Ted and I have lived in the Midwest nearly all of our lives, so it’s a given that we’ve headed for cover in the basement several times when weather radar and warnings indicated a tornado was dangerously close to us. Having said that, Ted and I agreed that the thunderstorm we had this weekend was the worst we’ve ever experienced. The NWS issued a severe thunderstorm warning (no tornado watches or warnings) and we experienced the worst of the storm. The red marker for St. Peters is about two miles from our house. The darkest / most severe section of the storm cell is headed directly toward us.

During the heaviest rainfall, we couldn’t see the houses across the street from us. It looked like dense fog outside our windows. By the time I got my camera, the rain had let up a bit, but it was still heavy. Wind gusts were 70+ mph. It seemed like the wind was blowing rain against the windows from every direction. The wind blew the rain in sheets and small waves down the street. We watched a beach ball blow past our house. Afterward, I asked our neighbors if it was their ball and Karen said no, they’d watched it blow past their house as well. There are three more neighbors with swimming pools uphill from us, and I guess one of them lost a beach ball.

Three of our gutters have underground drains to central areas of the yard; one drains onto a sidewalk. Water was coming out of that gutter like a gusher. Kari said all three of her rain barrels quickly filled. We have a hill behind our house and the street in front of our house slopes as well, so we had a considerable amount of run-off in our back yard. The water in the lower left is moving downhill to the left like a rushing river.

After the storm, neighbors started coming outside to assess damage, to talk about the storm, and to start cleaning up the mess. Everyone looked a little bit shell-shocked at how strong the storm had been.

Our damage was minimal. We have a vertical two-door storage cabinet against the house, tucked into a corner formed by the house and the exterior of the fireplace chimney. We store pool stuff in the cabinet–kickboards, noodles, balls, mats, etc. The wind ripped the padlock off the cabinet door latches, picked up the cabinet, ripped off both doors, turned the cabinet 180 degrees, flipped it over, and threw it into the back yard in a single pile. Except for one kickboard, the pool paraphernalia was still inside the cabinet.

We (and everyone else) also had a lot of tree litter and broken branches in our yard. In some places nearby, the street looked like it was carpeted in green. Ted picked up the bigger branches–the largest had a nearly 3-inch diameter–and I raked up the litter. Then Ted collected my piles in his wheelbarrow and added five loads of tree litter to the branches he’d already thrown on our brush pile. He’s going to have to get out his wood chipper when things dry out.

The neighbors across the street from our driveway weren’t quite as lucky as we were. A mature tree in their yard was broken by the wind and will need to be removed. Fortunately, it fell alongside the house and not into the bedroom windows or onto the roof. Within a half mile of our house in both directions, Ted and I counted 4 mature trees blown down by the wind and 18 homes with major (4″-12″) limbs broken off the trees. Amazingly, none of the trees or large limbs caused visible damage to homes or cars. We apparently have very considerate trees in our neighborhood.

It took Ted and me about two hours to clean up our yard. The next day, we went to Home Depot and bought Ted a Father’s Day gift.

The photo below is a screenshot of an ad that appears when I play my free Solitaire game online. Read the text carefully. It was probably written by a right-brained (creative/artistic) person who cannot “match three.” Or spell.

Ted and I celebrated our 52nd wedding anniversary quietly. We remarked that it’s a good thing we were married in 1969 instead of 1970 because we had a great weekend with our entire family to celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2019. If we’d been married just one year later, the COVID quarantines and restrictions would have meant canceling our celebration.

This time, we started our anniversary party a day early, when Kari, Dylan, and Teddy came over to our house to swim. It was a perfect day for swimming–the temperature was in the upper 80s and the humidity was low. The water temperature was 86 degrees, thanks to the warm weather we’ve had all week.

It was fun to swim, then get into the hot tub (we’ve lowered that water temperature for the summer), and then get back into the cooler pool.

After about two hours in the water, it was time for a game of sheephead. Dylan came prepared with a deck of cards and Kari brought The Chips (inherited from Grandma Sch). Teddy won the first hand and already has three additional chips on his pile. Ted was playing too, but stepped back to take the pictures.

The following day, on our real anniversary, we didn’t do any jobs around the house or yard. It was fun to have a “play day” when we only did what we felt like doing. Since the CDC says it’s now safe for fully vaccinated people to eat indoors at a restaurant, we went out for dinner–something we haven’t done for 15 months. Still being COVID cautious since new cases in our area are rising right now (post-Memorial Day weekend), we went after the peak dinner time. The “experience” of eating indoors at a restaurant was fun. We each ordered a glass of wine and toasted each other to the next 52 years together.

When we got back home, we lit our anniversary candle, enjoyed a piece of the Bissinger’s ohh-la-la chocolate that we bought as a gift to ourselves, and watched a Netflix movie.

Today, Ted and I decided we felt like biking the Katy Trail from St. Charles to Machens, so we did. Machens is the eastern terminus of the Katy and we’ve been there before, but it’s a nice ride. We biked 25 miles round trip–just enough for today. The weather was perfect and there were wildflowers blooming for miles along the trail. We met very few other bikers, so it was a quiet ride and we could bike side-by-side nearly all the time.

When we arrived in Machens, there were several other people there. Since it’s the terminus, people at Machens always ask “Where did you come from?” Today, there were three of us who started in St. Charles and one man who started in Clinton, MO, the western terminus of the Katy. We all compared notes on how much of the Katy we’ve covered. Ted and I have bikes 67 miles of the trail. One man who has taken the train westward, then biked eastward toward home, reviewed all the places the train stops along the Katy. You may bring your bike on the train, but they only allow four bikes and the bike has to be a regular size two-wheel bicycle–no three-wheelers, trailers, etc. There’s apparently very limited bike storage space on the train. As a result, it’s necessary to make a reservation and buy your ticket about a week before you plan to go.

The man who biked from Clinton started riding two days ago and finished the 237 miles by 2:30 p.m. today while we were there. He described the Katy as a “Missouri gem” and said he was really impressed with the maintenance and the condition of the trail all the way. His wife drove the support vehicle. She followed him on the highways, brought him lunch, picked him up at the end of the day, transported everything except his daily trail necessities, and arranged for overnight accommodations, When she heard we are from St. Peters, she said she’d been shopping there earlier this afternoon before she had to leave to meet her husband at Machens. I took a celebratory picture of the two of them with his dusty bicycle.

Ted took a picture of me at the Machens stop before we left for a good ride back to St. Charles.

When we got home, we cleaned the dust off our bikes, had a light dinner, then relaxed in the hot tub before getting into the pool. Next: a Saturday date night Netflix movie with fresh strawberry sundaes.

I wanted to title this post C12H22O11, but couldn’t get the subscripts into the title line. Just in case you’re not up on your compound formula knowledge, that’s the formula for Sucrose, a local bakery that uses Su as its logo, as if it’s listed on the periodic table. Last Christmas, Kari’s family gave Ted and me a gift certificate to Sucrose and we finally used it. It was definitely worth the wait.

I was expecting to order something like a jelly doughnut or a long john, but Sucrose is not that kind of bakery. They do have some cupcakes and cookies, and they offer some breads on Saturdays, but the main feature is irresistible desserts. We chose to spend the gift certificate on some chocolate raspberry mousse (served in molded chocolate cups) and some fruit tarts–a simple name for an elaborate offering.

