Saturday, September 16, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 32

What was the first foreign country that you visited?

In 1984 my husband had a business trip that would take him to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for three months. At the time, any income earned in a foreign country was tax exempt in the United States, and Jim received an increase in pay for the time that he would spend overseas. So we decided to take advantage of the fact that his flights were paid for and enjoy a European vacation at the end of his work schedule in Riyadh. We settled on a 17 day, multi-country tour beginning in Rome.

The trip was booked, Jim had been ensconced in his duties in Saudi Arabia for two months, and I was working full-time at MOMEDICO when I found out I was pregnant with our first child. Surprise! This was way before the Internet was widely used, and home land lines had exorbitant rates for continental long-distance phone calls, much less international calls. I decided that I would not tell Jim about the baby until I saw him face to face, which meant no one else got to know the secret until we returned from our trip.

Making my first international flight by myself was a little scary, but I survived and Jim met me at the airport in Rome as our flights arrived on the same day. After catching up with all he had done and what had been going on with work and our families back home, I let him know that he was going to be a daddy. We had planned on having a family at some point, so fortunately he was overjoyed by the news.

Being in the first trimester of pregnancy, I was experiencing some morning sickness. Diesel fumes in particular made me nauseous. Fortunately Ritz was the universal cracker, and eating those helped immensely.

We met up with our tour group the day after we arrived in Rome, and the bus took us on a site-seeing tour of the city. One thing we liked about traveling with this particular group is that in each new city we visited they offered a half-day bus tour to get us acquainted with the area. Then we had free time to go back to see what interested us on our own. We were definitely among the youngest people on the tour, with the exception of a college student who was traveling with his grandfather.

Vatican - so young and skinny!
In Rome it was a great thrill to see the Forum, Pantheon, Colosseum, Arch of Titus, the Vatican and St. Peter's, and of course, Michelangelo's David. All the places you learned about in school, church, or saw in the movies - to see them in real life was a bit surreal.

We took side trips to Villa d'Este, a 16th century villa in Tivoli known for its terraced hillside gardens and fountains, as well as to Pisa to see the leaning tower. We climbed to the top of it, despite the lack of guard rails to protect from falls. Unfortunately our visit was marred by the fact that someone stole Jim's telephoto lens right out of the backpack he was wearing! That was particularly maddening in light of the fact that we were only days into our trip and would not have the use of the lens for the rest of our travels.

Villa d'Este and Tower of Pisa
From Rome we went to Venice before heading to Lucerne, Switzerland, then on to Paris (with a side trip to Versailles), and ultimately ending up in London. Since this post is about the first country I visited, I won't go into more details about the rest of the journey. For the most part we enjoyed traveling with the group as the company took care of all transportation, luggage, language barriers, etc., and breakfast was included each morning. Though we soon learned that the breakfast was the same each morning - no matter what country we were in. It included coffee, tea, juice and a hard roll with butter and jelly. By about the 8th day, one of the couples was missing from breakfast. When we saw them later, the gal explained, "We couldn't eat one more damn roll!" The rest of us could relate. But overall, it was a good way to be introduced to foreign travel.

Rialto Bridge in Venice, Eiffel Tower in Paris, and Buckingham Palace in London

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 31

Since I wrote about eating in the last post, it seems reasonable this week to discuss who cleaned up after the meals.

What were your chores as a child?

My mother did not work outside the home (with rare exceptions), so most of the housework fell on her shoulders. As I got older, I was responsible for cleaning my room, dusting, vacuuming and raking the rug. Yes, you read that correctly. I raked our living room and hallway rugs.

Do you remember shag carpets? They were a thing in the 1960s and 1970s. Due to the length of the fibers, these carpets would become flat when people walked on them. Plastic rakes were used to fluff them back up. I understand shag is making a bit of a comeback. My advice? Don't go there. Who wants to add an additional step to the already long list of household chores?

When we got big enough, my brother and I were enlisted to take over washing and drying the dishes. That had been our older sister's domain, but once she got a full-time job the dishes were passed down to us. Dad was a stickler for clean dishes. If he inspected our work and found any food remnants, EVERYTHING would come out of the cabinets to be washed and dried. I think that only happened once. Quick learners, my brother and I.

My brother took out the trash and mowed the lawn, but I like mowing as well so I asked to cut the front lawn. Getting to the back yard involved traversing steep hills on either side of the house, so my dad didn't want me to attempt that part. I also enjoyed washing the car, so I did that when I was free.

My chores at home continued even after I began my part-time jobs when I turned 16. Those skills served me well once I went away to college and even more so after I got married and we had a home of our own.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 30

Let's talk about food for this week's writing prompt.

What did a typical mealtime look like?

Growing up our meals were always eaten as a family, and that included breakfast, lunch and dinner (though we referred to the latter as supper.) The six of us would gather around the table to eat, except if someone was working or out of town. During the week my mom was responsible for the cooking, though she and dad did the grocery shopping together. On the weekends, my dad was right in the kitchen with mom. Dishes were the responsibility of the kids.

Mom with Duke
The household rule was that you had to eat everything on your plate, and dad made us sit at the table until the plate was clean. On several occasions that meant that I sat there until bedtime. There were some things even our German Shepherd Duke wouldn't eat, despite my best efforts to feed him under the table. Rutabagas come to mind. Dad mellowed a bit in later years, and mom was allowed to make me a hot dog for times when things like liver and onions were on the menu.

Both my mom and dad were excellent cooks, and most things they served tasted really good. While they never were into baking goodies like cookies or brownies, dad could whip up awesome pineapple upside down cakes, lemon meringue pies, apple or peach pies, etc. My dad's pineapple upside down cake was so good that I took the pan he baked it in after he passed so that I could try to duplicate his masterpiece. Regular cakes were pretty much reserved for birthdays. But the best part of eating was getting to catch up with everyone on what their day had been like.
pineapple upside down cake
My husband experienced pretty much the same thing in his house growing up, so sharing meals was something we carried through to our married lives. When our children came along, we made it a point to sit down together for meals despite both of us working full-time outside the home. We learned a lot about their daily experiences by being tuned into the conversations that flowed as we ate. The greatest compliment my kids ever gave me was the fact that they both planned their extracurricular activities around our dinner time whenever possible, so that they could eat at home. I hope that is something they will continue to do now that they have households of their own.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 29

This week's writing prompt:

What sports or other extracurricular activities were you involved in?

