On our way to Colorado last week, we drove through a series of spring thunderstorms, including some that were severe.  It’s about a 15-hour trip in good weather, but it seems a lot longer and it’s a lot more stressful driving through storm after storm for a good portion of two days.

We had a wonderful time with Jeff’s family (as usual) and were happy that we could be present for Kyra’s high school graduation, as well as for her seminary graduation.  We had good times during our visit and were sorry to have to leave.

Our drive home was much nicer.  In spite of the fact that rain had been predicted all the way across Kansas and into Missouri, the probabilities were dropped from 50 percent to 20 percent.  Although we saw some anvil clouds and rain in the distance several times, we drove in bright sunshine and low 80s all the way.  We almost caught up to the rain showers in Missouri, but they dissipated ahead of us.

As we left Jeff’s house in the morning, we saw ten hot air balloons rising in the calm early morning skies.  Then, east of Kansas City, just before the Missouri rain ahead of us dissipated, we saw a rainbow from our sunny side of the weather.  What a peaceful beginning and end to our day’s drive.

Balloons

 

Rainbow

A friend of Jeff’s has, not only a 3D printer, but also a program to print the tiles for the “Settlers of Catan” game.  The friend knows Jeff’s family enjoys the game, so asked if Jeff was interested in playing “Settlers” in 3D.  Of course, Jeff said “yes.”   The printer produces only plain white tiles, so Jeff’s family has been working on painting them.  There is a lot of detail on the tiles, and many colors of paint are required to make the tiles look realistic.

Ted and I were offered the opportunity to contribute our negligible artistic talents to the project while we were visiting for Kyra’s graduation.  We quickly learned that it takes a steady hand to paint some of the tiny details, but we turned out six acceptable tiles, bringing the project closer to game-ready.  It was an enjoyable afternoon of family fun turning blank white tiles into artistic masterpieces.  We expect to play “3D Settlers of Catan” the next time we visit.

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Master artist Jeff painting plain blue ocean tiles (he finished 7)

 

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Novice artists learning as we go (we each finished 3)

 

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The results of Ted’s and my labors (brick, wheat, and plain ocean for me; desert and two oceans with boats for Ted)

 

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The full set of tiles (white ones in the back still need to be painted)

 

We had beautiful weather today for Kyra’s graduation ceremony.  La got up extra early to stake out a good viewing spot for us, and Jeff found a prime parking spot.  With our granddaughter graduating, what more could we want?!  What a wonderful way to spend our day!

Kyra on the platform

Kyra on the platform

She's got it!

She’s got it!

Proud parents

Proud parents

Equally proud grandparents

Equally proud grandparents

 And then it was time to open the gifts.

An afghan I made for her

An afghan I made for her . . .

. . . and lots of other cards and gifts.

. . . and lots of other cards and gifts.

Last night, we attended Kyra’s graduation party at her church.  It’s a great idea.  The graduates from the congregation use tables and wall space to display items representative of themselves.  Each graduate’s family brings some food to share, and there are tables and chairs for family and friends to sit together to eat and to celebrate with the graduate.

The buffet

The buffet

Kyra's family table

Kyra’s family table

Kyra's display

Kyra’s display

Our driving weather today wasn’t quite as bad as yesterday’s.  We only drove through three squalls, but the hail was bigger and lasted longer.  The story can be told in pictures.

Hail accumulating on the windshield

Hail accumulating on the windshield

Hail on the grass at the rest stop

Hail on the grass at the rest stop

The storm with the hail behind us

The storm with the hail behind us . . .

. . . as we drove toward the next storm.

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Finally! The storms were to the east of us as we approached Jeff’s house.

We usually look forward to night driving in Kansas because it’s so dark, we can see the Milky Way and zillions of stars–a nice change from our usual suburban sky view.  On this trip, however, the sky show was lightning.

It’s spring on the Great Plains, so that means tornadoes and thunderstorms.  We had tornado watches and severe thunderstorm warnings all the way from the Missouri border to WaKeeney, Kansas where we stopped for the night.  We drove through four squall lines (red cells on the radar) and reached WaKeeney just before hitting the fifth one.  We had very heavy rain several times, as well as some small hail, and we saw impressive, almost constant lightning in all directions.  At one point, we hit a strong crosswind.  Fortunately, my car is IFR rated (right!) and traffic is light in Kansas.  Ted’s driving experience and quick reaction skills kept the car moving forward in spite of two swerves.

