Tuesday, February 25, 2014

From the Balcony of Room 1430

We've heard that it is maybe 10 degrees in South Bend.  It is about 85 here in Fort Lauderdale as we enjoy the view from our Doubletree Suites balcony in the late afternoon.

 A drawbridge below crosses East Sunrise Boulevard. On the other side is the Hugh Taylor Birch State Park,  a "paradise in urban Fort Lauderdale," and then a bit east of that we can see the Atlantic Ocean.  It's not quiet.  I hear a fire engine with its siren blaring as it crosses the bridge.  An occasional motorcycle roars by.   But it is peaceful anyway from this high vantage point.

This morning we had a pleasant walk through the Birch park and marvelled at the banyan and palm trees and the wetlands.  How wonderful that Birch gave this land to the state to preserve it or it would be all high rise hotels and condos here.

This afternoon we walked through the upscale Galleria mall a block to the west of us.  A restaurant's sign said "Fashionable Dress Required"--not the usual demand for shirt and shoes.  Last night we scorned those restaurants and instead went to a place that looked a bit sketchy from the sidewalk--Franco and Vinny's Pizza Shack.  What a find!  It was the kind of place where customers and waiters and waitresses were greeting each other with hugs and kisses.  The woman across the aisle introduced her nephew to the waiter and said later that she had been coming there for 20 years.   I put in my order for the chicken ravioli with marinara sauce and the waiter asked if I was sure I didn't want to try one of the other sauces because he recommened the "aurora"--a cross between marinara and alfredo.  He was right--it was fabulous.

I wonder what it would be like to live here or even just winter here.  We feel young as we look around at so many elderly people.  My sister said one of her friends came home saying he'd had enough of Florida and seeing old women in bathing suits!  I wouldn't care for a life of golf and bridge and shopping only as I think about what is making my retirement interesting and worthwhile in South Bend.

But the warm air is so soothing and relaxing.  I don't think six days are going to be long enough!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Checking in on goals

I wrote a list of goals for retirement last fall. I thought I would check to see how I was doing with them.  Here they are with comments:

1.  Keep a blog about adjusting to this next chapter of my life called "retirement" and share it with others.

       This has been a lot of fun for me.  Ideas pop into my head and I know there are some readers  because I check the stats.  I have learned how to add links and photos.   Occasionally I  post to Facebook but  I don't want to be annoying about that.  A further goal is to get more readers to  comment.  We have   been unable to determine why my husband cannot comment nor can my Goodreads penpal Marilyn.

2.  Take docent training at the Snite and SBMuseum of Art.

              We have had two Monday sessions so far and they have both been really worthwhile.  I have enjoyed doing the homework and feel as if this commitment is enriching my life.

3.  Travel with Jim and extend those trips like I am doing right now.

              We hope to go to Florida soon, extending Jim's work commitment by four extra days.  March will  bring a trip to see the kids and grandkids and enjoy the gifts we gave our older grandchidlren with them--tickets to the 76ers for the fellows and to the Philadelphia Ballet for the ladies.

4.  Relearn geometry with jmath.net.

               I have made it through only four lessons.  Jay's lessons are longer, there are no worksheets yet, and my laptop downloads slowly.  Maybe I am not as motivated as I was when I was teaching.  Jay is still   terrific however!

5.  Learn lots of new organ music--maybe even some challenging stuff.

               I have begun some new pieces.  The sanctuary is very cold these days.  Practicing is not entirely a joy when it is 58 degrees and one's fingers won't move well.   That's my excuse at least!

6.  Watch videos online.

                I ordered Amazon Prime but have not done anything with this yet.

7.  Read longer books--instead of quick reads.

                 Middlemarch--I read a chapter and realized I had attempted to read it before.  I gave up a second time.    The Goldfinch was so highly rated but it too was returned to the library after I read a chapter   or two.  I have plenty of time but no enthusiasm for these longer volumes.

8.  Find a way to help out in adult education--maybe not in the spring but in the fall of 2014.

                 I was asked to sub later this month and at first I said I was willing to do so as a volunteer.  I think I am not allowed to work for pay for 90 days or I would lose my pension.  But when I thought it over, I knew there were others who needed more hours of work and one of them will do the assignment.

9.  Spend more time with children and grandchildren.

                  I hope this will take place in March and in May and this summer.  

10.  (added November 25)  Learn Greek so I can read the New Testament with greater interest!

                  Hmm--not so sure about this one!