As a young girl I was always interested in dance lessons, but there never seemed to be any extra money for me to take them. I got to live vicariously through my friend across the street, Sherry Coon, as her mom invited me to Sherry's recitals. It was also through Mrs. Coon that I became a Brownie and Junior Girl Scout.

When I was in 7th grade I joined a girls' softball team with some classmates at Holy Trinity. We were the Carnations. All of the teams in the league were named for flowers, and I thought that was stupid and sexist even back then. Since I wasn't the coach's kid, or even a friend of the coach's kid, I got stuck out in right field.  I hated every minute of it. I'd been playing baseball with my brother and the neighborhood boys for years, so I understood the meaning of being placed in the outfield. It was hard for me to adjust to the larger, softer ball and wider bat. I did okay, I guess, but only stuck with the team for a couple of years.

Hooverettes junior year
When I got to high school (which at Hoover High was only 10th-12th grades) I tried out for the Hooverettes, a precision drill team run by an ex-military guy. Out of 72 candidates, only 17 of us made the team. Mr. J. conducted weekly weigh-ins, and if you were an ounce over your recommended weight, you didn't get to march that week. Fortunately weight was not an issue for me back then. One of his other requirements was that you could not participate in any other school activities. There were a lot of rehearsals before school, and we marched at every football and basketball game, as well as various parades throughout the year.

Normally the parades were in Des Moines or nearby towns such as Pella for the Tulip Festival. But when our band was selected to march in the Cherry Blossom Parade in Washington, DC, that was a huge thrill. Due to expenses, only two sophomore Hooverettes were allowed to go, and that was as alternates in case one of the junior or senior girls couldn't march. All the sophomore names were thrown in a hat, and mine was one of the two drawn. Diane Howdle was the second, so we ended up as roommates in the DC hotel. It was my first time flying on a plane, as well as my first time in the nation's capital. Neither of us got to be in the parade, instead following along the route with numerous cameras taking pictures for those who were marching. When we were returning to Des Moines, there was a blizzard and we were stranded in Chicago for a day. From April 8-10, Des Moines received 14" of snow. We ultimately made it back home. It was quite a trip.
Cherry Blossom Parade 1973

At the end of my junior year our school sponsor quit and we were told the Hooverettes were disbanding. Later on, another sponsor took over but by then I had it in my head to try other activities my senior year. I helped with student council, was a track clerk, and got involved in the theater department - both on stage and behind the scenes. My senior year I was also a Voter Registrar as I had turned 18 in October. I was enlisted to help register other students so they could vote in the 1974 presidential election. I also went throughout my neighborhood registering voters. In retrospect, I'm glad I branched out senior year and got involved in other things as it gave me a chance to meet many other students in the school.
The Miracle Worker                                  voter registrars

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 28

Today is our 39th wedding anniversary. In a happy coincidence, the couple who sang at our wedding is here in town visiting us. It is fitting to go with this writing prompt as the question of the week.

Tell the story of how you met your own true love, what first attracted you to him, and how long it took for you to know he was “the one”?

Alpha Sigma Phi
Jim and I met our freshman year at Iowa State University. Having neither the interest nor the cash to try to get into a sorority, I lived in Freeman Hall. Jim, on the other hand, pledged the Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity located on the other side of campus. A friend from high school, Todd Buckton, also pledged at the same time as Jim. The Alpha Sigs had a Little Sister organization in the house. These organizations were formed in the late 1960s to early 1970s as an opportunity for the brothers to have social interaction with gals without the stress of dating, for the fraternity to receive help with service projects, etc. Each new gal received a Big Brother to help with the transition to college life, and the upper class gals were assigned a Little Brother to do the same for them.

The new pledges were expected to invite freshman girls to the Little Sister rush party in the fall, and Todd called and invited me to come over. I went, and was later asked to be in the organization. While I met all the brothers at the party and later the Little Sister initiation ceremony, Jim first stood out to me at a mixer between the fraternity and the Little Sisters. Held at a bar right before spring break, I clearly remember spending a lot of time talking to him and his two roommates, Jon and Steve. Jim mentioned that he was going skiing with some friends back home during our time off, and I remember being jealous because 1) I had never skied before, and 2) we never did anything during school breaks.

May 1975
When classes resumed I decided that I was going to invite Jim to a dance my dorm was planning for later spring in Des Moines. I didn't want to call the frat house and ask for him in case the person answering the phone that night recognized my voice. I had a friend from the dorm call instead, and when he got on the line I popped the question. He said he would like to go. Because he wanted to become more acquainted before the dance, he came over to the dorm one day and helped my roommate and me paint our room. Then he asked me out to see the movie Jeremiah Johnson. He borrowed Todd's Volkswagen Beetle to pick me up as he didn't have a car. We had a very nice evening, and it smoothed the way for the dance.

We dated exclusively all through college, and the more time I spent with him, the more I realized how much we had in common. Meeting his parents when they came to Ames to attend a play was the icing on the cake as they were great, and he got to meet my parents when we went to Des Moines for the dance. In fact, six of us spent the night at my mom and dad's house after the dance ended. 

Alpha Sigma Phi pin
The only time we had a brief breakup occurred during sophomore year, over something inconsequential. We were soon reunited, and never looked back. By junior year I was wearing his fraternity pin, and senior year we got engaged. We married less than three months following our graduation from Iowa State and the rest, as they say, is history.

Wedding Day August 19, 1978

Footnote: The Little Sister organizations were abolished in the mid 1990s for various concerns including liability, suggestions that the organizations discriminated by gender, and other obscure reasoning.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 27

This week I am going back to school with my story.

Who was your favorite school teacher? Why?

