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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 Denise 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 so appreciative.  I thought about how prayer works.  In this case, I could do nothing more for Kelly but did God put Denise 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.

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!

Friday, July 28, 2017

A Visit to the Snite

Mercato Stripes (Sloan 1984)
Tina, a high schooler in our church, had several works displayed at the Snite Museum of Art at Notre Dame after a three week internship there.  Her presentation gave me a reason to do what I have been meaning to do for a while--visit the Snite again.

New Mexico Skies (Higgins-1943)
Tina's works were right at the entrance.  I enjoyed seeing them and reading her helpful and thoughtful artist's statement.

A guard recognized me and we chatted for a while.  It was nice to feel welcomed even though I did resign from being a docent after my minimum of two years' service!  I had learned a lot about art and that was my goal.  I had tired of leading groups.   However,  I was interested today to note that the paintings that I taught most often were like old friends to me.
Edmond Dehodencq, The Artist's Son
(French mid-1800s)

I have taken photos of works I love in art musems in New York, Atlanta, San Antonio, Chicago, Oxford and other places and saved them in a Shutterfly album.   I had not taken photos of my favorites at the Snite so today I did just that.  As I was walking back to the car, I had the happy thought that I could blog about my visit and save the photos this way.

I have always loved the Higgins and the Sloan works.  As a docent,  I learned about and appreciated the Pingret and the Dehodencq portraits in the French gallery.

Diane de Poutier
 Receiving a Message from France

Cleopatra 50 BC Egyptian
Coronation of the Virgin
1460 German 
The wooden alterpiece with its worn colors intrigued me noting that it pre-dates Columbus's trip to the Americas.   I had not seen the Cleopatra bust and wonder if it is a new acquisition of a very old piece.

I need to make visits to our local art museums a regular habit--the Snite, the Midwest Museum of  Art in Elkhart, the South Bend Museum of Art downtown.  I will keep up my memberships in the Met and the Chicago Art Institute, but our local museums are a treasure too.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Stroo Cousins' Reunion and My Parents' Grave Sites

Yesterday, I woke up and felt energetic so I decided to join my cousins in Hudsonville, Michigan for a potluck lunch.  I put together a corn salad, bought some deli meats and cheese and headed north--a two hour drive to Hager Park.

There were nine cousins there and two spouses.   The cousins from Ontario and Texas were in the area and that gave us a reason to try to get together. Two cousins live in Washington and Florida and that was too far to come!  Two other cousins are caretakers for their spouses and were not there. I don't know about the other four.   It is pretty amazing that all 17 of us are alive and even reasonably healthy.   In some ways it is even more amazing, because the Stroo siblings, our parents,  almost all died at an early age.  My own mother died at age 59. Several spouses have died--two in the last year and a half.

There was lots of talking and laughter and lots of good food.  Leo had a camera, tripod, and timer so he took a few photos.  Jim had a never-used selfie stick in the car, so I encouraged him to get it out so I could give it a try.  It was a pretty funny scene--all of us seniors attempting a selfie!  You can see by the results that I was intensely concentrating on getting us all in and pressing the button and it never occured to me to smile!

There were questions to which there never will be answers.  How did Uncle Dan have a combat medal found in his possession after he died when he said he never was in direct combat?  Was he in the Battle of the Bulge?  Did Aunt Mattie ever harbor refugees in her basement in the Netherlands during WWII as some of us had heard?   So much we could have asked, but didn't.

There were also Dutch expressions I haven't heard for years--and for which we could not give English equivalents.  Can I dare to try to spell these?  Banout, rummel, sanukking, feise.  Maybe they are not even classical Dutch and are just "Yankee Dutch." (correction for two of them--"vies" defined as "dirty" and "Banauwd" defined as "stuffy"--neither definition really gets the full meaning!)

There was no political talk and that was best avoided.   I am quite sure that we have some very real differences of opinion on our present situation.  Sometimes I really want to have forthright discussions but that was not the time or place.

After our hugs and good-byes, I drove to the Georgetown Cemetery about a mile away to pay my respects at my parents' graves.   I could not find them.  My sister said she had been unable to find them earlier. I find the  idea of cremation for myself and for Jim a difficult and uncomfortable idea, but why should the money be spent and the land used for burial when even those closest to you cannot find your grave years later?  And for us, there would be no central place where anyone would come to find such a grave.  We might as well be cremated.  I did say to Jim tonight I hope that our ashes can be combined if we're not buried side by side.  Morbid?  It made me feel better.

