A Thomas Crapper Original

I’m not sure if the power of finding beauty in the humblest things makes home happy and life lovely, as Louisa May Alcott once opined, but I know some of the simplest things make me happy. Like the hand painted picture of three little pink piggys trying to nose their way out the barn door that I have hanging in my kitchen. Matching towels and pretty commodes. It may just be my way of making up for the chamber pots and outdoor privies suffered in my youth in the unplumbed south. This was originally posted exactly 10 years ago. I still like it. Hope you do too.


Over the years while traveling, I taught my daughters the cardinal traveler’s rule, “you go” when you have the chance.” I was reminded of that rule often during our recent road trip. In fact, that rule led me to a discovery of sorts that now makes me almost want to re-do my bathroom at home.

We were in Seattle and had decided to walk from our hotel to the waterfront and downtown, taking public transportation as and when needed. They have a great public transport system and even offer free bus rides to everyone within a designated area of old downtown, and a transfer pass can get you in and out within a certain period for $1.50 or $1.75, depending on whether it’s “peak rush hour” or not. Our onfoot foray was to turn into a daylong adventure, and I was often reminded of my traveler’s rule.

Since we’d read drastically conflicting reviews on the underground tour of Seattle, we were resting our tootsies sitting on a bench in Pioneer Square and trying to decide if the underground tour of Seattle was worth the ticket price of $12 for seniors. Anyone who knows me also knows my seriously weird, some might say “warped,” sense of history. The more ridiculous or seedier it is the better I like it, and my head is full of useless facts about various things. I was very curious to learn more about the seedier side of the old underground city destroyed by the fire in 1889 that gave Pioneer Square the reputation that eventually gave rise to the expression “skid row.”

We more or less had decided to give it a go and learned that there would be no sitting down for this tour. Turns out we’d be on our feet for a full hour and a half or more–depending on the verbosity of our actor guide–so we decided we weren’t quite up to it after walking all those blocks already. Since we were already inside and nobody seemed to be kicking us out, we opted to have a look around first in the attached Rogue’s Museum and antique shop instead.

Soon I noticed the sign that pointed to “Women’s” and automatically turned to go in since all I’d seen so far were signs in every storefront saying “wash rooms are for customers only.”

The “facilities” were so pretty that I just had to take a picture to remember. Even the wash basin and the matching backsplash were pretty.

Back outside in the museum, one of the first exhibits I saw was either “the” or “an” original toilet designed by Thomas Crapper. While propriety or a certain sense of decorum prevented me from photographing the interior of the toilet above, this one was fair game.

Aren’t they pretty? I found you can order one for your own bathroom from the U.K. at a ballpoint figure of $1,000 American dollars. Guess I’ll be keeping our old crapper toilet instead. By the way, in doing all the research about Thomas Crapper, I found out that he really wasn’t the “inventor” of the modern flush toilet after all. I just may flush out this story more fully in a future post, but for now I hope you like the pretty toilets.

flat stanley goes to new york city

Today I’m posting–with permission–a children’s book written by and illustrated by my younger daughter. It’s a new adventure about Flat Stanley. In case you’ve never heard of Flat Stanley, he’s a character created in a children’s book by Jeff Brown in 1964. The plot involves Stanley Lambchop and his younger brother Arthur who are given a big bulletin board by their Dad for displaying pictures and posters. He hangs it on the wall over Stanley’s bed.  During the night the board falls, flattening Stanley in his sleep, but Stanley survives and makes the best of his altered state. Soon he is entering locked rooms by sliding under the door, and playing with his younger brother by being used as a kite. Another special advantage is that Flat Stanley can now visit his friends inexpensively by being mailed in an envelope. He even helps catch some art museum thieves by posing as a painting on the wall. Eventually Arthur changes Stanley back to his normal shape with a bicycle pump. To facilitate easier reading in case the monitor you’re using is smaller, I’m duplicating the text inside brackets under each picture.