Mr. Wadden 1974
There are several teachers I remember throughout my school years, which is amazing since my memory has never been the greatest. Sister Mary Geneva from second grade was young and very kind. Sister Liguori, while older and more stern, was very supportive of my poetry writing in fifth grade. Mrs. Yelick in 8th grade reinforced my love of English, and Mr. Parker in 11th grade understood that American History would be more interesting to his students if he let them select projects that appealed to them while at the same time imparted knowledge about our country's history. I still remember my presentation that discussed how the music of the roaring '20s contrasted with that of the '30s as the country fell into the Great Depression. The music was a reflection of the tone of the country. But the teacher who most influenced my life was Mr. Wadden, who taught A.S.P. English.

I signed up for Advanced Special Placement English, which would be called AP English today, my senior year of high school. I had heard that it was a challenging class, which most kids tend to shy away from their final year of high school. But hey, it was English, so I wanted in. My friend Kim was in the same class as me, and we tentatively made our way into the room together on the first day. As Mr. Wadden explained the curriculum and work load for the class, you could see the looks of dismay on the faces of many of the students. He said that if any of us did not want to put in the full effort for the class, we were welcome to leave. And a handful of students did exactly that.

Kim and I stuck it out, and while the class did entail a lot of work, Mr. Wadden was mostly bark and no bite. I think he just wanted to separate the serious students from those who were looking for an easy ride their last year in school. There was a lot of reading required in the class, and he taught us to critically examine what we were reading. From there we had to write papers discussing the meanings of what we had read. His class not only changed the way I read books, but my writing skills improved dramatically.

Those skills carried through in college as well as every job I have held since then. Mr. Wadden is one of the biggest reasons that I am a published author today. I am so grateful that I was able to tell him exactly that when we met at my 40th high school reunion a few years ago. He attended the reunion because I invited him. It was humbling to learn that I was a student he remembered out of all the thousands he had taught throughout the years. He recalled my friendship with Kim and the unique name we called ourselves. Way before Brad and Angelina became known as Brangelina, we were the Kimlers (Kim Kubler and Kim Taylor). Mr. Wadden also asked if I had indeed gone on to Iowa State University. (I did.) At any rate, it was wonderful to see him and his wife at our reunion. It's not often that we get to show appreciation to our teachers, and let them know that they made a difference. Thanks, Mr. Wadden!

me with Mr. Wadden in 2014

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 26

In my post for Week 22, the prompt asked about how my parents met, and then also how my grandparents met. While I knew the story about my parents, I was unsure about my grandparents. I was in Cincinnati a couple of weeks ago and took the opportunity to ask my two aunts the question of how their parents met.

How did your grandparents meet and fall in love?

Margie, me and Betty
There were eight children in my mom's family, with only two surviving today. Aunt Margie turned 95 recently, and her surprise birthday party was one of the reasons I was in Cincinnati. Aunt Betty's birthday was last month, and she turned 90. They are both an inspiration to the family as they are fairly healthy, active and living on their own.

While at the party, I took the opportunity to ask them if they knew how their parents had met. Aunt Margie did not remember ever hearing the story. Betty believes that Michael Crusham and Mary Barbara (Mayme) Metz met at a picnic in a park in Delhi (a township in Hamilton County).

I explained to them both that as I was looking through notes in preparation for some research I was going to do while in Cincinnati, I had found a reference to an interview I did with their older sister Marie back in 1994. Marie told me that Mayme had a friend named Rose Kenney, and she would sometimes spend the night at Rose's house. She thought that is where Mike and Mayme met. But she said that Mike also may have been a friend of Rose's future husband, John Buchanan. I shared this story with Margie and Betty, and neither one had heard this version.

So the bottom line is that I really don't know for sure how my grandparents met. What I do know is that they were married at St. Aloysius Church in Cincinnati on 21 June 1911. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in June of 1961. By November, Michael was dead.

Mike and Mayme, seated, along with Mike's brother
Edward and Mayme's sister Helen

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 25

Last week's post reminded me of another story that involved plane travel. Here's my follow-up question:

To date, what has been your strangest plane experience?

me with Clinton Kelly of
What Not to Wear fame
I have previously written about this event on my other blog, but it is a good story and bears repeating. In May of 2010 I traveled to New York City to attend a book publishing conference. The conference went well, and I was eager to get back home to my family when the conference ended on Thursday. My first clue that it would not be smooth sailing was in the cab on the way to the airport.The cabbie asked me if I had called the airline as some flights had been canceled due to storms. I called my daughter on my cell phone and had her look up my flight on her computer, and American Airlines showed it to be on schedule. The weather in New York was fine, but apparently storms in the Midwest were causing problems.

At the gate it was apparent the flight would be late as there was no plane there. At 5:20 we finally boarded, and the plane left the gate around 5:45. Then we sat out on the tarmac for 2 hours. I counted 17 planes on the runway ahead of us. In the meantime I chatted with the gal in the center seat next to me, and the guy in the end seat. The gal had grown up in Ferguson and was on her way home for a baby shower. Her own, as it ends up. She is 7 months pregnant with her first baby, and since she now lives in New York the family was hosting a virtual shower so that everything would be shipped to her home in New York. Smart! The guy was on his way back home to Chicago via St. Louis, which I thought was odd since there are lots of flights direct to Chicago out of LaGuardia.

After 2 hours the pilot took us back to the gate because nothing was flying out, and with the new FAA guidelines he could not keep us on the plane longer than 3 hours. He knew there was no way we would get out before the 3 hour timetable was up. If the plane returns to the gate, then the 3 hours can start over again. Back at the airport we were asked to wait 10 minutes until a decision would be made on whether we would fly out that night or not. Then we de-planed and they said it would be 8:45 before a decision would be made. Around 8:30 the flight was canceled. No flights heading west were allowed to leave that night.

The people on the plane who had smart phones were able to schedule their flights for the next day. Those of us stuck in yesterday's technology had to do it the old fashioned way - we stood in line. One sole AA rep was trying to handle the entire flight. My pregnant seat mate and I decided to go upstairs to the AA counter where there would be more agents available. Big mistake! Since all flights were canceled, the line was atrocious. We headed back downstairs to collect out luggage, and seat mate got both of her phones (yep, she carries two of them!) going on the AA 800 number. She finally got through, and after she booked her flight she took my information and changed my flight as well. For herself, she was able to get a direct flight at 9:00 p.m. Friday night. For me? A 5:30 p.m. flight to Dallas, with a flight from Dallas arriving in St. Louis at 11:30 p.m. Friday night. Are you kidding me? According to the agent, that was the best thing they could do.

