Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Immediate Family Christmas

Andy and Megan arrived a little earlier than planned on the 26th because of the weather forecast. They got out of Huntingburg with no problem, but the interstate through southern Illinois was a bear. At times they were traveling only 10 miles per hour. They were relieved to get here and find no snow on the ground. Katie's plane was supposed to land at 10:30 p.m. but in fact did not arrive until 12:30 a.m. Andy volunteered to go get her, so the rest of us snuggled up here until they got back to the house. Then we stayed up talking until 2:00 a.m. It reminded me of the good old days when Jim and I would come home from work, load up the car and head up to Iowa, often arriving at our parent's house in the wee hours of the morning. It looks like I have something new to apologize for - staying up like that is hard on older folks. Yet our parents never complained.

Jim and I worked out the next morning, and then he had to run into work as a young man was coming in for a job interview. I hit the grocery store as the cupboards were pretty bare. The kids went to the Galleria to finish up some shopping since we were opening gifts that night. I made a roast in the crockpot to simplify clean-up, and then we mixed up a batch of cosmopolitans for everyone to enjoy as we exchanged gifts. Yum!

Friday we all went to the Art Museum since it had been pointed out that Megan had never been there. We were hoping to see the current exhibit of Barocci paintings, but it was sold out until late in the afternoon. Megan and Andy needed to drive back to Indiana and as more snow was predicted they wanted to get on the road before it got too late. So we walked through the museum instead, and hit Ted Drew's on our way back to the house.

Katie is still with us until Wednesday, so it is nice to have a little time to catch up with her. She is busy trying to see all of her friends before she takes off as well. After she leaves, it will be time for me to take down all the decorations. Then Christmas 2012 will be a wrap.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Strange Yet Still Merry Christmas

Jim & Kirby
On Saturday Jim and I drove up to my in-law's house in northeastern Iowa to celebrate Christmas this year. It was the first time in 27 years that we did not have either one of our children with us for the actual holiday. Just like we have done in our 34 years of marriage, Andy and Megan alternate which set of parents gets them for Christmas. They drove to Indiana this year. And since Katie is in Los Angeles with a newer job, she has no paid vacation time not to mention the fact that it would have taken her three flights to get to the closest airport in Iowa. She is flying to St. Louis tonight, and Andy and Megan are driving here from Indiana to spend a couple of nights with us before heading back to Indiana. So we will celebrate our Christmas a little bit late, but we know we are lucky that we can make this happen at all.

In addition to our kids being missing from the activities in Iowa this year, Jim's younger sister was unable to drive up from Kansas City due to work commitments, and his older sister (who lives in the same town as his folks) was so sick that she ended up going to the hospital to get some antibiotics. We did not get to see her and her family until dinner time on Christmas Eve. Though there were several inches of snow on the ground, all of those things added up to it not feeling too much like Christmas. We even went to Christmas Eve Mass at 4:00 in the afternoon, and that was different as well.

Despite all that we had a wonderful visit and of course ate way too much. Jim's mom is such a great cook, and I have little will power when her wonderful cinnamon buns and brownies are placed in front of me. We were able to begin videotaping Jim's mom as she reminisced about her early life, and that was something we all had been wanting to do. We have much more to cover, and we would like to get my father-in-law recorded as well. All in all, a great start to the holiday season and we are eager to see the kids tonight to continue the celebration.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Behind the Masks

glass masks

We pass them everyday but never know what is behind the mask until it shatters.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Reflection on the Newtown Tragedy

Angel headstone

As the angels weep so do we,
for such events we never could foresee. 
Prayers for Newtown and the entire U.S. 
as we struggle to make sense of the senseless.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

St. Louis Public Library

Front of the St. Louis Public Library
Last weekend was a big one for libraries in the St. Louis area. In addition to the reopening of the newly remodeled Webster Groves Public Library which was discussed in my last post, the main branch of the St. Louis Public Library held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Sunday. Following two years of construction the 1912 Carnegie library's $70 million renovation was revealed to the public.

