The concrete project is (almost) finished. During the five weeks of work and mess, Ted and I felt like we never had a chance to relax. We didn’t do anything to actually pour or finish the concrete, but there always seemed to be something to make a decision about, the noise level was high, and the mess was unexpectedly overwhelming.

The two of us decided to take a day off from work and hassle and do only pleasurable, relaxing things. We walk regularly around our neighborhood and know it well–even in the dark. We had some shopping to do on Historic Main Street in St. Charles, so we decided to walk a different route. Main Street is a mile long and runs parallel to the Missouri River. The Katy Trail runs through Frontier Park along the river, so we walked the two-mile loop down Main Street and along the river. It was a treat to look at less familiar things. Here are some things we don’t see on our regular route.

Daniel Boone greeted us when we got out of the car.

There’s a little waterfall on a creek that flows into the Missouri River.

A riverfront statue of Lewis and Clark commemorates their exploration of the Louisiana Purchase. They supplied their journey in St. Louis and set out on the Missouri River at St. Charles. It’s a big claim to fame for the city. (Lewis and Clark, not the statue.)

The Missouri River is running very low due to a lack of rain here and upstream. After raining all spring and summer, setting some records and keeping the river unusually high, the faucet turned off in August. At least we don’t have water shortages here.

There are lots of park benches along Main Street and at the riverfront. This one is dedicated to the founder and owner of the Noah’s Ark restaurant and hotel, a former iconic St. Charles landmark (inset). It was built in 1967 and demolished in November 2005 to make way for the Streets of St. Charles, a business, entertainment, and residential complex.

We’ve attended many events at the St. Charles bandstand. It’s situated at the St. Charles trailhead for the Katy Trail.

Our grandson, Dylan, has had some of his artwork displayed at the Foundry Art Center.

Main Street is a treasure trove of historic buildings. This is the Grand Opera House, which now serves as an event venue.

It was about 90 degrees this afternoon, and we were thirsty, so we stopped at Kilwin’s for a Coke (Ted) and a bottle of water (me) and sat on their bench to people-watch while we refreshed ourselves. They also have an outdoor patio in the back, but we were doing the Main Street part of the walk at this time. We resisted the ice cream and chocolates because we were more thirsty than hungry. Maybe next time we’ll be hungry too. Except for an occasional kid’s lemonade stand, we don’t get refreshments on our neighborhood walks. No streetside benches either.

Dylan recently got a job at the Bike Stop. This business serves as a Katy Trail biker’s stop. We noticed that they rent bicycles built for six like we saw at the bike store.

Instead of going for cardio as we usually do on our walks, Ted and I walked for pleasure. It was still two miles of exercise, but it was a lovely day and a relaxing walk. We decided to do it again soon and to maybe look for other interesting walks, just as we look for a variety of bike trails. Best of all, there was no concrete work going on outside our door and all the mess at home is cleaned up. Yes, a lovely day.

Why, oh why do women’s pants have pockets too small to carry a cell phone (it falls out of the pocket if I bend over, and the back pockets aren’t any deeper), . . .

but women’s pajamas have three pockets–one on the top and two in the pants–large enough for a cell phone or even an 8-inch tablet?

What do I need to put in a pocket to keep me uncomfortable all night while I sleep?

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.

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, . . . .

luxury–noun; (1) the state of great comfort and extravagant living; (2) hot tub.

Definitely (2) hot tub.

Oh, happy day! It’s definitely spring. Temperatures are in the 60s and Ted and I saw tulips along our walking route.

Ted made a trip to the hardware store this afternoon and he also made an unscheduled stop to buy me his traditional spring gift. He knows how much I love spring. There are six yellow tulip buds in the pot and I’m looking forward to every one of them.

Is it any wonder I keep hanging out with this guy?

Each of us has our own individual skill set. Is it common for people to wish they had different skills, or is it just me? I wish I had more creative skills. For example, I’m an excellent technical writer and can easily write a one-sentence summary of nearly anything, but I wish I could write a creative story. I played first chair clarinet in my high school band and I later took piano lessons, but I wish I could play more musically rather than note-by-note. I can make changes to just about anything changeable to meet the need, but I wish I could come up with the original idea.

I never recognized many of the skills I have until I became an adult and realized that I can effortlessly do some things that other people struggle with. From across a room, I can spot a crooked picture hanging on the wall. Once I took a level to a picture that Ted thought was straight and showed him that it was off by 1/8 inch. I’m very spatial as well. I can eye up a room and tell you whether or not a given item will fit in the space available. When my GED classroom site was moving, I worked with the campus facilities director to move the furniture and set up the classroom in the new space. After looking around the room, I told her where I needed to have things placed. The director later told me she was amazed that everything fit on the first try. On a smaller scale, I can look at a pile of stuff and stack it in the most efficient way in the least amount of space in no time at all. Once, when we had overnight guests, I decided to leave the dishes until later. One of the guests commented that she’d never seen that many dishes in such a small pile. I’m also excellent at organizing things. It’s no problem for me to examine a task and decide what should be done first and what will be needed to do it.

