Irma B! Who Are You?

Erma B

I bought this silver bracelet at Clearing House, my mom’s favorite consignment store in Towson, Maryland.

Who would give up such a pretty, simple bracelet?

Surely Irma didn’t sell it herself. Maybe, but I doubt it.

So what family member decided not to keep it? Couldn’t a granddaughter or cousin or niece wear it in Irma’s memory?

Every time I put on the bracelet, I wonder about Irma.

Did she ride horses?  Play the flute?  Bake a great pie?  Shoot skeet? And dare I add, what was her menopause like if she lived that long?

Poor lost abandoned Irma.

I have an idea! One of my daughters can have a daughter and name her Irma B!


The bracelet will be hers! I’ll tie a pink ribbon around it and bring it to the hospital the second I get the news.

Not sure Irma is at the top of Kath or Laura’s list of names, though.

Maybe I’ll have a chance encounter with someone named Irma B. I’ll gallantly remove the bracelet. “Here, please take it,” I’ll say, pressing it onto the new Irma’s wrist.

Perhaps a reader, one of you, will come forward. “My name is Irma B.”

If so, Irma, the bracelet will be in the mail to you tout de suite.

But until that day, I honor Irma, mysterious Irma B, by sporting her name on my wrist.

Erma B


Thanksgiving: The Greatest Thing


Ah. These words shout “Thanksgiving!” louder than a mountain of mashed potatoes or a planet full of pies.

They speak a truth you know as well as I, so I won’t say a word more.

I’ll just wish you the exuberance of your favorite balloon floating over the Macy’s Parade.

Curious George

And thank you for your kindness during a year when I’ve counted my blessings in ways I would never expect.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanks Giving Square

Thanks-Giving Square: I snapped these photos last Christmas when we visited daughter Laura in Dallas, Texas. You can learn more about the Thanks-Giving Foundation here.

Curious George over Fifth Avenue: My top balloon choice is George! Read the fascinating (and scary) story of H.A. and Margret Rey, George’s creators here.


I love reading the books and watching the TV show with my best little monkey, my grandson Mazen.

Barbara and Grandson


My Cancer Story: Moms and Apron Strings

Although I’ve cried some buckets since my cancer surgery in July (that story to come!), I never shed a tear before I went into the hospital.

In fact, my eyes only welled up with tears once. The morning after I received the diagnosis, I flew to Baltimore to visit my mom on a trip that had been planned for a month.

I stood at baggage claim. I want to tell Mom.

But I knew I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. I didn’t want to drag her through the worry of the surgery and the wait for the pathology report. She’d be too upset.

As soon as I walked into her apartment and the festivities began, I was fine. No way was I going to ruin the fun.

Apron strings. This experience taught me just how strong they are.

I did some digging around, and the expression is usually a negative one.

But not in this case. For me, the airport tears were just a lesson in love.

What about you?

Do you/did you share upsetting news with your mom?

The Fruit Apron:  My mom began collecting old things many years ago. The hand-stitched apron above hangs on a quilt rack in my guest room.

After the surgery, I did tell Mom. “I want to tell you a story,” I said, “and it’s got a happy ending.” She took it fairly well, all in all.


Downsizing: The Recycling Shed (and a Old Factory Candle Giveaway)


When I started my huge downsizing project this summer, my main goal was to keep as much as I could out of the landfill. I’ve done lots of donating and recycling.

But I became frustrated by the stuff that can’t be recycled and is too odd/hard for our local thrift shop to resell.

Enter the Salvage Shed!

Salvage Shed

You drop of your weird stuff, and people swoop it up. My load included a metal sign left by a wayward roofer, a bag of fabric scraps, and the candles above. The metal sign was gone before I even got back to my car.

The shed is part of our county recycling center and was the missing peg in my downsizing puzzle!

Now that my odd assortment of candles is gone, I’m enjoying brand new Old Factory Candles.