When we arrived at the motel, a special weather report mentioned that the squall line we had just passed through was now producing quarter-size hail and 60 mph winds.  I’m glad we were ahead of that!  It was a long, tense drive, but a great show by Mother Nature.

A shelf cloud ahead of the storms.

A shelf cloud just above the horizon ahead of the storms

A very low-hanging cloud

A very low-hanging cloud

One of many lightning strikes

One of many lightning strikes

Sunday evening, for no apparent reason, my right foot swelled to an incredible size.  On Monday, I started feeling pain in my foot when I walked, but it wasn’t post-surgical pain in my toes; it was in the main part of my foot.  I tried ice and massage, and then ibuprofen for pain, but nothing helped.  The swelling is so severe that there is no visible arch under my foot and, when I stand, my toes don’t touch the floor–they just stick straight out.  The top is well above the top of my other foot, and it’s so wide, I can’t even get my toes into a shoe!

This morning, it was still swollen and I was limping because of the pain, so I called the surgeon and made an immediate appointment.  The diagnosis:  I have a stress fracture on at least one of the metatarsels.  As a result, I’m back to wearing a surgical shoe for a week, followed by another week of athletic shoes only, and I’ll be taking an anti-inflammatory medication for two weeks.  Because we caught it early, the doctor assured me it will heal quickly and I’ll be wearing regular shoes when we leave for Europe.

I didn’t know what a stress fracture is, so I asked questions.  In the doctor’s words, a bone in my foot is “trying to break.”  Stress fractures can be triggered by medical conditions (like surgery) that weaken the supporting muscles and decrease the muscular support of the bone, resulting in extra stress on the bone.  If I didn’t have such super-strong bones, and if I hadn’t been doing physical therapy for my foot muscles for the past five weeks, I’ll bet the damage would be much worse.

One downside of this is that I bought a really cute pair of new shoes to wear with a new summer dress when we go to church with Jeff’s family on Sunday, but I’ll be wearing a black surgical shoe instead.  Bummer!

Note:  When people see the surgical shoe and ask how I injured my foot, I tell them I was sliding into home.

We recorded some Stephen Hawking specials in which he sets up theoretical problems and then has people solve them to gain an understanding of the universe.  The first show we saw addressed the possibility of time travel.  The one we watched tonight was about the possibility of life on other planets.  The people addressing the theoretical questions are “ordinary” (i.e., not Stephen Hawking genius level), but not stupid.  And yet, one of them mentioned in her analysis of the situation that the planets orbitate around the sun.

Yes, orbitate.  Where do these people learn English?!

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Hotel Happiness?

Today I was finally able to spend the massage gift certificate the kids gave me for Christmas (see my car in front of the salon/spa).  My hair stylist told me Cheryl is their best masseuse, and I can now say from experience that Cheryl has a gift.  In the interest of fairness, I hope Cheryl knows another gifted masseuse so that she can be the recipient of an equally wonderful experience.

I never thought I wanted a massage, and yet, I’ve never heard anyone say anything bad about them.  My hair stylist regularly gets massages from Cheryl to relieve the body stress of being on her feet all day.  The two of us discussed massages and I finally decided I should try it instead of deny it.

Well, you’re never too old to learn!  What a lovely, relaxing hour I had with Cheryl.  I can see how this would be good for mental and emotional health.  In fact, we could probably eliminate crime if everyone had regular massages.  Who would feel like doing something bad when the massage makes you feel this good?

Thanks again, kids, for the gift massage and feel free to re-use this gift idea.

I used to check Facebook daily until I realized it had become a chore, as in “I’m so tired, but I haven’t looked at Facebook yet today.”  Since then, I’ve rarely checked it (apologies to any of my few readers who regularly post on Facebook).  Due to my social media abstinence, I know I missed the postings of my Facebook friends on Sibling Day.  I did, however, find an historical picture of my siblings and me.

My mom always tried to make her photos of us kids look good.  One of her tricks was to move my ponytail off-center in the back, so it would show in the picture and I wouldn’t look bald.  Another one of her techniques was to have us look in a direction away from the camera lens.  See the photo below.

Happy belated Siblings Day, and thanks for the memories, Mom.

December 1960.  Back row, left to right:  Denny, Steve, Tom.  Front row:  me, Russ.