So what’s my problem? My discontent is that these don’t seem like skills to me and, even if they are, they’re dull and boring.

Today I was reading LaVyrle Spencer’s book, Years, and recognized another skill of mine. The characters in the book are dealing with the aftermath of a terrible blizzard in North Dakota in the 1910s. Two family members are missing and a search party goes to work in the dark. When they return to the house in the early morning, we learn that “It was clear Nissa hadn’t slept at all. It was equally clear that she was one of those who functions well under stress, whose thought processes clarify in direct proportion to the necessity for clear thinking.” That is so me! I tend to get frustrated by little annoyances, but in a crisis, I’m probably the person you want. If it’s an emergency or a big deal of any kind, my mind clears, a calmness comes over me, and I can see exactly what needs to happen and who I should direct to do what.

As I read about Nissa, I thought, “That’s actually a great skill to have.” I probably just need to recognize how my boring skills are practical and generally make my life easier. And yet, I can’t help wishing . . . .

It’s been over a year since our Pilates classes were cancelled due to the community college closing at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. That was our first sign that COVID was getting too close to us for comfort. Ted and I have been very careful to avoid becoming infected by this awful virus. We started wearing masks as soon as the CDC recommended that practice for prevention; we have practiced social distancing; and our hands are the cleanest they’ve ever been. We have a very small social bubble, and we get a little bit excited if we need to cross the line into St. Louis County for something–about 10 miles away.

The National Weather Service recognizes March 1 as the first day of meteorological spring. Therefore, spring has sprung! The sun is shining, and Ted and I just felt like we wanted to go out for lunch to celebrate. We haven’t eaten in a restaurant since March 16 last year–the day before the total lockdown started. (I had a lunch and a dinner coupon for free birthday meals and I didn’t want to waste them.) We ordered a take-out pizza once last summer, but the ambience of eating it in the car just didn’t measure up to sitting in the restaurant. I like to cook, so I’ve actually enjoyed preparing meals at home, but still, . . . . Did I say it’s been a year???

We decided that we’d celebrate the first day of spring by making something for lunch that we would have ordered in a restaurant. We (used to) like the grilled cheese sandwiches at Panera, so we made grilled cheese and French fries. Instead of our usual milk as a beverage, we blew our healthy diet and had Pepsi. To change things up a little, we decided to eat somewhere different from the kitchen table. It was only 52 degrees outside, so we chose the basement as our setting–someplace different than we’re accustomed to. We named our casual restaurant Unser Haus.

It wasn’t crowded, so social distancing was easy.

There were people chatting at the bar, so there was a little crowd noise.

We were seated in a booth, and the food was good.

Best of all, it’s the kind of restaurant that provides a chocolate after the meal.

Yes, it was a self-serve restaurant, but it was fun to do something different.

Beach towels are nice for the beach (or pool) in the summer, but Ted and I have found ours to be kind of flimsy for drying off when we get out of the hot tub in cold weather. We went shopping for some nice big bath sheets with a little more substance to them than a beach towel from Target.

I was reading the tags as I removed them from the towels and it made me wonder if I should be concerned about washing the towels.

If three washings will make these towels “bloom” that much, how long will they keep blooming and how thick will they get? Will they become so absorbent that they just attract the water and remove it from our skin? I guess these are questions we’ll answer in the coming months.

A few weeks ago, while Ted and I were doing some Christmas shopping, we saw this seasonally decorated vehicle at Best Buy–wreaths (one on each side), elves on the top and over the spare tire, window decorations, and some kind of stick-on lights all over the vehicle. Let the Christmas season begin!

After dinner tonight, we thought it would be fun to drive our neighborhood bike route to look at the holiday decorations at night. It was a pretty way to spend some time. Most houses had a modest to medium display of lights, but some folks went all out.

This scene includes a lake for the blow-up penguins standing beside it.

Luckily, this house is on a corner, so they could decorate two sides for public viewing.

These folks also did a good job of covering the front yard with lights.

This is one unit of an apartment building. They don’t have much space for lawn decorations, but they put as many lighted objects as possible in their limited area. They might win for most objects per square foot of space.

Without question, Ted and I voted this house the winner. Our guess is that it took two people four or five days to set up this display. They didn’t stop with outlining the entire structure of their house, stringing lights in most of a mature tree, and filling the front yard; they also completely decorated their backyard storage shed (visible in the center left) and everything else (swing set, fence, etc.) in the back yard. The lighted arches over the driveway don’t show very well with all the other lights competing for attention, but if you look closely, you can see them over the car in the driveway. Compare to Clark Griswold’s house in Christmas Vacation.

In contrast, Ted and I have a simpler holiday light display. Including some lights on the pool fence, it took me a little more than an hour. Merry Christmas!

I had my eyes examined in October and ordered new glasses and new contacts. The glasses and a year’s supply of contacts for my left eye arrived in less than a week. I’m still waiting for the contacts for my right eye.

If purchased between October 1 and December 1, my contacts include a $200 rebate, but I have to submit a photo of the boxed contacts with the UPC visible and readable. December 1 is not far away and I’m still waiting for half my boxes so I can take the required picture. I’ve been calling my eye doctor every few days to see if they have good news for me, and I finally got an answer yesterday.

