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Thursday, September 12, 2019


One of the first things we did upon arriving in Princeton was to get library cards at the Princeton Public Library located very near Palmer Square and just off the busy Nassau Street bordering the university.   Parking is free in the Spring Street parking deck where you usually have to drive up to the top floors to find a space. I do not like parking decks!

To my surprise, I learned that 508 Barclay Square may have a Princeton postal address but it actually is located in Plainsboro, New Jersey.  I had to pay $75 to get a library card--a bargain at the senior rate.  I was happy enough to do so and the gentleman who helped me was very enthusiastic telling me all the benefits I would get for membership.

That may have been the first and last time I checked out books at the Princeton Public Library.  If we  live in Plainsboro, we decided we should find the Plainsboro Library.  It is a four mile drive from our apartment about the same distance as the Princeton Library.   Parking is easy in a large adjacent lot.   A library card is free and if the library does not have the book I want, I can use an interlibrary loan service that will find the book at one of about 30 libraries in Middlesex County.

  It is not high tech.  The librarian at the counter checks out books for you.  There are no electronic chips in the books to facilitate the process as we had in the St. Joseph Library in Indiana.  In fact, I was told they just stopped stamping the due dates in the back of books and are now using printed receipts.

Last week I began volunteering to assist the interlibrary process.  This involves unpacking books from those 30 libraries and sorting them into two categories--those being returned to Plainsboro and those requested from elsewhere for local patrons.  Then my job is to sort all the returned books into 30 piles--one for each library in the system--and pack them into bags or boxes.   It is not a difficult job but after an hour my back was hurting from bending over the array of books.  There were literally hundreds of books to be processed.

Just as in South Bend, I need to thank our libraries by volunteering.  At least here, no one made me take a drug test and no one is insisting I wear closed toe shoes.  Tomorrow I will go in and try to make it for two hours of work but I will also leave with a book on hold for me and another one I hope to find in the stacks.  How grateful I am for our libraries!

Friday, September 6, 2019

Apartment Living Part 2

We have been in our apartment for seven weeks.  There are still four paintings to be hung and five boxes of books to be given away and garage shelving to be assembled.  But the car can fit in the garage now and the place looks and feels like home.

We have delighted in being able to call maintenance a few times and let them fix minor problems easily instead of them being major problems to us.  The smoke alarm went off one day with a voice saying over and over "Fire. Fire"  There was no fire.  Alonso came immediately and changed the battery--although he said it should have been a new one.  One of the faucets dripped; another one leaked.  Another maintenance man came a few hours after we posted the problem on the tenant portal and cheerfully fixed both.  We hear the mowers and the leaf blowers and the grounds are not our responsibility!

This week I have begun using the stationary bike in the exercise room.  I have had the room to myself at 9:30 am and can choose my own TV channels.  I haven't used the piano for a few weeks but I will again soon.  Eboni in the office has helped us with faxes a couple of times.  We can make copies in the business center.

We have ridden our bikes to the towpath a couple of times and will enjoy doing that many times in the weeks to come.  We walk to the mail room in the main building and to the recyclable bins and trash compactor almost daily.  Walking down the sidewalk along Mapleton Avenue at sunset has given us views of the most beautiful sky over the trees.

We are on the far end of the complex which turned out to be a great location.  We look at trees from our living room and bedroom windows.  We can hear traffic faintly in the distance. Our neighbors are quiet.  And we are far enough away from the smelly and noisy trash compactor which we would not have even considered to be a problem when we signed the lease.

We are not sorry about our choice of Barclay Square and Princeton itself.

Thursday, August 15, 2019


 A week or two ago, I was trying to go to sleep but I would close my eyes and envision books tumbling over me.  I felt overwhelmed by the books in the hall and in the garage.  Even Jim said he was feeling overwhelmed;  he thought he had gotten rid of so many books before we moved.

And he had!  The Theological Book Network gave him tax receipts for more than 1000 books that he had donated--some right after he retired and the rest in May--books that go to third world seminaries.  He estimates that he gave at least that many to students at Notre Dame.  We put numerous books that he thought were of little value in Better World Books bins where we had heard (and hoped) that they would be recycled for their paper.

After we moved into our apartment, we bought six three-shelved Sauder bookcases from Skillman Furniture and Jim began filling the shelves. He went back to buy one more five-shelf bookcase later.

When I posted on Facebook about our dilemma, one suggestion was to Kondo the books--did each one that was left in boxes or on the floor bring Jim joy?  He said that was the wrong question.  The right question was would the book bring him work?  Or assist his research?

Maybe breaking down the task into manageable parts would help.   I labeled boxes Trash, Garage, and Students.  I would hold up a book and Jim would decide where it fit.  We did that over the last week--a section each day.

