Sunday, July 31, 2011

WDM, IA - Blog Photos

As you could see from some previous blogs, I’ve been having some problems with the photos on the blog. They look find in my computer but when they get to the blog, they are over-exposed and have big black blotches where the light source is. Don’t look now to find them, we’ve got the problem fixed and have gone back to fix the bad ones.

We noticed it first on July 19 when I wrote the ‘Fixing the Trim’ blog but Gary was able to fix the pictures for that blog, not without lots of extra work, however. We noticed it a little on the Google Camera blog but it was really apparent when I wrote the blog about walking in the mall. That was a Friday and the pictures came out awful. We knew we had to fix them. Our first thought was that there was a problem with our downloads to the Blog website so we decided to visit the library in the evening to try their faster wi-fi. We drove up and: our first clue was that there were no cars in the parking lot. Our second clue was that the lights were off, and our final clue was that the sign on the window which listed the Friday hours as 10 - 5. Oops. We ain’t that dumb - we were able to deduce those clues and we figured out that the library was closed. Nothing gets by us. Not even on a Friday night.

We drove close to the building, fired up my computer and tried the wi-fi. But, they had turned it off for the evening. Shucky - darn. Well, Panera is close so we drove over, set up on one of their tables and tried again. Another oops. The pictures still were overexposed on the blog. Gary then went online and logged into to a user group for the piece of software I use to write the blog, scrolled through the problem topics, found one just like ours and read the description. Sure enough, another user had the same problem. Gary then wrote our problem on to the group, then e-mailed to pictures to show the administrator of the group what our problem was. Saturday, the guy e-mailed us his thanks and said he’d work on it.

Sure enough, Sunday evening he e-mailed us a corrected Beta version of the software and asked us to test it to see if he had solved our problem. On Sunday night! Imagine that.

It worked, we tested it thoroughly, e-mailed him back to thank him and we’re good to go

What service.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

WDM, IA - Walking the Mall

You ask: ‘Well, where is the blogger these days?’ And the blogger answers: ‘living a pretty dull life - not one that you’d want to read about.’

Firstly, the weather has been pretty steamy here in Iowa (though it has been steamier elsewhere also) and this has been dictating our schedule. We begin our day with a bit of fruit and then we hie ourselves over to the nearest mall for our daily walk. Sheesh, walking in the mall? What pansies! Well, no, walking in the mall is almost a contact sport and I don’t know the rules.

We arrived at the mall on Monday morning about 8:00, entered, turned ‘right’ (and this is the operative word) and did our rounds, 4 upstairs, 3 downstairs. No problem, everything was hunky dory. Tuesday morning, we switched it up and turned left as we entered, just for a different look. Bad move. The protocol is to circle the mall counter-clockwise. The ‘right’ way to turn is to the ‘right.’ We got stares, we got startled glances as we rounded a corner almost to run into someone coming the opposite direction, we knew we were doing it the wrong way. 2 times around in a clockwise direction, and we turned, like lemmings, and walked the way the others were.


Then, I decided to take some pictures of us walking the ma to put here so show how dull life is here. Another bad move. After several pictures at several locations, a security officer, who obviously had watched us on some closed-circuit camera in his ‘command’ center, accosted us and told us it was not policy to take pictures. Oops. Well, luckily I was done.


Secondly, my sister-in-law, Cathy, made a marvelous photo album for my father-in-law for his birthday which included all the pictures she and her husband took at his birthday party on the 10th. She not only had all the pictures but she had added stickers and other things that she had found at a scrapbooking store. I thought it was marvelous and a great gift. And - I decided to make a photo album for my brother.

Now, my brother is a 60-yr old bachelor who has never owned a camera. Gary and I have been the ones who take all the pictures at the family events - and have been doing so for our 38 years of marriage and our 3 years of dating. We also have all of my parents’ pictures. We also have some of my grandmother’s pictures. Needless to say, we have a lot of pictures. So, I have been culling through them for the last 3 days trying to find some representative pictures for an album for him. This means not only finding them but also scanning them, putting them into our picture software on our computer, cropping, enhancing and making them useful for an album. Then in Pages, an Apple piece of software comparable to Microsoft Word, I’ve been arranging them. I’ve spent a bunch of hours in the lower level working on this.

