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.

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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.

on folklore and ouija boards

fox fire with text Growing up as I did, witnessing people talking in tongues in church as a child, it’s no wonder I’ve been equally fascinated by all kinds of folklore and other ghoulish things. I remember family story swapping sitting around Grandpa‘s living room on Sundays after church. Those days if children were seen but not heard, the clever child could find a way to hover on the sidelines and be privy to some interesting grownup talk.

There was an oft touted tale of the coffin of a young woman being opened, for whatever earthly reason I no longer remember. She had been buried with her long hair arranged in the chignon style of the day, but when the coffin lid was raised, a gripping view was exposed–hair hanging disheveled around the face, ensnared by the very hair comb that had secured the bun. Some swore her fingernails were also longer AND broken, and the silky material lining the lid was hanging in tatters. What a ghastly scene! Other times Grandma recounted her tale about seeing eerie green lights deep in woods surrounding the house when she was a young girl. As I grew older, I learned that the green lights were called “foxfire,” defined as a rare phenomenon of eerie green lights glowing in the woods on starless nights. In 1823 scientists finally explained how fungal growth on decayed wood emitted these phosphorescent episodes, not spirits of people gone on to meet their maker. In time I imagine she knew that the mystery had been solved, but I’m still a little disappointed, I think. It’s actually a little bit fun to have a bit of a fright, followed quickly, of course by a reasonable explanation.

The last time I remember having a serious case of the heebie jeebies was during a slumber party my daughters had in the 1980s in Ohio one weekend, with 5 or 6 girls attending.  They were playing with the Ouija board in the basement, one of my more idiotic shopping mistakes, in retrospect. I heard lots of giggling, and occasional squeals. It was getting late by this time, Hubby was out of town on business, and as I struggled to stay alert upstairs, I hoped they would soon tire themselves into slumber. Rather, all of a sudden they burst through the door at the top of the stairs screeching. It seems a spirit or demon had suddenly “taken over the Ouija board’s planchette (the pointer gadget). He was furiously spelling out threatening, frightfyk things that were going to happen. I tried to tell them that inanimate objects and games couldn’t hurt them but they weren’t having it!

The story that then emerged–as best I can remember–was that the demon was once a teenage boy who died in an accident when he was young. Now he was very angry at pretty much everybody alive, especially giggling and adolescents and teenage girls! At that point I was quite amused at the humor of it, but still needed to calm them down a bit. I suggested  we freeze the hell and damnation out of him by throwing the whole board in the freezer to cool him down.Youthful impatience led to frequent openings and closings of the freezer door, and the girls couldn’t resist another quick trip to the basement (presumable spirits prefer dim basements). Moments later, they were back upstairs. He was still there. I was still comfortable in my assumption that one of the girls was conscientiously (or not) maneuvering the pointer, having a great time at all the reactions. No one would admit to it, though, so I decided to witness a session myself. I went downstairs to watch the pointer sail lightly from letter to letter, again spelling out an apt-sounding ancient name. Whichever girl was key to the ruse was goooooood, I decided. I was very impressed!

Whether imagination or not, doubt crept in. What if it wasn’t a hoax? Each girl insisted she was innocent! It was close to, or past by that time, midnight. Clearly this demon was NOT going away. No amount of begging girls to go away was working. We’d tried the freezer, now we tried nuking him in the microwave. That didn’t work either.

All the warnings about Ouija boards being the passageway of all things occult came flooding back. “Messages revealed by a Ouija should only be on God’s hands,” “a tool of Satan best left alone!” “Paranormal or supernatural beings are responsible for Ouija’s action, therefore you are colluding with Satan if you use them!” 

At last we decided the only thing left to do with that evil board was to take it and break it across my knee and throw it into the garbage or the fireplace, I don’t remember which, but the idea was good riddance to bad rubbish. Then everyone went to bed–I hope. They must have had quite a time the next day telling their parents about the evil spirit they’d conjured up with the Ouija board. I don’t remember how many were allowed at our house after that.

