join on the two Taize songs I had chosen and even without any practice, that worked out so well.  "Oh Lord, Hear My Prayer, Oh Lord, Hear My Prayer" and "In God Alone, My Soul Can Find Rest and Peace."   The timing, which had concerned me, was perfect because the family began walking in at that point and then I could play "Great is Thy Faithfulness."

We had gone to the visitation in the afternoon in spite of my hesitation to see the open casket which I avoided.   Kelly was alone in a chair at the time we walked in and she greeted us with great sobs and hugs.  We just held her and loved her.  Somehow, she was so gracious as to tell us, "Jeff loved you guys." A few hours later, Kelly was strong enough to give a profound and emotional and theological eulogy for her husband.  She ended with recounting a letter he had written to her when they spent a year apart during their engagement 12 years previously in which  he told her to stop worrying about their next "Good-bye" but instead think of their "Glorious Hello."

The church was packed with friends and family.  It was strange to look out over our sanctuary filled with folks dressed in dark clothing. Cars were parked on the grass and at the school next door.  That in itself was a tribute to Jeff and Kelly.

Now life goes on.  There is a fund to help with finances without the primary income for this young family.  Kelly will have to go back to work as a therapist.  How can she help others when her own world has fallen apart?  Her family is far away.  We will be her church family as we have been.  I wish I had known Jeff better; I do feel as if I know Kelly better having had a few one on one conversations with her--initiated by both of us at different times.

David posted this on Facebook after the service and it made me weep once again when I read it Friday:

Today I heard a eulogy given by a distraught wife that knocked the socks off everyone in the (very full) room. I saw a lot of people who haven't been around all together in the sanctuary to celebrate the life of this man. I listened to a Roman Catholic priest say "Amen!" multiple times as our female pastor delivered an excellent, profound, and personal meditation. I listened to amazing voices lead us through "Shepherd me, O God," and the congregation responding with an outstanding communal voice, and my dear friend playing Taize' songs on organ with guitar accompanist - it was excellent. Jeff's work wasn't done. Tonight he accomplished a great deal of kingdom building.
The Body of Christ is an amazing thing. Tonight we saw a wonderful part of it in the midst of a tragic situation. We mourn together. Together we will work through this. Together we have the ability to support Kelly and the boys. Together.

October 11, 2017

An update:  Monday night, Jim and I along with about 20 others, were invited to the Kuyers for a grieving session with Kelly.  It began with a meditation read by Chris and then Kelly told her story of Jeff's last minutes and her great loss.  Then others were invited to share their immediate reaction to hearing about his death and reflections on their own loss.  We toasted Jeff with his favorite beverage--Maker's Mark--and then told stories about him--many funny, many appreciative.  His ashes were in a box next to Kelly--which she said Jeff would like because it would make us uncomfortable.  It did. 

To do this was very courageous on Kelly's part but she felt it necessary to connect with others again.  I admire her and respect her for that.  Chris directed the evening well.  There were many tears from both men and women. 

I am haunted by the evening.  I think of Kelly's description and I won't even write the words down because I don't want to dwell on them as I have been doing--day and night unfortunately.  Her grief is so enormous and we can't lift it for her.  We can't make it better. 

I guess I will continue to ask her over for supper with the boys. They came once, the first night they were alone without family.  I asked again and it didn't work out. 

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Feminist Theory, Part II

Our lives and thoughts right now are consumed with the tragic death of a young friend of ours from church.  I can't write about that yet.  I can't begin to process it, let alone thinking of his wife and family processing it.

Another friend had the congregational prayer and among many hard things, he mentioned our feeling guilty when we laughed at something this weekend.  I know exactly what he meant.

But I am in a writing mood so I will write with some amusement about the Feminist Theory class again.

No, I am not a "Smick."  What is a Smick?   This is a self-described term for a St. Mary's chick. It's OK to call yourself a Smick but not so OK if others do.  Apparently, the alumna are not fond of the term.

Yes, I am "woke."  Or I would like to think I am woke--politically aware.  Apparently this term, which not all the ladies knew, has been applied to the women of color in the class.  The stereotype is that they are more "woke" than others.

