Wednesday, December 30, 2009

'Tis the Season

We had a wonderful Christmas. Katie arrived home for winter break on the Megabus (which arrived early, wonder of wonders!), and Megan and Andy made the trek from Maryland. They stopped at the Englerts on the way over, which gave them a nice little overnight break. They got here around 4:30 Christmas Eve. I made a big supper since we were going to spend Christmas Day at my sister's house, and then we opened presents. Christmas Day as we were about to head out to Kathy's, my nephew called to tell me that I-44 was shut down. We thought it was due to ice on the roads, but later found out that a highway patrol officer had been killed when he stopped to help an accident victim. So sad - no Merry Christmas for that family.

We ultimately made it out to Union and had a great time with my sister, her children and assorted in-laws. My brother-in-law was not due to leave Iraq until the 26th, so we had to celebrate the holiday without him.

Megan and Andy stayed with us until late afternoon on the 27th before heading once again to her parents to spend the night before driving back to Maryland on the 28th. We very much enjoyed their visit, and got several rounds of cards and Yahtzee in. Oh, and I should mention that Megan loved the stocking I made for her, so that made me feel good.

Last night Jim and I took Kathy up to the airport and we picked up Skip, her husband. He just spent 8 months outside of Baghdad helping the Iraqis get their computer servers up and running, and training them on how to maintain the system. He was supposed to be there a year, but the contract was changed once he had been there 6 or so months. Because he will have severe tax implications for returning before 12 months are up, he will only stay in the US for 2 weeks before heading down to Belize to stay with his sister for 4 months. What a goofy system we have!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Procession is Over - Finally!

Yesterday I completed the Christmas stocking I was making for Megan. Entitled "The Procession" it consisted of 105 pieces to cut, embroider, sequin and bead, sew together and in many cases, to stuff. Wanting her to have a stocking similar to Andy's (and five others I have made for the family), I purchased a Bucilla kit. The last one I made was in 1991 for Katie. They have come a long way since then, with much more intricate designs and many more pieces. It must have taken me over 100 hours to complete this stocking. I had seen online that a lady will make stockings for you, charging $135. Now math is not my forte, but I paid $20 for the kit and put in a lot of hours of my time. So she gets what? $1.15 an hour for her time??? Yikes!

At any rate, it is now done and it is slightly larger than Andy's, not to mention much more dynamic. It will be interesting to see what he says when he looks at her stocking hanging next to his on the mantle. Will he be requesting a new one for next year? Or will he be sentimental and want to keep the one I made him when he was born?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Much to be Thankful For

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone, which means the frantic pace will pick up as we head towards Christmas. In light of everything going on in the world around us, I find we have much to be thankful for in our lives. Both of our children are happy and healthy, as are Jim and I, and the businesses are doing well. My long term goal of writing a book was accomplished this year, we took a fantastic trip with Andy and Megan, and we will all be together for Christmas. So this year I give thanks for all the blessings we are surrounded by.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Stocking Up For Christmas

One of the bonus items of going to see my in-laws last weekend is that it forced us into getting our Christmas shopping done - at least for them. It feels really good to say I have that side of the family finished. I've been picking up a few things here and there, and the kids have been sending ideas our way. It shouldn't be too hard to finish things up. What has been time-consuming is the stocking I am making for Megan. I hand made felt stockings for the four of us years ago - the kind with all the beads and sequins on them. Andy had requested that I make one for Megan to go with his.

Her stocking is called "The Procession", so it has Mary on the donkey holding Jesus, with Joseph and the three wise men walking along with her. Oh, and an angel and star for good measure. In the years since I made our stockings, Bucilla (the manufacturer) has added a lot more pieces to the kits. Or perhaps I picked the one with the most pieces. All those little faces and hands to be embroidered and stuffed. Thank God for cheater readers! I've been working on it here and there, and finally realized I had better kick it into gear if I have hopes of her getting it for Christmas in 2009. I worked on it for about 5 hours yesterday and will try to do the same today. Needless to say, I won't be working on any new quilts for the time being!

Friday, November 13, 2009 Grandmother's House We Go

We are heading up to see the in-laws for a few days. This is an off year, so we won't see them for the holidays. Since they haven't been here since Katie's graduation, we are overdue for a visit. I have my homemade pickles and peach butter packed to take along, which puts me in position of being the favorite daughter-in-law. Wait...I'm the only daughter-in-law...but no matter, they truly appreciate my canning efforts so I enjoy sharing with them.

Kirby just had a bath this morning, with the bonus that he gave me a shower. He'll smell nice and fresh in the car now. He is a bit of an anxious car rider, so I think I'll give him a small dose of Benydryl to help calm him. He's not bad, he sits on the passenger's lap, but he's squirmy and pants heavily which gets annoying after the first hour. He always acts like we are going to drop him off somewhere.

I have sold a couple more books this week, and my printer has pretty much fired me after I dared to complain about 44 of the newly printed books having streaks of black across the pages. Now I'll have to scurry to find a new printer so that I have an adequate supply of books for my December book signings. It's always something...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Goodnight, Moon

I took this picture of the full moon last week, and I feel like sitting here howling at it. My books are still at the printer. "Supposedly" I can pick them up tomorrow morning. If you want to know the whole, sordid tale check out my other blog I may be going back to the local bookstore and taking their copies back to have on hand Sunday. I think I'll put a section for printing companies on my website.

In the good news category, aforementioned bookstore has sold several copies of the book, I have my business cards printed, the Webster-Kirkwood Times mentioned my book signing in the Calendar section and my book was discussed on the website located at so positive things happened this week as well.

As I was driving down to the printers for the third time this week I was struck by the irony that as I passed the Johnny Brock's Halloween billboard on I-44 the radio was playing "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year". Remember when the Christmas carols and decorations became pronounced after Thanksgiving?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

It's Tuesday and I Know Where My Books Are

Yesterday I picked up my books at the printer. As the boxes were too heavy to carry in, I brought an armful in with me to admire. As I set them on the kitchen counter, I noticed an unnatural wave in the sides of each of the books. It looked as though the books had been exposed to humidity. When my husband came home, he confirmed that the books did not look right. Of course that ruined my sleep last night. I kept worrying about the books. If they all had to go back, how in the world am I supposed to do a book signing on Sunday? At 4:30 this morning I gave up and read my new Nora Roberts book. Nothing like some good sex scenes to take your mind off your troubles!

I called my production manager at the printers at 8:30 this morning and broke the news that we have a problem. He asked me to bring all the books back, which I did. They will try to use a dehumidifier on the books, and if that doesn't work they will reprint all of them. I reminded him of my book signing, and he said he will have all the books ready by Friday at the latest.

For a followup on the silver lining to this big, black cloud, see my new blog about writing and publishing my first book at

Friday, October 30, 2009

It's Friday, Do You Know Where Your Books Are?

My books were supposed to be ready by Wednesday or Thursday. I waited impatiently until Thursday afternoon to email the printer as to their whereabouts. "They are printed and in the queue to be bound and trimmed. I hope to have these ready by tomorrow." Again I am reminded of the similarities between birthin' a book and birthin' a baby. "Oh, you'll have this baby by Thursday, for sure," comforts the well-intentioned OB/GYN. Easy for him to say, he wasn't carrying the elephant around on his bladder. And the baby had no intentions of coming on Thursday. Why don't these people just say it will be another week, and then when you get the delivery early you can be happy about it?

In fact, I don't need the books by today. But that's beside the point. I want them today. I wanted them yesterday. The sooner I can get a book into the hands of my local bookstore, the sooner I can convince her that my book is worthy of her limited shelf space. Because I have my first book signing on November 8th during the Old Webster Christmas Open House, and I'd love to be able to tell those who don't purchase the book that day to shop at her bookstore for it.

