Sunday, May 29, 2011


Of all the kinds of handwork I have done over the years, I must admit I've gotten the greatest enjoyment doing counted cross stitch.

The first time I saw it was back in 1976, when a patient came into the office where I was working and started busily poking away on a counted cross-stitch heart. She told me her daughter had just moved from California to North Carolina, where this particular handcraft was very "big." She sent her mom a kit and mom (our patient) was hooked. Although I had tried needlepoint, I hated it and felt that doing those tiny stitches was like doing penance for all the sins of the world. For some reason, this counted cross-stitch looked "do-able" and the client brought a copy of the chart for me at her next visit. From then on, I truly was hooked too.

This story is about a funny thing that happened some time back with one of my projects. I found a beautiful Christmas picture of a cluster of poinsettias in a cross-stitch magazine. It was absolutely gorgeous and I might say very, very complicated and detailed, the kind of work that I loved to do. The picture above is what a tiny portion of the chart looked like when I blew up a section of it on a Xerox machine. In case you don't understand, each square has a symbol in it that represents a certain color that is to be used for the cross in that square of the cloth. My eyes, not being as good as they used to be, needed the magazine pattern to be enlarged a bit, so I xeroxed it section by section.

The picture below shows how intricate the complete pattern was. I loved "intricate" and started in.

I got about a fourth of the first flower done and then it occurred to me that it would be easier if I took the original magazine chart to Staples where the chart could be enlarged onto a single sheet by using a larger machine.

There was a young girl working in that department when I arrived and I told her I needed this enlarged onto a single sheet of paper. I asked if she had a machine that could do it and she said she did. We had a little talk about copyright law infringement but finally agreed that a single print for my own use -- so that I actually could see what I was supposed to be doing -- was ok. She told me she had several jobs before mine and asked that I come back after lunch. I agreed.

When I arrived a couple hours later, she was grinning and said she'd been able to do it on a blueprint machine. She was very pleased with herself.

I should have specified what my understanding of "large" was. She unfurled the paper and here was what I got:

For this photo I asked my daughter to stand beside it so you could have some idea of just how big it was. It was so big that it was totally useless. I went ahead and paid my $3.00 charge, because I knew I was going to get far more than $3.00 worth of fun out of using it as an illustration in the various talks I give on various genealogy topics -- illustrations like "Make sure you are talking about the same thing," "Expecting one thing and getting another," "Creative ways to solve a problem," "Making something good out of a mistake" -- and I've had more than a few laughs when I unfurl this chart in front of my listeners.

I found this chart the other day when I was cleaning out my closet. I'm sorry to say that both it and the actual project that I had started somehow came to naught. I had Jer carry the chart out to the dumpster, since I'm not giving talks any more, and the barely-started project lies tucked away somewhere down in my "to finish" drawer. I have learned that my 76 year old eyes don't do so well on counted cross stitch any more, at least on the size I want to use (For you who understand, I used to work on 22x but now find it hard to see 16x - and 14x is no fun.) But gosh, I have sure had fun with this poinsettia chart!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


We have had a great reshuffling of local PBS stations around here. The major LA station broke with PBS and is now operating as an independent. Others in the area have tried to fill the gap and are succeeding more or less, depending on how easy or difficult consumers feel they’ve been able to find their favorite programs. For Jer and me, we’ve been pulling our hair out because nothing is where, or when, it used to be.
I had wanted to see a program on Terracotta Warriors that has been making the rounds, but it seemed always to be on at a time after we went to bed. Yesterday the LA Times newspaper indicated it would be broadcast on KSCI, Channel 18, at 7 pm last night. I structured my whole day in anticipation of being ready to finally watch the program.

KSCI is a station we have never watched before – but since according to the Times their lineup last night included programs called “49 days,” “Life Experts,” and “News” I figured it was just a smaller station that we had missed. It did have a half-hour booked for “Korean News” – and that should have sent up a red flag warning, but I was optimistic.

Shortly before 7 we turned from the network channels to KSCI and found ourselves looking at a rather darkish film full of oriental men and women running around underground with huge flashlights in their hands, speaking what I supposed was Japanese, with oriental subtitles at the bottom of the screen. While we waited for the arrival of the Terracotta Warriors, two more oriental people, also with flashlights in their hands, jumped out of a car, began investigating some sandy lumps on a desert floor. They then promptly fell through the sand and landed right into the middle of the five already underground.

