All about Me

15 Aug 2009 11:40 pm


Stacked hats in my parents’ shop, Fletchers’ Country Corner

The shop sits on Main Street in Van Buren, Arkansas, just across the street from the old railroad depot.

To explain the genesis of my parents’ life-long hobby and business I have to begin with some background.

Growing up in my parents’ home was quite an exhilarating and interesting experience. Our family lived in a little white frame house on a few acres of land. The woods in back had a fence that ran around the perimeter of the property and there was a white picket fence in front. Daddy kept a garden and in the early years we had chickens. I remember finding eggs in nests. Wild asparagus grew out in the woods. I never learned to like it until I discovered the white asparagus (spargel) in Germany.


My paternal grandfather was quite a fisherman. In fact, my grandmother once told me that she took up fishing to save her marriage. (smart woman) It was fun to go fishing with them, especially to go out in their boat. My parents were very over-protective so wouldn’t let that happen very often and it was only in their presence. My Dad, being my Dad, put a little artistry in his display of the fishing lures, hanging them on a tree branch. Some of the lures belonged to my grandfather.

My parents started collecting early on. First, they discovered the glory of garage sales, then they started to go to estate sales. By the time I was in college I remember coming home one day to find a beautiful old antique floor lamp in the living room. That would have been a wonderful addition to the living room but no, that would not have been the true style of our quirky family. On top of the lamp was stacked about ten lamp shades. I looked at my Dad and said, “What do you call this?” He answered, “Repetition.”


I remember watching my mother-in-law take slices of leftover roast beef and put it in the old fashioned meat grinder. After she ground it, she put the meat in a bowl. Then, she added some pickles and mayonnaise and a little salt and pepper and it made a glorious sandwich. I also have an old fashioned meat grinder and wouldn’t trade it in for a blender for anything.

My Dad closed the gate in the front yard and opened the gate to the back pasture so Scout, our Pinto horse could have the run of the yard at night. Talk about a great security service. I remember waking up in the morning during the summer to find Scout looking in my window. We didn’t have air conditioning back then and if he sneezed, the spray landed all over my face. Scout was my wake up call in the summer.

The front porch had a swing (one of my favorite places) and the kitchen was dominated by a beautiful antique dining table. Sitting in one corner of the room by the old player piano was an antique cherry wood chair. The top of the back of the chair featured a carved angel face with wings. I loved that old chair. At night I tended to get scared and would let my imagination run away to dark woods leading to creepy old houses with spider-webbed filled rooms. I would get up and go into the kitchen and sit a while in that angel chair and feel better.

My maternal grandfather had a drycleaners downtown on Garrison Avenue in one of the oldest buildings in Fort Smith. It had a tall ceiling and a mural depicting three seasons on the half clear story. Upstairs my grandfather stored old family heirlooms and furniture. He didn’t like anything old, preferring instead, contemporary furniture. My mother loved antiques so selected pieces of the furniture ended up in our home.


Brooklyn Dodgers Fan Bank

My Dad and brothers are baseball fans and have always been. I don’t think there is one bit of baseball trivia that they don’t know. In fact, once I heard my brother talking about baseball in his sleep. They are still the family authorities on all things baseball. My Dad once drove all the way to Iowa just to pick up a certain baseball trading card. Beats all I ever saw. The family once drove all night just to take in a Saint Louis Cardinals game.


My Uncle Max brought this Geisha doll back from the war and gave it to my grandmother. She is peering around the corner to keep an eye on the customers. I hope she never sells because I would like to bring her home someday. She sat on the corner of my grandparents’ mantle for as long as I can remember so I’m sure she’s comfortable with corners.

When I became a teenager I became more sensitive about the appearance of our home. The oddities that found their way into our house took up random spaces, seeming to have lives of their own. I was always partial to the heavy antiques even though they claimed most of the space.

Eventually, the shop was born.

Each item has a story; some whisper little hints while others scream outloud. The recital of our lives bears repeating on some quiet evenings. There’s no mathematical magic involved, just the glimpse of a deep memory that is inspired by the image or the touch of an everyday object.

13 Aug 2009 10:26 pm


I wondered when they put me under if, when I awoke, I would still have my health care.