The office manager talked to a live person at the source and learned that, due to COVID and widespread mask-wearing, large numbers of people who have never worn, or even considered, contact lenses now want to wear them. As a result, contact lens production is running about six weeks behind former delivery parameters. My contacts might arrive around December 13. The office manager said the company representative for their office has promised to make sure that customers get their $200 rebate, even with the delayed delivery time. Trial packages of contacts, however, are available, so the office manager ordered a month’s worth of trials (complimentary) for me. They should arrive in four days. We’ll see. (Pun.)

Masked man with steamed-up glasses who recently ordered contacts

On a related subject, I went to Target yesterday and involuntarily let out a whispered “Oh, no, not again!” when I saw the toilet paper shelves.

I recently read a report describing “super agers” and found it very interesting. Several years ago, a Harvard study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital examined people in their 70s and 80s with the physical or mental capacity of their decades-younger counterparts.

Physically, as people age, their oxygen intake typically decreases by approximately 10 percent every decade after the 30s. Super agers in their 80s, however, who exercise at a high intensity 20-40 minutes per day 3-5 days per week have the aerobic capacity of people 30 years younger. The long-term effect of exercise depends on the intensity, duration, and regularity of the activity. A measure of high intensity exercise is that you can’t talk easily while you are exercising.

Mentally, those who practice intense mental activity have better-preserved areas of the brain that involve memory and reasoning. Super agers tend to move out of their comfort zones to gain new areas of cognitive expertise. They are also willing to endure discomfort (e.g., embarrassment or physical discomfort) to master a new skill. An informal measure of mental age is the answer to the question “Could you do the job you did 30 years ago at the same level?”

A surprising finding about super agers is that, after they reach 105 years of age, their death rate actually decreases. They still die, of course, but at a slower rate than people younger than themselves.

At least five years ago, Sixty Minutes reported on the over-90 population living in Sun City, AZ, a 55+ community. The interviewees were all very active individuals who danced, swam, power-walked, joined clubs, etc. After seeing that report, I made it my goal to be a power-walker in my 90s.

Change this to power walking and it could be me in the 2040s.

At this point, Ted and I have the qualities of super agers. We are both physically and mentally active; we both read constantly for pleasure and for learning; we’re not afraid to try new things (although Ted passed on the purple poi dinner rolls in Hawai’i); we exercise, on average, more than an hour every day (although we’re sometimes active for several hours on a single day and do nothing aerobic on another day); and we both believe we could do our previous jobs as effectively as we did 30 years ago. We know we’d have to catch up on new developments in our fields, but as super agers, we aren’t afraid of the challenge to learn new things. Will we go back to work? Hahahahaha! (But we could.)

Do we qualify as super agers? We’ll let you know when we hit 105.

Today I saw this meme that referenced Kamala Harris as the United States Vice President-elect. It was followed by the statement “All it takes is one woman to crack open the door, and the crowd behind her can come barging through.” (Nancy Armour, USA Today) Of course, other countries have had women heads of state for many years, but the United States is still largely a patriarchy.

My daughters and their peers might not realize how far women have come in the past 50-60 years, but I’ve seen a lot of change in attitudes toward women in my lifetime.

My elementary school had three classrooms and three teachers–one man and two women. Of course, the man was the principal. Good for our school board, though. When the man retired, they hired another woman and selected the senior woman teacher to be the principal. When the single woman teacher got married, she was allowed to keep teaching, but when she became pregnant, she had to resign. It was considered inappropriate for young children to have a pregnant teacher, even though we saw our pregnant moms at home.

When I was in high school, the “obvious” career choices for women were secretary, airline stewardess, or teacher. Of course, when you got married, you would probably quit your job to raise your family. I didn’t want to be a secretary and I wasn’t pretty enough to be an airline stewardess. At that time, you had to be a single female, look like Barbie, and not wear glasses. Very sexist by today’s standards. I’ve always loved school, so I probably would have chosen an educational path anyway, no matter how many choices I had, but my college roommate was one of a very few women in the School of Business at UW-Madison.

When I was in college, women were allowed to wear pants to classes. After all, it was a huge campus with 15-minute walks between classes, and it was Wisconsin in the winter before global warming was noticeable. For dinner, however, we were required to wear skirts. I’m proud to say I was part of the protest movement in my dorm to allow pants for dinner attire. We won. Another college memory of mine is avoiding construction sites (there was always a new building going up on campus) because it was uncomfortable for me to have to walk by and ignore the comments and wolf whistles from construction workers. It wasn’t flattering then, and it’s sexual harassment now.

When I got married, I was not allowed to get a credit card in my name. Ted and I still use the VISA card we took out when we got married because it has no annual fees. One card has my name on it, but the account is in Ted’s name and the card number is the same on both cards. I now have an additional credit card in my own name–something I qualified for many years later.

When Ted and I bought a house, the utilities had to be in Ted’s name because a woman could not be the head of the household and only the head of the household (i.e., the man) could be counted on to be financially responsible. We haven’t moved in 41 years, so our utilities are still in Ted’s name but it’s not worth changing. I simply pay the bills out of our joint checking account.