I have added a few other goals or at least regular actitities.  I am reading with two young students at Tarkington Elementary School each week.  I plan to read Jim's commentary on Jubilees as he finishes each chapter. I started with chapter 40 so I guess I have lots of catching up to do!  I need to exercise regularly and have been walking with friend Maggie twice a week.  I have signed up for Zumba which, as it is offered by Forever Learning classes, I am optimistic that I can keep up.  I participated in three Bible study sessions led by Maggie on the gospel of John.   And then there is the major purging of every room, closet, shelf, file cabinet, etc in this house.  There is always a bag on its way to Goodwill or St. Vincent's.  

Each day fills up.  I have not been at a loss for things to do.   It has been good.

Five star books

I've been musing this morning over what I enjoy doing most in my bounteous leisure time.  I concluded that I really like writing in this blog and I really like looking for books to read--more than reading them, I fear.

I read the NYT Book Review first each Sunday (after the Travel section maybe) and especially like the By the Book section where authors cite their favorite books.  I look at Goodreads suggestions particularly from my "penpal" Marilyn McClellan who is a great mystery buff and an author herself.  I like to read the NPR reviews.  My friends Sue and Beth and Maggie are great readers and give me suggestions.  Sometimes I go back over previous journals and look for books that I have loved and want to reread--or to find others by those authors.  I have a long list of books to read at this point.

However, many of those books on my "to read" list never get read.  I start them and decided they are not worth my time and energy.   So I rarely rate books on Goodreads lower than three stars.  If it is a two star book, in my estimation, it doesn't get read.

I thought I would look back and see which books I rated five stars on Goodreads since I started this blog in September.

Dissolution  (Sansom)   I didn't think I liked historical novels, but this one was fascinating in its setting of Cromwell and Henry VIII and the breaking up of the monasteries.  However, when I tried the second one in the series, I found the torture scenes too upsetting and gave it up.

The Gods of Guilt   (Connolly)   As I wrote in my Goodreads review, the plots are so convuluted that I can read this one again and enjoy it again.  I'm not even sure why I rated it five stars at the time!  I'm sure it was one that totally absorbed my attention.  I am a Connolly fan for most of his books.

Someone   (McDermott)   I would rate this higher than five stars.  It was short, dense, powerful, and true.  McDermott took an "ordinary" life and made a wonderful book out of it.

If I go back farther than September, I can add a few more:

The Little White Horse (Goudge)--a favorite of CJ Rowling.  Again, I don't think I like fantasy but I loved this book and would enjoy rereading it.

Fin and Lady (Schine)--quirky characters--an unusual family configuration with resilient characters.

After Visiting Friends:  A Son's Story (Hainey)--a real life mystery in which a son tries to find out the real story of his father's sudden death.  Would he have been better off not knowing?  Should he have shared it with his mother?

Notre Dame and the Civil War (Schmidt)--This short book was so informative and interesting.  Can you imagine a food fight at St. Mary's College between the Yankee women and the women from the South?  More seriously, the chaplains from Notre Dame suffered a lot to be with the troops.

Astray (Donoghue)--A very unusual book in which the author took bits of old news and made them into stories and did so in a way that convinced me.

As I look over my list, the books are a mixture of fiction and non-fiction.  Maybe I rate books as five stars when I am surprised at home much I enjoyed them--when I think I don't care for fantasy or short stories or historical novels.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

All Joy and No Fun?

There is a new book on parenting called All Joy and No Fun.  This title has intrigued me but I don't think I will read the book. I hope the title is hyperbole.   I looked it up and found this short quote:

"Our experiencing selves tell researchers that we prefer doing the dishes — or napping, or shopping, or answering emails — to spending time with our kids," Senior writes. "But our remembering selves tell researchers that no one — and nothing — provides us with so much joy as our children. It may not be the happiness we live day to day, but it's the happiness we think about, the happiness we summon and remember, the stuff that makes up our life tales."

I know that sometimes I felt like an imposter when I was raising young children.  Often  there were things I would rather do than play a board game or read a story or kick a soccer ball in the back yard or go to a swim meet.  But in spite of ourselves, our children brought us much joy as we watched them grow into productive, happy, independent adults.  

And they still bring us much joy.  I have spent the last hour checking out a Charley Rose interview with Jeff Hammerbacher at Dan's suggestion.  It was a fascinating glimpse into a world of big data and its importance for accelerating science and health care delivery.  I would never have looked it up without Dan's interest and guidance.

I read Laura's blog daily and it often sends me into further investigation of a world of young professional parents besides giving me a glimpse into Laura's busy life.  (lauravanderkam.com)

Jeff cannot share his work with us.   The Institute for Defense Analysis is a world of its own which we were permitted to observe as visitors just once.  But a great joy for me this week as a grandmother was watching a video of young Michael playing Pachelbel's Canon on a grand piano at the Westminster Music School.  I wish we could have been there.   