Shortly these seven people came face to face with a big underground door – and it passed through my mind that maybe when that door opened I now was going to see the Warriors – and then I let go of that thought. This was definitely not the program I expected and it appeared the newspaper did not have the accurate information.

I’m aware that the newspapers can only print the schedules they are given. I hate for the LA Times to have anything wrong, so I have to believe they were right and the provider of the information was wrong. There is nothing quite as irksome as expecting one TV program and getting another, but that is often the case with the PBS stations. Shortly before all this big PBS switching, we received a letter from our major station, to which we had been a subscriber, saying in a cost-cutting endeavor they were discontinuing the magazine that they had been sending out (the one that showed their program lineup) and subscribers were to rely on the website for information. Unfortunately we found the website information was no more accurate than the printed information. We would sit down to watch History Detectives and find Huell Howser on again with a program we’d already watched 10 times. Shortly thereafter the big switch in local stations was made.

I admit to being disappointed last night when I finally told Jer to forget watching, that I was almost 100% sure that door was not going to open to see all those wonderful Chinese Terracotta Warriors. So instead of watching TV, we read.

Life is full of little disappointments. Interestingly the LA Times has the same programs listed in this morning’s newspaper too but instead of trying again, we are going to Denney’s for dinner and then heading off to a free Jazz Concert down in Riverside.

I guess I’ll never know what those flashlights caught in their beams when the underground door opened. I do like to know how things end, though.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


The Decorah Eaglets are now junior sized. I must apologize for the blurred picture, but the camera lens has been pooped on several times and then washed a bit by the rains, leaving less-that satisfactory clarity -- but since the nest is 80 feet off the ground in a very tall tree, what you see is what you get. There are NO window (lens) washers up there.

It has been a real treat to see these three little newly-hatched birds go through the akward growing stages to get to this point. But I have to admit that I no longer watch them as much. It was fun to watch them fight for a place in the food line -- big, big mouths, much flapping of wings and toppling over on each other. Then changing from fuzzy little things to having pinfeathers all over.

Now when you look through the camera, all you see are junior birds learning to handle their feathers and their lice. Watching them is like sitting next to a person who is endlessly jiggling their leg or their foot. It doesn't bother them, but it drives me crazy... both the person and the birds.

I have learned a lot about birds and lice, though.

As you undoubtedly know, birds preen -- they run their beaks through their feathers or scratch their heads with a toe. These junior eaglets are learning to preen, the object being mainly threefold:

1. New feathers (pinfeathers) are wrapped in a sheath, and the bird must break open the sheath for the feathers to open.

2. Feathers have little barbs on the shaft that join with other feather-shaft barbs. Sometimes the barbs unhook and the bird preens the feathers to get them hooked back into position so the shafts don't split.

3. In the process of preening, the bird also removes small mites and other parasites. It also helps distibute an oil called uropygial, which helps to waterproof and condition their feathers.

Now I did read somewhere that the lice that birds carry are color-coded (my word, not the author's) to the bird. Black birds have black lice, white birds have white lice and so forth. The article didn't say what color lice a red-headed blackbird would have -- or whether there was even a need for red lice, not being a very broadly used color in birds.

When we were kids we'd often find baby birds on the ground - some living and some dead - and we'd pick them up in our hands and take them to show mother. She always shrieked and told us to go put them back, that they had lice. I'm glad I didn't know then about colored lice; my sis and I would probably have had a lice-finding adventure before we took them to mother, hoping to find a red one.

Getting back to the eaglets, watching all three of them scratch and preen for 5 minutes is not my idea of what I want to do with my time, so now each day I go to the Decorah Eagle website, take a head count (ascertaining quickly beforehand that there isn't anything more revolting that a partially eaten fish lying in the nest) and then say goodbye. That's kind of the same as moving to a different seat when I find myself next to a leg-jiggling man. (It's always a man, for some reason).

The birds are almost as big as their parents now, and what time they aren't preening is divided between exercising their wings and sleeping like babies. It's been a nice two months watching their development. I like birds. I'll probably do this all over again next year, but maybe with owls.

Monday, May 23, 2011


In spite of what this picture appears to say, I was not an early reader. Obviously it was taken in a portrait studio and I’m sure the book was just a prop. However, I can’t help but feel it was a very prophetic image, for as you know, I certainly did become a reader.