Today, however, after some online searching, I think I could find those tombstones for my parents--among the more than 7000 at Georgetown Cemetery.  Next time I'll take a photo and at least preserve their memory in that way.  (242-E 1 and E2)

I am so glad I made the effort to make the trip.  It was good to see everyone at something other than a funeral--and sadly, there have to be more of those in the next several years.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Nothing on the Schedule

Flowers at ND
For the last three days, I have had only one item on my calendar--tutoring M--and that was cancelled.  A friend who recently moved away emailed that she was busy now settling in but was concerned that she would be totally bored  once that was done.

I did wonder when I looked at three blank days what would fill them.  But now we are at the end of those three days and I have not been bored;  they have been three good days.

 I was not confined to home for three days.   There was a 30% discount trip to CVS where I had a good list of items.  I stopped at the library for a requested book that had come in.  I practiced the organ. Jim and I made our usual Martin's Grocery trip this morning. I averaged close to 10,000 steps daily according to my Fitbit in 40-60 minutes of walking.

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I lit a candle at Notre Dame out of thankfulness this time for many things, including Jim's eyesight.  I visited Jim's basement office and then his "new" third floor office.

At home, I did some laundry, clipped ivy and dead-headed flowers, and cleaned the very dirty screens in the three season room.  I played the piano.  I purged old photo albums.  I read lots and let my reading lead me into various Google searches.  Plus I researched potential trips to Arkansas, Nova Scotia and St. Pete Beach.  They may not all take place but it is fun to think about the possibilities.

I experimented with a new recipe for a cauliflower salad and made a chicken risotto dish and a rhubarb crisp.

The only longer conversation I had with anyone besides Jim was a phone chat with my sister.  I did have email, text and Facebook contacts with a few other friends.

I am glad I do have regular obligations at church and with volunteer work at the libraries and with tutoring.   But I am also thankful that empty days fill up with good things including blogging!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Cataract Surgery

Jim's problems with his eyes began six years ago with a retinal detachment.  At first the surgery seemed successful but then it failed.  A second surgery gave him some vision but not a lot.  A cataract surgery in that eye gave him more light at least.

Then there was the herpes virus in the good eye three years later.  That was pretty scary.  But eventually that cleared up too although he continues to medicate with eye drops to prevent that from reoccuring.

And then there is the troublesome pressure in both eyes for which we also do daily drops morning and evening.

Mark Noll referred to our all being on "cataract watch" as we age.   Jim's was getting more and more troublesome.  I was the designated driver for all night driving.  He could not spot the ball after his drives in golf.  He couldn't read the words on the screens in church.  It was scary to think of any surgery on his only good eye but it was time.

So today was the day.  The surgeon, Dr. Davis, met with us earlier and was quite aware of Jim's circumstances including the fact that he couldn't correct to 20-20 or Jim would be very unbalanced in his vision.
Jim is number 5987
The preparation for surgery with many eye drops took about two hours.  The surgery itself took about 30 minutes.  The post-op time was about 15 minutes which included Jim's eating a muffin, drinking Sprite, and getting dressed.  We celebrated with Krispy Creme on the way home!  Jim felt he was seeing better immediately in spite of dilated pupils.

 A funny moment was when the anaesthesiologist, an older man temporarily here from Portland he said, asked me if I was a friend or co-worker and I smiled and said, "Wife" and asked if he had learned to be careful.  He said he had made a big mistake once in referring to someone as a son when I thought he implied it was a significant other.

 A not-so-funny moment was when, after a long 30 minutes and Jim was still posted as being in surgery, I was called from the desk asking if I was in the building.  Well, I was just three feet away from the caller but when she had asked for "Mary" earlier and I had turned to her she said I wasn't the one.  My heart jumped because I thought something had gone wrong.

We've added three new drops to the previous three.
Jim couldn't have a glass of wine tonight and he had to ask me to get out the ice cream from the bottom freezer because he can't bend low.  But he is doing a crossword puzzle and we went for a leisurely walk.  We are very thankful. I do think that without good doctors and modern surgeries, Jim would have very limited vision if any at this point.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Week in South Haven 2017

We arrived at 225 North Shore, Unit 301,  around 3:30 Sunday afternoon.  Jim spent most of the rest of the day watching the US Open and at times I did too.  We ate leftovers at the condo and then enjoyed a spectacular sunset.

