Today I had my six-month follow-up visit with my surgeon, and he told me exactly what I wanted to hear: Since no cancer cells have shown up on my three-month or six-month scans, he is confident that (1) he removed all of the cancer cells during my surgery last November; and (2) there are no stray cancer cells anywhere else in my body.

He agrees with my neurologist that scheduling nine-month and one-year scans is a good idea, but he said he is officially diagnosing me as cancer-free. Oh, happy day!

Since her fall on April 25, Mutzie’s condition has improved noticeably each day, and she is now in a rehabilitation center. The blood clot has dissolved and her face is healing very well. She walks on her own, but still has difficulty swallowing because her facial bones are not completely healed. She speaks clearly and seems to remember everything, although the memories are sometimes jumbled as a result of her concussion. She recognizes friends and family, but doesn’t always remember their names. It is expected that Mutzie will remain in the rehabilitation center for 90 days, after which she will be evaluated for future care. At this point, it seems very likely that she will be able to move to an assisted living facility at that time, rather than to a nursing home.

Yesterday, on our way home from Colorado, Ted and I stopped in Grand Island, NE to visit with Mutzie and to see her miracle aura in person. We joined a group of her visitors and enjoyed our time with her. She didn’t call Ted by name, but told the nurse all day that her “little brother” would be coming. (Ted is five years younger than Mutzie.) When Mutzie became tired, we left and enjoyed dinner with Lisa and her husband, Doug. This morning, we stopped in again for a short visit with Mutzie before leaving for home, and we had another nice conversation with her.

Her miracle aura is still working.

Visiting in Mutzie’s room after dinner. Mutzie and Ted are facing the camera; Lisa, Doug, Glenn, and Anita (a church friend) are facing Mutzie.
Mutzie, aka Miracle Woman, and her little brother, Ted.

As always, Ted and I enjoyed our time with Jeff’s family in Longmont, CO. Friday night, we joined Zaque at his pre-graduation party; Saturday morning, we attended Zaque’s graduation; and Saturday evening, Ted and I took the family out to eat to celebrate Zaque’s graduation and Jeff’s retirement.

Although he has a few more details to wrap up at the office, within a few days, Jeff will leave the U.S. work force and will qualify for the “not seeking employment” checkbox on the Department of Labor forms. He and La have bought a house in Flathead Lake, MT and plan to move there in September. They are looking forward to the move, but will be very busy in the next few months preparing their current house for sale, traveling with their family, and taking care of other details before heading to Montana.

Meanwhile, still in Longmont, we went to church together on Sunday morning and had the privilege of hearing some of the graduates, including Zaque, speak to the congregation. The students’ talks were very interesting, and addressed topics related to going forward in their lives now that they have finished high school.

At the house, we had good food and good times with our family. We looked at pictures of Jeff and La’s new house, played sheephead and some other games, and spent quality time together. The bad weather forecasts continued, however. Longmont was under a tornado watch Sunday evening but, luckily, all we had was rain.

Modern social interaction: three of four people in this group are focused on their electronic devices.
Some cozy family time on the sofa.
Yum! Delicious homemade pizza for Sunday dinner!

I think Ted and I will have one more visit to Longmont. We will bid farewell to Zaque in September when he leaves to serve his church for two years in Oklahoma City. After that, we’ll be visiting Jeff and La in Montana. The fun never ends!

Today, our fourth grandchild graduated from high school. The weather was perfect for the outdoor ceremony.

Zaque is the tall guy under the orange arrow. He must be at least 6’1″–maybe more.
It’s official: he’s got the diploma. Or at least the folder for it. He had to pick up the paper diploma inside the school after the ceremony.
Even though the class was smaller than Alex’s and Kyra’s, there was still only one student we were interested in seeing. This girl’s mortarboard expressed her feelings and those of the audience as the last few kids were recognized.
The fun part: throwing the graduate caps into the air.

And then, the obligatory family pictures.

