Remember the stuff in your grandma’s house?  It was old and yellowed and you just thought “old,” “yellow,” and “Grandma’s house” went together.  I don’t want that to be me!

Ted and I have noticed that the plastic parts on our microwave are yellowing and the unit looks like the one in Grandma’s house.  It has only a 1.1 cu. ft. capacity and 850 watts of power, and still works after 24+ years without a repair.  The new one has a 2.0 cu. ft. capacity and 1000 watts of power.  We’ll see if they still make them to last more than 20 years.  It has a stainless steel finish, so at least it won’t turn “Grandma yellow” with age.

Here’s the old, yellowing “grandma” microwave.  The sticker shows that it was made in November 1993.

Ted and I opted to install the microwave ourselves.  To someone who is handy, this is probably a no-brainer, but we don’t get excited about doing stuff like this and are usually happy to ensure job security for the installation guy.  Still, a couple of screws and bolts didn’t sound too hard or worth the installation price.  Except for having to buy some appropriately-sized drill bits, we had everything we needed.  Lining up the template for the bracket on the wall took the most time, and everything actually went pretty smoothly.  We were pleasantly surprised with our success and opted out of microwaving something for dinner in favor of celebrating with pizza and a beer at Dewey’s instead.

New stainless steel finish microwave.  Perfectly and (almost) easily installed by Ted and Diane, Inc., LLC.

Really neat settings.  Choose a food, enter the quantity of food, and the sensor cooks it to perfection.  You can even soften ice cream without melting it.  Wow!

It’s been so warm over the past two weeks, that spring is arriving early.  Ted and I saw a star magnolia blooming in our neighborhood today, and the leaves are coming out on our privet hedge.  Our magnolia trees have buds that look almost ready to burst into flowers and our daffodils are several inches tall.  We saw a small patch of daffodils blooming today, but ours must be less protected–they’re a little bit behind.

One year, spring came early and stayed long enough for the trees to begin leafing out.  Then we got hit by temperatures in the low 20s and everything froze.  All the plants were weak for the entire summer.  I hope that won’t happen this year.  Meanwhile, it’s warm, sunny, and blooming nicely outside.  Cheers for spring!

Some of our daffodils growing to bloom for us.

Our hedge has green leaves sprouting.

A neighborhood star magnolia beginning to bloom.

As I drove to school to volunteer today, the DJ on the radio was playing “telephone songs”–songs that referred to telephones and/or calling on the phone in some way.  He was also taking calls about telephones from listeners.  Some of the things that came up in the “remember when” category included:

• The operator saying “Number, please,” and then connecting you to that number.  (Think Lily Tomlin on the Laugh In.)

• Party lines.  (We had one.)

• Ringtones made up of long and short rings.  (Ours was five short–you turned the crank to make the ring tone.  Everyone on the party line heard it and could identify who was being called.)

• Waiting to make a long-distance call until the rates went down.  (Been there, done that.)

• Pay phones for 10¢.  (Yup!  In high school, when we needed our parents to pick us up after an event, we’d call from the pay phone.  We could hear our parents say “Hello,” but they couldn’t hear us unless we put the dime in.  To save the dime, we’d just hang up, and that was the signal for Dad to get in the car.)

The best called-in story on the radio, however, was this one.  When the caller (we’ll call him Ed) was in college, he’d set a time to call his brother (he can be Joe) at another college.  At the appointed time, Ed and Joe would each go to a pay phone booth.  Ed then dialed the operator and requested a person-to-person collect call to the number at Joe’s pay phone.  Joe would answer, agree to accept the charges, and the two would have a nice talk.  The lingering question, according to Ed, is “Which pay phone got charged for the calls?”

Note:  Unless you understand person-to-person and collect, you probably won’t think this is funny.  If you do understand, you’re probably admiring Ed’s and Joe’s ingenuity.

My cousin, Nancy, sent me a sentimental treasure:  eleven letters written by my mother to a neighborhood friend serving in the Army during World War II.  The friend was Frankie Kotnick, whose family lived near my mother’s family in Sheboygan.

One of the Kotnick kids–maybe Frankie–lived in Frankie’s parents’ house, and at least one of their children was a friend of Nancy, my cousin.  When the children were cleaning out the house, they found letters from my mother that Frankie had saved.  They offered the letters to Nancy, who shared them with other Lorenzen family members, including my Uncle Gibby and Aunt Ruth, siblings of my mother.  After that, Nancy generously sent the originals to me.

The letters, written from 1942-1944 when Mom was 20-22 years old, present her as a young, single woman–someone I never knew.  She loves to dance, she drinks, she hangs out on “Prange’s corner” with her friends, and she is “getting sick of this small town stuff” in Sheboygan.  She enlists in the Civilian Defense Home Guard and applies to the Civil Air Patrol, hoping for a job as a telephone operator or a secretary somewhere away from Sheboygan.  She confides in Frankie that “if a person wants to earn money or try to amount to something Sheboygan is the wrong place for them.”  All the action and the big money, she says, is in cities like Milwaukee and Chicago.  She admits she has it good living at home, but tells Frankie “my Mother and Dad would put their foot down if they knew I wanted to to (sic) this.  You know how parents act when it comes to something like that” (referring to moving away from home).

