Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Honeymoon is Over

A few months ago Jim read some retirement advice referring  to a honeymoon period of six months in which one should not set major goals or make major changes.

So the honeymoon is about over.  It has been five months since I taught an adult education class.  GED graduation was last week.  I was pleased to see 16 former students listed in the program.  Several of them were from years ago and probably were motivated to take the old GED exam before the new TASC came into effect.  Some were students in my class last fall.

 I am beginning to feel a bit more restless.  I will need more structure in my life.  This will mean having to continue to find the right balance between good things to do and having time to rest and relax and be renewed.

It's time to end a blog that says "mvanderkamisretiring" or "It's Time for Retirement."  It has been great fun to blog,   It has helped me process my thoughts in a semi-public way as I made this major transition in my life.  I have appreciated the comments made by readers on the blog, on Facebook, and to me personally.

I won't stop blogging but this will be the last entry under this title.  My plan is to print it up  using Blog2Print--as a momento of this milestone year.

And then what's next?  I might title the next blog just that--"What's Next?"  Or does anyone have other suggestions?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Extreme Grandparenting

Some grandparents spend a few hours with their grandchildren; some a whole day.  Jim and I just spent most of four days and all of four nights with our three grandchildren (ages 2, 4, and 6) while their parents had a vacation.  It was intense!

 As a bonus, we also saw our other three grandchildren (ages 10, 14, and 16) about an hour's drive away. We saw the 10 year old pitch two great innings in his Little League game--before the downpour hit and we ran for the cars. Our 16 year old granddaughter bonded with the little one by braiding her hair beautifully. The 14 year old patiently played video games with his little cousins.

What a joy to be with the little ones for those several days--and what a joy to celebrate bedtime with a glass of wine each night.   We were so thankful to make it without any incidents of any consequence.

That is if you don't count my trying to pass off the fish sticks for dinner that I thought were chicken nuggets.  The two year old was not convinced as she hollered "I don't like these nuggets" and refused to eat them.

Or when we discovered that the McDonald's ice cream machine was broken and WaWa didn't have ice cream and by the time we got to DQ, it was dark and raining and the kids had to sit outside under the table not at the table.

  Or when we pulled off I 476 near their home, one child hollered to turn to the right and the other to the left and both were insistent that Grandpa was going to get lost.  Or the maddening tendency of the lovely roads along the Main Line near Philadelphia to change names every half mile.

Or when the two year old was left with her mother's 30 year old doll that I had cleaned up and bewigged--two minutes at most--and when I came back, she had facial tatoos (fortunately, water soluble!).

But then there were the hugs and snuggles and Bible stories and prayers and questions and books and puzzles and songs and playgrounds and soccer and the train diner--and lots of love all around.

My arms felt empty today and the house is so quiet.  I'm glad to be home again but I am so thankful we could be a part of their lives for a few days.

Feast of St. Matthias

Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men 
who accompanied us the whole time 
the Lord Jesus came and went among us,
beginning from the baptism of John
until the day on which he was taken up from us,
become with us a witness to his resurrection.”
So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas,
who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.
Then they prayed,
“You, Lord, who know the hearts of all,
show which one of these two you have chosen
to take the place in this apostolic ministry
from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.”
Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias,
and he was counted with the Eleven Apostles.  (Acts 1)

The Lord will give him a seat with the leaders of his people.  (the refrain from Psalm 113:8)

 Five years ago, Jim and I were in Oxford staying at the Jesuit House while Jim delivered the Speakers Lectures.   I decided to get up early one morning and go to the chapel for mass.  Much to my surprise and initial discomfort, I was the only person there not participating as a reader, acolyte, or celebrant.  The message was about Matthias who is mentioned only in this one place in Scripture and yet is "counted with the Eleven Apostles" and even has a feast day named for him!  I wondered if I would be counted when the bread was broken--if I would be allowed to partake.  I carefully noted that the wafer was broken into four pieces and I was welcomed at the feast.  It was a celebration of the Lord's Supper I will never forget!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

"Low Moment Narratives"

My daughter Laura's almost daily blog reviews The Nesting Place today and is getting a record number of responses.  She zeroes in on an issue in the book that I have been thinking about as I have kept up this retirement blog. I quote from the end of her long and rather acerbic review: 

 Which brings me to another issue that’s been bothering me about this book. It’s celebrating “imperfection” and how we’re all imperfect, and she’s imperfect too! And we’re supposed to like her more for all her flaws. I know people love this narrative. People have written me that their favorite blog posts are ones in which I’ve talked about my struggle to lose weight, my falling off the wagon with running, etc. This sometimes makes me feel like an anthropologist studying a culture, because I really don’t understand why people find these low moment narratives as compelling as they do. It’s not just my belief that life isn’t lived in epiphanies; non-fiction cannot always contort itself into the hero’s journey. The issue is that I’m more drawn to people’s talents and achievements. I want to get to know Smith because she’s an incredibly creative designer, not because she and her husband got into 6-figures of debt. I want to learn from her decorating ideas, not feel better about myself because hey, she has flaws and I have flaws too. 