Like Jeff, Zaque has a large head, so his hat was too small to be comfortable.
Zaque with Mom and Dad. (Funny photo faces are required in Jeff’s family.)
Zaque and Kyra.
And of course, Zaque with Grandma and Grandpa.

Congratulations, Number Four. We’re proud of you.

We arrived at Jeff’s house later than planned today due to some serious storms. The night before we left home, the storm sirens went off at 1:00 a.m. A radar-indicated tornado was barreling down I-70 straight toward us. We didn’t get the all-clear until about 2:45 a.m., when the storm cell suddenly weakened and took a left turn to the north. Due to the weather, we got to bed much later than planned, and since we anticipated driving 8-9 hours the next day, we slept later than planned the next morning.

Yesterday, when we got to Junction City, KS, we were treated to what Ted calls “active weather.” We drove through severe thunderstorms, beginning in the early evening. Lightning was flashing all around us and directly overhead; thunder was booming constantly; visibility was less than one-quarter mile; traffic on I-70 was going only 40-45 mph; and I was looking no further than the taillights ahead of me to stay on the road. Result: we stopped for the night at Hays, rather than going all the way to Colby as we’d planned. Fortunately, we called ahead to a hotel and had a room. Other people stopping at the hotel because of the storm were told there were no vacancies.

In spite of our later-than-usual arrival at Jeff’s house today, we were still in time for Zaque’s graduation party at the church. Each of the seniors in the church sets up a display and every family brings food to share. Zaque baked chocolate chip cookies for the event. (He let his hungry Grandma “sample” a warm cookie before taking them to the party. I gave them the Grandma Stamp of Approval.) We attended the same type of party for Alex and for Kyra when they graduated. Here are some pictures of Zaque, his display, and the party room.

Everything in the display represents a part of Zaque’s life or an interest of his. Check out the Lego box he made for gift cards.
Zaque’s class was smaller than Alex’s and Kyra’s, so the crowd was smaller as well.

We’re glad we could be here for Zaque’s pre-graduation party. After two consecutive nights of severe storms, we were also glad to sleep in peace.

Last spring, I noticed some anonymously planted iris along the road a short distance from our house. Since irises are very prolific, I looked forward to seeing even more purple blooms this year, and I was well rewarded.

Last year’s irises.
This year’s irises.

The rock barrier along the road borders a large common ground with a lake. In addition to these four iris-decorated rocks, I noticed that the next four rocks also have irises planted near them. They are not blooming, but I hope to see an extended floral display next spring. Thank you to whoever is sharing the joy of spring flowers in our subdivision.

For the past two weeks, Ted and I have been getting ourselves and our ten-year-old little-used bikes back into shape. In our innocence, we thought we’d clean up the bikes, inflate the tires, and ride. In reality, we needed a full tune-up for each bike.

We’ve been riding the bikes every day for a week and, every day, we found another little problem. We’ve had to replace a worn-out tire, a rear taillight that died from the corroding batteries inside it, the aging hand grips, and my bike seat. The lethally corroded taillight is understandable, but we don’t remember riding the bikes enough to wear out a tire and a seat. I guess we did better than we gave ourselves credit for.

The battery in my speedometer was also dead and the battery opening had such tiny screws, we had to buy a jeweler’s screwdriver to replace the battery. To avoid ruining the unusual surface of the new hand grips with our sweaty palms, we bought biking gloves. We also decided we needed an updated bike carrier for the car so we can make use of the many greenways in the area. The carrier requires a trailer hitch, so we bought one of those too. We thought we’d install it ourselves, but we don’t have ramps to raise the car. Paying for installation was a lot cheaper than buying ramps, so we made an appointment to have the hitch installed.

Our legs are noticeably stronger after a week of biking. The hitch was installed yesterday, and we found no new problems on today’s bike ride. I think we’re finally ready for some serious bicycling.

Let’s ride!

