Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cars and Me

In the last six weeks, I have been stretched (I don't like the cliched word) in my role as a driver.  I was apprehensive about driving Susan's Minivan in Princeton,  but I was needed to transport children and get groceries when I visited in June.  I did it and enjoyed it.  I was not required to drive it into their very narrow garage and I avoided parallel parking on downtown streets however!

Last week at Laura and Michael's, I drove a Lexus and an Acura with three grandchildren in the back--sometimes singing at the top of their voices on their way home from camp, "We are the Riverbend, Mighty, mighty Riverbend..."  and then "Louder!"  The roads were narrow and traffic was heavy in the Philadelphia Main Line suburbs but Garmin and I did well even if she had to "recalculate" several times.

Yesterday, I decided that it was too complicated and time-consuming for Dan to take a bus or train from O'Hare to South Bend so I would drive to get him.  He thanked me for my "generous offer."  The traffic was so heavy and there was a detour and I missed holding up our transponder to some open tolling places and signs to the cell phone lot were small and I was told to move on at the terminal.  But we did meet up on my second round and the ride back to South Bend, even though I 294 was a parking lot at times, was a pleasant one of conversation with my son.

I don't like to drive.  I incorporate errands so that I am not on the road for extended times.  But I like to go places and I hope I can meet the challenge of driving for many years yet.  It's a sad day when one's keys are confiscated by others.  I hope I can give it up before that happens as well.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Getting out of the House

 Gladwyne, Pennsylvania is a lovely town.  Parts of it date to pre-Revolutionary times.  Although there are no good sidewalks, it is easy to walk from Laura's house to a coffee shop, grocery store, library, and a beautiful nature preserve.  I loved walking along Mill Creek and exploring the area last week.

Granger, Indiana is not the same.  I don't find walking in our neighborhood all that interesting.   Last night, Jim welcomed my walking along while he golfed nine holes, but in spite of his excellent company, I agree with Mark Twain who considered golf "a good walk spoiled."

I decided, however, that I had to get out of the house and do something.  So I drove the short distance to Notre Dame, parked the car, and walked to the Grotto to pray.  I lit a candle as I have done often over the years--this time praying for Jim's eyesight and the mysterious infection in his "good eye" that is causing us concern and worry.

The bonus of my little adventure was the lovely sunset over St. Mary's Lake--almost as good as the sunsets I hope we will see over Lake Michigan soon.  I was glad I made the effort to get out and have my own little adventure close to home.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Reading Women--a book review

Reading Women by Stephanie Staal is subtitled "How the Great books of Feminism Changed My Life."

Staal graduated from Barnard College in the early 1990s.  While there, she took a course she refers to as Fem Texts--reading and discussion of authors from Wollstonecraft to Friedan to Roiphe.

At age 24 Staal met her future husband and after several years of living together,  married him, had a child, and moved to Annapolis.  She continued to work part-time from home as a free lance writer, but as many young mothers do, she felt trapped.  She remembered her course of reading feminist texts and was inspired to ask if she could audit the course once more at Barnard--from her perspective years later as a wife and mother.

So that's the story of the book.  It goes back and forth from summarizing readings and classroom discussions to recording Staal's life of child care, laundry, and work.

Reviewers on GoodReads complained that Staal did not present the perspective of women of color, lesbians, single women, women who lived in poverty, etc.  Some complained that she picked and chose only a few of the course's texts and gave others cursory overviews.

I found the book labeled "Advance Reading Copy" on my daughter's bookshelves.  I needed something to occupy during hours in the airport and plane and this book met my need.

I find myself thinking "It is what it is!" and why complain if it isn't what others expected it to be.  It is the story of a privileged white woman who marries and has a child and a career.  She is struggling to find herself in her role as a mother and wife but also as her own person just as most women need to do.  She comes at it from circumstances unlike most.   She was a latchkey kid whose mother was a working academic.  She had no siblings until she was 11.   When she was 13,  her parents divorced and she was raised by her dad.  Her other major book was a research study on children of divorce.