I had been in the library a couple of times in the past to do some house history and land research, and had admired the beauty of the architecture. But this renovation has really transformed the place, opening up some original detailing that had long ago been covered up. An additional 50,000 square feet has been made available as public space, including a large auditorium. With all of the people at the event, it was hard to take everything in. I only had my point and shoot camera with me as I anticipated that they would not allow cameras. I definitely will go back with my DSLR camera and get some more photos. And I am eager to explore the history and genealogy section of the library as well.

one of the ceilings

another ceiling

a third ceiling

original file cabinets

in the teen area

outside the children's area

one of the stained glass windows

lamp base outside

How blessed I am to live in an area that treasures not only public libraries but also the historic buildings that contain their holdings.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Webster Groves Library

Webster Groves Library front
Several years ago the citizens in my community voted for a tax levy to fund an addition to our local library. Though we have had a library of some sort in Webster Groves since 1890, the existing building was constructed in 1951. Over the years the auditorium was re-purposed as the area for children leaving no space for author visits, educational seminars or community meetings. Existing technology was also a little behind the times. Construction began on the remodeling and addition over a year ago, and the library reopened to the public last Monday. I ran in to take some photographs (and check out a few books), and I am just amazed at the transformation. I am usually a little cool towards uber modern additions on old buildings, but the new space is open, airy and spacious. I can't even imagine how happy the staff must be in their new surroundings. Here are some of the photos I took.
Webster Groves Library rear
new atrium

reading room
seating area
children's area
rocking chairs

children's seating area
The official ribbon cutting and open house was on Saturday morning, so Jim and I went to it so that he could see the changes. It is always interesting to go to something like that with him as he has a different perspective on buildings than I do since he has a design degree. He agreed that it was a remarkable improvement. Now I am eager to go back and take a closer look at the reference room and materials. I think there may be some things I can find on my Shrewsbury research there, and I am always looking for house research resources that I can add to my Webster Groves House Research Facebook page.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Webster Holiday House Tour

Christmas Stocking
My friend and I went on the Webster Holiday House Tour today. It is the major fundraiser of the middle school here and is always a wonderful event. I actually co-chaired the tour the two years that Katie was at the school. What a huge job! I have a lot of respect for the (mostly) ladies who organize house tours. There are always at least six houses on the tour, and they have a boutique with refreshments at a different location during the tour hours. At each of the houses 7th and 8th grade students play musical instruments.

The weather, of course, was perfect today. I was expecting it to be way more crowded than it actually ended up to be. We were able to walk to a number of the houses, and it was great to be in a short sleeved shirt. Two of the houses even had their air conditioners on! Who could have imagined 70+ degree weather in December! We toured four houses before heading to Eden Seminary for some cookies and punch. Our timing was great and we got to hear the male and female a capella groups from the high school perform. That is always entertaining. Then we hit the last two houses and headed home.

Seeing all the pretty decorations made me feel like I am way behind schedule. I need to start dragging my Christmas stuff out of the basement and get cracking. Ho, ho, ho...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Death of a Mother

Roy & Catherine Kubler
Today I attended a memorial service celebrating the life of my friend's mom. Every funeral is hard for me as I have lost both my parents, but those involving moms hit particularly close to home. I had never met Linda Austin's mom, but I felt like I knew her through the book Linda co-authored with her entitled Cherry Blossoms in Twilight. The book is a memoir of the time period in Yaeko's life when she was a young woman in Japan during WWII. The memorial service was probably one of the most touching I have ever attended, mostly because of the pastor who presided over the memorial. It was obvious that he personally knew Yaeko, and that he had spent time talking to Linda about her mom. So often when I go to a funeral the service seems so generic - you could just plug any one's name into the readings. That was not the case today. Yaeko was definitely part of the ceremony.

