Mammogram: A Poem



 A poem by Jo McDougall

“They’re benign,” the radiologist says,

pointing to specks on the x ray

that look like dust motes

stopped cold in their dance.

His words take my spine like flame.

I suddenly love

the radiologist, the nurse, my paper gown,

the vapid print on the dressing room wall.

I pull on my radiant clothes.

I step out into the Hanging Gardens, the Taj Mahal,

the Niagara Falls of the parking lot.

“Mammogram” is from In the Home of the Famous Dead: Collected Poems, University of Arkansas Press.  The poem is posted on Friend for the Ride by permission of the poet. Read more about the poet Jo McDougall and her work on her website.

 I first was introduced to “Mammogram” on Twitter by Mary Esselman, who read my cancer post and knew I’d be moved by the poem. “Mamogram” is included in the anthology How Did This Happen: Poems for the Not So Young Anymore, complied by Mary D. Esselman and Elizabeth Ash Velez.

 And check out this recent article: “Inside the Debate over Breast Cancer Screenings.”
Photo:  I was struck by this painting of Mary Magdalene at the Pitti Palace in Florence. The artist is Titian, and he painted this in 1533. I’d love to know what the model was thinking as she posted for the painting.

If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face by Alan Alda: A Giveaway!



What woman of a certain age doesn’t remember Hawkeye Pierce?


But you might be surprised to learn that Alan Alda is now doing cutting edge research on communication. He’s written a new book on his findings:  If I Understood You, Would I Have this Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating (Random House; June 6, 2017.

Alda focused much of his research on improv and its effect on communication. This form of acting intrigues and terrifies me. I’m not sure I’d ever be brave enough to try it, but Alda’s conclusions are fascinating.

When you read the book, don’t miss Alda’s comments on the loading of the dishwasher (pages 80-81). Turns out how one loads dishes is a cause of conflict in many marriages. Doesn’t surprise me. I have a friend whose husband gets so upset he reloads the dishes she has loaded.

Two of my favorite takeaway quotes from the book:

  1. “The person who is communicating something is responsible for how well the other person follows him. If I try to explain something and you don’t follow me, it’s not simply your job to catch up. It’s my job to slow down.”
  2. “Being truly connected to the other person happens when we see them in a way that’s both emotional and rational, especially if we include listening with our eyes: looking for clues in the face, in gestures–in all the non-verbal states of mind. It’s complete and total listening.”

Here’s what the publisher writes about If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on my Face:

Alda is an acclaimed actor, star of M*A*S*H, writer, and director, whose many years of interviewing guests on PBS’ Scientific America80-81n Frontiers led him on a quest to develop ways to help us learn how to communicate better. In his new book, Alda reflects on moments of miscommunication in his own life, and teaches us ways to build empathy, use improv games, storytelling, develop a mind-reading ability, and more, all in an effort to improve the way we relate and talk to others.

With his trademark humor and frankness, Alda digs into the heart of what it means to be a true communicator: being able to read another person so well, you know what they’re thinking and feeling and are able to be in sync with them. Alda has seen this kind of engagement facilitate real communication in a wide range of settings: within families, between lovers, at the office, between doctors and patients, and between scientists and the rest of us.

Giveaway: The publisher is offering a copy of the book to one Friend for the Ride reader. For a chance to win, please enter a comment by August 20. Thanks!

Alan Alda has earned international recognition as an actor, writer, and director. He has won seven Emmy Awards, received three Tony nominations, is an inductee of the Television Hall of Fame, and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in The Aviator. Alda played Hawkeye Pierce on the classic television series M*A*S*H, and his films include Crimes and Misdemeanors, Everyone Says I Love You, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Bridge of Spies, and many more. Alda is an active member of the science community, having hosted the award-winning series Scientific American Frontiers for eleven years and founded the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. Alda is the author of two bestselling books, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I’ve Learned and Things I Overheard While Talking To Myself.


The Ladies Room Doors of Italy: Part One

This spring, Cliff and I went on a bucket list trip to Italy. We had a blast, and part of my joy, of course, was looking for ladies room doors. Love the unisex door above. Sadly, I can’t remember where I found it.

Enroute, I found these murals inside the ladies room at Charles de Gaulle. Paris fashion at its best!

Once in Italy, our adventures began in Florence. Love the shape of the door to our bathroom at  the Hotel degli Orfi.

Here’s the door at Academia, where we had a delicious dinner with our friend and blog reader, Pat.

Our waiter brought us yummy lemocello at the end of the meal and popped into the picture.

Il Mercato Centrale in Florence is wonderful. Merchandise is sold on the outside and food in.

Be sure you go upstairs to find plenty of seating and lots of delicious options. AND that’s where you’ll find ladies rooms with some of the funkiest doors ever. The outside of one.

The inside!

We joined our tour group a few days after we got to Florence. Here’s the lobby bathroom door at the Hotel Orto de’Medici, where we relocated once the group arrived.