I stayed in the hospital for eight days and each day, as I grew more conscious, I heard news accounts of mobs of people screaming at representatives at Town Hall Meetings. Democrats’ Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi claimed these Americans were bringing swastikas to the meetings. I began to wonder if it was just the pain killers confusing me. Now I know how Rip Van Winkle felt. Americans, in their civic duty are attending town hall meetings and are being called right wing crazies and nazis simply because they didn’t tow the Democrats’ line.


Now, it seems I do still have my health care, so far, anyway, thanks to the efforts of many Americans asking questions at town hall meetings. Asking questions, according to many in the media and the Obama administration is equal to treasonous activity. According to Nancy Pelosi it is unpatriotic to ask questions about the Democrat’s health care plans.

Jeeze. Louise. (but not Harry) We are un-American because either we have questions about Obama’s health care or we like the health care we have? In my case, I am lying in the hospital bed watching the news on a flashing television that is causing migraines but I want to know what is going on in the world (which in my case is a sign I am improving) and it becomes apparent to me that Democrats are not having good fun at these Town Hall meetings. They either don’t have adequate answers for their constituents or they don’t care to reveal them.

I’m in the hospital without a computer or the ability to blog but I am blogging in my mind throughout one night. Unable to sleep, my mind was racing with all my thoughts of health care, that I am receiving and the care I would lose if Obama’s plans were to pass.

This is my first hospitalization since the birth of my third child; my health problems didn’t start until three days after Obama’s inauguration. I’m not blaming him, but I’m just saying…….


In the hospital my mind was swirling with thoughts and fears of our future. I couldn’t turn my brain off. My mind wandered to when I was a little girl and my mother told me that it cost my parents one hundred dollars to give birth to me. I was born at the very same hospital where I am being treated. Amazing that it only cost one hundred dollars to be born. My parents paid twenty five dollars to our family doctor/obstetrician and seventy five to the hospital.

When I was five years old, my cousin, Vicky suffered third degree burns over ninety percent of her body when her little dress caught fire. She was playing with matches outside with her brother and friends and when her dress caught fire she began to ran. She spent a year in Sparks Hospital and then another year in the Baptist Childrens’ Hospital in Little Rock for skin grafts. Her father’s military unit gave blood for her many needed blood transfusions. Every Saturday my parents would take me to the hospital to visit with Vicky. We were the same age and I encouraged her to play.


My sister provided some art for my healing.

I will never forget the love and care that was given to my cousin by the hospital staff and her entire family. I spent many of those hours at the hospital with Vicky riding in old fashioned wicker wheel chairs. A very sweet nurse used to push us both sitting together in one chair through the hallways. That was one of Vicky’s favorite treats at the hospital.

When I read that today many people don’t survive third degree burns over ninety percent of their body I catch my breath. So much effort was put into saving Vicky’s life. I remember later, when Vicky and I were teens that my grandmother told me that my Uncle had finally paid all of Vicky’s medical bills. It took him ten years but he did it. No insurance, no medicare, no medicaid, no outside help.

My cousin grew up to become a wife, mom and a contributing member to society.

I remembered other experiences of my family members at this hospital in that night my mind would not sleep. I was just a visitor at the hospital back then. Sparks Hospital has been through many changes over the years. It’s still the oldest hospital in Arkansas. Every time a baby is born a lullaby plays throughout the hospital. It silences you when you hear it and brings tears to your eyes. What a beautiful welcome to the world for the babies.

Hospitals are under pressure nowadays with so many non-paying patients and this economy is not helping. It’s taken me a few days to hash out this piece because I am still recovering but I am recovering. I am proud of my fellow Americans who are speaking up to those who would rush our economy into ruin and take our health care coverage.

Yes, I like my healthcare. I have good private insurance that would most likely go away if Obama Care is passed.

Obama can’t take it away.

He will not take it away.

No. He won’t!

13 Jul 2009 08:45 pm


Doodle art by Laura Lee Donoho

Nicholas Wade comes to the defense of cats in John Tierney’s blog. He writes:

Cat-lovers, to arms, or at least to pen! A litany of unwarranted aspersions on our feline companions is to be found in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, an otherwise objective publication.