We have been parents for almost 42 years.  February 27 is Jeff's birthday--which I always think of as the anniversary of my motherhood as well.   Once again, I'll end with my thankfulness--this time for the blessings of children and grandchildren.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Insomnia has been a problem for me--maybe even going back to childhood.  I know I would get up and tell my parents that I couldn't get to sleep.  One of them would crawl in with me and start snoring while I lay awake!

This past week has reminded me of the many nights I have lain awake--and thus caused more such nights this week.  Last Saturday NPR posted an article recommending cognitive therapy for insomnia.


 I read it and knew I needed to practice what it said--but the harder one tries to follow suggestions, the worse it can get.  During the night, I decided I was not ever going to be able to play the difficult organ prelude I had chosen for the church service and I opted for an easier one.  This was not a good thing to be thinking about at 2:30 am!

Then later in the week I brought years of journals to Pokagon State Park with the goal of purging the private, therapeutic stuff in them and leaving the good or at least important memories that I wanted to share with my children someday.    I got through five of them, tearing out page after page of the recording of sleepless nights and other issues.    It served my purpose at the time to vent in my journal but at this point, there was pain in remembering and accepting my frailties!  However, there was also so much good stuff to remember in the middle of it all--some of which I have already shared with Dan who said that his dear Raven is always eager for more little Danny stories.

Yesterday Laura posted a story on her blog of a sleep-deprived mother and asked for advice.


Many readers responded  and once again I was reminded of those difficult years of being awake in the middle of the night when your life is controlled by children.   One mother posted this:

 One of the WORST things about long-term disrupted sleep is that – at least in my case – it can cause insomnia even though you are totally exhausted. 

I know that is what happened to me.  It is not true that if you are tired enough, you will sleep!

How is this related to retirement?  I am thankful that I don't have to be up for a class today.  I don't have to drive in the snow and ice to work.  I can take a nap this afternoon.  It's OK to be 67 and retired and not have as many demands on one's life.  

Somewhere recently I read that the mealtime grace "For these gifts we are about to receive, we give you thanks" is also a good one for a bedtime prayer.  A good night of sleep is a wonderful gift. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Happy Birthday to my older spouse (just two months older!)

February 15 is Jim's birthday.  Lke Christmas birthdays, it may not get all the attention it deserves being the day after Valentine's Day.

It has been a year of reminders of aging.  Jim is now the oldest sibling in his family with the death of Hank in December.  Jim's mom's memory is failing so badly that she didn't remember it was Jim's birthday.  When I quizzed her as to how old she thought he was, she agreed to around 50.

In looking over old journals this week I read of several health problems we both had that are now just faded memories.  At one point I wrote that I was 55 11/12 years old and falling apart with various aches and pains.  I wondered if I would make it three more years to match the age that my mother passed away.  Well, I have  done so and gone many years beyond that.  JIm, too, is in good health.  The pharmaceutical industry would never flourish on his needs.

We spent his birthday in our usual ways.  I practiced the organ, did the laundry,  and prepared the birthday meal.  Jim and I got the groceries together as we always do on Saturdays and then, even though it was his birthday, he spent the afternoon reading a doctoral dissertation in preparation for a defense coming up soon.

Jim's sister Terri and her husband Ken were kind enough to bring Mom to our house for dinner.  It was a treat for us not to make that bi-weekly trip to Kalamazoo.  We had a good meal and a pleasant visit.  We did get to be like the "old folks" at the end of the evening, reminiscing about our first real jobs and the paychecks--$5,750 for me in 1968 as a teacher in Grand Rapids, Michigan and $13,000 for Jim as a professor at North Carolina State University in 1976.

I am thankful for Jim and pray for his good health and ability to be productive. I hope we can have many more years together.

Don't ask Jim when he is going to retire!  Who will tell him he should?   Bill Svelmoe was supposed to tell him when it was tine to retire from church softball.  Bill has long since retired from softball--and Jim is still hoping that they will be short a man and he will be forced to leave the record book on the bench and take his place on the field!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day

  This is the first year I am not sharing Valentine's Day as a teacher with a class.  I always made a heart-shaped cake using a square and a circle, a bit of a geometry lesson.  I usually asked the students to write a five paragraph GED essay about their ideal Valentine with interesting results.

I've been purging old journals and that is a topic for another blog.  I often recorded the words on cards Jim gave me or the meal I made for the day, so it must be important to me even if I think I am not a romantic and am somewhat cynical about a commercially inspired holiday.

Tonight we are having a spaghetti dinner, one of Jim's favorite meals.  I'll buy a better than our usual $6.99 bottle of wine and make some beer bread.  If I am ambitious, I'll make banket--another favorite for Jim.  I doubt we'll exchange cards.  We might exchange written messages.  I already let Jim  know that I bought him a gift and that means the pressure is on him!  My gift is an impulsive one I bought at the Jockey outlet store yesterday--I could add a photo.  I doubt Jim will pose for it!

