My Years As A Frustrated Academy Award Wanting Costumer



Long before I had my needlepoint obsession I was doing crafty things with fabric, yarn and needles. When Carter was born I found that Halloween was the perfect excuse to craft up something new and original that usually made me unpopular with mothers of more than one child. Hey, I wanted more children. Don’t blame me that I only had one tiny girl to occupy my time.


Carter was just under one for her first Halloween and since we called her bug I made her a Dragon Fly costume complete with silver wings. Yes I could have much more easily bought her a ladybug costume, which were plentiful and very cute, but not unique and did not satisfy a crafting need I had.


For Carter’s second Halloween I remember exactly where I was when I thought up that year’s costume. Russ and I were enjoying a date night dinner on the porch of Four Square. I know that Russ did not follow my line of thought when I suddenly blurted out, “A garden, I’ll make her a garden.” I think it was the best costume ever; A little soft sculpture brown plot of land with a row of fabric 3-d carrots, tomatoes and lettuce and on her back another brown plot of land with the tips of the carrots coming out. On her head she wore a hat shaped like the sun and she carried a watering can.


Halloween number three I made her into a scrapbook by putting fabric photocopies on a life sized fabric book. It even had multiple pages that turned. It was creative, but it was no comparison to the garden, which was my best work of art in the costume department.


Her fourth year Carter was very into the Magic Tree House books so I left the fabric world in favor of paper crafting and made her a one of her favorite books. But after that she revolted and wanted a store bought costume like the rest of the world.


Sadness descended over me. No long was I the idea generator as well as the production department. I was relegated to being the driver and the payer. The beginning of the end of decision making for me.


Now I don’t even see a costume before she is out the door. I am just the pizza picker upper and soon that too will be over. It goes by in the blink of an eye. I can still remember the bored look on Russ’ face as I thought out loud about my garden design in fabric.


My time with dressing up a little girl is over, but maybe I could turn my attention to making costumes for Russ. I can’t imagine anything he would hate more.

It’s Time For Some Happy News



It’s been a rough week. For a person like me who is unaccustomed to going more than an hour without a good laugh I have to say I feel I am owed a few funnies by now. But we don’t always get to decide when the sun will shine. The one thing I know is that I can’t change the past, but I can go into the future looking for the good and for me the comic part of life. I would always prefer to laugh than cry. Even better I want to laugh so hard I cry.


I am trying to help my child have some normalcy so that the sad does not creep in and take hold. Don’t get me wrong; sadness has its place, but so does happiness. On Tuesday Carter had basketball tryouts at school.   Basketball was not on the forefront of her brain by the end of the day Tuesday. She texted me such and I told her to dress for tryouts and go and see how it made her feel.


As an adult who spends most of my day walking while I work I know that moving is better for the brain than sitting, especially a sad brain. When I was a teenager I would have chosen to sit or more likely lie on my bed when I was sad rather than move. I don’t think teenagers are that different now than I was.


After I picked Carter up on Tuesday I asked her how it went. She said that it was good except for one bit where she got sad, but her old bball coach talked her through it. Yesterday she went back for the second day of tryouts with no complaint. I went to pick her up and into my car bound one happy kid. “I made varsity!” she joyfully announced to me.


This was definitely a joyous moment. She loves basketball, but tearing her meniscus and having an operation last year that kept her from playing was scary. Did she still have the skills to play at a higher level?


This news was most remarkable to Carter’s parents since neither of us have any athletic skills at all. Now when I was in school I could give a talk without notes to a chapel of 300 people without blinking an eye and Russ could do the type of calculus that I can’t even spell, but as far as varsity sports go, not so much. So we are taking a moment from the sadness and doing a little celebration.


It is ok for happy to creep back into life. I am trying hard not to make too many inappropriate jokes, but soon that too is going to have to come back or I might explode. If I hold back my natural personality too long I might start eating the Halloween candy and I know that is one of the circles of hell that Dante left off his list, but is certainly there.

Help A Friend Out



In any normal week the fact that a friend was in the hospital with an infection would be at the top of my concerns list, but this has not been a normal week. That is no excuse or comfort to my friend, but since she is such a good friend she does not ask, nor expect anything from me. What kind of no-good-lame-ass friend am I? Before you answer that for me I want to let you know that I am in no Hippa violation by writing this blog and my friend approved my disclosure of her identity here.


If you live in the Durham area this blog is a call out to you. If you travel to the Durham area throw yourself in the group I am writing to. If you know of anyone who lives here, consider passing this message on to him or her for me. If you are a foodie and are interested in the great chef’s of the world, I’m talking to you.


My friend, Amy Tournquist, great chef and owner of Watts Grocery, Hummingbird Bakery and Sage and Swift Catering has been sick and in the hospital for days now. With the help of another friend and doctor she is on her way to recovery, but it has not been a fun time. Amy is the least whinny person I know. In fact that personality trait is one of the things the brought us together as friends probably thirteen years ago.