We’ll be going back soon to try some of their other desserts. Thank you, Kari’s family, for introducing us to this bakery.

I just finished reading Kristin Hannah’s book The Four Winds. It’s a really good fictional account of one family’s struggle during the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. The sections of the book are indicated by the year of the narrative and a quotation related to that year. Sadly, FDR’s statement in 1934 is true today.

The author’s note at the end of the book states that she started writing this book in 2017 and finished it in May 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. The Dust Bowl was the worst environmental disaster in United States history and included a collapse of the economy and massive unemployment. “Never in my wildest dreams,” Hannah writes, “did I imagine that the Great Depression would become so relevant in our modern lives. . . . In the end, it is our idealism and our courage and our commitment to one another–what we have in common–that will save us.”

I’ve been searching the internet for a hamburger bun recipe. What I really wish I could make are Wisconsin hard rolls. In this case, “Hard” does not equal “stale.” Wisconsin hard rolls are made without eggs and they’re crusty on the top.

I couldn’t find that (secret?) Wisconsin recipe, so I decided to settle for something that would produce rolls that were firm but not dry, and light but not mushy. Based on the ingredients, I found a recipe I thought might be pretty good and I tried it. The recipe is called “Beautiful Burger Buns” and they are.

They’re light, they taste good, and they don’t disintegrate if you add a juicy pickle or some sauce. Yummy!

P.S. I’m still going to stock up on hard rolls whenever we visit Wisconsin.

I saw this truck while I was stopped at a red light. I can’t imagine why the owner / driver needs spikes on the front wheels, unless Q ordered it for a James Bond sidekick who drives a pickup truck. Those spikes look lethal.

It’s been a cool, wet spring around here. Normal high temperatures should be in the 80s by now–and every now and then we actually get a day in the 80s. I’m such a sucker, I fall for it every time and say, “Spring is probably here for real now,” and then the temperatures drop into the upper 50s and lower 60s for highs, and the rains return. This will be one of those years that we go from winter to summer–suddenly it will be hot every day without the gradual warming of March, April, and May. The April 20 frost finished off all the spring-blooming trees, but the rain we’ve been getting has been good for the summer flowers. Our yard is looking flower-y cheerful these days.

The roses have been blooming for a few days, but I had to wait for the rain to stop to take pictures. The knockout roses are looking good.

The carpet roses are bushier than usual–maybe thanks to the rain.

This group of roses was gorgeous about five days ago but, again, I had to wait for the rain to stop to get a decent picture.

The poolside dahlias are becoming bushy.

The day lilies will bloom all summer, but the first blooming always has the most flowers at one time.

My favorites are the hibiscus tree and the marigolds. I love seeing these while I’m working at the kitchen sink.

The snapdragons will provide a variety of color in front of the hydrangea bush, which will bloom in two or three weeks.

Maybe it takes winter to make the spring and summer colors look so good. I’m loving it.

In 2018, an anonymous person planted some iris on the common ground area closest to our house. The flowers were a pleasant surprise when I took my daily walk and I’ve been looking forward to them every spring since 2018. At first, the iris looked like this photo. The arrow shows where the planting stopped–at the fourth rock.

Last year, I noticed some additional iris plants at the next two rocks. This year, the bed is expanding even more. The turquoise arrow shows one of the 2020 additional plants–a white iris. The green arrow shows a new 2021 iris (not blooming), and the orange arrow shows something different: a little shrub. The yellow arrow points to where the floral display now ends–at the eleventh rock. I wonder if the plan is to eventually plant something at every rock.

Here’s a closer look at the new shrub. I assume the gardener painted the top of the stake red so the grounds crew wouldn’t mow the little bush. It’s not blooming, but I hope it will be a blooming bush. Maybe next year.

Meanwhile, the original purple iris at the first four rocks continue to thrive and I continue to enjoy them when I walk by.

As I was looking at the pictures of Jeff and La with Ollie, their first grandchild, I couldn’t help remembering when Ted and I had Jeff and my parents became grandparents for the first time. It logically followed to remember when Jeff and La had Alex, making Ted and me grandparents for the first time. Expanding on this theme, Jeff was the first great-grandchild of my maternal grandparents and Ollie is Ted’s and my first great-grandchild. Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad, Ted and I, and Jeff and La were all approximately the same age when we had our first child and when we became grandparents for the first time. And yet, . . .

. . . I can’t get over how young I feel compared to how old my parents and grandparents seemed to be when Jeff was born. Maybe that’s the perspective of youth looking at age. Is it wishful thinking on my part, or do we look (and act) younger than previous generations did at the same age? Look at the pictures below as you consider that question.

This four-generation picture was taken when Jeff was ten months old. Ted and I are in the center with Jeff, and I’m five months pregnant with Kathy. My grandparents are on the left and my parents are on the right. Remember, Jeff is my parents’ first grandchild and my grandparents’ first great-grandchild.

Let’s jump ahead a generation. Here are Jeff and La with their first grandchild, Ollie, and Ted and I with our first grandchild, Alex.

Here are Ollie’s great-grandparents. We haven’t met Ollie yet, so we don’t have a picture of the three of us.

What’s your verdict on the aging thing? Ted and I choose to think we look younger than our parents and grandparents did at our age. Whether or not that’s true, it makes us happy to think so.

We’ve had a cool spring, so rhubarb has had a great season. For rhubarb lovers, this is good news, but if you don’t have a rhubarb patch of your own, it’s sometimes difficult to find fresh rhubarb in the grocery stores. Kathy, however, has sources, and she contacted her peeps to fill a big bag of rhubarb to bring to me when she visited this weekend. I’m going to freeze it and look forward to rhubarb in the future.

Here I am, cutting the stalks and filling quart containers for future rhubarb pies and kuchens.

Kathy’s big gift bag of rhubarb was filled with nearly six quarts of the delicious vegetable. I set one quart aside for a fresh (not frozen) rhubarb pie for dinner tonight.

I smiled all the way to the freezer and I can’t wait for dessert tonight.

Ted and I had a semi-spontaneous family weekend with our daughters and their families. “Semi-spontaneous” means the idea came up only a few days before the event. Isn’t it odd how, when you try to plan something for the more distant future, it’s hard to coordinate everyone’s calendar, but in the short term everyone says “Sure, we can be there”? It was fun!

This is the family birthday season when we have five birthdays plus Mother’s Day over a period of just a few weeks. Of course, I always celebrate a birthday “season” for myself and family members have teased me about it in the past. This year, because of COVID restrictions, several other family members admitted that their birthday celebrations have been extended to more than one experience as well. They’re learning how much fun a birthday season can be.

For many years, Kathy has made cloth gift bags for her gifts. We all enjoy her bags and, while we were sewing Teddy’s draperies, Kari mentioned that she’d like to learn to sew Christmas gift bags as a future project with me. I decided to start practicing and trying different ideas, so I made seven gift bags for this birthday bash. I tried lots of things: one and two-color bags with matched and offset fabrics; center and side fabric joinings; zigzag seams and French seams; buttonhole and seamed openings for cording; threaded ties with and without a ruffle above the cord; fabric, braided, and ribbon handles; envelope and rectangular bottoms; decorative stitching, etc. It was fun and I now know what’s easy, what’s time-consuming, and some of what does and doesn’t work real well. All the bags turned out nicely, and I’m ready to get started on Kari’s and my Christmas bag project.