I’m going to use this photo today in a new blog I’m working on for our local “Friends of the Library” organization. The caption will be “It’s never too early to get them started.”

This will be a different kind of “Friends of the Library” blog than most of what I see on the internet. My goal will be to make it less a PR piece and more a record that shows how much fun our group has in supporting our library. “FUN WITH FRIENDS” is the blog name. I hope to engage the blog reader not only in supporting the usual fund-raising endeavors that our Friends of the Library have but also in experiencing that a library not just a building with bookshelves but a center of learning and discovery. And fun. Anyway, I’ll give it a try.

This picture, taken of me in 1937 when I was about two years old, says visually that it is good to put a book in the hand of a small child. Although it probably was the photographer’s idea to put this book in my hand, my mother did it first. As far back as I can remember I see my mother sitting on the couch between me and my little sister reading to us. In those days there were no Golden Books nor Dr. Suess Cat in the Hat books. She read to us from Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Aesop’s Fables. She especially loved poetry and she read to us from Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses and from her own personal favorite One Hundred and One Famous Poems, an anthology published in 1929.

My sister and I loved these times and these books. And of course our memory of books and of reading is intimately intertwined with our love for our mother, now long gone.

On my own bookshelf I still have her favorite poetry book. Below it is the poem my sister and I asked her to read most often.

Little Boy Blue
by Eugene Field (1850-1895)

The little toy dog is covered with dust,
But sturdy and stanch he stands;
And the little toy soldier is red with rust,
And his musket moulds in his hands.
Time was when the little toy dog was new,
And the soldier was passing fair;
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
Kissed them and put them there.

"Now, don't you go till I come," he said,
"And don't you make any noise!"
So, toddling off to his trundle-bed,
He dreamt of the pretty toys;
And, as he was dreaming, an angel song
Awakened our Little Boy Blue---
Oh! the years are many, the years are long,
But the little toy friends are true!

Ay, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand,
Each in the same old place---
Awaiting the touch of a little hand,
The smile of a little face;
And they wonder, as waiting the long years through
In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of our Little Boy Blue,
Since he kissed them and put them there.

My little sis and I always had tears in our eyes when she finished. The words put images in our mind...and we understood and felt those words. This was guaranteed to turn us into readers.

I am trusting that our little local library will benefit from additional exposure via "FUN WITH FRIENDS" and that our Friends will grow in size and thus in value to the library.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


The other night I crawled into bed (which is where I often do my most creative thinking) and told Jerry not to go to sleep because I needed to talk to him. His stock comment is always, “You are going to divorce me” so I beat him to the punch and said it wasn’t about divorce, it was about showering. And just so he wouldn’t think I was going to talk specifically about something he had or hadn’t done, I offered up that it was about MY showering. (I could hear a sigh of relief).

My question was this: Assuming that I showered 4 times a week, how many times would that mean I had showered in the 6 years we have lived in this apartment.

Jerry is a very math-oriented person and he can do multiplication and division lying flat on his back in the dark much easier than I can do it standing up with a calculator in the daylight, so I listened carefully to him compute. Granted he was rounding numbers off, but that was ok. After all, I really just needed a ball-park figure anyway. He shortly said, “About 1250 times.”

And then he said, “You are planning another blog, aren’t you? I don’t need to know now; I’ll read it when you get it done.” And with that he turned over and was asleep in his usual 15 seconds. I, of course, laid there for an hour ruminating how to structure the blog.

It all boils down to this: For each of the 1250 showers I have taken, I have been hit in the face each time with a stray spray of water when I switch the lever that routes the water from the bathtub spout up to the shower wand we use. It happens after I pull the shower curtain to encase the tub, kneel down to turn on the hot and cold water to get a nice warm balance and then throw that lever to send the water to the shower head. A light stream of water, always cold, smacks into my face before I can get my head out from over the bathtub and outside the curtain.

1,250 times I have put up with that. I can’t say “without complaint” because actually I have complained about it, but mostly to myself.

I guess mentioning it to Jerry this time was like the straw that broke the camel’s back. The next morning I marched in to the shower and after the usual preparations got into the dry tub, pulled the curtain, took the shower wand out of the holder and held it face down in the tub while I turned on the hot and cold water faucets. When I felt the water to be the right temp I put the wand back in its holder and took my shower.

There will be no 1251st time. I put a stop to it.

