The End of the Semester Blues

Here it is, December 19th. Two final projects down, one final exam to go. And all I want to do is sit here and "play" with my beautiful new 17" iMac-the resolution is astounding, it's lightening fast, and it makes my 6 year old iMac look like an antique-although that one is not being retired, exactly. It's going downstairs in the home office to become the "accounting" machine for the house.

Can it really be November?


Where has this last month gone? Here it is, November 9, and I'm still lost in October, which was a horrendous month. And now Anne has to have knee surgery tomorrow, just to add to the fun.

The good news is that our bathroom looks great-Kevin Doyle of O. Doyle Construction has done a fabulous job of taking our 1965 bathroom with its awful green tiles and making it into a very 21st century spa-like oasis. Way to go Kevin!

Pictures to follow! [Pictures added on May 18, 2008.]

Jerry Selman, September 12, 1918-October 14, 2007


What can anyone say? Jerome Herbert Norman Selman was a giant of a man, in every way. Lovable, annoying, easy going, short tempered. He was a man of contradictions (aren't we all?). The world is a better place because he lived and I will miss him.
His funeral was wonderful (he would have been proud) and his children eulogized him beautifully. His daughters in law (Tillie and me) were proud to be his pall bearers.
This picture of Ruth, Matt, Jerry and Anne was taken two years ago when we celebrated Ruth and Jerry's 60th wedding anniversary. I'll remember him like this-before his leg was amputated, before he spent 227 out of the last 365 days at the VA Medical Center, before he was on the ventilator.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

"It's always something" Gilda Radner

We've been struggling for the last two years with Anne's father's health-he's been in and out of the VA Hospital (more in than out). We celebrated his 89th birthday during Rosh Hashanah. He didn't look well, but he was home, and that was a blessing.

Tuesday he had two incidents of cardiac arrest. We spent Tuesday and most of Wednesday at the hospital. Anne's going in today, and we're both going in on Sunday.

So much of our conversation has revolved around the big issues (please, please don't ever let me be on a ventilator) and the mundane (where will we sit shiva? how many people will we feed after the funeral?)

Jerry will probably die this week at the age of 89. The weird thing about Jerry is that many years ago, a palmist reading his palm told him he'd live to be 89-which is also the age at which his mother, Nanny, died. We had a big party for her 89th and that was it!

Our friend Donna died in May at the age of 53. You never really know, do you?

L'Shana Tovah

May we all have a sweet (and peaceful!) year. My friend Paul is in Niger, here I am in Ossining, Nancy and Amy are in San Francisco (happy birthday, Nancy-I know it was Tuesday, how could any of us forget?). So to friends near and far, may you be inscribed in the book of life.
Services last night in Town Hall were wonderful-Rabbi Cohen always knows just what to say and Rabbi Kleinbaum is a strong spiritual leader. Attending services is always nurturing.
Anne and I went to the New Castle ground breaking for the September 11th Memorial. This 9/11 was one of the hardest for me-someone in church on Sunday asked that we pray for the families of the victims and I felt the tears start. I couldn't watch any of the TV coverage and at odd times during the day when I closed my eyes, even just to blink, I saw the first building come down on the inside of my eyelids. Very tough. It seems like the further away the day is, the more I get in touch with the horror of it all.
But somehow the ceremony at the groundbreaking was very soothing, comforting even. I almost heard Greg Reda chuckle, from somewhere up in heaven (at least that's what I like to think-it gives me some comfort).
So may we all be inscribed in the book of life, and may we all have a sweet year. Happy 5768! L'shana tovah

Back to School

Good heavens, where did the summer go? A week in P'town, nine days in Nicaragua, six days in Maine with a little work (Pforzheimer, DPS interviews, Faculty Council planning) in between (and I thought professors had the summers off, silly me!) and poof! the summer's gone.
We did get to spend an overnight with my sister and her husband in Pennsylvania earlier this week, which was nice.
And now, as we used to say when Anne worked, life as we know it comes to an end, and it's back to work. Beginning Sunday, with the Pace Setters event.
Good thing I love what I do!