Many eminent people have succumbed to the lure of the supernatural: Although he didn’t use it himself, Poet William Butler Yeats‘s later poetry was inspired by the Ouija board and other facets of the occult; G. K. Chesterton used a Ouija board in his teenage years. Around 1893 writer G. K. Chesterton  went through crises of skepticism and depression, grew fascinated with the occult and experimented with the Ouija board. Remember Alice Cooper? Early press releases stated that Vincent Furnier‘s stage and band name was agreed on after a session with a Ouija board (his real name was Vincent Furnier) during which it was revealed he was the reincarnation of a 17th-century witch with that name.

In case I haven’t convinced you that a Ouija board is pure evil, or let’s just say yours in an inquiring mind, here’s an online Ouija http://www.brainjar.com/dhtml/ouija/ for free, so now you don’t even have to pay homage to its original maker, those rich Parker Brothers. Have fun! And now that I’ve finished this silly little story about things that go bump in the night, Hubby and I are off to New York for more earthly adventures I hope to share with you from there.

new words in my vocabulary

I’ve only thought every day the past two weeks that this will be the day I get around to blogging; well, you can see where that got me if you check the calendar in the sidebar. (Oops! Can it really be I haven’t been here at all in June?) I have no idea where the time went. Oh yes, I do: yard work planning and the hard work it involved (Sergio and his helper really worked up a sweat for sure!); finally choosing a color for the painters to paint the three outside entry doors (I’m pretty sure my previous final choice, that hot pink color?, could result in a pink slip of a different sort from our community council (Hubby’s a member), so yes, Meridith, Regatta Blue #6517–final choice–). Believe me, I know that everyone should be lucky to have such troubles, but it’s important to keep your sense of humor in these trying times.

Another and probably more accurate reason for long absences from blogging–reading. Books are like movies–none excite me for long periods of time, then all of a suddenly there’s a new one catching my eye all at one time–and the library wants all of them back by a certain time. But it’s easy to excuse that excuse because I tell myself I’m always learning something new when I’m reading so it isn’t wasting time.

A journalist in a Tennessee writing group I belonged to encouraged our group to write a list of our favorite words and practice playing with them. Use them in our own writing. This reading session I’ve added lots of new words to my vocabulary. Until then, words were just words to me, but I did manage to add a few favorites to my list: flotsam, for instance, but it’s pretty hard to surpass that one, and even harder to work flotsam into an ordinary conversation or blog, so I’ve neglected the list for many years. But I’ve come across quite a few new ones in my latest readathon.

For instance, glossolalia. Has a ring to it, no? I attended a Pentecostal church when I was a child and so enjoyed going to the prayer room Wednesday and Sunday evenings to see people I knew well, often two or three at once, rolling around on the floor doing it. In case you never came across it either, glossolalia comes from the Greek word “glossa” (meaning “tongue” or “language”) and it’s simply speaking in tongues. Linguists explain that the otherwise unintelligible prattling sounds are made up of syllables formed from consonants and vowels taken from the speaker’s native language. I’d known these people all my life–admittedly only around 10 years at the time–and I knew not one of them would ever in a million years have dreamed of drinking or dancing in public or “showing off” in any form–yet they could glossolate with abandon, and some of them repeatedly. (Okay, I made that word up because I can’t think of a verb that suits it, can you?) It’s the reason I wanted to see watch this curious phenomenon over and over. The preacher explained it as “the holy spirit taking over,” but I wasn’t convinced. Not once did I ever see anything resembling a spirit in the room. So I think that word, glossolalia, will stick with me awhile–even though technically I haven’t “learned” it because it would be very difficult for me to ever use it in a conversation, even as a noun, but I’ve managed to write with it. That journalist must have been right!

I planned to add a couple of other strange new words, but if I do the post will be far too long, so I’ll plan to sit down another day and tell you what I’ve learned about witchery and black magic and the new words those conjure up. They definitely deserve a post of their own. ‘Til next time then . . .

 

springing back to wintersong musings

We had our final class Thursday, and now that our brains are all wrinkled with new knowledge on the economy, the latest in scientific research, and the uppity women in ancient Egypt who deigned to be “kings” instead of queens, we go forward to see what the rest of the season will bring before it all starts over again in the fall. Spring has finally sprung here in a “maybe, sorta, hopefully but “don’t bank the family fortune on it” kind of way. The local weatherman told us last week that we should go ahead and get our gardens going–which Hubby and I have been doing this week between classes.