I was reminded of the Ladies Home Journal series on  "Can This Marriage Be Saved?"  Maybe that was what kept me reading to the end when I was relieved that she thanked her husband for his "unwavering love" and "ineffable patience."  They made it through new jobs, moving back to  New York City, and working with a terrible marriage counselor.

There were funny, memorable scenes in the book.  There was the woman at the playground who asked Staal what the theme was for her daughter's nursery and all she could think of was "storage room," but she said "unicorns."  Or the visits to the marriage counselor that united Staal and her husband against the common enemy--Dr. Betz.  She wondered if that could have been his strategy.  Or the second semester professor of the Fem Texts class who sends around a snack list.  I don't know if that was meant to be funny but it struck me as so stereotypical.

  From my perspective at age 68, I no longer fret much about my role in life.  But I once did.  My daughter doesn't like phrases like "work-life balance" and "having it all."  But when she writes about these topics on her blog, the comments are far more than when she writes about less controversial topics like LeBron James returning to Cleveland.

We each come at life from different families.   Our children's needs, our finances, and our energy and stamina differ and our own need to succeed in a profession varies.  Our priorities are certainly different.  I hope at least that I have learned to be accepting of these differences and not criticize those who have made other choices.   And I do plan to add some of these feminist readings to my own "Want to Read" list on Goodreads.


It's almost noon and time for Laura to pick up little Ruth from her morning Daisy Days Camp.  That was my duty and privilege for the last week and I am missing it right now.  She would greet me with such a happy smile and say, "Grandma!"   This was true even yesterday although she had howled all the way to her brothers' camp, "I don't want Grandma to pick me up.  I want Mommy to pick me up."   Slights are quickly forgotten when you are two years old, I guess.  I miss her saying, "Grandma, can I help you?"  or "I want to do it myself."  Life slows down when you have a two year old wanting to dress herself, buckle herself into her car seat, and stir Kraft Mac 'n Cheese in a very hot pan.

It's noon and I'm doing my third load of laundry.  I've done some cleaning and picking up around the house.  I've made phone calls about financial matters which is always upsetting to me because it involves stuff I don't really understand.  I need to get groceries and check my church garden.

I'm grumpy and irritable and probably going through the transition from being Grandma, with its joys and tensions, to being just me again.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Not the Usual Routine

At home, we have our routines.  This week they are someone else's routines--the patterns of a busy household with two working parents, both of whom traveled this week, and three busy children.

Last night I realized I had not made a daily list for a week--since I left home.  I always make lists of what I need to do around the house or the appointments I have or even what I hope to accomplish.  I am lost when I lose my little notebook.  But not this week!

I also realized that I had not reflected as to whether I had done anything for anyone else each day.   Not a big deal, but an awareness of why we are here on earth!   This week I have hardly given a thought to anyone except being Grandma to three little ones.

  I just brought Jim to the airport;  I head for home tomorrow.  We pick up Ruth for lunch in a few minutes. Meanwhile I have a lovely spot to sit on Laura's back porch looking at a crepe myrtle in bloom.  Today I see bumblebees in its branches; last night it was fireflies.  It's an opportunity to blog--another routine that has been left for a while.

Monday, July 21, 2014


  When I had small children, I used to say that solitude would be the curse of my old age.  I coveted time alone.

Solitude has not been the curse of my old age yet.  However, last week at home I began to feel a bit bored and knew that it was time to find more to do.  I have some ideas for the fall and several trips in the works.

 A week ago Friday when I was bored,  I tried to give blood for the first time in years--and failed.  Five months in Scotland in 1981 and I was "permanently deferred."  I think it was mad cow disease!

For one week however, I am reminded of those years when solitude was precious.  I am helping Laura,  our daughter, with her three little ones while her nanny is on vacation.  Jim has joined me for the weekend and today.  The boys go to day camp from 9 to 3:30 and the little one goes to a morning camp from 9:30 to 12.  She takes a short afternoon nap.  So there is a window of quiet time in the morning and the afternoon  and those few hours are treasured.   I shower, walk, catch up on the news and email, read a bit and nap myself.  And then I'm ready for all the busyness again.

