The Suitcase Lady


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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March 12, 2019, 8:36 pm

I have a degree in art and have been an art teacher and graphic designer all my life. However, I am the first to admit that the technical and scientific aspects of color are diabolically difficult for me to understand.

It wasn’t until my college years that I learned that the primary colors aren’t always red, blue and yellow, something that every teacher from kindergarten on drilled into me. I was shocked that green could be a primary color. Was this a hoax initiated by the Irish?

The answer, of course, is “no”. I couldn’t blame the inhabitants of the Emerald Isle. The visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum just does its thing, and it is called science.

But when I began reviewing the primary colors for this blog, I got an even bigger shock. Red and blue aren’t primary colors at all. The standard red, blue and yellow pigment color wheel is simply a holdover from Newton’s experiments. Science has advanced beyond his understanding, but most art classrooms have not.

So here is an explanation of the TWO sets of primary and secondary colors, the primary colors that are made from LIGHT (which are separated by prisms) and are known as additive primaries, and the primary colors which are made by PIGMENT and are known as subtractive primaries.

  • The primary colors of light are RED, BLUE and GREEN.
  • The secondary colors of light are MAGENTA, CYAN and YELLOW.
    • Magenta = blue and red
    • Cyan = blue and green
    • Yellow =  green and red


  • The primary colors of pigment are MAGENTA, CYAN and YELLOW.
  • The secondary colors of pigment are RED, BLUE and GREEN.
    • Red = magenta and yellow
    • Blue = cyan and magenta
    • Green = cyan and yellow

I’ve known since my college days that the printing industry used magenta, cyan and yellow as their primaries. I just thought they had their own set of primary colors. Turns out that those are the pigment primaries for everybody which is fine with me. Ask any of my former students: magenta is my favorite color. Plus, every time a teacher told me to mix the “primaries” to get the secondary colors, the results were dismal…muddy khaki green, dull orange and yucky purple.

So happy St. Patrick’s Day to all the Irish. Green truly is a primary color and that is no blarney!

Click here for a brilliant explanation of the pigment primary colors and see red mixed before your eyes.



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March 5, 2019, 9:31 pm

The entire city of Kiruna, the most northern berg in Sweden and 90 miles north of the Arctic Circle, is about to be moved en masse. The cause of this gargantuan move of 18,000  people is not global climate change but iron ore.

Situated on top of the world’s largest iron ore mine, Kiruna is sinking from seventy years of mining activities beneath the town. No other city of this size has ever been relocated, and surprising lessons are being learned.

According to the architectural team in charge of the project, “The challenge of moving the city is not only about moving an entire city, but about moving the minds of citizens and creating a new home and identity.”

The architects quickly discovered that moving buildings and creating new ones was much easier than understanding what makes history and identity, a sense of place.

Over twenty significant buildings are being moved from the old town to the new location two miles east. These structures will be dismantled and reconstructed. The rest of the town will be entirely new buildings with an elegantly designed city hall as a focal point.

Kiruna’s old church, which has been honored as one of Sweden’s most beautiful buildings, will be moved piece by piece. Here is what Göran Cars, an urban planner for Kiruna, learned from this challenge:

“We are moving the church. When I speak to people they say, ‘Yes, I know that, but what about a grave?  How about the birches?’ I didn’t understand that. They are small trees! But they are 100 years old- as old as the church. I get that question time and time again: ‘What about the birches?’ So now we are moving the birches.”

In spite of the fact that their town is being swallowed up so the mining beneath can continue, the people of Kiruna are lucky. Their government, which owns the mine, is footing the entire mind-boggling one billion dollar cost of the move. Under Swedish law what you mess up you have to fix up.  And equally important, the voices of the people are being heard.

As global warming inevitably will cause the oceans to rise and claim islands and coastal cities around the globe, other citizens around the planet will probably not be as fortunate as Kiruna’s residents.




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February 26, 2019, 9:39 pm

I have a Japanese American friend who is more observant of nature than anyone I have ever known. Her connection to and understanding of the natural world is simply astounding, and I have long wondered how her senses have come to be so finely honed.

Recently, entirely by accident, I have discovered a clue. The ancient Japanese calendar had 72 seasons in which the tiniest seasonal changes in flora, fauna and weather were meticulously recorded. To this day, the influence of this “slow” calendar are apparent in the Japanese culture.

Compare 72 seasons in a year to our recognition of the seasonal turnings. In every school I visit, class decorations are apples and colored leaves in autumn, snowflakes in winter, flowers in spring and nothing in summer as we are all on vacation from school.

Imagine a calendar where approximately every five days a new season is noted and celebrated. And here is the good news. We don’t have to imagine this. An exquisite 72 season calendar has been recreated and can come to us on our computers. I took particular delight in this week’s post because the seasonal features involved cats and chicory, two things I love. But every week is grand and opens our eyes to the small wonders constantly unfolding all around us.

Of course, depending on where we live, our 72 seasons will be different from the Japanese ones. Our latitudes and longitudes don’t coincide. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the poets, artists and nature lovers in our habitats could create a 72 season calendar for our locales?


Here is the current season…

There is no website for a display of the 72 seasons, but there is an app for tablets and smartphones. Here is a link for continued access.



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February 20, 2019, 9:30 pm

On February 22nd, I’ll begin the thirteenth year of writing this weekly blog. This doesn’t seem possible until I check the archive and notice that it is the size of a book, and not a slim volume, either.

As many of you may know, I began the blog as one small positive thing to do every week as an antidote to the horror of seeing America marching, more correctly running, into the second Iraq War. Never in my most vivid imagination could I have foreseen the perilous situation our country is currently in. Every day another piece of our precious Democracy slips away as lies, bullying, corruption, willful ignorance and disrespect become more entrenched.

My original intent for writing has become more important than ever. We all must find ways to keep our sanity in the midst of the insane situation that surrounds us.

A friend recently sent a quote of Jim Dine’s. He is a pop artist who isn’t. Although Dine emerged into the art world simultaneously with the pop artists, he is not concerned with the exteriors of things, but rather with interior matters. His most famous works are huge paintings and sculptures of hearts.

Here is the Dine quote my friend shared:

“I have come to terms with a lot of things, because, when all’s said and done, there’s really very little one can do about a lot of things. You just accept them. The point is you just have to keep on working and you just have to keep on living.”

I concur with all his words except for the “accept” part. So I will offer this corollary advice from a song that debuted in 1944, the height of the Second World War.

  • You’ve got to accentuate the positive
  • Eliminate the negative
  • Latch on to the affirmative
  • Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between

Click here to hear Aretha Franklin’s version.




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