I’m pretty sure Jack will like the album but I’m not sure he’ll like it as much as I’ve enjoyed living the old memories and putting the album together.

So that’s life here in the fast lane. Pretty dull but I’ve enjoyed it and am having a great time putting this album together.

Monday, July 25, 2011

WDM, IA - The New Normal

Sometimes it’s amazing how fast one can be laid low by physical problems. One day, healthy without a care in the world, the next day, flat on your back in the hospital. We all think we’re still kids and will be kids forever with the physical strength and stamina to match. Then something happens to make us realize that good health is not a given. A friend of ours, 63 years old, without a sick day to his name found himself in this position recently.

He had a bit of a backache, really, nothing to worry about. What’s called ‘over doer’s backache’ on TV. Just a little rest and an Advil. The next night, he awoke in such pain that his wife had to call the ambulance to get him to the emergency room of the hospital. A few tests, a bit of poking and prodding and then the doctor noticed that one side of his abdomen was swollen. He poked it, it was as hard as a board. A few more tests and our friend was life-flighted to Iowa City 180 miles away into the care of the specialists at the University of Iowa Hospitals.

To make a long story short, our friend had 2 staph infections, probably in his back. This had caused a abscess, a fluid build-up in his abdomen the size of 1/2 a volley ball, which pushed against his pancreas, shutting it down and causing diabetes.

He was released from Iowa City but then had to find a place where he could stay where his special needs could be met. He needs a 1-1/2-hr daily antibiotics drip to kill the infection. The fluid is still draining from his abscess. He is too weak to walk without a walker. Luckily he lives in Fort Dodge, Ia where there is a nursing home / health center which has a floor dedicated to short term disability patients who need rehab. But he was the one who had to come up with this idea and had to make some of the arrangements himself.

To look at him in his room, he looks great, as if he’s sitting, relaxing in his own living room. He still has the same old smile, the same old wit and the same old mile-a-minute conversation speed. But, he has a ‘pick’ for his daily 1-1/2 hr intravenous antibiotics drip, a plastic container hanging off his abdomen catching the fluid as it drains and a walker by his side. Nice room, great service, excellent food, but, what in the world is he doing there?

His nurse in Iowa City told him that he had a ‘new normal’ and he’s been told he would probably need a walker from now on. He and his wife are facing this head-on. They know what the ‘new normal’ is but that doesn’t mean that they are not continuing with the ‘old normal’ in many ways and that they won’t continue to strive to regain the ‘old normal.’ He is determined to walk without a walker and, I have no doubt that he will, with the determination he has shown recently.

A good day is when he can walk down the hall and back with a walker. And, he’s having more of these as time passes.

Now, I realize that the twists that fate can play on us is not a new revelation but sometimes it is brought home more forcefully. Sometimes we find it on our doorstep. Gary and I are very cognizant of the fact that we are extremely lucky. We know how lucky we are to be physically and financially able to do what we are doing. But, every now and then, it slaps us upside of our heads.

We’re impressed with the fortitude and courage shown by this couple, wish them all the best and know that they’re going to shine.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

WDM, IA - Heat and the Google Camera

As the weather and news reports say, it has been hot around here this summer. And, even hotter in other areas. Oklahoma, Kansas, all are setting 100-year records. And, then this massive heat dome moved east into the Mid-Atlantic states and New England. They’ve been suffering through temperatures in the low 100’s. In at the 14 years that we lived in New England, we never had to endure weather so extreme in the summer. Now, on the other hand, winter is a different story - we did have some snow storms.


We like to walk about 4+ miles a day and in weather like this, it is extremely difficult. We have mesh wicking shirts and running shorts and we wear hats but, unless you’ve got an air-conditioner strapped to your back, nothing you can wear can make this kind of weather seem cool. Of course, as a ‘lady’ I do NOT sweat, I merely ‘glisten.’ But I glisten buckets full.

