Sunday, May 29, 2011

Week 22

Sunday was a big family day--Kayla's final dance recital before she goes to college. She was in ten group dances and had three solos. In the middle of her self-choreographed senior solo, a sudden shrill interruption--the fire alarm! The first instant we wondered if she had switched up the music, but then she stopped and looked puzzled. We all filed out and waited for the fire department to arrive, conduct an inspection and declare all was clear. Plenty of time for some photos. Later we got to watch her special solo a second time!

Kayla and Hannah

Kayla and Center Stage director

The Koch Family
Monday, Chef had a surprise for me  at the dinner--an ice sculptured center piece.

Happy Birthday MOM
They also had a gift for both of us for our family photo wall.

It is very difficult to capture the many facets of an ice sculpture photographically. I tried twenty two times, and now I'm having a hard time choosing which ones to show you. This one is artistic looking and shows the flowers--a tulip and lilies of the valley, my favorites.

I like this one too--David examining the melting piece. The edges of the leaves and petals were beginning to poke through. Ice melts at the rate of 1/4" an hour at room temperature and becomes glossy and clear.

Tuesday, new photo, but I spent almost every minute working on a photo book for Kayla's graduation gift.

Wednesday , more rain, the theme of the week. However, that day it hailed and the tornado siren sent us downstairs where I got this photo of our new little garden covered over by moth-ball-size hail.

Thursday was Mike's birthday; he caught up with me now!
At this stage in life we do not need more things, so I spent a few hours vacuuming and detailing his car as my gift. In the evening we went out to a nice restaurant, The Mill.

Friday, more of the same, off and on rain all week! In the evening we watched the grandsons in Muncie so Sam and Kristie could go meet with friends. It was an active time. I only managed one photo.

Saturday afternoon we were back in Muncie for a graduation open house. It is that time of year.
We stopped at Sam's workshop, always a pleasure to see him and what he is up to in his neatly organized custom woodworking shop.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Week 21

Half of the week was gone before I realized I had forgotten to take pictures, even when I had opportunities. What's up with that? Maybe my birthday had something to do with it.
I think I made up for the lack of photos in the latter part of the week.
First, though, a couple of flower pics from last week.
Lilies of the valley are so abundant right now, my favorites.

What are these lovely little wild flowers?

So, yes, Wednesday was my birthday and I wrote a rather lengthy reflective post About Getting Older.

Thursday we met half way with dear friends we had worked with forty years ago in Germany and Austria. The agreed upon half-way point was Ivan and Kim's in Jonesville, Michigan. We had such a wonderful time all together sharing life stories and enjoying great food at The Saucy Dog.

Old Yellar and home made potato chips
Friday I drove to Warsaw to Global Auto my youngest brother's shop. He replaced the battery in my car and I went across town to Grace Village to visit with Mother and Dad.

Today, Saturday, Mother and I were given a tour of some of the available apartments at Grace Village and picked one that met her criteria and is close to a missionary friend. The next month or so we hope to have her moved in. 

Aunt Margaret and Mother
I visited my college dean who recently moved to Grace Village. She still remembers some of the horror stories of the job when she felt like the "wicked witch of the east", as she puts it. If I  live to be 94 like her I hope I can be such a lovely person. I doubt I could ever remember as much as she does.

With Miriam Uphouse Christiansen, my college dean of women

There was a fancy Mother-Daughter tea at Mother's church.

Mike spent the day at an Art Fair.

Paseo por Gernika

Continuing our stroll through the famous city...

Our guide and friend, Alberto, must have felt very frustrated (and weary!) trying to show us so many amazing places in such a brief visit. For us too it was a lot to process in a short time. So I continue reviewing the photos of our trip, researching, and learning. However, I really want to wrap up the long narrative of our one-hour visit to Gernika in this post. The following are sights we were privileged to see that are listed among the most important.

~~ la Iglesia Santa Mara de la Antigua, already spotted in a previous photo,  in the center, the high point
of the city.

This parish church took three hundred years to complete. Construction  in the Gothic style began in 1418.

Parish Church of Santa María

~~la Iglesia de Santa Clara. Had we followed the path of the Camino pilgrims, as indicated on the Plano turístico, we would have seen its cupola first thing on our right. 