I saw an article in USA Today that reported one-quarter of the West Antarctic ice sheet has been classified as “unstable.” According to the article, the ocean water in front of the glacier is too hot, causing the underside to melt where it grinds against the seabed. This allows the glacier to slide more quickly into the ocean and to become thinner.

My question is: How does anyone know where West Antarctica is? Every direction from the South Pole is north. Once you are north of the South Pole, moving in a clockwise direction around the pole will take you eastward, just like it does in the rest of the world; counterclockwise will take you westward. Where’s the starting point? Obviously, “West” Antarctica is an agreed-upon arbitrary area.

Today, Grumpy Cat died at the age of 7. Her real name was Tardar Sauce. She probably had a form of dwarfism that gave her large eyes, a downturned mouth, and a small body (less than 5 pounds). After an appearance on Reddit, she went viral on social media and was a popular meme. She became so popular, she actually had a publicist. She appeared in advertising (Friskies cat food, Honey Nut Cheerios, and more) as well as in books, movies, and a video game. Her image was sold on t-shirts and mugs and as a stuffed toy. In addition, she was the first feline to be included in Madame Taussaud’s wax museum collection. Grumpy Cat reportedly said, “It’s an honor. I hate it.” Below are a few of the most popular Grumpy Cat memes I found online.

When Ted and I were first married, I baked him a batch of his favorite cookies: chocolate chip. He saw me licking cookie dough off the mixer beater and, in a voice of disbelief, asked, “You eat the dough???” He couldn’t believe that raw cookie dough could possibly be good.

Today is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, so I baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies for Ted. Since the first time he tried a lick of cookie dough, it’s been a different story.

Let’s all have a chocolate chip cookie to celebrate!

Ted and I have selected a caterer for our 50th anniversary weekend. Before finalizing our menu choices, Karlyn, the caterer, wanted to provide us with a taste test. We asked when we could come to the market to do that, but she said she would bring everything to us. We expected her to bring a few bites each of the four meat entre├ęs we are interested in ordering (i.e., a taste test), so we were caught completely off-guard when she had to make two trips to her car to bring in all the (warm!) food.

Top>bottom, left>right: pasta don lite (at least 12-15 servings), BBQ pulled chicken (at least 8 servings), chicken spiedini, Swedish meatballs, twice-baked mashed potato casserole (8 servings), beef brisket marsala (8 servings), meatballs in marinara sauce, Italian pulled beef (8 servings), tuxedo cake and strawberry shortcake (only 4 servings–darn!), and honey-glazed ham in pineapple / cherry sauce (4 servings). Not in the picture: mixed veggie salad (10-15 servings), plates, and serving / eating utensils.

Everything was so-o-o-o good, we know we made the right choice when we picked Valenti’s Catering. After eating some of everything (1-2 bites of each item filled a dinner plate), we asked Karlyn a few questions and talked about final menu choices. Then we talked about Wisconsin. She’s from Waukesha (a Milwaukee suburb) and was thrilled to meet fellow Wisconsinites. It was fun to share memories of WI with each other.

After Karlyn left, Ted and I sat at the table and looked in awe at the sheer quantity of leftovers. We put aside enough food for three meals, and then I texted Kari to see if her family would like something for dinner tonight while Ted offered food to Jim, our neighbor, who is “batching” it while his wife recovers from surgery.

The leftovers fill two shelves of our refrigerator. The plastic containers are for us; the rest is waiting to be shared. That container of white stuff in the upper right is nearly a quart of WOW! dressing, plus Karlyn gave us an 8-oz. bottle of it.

Kids, if you’re reading this, we’re going to eat well on our party weekend!

Ted and I bought pretty good (not titanium) bicycles for ourselves in 2009. His was a retirement gift from his co-workers; mine was to provide him with a bike-riding partner. Since then, we have probably put on about 1,000-1,200 miles–not spectacular over ten years.

