Random Thoughts Archives

May 26, 2008

When I Remember ...

Our 2006 visit to Anzio & Nettuno has forever changed how I think of this important day. Now this is the image that will always fill my mind on Memorial Day.


Later in the week, we were at market day in a small un-touristed town in southern Puglia. Upon learning we were Americans, an elderly gentleman pulled his shirt off; and grabbed my hand to have me touch the scar from the decades old gunshot wound on his chest. He wanted me to thank the family of the Americano Dottore who saved his life, although he had no idea who he was.

Then I remember my encounter with Piero, the bicycle shop owner in Gubbio, who told me about how the American soldiers were his protectors and idols during the war.


So, whatever we may feel about our government's motivations behind this war in Iraq we must remember this: In 50 years, there will be people who are also remembering the kindnesses they experienced from American soldiers.

There will be an old man with wounds that didn't kill him because an American doctor in camouflage saved his life.

There will be a 60 year old woman who can read and write, and owns her own business because when she was a child, my brother, Sgt. Johnson, gave her a pink Hello Kitty backpack filled with school supplies packed by kids her age here in America.

In a time when it is so politically incorrect to support this war, please don't forget today to reach out with support and thanks to one of our warriors.

June 2, 2008

Back from the Commune

We got back from our memory lane trip late last night.

I had a 7 AM meeting this morning.

So, not only did I not get my Sunday Slow Baking done, I also didn't get my trivia contest questions posted.

I'll post the questions this afternoon and not post the answers until Wednesday instead of tomorrow.

I'll bake this weeks SSB assignment at the same time I bake next weeks.

16 more sleeps until Budapest!

July 4, 2008

Thoughts on Freedom, Montenegro & the USA

As you read this, we will be on a ferry, leaving this painfully beautiful country of Montenegro and heading for Italy.

It is July 4th. Few people on this ferry will have much of an interest in the significance of that date for these two travelers from the US. But they do understand very well the significance of freedom and national identity.

What I've come to learn about Montenegrins -- the people of the Crna Gora -- is that their national identity has survived all of the efforts of the world community to redefine them; to combine them with other nations for expediency; and to cow them into submission.

Along the way they have adjusted for survival. Yet the one thing they have never done is surrender. The crest on the Montenegrin flag is the eagle with upswept wings. It is their most treasured symbol of pride. Pride that throughout the years of successive dominations, the one thing they have never done, is lower their wings in defeat.


Montenegrins, no matter what national names they may have worn, are a fierce and proud and ancient race. The granite in their character matches the granite strewn mountains of their homeland.

Montenegro has produced statesmen, poets, artists, and more than a few villians. Their bloodlines run through the royal families of many of the powerful countries of the continent. Including Queen Elena of Italy, a woman who stood a foot taller than her husband, Victor Emmanuel III.

As a citizen of the United States, a country where we pride ourselves in our hyphenated heritage, I am in awe of these people of the Crna Gora. Their national identity is not only literally in their DNA, but it is in the DNA of their conciousness.

So to our fellow countrymen on this 4th day of July, have a wonderful holiday. If, like we, you find yourself in some other part of the world, we hope you will declare your nationality on this special day with the same pride that Montenegrin's declare theirs every day.

Keep your eagle's wings aloft.

August 1, 2008

The Words "I Love You"

Yesterday, in the store, one of our department managers gave me a big hug and said "I love you!" It was random, for no real reason. We were just having a great time.

She immediately blushed and apologized. She stammered, "Oh, my God, I don't mean in that way! I just mean I'm happy to have you back from vacation. We all missed you."

This led us all into a discussion about the words, "I love you" and what has happened to their use.

When did it become politically incorrect to tell someone with whom you are not romantically involved, or who is not a relative, that you love them?

When did we decide that the feelings of great affection we have for special people in our lives can not appropriately be called "love"?

I think this is a generational thing. Somewhere along the line, my generation (baby boomers) stopped using the words. Or at least we started being very stingy with them. This is very curious, don't you think? After all, we were the hippy free-love generation. What happened to us?

The younger, college aged, booksellers in our store commented that they tell their friends they love them all the time. I'm glad. I hope the continue the practice into middle-age.

August 31, 2008

I Must Hurry...

Time is too short for me to put together the book I planned. I knew better. I should have done it the moment we got home from our trip. I waited too long.

Now, I must hurry. I took my pictures to the instant print store for 4x6 prints. I bought a scrapbook and I'm putting together an album now.

Tomorrow is Labor Day, but while everyone else is preparing for their BBQ, Dan and I will be driving to our friends house with the album. We've been told not to delay. Too little, too late.

Thank you Marta, for sending me yours. And thank you to everyone else who lit candles. I'm very grateful. Here are the photos I've collected. I'm going in reverse order of our travels.


The private chapel at Borgo di Montemegiano dedicated to San Antonio di Padua and The Abbazia di Montecorona in Umbertide

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The Tomb of San Francesco di Assisi and St. Mary Over Minerva in Assisi.

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St. Augustine & S. Dominico in Gubbio

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San Nikola and San Trifone in Kotor

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San Luca in Kotor and The Chapel of Our Lady of Salvation in the fortification wall overlooking Kotor and Kotor Bay

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The Monastery at Ostrog and Roadside Shrine Near Ostrog

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A Monastery near Vilusi and A nameless chapel near Grahovo

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A Chapel in Cetinje and The Monastery of Piva

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St. Stephens Basilica in Budapest and St. Mathias Church in Budapest

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Shrine to St. Margit, after whom Margit Island in Budapest is named.


Thank you, Marta, for this lovely image of the candle you lit at the Chapel of St. Ignatius on the campus of Seattle University.


September 21, 2008

My Veterans Day Rant

(I've developed the habit of posting my thoughts about each holiday. My 4th of July post came while on a ferry from Montenegro to Italy. Memorial Day was about my reaction to visiting the American Cemetery in Anzio. But, it was Kim's comment to that post, about the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, that started me thinking about this holiday. So I decided to post early. Maybe some St. Louisans will read it and decide to prove me wrong.)