But what I don’t understand was how on earth I could let such a little irritating thing go on for 6 years! I’m a pretty laid-back person and don’t get ruffled too easily, but I’m still trying to figure out why I didn’t think of this sooner.

I suppose it is because I’m usually trying to solve big things -- like what to have for dinner, or when should I make a run to Costco, or to get the library books back to the library before they become overdue -- you know those things that just have to be managed in the running of a household. So in the scheme of things, a few cold drops in the face every few days just hadn’t seemed all that urgent.

Well, it’s in the past now, although I do have to tell you this: The spray did not disappear.

It now hits me in the face when I stand in the shower facing the shower head. I guess what I was getting when I knelt on the floor to turn on the water was simply the end of the errant spray. Now I get the beginning of it. And there is still no adjustment to the shower wand that removes it. Jerry suggested that I take my shower facing away from the water. That is not a good answer. Nor is taking a bath instead of a shower.

I just may have to call upon my laid-back disposition for another few years while I wait on my aging brain to come up with another idea. A new shower wand might work but they are not cheap and there are, unfortunately, no guarantees.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


As Jerry and I were preparing for bed the other night, I asked him if he knew that Adam named all the animals. He stopped dead in his tracks, looked at me like I was crazy, and then said, "What in the world are you talking about?"

I am always surprised when Jerry doesn't know things out of the Bible, especially out of the Old Testament. Furthermore, I don't have a clue as to why I was thinking of that particular part of the Old Testament that evening, but for whatever reason, it popped into my mind. He just hates it when these kinds of things happen right at bedtime, because he knows now he's got to listen to the story.

I of course don't carry my Bible around with me, so I couldn't quote him chapter and verse, but the gist of my explanation was that God told Adam he could name all the animals, and I wondered how he made up the names? And what language he made them up in and were they a direct translation into all the languages? I know, for example, that the English word "Elephant" is "Fil" in Turkish (which has always struck me funny because of having a tiny, three letter word for such a huge animal). But anyway, these are the kinds of things I speculated while poor Jerry was biding his time before he could go to sleep and he just kept saying, "I don't know" and "uh huh."

I never did get to share the exact bible verse with him, so since he always reads my blogs (and hopefully catches my typos) he will now see the verses of Genesis 2:19-20 from the KJV: And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them; and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field...."

So this morning I ran two Google searches: The first was a standard web search using "Adam naming animals." I found the picture above on a very interesting website:

It is a Christian site that offers questions and answers: I loved how they handled the statement: Adam could not have accomplished all that the Bible states in one day (Day 6). He could not have named all the animals, for instance; there was not enough time. The site's answer was: Adam did not have to name all the animals—only those God brought to him. For instance, Adam was commanded to name “every beast of the field” (Genesis 2:20).

The second search was a Google Image Search on the same words.

This image search brought up an amazing view of the various ways artists have interpreted this event. When I see stuff like this, I always think that if one has more than a single shot at life, next time I want to come back as an artist. In this life I am merely an appreciator; and I am always stunned at whatever it is inside them that causes an artist to conceptualize a work to begin with. I would love to be able to inwardly see something and to be able to give it an artistic birth.

I don't expect Jerry to go nosing around this site, and for me, my interest mostly is in the art of the event, not the event itself. But I must admit I found some interesting reading there and think you all should take a look for yourself.
I don't do this every night, as sometimes I am sleepy at 9 p.m. too. So Jer gets his beauty sleep most of the time. But I did want to use this way to finish up the animal-naming question. We'll just have to wait and see what I hit him with next.

(Reposted from June 2009)

Monday, May 16, 2011


With the fairly recent trend of decorated belly-buttons (navels, if you prefer proper nomenclature), much more attention has been given to that part of the body than in the old days. When my generation were young relatively no attention was paid to them. They weren't decorated, they weren't displayed, and they weren't adorned with pins or gems. (And as an interesting side note, my mother, who had a euphemism for everything, insisted that they be called "tummy-buttons" because "belly" was an uncouth word, according to her. Later she suggested we use "navel.")

Anyway, as I got older and took up an interest in psychology, I was faced with a new use for that part of one's anatomy. Below is how it is expressed in one spot on the web:

navel gazing

A pejorative term used to describe someone who is preoccupied with self-reflection and the understanding of oneself; preoccupation with attempts at understanding the psychological and/or existential meaning of the self.

Example: She was too busy navel gazing to be fully involved in the world around her.
I think this definition may be a little harsh, but I found it to be fairly descriptive of people I knew in that field. Those people drawn to psychology and allied fields seemed to be the most introspective people I've ever known. To a tiny extent I put myself in that category too; otherwise, what accounts for my delight at filling out every survey I can get my hands on?

I never spent much time thinking about the navel in an anatomical context, except that I knew that sometimes children had a herniated umbilicus, which luckily did not happen with my kids. (They all have innies.) For me at that stage in my life, a navel just was.

So it was a big surprise to find on the internet that a group of scientists at North Carolina State University has been studying the germs that inhabit our navels; the study is called the "Belly Button Biodiversity Project." Gross, you say? Read on.

Because most people more or less ignore their belly buttons, not scrubbing it specifically when they bathe or shower, and because it doesn't secrete anything, it becomes a good repository of the types of bacteria found on the body.

Now these scientists so far have collected nearly 500 samples from belly buttons on cotton swabs for their study. (That they have posted magnified images of each person's microbes on their website is just too bizarre, I think.) Anyway, they say that most of what is there is friendly - being common skin bacteria of the Streptococus and Staphylococcus variety. I'm not entirely sure they have discovered anything astounding, but Dr. Jiri Hulcr, a postdoc research assistant who is heading the project notes they are simply "trying to educate the public about the role bacteria play in our world."

There are many things to learn about belly-buttons.
1. Innies dominate.
2. You can't control whether you get an innie or an outie.
3. It can change shape.
4. Surgery can be done on them - called "umbilicopasty."
5. There is an ideal shape.
6. Some people are more prone to belly-button lint than others.
7. To wash, or not to wash?
8. Pause before you pierce.

In case you want to read more (and the details in the 8 things above are very interesting,) go to and search for belly button.

And just in case you are looking for more about navels, this also is fun to research on the internet: Did Adam and Eve have belly-buttons?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


As I have already shared with some of you, I have upwards of 150 books on my “to read” list. I gather these suggestions from various places – weekend newspaper book review sections, a number of book-focused internet websites that I frequent, and of course (and best of all) recommendations from my friends, especially from my two Nancys – my smart cousin Nancy in LA and and my smart professional parliamentarian friend Nancy in San Francisco. (I have a smart daughter-in-law Nancy who also is a voracious reader, but it is her husband - my son - who forwards their good book ideas to me.)

As you can imagine, my list keeps getting longer and longer because books get added to it faster than I can read them! Just this week I read the new Humphrey Bogart book and another entitled “Twins, A Memoir,” but I added four more books to my list!

Now it was just a coincidence that this week my favorite web booksite,, sent out a list of books about twins. Their opening blurb was as follows:

It’s amazing how many novelists use twins as key characters in their books or attempt to explore the complex relationship between twins in their plots.

Romulus and Remus, Artemis and Apollo, and Castor and Pollux have long been left behind in history and mythology. In recent decades there have been numerous novels featuring identical twins, evil twins, separated at birth twins, warring twins, twin sleuths, imprisoned twins, twins that are not twins and so on.

To novelists twins can be very bad, very misunderstood, very mysterious and sometimes badly mistreated. In fact, it would be fair to argue that twins get a bad rap from most writers.

One thing is clear – twins are never dull in literature….
So for today’s blog I thought I’d pass on the “twin” book list that sent me. Since this company deals with used books, some of these may be hard to find in your library or in your local bookstore. But of course good old Abe would probably have them if one were inclined to pop for a "new" old book.

Anyway, just for fun here are the books – title and author.

Lottie and Lisa – Erich Kastner
Her Fearful Symmetry – Audrey Niffennegger
Chang and Eng – Darin Strauss
Wise Children – Angela Carter
The Separation – Christopher Priest
Black Fox of Lorne – Angel De Maguerite
Jacob Have I loved - Katherine Paterson
The Third Twin – Ken Follett
Juno & Juliet – Julian Gough
Lives of the Twins – Rosamond Smith
The Siamese Twin Mystery – Ellery Queen
The Girls – Lori Lansens
We Lead a Double Life – Ruth and Helen Hoffman
The Solid Mandala – Patrick White
26a: A Novel – Diana Evans
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy
Identical – Ellen Hopkins
The Last Child – John Hart
Many Waters – Madeleine L’Engle
The Nightspinners – Lucretia Walsh Grindle
One Who Kills – Ridgwell Cullum
Red Sky at Morning – Margaret Kennedy