An article in the newspaper a few days ago was headlined: ‘Healthy seniors sometimes ignore heat warnings.’ The gist of the article was that ‘old’ people should be extra cautious in weather like this BUT, no one wants to think of themselves as ‘old’ so no one thinks the warning applies to them. Me - at the age of 65, I think the warning apples to those in their 70’s or 80’s. Those are ‘old’ people. Me, I’m in the prime of my life.

However, Gary and I do want to be comfortable while we walk so we have been walking in the malls in the area. Much more comfortable. Of course, there are more ‘obstacles’ - oh, yeah, those are the shoppers - the ones who keep the malls open.

We walk in the malls, we have been known to eat cereal for dinner, we wear hats as we walk - man, are we ever ‘old.’ Maybe that article DOES apply to us.

And, by the way, as we were driving to the mall, we saw a fast-moving small car darting in and out of traffic with a strange tower on its roof. Why, it’s the Google Maps car, mapping our area. I kept trying to catch up with it so Gary could take a better picture with his phone-camera but this little car was moving too swiftly. The driver must be paid by the mile.

I rely on Google maps when planning our trips. Can we drive our RV down this curvy mountain road? Can we drive our RV into this gas station? Can we park our RV in this campground? Can we negotiate that corner? All of these questions can be answered on Google Maps. I also use them to plot distances between stops. When we get to an area where we will stay for a while I search Google Maps for the nearest grocery store, the nearest Barnes and Noble, the nearest library, etc. (Now, I use our iPhone to find the nearest ice cream shop.) But Google Maps is great when I’m at home, online and am writing down addresses for a town. When we get into the car, we’ve got the addresses to key into the GPS.

Thank you, Google.

WDM, IA - If You are Having Troubles Commenting on this Blog

{Gary here: We hope that this posting will help you learn how to use Comments confidently. Comments are just a great way for all Readers to interact with Nancy, and with each other, so we encourage you to make them.}

Hi, Everyone,

I appreciate all the comments I’ve gotten about the new blog. This is a Google blogging site, and is also new to Gary and me so I appreciate any frustrations you have.

Several of you have tried to make comments and have been a bit stumped by the steps to do so. Let us try to help you here...

When you wish to read other Readers’ comments, or make your own comments, look at the bottom of any of my Blog posts for the following:


Click on the word ‘comments’, and you will see any previous Comments by other Readers, followed by an empty ‘Post a Comment’ box.


Type your comment in the large box (you can drag the lower right corner if you need more space). You then must do what Google calls ‘select profile’ (we agree, that is not exactly self-explanatory). Click on the ‘select profile’ box, where you will see the choices below:


If the top items in that list mean little to you, take the easy route. Just choose either ‘Name/URL’ or ‘Anonymous’, whichever you wish (of course, we prefer your name so we can guess who you are). If you choose ‘Name/URL’ you will see the box below. Simply enter anything you wish in the ‘Name’ field. First name only is just fine, or even a made-up name if you don’t like using your real name. You do not need to write in anything in the URL field. Then click on ‘Continue’.


As an example, below is the result after Gary entered his Comment, entered his first name in the profile box, then hit ‘Continue’. Note that Gary’s name is now in the ‘Comment as’ box. At this point Gary then clicks on ‘Post Comment’:


You will now see a Preview of your Comment, along with a ‘Word verification’ security box which will ask you to type in a ‘magic’ word. After you type this word in correctly, just click on ‘Post Comment.’ (We are probably all getting used to these verification methods, since everyone is trying to minimize the occurrence of dreadful spam.)


Now (finally) when you look at the end of the Blog post just below ‘Posted by Nancy Ferguson…’, you should see all earlier comments along with your latest comment, followed by a new ‘Post a Comment’ box, and below that a highlighted note ‘Your comment was published’:


One final suggestion: Many of you know each other and, if you wish to comment on other Readers’ comments, you may do so.

We hope this helps, but of course Comment (or send us emails!) if you are still frustrated.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

WDM, IA - Finally Trimming the Windows

We are finally getting our window trim finished. Back in 2009, as we were sitting in the Corpus Christi Aquarium in the middle of January, my sister-in-law called with words no traveler wants to hear: ‘you’ve got a frozen pipe and 2” of water in the lower level.’ She and her husband had come over to our house to check it out and, as he headed for the lower level, he heard running water noises. And, as soon as he hit the bottom, he felt the squish of the water on the carpet.