Dean’s birthday was the earliest, so he opened his gifts first.

Next on the calendar was Teddy, who is now a teenager. They grow up so fast!

Kari’s birthday fell last, so she was third to open her gifts. That box in front of Kari is filled with bag-making Christmas fabric and notions. It was part of Kathy’s and Annette’s birthday gift to help Kari get started sewing her Christmas gift bags.

About a month ago, Kari told me that if Ted and I need a birthday gift idea for her, she’d like a bicycle helmet. She has one, but she hates wearing it because it’s uncomfortable. One time when she was at our house, she borrowed my helmet and said she liked it so much that if we didn’t give her a nice helmet for her birthday, she was going to buy one herself. In my opinion, that gave Ted and me a clear direction for what to give her for her birthday.

Because shipping sometimes equals or exceeds the cost of the gift, Kathy and Annette included Mother’s Day and Father’s Day gifts for Ted and me too, so we expanded the birthday celebration parameters.

While we were spending time visiting, Kathy and Annette brought up how difficult it sometimes is to take a photo with a cell phone when your finger or thumb can’t reach the shutter button. I showed Kathy how I use a floating shutter button and then we looked through her settings until we found one that will allow her and Annette to touch any point on the screen to take a picture. We tried it out with a selfie without considering the background or anything else–we just wanted to try clicking the screen to make sure this worked like it should. The picture turned out pretty decent–not counting the overhead light whiting out my left side.

Teddy had the honor of selecting the birthday cake. He made it himself and got creative with a family favorite–ice cream cake. I might have these flavors wrong, but I think the three parts of the cake were: (1) chocolate ice cream with hot fudge sauce and mint Oreo crumbs for the topping; (2) vanilla ice cream with butterscotch sauce and chopped butterscotch chips in the topping; and (3) traditional vanilla ice cream with hot fudge sauce and regular Oreo crumbs for topping. So many choices!

The family time was great but, as always, ended too soon. We all hope to have another get-together soon and (hopefully) with better weather. We were all looking forward to some pool and hot tub time, but the weather was cool and rainy all day. Pool and hot tub next time, right? Right.

A few weeks ago, Jeff and La were able to visit Alex and Kaitlyn to see their first grandchild. It’s still hard for me to believe that Ted and I have a child old enough to be a grandparent and that we are great-grandparents, but we’re excited about it and are looking forward to meeting Ollie later this year. Jeff posted some very nice photos of Ollie with his grandpa and grandma, and I’m shamelessly lifting them for my blog because I like them so much.

First, we have Jeff with Ollie.

Next, we have La and Ollie. Does she look old enough to be a Grandma?

And finally, my favorite. Jeff described this picture as Grandpa and his talented grandson singing a cover of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.”

Note: All photo and copyright (if any) credit goes to Jeff. Thanks, Grandpa Jeff.

I’ve had a hankering for something sweet and have been wanting to bake something. I couldn’t decide what to bake until Thom sent a photo of a roasted rhubarb cobbler Katie made. Then, while I was talking with Kathy on the phone, she mentioned having fresh rhubarb and wanting a cobbler. I decided two mentions of rhubarb within a week was a sign from the gods. I decided to bake a rhubarb cobbler.

I made a quick run to the grocery store for some fresh rhubarb.

It didn’t take long to wash and chop the rhubarb, and it didn’t take much longer to mix the crust and the topping for my own rhubarb cobbler. Ted and I enjoyed some of it–still a little warm from the oven–for our dinner dessert this evening. Mm-mm good.

When the world locked down for COVID-19 in March 2020, there were few places to go, few things to do away from home, and lots of time to stay home and do very little. During the lockdown, Ted and I often said we’d go crazy if we didn’t have a backyard so we could get out of the house, and if we couldn’t exercise outdoors. A lot of other people in our area felt the same way–in the 40+ years we’ve lived here, we’ve never before seen so many people walking and biking in our neighborhood.

With documentation always on my mind (too much educational research in my background), I decided to track Ted’s and my exercise during the lockdown. The plan was to do it for three months because a three-month chart fit on a sheet of graph paper. Who knew we’d be living with COVID for over a year?? As the COVID restrictions continued, we thought it might be interesting to track our exercise for a year. We talked about what counted as exercise and decided on the following: walking, biking, Pilates, and anything indoors or outdoors that required at least an hour of effort and boosted our heart and respiratory rates. That category was cleverly titled “Other.” Because of COVID restrictions, our Pilates class didn’t meet from March until September but, during that time, we did hour-long Pilates routines in our basement.

Ted and I have always exercised regularly, but tracking our time provided affirmation of how regularly we exercise. It also showed us that when we take a day or two off from exercising, we don’t have to feel guilty about it. For example, one week in August when it was hot and we just didn’t feel like exercising, we marked off a week on our chart as “vacation.” So there! Even with that exercise-free week, we averaged 8.4 hours per week of exercise in August. Not surprisingly, we exercised the most in June (warm, but not too humid yet–average of 13.87 hours/week) and the least in December (cold weather and all those Christmas preparations–average of 5.6 hours/week).

The CDC recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days per week (2.5 hours/week) or 25 minutes of vigorous exercise 3 days per week (1.25 hours/week). We exceeded those guidelines, and we are pretty proud of that. Even in our lowest month (December–5.6 hours/week) our exercise time was more than double what the CDC suggests. Here are the stats for our exercise in the past year.

In the coming year, we plan to alternate more walking with our biking. Why? Because when the weather became too cold to bike, we marched up the steep hill on the street beside our house and realized (puff, puff) that, although our legs were really strong, biking wasn’t giving us a sufficient cardio workout. Other than that, the plan is to keep on keepin’ on. Move it or lose it, right?

According to Alfred Lord Tennyson, “In the spring, a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” A homeowner’s fancy, on the other hand, turns to thoughts of outdoor spring clean-up. That’s what Ted and I have been doing for the past few weeks.

  • We had a new pool liner installed.
  • We had a new pool pump installed.
  • We drained and cleaned the hot tub.
  • We had the air conditioner inspected and cleaned.
  • We had the irrigation system turned on.
  • We bought a redbud tree to replace the maple tree that was removed last summer. The nursery planted it, but Ted and I removed grass from around the tree and replaced it with weed-resistant fabric and decorative rock.
  • We planted flowers. I shopped for and selected flowers while Ted ran other errands. I fell for a hibiscus tree (center, ahead of Ted). It won’t survive the Missouri winter, but it should be gorgeous all summer.
  • We hauled the lawn furniture out of the storage shed and washed it.
  • We took the covers off and chased the bugs out of the outdoor umbrellas.
  • I washed all the dirt off the concrete while Ted put things away.
  • We’re finished and ready to relax in our backyard resort while we let our fancy lightly turn to thoughts of something else.

I saw this truck when I stopped for a red light.

I couldn’t tell what kind of rescues Super Dave performs, so I looked him up online. He’s a handyman. The attitude displayed on his truck makes me want to call him when I need something handy done.