On another note, my birthing coach, AKA Bobbi Linkemer, suggested (strongly, I might add) that I should be blogging about my writing and publishing experience. The topics just don't fit that well with this blog, which is mostly for fun, or with my house history blog, which is mostly to help other people discover the history of their homes. And they certainly won't fit on my MOG Blog, dedicated first to being the mother of the groom and now to being a mother-in-law. So, it is with some trepidation that I announce my new blog, Write Formation ( We'll see how many of these I can keep up with.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

All the Leaves are Brown...

It's been raining for a year, or so it seems. Today's weather was perfect for taking my boobs out and having them pressed. After all, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Believe me, I was very aware of my breasts at 9:00 this morning! But the dreary weather couldn't keep me down as I headed from the slammogram to Starbucks to meet with a new friend of mine. Anne Collins Milford was introduced to me by a mutual friend from my writing class. Anne has co-authored the book "How to Marry the Wrong Guy". The book has been so successful that it has been picked up by a traditional publisher. Anne was kind enough to spend some time talking to me about what they did right as well as wrong with their first book. I came away with some new ideas on how to publicize my book. And I left Anne with a few stories about a woman in my life who repeatedly marries the wrong guy. Turnabout is fair play!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Mom

I feel like a new mom again. Though hopefully this new baby won't cost as much as the other two! After months and months of labor (okay, so it was an elephant pregnancy), I finally was able to pick up a bound copy of my book yesterday. It is just my proof copy, but it looks like the real deal, color cover and all. One of the benefits of using an in town printer is that I can pick things up instead of waiting for them to be shipped to me. One of the downsides is that this printer is not located in the best area of town. A six foot high fence surrounds their property, complete with an electronic gate to keep the unsavories out. The gate was open when I arrived as a delivery van had just pulled into the parking lot.

Once you pass that hurdle, you must buzz at the door and state your mission in order to be allowed entry. After picking up the proof, I was afraid I had come to the Hotel California - "you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave". I couldn't get out of the parking lot. Assuming that the gate operated on a sensor, I drove slowly towards it. Several times...I'm probably on a YouTube video somewhere. Fortunately I spied an employee around the side of the building taking a smoke break. When I asked about the gate, she said she would come around and let me out. She had to punch in a code for the gate to open. All of which made me wonder if I was supposed to park on the street in the first place. Sure, protect your employees but let the paying customers fend for themselves.

The first thing I noticed about my book was that the colors were off a bit on the cover. I couldn't quite put my finger on the problem but it just didn't look right. When I compared it to my printout at home, I could see a bit of difference in the color scheme. I know that what I see on my screen, what my designer sees on her screen, what my printer produces and what a professional printer produces can be four different things. I emailed my designer to see if she wanted to take a look. She definitely did, so I drove it over to her house. Actually the printed cover looked much closer to her screen than mine. But she agreed there was too much red on the cover. Ah...too much red, that was the problem.

I contacted my production manager today and explained the issue, and he said he would talk to the art department to see if they could handle the color change. If not, my designer would need to send them a revision. Fortunately, the gods were smiling and it was fixed in-house. I got a revised cover emailed to me this morning, and I gave approval for the printing to proceed. I should have all my babies by Wednesday or Thursday of next week! Does that make me a centuro-mom?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Peeing in Prague

Prague is definitely the most fabulous city I have ever visited. Virtually untouched by any war or natural disaster, walking through the city literally takes you back in time. It didn't matter what our destination was, because everywhere we walked led to exclamations of "Oh my God, look at that!" or "How beautiful!" The architecture is stunning, and the building embellishments are just unreal. It was like walking through a fairytale picture book.

There was one thing that pissed me off, pardon the expression. You literally have to pay to pee. Now I'm not one of those women of an age where the little lady embossed on the bathroom door has to pop off and discuss my "going" problem. I normally have a bladder of iron. But there's just something about knowing a bathroom isn't available that makes you have to go. Even some of the restaurants we ate or drank at required additional compensation if you wanted to use their toilet. Ridiculous! With tourism down 30%, you'd think they would be doing everything they could to encourage us to buy more drinks! I really envied the two little boys whose mom simply pulled down their pants and let them water a tree. Oh, to have the right equipment...

So I found it extremely ironic to come across the statue of the peeing men. You can't tell from the picture, but their hips undulated left to right, enabling them to pee in a curve. Nothing like the sight and sound of men peeing to make you have to go yourself. I think it is a ploy to drum up additional crowns for the local toilet!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Off the Road Again

We are back from an 8 day vacation with our son and daughter-in-law, and we had a wonderful time. Because plane tickets were so expensive, I decided to cash in nearly all of our frequent flier miles. After all, who knows how much longer American will be servicing the St. Louis area. They barely service it now. We had to fly to Raleigh, NC to catch our flight to London. Seriously...people in Raleigh can fly directly to London, but St. Louisans cannot. Unbelievable... Anyway, from London we met up with Andy and Megan and flew first to Berlin. For us, three flights and 16 hours later, we arrived in Berlin. We couldn't check into the hotel until 2:00 p.m., so we left our luggage with the bellman - oh wait, there wasn't one. Instead we stuck our luggage into an overflowing closet next to the reception desk, and headed down the block to a Starbucks. Sad, but true, and we all needed caffeine.

Following checkin, we strolled down the street of our hotel. Really a boulevard, Kurfurstendamm boasts stores with the names of Gucci, Luis Vuitton, Chanel and Porsche Designs. I suddenly realized I had not brought along enough euros :)

I have to admit that Berlin was not on my list of top 10 places to see before I die. I'm guessing I'm not alone in this because we saw very few tourists other than those from Germany or surrounding countries. At any rate for me I guess that is mostly because I really enjoy seeing centuries old architecture more than new. But Berlin surprised me in many ways, seeming to take great care in mixing the old buildings (the few that survived heavy bombing in WWII) with the new. The city has some very interesting architecture. Taking the bus or U-Bahn around town, we were able to hit most of the places on our "must see" list in the two and a half days we spent there.

On the 4th day we boarded a train bound for Prague. It took us about 4 hours and for a lot of that time we could have been taking a train across Missouri for all that we could see out the windows. Once we reached the southeastern part of Germany, the train traveled along the river and there were some beautiful bluffs on the other side. We arrived at the Prague train station after dark, and it was a scary place to be, at least at night. We could see a group of men huddled together in the dark off to the side near the exit of the station. Little did we know, those were the cab drivers. They are unlicensed and unregulated in Prague, so you take your chances. Following a harrowing ride to the hotel, we arrived only to find that the hotel only had one room reservation, and they were sold out. It's now 8:30 at night and we don't have a room. Once the desk clerk realized that it was his hotel's error, he quickly lined us up with two rooms in a hotel within their consortium, arranging for a car and driver to pick us up. It was on the other side of the Vltava River, and I think we actually ended up in a better place for the same room rate. After that shaky start, we had a fabulous time in Prague. It is everything I had heard and read about, and much more. Vertually untouched by any war, the area has kept its historic buildings in place and for the most part new architectural design has only been done outside the city. It is a very walkable city, albeit hilly and a little more difficult to travel with its sidewalks and roads made of cobblestones. We walked our legs off for the two full days we had there. I definitely could have used one or two days more in this location. Language was not an issue, the people are very friendly and almost all the menus were in English. My only beef (pardon the pun) is that you have to pay to use the public bathrooms, sometimes even in the places where you dined.

Leaving a beautiful place is never easy, especially when the alarm goes off at 5:15 a.m. to send you on your way. We again flew with Andy and Megan to London, where they headed off on their way to D.C. and we took off for Raleigh. Unfortunately, our flight left 45 minutes late, which caused us to miss our connection in Raleigh. Going through customs delayed us enough that even an O.J. Simpson run through the airport would not have enabled us to catch the flight. Yay - an additional 2 and a half hours to sit around the Raleigh airport! We finally got home about 8:15, which was really 3:15 in the morning for us. Was all of this worth it? Definitely - it was so nice to be with the kids for a week since we don't get to see them that often. But next time I'm finding a destination where we can fly direct!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Leavin' on a Jet Plane

Tomowow Jim and I are leaving flying to Berlin to meet up with Andy and Megan. Actually, we will meet them in London and fly to Berlin with them. We are spending a few days in Berlin, then taking a train to Prague for a few more days. I'm sure I will have lots to blog about when I get home!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Can You Hear Me Now!!!

Today I went with my sister to a hearing center so she could have her hearing tested. She recently returned from a visit with her 93 year old mother-in-law, and I think all the shouting on her end made her realize how annoying it is for those of us on the receiving end of her own frequent "What did you say?" The testing center requested that she bring along someone she knows to read words to her. Apparently the results are more accurate when the patient hears the words from someone with a familiar voice. Though as much as my sister talks, I do most of the listening...but whatever. I was game, especially as it meant lunch at a local pizza parlor by her.

The first test was "Hear Kim read". I had only gotten to the third word on the list, which was "fifth". I read it out loud and my sister said "What?" To which I replied, "I have a fifth of booze." The teacher, errrrr.....I mean the tester said that was cheating! I was only aloud to say the word once. If she didn't get it, I was to go on to the next word. Properly chastised, I continued through the list. Next stop was in the room next door. Kathy had to enter a box similar to a phone booth but smaller, and sit facing out. A door with a glass window was then shut. I told her she looked like she was getting into the Easy Bake Oven. We made faces at each other until sent a scathing look by the technician. I then occupied myself studying the graphic of the ear posted on the wall. Let's see - outer ear, middle ear, inner ear. At least someone finally took an organ and labeled it so it made sense. Well, except for the cochlea, which totally sounds like it belongs on another organ. I had enough time to contemplate that as the technician read words to Kathy, raising and lowering the volume through Kathy's headset.

The final step was fitting Kathy with a hearing device to see how she liked the fit. Kathy's ears are very sensitive, and even the small headphones of her mp3 player hurts her ears. So of course that means going to the most expensive hearing aid, which wraps around the outside of your ear, depositing a small mini-microphone looking device into the ear canal. Skeptic that I am, especially when someone works on commission, I wondered if that is the same hearing aid they have everyone try at first? Let the person drive a Lexus and then show them a Chevy? After all, that's what sales are all about. Can you hear ME now?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Two Girls and a Dog

Okay, so it was actually two women and a dog, but that just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it? My friend Carol's parents have a house at Table Rock Lake, so she and I drove down there for the weekend. Kirby the dog went along for the ride. He just didn't realize how long a ride it would be. He's actually fairly good in the car, but he has to sit on someone's lap. Since I was driving, Carol got doggie duty. I tried to warn her ahead of time, suggesting that she drive so I could hold the dog, but she wanted me to drive. Passenger beware, I always say. It's not like the dog is going to lay down on your lap and sleep for five hours straight. I suspect Carol is now even more thankful that she has a cat and not a dog.

We arrived at the lake around 4:00 Friday afternoon, and it was a beautiful day. We threw everything in the house and walked down to the boat dock. We were able to take a nice, relaxing trip down part of the lake before heading back in to make some homemade pizza for supper.

Saturday we ate a leisurely breakfast and enjoyed our coffee and tea on the deck watching the day come to life. In the afternoon a long boat ride exposed me to another section of Table Rock Lake. We never did see the whole length of it. This morning the warmth of the water met the cold air, resulting in an eerie mist upon the water. My photos don't do it justice. It was very cool, pardon the pun.

The most interesting part of where we were staying was the nearby airport. It consists of a grass runway, with the planes taking off directly over the water. One plane landed while we were there, though there were two planes at the airport this morning. There is also a series of 4 or 5 hangers, so perhaps other planes were on the premises as well. I think I'd be wanting pontoons instead of wheels on my plane!

The house where we stayed has no television and only local phone service. It was such a welcome relief to leave behind all the trappings of our hectic St. Louis lives. And you know what? I didn't even miss them.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Catching Up is Hard to Do

It was fun spending nearly five days in Chicago with Jim and the other people we know from the ASLA. Our hotel was very nice and less than two blocks from Katie's dorm. We had a lot of great food, and I enjoyed the walking, biking and boat riding that we did. Coming back to reality sucks, though. There is so much to catch up on with work. Darn - I hate when work interferes with play! Because I'll be playing again this weekend (a friend and I are driving down to Table Rock Lake Friday to stay at her parent's lake house for the weekend) I have to kick butt and take no prisoners before then. Jim will be off on a motorcycle adventure, so we have someone coming to stay at the house with the dog again. That means I have to clean the house, particularly the guest bedroom and bath, before she gets here.

Around all that, I am finishing up my book. There are a couple of last tweaks that my designer is working on, and then I'll be ready to get quotes for the printing. I really can't determine my pricing until I know what the printing is going to cost. It's the old chicken or the egg syndrome. You need to have the price on the book before you go to print, but you can't price the book until you know what the printing charge will be. There is quite a learning curve in producing your first book. I just hope all the curves result in a nice, straight bottom line.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Take Me Back to Chicago

Jim and I are back in Chicago again, this time for the annual meeting of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Jim will be doing the meeting thing while I'll be doing the town. His partner and wife came along, so I'll have Jill to goof off with. We flew in today and took the train from Midway Airport to the city. We are staying at the Hilton on Michigan Avenue, a first for us. Ted and Jill did the Priceline thing and ended up with a corner room on an upper floor with views of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. While we are on the top floor of the Hilton, we our room is on the back side with a view of 8th Street. It is quieter than our Michigan Avenue views have been at the Best Western, and we do have two bathrooms in our room, which is unusual to say the least.

We walked through the various parks along Michigan Avenue this afternoon, ending up in front of the Hilton to catch up with another co-worker. As I was calling Katie to let her know we were in town, here she came walking right in front of the hotel on her way back from class. She ended up going to Gino's East with us for pizza. Afterwards we walked her back to her dorm as I had brought her a basket of special cookies along with a bag of other goodies.

Tomorrow the Jill and I are going to try to take a river cruise as neither of us has ever done that.Katie doesn't have class on Fridays so I think she will join us.

More tomorrow...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

One Flu Over the Cuckoos Nest

I got the flu yesterday. Was it the swine flu? I don't know, I was too sick to try and put a label on it. Suffice it to say it was the type of flu where you don't know which end of you should approach the porcelain throne first. It certainly felt like the big, bad wolf was huffing and puffing and blowing my body down to get to the succulent pig inside. Maybe THAT'S why they call it swine flu. Oh, excuse me, H1N1, because that sounds soooo much better than swine flu. "H" for heaving, "1" because that's how much time you have to get to the bathroom, and "N1" because it's not going to be a number one once you get there. Sorry, TMI...

The television in our bedroom wasn't working, and I knew what would happen if I bent over to try to find out what was wrong with it. So I laid in bed all day thinking of all the things that I would rather be doing than laying in bed all day. Isn't it ironic? Any other time I would welcome the chance to take a nap during the day. When your stomach feels like the mosh pit of a teenybopper concert and your head just wants to implode, napping doesn't come easy. My nice little nest felt like a torture chamber instead. Cuckoo, cuckoo...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Went to a Garden Party, Everyone Was There!

Jim's landscape architecture company, SWT Design, recently completed renovations on new office space. The original building is a pre-1900's Queen Anne home, to which they added additional design studio space five years ago. When the one story stucco 1920's commercial building went on the market a few years ago, they snatched it up. The design team came up with a way to join the buildings together with an enclosed walkway. Everything about the renovation was as green as possible, with energy efficient windows, use of renewable products, pervious pavers in the parking lot to prevent water runoff, use of rain barrels to collect water, and the crowning glory - a green roof on the stucco building. Not only does the green roof deflect the hot sun, it also has a wonderful garden with various types of plants ranging from drought lovers to tomatoes and herbs. The stairway to heaven is wrought iron and spiral, leading guests and employees up to an urban oasis complete with a sunshade and patio furniture.