The luggage finally arrived and I bid farewell to my pregnant friend who was lucky enough to be able to head home to her apartment, and I went to tackle the next issue. Where was I going to sleep that night? I waited for my turn at the Airport Hotels phone bank, asking each person I saw if they could recommend a decent place in the area. We were all in the same boat, with no idea of which way to sail. I struck up a conversation with a nice, younger woman who also needed a place to stay. She had one hotel phone going and I had the other. We agreed that if either of us found a hotel with rooms, we would grab 2 of them. It was soon apparent that all the canceled flights had resulted in a run on neighboring hotels. A number of people headed back to NYC for the night. But new friend and I persisted. I was on hold with Holiday Inn Express when she struck gold with the Comfort Inn. YES! They had openings. Could we have 2 rooms? No, only 1 was available. I looked at my new BFF and said, "I'm not an axe murderess." She replied that she was not an axe murderess either, and with that we agreed to share a room. She told the man she would take a room with 2 beds. Uhhhhh.....the only room available was a king bed. Alrighty, then....We had agreed to share a room but did we want to share a bed? It was that or the airport floor. We booked the room ($180 per night for a Comfort Inn!) and headed out in the now rainy New York night to catch the shuttle.

At the Comfort Inn I called AA and again asked about a different flight. The frazzled agent said there were no direct flights available, but if I would hold she would check on some alternatives. She came back with a 10:00 a.m. US Airways flight to DC followed by an AA flight to St. Louis, arriving at 1:55 p.m. Much better than the 11:30 p.m. arrival time I was currently scheduled on. My new BFF Michele and I settled in for the night, but I have to say I did not sleep well. I never did get any supper with all the delays at the airport, so my stomach was a little upset. I didn't want to pass gas and embarrass myself with my new BFF. Plus I was afraid that since I had slept so poorly on my trip I might snore. Also not a cool way to impress a new friend. It was not a restful night. Michele got up at 6:00 a.m. to make her flight, so we bid each other a safe trip. Slept with Michele on a first date and never even got her last name. I am so loose!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 24

Not being inspired by any of the writing prompts on the list, I decided to come up with my own for this week's post.

To date, what has been your worst plane experience?

All of us have dealt with delayed or cancelled flights, screaming kids, the passenger who doesn't shut up for the entire trip, a seat mate who spills into your personal space, the person in front of you who reclines in your lap, the one behind you who kicks your seat, the unpleasant aroma of carry-on food or a filled diaper - I could go on and on.

But none of these things comes close to my story of being marooned - not on an island, but on an airplane. It was 21 March 1992, and I had a business meeting at Chicago O'Hare International Airport. It was a daylong meeting of marketing people from around the United States, so we had all flown in that morning and were flying home that night. Or at least that was the plan. We held the meeting in a room right at the airport for the sake of convenience. My trip home was on American Airlines Flight 1413, scheduled to leave at 6:14 p.m.

An unpredicted snow storm began that afternoon, and we were advised to change our tickets to an earlier flight. I was able to secure a seat on an American flight leaving at 4:15, and considered myself one of the lucky ones able to get out before the airport shut down. Some members of our group could not change their tickets.

My plane boarded at 3:30, and after a delay pushed away from the terminal and took its place on the tarmac waiting for clearance. That move ended up to be a costly one for all of us on the plane. Once another plane entered our gate there was no turning back. We sat on the runway for hours. My best move was hopping out of my center seat and claiming the two seats across the aisle from me so that I could spread out. We were all given our one soda and one package of peanuts (those were the days when you still received a drink and a bag of nuts for "free"), and that was it. We learned that there was only one runway open with 45 planes ahead of us waiting to take off. Additionally, only two of O'Hare's de-icing trucks were working.

There were no phones on the planes, and we were still years away from mobile telephones being a standard business travel accessory. I had no way to contact my husband, at home in St. Louis with our 6 year old and nearly 1 year old, to let him know the situation. He was sure that something terrible had happened to me.

The plane finally took off at 2:30 a.m., landing in St. Louis about 3:45 in the morning. Essentially we were on the plane for 12 hours. We barely got an apology as we deplaned. As for the people from my meeting who could not change their flights? They ended up being the lucky ones. They were able to spend the night in our meeting room where there was plenty to eat and drink. The rest of the airport ran out of food, and all the nearby motels were quickly filled.

I wrote a scathing letter to American Airlines regarding the incident. It will come as a surprise to no one that I never received a reply. I've taken the liberty of re-writing their 1990's slogan.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 23

This week's question involves food - school food, to be exact. Some of my memories are fond, others not so much.

What are your memories of school lunch? Did you bring from home or eat at school? How did the food and your experiences change from school to school?

My kindergarten was only half day, so I had lunch at home after the bus dropped me off at the corner. From 1st-7th grades, I attended Holy Trinity Catholic School. They barely had a lunchroom there, much less a cafeteria, so mom packed lunches for my brother and me every day. Once each semester they would have a hot lunch consisting of beef burgers, chips and homemade desserts. The moms would prepare and serve the meal in the gym. It was such a treat to see my mom during the school day, and to have something different to eat for a change.

There are a couple of other things that stand out in my mind. One is that during lent, we could eat meat on Fridays. All those tuna fish sandwiches smelled horrible in the coat closet! No one had insulated lunch boxes in those days. The second was the day my brother and I knew that we had a half day and didn't need a lunch. Mom made us take one anyway, and we ditched our lunches in the shrubs at a neighbor's house. Wouldn't you know the lady would choose that morning to do yard work, found the labeled paper sacks, and called our mom to tattle on us. She was not happy with us, but we ate the lunches when we got home - early, just like we thought.

Meredith Junior High School
The junior high school I switched to in 8th grade must not have left an impression on me, food-wise. I'm guessing it had a cafeteria as it was attached to the high school, but I honestly have no recollection it. I probably continued to pack a lunch for financial reasons.