When Ted and I ordered a replacement bay window for our kitchen last August, I decided new windows deserved new valances. Those currently on the windows might be twenty years old. (Time flies. Who’s counting?) At the time, I didn’t realize it would take six months to get the windows.

When Ted and I excitedly (?) re-hung the blinds–which are only three years old, not twenty–on the new windows in February, we discovered that they didn’t look very nice. To allow for the window-opening cranks on the old windows, the two outer blinds were made shorter than the center one. The new windows have recessed cranks, so the two shorter blinds looked like mistakes on the new windows.

I talked to the decorator about this and she suggested sending the blinds to the manufacturer to have the cords made two inches longer. (Because of the style of my blinds and the mechanism that operates them, re-stringing the cords is not a simple thing.) There was enough fabric in the length of the blinds to accommodate the extra two inches, so the adjustment was covered by my lifetime warranty. Great!

I stalled again on making the valances, deciding to wait until I had blinds on all three windows. In today’s market, however, instant gratification is becoming harder to find. It took eight weeks to get my adjusted blinds back. On the bright side, we now have three equally long blinds on these windows.

Eight months after deciding to replace the kitchen valances, with the windows replaced and the blinds adjusted, I headed for my sewing machine. It was a quick project. These are the old valances . . .

. . . and these are the new ones. There’s not a striking difference, but the lighter color is a nice change.

We had a new pool liner installed a few weeks ago and we thought we were ready to swim. Then, one day while Ted and I were working in the pool area, we noticed that the pool surface had a lot of leaves on it. They should have been sent to the skimmer, but we discovered that hadn’t happened because the pump wasn’t running. I couldn’t get it started, so I called the pool company. The service manager (Jim) told me “That doesn’t make sense. I’ll come out and look at it.” He tried everything in his bag of tricks, but nothing started the pump. He told us he’d be back the next day with a new pump.

Jim and his daughter came back the following day and replaced the old pump in about 30 minutes. Now that we have a new liner and a new pump, we should be good for at least ten years.

The arrow points to the old pump. The new one is in the box on the right.

For several years, Kari has has been telling me she wants to learn to sew. A few years ago, I gave her a Christmas gift coupon for free sewing lessons, and she finally cashed it in. She decided to make draperies for Teddy’s bedroom. Her theory for choosing that project was that draperies would be pretty easy because they’re all straight seams.

Kari and I shopped together for fabric. We talked about different styles of draperies she could make and then we did some browsing. She took pictures of fabrics she thought Teddy would like, then went back to the store a few days later to purchase her final selections.

We decided to work at my house because I have a project room where we could simply leave things in progress. Kari measured Teddy’s window, then brought her fabric and her sewing box to my house. Before we went to work, we took some time to compare our sewing boxes. We have matching boxes because my mother bought one for herself and one for me when I was in college, and Kari has my mother’s box, including its contents. We shared memories of my mom / Kari’s grandma while we looked through the sewing boxes. Some of the items in our boxes match because my mom provided me with the same items she had.

The first day of a sewing project is kind of dull because it’s all prep work: figuring, measuring, squaring the fabric, marking, cutting, etc. At the end of the session, you have nothing to show for those hours except a pile of cut fabric. We started by measuring and cutting the fabric. I had some leftover lining that I convinced Kari to use for Teddy’s drapes, so we measured and cut the lining too.

Because Kari decided to hang the panels from grommets, I suggested a heavyweight interfacing at the top to keep the fabric in the header from becoming floppy. Kari got a lesson on how to use a pressing cloth to apply iron-on interfacing.

The spool pin on Kari’s sewing machine is broken and the replacement she ordered hasn’t arrived, so we used my sewing machine. Here’s a picture of Kari attaching the lining to the fabric. After sewing the fabric and the lining together, Kari told me I was right about the lining. (I knew she’d like it.)

Neither of us had ever used grommets, but we discovered that they’re pretty easy to install: mark, cut, and snap together. Kari did a perfect job of grommet installation.

Then it was time to hem the first panel. Using Kari’s window measurements, we pinned the hem in place and she took the panel home and hung it from her new rod to check the length. All that time we spent measuring paid off: it was perfect. When she brought the panel back to my house, we marked and sewed the lining and the drapery hems.

It took four sewing sessions to finish both panels. After the first session, Kari said she would enjoy using my “heritage” sewing machine. (That would be my now-58-year-old sewing machine, which I haven’t had the heart to get rid of. I bought it in college and it has sentimental value to me.) I set up my vintage machine for Kari and she used it for the remaining sewing sessions. In the photo below, she’s finishing the topstitching on the side hems of the second panel.

Kari said she wanted a picture of both of us with her finished draperies, so we called Ted to play cameraman. Here we are showing off Kari’s successful first sewing project.

And voilá! Teddy has new draperies in his bedroom. Don’t they look nice?

Kari told me this project has inspired her. Now she wants to make a cover for her sewing machine, draperies for other windows in her house, and Christmas gift bags. She was disappointed when I told her we’ll have to wait for late summer or early fall for the Christmas fabrics to be available in the stores. I’m looking forward to sewing together again. It reminds me of my mom teaching me to sew. Pass it on, right?

Three years ago, we planted an arborvitae hedge. The trees on each end are doing very well, but the trees in the middle don’t want to grow. One tree died in the first year and was replaced under the warranty, but now we have four trees in the center area that are failing. The difference in size between the trees on the ends and those in the middle is obvious. You can’t see between the end trees, but there’s lots of space between the stubby center ones–just where we want the privacy. The trees were all planted at the same time except for the totally brown one, which was replaced after the first year. The replacement lasted about 18 months. That spot in the ground has now killed two trees in three years. When we ordered this round of replacements, the landscaper suggested having the crew overdig the holes and put in new soil.

The landscaper’s suggestion made us think a soil test might be a good idea. I thought we’d have to go through the county extension service, or at least a nursery, to get an expert to perform a soil test. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but when I searched online for someone to do a soil test, I discovered that soil test kits are available at–where else?–Wal-Mart.

This is the stuff included in the testing kit. As I set out the instructions, the soil samples, the test tubes, the chemistry tablets, the distilled water, and the color chart, I felt like Bill Nye the Science Guy. All I needed was safety goggles. It brought back memories of high school chemistry class when we did experiments on Fridays.

Soil testing isn’t hard, but it’s definitely time-consuming. It took me about four hours to test six soil samples. The results showed that our troubled center section of arborvitae trees could use some pH and a lot of nitrogen, and our magnolia trees could also benefit from some nitrogen. Ted bought some nitrogen and treated the magnolia trees. The landscaper’s plan to add new soil might solve the arborvitae problem, but I guess we’ll have to test the new soil to find out.

I saw this picture of Dr. Anthony Fauci (Tony to those who know him) and noticed that he has an appropriately clever face mask, covered with test tubes, beakers, Bunsen burners, etc.

Check out today’s seven-day forecast for our area.

The record low for tonight (Tuesday) is 32 degrees, set in 1904. We’re probably going to break that record with a low in the mid- to upper 20s. We spent today in the 30s and, just for fun, we had a late season snowfall.

The ground is above freezing, so the snow will disappear quickly. The temperatures will stay cold for another day and night, probably dropping below freezing again tomorrow night. The normal high and low temperatures for today are 68 and 48, so this cold weather is definitely unusual.

