The Suitcase Lady


January 8, 2019, 8:58 pm

I was driving down the Will Rogers Turnpike in northeast Oklahoma last week when my thoughts turned to the road’s namesake. My favorite quote of his popped into my head: “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.” Having been a card-carrying Democrat all my life, I can attest to the truth of his words.

The drive motivated me to know more about this witty man who H.L. Mencken called, “the most dangerous writer alive.”

William Penn Adair Rogers was born on November 4, 1879, in the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory. (Oklahoma would not become a state until 1907). His parents were Cherokee and white but identified most closely with their Indian ancestors. In addition to being a prosperous rancher, his father was an attorney and a Cherokee judge.

Will’s wit and intelligence often got him in trouble at home and in various schools when he was growing up. Reaching adulthood, he left the ranch to see the world where he found work in Wild West shows doing rope tricks while telling jokes. This led to the vaudeville circuit and then to the Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway. Will Rogers was a success on Broadway and an even bigger celebrity when he went to Hollywood and appeared in dozens of silent films.

America couldn’t get enough of Will Rogers, and soon he was writing regularly for The Saturday Evening Post and newspapers all over America. By the 1930’s he also had a number of best-selling books including one with the improbable title, “There’s Not A Bathing Suit in Russia”. All the while he continued making films, now talkies, three of which were directed by John Ford.

Will Rogers had a life long love of airplanes and traveled around the world three times making friends wherever he went. In 1935, he and aviator Wiley Post died when their small plane crashed in Barrow, Alaska. All of America mourned the man whose political humor never offended any of its targets. His words remain with us today and are more timely and needed than ever. Here is a sampling:

  • I hope there are some sane people who will appreciate dignity and not showmanship in their choice for the presidency.
  • I don’t make jokes, I just watch the government and report facts.
  • Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke.
  • Why don’t they pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting anybody from learning anything. If it works as well as prohibition did, in five years Americans would be the smartest race of people on Earth.
  • Democrats never agree on anything, that’s why they are Democrats. If they agreed with each other, they would be Republicans.
  • The country has come to feel when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.


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January 2, 2019, 12:42 am

In the life of a marriage, the total time having sex, wonderful as it is, pales in comparison to the time spent living beside one’s spouse and not having sex. Fortunately for me, I figured this out before I was married.

Finding a mate with great intellectual curiosity was high on my list, and I must say that I hit the jackpot. In 54 years of marriage, my spouse and I have never lacked for interesting things to talk about.

My husband is always researching and working on multiple projects such as water sampling in the local creeks, building an automatic cat food feeder, improving his barista skills and piping the sound of the waves into the house to name a few.

I am usually completely aware of his current endeavors, but one of his recent projects came as a total surprise. For each of the past two years, he has compiled a list of interesting websites for the year. I saw this year’s list for the first time last week and had to stop myself from spending hours immediately checking out many of the articles listed. It is a true potpourri of cool stuff to savor.

I am sure you will find something that piques your curiosity as well. Robert Louis Stevenson got it right when he wrote, “The world is so full of a number of things, I am sure we should all be as happy as kings”.

Happy 2019!

A Few Interesting Websites Found In 2018

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December 25, 2018, 8:59 pm

Christmas is here, and I didn’t get a partridge in a pear tree or any other of those cool gifts, either.

This is no doubt a good thing, as our cats would have a grand time if all 23 birds mentioned in the Twelve Days of Christmas arrived at our doorstep. The carol, however, is a favorite of mine. I’m a hopeless romantic and the song is all about some over-the-top gift giving from an ardent suitor.

The history of the song is fascinating. Although the exact origins cannot be verified, most music historians believe it began in France. I’ll go with this as the French understand romance.

Most experts also agree that the song was a “memory and forfeits” game. If a singer could not correctly recall the sequence, a forfeit such as a kiss had to be given.

In 1780 the first lyrics of the song were printed in London. It took until 1910 for the song to reach America. Credit is given to a music professor, Emily Frances Brown, who taught at Downer College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She came across a copy of the song in a bookstore in Oxford, England, and took it home with her. Her choral groups performed the piece three consecutive years for holiday programs, and its fame spread across America.

Since 1984, the PNC Bank Christmas Price Index calculates the total cost of the song’s gifts. 2018’s total is $39, 094.93. The swans are the budget breakers… swans would set a suitor back $13,125.

As we begin the Twelve Days of Christmas, which are the days between Christmas and the arrival of the Three Kings on January 6, here is a rousing version of the song.



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December 18, 2018, 9:53 pm

“Frappuccino is such a silly word,” my husband remarked to me the other day.

“It certainly is,” I agreed, “and so is the number of calories in those concoctions.” However, he had sparked my curiosity about the origins of the word. A little research revealed that the word is a portmanteau.

The first definition of ‘portmanteau’ in the dictionary is “a large suitcase with two equal compartments.” The second definition is “words that blend the sounds and meanings of two words.”

Note that compound words are not portmanteaus. ‘Starfish’ is a compound word. If turned into a portmanteau it would be ‘stish’.

Frappuccino blends the word ‘frappe’ and ‘cappuccino’. The origins of the word ‘frappe’ are French, but it is also a common word in New England for a milkshake with ice cream. The Greeks have a very popular iced coffee drink they refer to as a frappe as well, and they invented it long before Starbucks came on the scene.

Portmanteaus are sprinkled throughout the English language:

  • motel- motor hotel
  • smog- smoke fog
  • moped- motor pedal
  • dumbfound- dumb confound
  • flexitarian- flexible vegetarian
  • bash- bang smash
  • wallaroo- wallaby kangaroo
  • hassle- haggle tussle

Those of us who love to travel come across many ingenious place name portmanteaus at borders:

  • Lake Wissota
  • Delmar
  • Arkoma
  • Calexico
  • Calneva
  • Florala
  • Idavada
  • Kanorado
  • Michiana
  • Texarkana
  • Texhoma

And let’s not forget SeaTac, the airport between Seattle and Tacoma.

To conclude, my least favorite portmanteau at the moment is Brexit. My favorite is pictured below. It’s our CATIO. The cats agree with me on this.



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December 11, 2018, 9:41 pm

The other day at breakfast my husband asked me if there are any moose in Minnesota. In reply, I laughed and said, “Yes, but the real question is ‘how many?’.” I should note that my husband consults me about natural science, spelling and writing matters. He is the go to person for all things technical and mathematical.

Moose and Minnesota are fairly synonymous. When staying at our favorite hotel in Minneapolis, a sleek, Euro-designed Marriott, the first thing we see when walking into the grand lobby is a giant painting of a moose. Plus, every store selling Minnesota souvenirs is loaded with moose stuff; socks, T shirts, slippers, moose crossing signs, etc. etc. The loon merchandise can’t even come close.

I was certain about the presence of moose in the land of 10,000 lakes, but I did need to consult the oracle about their numbers and status. It turns out the current estimated population is 3,030.

America has fifteen states that host moose: Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington,Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Alaska is the state with the most moose, about 170,000 to 200,000. I have a whole series of pictures in one of my children’s programs of Alaskan moose ambling through MacDonald’s parking lots, cruising down highways, and on front porches. These guys aren’t shy.

The state with the second highest numbers is Maine with estimates of 60,000 to 70,000 of these huge herbivores wandering around. My state, Wisconsin, has only 50 or less moose and they probably drifted in from Minnesota or the Upper Peninsula. We have no moose guests in the Tooley Cafe. However, I did visit a school in the northern part of my state where the kids told me they could not go out to play for several recesses due to a moose on their playground.

For an absolutely splendid overview of all things moose, consult

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