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Sunday, September 27, 2020

Time with Three Conway Fellows

 Laura was off on an adventure with the three older children.  Alex (age 5) was supposed to have a sleepover with us so that he could have an adventure too but he was not feeling very brave.  So Michael wondered if we could come to spend time in Gladwyne with them.   We left Saturday morning hoping to be in time for Alex's teeball game but that was cancelled due to rain.  So we spent the afternoon hanging out with Michael and Alex and Henry (almost 9 months).   Michael took advantage of our being there to get in a long run. Later in the afternoon, Jim and I took Henry for a walk in his new stroller.  Henry chattered most of the way making happy baby noises.

After supper Michael with some difficulty was happy to find the Aggies playing a conference game with Vanderbilt on the SEC2 network.  The Aggies were supposed to be a 35 point favorite; the final score was a 17 to 12 win. Michael paused the game a few times in order to get Henry to bed; I convinced Alex to surprise his dad by secretly getting ready for bed and pretending he was asleep.  It was a good surprise for his dad! The game was not pleasing to Michael but it was a W!

Henry does not sleep soundly so Michael was up a few times during the night with him.   At 7:30 am we sent the patient Daddy back to bed for a while and helped with the boys.  

Henry is the happiest little fellow and responds with big smiles to us.   When I would sing a song like Row, Row, Row your Boat, he would make motions to do it again and again.   He is just beginning to crawl and we were amused to see how motivating the Minecraft sword was to get him moving in that direction.  

Alex and Minecraft--that is his world but it is one big puzzle for Jim and me.  Fortunately, Michael seems to understand it and is willing to patiently play the video game with him even if he says it can make him nauseous!

At 11 today we headed to Alex's rescheduled teeball game in Aardmore.  En route Michael showed us the estate he and Laura are buying.  The setting was magnificent on a private road with a large expanse of lawn.  We will be eager to see the historic house and gardens later this year or next.  They probably won't be moving until work is done which may be next spring.  

Teeball was a trip down memory lane with a lopsided score and kids unable to find the bases easily when running and fighting with their own teammates to field a ball.   Henry was happy enough sitting on the blanket outside or being held by his dad or grandpa watching the game.   It will be his life for many years as the young one with four older siblings.   

We left for home after the game.  Our house seems strangely silent but at our age that may be best.   Having livesteam church meant that it was available to us at 5 pm.

Living here on the east coast makes these short visits possible.   In a few weeks Michael may .be going to an Aggies game with a few of the older children.  I think we should offer to help Laura out on her single parenting weekend.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Good Things Happen at the Grotto

 Over the years I have lit a candle at the Notre Dame Grotto and prayed.  I remember a time when Dan was very unhappy in second grade and I chatted with Our Lady herself telling her she was a mother too and should know how concerned I was for Dan.   That situation resolved itself with another school and a happy boy. There were many such times over the years not always with such clear answers.

We were surprised and pleased to find a grotto just a ten minute walk from our apartment along the towpath by the Delaware Raritan Canal.  It may be left from the days that there was a St. Joseph Seminary across the street in a large campus now used by a private elementary school.   It is not as impressive as the one at Notre Dame and it would be unsafe to light a candle.   But at least I don't feel I should donate $3!

Last week when Jim went golfing, I went there and used the Sacred Space app on my phone.  In the morning, Chris Rea, our pastor in South Bend, had prayed for me at my request at the Women's Bible Study.  I asked to find ways to use my skills here in Princeton.  While sitting on a bench there, my phone dinged with a text from Lauren McFeaters, one of our pastors here.  She made an appointment to chat with me about opportunities.  It was progress toward answering my prayer!

Today again when Jim went golfing, I walked down the path and sat on the bench praying particularly for a good friend in Michigan who had a stroke and had begun hospice care.   We are so sad and feel very far away from him and his family.  Again, my phone dinged with a text from our dear granddaughter Katie.  I had been planning to text her about getting together for a takeout supper.  She must have got that word from her parents so she was suggesting a time and place.   I was aware that life is so full of sorrow, but also full of joy.  And her text brought me great joy.  