Did you notice that the high for next Tuesday is expected to be around 80 degrees? It’s quite a ride, going from a record low in the 20s to a warm 80 degrees six days later.

Spring: the least predictable season.

Last week, we needed to get our pool ready for the scheduled installation of a new liner. The first step was to remove the winter pool cover. Ted estimates the cover weighs about 80 pounds, not counting the water it picks up as we drag it over the pool to remove it. I think his estimate might be low. I had already washed the driveway so we could spread the cover out to hose it off before we pack it away until late fall. Our neighbor, Will, saw us washing the pool cover and said, “Oh, no! If you guys are opening your pool, it’s going to snow next week!” Hahaha.

While the cover lay drying in the sun, we started draining the pool. With the pump pulling the water out through a two-inch hose, that took about 5 hours. While waiting for the pool to drain, I power washed the winter dirt from the pool deck and the patio, and hosed off the sidewalks and the front porch. Ted brought out a few more pieces of lawn furniture for the nicer weather, then mowed the lawn.

With a new liner coming, we wanted the pool steps and the upper edge around the pool to be sparkling white. It’s much easier to clean the edge by standing in the pool than to kneel on the pool deck, leaning over the water to scrub it. Since the pool was empty, Ted got to work.

If you’re a long-term reader, you might be thinking, “Didn’t they just put in a new liner a few years ago?” You’re right; liners should last at least 10 years. Look at the top edge of the liner in the photo above. It looks like there’s a dark border, but that’s not a border; that’s how much the liner faded in 3 years. When the pool guy saw that, he said it should have lasted much longer (say, 10 years), so he activated the warranty to save us a chunk of money on the new liner and on the installation labor. A closer look at the liner in the photo below clearly shows the fading. It also shows why Ted is scrubbing dirt off the top white edge.

The pool crew arrived bright and early the next morning. They cut around the bottom edge of the liner and removed the bottom piece, then released the sides, and carted it all away. There was some clean-up to be done before dropping the new liner. Hard objects and / or deep depressions under the vinyl liner can result in puncture holes, so a complete and detailed vacuuming and some touch-up fill work were needed.

Two hours after the crew arrived, they had the new liner dropped and they were making some final adjustments before working out all the wrinkles and installing the jets, the light, and the drain covers.

The guys started filling the pool before they left and told us to turn off the water when it reached the bottom step. The next morning, they came back to adjust any remaining stubborn wrinkles that had been pushed ahead of the water. After that, we were “go” to fill it all the way. With two hoses running, it took 16 hours to fill the pool to the top. One of the pool crew guys came back the next day to install the ladder and the railings, to turn on the pump, and to check the equipment to make sure everything was running well. We are now ready for the 2021 swim season.

Meanwhile . . .

Having a new hot tub means having one more thing to clean up in the spring and in the fall. We’ve been enjoying the hot tub for almost six months, so it’s time to freshen it up. That job turned out to be a lot more time-consuming than we’d expected.

The obvious first step was to drain the hot tub. It sounds easy and there really isn’t anything to do except connect a garden hose to the hot tub drain. BUT, first you have to bring the water temperature down from that lovely, relaxing 104 degrees. The owner’s manual suggested 24 hours, but the overnight temperature dropped to the low 40s, so cooling the water wasn’t a problem–we just took the cover off and let the night air do its thing. The water was more than cool enough by morning, so while the pool was draining, we connected a garden hose to drain the hot tub. Draining it took a surprising 5 hours–the same amount of time it took to empty the pool, which has about 34 times more water than the hot tub. We did not see that coming! Talk about a setback in your schedule! The pool’s two big drains, its pump, and its two-inch drainage hose work a lot faster than a 5/8″ garden hose counting on gravity to do the work.

When the hot tub was (finally) drained, I started cleaning it while Ted cleaned up the pool. It sounds amazing when the literature and the salesman tell you that your hot tub has 6 gazillion jets. “Ooh, aah,” you say. “Is that the most we can get?” It’s a different story when you have to remove every jet to clean it. My sore fingertips felt like I unscrewed and pulled out about 6 gazillion jets, but I reasoned there probably weren’t more than 120. Hah! When I finished, I counted them and came up with only 62 jets–half of what my fingers “reasonably” felt like I had removed.

The jets had to be soaked in a vinegar/water mixture for 3 hours to remove any built-up residue in them. The two extra large jets that provide an awesome foot massage didn’t fit well in our pail and dishpan with the other jets, so we put them in the pail after the first load of jets was finished soaking. As a result, the total soak time was 6 hours. We opted for the extended time because we’d already used 1.5 gallons of vinegar and we didn’t feel like making another trip to the grocery store for more vinegar to do only two more jets.

While the jets soaked, I scrubbed. The pool store sold us some awesome non-sudsing cleaner for the tub surface. I just sprayed it on and wiped it off, and it left the surface as smooth and clean as if it had never been used. No hard scrubbing needed. I bet it would work great for cleaning the bathroom.

After removing and washing the headrests, I moved on to the exterior of the hot tub and wiped down the sides to get rid of the winter grit. The final cleaning task was to wash the cover and apply a coat of protectant to help prevent premature fading and weathering. That was pretty simple too–just time-consuming. Aren’t you impressed that Ted’s pictures show me smiling while I work? I feel like a TV ad. The truth is, the job wasn’t awful, but I’m good with only needing to do all of this twice a year, and we both feel that way about the pool too.

At last, I could put the garden hose inside the hot tub to fill it. It filled in about 45 minutes, but it wasn’t warm enough by evening to relax our sore muscles from all the work of cleaning the pool and the hot tub.

After spending two days getting our waterworks cleaned up for the summer season, there’s a change in the weather forecast. After a high temperature of 75 degrees today, tomorrow’s forecast includes falling temperatures, rain possibly mixed with up to one inch of snow, and an overnight low in the mid-20s. More of the same is predicted for the following day and night, except the temperatures might be a few degrees warmer. Will was right. It’s been a week since we opened the pool and we’ll probably see some snow tomorrow.

It’s time for the Dr. D Spring Award. One of the reasons I love spring in Missouri is because we have so many blooming trees. There’s beauty wherever you drive in the spring. This year, I had more than the usual number of contestants because not many trees were affected by the late frost.

I don’t know what kind of tree this is, but there are a lot of them in the area and they have very thick white flowers. You can see a redbud peeking over the white tree.

Here’s a flowering crabapple tree.

The white dogwoods are always pretty, especially when they are sprinkled throughout a wooded area.

Pink dogwoods are gorgeous. I’m not crazy about the setting, but this is a beautiful pink dogwood.

This is another flowering crabapple tree. The color is so vivid!

The judge’s (my) decision was really tough this year. I finally decided to include a new category and named this stunning star magnolia the first runner-up in this year’s spring show.

For the first time, the winner is a group of trees. It was a tough decision, but the color and scope these redbuds display to passers-by (and my love of redbuds) gave this group the edge to be named this year’s best display. Presenting . . . the Dr. D Spring Award.

I was searching for something on the internet and, to my surprise, I came across an image of an Arvin 7 transistor radio. That brought back so many memories!

