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Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day Weekend

It has been a busy weekend.  Friday was a day for a visit from Maggie while Mark had meetings at Notre Dame.  It was wonderful to see her remarkable progress in recovery from her stroke on March 20.  After dinner with six of us at the home of David and Judy Hatch, we left on a rainy ride to Kokomo, Indiana where we spent the night en route to Indiana Academy in Muncie where Laura was giving a commencement speech--20 years after her own graduation.

We were able to spend some time with Laura before the speech and had a Subway lunch with her afterwards.  It was a long ride but it was so good to hear our daughter in action.  Speaking for civic groups, corporate groups, and women's groups has become one of her major sources of income lately and she does well at it.

Her speech, even though she graduated before the seniors were born, was full of references to Indiana Academy life.  The students laughed hard at her mentioning the practice rooms at Burris Hall--where plenty of romancing went on 20 years ago--and must still do so today.  She called out a couple of her teachers saying they were 15 year old professors at the time.  She sympathized with the teacher who took a group tent camping 20 years ago--now that she is a Cub Scout mom.

Her advice for the graduates--Do one memorable thing each day.  Learn something new every day.  Make one human contact each day.  And pay attention to what you really enjoy doing and follow that. She felt that her work involved many areas that she liked--research, writing, entertaining, and even math with her time studies.  She avoided  the "n" word and the "p" word--network and passion.

I have thought about my life.  Do I follow my daughter's advice?  Yes, I do look for "adventures" or memorable things although they may not happen daily.  I probably learn something every day--even if it is a new word like "portmanteau" from our crossword puzzle yesterday.  I may not make a new human contact daily, but I try to be aware of someone I can encourage via an email or text.  What do I really enjoy doing?  Hmm.  I'm not looking for a career any more but I follow lots of interests online.

Sunday was my day to play the organ at church.  I was too tired to practice again Saturday night  but was blessed with a great night of sleep, after a few off nights.  I  practiced Sunday morning and did the service with joy--even if there were a few power-point glitches.  (Always a bit disconcerting to wonder why no one is singing a stanza!)

Sunday afternoon I went to an American Guild of Organists meeting where Hillary Doerries encouraged us as church musicians to promote good mental health in our churches.  It was good for my mental health to be there and to sing many hymns, new and old, that recognized depression and anxiety and the need for faith.

Today is Memorial Day--a day to prune bushes, do laundry, run errands, go for a walk, and not much else.  We were ready for a quiet day.   We have tried to be aware of the sacrifice others have made for our country and to lament the tragedies of war.

Friday, May 26, 2017

My Day and Laura's Mosaic Metaphor

I just read Laura's blog post about her 24 hours and how all the pieces fit together like tiles in a mosaic.   She exercised, worked, spent time with each child individually, slept enough, and read.  Her husband was traveling but she and her nanny G put the pieces together for a good day. (

My days in retirement are so different than they once were or than Laura's are now.

The day got off to its usual slow start with my back exercises, breakfast of granola and yogurt and fruit, and newspaper and online reading with my cup of coffee. I pulled out all of Jim's sweaters and began the seasonal process of washing them and putting them away.  I went to church to practice the organ and spent a fair amount of time looking over the hymns for Sunday and finding alternate last stanzas and choosing registration for them.  I stopped at CVS for a prescription and got gas in the car.

The only sculpture that was larger than lif!e!
I went home for a quick lunch and then picked up dry cleaning enroute to Elkhart for an appointment to check my somniguard's fit.  Yesterday's South Bend Tribune advertised that Stephenson's in Elkhart had big sales so I made a stop there first and bought some crop pants for 50% off--a total of $21 for a perfectly fitting pair!

It was just a few blocks to the Elkhart Dental Clinic where the adjustment didn't take long and there was no charge.  I went back to downtown Elkhart so that I could get in some walking in a different place than my usual routes.   What fun to discover that Elkhart was full of realistic looking sculptures as part of an Epic Art Adventure!  Maybe it wasn't great art, but it greatly amused me to see the gardener, policeman.  musician and the street cleaner--all looking as if they could stop to talk to me.   I played country music on my ride home--totally unlike me but it seemed right.

