Monday, November 24, 2014

Bananas, Balboa Park, and Breast Cancer

I have no plans for today except for a dinner with one of Jim's colleagues.  I don't know what the day will bring to me.  Yesterday, however, was one of some adventures.

Our Hilton Bayfront Hotel room does not have the view I coveted and remembered from our last stay in San Diego.  We do overlook the Coronado Bridge, but in the foreground is a huge parking lot full of Dole trucks.  I tried to look over that industrial section and focus on the Bay and even the Pacific Ocean beyond Point Loma.

Yesterday, however, I began watching the Dole trucks in their steady rhythm of a cab picking up a trailer bed, waiting for a huge magnet to deposit a full trailer from the Dole Ecuador ship in the dock, driving to a parking space, releasing the trailer, and then starting over.  There were seven of these trucks in the parade that went on all day.  I thought about our 59 cents a pound bananas in our South Bend Martin's and was grateful.

Later in the morning, I took a taxi to Balboa Park where I visited the Spanish Village, a center for working artists where I bought a watercolor 27 years ago when we lived in the area for four months.  I enjoyed the Gauguin to Warhol exhibit at the Museum of Art (on a visit from Buffalo, NY), and then listened to several numbers on the Spreckels pipe organ played by Robert Plimpton, a master organist.

My plan was to walk the two miles back to the hotel.  Little did I know that I was to walk with "3000 of my best friends" as one  Walk for Breast Cancer woman put it!  These walkers were on mile 59 of 60 miles in the last three days.  Most were wearing signs in memory of a friend or relative and were dressed in outlandish costumes--pink tutus, hats, and metal bras!  At least I was carrying my pink leather bag.   As they (we!) walked, there was loud music, cheering by-standers, and police stopping traffic on side streets.

I should have followed them all the way to Petco Park but my feet, even after two miles not 59, needed the shortest route possible.  Unfortunately that led through the East Village area past a "residential hotel," a woman vomiting in a trash can, and several homeless folks with their sleeping gear on the sidewalk.

There were no threats at all, just a little uneasiness--but that is often a part of adventures in my travels.

Back to the hotel for a short collapse, on to a "mixed grill" dinner and then the Notre Dame reception to greet lots of former students and friends.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Jim's Legacy

We are in San Diego where Jim is attending his 41st annual Society of Biblical Literature convention.  I noted that his name is not on the program listing this year.  No papers; no responses; no panels; no honors.  He does have three board meetings and, with five colleagues, is interviewing 11 candidates for a position at Notre Dame.  So he will be busy.

We went out for an early supper in the Gaslight Village area.  When we stood up to leave, the fellow at the next table stood up and introduced himself and his wife.  He thanked Jim for his help in gaining him a promotion several years ago.

As we walked back to the hotel, another fellow came up and introduced himself.  He told us that, as an undergraduate at North Carolina State University, Jim had changed his life.  He was an electrical engineering major and had taken Jim's Old Testament course as an elective.  Apparently Jim happened to meet him out on Hillsborough Street and said to him, "Why don't you take Hebrew too?"  That was it.  He loved it--and is now a dean for a consortium of divinity schools around Maryland.

Approaching the hotel, we met a former colleague of Jim's who hugged us and exchanged pleasantries about the children and grandchildren.  She thanked Jim for his "beautiful" contribution to a journal she was editing-a result of a rather controversial panel discussion at last year's convention.

So within an hour, Jim was thanked by three younger scholars for his help in their careers.  I am aware of Jim's students and former students at Notre Dame, but when we come to these conventions, I am always more aware of how much he has contributed to the larger academic community as well.

A postscript:  I went to an early morning worship service in which the theme was "Not to be Served, But to Serve."  Dr. Mark Strauss preached about Christ's model of serving which included empowering his disciples to serve.  He applied that to all the PhDs in the audience and, even though Jim was not there to hear or worship, I thought it was the story of his career.  He has never been too into himself, but always has been happy to encourage or empower others.

I did enjoy two very public hugs as two of his former students entered the worship space!  And also big, flirty smiles from the eight month old son of one of them!  Those were gifts to me!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Handel's Messiah and Memories

My first memory of The Messiah was attending a performance in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  I must have been about eight or nine and my best friend's much older sister had the trumpet solo in "The Trumpet Shall Sound."  I was so proud of knowing her and, for some strange reason, her comment afterwards saying that her lips felt like hamburger meat is a part of my memory.

When I was 18 and a freshman in college, I sang The Messiah with the Calvin College Oratorio Society.  Conductor Seymour Swets told us young altos that we needed to sound like 40 year old mothers on "And the Glory of the Lord" on our solo entrance.  We knew what he meant--that he wanted a rich, dark sound, but we mostly weren't there yet!  I will never forget his beaming face as we finished the last Amen in our December performance.

Many years later, maybe 20 years later,  Jim and I went to a performance of The Messiah in Duke Chapel.  I focused on a young alto singing at the end of a row.  I got tearful thinking how much living had taken place since I first sang those choruses--good and bad--and how much was ahead of that young girl.

I am singing The Messiah again and it is a joy.  The Notre Dame Repertory Choir, a class that meets twice a week, is giving the student conductors a chance to practice their skills on these choruses.  I have no trouble coming up with a more mature sound now!  I still can't sing those long eighth note passages especially at the pace we are practicing.  The style seems to be a faster tempo and a more staccato style.  That's  a challenge that is fine with me.

