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Monday, July 26, 2021

When Things Fall Apart

 


One of the joys of being renters is that when something goes wrong, we can put it on the "portal" and Alonso or Adriano comes to fix it.  They often come within hours and they are cheerful.  We always fill out the subsequent survey with high praise and Alonso really likes the banket (Dutch pastry) I have made him for Christmas and wondered if I made it for Easter too.  Plus, we don't make many repair requests.  Apparently some renters do and are not a joy to Alonso.  Alonso always greets us from his van, "James!  Maria!"  
Alonso's white van

Our big request was last summer when we couldn't get the A/C to get the temperature down to the 77 or 78 we had it set on.  Alonso came with his various meters and decided we needed a new several thousand dollar unit.  He was very pleased to show us the size of the one that was put in--it dwarfs the neighbors' units!  We are a second floor apartment and it can get warm up here.  This summer it is working great.

Today our issues are not any that we can ask Alonso to fix.  The TV remote will not change channels.  When we replaced the batteries (it doesn't hurt to try!), the TV would not even come on.  So today we drove to the xfinity store and got a new remote.  We were told, and this is always scary, that "It is very easy to reprogram!" Well, you can't reprogram it without the TV screen on and the TV screen won't come on unless the remote is working.  Jim spent a lot of time trying to communicate with xfinity via chat and then text and finally we settled on a technician coming out tomorrow to take care of this issue.  I said at one point, "Tell them that we are 75 and this is just too hard."  I don't know what Jim told them and I don't know what they will charge us but we hope to have TV in our living room again tomorrow evening. 

We have a second TV in the bedroom which we never use but we did watch some baseball on it last night.  It was not as comfortable and it just isn't our usual routine.  We are spoiled!

Jim is very patient with repairs and telephone technicians.  But today there is also his watch battery that has to be replaced.  He walked all over the Princeton Shopping Center today looking for the jewelry store he remembered using two years ago for this purpose but couldn't find it.  Is it closed?  Has it moved?  Is his memory failing him?  We know just where we would go for such a purpose in South Bend and are reminded once again that we are still newcomers in this community. 

-----------------a few hours later:  We were asked to call Comcast and a very patient gentleman worked Jim through finding a power button (well hidden) on our TV and then setting up the remote.   Success!   The Red Sox are playing the Blue Jays in our living room.   And the technician appointment for tomorrow is cancelled.  This is success for us and for xfinity thanks to a very calm and competent phone representative.  I wish we had his name.  He and Jim both deserve credit!   

Friendship

A new book that I have seen advertised is called "You Gotta Have Girlfriends." For a while I have been contemplating a blog post on friendship and that title has nudged me to do so. 

 I have always been blessed with good "girlfriends."   I think of student housing days at Holden Green and the support of other student spouses--all young mothers like me.  I should recall that even before that when I went to childbirth classes in St. Andrews, Scotland and then graduated to the eight bed maternity ward at Craigtoun,  I had friends among the new mothers who were all struggling to adjust to our new roles in life. 

 There were good neighbors and fellow church members who became friends in Raleigh, North Carolina and another good friend from a YWCA post-natal exercise class who told me she sought me out because she knew this was my third child and I had survived! 

Later when we moved to South Bend, there was a group of us from our church who met for lunch and support as we cared for our mutual friend who had MS. 

 It has been difficult to have moved into a new community without children to help create bonds with others.  This year with our need for Covid distancing, it has been hard to meet people at our new church.  I have so much appreciated still being able to connect with the young women in the Bible Study zoom meeting from our church in South Bend many miles away.  And I chat fairly often with my friend Sue--someone I knew from college days and years later renewed our friendship in South Bend. She is no longer in South Bend either but we can chat on the phone and do email; I know she is always willing to be a listening ear. 

 Moving to Princeton has made it possible for us to reconnect with a family we knew from Raleigh days and that has been great. Our children grew up together and now we exchange grandchildren photos! 