Cafes abound in Florence. We stumbled into La Botteghe a Donatello. I was delighted to find this elegant door leading to the bathrooms,

but I’m sure glad I didn’t stumble down the stairs directly behind the door. Wow. Not sure this would meet code in the United States.

We admired the famed doors of  Lorenzo Ghiberti on the Baptistery of the Cathedral. Bet Lorenzo could really rock some ladies room doors.

And look at these doors at the Pitti Palace.

Many of the doors in Italy have their doorknobs in the center.



Another Door

The first night with our tour group, we ate at a funky restaurant near our hotel. The restaurant uses cardboard signs as part of their decor (sounds wonky but it works). Here’s the door to the bathroom.

Most bathrooms in Italy have a button to push in an emergency, but yours truly didn’t know that yet. Thinking I was hitting the flush switch, I rang an emergency bell that resonated through the restaurant. The waiter quickly dashed in to turn it off. They must be used to silly Americans who have no clue.


Below you can see another type of alarm.

Here are the restroom signs at San Croce, where Michelangelo is buried.

And this is the bathroom door at cafe whose name I failed to record.Toilette

Say hello to this pretend creature crawling up the wall near the sink.ghecko

This is  how you flush in most Italian bathrooms. The big dot is for lots of water.

Another mode of flushing. Not quite so fancy as the circles above.


Most restaurant toilets do not have seats.

Cliff came out of a men’s room under-impressed with this urinal.

Speaking of urinals, our tour guide told us that blonde hair became fashionable in Renaissance Italy. Three guesses what women used for bleach.

We stopped at the Birreria in Florence for craft beers one night. Who would guess a beer place would have such lovely bathroom doors?
Beer Place

I saw these signs a few places. I assume they are retro.


The door was underwhelming to the ladies room at the Ristorante Il David, but I loved the graffiti that decorated the old board that ran through the wall.

The River Caffe (sic)

The bathroom at the cafe featured a hand held bidet. For more thoughts on the bidets I encountered, read this post from  a few weeks ago.

I liked the sprightly green lady at the Pitti Palace.

And the simple lines at the Museum of the Innocents. Orphans were housed here beginning in the 15th century. A visit to the orphanage is both sobering and touching.

The signs and doors at Il Grande Nuti

We finished dinner  there with torta della nonna. Grandmother’s cake!

Our group spent three magical days in San Gimignano.  The funky door at Ristorante Storico.

We stayed in San G (as it’s fondly called) at La Cisterna Hotel.

Not sure where I found these doors in San G.

I was pleased that I could read this Italian sign at a cafe.

One toilet

And here’s the door to that one unisex toilet.

Unisex door

The public WC in San G is built into a medieval wall of the city.


Another wall

San G at night! Love this place.

This door has a bit of a chaotic look

But the pasta was fab!

And for the finale, David.

My first thought is to write something related to this guy and bathrooms, but no. Standing under this magnificent work takes your breath and your words away.

I’m so grateful to Ken Ostrand, our tour leader, and Patrizia Harris Ceccarelli, the art historian Ken hired to lead us through the great art of Florence. And of course, to my traveling companion, husband Cliff. We managed a month together in tight but happy Italian quarters and had a blast. More doors to come in Part Two!


Menopod: Natural Cooling Relief for Hot Flashes (A Giveaway!)


A post from the makers of Menopod. I love the story behind this innovative treatment for hot flashes:

Tired of unexpected hot flashes? Need cooling relief for those night sweats? Take control of your menopause with Menopod!

Menopod Co-founder Patricia Copeland frequently suffered from hot flashes and night sweats due to menopause. Her family history of heart disease meant she was not a candidate for hormone therapy. She wanted a drug free and non-invasive, natural solution. Patricia turned to her husband Steve Copeland, an internationally acclaimed Industrial Designer, for a solution and the Menopod was born.

In 2015 they pitched Menopod to Dragons Den a Canadian reality show similar to Shark Tank. Three of the “Dragons” made offers confirming that Menopod was truly something special. The Copelands forged ahead and today Menopod is available to you.


The Menopod is a patented electronic cooling device that provides fast natural cooling relief for hot flashes caused by menopause. Menopod’s sleek, durable award winning design fits into the palm of your hand making it convenient for everyday use.

With just the press of a button, the patented Peltier technology instantly chills the copper plate to 41 °F (5 °C). Just press it on the back of your neck for instant relief. No more drippy ice packs or bulky gel packs. And just like a cell phone, Menopod™ is fully rechargeable with its own USB connection. You can have instant cooling relief in the palm of your hand wherever you are, whenever you need it!

Menopod may also be used for relief from other uncomplicated medical conditions such as hot flashes associated with the chemical treatment of cancer, migraine headaches, fevers, and heat stress.

This video shows you Menopod at work. Please note that it does feature our old design. We have since improved the design to include one larger copper plate to add even more cooling.


Giveaway: We’re giving away a Menopod to one Friend for the Ride reader. For a chance to win, please enter a comment by July 25. Thanks!