A week in Maine

A week in Maine is just what the doctor ordered! We spent a few days with Betty at her lovely home on Barter's Island (thanks again, Betty) and then two magical nights on Monhegan Island. I'd love to go back and spend a week, and maybe we will. The ride home from Freeport (we just had to visit our friends at LL Bean) was awful-rain and fog most of the way, plus some traffic. A usually long (5-6 hour) trip became a really long trip-nearly 10 hours.
But now normal life begins-I need to get ready for my classes, and for new faculty orientation, and I need to get Adam's paper edited and my own paper ready for the POD conference. Plus a few million other little chores (like calling about our leaking granite top and figuring out how to pay all the bills!).
No wonder I like being on vacation better!
PS (added on October 8) Here's a photo of Anne and me at Betty's, showing off the dinner we've just made. Thanks, Betty!

Some final thoughts about my Nicaragua trip


Now that I'm sleeping in my own bed, not doing "bug checks" at night (Dorritt was especially concerned about scorpions, and we did kill one) and showering in a real shower, I can remember the beauty of the country-here's a photo of a bandera flower, taken at the Hotel Raizon in Maysaya, Nicaragua, where we spent our first and last two nights.

What a beautiful, complex and infuriatingly "messed up" world we live in, where folks can work really really hard and still have nothing, where a beautiful country can house so many people in poverty (Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, after Haiti). We met a woman from Ecuador who now lives in Chicago and is an environmental engineer for Texaco. She was amazed and touched that Americans would come to Nicaragua to help build houses. Kind of restores your faith in all of us, doesn't it?

Here's a "parting shot" taken at the airport in Managua. Emily, Alexa, Lauren and Becky, looking very happy to be on the way home! I don't yet know how, but I know that this trip has changed me (and all of us who went on it). It sounds silly and trite but I definitely received more than I gave (I'm not a very good house builder) and came home with a much healthier perspective on what it means to be happy and successful. Now if I can just figure out what that means in my daily life, I'll be all set!

More about Nicaragua

Now that we've been home for ten days I've had more time to think about the trip, about the folks I met, and what this all has meant. It sure makes me realize that for some people in the world "leisure time" is only a dream. Tuesday night of the week we spent in Nicaragua some people from Guanacastillo visited with us to share stories. These are people whose days begin at 5 or 6 AM and end around 7 PM-when we asked what they did when they weren't working, the women talked about cooking and cleaning and the men seemed to not understand. They were very interested in knowing what the retired folks did (Anne and Ruth Deemer are retired).

We did get to have some fun with our new friends. The families threw a big party at the dedication of the houses and the whole community came-here you see Tim, our Bridges coordinator, talking with Lidio, the father of the family for whom we built our house. The women, Dona Marta, Thelma and Maria Ofelia, expressed their gratitude. The party was really for the children, with pinatas, candy and music, and Ritz crackers and canned sodas for the gringos. The women and children danced with us, the men watched. Here you can see everyone getting ready and Anne taking pictures. The folding chairs in the background were for us, the guests of honor.

The finished product


There's more to tell and I'll blog some more later, but here's our finished house, all but the roof. Here's our team, along with the masons and the family (and a few extra kids who we picked up along the way!)

Getting to the work site


Now this was a trick-we rode in the back of a pick up truck. Sometimes we rode inside. Talk about dusty! Here's Emily, Ruth and Dorrit standing up in the truck bed.

Day to day living



So here we were in Nicaragua, and where did we sleep? The twelve of us women slept in a church, while the two guys (Andrew and Brian) slept in a school. Tim, Erik and Parisa took turns staying with us, so sometimes there were more than two guys. This picture shows our mosquito netting and our cots. The green bag in front is Anne's, and the blue one next to hers is mine. Three women from Papayal, where we were staying, cooked for us. Dona Santos in the pink shirt cooked for us, along with the woman standing next to her.