Are the people of St. Louis going to show our veterans how little we care again this year?

In a month and a half, on November 8th, 2008, St. Louis’ annual Veterans Day parade will begin at the Soldiers’ Memorial. The veterans marching down empty streets will be surprised if they draw more than a few thousand spectators.

What is wrong with us? Are we so ungrateful that we can’t spend a couple of hours one Saturday a year to show a little appreciation for the men and women who have served our country? My guess is yes, we’ll continue to stay home in apathetic droves.

After all, we'll still be suffering from election fatigue. Half of us will be recovering from celebrating our guy’s victory. The other half will be crying in our beer and predicting the end of civilization as we know it. So 100% of us can use our hangovers as our excuse.

Coming just four days after the election, we won’t be expecting any politicians to show up, will we? They won’t need our votes any longer. The winners have secured their own political gravy train for one more term. The losers will be licking their wounds and pimping themselves out for nice fat consulting contracts.

And of course there is the whole war debate itself.

Is the anti-Iraq contingent so angry that they can’t distinguish between the actual war and the men and women who served? They give lip-service to “our brave troops”, but do they really mean it? And what about the pro-Iraq faction? You’d think they’d be out there proudly waving their Red-White-&-Blue, wouldn’t you? But, since being pro-war has become so unpopular how many of them are willing to stand front and center for their belief? They’ll just stay home to rake leaves or go shopping to beat the Christmas rush.

We can turn out by the hundreds of thousands to lionize our sports teams when they have a championship season. We can jam Soulard for a series of Mardi Gras parades that celebrate nothing more than what kind of foolish costumes our poor dogs are forced to wear -- or how much beer it takes to induce us to lift our shirts in exchange for some cheap plastic beads.

If you ranked the annual attendance at St. Louis’ major parades, from Annie Malone to Veiled Prophet, I’m willing to bet that Veterans Day would come in dead last.

As far as I can see there isn’t even a website devoted to St. Louis’ Veterans Day parade, or an organization sponsoring and promoting it. It appears that it’s being handled by someone working it the Board of Public Service – part of the bureaucracy of St. Louis City government. With no citizen’s organization behind them doing the real organizing, what is the chance the city of St. Louis can getting its act together enough to promote any event, much less a big parade?

But in case you want to contact the person in charge, her title is Special Events. You can find her at the Board of Public Service. I'm sure she could use your help, or at least your promise to show up.

If every municipality in the St. Louis Metro area adopted just one side of each block of the parade route and promised to fill it with spectators, just think what a view our veterans would have as they marched down the middle of the street.

December 22, 2008

Three Days Before Christmas

The store was PACKED today. People so thick I needed a trail of bread crumbs to make my way from my office to the front registers.

There's a $10.00 coupon for B&N members for whole cheesecakes. The Cafe ran out of Pumpkin Cheesecakes! :eek: That is evidently a capital offense.

There was a run on Chuck Klosterman books. It appears that there are a lot of people in St. Louis who think "Sex, Drugs, & Cocoa Puffs" is an ideal Christmas gift. :rolleyes:

Every third person at customer service wanted "Twilight". Our booksellers finally just put a pile of them on the floor and handed them out.

I'm happy to be home, busy baking my 10 dozen or so chocolate dipped macaroons. A tradition started a few years ago that I am now beginning to regret.

What the heck am I supposed to do with 40 egg yolks!?!

December 23, 2008

Two Days Before Christmas

Today the look of desperation was on many faces coming into the store. How frustrating it must be to be a non-reading half of a couple when your partner is a person who likes to read.

They walk throught the doors and stop dead in their tracks. The panic sets in as they realize that finding a book with a blue cover, a bunch of snow, and a title that includes the word "wild" may not be as easy as they had hoped. When one of our booksellers swoops in and offers to help, the relief is palpable.

Today was all about the gift card. I pulled a register report as I was leaving at 6:00 PM and gift cards were a full 40% of our transaction count. Another 10% was the Twilight series of books. Cookbooks were going gangbusters.

And then there is the dark horse book that none of us even knew existed: "Up In The Air" by Walter Kirn. We aren't even modeled for a copy of the book because it is from 2002 and he's had more recent books. But, the news hit this morning that George Clooney will be in town for about five months filming the movie based on the book. So now we have people wanting to read the book.

ANY big budget movie filming in St. Louis is big news, but one that will star Clooney...well....

My very favorite librarian/customer came in today so we could exchange our personal Christmas gifts. You can tell how much I like her by the fact that I parted with one of my precious bottles of Mauro's olive oil as her gift. She brought me an interesting looking bottle of Sicilian wine, some chocolates, and these adorable wine glasses that she painted herself! I love them!


Why is it that it seems like things are never done?

Last night I stopped at the grocery store for some last minute things for Christmas Dinner.

Tonight, I realized that I didn't have anything planned for stocking stuffers for our five grandchildren. We have beautiful huge stockings to hang on the mantle and nothing to put in them.

Plus, I didn't have stocking hangers. So, after work today was a trip to Target.

I just got back in the house from making the rounds of our neighbors with their bags of macaroons. We do this with our seven immediate neighboring houses. Two years ago, I started this little secret santa thing, with no expectation of repayment or even acknowledgement. In fact, I didn't even include a note. I just package the macaroons in cute ceramic pie plates, left them on neighbors doorsteps and rang the bells. A couple of them figured out who had done it and dropped something off at our house in the same spirit.

Last year I did it again, changing nothing but the decorative container. Everyone else did it too.

Now, this year, half of them have beaten me to the punch. We have cookies, brownies, even 'secret recipe' homemade dinner rolls sitting on our dining room table. And it is spreading up and down the street because the neighbors on the far edge of my sphere, have other neighbors further past them that they include.