[Recently, Flat Stanley visited Queens and Manhattan, otherwise known as New York City! Stanley learned very quickly that many people in New York City do not own cars. Instead of driving, they take underground trains! They call their trains the “Subway.” Stanley was a little nervous about taking the Subway at first, but he decided that he liked the idea of getting on a train and riding along with other people. He watched as people read, talked, played video games, and listened to music on their way into the city.]

[Stanley exited the train at a stop for Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue. Then, because he was so deep underground, he had to take a very steep escalator to the surface!]

[Luckily, this station had a helpful map to show Stanley where he had arrived and where he could take the subway from here.]

[Stanley made it to the street! Are you curious about where he went next? Ah, here. Now you can see where he intended to visit in New York City: The MOMA. Can you see it in this distance up ahead?]

[Can you guess what the MOMA is from the picture? And what do you think MOMA means? Here is a hint. Each letter stands for something: M.O.M.A.]

If you guessed that Stanley was visiting an art museum, you were correct! And so, if you guessed that the first letter of M.O.M.A stood for “Museum,” and the last letter stood for “Art” you were also correct! The MOMA is New York City’s Museum of Modern Art. People who study art describe it as “Modern” if the objects were made after 1860. (It’s 2012 now; can you figure out how many years ago 1860 was?) Stanley learned a lot about Art on his visit. As you can see, the MOMA has different kinds of Art all over, on the floors and on the walls.]

[Some of the pieces are famous paintings. This one is by a man named Vincent Van Gogh. Do you know what it is called? If you don’t what would you call if it you pained it?]

[Stanley was surprised these pictures by Andy Warhol are called “Art,” because he recognized the people in them, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe.]

[Flat Stanley was also surprised that this painting by Jackson Pollack was Art, since it looked like something you kids could make at school.]

[But wait! Are these examples of Art too? Stanley thought these objects were all kind of funny. He laughed a little bit when he saw them. But then he started to wonder if he understood Art.]

[Now, these pictures by Rousseau, Picasso, and Chagall, and Kahlo seemed a bit more like what he thought he would see at an Art museum.]

[Stanley was confused and wanted to get some air.  He found that MOMA had a lovely garden full of sculptures.  They were cool–but they made him wonder more about what Art was. He sat down and thought a bit about what he’d seen.]

[Each piece of Art was something that reminded him of the things he saw everyday, but they were also a bit different from the things he saw everyday. They made him think more about what he was looking at. He didn’t always know how to describe how he felt or what he was thinking, but he liked that the Art made and feel and think.]

[After the museum, Stanley decided to see a few things nearby, including Radio City Music Hall. There are dance and music performances there. One day, Stanley hopes to see some of them.]

[Stanley’s friend Vimala asked if he would like to go with her to the library to return a book. Stanley said yes, because he loved to read. He was very excited to go back on the subway and see on the map where they arrived compared to where they had been. Can you see how far they traveled by comparing this map to the earlier one?]

[Elmer Holmes Bobst Library – New York University]

[Stanley really enjoyed seeing the library at New York University. So many floors! Stanley especially liked to imagine that one day he will go to college and study Math. Or Science. Or maybe Art? Perhaps Literature?]

[After the library, Stanley went to the nearby park, Washington Square Park. There he saw a pretty arch and decided one day he might go to college to study Architecture, a subject that makes us see and think about buildings as both a kind of Art and a product of Science. In fact, New York had a lot of neat buildings! It would be a great place to study buildings and Art and all kinds of things that interested him.]

[Stanley went back down into the Subway and caught a train towards Queens, where his friend Vim lived. When they transferred from one train line to another, they saw a band playing in the station! So they stopped to listen for a bit. What do you think their song sounded like? Do you know what these instruments are? Stanley did, but he is pretty sure you do too, so he told me not to tell you.]