Transistor radios were first mass produced in the late 1950s and were the most popular electronic communication devices of the 1960s and 1970s. (What else was there at that time? I’m drawing a blank.) Transistor radios were popular because they were pocket- or purse-size and portable (battery operated), allowing us to listen to music wherever we went.

I was a pre-teen at that time and, of course, my friends and I all wanted transistor radios. I saved my allowance money and, in October 1958, I went shopping. My mom came along because I needed a driver. My choice was the Arvin 7. This was an upscale transistor radio. It was named the Arvin 7 to indicate that it had seven transistors. Wow! I think it cost about $30 when the cheaper models cost around $10-$15. It was so cool! It looked like this and was about 4″ x 6″.

It came with a leather cover for the front. You can see the earphone jack on the side. That was a nice feature.

The cover had one snap on the bottom and two on the top and could be attached over the back as well. Really cool!

These radios offered only AM frequencies, but that was fine because my friends and I all listened to the same AM station that every teenager in the Milwaukee frequency area listened to: current pop music on “WOKY in Milwaukee–920 on your radio dial.” My parents (and my friends’ parents) hated WOKY (pronounced “walk-y”). In fact, my mom once told me that the same song sounded better on any other station. Yeah, right. If Bing Crosby sang it instead of Elvis!

One of the really neat things you used to be able to do with AM radio was pick up far-away clear-channel stations on especially clear nights. With my awesome little transistor radio, I occasionally heard Wolfman Jack in New York and I remember picking up New Orleans and Chicago too. Those were the days.

March: In like a lion, out like a lamb, right? Well, early March was cold. (Lion?) Then the weather started warming up in mid-March, and late March was beautiful. (Lamb.) In fact, we had so many warm days in the 60s, 70s, and even a few 80s, that spring flowers, shrubs, and trees burst into bloom. Our magnolia tree is as eager for spring each year as I am. As a result, it usually loses its blooms to a late frost. This year, it reached full bloom and held it for several days. I dared to hope that spring was really, truly here.

Here’s my favorite tree–the magnolia that loves to bloom ASAP every spring.

When we had our maple tree cut down, we also had the tree-cutting crew shape a smaller magnolia to grow more evenly out of the shadow of the maple tree. The tree-cutter said the little magnolia wouldn’t bloom this spring, but it will by next year. No, sir! These trees can’t wait to bloom! Here’s the little tree, blooming like crazy in spite of last summer’s pruning.

Our cherry tree in the back yard gets noticeably taller and blooms more fully each year.

The daffodils around the pool are in full bloom. I love them!

And then, . . . And then, . . . And then, . . . Hah! April Fool! In the early morning hours of April 1, our temperature dropped to 26 degrees. As if that wasn’t bad enough, in the early morning hours of April 2, it dropped to 25 degrees! And that was the end of the beautiful magnolia blossoms.

The cherry tree blossoms, the daffodils, and the not-yet blooming different variety of magnolia trees in the back yard all look fine. I think it might be that our back yard is more protected with houses and a hill behind us and didn’t get hit as hard by the frost. The two magnolia trees in the front yard are more exposed because of the wide street and the open space between houses across the street.

The temperature got back into the mid-70s today and is forecast to stay in the 70s and maybe even low 80s the rest of this week. We had spring, then a hard hit of frost, and we’re right back to spring. The Midwest is a great place for variety in the weather in March and April. I could do without the mid-spring frost, but I love all the things that bloom, making spring my favorite season every year.

Author’s note: Ted and I are optimists. We’re scheduled to open our pool in nine days.

It’s spring in the Midwest, so severe thunderstorm and tornado watches and warnings are not unusual. We had a severe thunderstorm warning and a tornado watch a few days ago. Our area experienced thunderstorms; the tornado hit east of us, just across the Mississippi River.

There was a wicked-looking dark sky.

And then the wind and hail hit. We only had pea-sized hail, but just a few miles away, two-inch hail was reported. The temperature dropped from 83 degrees to 67 degrees in 12 minutes!

Today, more storm watches were issued by the NWS. We only had rain with a little thunder, but tornadoes were reported about 15 miles north of us. They were small tornadoes resulting in nothing worse than property damage and fallen tree limbs.

You have to keep tuned to the weather in the spring if you live in the Midwest.

As Ted and I were taking our walk one day, we noticed fossil imprints in the concrete. We identified them as leaf imprints from ancient oak and maple trees.

Ted and I estimated these fossil imprints to be at least 15-20 years old, dating back to the last time the street was repaired with new concrete.

My birthday “season” usually lasts 6-8 weeks, meeting several friends for lunches and spending time with family members. Thanks to COVID, my 2021 birthday season was much shorter. The first two days of the season were spent with family. Kathy and Annette came for a visit and Kari’s family joined us for part of that time.

While Kari and Sky were at work, Kathy, Annette, and I made use of the hot tub. In the evening, Kari and Teddy joined us to relax in the hot tub again. Annette enjoyed it so much, she didn’t want to get out. Ted thought we might have to prop her up so she wouldn’t drown while she slept in it overnight.

As usual, I made Vienna Torte for my birthday. This dessert is a long-term annual tradition for me, dating back to my childhood. The chocolate drizzle on the cake looks pretty blah this year. It cooled too much before I poured it, so it set almost as soon as it hit the cake. It wasn’t as pretty, but it was a thicker piece of chocolate with each serving of cake.

There were gifts, including my favorite m&ms: Easter pastels.

Another great gift was Codenames. It’s the perfect game for a family group. It was easy to learn, a little bit challenging, fun to play, and didn’t require too much deep thought to prevent us from having fun with each other while we played.

The day after Kathy and Annette’s visit, I had a birthday lunch with one of my friends. The weather was beautiful, so we went to a restaurant that has an outdoor patio overlooking a pond in a pretty landscaped setting. The food was good and the company was great. That birthday lunch was followed by a birthday video call with Jeff and La in the evening and another video call with Thom, Katie, and Sefton two days later.

And that was it: five days of celebrating my birthday this year. I always enjoy my birthday, and this was no exception. It’s the quality of the time spent celebrating, not the quantity of it, and I definitely had quality time with my family and my best friend. Until next year, . . . .

Ted and I are great-grandparents! Our first great-grandchild was born last week. His name is Oliver Quentin and he is the oldest son3–the oldest son of the oldest son (Alex) of our oldest son (Jeff). We’re definitely going to add Ted to the group and take a four-generation photo of the men when we meet Oliver. Ted and I are excited about the new addition to our family and we are looking forward to visiting Alex, Kaitlyn, and Oliver later this year. I’ve decided to be GG (Great Grandma) to our great-grandchildren; Ted wants to be GP (Great grandPa).

Meanwhile, I need a mental great-grandma image adjustment. Here’s my great-grandma (seated) with her three children. The lady on the right is my grandma. I was three years old when this picture was taken. To be fair, my great-grandma is eleven years older in this picture than I am now.

Here’s a four-generation picture of baby Jeff with his mom (me), his grandma (my mom) and his great-grandma (my grandma). Jeff was Grandma’s first great-grandchild and she is the same age in this picture as I am now.

Here’s Oliver’s great-grandma. I think there’s a bit of a contrast between those other two great-grandmas and me.

Great-grandmas aren’t what they used to be, but great-grandbabies are still just as cute as ever.

