Saturday, November 30, 2013

On This Date in 1998

Actually, JoAnna told me today that this is her last week at work since she has vacation through January 5th. It will be interesting to see what turns up for her. So far she hasn’t done much investigating, but then this time of year, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, is not the best time to conduct a job search. Not that she has anything to worry about. 

The possibility of reduced family income, at least temporarily, hasn’t put a lid on our Christmas shopping. Yesterday JoAnna and I spent $650, although that amount did include a birthday present for Eddie (a large X-wing Star Wars toy) and a couple items for Al and Cyndi’s baby. We were able to check a few names off our gift list: Albert, Larry R., Christie, Larry Jr. We also bought the boys’ big gifts, a Play Station game system for Andy and a set of Lego underwater vehicles for Eddie, designed for imaginary water play. While cruising the aisles of Toys R Us, we found a 100-piece set of little toy soldiers and equipment that Eddie will just love, as well as an additional “bucket” of plastic soldiers. You can tell from Andy’s gift list that he’s no longer a little boy. He included clothes, specifically jeans and mock turtlenecks. We didn’t find any turtlenecks in the boys’ department at Kohl’s so we ended up buying him a small in men’s size. I’m sure they’ll fit since he’s fairly broad in the chest and shoulders for an 11 year old. Last week we bought presents for JoAnna’s dad and Larry and Dale. Considering that we’re still 5 ½ hours from December, we’re off to a good start this year. Shifting gears, I need to remember to get my wife something for her birthday this week. She’s given me a number of suggestions. A cookbook of Cajun recipes. A membership to Harbor Athletic Club, which, if she’s unemployed for awhile, might be just the thing to keep her active. I suppose just about anything on the Civil War will do, too. That’s the trouble with December birthdays: there’s too much other stuff going on, or at least the anticipation of things about to happen. I can see how they can get overlooked or, more commonly, I suppose, underemphasized.  

JoAnna wants to go for a walk, so I’m going to have to take a break from this letter unless I can think of something significant to write about. I’ve been in a lowkey mood lately, not necessarily lethargic or unenthusiastic or uninspired or even blah. I guess I feel I should be more excited about life right now. I don’t know how else to express it. It’s not like this family has been unproductive this year or doesn’t have anything to look forward to. Maybe it’s the warm weather that’s responsible for this puzzling feeling. Sometimes I think I’d rather see some snow on the ground and have the temperature get down into the teens every night. I’m ready to get into the proper Christmas spirit but I need the appropriate weather conditions to do so. 

Well, I’m just babbling now. Time to get some exercise and clear my head. We’re all counting the days until Christmas vacation, looking forward to two weeks of family visits. 

I’ll add a postscript while Andy practices his trumpet. That certainly won’t help my concentration. JoAnna is sitting with Eddie right now, helping him get through his 15 minutes of reading. I worked with him last night and, even though he made improvement, he still has a long way to go. He’s still very hesitant with very basic vocabulary. His inability to retain words also concerns me. If he has difficulty with a word, sounds it out or waits for Mom or Dad to pronounce it for him, and then comes across that same word in the following sentence, it’s as if the past ten or so seconds didn’t happen. He stops and tries to figure out the word all over again. 

JoAnna and I walked for 40 minutes while the boys, with our permission, watched a Christmas special on TV. A lot of houses on the route we took, through one of Middleton’s more upscale neighborhoods, are decorated with lights. The icicle lights are very popular this year, as are white lights in general. We haven’t done any decorating yet. We don’t plan to buy a tree as we’ll be gone for two weeks over the holidays. We were expecting the delivery of a wreath yesterday, but it never arrived. Saturday provided the ideal conditions for putting up outdoor lights, but once we got home from Two Rivers, there were too many “in-household” chores to be tackled. In fact, Christmas lights weren’t even on my radar screen. A mist fell all day yesterday, creating uncomfortable but not impossible working conditions. Our top priority, though, was Christmas shopping, plus we had to watch the Packer game, which almost turned out to be too much to bear, Green Bay barely squeaking by the hapless Eagles. 

I have a couple loads of laundry that are waiting to be folded and it’s time to say goodnight to the boys. 

And how was the serenade? Considering how seldom Andy practices the trumpet, he sounded pretty good. Not too many missed notes, or brassy fart sounds, although he was happy to play me a few of those noises just for laughs.

Friday, November 29, 2013

On This Date in 1998

I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving. Ours was a brief but pleasant getaway. We spent Thursday and Friday in Two Rivers. We didn’t leave Middleton until nearly 8:30 Wednesday evening as Andy had a basketball practice scheduled from 6:00 to 7:30. As a result of our later departure, we missed the peak traffic period. We encountered no delays, but then all roads don’t lead to Two Rivers at Thanksgiving.

Taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather, JoAnna and I took a walk along Lake Michigan Thursday morning, hardly needing the light jackets we wore. The lake was very calm, a slight breeze blowing out of the west having no effect on the water. Alice had most of the meal preparations in hand, so JoAnna didn’t feel guilty getting out of the house for a little while. We watched football during the afternoon, catching the coin toss controversy in the Steelers game. I suppose Dale had a few comments to make about this incident. I have to admit that it was the worst officiated game I have ever seen, both teams the victims of numerous bad calls. The coin toss, though, was definitely the low point of a game that the official seemed not to want to be at.

We ate Thanksgiving dinner at 4:30 and enjoyed the usual feast of turkey with all the trimmings. There were 12 around the table, including Cindy, her friend Mayra, and Mayra’s four brothers. After the clean up, some of the adults played cards for awhile.

The warm weather continued on Friday. JoAnna and I took another walk during the morning, stopping at Schroeder’s, a department store, for some cafĂ© mocha at their coffee bar. During the early afternoon, Andy and I played catch with the football in the street in front of the Richard’s house (they live on a quiet street). Later on, at JoAnna’s suggestion, we walked to a nearby park to kick field goals over one of the goal posts. Unfortunately, all the entry gates were locked, so we couldn’t get in. I didn’t think it advisable for us to climb over the fence.

After supper (ham and scalloped potatoes – we had leftovers for lunch), we met Cindy in Manitowoc and went to see A Bug’s Life, the new computer-animated Disney film. It’s quite a visual feast, almost too much for the eyes to take in at one time and, for that reason, certainly worth a second viewing. The showing we attended was mostly parents with small (i.e., preschool) children, many of whom did not hesitate to ask their parents questions about what was happening in the movie. A couple parts of the movie seemed that they might be too intense for young kids. The initial appearance of the grasshoppers and of a monstrous looking red-and-yellow bird, was probably a jolting experience for the tykes in the audience, perhaps not so much for the shock value but rather the pounding volume of the soundtrack. It was a loud movie at times.