At the high school I remember going through the food line with my friends. I bought the same thing every day - an orange and two peanut butter cookies. It cost me twenty cents. Once in a blue moon if there was something special on the menu and I had some extra money, I would buy my lunch.

When I got to Iowa State, if you were in their housing program you paid for room and board. I still remember that the cost was $525 per quarter (the university was on the three quarter system at that point) for the room and meals. We received a punch card good for three meals a day, except on Sundays when only two meals were provided. You were assigned a dining hall, and your punch card was only good there. Most of the food was actually pretty good, but I remember being thankful that dining hall duty was not my job in the work-study program I was in. Sunday nights I would eat popcorn or heat up a can of soup in my hot pot.

My senior year I moved off campus into a mobile home with another girl. Cleaning, paying bills, grocery shopping and cooking were all skills that have benefited me throughout my life.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 22

As I look at the various prompt questions I can select from each week, it makes me sad that I did not ask my parents and grandparents more questions. I know they told stories when I was growing up, but they just didn't interest me at the time. Of course now I wish I had written them down, or even better, recorded them.

Here is this week's prompt:

Do you know the story of how your parents met and fell in love? What about your grandparents?

It was 1941 and my father, Roy Kubler was twenty-four years old, living with his parents and two of his sisters, and working as an assorter for the Railways Express Agency in Cincinnati. The Railways Express Agency delivered freight from the railroad car to the customer, and Roy’s job entailed the routing of packages through the express terminal. 

My mother, Catherine Crusham, was the third oldest of eight children. She had dropped out of high school after completing her junior year in order to help support the family. She worked at a sporting goods manufacturing factory sewing basketballs. In 1941 she was twenty-one and living with her parents and six of her siblings.

They met when Roy was out driving with a friend one pretty spring afternoon in 1941. Catherine was standing on a street corner with her cousin Joan Armstrong when the two young men happened to pass by. As Roy's friend was acquainted with Joan, they stopped the car to chat. Roy was immediately attracted to Catherine's red hair and sparkling green eyes, and she to his tall stature and quick wit. The two began dating and found common interests in their backgrounds, music and dancing.

Joan on the left with Catherine in 1941
But WWII had cast a shadow over the light of their love. Anticipating that he would shortly be required to enter the military, on 10 January1942 Roy and Catherine applied for a marriage license. They married quietly on 17 January 1942 at Resurrection Church in Cincinnati, with only Catherine’s sister Margaret Crusham and their brother-in-law Lawrence Wambaugh in attendance. Two months into their marriage, the Army Air Forces called Roy into service.

While they had a difficult beginning to their marriage, the foundation held for 47 years until my mom was killed in a car accident in 1989. The example they set contributed in part to all of their children having successful, long-term marriages.

The story of how my grandparents met is one I don't know. I will be making a trip back to my birthplace later this year, so it is a question I will ask of my aunts. And this time I will listen, and write it down.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 21

For this week's question I decided I was going to modify one of the ones from Family Search regarding holidays. It is almost July 4th, so I want to write about that particular holiday.

What is your most memorable 4th of July?

My dad went all out for July 4th when we lived in Chicago. He bought a ton of fireworks and shot them off in our back yard. The neighbors would gather to watch, and it was quite a party. One year my brother dropped a firecracker on my left foot. Now, we lived in Chicago from the time I was several months old until I turned 5, so my brother could not have been older than 6 when this happened. How he got his hands on a firecracker, I don't remember. It hurt like the dickens, and I carry a scar on that foot to this day.

After we moved to Des Moines where the houses were much closer together, dad didn't put on the big display like he had done in the past. But we always had sparklers and snakes that we were allowed to set off each year. That tradition my husband and I carried on when our own children were old enough to be responsible with them.

The last time that I saw my mother alive was over the 4th of July holiday in 1989 when she and my dad stopped here on their way to Colorado to stay with my brother for a couple of weeks. We all sat outside and played with the sparklers and snakes. She was killed in a car accident on their way back from Colorado later in July. So this holiday is always a blend of celebration and sadness for me.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 20

Wow, it's hard to believe that this is my 20th post for the 2017 Family Search 52 Stories project. For others participating in the project, I guess they would be on week 24. But I took February off as I was writing daily for Family History Writing Month, so I'm not going to feel bad that I'm off a few weeks. The prompt for this post involves academics.

What do you consider your greatest academic achievement - earning a degree, passing a challenging class, getting high marks on a test or project, reading War and Peace?

Iowa State 2014

I didn't have to think too long for this question. While I am proud of my undergraduate degree from Iowa State University of Science and Technology, I wasn't given a choice regarding my post-high school education. My dad told me I was going to go to college, and further that I would attend Iowa State where my older brother was enrolled. I wasn't interested in science or technology, nor did I have the skill set for either. I wanted to go to the University of Iowa, which had (and still has) an excellent writing program. But dad was adamant and you just didn't argue with him, so off to Iowa State I went.

It became abundantly clear following graduation, marriage and a move to St. Louis that an undergraduate degree in Family Services was not going to open employment doors. While my degree was highly recognized and respected in Iowa, St. Louis employers had no idea what it was since my diploma did not say "Social Work" on it. I've always felt that Iowa State was ahead of its time with the program because when an individual has a problem, it's not just their problem - it impacts the whole family. So we treated the whole family. It makes so much sense.

At any rate, with an unknown degree and the distressed job market that existed in 1978, I found myself employed as a teller in a bank. While it was not the worst job in the world, it was a far cry from what I was trained to do. It was clear that an undergraduate degree alone was not going to allow me to work in the field of helping families. And so, at the ripe old age of 23, I enrolled in graduate school full time at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. But this time I picked the curriculum and I picked the college.

UMSL 2014

The program could be completed in 12 months, including a three month internship. What I didn't realize until I went to enroll in my courses was that the classes were at night to accommodate folks who were working full time. (This was way before the time where you could check everything out online.) That schedule would put a crimp into the time I would be able to spend with my fairly new husband as he was working full time during the days. But we decided that for a year, we could make it work. It may have been for the best as I drove to campus early every day to avoid the traffic, which gave me lots of time in the library before my classes began.

My electives provided me with an opportunity to take daytime classes, and I took business classes for  all of those. I believe my business minor contributed to the fact that I was hired by Ralston Purina for my internship in 1980. Those classes also paid off down the road when we started our own businesses.