To learn more about the Menopod or purchase online at Order now for our special 20% discount offer! Don’t miss out, this offer only lasts until August 7th. Shipping is FREE in the U.S.A. and Canada.


Downsizing: An Update!


We’re still downsizing over here in preparation for moving into our new house. We bought the model in a nearby community, and it became available sooner than planned. So we’re been moving bit by bit as we clean out our old house and get it ready to go on the market.

I’m giving the new house touches of old. Quilts over the banister (above) and a toy spice cabinet on the kitchen counter (below).


And a frog in our shower. Ribbit!

Cliff has jumped into the game and has given away or tossed parts of his youth too (more to come in a fun post soon!) We’ve bought some new furniture, including these pillows to add some zing.

For my birthday in March, daughter Kath surprised me with a painting of our old house, which was built 1n 1833 The front and back wings were added in 1889.

The artist is Bruna Webs. Bruna is wonderful to work with, and her prices are good. Just send her a photo, and she’ll pick up her paintbrush. Contact her through her website or email her at Bruna Mebs at

I liked Kath’s present so much that I commissioned Bruna to paint the back wing of our house too. Here it is:

And Bruna did a wonderful portrait for Kath of the little guy below, my grandson Maze.

The grandchildren’s room is well underway at the new house, with a closet full of old house toys

brand new zebra sheets

and in the bathroom, a rainbow rug next to a flamingo shower curtain.

Our house isn’t officially on the market yet, but when it is, of course we hope it sells quickly. I’m working through the emotions of leaving. I want someone to love the house and yard and care for them even better than we have. There’s so much I’ll miss, including this old doorbell. The girls would come to the back door after school and ring and ring and ring.


I can’t bring the doorbell, but I’m bringing my new paintings! Thanks Kath! Thanks Bruna!


Gumbo Love: A Cookbook Giveaway

Love this cookbook by Lucy Buffett! The photos are gorgeous, and the recipes sound delicious. Here are two other aspects of the book I really like.

One:  I’m delighted that Lucy presents her desserts at the beginning. She writes, “It may seem strange to start this cookbook with the desserts, but being a lifetime rule breaker and someone who actually reads magazines from the back cover to the front, this seems entirely the right place to start this book.”  Let’s hear it for Dessert Power. In college, I always ate mine first. What fun!

Two: As a lover of self-help, it pleases me that Lucy introduces the book with “Ten Grateful Ingredients for a Bright Life and a Happy Kitchen.” One of my favorite snippets: “You’ve got to make your own gumbo.” Yep. You’re the expert on your own self. It took me years to really get that.

Key West Tuna Burger_credit Angie Mosier

Meet Lucy in this charming video and hear more about gumbo love!

The publisher of Gumbo Love is Grand Central Life and Style. Here’s what they write about the book:

A delicious love letter to the Gulf Coast’s vibrant food culture, by Jimmy Buffett’s sister and owner of two beloved destination restaurants in Alabama and Florida.

Incorporating Caribbean, Cajun, Cuban, Mexican, Old Florida, and Creole influences, Lucy proves through her collection of recipes that the Gulf Coast has its own distinct flavors and traditions that make it a destination year after year. Surviving hurricanes, the Gulf Coast—beyond just New Orleans—has a vibrant food and culture that’s gone largely unnoticed. Lucy wants to change that by sharing her food and stories with GUMBO LOVE readers.

Like her brother, Jimmy, Lucy celebrates freedom, relaxation, and seaside decadence in her own art–cooking, and has now written the cookbook her fans have been asking her for; one that offers the recipes she’s famous for, along with Gulf Coast classics and stories of growing up in Mobile, Alabama, working in New Orleans, and her philosophy of relaxation, gratitude, and enjoyment.

Lucy combines over one hundred new recipes with old favorites. Her fans will find recipes for their social occasions including gumbos, main dishes, deep fried favorites (with her easy frying tutorial), salads, seasonings, libations, and desserts. They will also learn how Lucy navigates the kitchen, her business, and her family and readers will come away with the basic ingredients of an inspiring life philosophy.

Gumbo Love (1)

Giveaway: The publisher is offering a copy of Gumbo Love to one lucky Friend for the Ride winner. For a chance to be that winner, please enter a comment by August 1. Thanks!

Lucy “LuLu” Buffett cooked her way from coast to coast before returning home to Alabama to open a modest little bayside gumbo and burger joint that doubled as a bait shop. Now, she is the successful restaurateur of two locations of LuLu’s in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and Destin, Florida, where she serves over a million guests a year. Her adventures-culinary and otherwise-inspired her to write LuLu’s Kitchen (formerly self-published as Crazy Sista Cooking), and now Gumbo Love. For more information, please visit and follow Lucy on Facebook and Twitter.
Classic Southern Pound Cake with Strawberries_credit Angie Mosier (1)
   Image credit: Angie Mosier     Lucy Buffett’s headshot: Chandler Williams of Modus Photography