We left Two Rivers at 11 o’clock Saturday morning with the sun beating down on us as if were a warm Easter weekend. In fact, we saw golfers on the municipal course in Manitowoc. I was sweltering in the driver’s seat of the van, but every time I turned on the fan to let some fresh air in through the vents, JoAnna complained about being cold, so I could only leave the fan on for 30-second intervals. A few miles from home, though, JoAnna complained about being hot and opened her window.

Even though I reminded the boys that there would be no TV until the van was unpacked, I still didn’t get much help. Once I got everything put away and a load of clothes in the washer, I read for awhile. I started reading Tom Wolfe’ s new book, A Man in Full, last weekend and am really enjoying it. It’s a long book, almost 800 pages, but I’m already more than halfway through it.

JoAnna and I took a late afternoon walk, without jackets, and then went to 5 o’clock mass with the boys. Andy is now serving at mass every other month. JoAnna signed him up for this responsibility in September. Yesterday was his second time. After church we went out to eat and then spent a quiet evening at home.

Although the warm weather is still with us today, general conditions are not too pleasant. It’s overcast and I can see a barely perceptible mist falling. After eating some lunch, JoAnna and I are going Christmas shopping, the only important item on our list of things to do today.

We missed Larry, JoAnna’s brother, by seven hours. He’ll be in Two Rivers for the next two weeks. JoAnna plans to spend a few days there next week (Monday-Wednesday), as she can basically take the rest of the year off considering all the time she has put into her job already this year. She didn’t get the job offer from Tammy Baldwin and, earlier this month, gave her resignation at her current job effective at the end of the year. So now JoAnna has to do some serious job-hunting.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Friday, November 22, 2013

American and Horseshoe Falls from Rainbow Bridge, Niagara Falls, N. Y. (Postcard Series)

On This Date in 1998

It’s T-minus 30 minutes until the kick-off of today’s big game, at least as far as the Upper Midwest is concerned. Packers vs. Vikings in the dome. We hope that it’s time for some green-and-gold revenge. Yesterday was a proud day for Wisconsin, as the Badgers convincingly beat Penn State, 24-3. It was almost the first time since Paterno’s rookie season as coach that the Nittany Lions were shut out twice. JoAnna and I watched the game on TV from start to finish, cheering or groaning on every play. 

What beautiful weather we are experiencing this weekend. Although it’s a bit on the breezy side, the sun is shining and the air is warm – the temperature already at 50 degrees. Yesterday I tied up our cedar trees so the branches won’t fan out so much. I think they are now ready for the first heavy snowfall of the winter season, which at this rate might never arrive. (I wouldn’t be on it, though.) 

Since Joey Kracht seemed eager to play with Eddie last weekend, Eddie gave him a call yesterday morning. Instead of inviting Joey to our house, he invites himself to Joey’s house, a faux pas that JoAnna caught and corrected. 

“But I don’t have any good toys to play with,” Eddie complained. 

JoAnna tried to explain to him that real friends are more interested in you than in your toys. Joey was here from 2:45 to 5:00, and he enjoyed every minute of his visit, which I think helped Eddie to understand what Mom was telling him. 

After supper last night (meat loaf – which even the boys described as very tasty – baked potatoes, corn and beans), the family went to see The Rugrats Movie, which was at the top of Eddie’s must-see list. I found it a bit tedious, the diapered-kids-lost-in-the-forest storyline almost bizarre, and the musical numbers intrusive. Even Eddie rated it only a half-hearted “OK” as we walked back to the car. Of course, nowadays, even a mediocre movie is an enjoyable experience with the latest movie theater upgrade: stadium seating, the rows of upholstered chair fanning upward from the screen. It’s nice for the boys, especially Eddie, since now we don’t have to switch seats if an adult sits in front of them. 

Time for a change of pace. 

Fifth grade in 1998. Fifth grade in 1960. 

Second grade in 1998. Second grade in 1957. 

I often think about my school and home life experiences during grade school compared with the boys’. I think it would make an interesting article, but what I first need to do is make some notes. So if you’ll pardon my indulgence, I’ll start this task right now. 

  • The classroom. Our desks in Mrs. Johnson’s class, as they were in every class at Jefferson School, are arranged in five rows. One of the first things I noticed when I volunteered at Elm Lawn was the varied arrangements of desks. Last year, for example, the desks in Andy’s classroom were clustered in groups of four and five. This year his teacher set up a double-U arrangement, with nobody an island. 
  • The school day. Grade school students spend a lot of time out of the classroom nowadays. Music, art, special science and math programs, computer instruction, gym, library – all are scheduled on at least a twice-a-week basis. Jefferson had a library, at the south end of the second floor hallway, but I recall only infrequent visits and I don’t think it was staffed by a librarian. I remember it now as similar to the interior of a bookmobile. 
  • Recess. Three recess breaks are scheduled each day: morning, after lunch, and afternoon. I remember occasional trips to the gym or outside on nice days, but most of our time, it seems, was spent in the classroom. 
  • Extracurricular activities. Andy and Eddie have been involved in Middleton’s soccer program since kindergarten. I doubt if anyone knew what soccer was when I attended Jefferson. Almost all of the sports activities I participated in during grade school were part of what is now called unstructured play, mostly waffle ball games during the summer. Today there are more opportunities for involvement, although I’m sure the YMCA would have been an option if I had shown any real interest in a sport outside of baseball. Andy is light years ahead of my physical (fitness) development. In fact, he and Ross and Drew and Riley are on the varsity track, working their way through the “minor leagues” of high school sports. 
  • Relationships. Andy has started to show an incipient interest in girls, beyond the “Meaghan stage” for friendship. He doesn’t claim to have a girlfriend, someone for whom he has special feelings. It was during 5th grade with I developed a crush on Mary Sandblade, an on-and-off puppy-love relationship that needed halfway through 9th grade. I also had a close relationship with Cam Tassone during 5th grade. We sat in the last two desks in the row along the window and seemed to carry on a running commentary about events and personalities in the classroom. It would be so interesting to listen to a tap of those conversation now. 