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and my birthday, and if you dropped by our house to chat, this is what you’d see as you climb to ring the doorbell. It’s my birthday present–also Mother’s Day, wedding anniversary, and Christmas and all other occasions this year according to Hubby. They don’t look like much right now unless you have a good imagination, but as summer approaches they should thicken and bloom abundantly.

my birthday presentI’ve never had much of a green thumb, but like Molly Brown from Hanni- bal Mis- souri said as she was going down on the Titanic, “I ain’t down yet.” What does all this have to do with Molly Brown? I have no earthly idea, the image just popped into my mind and I went with it. I just read a book (Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by blogger Jenny Lawson), who seems to have hit the publishing jackpot writing in that style (it’s terrific by the way), so, my recent writing efforts have been an attempt to let myself go more in writing, give up some control and write whatever pops into mind. I did that here, and there she was–Molly Brown! Maybe her spirit was trying to merge with my “muse” and get me back into blogging mode.

Speaking of the supernatural, I have a couple of links for those of you who–like me–may be skeptical (controlled) but nonetheless interested in ghost stories. Who can resist a really good one?! Last week a new blogger friend posted a story on a not so camera-shy Rebel soldier from a major civil war battle, including images he captured on his camera. Stop by and take a look and tell us what you think. I don’t think Mr. Davids would pull our legs about this.Then–should your appetite for ghost stories remain unsatisfied–I refer you to 10 more ghost photographs and stories here. Finally, now that summer’s almost here and the livin’ (supposedly) easier, I hope to be back on a more regular basis to attend to Wintersong musing.

baby ducks “quack me up” – how about you?

How’s the weather treating you where you live? There are signs of spring here in my neighborhood–people are out walking, trees budding and blooming–the daffodils and hibiscus really putting on a show. In one day’s time we’ve gone from  rain, hail, snow–one or the other every single day–to pretty close to perfect this week. I complained loudly just as most people around me were doing, because we knew that much of the country was faring far worse! So I’m giving in. Rather than continuing my India travelogue today, I’ll be outside enjoying the sunshine while I get my flower beds cleaned up and ready for planting, while I try to resist the temptation to plant too early. You just can’t trust Mother Nature this time of year!

Another sign of spring are the number of videos that feature baby ducks are cropping up. If you think you’ve had weather-related problems, consider the plight of this mother duck as she leads her troop to water during a heavy wind. An adult duck typically weighs between 8 and 11 pounds, so their babies probably weigh mere ounces.

I’m throwing in this one just because I adore watching babies learn about the world. These little ducklings would like to learn to yo yo.

You can watch them both in just 68 seconds, but I’ll bet they’ll make you smile inside all day. Here’s wishing all of you a sunshiny day.

print ads that you’ll probably never see again reveal all

How do you like the snow? On Wintersong I mean? Neat, huh? Enjoy it until sometime in January when it’ll disappear until next year-end. Thanks WordPress.

Every year I do the best I can not to get all caught up in the frenzy of the season. And I’m mostly good at it. The weather has been so severe the past couple of weeks, however, that we’ve been housebound for several days in a row, so when we do have some warm days (today around 42 high), both Hubby and I tend to have itchy feet. There’s plenty to do around the house but we just have to get out when we can. That’s making it difficult for me to continue to post pre-India trip reflections of my first visit there in 1980. That plus the fact I’ve misplaced (temporarily I’m sure) most of my physical photo files from that trip.

I’m still working on it when I can fit it in, and hope to finish my reflections on then and now, the reason being that I suspect things have changed a lot since then. In fact, probably since our last trip–at least mine–around 1997 when I already could see significant changes beginning. If Americans aren’t at least a little concerned that the U.S. is slipping big time in too many ways to count here, it’s because they don’t travel enough to see the changes themselves. Too many stubbornly cling to the America #1 myth without really understanding what made our country great in the first place. But that’s another story. Unlike a certain woman we know who is now the author of three books written in the space of about a year, I know that I don’t know enough about politics here or abroad to write about it, and certainly not to twit about it, but I’ll know what I see. That’s one reason I look forward all the more to seeing India again with new eyes, and hope to continue my reflections soon.