[Stanley ended his day where he started it, at 75th Avenue in Queens. What a loved day he had, looking at Art, thinking about what Art is, and then seeing everything around him as something like and unlike Art. He saw many people as he traveled and enjoyed thinking about what their lives were like in this very interesting city. He cannot wait to return to New York City…there is so much more he’d like to do!]

Flat Stanley loved New York City!

For more information on Flat Stanley, check back with Wintersong on Monday.

resetting the biological clock…is it possible?

If the collapse on a trail that I’d hiked at least twice before in my previous life (before cancer) wasn’t enough to convince me I was in bad physical shape, the emergency room, overnight hospital stay and exhaustive stress tests last July, certainly did. As if all that wasn’t enough, the nearly constant media bombardment–that the loss of strength and stamina attributed to aging is in part caused by reduced physical activity–started to slowly sink in. Knowing how stubborn I am, the family dug in too, bullying, lecturing, uh . . . gently pushing me to get a physical trainer to design a fitness program that would work for me, factoring in all my physical limitations and age . I finally took advantage of the physical training program the Huntsman provides for free for all their cancer patients–former and current–because apparently the gym time I’d been halfheartedly putting in for nearly a year after chemo hadn’t gotten me to the fitness level I wanted to be. Thank goodness stubbornness works in more than one direction.

The beautiful yo-yo weather (the day before it had snowed all day) was putting the spring back in our steps around here, so when our daughter invited her father to come along with her and the kids for a bike ride, I heard myself saying to Hubby if he’d air up my tires I might come along too. Well. After a series of failures that included a hard fall in our daughter’s driveway, they were still able to talk me into coming along. As long as I can take some reading material along in case I changed my mind, I’d go I said. Hubby loaded the bikes onto the back of the Honda and off we all headed to a flat road with little traffic out near Salt Lake Airport, just off Interstate 80. It’s an access road that takes you to the marina and a social club, and the scenery is really special as long as you like water birds of all kinds, blue skies, blue lakes, and salt flats you can practically walk on. That’s the whole story of how Hubby and I–weeks away from birthday #70–came to be out this weekend on a bicycle.

Several times I came this close to giving up. My balance was shot to hell. The seat was too high. The gears were set wrong. I hadn’t been on a bicycle since I was in my early fifties in Las Vegas. Patiently Hubby tested and made all the necessary adjustments. Finally, when my legs could reach out and touch the pavement any time I felt vulnerable or needed to stop, I decide to have a go at it. I was really nervous every time a car or another biker approached and my fingers inched close to the brake gear, but I gradually got used to it. I knew I could stop anytime I wanted and probably wouldn’t kill myself doing it. I only went into a near-panic once–when that damn motorcycle passed me in the same lane I was in without going around me. I decided I should have pinned a sign on my back like a driving instructor puts on the windshield for student drivers. Beware! Old lady bicycling for the first time in more than 15 years!

Getting back to all the hype about the new approach to aging, this study and that, plus my noticeably increased stamina and agility, I doubt that I’ve done enough to significantly reset my biologic clock. I decided that early the next morning when I woke up feeling young and rested after a good night’s sleep, pleased as punch with myself for not giving up on the bicycle thing but feeling pretty stiff. When I started to get out of bed I wasn’t sure if I could even lift my head because of my sore neck muscles due to tension I guess, or the fall on the driveway. Today I’m almost back to normal. Reversing my biologic clock? Not sure. I only know for awhile there I felt more like I had been born in the days of this contraption. If I had though, I guess I wouldn’t have even had to peddle. Hubby would have done all the work and I could’ve just sat there looking pretty!

I wish I had taken my camera along to capture this momentous occasion, but I plumb forgot–another age related phenomena that may also be reversed as long as we stay physically and mentally active. Bonafide photographs of all of us would have been so much nicer, and you would have proof instead of having to take my word for it. On second thought, I was holding on so tight to the handle bars I’m not sure how I would have managed a camera anyhow. Instead, my gratitude goes to the Flickr Commons Collection for these vintage prints, presented under the fair use “no known restrictions” designation.