 I think I was woke today when I told Karie after class that I thought the "guilty" in the Central Park Jogger case had been exonerated years after the 1991 article we read today.  I googled it later and yes they had--which probably only adds to the racism of that particular retelling of that tragedy.

Three of the four young ladies of color in the class speak up more than anyone else.  Is this because of their "woke"-ness?  Or just their own personalities?  One refers to herself as "mixed."  I never liked that term and still don't.  I do however find hearing about their experiences a very interesting part of the class.  The most outspoken of the three told us that when asked by other St. Mary's women, "No, she cannot and will not introduce others to the ND football players, No she cannot teach someone else how to twerk, and No, this is not the night that you are going to f... a black girl for the first time."  So, yes, she is a victim of stereotyping!

I enter into the discussion only if I really feel I have something to contribute or need clarification.  I try to sit in different places so that no one group gets subject to my always being in their group discusssions. Karie says I am being disruptive in that respect!  I have noted that at least in the warmer weather I was the only student without a fancy water bottle.

It has been fun to watch my friend Karie, aka Professor Cross Riddle, in action.  She runs the class well.  She accepts student comments and furthers them. She praises and applauds the student discussion leaders.   Her presentations clarify our reading material.  She ends the class positively with thanks for a good discussion.  She clearly finds the material compelling and important for social justice, and not just of academic interest.

These St. Mary's women have impressed me with their interest, enthusiasm, and ability to present their ideas to others.  I feel very "privileged" (and not just as a white, educated woman!) to be able to sit in on this class. One suggestion made today to further "intersectionality" was to have converstions with others who were not of your race or for that matter, sexuality.  This class is giving me the opportunity to listen to women who are definitely not of my age group, some not of my race, and sexuality unknown thus far at least.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Feminist Theory--Fall Term 2017

Yesterday I attended my first Feminist Theory class at St. Mary's College taught by our friend Karie Cross Riddle.    Karie completed her PhD in political theory and peace studies this year and is doing a post-doc at Notre Dame.  Teaching this class is her assigned work for the year.

I had attended Karie's dissertation defense and was intrigued by the ideas and vocabulary.  She said it would be fine if I sat in on the class.

The first assignment was daunting--an obtuse but classic essay by Nancy Hartsock from 1983 entitled "The Feminist Standpoint:  Developing the Ground for a Specifically Feminine Historical Materialism."  The title itself contained vocabulary that I had to look up--plus words in the reading like "epistemological" and "ontological" and Marxist terms like commodities, subsistence, dialectic, use-goods, etc.  I read the article, then tried to read some background material defining these terms, and then read the article again with a bit more understanding.  I tried to tell myself that the19-21 year old St. Mary's women probably were struggling with the reading as well.

And they were!  That was clearly expressed by several of them.  But, as I had hoped, Karie helped to clarify what Hartsock was getting at and why she was doing so.  I was glad I had prepared the "reflection" because even if I didn't have to hand it in for a grade, I needed to have something to say in our small group discussion.

I will summarize as Karie did:

A feminist standpoint is an understanding of life and societal relations from a women's point of view taking in women's life experiences and responsibilities.   This helps us to understand patriarchal relationships, makes visible the sexual division of labor, and mitigates inhuman social relations.

Takeaways:  Knowledge is socially situated.  Marginalized groups are more aware of problems and able to raise questions.  Research focused on power relations should begin with the marginalized.

I enjoyed the class and I enjoyed the adventure of the whole experience.  Seeing Karie in action was a delight and made me proud!   After years of my being an educator, it was fun to see how she organized the class and involved the students.  And I enjoyed seeing and hearing St. Mary's women in action.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

50 Years!

When my grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, they seemed really old.  My own parents never had that opportunity.  Jim's parents celebrated theirs with a traditional open house in their church basement.  It's hard to believe that we too are really that old!