Both of them rushed around, shutting off the water to the house, grabbing what they could to preserve it and getting everything off the floor. To make a long story short, they saved just about everything. Meanwhile, Gary and I drove home to see the damage. But, they had done so much and Service Pro had done the rest that there wasn’t much for us to do. We drove back to Corpus Christi to continue our travels, putting off the decisions about the lower level for another time. Nothing like procrastination.

That summer, not only did we re-do the flooring and the parts of the walls which had been destroyed, we also decided to replace the dropped ceiling with a regular ceiling, remove a wall and replace 6 windows. Oof-da. (Are we gluttons for punishment or what?) All of this consumed the summer and we got everything done except the trim on the windows. Time to procrastinate and head out for our winter travels.

Meanwhile this is how our windows looked. The yellow stuff is some foam insulation I sprayed between the windows and the 2”x6” studs. Holey, molly, guacamole, look at that dry wall. It was obviously a bit chipped up when we put in the new windows - but, then, isn’t that what trim is supposed to cover? I’m embarrassed that our windows have looked so unfinished for so long and probably shouldn’t be showing these pictures in public but, it’s part of the story. So, here goes.


This year we are remedying this situation. No more procrastination. We hired a craftsman to finish up the trim and we then will get to the painting. To get ready for his work, we moved the furniture out of the way, took pictures off the walls near the windows and removed the blinds. Removed the blinds? In the bedroom? Yep. For two nights, we scurried into bed, either in the dark or bent over double. Best part was the traffic light up the hill which shines in our bedroom window. We always knew when it was ‘green’ for ‘go and ‘yellow’ for caution. ‘Red’ for ‘stop’ was the darkest, and just as we got used to the dark, the green lit up our bedroom again.

Paul, the craftsman, worked right along and finished in 2 1/2 days. The first 2 days were nailing up the trim pieces and filling the holes and cracks. His work was as good as it was swift. We had uneven walls and it wasn’t always easy to get the trim to lie flush against them. He called us down several times to show us and to ask what we wanted him to do. And, here is the same corner after he was done. Nice, smooth, covering all that foam insulation and chipped dry wall. Oops - looks like someone needs to paint. That’s a next week chore.


On the third day, he sanded the wood filler he had put in the nail holes and on the corners. This was not the hand sanding he had told us but he had a small electric sander. No problem with that but. . . We had covered the bedding, chair and the other items in the bedroom to protect them from the sanding. (See picture below.) Next, as he moved down to the living room, we uncovered the bedroom and moved the sheets to the living room to cover the sofas, lights and rug.


Here’s where it got messy, in more ways than one. I left to get a haircut while Gary was busy upstairs vacuuming the bedroom. Paul finished with the living room, moved to the lower level and began to sand. There were 4 windows down there - lots of sanding. We have both our desks down there, lots of paperwork, books, carpeting, lamps, etc. And he sanded, and sanded and sanded.


When we got back down there, everything was covered with a fine film of sand: papers, lamps, chairs, TV, you name it - it was covered. I thought I was back in the desert southwest. At first, I was irate and I was taking it out on the dusting and vacuuming. Boy, was I scouring the dust off. Then I calmed down and realized that we hadn’t told him to tell us when he was moving downstairs. We had kept ahead of him on the previous 2 floors but he had gotten ahead of us on the lower level. He must have thought we didn’t want coverings on anything in the lower level.

Oh, well, did we ever scour that lower level. I cleaned every section of every slat of every set of blinds. Gary vacuumed every inch, twice, and the corners even better.

But, hey, at least it wasn’t 3 miles high like the dust storms which have hit Phoenix. This was no big deal, just a little ‘aw shucks, we should have told him. ‘Silly us.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

WDM, IA - Patricia, the Seamstress and the Wedding Gown

I have a friend, who for this blog post will be named ‘Patricia.’ She and her husband have 2 weddings this summer, one for her daughter this July and one for her son in September. To say that she is busy is an understatement. And, as we all know, there are a million arrangements one must make for a perfect wedding. Most are going well but not all. There is the incident of the dresses.