I made one stop on the way home to get coffee ice cream--because there was a small crisis in that Jim was out of his favorite dessert.  He was grateful.

When I got home,  I read and may have napped. I did another load of laundry.  Jim came home around 5, the usual time, and we had a glass of wine and then an easy supper of hamburgers and yesterday's potato salad and broccoli salad.

We went for a walk trying to get our10,000 steps in. I worked on a lesson plan for my adult reading student at Hope Ministries and read her IEP from years ago.  I enjoyed Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's book Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions--a very quick read but worth reading. I wrote an email to a friend struggling with poor health.

So that was my day.  As Laura wrote, there were opportunities for exercise, learning, and work--even if it is volunteer work or housework.  There was time for companionship with Jim.

In the newsletter from  St. Gregory's Abbey in Three Rivers that came in today's mail, Father William referred to "memento mori" in the sense that "as each day of our life passes by, it's a day gone , one that we could have used well or badly, to grow closer to the Lord or further away."

I don't think my day had many elements of spiritual growth but it was a good day in unexpected ways.

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Student at Hope

Laurie, the education director,  at Hope Ministries asked me to volunteer with another non-reader.  I suggested we do as I did with M--that we meet and then decide if we wanted to work together.  The first meeting went well.  S's skills were too low to do standardized testing so I did a more informal word list to get a base line. We began with three letter words with short vowels.

We have been scheduled to meet seven times.  One time was a no show.  Two times, the last two times, S was very late.  Last Friday, she and her case manager N showed up just as I was about to leave.  They were apologetic saying S had not slept after an altercation the previous night.  S said she had to have a smoke first and then we went to work for the 20 minutes I had left.

This morning I texted her to make sure she would be ready for me at 9:30.  She asked if I could come later so she could clean her apartment.  I had scheduled the earlier time because her 8 year old son has only half days at school due to his behavior issues .  He has been present for two previous lessons and it adds stress for both of us.  We settled on 10 am.

There was a funeral service going on as I waited for S.   I enjoyed listening to the music and the director's welcome to the mourners.  But by 10:20, after no responses to my texts, I was ready to leave.  And then S arrived by bicycle.  She had gone to a gas station to buy cigarettes.

I was not happy but we went to work.  And then within five minutes, there was her son joining us.  In spite of all of that, we had a good lesson.  She is so happy with any success.   Her son joined us for one activity and then ate his lunch without much fuss.

This is the balance that the case managers at Hope must have to strike all the time with their residents.  S was being irresponsible and thoughtless.  Her cigarettes were more important than being on time for me.  So do I accept that and try to accomplish something with her anyway?  I did today.

 Her case manager told me she is convinced there is a good heart underneath all the anger.  She referred to S's battle with the devil and how she needs Jesus.  I was amused to hear S call on Jesus at least three times last week during our lesson to help her read those three letter words.

She was calmer today.  She was delighted when I praised her for using the word "look" to read a word she didn't know--"took."  We began to think of other rhyming words and she suggested a few.  I challenged her with the word "shook" and then the word "crook!"  Oh, she loved that one and said she was sure to remember it.  "It's like...If she steals my stuff, she's a crook, right?"  There might be a story there!

So I will go back on Monday and told her it has to be 9:30.  She apologized for being late.  I will text again however.  I don't want to give up on her.  She needs to learn to read and N said this is one bright spot in her life and that she likes me. I know she does and that she is grateful.  But I don't want to make trips downtown for nothing and I don't want to encourage irresponsibility.
My second addition or edit to this post.  Jim suggested I change the initials of the student and I did.  I toned down some of my sentences because my initial posting was a debriefing that I needed!

  But now I need to add that I got word this morning that S "lost her bed" at Hope.  Where is she today then and where are her two children?  Hope has to  have rules and I know they gave her more than one chance.  I might still be able to meet her at Hope or elsewhere but I am not optimistic.  It is very sad.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Days 4-7 of our East Coast Journey

Saturday was very rainy so there was no Little League baseball game.  We drove to Ardmore and returned our rental car-- leaving the keys in the slot.  The reckoning for the scratched bumper was postponed.  (and actually never happened!)