 Our celebration started at Ocean Grove, New Jersey with 14 of us.  We lived together and ate together and played together for a week and it was wonderful.   On Wednesday evening, after our family photos were finished, Michael brought out a bottle of Dom Perignon and Laura toasted us with phrases including a "strong marrige" and "strong children and grandchildren" reminiscent of Michael's dad's toast at their wedding--a memorable one!

Today is the day.  Jim is golfing; I did my library volunteer work both at the Francis branch and at church.  I came home to two beautiful bouquets of flowers, one from Jim and one from John and Lois.  I wrote out a card to Jim--from my stash. (We usually don't keep Hallmark in business.) In a few hours we will go out to eat at Tabor Hill Restaurant, always a nice ride into the country, a lovely view of the vineyards, and a good meal.

I posted a wedding photo on Facebook last year for our 49th.  I am not going to post anything this year.  I have sent this photo and statement to a few friends--all of whom are married. ..." to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth."  Many of my friends are single and not always by choice.  I don't feel like gloating in any way.  I am thankful we were able to keep those vows.

One more celebration to go.  I ordered two cakes from Martin's that will feed 120 people at our church picnic on Sunday.  The writing will say "Celebrate 50 years with Us.  Jim and Mary."  We somewhat reluctantly gave permission for a trivia type quiz on each table and will see how that turns out.  We hope we can celebrate many more years together!

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Ocean Grove Part III

A good aspect of a week together is the small groupings that occur naturally.  Dan and R went for a walk, Jeff entertained A, M and J jumped the waves and rode their boogie board together.  Jeff and Dan had a good game of Scrabble, I played Ninja with J, and Katie, Laura and I went shopping at the nearby outlet mall.

Before we came, I tried to think of activities that everyone could do together.  The "Who is this beautiful baby?" activity was a big hit.  Thursday I organized a scavenger hunt in town.  S, R, and J helped me write the lists of eleven items each.  Dan, Katie, and M were their respective partners in finding things like a named statue or a blue house around the town, photographing it to give proof and returning within 45 minutes.  There was much excitement on the part of the three littler ones and the older ones really made it fun for everyone.

A theme of the week is "Where is A?" or "Who has A?"  He has learned to open the doors and the gate and he has strong opinions about food and bedtime.  He chats a lot and is pretty cute which is a very good thing!

 Each of the younger grandchildren  enjoys his or her own thing--R pretending, J writing, S on his screens, and A digging in the dirt. (Who needs beach sand?)  The older ones were patient about being away from home and friends for a week.

Beach time depends on the weather.  We have been able to get down there at least once a day.  That means crossing the street--what a great location Strandvue has been.  The waves have been large--large enough to knock me right over on Friday.  I did try the boogie boards on Thursday and rode a few waves in--not far.

Thursday was lobster, salmon and shirmp kabobs.  A feast every night!

 Friday night was taco night followed by an ice cream cake decorated for the ocean stay--and then followed by a fireworks show--lightning over the water.


More beach time today.  One last grilling meal and trying to finish what was left in the refrigerator--one last ice cream trip--and then a walk around the tabernacle to hear the Beach Boys in concert--just a song or two.

Sunday--The beaches are closed as always on Sunday morning.

We hope to be home by early afternoon on Monday.  It's been a great week thanks to all 12 of our very dear children, their spouses, and our grandchildren.  What a great way to celebrate our 50th anniversary!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Ocean Grove Part II

All 14 of us under one roof--three storeys, six beds, a sofa bed, two blow-up mattresses--and we all fit in.  Meals-breakfast and lunch--are scattered.  Supper has been on the 1400 foot deck with ocean breezes and a great view of the busy strand. Strandvue was built in 1880.  The kitchen is very modern; the main floor has lovely stained glass windows and wooden trim.  The stairs are very creaky and it gets a bit shabbier as you go up the steps.  The bathrooms are modern, there is ample parking which is not a given in Ocean Grove, and the location couldn't be better.  There is no central air conditioning but we use our room unit briefly at night and then open windows and enjoy the breeze.