She has bought two dresses, one for her daughter’s wedding and one for the son’s. Her daughter also, of course, bought a wedding gown. Since both dresses and the gown needed some alterations, she found a seamstress who had several good recommendations and went to her with the dresses and the gown. They tried them on, explained what they wanted and all was well.

Then they went for the first fitting. When the seamstress says as you enter:

‘I’m glad you are here since I’ve lost my copy of the measurements.’

You know you’re in trouble.

Sure enough, the daughter’s bustle on her wedding gown was high enough to hang a hat on. Meanwhile the mother’s dresses were so tight she couldn’t sit down. And - the seamstress had cut off the extra material. Mild-mannered Patricia, gathered the dresses and the gown up in her arms, told the seamstress that she had not met her expectations and walked out.

The kicker is that when they got home, the father of the bride and the groom were sitting around with their feet up, watching TV and enjoying an adult beverage. ‘How’d it go, honey?’ he said. Oops, big mistake.

You probably want to know the ending of the story. Well, it is a happy ending. Patricia found another seamstress who not only fixed the dresses and the wedding gown in record time but also ironed the gown which had been left a wrinkled mess.

Then there is the woman we met on our walk yesterday. She lives in our town home complex and was walking up her driveway with her mail when we met her. She’s quite lively and somehow the talk turned to her car. She had always wanted a gold Mercedes but her husband always had a reason for why they could not buy her Mercedes that year. He died about 5 years ago and, voila, she has a Mercedes.


She then cupped her hands around her mouth, looked skyward and said: ‘Hell-o-o-o-o. Mel, look in the garage.’

She does love her new Mercedes, although it is silver not gold, and here is how she parks it in the grocery store parking lot so it won’t get damaged.

Friday, July 15, 2011

WDM, Ia - Wax on, Wax off

Remember the Karate Kid? Well, today we practiced Mr. Miyagi’s ‘wax on, wax off’ technique on the RV. Boy, did we ever practice it.

We’ve been waiting since we returned in April for 3 days in a row without rain so that we can clean the RV. It’s been a long wait. Not that we minded. Cleaning an RV is not something you happily anticipate, like an ice cream cone. Nope, it’s something you want to put off. (Maybe we should have looked for 4 days in a row.) But our time frame was 1 day to wash, 1 day to wax and 1 day to do maintenance - 3 days. The weather report says a ‘very slight’ chance of rain for the next 7 days

And this weekend is the time and this state is the place.

        Never mind that Iowa is sweltering under temperatures of 95+

        Never mind that the humidity is an oppressive 75+

        Never mind that the heat index (the famed ‘feels like’ temperature) is 105+

Nope, this is the weekend.

We sweetened the chore by eating breakfast out Friday morning before we headed over to the storage facility to pick up the old Safari Simba, our rolling winter home.

The temps were as predicted but it was a bit cloudy so the sun wasn’t hitting us as hard as we had anticipated and it wasn’t as bad as we had thought.


Rags, buckets, brushes, extension poles, ladder, hoses, wax. Yep, we’re ready.

I got out the soap and read the directions. It says to mix 1 oz of soap with a gallon of water. Now, I’m standing in the garage ready to wash a car - I don’t have a clue how much an ounce is. Would you know? Well, let’s do the math. I once learned ‘a pint’s a pound, the world around.’ So:

        1 pint = 16 ounces

        2 cups = 16 ounces

        1 cup = 8 ounces

        1/8 c = 1 ounce.

There, 1/8 of a cup is what I need. I have a general idea what 1/8 of a cup is. But, I’m still in the garage, not close to my measuring cups in the kitchen. So, I did what I should have done in the first place, just poured some soap into the bucket and filled the bucket with water.

