Book Review: “The Indigo Girl”

bookPublication date:  October 2017

Review, short version:  Three roses out of four.

Long version:

We are inundated with endless recountings of history, but there’s a lamentable lack of herstory.

So I was delighted to read Natasha Boyd’s The Indigo Girl – a fictionalized herstory – about a mostly forgotten woman who made her mark with a mostly useless plant.

The woman was Eliza Lucas and the plant was indigofera tinctoria.

Who?  What?

The Indigo Girl answers both.

Eliza (1722-1793) was 16 when the story begins on her family’s plantation in the colony

farm girl-06 cropped
Life on an 18th-century plantation was far from glamorous.

of South Carolina.  She was smart, educated, and loved botany, in an era when a woman interested in science was regarded with suspicion, if not scorn.  She was determined to be her own person, and rejected suitors suggested by her father, at a time when a female’s only role in life was marriage.  When her father sailed off to the Caribbean island of Antigua to pursue his military/political career, he left the running of the plantation – and two others – in Eliza’s young but very capable hands.

Unheard of.

Determined to save the plantations and secure her family’s future, Eliza begins experimenting with indigofera tinctoria, or indigo, a plant that, after an extremely risky and labor-intensive process, produces a deep, rich and very rare blue dye – a dye greatly desired by the wealthy for their clothing.  Clothing then, as today, was a status symbol, and indigo blue was in high demand by European elites.

Can Eliza’s efforts turn this indigofera tinctoria… Indigofera_tinctoria with flowers
Into this expensive indigo dye… indigo dye
Which will be used for aristocrats’ clothes, like this lady’s costly hunting outfit, made of indigo-dyed satin? 18th century hunter outfit, indigo-dyed satin

Eliza tries and fails, and tries and fails, and you can’t help but root for her.  She was a young, single female, the only one in the American colonies trying to grow indigo as a cash crop.  “Ridiculous!” most men decreed.  Besides, rice was the thing in South Carolina, so never mind indigo, something the French had already mastered.

750px-Flag_of_South_Carolina.svgNever mind doing anything different – if you’re a female.

Will Eliza make a go of indigo?  As author Boyd recounts in her Afterward, one has only to look at South Carolina’s state flag and its indigo blue field for the answer.

Reading The Indigo Girl sparked my curiosity – always a sign of a good book for me.  I discovered more information online about Eliza’s story, so perhaps she isn’t mostly forgotten after all.  Some of the information is conflicting – it’s the Internet, so no surprise there – but all the sources agree that Eliza was an exceptional woman who did extraordinary things.

The Indigo Girl is herstory – and it’s a great read.

History is herstory, too. Cropped

Rant: Sprint Charged Me For Calling Myself – And Almost Got Away With It

Let’s start with this premise:

I don’t use my cell phone much.

So I was puzzled by the “Roaming Minutes” I was charged for on my most recent Sprint bill.

Roaming with borderI went online, and while I can review my bill there, it doesn’t detail when the roaming charges were incurred.

So I called the Sprint.  I know – pain in the butt, right?

It was.

After listening to 15 – yes, 15 – options on their phone tree, I was connected with a human, Daniel.  I explained that I wanted to know the dates and times the roaming woman confused_03 croppedcharges were incurred.  Seemed simple enough.

Of course it wasn’t.  Daniel asked me to hold three separate times while he “researched” my account.  After the third interminable wait he finally retrieved the information, and advised that some of the roaming charges were as follows:

Three calls, all between 5:34am and 5:38am, all on December 29, and all to the same number.

That number?

My own cell phone.

Sprint was saying that I incurred roaming charges because I called myself three times in five minutes.

Is this as stupid as it sounds?stupid_01 cropped

Oh, yes.

(Sidebar:  When I call my cell phone from my cell phone, it goes directly to my voicemail box to retrieve messages.  I’m pretty sure one of the options is not, “If you’d like to talk to yourself, press…”)

I questioned this, and Daniel said it required further research.  He put me back on hold, where I sat, and sat, and then…

You guessed it.  I was disconnected.pain cropped

Super pain in the butt.

So I called back, and this time spoke to Allie.  I explained about talking to Daniel, learning what the roaming charges were for, sitting endlessly on hold, and getting disconnected.

Allie read Daniel’s notes, put me on hold (of course) to do her own research, then returned and said a credit would be issued for the roaming charges.  She also said something about, “Since you’re such a great customer, you’ve been with us since 2000,” or some such nonsense, as if that’s the reason Sprint is being so “generous.”

Like Sprint is doing me a big ?#@*&%! favor, issuing a credit for calls I didn’t make.

duh_01Seriously?  Why would I call myself three times in five minutes?

I never did get an answer to that one.

Now, you may sneer – I went through all this for less than $5.

