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Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Rough Start but All is Well

The problem started on Thursday evening when I realized my driver's license was missing from my wallet.  We looked everywhere--even the waste basket where I had thrown some outdated cards.  I retrieved my passport so I could use that for ID but I was supposed to be the chauffeur for Jeff's sons in his absence.  I knew my wallet had slipped between the seat and the door of the car on Wednesday--and sure enough, there was the loose driver's license on the floor of the back seat.

Then between that excitement at 10 pm and the anticipation of solo travel and the great despair I feel about every new bit of news from the Oval Office, sleep did not come easily Thursday evening.

Off to the airport at 10 am on Friday.   Why were there so many emergency vehicles waiting on the runway?  It was because the arriving plane--which was to be our departing plane--was in trouble.  So we had to wait for a replacement.  That meant I missed my connecting flight at O'Hare and arrived at Newark too late to meet Dan for a drink in Manhattan before his dinner engagement.

There were a few times during the day when I wondered why I had agreed to help Jeff and Susan out--and how much longer this aging lady could keep up this kind of travel.

But all I had to do was get into my Hilton Garden room on the 21st floor on 33rd Street and look out and it felt great to be in the big city.  I walked a few blocks to the Morgan Museum and appreciated the Emily Dickinson exhibit--free on Friday nights.   I found a wine shop and a Pret Manger and had my own little party in the room.  I was so busy looking for a sandwich shop that I was taken by surprise when I looked up and there was the Empire State Building.

Time to have a conversation with Jim and then to a better night of sleep in a very quiet room in a very busy city.

Saturday: I woke up several times during the night and looked out at the city lights.  Somehow it didn't look quite as glamorous in the morning!   I do like my Hilton brand hotels because they definitely give me upgrades--this time to a room with a view.  .

Dan fit me into his social schedule and had breakfast with me at the restaurant attached to the hotel.   It was a tasty buffet and we had a good chat before he went off to his climbing wall appointment.  I forgot to take a photo while we were chatting so he sent me a selfie at the wall.

I walked to Penn Station, waited a bit for the next NJ Transit train, and watched the play by play loss of Notre Dame to Georgia Tech on my iphone while traveling.  Jeff picked me up at Princeton Junction or rather, I should say, my grandson picked me up at Princeton Junction.  This was a milestone in my life.   It was only legal if Jeff was in the front seat with him.  He did just fine!

Right now Jeff is fixing stir-fry for supper and it smells wonderful.  Another treat--having your son cook your meal!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Marching 2017

The cheerful young cashier at Martin's asked me what my plans were for the weekend.  I told her I was going to march this afternoon.  She had not heard of any march and asked what that was all about.  I explained briefly my dismay at Trump's election and she wondered what we hoped to accomplish by marching. She asked what else I would be doing this weekend. I told her I'd be going to church.  She said she would be going to mass and studying.   I decided I should add the disclaimer that I was marching as a Feminist for Pro-Life and she asked, "Wasn't Trump the pro-life candidate?"  And thus we see the problem.
It was a spectacularly beautiful afternoon for January--or for any month--61 degrees and sunny.  The plaza in front of the Morris Civic Theater was full of sign-bearing women--and some men and children too.  We could not hear anything the speakers said but we were happy to be a part of the crowd affirming justice and equality for all.  "Now" was the cry heard at each street corner as we marched. There were almost no negative or nasty signs.  There were not many people of color which was somewhat dismaying.

Our own church was well represented by the group in the photograph but there were at least as many others we couldn't seem to find in the crowd but knew were there.  I was proud to march with these young women and to feel a part of a protest across the nation.

My friend Lou VanderGriend had the best sign of all, I think! She quoted Matthew 15:18 which says, "But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things defile a man."  Although I also liked, "Tweet as you would like others to tweet you."

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Inevitable Inaugaration

I haven't even checked the exact date of the inaugaration.   I find it hard to read the newspapers and listen to the radio.  But it is going to happen.  Donald Trump will be our next president very soon.   Many hoped he would start to act more "presidential" once he won the nomination.  That has not even begun to happen.  He cannot take any criticism without tweeting back insults.  Meryl Streep is "over-rated," John Lewis is "all talk and no action," and Vladimar Putin is great (one of his favorite words!) and his friend.  The men and women he has appointed to posts in government, almost without exception, are in favor of dismantling their agencies or at least the present policies.  With a change in adminstration, we anticipate and expect changes, but not this kind of destruction.

A Light in the Darkness
I keep thinking "Trump is Trump" and he cannot and will not change.   He is who he is.  I don't understand those who voted for him knowing full well what he was like--for whatever their reasons.

What is to be done?  What can I do?   Contact our representatives and senators.  Give money to watchdog causes. Pray "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done," words that keep coming to my mind.