Jim, Laura and A stayed home while the rest of us went to the brand new Museum of the American Revolution in downtown Philadelphia.  The kids had strenuously objected to going.   As it turned out, everyone had a good time after all.  R and I stayed together and I followed her lead.  If something interested her, we stayed at it.  If not, we moved on.  She had a hard time deciding whether or not to do the immersion experience of the Battle of Brandywine but decided to pass on it.   Probably a good idea!   She got to help load the cannon on the privateer ship twice!

 Michael fixed his great fajitas for supper.  We had ice cream cake for J's birthday--he will be 10 on Tuesday. Jim and I (and Laura) were in bed before the little boys and the "big boys" Dan and Michael.

Sunday morning Laura, Jim and I went to church with A and J. ( S and R  had swim lessons.)  It was a good service with grand music. On the weekend the kids get lots of screen time,  sometimes even in a cooperative fashion! A went on a long walk with Jim and me to the Henry Botanical area.    Michael grilled fabulous steaks in between rain drops and then brought Dan to the train station to return to NYC.

Monday--Because we were able to see Dan so much this weekend and he had to leave for a business trip Tuesday morning, our plans changed.  We borrowed  Laura's car and went to Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania for an overnight at the historic inn there.  We walked up and down the hilly streets of the town and then drove to the Jim Thorpe Memorial.  On our second try, we found the route to the Glen Ocono Falls.  Sadly, we never saw the falls because we were wearing sneakers and dissuaded by this sign!

The view from the balcony of the inn
We enjoyed supper in the bar in the hotel and a glass of wine there later in the evening.  We watched the Celtics win a close and exciting 7th game in the series before going to bed.

Today the plan is to return Laura's car, take Amtrak from Ardmore to the Newark train station, get an Uber ride to the Hilton Hotel at the airport, spend the night and then take a 12:40 flight back through Detroit to South Bend.  I hope all goes according to plan and I don't need to add any more postscipts!


One postscript I do want to add--the beautiful lunch G, Laura's wonderful nanny, fixed for us before we went to the train station.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Travel the Easy Way (so far!)

We left home at 8:30 on Wednesday, May 17, and by 3:15 we were in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania.  The flights were on time and easy.  There was a bit of confusion finding the Uber driver but that ride was amazingly traffic-free also.

We helped out with transporting J to swimming while G (the nanny) drove R to karate and Jim stayed home with S and A.  G got A to bed and we finished the process with the others.  In the past we have been up with A many times very early as he would cry or call Mommy.  This time he slept until 6:30 or more and the first we heard of him was his happy voice singing "Jingle Bells" in his room!

Jim was not pleased that I had told G she could come in late.   So we were in charge of getting J to choir at 8, S to the bus at 8:30 and R to school at 9.  And we coped!   R's teachers at Weatherwilt School were so eager to show me their pre-K classroom and I loved seeing their pride in their work.

Laura was home by 11 so we chatted for a while.  She brought us to Ardmore to pick up our rental car from Enterprise.   We drove the 1 hour 20 minute ride to Homewood Suites, our home away from home in Princeton.

Jeff fixed us a wonderful London Broil steak and then we all went to M's jazz band concert.  I grinned from beginning to end during the performance of the 7th grade and 8th grade bands.  The big band sound was far beyond what anyone could expect of teens.  I loved seeing  kids from diverse backgrounds playing classical American jazz--The A Train, for example.

Friday was a laid back day in which we had coffee with the Moorheads, friends from NC State days, who have been in Princeton for over 30 years now.   We walked along the Delaware Raritan Canal and then picked up Dan from Princeeton Junction.  Seven of us had many laughs over our take-out Olive Garden meal.  Katie was having dinner with friends.

The only sad part of the day was my scraping the rental car along the bricks in Jeff's driveway.  I was so angry with myself and dread the resulting penalty.  Dan was very cool about it and so was Jim.  Jeff and Susan said they had both done it before--but a rental car!  Ugh.

It's raining hard now and will be all day.  Jeff was supposed to coach M's baseball game but it was cancelled.  We hope to head to Gladwyne around noon again.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Giving the Easy Way (or not!)