It makes me wonder what good thing will happen the next time I go to our own little grotto to pray.   I don't usually think in these terms,  but I feel as if God may have another surprise for me.  In any case, I am grateful for these two visits and the texts that arrived while sitting in that quiet place. 

Friday, September 11, 2020

Looking Ahead (and Putting Makeup on Two Days in a Row!)

 It is significant that I have almost never bothered with makeup in the last six months but I had reason to put on moisturizer, foundation, and powder yesterday and today.   Two days in a row!   I hesitate to say life is getting back to normal because it isn't but I have laid some groundwork for activities for the future.

Thursday  I had a scheduled phone conversation with Lauren McFeaters, one of our church's pastors.  I had hoped to get ideas about places to tutor adults.  That did not really happen but she did suggest two places to help with middle school kids so I will follow through on that.   It really is not a time to volunteer at most organizations in person.   But while we were chatting and available, she asked if we would deliver care packages to the elderly of our congregation.   I agreed to do so and asked Jim if he would help me.   I kept in mind our vows to never volunteer each other for things without asking!   

Then I went to Kingston Presbyterian Church to practice their organ--for the second week in a row.  I have asked and scheduled a noon practice time every Thursday.  It was time to get out my organ shoes and my music again particularly because I agreed to be on a committee for the local American Guild of Organists.  I had hesitated to say yes to that request as I am definitely not a professional.  But Katie Connolly, the organist who called, convinced me to reconsider and told me that there was a need for input from amateurs also--trying to be more inclusive, I guess. 

And then later Thursday afternoon, Jim drove me to the Blawenburg Reformed Church to meet Katie and get introduced to the organ there.   It was a small but lovely organ and did sound more like the Johnson pipe organ from South Bend that I have missed so much.  If I do request practice time there, I feel I should volunteer to be a substitute for their services.  That is a daunting prospect after a year off and unfamiliarity with a service and an instrument.  So we shall see.  No request on my part yet and no commitment.  

But what a treat to see their historic church built in 1830.  It amused me that in keeping with its being so historic, there was no bathroom facility in the building so Katie gave me the code for the building next door!

Wednesday evening I had joined in on an "Adult Choir Gathering"--aptly named because it was not a rehearsal.  I went into it thinking that participating in a virtual choir performance was beyond my technological ability.  I left the rehearsal thinking I should give it a try.  

So I emailed our grandson Michael, a junior at Princeton High School who had participated in such enterprises with his trombone.  I made an appointment with him for 11:30 today on his deck. 

 I purchased earbuds in preparation for our attempt and that in itself was another adventure.  Who knew that there would be two dozen to choose from just at CVS?   A very helpful clerk checked her iphone to get me a pair that would be compatible with a Chromebook.

And that brings us to this morning where we had a backyard coffee date with our friends from Raleigh days, Jim and Cynthia Moorhead.  We met another couple there Deborah and Gordon Thomas and it was a good conversation--even if mostly about the sad commemoration of 9/11 today. 

  And then on to my IT appointment where Michael was extremely helpful and we  uploaded one of the anthems.  There was one last snag.  I sang the hymn "God is so Good " using the pronoun "he" as in "He's so good to me."   But in our church we avoid the masculine pronoun so it was "God's so good to me."  Old habits prevailed and I sang it wrong.  So I considered the first video a rehearsal and tried again.  It may have been successful! (I just checked the video and saw that I had an Oops moment and my hand went to my mouth--ugh!  Maybe they will cut that part off!)

I was so pleased with myself that I emailed Noel Werner, our choir director, and he responded saying it gave him such encouragement that he thought he would frame my email!  I guess my pride came through clearly!  Now I need to do the second anthem (after learning my part) and trying to upload it on my own.  I think I can--I think I can (like The Little Engine That Could!).  But if not, Michael is willing to help me again.  I hope he feels pride too in that he could help his aging grandmother during these "unprecedented" times of Covid19!   