But why should any service provider have one penny my hard-earned money – or yours – when they don’t deserve it?

Unless you’ve got money to burn, which I sure don’ to burn_01

Is this the first time it’s happened, but I just haven’t been paying attention?  If it happened with Sprint, maybe other phone companies as well?

And how will you know, unless you check?

Sure, phone bills are ridiculous – on mine there are seven categories of charges in addition to the monthly plan and the infamous roaming charges.  What the heck is “Federal Univ Serv Assess Non-LD” for $1.81?

But those roaming charges – those I understand.

And I’ll be looking at them from now on.

magnifying glass_02.jpg

Wells Fargo: My Hero

Are you like me?

You don’t like and/or trust Wells Fargo Bank but you just can’t face and/or don’t have time to deal with the complexities of moving your money from one bank to a different one.

Well, I’m reconsidering that attitude – and even liking Wells Fargo – after the recent stories about their January 17 computer glitch:

checking zero balance

It was an eensy-weensy glitch, after all.  It just emptied your checking account by paying some bills multiple times, then hit you with overdraft fees.  Multiply that by the But Noooomultitudinous people it affected, and those fees represent lots of money for Wells Fargo.

But noooo…

Wells Fargo is canceling those darn fees and putting your money back where it belongs.

Now, seriously – is this anything to get upset about?

And Wells Fargo apologized:Apology

Well, not exactly apologize, that usually has the words “We’re sorry” somewhere.  And they’ve had so much practice apologizing recently, it’s probably getting old.

So what’s your problem?

Now, here’s an example of a real spoil sport:


That’s not an attitude of gratitude, Dr. Harriton-Wilson!

And these folks – so you were on “hold” forever, like you have something else to do with your phone?  And your time?


Wait – you want them to fix this glitch AND answer the phones???  And tsk, tsk, Donielle, using ALL CAPS is the online equivalent of yelling.

Let’s do like the song says:

come on people_02

Come on, people, let’s have a group hug:

group hug_01.jpg

After all, “To err is human.”

Or computer.

Or whatever.

Guess Where I Am?

Yeah, it looks the same everywhere:

In Line

The DMV.

Back story:

I was due to renew my driver’s license.  When I’d gotten the notice from the DMV a month earlier, it advised renewing would include taking a written test.failed test

If you saw me that day at the DMV I may have appeared normal, but I was living in a state of barely controlled panic.  I HATE taking tests.

It had been years since I’d taken a DMV written test, and my stomach clenched every time I thought of it.  So I started preparing way ahead of my appointment.  (Sidebar:  If you have to do something at the DMV, make an appointment.  You’ll still be treated like a third-class citizen, but you’ll spend less time being treated that way.)

handbook_01I went to the DMV and got their 104-page publication entitled “California Driver Handbook,” subtitled, “Let’s See How Many Ways We Can Baffle and Befuddle You.”  I read that sucker from cover to cover.  I highlighted obscure items I thought might appear on a test, like that thing about “center left turn lanes” and “California Vehicle Code 21460.5 (c).”

I also went online and took the sample driving tests.  There are five of them and I not only did each test twice, I printed them out and reviewed them.  There’s also an onlineAsleep on Computer_01 Driving Knowledge Tutorial which I took.  And took again.  And again.

As I drive to my appointment I’m so nervous my sweaty hands are slippery on the steering wheel.  Oh, great, I think, lose control of the car and crash on my way to the DMV.  Instead, I arrive early and spend the time in my car doing guess what – studying some more.  I’m sure I spent 20 hours studying for (and obsessing over) this thing.  Now, finally it’s time.  I’m as ready as I can be.

After waiting an amazingly few minutes I step to the first counter.  Paperwork, write a eye exam dmvcheck, a quick eye exam, and I’m given a tag with “F013” – the number they’ll call when it’s time for my next step.

Before I even sit down, I hear my number.  Different DMV person, paperwork, thumb print, waiting while the slowest printer I’ve ever seen produces multiple forms.  My palms are still sweating.  My stomach is still clenching.

And then, “Here’s your temporary driver’s license.  Go over there and get your picture taken.”angry woman pointing

Wait.  What?  What am I not getting here?  I’ve just been handed my temporary license with no written test?  I say, “Don’t I have to take a test?”  She looks at me like I’m crazy and applying for a job there.  “No,” she snarls, and points me toward the camera.

I don’t know why and I never will.  But all that studying, sweating – and obsessing – all for nothing.

Well, maybe not for nothing.

Go ahead…

Quiz me.

i got the answers_01 cropped larger

Thank$ For the Memorie$

From: Darrell Issa, California’s 49th District Representative Extraordinaire

To:     My Congressional Colleagues

Re:     My Retirement

I no sooner announced my retirement on January 10 than a bunch of my loving constituents threw me a party – look at this cake!