When I saw this cartoon, my passion for improving reading comprehension skills kicked in. When we read, we recognize an arrangement of symbols as words; when we comprehend, we create meaning from those recognized words. There’s a big difference between these two skills. Have you ever heard someone say, “It doesn’t matter how many times I read it; I just don’t get it”? That’s clear evidence of a lack of reading comprehension skills.

There are many studies of children’s academic skills through twelfth grade. The most well-known of these is the NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress), the largest nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America’s students know and can do in various subject areas. The NAEP began in 1969 and is published every four years. It assesses students’ academic skills in 4th, 8th and 12th grade. Among developed countries in the world, the United States spends, by far, the most money on education overall and the second-most per student: $810 billion overall and about $12,800 per student in public education. In spite of that, the U.S. 2019 NAEP scores in reading, math, and science are disappointing.

Given those results, is it any wonder adults have reading comprehension difficulties? There are very few studies of the academic competencies of adults. The biggest reason for this is that children can be tracked and followed fairly easily through the school system for a number of years. Adults, on the other hand, relocate and change jobs, making them harder to find for follow-up studies.

The first national comprehensive study of adult literacy was the 1992 National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS). The 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) was the first time a follow-up adult literacy study was done. The results were not good for either study. In fact, the results of the follow-up NAAL showed a decline in adult literacy when compared to the earlier NALS. Both surveys indicated that the “golden age” of literacy in the United States is made up of the group of adults who learned to read between 1955 and 1965. And yet, only thirty percent of that group scored at a proficient literacy level.

The chart below describes the assessed literacy levels from each study. The NAAL combined Levels 3 and 4 of the NALS to describe intermediate level readers. I was honored to be selected as a member of the group of educators invited to Washington, D.C. to work with the U.S. Department of Education prior to administering the NAAL. Our group set cut-points for the described literacy skills on the NAAL. It was an exciting experience to work on this project. You might find it interesting to see how literate you are. Read the descriptors below and decide.

Now the bad news–and the reason the above cartoon is too true. These are 1992 NALS results. The 2003 NAAL results were worse.

As if half the adult population being barely literate isn’t bad enough, I found the following results to be even more surprising. Again, these are 1992 NALS results.

What does this mean for you? It means that if you could make sense of this blog post (and the national study odds are 52 to 48 that you couldn’t), don’t assume that the people you’re interacting with are equally skilled in literacy. Far too many of them are not.

Author’s note: It is possible to improve reading comprehension. Two of the biggest misconceptions regarding good readers are that good readers read quickly and that they instantly comprehend what they read. In fact, good readers read for meaning, not for speed, and they re-read texts to improve their understanding of the content. If you need to improve your reading comprehension, here are seven simple strategies you can use to work on your comprehension skills.

  1. Improve your vocabulary.
  2. Come up with questions about the text you are reading.
  3. Use context clues.
  4. Look for the main idea.
  5. Write a summary of what you read.
  6. Break up the reading into smaller sections.
  7. Pace yourself.

When I was in eighth grade, the University of Wisconsin played Southern California in the New Year’s Day Rose Bowl game. I don’t remember which team won, but that was when I decided that, when I went to college, I was going to attend UW in Madison so I could go to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl. Hahahahaha! UW had its worst football teams ever while I was in college. The University of Iowa was the bottom-ranked Big 10 team, and UW lost to them with a score of 51-0. We cheered for first downs as if they were touchdowns because first downs were about as good as the team got, and they didn’t happen that often. Even without a Rose Bowl holiday, UW was a good choice for me. Football weekends were great and I never had enough money to go to Pasadena anyway.

I paid for college with scholarships and grants–a good deal because I didn’t have big student loans to repay. Ted’s college education was covered by the GI Bill, so he didn’t have big college loans either. I needed to work 10-15 hours/week during the school year and full time in the summers to avoid loans, so I did. During the summer between my sophomore and junior years, I worked two jobs–40-hours/week at the university library and 20 hours/week as a Kroger checker.

During the school year, I qualified for work/study jobs, which were partially funded by the federal government and paid more than minimum wage. Minimum wage was $1.25/hour; work/study paid $1.50/hour–20 percent more. Unless you were a boy, that is; then the pay was even better. My first work/study job was in a campus administration office as a “typist.” This job was very educational because it introduced me to unfair salary practices for men and women. Example: There were also three or four male students working in that office, but they were “draftsmen.” I did a little typing, but I never saw any of the men drafting. The reality was that we all stuffed envelopes for mailers regarding meetings and conferences on campus. I stuffed much faster than the men (I can show you the trick of rapid stuffing because I still do it with our Christmas cards), but the men made $2.25/hour–80 percent above minimum wage. Is it any wonder that the next episode in an historic series of women’s rights movements was ramping up during my college years?

In the spring semester of my freshman year, I was invited by the UW history department to be one of twenty students attending a six-week seminar at Smith College (one of the elite Seven Sisters schools) in Northampton, MA with all expenses paid. I have no idea how I was selected because I hadn’t even taken a history course, but it was a fun summer. I needed a job for the other six weeks, so the Financial Aid office found a work/study opening at the Old Wade House in Greenbush, WI, not far from my parents’ home. The job allowed me to work before and after the six weeks at Smith. That was a sweet deal!

The Old Wade House was essentially a hotel/restaurant in the days of traveling by horse. It was located halfway between Sheboygan and Fond du Lac–the distance a horse could travel in a day. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places. I was a tour guide and have tales to tell about the visitors. During slow times, another work/study student and I had time to goof off. One day we took pictures of each other, just for the fun of it. Here I am in my tour guide dress. It won’t surprise you to know that my mom made this dress and another one for me to alternate on my work days. It’s hard to see, but I’m touching the hand of a male mannequin as if I’m flirting with him.

Colleen, my best friend, attended Cardinal Ritter College in Milwaukee, but didn’t like it because it was an all-girls school. During her junior year, she convinced her parents to let her transfer to UW Madison. Her dorm was near mine and we frequently spent time together. Our favorite times were when her mom would make a batch of turtles (big ones with four pecan “legs” and a pecan “head.” When one of those boxes would arrive, Colleen would call me and say, “I’ve got turtles. Want to come over?” You bet! In this photo, we were on a double date going to a fraternity theme party. That’s not my dress, sweater, or scarf. I think the sweater was Susan’s (a dorm mate), but I don’t remember the rest. It looks like we were having a good time.

You do crazy things in college and spend the rest of your life saying, “It was college, for heaven’s sake!” Why would we decide to smear our faces with toothpaste, wear our shower caps as if they were high fashion fascinator hats, put on dress heels and flats with our bathrobes, and get someone to take our picture? Crazy, but fun. That’s me on the left, then Eileen, Becky, and Susan.

I loved my college years, but my senior year was the most fun of all. I shared a house in the summer with three former dorm mates. In the fall, we moved to a bigger house and added another dorm mate plus a friend of Eileen’s. The six of us had a ball and we still keep in touch and get together. Here we are at Christmas. Barb isn’t in the picture because she got married on December 21. We all kidded her about it being the longest night of the year. It looks like we had a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, but I remember we had a ball decorating it. Left to right, it’s Leila, Carol, Eileen and Lin. I took the picture.