While I was grumbling about the snow and cold and stuff  and not being able to find the photos for my post on India, my friend ML sent us prints from some old ads which are too funny not to share.  So here is the digression to lighten the mood, old ads labeled “ads you’ll never see again.” For very good reasons.

My family were farmers when I was growing up in the deep south of the U.S. in the 1950s, and we produced most if not all the food we consumed. Besides our vegetables, that included growing our own beef, hogs, chickens or other fowl as well as the occasional deer or other wild animal in the woods where we lived, courtesy mostly of one of my brothers who liked hunting. We were poor but as I look back I realize we were pretty happy. I just didn’t realize why.

As you likely know already, lard is the fat rendered from the white fat of the abdomen of the hog. Among its attributes is that it fries up a delicious chicken out of the drippings of which come the richest gravy–better than the colonels even–and, though I prefer the taste of real butter in my pie pastry, lard makes far flakier ones. The reputation of many country cooks I knew were probably made by their regular use of lard. Food establishments have known it for a very long time–just as sex sells almost everything, fat and lots of it makes food taste good. I’m pretty sure many people where I grew up are still using lard today. Old habits and preferences die hard. What do you suppose we’re using today, that’s considered a healthier alternative, will we be ostracizing in 30 or 40 years.

And no wonder women growing up in those years had such a distorted sense of who they were.

This must be the reason I don’t look cute anymore. When Hubby retired, I did too. Sorta. These days I designate and we both work just a little bit to keep the house just clean enough it would fool the health inspector were he/she to drop by.

What about all those women you know with muddy skin. Heaven forbid. Not to mention pimples and blackheads!

But we all know the real culprit is fat, just as much now as it was the century this ad came out. Which more or less brings us full circle to the happy couple above who eat lard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once we banish all that fat with the sanitized tape worms, get the muddy skin all whitened, then we were ready to go out in the world and capture a man to take care of us, as long as we work hard keeping house for him of course. If we were real lucky, he would buy us stuff. To cook. ‘Cause that’s what we’re for. (Hubby only wishes!)  😛

 

Finally, being mindful of the season (I was out Christmas shopping in the afternoon, after all) I couldn’t resist throwing in this hint from none other than our 40th president, Ronald Reagan for a fine gift suggestion this Christmas. No wonder health care costs rocketed. It’s a wonder half of us are even alive.

learning something new every day

If I ever do have a dull moment or two, there’s always the internet. Just a click or two away the world awaits! I know everyone has his/her own favorites, but at least a couple of weird things have caught my attention lately and I’d really like to share them with you.

A museum open in Kentucky in the spring of 2007 that presents an account of the origins of the universe–life, mankind, and man’s early history according to the literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis. Brought to fruition by an Australian who moved to this country in 1987, it’s called the Creation Museum, and hopes to recruit converts of all its visitors who aren’t Christians already. It rejects evolution theory, asserting that the Earth and all of its life forms were created 6000 years ago over a six-day period. Its exhibits incorporate the idea that humans and dinosaurs once coexisted, and that dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark, all in stark contrast to the scientific community’s determination that the earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old, and that the dinosaurs became extinct 65.5 million years before humans showed up.

I got  not only a little glimpse into the Museum itself, but figuratively saw it myself in pictures, both word and digital, through the eyes of a science-based educated non-Christian in this blog post he calls “Kentucky Fried Creation.” If, like me, you’re interested in seeing but not really enough to go to the bother of actually going there, you may enjoy what he has to show and tell.

Now, if you’ve had trouble with the big “C”-word lately, no not cancer because as a survivor I’ve demoted that c-word to small letters; no, I mean the one that means elimination. Did I hear a yes somewhere in the back row? Would it surprise you if I say that you may be wearing the wrong bra? Does yours have an underwire? Actually, the last few years I’ve found it hard to find any other kind, and I don’t have a bust size that really requires underwire support. You may want to read this inspiring “weird science” post. Live and learn. Really!

Just in case, that’s not enough diversion for your Monday, I invite you to enjoy this YouTube visit with this toddler who has a lot of serious stuff to say. It takes her about four minutes if you can spare the time. Just a thought: this may possibly be the first female president of the United States. See for yourself: