The Suitcase Lady


February 13, 2018, 9:39 pm

The artist Jim Dine is known for painting and sculpting large hearts. He makes us all look at this universal symbol of love with new eyes.

Children love Jim Dine’s artwork, and I love introducing them to it. On a visit to one of my favorite classes, I combined a lesson on Mr. Dine’s hearts with thoughts on kindness. Each student chose and lettered a quotation. Then, everyone drew and designed a large heart to join with the words, thus making a poster. What a lovely day we all had!

Thanks to all of you at Lake Bluff school in grades one and two.  And more thanks to my computer savvy husband for turning their artwork into the following video. Kind people rock!

Click here to see separate pictures of the Kind Hearts

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February 6, 2018, 8:04 pm

The New York Times recently ran a front page article in its art section entitled “Your Art Twin is Out There”. A large portion of the piece was devoted to a new and wildly popular Google Arts and Culture app. Simply upload your selfie and facial recognition software does the rest….it finds your doppelgänger portrayed in a painting or sculpture.

The article also reported on an older gentleman who visited an art museum to actually view the art. Serendipitously, he came to a 17th century portrait and suddenly realized that the subject bore an uncanny resemblance to himself.

I believe the serendipity route is the way to go. I do not visit art museums to find myself. But then again, I don’t have to. Many years ago, a group of my very young students found my art twin for me.

In my younger years, I was the art teacher at a Montessori and Creative Arts school for preschool and kindergarten age children. When our “big kids”, the kindergartners, graduated, we took them on a field trip to The Chicago Art Institute. These trips were always joyful experiences. I followed my rule of “no more than two hours in the museum”. In other words, leave when the kids still want to stay.

As we were wandering amidst the fauvistic paintings, an excited group  of children came up to me exclaiming, “Mrs. Tooley, Mrs. Tooley, we found you in a painting!”

I gently explained to them that I had not posed for any paintings by Matisse. They, of course, were absolutely convinced they had found me and led me to my picture. I can assure you, dear reader, that even though Matisse and I share a birthday, I have not done any time traveling.

On the other hand, I am the mother of Vincent Van Gogh. Don’t try to tell the kids at another creative arts school in California that this man is anyone else than that famous Dutch painter. They are believers.


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January 30, 2018, 8:50 pm

Please bear with me here. I believe the following list of words is extremely important.

acorn, adder, almond, ash, ass, bacon, beaver, beetroot, blackberry, bloom, bluebell, boar, bramble, bran, brook, bullock, buttercup, canary, canter, carnation, catkin, cauliflower, chestnut, clover, county, cowslip, crocus, cheetah, colt, corgi, cygnet, dandelion, diesel, doe, drake, fern, ferret, fungus, gerbil, goldfish, gooseberry, guinea pig, hamster, hazel, hazelnut, heather, heron, herring, holly, horse chestnut, ivy, kingfisher, lark, lavender, leek, leopard, licorice, lobster, magpie, manger, marzipan, melon, minnow, mint, mistletoe, monarch, mussel, nectar, nectarine, newt, oats, otter, ox, oyster, pansy, panther, parsnip, pasture, pelican, piglet, poodle, poppy, porcupine, porpoise, porridge, poultry, primrose, prune, radish, raven, rhubarb, sheaf, spaniel, spinach, starling, stork, sycamore, terrapin, thrush, tulip, turnip, vine, violet, walnut, weasel, willow, wren

I found this listing in Terry Tempest Williams’ new book, The Hour of Land- A Personal Topography of America’s National Parks. Ms. Williams is an internationally award winning American author, conservationist and activist. I have been inspired by her books for decades.

She sadly notes that the words above were all removed from The Oxford Junior Dictionary. When questioned about the removal, the editor stated, “These words aren’t relevant to our children.”

Among the words that replaced the banished words are broadband, bullet point, bungee jumping, committee, conflict, cut and paste, database, MP3 player, vandalism and voicemail.

Terry Tempest Williams says, “If we can remove words from a dictionary that are so alive with meaning, and withhold them from our children, removing what is alive in the world becomes easy. The wild is no longer part of our vocabulary…Nature becomes a ‘forgotten language’ “.

I believe children should learn the words of the computer age. But it’s lunacy to remove the vocabulary of the natural world of which we are all a part.

I have witnessed a shocking decline in children’s vocabularies in my fifty years of teaching. Our children are losing their words. Yet, I have also learned that young people absorb new words like language sponges. They are totally capable of learning the words of the web of life as well as of the World Wide Web.

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January 23, 2018, 9:30 pm

Officially, it is not a word. It doesn’t appear in the dictionary. But unofficially, it most certainly is a word. Most of us instantly grasp the meaning of recombobulation…..and smile.

Modern airports are places where smiles are often in short supply. Long lines, cancelled flights, overpriced food, and over-worked employees are not conducive to happy faces. Add to this the security measures which require travelers to divest themselves of their clothes, shoes, jewelry, food, water and electronics and it all adds up to stress.

The former director of the Milwaukee Airport, Barry Bateman, saw the need for some comic relief and created the RECOMBOBULATION AREA  at the end of the security lines.  MKE has the proud distinction of being the only airport in the world with these clever signs. Pretty good for an airport that will always be a step-sister to O’Hare.

The coining of “recombobulation” might be recent, but the word “discombobulate” goes back to the early 1800’s in America when there was a fad to mix Latin roots with slang to create “long, fancy sounding made up words.”  While checking out more of these all American, highfalutin, faux educated words, I came across these jewels:

  • Absquatulate, get out
  • Hornswoggle, to trick or hoax
  • Foofaraw, a great fuss about something insignificant
  • Discumgalligumfricated, greatly astonished, but pleased
  • Ramsasspatorious, excited, anxious, impatient

I can definitely say that I feel ramsasspatorious when I’m recombobulating in the MKE airport. I can’t find all my thingamabobs and I just want to absquatulate.

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January 16, 2018, 9:43 pm

My husband never drank beer until he got a job at the Schlitz Brewery. The company had an employee cafeteria where free lunches were served. The lunches were accompanied by free beer.

But the ultimate perk of the job was to become a beer tester. If an employee had a palate that could identify different beer qualities (hoppy, malty, etc.), that lucky person could spend every Friday afternoon sampling different brews in the tasting lab…..and be paid for doing so.

Although my spouse made it through the early rounds of the qualifying process, he did not get to the finals.

However, as a result of his brewery job, he did become a life long beer drinker of one glass of beer with dinner. And being an honest man, he admits that the beer he drinks need not be the most expensive. After all, he flunked beer 101.

For many years now, he has been on the quest for a beer which costs 50 cents a can. That is the price he has established that blends beer satisfaction and economy. In an age when craft or boutique breweries are littering the streets of all our major cities, I find his approach extremely refreshing.

Which brings us to last week. I was in the kitchen making dinner when he walked in with a smile on his face and said, ” I found a beer that costs 30 cents a can.”

“Could that possibly be drinkable,” was my response.

“I don’t know because I didn’t buy it. I had to get 24 cans to get that price, and if it proved to be undrinkable, I didn’t want to be stuck with 23 cans. I’ll see if I can get one can or bottle somewhere to try it out.”

The brand of beer was Hamm’s. That brought back a flood of memories for both of us and not of the beer itself. The original Hamm’s brewery in St. Paul had one of best and most beloved advertising campaigns ever devised. For people of a certain age, it is etched in their brains. See for yourself here.


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