Cake cropped.jpg

Here they are, all lined up along the street, waiting to wish me well in person:

crowd cropped.jpg

Of course, they’ll all have to look up, because as everyone knows, I like to hang out on the roof of my office whenever my constituents are around:

darrell on roof.png

And yes, I’m going to stick around and finish my term, mostly because I enjoy being known as “The Richest Man in Congress.”  None of this “Richest Man in the House of Representatives” stuff for me!  Nice picture, yes?

Nice picture.jpg

In conclusion, to clear up any questions, I’ve written a little ditty with music from  that Evita show:

don't cry reversed

Madonna as Evita

issa holding out arm_01 reversed

Darrell as Evita.

Don’t cry for me, California

I am the richest man

In our Congress!

In case you’re worried

To ease your tension

Of course I’ll also

Collect my pension!

Rave: My Heroes, in Harm’s Way

Take a close look at this picture.

It’s a group of firefighters in Santa Barbara County, rescuing a teenage girl from a mudslide that buried her home on January 9.  This was one of 50 rescues that firefighters had conducted by mid-afternoon that day.

But wait – there were no fires in the area.  This was a mudslide caused by heavy rainfall.

Firefighters? Rescue 1-9-18_02 cropped

Oh, yes.

Here’s another pictures of the same rescue – see the word “Fire” on their jackets?

Firefighters.  Oh, yes.

Firefighters are the amazing men and women who, when we’re all running away, they’re running toward.

Toward the fires, the floods, the mudslides, toward the victims of hurricanes and tornadoes and earthquakes.

firefighter world trade center_01.jpg
9/11:  Would you run toward this – or away from it?

Toward the World Trade Center on 9/11, where more than 300 firefighters lost their lives.

Toward the car with the “Jaws of Life” to extricate the driver before the car explodes.

Toward a different car – this one with a woman delivering a baby now.

And, yes, toward that cat stuck in a tree.  Not a life-threatening situation, but that’s what firefighters do.firefighter and cat

They rescue:

Our lives, our loved ones, our homes, our pets.  And they don’t even know our names – we’re strangers to them.  They risk their lives every time they go work, to rescue strangers.

What a strange and wonderful profession.

I don’t know why firefighters choose this profession – it sure isn’t something I would do – but I’m so grateful they’re out there.

I don’t have the words to express my gratitude, admiration, and respect for firefighters, so I’ll hope these quotes can do it for me:

Firefighters save hearts – and homes.

 Firefighting is all about ass – busting ours to save yours.

 Firefighters:  Your worst day is our every day.

i heart

Rant: Don’t Make Me Say This Again!

lost art of saying thank youDoes ANYBODY write thank-you notes anymore?

Thank-you emails?

Thank-you texts?

OK, not even write.  How about thank-you calls?

Something?  Anything?

The answer to all of the above is a resounding…



No etiquette.

Etiquette:  An old-fashioned word, going back several hundred years when it evolved from French into Spanish, back into French and eventually to English.  In all those languages it meant the same thing:

print screenGood behavior.

Behavior that takes into consideration the feelings of others.  The comfort of others.  The acknowledgment that there are others on the planet who are impacted by your behavior.

Examples of etiquette:

  • Waiting until someone finishes speaking before you speak.
  • Being punctual, whether it’s a business meeting, lunch with a friend, or a doctor appointment.
  • Saying “please” and “thank you” and “you’re welcome.”

Examples of etiquette failures:Airplane seat_02jpg

  • Dropping your airplane seatback into the lap of the person behind you.
  • Picking your nose in public.
  • Failing to acknowledge a gift.

Several years ago I sent my nephew and his fiancée a wedding gift.  Now, etiquette guidelines suggest that a bride and groom have three months to send thank-you notes, so as time passed I didn’t think much about it.  Then more time passed, and more and then…

They got divorced.

I guess I can forget the thank-you note.  Or email, or text, or call.

I’ve got way too many examples like that, and I’ll bet you do, too.  You send someone a gift and then spend days wondering if they got it.  The days turn into weeks.  Finally you call and ask if they got it.  The conversation goes something like…

dumb guyYou:  Hey, Mikey, I just wanted be sure you got the (birthday/wedding/ Christmas/whatever) gift I sent?

Mikey:  Um…gift?

You:  Yes, the (birthday/wedding/Christmas/  whatever) gift I sent?

Mikey:  Um…oh, wait.  Maybe.  I think so.  Yeah!  It’s great!  Um…thanks!


Sorry.  I know all-upper-case letters is online yelling.  Bad netiquette.Emily book 1922

Emily Post (1872-1960) cared enough about etiquette to write a book about it in 1922 and it became a best seller.  After Emily (politely) passed, her descendants continued with updated versions, their 19th edition released in 2017.