December 1960. Back row, left to right: Denny, Steve, Tom. Front row: me, Russ.

Teddy opted out of the multi-birthday celebration last weekend in favor of waiting for his “real” birthday.  Yesterday he had a birthday party with some of his friends and we joined the family for a birthday dinner.  Teddy loves pigs and wanted a devils food “pig cake” for his birthday cake.  Surprisingly, I found over 100 pig cake decorating ideas on the internet.  Who knew that many people connect “pig” and “cake” when they think of dessert?  Kari was busy preparing for the party, so I offered to make the cake for Teddy.  He had fun at the party, loved the cake, and got lots of neat presents.  It was worth waiting for the “real” day.

Teddy and his pig cake.

Teddy and his pig cake.

 

Teddy embracing his birthday gifts.

Dr. John A. Henschke--my mentor, friend, and partner

Dr. John A. Henschke–my mentor, friend, and partner

 

Before going to India in December, I’m trying to become familiar with Dr. Polineni (the surgeon who invited me to train his teachers in India), with Dr. John Henschke (my training partner whom I’ve known for at least 20 years), and with India (where I’ve never been).  One of the things I’m doing is googling the subjects; another is checking them out on YouTube.  I’ve learned a lot about the two men, less about India.

I’ve known John for a long time and was honored to have him as my dissertation chair and even more honored to have him hood me at my doctoral graduation.  My professional knowledge of him is general, but sufficient to yield no surprise when I heard him introduced on a YouTube video as a “world-renowned adult educator” and as a “renowned educational expert.”  This is what I knew:

–He studied under and was a personal friend of Malcolm Knowles, the “father of adult education.”

–He has trained adult educators in 20 countries.

–He was a delegate at the UNESCO Institute of Education at the 1997 World Conference in Hamburg, Germany.

–He was an observer-delegate at the 5th World Conference in Adult Education.

–He serves as a juror (reviewer) of professional articles in the Adult Learning publication.

Given all that, I was still amazed at the breadth and depth of his work.  His vita shows the following:

–1.5 single-spaced pages of awards received, including national and international awards.

–Over 12 pages of “selected” articles he’s published.

–5 pages of dissertation committees he’s chaired (including mine) and 3 more pages of dissertation committees on which he’s been a member, but not the chairperson.

–3 pages of academic research he’s done in adult education.

–2 pages of courses he’s developed at six universities.

–22 pages of papers he’s presented at conferences.

–He has four websites focused on adult education information.

And this is the man who didn’t hesitate for even a second before saying “yes” when I asked him to be my partner for the India trainings.  I’m working with the best and will be a much better trainer for the experience.  I don’t see myself following in his giant footsteps, but maybe this experience will lead me on a “Little John” course of future work in adult education.

We were able to attend Sky and Dylan’s spring orchestra concert and thought we recognized some of the pieces from the winter concert.  We were right!  The orchestra director said she’d intentionally programmed the repeats so we could hear how much the students had improved.  It was a very noticeable improvement, and that’s a good thing (our tax dollars at work).  The elementary, middle, and high schools all played separate pieces and then joined together for the closing number.  It was fun to be there and even more fun to watch the orchestra members rush out the door at the end to grab cake and punch before it (possibly) ran out.

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During the last “cool” piece, the kids could wear sunglasses to fit the music. Sky is second from the right in the first row; Dylan is right behind him.

 

Left to right: Elementary, middle, and high school orchestras.

Left to right: Elementary, middle, and high school orchestras.

 

The St. Charles School District sponsored an art show at the Foundry Art Center in Historic St. Charles, and one of Dylan’s artworks was selected for the show.  It was amazing to see how many different mediums were used for the exhibits.  Some of the work of the older students was good enough to sell in a gallery.  I wish I had talent like that.  Way to go, Dylan!

The assignment was to use only primary colors. From a distance, the applied layers added good depth.

The assignment was to use only primary colors. From a distance, the applied layers added good depth.

With five family birthdays and Mother’s Day falling between April 26 and May 19, we have a mega-party when we can all get together at that time.  Over the weekend, Kathy was here, and we were able to celebrate birthdays for her (April 26), Dean (May 3), and Kari (May 19).  Teddy (May 15) opted to wait for his “real” birthday and Thom (May 4) wasn’t here.  Mother’s Day (May 8) was also included, with my traditional Vienna Torte birthday cake that I postponed until I could share it with the group.  It was fun to have so many things to celebrate and to spend a weekend together.