My Master of Education Degree in Counseling was awarded following completion of the internship in August of 1980. I was the first person in my family to receive an advanced degree, and I graduated with a 3.9 GPA. This degree, unlike my bachelor's, opened the door to jobs that required a masters in order to even be considered. To date, that is my greatest academic achievement.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 19

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there - to the ones who are with us still as well as those who are no longer here to celebrate. My own father died in 2004, and I think about him often, but especially on his birthday and Father's Day. My writing prompt, of course, involves dads.

What is something you never understood or appreciated about your dad until much later in life?

Dad and me 1978
It takes becoming a parent yourself to appreciate most things about your own mom and dad. Once you recognize the great responsibility you have in caring for and raising children, you begin to understand the pressure your parents were under. My dad grew up during a time where it was considered the man's job to provide for his family. Consequently, my mom never worked once they got married except for the short stint when they owned the Dairy Queen.

They went through some difficult times when their oldest son was diagnosed with aplastic anemia as a young child. In addition to all the hospitalization bills, the serum the doctors believed necessary in order to keep Roy alive came at an exorbitant cost. The family incurred a lot of debt, and in the end Roy died at the age of 7. Before he was even buried the administrative nun from the Catholic hospital was already hounding dad for money. He and mom spent years paying the hospital off.

Dad began his working career in transportation, which took our family from Cincinnati to Chicago and finally to Des Moines. When his company was bought out, he lost his job as Regional Sales Manager. How devastating and scary that must have been for him. He tried many other things after that, always involving sales in some aspect. Looking back, I believe he was a bit of a frustrated entrepreneur, not unlike his own father.

He was so pleased and proud when Jim and I began our own composting business back in 1991. I think he lived a little vicariously through our business endeavors. It was so great to be able to talk about how things were going whenever we got together. Trying to juggle jobs and family responsibilities while facing the unknown future of the company we started helped me to understand how difficult things must have been for dad when he was supporting a young family.

But I like to think that I got my tenacity and spunk from him, and I know that he would be proud of the things I have accomplished in my life. (Except he wouldn't understand the part where I wrote a book about him - he would shake his head over that.)

Thanks for all the strength and knowledge you passed on to me, dad. Happy Father's Day!


Sunday, June 11, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 18

It's not Father's Day weekend, but this topic deserves more than one post as I have a couple of people I would like to write about. Today's writing prompt is:

Who are some other important father figures who have been influential in your life?

As anyone who has been in a relationship knows, when you get involved with someone you aren't just letting "that" person into your life. "That" person comes with a bunch of other people, whether family members, friends, co-workers or whatever. You may choose your significant other, but you don't get to choose the other folks.

Jim and I come from similar backgrounds, raised in Catholic families with comparable values. We both spent most of our childhood in Iowa, though he was from a small town and I lived in the "big city" of Des Moines - population ~ 200,000. We ultimately ended up at the same university and began dating when we were 19. I met his parents shortly after that when they came to Iowa State to see a play. We went out to dinner before the show and they immediately put me at ease. When they met my parents, they all hit it off as well - an added bonus. It's hard to believe that they have known me for 42 years - more than nearly anyone else except my spouse and my siblings!

Lorraine, Gerald, Catherine and Roy, 1979
As I got to know them better, I could see that the man who was to become my father-in-law was a very special person. He valued his family and all the men who worked for him, who were every bit family to him as well. Being raised in a household of 11 children - 8 of whom were girls - cemented the importance of family, I think. In the years that I have known him he has demonstrated time and time and again the utmost love and respect he has for his wife and his children. As the spouse of his only son, I am blessed to know his love as well, as are our children.

Andy, Gerald, Lorraine and Kathryn

Early on in our marriage I found a framed poem "To My Other Mother" that I purchased for my mother-in-law one year. A recent Google search revealed that they have exchanged the word Mother for Father and sell the same poem for father-in-laws now. I decided this would be a good time to write one of my own.

From the very first moment we met
you accepted the girl I was;
the woman I was to become.
Though not your daughter
you have embraced me as one.

We don’t share the same blood
though we share the same name.
But we don’t need genetics
to prove our relationship
because we know we are family.

Our paths have intertwined
for more than four decades.
The memories we have made
are tucked away securely in my mind. 
It’s been a treasured journey.

When it comes to the in-laws pool
I definitely won the lottery.
Some women don’t even have
one man in their lives they call dad.
I’ve been blessed with two.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 17

For this week's writing prompt, I chose a question involving spring. It is hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that it is, indeed, spring as we have just returned from Australia and New Zealand where it is late fall. Nevertheless, here is this week's writing prompt.

What do you look forward to every spring? People, places, things, events, food, hobbies, traditions?

Each spring the thing I most anticipate is the whole process of getting my annuals into the planting beds and pots at our house. I keep a master list each year of what I planted and how the various flowers and herbs performed. Then I head off to the nursery to select the plant material. I like to patronize a nearby nursery as it is owned by a local family, and they have been very generous to our schools throughout the years. I know that I could buy the same things at one of the box stores for less money, but this is my way of supporting a hometown business. The employees are knowledgable too, and have helped me with many selections in the past.

It brings me great satisfaction to put each of the new little babies in the ground, and to watch them add color and interest to the yard. The herbs add flavor to our meals and beverages, and I like being able to walk out back and pick them fresh off the plant. As the season wears on, I do grow tired of going out into the heat to water them though. I am a mosquito magnet, and so I have to wear long sleeves and jeans to water, even during the day. That takes a bit of the romance out of the whole gardening thing, especially when the heat and humidity top 90.

Because we have been gone, I am way behind on my yard work. Hopefully things won't be too picked over by the time I finally get to the nursery.

spring flowers 2016

Monday, May 29, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 16

This post is a couple of days late as I have just returned from being out of the country. Considering that fact, I knew I would have to select the following topic for my writing prompt this week.

What was the longest continuous vacation of your life? How long were you gone? Do you remember how much it cost?