 However I think that making new friends at our age is a rare privilege so I have been very grateful to have made one new friend since we moved to Princeton. When we visited Kingston Presbyterian Church soon after moving here, a lovely white-haired lady in a bright pink shirt greeted us. She was an official greeter that week. I thought immediately that she would be someone I would like--based on a first impression. As it turned out, someone told us that P had just moved to Barclay Square also and introduced us.  P gave me her phone number and soon afterwards we met for coffee in the 1900 Building, a community area.  As it was the middle of the contentious presidential campaign I sounded her out politically and was relieved to know that we thought alike! Since then we have gotten together at least every two weeks to walk down the canal path. I treated her for lunch on her birthday and later she gave me a thank you card that read "God has wonderful ways of letting us know He's up to something good in our lives. And so often, He does it through wonderful people like you." I treasure that card as I treasure our friendship! 

 Of course, I am thankful for the friendship of my husband and the companionship we have each day. But I am also thankful for my women friends and know they play an important role in my life.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Philadelphia Jazz Orchestra and Michael


 Last night we drove to Pettoranello Gardens, took almost the last parking spot in the lot, and walked to the outdoor ampitheater.  We met Jeff and Susan and found seats next to them.  Within a very short time, the concert began.  The weather was perfect with a cool breeze.  The concert was postponed from the previous night for good reason because there was a dramatic thunderstorm.

Our grandson Michael plays the trombone in the Philadelphia Jazz Orchestra, a summer group mostly made up of Princeton High School students.  Two years ago he toured Italy with them but he is not going on the trip this year, staying home to work as a camp counselor and visit some colleges.

Michael-second row on the right

The group is amazing.  The young women who are the soloists belt out the songs and look like they are having a great time singing.  Various band members are singled out for extended solos.  I know almost nothing about jazz but I do know that this group is great and we are proud of Michael for being a part of it.

As we walked back to our car I thought about how Michael's dad Jeff gave us so many interesting and enriching experiences.  And how Michael's Aunt Laura and Uncle Dan gave us even more experiences of a different sort.  I think of the Math Olympiad receptions in Washington, DC and Mathcounts contests both in North Carolina and Indiana.  I think of musicals in which Laura performed and plays in which Dan had a part.  Plus Quiz Bowls for Dan.  More memories keep floating back.We spent time in three San Francisco neighborhoods, two Brooklyn neighborhoods and two Manhattan areas.   

And now our grandchildren are bringing us to dance recitals and jazz performances.  After Michael's Dance Factory performance, I was wishing I could still learn to tap dance.  Last night I was thinking that in my next life if there was such a thing as reincarnation, I would like to be a jazz singer.  I will just have to be content to enjoy the grandchildren on stage! 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Princeton Seminary's Farminary


Last week one of Jim's golfing partners was Nate Stuckey, the manager of Princeton Seminary's Farminary, a 21 acre farm a few miles outside of Princeton.  The goal of the Farminary is to be a "place where theological education is integrated with small scale regenerative agriculture to train faith leaders who are conversant in the areas of ecology, sustainability, and food justice."  Nate asked Jim if we would like to tour the Farminary and of course, Jim said Yes.

As Nate told us about the history and goals of the Farminary, we could see two herons on the farm pond.   We walked around the property and saw the hen houses (now producing over three dozen eggs daily), the vegetable garden and the bee hives.  Nate stood next to a large compost pile made up of vegetable scraps and leaves raked from seminary grounds and told us it was a good symbol of theological understanding about death and life, renewal and regeneration.  


 Nate was raised on a farm and at one time was a farmer himself in Kansas.  He decided that was not right for him and came to the seminary where he got his degrees, never dreaming that one day he would incorporate both his vocations into one.  The seminary too probably didn't envision this use for the land it purchased in 2010 as an investment or possibly a place for more student housing. 
 We appreciated the vision others had for a lovely and useful place.  Plus we came home with a jar of honey that we knew was "farm to table."  