As the service wrapped up, the pastor presented a basket of dried or nearly dried flowers and leaves (Linda's mom often collected these when she was younger and pressed them into books, magazines and even her bible). He asked that we look in the basket on our way out and select an item which spoke to us. As I exited the chapel there in the basket I saw a small red rosebud. Red roses were my mom's favorite flower, so this one definitely spoke to me. It was like a sign from my mother, letting me know that she is okay. Perhaps she is even now collecting flowers with Yaeko. You just never know...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

John J. Murdock Update

Civil War reenactment
As mentioned in the previous post, my neighbor volunteered to look up John Murdock on the Fold 3 website. After a careful search by her, she located an Amnesty Oath for John Murdock in the state of Mississippi dated 6 September 1865. I know from city directories that my John Murdock (and he is mine now) was in St. Louis at that time period, so that is not him. She also found a John T. Murdock in the county of Platt (sic), Missouri on a document which states that he was 61 years old when it was signed in 1864. That means he was born in 1803, and my John wasn't born until 1814. A third and final paper was found on a D.H. Murdock who was a First Lieutenant in Charleston, South Carolina so he is not the correct Murdock either.

Armed with this new information, I am confident that my John Murdock did not serve in the Civil War. At this point I can cross military research off my list and focus on other resources to learn about the man and the land that formed Shrewsbury, Missouri.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

House History and Murdock Farm

SWT Design, Shrewsbury, MO
Thursday I met with a man from the Shrewsbury Historical Society to talk about house research in Shrewsbury, and to see what he might know about John J. Murdock and Murdock Farm. The Society is just getting up and running again following a few years of dormancy. The impetus is the fact that Shrewsbury will be celebrating its Centennial in 2013. As it turns out the Society doesn't have any information about Murdock Farm (which is the land upon which Shrewsbury was originally platted in 1889), and they are focusing their current efforts on history from 1913 to the present.

I shared what I have found about John Murdock - including the fact that I believe he was NOT a general in the Civil War - as well as the various maps I have been collecting of the area. I guess I am on somewhat of a Myth Busters mission at this point. The City of Shrewsbury website states that Murdock was a general in the Civil War, as do all the other resources I have come across including Wikipedia (though I realize Wiki is not a reliable source). A book that was written about the town also states that he was a general. If so, where is the proof? A neighbor lady down the street is a subscriber to Fold 3, an online database consisting mostly of military records. She is going to look Murdock up for me, as that website is working in conjunction with the National Archives. She says that if the record is not in Fold 3, then he wasn't in the Civil War. I don't think she will find any surprises.

I may not win any friends in going forward with this. After all, it sounds pretty cool to say that your city was established on land once owned by a Civil War general. But John J. Murdock was a very interesting man in his own right, and he has quite a story to tell. I may just become the vehicle to make that happen. He certainly has me hooked!

With the centennial celebration, I mentioned that I would be happy to give a presentation on researching house history if that fits into what they are doing. Since we own a business in the area that was once a home, it would be a fun talk for me to give. In the meantime, I'll continue to dig into the Murdock Mystery.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cemetery Digging

Fall colors at Calvary Cemetery
Since it was such a beautiful day I headed up to Calvary Cemetery to do a little digging - figuratively speaking. Since I have been continuing my research on the building we own at 7722 Big Bend I have become a little obsessed with John J. Murdoch. Mr. Murdoch was a very successful auctioneer in partnership with Charles K. Dickson from around 1854 until Dickson died in 1871. They owned a LOT of property in the city of St. Louis as partners, and Murdock owned quite a bit of land west of the city in the area which was to later become Shrewsbury. He farmed the property and I can place him there from around 1857 through 1879. When he died in 1880 he was back in the city. Later census records and directories do not show any of his family members living in the county, so I believe the property was disposed of before 1880.

When Dickson died there apparently were more liabilities than assets in Murdock & Dickson, and as the sole remaining partner all the debt fell to Murdock. He began to sell off the property in the city to pay down the debt. Then Dickson's family filed lawsuits against him, and I can see that at least until 1903 the suits were still active. One document indicated that Murdock was insolvent when he died, having assigned all of his individual estate for the benefit of his creditors. That may mean that Murdock Farm fell victim to the liquidation.