What did we do today?  Another early morning walk with A to the bakery, a Scrabble game with J and Jim, a walk with Dan and R, two loads of laundry,  pulled pork for lunch a day late, and time to read and nap. At 5:30 we had a photography session on the beach with Jessica whose gently put us in our places with a "Would you mind...?"  A threw a two year old tantrum because he did not want to wear a white shirt and then would not give up his pacifier.   Otherwise, the rest of us were mostly cooperative!

After the photography session, Michael brought out the Don Perignon 2006 champagne, and Laura toasted Grandpa and Grandma, also known as Mom and Dad, also known as Jim and Mary.  It was lovely and brought tears to my eyes.

We picked up pizza for supper--Dan suggeted kale and sausage which I enjoyed-and then Jim and I went to the Wednesday organ recital with Gordon Tuuk.  It was informal and fun and ended in a rousing riff on the Star-Spangled Banner complete with lights flashing on the American flag.  Tuuk got a standing ovation when we all caught on that it was the National Anthem.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Ocean Grove Part I

We were on the road by 9:30 am Saturday and had an easy ride to Bedford, Pennsylvania arriving around 5 pm.  For years we have passed the Jean Bonnet Tavern along the Turnpike and I was curious!  So this year, I made a reservation and we drove a few miles along the Lincoln Highway for a wonderful dinner in an inn that had been there for 250 years.  My crabcake sandwich was the very best ever!  Afterwards we drove to town and enjoyed seeing the historic houses and churches.

Sunday: I really wanted to go to church after a somewhat stressful week.  Jim stayed at the motel, communing with RH Charles and one of his 1887 sermons.  I went to the Bedford Lutheran Church where I was warmly welcomed and felt God's word to me in liturgy, sermon, and the Eucharist.
Bedford Lutheran Church

We were the first ones to arrive at the Strandvue, our ocean front "cottage" with its 1880 marker.  We claimed the third floor turret room with its privacy and view.  The others arrived within the hour and we had a great spaghetti supper followed by the traditional Day's Ice Cream trip.

Katie's tomato salad
Monday: Before going to bed we used an hour of A/C with a noisy window unit and then we opened the windows to get the ocean breeze.  By morning it was almost cold.  We took S and A out for a very early breakfast treat and then the rest of the day was full of kid play,  reading, great eating, and some beach time.  We had a pretty hectic trip to Shop-Rite with a broken shopping cart with R riding and a sleeping A in the car and the difficulties of finding anything in a huge grocery store where there were shelves of Kosher meat and I wanted a pork roast for pulled pork.

Michael fixed a delicious steak dinner which we ate outside on the deck.  We made our nightly trip for ice cream.

I had prepared 14 numbered baby photos before we came, one of each of us copied in black and white. Everyone tried to decide who was who.  It was great fun making the choices and great fun reading the results.  The two moms, Laura and Susan, had perfect scores.  The dads--not so much. Jeff, our mathematician, had figured out the plurality scores, and they were correct except in the case of the three Conway boys whose baby photos were pretty similar!

Laura presented us with the Shutterfly albums she had made with photos of "Jim and Mary" from high school days to the present time.  A wonderful gift!

A the escape artist
Tuesday:   Another early morning trip to the downtown bakery this time with J and A.  We had to wait for it to open but it was worth the wait.

 It rained much of the day so Michael took the kids to a movie.  Jeff and Susan had to go back to Princeton for the second of their rabies shots (that's another story!).  There was plenty of quiet time until it came time to do supper and it was clear my effort at pulled pork was not going to be ready even after hours in the crock pot.  So we headed back to Shop-Rite, bought burgers and hot dogs, and went to work.