And it is busy!  They are three wonderful, bright, happy children who have strong opinions and express them!  How good it was to hear the little one say today however, "Grandpa and Grandma are the best."  And what fun to show the boys a photo of us in our wedding attire--looking so young--and hear their comments.  I loved making muffins with them twice--in four days!  A two year old's little mistakes are so memorable, "Grandma, the teeth in my shoe hurts."  (translation: the tongue in her sneakers was tucked underneath)  Or when the taxi driver, a pleasant looking gentleman of another race, drove up with an unseen Grandpa in the back seat, "That doesn't look like Grandpa!"

It's 9 pm and time for a glass of wine with Grandpa.  Laura was able to join Michael in Philly for a team dinner for work.   Solitude with Grandpa is also good!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

44 years later...

The summer of 1970--we had big plans to participate in an archaeological dig in Jordan.  It was to be a few week trip to Heshbon, six weeks there, and then a few weeks left to travel in Europe.  However, violence closed the borders and we were stranded in Europe for 13 weeks until our charter flight returned.   We found it impossible to get more funds--we tried several times--so we did our best to follow Europe on $5 on a Day,  a popular book at that time. With a few breaks for hotels and relatives, it was 13 weeks in a pup tent--travelling from Amsterdam to Istanbul and back.

I wrote in a travel journal almost daily and today I read portions of it to Jim on the two hour trip we made to meet our travel companions of that memorable summer at Shuler's Restaurant in Marshall, Michigan.    I don't know when all four of us have been together--maybe 35 years ago, maybe more.  It was wonderful!  Our online reservation asked if it was a "special occasion."  I checked the Yes box!  We had old stories to share and new stories to tell.  We left determined to make the next visit far sooner.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Fourth of July with Old Folks

The Fourth of July brings back memories of my Uncle Jack's cottage on Lake Michigan with lots of family and fireworks on the beach.  There were splendid fireworks for the 1976 bicentenniel celebration in Lexington, Massachusetts where we were spending a summer housesitting. Thirty years ago, I ignored doctor's orders and left my "bedrest" to see fireworks in Raleigh, NC--just days before Dan was born.   Then there were lesser fireworks but still memorable with our own family in the cul-de-sac.  I can picture Jim lighting the fuse and running back to safety.  A few years ago I watched splendid fireworks set off a barge on the East River from the vantage point of Laura and Michael's 38th floor apartment in Manhattan.

This year fireworks consisted of two hours of constant noise in the neighborhood with nothing to see but the fireflies in our yard!   We agreed that we needed kids around for an incentive to find a firework display.

Our day consisted of a quiet ride to Kalamazoo to take Jim's mom out for ice cream.  At my request, we varied our usual route to ride down lovely country roads with lots of wildflowers along the edges.  After our visit we stopped at a nature preserve in Kalamazoo and walked through forest and meadow and along wetlands.  When we got home, Jim grilled brats and veggies and I made sangria.  The Cubs and the White Sox won.  It was a good day.

Friday, July 4, 2014

A Happy List

Las week  Laura posted a "happy summer list" because she wanted to leave something positive on her blog before took a week off from blogging.   Thursday night I was a grump for reasons I will not disclose here!  Friday was much better and I thought it might be worth making my own happy list.

These are the things that made me happy last Friday:

Breakfast with a young graduate student friend outside the Notre Dame library--coffee and a great muffin with good conversation.

Practicing our wonderful, 130 year old tracker pipe organ at church in preparation for Sunday's service.

Eating the first two little tomatoes from my garden plot at church.

The RotoRooter man giving a great suggestion for solving a clogged downspout problem and not charging us for his visit.  I did however hear all about his noisy parrots and the room he built especially for them.

Our lawn mower repair taking four days instead of the week to ten days estimated.

A great summer supper of devilled eggs, asparagus soup, broccoli salad and carrot salad.

A reassuring chat with my sister.

Doing the Thursday NYT crossword puzzle with Jim and not needing to look up anything or having to put it away for a fresh look later.

Reading my daughter's happy list.

Laura has made the point on other occasions that it is the little bits of happiness we need to look for and focus on.  It's a good exercise.  Sometimes that is easier to do than others.