Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My 100 Dreams?

 Laura is posting "12 Days to a Happier, More Productive Life" on Facebook.  Day 2 is "Work on your List of 100 dreams."  I don't think I can scrape up 100 dreams that are at all realistic and possible.  Is that a sad sign of aging or a good sign of contentment?

I love to travel but there really are not many places on my bucket list any more.  I would be happy to go to Paris and St. Andrews, Scotland again--but am very hesitant about an overseas flight with the discomfort of crowded seats and the bewilderment of jet lag.  I have signed up for my "dream trip" of the Greek Islands including Patmos for September 2015 but I may back out.  If I don't get my money back, St. John's Monastery, the sponsor,  can have my donation. 

I would like to spend a whole week in New York City and feel as if I were living there with time to enjoy the sights and spend time with Dan and Raven without the pressure of a short stay.  That is certainly a possibility.  I'd like to see Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, the town that Laura visited and absorbed when she was writing The Cortlandt Boys.  I'd like to visit old friends in Houston and Raleigh and my new Goodreads penpal in the state of Washington. And of course, I am eager to spend more time in Princeton and Gladwyne with the grandchildren (and their parents)!

I have dreams of  faith for my children and grandchildren but all I can do is to pray and leave that in God's hands.  I have dreams of  health and happiness for all of us--but again, I can try to live well and encourage Jim to live well, but much of that is out of my control also.  We are aging and our friends are aging. 

I dream of healing for the two young men whose families are posting on Caring Bridge.  I can pray for them and let them know of our support but that is all I can do. 

In this first year of retirement, I have done well appreciating each day and whatever happens in it.  Sometimes I have plans; sometimes I don't.  But there are books to read, music to enjoy, crossword puzzles to challenge me, good food to cook and eat, a world of information to explore on the internet, friends to contact via Facebook and email--it's all good. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Grandma for Four Wonderful Days

Saturday:  I'm sitting in the living room listening to Jeff and Susan and Dan chat in the kitchen about bridge and chess and computer games.  The topics are of little interest to me, but I am enjoying their chatter anyway.

I took a very early flight Thursday morning non-stop from South Bend to Newark and then New Jersey Transit trains to Princeton where Susan picked me up.  Thursday evening I was able to observe Katie's dance classes and listen to both Katie and James sing in their Winter Concert at Princeton University Chapel.  The setting was beautiful and so was the music.

Dan came on Friday from Brooklyn and we shared a rental car for a ride to Gladwyne in time to admire Laura and Michael  as they left for a holiday party, Laura in the red maternity dress I gave her for Christmas.  Dan and I took care of Sam, Jasper, and Ruth.   I read stories to Ruth and rocked her as she instructed me in detail for her bedtime routine.  I listened to Jasper's latest enthusiasm--the ages of the oldest people ever as recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records. 

It's all great.  And there's more family time to come.  I am blessed.

Sunday: There were 14 of us at our family Christmas party Saturday evening with Dan's friend Raven joining us as well.    We were missing Jim who had just finished giving exams at Notre Dame. Susan and Jeff put out a great buffet including the traditional fudge and Susan's mints.  There were many gifts and I was delighted that the "wellies" I got for Ruth and the lite brite lego sets for the little boys were a hit.  Again, it was wonderful to see how much everyone enjoyed each other's company.  Little Ruth said, "I love Katie," and  James and Michael were so good with their younger cousins.

It was a joy to worship with Laura and Jasper at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church  this morning and to hear Jasper sing along on "Gentle Mary Had  a Child" and "Joy to the World."   
  Laura had tickets for The Nutcracker with the Philadelphia Ballet at 5 pm.  Ruth sat with me for the first half and Sam for the second.  Laura was a few rows back with the others.  Ruth was enthralled and Sam was very focused on watching.  It was fun to see it through their eyes. Meeting up with Michael in the mini-van afterwards was a challenge due to protests and street closings in the city.

Monday: Getting home today was also a bit of a challenge when my United flight from Philly was delayed for 90 minutes thus causing me to miss any connection in Chicago.  But United called my name and switched me to a Delta flight  and I was actually in South Bend five whole minutes before my originally scheduled time.