But back to why I made the trip to Calvary. Articles and books about Shrewsbury state that the city was formed on land that was once Murdock Farm, owned by John Murdock who was a general in the civil war. I have been trying to figure out where they came up with him being a general. He was not even in the Civil War as far as I have been able to find out. First of all, he was born in 1814 so that would have made him 47 when the war began. Second, generals in the Civil War were pretty well documented and I find no record of him at all. Third, I can place him in St. Louis through census records and city directories during the time period of the war. Heck, he got married here in 1855. Fourth, his obituary makes no mention of him being a general.

So I thought perhaps his tombstone might have a marker indicating his service. He and 7 of his family members are buried on the same plot as 9 members of the Charles K. Dickson family, which I think is interesting in light of the lawsuit. Imagine my surprise when I got to the plot and found this tombstone.

Dickson-Murdock family plot
Dickson tombstone
You can see all the open space on the plot, but the only headstone is for Dickson. And even they only list 5 of the people who are buried on this plot. So strange... And even if the Murdocks were destitute at the time of John's death, you would think that somewhere along the line a family member would have erected headstones, wouldn't you?

So I will not have a tombstone to help me answer the veteran question. At any rate the man in the office at Calvary said it was up to the family whether the stone stated anything about military service. It is possible it would not have been listed anyway. I will continue to look for clues, but unless I have the wrong John J. Murdock I think someone made up a good story for how Shrewsbury got its start.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Voted but I Didn't Get a Sticker

Because my schedule is flexible, I try to vote when it is less likely that those who punch a clock will need to be at the polls. I attended my weekly small group training class at 9:00, fervently wishing that my recreation center was my polling place so that I could vote after class was finished. After all, I had already scored a parking spot and had a picture ID with me. But alas, that is not where I can vote, so I dodged the political volunteers feverishly thrusting their papers filled with, I mean information...into the hands of the "undecided" and went inside to get buff with Becky. A man was coming out the door carrying his daughter and she exclaimed, "I voted for mommy!" So cute! Too bad mommy really wasn't on the ballot.

I arrived at my polling place a little after 10:00, parking on the side street behind the school and entering through the playground. It was brilliant because all the paper pushers were on the street in front of the school, so I didn't have to lip off that I had certainly made up my mind by now and their papers weren't going to sway me. I didn't see a line coming out of the building, which I took as a good sign. Upon entering the gym, I found about 40 or so people waiting in front of me. Not too bad... A quick glance told me that this was not a well organized polling center. The way the line was positioned, you not only could read each vote of the person using the end electronic booth, the line blocked the box where those who used the paper ballot had to come to drop off their completed ballots. Shaking my head, I booted up my iPad and settled in to read a bit while I waited. Finally a Little Man volunteer started pushing those behind me in line out the gym door away from those trying to vote, and then he reorganized those of us closer to the beginning of the line to suit his fancy. It was then that he told me I was not allowed to use my iPad. He said there were signs posted outside that you are not allowed to use cell phones in the voting area. I told him that I did not have a phone on me. He said well there are no rules for these kind of devices, but I don't want you to use it in here. "Even to read a book?", I inquired. "I want you to turn if off." After he left, the men around me shook their heads. "Give a person a little power..", one said. (Or give a little person power, I thought to myself.) What is ironic is that Little Man later pulled out his cell phone and was using it in the gym. Really?

I decided to go with the paper ballot as they had 4 stations for doing that versus 3 for electronic voting, and the electronic line was twice as long. Once I got over to the paper ballot area, they offered the option of sitting at the table to fill the ballot out, and there were four seats at the table. I took a seat there because one opened up before a traditional stand did. I will say that there was little privacy to be had. I held my ballot up at an angle to protect my vote. I still want to know why we have regressed to filling in ovals with a pen as opposed to punching the cards. Did the hanging chad fiasco in Florida ruin that for everyone? Some people completed theirs so quickly that I was wondering how they filled their ovals in so rapidly. And what is the margin for error there?