All of the other plant materials on site are either natives to Missouri or used due to their ability to provide additional protection from water runoff. The amount of plants used, as well as the small pond they installed, help to provide a habitat for birds, bees and butterflies in an area of the town where concrete is king.

SWT decided to have a zero waste garden party on 09/09/09 to celebrate the addition of studio space as well as their successful year, despite the economy. The invitations were all sent via email so there was no paper waste. A local combo provided easy listening music. The food and beverages were all locally grown or produced, and were served on compostable plates. All the glass, paper and cans used at the party were recycled. About 300 people filtered in and out during the 4 hours of the open house, drawn no doubt by the phenomenal weather and an opportunity to hear good news instead of bad. The party was quite a success, and I think we need to send a message to Kermit, via email of course, that it IS easy being green.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Those Schoolgirl Days...

Every year on the first day of school we took a photo of each of our children in the backyard. That continued even as they headed off to college.

It's been a week since we moved Katie into her dorm in Chicago. Though I use the word "dorm" lightly, as she is in a two bedroom, two bath apartment which just happens to be operated by the college. She and Kasey from Connecticut lucked out, with their unit being at the end of the hallway, away from the noise of the elevators but more importantly scoring windows in both of the bedrooms. The main living area of the apartment and the one bedroom boast floor to ceiling windows with, get this, stunning views of Lake Michigan and a small marina. Seriously? Where is the dorm room overlooking the dumpster that most freshmen get? Katie told me that two boys on the floor have offered them $200 a month to change rooms with them. As if! Katie's room is intended to house four students, but so far it is just the two Ks, while the boys are in a one bedroom, one bath unit.

Move-in day went quite smoothly, and in less than an hour and a half we had all of her belongs stored in the room, despite waiting for the elevators to take us to the 19th floor. The worst part was waiting for the elevators in the afternoon, with our arms loaded from the trip to Target. We got her room and the kitchen area set up in that afternoon, and had supper with Katie and Lauren, a fellow WGHS graduate. Then they went off for their evening activities and we walked around the city. After a late breakfast with Katie on Sunday, we made our way back to St. Louis.

For me, the weirdest part of this past week was not hearing "What's for supper?" like clockwork each afternoon. Normally Katie was in the other room every day as I cooked, and it was awfully quiet even with the news to keep me company. However, it has been really liberating to only have to consider mine and Jim's schedules, likes and dislikes. Whole grain bread, fish, cooking on the grill, eating or not eating...

Katie is probably feeling the same sense of freedom, and it has been fun to hear about her new experiences. Life's lessons are being learned every day, from dealing with overflowing toilets to budgeting and planning meals. How quickly our children go "from crayons to perfume..."

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Knights Inn Hell

Because our dorm move-in time was 9-12 on Saturday, we decided to stay about an hour outside of Chicago Friday night. If my car was going to be loaded down with all of Katie's worldly belongings, I was not leaving it in a downtown Chicago parking garage for easy pickings. So I found the Knights Inn on the internet, and diligently read all the reviews posted by guests. It sounded like an okay place to stay, and the price was less than half of a hotel in Chicago. As we pulled off I-55 and headed towards the large, not to be missed Knights Inn sign, I noticed a plethora of tractor trailer trucks parked near the gas station by the motel. Wait a minute...the gas station was the ENTRANCE to the motel. Hmmmm....I drove by the pumps and under the motel overhang, noticing a definite lack of any cars in the area, despite it being 6:30 on a Friday night. A sign on the motel entrance advised me to check in at the gas station.

As I took the car around the building, all I saw behind the motel in what appeared to be its parking lot were several derelict cars. Oh...and a boarded up window at the motel's entrance. Nice! The three of us looked at each other and decided that it might be better to try our luck with a downtown parking garage than the lot at the motel. I went into the gas station and told them I wanted to cancel our reservation. The woman behind the counter told me that they required 48 hours cancellation or we would be charged the room rate. At least I think that is what she was telling me. She was a little hard to understand. I explained that I didn't like the looks of the parking lot, and that the boarded up window reminded me of the broken down cars out back. She got a little insulted then - one of the cars out back was probably hers. Other guests were staying there, she said - they were just out at the moment. She then went and got one of the managers to talk to me, and he suggested that I take a key and at least go look at the room. They are under renovation, he said, and have just not repaired the window out front. So we looked at the room, which had granite counter tops in the bathroom yet oddly enough a piece torn out of the bathtub. I guess they just haven't repaired that yet, either. Anyway, we decided that since we could park the car right outside our window and keep an eye on it, we would go ahead and stay the night.

On the plus side the complex, and I use the term loosely, had a 24 hour restaurant and it was very good. We had great service and we all enjoyed our meals. When we walked back to the motel, not one additional car had been added to the parking lot. By the time we went to bed, two more cars were there, and by morning there may have been 8 cars in the lot. Some of them we heard arriving in the wee hours of the morning, having attended the racetrack in the area. Around 6:30 in the morning we awoke to room doors slamming and little kids running up and down the halls. The smell of cigarettes permeated the air, even though we were on the non-smoking side of the hall. We definitely did not spend a good Knight at the Inn.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Katie's graduation quilt is finished and waiting to be packed into the car tomorrow, along with all the other necessities of beginning a new life away from the only home she has ever known. The past few days have been filled with her doing laundry, finally taking the time to discard shoes and clothing that are too worn or too small or too unworthy of competing on a college campus.

Last night we went to see Katie's old babysitter, the woman who watched her from six weeks to six years of age. Judy has remained a treasured friend of the family, one who also cannot believe her "baby" is heading off to college. The evening was spent reminiscing, with "Do you remember..." and "Whatever happened to..." filling the air. We laughed as Judy recalled the story of laying a sleeping Katie on the entry foyer rug as she went down in the basement to switch the laundry around. The diaper man rang the doorbell, and while Judy didn't hear him in the basement, Katie woke up and began to crawl around. An alarmed diaper man called the police, thinking the baby had been left home alone. The stories, I think, will warm Katie's heart as the quilt warms her body in the cold Chicago winter.

Tomorrow we'll take our youngest off to the "big city", and we'll return on Sunday to a house filled only with the memories of the laughter and tears of our children. It's a bittersweet feeling, knowing that we have done our part as parents to raise our kids to be confident, self-assured young adults ready to tackle the world, flying from the nest to conquer whatever the world throws at them. Yet having been defined ourselves as "parents" for the past 24 years, it will seem odd not to be in that role on a daily basis. But just as we have enjoyed the new experience of seeing our son as a married adult, and thus gaining a new daughter, I think this time of going back to being just a couple will offer up opportunities for us to explore what roads we wish to travel next.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Oh, Say Can You See...

Not too well, actually. I had my annual eye exam today, and was due for having the eyes dilated. I don't mind the process, but I sure hate driving afterward. If only I could guarantee a cloudy eye doctor day. The last time my eyes were dilated, it was bright and sunny out, and I admit that driving home was a challenge. Despite the reverse drops that had been put in my eyes, the light outdoors nearly blinded me. I can't believe they think it is okay for people to drive that way. This year I took my sister with me to the appointment. She was going to drive us in her car, but when we left my house, her car refused to start. So I drove our smaller car to the appointment, knowing it was more the size she would be comfortable driving. It was nice to have Kathy's company for the fifty minutes I had to wait before being taken to an exam room.