December 24, 2008

One Day Before Christmas

I'm happy to report that our Shopper returned this year.

She is about 65-70 years old. She is small and she has one of those wonderfully open faces that just shines with a love for people. All of her wrinkles are the result of smiling.

She comes in the store the day before Christmas with a piece of yellow legal pad paper. It is neatly printed with a list of names of the people she is buying for, and the names of a couple of book ideas next to each one. She picks up a shopping basket and zeros in on one of our booksellers. She has the knack of picking one who is new to the store and doesn't know about her yet.

The bookseller spends a good half-hour to forty-five minutes helping her shop her list. She tells sweet stories about each person on the list and the bookseller really gets caught up in the woman's pleasure of shopping for her special people.

Then, she asks the bookseller to take the basket up to the cash line for her while she browses a bit for herself.

An hour later, the bookseller asks a cashier if she has seen the woman. No one has, of course, and the basket is still waiting to be claimed.

There is a lot of speculation about her. Is she mentally disburbed and living in a make believe world peopled with all those names she is buying for?

Is she an addictive shopper who can't afford to buy, but gets her fix by shopping?

Does she have some melancholy back story that involves the tragic loss of her family?

We can't agree, but we do agree that it makes her very happy to shop with us on Christmas Eve. We understand that we need to help her play out this ritual. She doesn't want to be challenged into our reality. She needs to be treated like any other customer. That's why we never warn the new people about her.

Another thing we all agree on, we're humbled and honored that she has chosen our store.

We've named her "Mary". I hope she comes back every year!

February 1, 2009

February Daily Blog Off to a Slow Start

Appropriate title, don't you think? One of SlowTrav's SlowBlogger's for the February Blog Challenge is Slow getting started.
So, this is my post for Feb. One.

February 2, 2009

February Blogging Two

As you can see, this is pure junk. Just to catch up. So here is my entry for day two.
I'd try to post something interesting, in hopes of fooling you into thinking I'd been posting all along. But, why bother. We both know you're smarter than that.

February 3, 2009

February Blogging Day Three

Not even an attempt to explain myself this time. Except to say that if I'd been able to absorb what Coleen was trying to tell me about "twittering", these last few posts might have qualified.

February 4, 2009

Happy Birthday, Danny.

Today would have been my brother's birthday. He should be 56 years old today.
Instead he is perpetually a young man in the minds of all his friends and family.

It was always hard for me to believe his age, anyway. He was such a Peter Pan. To the end he had a childlike openess and unselfconcious ability to enjoy the smallest of experiences.
So, when he died, 15 years ago at the age of 41, he seemed much younger.

Dan lived a full rich life in those 41 years. AIDS took him before we were all ready to lose him.

Dan loved anything to do with ancient Egypt. He was facinated with the tombs of the Pharoahs. So, his best friend, Ellen, and I felt it was only fitting that we send him into the afterlife with the same fanfare.

We filled his coffin with all of his favorite things. Everything we could fit in. Favorite tools. Favorite foods. Favorite drinks. Favorite clothes. Pictures of all the people and pets he loved. Books about the places he had visited, and books about the places he still wanted to go.

So, happy birthday, Danny. Your older brother and sister were at dinner together on your birthday. We were thinking of you with love and laughter. Lots of Danny stories were shared.

February 5, 2009

Telling Tales on My Big Brother

I had the chance tonight to do one of my very favorite things. We went to dinner with some of my brother and SILs friends here in Ft. Myers.

My brother has lived in northern MN for more than 30 years. He's carefully built an image over the years there; and much of it is based on being a bit mysterious about his youth. When he does tell his friends anything, it is always outrageously false tales of growing up "barefoot in a log cabin the Ozarks", which is just his way of pandering to their pre-conceived notions about Missouri.

So, on the occasions when his worlds collide, I have the opportunity of setting the record straight.

His friends are always delighted to learn something about him that will give them an edge.

Tonight, we were sitting around the dinner table with a couple who were eager to learn about our childhood. They wanted to see just how much of his account was true.

It gave me the chance to drop my number one favorite bombshell line: "So, has Charles told you about how we grew up in a commune?" I quickly follow with, "Oh, yes. And then there is the whole glue, sniffing thing."

The reactions never fail to tickle me and fluster him. Such great fun. Who says brothers and sister grow out of the urge to torture each other!?!

February 6, 2009

A Day in Naples with Friends

We have good friends, (actually former clients of mine from my days of health care marketing consulting), who winter in Naples.
Everytime we come to visit my brother and SIL in Ft. Myers, we always have to reserve a full day to spend with them.
The husband and Dan play golf all day and the wife and I window shop and get manicures and pedicures together.
So that was what we did today. Then, we met up for dinner at a funky little place called Randy's Fish Market for supper. Great fresh fish, and a famous Key Lime pie.

Anyway, this post is about my little problem with my New Year resolution. I didn't buy a single thing for myself or Dan, but I did buy two sundresses for one of my daughters. SO, my question is, even though these are gifts, that will only be at my house for a couple of weeks. Should I still put four items in my donation barrels? Dan says no, because they don't need to be compensated for. I say yes, because they will technically be occupying space in my house.

February 22, 2009

The Answering Machine Message

Dan and I came home the other night to this casual message on our answering machine:

Hi Dan & Deb, this is D.
I'm in the hospital.
W. says I woke her up in the middle of the night with a seizure.
She called 911.
They say I have a tumor in the front of my brain.
They're going to operate tomorrow morning at 9:30.
Call W when you get a chance and she will fill you in.
Talk to you later.

So typical of D. He has a calm, laconic, yet friendly manner of speech. To give you an idea of how that message sounded -- he could be telling you that an earthquake just wiped three states off the map, and it would sound like he was suggesting drinks and dinner.

Anyway, D had his surgery Friday morning. The bad news is the mass was malignant. (The same kind Ted Kennedy has.) The good news is that he is so healthy and the dozens of scans and tests on the rest of his body indicate absolutely nothing else to worry about. They removed all of the tumor. But, they know that this kind of tumor tends to leave tentacles behind.