My husband and I left on April 24th to travel first to Australia and then to New Zealand. This trip had been in the making for several years, and at 30 days length was the longest time we have ever spent vacationing. It was also the first time in 38 plus years of marriage that we have spent 30 days, 24/7 together! It was a good trial period for retirement.

 The destinations were ones we had talked about traveling to, but the biggest consideration was that a professor my husband had at Iowa State had relocated to Melbourne back in 1981. He had been telling us for years that we needed to come and visit him and his family. None of us were getting any younger, so we decided to make the visit happen.

We spent two weeks in Australia, visiting Sydney, Cairns and Melbourne, where we met up with the Sinatra family for a few days. From there we traveled on to New Zealand, connecting up with Paul and Kathy who joined us for the last two weeks of our vacation. Kathy and I went to high school and later Iowa State together, and Paul and Jim were fraternity brothers at Iowa State.

As I have blogged extensively about the 30 day vacation over at my Kim Wolterman blog, I won't rehash the trip here. At the moment I don't have a tally on what the entire thing cost, but you know what? I don't care. It was the trip of a lifetime for us, and that makes it priceless in my book.

Blue Mountains, Australia

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 15

Today's writing prompt is one that is near and dear to my heart.

What do you love most about where you live now? What would you change about it?

My husband and I lived in two apartments and a duplex before purchasing our first home in 1982. In addition to being small, it was located on a busy street corner. Once we had our son, we began to outgrow the house so we looked for something larger on a quieter street. We saw many houses before walking into the one where we both looked at each other and said, "This is it!"

house in 1987
We were able to see beyond the ugly mint green paint color and the flamingo pink doors. We looked around the outdated kitchen and bathrooms, the horrendous wall paper that covered nearly every wall and some ceilings, and the worn blue carpet. The stacks of papers and clutter could not disguise the beautiful bones of this aging lady. The lot was huge and shaded and just waiting for a little boy to chase balls and fireflies again. Though the house sale was going through a trust in a closed bidding process, the tiny, elderly woman who had spent nearly 50 years raising her family in the home was going to make the final decision on who would next be the caretaker. We never knew if we had put in the highest bid or the lowest bid, but the realtor said that Hazel picked us because she wanted a family to again live in the house.

house as built in 1902
What I love most about the house is its history, which I researched extensively in order to obtain a century home plaque from our city. Though built in 1902, we are only the third owners. That is pretty incredible, when you think of it. The family who built the house lived here 36 years, and the next family 49 years. We are still the new kids on the block with 30 years under its roof. Unfortunately the people we purchased the home from sold off the southern half of the lot shortly after they purchased the property in 1938, which allowed a smaller house to be built next door. The early photograph above shows a stable on that part of the land. How lovely it would have been to keep the lot whole, with native plant material.

Nevertheless, this house welcomed our family with open arms and has embraced us throughout the years. Descendants of the other two owners have come to visit, and it has been fun to hear their stories about why certain things were done to the house. We have made our own modifications to suit the needs of our family, trying to maintain the original character. We no longer need this large of a house as our kids are grown and gone. And someday we won't want to climb all the stairs. Then someone else will have a chance to make their memories and leave their mark on this aging beauty.

April 2016

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 14

Tomorrow is Mother's Day, so of course I needed a writing prompt based on moms for today's post.

How would you describe your relationship with your mother - either now or in the past?

As mentioned in the last post, my mom and I were very close. That may be because I was the baby of the family, or maybe we were alike in personality and temperament. Whatever the reason, I loved spending time with her. She taught me how to sew, and tried teaching me to knit and crochet. The last two didn't catch on with me, however. She was an extremely talented bowler and golfer, and was quite an artist - more skills that did not pass on to me.

She made friends easily and had a wonderful sense of humor, which I think helped her survive a marriage that wasn't always smooth. My dad had a short temper, and being around him at times was like walking on eggshells. But mom was somehow able to laugh things off, usually.

My mom tried her best to attend my softball games in junior high, and my marching events and plays when I reached high school. She didn't always have a car, but when she did she was there for me. I brought her up to Iowa State for a mother's weekend that my dorm planned, and she had such a blast! She had never been able to attend college herself, so she was thrilled to get a little taste of it.

all my family in 1978
We enjoyed working together while planning my wedding, and she helped me modify a dress pattern so that I could make my own wedding dress. She crocheted all the lace for the dress, patterning it off the design on the veil she and I had scored on the clearance rack at Younkers for the bargain price of $7.50! That was 1/10 the price it was originally marked. She also made the dress for the junior bridesmaid and the vests for the two ring bearers.

Mom was the one who advised me not to rush into having kids. She told me we should enjoy each other as a couple, travel and get established in our jobs, because once the kids came along things would change. She and dad, like most people of their generation, immediately started their families once they got married. Maybe it was easy for her to say that because my older siblings had already supplied her with five grandchildren by the time we got married. 
Andy and mom 1985

When I had Andy, our first baby, she and dad drove over to help out, which was a godsend as I developed an all over rash post-delivery that necessitated a trip to the dermatology department of a research hospital, biopsies and a regimen of prednisone. They took care of the baby while I fought that weird postpartum skin disorder.

Andy was only four when mom died, and she never got to meet her namesake, Kathryn. I felt, and still feel, cheated. Cheated out of my time with her, and so incredibly sad that her grandchildren never got to know this vibrant, funny woman who gave me not only life and a sense of humor, but also my sense of who I am.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 13

What are some of the most momentous events in your life that have shaped you into the person you are today?

This is a very thought-provoking question, isn't it? The first thing that comes to mind is going away to college, since this definitely led to the second big event in my life. Even though I was the baby of the family, I think that I was fairly independent as a teenager. But college life certainly put me in a position to have to make my own decisions, budget my finances, and do my own cleaning and laundry all while juggling classes and a job. It was really the first step toward leaving home.

As I have written about previously, I met my husband at college. Getting married certainly qualifies as a momentous event. The reality sets in that you are leaving your mom and dad, and the relationship with them will never be quite the same. That's not a bad thing, necessarily, but it is certainly different. Instead of seeking their advice and council, you now turn to your spouse. Going from being a party of one to a party of two takes some adjustment and compromise. I'm not sure anything prepares you properly for the whole marriage deal.