Music evokes memories and these are happy ones coming back to me.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Retirement Means New Possibilities

Over the years I have gone to many concerts and other events in the South Bend area and been amazed at how few people I knew in the audience.   Our church community is fairly small, my colleagues at work were limited in number, we no longer have soccer games and school activities for our children, and, as a result, I guess the circle of my acquaintances is not large.

Last night at a wonderful and entertaining Notre Dame Glee Club concert, I was amazed and pleased that my life in retirement has not been more limited but, in some ways, has expanded.

 At the concert,  I was able to introduce Jim to a fellow docent from the Snite Museum and to a young singer from the Notre Dame Repertory Choir.  The fellow docent is an expert in Native-American culture and has added much to our training sessions.  The young singer is working on a Master's degree in Sacred Music and is auditioning for Chanticleer and if that doesn't work, wants to go to Oxford or Cambridge to be a part of one of their chorale programs.

Sometimes the days are a bit long and lonely and I do wish I could be more a part of my children's and grandchildren's lives.  But for now, I need to be here in South Bend.  I am happy to be having enriching experiences and meeting new and interesting people right here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My Relationship with Facebook

My relationship with Facebook itself  is complicated.  Isn't that a word on the list of possibilities that some use about their relationships on Facebook?

I have kept the Facebook app off my iphone as one way of not checking it too often.  I have now vowed to check it just a few times each day--and never late at night when some postings linger in my sleepless mind.

But what would I have missed in the last week if I didn't have Facebook at all?

         a  photo of my handsome son "looking toasty" as he put it

        the continuing four night saga of the cat in a friend's tree and the heroic rescue by the Notre Dame Climbing Club

        a video of my grandson jumping over mats to the cheers of little ones at the Taekwando class where he was assisting

When I occasionally post my blog on Facebook, it is fun to see who reads and likes and comments.  I like sharing my children's posts and now maybe even my grandchildren's posts.  I like "traveling" with friends who post photos of their trips.

But a few times a day is enough.  There is plenty of free time in retirement, but discipline is needed!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Jump-Start at the Snite

One Snite Museum of Art program for the South Bend Schools is called Jump Start.  Second graders learn about portraits,  third graders do sculpture and fourth graders study Native-American art.

Last week I went to two different schools to introduce the sculpture program to 3rd grade classes.  This morning I led four third grade classes for 30 minutes each through the museum itself to look at the sculptures and talk about them.

It was a blur of activity and a diversity of faces.    Once more I was told that my name tag was upside down.  This may be my trademark.  At least it has  not been a bad omen; maybe it will become my superstition for a good morning.

The children are very eager to respond.  Hands are up constantly and sometimes responses can't wait for being called on.  The children are reminded about "museum manners" and not touching the objects or the pedestals, but this is pretty difficult for kids to remember and reminders are needed.

One close call was the child who squeezed between the model of the Griffon and the window to look at the large Griffon guarding the Snite outside.   I saw the pedestal wobble and got him out of there fast!

We purposely seat the children on the right side of Nydia, the Blind Girl of Pompei, so they don't have to focus on her bare breast.   One group noticed anyway and there were several children craning their necks to see the other side.  One asked why she was dressed that way.

I told the children that another Remington Bronco Buster was in the Oval Office and did they know where that was?  One asked if that was my office.  Another guessed that it was the principal's!   They did enjoy seeing the photo of President Obama with the Bronco Buster in the background.

Some responses are so interesting and observant.  The children see things that I hadn't noticed.  "What is that at Nydia's feet?"  "Those faces look like tuba mouthpieces."

Others are so egocentric as children can often be.  I said that the Snite's maquette  (a new word for me!) of Mozart I was a model of a sculpture at Stanford University in California.  One child eagerly raised her hand and said, "My cousin lives in California."

One of our most important goals as docents is to have the children feel welcome at an art museum.  I made sure to ask each group to come back with their friends and relatives and give them their own tour.  I hope they do just that.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Cooking and Eating

Some people enjoy cooking as a way to relax.  I don't particularly like to cook but I do like to eat.  And I want to really like what I eat--not just eat because I am hungry or it is meal-time.  Plus I want our meals to be healthy.

Tonight was a good example of my style in the kitchen.  I made a list of ideas for this week and bought ingredients yesterday.  Tonight was a recipe with butternut squash, red peppers, feta cheese and Italian sausage.  OK, the Italian sausage is not healthy, but there was only 1/4 pound in it for the two of us.  A little bit of red pepper, onion, rosemary and olive oil and about 45 minutes in the oven and we had a fantastic supper.   We have really cut back on our meat eating and use it to flavor a dish far more often than as the main course for the dinner.   A couple of apple slices and an English muffin gave us a bit of variety.

I also have realized that my time in the kitchen is much more pleasant if I put a CD on--usually choral music and often hymns sung by choirs from Calvin College, Notre Dame, or Oxford or Cambridge. Listening to that music gives me a kind of peace while doing work that itself is not a joy to me.

Now if I could just resist a little ice cream for dessert, I would be better off but a bit of sweetness is so good!