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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Good Day

A good day outside as well
In reflection, yesterday was a good day for many reasons.

I slept well--not a given--but something to be thankful for.  I had energy for the day.

A South Bend Water Department worker came in the morning and determined that our low water pressure was due to our malfunctioning water softener.    This seemed like a fairly easy solution to our problem and we rejoiced in being able to flush the toilet and wash hands afterwards without waiting!  Today a sales person will come to talk about a new water softener.  As the old one lasted the 25 years we have lived here--and probably more before that-we can't complain!   

I read the news online and in our local paper.  I cleaned another section of our deck.  It is so satisfying to see the green mold come off without using a power washer, just my new very effective cleaner that hooks up to our garden hose.  A bit of scrubbing with a broom--and results!

At 1 pm I met with Laurie Hart, the education coordinator at Hope Ministries,  and R, a potential student, a woman supposedly with an "attitude" and a non-reader.   Our purpose for meeting was to see if we could work together--and if we both wanted to do so.  My present student wrote me a recommendation at my request.  She wrote that Mary told me to say how wonderful she was.  I don't think I did in those words!   She added that I was patient and understanding and that she was learning to read and she really is! 

R and I decided to give it a try and we attempted standardized testing.  This did not work.  She could not read even the very first items on the easiest Test of Adult Basic Education.  She did know the letter sounds and some sight words. So we began at the beginning with words that rhymed with words she did read correctly--"six" and "wet."  We continued with rhyming words with  the short vowel a sound.   She was very pleased to read long lists of words.   I showed her how these syllables can be put together to make longer words.   She left me with a hug and a request to pray for her!   

It takes some effort for me to meet someone new and to go downtown and now to make a plan for her.   But I am so grateful to be able to use the skills I have learned in working with students with dyslexia or  non-readers.  It made me happy to see how happy she was when we said good-bye. 

The afternoon brought time to read, peruse the internet some more, take a brief nap, go for a walk to get my 30 minutes of exercise, and have a glass of wine with Jim.

Then another adventure.  Walter Mosley, the author of many books including the One Book for Michiana this spring--The Devil in the Blue Dress--spoke at the downtown library.  The doors opened at 5 for a 6:30 presentation so I felt I had to get there early.  Parking was limited but there were plenty of seats.  The Merriman players presented jazz for us as we waited.  

It was great fun to hear Mosley speak.  He came in wearing his signature hat and began by reading a bit from The Devil book, his first Easy Rawlins novel, and then from Charcoal Joe, his 14th and latest one.  He spoke briefly about his writing and then asked for questions.  He handled the questions well and with good humor and frankness.  It struck me that he didn't have to spend much time on preparation for this event but that was OK.  Apparently he refused the invitation to South Bend until his friend Leonard Pitts encouraged him to come after his own excellent reception earlier this spring. 

I did not take advantage of the book signing time and came home to some reheated pizza, another glass of wine, and an evening of reading, a crossword puzzle, answering a Story Worth question about the best boss I ever had and posting it to the site and our four family recipients. 

It was a good day because I exercised, relaxed, learned, wrote, and was able to give to someone else.  

Thursday, April 20, 2017


My new red skinny jeans!
Why does 71 seem so much older than 70 to me?  It's not the way I feel or think or, I hope, act.  In fact, I feel much better than a year ago.  It's just the number turning the corner after the decade.  It is a day for contemplation and, maybe, resolutions.

It has been sobering to realize that we have several friends our age who are struggling with serious illnesses.  On the other hand, we also have several young friends who are struggling with serious illnesses as well.   A spouse of one friend commented that not everyone gets to have 70 years of life.

 I don't want to be younger again.  And I don't feel that I have to accomplish any great things in the years I may have left.  I am glad for what I have been able to do as a teacher, wife, mother, grandmother, musician, friend--many roles.  I'm glad for what I can still (there's that word again!) do as a volunteer and to keep our household running.