Because good manners matter.  Good manners make life easier and just plain better, for you and me and everyone around us.

And when have we needed that more – than right now?

So go write those Christmas thank-you notes.  Or emails.  Or texts.

Or call.

Do something.  Anything.


thank you other languages_01.jpeg

Could This Happen to You?

I sit down and…


The airplane drops.  It’s sudden.  Sickening.  Terrifying. seatbelt cropped

The seatbelt sign flashes on, and I hear passengers crying out and screaming, and then comes the pilot’s voice, calmly but firmly advising us to “return to your seats and fasten your seat belts.  Flight attendants, secure the cabin.  We just encountered clear air turbulence and we need you to remain seated until we’re past it.”

I remain seated – I have no choice.  Somehow, in that terrible drop, I’ve become stuck Variouswhere I sit:

On the toilet in the airplane bathroom.

This can’t be happening.

I shift from side to side, but I’m still trapped.  I brace my hands on the seat, try to push myself up, and fail.  My heart is pounding – I haven’t had this much exercise in years.

I look bathroom hand towels croppedaround, hoping for a sign with emergency instructions:  How To Extract Yourself From The Toilet.  No sign.  Why not?  They have signs for everything else:  No Smoking; Fasten Seat Belt; Dispose Of Hand Towels Here, but nothing useful when I really need it.

The plane continues to bounce and shudder, people continue to cry out and – cry.  Yes, I hear someone crying, someone praying – it’s terrible.  It’s me.  But the noise I’m most aware of is that annoying, nonstop hissing you always hear in airplane bathrooms.  Will that be the last sound I hear in this lifetime?

jeffglor2Because I know we’re all going to die.  But I’ll be the one what’s-his-name talks about on the CBS Evening News:  “Among the victims was a woman, apparently stuck on the toilet in an airplane bathroom.  We’ll have more on that tonight on CBS News at 11.”

And there will be my picture, pants down around my ankles, my posterior exposed for posterity.woman on toilet_02 cropped

I try, one more time, to push myself up and at that moment, the plane drops again.  And – I’m free.  I yank up my clothes, shove the door open, stumble down the aisle, fall into my seat and buckle up.

I am so grateful.

Because now, if we die, at least my bare ass won’t be on the 6 o’clock news.

NotAsSeenOnTV enlarged

Scenes We’d Like to See

At least once a week we hear or read a local story about someone, somewhere, in need of ski sign_02rescue:  a surfer or swimmer takes on waves he shouldn’t and lifeguards pull him safely to shore; a hiker ignores the “No Hiking” signs along an unstable cliff, and a search and rescue team climbs down to save her; a skier glides into a “No Skiing” zone, falls, breaks a leg, and the ski patrol risk their lives to save his.

I have two reactions to stories like these:  I’m grateful for the brave people who, without hesitation, put their lives in jeopardy to rescue someone from a dumb decision.

who me_01And I wonder:  Who pays for this?  Who pays for the lifeguards, search and rescue teams, ski patrols?  Well, you and I – the taxpayers – do.

That’s the case where I live, but in the Midwest do things a bit differently.

It’s 1pm Friday, December 29.  A call comes in to the County Communications Centerhiker_04 cropped cropped about a man who’s fallen off Die Here Mountain, a popular spot for climbers.  According to his climbing partner, the man dropped 40 feet, landed on a rock ledge, is lying on his right side and complaining of pelvic pain.

The helicopter Search and Rescue Team is dispatched; the weather is cool and clear – a good day for a rescue.  As the team’s UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter hovers over the climber, the following scene takes place:

“Sir!” a voice booms from the helicopter’s loudspeaker, louder even than the copter’s basket_01 croppedpowerful engine and whirling blades.  “Hang in there – we’re lowering the basket.”

As the basket reaches the fallen climber, he’s shocked to see it isn’t large enough to hold him.  It’s barely large enough to hold a grapefruit.

“Sir,” the voice continues, “in order to effect your rescue we’ll need a pre-payment of $3,862.  We accept MasterCard and Visa, but we do not accept American Express.  Please place your credit card in the basket, along with your photo ID, and stand by.”

Stunned, and in serious pain, the climber struggles to reach the wallet in his backpack, and manages to extract his credit card and driver’s license.  He places them in the basket, which swiftly rises into the open hatch of the Black Hawk.

A few agonizing minutes pass, then the basket descends again, this time falling to the ground, along with the severed rope.

The climber hears the loudspeaker voice again.  “Sir, we regret to inform you that your credit card was declined.”

A pause…and then, “Good luck!”

helicopter_01 cropped

sayonara cropped enlarged