Category Archives: Uncategorized

Virtual Wanderlust

One of the interesting parts of being a writer, advertising my books, and having an active website is tracking from where my website visitors come. Thanks to Google Analytics, I can see (approximately) each visitor’s log-in location. I initially expected most visitors to come from the Owatonna area and Minnesota in general. To a large part, they do live in those areas. But over the last three years, my biggest number of “fans” hailed from someplace called Samara, Samara Oblast in Russia. And this is #1 by a huge margin out of more than 840 locations that have been detected on my website in the last three years.

Samara is a large city (3 million +) southeast of Moscow on the Volga River. Lest you think my books have been translated into Russian and become wildly popular in a town not too far from the NW border of Kazakhstan, the real reason for my seeming popularity is probably something else.

I probably was the target of an intense robo-campaign to hack into my website by a company or an individual who mistakenly thought I had anything of value on my author website like credit card numbers. Fat chance. I don’t handle ANY transactions on my website and don’t intend to! The “Samarians” haven’t checked in with me in the past year or more, which further points to a hacking campaign that was eventually discontinued.

Nevertheless, it got me to haul out my world atlas and start looking up all the strange places where people come from who have checked out for one reason or another. Because I’ve been in love with map reading since I was about four years old, this is a fun diversion for me. I can page through an atlas for hours, noticing towns, states, bodies of water, islands, and mountains that stir my imagination and get me wondering what a trip to that exotic (or not-so-exotic) place would be like.

So I’ve wasted lots of time wondering about other locations that show up on my Google Analytics dashboard: St. Petersburg, Russia; Vienna, Austria; Naples, Italy; Kailua, Hawaii; and Hull, England. All are places in the top 70 locations that have landed on my website over the past three years.

That leads to my question: With what places do you have a strange or unique connection that is not physical OR personal (as in having relatives or friends who live there)?

A Wonderful Life?

Today’s trail post comes to us from Occasional Caroline.

My aunt died at the end of January. She was ninety-onederful and a truly remarkable woman. She lived her life with purpose and gusto. In the late 60s, she created one of the first on-site daycare centers in the country, for the children of employees at a large hospital in her city. She marched with MLK in Selma. She was a trailblazer, a world traveler, an adventurer, a humanitarian, an influencer, a sailor, an animal lover, and an avid reader who instilled a love of reading in countless children. She had strong beliefs in justice, equality, and human rights, and she didn’t just believe in them, she lived them.

My cousin’s son wrote a wonderful tribute to her, that he read last week at her memorial service. Another eulogy read at the memorial, was written by the minister of the church she had attended for many years, before moving to Florida about 4 years ago. The eulogy started out normally enough, stating her date and city of birth, the names of her parents and sibling (my mother), and some accurate biographical information. Then, random events from someone else’s life began to be interspersed with the things we all recognized. I thought throughout the reading that there were things there that I didn’t recall, but I had never lived in the same city as my aunt, uncle and cousins, so even though we kept in touch quite well through the years, I accepted that I might have missed out on hearing about some aspects of their lives. However, the description of a family road trip when she and my mother were children, I couldn’t explain away.

My cousins and I discussed the service later that afternoon and we had all had the same reaction; WTH? There were life events scattered through the eulogy that none of us had ever heard of, and certainly had not submitted to the minister for inclusion in the service. When I got home, I went to see my mother, almost directly from the airport, and read a copy of the eulogy to her. My burning question was about the story of my grandparents and their two daughters taking a road trip to Mexico, having car trouble, eventually locating a mechanic who was able to order parts but couldn’t get them for several days, so he (the mechanic) invited the family to stay at his home until the parts arrived. When the car was fixed, the road trippers bid farewell to the kind mechanic and continued on their journey to Mexico. Enroute, they saw a man painting a mural and stopped so my grandfather could chat with the artist, who turned out to be Diego Rivera! My mother assured me, in no uncertain terms, that this was not something that had ever happened in any family she’s ever been a part of, or known about.

It’s a mystery, but we have two possible theories as to how this and several other heretofore unknown “family” events made it into the memorial service. Perhaps my aunt wrote her own augmented obituary, left it at the church with instructions that it be opened in the event of her death, just to mess with us. Or, more likely, the minister used a eulogy for another recently deceased woman with the same first name, as a boilerplate for the one she wrote for my aunt, and forgot to delete all the bits about the other dead lady.

In any event, the random additions to my aunt’s life story make for a quirky memory that will live on (and possibly be embellished) in family lore for years to come.

How would you “enhance” your obituary?

My Fake Fur

About three years ago I purchased a coat online. I just wanted one really warm coat and I found an on sale faux fur item – a size too big, but I figured I would always be wearing a fat sweater underneath.  I wouldn’t normally wear faux fur, just on principle, but it was such a good price that I went ahead and bought it.  I have a rule for when I wear this coat.  If when I am leaving the house it is 10 degrees or lower, then on goes the white coat, like a wearable weather vane.

This coat gets SO MUCH ATTENTION. People who know my temperature rule mention it, people walking by my cube stop and touch it.  Strangers come up to me and comment.  You’d be amazed at the number of people who think it’s OK to stroke my coat while I am actually wearing it.  Unbelievable.  Honestly I don’t think I have ever worn it that it didn’t get at least one comment during the day.

So I wasn’t surprised on Wednesday when I saw two women motioning to me while I was walking through JoAnn Fabrics. But then as I got closer, I realized one of the women was wearing the same coat!  I asked her if she got the same reactions that I did and she confirmed that her coat is also a magnet for comments and touches.  She’s even had a co-worker take it off the hanger and try it on without asking.

It was a fun 5-minute commiseration before we each went on our way, although by coincidence, we ended up in the check-out line next to each other. The cashier was not impressed by our story.