Dan arrived on the 6:16 train and we were all together for supper and ice cream.
Almost everyone at Day's for ice cream

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Discipline or the Lack Thereof

My ambitious read!
I need more discipline in my life.  Recently I finished a classic mystery by John McDonald, the first of his Travis McGee series.  It was well written and interesting but when I finished it, I felt degraded, unclean, and definitely not uplifted.  I like reading mysteries.  Michael Connelly in his very informative interview with USA Today's book editor said that folks read mysteries to think about what they would do in crucial situations.  I don't think that is true.  I read mysteries for escape and entertainment.  I like police procedurals.  I like mysteries set in interesting locations with quirky detectives.  But sometimes I feel as if I have really wasted my time and even if I have time to waste, it is not spent well in living with an evil side of life. (Unfortunately, even the news coming out of the White House is full of  degrading language--especially the now former Communications Director Scarmucci's vulgar diatribe against his colleagues,)

So I need more discipline in my reading.  The classics?  Biographies?  Memoirs?  And some mysteries chosen with a bit more care--not "cozy" mysteries however!

 I also need discipline in my eating.  I should lose 10 pounds for the threat of potential diabetes, for my joints, and for my appearance.  But I love to eat and I don't think I overeat.  So that means cutting out potato chips, chocolate, ice cream, alcohol.  Oh, no.  Not that too.  We already have stopped eating bread with supper and I have not had ice cream for dessert for three weeks.  My dear husband can indulge as he pleases and he gains nothing.  I dread the day I out weigh him!  It is not going to happen!

Exercise- I often get my 10,000 steps a day and my 30 minutes of walking.  I do eight minutes of back exercises each morning.  It's certainly not enough for weigh loss even if good for general health.

Prayer and Bible reading- I read the lectionary every morning--but far too quickly.   I pray at times during the day--and try to do so at night.  But my concentration is weak and my prayers can just be lists of people and thanksgivings.

My daughter is very disciplined about her exercise and her reading and her eating.  Jim is very disciplined as well.  He did comfort me today by wondering how important discipline is at my age.  I will ponder this further.  I hope we have a few years left and are not ready to give in totally.
This past Sunday our pastor preached on "self-control," one of the gifts of the Spirit.  She said it  could be called "Spirit-control" and gave specific ideas at the end of her sermon.  One was finding someone to be accountable to over your habits of eating, spending, use of time, or whatever. Another idea was fasting.

I decided to "fast" from constant looking at the news--especially the latest Trump tweets and the opinion pages reacting to him.  I deleted the News app from my iphone and that has helped!  The point of fasting is to give up something but to have more time for spiritual things. When I am tempted to read one more disturbing post, I should pray instead.  Another thing to ponder.

Friday, August 4, 2017

An Unusually Social Week or More

July 24--supper at Venturi's in Goshen with Jim's golfing partners for the afternoon.  There was lots of conversation waiting for a table and then in a noisy restaurant while eating our Neapolitan Pizzas.

July 25--lunch with the cousins in Hudsonville, Michigan. I blogged about this earlier.

July 27--supper at Chili's--our treat for a young family from our church--a great opportunity to get to know both the parents and the children better.

July 28--supper at the home of one of Jim's colleagues, also members of our church.  Joining us were our pastor and her family.  There were six little ones under the age of seven and we were still able to have a lovely dinner and good conversation.
Potato-corn-tomato salad

July 30--a cookout at our house with our neighbors after a golf outing for the gentlemen.  Jim cooked the burgers and we had a potato salad, green beans and a blueberry crisp dessert.  It was easy, casual and fun.

July 31--breakfast at our house with a young friend from church who wanted a listener.

August 1--the church's women's group met at our house.  Because it was rather a last minute plan, I made cookies with what I had in the house--butter, flour, sugar, and oatmeal.  It was no fuss and they went over well.  Five children played--mostly in the basement but sometimes in the midst of us!

August 3-- another cookout with almost the same menu with another family from church.  They contributed a great custard pie for dessert which had to be finished in our oven because they lost power.

August 4--lunch with a young couple at their home in anticipation of their wedding which we can't attend because we will be on vacation.  I brought beer bread and the leftover potato salad; they contributed a tomato salad and a spinach salad.  It was a feast!

Our life is rarely so full of eating with others so this is unusual enough to blog about.  I am thankful for friends--friends of all ages and mostly from our church.  It's good to have others enter into our lives and bring their joys and struggles.   Many of our closest friends have retired and moved away.  So if others don't object to the age gap, we certainly don't!