When Amy texted me early in the morning Sunday to let me know where she was it worried me, not just because she was sick, but because if she is sick it is hard to run her businesses. Granted she has great staff who can take care of the day to day, but small business owners like Amy wear many hats in their work and it is hard to make a living if you are in the hospital. Then add the pressure of being a wife and mother to two middle school girls with school and sports and all that that entails and Mom needs to be well and home.


The medical side of things is improving and Amy is looking at getting home in a couple of days. Great news, but in the restaurant business you have a hard time making up for lost days off. That is where you come in. I think the best thing our community could do to help Amy in her recovery is to eat at one of her establishments. You know you are going to eat a meal somewhere in the next week or two, if not you will be in the hospital. Why not do it at Watts Grocery or Hummingbird? You will have a fabulous meal and you will be supporting a person who has consistently been overwhelming generous to our community.


Yes, it has been a hard week here. What better way to make yourself feel better than by not cooking dinner and going out in support of Amy. Go on Open Table and make a reservation. If the site says tables are not available call the restaurant at 919-416-5040 and ask for a reservation. Open Table only represents a portion of the available seats.


Amy would never ask this for herself. Let’s surprise her and fill the restaurant up every meal for the next few weeks. I can’t think of better medicine than not having to worry about business while she is recovering.

The Loss of Innocence

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My heart is breaking for the Kirven family who lost their son this weekend. Helping Carter understand and get through this sudden and sad ending to her classmates life is not easy. It takes a long time to process and you never really get over it. The ending of an old person’s life is the expected order of things, but someone young is unsettling.


When I was a college sophomore I made wonderful friend with a freshman named Suzanne Farrell. She was bubbly and beautiful and always fun. Suzanne was from the town next to mine at home so I gave her rides home for vacations. At Christmas break after I left her at her house in New Canaan I found a notebook in the backseat of my yellow VW. Flipping the book open to the middle I found the lord’s prayer written out in Suzanne’s neat printing. I realized it was her journal and closed it, not wanting to intrude on her privacy. I called her and told her I had it.


We had sorority rush second semester at my school and Suzanne desperately wanted to be a Pi Phi like me. She and her friends would come to rush parties and meet all the sisters and after ask me if I thought she had a chance to get in. I was membership chairman and so I could not really answer her, but as her friend I would reassure her. Of course she got in and then she became my little sister.   I still can picture her with her long brown side ponytail tied with a big grosgrain ribbon bow in her wine and silver blue shirt at the ceremony where you got your big sister. It was a happy day for both of us.


That summer while I was living in Carlisle and Suzanne was back at home she was killed in a terrible accident with two other friends. I found out when one of my sorority sisters called me because she had heard about it on the radio. Then life became very blurry. I don’t remember driving myself home to Connecticut, but I do remember her mother giving all of Suzanne’s friends one of her hair ribbons to wear at the funeral.


While I sat in her church listening to the congregation recite the Lord’s Prayer I had a feeling of peace pass over me. I knew that Suzanne had a strong faith in God. I knew that my finding her journal and just by chance opening it to the page where she had written the Lord’s Prayer was no coincidence. Call it faith, karma or kismet, some higher power was looking out for me, letting me know things were going to be all right.


I was still sad that her life was too short and unfinished, but she brought great joy into the lives of the people who knew her. I chose to celebrate that joy and that I was lucky enough to know her. As time goes on I forget the names and the faces of more and more people I knew longer, but Suzanne Farrell and her positive outlook on the world still stays with me. Perhaps that was what she was here to do.

Walking Under Water



Yesterday very early in the morning I heard my text message ding. Since it was Sunday and my family was all sleeping safe and sound under our roof I did not wake up to read the message. A couple hours later when I rose I read the text from a friend. She was in the hospital and needed some advice and help. I was able to do both, but spent the day worried about her recovery.


Late last night just as I was about to doze off I heard the text sound on my phone. Russ had flown off to Minneapolis in the afternoon and given my mornings news I turned on my light and fumbled for my reading glasses to make sure both my husband and my friend were OK. That was when I learned the horrible news that a classmate of Carter’s since kindergarten had passed away.


There is no amount of preparation I could ever do to help me face this sad reality. I called three friends and got the story. I called Carter up to my room so I could tell her the news myself before the teen text machine sent the word out. I have never had to tell my child that anyone had passed away, let alone one of her contemporaries. After some hugs she left my room to talk with her friends.


It took about a half an hour and then my tear stained face daughter was back in my room asking if she could sleep with me. We lay in bed and talked late into the night, still somewhat numb and in disbelief.