Double birthday cakes with easy-blow candle arrangements

Double birthday cakes with easy-blow candle arrangements

 

Kari with her load of gifts

Kari with her load of gifts

 

I said I already have everything, but could probably use a bag of M&Ms. My wish came true.

I said I already have everything, but could probably use a bag of M&Ms. My wish came true.

Yesterday was my last day of volunteering at the Success School.  The kids have final exams next week and–surprise!–I’m not allowed to assist them while they take exams.  Last week the principal asked if I’m interested in coming back next fall and I told her I would be happy to do so if the teachers and students felt that I was helpful this year.  She laughed and assured me they want to see me again.  Most volunteers, she said, want to work with the little kids, so they don’t get much help at the high school level, even though there are plenty of high school students who could use some extra one-on-one tutoring.

Before I left, I stopped in the classrooms of the teachers I’d worked with to say good-bye and to wish them a good summer break.  Then I stopped in the office to sign out and the secretary gave me a beautiful bouquet of flowers and a thank you card signed by all the teachers.  She told me that everyone wanted to sign it, even if I hadn’t worked directly with their classes because “It’s a small school (ten classrooms) and people talk” (i.e., had heard about me).  What a sweet thing to do and say.  I have felt so appreciated all year, and the flowers and notes on the card still have me smiling and looking forward to next fall.

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A beautiful appreciation bouquet

Just last week, Ted and I were saying we’ve never seen golf ball-sized hail, much less two-inch hail.  Then, today, look what fell from the sky.

This stuff makes a lot of noise on the roof!

This stuff makes a lot of noise on the roof!

 

At first, I was outside, just enjoying the sound of thunder from the approaching storm.  Then I heard big plops in the pool and noticed it was hailing ahead of the rain.  It seemed like a good idea to seek shelter indoors, so I watched the big (one- to one-and-a-half-inch) hail from a window.  When the wind picked up and started blowing the hailstones against the glass, I was afraid the window would shatter, so I moved to the leeward safety of the covered front porch.  After a minute or two, these huge hailstones started falling.  Being a meteorologist’s wife, I rolled up my jeans, put on some flipflops and a waterproof jacket, and ran into the grass to rescue some hailstones for authentic documentation with my National Weather Service yardstick–even though it’s not seasonally appropriate.

Note:  Our hail turned out to be nearly insignificant.  Just a few miles away, in O’Fallon, grapefruit-sized hail was reported and the NWS office had four-inch hail.

Today, the Viking Sea was launched.  The Sea is the ship we will be aboard for our 15-day Baltic Sea Cruise in July.

Viking ship

Viking ship

Viking has been known for its worldwide river cruises and just started providing ocean cruises in 2015 with the Sky.  The second Viking ocean ship, the Sea, was just launched, and will be followed by the Sun, which will set sail in 2017.  We’ll be on a brand new ship that’s been sailing just long enough to discover and plug any leaks it might have before we come aboard.

Here’s the real ship we’ll be traveling on at its christening in London.  Accommodating only 900 passengers, it’s small for a cruise ship, compared to others that carry 2,000-6,000 passengers.  We’re looking forward to the smaller crowd.

The Viking Sea

The Viking Sea

 

Fireworks and everything for the christening

Fireworks and everything for the christening in London

The sun is shining, the air temperature is in the upper 80s, and the water temperature is heated to the low 80s.  Ladies and gentlemen, we are “go” for swimming!

Kari officially opens the 2016 swimming season

Kari officially opens the 2016 swimming season

The daytime high temperatures are finally in the upper 70s and low 80s, but the pool water temperature is only 64 degrees, so it’s time to turn on the pool heater.  We did that today.

Our two tulip trees are blooming.  The one in my pictures is Paul–Kari’s fourth grade Arbor Day tree that she named for her Grandpa Schroeder.  It’s the only one of the four Arbor Day trees the kids brought home that survived to maturity.

A close-up of some of the tulip-like blooms

A close-up of some of the tulip-like blooms

 

The walker I inadvertently caught in my picture is apparently admiring the tulip blooms, just as I am.

The walker I inadvertently caught in my picture is apparently admiring the tulip blooms, just as I am.

After waiting for several days of spring thundershowers to pass, we vacuumed the winter debris out of the pool.  It looks very sparkly now.