So, he begins radiation right away. The prognosis is good. He was fortunate to be at their winter home in FL instead of their rural small town home in northern Missouri. His neurosurgeon is one of the top ranked in the country. The oncology program is highly ranked as well.

He just called a few minutes ago. He should be leaving the hospital in a few days. Says he has a half-moon shaped incision on his scalp with 50 staples in it. He wanted to make sure Dan knew that it wouldn't be all that long before he'd be ready to play golf again. Thinks we should try to squeeze in a long weekend before spring. Go, D.

February 25, 2009

Things I've Done

Since everyone else in the February Bloggers has done this, I guess I'll have to!

The things I've done are marked with an asterick.

*Started your own blog
*Slept under the stars
*Played in a band (trumpet)
Visited Hawaii
*Watched a meteor shower
Given more than you can afford to charity
*Been to Disneyland/world
*Climbed a mountain
*Held a praying mantis
Sang a solo (No, and for that you should be very grateful.)
Bungee jumped (no but does ziplining count?)
Visited Paris
Watched a lightning storm at sea
*Taught yourself an art from scratch
Adopted a child
Had food poisoning
Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
Seen the Mona Lisa in France
*Slept on an overnight train
*Had a pillow fight
*Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
*Built a snow fort
*Held a lamb
Gone skinny dipping
*Been to a Broadway show in NY
Ran a Marathon
Been in three states at once
Ridden in a gondola in Venice
*Seen a total eclipse
Hit a home run
Been on a Cruise (Not until I'm so feeble it is the only way I can travel)
*Seen Niagara Falls in Person
Visited the birthplace of your Ancestors (I'm such a "mutt" I can't figure out who my ancestors were, much less where they were born)
*Seen an Amish community
Taught yourself a new language
Had enough money to be truly satisfied
*Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
*Gone rock climbing
*Seen Michelangelo’s David
*Sung karaoke (Worse than bad)
*Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
*Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
Visited Africa
*Walked on a beach by moonlight
Been transported in an ambulance
Had your portrait painted
Gone deep sea fishing
*Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
*Gone scuba diving or snorkeling (Shark-Ray Alley in Belize. Wonderful)
*Kissed in the rain
*Played in the mud
Been to Grace Kelley’s grave in Monaco
*Gone to a drive-in
Been in a movie
Visited the Great Wall of China
*Started a business (two of them)
Taken a martial arts class
Swam in the Mediterranean Sea
Visited Russia
Served at a soup kitchen
*Sold Girl Scout cookies
*Gone whale watching
*Gotten flowers for no reason
*Donated blood, platelets or plasma
Gone sky diving
Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
*Bounced a check
Saved a favorite childhood toy
*Visited the Lincoln Memorial
*Eaten Caviar
*Pieced a quilt (my brothers panel for the AIDS quilt)
*Stood in Times Square
*Toured the Everglades
*Been fired from a job
Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
*Broken a bone
*Been on a speeding motorcycle
Seen the Grand Canyon in person
Published a book
*Visited the Vatican
*Bought a brand new car
Walked in Jerusalem (I only WISH. Someday!)
*Had your picture in the newspaper
*Read the entire Bible
*Visited the White House
Killed and prepared my own meat (does fish count?)
*Had chickenpox
*Saved someone’s life (she was going into a diabetic coma -- while she was driving a car)
Sat on a jury
*Met someone famous (oddly enough, given my own obscurity, I've met quit a few)
*Joined a book club (currently in 3)
*Lost a loved one (many more than one)
*Had a baby (twice)
*Seen the Alamo in person
Swam in the Great Salt Lake
*Been involved in a law suit (only as a professional witness, however)
*Been stung by a bee

March 1, 2009

Four Year Old Basketball

The other night we took our 4-year old grandsons to the community center for their weekly basketball game.

One of them is less than enthusastic about basketball. But he is working hard on his fainting goat routine.

March 5, 2009

Because Orange is My Favorite Color

I decided to do this BlogThings quiz today for no other reason than it was colorful and my last two blog posts were text only. So sue me. :grin:

Your Brain is Profound
Your mind is a firestorm - full of intensity and drama.
Your thoughts may seem scattered to you most of the time...
But they often seem strong and passionate to those around you.
You are a natural influencer. The thoughts you share are very powerful and persuading.

March 8, 2009

CAUTION! RANT-- Magazine Subscription Cards

I'm really not much of a complainer -- more of a live-and-let-live kind of person. But can I just tell you how sick to death I am of those loose, postage paid subscription cards that keep falling out of magazines?

It isn't just the random one or two magazines that arrive in my mailbox. NO!

I work in a bookstore. My rant is about the ones falling out of the hundreds of magazines on the racks. They litter the floor. Everytime I pass by the newsstand section of the store, I pick up at least a dozen and toss them in the trash.

I think it is time to start mailing them back to the magazines. I think every employee of every bookstore, grocery store, newsstand, convenience store, gas station, discount store and anywhere else magazines are sold should start collecting those cards.

I think we should start mailing them in. From my store alone that would be maybe 200 cards a week - easy. Multiply that by the other 800 some-odd stores in our company and that's 160,000. Then add in all the Walmarts, Targets, Walgreens, CVS, etc.

If they pay the postage for that many blank cards, at some point we might actually become a big expensive pain in the butt to those magazine companies.

Plus, we'd be recycling. We'd be using the magazines' money to help support the USPS, and perhaps keep them from raising stamp prices for a bit.

So, here's my call to action. If your as annoyed as me, pass this idea along to everyone you know. Start gathering cards. Let's show them some love!

March 9, 2009

Follow-Up To My Magazine Rant

So, the bur is still under my blanket. In fact, I may be just a tad bit obsessed now.

By their own claims, People Magazine has a weekly circulation of 3,750,000. Just for their main magazine. Not including their speciality issues.