So I leave you to sort through the double-trouble books as you have inclination. I have already read two of them - Cutting for Stone and Her Fearful Symmetry, being that I read anything these two super authors write! But for now, I’m shortly going to put “Chang and Eng” on reserve at my local library.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


This is the family in which I grew up. My dad, Scott, was a traditional husband of the mid-20th century – a family breadwinner. My mother, Virginia, was a traditional housewife – a stay-at-home mother. I was the oldest child, my sister was two years younger than I was, and my “little” brother was born 14 years after I was. When I think of my mother on Mother’s Day it is always in this setting.

Mother was a nurturer and she had a lot of practice, having had four siblings younger than she was. She had a good heart and a kind nature. We never heard gossip or bad words come out of her mouth. She loved kids – her own and all our little neighborhood and school friends who were always welcome at our house for meals on short notice and for sleepovers.

From our earliest days Mother always told us that her dream had been to have two little brown-eyed daughters, one with curly brown hair and the other with straight blond hair – and she said she was the luckiest person in the world because that is what she got!

Ginnie Lou and I grew up believing that we were special. She was a hands-on mom. She was always a room-mother at our schools. She took us to the library weekly and read books and poetry to us. She bought us books on how to draw; she saw to it that we both started violin lessons by the time we were five. She provided us with lots of games, all educational. Our jigsaw puzzles were of the United States. We had playing cards with authors on them. We had books of dog breeds and horse breeds. We had a good set of child-friendly Compton’s Encyclopedias. She encouraged us to memorize the capitals of all the States and lots of Bible verses.

As we grew older she encouraged us to take classes in school that would prepare us for college if we chose that direction and also to take some vocational classes in case we chose to go to work after high school. She set high ethical standards for our behavior and high scholastic standards for our schooling. And when we made mistakes in judgment (and we did, sometimes) she put us on restriction without making us feel that we were incorrigible.

Because of the disparity in ages between us and my little brother, my sis and I were already out on our own while Steve was being raised. But he and mother were very close and mother always told him he was the best thing that had ever happened to her. And he was.

Mother died after heart surgery in 1982 at the age of 71. Since then I have often reflected on how much of an influence my mother had on my life. My sis and I both agreed that rarely was there a day when we weren’t reminded of our mother. She’s been gone for so many years, yet I am just amazed at how present she still is in my life.

After she died and we were cleaning out her apartment we found a note from her that said, “Just in case I don’t make it, I want you kids to know that I loved being your mother.” So today, on this Mother’s Day, I want to share that I sure loved having her for my mom, too. We three Dobbins kids were very, very lucky to have such a special mother.


Saturday, May 7, 2011


Toilets are always evolving, with inventors looking to refine the form and the function. In our travels in Europe and Turkey, it was always a challenge to figure out how to flush the toilet we were using. We had no idea there were so many different ways to do it, and many of them not at all obvious.

Even here in the States, not all is easy when it comes to toiletry. In the main floor women’s restroom of the Embassy Suites Hotel in Anaheim, California there is a state of the art toilet that refuses to let you flush it. I shall try to be couth in describing what goes on.

The problem starts when you try to prepare it for use by placing a paper toilet seat cover on it, which we women always do. The paper goes on the seat easily, but before you can get your jeans unbuttoned or skirt lifted, the toilet flushes the paper down. It’s a little startling the first time, and when it happens a second time, you snicker a bit. A third try makes you laugh out loud and try to figure out how to beat the flush. After five tries you are –(excuse me here) laughing so hard you’re close to wetting your pants and STILL haven’t figured out the secret. Your choices are to use the toilet without the paper seat cover, or get yourself and your clothes ready for the big event and at that point, standing half naked, grab another seat cover, hold it to your rear end and then plop down on the toilet immediately. Deciding to use that option causes you to laugh the whole time you are tinkling.

But in today’s newspaper I discovered that Kohler had designed a new, streamlined toilet that will solve any problem one might be confronted with in taking a trip to the bathroom. The new toilet is called their “Numi.” It is not for hotels, but rather, I think, for the person who has everything already and needs something fresh and exciting in their life.