There are now five boxes of books that Jim hopes to give to students at Princeton University or Princeton Seminary.  Just how that will happen is to be determined. 

 There are eight boxes of books stored in the garage and we are optimistic that there might be room for the car now.

 And then there are the trashed books.  It makes me sad when I think of the work each author put into his or her volume.  We recycled all the paperbacks and one by one I tore out the pages of the hardbacks to recycle their paper.  We made daily trips to the recycle bins in our apartment complex.

I am pleased to say that as of August 13, 2019, a month after we leased our apartment and four weeks since we moved in, we can walk through the halls without having to avoid books.  And it looks great!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

A Sleepover with Grandpa and Grandma

Laura was taking her older three on a Disney cruise but felt very uneasy about taking four year old A along for the sake of his safety.  Just this month a child from our own home town of Granger fell overboard through an open window on a cruise.  So she asked if A could have a sleepover with us as something special for him.

 It was special for him and for us.  This morning he said to me "Today is going to be a great day."  I asked why and he answered "It's a surprise."  I asked him at lunch if it was a great day and he said it was!

It was 24 hours from the time his nanny dropped him off until we brought him back to her at home.  Only once did he say he was homesick as he was trying to go to sleep last night.  Otherwise it was a continual refrain of "Guys, you know what?" with lots of happy chatter.

We had asked the nanny to bring his little bike.  That was probably not the smartest idea because he is sooo fast on it that we could hardly keep up.  He took a spill or two but got up and kept going.  We found a safe circle around the playground for riding and he did that circle again and again.

After supper we walked to the place where we had seen deer previously and last night there were ten of them there.  That was pretty exciting and caused us to do research on whether deer slept during the day or night.  Answer--they nap and don't sleep soundly any time.  But they are more active during the night--which A told me means they are nocturnal.  He knows a lot of words!

We played dominoes,  read books, got out some of our kids' really old toys and were introduced to some of his favorite Kindle games. There was plenty to do and no time to be bored.

The plan for sleep was that A would sleep on the floor in our bedroom in a sleeping bag.  At some point, he convinced Jim he needed to be in our bed and that is where he fell asleep.  We hated to move him so I went to sleep in the second bedroom.  Jim lasted for a very short time with him because of his snoring.  So at 1:30 am when I checked on both of them, there was snoring in the bedroom and snoring on the living room couch.  I happily went back to sleep in my quiet room.  We were amused that A took over our new, big,  comfortable bed and we were displaced and sent elsewhere.

More experienced grandparents would have remembered to get A's car seat out of the van.  We didn't want to ask the nanny to make the return trip so I braved Route 1 traffic and merging to go to Walmart and pick up a $19.95 booster seat which Jim put together using the newly purchased screwdrivers. 

The apartment seems empty tonight without him.  It is a real blessing of our being here in this area that we can do this.  We have been grandparents for 21 years and this is only the third time we have had a grandchild over by himself or herself.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Princeton--Small Town America in New Jersey--Garden State

Many years ago our North Carolina governor, James Hunt, warned that our state could become like "creeping New Jersey"--just one big urban area.  Parts of New Jersey are probably like that but the Princeton area is not.

We drive to Jeff and Susan's on two lane roads lined with trees.  We take a similar route to McCaffrey's Groceries and to the doctors we have seen.  Going in the other direction to the Plainsboro Library and Meadows of Middlesex Golf, the roads are broader but they wind their way through large commercial campuses that are hidden from the road by large trees.  It's taking the scenic route daily.  I anticipate the beauty of autumn when the leaves change color.

There is a disadvantage to this rural feel.  We hit a fawn dashing across the road a few weeks ago.  We just missed a much larger deer crossing our path this morning.

Skillman's Furniture Old and New has been our place to buy numerous bookshelves and a TV stand.  The store is a mess of crowded furniture but we found exactly what we needed at a very reasonable price and it was delivered to our door for a minimal fee.  Mr. Skillman has long grey hair and he rings up the sale by hand.  We have been happy to "buy local."

Ace Hardware stores are everywhere but the one in Princeton Shopping Center is amazing.   There is always someone to help you find what you need and give advice.  Our purchases include picture hangers, a dust buster, a set of screw drivers, pliers, and coasters.  It definitely is better than wandering around the big box stores.

Jim broke a tooth shortly after we arrived.  He was not in pain  but it needed care.  We found a dentist who took our insurance for exams but not for procedure.  He booked with her anyway.  He went in on a Saturday and met her in a very old house on the main street in Kingston.  She had no assistants, took an x-ray herself and showed it to Jim without putting it on a computer.  She did not ask for payment ahead of time. Jim saw her again today in a similar situation but said she seemed very competent and he paid her for half the cost. He has at least one more appointment scheduled.