What do you have that draws attention?


What Day Is It?

In December I picked up (on sale) the 2019 National Day Calendar: The Official, Authoritative Source for Fun, Unusual & Unique National Days. Thought it would be good for possible blog posts, but I’d kind of forgotten about it till now. I notice that March is full of them –  we’ve already missed:

– Read Across America Day – March 1, also called Dr. Seuss Day, and

– Fat Tuesday – March  5 – which was also Multiple Personality Day. (I wonder how you celebrate that?!)

However, we haven’t missed:

– International Women’s Day – March 8, of which you may be aware. And we know

– Pi Day – March 14 – is coming up next week, thanks to VS’ parties.

Here are more holiday highlights from the rest of March that you can still celebrate. I’ve found online explanations of how some of these “holidays” came to be. (I’m not taking time for details on all of these gems, so feel free to give us details on the ones I’ve neglected.)

 – Worship of Tools Day – March 11 ..“a day to go out into the garage, the tool shed, the storage closet or where ever it is you keep your tools. You can clean them, reorganize them, make something new with them or maybe go to the store and buy a new one.”

– Plant a Flower Day – March 12

– Good Samaritan Day – March 13

– Corned Beef & Cabbage Day – March 17   (not surprisingly)

– Awkward Moments Day – March 18

– Common Courtesy Day – March 21   (also French Bread Day)

– Near Miss Day – March 23 ..“an annual reminder of the day in 1989 when an asteroid nearly collided with the Earth.”

– Tolkien Reading Day – March 25 ..“organised by the Tolkien Society since 2003 to encourage fans to celebrate and promote the life and works of J.R.R. Tolkien by reading favourite passages.

– Joe Day – March 27  “Enjoy a cup of ‘joe’ with all of your friends named Joe, Jo, Josette, Joey, Joseph, Josephine, Johanna, Joann, Jodie or any variant of the name Joe every year”

– Take a Walk in the Park Day – March 30

What holiday do you wish we could celebrate? When on the calendar would you put it?

Zippy the Wonder Car

With a nod to Anna, who started this discussion a couple of days back….

I bought my first car, a Toyota, when I was living in Northfield. I had spent the first winter after leaving school riding my bike out to the Country Kitchen on Highway 19 and didn’t want to do that again.  It was pale blue and got me through several winters before giving up the ghost.  I didn’t name that car; giving a name to a car didn’t even occur to me.

Then I met a woman who called her little car “Zippy the Wonder Car”. To this day I’m not sure why I thought this was so enchanting but I did, so when I purchased my next car (back in the 80s), I decided she should have a name.  She was a Honda Civic and when I discovered that the Italian word for flirt was “civetta”, I was hooked.  I had Civetta for almost 15 years.

I let Child help me name our next car, which made the process a LOT longer. This car was a Saturn Ion and we eventually settled on Ivy.  We usually called her by her whole name – Ivy the Ion.  Not quite as much fun as the Italian word for flirt, but it stuck.

My current car is named Brekke. She’s a Honda Insight and I couldn’t find any “I” names that I really liked.  Brekke is a character from one of my favorite sci fi authors, Anne McCaffrey.  Brekke is one of a few characters on the dragon world of Pern who have the ability to communicate telepathically with ALL dragons, not just her own.  If I were to live on a dragon world, that is an ability I would certainly want.

Have you ever named an inanimate object?

If not, what name would you choose for your current mode of transport?







If I were I Carrot

Husband and I ordered all our seeds for this year’s garden, but still peruse the seed catalogs to see if we missed anything. We received a new catalog this year from a place in Missouri (Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds), and we noticed they had the most delightful descriptions  of their seed varieties. You can tell they love the seeds they sell, and we thought the blurbs for some of the seeds sounded like descriptions of people. Here are some examples:

Cold hardy old variety from Denmark (Strawberry)

Earthy and spicy (Carrot)

Exceptionally sweet, tender, and above all-tough (Cucumber)

A Dakota variety,  so you know its rugged (Pole Bean)

Arrives fashionably late (Parrot Tulips)

A classic pear shape (Paste Tomato)

A reliable keeper (Cabbage)

Large and elegantly showy (Cosmos)

Husband just wants to be a reliable keeper. I like to think of myself as a rugged, Dakota variety. I want to avoid pear shaped.

Write a seed catalog blurb of yourself or someone else.

Modern Heraldry

The family crest in the header photo is that of my Great Grandmother Cluver.  The Cluvers were a very old family of knights and landowners  from northern  Germany near Bremen.  The crest shows a black claw of a bear on a golden field. The open helmet has a ball with a wreath and a column of peacock feathers.  I’m not sure what the seven flags represent. The family was in its  heyday in the 14th and 15th centuries.  You can see the crest on Cluver family memorial plaques from that time period in the Bremen Dom, or cathedral. They chose to remain Roman Catholic during the Reformation and lost most of their property and land when the region  was occupied by the Lutheran Swedes during the Thirty Years War.  By the time my great grandmother was born in the late 1800’s, they were small farmers and shop keepers. My great grandmother was a domestic servant before her marriage. That crest hasn’t reflected the status of the family for several hundred years.

Daughter rescued a hapless Yellow Lab from a busy intersection in Tacoma last week, and managed to track down the owners since the pup was  microchipped. When she told me about it I thought “well, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”,  since she saw us rescue many a dog and cat and get them to safety. That is when I thought about our family crest and what an updated one would look like.  I think it would have the profile of a Welsh Terrier in the center encircled by cats. Husband said a rolling pin and a garden fork would be appropriate symbols, too, as well as the Greek letter Psi, a symbol for psychology.  We should have a violin or cello worked into the design. Of course, there would be a baboon, too.

What would be on your modern family crest?