 I’m not doing a very good job of concentrating on this letter right now. The Packer game is competing for my attention. At the end of the 1st quarter, the picture is not pretty. Green is down 10-0, Favre first dropping the ball soon after the snap, which resulted in a Vikings field goal, and then, on the next offensive series, throwing an interception for a Vikings touchdown. Arrgh! Things are not looking good. I’m surprised JoAnna hasn’t changed the channel yet. Before the game started, she said to no one in particular, “I wonder if there’s any good movies on this afternoon.” Alternative viewing for when the game gets ugly. That development, unfortunately, is already in progress.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Square, Looking East, Cleveland, Ohio (Postcard Series)

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson's big ideas, Part 1: Public Square makeover.  (Cleveland Plain Dealer, 9/6/2013)

On This Date in 1998

This has been a long and busy week for me, a comparatively slow one for JoAnna, and a regular five-days-at-school week for the boys. Monday was the only day I spent at the library from start to finish. I did have one unexpected interruption, though. Right around noon, I received a phone call from the school nurse at Elm Lawn. Andy had left his classroom a couple times during the morning to lie down on the cot in the nurse’s office, complaining of a headache and stomach ache. He said the noise in the gym during his lunch period was too much to handle. He didn’t feel like eating either. I took an earlier than usual lunch hour and brought him home. When I picked him up, he didn’t look that sick. He didn’t act sick. In fact, he was unusually talkative, very animated, actually, which aroused my suspicions. I warmed him up a bowl of chicken noodle soup and gave him a couple aspirin before returning to the library, leaving him stretched out on the couch in the family room. I told him to keep the TV off, but I’m sure that directive was immediately ignored as soon as I backed the car out of the driveway. That evening he showed no sign of illness. In fact, he acted just like his favorite Atlanta Brave: chipper. I started to wonder if maybe his alleged sickness was a scheme to avoid some school activity. I shared these thoughts with JoAnna while we were sitting at the kitchen table and the boys were in the family room.

“I’m not faking,” Andy bellowed.

Mom and Dad found it interesting that son #1 felt he had to eavesdrop on our conversation.

I was bothered by the fact that he missed a basketball practice, which I don’t think was part of his plan. I wondered if I should contact his teacher to get her perspective on the day. Was there some special afternoon activity that Andy missed? I decided against this investigation since I don’t want to have his teacher think that his mom and dad don’t trust him. For JoAnna and me, though, Andy’s behavior was very puzzling. This is just a preview of his teenage years, I’m sure.

I worked a long day on Tuesday, having morning and afternoon meetings, plus early evening time at the library to catch up on some office work: email, email, organize papers on my desk for the rest of the week. JoAnna had a 9 p.m. interview with Tammy Baldwin’s campaign staff. She’s in the running for the home district coordinator position. Tammy is our newly elected Congressional representative. JoAnna feels that she’s ready for a job change. If she isn’t offered this job, she’ll continue to look for other opportunities. I think she tired of butting heads with her current boss. We’ve always got along well socially with him, but he has a reputation as a very difficult person to work for. Very demanding, which is not a problem for JoAnna. Very hands-on, unwilling to delegate responsibility, which irritates JoAnna to no end. And I don’t blame her. I’d feel the same way if the Middleton Public Library Board was always looking over my shoulder, questioning my every move.

I presented a workshop Wednesday morning at a Waukesha County library, about a 90 minute drive from Middleton. It went extremely well. In fact, it produced a big spike in my confidence in the possibility of freelance continuing education as a fulltime career option. I knew my presentation was well-received when four women from the Brookfield Public Library tried to convince me to apply for the director's job. Their library board has had no luck over the past seven month trying to fill this position. Brookfield, an upscale community of 35,000 that borders Milwaukee County, is a larger library as far as staff, square footage, and collection size is concerned, but its level of use is comparable to Middleton's. Naturally, I was very flattered by their overtures, but I have no interest in changing jobs right now. Moving to Waukesha County, Wisconsin's Republican paradise, would certainly not be a good career move for JoAnna.

If I was smart, I'd take advantage of my renewed confidence and develop a plan to get into the workshop business fulltime as a consultant. For Wednesday's three hours of work, I received $300 plus mileage. Of course, that doesn't include preparation time, which, when factored into my honorarium, would bring my hourly rate much closer to what I earn at Middleton. But even $50/hr. is twice what I make now.

On the drive to and from the workshop, I listened to the book on tape version of Helen Keller's The Story of My Life. Considering what an historical icon she is, I was surprised, and a little bit humbled, at how little I knew about her and her teacher, Annie Sullivan. Her life is certainly an inspiration to everyone, not just those with disabilities. I reserved a copy of the video The Miracle Worker, a visual account of the early relationship between Keller and Sullivan, as played by Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft, respectively, who both won Oscars in 1962 for their performances. Surprisingly, it's a movie I've never seen.

My Tuesday and Wednesday schedule required that I leave the house at 6:30. Before my Tuesday meeting, I had scheduled a 7 a.m. tune-up for the Saturn (30,000 miles after 2 1/2 years, the 1.000 miles per month average boosted by the three or four trips to Pennsylvania). Wednesday, of course, I had to get an early start so I'd be at my workshop venue in time to set up. (Organize my notes on the lectern, position the overhead projector so that the image is clearly visible from every chair, mingle with the group to help create an informal atmosphere. ) Usually, I'm the one who gets the boys off to school, JoAnna oftentimes on her way to work before th3e boys are out of bed. I almost felt guilty transferring this morning responsibility to her, making her leave for work later than usual. I kept telling myself, though, this is an unnecessary reaction. The election was two weeks ago. (Sometimes I think I'm too considerate a husband.)

Thursday was taken up with a staff meeting and a city department head meeting, the latter now a welcome and regular part of my work schedule. Middleton's new city administrator has really stirred things up in a positive way. His enthusiasm and vision have given me another reason to stay put. Thursday was JoAnna's busiest day of the week, her schedule extending into the late evening. She took Eddie to his Cub Scout meeting and then attended a play with some of her caucus staff. I tried to stay up until she returned home, simultaneously reading a book and watching movie on TV (the second half of Magnum Force, Clint Eastwood's second appearance as Dirty Harry; the first hour of Kiss of Death, a 1948 crime melodrama starring Victor Mature and introducing Richard Widmark in a wickedly evil Academy Award nominated performance. I was asleep when JoAnna returned home at quarter to 12. I attempted a conversation but I'm not sure how coherent I was.