Washing went fine - we think that lots of the dirt and the bugs have come off in the Iowa springtime rains so it really wasn’t as hard a scrub as we’ve had in the past. (Or, maybe it was the way I mixed the soap.) In fact, we even got to the waxing today. We bought some great wax and I define ‘great’ as easy to put on. And, this stuff sprayed on and wiped off easily. Gary, the ladder guy, did the top half and I, the feet-firmly-planted-on-terra-firma gal, did the lower half. And, we moved around that RV pretty fast.

Since Gary works on and walks on the RV roof, he decided not to wax that. Did I marry a smart man or what?

It’s shiny, it’s clean and it’s ready for a rally we’re attending in August. Can’t have a dirty RV at a rally.

Then, early Saturday morning, I heard the pitter pat of little rain drops on the skylight in our bathroom. So much for that ‘slight chance’ of rain.

We’ve always thought that the muggy days of July were good for corn growth. Today in the paper, it says that muggy temps are good for growth but - not for pollination. And, this is pollination time. That’s your trivia for the day.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

WDM, Ia - Getting the Jeep ready to Tow

Some people have all the excitement. And, it ain’t us.

Today, we’re at Schuling Hitch in Des Moines, getting the Jeep ready to tow this winter. You can’t just put a hitch on the back of a motorhome and tow a Jeep like you tow a trailer. Motorhomes tow their cars on a straight tow bar and, then the ‘toad’ (RV talk for the car, SUV or truck that is towed) follows directly behind in the same path of the motorhome. It’s pretty slick.

We have the tow bar from our last Jeep but need to put into the new Jeep a metal base plate bolted to the Jeep frame that the motorhome can hook the tow bar up to. We also need something to coordinate the lights of the motorhome with the lights of the Jeep. We also have a supplementary brake system in the Jeep which will brake at the same time as the motorhome. This is an added safety precaution. This supplementary brake system needs a plug from which it can get electricity to work. So, we need not only the base plate for towing but several electrical parts for lights and the supplementary brake.

Suffice it to say, the whole process will take the better part of a day and cost the better part of - well, I won’t go there. Let me just summarize by saying that we will keep our arms and legs but just barely.


Remember, we have only one car so, if it’s at Schuling Hitch, so are we. We brought our computers and some projects to work on while we waited. Above you can see Gary in the lunchroom of the office. Pretty small but the table is bigger than the one we have in the RV so we are right at home. Our knees don’t even bump each other under this table.

And, here is our Jeep being worked on. That’s the bumper off to the left. I hope they don’t have any left over screws and bolts when they get done. Oops, is that a ‘Tow Bar for Dummies’ book in his hands? No, they’re pretty good. They did our previous Jeep also and that’s why we’re back. We trust they to do a good job.


We met some other people getting some work done while we were waiting. One was a woman who was north of 80 who was getting a hitch put on her car so she could tow a fold-down trailer which she had just bought. Isn’t that amazing - 80 years old and still camping and traveling. She was going to meet her daughter and son-in-law in Colorado for some camping. She kept asking us if we still had all our ‘original’ parts. Seems she’s had 2 knees and 2 hips replaced and was sure that everyone else had also. She was pretty surprised to hear that we had all our ‘original’ parts.

Finally it was done and we were on our way home.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

WDM, IA - Welcome to Geezerhood

Today is my ‘Welcome to Medicare’ appointment with my doctor. Can’t wait for the official start of Geezerhood.

Actually the appointment went as all doctor appointments do - rather invasive. And, those gowns - well, that’s why there are NO pictures for this blog entry.
(Hey, I have an idea: let’s give the President and Congress hospital gowns to wear in negotiations - I’ll bet we solve our problems in record speed.)

I had my blood pressure checked, I gave a sample for the lab, etc. all pretty standard. Then there was the Medicare part of the exam, designed as a very rough attempt to gauge my mental and physical health. I got questions like:

        if you had 12 nickles, how much money would you have?

        spell ‘world’ backwards

        I’m going to give you a list of 3 items, memorize them and, later in the exam, I’ll ask you what they are

        What day is it? (Now, I’m retired, I had to think a minute about this)

        What is the date? (luckily I had signed and dated a form before I came in for the exam)

        She asked me to touch my toes (remember, I’m in a hospital gown - first I had to bunch it around me)

        She asked me to twist left and right

        She asked me to touch my right eye with my left hand

Luckily, I passed the exam but I was concerned about that list of 3 items. I still remember them: basketball, pencil, dog. Ironically, she forgot to ask me to repeat them back to her but, as she was leaving the room, I reminded her. I was so relieved.