Tuesday:  After  such a wonderful trip, I woke up with a nightmare.  I was carrying a small child who was heavy and I could not find our home.  I kept asking people to help me find the way.  I never did get home in my dream.  I woke up.  Guess it doesn't take too much thinking to interpret my dream!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Back to Work?

For the first time in a year, I went into work.  Well, not really, but I volunteered as a reading consultant at the request of one of my former colleagues. 

This meant getting up early and getting dressed before 7:45 am!  It meant driving in what passes for heavy traffic in South Bend.  And it meant thinking about what I used to do without having to think really hard!  I prayed for wisdom and for a good experience for the man I would meet.

 I met with R and his tutor at Work One, the employment office in South Bend, where the school corporation has two adult education classrooms. R has been coming to class faithfully, is an excellent math student, and is just not making progress in reading as measured on test scores. 

I began by interviewing him and learning that his goal was to go to IVY Tech College but he cannot pass the entrance exams in reading and language.  English is his second or third language.  He had a diploma in his country of birth.  He was able to communicate orally with me well and to express his frustration with his lack of progress. 

R has lived in the United States for 12 years.  He works as a custodian at a university in town and has four school-age children. 

I found a test passage that we could read together so that I could analyze his decoding and vocabulary errors and determine how he worked through comprehension questions. I chose one on Georgia O'Keefe because it interested me.  He had never heard of her--so previewing on the basis of previous knowledge was not a possibility.  We looked through the questions at the end of the selection as "advance organizers."  We took turns reading aloud.  There were several words he could not decode in this middle school level passage and there were also words that he could not define that were essential to the meaning, such as "sculpture."  However, he answered 4/5 of the questions correctly after this exercise. 

I wrote up a report for him, his teachers, and his tutor.  When asked by one of them how it was working with me, he said, "Mary is perfect."  I had comforted myself earlier with the realization that even if I could not give him all that much help, the idea of having his teachers call in a consultant was affirming and would have its own repercussions.

I knew we had a rapport.  I was able to make specific suggestions for decoding, vocabulary, and comprehension work--and to model a session for his tutor.

But I was the one who was so touched by the process.  Here is a man who wants so badly to improve himself and it is so difficult.  I admired him greatly.

 I also am thinking that I need to keep using the skills that I have in some way as a volunteer. I'll check on R in a few weeks.  Maybe there will be others I can work with.    I had tried to work with students at the Juvenile Justice Center but gave up on trying to make it work as I went through the bureaucracy there.  Maybe after a year off, I am ready to get a bit more involved again.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Typical Day--Maybe

Every once in a while, Laura posts a typical day in her life on her blog.   Yesterday I was thinking that I had occasionally done a similar thing years ago in my written journals--keeping track of the busy days when the children were little.  I thought maybe I would do that yesterday but Jim's doctor appointment and  scheduling of his heart catheterization procedure--and my need to reschedule my travel plans to the East coast next week made it an atypical day.  Laura points out that no day is "typical" however when she asks folks to keep time logs.

I will attempt to record today as a more "typical" day.

 I woke up very early--unusually early at 6 am.  My mind was racing, thinking about Christmas plans, travel plans, and Jim's health issues.  I got up shortly before 7 and began my back exercises on the floor at the prime TV time--7 am with CBS news to keep me amused.  I like Gayle King, Nora Roberts, and Charley Rose.  They are serious and pleasant and work well together.  If I watch at 7, the show is commercial free until maybe 7:15.  After that, it is hopeless to get in more than three minutes without a break.

Jim made coffee for us and brought in our newspapers-- the NY Times and the SB Tribune.  I read the Tribune while eating my homemade granola.  I usually give Jim the steroid eye drop before he leaves for work and then enjoy some laptop time--reading my email and the lectionary.

I looked through some organ music as possibilities for Sunday's service and then headed for church at 10 to practice for a while.  The next stop was CVS to look for boxed Christmas cards--not the right place to do that.  My haircut was next door at Salon Rouge with Ciera who has done my hair for a few years now.  I gave her a small stick of banket along with a little larger Christmas tip today.

I returned home to check email and make up our Shakeology drinks in the blender using OJ, milk, and frozen strawberries today.  I packed them up and delivered one to Jim at the circle near his Flanner office.  We chatted a bit and then I went to the ND bookstore where I bought a box of note cards to use as Christmas cards, an ND ornament as a fun gift for Katie who is considering Notre Dame for college, and a puzzle calendar for Jim as a Christmas gift--even though we said we were not giving each other anything but a trip to Florida.

