The Suitcase Lady


January 19, 2021, 1:47 pm

I found myself awake at 4:00 AM the other morning. Rather than starting to worry about the state of America, the environment and the world in general, I decided to see if I could mentally list all the states in alphabetical order. I’m not a game player, but I do love maps and have visited every state. This seemed a better way to lull myself back to sleep than thinking about depressing stuff.

By the time I had managed to get the states in their alphabetical alignment, I noticed some interesting trivia. It also occurred to me that this exercise would be a good game for grade school children. There is no time for geography in today’s curriculums, and I find this regrettable.

So here’s the short quiz I would devise about the first letters of the states’ names.

1. Which two letters tie for being the initial letter of most states? Hint: They each have eight states.

2. Which two initial letters start the names of three states?

3. Three alphabet letters start the names of four states. Which letters are they?

4. Four initial alphabet letters start the names of two states each. Name the four pairs.

5. Eight letters get only one state. Who are the loners?

6. And last, the losers. Seven letters are stateless. Which are they?

Stay tuned. The Democrats might bring about some changes to this game. I totally agree with these words on the District of Columbia license plates: End Taxation Without Representation.

Here are the answers:

1. M and N

Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana

Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota

2. C and O

California, Colorado, Connecticut

Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon

3. A, I, W

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas

Idaho, Illinois, Indians, Iowa

Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

4. K, S, T, V

Kansas, Kentucky

South Carolina, South Dakota

Tennessee, Texas

Vermont, Virginia

5. D, F, G, H, L, P, R, U

Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah

6. B, E, J, Q, X, Y, Z

Every child should have a United States puzzle map. This one has been with us for many years.


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January 12, 2021, 3:50 pm

Fads are nonsensical, unpredictable and fun. I love trying to spot the beginnings of these silly infatuations. And I particularly enjoy fads involving animals.Down through the years, Americans have been smitten by “Lassie” dogs, poodles, singing chipmunks, macrame owls, howling coyotes, dolphins, hedgehogs, rainbow unicorns and dog breeds that end with “doodle”.

You might wonder what’s next?

This past Christmas featured two animal fads. I knew something was up when one of our neighbors placed a giant internally lighted llama on her front lawn as a Christmas decoration. Then a llama Christmas card arrived in our mailbox, followed by catalogs loaded with llama themed gifts.

Fortunately, I did not receive any nightshirts saying “No Drama Llama”, “Ask me about my llama” or “Fa la la la llama”.

Squirrels were runner-ups to the llamas in the catalogs. My favorite items here were the squirrels going crazy car sunscreen and a metal sign proclaiming “CAUTION! Area protected by ATTACK SQUIRREL COMPANY”.

I did not need or want any of these items. But I laughed a lot, and that is a gift in itself. Plus, I expect to have fun spotting llama and squirrel stuff for several more months….until the next fad arrives.



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January 5, 2021, 6:21 pm

I found these lines in Louise Penny’s most recent book: “C.S. Lewis wrote that we can create situations in which we are happy, but we cannot create joy. It just happens.”

These words resonated with me. Somewhere, in the middle years of my life, I came to this same conclusion.

Happiness and joy, although close relatives, are not the same thing. Joy comes in bursts. It comes without warning or prompting. And it disappears just as quickly.

With work, happiness can be a way of life. This has nothing to do with being a starry-eyed optimist who thinks everything has happy endings. Every life contains sad days and hard times. Perhaps happiness is appreciating the preciousness of ordinary days and the multitude of gifts each brings. Even during these difficult pandemic times, the sunrises and sunsets still happen, the birds still flock to the feeders and the seasons still give their gifts.

Happiness and sadness can coexist. Joy, on the other hand, admits no other feelings. For a brief while, all cares and worries vanish.

One morning last week, in the first moments the sun appeared over the horizon, our gray cat received a luminous halo, a gift of light and a moment of pure joy for those of us who witnessed the illumination.

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December 29, 2020, 8:38 pm

The Japanese people know how to make a wish for the New Year. They flock to Daruma markets that pop up all over the country near shrines and temples. Here they purchase roly-poly, red dolls to wish on.

Here’s how it works. Daruma dolls come with blank, white eyes. The purchaser makes a wish (a serious wish, not one for frivolous things) and draws one eyeball on the doll. If the person works hard and persistently toward their goal, Daruma will provide the luck to make the wish come true. Then the second eyeball is drawn on. Whether the wishes are fulfilled or not, the dolls are taken back to the shrines on New Years and are burned in big bonfires. A new doll is purchased and the cycle repeats.

One Japanese city, Takasaki, produces 80% of the dolls which are all made by hand. Production began in the 17th century and flourishes to this day. Dolls can be as small as a grain of rice or bigger than a person. Female, or Lady Daruma dolls, are also produced.

The story behind the dolls is both fascinating and macabre. Daruma is said to be modeled after Bodhidharma, the monk credited with founding Zen Buddhism, who lived between the 5th and 6th centuries AD. Legend purports that he entered a cave where he stared at a wall and meditated for nine years. Because he was immobile, his arms and legs fell off.

The original dolls were impossible to tip over. If tilted, they would always return to their upright position, thus demonstrating the important value of perseverance. Politicians embarking on election campaigns, students pursuing degrees and workers starting new careers are all typical candidates who would wish for success from Daruma.  The belief that good fortune cannot come without hard work is deeply rooted in Japanese culture.

May we all have good luck in the New Year, no matter what we wish on; stars, wishbones, four-leaf clovers, wishing seeds or wishing wells. In my case, it will be birthday cake candles. I’m a New Year’s Eve baby.

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December 22, 2020, 7:52 am

How would you like to live inside a star or a snowflake? If you think the holiday season has melted my brain, guess again. It is entirely possible to live within either of these shapes.

Here is an aerial view of the village of Bourtange in the Netherlands. Built by William the Orange and completed in 1593, Fort Bourtange cut off a supply route on the only road to neighboring Germany, an enemy at the time. The fort functioned until 1851 when it was converted into a stellar village, a suburb of Groningen. It’s not the only star-shaped village in Europe, and all were built for defense purposes.

Wikipedia- Bourtange

Snowflakes are infinitely more complex shapes than stars, but a town exists that mimics that shape as well. Naarden, 30 minutes east of Amsterdam, also began as a fortification. With a beautiful church at the center, the city radiates out to six triangular points.

Wikipedia- Naarden

If stars and snowflakes aren’t your thing, you could move to Brasilia, a city that was built from scratch starting In 1956. Plotted by Lúcio Costa,  it is the shape of a bird or airplane. The wings are residential neighborhoods, the body hosts federal and civic buildings. In 1959, Brasilia’s population was 64,000. Today it is home to over 2 million residents, and suburbs ring the original avian shape.

Original plan of Brasilia

And, finally, popular folk mythology purports that the city of Cuzco, Peru, was built in the shape of a puma, an animal sacred to the Incas who founded the city. Although no historical proof of this exists, the local residents totally embrace the idea that they are living in a puma-shaped town. I, too, would love living in a big cat

Street sign in Cuzco



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