The company sent me their creative list of gift set offerings:

New Born Baby

Candle 5
The candles, only sold on Amazon, are made with natural soy wax, self-trimming cotton candle wicks, and premium fragrance oils. Each candles burns for twenty hours and comes in a a tidy jar. I chose Winter Wonderland: Hot Cocoa, Roasted Chestnut, and Fresh Snow. Time to gear up for winter! I love how the fragrance lingers after you puff out the candle.
Giveaway:  Old Factory is offering  candles to one Friend for the Ride reader. The winner will choose from the gift sets above. Please leave a comment by December 5 saying you’d like to be the winner. U.S. only please. Thanks!
Candle 7
Facebook: There’s a FB page for each candle set. Check out the page for Winter Wonderland here.

Ladies Room Door Art Series: Part Five

The Station Old Time Sign

Here’s the latest in our Ladies Room Door Art Series.

Two signs from one door. Way fun! The one above is at the bottom of the door at a funky bar, The Station, in Carrboro, North Carolina. The more elegant window is on the main section of the door. I have no clue what the “88/44” means.

The Station

The door below? Geesh, it’s Sheetz!!

Another Sheetz

I ran directly into this Silver Girl at the Baltimore Washington airport.

Airport Lady

From blog reader Pam, this stretched out lady graces the ladies room door a the American Legion in Keyesport, Illinois.

American Legion

A booby prize of a door. Yikes! You can find this lovely uni-sex bathroom door below at Wood’s Cold Storage in Stuart, Virginia.  (I’m not complaining though. A bathroom door, when you need one, by any rose would smell so sweet.)

Pestiside Door

Privy! This sign hangs near the bathrooms at The Bald Head Island Lighthouse.


I found this movie star at an old-time soda shop, Chaps Ice Cream, on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, Virginia. I don’t know who this is. Can you help? Is it Marilyn?

Movie Star

Now let’s step inside to the ladies room at the Asheville Brewing Company in Ashville, North Carolina. Reader Nancy sent us these shiny photos:

asheville brewing company bathrom - 01

Here’s a closeup:

asheville brewing company bathrom - 02

And another one:

asheville brewing company bathrom - 03

Here are doors of the Mellow Mushroom, near the ball park in Durham, North Carolina. At first, I thought “Femels,” was a kind of mushroom.


Then I checked out the men’s room door. I think it’s all just a play on the name Mellow Mushroom.

Mellow Mushroom

Shortly after I snapped these photos, my friend Gail sent this one from the Mellow Mushroom in Indianapolis.

Mellow Mushroom Indianapolis

Love this, which I found at the Baltimore Washington Airport. Severe weather in a ladies room would certainly liven up the potty trip!

Severe Weather

Elegance! Blog reader  Cindy found the lovely door below at L’Oncle Antoine in Quebec City.


Thanks to Pam, Gail, Nancy, and Cindy!

The adventure continues. Art abounds.  Please keep your camera ready when you visit the privy!


Colonoscopy! I Did It (Finally)



When you put off getting your first colonoscopy, there are reminders everywhere. Look at this charming toilet seat I discovered on a walk.

And those who’ve had a colonoscopy can be quite holier than thou:

“What, Barbara, you haven’t done one?”

“No colonoscopy? Gee, I’m on my second.”

“Really? Oh my. You need to get going. Only bad part is the prep!”

When I received a cancer diagnosis this summer, I was annoyed with myself that I hadn’t had a colonoscopy yet. It would have been a relief to know that part of me was cancer-free. So, after I recovered from the surgery, I did it!

UNC  Gastroenterology says no veggies, fruit, or whole grains three days before the procedure. I sort of enjoyed the reversal on what I was supposed to be eating.

The day before the procedure, nothing but liquids and Jello. I was surprised how many times a hunger pang hit, and I thought, oh go get something to eat. Then I’d remember. The Jello helped some, as did broth and soda and apple juice, but I was sure hungry.

That morning I’d mixed up, per instructions, the prescription of Colyte. The Colyte’s in the bottom of the jug. You add a flavor packet and a lake full of water.

People compare the bowel cleanse their docs prescribe as if they’re comparing colleges or cars. The Gatorade people are especially smug, as rumor says that concoction tastes best.

At six o’clock in the evening I drank my first of sixteen glasses of Colyte. “It tastes salty, ” I said to Cliff.  “Kind of like thick sea water. Not bad at all!” I held out the glass. “Want to try?”