The site has been a place of worship from time immemorial, before records were kept. In 1422 it became a convent for Franciscan nuns, and in 1619 a cloistered order of Santa Clara.

Santa Clara eliza
The current building that houses the nuns was built in 1880.
This photo reminds me of when Alberto pointed out, "That is where the clarisas live." In an e-mail before our trip, in reference to the oft rainy conditions, with customary humor, "We'll have to take eggs to the clarisas [the nuns of St. Claire] and ask them to pray for good weather."

Interestingly, yesterday as we were traveling and reading our current book, a historic novel about the Spanish Civil War, we came across this account:
Unlike the nuns who worked among the people and cared for the injured soldiers, the twenty-nine Sisters of Santa Clara lived in cloisters and never stepped beyond their walls...
...each new nun was given the number of a nun who'd passed away. The sisters were even buried within the walls when they died. For five hundred years outsiders had cared for them by taking the shopping lists the nuns passed through a grill on the convent door.
~~el Parque de los Pueblos de Europa, on the other side of the path, is a lovely park which contains samples of all four types of woodland found on the Basque coast: beech woods, oak woods, holm-oak woods and riverside brush.

Also within are massive sculptures by famous artists:

~~Large Figure in a Shelter, a monumental twenty-ton abstract bronze sculpture, one of the English Henry Moore's public works of art.

Large Figure in a Shelter

~~La casa de nuestro padre by Eduardo Chillida, Basque artist who was commissioned to create a monument to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the bombing of Gernika.

Gure aitaren etxea
The structure, which faces the famous oak tree, is meant to be a symbol of peace. The title means Our Father's House.

~~Further along the path, Alberto pointed out the inscription under the bronze bust of Wilhelm Von Humboldt a German philosopher and linguist whose works on the Basque language and his many visits to their land earned him the honor of being called FRIEND OF THE BASQUE PEOPLE.


My contribution will never deserve a monument, but my heart desire is to be a friend of the Basque people--Euskaldunen (I don't know if that is grammatically correct).
And I hope you, my readers, are gaining something from this looooong bloggy travelogue.
Please feel free to comment. I appreciate each response.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

About Getting Older

Today is my birthday. The cat's incessant meowing got me up early. I found a dozen or more cheerful greetings on Facebook, and I read two articles I had set aside.

"5 great things about getting older" (June 2011 Real Simple, 71). Experts ranging from ages 55 to 89 share their findings.

1. You'll be happier.
"...research has shown that as we age we become more emotionally stable and content." The big life questions have already been dealt with, so you can relax.

2. Wise decisions will come more easily.
"Scientists used to think that we lose a significant number of our brain cells as we age, but more sophisticated scans have debunked that theory." And "older brains can swiftly make the right calls." The good news is that "we hit our cognitive peak between the ages of 40-68." The bad news is I only have one peak-year left!

3. The fashion police will be off your back.
You no longer need to wear high heels! " of the greatest contributors to longevity is moving--fast on flat feet."
But, do I really want to live that long? Maybe I'll go back to wearing heels, especially considering my shrinking status.

4. You'll know who you are.
Betty Reid Soskin, 89, full-time park ranger says, "Before I was 75, I was tentative about many things. But now I know my own voice, and most important, I have the confidence to use it. Today I'm blogging and giving speeches and participating in all sorts of activities that, honestly, I would have been incapable of in my 60's."
Hey, longevity may not be so bad, there's a lot more to come!

5. You'll have time on your hands.
"If you've been driving yourself for years--working, raising a family, or both..." (yes, both!) "'s an adjustment..."
True, however, I find myself more focused and driven now to do the things I have put off for so long. And as the previous expert says, "A sense of urgency comes with aging."

"Aging" written by a local professor, Bill Ringenberg, from his book Letters to Young Scholars, a few quotes:

"The senior period is a time for self-development as much and in some ways more than the earlier periods. Perhaps physical decline is designed to spur deepened spiritual and psychological growth at the end of life. Ideally, age should produce wisdom, increased poise, humble self-confidence, a more realistic self appraisal, and a reduced level of anxiety."