What's left for today?   Getting a library book from the curbside pickup at the Plainsboro Library and shopping at the Dollar Tree hoping that they no longer have empty shelves for soft soap.   Both those errands are part of the new normal these days.   Two full and relatively busy days with contacts with others.  I am grateful for the anticipation of more such days this fall!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

An Afternoon with Dan and Alex

 It's a long rip to Potter Hollow (3 hours-177 miles) but a lot shorter than the trips we used to make from Indiana to the East coast to see our children.  We left around 10 am arrived around 1:30.   We snacked on fruit from local orchards and I had some of Alex's homemade yogurt and granola--so delicious! 

We talked about options for the afternoon and decided to ride, not walk, up Engle Road to Fran and Janet's land where we could pull off and walk down a hill to the stream and the waterfall. The walking was a bit treacherous--uneven and I am always vigilant for poison ivy-but it was worth the effort.  Plus my dear son gave me his hand many times to help me navigate--especially when we got down to the rocks in the streambed area.   How wonderful to see such beauty hidden in the woods just for us--just for today.   

A bit of a back story here is that during my early morning walk I listened to  "Pray as You Go" in which we were informed that yesterday was Pope Francis' call for prayer for our environment.  We were challenged to look at nature and appreciate its beauty and think of the Creator God who made it.   I hoped we would be seeing  the waterfall and thought about how timely that challenge was  for me yesterday. The time flew too fast so a visit to one of the lovely villages nearby will have to wait.   Potter Hollow is not a lovely village but is a series of somewhat derelict buildings along the side of the road.   For that matter, Engle Road has its share of rundown campers and sheds.  

After returning to the cabin, we enjoyed a lovely Rose wine and homemade naan (Dan's successful experiment) and sausages.  And wonderful peach cobbler made from local peaches from the CSA box.  

And then on the road again just before 5 pm because we wanted to try to get home before dark.  We didn't make it with the sun setting at 7:30 but at least by that tie we were on the familiar 206 and close to home.

We hope to make one more trip to Potter Hollow before Dan and Alex give up their lease on November 1.   The colors should be beautiful later this month or in early October.  Dan and Alex have big decisions to make because their Brooklyn apartment's lease is up on October 1.  They have loved their rural life but will probably end up closer to the city.  They did put some money down on a new car so that was progress.   Right now there are so many uncertainties for work and the possibility of continuing to work remotely. Over the years, Dan's living arrangements have brought us to several areas of San Francisco and then Brooklyn and now the Catskills.   What will be next?   

Monday, August 24, 2020

A Not So Good Week (but not Terrible, Horrible like Alexander's)

 Today is our 53rd anniversary.   We are going to celebrate with an outdoor dinner at Ruth's Chris with Jeff and Susan.  We could not get a table for six and we had to take the only time they had left which was 5 pm.  But it doesn't look like it will rain even though it will be very hot.  And I look forward to my petite fillet and cheesy potatoes.  And eating in a restaurant for the first time in months.

Last week was not a good one but maybe worth remembering anyway.   I had a mammogram scheduled on Monday morning.   I forgot my reading glasses so it was very hard to fill out the intake form but I managed with a little help from an aide.   I was told the xray would be read that very day and my doctor would call on Tuesday  and if I didn't hear from them on Wednesday to check with them.   I have never been very apprehensive about mammograms.  In fact, in the past, when the result came in the mail, I had almost forgotten I had one done!  But this time, because of Jim's cancer diagnosis and maybe my biopsy last fall, I was so apprehensive.   Of course, there was no call on Tuesday.   But Wednesday, while at Ocean Grove with Laura's family, the office aide called and said it was OK.  I told her how thankful I was and mentioned Jim's cancer.  She asked how he was and I could tell her we were thankful about his follow up results too.  I was so relieved.