The letters provide a glimpse of my mother’s youth and the early 1940s.  Her sentences are filled with “gee” and “swell”–apparently the slang of the day.  Mom goes to lots of movies and dances, and mentions how much she loves to dance.  She confesses to a fascination with slot machines.  (When she and Dad went to Las Vegas, she won on a nickel slot machine in the days when real nickels fell out of the machine.)  The envelopes have three-cent postage stamps and the cancellation mark says “Buy war bonds and stamps.”  The envelope of a December letter has a Christmas seal on the back.  Mom mentions that Grandma was in charge of sugar rationing coupons for her area and spent a lot of time on that job.  Mom also tells Frankie that she wants to buy a used bicycle, but can’t find one for less than $28–more than a new one costs–so she’s decided to keep using her brother’s bicycle and wait until after the war to buy one when bicycles (metal) become more available again.

One day, my mother and her friend, Lorraine, got fed up with their jobs in Sheboygan and simply failed to show up for work the next day.  They took a bus to Milwaukee instead.  You can read the letter about that experience below.  I think moving to Milwaukee and being independent felt the same to Mom as going away to college felt for me.  Freedom!

Mom died 22 years ago, and I still miss her greatly.  Reading her letters to Frankie was like spending time with her again.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing these, Nancy.

The entire Midwest seems to be enjoying warmer than usual weather.  I love it!  We set a new record high of 79 degrees today, breaking the old record of 78 degrees that we set last year on this date.  So far, we’ve had 9 of 20 days in February that were above 60 degrees and 6 of those were above 70 degrees, with 4 more 60/70-degree days forecast before it cools down on Saturday.  Maybe even another record high coming up on Wednesday.

The normal high for today, according to the TV weathercaster, is 47 degrees.  Last year, the normal high for this day was 46 degrees.  That’s some pretty fast global warming!

We took the flannel sheets off the bed, and our daffodils are several inches high.  Keep those warm, sunny days coming!

I’m still working on some physical therapy for my injured oblique muscle.  Last week, Brian (my therapist) had two of his Washington University students at the center to observe him and other therapists working with patients.

As Brian put me through my paces, he mentioned to the two students that he would not ordinarily give exercises at this level to a woman of my age.  He cautioned them about fragile bones, lack of flexibility, etc. with older patients and described me as an exception to the rule.

At my next appointment, two days ago, Brian asked me about the possibility of trying some planks and/or bridges to help my oblique muscle.  I told him I do the advanced levels of those moves weekly in Pilates.  He asked me to demonstrate the Pilates moves, so I did.  His follow-up comment was, “I just hope I’m as healthy, strong, and flexible as you are when I’m your age.”

That’s a very flattering compliment for a grandma!

Note:  A different therapist told me once that she worked with an 85-year-old woman who could run rings around most of the young people she treats.  That’s my goal!

I bought a sewing machine and a serger just before Christmas, and finally had time to play with my new toys today.

The lady at the sewing machine store showed me how to knot the threads and just pull them through the serger to change colors or spools.  After that, she made me thread all four spools on the serger from start to finish.  She said I’d need to do it sooner or later when a thread breaks.  Aaarrrggghhh!!!  May my thread never break!  Imagine my relief when I saw that my serger came out of the box threaded.  Whew!

It took me about 30 minutes to get the sewing machine threaded and a bobbin filled.  Basically, the thread pattern through the machine is similar to my old sewing machine, but all the hooks and holes look different and I had to figure out what each little gizmo looked like so I could put the thread through or around the correct gizmo.  There have been some changes in the last 50+ years.  Last week, I bought some remnants so I could practice sewing and get used to my new machines.  I sewed and serged one six-inch seam, then declared myself ready to roll.  Confidence, yes!

My bed pillow is fat and has to be stuffed tightly to fit a standard pillowcase.  That makes the pillow so hard, it’s not comfortable.  Being a clever seamstress, I buy an extra matching pillowcase, cut a strip from it, and add the strip to the “real” pillowcase to make the pillowcase a little wider, allowing the pillow to be softer.  We had to buy new sheets for our new mattress, and today was the day to ditch my old pillowcase and adjust a new one for my fat pillow.  Success and a new pillowcase for me tonight.

Most fun I had:  Automatic needle threading and automatic thread cutting.  Woo-ee!

Most important thing I learned:  It takes a lot more time and space to set up two portable machines than to open one machine that’s installed in a cabinet.  I need a better set-up for future sewing.

Serger, pillowcase, and sewing machine.

Finished expanded pillowcase.  Purple arrows show the outside; green arrows show how I can do serging  on the inside now.  Mm-mm good!