The average number of loose subscription cards in an issue of People Magazine is 3.

So let's crunch some numbers. Not scientific. Only estimates. But, what the heck - a million one way or the other ---

3,750,000 x 3 x 52 = 585,000,000 THAT's more than half a BILLION.

And, granted they are one of the largest volume magazines in the country, they are still only one. The trade organization for magazine publishers claims that there are 10,000 publications. And that 2,000 of those are considered 'significant' in size.

Just for the sake of being ultra-conservative in our estimations, let's assume that only 1,000 of the 2,000 have those blasted subscription cards in them. Then, let's assume that all 1,000 of those magazines are monthly rather than weekly. Then, let's assume that their circulations average only 1/4 that of People Magazine.

1,000 x 3 x 12 x 937,500 = 3,375,000,000 more cards for a grand total of THREE BILLION, NINE HUNDRED & SIXTY MILLION cards.

How much do you suppose those combined 3,960,000,000 little cards weigh? Well, I weighed some. It took about 250 of them to make a pound. That's 8 TONS of cards a year.

How much space do you suppose they take up in landfills? How many trees do you suppose have given their lives for them? What about the ground water pollution from the printing process? What do you suppose it costs to print those cards and insert them in the magazines? Maybe 3 cents each? That's $101,250,000.

And don't forget, these numbers are only for one year.

My next post on this subject is going to be a random list of magazine titles that do, and one of titles that don't insert cards. Kind of a "hall of shame" and hall of fame". It's not going to be pretty. Here's and example. Guess what magazine this month had FIVE cards fall out when I shook it? I know, you're going to say Glamour, or Cosmo, or Better Homes and Gardens, right?

Wrong...Mother Earth News! Doesn't that just make you want to cry?

June 4, 2009

Mis huevos no son la solucion.

Costa Rica has a well earned and well deserved reputation for commitment to conservation. This tiny country has the largest percentage of its land in protected parks and reserves than any other country in the world.

Several years ago, we were in San Jose, with an unscheduled afternoon. So we decided to spend it at the zoo.

All along the footpaths, were messages about responsible conservation. They were cartoonish and humorous. You didn't need a Spanish/English dictionary to decifer the meaning.

This one was our favorite!


June 8, 2009

Peace and Order Restored

Most of the time our home has an atmosphere of cool, quiet calmness. Most of the time.

But occasionally the quiet and the calm flee to a boring corner to hide. The entire house vibrates. The debris from a tidelwave of activity is scattered throughout every room. The cause of this tsunami?


The five creatures who pile their shoes by the kitchen door. Our grandkids.

Today they are all gone. The house is back in equalibrium. Its a pleasant quiet retreat. Feng shui perfect. Lonely.

September 19, 2009


It's human nature, I think. We don't consider the mortality of those we love. We somehow just expect them to all outlive us. Even when our family members are older than we, we are still capable of living our daily lives without the expectation of losing them.

It's different with our animal families though. There is finiteness to our relationships with our beloved pets. When they come into our lives, we are fully aware that it is a temporary gift. We know we will outlive them and we know we will mourn them.

My brother and his girlfriend are morning Karma today. And so am I.

September 28, 2009


This weekend was the third annual FamiliesROC 5K Run/ 1M Walk for Ovarian Cancer Research.

FamiliesROC was founded by the Jorgensen family to support their wife and mother, Brenda, in her fight against Ovarian Cancer; to raise money for research; and to help spread Brenda's message of the importance of physical fitness in fighting any form of cancer.

This year seems to have been a watershed year for the event. The response was almost three times last year. It was a fabulous day. A day all about family; family fitness; and families supporting each other.

I was honored to have the opportunity to be a volunteer at the event. I volunteered because Brenda's daughter, Kristen, and my daughter, Caroline, have been friends since middle-school. My daughter couldn't be there, so I represented her.

I volunteered because cancer affects us all, if not personally, then certainly through a friend or a family member. When was the last time you met someone who hadn't been affected by cancer?

And I volunteered because a friend is fighting her own battle with Ovarian Cancer right now. I wanted to support her fight - even if from a distance.

Here are a few of my favorite photos of the day.

Kristen and Brenda -- two beautiful, strong, powerful fighters, and the founders of FamiliesROC.


My job was to organize volunteers to man all of the "cheering stations" along the route.


After the 5K ended the 1M began. This was when the big groups of families all walked together.


After the racing and walking was over it was time to hang out; listen to music; have refreshments; and enjoy the company.


One of the many, many family groups standing strongly together.


It was a fun day, and not without its share of irreverent humor. May I introduce Dr. Uterus and the Ovaries?


And, my final picture. This was my way of bringing Gina along for the fun.


The FamiliesROC 5K/1M is in the books. Next year is already scheduled and the information is on the FamiliesROC website. September 26th, 2010. Be There.

October 20, 2009

Un-friend Deborah Week on Facebook

Notice to all my Facebook connections:

This is *Un-friend Deborah Week. If for whatever reason you would like to eliminate me from your feed, this is your chance for a free pass. I'll be totally cool with it. Won't hurt my feelings. I promise.

I'm sure some of you friended me because you didn't know my posts would be so boring. Maybe you're just not interested in my incessant drival about food and travel. Or you feel my posts are too frequent, or not frequent enough. Or perhaps they are without socially redeeming content and you have much better things to do with your time. By all means, click that "x" next to my name. I won't be offended.

Some of you, when first setting up your facebook, rushed out and friended everyone you could think of. You operated under the Facebook-encouraged misconception that it was about the quantity of connections. Having triple digit friend numbers was some sort of ultimate goal. Now you are rethinking and have decided that quality is more desirable. You want to do a little house cleaning. I'm OK with being one of the people you sweep out.

Even though you may not have wanted to, some of you might have responded to my friend request out of fear that you would hurt my feelings if you didn't accept. I have a thick skin. Please feel free to unfriend.