Recognizing that the aging process is different for everyone, there are principles that characterize the most all-around-fruitful experiences, says Dr. Ringenberg.
1. Accept the inevitable but retain control over the controllable.
2. Use the increased discretionary time to meditate deeply on the meaning of life and death. More important than what one does in the senior years is what one is becoming.
3. Change the mental focus away from work to leisure. Away from getting to giving, and away from controlling to counseling...Indeed the development of interpersonal relationships with people of all types is one of the most essential activities for seniors.
# 3 resonates with me on several levels.
--Recently I allowed myself a leisure-type additional activity--an oil painting class. I say it is only for the duration of this birthday month, but we'll see what happens.
--One focus of my retirement years is to get rid of stuff! I so do NOT want to leave the mess to my children to sort through.
--Another aspect I very much want to cultivate at this time is cheerful, generous giving. A need came to my attention in the last couple weeks from a friend in Uruguay, and I can't think of a better way to spend birthday monies. These are excerpts from his letter, my translation:

Uruguay is not a poor country, but rather a rich nation with poverty of spirit...

I have recently taken on a new challenge to meet urgent needs of people, not necessarily their material needs, but to enrich their souls and for their eternal future. Thanks to the Rotary Club...I managed to have them give me a space in their building for computer classes for senior citizens who not only want to use this means of communication, but also need to be with others, to get out of their lethargy, their routine. As one of them said to me recently, "As soon as the sun rises I am waiting for it to set so I can go back to bed."
I believe it is our obligation to attend to all that is at hand, and this has come to me not because I was looking for it, but because God Himself placed it before me.
 I have only the meeting place in the building, four old computers with a memory of 384 kb, when the minimum ought to be 1M; some chairs that are somewhat unsafe for the elderly; no heater; not even a corner to make coffee or tea and serve cookies.
I am doing this because God has asked me to and because I want to, and if I want to and God wants it, then nothing can stop us. But truthfully we need gas, internet, other computers, some chairs, a rug, and even money for transportation to the place.
Every Wednesday, probably Fridays, and most likely we will add days as there is great need of affection, love, comfort, peace, and all that the Lord can give and will give. To reach them through information services is only the first step to a dialogue about their needs. Already in two classes, one person opened her heart and shared her desperation.
Dr. Ringenberg's article admits, mostly for our country, that in spite of uncertain current economic realities, "the status of the senior population is better economically than it is socially and psychologically," the author offers ways to increase the quality of life for the aging.
1. Work intentionally to develop a general milieu which increasingly respects and appreciates seniors. Condescension toward and contempt for the old is a major problem in western culture.
2. Develop systems that naturally incorporate the skills of seniors with societal needs.
3. Organize educational systems that provide continued physical and mental stimulation.
I especially appreciate #1. I will start by posting the most recent photo of myself, unflattering though it may be.
In a society where youth is idolized, maybe it is time to say "Old is beautiful!"

Sunday, May 15, 2011

May Celebrations

Mother's Day

Three of the five siblings, along with spouses and two grandsons, gathered to honor our nearly ninety-year-old mother.

Here is the queen mother herself.

You can also see some of the food we feasted on: Kim's Cuban pork and rice, and salad from our indoor garden.

Another tandem training ride, 45 miles. Can you tell what I am doing?

After exercise class I went to visit my friend Miriam from South Africa.

She sewed lace on a sun bonnet, so creative. Shortly after our walk a storm brought hail. It has been that way all week--unpredictable weather.

I cleaned all day so I wouldn't be overly embarrassed when Ivan and Kim (brother and SIL) came to spend the night. They arrived last week from Argentina. It has been wonderful to catch up and learn more about their life and work en la Patria querida (in the beloved homeland).

(The picture I took on this day came out blurry, so  I'm using one  taken Sunday.)

My second floral painting class--review of leaves plus lilacs.

A bouquet of real flowers from the lilac tree in our yard plus the one remaining tulip. One year long time ago, I planted 100 tulip bulbs but some creature attacked the whole lot except maybe two.

The grandkids were here a few times this week. Here are a few choice photos.