Like millions of women around the world, I’m still waiting to be judged first for qualities other than my gender. I think Joe Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris as his running mate and the vote to elect Joe and Kamala as President and Vice President has been a big step toward equality for women in the United States. Let’s see how far it goes.

Ted and I decided to vote by absentee ballot this year because we think there will be very long lines at the polls on November 3. The line was a lot longer than usual for the 2018 midterms when I counted 75 people ahead of us, and there are always long lines for Presidential elections. Maybe especially for this Presidential election. Besides, the weather could be crummy in November, so who wants to stand outside if they don’t have to?

We’ve never voted absentee or by mail before, but the process was very simple. We filled out our absentee ballot request online and then headed for the Election Authority office just a short distance from our house, where we received our ballots and cast them immediately. As it turned out, if we were appearing in person with a photo ID, we could pick up our ballots and vote without the application. Oh, well. It’s better to be prepared, right?

The roads near the Election Authority office were clearly marked with “Election Authority Office” signs at each corner along the way, but we already knew where it was–next door to where my SCC program used to provide a GED classroom site.

Our first surprise was the number of campaign signs posted along the road and around the parking lot. The signs added a colorful and–dare I say?–decorative touch to a dreary day and a blah parking lot. I didn’t read any of them because I already knew who I was voting for. Does anyone decide how they will vote when they arrive at the polling place parking lot and see those signs? “Oh, I was going to vote for Donald Duck, but the Mickey Mouse sign at least 25 feet from the polling place door caught my attention and changed my mind.”

Our second surprise was the steady stream of cars coming and going and filling the parking spaces. When we left, there were at least as many cars in the parking lot and at least as many people in the room as when we arrived. If there’s a steady stream of voters like this–a rainy Tuesday afternoon–every day, a lot of people are voting early. Maybe the polling place lines won’t be so long on November 3 after all.

Curbside voting was available for those who requested that their ballots be mailed to them in advance. For awhile, there was a long line of cars at the curbside, but not when I took this picture.

When we entered the building, the number-caller shouted “5!” These were our numbers. There were seven election judges working, so it took us less than 30 minutes to get our ballots and to cast our votes. We didn’t really keep track of the time, so that’s a guess, but the line kept moving. I asked the number-caller if she goes home hoarse at the end of the day and she said, “We all do.”

Here’s a partial view of the crowd. There were people (including us) standing along two walls, people seated, and people voting at the tables with the red and white and the black divider screens (right center) and at tables in a large room behind the staircase. We even saw someone we knew–Ed, from the bike shop where we bought our bikes and where we keep finding new bike gear to buy. Ed told me once he has five bicycles and uses them all for different kinds of biking. He’s retired so he works part-time for the Election Authority and part-time at the bike shop. Today, he was answering questions on the floor and directing human traffic in the room.

In less time than we stood in line in 2018, we had fulfilled our civic duty.

Kari generously shares the fruits of her garden with us, usually in one of her produce bags. She said she bought the bags at the grocery store and uses them when she buys produce, rather than putting it in a store-provided plastic bag. I thought it would be great to have bags of my own, but I couldn’t find them at the grocery stores. Enter online shopping. The bags just arrived and I’m a happy customer.

Picture it: It’s the Fourth of July, but Ted and I have no plans to do more than watch the neighborhood fireworks (legal in our jurisdiction). So dull. With fireworks being launched in the streets throughout the nearby subdivisions, taking a walk or a bike ride was out of the question. We’d spend far too much time waiting for a launch before we could pass and dodging falling bottle rockets, etc.

By 5:30 p.m., I was going crazy and wanted to do something. Aha! Brainstorm! I suggested to Ted that we load up our bikes and head for the Katy Trail. I listed reasons this would be a good idea: (1) We’d get out of our yard and the subdivision; (2) it was still several hours until sunset; (3) the trail would probably be deserted because everyone else had most likely already gone home for dinner and fireworks; and (4) the trail is not near subdivisions, so we wouldn’t have to listen to or dodge popping fireworks while we rode.

Ted was an easy sell for the idea. It took us very little time to put on shoes, fill some water bottles, and load the bikes on the car. We headed for the MO Research Park access point to the Katy Trail and found fewer than a half dozen cars in the parking lot. Yes! The last time we biked the Katy was the last beautiful day of October, and every trail was packed.

Everything we hoped for came true: the trail was beautiful, quiet, and deserted. The plan was to bike 20 miles, but we stopped at 18 because just past our nine-mile point, MO Hwy 94 crosses the Katy, and we had less than a mile to go to reach our ten-mile turnaround. After more than an hour-and-a-half of biking, we were filled with endorphins and looking forward to dinner.

We arrived at home around 8:00 p.m. and the locals were already launching their fireworks, even though the sun hadn’t yet set.

Here’s a closer look at our neighbor across the street–Will and Karen. Check out the table beside the driveway. It’s well-stocked with fireworks.