Cats “are more attached to places than people” is the first calumny.

“Cats do not perform directed tasks,” is the second.

It gets worse. “Their actual utility is debatable, even as mousers.”

These deplorable judgments are part of the authors’ thesis that cats took a different route to domestication than did other domestic animals.


Science, in its very essence, judges facts, not love. When Science attempts to enter that unknowable realm, it fails. Those who know the love of a cat have the experiential knowledge no scientist can comprehend. That is, unless they have their own cat at home. I much prefer poets, writers and philosophers when it comes to explaining the cat. Take Mark Twain, for instance. He said this, of cats:

A home without a cat - and a well-fed, well-petted and properly revered cat - may be a perfect home, perhaps, but how can it prove title?

Mark Twain

Pudd’nhead Wilson

Yes, our late Captain loved his Poppy best. He would not allow anyone to hold him on the shoulder except for his Poppy. Our home is still bereft of the meows, purrs and love of this magnificent cat and it always will be.

And yes, Captain kept the mice at bay.


Our late cat, Abbey was attached more to her people than her places, despite the notions of the scientists at the National Academy. Abbey was especially attached to our children and very protective of them. Our first winter at Fort Drum, New York was very hard on our health. We had moved from the tropical land of Panama to freezing New York and didn’t seem to have any immunity to the viruses that bore down on us.

Our daughter, Charlotte became very ill with a horrible sore throat and high fever. Abbey liked warmth, that is true but I don’t believe that was the reason she stayed so close to Charlotte. She kept vigil with her even after the fever broke and until Charlotte recovered. A few days later, Abbey fell ill. She became so sick we were afraid we would lose her. The vet didn’t know what was wrong with her and couldn’t tell us whether she had caught the virus from Charlotte but we knew that must have been the case. Abbey was an inside cat, despite the photo above. She recovered in a week and resumed her loving ways.

When our oldest daughter, Kate married, Abbey went with her and lived happily with Kate and her husband until she died of a stroke. She is still missed.


Then, there is Sabby.

We have had the privilege of sharing our many homes with him for sixteen years. He is a North Country cat, born in Watertown, New York and at one time our family was run by a triumvirate of cats, Captain, Sabby and Abbey. Sabby is the most possessive cat we have ever had. He is very intense but extremely loving. He’s also an incredibly intuitive and intelligent cat.

He uses his ability to “perform” to get our attention. Sabby likes to flip paper and paper box lids. He is ambidextrous at this activity and will perform this directed task every time it is requested. I suppose he does this because he chooses to but he also basks in the attention it gets him. Earlier in the year I had surgery and complications and spent twenty days in the hospital. When I returned home it was obvious that Sabby had missed me. He was definitely happy that I was home and wouldn’t leave my side. I awoke at night and discovered that he was staring at me and possibly checking my breathing.

I am Sabby’s pet.

He is very protective of me. He loves me. Scientists have no idea about the love domesticated cats can give.

Eighty million Americans do.

Sissy Willis does.

We who are the lucky ones,

we who love cats,

shall ne’er lack their love in return.

And gentlemen at the National Academy of Sciences

now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed

They know not cats.

Sorry, Will.


Ahh. There’s the Friday Ark for all of us who love and are loved by these magical creatures.

04 Jul 2009 01:16 am

There are a lot of things to be happy about this summer but watching the news has definitely not been one of them. Without a doubt, the coverage of the Obama administration by the lame stream media has to be the number one item that has made me sick.

Physically sick. Really.

So, herewith are things that have really disgusted me this summer.

1. The news coverage of the Obama adminstration by the lame stream media.

2. The unending attacks on Sarah Palin have been sickening. After nearly a year of unprecedented attacks on not only Sarah Palin but also her family, she announced today that she will be stepping down as governor of Alaska. Many commentators found fault today with Gov. Palin for stepping down from her elected position a year and a half early.

I have a feeling that this day, July 3rd, is the start of the 2012 election.

I don’t find that idea sickening at all. I find it heartening.