The other medical issue was my possible poison ivy--on my upper right arm.  There were little blisters and redness and terrible itchiness--but how could one get poison ivy on an upper arm?   Maybe when I crawled under a fallen tree on the towpath?  And maybe it wasn't poison ivy at all.  But it was almost a constant discomfort and concern.  I didn't call the doctor because I really did not want to start oral steroids so I waited it out and little by little it improved--even if it did spread to more of my arm. 

I had been concerned about our second trip to Ocean Grove when we planned to help out with Laura's family.  I thought we would be in charge but thankfully they were able to do their webinar and conference call from the cottage so we could help out but were not totally responsible!   It was a joy to take Henry for a walk along the boardwalk as he finally succumbed to a little nap.   He smiles so readily and laughs heartily at Grandma's funny noises.  And as always, we had a great meal on the large porch--and then home to our own beds instead of spending the night.  We did have some hugs before we left but how sad it is to be wearing masks and avoiding close contact with those we love. 

I need to be less anxious about everything but that is not in my nature and it is not in the situation we find ourselves in with being more isolated and always concerned about Covid19. 

  So I will end on a couple of positive notes.  Jeff brought James back to RPI on Sunday and stopped at Dan and Alex's place en route.  I am eager to hear about their visit.  It makes me very happy when our children make an effort to get together with their siblings.   I hope those relationships continue long after Jim and I are gone.   

Sunday am we worshipped with both "our" churches--Nassau Presbyterian and Church of the Saviour in South Bend.  The service at Nassau was a children's chancel drama and maybe unexpectedly to us, it was a joy.  How the leaders managed to put it together via Zoom was amazing.  I wrote a thank you to Ingrid and she was so pleased to receive our thanks and said she would pass it on to the cast.   And then we did the live stream from CotS in which I can sing along with the praise team--and we can see our old friends.  

Later in the day I read a wonderful piece by Esau McCaulley, a Wheaton professor of New Testament,  in the NYT which led me to his blog and inspired me with his piece about Maundy Thursday and the stripping of the church which left the cross and that was all.   I believed in my heart and soul reading his piece.  As he did--it brought him back to fellowship in a church even if not the one of his youth.   I should write him as well--I have learned that even those who publish in the NYT can appreciate a thank you. 

Monday, August 17, 2020

Teaching Ruth to Knit

 Ruth and I had read Primrose Day together.  Merrie, the little British child who goes to the USA during the London Blitz, knits her father a scarf for a Christms present.  Ruth said she would like to learn to knit.  I said I would try to teach her.  She warned me absolutely NOT to buy a child's kit but to get the real thing.

My daughter-in-law Susan reminded me that years ago I had tried to teach Katie, my other grand-daughter now 22 years old, to knit and that they still had the knitting needles.  Katie cheerfully said she would be happy to have someone else make use of them.  She did not need them!  

So I got the large purple needles from her and ordered some thick and soft yarn from Amazon.  With some hesitancy, I wondered if I would remember how to cast on stitches.   I practiced and with some trial and error, I cast on 20 stitches--enough to make a doll's blanket.

Yesterday we drove to Ocean Grove where Ruth and her family were staying.  As it was a rainy Sunday, it was a great time to sit down and give knitting a try. Ruth and I put on our masks Covid19 style and went to work.

How many steps are there to knit one stitch?  You can break it down to at least four steps.  Through-over-through-off.  How many hands do you need?  You need more than two which is why I brace a needle against my stomach.  Ruth used her two hands while I held the left needle in my hand.   

Ruth actually caught on quite quickly.  I was watching carefully lest any step got missed.   Occasionally she would be chatting and looking at me and I had to direct her eye to the needles again.  I had to resist taking over because it was so much easier for me to do it rather than to show her how to do it.   I wanted to teach her to do it entirely independently.   I kept thinking of my mantra when I was tutoring children with reading problems--"I'm trying to work myself out of a job."  

We kept counting to 20 so we knew we had not dropped a stitch.  We could see the rows grow and the colors change with the multi-colored yarn.