A skateboarding lesson

Archery practice

A fun ride with Daddy Sam

Ready for prom
Today was a full day.
For me: a ladies brunch in the morning; cleaned my car; Kayla and her makeup crew came here to get her ready for the big date; then I picked up my South African friend so she could meet another Afrikaaner.
For Mike: his turn to lead the Saturday cycling club ride; a memorial cookout for one of the riders who passed away; an evening of music at the Gray Barn.

May is always a busy month.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Poetry, Slogans, and More

Last month we celebrated National Poetry Month. Our small town had their first annual arts festival honoring a local poet--Barton Rees Pogue. Yesterday I received a link to a documentary pilot about the Basque bard-like tradition and hugely popular event--Bertsolari. I cannot imagine that many people gathering to listen to improv poets!
If you find the time to watch the above mentioned trailer, tell me what would you think of that idea for a reality show?

Recently I wrote a post about the famous oak tree in Gernika. I learned at that time that the song sung almost as much or more than their official anthem came about in this bertso form because Iparragirre was a bertsolari (Basque poet or bard). So you may find four, eight, twelve stanzas to the song as he introduced changes with each performance.

Interestingly, one of the first words I wrote in my Basque-English notebook was bertsolari = poets. I seem to remember that I had written a list of Basque words found as I read about their culture and then asked Amaia what they meant.

My young Basque friend also sent me two links to a song  sung in bertso style on occasion of another popular event, the Korrika.This relay run winds its way through the Basque Country over a period of three weeks every two years in the month of April. You can see one of these featured in the second link. I watched several YouTube videos of this year's event and was then very surprised to find one titled Korrika 17 desde Argentina which took place in the city of Río Cuarto where my parents lived and worked for some years!

In another recent post I showed a picture that included a slogan in Euskera (the Basque language). FYI, someone did write back with the meaning of EMAN HITZA HERRIARI: "Let the people have a say."

Now I need someone to explain the repeated  MAITATU in this video, and perhaps comment on the Argentine Basque presence. I would never have known the Basque spirit was so alive in my adopted country.

Last week we watched an excellent movie "There Be Dragons" set in the context of the Spanish Civil War. We highly recommend it. The film brought to life the scenes we are currently reading about in A Valley of Betrayal, a historic novel about that horrific conflict.

I hope you enjoy learning about any of the above mentioned miscellany.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Garden Fun

I repotted the house plants and used some Klaytivity rejects. This is my favorite, imperfect only because of a hairline fracture.

Tropical Maidenhair Fern
Adiantum capillus-veneris
I love this delicate plant, and only hope I can keep it alive. These ferns grew wild where I went to camp as a child in the sierras of Córdoba, so I could not resist adding it to my plant purchases last Saturday.
Three grandsons were there as mom picked out her choice garden plants. I had so much fun playing with them or I may have come home with more than I could handle. Even so I haven't finished planting everything yet. Of course, rain most of the week has not helped.

I did get some cell phone pics of the boys, but someone had been playing with the photo features and this is what I got.

I love the expressions, but it looks like someone spilled paint on the poor kids.

Zion warmed up to me after a bit and started playing a game where he would walk away, then turn around and run into my arms time and time again. Reminded me of the 'jump hugs' I used to get from his daddy back in the day.

Monday at Chef's we enjoyed a plated meal of salad, chicken, sweet potato and an arepa with house dressing.

Oh, and the garnish--pickled ginger and orange.

Another day this week I made a mean salad of tuna, tomatoes, green onions, red pepper, and corn over a variety of greens from our indoor solarium hanging garden.

I harvested such a range of greens and herbs from only one tray, so tasty when freshly picked.

Thursday I attempted something new--an oil painting class! We practiced different techniques for making different kinds of leaves, buds and flowers until we ran out of space and time. Here's what my first practice canvas looked like.

Spring Swirl
Leaf Sampler
Friday, during one of our few rain-free windows, we went for a tandem ride to MacDonald's (17 miles). I so enjoyed the greening countryside, and conversation with my husband.

Today my friend and I celebrated her 80th birthday by walking to her favorite little restaurant for brunch. We were a sight, especially after half an hour in drizzling rain--an unusual threesome.  

Viola and Patches
Tomorrow should be fun celebrating Mother's Day with our almost ninety-year-old mother and seeing Ivan and Kim again!