The best part is yet to come: I get a colonoscopy and a mammogram, but, since I had my pap smear last year, I didn’t have to undergo that this year. Made my day!

And, that was my ‘Welcome to Medicare’ exam.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

WDM, Ia - My Father-in-Law's 89th Birthday

Really big day today - really big. It is my father-in-law’s 89th birthday. Well, actually, his birthday is on the 22nd but this is the day we could all get together to celebrate. He and Darlene, his wife, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2001, had 3 kids: Gary, Cathy and Dawn. There are now 13 in the family and most of us live in Iowa but one lives in Austin,Texas. Even she flew in for the celebration and then flew out Monday morning so she could get to work Monday noon. Lug’s ‘friend’ Barb was also there.

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Above are some pictures of the Birthday Boy. We’re so happy to have even this many pictures of him as a youth since he grew up during the Depression and cameras and pictures were rare. He wrestled for Fort Dodge High School - I can’t even imagine the weight class he was in but lighter than featherweight comes to mind. The right hand picture in the second row is Gary, Cathy and their parents in their Sunday best. Dawn’s wedding is on the left in the bottom row. But in the bottom row is Lug’s favorite picture, one of him and Darlene, shortly before she died. She’s looking pretty thin at this point but she never lost her perkiness and I think this comes through in this picture.

Cathy, the organizer, had planned it all. She had sent out actual written invitations so we could all remember the date and time, she had called Hy-Vee to cater but then each family also brought something, she had decorations for the tables, extra silverware and dinnerware, and - she had even brought plastic containers for the left-over food. Imagine that! What a planner.

The party was scheduled for 11:30 and, wouldn’t you know, we all arrived at once. Lots of hugs, ooh’s and aah’s and lots of conversation since we hadn’t seen each other as a full group for about 2 years. (Two people keep leaving in the winter to head south.) Lug, my father-in law (he used to carry slugs in his pocket as a youngster in the East End of Fort Dodge and has been named ‘Lug’ ever since) had set up card tables in his basement and we put the food on a long counter he had down there. Hy-Vee brought fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans and baked beans along with rolls and butter. Dawn had brought her ‘signature’ Oreo salad (I call this a dessert) Cathy brought a huge bowl of fresh fruit and I brought my ‘signature’ deviled eggs. What a feast. We also had champagne cake and ice cream.


I sat with Dawn and her son Adam since I don’t have many chances to see them but had a chance to talk with everyone.

Above is the family picture with Tom (who married Cathy), Gary, I, Andy (Cathy and Tom’s son), Bonnie (his wife) and Tom (who married Dawn) (and, yes there are 2 Tom’s.) In the front row are Jasmine and Maddy (Andy’s and Bonnie’s daughters), Cathy, Dawn, Samantha (Dawn and Tom’s daughter, Lug, April (Cathy’s and Tom’s daughter from Austin) and Adam (Dawn’s and Tom’s son who recently finished his Eagle ceremony). Pretty neat family.


Then the Birthday Boy got to blow our his candles which, ended up being only 2, an 8 and a 9. Whew! Above is a picture of Lug and his cake.

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Above are April, Samantha and Adam with his father, Tom. Below are Jasmine, Bonnie and Andy and Maddy. I’ve got all the kids here but not the ‘older’ generation.

Of course it was picture time the whole time but we also wanted a formal picture of the whole family. We all strolled outside into the sauna-like heat, found a shady spot in front of the trumpet vine on the backyard fence and got several pictures.

Then we skittled in to get out of the oppressive heat. Finally it was time to go and we all departed our different ways. But what a nice day it was, what a joy it was to see each other and to celebrate Lug’s 89 years of life. He’s in such good health that I expect to celebrate many more of his birthdays.