The exam went fine, and I was handed the What Not to Wear roll up sunglasses for the trip home. Placing them under my own sunglasses, I was a sight to behold on the way out. I should point out that I am not a very good passenger under normal conditions. I usually am the driver wherever I go as other people's driving (including my sister's) bugs me. Add into the equation that I felt like I was looking through Vaseline and my sister was driving our car, and I was a nervous wreck. I finally leaned back and closed my eyes for the duration of the trip. Even now, four hours after the dilation, my eyes still look like a cartoon characters. Thank goodness this only happens once a year.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Beer Butt Chicken

So on our way back from Cincinnati we stopped in Indiana to visit Megan's parents. They graciously offered to make supper for us since we had the trip from hell on our way over as we traveled through Louisville. I'm not quite sure how this came up in conversation, but Alan mentioned making beer butt chicken. I was quite certain there was a joke coming, but no - he was quite serious. Even though it sounds kind of fowl, he explained that you insert a half empty beer can into the cavity of a whole chicken and grill it. Cheryl even has an awesome stand to hold the chicken upright in the the grill, which makes it an upstanding recipe after all. I'm thinking Christmas gift idea here - I wonder if the Wal-mart in St. Louis carries the chicken butt stands?

I have to imagine that a fraternity brother came up with the beer butt chicken idea. I picture the guys all standing around at a woodsie (that's what we called it in the '70's), with one bemoaning the fact that his beer can was half empty, so to speak. "What can I do with a partial warm beer? Seems a shame to waste it. Hey, I know, let's shove it inside a chicken and grill it!!!" And so, beer butt chicken was born.

Little did the guys know that this idea would catch on, and that special implements would be developed to aid in the process. Or perhaps they developed the butt stand as well. Who knows? The bottom line is that apparently a half empty beer can inserted into the cavity of a chicken prior to grilling results in a moist, tender bird. I can see that I will have to try beer butt chicken for myself. And I'm not pulling your leg...

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

You Can Go Home Again

My sister and I went to Cincinnati for four days. We were both born there, and our family was the only twig on the family tree to move away from the area. We try to go back at least once a year even though our parents are deceased. It is always like a mini family reunion when we go as our aunts let everyone know we are coming so we can get together. It usually turns in to a food-fest, as we juggle schedules and meet at different restaurants. First stop in Cincinnati is always to one of the Skyline Chili restaurants. With a distinct flavor all its own, this chili over spaghetti and heaped with grated cheddar cheese is something we just can't get enough of. Fortunately, we don't have to as we buy the packaged and frozen variety to bring back to St. Louis with us.

Eleven of us met for lunch on Friday, including the three remaining siblings of my mom. That night we had supper with relatives on my dad's side of the family. We settled our craving for LaRosa's pizza at lunch on Saturday and then met up with a few more cousins that night for supper. Sunday we had goetta with breakfast before heading out of town. Goetta is another Cincinnati specialty, and I have been trying to reproduce it at home. In the meantime, I bought some Glier's goetta to bring home with me.

Our plan was to stop and see Megan's parents in Huntingburg on the way home. We had just crossed the bridge past Louisville when traffic came to a screeching halt. I mean, it was not even moving. In fact, people on our side of the interstate did u-turns and drove down the center shoulder to come back to I-264 which split off on the left. I was running low on gas, and with temperatures in the 90's could not turn off the air conditioner. As I was not yet past the split off, I veered off onto I-264. Following a fuel up, I headed west on Highway 60 hoping it would intersect with I-64 again. No such luck... I asked directions and people kept telling me to head east and then north, which would take me back into Louisville. I knew that would put me back in the same traffic snarl. I purchased a map, and found there are no other bridges over the river, so we headed north on a river road. It still put us in the jam, but at least we were a little farther along than we had been originally. It turned out there was a three car accident on the bridge. I called the Englerts to let them know what was going on, and they encouraged us to still stop and have supper with them. By that time I was happy to get out of the car and relax for a bit. We had a great meal and a wonderful visit. I'm so happy to have them as in-laws!

We then ran into a rain storm in Illinois, so it was after 9 by the time we finally got home. Despite the inconveniences, it was wonderful to see all the family, old and new. You can go home again.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cat Tales

So I am on cat duty again. I finally 'fessed up to the neighbor that I had entered her house when she was already back at home from the last trip. I thought she was coming back the next day. I even admitted that I had blogged about the experience of being a Cat Burglar. She thought the whole story was funny, especially since she had already left her house by the time I made my entrance. I didn't need to worry that I had awakened her after all.

As I mentioned, these cats are quite the characters. Friday afternoon I went over to feed them supper. As I went into the bathroom to change the water in their bowls, I noticed that I was ankle deep in shredded tissue. Thinking they had again raided the bathroom trash can, I peered around the corner of the vanity. Nope - this time they decided that paper on a roll was quite the thing to sharpen their claws on. It was snowing Charmin in there. Because my neighbor insists that they do not get into mischief when she is around, I put the tissue in the trash can and left the Swiss cheese remainder of the roll for her to see when she gets home. And I now keep the bathroom door shut.

Today the little darlings knocked a picture off the wall. I don't even want to know what they were doing for that to occur. I guess they could have invited all the neighbor cats over for a party because, you know, we use the type of kitty litter that would mask multiple cats using the litter boxes. Fortunately the picture is made of canvas, so no glass was shattered in their latest escapade. I'm telling you, she needs a nanny cam on those cats!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

That Old Sew and Sew

My daughter's graduation quilt consists of 5" x 7" prints of photos from her travels, arranged to look like filmstrips. Considering this was a new pattern for me, things were moving along pretty smoothly. Unfortunately the pattern is designed to be a wall quilt, and Katie wants a quilt that will cover her bed at college. I emailed the pattern's creator to ask her how to make the modifications, and her reply was that I could easily make the quilt longer by adding another filmstrip, but in order to make it wider she would have to rewrite the whole pattern. Okay, then...there was no way I was going to tackle the math on adjusting the pattern pieces. I made the filmstrips as the pattern suggested, and added an additional row of photos. Then I made the inner and outer borders larger than suggested, and even added another small strip of the fabric that makes the sprockets of the filmstrip. Then I had Katie take a look at it. She thought it needed to be larger, and I agreed.

I went back to my favorite fabric store where we had purchased all the fabric a few weeks ago, thinking I could easily add an additional 5" black border to balance the quilt. After looking at all 8 bolts of black fabric. I determined that none of them matched exactly. As the blacks would be right up against each other, this is a problem. Looking at various solutions, I decided to buy more of the striped fabric and make another thin row of that to separate the blacks. I was able to get the striped fabric as well as two sides of the additional black borders sewn on last night. I have to say, I am pleased with the end result. It looks like it was always planned to have the extra borders.

But I can't believe I forgot to pick up the batting while I was at the fabric store. Guess I'll be making another trip!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Oh, Those Naked Ladies

The naked ladies are in my back yard again. Good thing I have fences and other plants to help provide them with cover! Okay, get your mind out of the gutter. Naked ladies, otherwise known as surprise lilies, are plants. What's fun about them, other than their name, is that you have no idea where they are planted. They have no foliage, instead they just burst out of the ground. Thus it is always a surprise when they pop up.

We did not plant the naked ladies. They have been in the yard for the entire 22 years we have lived here, and I wonder how old they really are. They provide a lovely palette of color in the garden during a time period when not much else is blooming. My favorite naked lady story occurred about 20 years ago. My in-laws were down visiting us from Iowa. I glanced out the kitchen window and exclaimed, "The naked ladies are back!" I have never seen two people jump out of their chairs so fast. I'm surprised they didn't strain their necks when they whipped their heads around! They did not realize I was talking about the plants. We still laugh about the nudists in my garden to this day.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bean There, Done That

We are just home from a couple of days in Chicago, where Katie registered for her first semester of classes at Columbia College. There are multiple days of orientation, but Tuesday was one of two choices for students majoring in marketing or photography. As Katie went off to have her picture taken for her i.d., we grabbed our orientation backpack and a provided muffin and juice. As Jim doctored up his coffee, I jockeyed around the masses to grab the last table. A woman and her son quickly asked if they could join me at the table. As there were five chairs, I said that would be great. What a great way to start the day! It was very interesting to share the table with them. Michael is in the same major as Katie, and is minoring in photography, which is one of Katie's hobbies. Lynna is very personable, so we were soon chatting like old friends. They are from the Chicago area, so it was fun to get their take on Columbia. We spent the day together, except for the time period when Michael and Katie were separated to register for classes.