3. What is truly sickening? The fact that the usual Palin haters were even more inflamed by her announcement today and in their commentary chose the most negative take. They used their appearance as an opportunity to throw out even more insults. The recent Vanity Fair hit-piece by Todd Purdum (husband of Dee Dee Myers I believe) with the nasty little snipes against Sarah’s character that were contributed by McCain staffers is a disgusting piece of politics of personal destruction.

It is more than sickening.

It is despicable and one of the reasons why so many people call themselves former Republicans. We expect the Todd Purdums of the world to do their dirty work. We don’t expect paid staffers of a failed campaign to turn on the brightest and best member of that campaign.

They are low-down schmucks. Lower than that, really.

4. David Letterman is sickening. Big-time Sickening. His attack on Gov. Palin and her daughters was disgusting. His so-called apology a week later revealed he wasn’t sorry, he was just satisfying the corporate heads. World Wide Pants needs to be run off television. Here are some things to do to make that happen. Hat tip: Instapundit

5. I’m not finished. Democrats make me sick but I’ve had their number for a long time.

6. The Michael Jackson death coverage is enough already. There is something wrong with hundreds of reporters and thousands of clueless hangers-on without lives of their own who camp out in the street simply to catch a new bit of news about that despicable and disgusting person. No, I never did like his music. His voice was feminine and thin and I didn’t care for his style of hiccupping during his songs.

7. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are downright shady characters. I don’t like them. They make me sick.

They make the Founders sick.

8. I am sick of hearing the news media pronounce Sonia Sotomayor’s name with a Spanish accent. We live in an English speaking country. It makes the reporters look silly and it makes me sick. It’s sad that the Democrats are going to force early confirmation hearings in just a few weeks. It’s even sadder that there are only a few Republicans in the senate who will fight against her confirmation.

9. I am sick of the global warming myth. Why doesn’t anyone ask Al Gore to produce his college transcripts? I want to see the kind of science courses he took and his grades. He turns my stomach.

10. Barack Obama’s leadership as president of the United States has me more than dismayed. His defense of the Honduran president, and his lack of support for the Iranian protesters is more than disheartening. Indeed, it confirms to me that America is stuck for the next four years with a leader who doesn’t like her very much. Barack Obama sides with third world dictators. That doesn’t bode well for our future and it gives me a queasy stomach.

11. The sappy governor of South Carolina, Mark Sanford, has become a byword for disgusting, straying, unfaithful husbands. His tears for his mistress was nauseating.

12. Barack Obama has made Joe Biden his “point man” on Iraq.

God, that’s sick.

13. There is more but it is late and I can’t dwell on the negativity anymore tonight. Perhaps I will add more tomorrow. But it is the Fourth of July, Independence Day and I choose to celebrate our freedom while I still can.

Welcome Amused Cynic and Anchoress readers!

25 Jun 2009 02:50 pm


My Dad and Mom married young. They celebrated their 59th wedding anniversary this month.


My brothers, my sister and I were lucky kids. We had a father and mother who raised us with love, attention, and discipline. My Dad was always my idol and I followed him around like a puppy. (as I have written before)

I was busy celebrating Fathers Day with Daddy this past Sunday and neglected to honor him here at The Wide Awake Cafe. So here are some photos that almost capture his sweet essence.


My Pop, drinking a pop.


His grandkids call him “Pappy.


The Beautiful People

17 Jun 2009 12:23 pm


This was a great oak tree.

It stood for ages above the graves of my great (2nd) grandparents, Polly Miranda Mabry and Joseph Lafayette Stiles and my great grandfather, William Chase Whitmarsh and his three year old daughter, Ada Elizabeth. Ada Elizabeth died on Christmas Day from diptheria, leaving her mother devastated and unwilling to ever celebrate Christmas again. This sad tale was related to me by my grandmother when I was young.

In the shadow of the tree my ancestors rested and I always knew where to find them because of the great and mighty Oak.

I remember going with my grandmother, Hazel Alabama Whitmarsh Webster to Oak Cemetery to visit the graves of my ancestors and my grandfather, Guy Smith Webster when I was young. She told me stories about her father, William Chase Whitmarsh, a native of New Hampshire and her little sister, Ada. Her grandparents, Polly Miranda Mabry and Joseph Lafayette Stiles and her late husband, Guy S. Webster were also very important stops in the cemetery.