The late 1960s were a politically active time on American college campuses. UC Berkeley and UW Madison were among the most active, with regular protests against the Vietnam War, including protests against Dow Chemical Company, which produced agent orange, a carcinogenic defoliant used in the jungles of Vietnam. In February 1969, there was a campus protest against Dow, and I guess it was expected to be unusually violent (by 1960s standards, not by today’s protest standards). I didn’t want to go to jail or get beat up, so I didn’t participate in protests. I attended my early morning class and was shocked when I left the classroom and saw National Guard troops with rifles standing in every hallway. I’d never been that close to a soldier with his gun ready to use and I was frightened.

On the way to my next class, this is what I saw–more armed National Guardsmen standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the southern boundary of the campus. After class, I headed home for lunch. I had to cross University Avenue to get home to the house I shared with the other five women. By that time, the four-lane street had been closed to traffic and there wasn’t a car in sight. The guardsmen were more scattered, standing farther apart. With no traffic, I assumed the guardsman at the corner would be happy to see a non-threatening person (me) leaving the campus and carrying nothing but books. Wrong! As I stepped off the curb, the guardsman stepped directly in front of me, raised his rifle with a bayonet attached to it, and pointed it at me only a few feet from my chest. “Get back on the sidewalk!” he shouted. “I’m only going home for lunch,” I squeaked. He looked both ways (no cars in sight) and said, “Then wait for the light.” So I stood there on the sidewalk and he stood there at the curb with his bayonet pointed at me until the “Walk” light came on. Then I legally crossed the empty, deserted street and went home for lunch. I think I skipped my afternoon classes, or maybe I didn’t have any that day.

Time moved on, things calmed down, and June 10, graduation day arrived. My parents and brothers and my Grandpa L. came to watch me graduate, and so did Ted, who was working at the Weather Service Forecast Office (WSFO) in Washington, D.C. at the time. Here are three of my four brothers at my graduation–Denny, Russ, and Steve.

There were thousands of graduates and it was quite an efficient, if meaningless, operation. We were called by schools, so I walked with the School of Education students. You knew it was your turn when you heard “School of Education” on the loudspeaker. No individual names were called, and that was a good thing with so many graduates. The line never stopped moving. We walked toward the stage in a random group, received a quick handshake from everyone along the way (don’t stop or pause as you pass), and returned to our seats carrying an empty red faux leather folder for the diplomas that were mailed to us later. The picture of the graduation ceremony (below) was taken by my mom. Graduates (in black) are seated in the lower rows of the stands. I have no idea where I am in the crowd and maybe Mom didn’t either. I assume she timed the shot to at least show the School of Education graduates with our light blue tassels.

Graduation was held in Camp Randall, the UW football stadium. You can see the field and some of the stands on the other side in the picture below. As I mentioned earlier, football weekends were fun times. Students could buy season tickets for a pretty low price, and it seemed like everyone turned out for the games. I don’t think it was about winning or losing; it was about going somewhere that was a lot of fun and only incidentally watching UW lose the game. Seniors and grad students got the best tickets, so when I went to a game with Ted in my senior year, we sat near the front of the stands on the 40-yard line. As a freshman, I was at least two-thirds of the way up on the bottom level and probably on the far side of the 30-yard line. I remember having to look away to the left to see the cheerleaders. Camp Randall seated 70,000 people and was sold out for every home game. In contrast, Lambeau Field, where the Green Bay Packers play, only seated and sold out 55,000 seats at that time. Yes, football weekends were great!

Grandpa wanted a picture with me in my graduation regalia. Our six-woman fun house porch and steps are on the right. Can you believe Grandpa and my dad wore suits to a June graduation where they had to sit in the sun on bleachers?! So did the other adult men in the pictures above. Dress codes for graduation ceremonies have certainly changed over the years.

Four days after my college graduation, Ted and I were married and headed for Washington, D.C. where we were going to live. This is our first Christmas tree. It looks normal, although a little wide, but it was so full and so crooked that we couldn’t get it to stand up in any way that resembled straight. We settled for hiding a kitchen chair in the corner behind the tree, weighting the chair with lots of Ted’s Encyclopedia Britanica volumes, and tying the tree to the back of the chair. You can’t see the chair through that thick Christmas tree, but you can see my sewing machine cabinet on the right. I bought it used during my freshman year in college and I still use it. The picture on the wall was my first gift from Ted. It’s a watercolor of Lombard Street that he bought while he was in San Francisco the summer we met.

Ted and I learned our lesson. When we moved to a larger (two-bedroom) apartment, we bought an artificial tree for our third Christmas. It stood nice and straight. By this time, we had accumulated some furniture. Pole lamps were in style, so we had one of those. The picture on the wall is one that Ted bought when he was on R&R in Japan during his Army service in Korea. We bought the black and white TV to watch Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon. When we bought it, I said to the salesman, “Doesn’t it even come with a stand?” He went into a back room, came out with a stand, and gave it to us for nothing. The drapes cover an entire wall where we had sliding doors to a balcony. I made the drapes on my sewing machine, sitting at the sewing cabinet in the previous picture.

This was the time of data punch cards and everyone with access to discarded cards was making Christmas wreaths out of them. I worked at the Bureau of the Census and the Bureau was tabulating the decennial census by computer for the first time ever. Did I have access to used punch cards? More than you can imagine. Here’s my punch card wreath, sprayed with silver paint, decorated with sparkles, and highlighted with a sprig of artificial greenery in the center. Very vogue in the early ’70s.

When we got married, Ted was driving a 10-year-old Pontiac Bonneville tank he bought when he was discharged from the Army. The heater didn’t work, so we had to cover our legs with a blanket in the winter. In Spring 1971, we bought an Opel Sport Coupe with the big engine–2.2 liters. The small model had only a 2.0 liter engine. That extra 0.2 liters made a difference, right? The car cost $2,200 and it was awesome! In all the time we had it, it only needed one major repair. The head gasket blew off when the car was 14 years old and it was a $400 repair. We debated whether or not the car was worth the money, but since it hadn’t cost us more than regular maintenance (oil, filters, tires, etc.) for 14 years, we fixed it and drove it for three more years. By that time, the brakes were failing and the clutch was so worn out, you had to start the car in second gear. Ted and I could manage that, but Jeff was 16 by then and he was learning to drive. We didn’t think it was a safe car for a 16-year-old to use, so we replaced it with a used Nissan Stanza. We never saw many Opels in the U.S. but we lost count of how many we saw in Germany when we were there.

A little over a year later, it was time to buy a car seat for the Opel. I was pregnant with Jeff and wanted a rocking chair to rock the baby. We bought this chair at “the world’s most unusual lumberyard” where they sold more than raw lumber. It was unfinished, so I stained and varnished it The stain and varnish cans are sitting on the floor. On the right, you can see the bookcase that held the encyclopedias we used to hold our first Christmas tree upright. When the varnish on the chair was dry and the chair was ready to use, I made a seat cushion and a back cushion for it (with my sewing machine at the sewing cabinet, of course). I rocked all four kids in this chair and it’s still in excellent condition in our upstairs library.

I think that’s all the photo history I have of myself–elementary school, high school, college, and marrying Ted. The next phase of Ted’s and my lives is raising our children. Good times, all the time.