If you do, un-friend me, I promise to pretend like I didn't notice. No awkward emails asking why. No telephone calls begging you to reconsider. No pregnant silences when we see each other in person. It will be as if we never shared the grip of a facebook connection at all.

Of course, I also realize that long ago, some of you may have hidden my posts from your feed. That's the passive way of dealing with a problem without dealing with it. I understand. I've hidden a few myself. Unfortunately for you, you won't see this offer. You won't know you have the option. Sorry.

*(fine print) This offer is good until Saturday, October 24th. Then we go back to psychological trama business as usual. This offer is exclusive of all relatives-no matter how distantly related we are.

December 2, 2009

The Tyranny of Amish Friendship Bread

I love my friends and neighbors. And I honestly appreciate that they want to include me in their circles of friendship.


Why then, did a sense of dread wash over me, when the lovely lady across the street rang my doorbell bearing a gallon sized Ziploc bag dated 11/21 and containing a single cup of goop?

Oh, no! The last time I fell victim to this particular insidious Amish plan, it was at the hands of a coworker I dearly love.

I thanked my neighbor profusely. I invited her in for a cup of tea. I told her how much I love Amish Friendship Bread. And, I do. So why the dread, you ask?

The secret, substance called "starter" has the magical power to produce the finished product. But only if I slavishly follow the strictly proscribed rules. Isn't there something very sinister about this?

I’m not afraid of the bread itself, or even the rigorous schedule for palpitating the bag every day and baking on day 10, come hell or high water. No, it is being one small part of a much greater and more sinister tyranny that makes me quake with fear for the future of civilization as we know it.

Beware! Amish Friendship Bread is a pyramid scheme to take over the world, one Ziploc bag at a time.


My neighbor gives me one. At the end of 10 days I end up with my delicious Amish Friendship Bread and FOUR bags I must give to others. Those four people give to four people who give to four people who give to four people...well you get the idea.

By the end of March, just 140 days away, I will be personally responsible for the Amish enslavement of Two Hundred Eighty-Six Million, Four Hundred Thirty-Five Thousand, Four Hundred and Fifty-Six people! (It looks scarier spelled out, but in digits that's 286,435,456)

By the end of one year every man, woman and child on the planet could be under their domination.

What is next? The absence of modern technology? An inflationary increase in the price of those little red reflective triangles? Brotherly love? World peace? God help us.

December 9, 2009


Another phone call. Early this morning.

When I saw the telephone number on the caller ID I knew.
D's daughter was calling to tell us that her dad was gone.

He died last night. "Peacefully", she said.
She was as calm and matter of fact about it as he had been back in mid-February when he called to tell us that he had brain cancer.

Because they physically can't call all of the thousand or so people who loved D, they're sending out a blast email with the funeral arrangements.

He was the mayor of his small town in northwest Missouri.
He was the owner of a highly respected senior care company.
He was the touchstone in the lives of so many.

There'll be a lot of people at D's funeral.

High muckety-muck Washington politicians from both parties will fly in, because they called him friend. But, so did the nurses aides and housekeepers and cooks in his company's retirement communities. Because he gave them the tools to prove that they could honorably care for the nations frail elderly and he never let them forget how important they were.

The funeral will be Monday. We will go.

January 11, 2010

A Piece of Sky

It all began the day I found that from my window I could only see a piece of sky.

It's been more than two decades since I watched the movie and at least 10 years since I listened to the soundtrack.

So tell me why...

has this song been bouncing around in my head for two weeks now?

January 15, 2010


We learned yesterday that a friend lost his sibling in the earthquake.

It's not a distant, abstract disaster any longer.

March 1, 2010

March Madness Blogging

I've joined the SlowTrav March Madness Bloggers.

It's crazy to attempt this with everything else I've got on my plate right now. But, there is something very fulfilling about committing yourself to a project that you don't believe you can accomplish -- and then making it work.

So, since I love a challenge...

And since blogging every day for an entire month would be a big one for me...

Here I go...

Wish me luck.

March 4, 2010

Seriously Missing Umbria

Today was not a good day. Mainly because I found myself dwelling on the reality that we won't be getting back to Montemigiano this year.

I wish I could be there to enjoy Marisa's al fresco dinners - minus the cement mixer and orange safety netting because the chapel restoration will be finished now.


I miss the early morning sunshine on the geraniums in the window.


And I miss the sound of the horse's hooves as the neighbor takes his late afternoon ride.


It's a melancholy kind of thing. It will pass. For a while.

March 9, 2010

Scented Men

Am I the only one? Or do other women find men's cologne to be a huge turn-off? When I smell a man wearing fragrance, I have an immediate negative reaction.

Do any of my friends who were in high school in the 1960s remember Jade East? How about Hai Karate? Or Canoe? The boys in high school who wore these also tended to wear penny loafers and pastel colored sox to match. I remember having a crush on one in particular, he wore Canoe. And my favorite of his outfits was a french blue colored button down shirt with matching socks. And a sleeveless sweater vest. I guess I didn't mind men's cologne back then.

After the 60s and 70s came the high-powered 80s & 90s. That was when every woman wore shoulder pads and every man in a white collar profession, actually wore white collars.

They also wore overpowering scent. Women wore Obsession, Channel #5, & Georgio. And men tried their best to smell just as strong. Who can forget Aramis? Or Obsession for Men? Or Brut, Stetson, and Polo? I think this is when I began to develop my distaste for perfumed men.

It seems to me that fragrance use by both men and women is in steep decline. I can remember being surrounded by clouds of it every where I went. Now, it is rare enough that I actually notice (albeit unhappily) when someone wearing scent is near me.

I equate it with smoking. We used to live in a cloud of smoke haze. On planes, in offices, everywhere. Now, our air is so much cleaner. Maybe there is a direct connection. Maybe because we don't have to live with smoke any longer, we also don't need cologne to cover it up.

