Sunday, April 29, 2012


We lost Bandit this week. He was 18 years old, which is like 1,000 in dog years.

He'd pretty much been fading before our eyes, which is why I used the fuzzy setting in Instagram to take his picture. In the past few months, he seemed to be in soft focus all the time.

His ailments became numerous.

He lost weight.

He stared into space a lot, but didn't appear to be in pain. Just confused. Maybe waiting.

We knew that we were getting closer to his final day, but we didn't think it would come when we were in Savannah to celebrate my mother-in-law Betty's 90 years on this earth.

The good news is our girls were with us because of their grandmother's memorial service. Had we been in Naperville, not all of us would have been together to rush poor Bandit to the vet (thank you, Dr. Gall at Chatham Animal Hospital) or rub his ears 24 hours later and kiss him good bye.

This was taken two months ago on the island where my mother-in-law lived for 20 years.

Bandit was pretty keen to sniff out the what's what of the Landings Harbor Marina with its marsh grasses and ocean and wildlife. I suspect a dog's nose can appreciate a view like this in ways we will never know.

So, while we are sad, we'd like to think that he is in a place where there is no thunder to scare him. Pepperoni pizza is always on the menu. Playing keep away from the humans is not frowned upon. And there is always an accommodating lap.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Belle Mère

She was artistic, a really good cook, knowledgeable about birds and plants, and a bacteriologist who discovered a promising antibiotic during World War II. (Her bosses took the credit.)

She could sew just about anything, put an earthworm on a fishing hook, dress like a million bucks, navigate effortlessly in foreign countries, and decorate a room so it was memorable and always pretty.

When our child was having difficulty with the Periodic Table in Science class, she said, "Clearly, her teachers aren't teaching it right."

Advocate. Friend. Mother to me longer than my own mother was.

U of I grad. Southern Illinois girl. Wise in the ways of the stock market.

I have always admired those whose left and right brains work at full speed.

That was our Betty, whom we lost on Thursday.

Mother, grandmother, great-grandmother. My mother-in-law, or belle-mère, as they say in France.

I will admit she was intimidating at first. She was dignified and formal. It would take time to figure out this independent and elegant woman. Detente was achieved just about the time we produced daughters on whom she could lavish love and attention. And time.

She went horseback riding with us in the Smoky Mountains. She spent a lifetime weekend taking our eldest on every amusement park ride in Dollywood. She sewed clothes for the girls that were so sweet, people would stop me on the street and ask where I'd bought them. She loved Savannah's spring tour of homes and invited me each year to inhale these historic and gorgeously decorated houses with her.

She gave the greatest birthday gifts. And Christmas gifts. She was an expert shopper with a keen and discerning eye. She would tell the story of her "Piaget" watch (purchased on a street in Bangkok) that needed repair, so she had to drive at least an hour away to an anonymous jeweler who wouldn't blab about its real pedigree.

She could refinish chairs and tables and dressers. She arranged odds and ends from her yard into magnificent centerpieces. She designed every aspect of her home in Savannah, right down to the wood applique on the fireplace mantel, while laid up with a broken ankle.

Betty taught me how to quilt, and how to persevere.

I am grateful for the lessons. I will miss the teacher very much.

Betty's 90th birthday
Feb. 10, 2012
Savannah, GA

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


One of the benefits of driving all over creation in the course of one's work day is discovering what's outside the boundaries of one's hometown.

Pretty neat stuff, truth be told.

Fabulous architecture.

Neighborhoods abundant in character and charm.

Bridal wreath spirea so bodacious, you want to pull over and make yourself a bouquet (even if you aren't the bride).

You know, aesthetic stuff. The kind of stuff that enhances a life and the rate of speed at which you drive through a village.

I didn't have time to photograph everything (the boss keeps a tight schedule), but I did use my phone to capture this:

Behold that swirling bark.

Isn't it amazing (if not a bit torn up. Squirrels? Overreaching cats?)

Don't you want to have this tree in your life?

Honestly, the undulations of this tree remind me of a ruched wedding dress, albeit in a 3X. And very scratchy.

Glen Ellyn, you've made my head turn.

And while I don't think Glen Ellyn Now has quite the same cache as Naperville Now, the town has definitely caught my eye.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


When we first moved to Naperville, I spent a lot of time preserving my great uncle's watercolors with the Colbert family, whose framing shop was located in the same center as Colonial Ice Cream. (This was 200 years before Trader Joe's and Oswald's moved in.)

Nearly all of my Uncle Frank's paintings are now matted in acid-free mats and under UV glass. I'd like to think that my descendants will come to love them as much as I do (and if they don't, I will haunt them down if they sell them at a garage sale in the year 2525.)

Colbert Custom Framing since has relocated to larger digs at Naper Boulevard and 75th Street (on what is known as the Jewel side of Naper). Truth be told, I hadn't been in the new shop yet, but I stopped in this week because of a voicemail, telling me that they had seen the article about this blog in the Naperville Sun and had framed it for me.

As a gift.

No charge.

Just drop in when you get a chance.

(My apologies for the poor photography of what is a beautifully matted -- green/gray linen -- and framed story about Naperville Now.)

If you thought my head was getting too big with all the attention, you'd be right.

Thank you, Kevin and Sue Colbert. A lovely gift, one that will go nicely along with the Uncle Frank paintings the senior Colberts helped me conserve all those years ago.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter 1989

The Easter Bunny photo op strikes me as uniquely American: outsized, a little weird and in a mall.

Nevertheless, as parents, we do what we do to our children. I am definitely happy for the memory of 23 years ago. It makes me laugh and sigh a bit, too.

I also remember coming home that same day, our van suddenly wrapped in a foggy gloom that hurled baseball-sized hail at us. It was deafening.

"STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT!" the littlest one cried from the backseat as hail continued to pour down on us.

"SHE'S.NOT.DOING.IT!" the eldest cried back.

Unable to see a blessed thing outside the windshield except a scraggly tree, I turned and headed back toward the mall and steered my way into an open loading dock. The pounding ceased and the sun ("Storm? What storm?") came out a minute later.

Wits restored, I backed up and drove away. In my rear view mirror, I could see the back of the mall. There was but the one open bay, and I had managed to steer us into it.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Weak Antiques

The five-hour drive to St. Louis has several "antique" malls along the way, so on Friday, I decided to see what's what.

This was an even greater time sucker than Pinterest.

First, let me warn you that every ashtray that used to live in the Chicago area now resides in southern Illinois (and Missouri). Every single one, most not washed.

I used to think those ceramic salt and pepper shakers were the worst part of the so-called collectible inventory. Believe me, ashtrays now outnumber them 10-to-1.

Clearly, television shows like American Pickers, Antiques Roadshow and Pawn Stars have ruined the interstate "antique" mall business. (Unless you wish to corner the ashtray market, that is.)

Check it out:
Bad puppy art.


Portrait of Gary Cole
 (you know, the gun expert on The Good Wife

Never mind. I know someone who collects these.

Bad reading material.

Disco purse. Embarrassing, even then.

These lamps give me a headache.

Where has all the good stuff gone? Ebay? The dump?

Well, I have too much stuff anyway. And I don't need anything.

But did you hear about the guy in Ohio who bought a print at a thrift shop?

It was signed and numbered.

By Picasso.

It cost $14.

Read (and weep) about it here.

Ever buy something in an "antique" shop that was actually worth considerably more than you paid for it? Care to share in the Comments section?

(I bought a first edition of To Kill a Mockingbird -- with dust jacket -- 2 years ago in Geneva, IL. It cost $15. Now, if I could just convince Harper Lee to autograph it...)