Monday--We shopped at Meijers for snacks and desserts mostly.  Around 2:30 we headed to Hawkshead Golf Course where Jim played 18 holes and I accompanied him in the cart with the important job of spotting.  Jim has great difficulty picking up that little white ball on the fairway, let alone if it happens to go off the fairway!   Sometimes play was slow, but the back nine went much faster.  Very dark clouds came up as we neared the 17th hole.  The rain held off until he finished the 18th but at that point it got very windy and much colder.  The course was really lovely especially with the purple wildflowers everywhere.

. We called Clementines and were told there was no wait. We hurried for a rare chance to eat there.   Well, they were wrong.  There was a 40 minute wait which we do not do.  We walked to the Black River Tavern, a place we had never been to in all the years we have come to South Haven.  It was noisy and crowded and we had great burgers and drinks.

Back to the condo for another walk and beautiful sunset.   11,000 plus steps was a good day of exercise.

Tuesday--Jim pumped up the tires on my bike which he reluctantly but graciously had put in the car for me.  I rode down North Shore Drive to the end and then down 74th Street to its end, an annual ride for me.  I could smell the honeysuckle at times and stopped to pick some wildflowers to grace our condo.

It rained much of the afternoon and was extremely windy.  At suppertime, it stopped and we walked to Amicarelli's Vineyard Restaurant to pick up our lasagna order.  They included some focacia bread and it was a great meal with a much nicer view from our condo than in the restaurant.

Wednesday--Jim dropped me off in town on his way to the Young Life Golf Tournament, one of the highlights of his year.  He had put together a great team and the weather looked amazingly dry.  My first stop was the Wednesday Farmer's Market where I bought Michigan strawberries, local cheese and two $5 packages of cards made by the disabled.  One supposedly was made from blueberry dye.

My next stop was Black River Books where I browsed a bit.  I wanted to buy something just to say thank you for the time spent browsing but when the owner looked at the paperback I picked up and then looked at me and decided $4 was the right price, I was offended and said No thank you.  It was in good shape but for a book I didn't really need or want?
After walking back to the condo, I took my bike out to another one of my favorite haunts down Baseline Road to The Preserves.  I was happy to see that there was construction again after years of the development looking pretty forlorn.

I put on my bathing suit for the first time this week and put my toes in Lake Michigan.  There were children playing in the water but I was not as brave as they were.  The warm pool felt wonderful and I enjoyed that more.  Jim got back around 7:30 and we ate leftover lasagna.

Thursday--John and Lois joined us for some of the day with the fellows playing golf at Hawkshead and Lois and I enjoying the area around the condo. We dropped off two bags of donations from John's mother's move at the Lakeshore Rescue Mission shop.  And then we were tempted by shorts for me and a top for Lois.  We told ourselves it was a donation to a good cause!  We didn't have our usual trip to Captain Lou's but did have Mike's Hard Lemonade and chips and salsa in our condo after the game.  Jim and I enjoyed another take-out meal from The Vineyard--this time a sausage pizza.

Friday--I walked in the rain to get some pastries for a breakfast treat.  I had the best morning glory muffin ever and a bonus was being able to buy a NY Times.  We are so glad Bunde's Bakery is back after a few years of an empty storefront and a hotdog cafe.

Jim walked to North Beach and I biked to the Celery Flats site and then the South Haven Cemetery, another one of my favorite destinations for biking.  I am reminded of the long history of South Haven when I see the dates on tombstones including those with GAR markers from the Civil War.  I searched for the tombstone I once saw which said "He was finer than a frog's hair split four ways" but I could not find it again.  What an epitaph!

Later in the afternoon we had a long walk to South Beach and the refurbished lighthouse at the end of the pier.  Leftover pizza was an easy supper.  The sun has set with great shows every night--each one different.

Saturday--We are going home tonight rather than early tomorrow morning.  There has been noise from roadwork from 7 am each morning--enough that at times the building shakes.  I don't always sleep well.  There has been rain but we have enjoyed the dramatic clouds that go with it. Jim struggles with his golf game and I wonder how much of that is due to his eyesight.  We'll see after Tuesday's cataract surgery. Once again it has been a good week in a place we love to visit each year.