We decided that this is the year we will ride our bikes and stop feeling guilty about having expensive bikes sitting idle in the garage. Our deadline to start biking was May 1. Ted cleaned up the bikes and inflated the tires but, unfortunately, we’ve had rain nearly every day since May 1. Today–at last!–the weather was beautiful, so we rolled the bikes out of the garage, put on our helmets and took off. (In case you’re wondering, it’s true that you never forget how to ride a bike.) The minute we hit the street, I started thinking how much fun this was, and I decided it was a great idea to get back to biking.

We went about 0.2 miles and then disaster hit. My chain fell off the derailleur. We got it back on without a problem, but then my gearshift didn’t work. I bike-walked home (Ted rode) and we took my bike to the dealer where we bought it so someone more knowledgeable than us could check it out.

The man we spoke with thinks there might be something defective in one of the cables, so he said if we can leave it for two days, they will perform a full tune-up and get it working again. Then he got to the best part: this is free, even though the sign says “Annual tune-up $79.” Why? Because the records show that when we bought the bikes, we paid $30 extra for a lifetime of annual tune-ups. What a smart decision we made in 2009! It was immediately obvious that we needed to drive back home to get Ted’s bike so it could be tuned up as well.

While we were at the bike shop, we decided we need a more up-to-date bike carrier than our 1990s vintage model. The carrier we selected requires a hitch on the car, so we also purchased our first hitch ever. In two days, we’ll be set to ride the greenways that have been built all over the metro area in the past ten years. Woo-ee! The thrills keep coming!

We have cable for our family room TV, but still use a rooftop antenna for the kitchen TV. We watch very little TV, but we caved and subscribed to cable for the family room because we couldn’t always watch our favorite programs. Rainy and windy weather affected the signal strength, and we always seemed to lose the signal just when we were getting interested in the program.

Lately, we’ve had a lot of rainy weather but, even on calm, dry days, the local TV stations haven’t been coming in on the non-cable kitchen TV. Now we know why.

We had high winds one day last week, and we assume the winds toppled our antenna because today we noticed it resting comfortably on the roof. When we get it fixed or replaced on Friday (depending on its condition), we should get better reception on the kitchen TV again.

My college roommates and I are planning a get-together for Fall 2019. Our email exchanges have included contact information updates for some of us, mutually agreeable meeting dates, etc. In addition, each of us usually adds a line about what’s going on in our lives at the time. The current conversational thread is spring.

Eileen (Marquette, MI): The last bit of snow melted in our yard yesterday. Hurrah! Happy spring!

Me (St. Louis, MO): We live farther south than you, so have been mowing the lawn for over a month. Happy spring!

Leila (Madison, WI): As for the weather, …

Leila wins!

What a beautiful spring we’re having–lots of rain, and no late frosts. Everything is blooming so well, and the blooms are lasting a long time. Our lilac tree is in full bloom now and it smells absolutely delicious!

Yesterday, Kathy and I met in Columbia for one of our highly anticipated mom-daughter days. We usually mention changing up our long-established routine, but we like how we spend the day, so we end up following the same pattern every time: begin with a 2-4 hour lunch; wander around downtown Columbia, with a stop to purchase a few pieces of chocolate at the chocolatier; sit for 2-4 hours in the mall food court eating the chocolate; then end with a 1-3 hour dinner. We talk, talk, talk during the entire day. Our day together isn’t about what we do or where we go–it’s about the talking. We usually spend 11-12 hours together and, when our time is up and we have to leave for our 1.5-hour drives home, we always mention how we aren’t nearly finished talking yet.

Yesterday, we were expecting a cool, cloudy day with a chance of showers, but the skies cleared, the sun came out, and I’m sure the temperatures were in the mid-70s. It was beautiful for our walk around the downtown area. After all the rain we’ve been having, sunshine made the day even more fun.

Thom and Katie gave Kathy a Shakespeare’s Pizza gift card for Christmas. The card’s expiration date is “When the revolution begins.” Since there was no revolution in sight, Kathy decided this was a good day to use the card. Shakespeare’s irreverent attitude continues on the gift card holder.