Katie was able to get into all the classes she had selected, so that was great. Rumor going around was that a lot of the required courses were already filled. We were happy to find out that it was not true, at least in her case. Because there are still orientations going on in early August, and I was wondering what those kids would do.

As we sat through the presentations geared towards the parents, I was excited to find that my original impressions of this school seem to be true. The level of creativity offered by the teachers, majors and college in general is truly inspiring. And all with the goal of building a portfolio to assist in job placement upon graduation. Every parents dream! I think Columbia is a perfect fit for Katie. The big disappointment in the whole day was that there were no dorms open for viewing. We had heard from a friend of Katie's who went to orientation last week that you needed an appointment to see a room. We had tried unsuccessfully to obtain one. While we saw a room back in 2007 on a campus tour, it wasn't in the building Katie was placed in nor would I remember specifics even if it had been. The online virtual tours are cool, but you can't get a feel for dimensions. So much for shopping for storage containers ahead of time!

Though all of Tuesday was taken up with the orientation, we did have time Monday and Tuesday nights to walk around the downtown area. Chicago is such a vibrant city, even in the evening. Jim especially wanted to see the "Bean" as he had only observed it in pictures. Katie and I had walked to Millennium Park when we were in Chicago in 2007. Bean there, done that.

The next trip to Chicago will be move in day August 29th!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Cat Burglar

For the past week I have been watching a neighbors two cats. Each morning I go over and feed them, change the water in their dishes and scoop the litter boxes. Each evening I collect the mail and papers and give them their last feeding. And of course there is always play time. Scratch and Skippy are really nice cats, if a bit mischievous. I never quite know what I will find when I come in the back door. They have been know to open cabinets and dump the pasta all over, knock things off the counter tops, and even help themselves to the Girl Scout cookies. This week they decided dumping over the trash can in the bathroom and scattering the contents would be great fun. I can almost hear them thinking, "Let's see where she puts it so we can knock it over again!"

This morning I went over to do the regular routine. Normally both cats greet me at the door. Skippy was right there, but not Scratch. I immediately noticed the papers scattered on the floor. You naughty kitties, I thought, you have gotten into the mail. I picked it all up and called for Scratch. Still no sign of him. I went down the hallway and noticed that the bathroom door was mostly closed. Had he gotten himself shut in there? As I opened the door, I noticed a book laying on the vanity. Uh, oh...that wasn't there when I got their water yesterday. I glanced into the master bedroom and saw the open suitcase on the floor. OMG, my neighbor was back! Scratch was probably cuddled up in bed with her. Hoping I hadn't awakened her after her very long flight home, I stealthily crept back down the hall, feeling for all the world like a thief. I haven't seen her yet today to apologize for barging in. I can just hear Skippy saying to Scratch, "Parking at the airport-$56.00, trip to Paris, $2,500, look on neighbor's face when she found out mom was home-priceless!"

Monday, July 13, 2009

Dying to Please

When I was young I swore I would never dye my hair. Who cares if your hair is gray, I thought. Why hassle with dying your hair just to please other people? That all changed as I began to get gray hair. At that point I realized that I did not want my hair to make me look older than I am - or even my age, for that matter. So I have been coloring my hair myself for quite a while now. I'm at the stage where I combine two colors together to get the "look" I'm going for. I picked up the two boxes of color last week at Walgreen's, intending to get the job done this weekend. I washed my hair Saturday night and it was still a little damp when I went to bed. So it was lookin' good Sunday morning as I went outside to water the plants before it got too hot.

Back inside, I slipped into my hair coloring t-shirt, an old freebie t-shirt from a meeting I attended years ago, and opened the boxes of color to do the mixing. The first thing I noticed was that the one box was not correctly sealed. Uh-oh. As I looked inside, the gloves were loose and not folded within the paper directions, and the bottle containing the dye had streaks of brown trickling down the outside. Have of the mixing solution was gone. Some ignorant jerk had used half the product and taken it back, probably securing a refund as well. Grrrrr....... I quickly changed into a more respectable shirt, but could do nothing about the state of my hair considering it was about to be colored. I drove back to Walgreen's and stood in the one open checkout lane only to get to the cashier and be told I needed to see a manager. The box was exchanged, but no apology was offered to me for the inconvenience I incurred in making a return trip. Yes, I should have noticed the broken seal, but come on. Who was the idiot at the store who put the open, returned box back on the shelf?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Don't Rain on My Parade

Saturday was the annual Webster Groves 4th of July parade. It doesn't get more Americana than Webster Groves with its July 4th activities. The carnival, complete with the Lion's barbecue, Miss Webster competition, fireworks and an old fashioned parade something for everyone. Adding to the excitement of this year's parade was the fact that the Anheuser-Busch...errrr, I mean InBev, Clydesdales were leading the parade. In the past such an honor has been bestowed upon the much larger downtown parade. The parade begins at the local high school at 10:00 a.m. As usual, the weather people were wrong in their prediction for Saturday morning. A "chance of rain" turned into a a steady downpour for most of the morning. Was the parade on or off? Thinking that City Hall may have jumped into the 2000s and posted an update on their website, I logged on to take a look. No such luck. Come on City Hall - get with the tweeting! What I did find online, however, was a friend with a posting on Facebook about the parade. A rain delay until 11:00. How did she know this, I asked? Her son is in the band, so she kept us up to date. God I love the internet!

The others who were to attend the parade with us bailed due to the rain, so Jim, Kirby the cockapoo and I grabbed our lawnchairs and some water and walked the two blocks to our favorite seating area. I was surprised at how many people were already gathered for the parade. I don't know if they heard an announcement elsewhere, because they couldn't all have kids in the band! The parade was really good, as usual, but having the Clydesdales was a great treat. Kirby wasn't so sure about them, but with his black and white coloring he could have ridden up on the wagon with the dalmation. The horses were followed by three tractor trailers, making their way precariously through the tree-lined streets. Speaking of horses, the mounted girl scout troop apparently was concerned about bringing their horses due to the earlier rain, so they "rode" stick ponies. Funny! There were fewer politicians this year, which was a blessing even if it did make the parade shorter.

A cooler, overcast day made for a pleasant parade for all. "Nobody, no, nobody, is gonna rain on my parade."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Minnesota Fats

What is it about family reunions that makes us eat so much? This past weekend we drove first to Charles City, Iowa (six hours away) to spend the night with my in-laws before heading up to Fairfax, Minnesota (another four hours away) for the Pfeffer family reunion. My mother-in-law, who's maiden name is Pfeffer, started us off on the food-fest. She makes unbelievable cinnamon rolls and brownies. She could seriously sell them in the mall. That's assuming there are any malls left after the bankruptcies, of course. We fortified ourselves with the rolls before heading up to Minnesota on Saturday. As Fairfax is somewhat limited in its sleeping facilities, we stayed in nearby Morton (twenty additional miles each way-woo,hoo!) at the Jackpot Junction Casino Hotel. As you might know, many casinos are reknowned for their buffets. I'm proud to say we ignored the all-you-can-eat piggery of the buffet and instead ate at the other restaurant at the casino. Not that we fared much better in the calorie department as the special was steak and shrimp, which included a baked potato, mixed veggies and a roll.