I don't know, but I am grateful.

March 15, 2010

I Love Ginestra

A few days ago, I posted a rant about men and cologne.

Now I'm going to tell you that there is one fragrance that I own; love; and occasionally,with a very light hand, use myself.

That fragrance is: Ginestra from Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella in Florence, one of the oldest farmacias in the world dating back to the 17th century.


Ginestra is a flower also known as Scotch Broom.



Santa Maria's Ginestra starts with a light blend of bergamot, lime and orange blossom. Then you begin to detect a sweet, grassy, hay. And finally the light floral of the broom flower. It doesn't smack you in the face, making it the perfect fragrance for someone who doesn't like fragrances.

So there you have it, call me a hypocrite if you wish. I don't like cologne on men, and I don't like the perfumes other women wear. But I do adore the Ginestra I sometimes wear myself.

March 17, 2010

Am I Crazy? What Happened to A L T O ?

When we first started traveling to Italy in the mid-90s, I distinctly remember stop signs that said "ALTO". What happened to them? And, while we're asking questions...why was a word that means "high" used on Italian traffic stop signs? And, why is it in English all over the country now?


I wasn't really taking the picture of the stop sign, it was just in the frame. Here's what I was really interested in.


March 19, 2010


This picture sits on a bookshelf in my den. It was taken in 1909. I love it.

What must it have taken to get that many people together, dressed in their Sunday best, posing for a camera that requires no movement for an agonizing long time?


What I know about the photo is this -- It's of my father's mother's extended family. The first man on the left in the row of seated adults is my grandfather. Next to him is my grandmother. They are holding my father and his identical twin brother. I believe the one on my grandfather's lap is my father, but I can't be sure.

My great grandmother is the last seated women on the right. My great grandfather is the man with the mustache on the ground next to her. My great, great grandmother is the older woman seated next to my grandfather. My great, great grandfather is the man with the huge hat in the upper left.

Al of the others are brothers and sisters, of my grandmother; their spouses, and their children.

My efforts to find my father's father's family history goes only a couple of generations back. It is a bit frustrating, but with a last name like Johnson, I shouldn't be surprised.

I've been a little luckier with the family you see in the picture. Through my great grandmother's line, I've made it back to 1502 and Birmingham, England. My 13th great grandfather, John Jennens, was born in Birmingham and died there in 1575. He was buried in the St. Martin's Church Cemetery.

March 21, 2010

Helping Karma

In January, while visiting the Naples, FL area, we went to an antique fair at a local community center.

One of the exhibitors was a glassware booth. Lots and lots of stemware crowded together on mirrored displays. No room for clumsy. But clumsy I was. I reached for a beautiful & delicate Moser cordial and knocked it into another glass - which wasn't nearly as delicate. End of cordial.


Of course, I felt terrible about it. And of course, it never crossed my mind to not tell the booth owner and not offer to pay.

I did have to wait a minute or two. He was in the middle of a sale to another customer and hadn't heard the glass break. So I guess I could have just walked away.

When I got his attention, and told him what had happened, he was very gracious. I even thought to myself, "Wow, this guy is pretty laid back."

With what in retrospect I now realize was delight in his voice, he told me that I wasn't going to be happy about the price. (By the way, I knew this already, because I knew the value of this kind of work.) He generously offered to sell it to me at the reduced price of $150.00. I paid, and took my broken treasure with me. At least I'd have the handmade Moser sailfish cordial -- even if I couldn't use it.

We continued to explore the rest of the exhibit. As we were about to leave, we rounded a corner and found ourselves in the same aisle -- just in time to hear the glass dealer comment with obvious smugness to his neighbor --- "Well, legally, I couldn't have forced her to pay. But, I got lucky. She thought she had to pay me, so I just pretended like she did."

His face, when he saw me standing there, and he realized I had just heard what he said was priceless. I just smiled sweetly and kept on walking.

So, here's where I'd like to give Karma a little help. This is a picture of the guy’s business card. If you visit antique shows and you see his booth, do me a favor. Walk in and tell him why you won't be buying (or touching) anything of his. Do it loudly so other shoppers can hear. And if you live in Linwood, NJ, don't shop at "Last Chance Antiques", either.


And, since I've paid $150 for a glass I can't use, I've decided to spend a couple of hundred more to salvage it. The technique for attaching such a detailed appliqué of hand painted glass is almost a lost art. I'm going to take it to a glass blower and ask her to cut an oval of the surviving piece of glass that surrounds the sailfish. Then I will take that delicate piece to a jewelry maker and ask her to frame it in a gold oval pendent for me. Take that, Jerry Taylor !!!


April 22, 2010

I'm SICK of Ribbons

I'm sick of ribbons. Every color of ribbon.


I'm sick of seeing red ribbons and having them remind me of what my brother suffered before he died of AIDS.

I'm sick of seeing pink ribbons and thinking about my father's mother, who died before he ever met my mother. I’m sick of thinking of all my friends who are currently fighting, or have had to battle, breast cancer.

I'm sick of seeing teal ribbons and realizing how viciously ovarian cancer sneaks in, only making it presence known after it's already a stage four.

I'm sick of orange ribbons knowing that, because of our baby-oil-tinted-with-iodine-slathered youth, an epidemic of skin cancer has begun among my generation.

I'm sick of purple ribbons because pancreatic cancer took my grandchildren's other grandmother before she had the joy of seeing her only son marry and then become their father.

I'm sick of gray ribbons because brain cancer took one of the most giving and kind men I ever knew. It proved that evil strikes most viciously at the good.

I want all those colored ribbons to begin gathering dust in people’s scrapbooks and memory boxes.

I want the people who make ribbons and ribbon emblazoned products to be driven out of business.

I want my grandchildren to grow up in a world where the only two purposes for ribbons are to decorate birthday presents and to tie bows around little girls’ pigtails.