I spent most of Friday at the WLA office, attending meetings of the finance and personnel committees. I walked into the house at 3:30, minutes after Andy returned home from school, feeling that I deserved an early conclusion to the work week. Andy had basketball practice from 6:00 to 7:30. JoAnna went out after work to celebrate Ron's new job as a lobbyist. (Ron is Julie's husband. Julie works for JoAnna. Ron and Julie are part of our sheepshead group.) We could smell JoAnna as she walked into the house. Her clothes and hair reeked of cigarette smoke. Eddie demanded that she change her clothes, so she got into her pajamas. I picked up McDonald's for Eddie after dropping off Andy and Riley at basketball practice. Although JoAnna would probably object, I don't have a problem leaving Eddie home along for less than an hour. He knows that he's not supposed to pick up the phone, answer the door, or use any of the appliances. I find it interesting that, when everyone is in the family room, for example, and it's dark outside, he's reluctant to walk to the other side of the house by himself. But he always insists that he's OK being home alone.

On the way home from practice, Andy and I stopped at two places to fill our dinner orders. Mom wanted Chinese. The guys wanted Mexican. JoAnna felt chilled and went to bed early. I decided to write this letter and let the boys watch TV until 11.

Monday, November 18, 2013

In the Heart of Memphis Tennessee (Postcard Series)

The building with the mansard roof, built in 1910, is the Exchange Building, formerly known as the Cotton Exchange Building and the Mercantile Exchange Building.  It was converted from office space to apartments in 1996.

Friday, November 15, 2013

New York Central Station, Syracuse, N. Y. (Postcard Series)

The Great American Stations

Photo credit:  Wikipedia

On This Date in 1998

Another pleasant, if slightly cooler, day. Matt left around 10 o’clock as his family had tickets for the Badger women’s basketball game. Andy lounged around until a friend called about playing football, what turned out to be ten 5th graders getting together at Parisi Park. When Andy asked for a ride, I told him he could ride his bike. JoAnna immediately backed me up. Of course, he complained at first, and for awhile I thought he might get in one of his stubborn moods and say,” I’m not going.” But when I went to ask him what time he was leaving, he was already wearing his bike helmet.

JoAnna encouraged Eddie to invite a friend over, but considering his high-strung behavior during the morning, I thought it might be better if he just stayed home and took it easy. He stayed with Andy and Matt in the family room during the night, and I don’t think the boys got much more than six hours of sleep. Eddie was very “touchy” this morning, easily set off when teased or irritated. During the early afternoon, when I was outside raking leaves (for what I Hope will be the last time this year), JoAnna informed me that she was driving Eddie to Ilana’s house. Eddie attended her birthday party a few weeks ago. The two of them have become acquainted through the After School program at Elm Lawn. Ilana has never been a classmate of Eddie’s. While he was gone, Eddie received two phone calls from his old friend Joey Kracht. When it rains, it pours, as the saying goes. JoAnna and I had started to become concerned about Eddie’s lack of weekend contact with kids his own age, his attaching himself to Andy and his friends or just spending time in the family room watching TV (mostly) or rollerblading (when encouraged to go outside, weather permitting) or drawing (when we give the TV a chance to cool down.) Suddenly, he’s Mr. Popularity.

JoAnna and I experienced a very low-key day. We both read quite a bit, took a walk to return the videos we watched last night and pick up a few things at Walgreen’s, and watched the Packers thrash the Giants. We had a nice sit-down supper, something we always try to make time for on Sunday: baked chicken, (Stovetop) stuffing, the green bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup and a crunchy onion ring topping, corn, and biscuits.

Earlier this evening, I helped a reluctant Eddie with his homework. I decided that we’ll complete his math assignment tomorrow morning. He just couldn’t focus on anything. He rubbed his eyes as if sleep was about to overtake him, although now when I look at him sacked out on the couch, eating an apple, and giggling to himself, I wonder how much of that tiredness was part of his performance art. It’s shower night, and I think I probably have another fight on my hands there.

“I’ll take one in the morning,” I suspect the boys will plead. I’ll have none of it, though. I know what Monday mornings are like. Under the best conditions, there is hardly time for anything but the basic routine.

Time to urge the boys to being their bedroom preparations. Wish me luck!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

On This Date in 1998

Wisconsin’s great expectations are being dashed. At halftime, the Badgers are trailing Michigan 21-7, a touchdown in the last minute of the first half seeming to seal our doom. Tomorrow the TV-sports talking heads will gleefully point to the Badgers’ allegedly weak schedule and say,” I told you so.” Wisconsin should be able to reclaim their top ten status with a convincing victory against Penn State next week.

I turned the TV off at halftime, so it’s a quiet afternoon in this part of the house. Andy and Matt went bowling. Matt will be sleeping over tonight, which cancels out the movie date that JoAnna and I had planned for this evening. Eddie is over at Derek’s house for the first time this schoolyear. Last year, Derek called him practically every weekend, but something happened to cool their friendship last spring. Eddie must have been in one of his solitary moods. According to Andy, sometimes not the most reliable of source in these situations, Eddie abruptly, almost rudely, told Derek he didn’t want to play and hung up the phone without further comment, not even a goodbye. Until today, that was the last time Derek called, and no amount of prodding would convince Eddie to call Derek, or anybody else, for that matter.

Andy brought home a respectable report card yesterday, but one that leaves plenty of room for improvement. Here’s a list of his grades:
  • Reading B- 
  • Math B- 
  • Spelling B 
  • Language B 
  • Social Studies A- 
  • Science A- 

The only area where he received check marks (i.e., areas where improvement is needed) is in Spelling. “Completes work on time.” “Completes assigned work carefully.” Which is odd, since Spelling has always been one of his best subjects. The Reading grade is a bit disappointing, since here he is obviously capable of doing much better. Actually, now that I think about it, I’m not clear on the difference between Reading and Language Arts. Andy has made great improvement in the area of Individual Development, the part of his report card that evaluates his school and classroom behavior, a problem area for much of his elementary school “career”. He earned “satisfactory” marks in 8 or 9 areas, including “shows consideration for peers”, which had previously been an area where improvement was always needed. He received a “P” (progress shown) in “shows self control”. After listening to our encouragements to do better, he said, “Our teacher told us that the first quarter is the hardest.” He may not have realized it, but this remark automatically boosted Mom and Dad’s expectations for the second quarter.

Eddie brought his report card home last week. Although he doesn’t receive letter grades, he received a very positive evaluation from his teachers. The special education classes have resulted in a very noticeable improvement in his reading skills. We are very pleased with the progress he has made so far this year.

Just minutes ago, I quickly tuned in and out of the football game. Wisconsin is down 27-10 in the 4th quarter. The possibility of an undefeated season seems highly unlikely right now. I don’t think Barry Alvarez has a miracle in his playbook. I haven’t checked the other scores, but maybe this will be a weekend of upsets, which might help the Badgers in the standings.