Before I continue with my failure to "Eat This, Not That", I must share the evening's entertainment. Because I'm such a big gambler, after the no-armed bandit ate my dollar and the Blackjack tables showed no signs of having vacancies, our group went into the the Classic Lounge to hear the Variety Show. The show consisted of a band called "Johnny Green and the Greenmen." The band's claim to fame is that they were featured on 27 episodes of the "Batman" television series, and they played the musical score on the "Batman" soundtrack. Yep, they attract the big ones in old Morton, Minnesota! The band played everything from Patsy Cline (they really shouldn't have), to Brooks and Dunn to Aerosmith. The lounge had a large dance floor, a huge bar and walls decorated with neon guitars advertising A-B products. But it was the people in the lounge who gave variety to the show. At the table next to us sat (rarely) a couple of elderly sisters. Dressed in matching dark suits and sensible flats, they took to the dance floor like Mark Sanford to Argentina. Whenever a song began that was to their liking (which was often) they rose from their chairs in unison, carefully placed the strap of their purses on their shoulders, and toddled out to dance. As if choreographed, they swayed gently, left foot to right. They were just darling! At the other end of the spectrum was a quartet of country line dancers. Complete with cowboy boots and hats (though one guy's look was ruined by his wife beater t-shirt), they boot scootin' boogied their way around the dance floor like the Saturday night line dancing specials they were. They could all dance to any kind of music, including the not-easily identifiable songs.

The bar area was packed, with numerous victims of the all you can eat buffet overflowing the bar stools. One particular girl was lookin' good in black spandex shorts and a black suntop. You could tell by her stance and her jestures that she thought she was hot. they not have mirrors in Morton? Where are the "What Not to Wear" clothes Nazis when you need them? I only have one thing to say - there is not enough spanx in the world! But I offer up a hardy thanks to her and the others for providing me with free entertainment and good blogging material.

The family reunion on Sunday was well attended, and accompanied by massive amounts of food. Everything tasted great, and since I did eat the vegetable salads I felt justified in having one of the Special K bars (hey, they contain peanut butter!) and one of my mother-in-law's brownies. After all, I would never want to hurt her feelings. We drove back to Charles City that afternoon, and were treated to a fried chicken dinner Monday before heading back to St. Louis. So glad I lost a couple of pounds recently so I could gain them back on this trip. It's back to the health club for me so I can lose this Minnesota fat.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Seoul Survivor

As a combined graduation/birthday present, we arranged for Katie to travel to Seoul, South Korea. That might seem an unlikely destination until you understand that she is staying with a friend. Ji attended Webster Groves High School for the 2007-2008 school year. We were not her host family for that year, but as she now goes to Mizzou she frequently stays with us when she comes back to St. Louis. As luck would have it, we had just received permission from Ji's parents for Katie to stay with them when North Korea launched a missile. Reading the news reports here, we were not certain South Korea would be safe for Katie. A review of the US Department of State's website did not reveal any travel warnings for South Korea. Ji's dad is in the military, so we solicited his input. Basically he said that the Western press sensationalizes everything, and that it is perfectly safe for Katie to come over there. So I proceeded to make her flight arrangements.

She left here Saturday at 9:15, heading to Chicago where she had a 2 hour layover to change terminals and check in with Korean Air. Once on Korean Air, she had a 13 1/2 hour flight direct to Seoul. She called us early Sunday morning, fortunately waiting until 7 AM to contact us. There is a 14 hour time difference, so I appreciated not being called at 2 AM. She told me that the lady in the seat next to her fell asleep immediately and slept the whole flight. Katie was afraid to disturb her, so she didn't leave her own seat for the entire trip. Wow - bladder of iron!

In the email she sent last night she told us that Ji's dad came home from the base so he could go out to supper with them. They took her to a traditional Korean restaurant, where they removed their shoes upon arrival and were seated on pillows. She was adventuresome and tried everything that was brought to the table, including the squid and the fish served whole. Monday they were going to see the Presidential Palace. I'm grateful that she is able to email us, but if I could ask for a little more, I hope she sends along some pictures as well.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Gone Too Soon

This morning my sister and I attended a memorial Mass for a woman we had met only once, some 25 years ago. Why, you ask, would we go to such a Mass? Robbie was married to our cousin, Jeff. We are originally from Cincinnati, but our family was the only one to move away. All of the aunts, uncles and cousins still reside in Cincinnati. Except for Jeff. He did a stint in St. Louis in the early 80's, which is where he met Robbie. She had grown up here, but Jeff's job took them many places over the years. Shortly before Robbie died, they had moved to Las Vegas, where they hoped to stay for quite some time. Cancer had other plans for Robbie, who battled breast cancer for the past couple of years. The cancer spread to her lungs, and at age 52 she passed away. Her wish was to be cremated, and Jeff complied with that wish. A memorial Mass was held in Cincinnati earlier this week so that Jeff's family could give their support to him, but he also wanted to have one here so that her childhood and early work friends could say good-bye. As the only family in attendance, he asked that we sit in the front pew with him. It was rough, and sitting next to Jeff I could feel him fighting his tears. The priest made a wonderful analogy during his sermon, as he was following up on the reading of how Jesus will be waiting for us to take us home. He asked us to imagine a child in the womb. If that child could talk and ask the question about what life was like on the outside, you might answer that there is a beautiful blue sky overhead. The child would have no way of understanding what a blue sky is. Or you might say that there are majestic mountains here, and again the child would have no concept of what a mountain looks like. So it is that Jesus cannot explain to you what life is like in heaven - we simply don't have the capacity to understand what it will look like. Very nicely put...

Because my sister and I didn't really know Robbie, we did okay during the service until the very end when a man went up to do a last reading. Jeff whispered to me that "now comes the hard part". What the man read was a tribute to Robbie written by Jeff. I put my arm around him as it the words expressed to all of us the depth of his love for his wife, and the tears streamed down his face and mine. The service ended with the song "On Eagle's Wings", which had also been sung at my beloved mother's funeral. Well, that was it for my sister and me. I clung tightly to her hand, and Jeff's arm embraced us both.

I'm saddened now that I did not have the opportunity to get to know this courageous, loving woman who brought such joy to those lucky enough to know her. My heart aches for my cousin who must try to rebuild his life without her. My brother also lost his wife to cancer at the age of 47, leaving him to raise three small children on his own. I understand to a certain extent what lies ahead for Jeff, though he and Robbie did not have any children. I hope the vision of Jesus walking Robbie to a better place helps him deal with a future of her no longer walking by his side.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Regarding Birthdays

Yesterday was Katie's 18th birthday. It's funny how as a mom you think back to the day of your child's birth, especially on significant birthdays. I was induced on my due date because Andy had been so large (9 pounds, 5 ounces), and second babies are typically larger. Lord help me! Thankfully she was a pretty typical 7 pounds, 2 ounces. When you first bring home a newborn you can hardly wait until the baby gets old enough to sleep through the night. It's hard to imagine that as they grow up you will be awake nights for reasons other than a newborn's cry. It seems that I no more watched my baby walk into the doors of the school for the first time than I was watching her walk across the stage at graduation.

Jim and I were reflecting back on when we turned 18. It was a big deal because not only could you register to vote, someone would take you out and buy you your first drink. Not so today, and I suspect that since we just completed an election, registering to vote won't be too big of a deal for her either, at least right now.

To celebrate this milestone birthday we took Katie and a friend to our favorite steak place, Citizen Kanes in Kirkwood. Neither of the girls had been there before, and I think it is now their favorite steak place as well.

As a combination graduation/birthday present, Katie will be traveling to Seoul, South Korea to stay with Ji, an exchange student who graduated from WGHS last year and now attends Mizzou. Katie leaves on the 20th for a two week stay. Now we just have to hope the North Koreans keep their missiles to themselves! I think a few more sleepless nights are in our future...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Graduation Quilt - Revealed

Sunday was the graduation party for Lauren, who's mom purchased the custom quilt I had offered at our class auction. As Lauren has been friends with my daughter since kindergarten, our whole family was invited to the party at Blackburn Park. As I gave Lauren a congratulatory hug, she told me how much she loves the quilt, adding that she can't wait to take it to college and how envious all of her roommates will be of her quilt. I can't tell you how relieved I was to hear that. While I have made many quilts in the past, none has stressed me like this one. All of the others were sewn either for myself or as a gift to family members, who would enjoy them simply because I thought to make something for them. This was the first time that someone had paid for a quilt, so I needed it to be perfect. And as everyone's tastes are different, what appeals to me or even my daughter might not appeal to another teenager. The pressure is off, and I can now focus on Katie's quilt. Assuming she ever gives me the pictures she wants on it. If not, I will start on a motorcycle themed quilt for my husband. I found some awesome Route 66 fabric...

