The Suitcase Lady


October 29, 2019, 10:15 pm


“Would you like someone to tell horrible lies about you?” I ask the children at my program about creepy crawlers.

This question always elicits cries of “no way” from the kids. Then I proceed to be what amounts to a defense attorney for spiders.

Arachnophobia is rampant and totally unjustified. Spiders do not run around chasing people, they aren’t bloodsuckers and we are not their lunch. Chris Buddle, an arachnologist at McGill University, says “I’ve been handling spiders for over 20 years, and I’ve never been bitten. You have to work really hard to be bitten by a spider because they don’t want to bite you.”

Another spider researcher, Rick Vetter, says “I’ve had 100 recluse spiders running up my arm, and I have never been bitten by one.”

All spiders do produce venom which is delivered via their fangs. The venom is designed to paralyze or kill and then turn the insides of their prey to mush. In most cases, the prey is small insects and invertebrates. Since we are not in those categories, we aren’t on the spiders’ menus.

The number of spider species worldwide is approximately 40,000. But only 12 species can cause serious harm to adult humans. In North America, that gets narrowed down to only 2 harmful groups, the recluses and the widows.

Statistically, this is still not cause for panic. Since antivenoms have been invented, death by spider bite in America is almost nonexistent. If you want to worry with statistics on your side, fear dog bites, bees or wasps.

Despite overwhelming evidence that the vast majority of spiders don’t harm people, in fact, ignore or avoid us, we humans tend to blame them for many red marks and painful bites that suddenly appear on our skin. One study in California showed that of 182 patients seeking treatment for spider bites, only 3.8 percent had actual spider bites. A quick computer search will find many similar studies across America. People frequently tell doctors they have recluse bites in states where recluse spiders don’t live. We tend to blame what we fear and loathe the most for all our problems.

When a spider bite does occur, it is an accident. We forget to shake out the sleeping bag or shoes when camping. We clean out the dark corners of the garage or attic without wearing gloves or walk barefoot in the grass. Spiders do defend themselves when squeezed.

Spiders are much more helpful to people than harmful. They dine on mosquitoes, fleas, flies and other insects that cause us monumentally more harm than any of their tribe inflict on us. So the next time you see a spider say “hi” and then go about your business. Guaranteed: the spider will go about its business as well.

One of our resident spider friends.

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October 22, 2019, 8:53 pm


I recently found a hilarious news item in the Iceland Review. Why, you might wonder, am I reading the Iceland Review? That answer is easy…I have no idea. It just popped up on my Facebook feed one day. Since American news is so dismal these days, I decided to keep reading the happier news from this extremely sane and civilized country.

Nurse Gudrun Kristinsdóttir made news with a little mistake. She accidentally invited 100,000 people, one-third of Iceland’s population, to her sewing club meeting. Instead of hitting her sewing circle’s Facebook site, she hit the huge Iceland FB group “Gefins alt gefins” which translates to “Free, Everything for Free”.

She quickly realized her massive error, but as we all know, sent means sent. She then put out this post: “OK, so I messaged the wrong group, but how about we go through with it anyway? How does Arnarholl (a large public gathering place in Reykjavik) next Friday sound? My kids are saying this is the most motherly thing I have ever done.”

Kristinsdóttir‘s sewing circle, which has been in existence for 30 years and is all made up of nurses,  loved her idea. The nurses all studied together and are, apparently, a tight knit group.

The members of “Free, Everything Free” loved her suggestion as well. Some have volunteered to cater the giant event and others have offered to book musicians. 2,000 people have liked her post and 1,000 have commented.

The date has been set for November 2 between 14 and 17 ( 2:00 to 5:00 PM). So, if you love to sew, there is still time to buy a ticket to Reykjavík and crash the party. Iceland is a country that is very easy to love.

Meet on the Hill

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October 15, 2019, 8:30 pm


I’m keeping a close eye on the 10 day weather forecasts lately. My concern is not for anything that’s about to fall out of the skies: I’m solely focused on the nighttime temperatures. Thirty-two degrees equals death. My wish is that the chirping insects and late blooming flowers get the longest pardon possible.

For good or not so good, luck is a huge factor in all our lives. If a September frost occurs, it reduces a yard to a shriveled, wilted mass of vegetation. Many warm Fall days might follow, but the damage is done…irreversibly.

Frostless Fall nights are a special present from nature. Winter in our part of the globe is not for the non-stoical. Any delay in the onslaught of subzero temperatures, icy roads and endless gray skies is welcome.

I consulted the Wisconsin Average First Frost Date Map to see the scientific data. According to weather history, my little town is in the danger zone now, October 11 to October 20. However, I have reason to hope for a small reprieve. Our front yard is Lake Michigan which has been heating up all summer. Now the opposite of “cooler by the lake” is happening. Our temperatures will be warmer from those even a half-mile inland thanks to the lake effect.

But this will only delay the inevitable. One of these mornings we’ll wake up to a world without flowers.

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October 8, 2019, 10:24 pm


I live less than an hour away from all these wonderful things; kames, drumlins, eskers, moulins, moraines, kettles and erratics. For those of you who don’t live in a place that was visited by glaciers around ten thousand years ago, these words must seem like a foreign language.

All the above nouns are different landforms that result from a mile high river of ice bulldozing the land and then slowly melting and retreating. In short, an incredible playground of weird shaped hills and holes created by glaciers.

I’ve tried many times to understand the geological processes that created each of these different features. My “Roadside Geology of Wisconsin” is well worn. Unfortunately, the explanations have not been sticking in my brain….until now.

We recently climbed a gorgeous trail up to the top of a drumlin that’s not far from our home. Explanatory signs along the steep ascent not only gave clear explanations of how the glacial forms were created, but also included drawings. Another bonus of reading the signs was being able to stop and catch our breaths for a moment.

Being a lover of high places, winding roads and lakes, I am living where I belong, in a glaciated landscape. Even Lake Michigan, the enormous lake in our front yard was scooped out by a glacier and filled when that glacier melted. Many of the numerous small lakes in our vicinity are also glacial lakes.

I know that our Western friends and family will laugh when I say we climbed the drumlin called Dundee Mountain. It’s only 270 feet high, making our glaciated land look like a bonsai version of the mountainous west, but we love it. Small is beautiful, too.

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October 1, 2019, 11:03 pm


I am emphatically not the most popular human being in our house. That designation would go to my husband. All the other inhabitants adore him. Fortunately, I’m able to handle and even enjoy my status as a second class resident.

Being an honest and non-egotistical man, my spouse will say to me, “I’m loved just because I’m the big food bowl.” Being the one who delivers the best dishes of cat food, the wet stuff, to the felines every morning, he has created an adoring herd of groupies.

While he is upstairs preparing all their dishes, I am going downstairs to our rescue cats’ apartment. Palpable disappointment is evident when I open their door…I am not the person of the moment, the purveyor of all goodness. Nevertheless, I dutifully clean their boxes, sweep the floor, fill dishes with kibble and bowls with fresh water. The dry food and I are largely ignored; their focus is entirely centered on the door to upstairs.

As soon as the cats hear my husband’s footsteps on the stairs, a frenzy of excitement begins. I can only liken my guy to the Pied Piper of Hamlin- these kitties would follow him anywhere.

Click here and see for yourself. If you ever desire to have a fan club, you will now know how to proceed.



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