First of all, the Numi is the least commode-like piece of equipment you’ll ever see. It is called “Stylish”; it is rectangular and has corners rather than curves. Secondly, the back side of it is has ambient lighting! It senses when you come into the bathroom, and voila’ the lid magically opens up and the toilet seat slowly glides down into place – and presumably allows you enough time to sit on the seat before it goes back to it’s original conformation. The toilet base sits slightly off the floor which enables warm air to come out of the bottom and warm your feet. It has a nice bidet function which allows you to receive the cleansing waters in a pulsating form, a spray form or - well, who know what else.

Built-in speakers allow you to play a selection from the Numi toilet’s pre-programmed audio, FM radio or to connect your MP3 player through the audio input jack in the remote docking station.

Now I have to be honest with you; I will never own such a toilet and I doubt very much if a hotel like Embassy Suites would swap their old laughing (or laughable) commode for one of these, so it will be left to others to enjoy such an amazing toilet. However, I sure got tickled when I read this article and then went to Koehler’s website to see it in its virtual life! I think you all would enjoy seeing how the other half live (in their bathrooms), so do yourself a favor and use this URL to take a gander:

I can’t say as it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, what with its corners and all, but I do say that I’ve enjoyed every minute reading about it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


West of Cambridge and the willow-shaded Cam River is a countryside of orchards and pastures. Here and there you can see a windmill or a church tower, the roofs of an ancient riverside town or the bushy crown of an occasional copse. It is a serene area and except for a visit to Cambridge, it is not exactly a tourist destination.

But a few miles outside of Cambridge in a little town called Madingley there is a stark white, modern chapel sitting in the middle of a vast cemetery of white crosses. This is the American Cemetery and Chapel, a little known burial ground for many of our WWII pilots and crew of the planes that left England in the bombing raids over Germany.

In 1985, Jerry and I took a month-long trip to England, spending three weeks on the road seeing as much as we could and then a fourth week in London where we explored the city. We made up our minds ahead of time that we would confine our visit to England and Wales, hoping that some day in the future we could do Scotland and Ireland the same way. We purchased a book called Touring Guide to Britain, published by the English Automobile Association and plotted our three weeks on the road, using that as our guide. It was in this book that I saw a simple notation for the American Cemetery and decided to include it in our plans when we neared Cambridge.

My Uncle Bert had piloted a B17 on bombing raids headed to Germany from a RAF base in that part of England in 1944, and because he had asked us to see if there was anything left of the old air base when we were in the neighborhood, I was primed to be emotionally involved. My eyes misted over as I looked at all those white crosses, hundreds and hundreds of them. My uncle Bert came home safely; these men weren’t so lucky.

The chapel was long and narrow and was positioned east to west. Just inside the chapel entryway was an area of displays and maps, including a 540 square foot map showing Atlantic sea and air routes used by American forces during World War II. The chapel building was built with floor to ceiling glass panels alternating with marble pillars along each wall. Each panel had on it four or five stained-glass replicas of the official seal of one of the then 48 states, a tribute to the United States whose sons lay buried in the cemetery. The entryway to the altar at the far end was framed with a wooden partition on which were the moving words, “INTO THY HANDS, O LORD”

But it wasn’t until I looked up at the ceiling that I came very close to losing my composure. The entire ceiling was a sky-blue mosaic, with images of every kind of American airplane used in the battles flying toward the east. And interspersed among the airplanes were angels, their hands outstretched ahead of them, their wings behind, accompanying those airplanes. On the ceiling over the altar was a huge gold mosaic sun with rays of gold radiating out of it and toward which the airplanes and angels were flying.

It took me a while before I could compose myself enough to be able to focus my camera. I got what I thought would be a decent shot, and it was then that I saw the inscription that ran along both sides of the mosaic: “To the men of the United States Army Air Force who from these friendly shores flew their final flight.” I was undone.

During the next three weeks Jerry and I saw enough to last us a lifetime and still we didn’t see all that we wanted to. But now, almost 25 years after our visit to Madingley and the American Cemetery, I remember this time and place as if it were yesterday. And it still has the power to move me.

Reprinted from March 2009

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Letters to the editor of a newspaper sometimes are funny, sometimes are weird, and sometimes make me mad. One in our little local newspaper today was so good I wanted to pass it on. The writer shall go nameless.


The identify of the person who killed Osama bin Laden is presently unknown and may not be known anytime soon, if ever.