Mom and me 1978
Without a doubt the thing that impacted me the most (so far) in my life was losing my mom when I was only 33. My mother and I had an incredibly close relationship. We rarely fought, even through the teenage angst years. Like most young people caught up in the day to day issues of work and parenting, I took having my mom in my life for granted. I thought we had years to enjoy each other's company. That all changed in the blink of an eye.

At that point I realized that so much of what we worry about, complain about, and get worked up about is inconsequential in the big scheme of things. Life is, indeed, very short. I have really tried to live in the moment, and not let little things bother me. I'm not always successful, but I think I am a happier person because of this philosophy.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 12

The writing prompt for this week involves hobbies.

Do you like to dabble in lots of different hobbies? Is so, what are they? Or do you have one primary pastime that takes up most of your free hours and energy?

Kodak Instamatic
Hobbies are very much a part of my life. Some of them, such as needlework, carry over from when I was younger, but others I became interested in as I got older. Taking photos is something I've done since my sister gave me a Kodak Instamatic camera when I was in grade school. I progressed to a 35 mm film camera in college, and now work exclusively with digital cameras. I joined a female photography group, and have met some exceptional women and enjoy participating in the group photography shows. I am super excited and proud that my photos will be appearing in an upcoming print and ebook on reducing stress!

Michael and Anna Cramer
My interest in genealogy started when my mom died unexpectedly in 1989 at the age of 69. At that point I realized that if I wanted to capture the stories and memories of the older generations in my family, I better get started. Since that beginning in 1989 I have taken many genealogy research trips, spent hours digging through online files, connected with relatives that I didn't even know I had, and submitted my saliva for DNA analysis. I also enjoy doing research for other people, and am currently looking into the family of a man who was supposedly possessed by the devil. I'm pretty happy that his name is not in my family tree. Pictured here are my second great-grandparents on my dad's side.

50th Anniversary quilt
I began making quilts back in 2002 when I got the crazy idea to make my mother and father-in-law a quilt for their 50th wedding anniversary. No pressure! I had important photographs and documents reprinted onto fabric, and then used some quilt squares that my mother-in-law's mother had made and incorporated those into the quilt. I hand embroidered dates and their names onto the border. Since that first quilt, I have made close to 30 quilts. While quilting strains my mathematically challenged brain, it also brings out my creative side in ways I didn't know I possessed.

pickleball shirt
My latest hobby fortunately combines fitness as well as fun. Two years ago I was introduced to pickleball, a court game that includes elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong. The ball resembles a whiffle ball, and the paddle is like an oversized ping pong paddle. It is touted as the fastest growing sport in America, and it's not just for old people anymore. A lot of younger players have discovered how fast and strategic the game can be. I try to play 3 times a week, and for me getting to socialize with people is just as important as the workout since I have my office in my house.

The best part about all of my hobbies is that each one of them is something that I can continue to do the rest of my life, assuming my health and eyesight remain good.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 11

My husband and I are preparing for an epic travel adventure, so this particular writing prompt struck a cord with me.

If you could make a good living doing the one thing you love most in the world, what would it be?

Because I love to travel and often photograph and write about my experiences, I would absolutely love to be a travel blogger. I know a number of people who do actually make a living doing exactly that. How great would it be to have someone else pay for your travel expenses in return for providing photos and reviews of the places you have been?

I already am a top reviewer for TripAdvisor as I use that site extensively whenever I am planning a trip, whether in my own town or abroad. So I have always felt it was important for me to contribute reviews as well to help other travelers. But I don't get paid for that, of course, and that is what makes the site so valuable. The reviews are honest opinions from people who visited, stayed or ate at the places listed on the site.

But if an opportunity came along for me to have my expenses paid in exchange for blogging about where I've been and what I did there, I would jump at the chance!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Family Search 52 Stories Week 10

Tomorrow is Easter Sunday, and I will be hosting 13 or 14 of my extended family members for dinner. It seem apropos, then, to use a writing prompt that deals with holiday traditions.

Which of your holiday traditions have you carried on into adulthood? What new traditions have you started?

When I was a child, Easter was a big deal. It was almost as if Santa was visiting for a second time, coming dressed in a white, fluffy suit with big ears and a pom pom tail. My mom and dad had a good time with Easter, carefully filling our baskets with all our favorite candies and green, plastic grass. Then they would hide the baskets, and my brother and I would feverishly dash through the house trying to determine where that wily rabbit had hidden our goodies.

Easter ~1958
The bunny always left a brown, wooden bowl filled with dyed eggs and candy on the kitchen table for the "adults" in the house. There was quite an age difference between my older brother and sister and us younger two siblings, so perhaps that was the bunny's way of making sure the older two didn't feel left out. Or maybe mom and dad just wanted to make sure they got some candy, too.

After breakfast we would don our Sunday best and head off to Mass. The photo above is of our family before Easter Mass in Chicago, circa 1958. I'm in the front with my brother Joe on my right. In the back row is my sister Kathy, my mom, and my brother Ken. Dad was usually the one taking the pictures, so he isn't in this shot. I'm the only one who looks happy. Maybe my Easter basket was the biggest that year!

When my husband and I started our family we continued on with the Easter basket tradition, hiding the baskets from the kids just as my parents had done. And there was a bowl of candy on the table for the adults. But we added a new tradition by hiding dyed eggs outside. One of us would slyly sneak out with the eggs while the other got the children ready for Mass. When we got home from church, we would send them out to look in the yard. They loved it! But one year there were hardly any eggs left in the yard. We could not figure out where they had all gone. But just as we were scratching our heads over it, a big black crow swooped down from the sky, grabbed a colored egg, and took off. Those devils!

The next year I purchased a couple bags of colored plastic eggs, and we filled those with candy and hid them outside. Problem solved, and I think the kids enjoyed the candy-filled eggs way more than they ever did the hard-boiled, dyed eggs.

The picture below is Easter 1993. The kids found their baskets, we dressed up for Mass, and then they went on their egg hunt when we got home. And once again the dad was taking the picture, so he isn't in it. Though the days of Easter egg hunts are long gone, it's so nice to be reminded of the fun times we had when the kids were young.

Easter 1993