At 8:00 p.m., after biking 18 miles and with the sun still shining, Ted and I were more interested in dinner than fireworks. We cleaned the trail dust off our bikes and put together a quick meal. By the time we finished, the fireworks pops and bangs were so frequent, we decided to go outside to take a look at what was going on. This was not the usual neighborhood fireworks celebration. After standing in awe for about 15 minutes, we pulled up some lawn chairs and watched the show for two hours. It finally wound down after 10:30, and silence reigned by midnight.

From our driveway, with a 180-degree range of vision (the house was behind us), we could see at least ten sites where people were constantly launching fireworks, plus other occasional shots, where the residents had a smaller budget for the event. In our immediate neighborhood, four houses were providing a display for us. The orange arrow is our house; the four green arrows are the active neighbors’ sites. The side street at our house was also parked full of cars.

I can’t imagine how many thousands of dollars went up in smoke within our sight distance alone. There was no such thing as hearing an individual bang for those two hours–the noise was constant, differentiated only by louder bangs for bigger fireworks. Litter and ash fell from the sky and landed on us as we watched. Normally, there are some nice, big fireworks in the neighborhood shows but, as Kari said, you could tell that everyone was at home this year. I think folks spent their unusable travel budgets on fireworks, because there was one big explosion of color after another.

Ted and I have traveled frequently over the Fourth of July holiday because I always had the day off from work. We’ve seen fireworks in many major U.S. cities (Washington, D.C., San Francisco, New Orleans, others), as well as overseas for Bastille Day and Swiss National Day, but none of those places offered a two-hour show with a sky full of color everywhere we looked. This was definitely among the best fireworks displays we’ve ever seen, and Will and Karen might have had the best display in the subdivision–about 150 feet away from our VIP driveway seating. The fireworks in the photos below were launched by Will and Karen. They had two launching sites, so something was always going off, and it was obviously choreographed to present different types of explosions in pleasing series. Will told me they made some notes to improve it next year.

There was no wind, so smoke lingered.

In the morning, even though we hadn’t purchased or launched any fireworks, Ted and I had a clean-up job to do. Our lawn, concrete, and pool were littered with debris. The litter was mostly cardboard-like pieces and doesn’t show well in the picture below, but I don’t think there was a square foot without litter. It looks very bio-degradable, so will probably decompose quickly, but we needed to sweep and use the leaf-blower to clear the concrete and the outdoor furniture. I hosed off the furniture and the concrete to remove the ash. Ted vacuumed the pool twice, but neither of us could keep ahead of the debris. We assumed there was litter in the trees that kept falling on our (we thought) cleaned-up areas.

If Will and Karen’s show is going to be even better next year, you might want to join us July 4, 2021.

Ted and I were running some errands (an excuse to get out of home quarantine) and I was driving on I-64 when a white car put itself right on my tail. I mentioned (sarcastically) to Ted that “I wish she’d get a little closer to me.” When we reached our exit, I moved into the exit lane–and so did the white car, still on my tail. I signaled for a right turn onto the cross street, slowed to look for traffic before merging, noticed the light had just changed and I’d have to wait for a break in the traffic, and came to a stop–and so did the white car, when she hit my car.

We both pulled into a parking lot around the corner. We had no injuries and both cars were still drivable, so that’s good. The 20-something driver, however, went into hysterical crying and said this was her first accident. She asked me what the upcoming process would be like. I told her and spent some time calming her down before I thought she’d be safe to re-enter traffic. Her car has the right front corner bashed in, so I assume she made a last-ditch effort to swerve to the left to avoid hitting me, but she had been following me too closely to avoid the accident.

All will be well–in time. Although auto insurance companies are giving refunds to customers because of reduced driving and accident rates during the lockdown, I couldn’t get an appointment for an estimate at the body shop until July 8, ten days after I called. Then I’ll find out how bad my damage is. A previous rear-end collision on my car cost more than $8,000 to repair. There was more damage that time, but the spike in cost was due to the fact that my electronic hardtop convertible top drops into the trunk where there are 32 sensors to guide the action. My parking assist sensor and rear-view camera were both damaged this time and the bumper, trunk cover, tailpipe, and driver’s side rear panel are all visibly out of alignment. I don’t know if any of the convertible top sensors are damaged now, because the hot weather hasn’t tempted me to put the top down since the accident and I don’t want to experiment, in case it goes partially down, then won’t come back up.

Update coming after July 8. Adventures happen, even in COVID times.

Today, Ted and I celebrated our 51st wedding anniversary. Last year, we celebrated with all of our children and grandchildren. This year, the celebration was more subdued.

We spent some time looking at our wedding album and enjoying the memories.

Our wedding cake was sour cream chocolate because neither of us likes white cake, the traditional wedding flavor.

Our first dance was awkward. We had never danced together before the wedding, and Ted didn’t know how to lead. We’re better dancers now.

According to one of the four local newspapers that reported our wedding, I was a “Hingham girl” whom Ted “claimed.”

We had a star-studded guest list according to the guest sign-ins.

We started our anniversary celebration by buying a hot tub yesterday afternoon. Picture it here in 2-3 months, after the manufacturer catches up on production. The tree needs to disappear.

