The Suitcase Lady


September 3, 2019, 9:31 pm


The only better summer thing than sitting on the front porch is sitting on the back porch. At our house, the front porch is called “the lakeside” and the back porch is called “the roadside”.

We love to eat all our summer meals outside on those porches barring severe thunderstorms or tornado warnings. Breakfast is always on the lakeside even though we are never eating early enough to catch the sunrise. Dinner is on the roadside for two reasons: it is 10 degrees warmer than the lakeside porch in the evening and the sunset show is not to be missed. Life does not get better than summer dining al fresco.

But the summer days are waning, the clues are all around us. The tall silver grass along our driveway is sporting its white plumes, the last of the daylilies are blooming, the goldenrod is in its glory, the meadow grasses are slowly fading from green to amber and our purple martins have long gone.

The most reliable indicator of summer’s coming demise, however, is my husband. He is most emphatically not a “pumpkin spice-fall is the best season” kind of guy. Noting each new indicator of fall, he acts as if doomsday is upon us. My efforts to remain upbeat, noting the beauties of fall, do nothing to lift his spirits.

I must admit that my feelings are much like his. The poet James Russell Lowell asks, “What is so rare as a day in June?” To both of us, the answer is obvious…July and August.

Adieu to summer and all your glories. We will be counting the days until your return.

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August 27, 2019, 9:21 pm


One of my favorite rooms in our house is the fish room. There is not a goldfish bowl in sight. We call it by that name because this tiny room houses our collection of art from around the world with fish as the subject matter.

I also love this room because it did not come with the house. The fish room is entirely recycled. After living in our self-designed home a short while, we decided that entering the house from the garage directly into the basement was not too ambient. We decided to build a small entrance hall, and my extremely handy husband created it out of bits and pieces of wallboard left over from the construction of our home’s other walls. No one would ever guess it’s a patchwork of pieces.

It’s hard not to come into the fish room and not smile. Fish are swimming from the ceiling, hanging from the walls and filling the shelves of a fifty year old teak bookcase.

There’s a great piece of irony here as well. When we built the fish room we had one cat who lived upstairs. But as the years have gone by, we’ve helped out our neighborhood’s homeless cats. The rest of the basement has become the rescue cats’ very classy two story (to a cat) apartment complete with an outdoor catio. So the fish room is now also a cat room.

One of our cats whose name is Shrimp has chosen the second shelf of the fish room’s bookcase as his own special spot. He even sleeps there, nestled into the fish.

The fish in the fish room had a real treat a few weeks ago: I flooded their room. I put two pillows in the washer in the room directly above them and turned the washer on the high setting. The washer overflowed spectacularly and caused a deluge down below testing my husband’s wallboard skills to the maximum. Now, after some hard work on his part, you would never know I had turned our fish room into an aquarium.

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August 20, 2019, 9:52 pm


Caterpillars don’t usually have birthday parties….but there is one exception. THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR, a creation of the beloved children’s book author, Eric Carle, is marking its fiftieth birthday this year. Children and young-at-heart adults around the world have been having parties in celebration of the book’s fifty years in print.

If Mr.Carle’s original idea for the book had materialized, parties probably would not be happening. A WEEK WITH WILLI THE WORM does not have the charisma of a caterpillar with a voracious appetite. Fortunately for all of us, Ann Beneduce, Carle’s editor, gently suggested he turn his green worm into a caterpillar. Wise advice, as THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR has sold over 50 million copies and been translated into 62 languages. In addition, Eric Carle went on to create over 70 other picture books for young people.

Now 90 years old and living in Key West, Florida, Eric Carle’s early life was shaped by an incredible twist of fate. He was born in Syracuse, New York, to German immigrant parents. He writes, “I remember kindergarten there. I remember a large sun-filled room with large sheets of paper, fat brushes and colorful paint. I went to school a happy little boy.”