I listened raptly as Mamaw told me about her proud, grandmother, Polly, whose real name was Mary. The nickname for Mary was “Polly” during this long ago generation. I never understood that. Polly Miranda Mabry was born on September 6th, 1836. I always felt a kinship with her because September 6th is also my birthday.


This past Friday in our city there was a fierce thunderstorm (some say a possible funnel cloud) and the old Oak Tree met its demise. The tree fell to the ground, uprooted by a great wind. It shook the stable rest of three gravestones that marked the ground where four of my ancestors was buried. I was driving past Oak Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in our city this past Saturday. I was shocked to discover that the tree above the Whitmarsh/ Mabry and Stiles graves was uprooted.


According to my grandmother, Polly Miranda Mabry was native American or at least was in part. This photo is of poor quality but it is obvious that Polly was a native American. Through my genealogical research I have discovered that Polly’s mother, Nancy Caroline Payne was the daughter of Mathew Payne and Amelia Cooper. Her father was Parham Poole Mabry, a son of colonists who originally settled in the Bermuda Hundred in Virginia. Somewhere along the way our English roots melded with our native American roots. Strange that my interest in family roots was in part inspired by my girlhood visits to the cemetery with my melancholy grandmother and now an oak tree has been actually uprooted above them.

But as a wise man said, my ancestors are not there. The souls of William, Polly, Ada Elizabeth and Joseph have flown beyond our lowly atmospheric grief. They are in a much better place.



This gravestone for William Chase Whitmarsh and his three year old daughter, Ada Elizabeth is on the other side of the uprooted tree. There were older very simple gravestone/markers marking the graves but they were replaced by my great Aunt Ivy years ago.


There are a lot of other graves in Oak Cemetery that were damaged by the felling of the oak but our ancestors’ graves were right under the tree and its roots. There were four graves that I know of that were affected. William Chase Whitmarsh was buried beside his three year old daughter, Ada Elizabeth. Polly Miranda Mabry Stiles and her husband Joseph Lafayette Stiles were right beside each other. They were all in a row.


I fear that these gravestones will not be treated right when the tree is taken away and that Polly Miranda’s stone is destroyed. When I stopped by the cemetery this past Saturday I could not find her gravestone anywhere. There was a deep chasm directly under the roots of the tree. I tried to avoid looking in the pit, fearful that I might see something disturbing.

Our eyes avert from what we need not see.

Welcome Goodboys Nation readers.

17 Jun 2009 11:38 am


Yesterday I went to an art workshop/Share Day for art teachers in Paris, Arkansas. The workshop was excellent, full of ideas and art lessons as well as hands-on activities. The workshop was led by the art teacher at Paris, High School.

It was the best art seminar/workshop I have ever attended. The above art piece was done by all the art teachers who attended the workshop yesterday. It was inspired by a “journey.” Each of us was asked to brainstorm what a “journey” would mean to us. Then, we were asked to paint our journey.

My part of the painting is the Cathedral of Notre Dame with the sea of blue around it. Now that I think of it, that was an appropriate addition to the piece since I was painting in Paris, AR and the cathedral is in Paris, France.

That didn’t occur to me yesterday but that is not surprising. The entire day was an art experience. I didn’t take notice of the time as I have done in some workshops. If anything, the time passed by too quickly.

11 Jun 2009 12:33 pm


Laura at Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris, in Paris, France in 1978. Photo by Robert R. Donoho.

No, I wasn’t posing as a caryatid for Frank Lloyd Wright as the awesome and audacious Professor Althouse was captured doing the other day.

I was just thrilled to be in Paris. Notre-Dame was (and still is) the length, width, height, and depth of my favorite architectural structure in the entire world.

Long ago and faraway (in 1978) my husband and I were stationed in Augsburg, Germany, our first tour abroad. We had a young family, but managed to travel to France, Switzerland, Belgium and England. Sometimes we were lucky enough to have trusted babysitters to stay with our children. We had a great babysitter when we made our trip to Paris.

Some conservatives are incensed that President Obama took his family to Europe during his most recent overseas trip. I can’t be critical of the Obama family’s travels to Paris and London as long as the taxpayers are reimbursed.