When I looked for a scanner to check out my book at the Plainsboro Library and couldn't find one, I asked for help.  There were no self service scanners-the librarian at the desk claimed he was a lot better looking and he checked out books.

With the exception of the Division of Motor Vehicles, everyone who has waited on us or helped us has been very friendly and kind.  I hope we continue to feel as if we are living in a small town in a garden state.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

What I miss...

One of the lectionary psalms this week was Psalm 84 which starts "How lovely is your dwelling place..."  and as I read it, I had a pang of homesickness for our church in South Bend.  I liked walking into the empty sanctuary when I went to practice the organ.  I liked the calm and welcoming space.  I sometimes sat in the pew and prayed for myself, our family, and those who worshiped there.

One night this week I lay awake from 1:30 to 3:30.  I got up and looked outside.  I wanted to see my neighbors' homes on Deerfield Loop--the Walshes, the Koldas, the Konjathys.  But instead I saw cars and apartments; I don't know who lives there and I might never know who lives there.

We watched the Cubs a few times this week on MLB Network.  I missed My Michiana and JD and Len announcing the game.  I missed their quiet repartee and their love of the Cubs.  I even missed some of the awful local commercials.

I miss my special spot in the backyard at Deerfield Loop where I sat in the chaise lounge and looked up at the trees overhead.  I am thankful that we look out on trees from our apartment windows but my lounge is on our little deck which faces the garages of our neighbors.  I can look up at the sky however!

Yes, I do miss South Bend friends but we continue to have contact through email and Facebook and I am grateful for that.

And truly, it has been such a joy to be with our children and grandchildren here.  Katie is home for a month before her senior year at Duke and Jim and I took her out for breakfast.  Yesterday she joined us on a trip to see eight-year-old Ruth in her theater camp play. Ruth beamed with delight when she saw that Katie had come to her performance.  Tonight we are joining Jeff and Susan and Michael for supper--about a once-a-week occurrence.

This will become home too.  It becomes more so every day.  We walk in from the heat of outside and it is cool and comfortable.  Yesterday the missing sea glass bottle collection showed up and is now in the kitchen window.  I will buy a planter for outside the front door that will welcome us with color.  It's been just a bi over two weeks since we moved in and that is really a very short time for adjusting to a new way of life.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Apartment Living

We walked through Ace Hardware at Princeton Shopping Center on Saturday and I thought of all the items we no longer need.   Weed killer, fertilizer, paint, tools, and even the deer-rabbit pellets I saw one man purchasing at the cash register.  We are not sorry to have given up home ownership.

On the other hand, today we made a major shopping trip to Walmart, Bed Bath and Beyond, Macy's and Pier 1.  We bought cheap pillows for the shams that go with the comforters that came yesterday.  We bought rugs and hand towels for the bathroom and kitchen.   We bought pot holders even though I am sure I packed some which we cannot find.  Amazon Prime sent us an alarm clock-I think I left ours at the Airbnb in South Bend.

So far it has been very quiet here at Barclay Square except for the constant whir of air conditioners.  Ours goes non-stop during the day set at 76 but registering 79 right now at 7 pm.  We are not sure if we have neighbors below us and next to us.  If so, we don't hear them.

There are 220 units here at Barclay Square.  There are many young families and non-English speakers.  We hear a variety of languages in the swimming pool or  on cell phone conversations.

Our daily routine is a walk to the 1900 Building, the club house, where we get our mail sometime after 4 pm.  I have been doing some exercising in the pool late in the day.  And I have used the club house's beautiful grand piano playing a little Bach and Scarlatti.  I try not to be shy about realizing that the sounds do carry through the building.

Another part of our routine is a walk to the recyclng bins and trash compactor. After spending thousands of dollars to move, we drew the line at another $125 for debris removal of all the paper, bubble wrap, and boxes that we have been emptying.  So we break down the boxes and put a few in the bins each day.  Happily, a family responded to a notice I put in the club house and took several large dish boxes and all our bubble wrap.

 Using a truck-size trash compactor is a new experience.  You put in the code, the door opens, you throw in your trash, close the door, and that's it.  I am glad our apartment is not next to the noise as it eats up our trash.

We may be able to park in the garage very soon as we empty more and more boxes.  For now many of Jim's books are still boxed up or sitting on the floor until we can get the Sauder bookcases we have ordered from Skillman's Furniture--Old and New.   Making decisions about where to hang paintings is not easy but will be done one of these days as well.  We don't want to get too accustomed to paintings stacked against the walls and books lined up against the walls.

We have made progress--some each day.   And we are satisfied with that for now.