However, some things I do not care about this person are: if the person is a man or a woman; if the person is a Democrat, Republican, or independent; if the person is white black, Hispanic, Asian, some other race, or of mixed race heritage; if the person is a natural-born citizen, a naturalized citizen or the progeny of illegal immigrants; if the person is heterosexual or homosexual; if the person is a Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu or of some other religion, or agnostic or atheist, if the person is from a "blue state" or a "red state."

I do care, however, that this individual is an American. The sense that justice has been done here would not be nearly so palpable, for me at least, if that justice had been delivered at the hands of a foreign government.

Bin Laden was America's most wanted criminal and required justice at American's hand.

I hope this event will help console those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001 or in the wars that have followed. Perhaps it can be the start of a healing process for all Americans."
Kudos to this writer. I only wish we could all be of such a mind.

Monday, May 2, 2011


I don’t really ask for much. But when I first laid eyes on this chair – which happened to be on a recent Antiques Roadshow program being appraised – I knew that it was the chair of my dreams. Oh, Man!!! If I only had that chair, I would never ask for anything else!

If you saw the program too, you’ll remember that appraiser Leslie Keno called it the “Green Man” chair and said it was made from mahogany wood. The chair was American, designed around 1890 and used to be painted green. He said the mask (or face) is fairly traditional and has appeared in Europe a lot – on churches, medieval castles, sofas and the like – and has symbolized rebirth, life, regeneration and nature. Keno, who set its value at $3,000, said he has never seen the whole body of the Green Man until he saw this chair and he was so nonplussed he could hardly talk.

Well, I’m sure the lady wasn’t selling it, but I still would like to have it, and when either my boat comes in or I win the lottery, whichever comes first, I think I'll go after it. (I hear Jerry in the background muttering “Over my dead body.”) Imagine being able to look at something wonderful like that in your house all day long.

Furniture like this is spoken of as Fantasy Furniture. And it’s just not old, either. I was nosing around to find other pieces depicted on the internet and I came upon this most interesting book which appears to be of more modern interpretations of Fantasy Furniture. I know that Abebooks website will be a good place to find the book if it isn't in B&N present stock (and truthfully I don't really know if they'd ever have enough call for such a book to justify any stock at all!)

I ran across this book which looks mighty interesting, although if the Green Man chair is the height of interesting then the book may be more instructional than interesting. But then it might show me a replacement piece in case the Green Man chair never turns up to be in my future!

But I do think that this more modern piece is quite interesting.

Now it isn’t what I would want in MY bedroom, but I do think it is intriguing and can see myself at a younger age going for something like this. I am not sure how long it would take to get used to seeing all those weird shapes hovering around the ceiling at night if you woke up. Probably would give certain people the heebie-jeebies, but I think I could probably do ok with it. However, I don’t have that feeling about this piece of furniture that I do about the Green Man.

Yes, I admit to liking weird things and I do love gargoyles, if they aren’t too raunchy. (Well, the raunchy ones can be funny as well as a bit shocking, but my more prudish side prefers a face-only gargoyle.) One of the delights of spending a month in England back in 1985 was being able to look at the multitudinous gargoyles. Finding gargoyles in England is like finding rainbows in Hawaii: there's one on every corner!

About 15 or so years ago I found a counted cross-stitch pattern – a medieval house-blessing - that incorporated some gargoyles in it and I decided to make it to hang by my front door. The pattern specified a cream colored background, but the lady who owned the shop where I bought my supplies talked me into using a color called “eggplant” instead of “cream.” The color was more like the inside, not the outside, of an eggplant, and since she had not steered me wrong on color before, I took her advice.

By the time I got well into the pattern, I decided her idea of color was full of hooey! I kept going because I hoped I would warm up to it by the time I finished. Although I did love the sentiment and I especially loved the gargoyles, I so thoroughly disliked the background color that I have never had it framed. For all these years it has been sitting in my "unfinished projects" drawer. When I die if any of my kids like it enough to have if framed and hung, they can have it. If not, it can go in the trash next to my genealogical research.

In case you can’t read the sentiment, it says

St. Frances and St. Benedict, Bless this house from wicked wight.
Keep it from all evil spiretes, Fairies, wezles, Bats and Ferrytes.
I guess it has worked its charm from inside the chest drawer, because we’ve never had any of these wicked wight, especially Bats!