At any rate, when I was done as luck would have it Little Man was collecting the paper ballots. He placed mine in the box, made sure the number counter recorded it, and told me I was done. He did not, however, give me a sticker. IPad bad, I guess. By the time I left, the line was out the door so I was grateful I came when I did. But I still want my sticker!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Frankenstorm Cuts Short our Mini-vacation

Southwest Airlines
With the continuous reports about the severity of Hurricane Sandy, AKA Frankenstorm, I was getting a little nervous about our Monday noon flight. Surprisingly my husband was pretty lackadaisical about it. He wanted to just wait and see what happened. But Andy and I were pretty convinced that if we did not get a flight out on Sunday, we probably would not be leaving before Wednesday at the earliest. When I checked with the Southwest Airlines website, they were strongly suggesting that if you had a flight out of the East coast on Monday or later you try to schedule an earlier flight.  And they were offering to change flights for free. That was the clincher for me - the airlines don't give you anything for free any more. We were scheduled to fly out of Reagan National Airport, but a quick review showed that the only two flights to St. Louis on Sunday were already full. Same with the Dulles International Airport. It appeared the flights out of Baltimore were still available, so at that point we called Southwest to make sure that they would allow us to change to a flight from a different city. Surprisingly we were able to get through to an agent. The only direct flight that still had two open seats was the one leaving Baltimore at 6:50 a.m. The agent said that flight was still pretty open. Since beggars could not afford to be choosers, we booked that flight.

Andy woke us up at 4:00 in the morning (3:00 St. Louis time) and drove us to Baltimore. At that time of day it only took 45 minutes. We arrived with plenty of time to check our bags and grab some oatmeal for breakfast. Keeping a close eye on where the families and all their children sat on the plane, we settled in seats located in the middle of the plane. Apparently many others ended up taking the storm seriously, as it was 100% full. We left Baltimore a little late because the plane had too much fuel on it (and how does that happen?) and they had to unload some. But we arrived in St. Louis just a bit behind schedule, and at any rate that was no big deal for us.

Andy and Megan ended up losing power in their apartment on Monday, and the airports did indeed close that day. I doubt that we would have gotten out of the DC area until late in the week. So while I am sad that we did not get to spend the last full day with Megan and Andy, I am vastly relieved that we heeded the suggestions and got out on Sunday. I am pretty sure that the kids are glad as well. There is a reason for the adage that fish and guests smell after three days.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fall Travel and the Frankenstorm

Inn BoonsBoro
Last Christmas Jim won the husband of the year award for presenting me with a gift certificate for a night at Inn BoonsBoro, located in Boonsboro, MD. For the uninitiated this inn is owned by Nora Roberts, who is my favorite author. I have read every single one of her books, and own most of them. I also have consumed all the books in the In Death series, which she writes under the pen name of J.D. Robb. Nora's latest trilogy is centered around the renovation of a 1790's inn located in Boonsboro (which happens to be near Nora's home town), as well as other business located along main street. I believe I mentioned in passing to Jim that Nora had restored an old inn and turned it into a Bed and Breakfast. He latched onto it from there and contacted them for a certificate.

We decided to go and visit Andy and Megan for a long weekend, and tie in a night at the inn for my birthday. When I called for the reservation I requested the Eve and Roarke room. Each of the eight rooms are named after fictional literary couples, but the one I chose is the only one representing a couple from Nora's books. Actually Eve and Roarke are the main characters in the J.D. Robb books. Plus that room is on the back side of the inn, which is always a consideration for a light sleeper like me. The inn sits right on Main Street, so there is a lot of traffic passing by.

We flew into Washington Reagan on Thursday afternoon, and the kids picked us up. From the airport we went out for dinner before heading to their apartment. The next morning they left for work and we took off in Andy's car. We stopped at Harpers Ferry on our way to BoonsBoro. What a wonderful place! It is a national park, and great pains have been taken to preserve the town's predominantly early 19th century buildings. We spent several hours here and easily could have stayed longer.