I try not to think too often about incapaciting conditions for me or for Jim--for a role as an invalid or as a caretaker.  But that is out of our control.  My very healthy friend who really took care of herself had a stroke.  Her stroke is called "cryptogenic"  which means no known cause.  She is making great progress in rehab, but what a lot of work and effort it takes.

Nevertheless, I am going to try to take care of myself.   Here are my resolutions for the year:

1.  Walk 30 minutes or more most days.   Try for 10,000 steps.

2. Do the stretching and strength exercises prescribed by a physical therapist just this past Monday for some bursitis.

3.  Sing a few times every week--at church or at my own piano bench.  The singing class at Forever Learning has been fun even if we sound pretty bad!  It's not getting easier to sing the high notes--or even above c or d.

4.  Learn something new.  Yesterday I found a couple of online courses on counterpoint that look promising.   Practice new organ music.  This morning I tried a Bach trio sonata that was well beyond my abilities!

5.  Encourage and support others-- it just takes a little effort.  When I do so, I am amazed at the appreciation that comes back to me.

6.  Throw away ratty clothes or anything I don't feel really good in.   Wear black, white, and bright colors only.

 7.  Make new friends and keep the old!  (the Girl Scout song?)  I have begun meeting with a small group of women  (two retirees and two professionals)  on Friday mornings to share and pray; I have one new walking partner; I have contacted a few friends  via email from years ago to make sure they are OK.  Not everyone is on Facebook!

8.  Look for interesting events at Notre Dame and in the area.  An organ lecture-recital on Anton Heiller inspired me; a lecture for ND retirees on "iris recognition" showed me what computers can do; and Monday I hope to go to a presentation at the downtown library by a favorite author, Walter Mosley.  Sometimes it is so much easier to stay home and sit on the couch but I rarely regret making the effort to get out and go to a presentation.

We just celebrated my birthday with a very nice meal at The Mark on Eddy Street near Notre Dame.  I will celebrate with my sister at lunch tomorrow in South Haven.  There is much to be thankful for!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Jim and His New Project

Jim would be very lost and unhappy if he didn't have a major project to work on.  The Jubilees commentary is finished and at the printer's.  He is now devoting his research time to a much different project and yet related to the work he has done all his life.

The project?  A biography of Robert Henry Charles (1855-1931)--a man whose name I have been hearing for years because in many ways, Jim has been his successor on the books of Enoch and Jubilees. I keep thinking that Charles, if he only knew, would be so tickled to see someone tracing his career and his own research with such enthusiasm.
I can't seem to rotate it! 

Charles was an Oxford don and a canon at Westminster Abbey.  He was born and educated in Ireland.    His work brought him to Germany and Scotland and France.

Jim has found amazing resources at Notre Dame, including the large volume dated 1892 pictured here.  He has looked at microfilm from 1902 at Notre Dame.  A correspondance is developing with archivists at Oxford University Press, Westminster Abbey, Bodleian Library, and Trinity College in Dublin.  There may even be some material in Edinburgh.    Then there is the D'abbadie castle near the Pyrenees where some intrepid explorer bought manuscripts after travelling in the 1830s.  And the British Museum where manuscripts  "fell into British hands"  after Ethiopian King Theodore was defeated in 1868.

I envision a month for both of us tracing Charles' life around the United Kingdom and Ireland--if not  France.  Maybe even golf courses would be involved because one source listed Charles' hobbies as golf and light literature.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Death and Dying

 Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry.  (p. 161)

There we were at a great crisis in our lives, and it had to be, it could only be, death with us as an ordinary thing....My tears were falling into the bowl of beaten eggs and then my nose dripped into it.  I flung the whole frothy mess into the sink.  I said, "Well, what are you planning to do?  Just die?  Or what?"

I couldn't turn around.  I heard him fold the paper.  After a minute he said, "Dear Hannah, I'm going to live right on.  Dying is none of my business.  Dying will have to take care of itself."