One of the songs we sang in church yesterday was "No storm can shake my inmost calm...How can I keep from singing?"  This storm has shaken my "inmost calm!"

I need to sing.  I made a New Year's resolution to sing each day--so that I can still sing. (That word "still" again!)  As I age, it doesn't get any easier to hit the higher notes.  Singing hymns does lift my spirits.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Florida in January, Year 3, Part 2

Sunday:  It's a sunny day but cold.  I bought the Sunday NYT and the Tampa Bay Times and settled in for much of the day.  We did have a good beach walk at half-time during the first football game of the day.  I fixed supper at the condo.  We listened to the podcast of our pastor's morning sermon and did a crossword puzzle.  I began reading Anne of Green Gables which I purchased Saturday at Haslam's.

Monday:  Someone had left cinnamon and MacDonald's syrup in the cupboard so I fixed Jim French toast for breakfast.  Lunch was leftover lemon rotisserie chicken from Saturday's take-out at Publix.   Somehow, in our quiet life here, meals seem very important.

While waiting for the trolley to take us to Pass-a-Grille, we saw two large unmarked buses with police escorts before and behind them go by.  Were they team busses? Alabama or Clemson?   On their way to the championship game in Tampa?  We decided it was fun to think that they were.  Who else would have police escorts?

We had a beautiful walk around Pass-a-Grille along the bay to the very end of the island and then back along the Gulf. We were home for our 5 pm puzzle and drink.

We thought we would go to The Drunken Clam across the street where I was interested in clam strips but when we walked in and saw mostly men drinking at the bar and playing darts, we decided it was not for us.  We went back to the Buona Pizzeria where Jim had his favorite ham and pineapple pizza and I had a delicious chicken marsala ravioli.

I talked to the Gulf Strand manager about renting a place next January.  With a $200 deposit and the possibility of all but $55 of that being returned if we cancelled before 60 days,  I think we might want to risk that amount!   This place is so lovely and so convenient to the stores and restaurants.  We have a full kitchen, two bathrooms, a washer and dryer and a great view of the Gulf.  It could be our home away from home like 225 North Shore in South Haven.

Tuesday:Last night I fell asleep on the couch trying to watch the exciting last quarter of the championship game.  I decided it was worth getting the local Tampa Bay Times when I saw the front page and knew they had the latest sports news.  Today, while walking on the beach, we stopped to talk to a family all decked out in Clemson orange.  They had been to the game.  Jim asked about the decision to go for a touchdown with six seconds left instead of the safer field goal.  One of the women responded, "Go big or go home."

Late in the afternoon I brought a chair out to the beach and read some in the classic "Anne of Green Gables."   But it was hard to read becuase the sun and the gulf and the sea birds were so distracting!

 Dinner was a treat.  We walked to Spinners, the 12th floor revolving restaurant at Grand Plaza Hotel less than a half mile north of us. We timed our dinner for sunset and it was glorious.  Dinner, Chicken Oscar for Jim and Seafood Pastry for me, was delicious.  I don't remember ever eating in a revolving restaurant before--a new experience at our advanced years and it was a delight if not a bit disorienting.  We walked home on the beach under a full moon.

Wednesday: The warmest day so far!  I wasn't even cold walking to Publix for my morning papers.  I hate to leave.  I checked Allegiant and found out I could fly out next Thursday for only $82!  But it would cost plenty to stay here for another week and maybe I'd get bored and lonely.  But maybe not!  It is so beautiful and relaxing and life has been very, very good for these eight days!

We have booked a taxi for 6:15 am tomorrow.  We made it without a rental car.  If, or when, we come again I would like to have a vehicle however, especially if we stay for two weeks.   We could even drive our own car down here in which case Jim could have as many books as he wanted--and maybe even golf clubs!

What did we do with the rest of the day?  Almost nothing.   Reading, walking, and just looking at the sea and sky and birds.  Scott Hoezee posted on the 12Blog about watching gulls and plovers on the Pacific Coast and quoted Marilyn  Robinson in Gilead as referring to "chickens being chickens."   I
watched birds being birds but did wonder why they peck out the eyes of the dead fish first before indulging in the rest of the carcass.

One last sunset was spectacular again.  In 12 hours we hope to be on our way to the airport and in 18 hours home again.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Living in Florida

When we spend a week more or less in Florida, I think about what it would be like to live here longer in the winter.  In just a few days, Jim's dry and cracked skin on his hands has healed.  He recovered from his nasty cold very quickly.  It is easy to get 10,000 steps a day--or more--and I have gone far beyond my goal of 30 minutes of exercise a day.  We decided to try to get along without a rental car and we have done so.  We reveled in the warm air and sunshine of our first three days here--although yesterday was rainy, windy and cold.  Today is sunny but still cold.