Thursday, July 8, 2021

Gender Roles in 53 Years of Marriage

 Last week when Jim drove 12 miles up the busy Route One to bring the Kia Sportage in for a recall issue,  I pondered the gender roles in our marriage.  As Jeff once said, "Mom feels a blog coming on."  When Jim came home, I thanked him for taking that responsibility and leaving me home in our air conditioned apartment.  He pointed out that I had just written a get well card and a sympathy card to friends and signed his name to them.  We each have our roles and have settled into them without conflict or resentment.

For the first nine years of our marriage, Jim was a student.  I was the primary wage earner for some of those years.  We had a small child after four years of marriage.  These circumstances made shared responsibilites essential and natural.  We did have some struggles to feel like we were each doing our fair share but they must have been resolved.  

We came into marriage as most people do with differing family stories.  My dad and in fact even one of my grandfathers were helpful around the house. When I was four years old, my dad spent a year in a Veteran's Hospital many hours from our home.  I remember my paternal grandfather driving down our street in his black 1950 Ford once a week to help my mother.  I wonder now why it was he who helped and not my grandmother.   Jim's dad was a busy pastor and his mom was the traditional "juffrouw."  Jim's mom would serve his dad coffee bringing him sugar and cream as well while he remained seated somewhere. 

So how have we divided our responsibilities now?  Jim definitely takes care of the car, a pretty traditional male role.  He balances the checkbook which he took over from me when he felt he could do it better (which is probably true and I was happy to give that up!).  We each pay separate credit card bills for two differing credit cards.  Jim has done almost all the negotiations with our financial advisor and his retirement accounts.  I initially researched our health insurance and social security decisions.  

When there are home maintenance issues, neither one of us needs to make repairs.  However, Jim is the one to put the query on the "portal" and get Alonso, our head maintenance man,  to come and help us out.  Alonso likes us because we don't ask for much and I made him "banket" for Christmas.  

 I plan and cook meals except for Sunday morning breakfast when Jim boils the eggs and puts out the sweet rolls.  We are each on our own for breakfasts the other days. Jim puts out the snacks for our happy hour and we usually get our own beverage.  He is the coffee maker and just now when I made some decaf for us at 1 pm, he thought it was too strong.  Jim always does the dishes after supper and runs the dishwasher when needed.  I love walking away after supper!  But Jim says he is happy I cook the meals.  I do the laundry but he sorts his own stuff and puts it away afterwards.  Jim reminded me that he vacuums after I dust.  I hate dusting so we tend to postpone both tasks!

Since moving to Princeton, Jim has done most of the driving even when I have my own errands to the library or CVS.  This is not good because I am losing my nerve and skills in driving. We grocery shop together once a week usually.  

Jim almost always says the grace before our meals although occasionally asks me to take a turn.  Does this make him the "head of the house" in a spiritual sense?  When we were able to hear our wedding vows on the old super 8 tape we retrieved last year when we moved,  I noted that I did not promise to obey in our vows.  But Jim's dad's sermon was about the man being the head of the house as Christ was head of the church. 

We make travel decisions together but I book hotels and airline tickets.  

I'm glad we can share our lives, each taking roles in it.  We probably each do what we are best at.  We hope that it can continue this way for a long time in the future!

--------------If you get this post by email it may be the last one sent by feedburner and blogspot.  Please email me to get my blog directly.  I will try sending it out but otherwise just bookmark it!  I usually blog about twice a month--when the spirit moves me to do so! mvanderkam@hotmail.com


Wednesday, June 30, 2021

A Blip in Blogging!