Speaking of my own personal hell's angel, he arrived back safely from his annual motorcycle trip. This year he and three other guys had their bikes transported out to LA, and then traveled back to St. Louis via Route 66. It was intended for the ride to take two weeks. Jim said from the beginning that he didn't think it would take the full two weeks. But I was very surprised when he called me on Friday (the seventh day of the trip) and said he would be home by Sunday night. I figured this must have been the Chevy Chase "Bikers' Vacation". "Okay guys, there's the Grand Canyon, now back on your bikes!" I can only presume that Wally World was closed. It's a good thing I made Jim a Motorcycle Journal to take with him on the trip. At least he can look back at that to see where he was!

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Walk in the Park

My sister had a big birthday this week. I'm not going to mention how big because she is older than me and can still beat me up. Since her husband is in Iraq for a year and my husband is off on his annual motorcycle trip, Kathy is staying with Katie and me for a few days. We celebrated the Big One with family and friends at Outback Steakhouse Wednesday night. The food was good and the company was better. Kathy enjoyed the camera case I had made for her new digital camera, as well as the angel I got her for her garden. Katie presented her with a couple of books - the new JD Robb paperback Kathy and I have been waiting the release of, and a work search book to keep her brain active. Before you jump to the conclusion that I am anxious to get beat up by my quite a bit older sister, I'll put on the table that she loves word search puzzles. Her idea of outwitting dementia, not ours.

Yesterday the three of us went out for lunch and then headed to the Missouri Botanical Garden. As it was a slightly breezy day with temperatures in the 70's, the garden was buzzing with bees and tourists. There's nothing like a walk through the Garden to cleanse the mind, body and spirit. We came across a wedding reception in the center of the Garden, and I thought a Thursday wedding was a bit unusual until we encountered two other wedding parties. What a picture perfect day and location to begin a new life together! It made me think of our wedding day, nearly 31 years ago in Des Moines. August in Iowa is much like August in St. Louis, and our church was not air conditioned. On Friday evening we held the rehearsal at the church, and it was hot and humid. A thunderstorm swept through that night, and I fretted over what Saturday would bring. I like to think that God was blessing our special day with a beautiful blue sky complete with puffy white clouds, a small breeze and a temperature of 70 degrees. Here's to yesterday's newlyweds!

Today is sunny and pretty as well. Now, how can we top yesterday's walk in the park?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Farewell Tour

Each year on the night of graduation, the parent's group for the graduation class puts on an all-night, free graduation celebration at Webster University. For the four years the students are in high school, fundraisers are held to cover the cost of the party, contributions to teacher wish lists and scholarships for needy students. Our parent group raised over $120,000 in four years, and we provided $19,000 in scholarships this spring to students in the Class of 2009.

Last summer the graduation party committee selected the theme "Farewell Tour '09", which enabled everyone on the committee to play off of the music and/or band theme. I have to say that the moms of our class never cease to amaze me. The decorations were unbelievable! Spotlights and signs greeted the students upon arrival, 45's complete with each senior's yearbook photo in the center decorated the walls, 33 rpms dangled from the ceilings, and a full rock band set provided a backdrop for photos with friends. To keep the students entertained for six and a half hours, entertainment included swimming, a casino, bingo, air brushed tattoos and nail painting, a live band, ping pong tables, Guitar Hero, a photo booth, a giant inflatable play structure and segways. And, of course, non-stop food and drink all night. Every student went home with at least one prize, and each had a ticket to place in the hat in front of their favorite big prize - a t.v., Ipod Touch, portable dvd player, a Wii, Guitar Hero, a hot air balloon ride, etc.

At 3:45 a.m. they called all the students into the gymasium to award prizes and show the dvd that Pam and I had worked on in addition to all the photo boards. I have to confess that I simply got all the photos to a staff member at the high school, Pam's daughter provided the music to him, and he actually put it all together and had 300 copies made so each attendee could have one. Since I had a houseful of out of town guests, I did not work at the party that night. But I understand that the students really loved the dvd. Even if it is not something they are interested in right now when their major thought is getting out of high school and on to new things, I think in the future they will enjoy looking back at this time in their lives. So, as my final swan song as a 19 year parent volunteer, I think I went out on a high note. Farewell...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Endings and Beginnings

Friday night was the graduation ceremony for our second and youngest child. Out of town guests began to arrive on Thursday, with more driving in on Friday. Friday morning and part of the afternoon was spent at Webster University putting up the eight photo boards we had worked so hard on. We had to decorate the "cubbies" which would house the boards for the evening, and of course re-attach the wayward photos which refused to be held in place by the glue dots. We definitely disrupted the productivity of the decorating crew as, one by one, they stopped what they were doing to take a look at the photos. We had photos of the students when they were young as well as ones where they were involved in high school activities. More on the all night party in a future posting...

Friday was a little more hot and humid than the rest of the week had been, but by the time the ceremony began at 6:30, there was a little breeze and it was fairly pleasant out. My sister-in-law and Andy went with me when I dropped Katie off at 5:15 for the student preparation, and we went on to the football field to save 8 seats. Locating excellent seating behind Katie's best friend's mom, we spread out towels out to save the seats for the later arrivals. A little after 6:00 a lady came up the bleacher steps and asked if the seats behind us were taken. A woman off to the left was, in fact, saving the seats for her elderly parents. The new arrival was having none of that. She loudly declared that she just didn't think that was right, that everyone wants to see their relation graduate, and she proceeded to climb over the couple at the end of the bleacher and take the seats anyway. As the man on the end remarked. you can't expect to show up at five minutes after 6:00 and expect to get good seats. It was a good thing this rude woman didn't covet the seats covered with my beach towel, because you probably would have seen me on the 10:00 news. No one was taking away the seats I had been sitting in the hot sun to hold for my elderly in-laws. As it turned out, Jim's folks elected to take advantage of the folding chairs set up for the handicapped down on the track. It was not the best location for viewing, but at least the seats had a back and they didn't have to climb the bleachers. So we gave our extra two seats to the lady behind us who had lost hers to the seat snatcher.

The ceremony itself moved along fairly quickly considering that there were over 330 graduates. The gal selected by her classmates to give the speech did an excellent job summing up their experience at Webster Groves High School. She cracked a few jokes and offered a touching memorial to their classmate who died unexpectedly this spring. As Katie was near the end of the alphabet, I was a little dismayed by the handful of parents who got up and left before all the graduate's names had been read. We sat patiently through their child's name being read, but apparently they didn't feel the need to extend the same courtesy to the kids at the end. And yet we wonder why some kids are so rude. Look at the example some adult set for them.

Saturday afternoon we had our family celebration of Katie's graduation. The weather held for us and we were able to enjoy the gardens in the backyard. It hardly seems possible that Andy's graduation was six years ago, and now we are sending our "baby" off to college. One definition of commencement is "a beginning; a start". For Katie, she will be starting a whole new life as a college freshman in Chicago, learning to share an apartment style dorm with three total strangers, managing her time between classes and studying, and experiencing the freedom of having her parents five hours away from her. Having been through this one time before, I understand that it is a lot like sending your child off to kindergarten for the first time. You know that this is something that has to be done for your child to learn and grow, but you also realize that the child you drop off at the door will be forever changed by the experiences of the teachers and other children she comes into contact with.

For Jim and me, this is a beginning to a different phase in our marriage. With no children and the affiliated activities around on a daily basis, we will have an opportunity to focus exclusively on us and the things we want to do and see. So while a part of my heart grieves for the baby I used to hold in my arms and the little girl who used to hold my hand, my mind understand that I have done my job to raise Katie to the best of my ability. The next step is up to her.