Today’s weather can be described as sunny and breezy, unseasonably warm. I started to do some raking and mulching before the Badger game and will continue this task once I decide to take a pause from writing this letter. We had two days of intense winds – Tuesday and Wednesday – that stripped the trees of the few leaves still stubbornly clinging to the branches. Gusts of up to 60 mph were reported. I feared for our cedars trees along the edge of the driveway. The wind was bending the tops at almost a right angle. While I was home for lunch on Tuesday, the lights flickered a number of times, causing our new carbon monoxide detector in the utility room to emit a series of staccato beeps for 30 seconds, but, unlike other areas of Dane County, we didn’t experience a power outage. The power surge was so brief that I didn’t even have to reset the digital clocks.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

On This Date in 1998

Only the stubbornest of leaves remained on the trees by Thursday. We had two days of very intense wind, enough to blow down trees, tip over semis, and cancel a West Middleton 5th grade field trip to Chicago. The weather is responsible for a great mystery as far as I’m concerned. Where did all the leaves go? Monday afternoon, before the big blow arrived, the portion of our driveway where I park the car was covered with leaves, and, even though we had raked the previous weekend, a fair number of leaves had once again settled on the front lawn. Mother Nature acted like a vacuum on Tuesday and Wednesday. Not only our yard but everyone else’s seemed to be swept clean. The back half of the open lot next to us had been a carpet of yellow and brown silver maple leaves. By Thursday morning, they had all vanished, except for those caught in the chain-link fence. Our front yard looked ready for spring fertilizing, as does everyone else’s in our neighborhood. The leaves couldn’t have just disappeared. Some folks in Middleton must have looked out their windows this morning with great consternation. Or maybe they all blew up to Two Rivers.

Thursday was a beautiful day. By early afternoon, the sky was clear and the air was calm. I walked home for lunch, ignoring the short list of groceries I was going to drive to Sentry to buy. I figured there was still enough lunch meat in the refrigerator for one more sandwich. And I was right. I was able to recharge myself for the rest of the workday.

Andy made the Tri-County 5th grade basketball team, one of ten boys selected out of the 22 who tried out. Almost half the guys are from his soccer and baseball and football teams this year. Ross, Johnny, Drew, Riley. The coach, John Strnad, was Andy’s soccer coach for 5 years, from kindergarten through 4th grade. The team had its first practice Wednesday evening and will practice for 90 minutes twice a week, Wednesdays and Fridays, between now and the end of the year. Their schedule of games, two per weekend, begins in January and runs through most of March, probably ending right before spring break.

Andy started to lose his little jelly belly and get a little beefier in the chest, as you noticed, during football season. Considering all the exercise he’ll be getting this winter, he’ll be in great shape by the start of soccer season. Running would be good exercise for Andy, but it’s an activity that he dislikes, based on his reaction to having to run the mile during gym class in school. Eddie received his report card last Friday. He seems to be doing quite well in second grade so far. His teachers are very pleased with his overall effort. The special education classes have allowed him to make some very noticeable improvement in his reading skills. He has homework (word recognition, spelling, and reading assignments) every night, and JoAnna and I work very closely with him. Andy gets his report card today. Based on the work he brings home, I think we’ll be pleased with the results, but I know that there is going to be room for improvement. Andy certainly has the ability to get straight A’s – his teachers at Elm Lawn have consistently told us that he doesn’t work up to his full potential – but he’s content to give his schoolwork a “B” effort. JoAnna and I don’t harass him about his grades. I’m sure my wife was more competitive gradewise, but I, too, was usually content to settle for a “B”, not driven to sacrifice other activities to achieve straight A’s. As I have come to realize, the grades you earn in school are only a small part of the picture as far as determining success in life. What I want Andy and Eddie to appreciate is that learning is a lifelong experience; it doesn’t end when you are out of school. (Sounds like a librarian talking, huh?)

JoAnna is still catching up on all the sleep she lost during the long election campaign. Last night, she wrapped herself in a blanket and watched TV while lying on our bed. I checked in on her a few minutes after.   Frasier was playing to an empty house. JoAnna was sleeping peacefully, obviously to Kelsey Grammar’s and David Hyde Pierce’s nattering. (I’ve always thought that Frasier was a more tolerable character in a supporting role on Cheers.) Shortly after 8:30, she wandered from the bedroom to the kitchen, the blanket still wrapped around her.

“I’m going to bed,” she informed me, as if I didn’t already know the direction in which her evening was heading. “I’m sorry,” she said at least three times as I escorted her back to the bedroom.

“There’s nothing to apologize about. You deserve to take it easy. Don’t worry about it. I’ll get the boys to bed and then I’m going to read for awhile.”

She was actually awake when I went to bed at 10:00. I tuned in a showing of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn on the American Movie Channel. I listened to the recorded book version a couple months ago and really enjoyed it. Jo lasted through the first 10 minutes of the movie, and I must have dozed off a couple times during the hour that I tried to stay awake. I found the pace a little plodding.

Hope this letter finds both of you doing well. We send you our love.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Weinstock Lubin Department Store, Sacramento, California (Postcard Series)

"Weinstock's was distinctly Sacramento; it was ours."  History West Press, 7/22/2012)

From an interview with Annette Kassis, author of Weinstock's: Sacramento's Finest Department Store.    My personal memories of Weinstock’s come from two very different vantage points in my life. I was one of the younger children in my family, and I remember as a little girl going to Weinstock’s with my mother to pick out Christmas gifts for my older sisters. These were simple things like stockings and handkerchiefs, but to me these were the glamorous things that meant one was “grown up".

Where not to conduct an interview.

Northern California Department Stores -- Weinstock Lubin.  (Plummer & Associates blog, 2/18/2011)

Excerpt:   I visited Weinstock Lubin & Company when I was young as I only lived 80 miles south in Modesto. Although Weinstock Lubin had an enjoyable lunch bar for kids, it was not as magnificent as the stores in San Francisco. Weinstock Lubin was a major participant in the holiday festivities and always had wonderful window displays. 

The Department Store Museum:  Weinstock's.