I have not posted compelling  "low moment narratives." My blog postings have been almost always upbeat this year.  Even when they are about aging bodies or unfulfilled goals, they usually end in thankfulness.  Do I feel that way all the time?

No, but I don't write on the days or nights when I am a bit bored or worried or restless.  Maybe I don't want to share all that much about the down times.  But the truth is that there have not been many down times--yet!  

This past week I was beginning to think that I needed more structure in my life and more ways to be of help to others.  I prayed about it.  Was my first answer to prayer my daughter's request to come help out in July when her nanny has a week off and she is under a deadline?  Maybe it was.  I hope to be able to help her out!  

I researched local volunteer options online and may look into our wonderful library that has provided me with such immediate results when I request anything.  I hope an opportunity will present itself to use my skills and experience to teach an illiterate adult to read.  I know they are out there but we need to find each other.  

I have not regretted for a moment that I made the decision to retire.  Life has been good.  I don't need to "re-invent" myself--a phrase I have read more than once for retirees.  But I do need to look for opportunities to help others in ways that I can really enjoy myself too.  Any suggestions?

And why the tulip photo?  These flowers with their beautiful and unlikely combination of colors were in front of the Notre Dame's Snite Museum of Art this week.  They are a work of art in themselves and I wanted to share them!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Jim and Jubilees

  I don't know when Jim will retire--or if he will retire.  I have joked that I can't even get him to retire from the church's softball team, let alone Notre Dame.  However, I do not think he will play softball this year. He SHOULD NOT play softball this year!  I hope he will be content to sit in the dugout and keep the scorebook and yell out the batting order.

Last night our former small group at church  invited Jim to talk about Jubilees, the book that has been the basis of much of his life's work.  I was very happy to listen to their wonderful questions--some about details, some about the bigger picture and context of the book.   I learned things that I had not known before (or had forgotten!) and I have lived with Jim and Jubilees for 40 years!  It was a very good experience for Jim to have such interest expressed in his work.  I felt regretful that I have not always expressed enough interest and have tried to do better during this time of retirement.

Jim wrote his doctoral dissertation on Textual and Historical Studies in the Book of Jubilees.  25 years ago he published The Book of Jubilees: A Critical Text.  At one point he wondered if he would live long enough to finish the commentary he is working on now but as he is on chapter 46 of 50,  I think and hope he will make it!  In fact, he is beginning to think about what his next big project will be.

It is a privilege to be able to enjoy one's work as much as he does.  I do remind him that his research does not have to stop just because his employment at Notre Dame stops.  In fact, he'd have more time away from classes and meetings to do his research.

In any case, last night was a joy for me to hear him share his work and to love our former group members for their interest in his work and their affirmation for him.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Saturday Morning Pancakes

Breakfast on Saturday mornings may be be a symbol for our marriage of 46 plus years.

We have pancakes, often blueberry pancakes, and we enjoy breakfast together as we always do on the weekends.

However, Jim makes his own Mrs. Butterworth Buttermilk Complete (just-add-water) pancakes.  After he puts on the buttery spread, he pours on (I mean pours on) Spartan artificial butter and maple-flavored syrup.

I use my Purdue extension recipe for Better Baking Mix that is a combination of whole wheat flour, oatmeal, and white flour.  I have real butter with real maple syrup--delicious!

Jim says, however, and I quote, "We do our own things, but I do it so much better."  Humpf!  I don't think so!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Velocity of Autumn

I am more aware of articles that have to do with aging.  I read one recently about men who become Grumpy Old Men at age 70--and hope that doesn't happen to the one I live with.  (I'm not too worried actually!)


Yesterday's NYT had a review of a play called "The Velocity of Autumn."  I'm not sure if I should be encouraged by it or not.  The title refers to the "speed with which the frailties of old age can descend." In the play, Alexandra, played by 86 year old Estelle Parsons,  refuses to go to a nursing home and would rather blow up her Brooklyn brownstone with Molotov cocktails than give in.    At one point she says, "What the world is taking away from me, what time is taking away from me, what God is taking away from me--is me!"   Charles Isherwood, the reviewer, states that "Mr. Coble's play rises above its slightly formulaic structure to become a dry-eyed, moving rumination on the hard fact that the progress of human life being what it is truly happy endings are rare indeed."

So that's the negative part--but that is the play, not the reality.  The reality is that at age 86, Estelle Parsons is given a rave review by Isherwood for her "starchy, sentiment-free performance...."  He says that at the end of a 90 minute, two-actor play, she appears ready to run a half-marathon as an encore!

Good for her!  Maybe Alexandra is more typical than Estelle, but I think I'll ruminate on the reality, not the play.