St. Peter's Catholic Church
Harpers Ferry

Inn BoonsBoro
From Harpers Ferry it was a short 20 minute drive to Boonsboro, where we were cordially welcomed to the inn and shown around the building. Guests have the run of the house, so to speak, and can help themselves to drinks in the dining area, cookies (that were to die for), and Jameson from the decanter in the Library. They also offer a wine and cheese gathering at 6:00. After unloading our suitcases we walked around photographing the inn and the town. Several of the area businesses appear in Nora's books, so it was fun to get to see how close my imagination matched the real thing. We also went to Turn the Page Bookstore, which is owned by Nora's husband and is home to her book signings. She is having a signing there next weekend for the release of the third book in the Inn BoonsBoro trilogy, but by the time I got around to making reservations the inn was full for that weekend. I was able to pre-order the book however, and it will be signed and mailed to me. So that is something I guess.

Dan's Restaurant & Tap House
We met two of the other couples staying at the inn while we enjoyed the wine and cheese reception. Following that we had dinner next door at Dan's Restaurant and Tap House, which is owned by Nora's son and daughter-in-law. As guests of the inn we were able to get reservations instead of having to wait the hour and a half that is normal on the weekends. The restaurant is quite historic as well, but we were floored when we opened up the menu to find that it was back lit like an iPad for easy reading in the dim light. What a sight for aging eyes! Very cool... The bartender poured a wonderful gin and tonic, and we very much enjoyed our meals. After a pleasant stroll down Main Street, we began to look through the day's photos while indulging in a Jameson before the fire in the library at the inn. What a wonderful ending to a great day!

The next morning breakfast included cereal, fresh fruit, French toast, bacon and sausages, homemade rolls and a made-to-order omelet if you desired. Everything was quite tasty! Then we packed up the car and headed off to Antietam National Battlefield, location of the bloodiest day in Civil War history where over 23,000 lost their lives.

Soldiers at Antietam
Cannons at Antietam

We spent several hours driving through the national park and stopping to hike to the various points of interest. It is amazing to see all the history on the East coast since we do not have this type of history that is preserved in the Midwest.

We got back to Andy and Megan's around 5:00, which left us with enough light to drive around and see the bridge project that Andy is working on in DC. I took some photos as I know his Grandpa will be very interested to see the new construction. Then we went out to celebrate my birthday at a restaurant before heading back to their apartment to enjoy the chocolate birthday cake Megan had made for me.

It was our plan to fly home on Monday so that could spend all of Sunday with the kids, but we were all keeping a cautious eye on the weather. Frankenstorm and an alert from Southwest Airlines caused us to change our plans. More on that in the next post.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fall Colors

The Missouri Botanical Garden fountain
Jim and I took a nice long walk at the Missouri Botanical Garden this morning, cameras in hand. This is my favorite time of year as the trees explode in shades of yellow, red and orange. Surprisingly the garden was not too crowded, even when we left for home around noon. Everyone must have been over at the zoo or something. Too bad for them, as we had the garden mostly to ourselves.

I love that the garden has their main fountain dyed red in support of the St. Louis Cardinals. The fountain definitely rivaled the trees in terms of bright red! We were entertained by a bird having a quick bath in one of the fountains. I imagined him laughing at the other birds as they took a drink from the same place he had been bathing!

Bird bath
Splish splash I was takin' a bath

Japanese Garden

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Four Takeaways from the Cardinal's Game Last Night

- Don't judge a winner from the score

- You may be down but you are not out

- It takes a team

and the number one takeaway...

- The Cardinals never give up, and neither do their fans!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Another Empty Nest

Bird house
In July of 2010 we installed a pretty birdhouse in the back yard. We had an extra post left from the back porch when it was removed in preparation for the addition back in 2007. We held on to it since it was in such good shape, and decided it would make the perfect stand for a birdhouse. We ordered this particular house because we had admired the ones in Gramercy Park in New York City, and it was based on that design. The birds adopted it right away and it has been a full house ever since. Until now. The other day Jim was walking out to his car and noticed that the house was missing - as in totally gone! The weird thing is that the nests are still sitting on top of the post. So we think that in the storm the other night a branch must have landed on the house and knocked it off.

I didn't notice it was missing until he told me about it today. So I went out to investigate and found the pieces to the house all busted up in the shrubs below. It is really disappointing as it was expensive, and yet as I picked up the pieces I could tell they were made from thin wood. It seems even bird house builders use cheaper materials to save costs.