Friday, November 8, 2013

On This Date in 1998

On Friday, we got an early start to the weekend. JoAnna planned to work the morning and then get her hair done at noon, but her appointment was canceled. I went to the library at my usual time and planned to work until midafternoon. The boys spent the morning at home, watching TV and behaving themselves. JoAnna took the boys to the mall to eat lunch and go shopping. She gave Andy $100 to spend on clothes, which he managed very cautiously, she later told me. He bought two sweat outfits, one black and one gray. (The gray one he immediately soiled with quesadilla “juice” when he interrupted the last of my late lunch.) He also bought another pair of “breakaway” pants. Eddie wasn’t ignored. He picked out a New York Yankees t-shirt. (As a result of the just-completed baseball season, the Yankees are now his favorite team. Eddie goes with the winner!) He also got a new hat and a pair of gloves, and a submarine toy, one that opens up to create a cross-section effect. He played with it all afternoon.

Andy had a sleepover at his friend Tim’s house Friday night. After we dropped him off, JoAnna and Eddie and I went to the movies. We saw Pleasantville, a Back to the Future inspired fantasy about a brother and sister who are zapped back to a Father Knows Best/Leave it to Beaver black-and-white world, which, through their influence, slowly takes on the full spectrum of the rainbow. The story is a clever variation of a well-worn premise, although the second half of the movie did meander a little bit too much for my overall comfort level. Eddie behaved like a little adult. The movie is two hours long, with no dinosaurs or guns, but he stayed with it from start to finish. He didn’t even request a bathroom break!

Saturday morning, both JoAnna and I spent a couple hours tidying and organizing our desk areas, stuffing to their maximum capacity two grocery bags of recyclable paper in the process. Now the writing surface of my rolltop desk is completely bare and dust-free. We spent the late morning and early afternoon watching the Badger game on TV. During halftime, I raked the leaves on the front lawn that Andy missed yesterday. As soon as Andy returned home, right at the beginning of the third quarter, he asked us if he and Eddie could go bowling. We gave them permission. It gave me pause to watch our two no-longer-little boys walk off together. Later in the afternoon, the family went on a shopping spree. JoAnna spent $150 on books at Barnes & Noble. Since I already have enough to read at home, I was the only one who left the store empty-handed. At Best Buy, an electronics store, one of many in Madison’s highly competitive retail marketplace, we bought a new VCR to replace the aging and defective model in the family room. The picture quality of the older one is so bad as to be unviewable. It’s like trying to watch a movie through venetian blinds. Our final stop was Office Max, a “big-box” office supply store, where JoAnna bought a notebook and pocket dividers to store our 1998 personal financial information. I bought Andy a zippered notebook for school. He coveted the one I keep next to my desks. He had to have one just like it. We also bought a cordless phone for the bedroom.

After fixing tacos and burritos for supper, the family settled into an evening of watching movies. JoAnna and I christened our new VCR with Hope Floats, a fluffy romance starring Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick Jr. (The boys watched one of their choices in our bedroom.) What a difference in picture clarity. Watching a video at home is now an enjoyable experience, no longer a chore. Right now the boys and I are watching Godzilla, one of the past summer’s special effects blockbusters. It’s not the type of movie I have to give my full attention. Strictly formula stuff. Best line inspired from the movie. A scene shows a cache of automatic weapons being unpacked. Eddie’s reaction: “Now they’re talking my language.”

The ground was covered with a slight dusting of snow this morning, most of it melted off by now, at 9:39. Andy thought his chore of raking leaves in the back yard could be postponed. Wrong answer! he quickly learned. I plan to do some mulching, so most of the leave won’t have to be transported to the front curb. For the first weekend in November, it actually felt mild outside.

What a change in the political landscape since Tuesday. JoAnna’s hard work resulted in the Democrats regaining the state senate. Tommy Thompson was elected to a fourth term as governor . bit not with the 70% of the vote he was arrogantly predicting earlier in the year. All of the other major statewide offices were won by Dems. And on the national level, who would have guessed that Newt Gingrich would no longer be in Congress by the end of the year? This year, the political pundits were as off the mark and out of touch as they could be. I usually read the op-ed pages for comic relief anyway.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

City Hall, First Presbyterian Church and Civic Auditorium, Kalamazoo, Mich. (Postcard Series)

Auditorium built in 1929; seats 500.

On This Date in 1998

I’m using a different approach in this letter. These “news reports” are written in the third person, as if I’m some unbiased observer.

Andy & Eddie Headline News 

“Missing” Son Worries Forgetful Father
Middleton resident and library director Paul Nelson returned home with his younger son Eddie late Thursday afternoon. He was puzzled to find the house dark. He expected that his older son would be home from school.

Figuring that his son was at a friend’s house, Nelson didn’t make any immediate efforts to locate his son’s whereabouts. He unloaded seven bags of groceries from the car and then proceeded to fix Eddie something to eat before the boy’s 6:15 Cub Scout meeting.

“In spite of the fact that the cupboards were replenished with food,” Nelson said in a conversation with his wife later that evening, “Eddie still settled for a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich. But then I, too, fixed something I eat almost every day – a turkey-and-cheese sandwich.”

As six o’clock approached, Nelson started to become increasingly worried. His worry then started to transform itself into anger.

“Andy is going to be grounded big time,” he barked. The comment was made in Eddie’s presence but not specifically addressed to him. “If he thinks he can still have a sleepover at Tim’s house this weekend, he is sadly mistaken.”

Nelson had checked voice mail, hoping to be reassured by the sound of Andy’s voice, but there were no messages waiting to be played. The phone rang twice between quarter of six and six. Both times the slight pause after his saying “Hello” told Nelson that is was only another pesky telemarketer. He stayed on the line just in case.

“Is Miss JoAnna Marie there?” the first voice, a woman’s’, asked.

“No one here by that name,” Nelson answered sharply and slapped the phone back into its cradle.

“Is Mr. Nelson there?” asked a young man’s voice ten minutes later.

“No,” he lied and abruptly cut the connection.

The phone rang again five minutes later.

This time it better be Andy, Nelson thought.

It was.

“Andy, where are you?” his dad asked, wavering between a reprimand and a plea.

“I’m at bowling,” he answered. “I’m here with Ross Parks and we need a ride home.”

Duh, that’s right, Nelson thought. Andy bowls on Thursday afternoons after school, and usually he’s done at four-thirty or five o’clock.

“What have you been doing the past hour? Why didn’t you call me?” “I called the library. Pat said you went grocery shopping and would pick me up afterwards.”

And, of course, one of Nelson’s staff members at the library wouldn’t assume that his boss would abandon his kid at a bowling alley.

Luckily, Nelson was able to pick up Andy and Ross and drop off Eddie at his Cub Scout meeting by the 6:15 deadline.