This afternoon, we rolled last year’s anniversary gift–our e-bikes–out of the garage and took a 12-mile bike ride in the beautiful weather. We’ve ridden over 300 miles so far this spring. (Plus the 365 miles we rode last year.) After the ride, we needed a dip in the pool to cool down.

And, of course, we burned our anniversary candle. It’s an annual reminder of all the wonderful things we’ve shared since our wedding day.

In 1992, the United States Postal Service offered Americans the opportunity to vote for the Elvis picture they preferred to see on a new commemorative stamp: “young Elvis” at the age of 19-20, or “old Elvis” as a Las Vegas entertainer. The voters chose “young Elvis” and the stamp was issued January 1, 1993 at Graceland with Priscilla Presley on hand for the unveiling. According to the National Postal Museum, this is the most popular commemorative stamp ever issued.

Another commemorative Elvis stamp was issued in August 2019 as the “Forever Elvis Collection.”

Guess who bought a set. The sheet of stamps is double-sided and printed to look like a 45 rpm record jacket. The front of the sheet represents the album cover and you can see the top of the “record” sticking out above the stamps on the back side of the sheet .

The King lives. And so does the King impersonator. Awhile back, Kari re-texted me this photo of her when she dressed as Elvis for a private party at the skating rink. Maybe someday we’ll see this picture on a stamp.

The article that accompanied this picture reminded readers that lots of people rent their houses to vacationers. It was suggested to readers that, with the contagion threat of COVID-19, people who are hesitant to travel long distances or to stay at resorts might be willing to drive twenty minutes to swim for an hour in your pool. The CDC has stated that the threat of spreading COVID-19 is very low in a properly maintained swimming pool. The news article reminds homeowners that, between guest groups, it will be necessary to clean surfaces like deck chairs, railings, and ladders, as well as any pool toys provided by the owner. It’s also important to verify whether or not your homeowners’ insurance will cover liability for paying guests.

What do you think? Shall we put our pool on the rental market?

Maybe not.

I have always loved to read, and buying books is my guilty pleasure (a figure of speech because it doesn’t make me feel guilty). When I was a child, I saved my meager allowance money to buy books. I still have more than 30 of those childhood purchases–The Bobbsey Twins, Cherry Ames, Trixie Belden, and (my favorite) more–because of course, you never throw books away. (Except once. I had such an awful professor in one of my graduate literature classes that I wanted nothing to remind me of him, so I threw away the books I’d bought for his class. I mentioned that to one of the kids and the message was quickly relayed to the others: “Mom threw out books!”)

The blue book that says “Children’s Classics” is Little Women.

I re-read books–some of them more times than I can count. I still re-read my children’s classics every few years–Little House on the Prairie, Heidi, Little Women–and I still enjoy them. My inventory says I have somewhere around 1,700 books and I keep buying more. Over the past few months, I decided it’s time to cull the herd. Instead of choosing my favorites to read repeatedly, I vowed to choose books I rarely–if ever–select to re-read. If the premise was that all saved books were worth re-reading, I better do it for a change, right? Well, I might have enjoyed them at the time but years later, some of them have become less interesting. I’ve been donating those to Goodwill (because you never throw away books) and last week, James Michener’s The Source became the 164th book I put into the Goodwill box. It showed me how books have changed.

I didn’t have much extra money in college, so I bought thick paperbacks. They were inexpensive and took longer to read than thin books, so my money lasted longer. That spoiled my taste for quick reads and made it essential for my books to have a good plot and strong character development. The Source, like all of Michener’s books, has those qualities. Michener wrote The Source in 1965, it’s 1,088 pages long in paperback, and it only cost $1.65! Those were the days. That one took a long time to read, but I’m not going to do it again. It’s time for someone else to enjoy it.

Today, my gas gauge told me I have a range of 47 miles. It was time to fill the tank. With the COVID-19 lockdowns, I haven’t driven very much, and my last fill-up was on March 9. I don’t think I’ve ever gone that long without refilling my gas tank.

I made a grocery run today–wearing my face mask, of course, and by myself because only one household member is allowed in the grocery stores. When I entered the first aisle, I thought I was back in January.

The entire store looked like this with mostly full shelves–except the aisle with toilet paper, hand sanitizers, soap, Lysol, and bleach. I think the hoarders must have their cupboards full. The latest shortage is yeast. A store employee told me they haven’t had any for a week, but are expecting some this weekend. Will I be a lucky shopper who finds yeast?

Ted and I are retired and have no need to conduct business via Zoom or other platforms, but I’ve marked the Video Chat Bingo squares representing home-based workers we’ve seen on TV. To be honest, we did not see the pantsless spouse–we exceeded that. Trevor Noah’s Daily [Social Distancing] Show shared a moment of Zen that featured a female California news reporter.

Melinda Meza, a correspondent for KCRA 3 in Sacramento was filing a live report from her bathroom, demonstrating how to give yourself a DIY lockdown haircut. She could be seen cutting her own hair while her naked husband was in the glass-doored shower and clearly visible in the mirror behind her.

Do you think the shipping community is running out of small boxes? FedEx left this box at our door. The box is a 13-inch cube, so it has 1,728 cubic inches of space inside.