So why not live here for the winter months?  Would we get bored?  Would we get lonely?  Would we be satisfied with just each other's company?

If I pray for "oblation," the opportunity to serve others, how would I do so?  At home, I can do my volunteer things at the library, church, and tutoring.  I don't always feel like doing them, but it is important to use any skills I have and the time I definitely have to help others out.

For Jim, he needs his library and his resources to write and now, for this spring, he will teach a seminar at Notre Dame.  So for him, this has to be a brief respite.

Last year our Florida trip was five days; this year it is nine days.  Next year, maybe two weeks?  Or a month?  But I do not foresee our being "snowbirds" and spending months here as pleasant as it is when I think of the snow and ice in South Bend.

And when and if we do need to scale down and go into "retirement living," I want it to be near our children and grandchildren.  So there will be no major changes for now and I will try to enjoy each day here as it comes.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Florida in January, Year 3, Part I

This is the third year we have flown Allegiant Airlines from SBN to PIE at the beginning of the new year.  This year we are staying in St. Pete Beach.  We have had less than 24 hours here and it has been wonderful!

Leaving South Bend was not wonderful.  We took Uber to the airport, arriving plenty early.  The fog was so bad that you couldn't see the runway from the terminal.  No planes were arriving or leaving.  Our plane had to land in Des Moines to refuel.  Five hours from our scheduled time of departure, we finally were in the air.  After a smooth flight, and another Uber ride, we arrived at Gulf Strand Condos where, because we were so late, we had made arrangements to get the key from a lockbox.  This was not easy.  We could barely see the numbers and had to use our iphone flashlight.  Once we had the numbers lined up, the padlock would not open.  Press and click, the manager had said.  What to press and click?  It turned out it was the array of numbers.

Number 204 was lovely.  We quickly got rid of our belongings and walked across the street to Sea Turtle Cafe where we had a casual supper with "ample pours" of wine followed by a 9 pm grocery run.  A real bonus is the Publix  right across the street.  I have been there three times already--no need to plan for meals and a morning New York Times is available. 

Today has been a day of relaxing and walking.  An early morning rain quickly changed to sunshine.  We can see the Gulf across some sea grass from our deck.  This afternoon we walked for over an hour down to the fancy and historic Don Cesar Hotel and then along some neighborhoods facing the waterways.

Supper was at Crabby Bill's Seafood--stuffled flounder for me and ribs for Jim.  With our walk back to the condo, I had almost 17,000 steps for the day and incipient blisters.  I listened to ND win a close game over Louisville online and Jim watched Pittsburgh beat Virginia in overtime.

Thursday:   Another long walk along the bay and on Boca Ciega Island gave us plenty of steps in the morning.

 After lunch, I hopped on the Central Avenue Trolley heading south to Pass-a-Grille, a historic beach community.  I went to the museum run by volunteers and then followed a published walk of historic homes.  In this case, historic means about 100 years old.  The area was not developed much until the 1950s when there was a bridge, air-conditioning and mosquito control according to the guide.  It was a beautiful area only one block wide between the gulf and the bay.

  A trip to Publix gave us what we needed for a supper in the condo tonight.

Gulf Strand Condos in window
Friday:  It was another lazy morning with a short walk and a stop at a French cafe for coffee and pastries. We took a longer walk in the afternoon along the beach with a goal of discerning what the strange blue object was in the distance.  It was a huge water slide.  We were not tempted to try it!  Walking back to the condo was a challenge against the wind.

Another challenge--I knew if I didn't go for a swim in the Gulf today, it might not happen.  The weather will be turning cooler tomorrow.  So I did it!  I didn't last long, but at 70 degrees, it truly was warmer than Lake Michigan can be.  I followed that up with a short stint in the hot tub.

Our routine has been a drink at 5 pm and a crossword puzzle together.  We split a pizza while sitting outside at Buona's Pizza--ham and pineapple for Jim, and goat cheese and spinach for me.  Delicious!  We got back to the condo again before the rain started.

Saturday:  The rain came and it was dreary and cold and windy.  We ran across the busy Gulf Boulevard for a breakfast of French toast and Eggs Benedict at The Sea Turtle and then made another Publix shopping trip for the day, including an umbrella in our purchases.

Around noon we hopped on the Central Avenue Trolley for a trip to Haslam's Books, the biggest bookstore in Florida.  As Jim said, it was a typical Mary adventure.  The trolley carried several handicapped riders, workers, and us.  Are we too proud to take public transportation?  No, but we were tempted to Uber to get back to the condo when we stood waiting an extra 15 minutes in the cold.  A bonus of our wait--seeing a Pedal Pub with about a dozen young folks drinking and pedalling and waving to us on their way.

On our return to the condo, the sun was coming through and the sky and the sea were breathtakingly beautiful.