Nelson blamed his forgetfulness on a hectic week. He had left the house on Thursday morning at an unusually early time – 6:45 – to attend a city department heads meeting with the newly hired city administrator, Mike Davis. Both boys were still asleep when he left the house.

“I was out of town on Thursday of last week and this week I was much too focused on my own Thursday schedule. I was lucky to remember to pick up Eddie at After School,” he confessed.

(Editor’s note: The following headline is a good example of the use of hyperbole, i.e., extravagant exaggeration.)

Son of Prominent Middleton Couple Involved in Schoolyard Brawl 
Eddie Nelson, Elm Lawn second grader and son of library director Paul Nelson and well-known political operative JoAnna Richard, was involved in a case of inappropriate behavior on the school playground on Thursday. According to an eyewitness account, which was verified in a letter from principle George Mavrolis, Eddie threw a hard plastic paddle mitt at another student and struck him just above the eye.

“It was an accident,” Eddie is reported to have said to his skeptical dad on the drive home from school.

“The other student suffered a cut and swelling. The paddle narrowly missed the eye itself. He came very close to needing stitches,” Marvolis said, indirectly discounting the possibility of this incident being an accident.

This is Eddie’s third infraction of the year. As a result, he will lose all of his recess privileges for an entire week.

When hearing of the news, Ms. Richard put some of the blame on herself.

“I forgot to give him his medicine this morning.”

According to school records, Eddie has been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and takes methylphenidate twice daily. 

News Extra 

Former Warren Resident Gets Chuckle Out of Rep’s Math Even though he lives almost 700 miles west of here, former Warren resident Paul Nelson, son of the Rev. and Mrs. Carl Nelson, keeps in touch with Warren activities with a subscription to the Times Observer.

“My mom used to clip certain article and picture and enclose them in her letters, but now I can make sure that I don’t miss anything,” he explained.

A recent front-page article about the 75th anniversary of the Allegheny National Forest caught Nelson’s eye. After reading it, Nelson wonders if U.S. Representative John Peterson needs to take a remedial math course. The representative was quoted as saying, “As we celebrate, we need to be diligent that in 100 years, we’re celebrating the 100th anniversary.”

Nelson notes that the 100th anniversary of the Allegheny National Forest will be celebrated in 2023, or 25 year from now.

“I hope Peterson is not on the House Appropriations Committee,” Nelson quipped.

Late-breaking news briefs 

City budget proposal includes funds for Sunday hours
Last Tuesday, the City of Middleton finance committee made a final recommendation on the 1999 operating budget. The Middleton common council will vote on the budget at its December 1st meeting following a public hearing.

Included in next year’s budget are funds requested by the Middleton Public Library board to open the library on Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. The new service is scheduled to begin on March 7 and will be offered during the school year, from the Sunday after Labor Day through the Sunday before Memorial Day weekend.

“I won’t be surprised if these four hours turn out to be the busiest time of the week,” Library Director Paul Nelson predicted. “Participants in a series of focus group discussions the library held last year told us that Sunday hours are the number one service improvement that we could offer. I’m pleased that the city has seen fit to honor this request.”

Middleton schools close for teacher in-service 
Last week all Wisconsin public school students enjoyed a four-day weekend as a result of a two-day state teachers’ conference. This week, students in the Middleton-Cross Plains School District get a bonus: a three-day weekend. Some parents questioned the scheduling of a teacher in-service so close to the annual conference. On the other hand, some families have taken advantage of these two shortened schoolweeks to insert a fall break into their vacation schedule. Some children knew of friends who were out of school for the entire week, spending time in Florida and other warmer regions of the U.S. To add insult to injury, temperatures in Wisconsin rarely climbed above 40 degrees for the past week. Cloudy skies and windy conditions have given the air a wintry chill.

“We now return to our regularly schedule programming….”

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Orlando, Fla. Skyline by Moonlight "The City Beautiful" (Postcard Series)

The picture postcard is from a time when Orlando was a sleepy town of 35,000 or so.

Monday, November 4, 2013

On This Date in 1998

JoAnna went to bed at 7 o’clock this evening, a much-deserved early-to-bed time for her. When I returned home from a city finance committee meeting at 6:30, she was swaddled in a blanket, sacked out on the family room couch, not at all in tune with her surroundings. The TV was on for background noise, not for watching. She was out until 4 this morning, celebrating the Democrats’ good fortune and ending up at the Marriott Hotel for Russ Feingold’s acceptance speech at 1:45 a.m. Later Russ treated a small group of his supporters to breakfast at Denny’s.

I stayed up until 12:30 watching the election returns, getting a little nervous as Neumann started slicing away at Feingold’s early lead. Fortunately, all the money that the Republican National Committee poured into Wisconsin was not enough to buy a seat in the Senate – or in the House, for that matter. We were getting flyers in the mail on an almost daily basis on the “issue” of term limits, praising Jo Musser for her stand and exhorting the addressee to call Tammy Baldwin and tell her blah blah blah. I wish now I had saved one of these flyers, because I feel like writing some unknown and certainly disappointed folks a thank-you note – for all the money they wasted, for all the people they got fire dup to go to the polls to vote for the better candidate.

JoAnna went 3 for 3, the Senate Dems taking all three open seats. Jon Erpenbach here, Judy Robson in the Beloit area, and Jim Baumgart in your neck of the woods. The Assembly Dems actually lost 2 seats, thanks to an unfocused, late starting effort by their caucus staff. What a difference it makes when you have some vision and talent and spunk in the caucus director’s chair.

I watched Nightline last night. Ted Koppel’s guests included Orrin Hatch, Barney Frank, and Dick Armey. Hatch was actually somewhat complimentary of the Democrat’s efforts. He talked about the Republicans need to move on and pointed to the Bush brothers successful efforts in reaching out to women and minorities in their campaigns as a future model. Frank didn’t have much to rebut, but he did point out the growing schism within the ranks of the G.O.P. Armey’s appearance provided the perfect illustration of what Frank was describing. Armey acted as though the election had never happened. He said something to the effect, “We just have to hold our noses and proceed with the impeachment proceedings.” He rambled, he made outrageous claims, he contradicted himself, he irgnored Koppel’s efforts to get him focused on the election results. He got himself all worked up, on the verge of a Texas-sized hissy fit. At that moment, he became the ideal poster boy for everything that is wrong with the Republican party, its dishonesty, deceptiveness, and demagoguery. He was petulantly unrepentant for all of the Republican’s recent excesses. He obviously wants Clinton’s ass on a platter, and he wants it now. An earlier commentator on Nightline, a current or former White House staffer whose name I can’t recall, suggested that the Republicans might want to consider a change in leadership. After viewing Armey’s pathetic performance, which had me chuckling smugly from start to finish, I can see his point. What makes people so crabby and vindictive?