On the other hand, this is the worst economy since the Great Depression and it’s odd that while regular Americans are scratching their own vacations Madame Obama is going full steam ahead with her own. She seems not to care about her fellow struggling Americans.

And yet, the Obamas are the First Family.

It is a wonderful experience for any American to see “the old country”. I would advise the Obamas to check out the history as well as the culture of the countries. Read a good historian like Paul Johnson.

Furthermore, it would have been my choice had Obama himself chosen to stay in Europe longer to just loll around. Get in some good smokes. Take the ice train to Berlin. Get some rest. He seems tired a lot. Or maybe Obama could hang out at The Côte d’Azur and take some topless strolls on the beach. He can surely spend his time thinking of more things he hates about America to add to his Apology Tour Act.

Obama should just leave Americans alone.

Alas, he left his wife and daughters in Europe.


Something tells me that Mrs. Obama is having a great time overseas. She caused quite a stir in London yesterday with her daisy outfit. There is something quite childlike in her choice of clothing. It seems that First Lady Michelle Obama likes to play dressup. At least in Great Britain.


My little girls always loved to play dressup. (These sweet little girls grew up to become tough lawyers.)

Perhaps Michelle Obama’s daisy outfit was some kind of in your face message to her fellow Americans.

What must Robin Givhan think?

10 May 2009 08:56 am


Oh, motherhood. Here I am in the midst of it, holding my youngest daughter, Charlotte while my oldest daughter, Kate holds my cousin’s baby, Molly and I try to assist her. It’s obvious from the photo that Charlotte did not appreciate the idea of my giving any attention to the new baby. She wanted to be the baby.

Motherhood is the most wonderful role in the world but it is not for the faint-hearted. When you step on the rollercoaster, put on the seatbelt. The ride will be wild and it never will end as long as you live. But it’s the best ride in the Park of Life.


Happy Mothers Day to my own, Mom who continues to be the dearest and most wonderful mother in the world.

Thank you Professor Reynolds for the Instalanche! A very nice Mothers Day gift that I highly recommend!

02 May 2009 12:13 pm


Today is the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby. Lots of tradition, fancy hats and beautiful horses.



Growing up with a horse made my sister and I naturally interested in horse racing. Lucy and I loved watching movies about horses, reading books about horses and sometimes we even pretended we were racehorses. We both wanted to be Velvet Brown in National Velvet. (starring Elizabeth Taylor) We loved the movie so much we learned every word of dialogue.

We learned to canter, trot, sprint (the only kind of dancing I ever did) and mimic the reining in of a well trained horse.


We learned to make mint juleps, we wore fancy hats, we had our own footraces and then we would venture in the back pasture to ride Scout. Scout was a pinto, not a thoroughbred but he had the heart of a race horse. When I took him out alone he had fleet feet. He would run like the wind for me. He was always a little more careful with Lucy riding on back. I wasn’t exactly what you would call a “Horse Whisperer,” but Scout and I had a real kinship. I never had to raise a spur or switch to get him to respond. Just a little pressure with my legs and he knew I was ready to rumble. What a horse!


Every year we rode Scout in the rodeo parade. Our grandmother always made us riding outfits for the rodeo. Our grandfather bought us new boots every year. In the photo above, Lucy and I are wearing our rodeo outfits while singing with our cousins, Jeanne, Vicky and Gaye. I believe we were singing, “Going to the Chapel.”

One year our outfits looked just like Velvet’s when she rode Pie in the Grand National Steeplechase. We wore hot pink cowboy hats.

Andrew Beyer of the Washington Post has a take on the race. I’m not a better. The race is about horses and running for me so I wouldn’t venture a guess on the winning horse.

Here are some interesting race links.

Shaking off Long Odds at the Derby

Roses are just a soft part of the Day

‘The Walk’ Longer than the Run for the Roses

Groundswell builds for ‘America’s horse’

This one will bring tears to your eyes.


UPDATE: The results of the always exciting Kentucky Derby this past Saturday were delightful. I watched as Mine That Bird came from behind and won the race! It was heartwarming to watch Calvin Borel’s “rose to the heavens” tribute to his late parents after he rode the great horse to victory.

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