I was volunteering at the Success School on Valentine’s Day when the principal came to each classroom offering cupcakes and valentines to all.  I think part of the secretary’s job (or maybe the teachers’ jobs) included finding inspirational sayings to make custom valentines.  Here is mine.  It’s not exactly the “Be Mine” type of valentine, but I like the thought.

A Dominican Republic newspaper meant to include a photo of President Trump with an article about his meeting with Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu, but accidentally printed a photo of Alec Baldwin impersonating Trump.  The paper published an apology the following day.

Kari sent us some photos to let us know how Waffles (the pig we gave Teddy for Christmas) spends the day at home while the family is away.

First, while Teddy gets ready for school, Waffles has a little breakfast from the cat’s dish.

Then, after Teddy leaves, Waffles keeps an eye on the food bowls at the kitchen door.

On our flight to Seattle, there was an announcement from the cockpit.

“The captain has turned off the seatbelt sign, so you are now free to move about the cabin.  If you are seated, please remain seated with your seatbelt fastened.”


Ted and I just returned from our visit to Seattle (Puyallup) where we were introduced to our seventh grandson, Sefton Aron Schroeder.  (Kyra retains her status as our favorite granddaughter.)  I could go on and on, but whatever I have to say about Sefton would be the same thing in different words:  he’s a baby, he’s small, he’s so, so soft and cuddly, and he’s so, so sweet and lovable. Here is February 1-5 in pictures.

My first time holding Sefton.

Sefton with Grandpa.

Sefton with his big brother, Julian.

Sefton does not enjoy bath time.

Thom and Katie blow-dry Sefton after his bath.  He likes this a lot more than the bath.

Sefton can already sit by himself–with some support, of course.

Ted and Julian having a Connect Four tournament–just like they did when Julian was much younger.  This time, Julian didn’t cry when he lost a game to his grandpa; he just beat Grandpa in the next game.

Julian playing one of his piano compositions for us.

As part of his birthday gift, we took Julian to Trampoline Nation where he amazed us with twists and flips and twisting flips.

Me and two of my favorite boys–Julian and Sefton.

A family photo.

Thom and Katie’s Lego family.

Just before we left, the rain changed to snow.   Sefton’s first snow.  (For us, two coats of de-icer on the tarmak before our plane could take off.)

While we were in Seattle, we had the chance to spend Saturday with my brother Russ’s family who have moved to Seattle from Philadelphia.  We decided to spend the cold, rainy day at a museum and selected MoPOP–the Museum of Pop Culture–at Seattle Center, in the foggy shadow of the Space Needle.

Most of the museum focused on music and musicians from the 80s and 90s, but those exhibits were joined by displays of the Wizard of Oz and The Princess Bride because of the widespread cultural influence those movies have had.  There was also a special exhibit on Star Trek for the same reason.  Unfortunately for us, the Rube Goldberg exhibit doesn’t open until February 11.  It was an interesting afternoon and gave us a nice venue where we could stay warm and dry while we visited with each other.

This tower has over 700 guitars and other instruments wired together to play electronic music.

Some of the instruments in the guitar tower.

The Jimi Hendrix display required an entire room.

Star Trek, of course.   Beam me up!

Ted and me and a friendly guitar.

L -> R:  Russ, Nick, Betsy, Phil, Ben

We have recently had a private screening of a movie and a private seating at a restaurant.  Yesterday, we returned from Seattle on a (nearly) private jet, landed at a (nearly) private terminal, and were taken to our car by private shuttle (limo?).

The plane had 162 seats and only 42 passengers.  There were 7 crew members.  That must be close to the square footage and level of service we’d have on a private jet.

Ours was the last flight of the day.  All the shops were closed and everyone else had already left the airport.

Just Ted and me on our private shuttle/limo to the parking garage.

Ted and I went out to lunch today at one of our favorite restaurants.  The young woman who has been working as the cashier waited on us, so I asked if she has changed positions.  She said she has, and told us this is her third week waiting tables.  It’s her first week doing it on her own and the reason we haven’t previously seen her as a server, she said, is because she only works on Tuesdays.

Today is Monday.

On February 8, 2016, Dr. P. asked me if I would be willing to provide some trainings for the teachers at his school in India.  With Dr. P.’s permission, I invited my friend and adult education mentor, John, to be my co-trainer.  After much planning and a number of meetings, we set a departure date for December 27.  For several reasons directly related to Dr. P., it became obvious that not everything would be in place by that date, so we set February 9 as a more viable departure date.

Ted and I are in Washington state right now, getting acquainted with our new grandson, Sefton.  Because we will return to St. Louis just three days before the departure date for India, I already have most of my things packed for that trip.  John, my co-trainer, and I have had our inoculations and have received our Indian visas.  We have also spent a great deal of time preparing our training materials.  We are ready to go.

Imagine my surprise this morning when Dr. P.’s office manager called to tell me that the training will have to be postponed because Dr. P. will not have the necessary funding in place in time to purchase the airline tickets for the trip.  There is a possibility the training will be rescheduled for April or May.  I guess I’ll unpack when Ted and I get home on Sunday.

I’m feeling disappointed. . . . Is there an emoji for that?