My husband eats and drinks everything. He backed away. “No thanks.”

Standard advice is to gulp it. Not me. I’d sip mine.That’s how okay the stuff tasted.

That is, until I got to the second glass.

Below is the final glass, Glass Number 16, chugged down at five-thirty the next morning. This picture makes me gag even two weeks later.

Middle of the Night Colyte

Spending lots of time in the bathroom was annoying but not bad since there’s no physical pain involved.

And the procedure went great. I’ve gotten braver since my surgery, and when someone offers me warm blankets (before) and my beloved Coke, (after), I’m happy. My doc snipped off six polyps. I’m glad to have them gone since benign polyps can become cancerous.

So what’s the Friend for the Ride takeaway?  What advice do I have?

You got to gulp the glop.

It’s the only way to do it.

And if I can do it, so can you!

Middle of the Night Colyte


One Big Pair of Underwear! A Picture Book Giveaway



A guest post from writer Laura Gehl:

Woo-hoo!  Barbara asked me to write a guest post about UNDERWEAR in honor of my debut picture book One Big Pair of Underwear, illustrated by the fabulous Tom Lichtenheld.  What could be more fun than writing about underwear?


First, quick question: do you prefer the word “underwear” or the word “panties?”  Personally, I love the word underwear and hate the word panties.  The word panties actually makes me cringe.  I do like the expression “Put on your big girl panties,” though.  If you are not familiar with this expression, here is how it can hypothetically be used:

An editor I really love rejected my book, so I want to lie on the couch, eat chocolate, watch junky TV, and cry.  But instead, I am going to put on my big girl panties and get back to work. (Note: this may or may not be a real scenario from my life.)


Having the word underwear in the title of a children’s book is a surefire way to hook readers and book-buyers.  Wonderful, right?  Mostly.  The one problem is that some readers are apparently disappointed when they discover that my book is also about bears, yaks, goats, candy bars, hockey sticks, and jet skis.  In fact, the only negative comments I have received about One Big Pair of Underwear were from people who felt underwear deserved a more prominent role in the book.

So, to atone for my sins (i.e. writing a book that is actually about counting and sharing, then drawing in unsuspecting readers with a picture of giant underwear on the cover), I will now talk ONLY about underwear for a few minutes.

I’ll start with some fun underwear facts (I can’t promise these are 100% accurate):

Ten percent of women own more than thirty-five pairs of underwear.

  1. The average woman owns twenty-one pairs of underwear.
  2. Nine percent of men have worn the same underwear for ten years.
  3. There is a world record for wearing the most pairs of underwear at one time. In 2010, this record was 215 pairs, set by a 10-year-old.  In 2012, a new record was set at least twice…first by a woman, who put on 252 pairs, and then by a man, who put on 302 pairs.
  4. Even squirrels wear underwear these days. Fortunately, you can buy boy or girl squirrel underwear on Amazon, so you have the ability to outfit your squirrels from the convenience, and privacy, of your own home.

Now, a more serious underwear question to ponder: If an astronaut lives on the International Space Station for six months, or 180 days, and if there is no washing machine on the International Space Station…or within 250 miles…what is that astronaut supposed to do with 179 pairs of dirty underwear?

And, in conclusion, some (sort of) serious answers.

  1. Astronauts don’t actually get to wear clean underwear every day. They have to wear the same pair for 3 days, or longer.
  2. Huge amounts of built-up dirty underwear are placed in a non-reusable spacecraft and de-orbited, which means that the spacecraft and all dirty underwear aboard burn up in the atmosphere.
  3. Scientists are working on ways to get bacteria to eat the astronauts’ used underwear. Which really gives a whole new meaning to the idea of edible underwear.

Giveaway: I’m giving away one copy of Laura’s delightful picture book, One Big Pair of Underwear. For a chance to win, simply leave a comment by December 1. U.S. and Canada only. Thanks!


Laura Gehl is the author of One Big Pair of Underwear, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, which released in September 2014 from Simon & Schuster.  Laura is also the author of four other upcoming picture books.  None of the other four books are about underwear, but Laura hopes you will consider reading them anyway.  Visit Laura online at and