But then his mother got homesick, and the family moved back to Stuttgart when Eric was six years old. It was 1935 and they returned to experience all the horrors of the rise of Nazism and World War II. He was beaten by his teachers in a dark, cheerless school, his family went hungry and his father spent years in a Russian prisoner-of-war camp. Eric had only one compelling wish from 1st grade on: to get back to America.

After graduating from art school in Germany, he earned enough money to come home to America in 1953. He quickly found a job at the  New York Times. Ironically, he was drafted into the U.S. Army five months later. Because of his German language skills, Eric Carle was sent right back to Germany. His entire enlistment was spent there. Returning home a second time, he worked as an art director in ad agencies for many years.

When Eric Carle was 40 years old, his friend Bill Martin Jr., asked him to illustrate his book, BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR, WHAT DO YOU SEE? As Eric Carle explains, “The happy days of my kindergarten came to mind as I created those large and colorful animals for that book.” From then on his artistic and literary career has had one focus…creating children’s books.

On the occasion of his caterpillar’s 50th birthday, Mr. Carle was asked why he thought his story is so popular. He replied, “I believe most children can identify with the helpless, small insignificant caterpillar and they rejoice when it turns into a beautiful butterfly. It is an affirmation to all children. It says: ‘I, too, can unfold my wings and fly into the world.’ I think it’s this message of hope.”

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August 13, 2019, 9:22 pm


From grade school on, I have always loved geography. The physical features of the land as well as the political lines our species draw on that land are equally intriguing to me. I have a great desire to know where everything is and what it looks like.

As part of this quest, I found myself wandering through a cornfield a few weekends ago, looking for the center of the western world.

Twenty-one miles west of Wausau, Wisconsin, and a few miles from the small town of Poniatowski is Meridian Road and a tiny park with the 45×90 Geographical Marker. This marks the exact spot that is halfway between the Equator and the North Pole and halfway between the Greenwich Meridian and the International Date Line, the place where the 45th Parallel of Latitude intersects with the 90th Meridian of Longitude.

There are actually four 45 degree-90 degree points in the Northern Hemisphere. However, I’m not likely to visit the other three; one is in the Pacific Ocean, one is in a mountainous region of China near Mongolia and one is in the Indian Ocean.

In the Southern Hemisphere, 97% of the 45th Parallel passes through open ocean. Here’s a photo from New Zealand, one of the rare spots where it’s not underwater.

So my best bet was the cornfield in my own state. The day was warm, the sun was setting, the corn was high and I got myself centered…always a good place to be.

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August 6, 2019, 9:32 pm


My husband is crazy about another woman. She has bright pink hair and is a total nerd. He loves to consult her about all things techie.

Fortunately for me, Ladyada and he only get together in computerland where she has zillions of other fans. This is not a sexual thing. My guy just likes building electronic inventions and Ladyada gives him exactly what he needs: cool little circuit boards.

Since my husband is always hanging out with this lady, I decided to find out more about her and googled “Lady Ada”. I immediately got loads of information, but it was definitely not about a pink-haired woman who is alive and well at this moment.

The original Lady Ada was Lady Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), the only legitimate child of the poet Lord Bryon. She was a brilliant mathematician and generally credited with being the world’s first programmer, working with Charles Babbage on his mechanical computer.

Further searching quickly brought me to Limor Fried who calls herself Ladyada in homage to the original. She is an MIT trained electrical engineer and the owner of the electronics company Adafruit industries. Her stated goal was to “create the best place online for learning about electronics and making the best designed products for makers of all ages and skill levels”.

The other morning my husband was checking into Ada-land and I happened to glance at his computer screen. To my great surprise, Ms. Ada had a number of items I could truly enjoy. Bear in mind that there is not a techie bone or brain circuit in my body.

Here is one of her Saturday Morning Cartoons……in additional to being brilliant, she is also a cat lady.

Kitten to Cat to Kitten Video

Ladyada, By TechCrunch

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