He came to me then, an old man weakened and ill, with my Nathan looking out of his eyes.  He held me a long time as if under a passing storm, and then the quiet came.  I fixed some supper, and we ate.

May my death and that of my dear Jim be "an ordinary thing."  May we "live right on" until we die.  But we will not have a lot of choice in this matter.

However, I can state some choices for the process afterwards.  I do not want to be embalmed.  It doesn't have to be done even if an undertaker thinks it should be.  I do not want an open casket.  There can be plenty of photos of me in my youth and as the old lady I hope I will be--or am!

  The service should have lots of music-- "Now Thank We All Our God," "Fill Thou My Life, O Lord, My God,"   "In Christ Alone."  I'll think more about the Scripture passages.  Psalm 23 probably and parts of Psalm 73.  Burial or cremation?  I'll think more on that too.  What is the point of being buried in South Bend if none of my loved ones live here?

A few flowers are fine but it's better that donations be sent to Doctors without Borders or World Renew.

Everyone in our tradition seems to use the first Q and A of the Heidelberg Catechism as a part of the service or the "In Memoriam" folder.  Maybe not.   How about the saying on the stone in the labyrinth in Elsah, Illinois--"Bidden or not bidden, God is present."

I'm healthy and in good spirits.  I'm not being morbid.  I am very aware of our vulnerability these days however and wanted to put these thoughts in writing.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


Three weeks ago tonight I was eating tacos in a trendy restaurant with Maggie in Wheaton, Illinois.  One week later in the wee hours of the morning, Mark found Maggie on the floor unresponsive.  She had suffered a stroke.  Twelve hours later she had surgery to relieve the bleeding.  Mark called me on Maggie's cell phone when surgery had begun to tell me what happened.  I picked the phone up and said, "Happy birthday, Maggie!"  "It's Mark," he said and then told me the news.

Today, after two weeks of hospitalization,  Maggie has transferred to a rehab facility where she faces what will be a long recuperation process.  She is making progress. After surgery she was on a ventilator and had a feeding tube.  She now has a "peg" in her stomach for feeding.  She can get around with assistance and follow some instructions.  She has spoken a few words.

I have wept many times for her and for Mark.  How can it be? I guess I have wept for us too--could it happen to us too? How can it happen so suddenly to someone who was supposedly in good health with no warning signs?

I keep thinking about how Maggie will feel when she realizes what has happened to her.  Maybe she already understands.  It would be easier if she didn't in some ways; but she has to face it to be able to do the therapy I would think.  I don't know.  I haven't asked for details.

Our conversations in the 24 hours I was with her play out in my head over and over.  We had talked about the stress in her life recently but truly it was mostly happy stress.  Many folks have asked how I am doing knowing she was my friend and that I had just visited her.  I have appreciated their concern because it has been hard.

 It has affected many who know her--young and old.  We older ones feel vulnerable.  Jim and I  discussed the choices we would make, or have each other make, if this happened to us.  At this point in our lives, we both said we would want to stay alive and go through the necessary rehabilitation.   At age 80, I thought, maybe not. Jim says that at that point I might think differently.

 A very busy young mother spoke of realizing that you can't postpone happiness or plans until you retire some day.   Another young friend wondered if a dissertation was worth all the effort. Jim thinks I am breathing heavily; I check during the night to see if he is breathing at all!  There have been more hugs and expressions of affection and appreciation for each other.

I wonder what we can do for Maggie and for Mark.  I dread seeing her as she is now but I want to support her and Mark too.   I will ask Mark when and if he wants us to come.  We can sit with Maggie and give him a break.  We can go out to eat with him and listen.  For now, I pray and Mark writes that is more helpful than he can say.  Good.

I do think about our own inevitable failing and demise.  I have ideas that I want to be followed but that can be a topic for another blog.   However, I'll never know if my last instructions are carried out, will I?