I drove to Maggie's house and we walked back to campus, making a stop at the Hesburgh Library to see a few more crèche displays from around the world.  Maggie especially liked the one from
 Nigeria which was a village full of figures going about their business with Jesus in a manger off to the side.

Back home again--for some NYT reading--and a nap.  I did a bit of yard work and then started supper--leftover turkey, salsa, corn, and Minute Rice.  Jim was home early and we had a bit of wine before sitting down to our meal.

I started a load of laundry and then checked email again.  I enjoyed a  bowl of ice cream with pecans and chocolate sauce and did yesterday's NYT's puzzle.  A Tuesday puzzle should be within my ability to do alone--and I did with just a few spaces open at the end. 

7:30 has become my travel time--with Rick Steve's Europe on PBS.  Today we went to Denmark outside of Copenhagen and it was lovely and interesting as it always is.

And that is it--so far.  What have I forgotten?  A Christmas gift arrived from Laura via Amazon.  Joseph Kahlil emailed just to say hello.  I communicated by messaging with Linda Bolt to say I wouldn't be coming to NYC after all.  I sent music for Sunday to David and Sue at the church office.

It's a pretty low-keyed life--at least it was today. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

Patience with Electronics Part II

It has been a day of some frustration but, overall, much accomplishment.

My iPhone 6 is set up and working.  I can email, text, take photos and send them.  I downloaded updated versions of Shutterfly and Instagram that actually work with an updated operating system.   Apple Maps can give me oral instructions.  I repurchased my only paid for app--Dark Sky.  The price had gone up to $3.99!  I can email by dictation.  Wow!  That impressed me more than anything else.

No success yet in transferring the photos from my old phone to my new phone.  It's not crucial because they are saved on icloud on my laptop.  I may still figure that out.

I started the process of setting up the phone on my own, but got anxious and went to the Verizon store which fortunately was not at all busy.  Tony transferred my contacts and sold me a protective case.  He also asked how my Christmas shopping was coming and then tried to sell me speakers and even a little drone.  I resisted.  He gave me instructions to further transfer apps and photos but when I got home, there were no words such as "sync" and "restore" as he said would pop up.  It's rarely as easy as the techs say!

I called Verizon for help and Lekea was wonderful with me.  She called me Miss Mary just like my students used to do and I told her she was a dear.  She helped me set up email successfully. However, at some point we lost communication and I gave up.  I would have liked to have praised her to her supervisor.   When I told her how patient she was, she said that was fine because I was learning how to use something new.  She didn't know that I was trying to talk to her on my cell phone and forgot she was on the land line! 

I have found icloud for my Asus laptop and have recovered my photos and journals and recipes--all out there in cyberworld.  That was my issue on my last posting.

I will probably solve transferring the photos as well--maybe. At one point my head was so full of passwords that when I tried to order something online, I couldn't even remember my own zipcode. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Patience with Electronics

My Mac laptop's screen is hanging on to the keyboard with a few wires.  I move it gingerly if at all.  It still works however.

The cord on my beloved Chromebook will no longer connect to the hard drive to restore the battery.  I tried a new $15 cord and that didn't help.  The Geek Squad at Best Buy said the pin is loose inside the laptop and fixing it would cost more than a new one.  My Chromebook was perfect for travel-lightweight and it could do anything I needed it to do.

So I bought a new one--this time an Asus for just $149--$120 less than the Chromebook.  I did add the extra hardware warranty for two years which cost almost as much as the Asus.  Maybe that was foolish.  I don't like making these decisions.  How can a laptop that costs so little be any good?  We shall see.

So with fear and trembling, I opened the box and started to set it up.  The screen kept telling me reassuring things like "Your apps are on their way" and "Don't turn off your PC" and because it was constantly changing color, I knew something was happening.

So far I have accessed Hotmail, Facebook and my blog.  I have not been able to access Icloud and don't know why. 

Why does my screen suddenly enlarge?  Where did the icons go?  How can I add a photo to this blog? 

I don't like changes.  I like things to last forever.  And they don't.  But right now I am feeling confident enough to try to set up my new iPhone as well.  Maybe tomorrow.