This is what was inside the box–two small boxes that were 4 x 3 x 3 inches each for a total of 72 cubic inches. No filler material included. I hope we didn’t have to pay shipping for the extra 1,656 cubic inches of air inside.

Speaking of misleading health information, Barbara Delinsky has a gem in her book Sweet Salt Air. A woman in the story asks an overworked man, “When do you sleep?”

“When I’m tired,” he replies.

“Studies show that the less sleep you get, the greater your chance of stroke,” she warns.

“Studies get it backward,” he counters. “Insomnia is caused by stress, which causes high blood pressure, which causes stroke. I’m not stressed.”

This is another example of health information that “everyone knows,” but it’s not completely accurate. Even though a large percentage of people who have strokes might also have insomnia, the relationship between the two conditions is a correlation, not a cause-and-effect finding. The same is true of the studies that report people with more education have more migraine headaches. Education does not cause migraines, but it can provide a pathway to more stressful jobs, and stress causes migraines.

One of my great and useful take-aways from grad school was learning to be aware of the difference between correlation and cause-and-effect. All that tuition money wasn’t wasted.

So you think working for the federal government is boring? Ted saw an article in titled “The 9 Coolest Federal Government Jobs.” The author states that there are federal employees around the world doing work that “would put the most fascinating private sector jobs to shame.” He lists the following coolest federal government positions.

Park Ranger (National Park Service) Locate your office in Yosemite National Park, the Appalachian Trail, or Independence Hall and choose from firefighting, security, search and rescue, etc.

Aerospace Engineer (NASA) Research, design, and test systems that go into spacecraft.

Foreign Service Officer (Department of State) Represent the U.S. in Nassau, the Bahamas, or other unique locales.

Archivist (Smithsonian Institute) Collect, care for, and organize historic artifacts, photographs, documents, etc.

FBI Agent (Federal Bureau of Investigation) Investigate, prevent, and put an end to illegal activity to uphold the Constitution and protect the American public.

Meteorologist (National Weather Service) Forecast weather, collect data, and work with natural disasters, climate change, and saving lives while studying the complex inner workings of Earth’s atmosphere.

Pararescue Airman (USAF) Make dramatic rescues in a variety of unique scenarios such as evacuating sinking planes or retrieving astronauts after a water landing.

Fish and Wildlife Biologist (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) Protect and manage native animals, especially those that are endangered or threatened.

Securities Compliance Examiner (SEC) Keep Bernie Madoffs and Enrons from undermining the U.S. financial system through interviews and investigations to prevent fraudulent activities.

Ted and I usually record Jeopardy! so we can watch it at the end of the day. Fast forwarding the ads also brings the show down to about 13 minutes instead of half an hour. One day, there was a category called “Websites” and this clue came up.

Answer: What is a blog? I knew the answer (question?) immediately because is the blog format I use.

Many dates can be palindromes, but they usually have seven or fewer digits, such as 1-10-2011 or 9-10-19. Today, however, is a rare eight-digit, international palindrome date. Whether you write it month/day/year like we do in the U.S. or day/month/year as many other countries do, it is still a palindrome. The last time this happened was more than 900 years ago on 11-11-1111 and the next time it will happen will be 12-12-2121, 101 years from now. After that, we’ll have to wait 1,919 years for 03-03-3030.

Enjoy it while it lasts.

Ted and I will be celebrating Christmas near Brisbane, Australia this year so we had to finish our holiday preparations early. We have gifts purchased, wrapped, and ready to ship. The shopping bags will be hand-delivered to Kari’s house.

We hung a few holiday lights outside so the house will look “lived in” while we’re away. Kari will unplug them after New Year’s for us. That should really make it look like someone’s home, right? Note: It took me about 30 minutes to unpack, unravel, and hang these lights. Whew!

The Christmas cards and letters are ready to mail just before we leave town.

And the indoor decorating is finished. We weren’t planning to do any indoor decorating because we’ll only be able to enjoy it for a few days, and the Christmas look will be totally out of season by the time we return. However, . . . I found a cute Lego minifigure holiday set and couldn’t resist it. After I bought it, I had to build it. After I built it, I wanted to set it out and enjoy it. So . . . we have some indoor holiday decorations after all. Isn’t it cute?

Now, to give some perspective to the five minutes I spent decorating with Lego, here’s an overview of our holiday decorating this year. Can you see Santa and his sign in front of the TV?

Merry Christmas to all–wherever you celebrate.

In my recent reading, I came across photos of an unusual and captivating pedestrian bridge. It is near Da Nang, Vietnam and is called the Golden Bridge. The nearly 500-foot golden walkway rises above the trees, and seems to be held in two giant concrete hands called the “hands of gods.” The bridge loops nearly back on itself and creates a feeling of being guided along by a giant stone god.

A unique Hard Rock Hotel recently opened in Hollywood, FL. It is shaped like an acoustic guitar and can be seen from the air when taking off or landing at the Ft. Lauderdale airport. The door handles in the hotel are shaped like–what else?–electric guitars. The Oasis wing of the hotel includes swim-up suites.