I warned Ruth to keep the yarn and needles away from a little brother.   In Primrose Day, a pet dog got into the project and unraveled Merrie's Daddy's scarf.  

We will be going back to Ocean Grove in a few days so I will see if Ruth has made any progress on her own.  If not, we will sit together and do a few more rows.  If we give up on the doll's blanket, she thought a potholder would be less ambitious.  Now if Grandma can just remember how to cast off stitches.  A friend gave me a tip this morning and another friend suggested a you-tube video.  I think that when I get those needles in my hands again, I will remember when my motor memory takes over.   

How nice to have a grand-daughter that wants to do a project with her grandma!


Ruth called me this afternoon on her watch.  She said she did some knitting on her own today and did drop one stitch so there was a small hole.  She said she was upset but her mom helped her get over it.  Now she wants to make something else--like a sweater or mittens.  Hmm.  I don't think I am ready for that!  


August 19  I successfully cast off but somehow the 20 stitches turned into 35 stitches!   However, it looked like a very nice doll's blanket.   I cast on 9 stitches and knitted a few rows to get Ruth started on a doll's scarf.  

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Blogging When There is Nothing to Blog About (except a Hurricane!)

How has life changed in the last few months?  Not a lot.   Covid19 is very much with us with well over 150,000 dead in the USA and about 1000 dying daily.  We wear masks whenever we are inside buildings--we go to church online--we shop for groceries once a week--we don't shop for anything else.  Although I do have a mental shopping list of another pair of shorts for me and knitting needles and yarn for Ruth.  So I may shop online but a fraudulent charge from Amazon a week ago has me a bit hesitant about using my credit card.  My new one came in the mail yesterday.

One positive change is our TV watching habits.  Jim and I have had three shows that we have watched together using Amazon Prime or Passport Thirteen (PBS).   Lark Rise to Candleford is our favorite.  We have gotten to feel so familiar with the characters--they are a part of our lives.  We laugh and cry with them.  I have read that the show expires in mid-August from PBS and am not sure what that means but we better watch what we can while we can.   We also liked Shakespeare and Hathaway on PBS but have seen all the back episodes now.  The Vicar of Dibley--Jim likes it better than I do.  He laughs and I groan!   And now, at last, some live sports are back--golf, NBA basketball in the Orlando bubble, and some baseball teams.

A change in my attitude has been less of a concern about feeling useful.  Maybe it's because I have accepted doing less but also because I have found a bit more to do.  We have had three summer sleepovers with Laura's kids.  I read a chapter of Jim's manuscript every few days and make comments.  I have tried to send emails out to folks I know are struggling with health issues--or just to say I miss someone.  Peggy and I walk maybe not every week, but at least every other week.  We have had coffee with the Moorheads probably every other week.  

I wish I could have people over here--or meet them at restaurants for dinner.   We have been hesitant to do that--thinking that it is not yet safe.

I have read far too many murder mysteries and not been the better for it. It's filling my head with too much of the ugly side of life even if it is good escapist literature!  I just finished the first three of Anne Perry's Charlotte and Thomas Pitt series which I bought for $3.99 for my Kindle app.  I read one each day and was totally absorbed in what would happen next.  But they were sordid and sad and ugly tales full of Victorian hypocrisy and secrets.  So no more of those for a while!  
Susan just called and we will have another grandchild sleepover.  James needs internet access today and early tomorrow morning and they have no power thanks to Hurricane Isaias.   We did not lose power.   So we can be of use to them! Our power blinks a bit but it has not been a loss--in spite of high winds yesterday.
Another update.  James had supper with us and that was very pleasant--to focus on conversation with him alone--another time to be with a grandchild as "an only child."   But power came back on at his house, so Jeff picked him up and he went back home.  

So this was our first hurricane in New Jersey.   On my walk yesterday down the towpath, I probably saw six trees down with several of them crossing the path.  Roads were blocked all over town.  Jim had to find another route to the golf course when College Road West was blocked.  We were fortunate not to have lost power.