Yesterday I went online to the site to give to several of the 67 local charities asking for money on May 9.  It's a good way to donate because our money will be matched with funds from the Community Foundation. We've been getting emails and regular mail from many organizations promoting their causes.  One particularly poignant video was from Claire Shely, a colleague of Jim's at Notre Dame,  whose son is helped at Logan Center.  Her tearful plea was very effective.  Giving online was quick and easy and we know our money will be used well.

This week also gave me another opportunity to give in a way that wasn't as quick and easy.   A former student Facebook messaged me with a desperate plea for funds to keep her family from being evicted.  Did I know anyone who could help?  This student has no family resources and never has.  We have had a closer relationship than I have had with other students but she has never asked me for money.  I was not happy to be asked but I thought that God has put this in my life and I can't ignore it.  After several messages and a couple of calls later to the landlady and the Section 8 counselor involved, I sent a check to match the one she was sending to work down her debt at least some.

 All week I have been hoping that there would be no more messages about further needs and there weren't.    Yesterday I looked up her Facebook page (which I have usually hidden) and saw that she was preparing to go to church with her sons for the first time in two years.  A resident in a nursing home where she works  reminded her of her need to do so--and said she needed to find God before she could ever find a husband!  Maybe my "gift" helped a little too.

What about the homeless folks we see on the streets asking for money?   The young man with crutches at the corner of Ironwood and State Road 23 breaks my heart.  But I never stop.  I look away.  Scott Hoezee posted on the 12Blog about not having his usual small bill to give to a homeless man under a bridge in Chicago as he and his wife were returning from a pretty pricey dinner.  His wife gave the man a $10 bill.   The man asked them to pray with him so they held hands and took turns praying under a dark bridge.    Maybe he still spent the money on drugs or booze, but maybe not.

In her sermon today, our pastor told us that when we gave our offerings, we were like the Acts 2 church sharing equally.  We might not have children in church school, but we were giving for their supplies.   We were keeping the lights on and the place heated for AA meetings held in our church.  We were financing a translation of Scripture in the Central African Republic that we will never read.

We have had times in our life when we were pretty needy ourselves but no longer.  This is a time when we could be generous with others.   There are opportunities but we need to give with discretion and wisdom.  It gives me something to ponder.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Hospitality the Easy Way

This has been our week for sociability and hospitality.  But it's not the kind we used to have when we had dinner parties of a more formal sort.  Why don't we do that any more?  Maybe it's just too much effort.

I remember years ago saying something about being concerned about putting out a good dinner as I was shopping at Harris-Teeter in Raleigh, North Carolina.  A reassuring voice from a stranger popped in from the next aisle saying, "Just fix beef stew."  Simple but always good.

At this stage of our lives, we have changed to a different mode of hospitality.  On Wednesday, we invited a colleague of Jim's to join us for dinner at Villa Macri.  We have done this several times this year with various single folks and even a few families.  It's easy and I enjoy talking to others over dinner.  Although when just Jim and I go out for dinner, we try to carry on a pleasant conversation and we do refrain from checking cell phones!

Jim wanted to do something social with his Wednesday seminar--11 men and one woman.  We discussed going to Legends and getting a private room.  I checked their website out but it seemed complicated and a bit daunting. So I suggested a 5-6 pm time at our house on Thursday evening with wine, beer, and snacks.  Almost everyone came and four men brought their spouses.  There were three toddlers adding to the fun.   It was easy enough with crackers and cheese, chips and salsa, a fruit plate, and brownies.  I decided I should make something home-made and came up with devilled eggs and sweet potato rounds.  Every bit of food disappeared--except for a bowl of grapes and a few chips.  We observed that men eat--and they drink beer not wine.  We were thanked heartily for opening our home to students.  Of course, Jim was reading their seminar papers the next day!

 Gifts from grad group
"Prophecy" wine
Then Friday we entertained our favorite way--a potluck with our graduate student group.  Jim fixed burgers and hot dogs, I made brownies again and put out the plate of veggies I had forgotten from the night before!   I made sangria.    Others brought vegetable dishes and chips and guacamole.  The eight of us had a pleasant, relaxed time.  Because these are all folks we know well, there was no pressure to remember names or make everyone feel welcome!  And any glitches in serving were no problem among friends.

Tonight it's leftover hot dogs and veggies.  And I'm glad it's just the two of us again.  Just thought I would record our easy ways of entertaining in our retirement years.