The Suitcase Lady


April 16, 2019, 10:17 pm


Have you ever been in Atlanta? If not, consider visiting some April when this hilly, heavily planted city displays its best (in the words of a native) “swagger”. Flamboyant flowers are everywhere; dogwoods, azaleas, camellias and redbuds to name but a few. A visit to this floral Mecca will not disappoint.

BUT……be careful as you navigate around Atlanta. These folks (and I do love them) are masters of the southern gotcha. With a polite courteous smile, they will tell you that something is located on Peachtree Street. What they don’t tell you is that 71 streets in Atlanta are named Peachtree. There are lanes, roads, boulevards, ways, wests, olds, lanes and the list goes on and on.

The worst gotcha is that big downtown Peachtree Street that has another Peachtree Street running parallel to it just two blocks west. And, of course, with 71 different Peachtrees, they are constantly crisscrossing each other. Finding yourself on the corner of Peachtree and Peachtree is a distinct possibility.

Historians agree that the first Peachtree was an Indian Trail that stretched from Fort Daniel in Northeast Georgia to a place called Standing Pitch Tree by the Creek Indians. Some historians claim that over time the settlers morphed “pitch tree” into “peachtree”, thus making all those Peachtree streets a misnomer. It is a fact that there are more streets named Peachtree than actual peach trees in the city of Atlanta.

And, finally, even though Georgia does grow succulent peaches and sports a large peach on their license plates, California is America’s top peach producing state. Georgia comes in third after South Carolina. However, Georgia is the leader in the production of another fruit, and I would not have guessed this one…….it’s blueberries.

I doubt that all those Peachtree Streets will be renamed Blueberry Lanes. The Georgians are just having too much fun being peachy.

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April 9, 2019, 9:04 pm


Tengu is a hugely popular supernatural creature in Japan. He is said to live deep in mountain forests, have the ability to fly, create storms, stir up trouble and indulge his wicked sense of humor. Tengu’s most distinctive feature is his long nose of which he is exceedingly proud.

These wily characters are known for their arrogance. In fact, the Japanese phrase, “Tengu ni Naru” (becoming a tengu) is used to describe a conceited person.

Whenever anything strange or mysterious occurs, the Japanese attribute it to Tengu. He is especially blamed when a person suddenly disappears. Children are warned to be good or be carried off to the mountains by Tengu. In other words, he’s a beloved trickster and a scapegoat.

However, I recently read about the tables being turned and a trick being played on Tengu. The culprit was snow. Here are the details.

A giant head of Tengu in Kyoto has a nose that is 7.5 feet long. It is an extremely popular attraction at the Kurama-deri Temple. But a rare, heavy snowfall in Kyoto caused his nose to break off completely. The folks in Kyoto responded to his injury immediately.

First, he was given emergency first aid, a large bandaid. Then, a sign was put up next to him saying, “Under medical treatment”. Two months later his shiny new nose was completed and he is back to making mischief.

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April 2, 2019, 10:10 pm


The other day my husband was absorbed at his computer, and I asked him what he was working on so intently. I expected him to say “water quality graphs” or “zoning laws”. His answer was “champagne glasses”.

Champagne does not flow at our house. But we do celebrate special events with Prosecco, a lovely and affordable sparkling wine from Italy. Valentine’s Day, anniversaries and other celebrations would not be complete without bubbles rising in our two tall champagne glasses.

After this year’s  Valentine’s dinner, I was clearing the table and accidentally toppled my elegant glass which promptly shattered. And I did feel sad, a sentiment I don’t usually have for a broken dish. Our two glasses weren’t family heirlooms and weren’t expensive. But they stood tall and sparkling at every celebratory table at our house for well over thirty years. My husband and I both love traditions.

After losing my glass, I started checking the glassware sections in every thrift store I visited in search of two more equally beautiful glasses. I saw literally hundreds of glasses, but none were as perfectly proportioned as our broken one. So I joined my husband at his computer for an online search.

We both quickly discovered that wine connoisseurs take their glasses very seriously and that champagne glasses come in a variety of shapes.

Unfortunately, none of these styles matched our broken glass. Continued searching finally revealed the more unusual style of glass we owned. It’s a trumpet.