Blogspot has informed me that after July 1 they will no longer support feedburner to send out emails about my blog.  I think that was the word--feedburner?   I could download my email list but when I tried to do that it was full of spam emails.  My stats say that there are usually about 10 readers, sometimes as many as 20.  If you are one of those and want to get my blog please email me at mvanderkam@hotmail.com or maryvanderkam@gmail.com and I will send it to you.  I am sometimes surprised at finding out who does read it and am happy to share my random thoughts.  

 The real value of the blogs for us is my Blog2Print Book that I make at the end of the year.  Jim and I were perusing the 2019 book because it is the two year anniversary of our leaving South Bend and driving to Princeton.  It has been good to see what we have survived--from packing up a large house, getting rid of innumerable items, living in two transitional locations,  and setting up a new home here in Princeton.  There were so many changes in our lives;  we are thankful for our quiet lives today.   

Thanks for reading!   

Saturday, June 19, 2021

A Trip to the Catskills

We were honored to be invited to celebrate the marriage of Lucas VanEngen and Jenson Smith on June 17 at Full Moon Resort in the Catskills. They were married last November but were having a party now for family and friends.   It was a three hour ride from Princeton.  We arrived in time to settle into our beautiful cabin and take a shuttle to the location of the ceremony.  Lucas and Jenson had a complete wedding ceremony with bridesmaids, groomsmen, music and vows. (And a "sermon of sorts" from Abram, Lucas's brother).     My dear friend Sue, mother of the groom, was stunning in her black palazzo pants and white cape--and it made me smile to see her escorted by two of her grandsons. And how lovely to see Jenson in her beautiful wedding dress walking up the path to the wooded setting. 

There was a time for cocktails after the ceremony and then a fine dinner in which we were seated next to one of Sue's seven sisters and Lucas's acting manager.   We watched the dancing afterwards and as always I regretted our reluctance to take the floor with the others.  I totally forgot about masks which were no longer required--until I woke up at 3:15 am in a small panic hoping we were not exposed to anyone with Covid!  But we are vaccinated and I assume most if not all the guests were as well.  

Sue really made us feel a part of her family as we joined them for breakfast the next morning.  By 10:45 we were on the road heading to Dan and Alex's home also in the Catskills.  

But this is when we hit a problem as we lost our cell phone connection and had not brought a map.  We played it safe and headed back to I 87 where we could travel south until we got to New Paltz and then we picked up coverage again.  We were in no hurry but it was a lesson on how much we depend on Apple maps and sometimes that just does not work.

Alex gave us the grand tour of the house which was much more furnished than when we visited earlier. They had been given several items from Alex's boss.  Dan finished work at 1 and we had a leisurely lunch on their screened in porch.  We discussed options for the afternoon and settled on a trip to Minnewaska State Park with its alpine lake.  We timed our walk perfectly because the mountain laurel was in bloom and scattered all over the hills.  The views of the lake and the Catskills in the distance were wonderful but I got a bit uneasy at the heights and the sharp drop off of the cliffs and rocks.  

We were able to make good on our Christmas gift to Dan and Alex of a dinner in a restaurant when we ate at Runa Bistro, a new French restaurant in New Paltz.  We had a great meal of appetizers, entrees, and desserts.   Afterwards, Dan and Jim decided there was still enough light in the sky to throw a frisbee--a real treat for Jim to do that with his son again.  We watched the 76ers beat the Hawks and then headed up to the newly furnished guest suite over the garage where we had a very comfortable night with a cool mountain breeze coming in the windows.  The only bad aspect of all that natural setting was the woodpecker that rudely awakened us at 5:52 am.  Fortunately he gave up after a few tries and we went back to sleep.  

We had breakfast on the porch again--eggs and kale freshly picked from their garden beds for Dan and Alex and me.  We left around shortly after 10 and were home before 12:30.  We were smart enough this time to get our cell phone map going before we left our hosts.  

Even with two good nights of sleep I felt weary when we got home. I think we are so unused to being with other people that 48 hours of sociability was wonderful but tiring.  So now it is back to our quiet routine but with great memories of the last few days!