August 25, 2010

It's Time for the USA to Leave the World Stage

America, listen up! You've overstayed your welcome. The world doesn’t want you to continue in this self-appointed role of “world nanny”. It's obvious from the universal distain with which you are viewed by forward thinking, educated, and progressive peoples all over the world. Even your own citizens (at least the intelligent ones like professors, entertainers, politicians, and reporters) all agree. You, United States of America, are a horrible world citizen.

Turn that statue of yours around and let her shine her light inward for a while. The rest of the world no longer has any need or desire to come to your shores.


Militarily, you are a hulking dinosaur. Why do you continue to maintain bases around the world? All they do is put a strain on the resources and economies of their host countries. Those countries don’t want the protection and deterrence you claim to offer. You should immediately close all offshore bases. Bring every last troop home to deal with the problems you have in your own vile, lawless country. Imagine how much safer the people of Canada and Mexico would feel if you stationed all your troops along both borders of your country? It would ensure that US citizens didn’t attempt to sneak across the southern border for a better life in Mexico. Or into Canada for faster health care service, or better shopping.

Besides, it’s long been known that US military bases aren’t really there for the good of the economies of the host countries or the safety of the citizens. They’re only there to protect the business interests of US based corporations that prey on that citizenry.

And what about those businesses? Do your corporate buddies improve the general wellbeing and economies of other countries? Of course they don’t. They are merely exploiting the innocent, forcing unnecessary technologies, not to mention Coca Cola and Big Macs, down their throats.

You should demand, for the sake of the world, that all US corporations immediately suspend activities in other countries. Bring their manufacturing back to within your own borders where they belong. You should never have exported your poor working conditions and capitalistic heresy overseas in the first place.

Latin America, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Europe, and Canada all have much better health care systems than yours. They’ve all said so. They are completely capable of training their own medical personnel and staffing their own hospitals without your interference. I don’t think you’ve noticed, your pharmaceutical research and technological innovations, are of no interest to the rest of the world.

And since all of these health care systems are so much better than what you have to offer, it makes perfect sense for you to step back and allow them to take the lead in all things humanitarian throughout the rest of the world. Start by instructing all of your non-profit aid organizations to mind their own business and provide services only within your borders. That alone would cause the world to breathe a huge sigh of relief. So what if you give 40% of the world's aid? You should be embarrassed to be so stingy. Keep your lousy generosity.

Another thing, about you - where do you get off thinking you are the only country with the capability to host the world’s diplomatic community? It's high time you admitted that there are dozens of other countries around the world that are better suited to become the physical home of the United Nations. Life itself would be more pleasant for UN diplomats if they could live and work in a more forward thinking and exciting city, instead of the backwater that is NYC.

And think of all the countries that have to put up with the presence of your embassies in their cities. What good are they except to replace lost passports for loud, rude, arrogant American tourists that nobody wants there in the first place? Close the embassies, America. Tell your citizens to stay home and visit their own country for a change.

Who do you think you are, anyway? You’ve got unemployment of your own. Build your own factories on your own land and put those people to work. You’ve got farmland and ranch land going to waste. Worry about feeding the hungry and homeless in your own country. The rest of the world is sick to death of all the corn and wheat you keep shipping to their shores. Enough already! Raise your own sheep and make your own wool. Grow your own cotton and make your own clothing. Dig your own oil wells and produce your own energy. Mine your own minerals and metals and make your own steel and tin. You need to quit relying on the rest of the world to make your life easier. Time to grow up, America!

Yes, the world will be much better off when you realize that you just don’t belong any longer. Start minding your own back yard and leave the rest of the world alone.

So, America, this message is for you. Time to butt out.
Please exit graciously. Stage right.

©2010, Deborah L. Horn

January 1, 2011

Falling-away Blogger

If blogging is a religion, then I'm a falling-away blogger. Never mind daily -- I've stopped going to blog mass entirely. I don't seem to be able even to hit the high holy days any longer. Haven't posted since August 31st, 2010!

My excuse is the cooking project I'm involved in right now - Pomodori e Vino. But the truth is, I'm only responsible for one post a week, so it really isn't a valid excuse, is it?

I bet there are thousands of bloggers out there who, like me have let their blogs languish. And I bet that today there is a flurry of dormant blogs being dusted off with a New Year's resolution post just like this one.

I resolve to start posting again. Although, I'm making no promises that this will last any longer than a hungover frat boy's remorse.

November 7, 2012

I'm Proud of My Country

Wasn't yesterday amazing?!!!

Americans turned out in huge numbers. They politely, peacefully, and respectfully fullfilled their responsibility to this country.

Some voted their hearts. Some voted their indoctrinations. And some voted their pocketbooks.

But they voted. All across this beautiful land, for offices large and small. For issues that will shape our country's future forever. For issues that were important only to them and their neighbors.

I just finished watching some of President Obama's acceptance speech and some of Mitt Romney's concession speech. What gentleman they both are!

Now it is time to support our President and work together as a country to solve our big and our small problems.

Democrats, your work isn't finished. Your President doesn't belong just to you. He belongs to the entire country. He wants to do the best job he can. And he can do that job best if he is allowed to serve the entire country by governing from a rational middle ground.

Support him. Don't ask him to do things that hurt the country as a whole in order to make a partisan point.

Republicans, your guy lost. But he fought honorably. he lost the popular vote as well as the electorial vote. Take a lesson from this loss. It is in your very best interests to help our country continue to improve for everyone who calls it home. Don't join the dividers and obstructionists.

Encourage your representatives in Washington to reach out to President Obama to work together. Now that he no longer has to focus on securing his base he can stop running for office and focus on serving his country. What he deserves now is the chance to secure his legacy. Help him do that.

Help him become an Abraham Lincoln, a Teddy Roosevelt, or a Harry Truman.

Help him become the best Barack Obama he can.

We will all be better off.

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Old Shoes - New Trip in the Random Thoughts category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Potential Future Trips is the previous category.

Scotland 2009 is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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