The happy news for us is that our search for “trumpets, champagne” came up with a replacement at a down-to-earth price. Our anniversary is coming up on April 4th, and we will be ready. Bring on the bubbles!

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March 26, 2019, 9:47 pm


The state of Utah is in the process of designing a new state flag. Vexillologists, or flag experts, agree that one is needed, calling the current flag a “seal on a bedsheet”, or SOB for short. I laughed when I heard that description. A second later I realized that my own state flag, Wisconsin’s, is also a seal on a bedsheet as are almost 50 percent of America’s state flags.

In “Good Flag, Bad Flag, How to Design a Great Flag”, vexillologist Ted Kaye gives five rules: “Simplicity, meaningful symbolism, basic colors, no lettering or seals and distinctiveness.”

As a graphic artist, I certainly concur that seals on bedsheets are horrible designs. They can’t be seen from a distance such as on top of a flagpole, a place that flags frequently hang out. The Nebraska flag once flew over their capital for ten days before anyone noticed it was upside down.

My home state flag violates the design maxim “less is more”. It incorporates all of the following; a sailor, a miner, a badger, a cornucopia, a pile of lead bars, thirteen stars, an anchor, a pick and shovel, a plow, an arm and hammer, two shields, the word “Forward”, the phrase “E Pluribus Unum” plus decorative curlicues. Only a kitchen sink is missing.

In 2001, the North American Vexillological Association invited their members plus the general public to rate the American state and territorial flags along with the Canadian provincial flags from best to worst. Here are the top ten winners and losers. Note that all the losers are SOBs.

And I must add one more flag story in conclusion. A few years ago, we drove up to our daughter’s house in Madison and saw a large, beautiful flag flying out front. The flag was medium blue with what appeared to be a Zia sun symbol in the center. “Did you rip off New Mexico’s state flag,” we asked?

“No, it’s the city of Madison’s flag”, was her reply. The circle represented our hilltop state Capitol dome and the rays were the streets radiating out from the building. Turns out that the plagiarism of the Land of Enchantment’s flag was unintentional, but it has since been modified out of respect to the Zia tribe.

Here is a link to all the state flags with notes about their origins.



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March 19, 2019, 8:31 pm


For the last 31 years, I have traveled everywhere with a large dog in the back seat of my car. His name is Rex, and he is an extremely well-behaved canine. Rex is white and made entirely of plastic.

All those years ago, I adopted him from a thrift store in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Our kids had never had a dog, and I was finally going to give our son, who by then was living in his own apartment, a “dog” for his birthday. Since our house was small, the dog large and the birthday several months away, I decided to store Rex in the back seat of my car…..belted in and looking out the window.

But after many months passed, Rex became my traveling companion, and I couldn’t part with him. And besides, in the meantime, our son had acquired a real dog, a crazy Dalmatian, so I could rationalize that he didn’t need two dogs.

The first time I went to the bank after acquiring Rex, he was offered a dog biscuit at the drive-through window. Through the years, he has made friends wherever we go. Children are his biggest fans, and because I am pulling up in front of schools and libraries all the time, Rex never lacks for attention.

Rex does have to visit the vet clinic frequently, but he never goes in the front door. He remains serenely in the back seat watching as our very irritated cats get hauled in for their shots and check-ups. There are advantages to being made of plastic.

Summer does present health problems for Rex. When it gets extremely hot, he gets extremely skinny. The first time this happened, I was in a library doing a program for the children. Returning to my car, I opened the door to a blast of 100 degree air. Even though he is made of a hard plastic, Rex had succumbed and was about three inches wide. The good news is that he puffs back up out when the temperature goes down.

Rex and I have gone through many cars together. When I trade in my old cars, he is always there with me, gets unbuckled and then strapped into the backseat of the new one. We roll out of the dealership together.

The only time Rex has to stay home is when having four people in the car or are hauling a big load of stuff. Rex is a big boy, and all my cars are compacts.

I have made a rough calculation of the miles we have driven together in 31 years. It comes to 1, 240,000 miles. That equals 2.6 round trips to the moon. Rex and I are looking forward to many more miles ahead.



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