Jim is my most faithful blog reader--maybe because he is the only one whose email I added to the site.  So...Happy Valentine's Day, Jim.  I love you!

How do you celebrate Valentine's Day?  Or do you prefer ignoring it?  (My daughter often ends her blogs with a question.  Is that is how I will get some comments?)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

An Astronaut?

About a week ago, I succumbed to  one of those frequent Facebook quizzes.


Maybe I was a little bored.  Maybe I trusted my dear daughter-in-law who had done it and found out her occupation should be a professor which she is and then another dear friend who found out she should be a writer.

As I know she blogs and does it well, I thought this could be interesting.

So, what should this 67 year old, white-haired, retired school teacher be?  An astronaut!  As I am terribly afraid of heights, I think this will not be my second career.  My hands get sweaty, my heart pounds hard, and I have an irrational desire to jump even though I am not suicidal.

However,  the quiz asked good questions and my answers showed that I love to explore and I am curious!

So here I am in front of a fireplace looking at a bearskin on the wall at Potawatomi Inn at Pokagon State Park just 68 miles from home.   We pass the sign for the park as we make our frequent trips east on I 80 and even today, someone told me how much she loved coming here with her family as a child and teenager.  So I have been curious--and have had a visit here on my "bucket list."


I booked a room in the historic section of the inn (to be interpreted--small room) for two nights for the price of one (when one night was only $65) and now I am enjoying my adventure.  If the toboggan run were open, I wonder if I would be that adventurous.  Probably not.

 Tonight I enjoyed a solitary dinner of braised chicken, mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts (not so great) and water with lemon ( no liquor in public places) while I read my book, did a crossword puzzle and listened to the two couples at the next table discuss for at least ten minutes if salads were pre-made in the kitchen or whether your server made it himself.

I don't feel lonely.  I've had two conversations with Jim and sent him a photo of dinner.  He enjoyed his frozen pizza at home.  We'll talk again later.  There are things he will do for me but there are also things I don't ask him to do--and this is one I am happy to enjoy on my own!

 I don't think I feel obligated to get my money's worth and may find one night is enough for now.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Yesterday I was able to participate in two things that would have been impossible had I not retired.

Jim has shared his experiences as a "reader" at Tarkington School here for years with me over supper on Tuesday evenings.  It has been good for the little boys that he has read with--some for several years--and it has been good for him to see what teaching little ones is like.  Tarkington is a well-run school with very good teachers. https://www.edline.net/pages/tarkington_traditional_school/  He asked me if I would be willing to read there as well. ( We are both very careful not to volunteer each other for anything.)  I agreed and he took care of all the arrangements.  Due to snow days, a garage door that wouldn't open, and my little jaunt out of town, yesterday was the first day I was able to join him and read.  

Zach was very happy to know that I finally showed up.   He was a good-sized third-grader who read quite well but in my  "diagnostic-teaching" mode, I noticed he read longer words easily and missed several of the little connecting words.  His teacher told me later he needs to work on comprehension.

Maddie was a lively first-grader who loved dinosaurs, she said.  It was a challenge for me to read the names of those dinosaurs in her book!  Her teacher told her to take tissues with her to the library because she had a terrible cold.  She certainly did, but that didn't stop her from giving me a high five directly after blowing her nose.  I was happy to use the hand sanitizer conveniently placed near the sign-out book in the school office!

I felt good that Jim was eager to have me join him in this experience.  He feels very much at home in that school and feels appreciated.  And he should be--he has made it a priority.

The other experience was joining Jim in another aspect of his life.  It was his turn to present his research at the Institute for Advanced Study at Notre Dame where he is a fellow for the spring term. http://ndias.nd.edu/   He was asked to invite four guests who were in his field and would be given the first opportunity to question him.  I was an extra guest who was not required to submit a photo and a resume or asked to present a question.   I hear about his work in the book of Jubilees chapter by chapter but was eager to see how he would present it as a whole to his colleagues.   Jim was clearly comfortable in his presentation and knowledgeable--no matter what anyone asked.  The other fellows seemed interested for the most part.

I really admired the way the whole session was run--from the delicious food catered in, to the hand-outs at each place, and to the gracious and intelligent way the director Brad Gregory ran the session.  All of the questions were good but Brad had a gift for asking the big questions about Jim's progress in his career and how he would present to non-academic audiences.

Both of these opportunities enriched my lfie yesterday.  I was always grateful for my job as well and its opportunities, but now I am happy for the changes in my life.  I am still on the email list for adult education so I cheerfully delete notices of the webinars and meetings regarding the new TASC--Test Assessing Secondary Completion.  I've moved on!