Shakespeare’s is near the UM campus, but the crowd includes people of all ages, from cradle to (still-this-side-of-the) grave. The restaurant atmosphere is funky and fun, like the gift cards, and includes this impudent sign in the parking lot.

The impertinence continues inside the restaurant. For example, if you want to find the restrooms, just “follow the yellow brick road.” There is an actual, continuous yellow brick inlaid path on the floor from every room in the restaurant to the restrooms.

You might think of Shakespeare as highbrow, but the restaurant owner doesn’t.

As always, the day ended before Kathy and I were finished talking. After an uneventful drive home, the first thing I saw when I opened the door to the kitchen was a bouquet of roses from Ted.

Ted missed me. The card said “For all the good news this week,” referring to my cancer-free diagnosis and his sister’s remarkable recovery from a severe accident. What a nice homecoming. The roses are gorgeous in the bay window.

St. Louis is having a wet spring. One of the TV weathercasters said that, by the end of March, the area was an entire month ahead on rainfall for this year and April was wetter than usual. Now it’s May, and it’s still raining. Last week, we had more than 5.5 inches of rain at our house. The forecast for the coming week includes another 3-4 days of rain (depending on whose forecast you look at). Squish!

All that rain meant the water level in the pool got too high.

Ted is measuring for me. The water is only 1.5 inches below the top of the liner.
Here’s Ted, getting the hose connected to drain some water from the pool.
That’s better. The skimmer is exposed again and can get back to work cleaning the surface of the water.

We’re ready for the next batch of rain that will hopefully produce a more moderate amount of precipitation. At least in the Midwest, we don’t have a water shortage.

Six days ago, Ted’s sister, Mutzie, fell as she was entering her house after attending a luncheon for the city library volunteers. Her neighbor saw her lying unconscious on the patio and called 911.

Mutzie broke all the facial bones on the right side of her head and had a blood clot on her brain. The doctors said the blood clot was in the speech area of her brain, and it was unlikely that Mutzie would ever speak or understand speech again. Surgery was too dangerous in her condition, and her face was not grotesquely mutilated by the broken bones, so the doctors decided to let her heal on her own. A breathing tube was inserted, and she was admitted to the ICU. She was given nothing more than Tylenol for her pain, because the doctors wanted her to wake up, and pain killers would sedate her.

After three days of being unconscious, Mutzie’s liver began to fail, so the breathing tube was removed according to her wishes as expressed in her advanced medical directive. She was moved to the comfort care floor of the hospital for end-of-life care, the liquids that were nourishing her were discontinued, and she was given morphine to keep her comfortable. The family was told she would probably live only one or two more days.

Today, the sixth day after she fell and three days after being admitted to the comfort care floor, Mutzie woke up. Two of her church friends were in her room at the time. She greeted them, asked what time it was, looked at the clock, and said, “Oh, it’s 1:20.” When the family arrived at the hospital, she recognized all of them. She is cognizant and remembers falling, knows she is in the hospital, and is able to sit in the chair in her room. The medical staff reinstated IV liquids and is assessing her ability to swallow. If she can swallow, they will give her solid food. The new prognosis is that she will need some rehabilitation and will then be able to go home.

Miracles happen.

Ted and Mutzie, Oct. 2016

Last week, Dean, my favorite son-in-law, asked me if I had time for him to treat me to a birthday lunch. Talk about irony! Dean is the one who teases me about having a “birthday season,” and now he’s contributing to the concept! Of course I said “yes,” and we agreed to meet at Pizza Hut. We had a good lunch and a great time together. Since it’s nearly his birthday (May 3), I suggested that he have a birthday season as well, and that I treat him to lunch in a few weeks. I can see this as a twice-a-year opportunity for the two of us to spend some enjoyable one-on-one time with each other.

I still have one more birthday celebration coming this year. Kari gave me a gift certificate for a birthday lunch, so when she finishes the SCC semester, we’ll have to schedule that. I’m having a good run and lots of good times in my 2019 birthday season.

Here’s the site of my good time with Dean last week.