Bird nest

Bird house blown to smithereens

I can just hear the little birds saying, "Really? This had to happen just as it is getting cold here?" Looks like Jim and I will be out shopping for a new home. One that will be going to the birds.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

For He's a Jolly Good Fellow...

Hunter, Ted, Jim, Bonnie and Jay
Over the (long) weekend we traveled to Phoenix for the annual meeting of the American Society of Landscape Architects. While we have gone to the conference many times in the past, this year was very special as Jim was elevated to Fellow. A black tie event was held on Sunday night with a dinner and procession of the new Fellows, 33 of them this year. It is a huge honor, and in the organization's 113 year history only 1,100 some members have made it into the Council of Fellows.

But let me backtrack a bit. In July I asked our children if they would like to attend the ceremony as a surprise to their dad. They were excited to be included, and so began three months of scheming behind Jim's back. I made their room reservations and then coordinated with Jim's partner Ted to make sure that we had room at our table for Andy, Megan and Katie. Jim was told that the three Principals in the firm were each bringing their spouses to fill the table of ten. Then their spouses had to be let in on the secret in case Jim said something to them about the trip at one of the company gatherings this fall. Conversations with the kids had to take place when Jim was not around or through text messages. Since so many people knew about the surprise, I could not believe that we were able to keep it a secret from him but somehow we pulled it off. Almost. More on that in a bit. Because the dinner was not until Sunday, we decided to all meet in the lobby bar at 7:00 Friday night after checking in. The kids would then come in a few minutes after us so that the other employees could enjoy the surprise.

When Jim and I went to check in, I told the woman behind the counter that we had a reservation under Jim Wolterman. She said, "Jim and Kim?" I replied yes, with the American Society of Landscape Architects. I bet you can see this coming...She then says, "Do you know you have another room reserved with Kathryn Wolterman?" Jim said, "What?!?" Since I had made the reservations and used my AAA card, the rooms had to be in the kids' names as well as mine. So, after 3 months of everyone keeping their mouths shut, the deal was blown by the desk clerk. Ugh!!! So I sent Jim away from the counter and proceeded to express my dismay that she had just ruined the big surprise. It was not her fault, I know, but REALLY? All I needed was another hour and a half to be in the clear.

Then Jim wanted to go down to the bar early and I tried to talk him out of it to no avail. So I finally sent Andy a text message and told them to come on down. They were able to sneak up behind him, so at least something was a surprise. Jim later said that even though he suspected Katie might be coming due to the desk clerk, he had no thought that Andy and Megan would be able to make the trip. So that is gratifying I guess.

Katie, Megan, Andy and me
Saturday and Sunday Jim, Ted and the rest of the staff were in meetings all day. Saturday the kids and I, along with Ted's wife Jill, took the rental car out to the South Mountain Park and Preserve. Since it was around 100 degrees the whole time we were there, we were looking for something to do where we wouldn't die of heat exposure. This was a happy medium because you can drive through the park but also get out and take photos and walk a bit if you want. It was an interesting park, and their terrain is so different from ours. That night following a special reception that Iowa State had for their three new Fellows, ten of us had dinner at the hotel. It was surprisingly good food with great service.

Roosevelt Lake in Tonto National Forest
Sunday Jill decided to do her own thing so the kids and I drove out to Tonto National Forest, which has 3 million acres of land. It took about two hours to get to Roosevelt Lake in the park, which was formed by the damming of a couple of rivers. By the time we did that and stopped at some areas for pictures, it was time to head back to Phoenix so we would all have time to get ready for the big event.

Jim had to go down at 6:00 with his escort, who was Ted, so that they could do their rehearsal. They had to wear tuxes, so the rest of us were dressed in formal wear as well. At 7:00 the reception began, followed by the dinner at 8:00. The ceremony started shortly after dessert. In alphabetical order (yay for the Ws) they had a short slide presentation of the work of the recipient along with some verbiage telling about that person's history in the profession of landscape architecture. The whole event was really well done, and I am so glad that we could all be there for him. I am so proud of Jim and all that he has accomplished so far.

Wolterman table at the ASLA Fellows Ceremony