Sightseeing




We didn't work all of the time. When we weren't working we were eating, sleeping, resting or sightseeing. Wednesday after we finished work we went into Managua-here we are having dinner in a restaurant. The next picture shows you how we usually had dinner-outdoors. We swam at Lake Apoyo on Saturday (the day we arrived). Lake Apoyo is a beautiful crater lake. You can see it in the background-this picture doesn't do it justice. Here are all of us looking fresh, in spite of the trip and the fact that we were up at 2 AM to get to the church parking lot by 2:50AM to be at the airport at 4 AM for our 6 AM flight to Miami-what did we do that we deserved the "early" flight?

Nicaragua Day Three


Well by day three some of us had already had Somoza's revenge-Anne was sick and not able to work. Did I mention that it was so hot that I sweat even in the shade? Here you can see Lauren, Ruth, Emily, Julia and Dorrit drinking water. Anne and I made our team of seven. We had lots of help, as we were working along side a team of Nicaraguan masons, and half the village must have turned out to lend a hand. We had to get the wall up half way, then pour the cement. It needed to dry from Wednesday at noon until Thursday morning. In this picture you can see the form for the concrete.

Nicaragua Day Two


After we dug holes for the foundation we buried the reinforced steel and mixed concrete. All of our work was done by hand. Here's Anne getting ready to mix cement. Fernando is behind her in the red shirt-the whole family (including two year old Christofer!) worked with us.

Nicaragua Day One


How do I describe a week in Nicaragua in a few words? I guess I don't. Bridges to Community does it best-look at their website www.bridgestocommunity.org and their video. Fourteen of us from First Presbyterian Church of Yorktown went to Guanacastillo with Bridges and we built two houses in one week. We split into two groups of seven. I'll try to capture my experience in a few pictures-here's the "before" on day one. We dug holes for the foundation-I have never worked so hard in my life! The house will be built on the right. The sand and rocks for mixing the cement are in two huge piles in the middle of the picture. The cinder blocks on the left will make up the house-a one room 12' by 16' house that Lidio, Maria Ofelia and their children, two year old Christofer Alexander and five year old Isiana Yoelka, will live in. Eleven year old Fernando, Lidio's son with another woman, also lives with them.

Nicaragua, Here we come!

Well we're back from P'town and off to Nicaragua...if I can just get everything done between now and June 30. Ran the TPW June 4 through 7, caught my breath, worked on the leadership retreat this week, now it's Clearwater on Saturday and Sunday.
A few more meetings (leadership retreat, webinar, middle states) plus a few visits (Leonora in Brooklyn, Ruth and Jerry in New York) and then I can really focus on Nicaragua.
We'll be working in Guanacastillo, north of Masaya. I'm really excited. Now if I can just find boots that fit me....

On the Way to Provincetown

We leave for Provincetown on Friday, around 7AM. I have a ton of things to do before then; work things, personal things, all kinds of things. By the time we get to P'town I'll really need my vacation.

Faculty Institute

Well this year's faculty institute is over and I'm exhausted. It was very successful but I wish more folks had attended. Bob Fuller was awesome -his website is worth visiting at http://breakingranks.net . He gave a great talk on rankism and the dignitarian university. His comments were timely given our new situation.

Nicaragua, Here I Come!

Time is getting short, countdown to Nicaragua. We're leaving on June 29, coming back July 5. I'm going with Bridges to Community (http://www.bridgestocommunity.org) and a group from my church, First Presbyterian Church of Yorktown (http://www.fpcy.org). We'll be building houses for folks as well as touring.
Time to get more shots!

Life in the country

Five years ago we moved from Park Slope Brooklyn to Ossining New York, and today we nearly got washed down the river-the "seasonal stream" in our back yard is nearly a lake.
Oh well, I guess that's life in the country.