At today’s meeting, the finance committee approved a preliminary budget for 1999, which includes the library’s request for Sunday hours. The final hurdle will be a public hearing and council vote on the first Tuesday in December, a pro forma matter. Nobody appeared at least year’s budget hearing, (the only people in the audience were the city department heads), and this year no council member has expressed any reservation about the cost of opening the library on Sunday. We’ll probably be able to initiate this service on March 7. We’ll need the first two months of the year to hire additional staff and reconfigure our work space. I’ll be moving into what is now the conference room. Two other staff members will then share my current office, a move that will free up some much needed space in our staff workroom.

I had to miss Eddie’s teacher conference as a result of my meeting today. Since she wasn’t in a very communicative mood when I returned home, JoAnna gave me only the briefest of reports. I did learn, to my great pleasure, that Eddie has made great strides in the development of his learning and social skills since the beginning of the school year. This positive result is a combination of his special education reading classes, parents who work very closely with him on h is homework assignments every night, and the medication he’s been taking for the past six weeks. Eddie’s reading comprehension improves a little bit each week. What’s even more satisfying is his increased ability to deal with the occasional frustrations that occur when he encounters an unfamiliar or difficult word. This week, for example, I’ve noticed he has a lot of trouble with words that begin with “th”. This. That. There. Think. Thing. Every time he comes across these words, he has to stop and use a “pounding” technique he learned at school to sound out the words. I need to ask his reading teacher why that is. I would think they’d be part of his sight vocabulary by now. At least he doesn’t shut down and give up like he used to do.

I just checked on the boys, 15 minutes before their usual 9 o’clock bedtime. Andy was already asleep, his room dark but his portable stereo groovin’ to the sounds of the Will Smith CD I bought him a couple weeks ago. (He likes falling asleep while listening to music.) Eddie wanted me to tuck him in and turn off his light. I didn’t even have to tell him, “Time for bed.”

I’m looking forward to the remainder of the year. There’s going to be more time for family activities.

Lights of Downtown District Across Lake Merritt, Oakland, Calif. (Postcard Series)

Friday, November 1, 2013

On This Date in 1998

The football game was a few minutes into the 2nd quarter by the time we arrived. Considering it was the last day of October, the weather was surprisingly mild, although jackets were in order. The score was knotted at 7-7, which is where it remained at the half. Middleton scored first in the 3rd quarter on a 60-yard pass, a play that got the fans and team fired up. This psychological advantage was quickly squandered when Wisconsin Rapids returned Middleton’s kick-off 85 yards for a touchdown. Rapids took a 14-13 lead as Middleton’s point-after kick was blocked.

The visitors should have been up by 2 touchdowns. They had fumbled on Middleton’s 3-yard line and had a pass intercepted when they were again deep in Middleton territory. Their defense was able to contain Middleton’s explosive running game. Rapids was able to avoid turning over the ball in the 4th quarter, scoring 2 touchdowns to seal a 28-13 victory and the right to play Sun Prairie, the team that is the odds-on favorite to win the title. Middleton’s soccer team is still in the run for a state title.

The Wisconsin Library Association conference was a big success. We had a great turnout. Over 1300 attendees, almost rivaling last year’s gathering in Milwaukee, the location which is typically our best draw. People were very impressed with the Grand Geneva Resort, which has been extensively remodeled since its days as the Playboy Club.

One of the perks of being WLA President is being given the best room at the conference site. (The organization gets one free room for every 50 room reservations. The other free rooms are used for the conference chair and some of our speakers.) I stayed in the Grand Suite, which has an arrangement of three sumptuously appointed rooms. A sitting area includes three upholstered couches arranged in a U-shape near a gas fireplace framed by a huge mantel, a grand piano, writing desk, and wet bar with 45 stools. A dining room is furnished with a large table, eight chairs, and a hutch. Double doors open from the sitting area into a bedroom, where I had a king-size bed all to myself since JoAnna was too busy to join me and I, of course, had no intention of being unfaithful, despite the fact that I had the perfect setting for sin! The bathroom was as big as a small trailer: double-sink vanity, Jacuzzi bath (which I didn’t have the opportunity to use), shower stall, water closet, and plenty of space to hang my clothes. If only the conference had been a week later, JoAnna and I could have combined business with pleasure.

Everything went smoothly for me. The Tuesday evening board meeting was adjourned 5 minutes before its scheduled conclusion, without having to sacrifice a full discussion of any of the items on the agenda. Russell Banks, our keynote speaker at Wednesday’s opening session, gave an excellent talk on the influence of the writer’s voice in literature. A group of us had lunch with him afterwards and found him to be a very engaging man. I received many compliments on my introduction of Banks, a four-minute speech that I had worked on throughout the month of October. Thursday’s membership meeting proceeded smoothly. Thanks to the prompting of Lisa Strand, WLA’s executive director, and a quarter of voices from the Wisconsin Women Library Workers, I was serenaded with a chorus of “Happy Birthday”. Lisa and Jane, next year’s president, took me out to dinner that evening, to a restaurant that had a rack of lamb on its menu. Friday’s President’s Luncheon was a fitting conclusion to the conference. I returned home late Friday afternoon, very satisfied with the way the conference had turned out.

Friday evening provided me with an encore birthday celebration. JoAnna took her parents, husband, and boys out to dinner at the Club, a Middleton institution that has been in business in one form or another since 1890. I continued my high living and ordered the steak and shrimp scampi special, as did JoAnna and Alice. We returned home for birthday cake, a carrot cake that Alice had baked earlier in the day, and the opening of the gifts. Thanks for the sweater; I love it. JoAnna gave me a portable compact disc player, which Andy enjoys as much as I do.

Larry and Alice left around 9 o’clock yesterday morning, and JoAnna left for work a few minutes later. I tackled a long list of chores. The house was a mess, Grandma and Grandpa either unable or unwilling to pick up after the boys. There was a huge pile of laundry to be done – five loads altogether. Plus I wanted to replace the screens with storm windows in the family room and get the garden areas ready for winter. Although we had beautiful weather a few days ago – Wednesday was picture perfect and helped to promote an almost festive atmosphere at the conference – it has cooled down considerably now that the weekend is here. So far today, it’s been cloudy and breezy, the temperature in the high 40s. And that’s what we can expect through the rest of the week.

And that’s all for now. Or at least all I have time for.