The Noah’s Ark restaurant and hotel, a former St. Charles, MO landmark, was similarly unique. It was shaped like an ark with a white-haired “Noah” and animals on the ship’s deck / roof, and elephant-head doorknobs with the trunk forming the handle. Noah’s Ark was modest compared to what Hard Rock has done, but maybe Hard Rock got the idea from Noah’s Ark.

I think Ted is beginning to understand why I enjoy having a “birthday season” each year. Earlier this week, he suggested that we go to Bentley’s at the Lake of the Ozarks for his traditional birthday dinner on Friday night. Since this was seven weeks ahead of his December 20 birthday, he seemed to feel he had to justify it. (Why? I don’t justify my birthday season–I revel in it!) He pointed out that the trees are turning color; the weather forecast for Friday was for clear, sunny skies; we’d be out of the country on his birthday; and Bentley’s closes for the month of January–meaning he’d have to wait almost until my March birthday dinner at Bentley’s to have his December birthday dinner.

I didn’t need convincing, so we drove to the Lake in the sunshine, admired the colorful trees along the way, and had a delicious dinner. Happy birthday, Ted–and may you have as happy a birthday season as I always do.

Our window-side table view of the sunset over the Lake of the Ozarks.

Ted and I want to take a St. Louis-themed hostess gift to our Australian friends when we visit them in January 2020. Of course, the iconic symbol of St. Louis is the Gateway Arch, and the Gateway Arch gift shop has the best selection of model arches, so we spent the afternoon exploring the new visitors’ center.

The Gateway Arch underwent a five-year makeover from 2013-2018 at a cost of $380 million. The tram and parts of the visitors’ center were open during construction and could be accessed by temporary paths bordered by plywood walls. The entire facility re-opened on July 3, 2018. Over 100 acres of the grounds were updated and now include more access paths to the Arch; a viewing platform overlooking the Arch grounds and the Mississippi River was added; and a land bridge was built over I-44 to provide safer pedestrian access to the Arch from the downtown area. The makeover also added 46,000 additional square feet of space for the visitors’ center, including a major expansion and update of the Arch museum. The Gateway Arch was upgraded from a National Memorial to a National Park in 2018. Woo-ee! Ted and I have not been to the Arch since the work was completed, so we explored it today.

We approached the Arch from the north, which gave us the opportunity to check out the Arch and the river from the new viewing platform.
From the viewing platform, we could see the Eads Bridge, a National Historic Landmark.* We could also see how unusually high the Mississippi River is for this time of year. There’s a parking lot beside the visible street all along the downtown riverfront, but it’s entirely under water now.

*The Eads Bridge was a construction marvel when it opened in 1874. It was the first bridge to cross the Mississippi River south of the Missouri River; its central arch was the longest rigid span ever built (520 feet); it had the deepest underwater foundations of any bridge in the world (100 feet below the water surface); and it was the first large-scale application of steel as a structural material.

All of the park grounds had a makeover. It’s a pretty park with lots of shade for the summer.
From the viewing platform, we approached the visitors’ center from behind. It’s underneath the Arch (not visible here) beneath the grassy hill in the photo foreground.
Here’s the visitors’ center from the front. Seating is abundant–maybe not for the summer crowds, but there’s lots of grass to sit on when the benches are full. There’s also a walkway that goes around and over the visitor’s center, with nice views of the river and the city skyline. Check out that good-looking guy on the bench.
Getting into the Arch is now just like passing through airport security except we could keep our shoes on–no belts or jackets, empty pockets, all electronics in the bin, etc. It’s not the heavy tourist season, but we had to weave back and forth six times to get through the line. Our goal is the far background of the photo.
The inside view from the lobby windows nicely frames the Old Courthouse–the site of the Dred Scott decision in 1857.
The terrazzo floor of the mezzanine is covered with a map of the United States, showing major rivers (blue lines) and the westward exploration trails (dotted lines) that began in St. Louis (yellow circle) and literally made the city the “Gateway to the West.” The map is the mezzanine floor so, yes, you can walk on it.
Before leaving, I took a picture of the Poplar Street Bridge, which has a flood gauge (white painted rectangle) on one of its piles. The bottom of the white rectangle is flood level. Notice how close the river is to flood level this year, when it’s usually very low in fall and winter.
I found this picture of the Arch visitors’ center online. Isn’t it pretty from above?

It was fun to spend a sunny fall day exploring the “new” Gateway Arch, and yes, we found a model Arch to take to our Australian friends.

It was a dark and rainy night. . . . Ted and I went out for dinner and this is what we saw at the table beside ours.

Who would have an umbrella like this? Why, a lady with flowered pink pants and a pink band on her hat, of course.

The flamingo turned around. I think it’s hungry and ready to eat.

I needed some spices from the Spice Shop on Historic Main Street in St. Charles. What a pleasant surprise to find the street and stores decorated for the Legends and Lanterns Hallowe’en celebrations this month. Every weekend in October features Hallowe’en-themed entertainment and activities.

After walking down the street and enjoying the decorations, we stopped at Kilwin’s and bought some chocolate. Yum!