Monday, July 4, 2011

WDM, IA - Fireworks in Waukee

I am not a good photographer. I have taken some really good photos but they are mostly the result of having a pretty good little camera and playing a numbers game: take lots of photos, one is bound to be good. We also have been in places where any picture you take will probably be good. How can one take a bad picture in Yosemite, in Death Valley, in Sedona, in San Diego? On the other hand, that I have taken some bad photos - but not because the camera or the scenery is bad.


At times we’ve thought of getting a better camera as if that might help me take even better shots. (Like every golfer thinks that a new club will make her or him a better golfer.) We went into a local camera store to ask about better cameras and even looked at a few but the salesman, who also teaches photography classes in night school, showed us some techniques and gave us some hints about taking good shots with the camera we have. And, actually, the camera we have has lots of capabilities that we’ve barely experimented with. Up until now, I’ve been predominantly a ‘point and shoot’ photographer with occasional uses of the zoom feature. But, do I take advantage of focal length, time lapse, ISO? Do I even know what those terms even mean? Nope.


So we bought a book on digital photography which explains all of this. Meanwhile I got out the camera user guide which came with the camera (what a novel idea) and began to try some things. One of the special capabilities of this little camera is fireworks. So, tonight, we’ll try that out.


We had invited my brother, Jack, down to see the fireworks and he got here about 3:00. We chatted, unloaded his truck (he must think he’s staying a week with all that luggage) had dinner and journeyed over to Waukee where one batch of fireworks were. In a city like Des Moines with many suburbs, we can pick and choose fireworks shows and we’ve seen most of them. We’ve seen West Des Moines, Des Moines, Norwalk, Urbandale and tonight it’s Waukee, one of the eastern suburbs.


We got there about 7 and started our walk. You didn’t think we were going to forget our walk did you? Actually, Jack is a real walker also so it figured heavily in our plans. And, the goal was - the ice cream shop about 2 miles away. Readers of this blog will remember that Gary and I like goals - especially food goals. Ice cream here is a $1.65 a scoop and these scoops are big. Beautiful night for a walk and everyone is Waukee was out enjoying it.


We also visited with the guys setting up the fireworks, something we’ve never seen before. They had 2’ trenches dug and were inserting the tubes and the explosives into them.


When we returned, we got out our chairs, picked out spot, set up the tripod and tried a few shots in the fireworks mode. We were ready. At 9:50 the show began and I got to work. But, I didn’t forget to enjoy the fireworks show also. I didn’t spend the whole time taking pictures.


We enjoyed the fireworks, I got some good pictures and learned a bit more about my camera but the most interesting phenomenon was the mother and daughter hula hoopers in front of us who hula-hooped the ENTIRE half hour of the show. The hoops never hit the ground. And, the daughter - her hips barely moved.


I am excited about using the fireworks setting on the camera and was impressed with how well it worked. Now about those ISO’s and focal lengths. . .


Saturday, July 2, 2011

WDM, IA - Parades for Independence Day

What’s more American than a parade on the 4th of July? Oops, this parade was on the 2nd of July which is my birthday. A parade? For moi? But, just as I say that parades are quintessentially American, my friends in Belgium will tell me that they have parades in Belgium also. But, not on the 4th. That’s our day.


Yes, it is Independence Day weekend in West Des Moines and we thought we’d take in the parade. We parked at the end of the parade and began to walk up the route. Our goal was to walk to the end of the parade and then follow it back to our car. Meanwhile, we’d get to see it all, spend more time with the bands, our favorite part and get our daily walk in. And, the people watching is superb. We saw lots of family bar-be-ques along the way with banquet tables set up in driveways so the family can eat as they watch the parade. Others who didn’t live along the parade route just brought their food down to the curb to eat.


We saw lots of kids along the route with their bags at the ready for the candy being thrown and a few scrambles for the loose candy.



We saw several candidates who are running for office next year (have we already started that?) And, what is this character running for? Probably her life.


But, mostly it was just a good time. And, when the street sweeper came, we knew it was the end of the parade and time to turn around to walk back to the car.


What we missed in the whole parade was the bands. There were no bands: there were civic organizations, churches, youth groups, businesses, politicians, baton twirlers, etc., but no bands. How can you have a parade without bands?