Morning truth came too soon. Carter was able to sleep in since this was a planned day off from school. I got up but seemed to stumble about my day. This reality that a young man was not going to spend his next years with his classmates, friends and family was just now sinking in. My heart was breaking more and more for his parents. No one should lose a child. No children should lose a classmate. No teachers should lose a student. No friend should lose a friend.


I feel as if I am walking underwater. Every step I take I feel like there is a great weight pushing against me. Hug your children tonight and make sure they know you love them. Cherish the time together. We never know when a string that makes up the fabric of our community is going to be ripped away. Hold one another up, keep an eye out for those who are hurting. Offer them a shoulder or your hand.

Cheap Gas Makes Me Less Selfish



A couple weeks ago I pulled into a gas station and the price on the big sign by the road read “Regular $3.16.9” I thought that was a wonderful deal. I got out of my car and put the nozzle in the hole in the car and when I went to flip up the pump I noticed that the price on the actual pump was $3.06 and the ubiquitous 9/10 of a cent. Why don’t gas stations go ahead and do away with the 9/10ths? It might have made more sense when gas cost .15¢ a gallon, but now… I digress.


Today, Carter and I went to pick up her friend Ashley and out in the country of Chatham County we went by a gas station that had an electronic price sign and it read $89.70 for regular and .85¢ for diesel. Since we were in Carter’s diesel car she wanted to stop and fill up. We didn’t. Clearly the $89.70 was a mistake that was not helping get customers into their station. But one big price mistake made me feel like the low price was not to be believed.


Later this afternoon when I was driving my car I noticed the gas gauge was flashing on yellow to alert me to fill up. I pulled into one of my favorite Family Fare stations where the regular gas was $2.969. Glory be. I don’t remember the last time gas has been that cheep. I was still not through celebrating the $3.16.


I filled my tank, but was tempted to only go half way because the trend is clearly going down so I bet that by the time I use this tank up the price might be even cheaper. The total for filling my car was $30. I felt like I was in college, except that my Dad was not paying for my gas.


I just wish that I had a big trip to go on so I could do it more cheaply. It never fails that when gas prices are the highest I am taking my longest road trip. The summer that gas almost got to $5 a gallon Carter and I drove to the top of Michigan in my car that got 18 miles to the gallon. It was a scaring experience.


There is nothing else besides gas that I pay such close attention to the price on. Maybe only when limes went up so high this past winter, but other than that I do not follow prices down to the cent. In reality I don’t use that much gas, maybe ten gallons every three weeks, so a twenty-cent fluctuation makes no difference in my life. But it is all psychological. Somehow if gas is low I feel richer and if gas is high I am stingy. I can’t be alone in this.


If I feel like I have more money I am more generous to charities, waiters and waitresses and others who depend on my being magnanimous. This is crazy since I am not the revenue generator. I just hope this trend continues. I like feeling more flush and more unselfish at the same time. I may not actually be unselfish, but I hope if gas is cheap I am working that direction.

No Exercise Arts & Crafts

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Exercise is not my first choice of daily activity, but if I were to rank what I do all day it would be the greatest time grabber after sleeping. I am not talking about big time exercising like “professional” athletes I know, but mostly walking. Now there is a lot of things I can do while walking since I have a stand up desk and treadmill. Things like writing this blog, paying bills, talking on the phone, folding laundry, playing words with friends all while watching TV at the same time. I even can do a little dancing while walking and listening to music. All that counts as exercising.


There are also things I can’t do while walking on the treadmill, like cooking, ironing, gardening and most arts and crafts projects I want to work on. If I really try I can needlepoint, but I have to walk so slowly and my dependence on strong reading glasses make stitching and walking dangerous. Since I have almost fallen the three inches off the treadmill while doing small intricate work I have given that up.


Today I realized that Christmas is coming up fast, faster than I can walk. Since December is practically all booked with entertaining and celebrating I need to complete all Christmas related projects before Thanksgiving. With all the eating opportunities between Thanksgiving and Christmas the exercise is not going to be allowed to drop a moment.


Today I tried to do the impossible, arts and crafts and a nine-mile walk in the same day. Well It was not impossible, but I did not get anything else done, no laundry, no cooking, nothing to help any family member, not even any playing with the dog. Russ has saved the day by taking Carter to the Duke Basketball Countdown to Craziness game tonight. They are sitting right on the floor in seats Russ got from a friend. I am relieved of guilt for doing arts and crafts all day and am able to finish my walking while they are at the game.


Unless there is some miracle where Russ gets more tickets to games for Carter I may have to give up sleep to get my Christmas arts and crafts done. That is unless I can think of some crafty exercises. This could be the next big thing, but I have not figured that out yet. Running with scissors has long been discouraged.

Day Off



Carter did not have school today. Although it had been on the school calendar since the beginning of time I somehow never put it on my calendar. I found out about it on Wednesday when Carter asked me if she and three friends could go to the fair Thursday after school. In what universe could she go to the fair on a school day? The one where she did not have school the next day. Oh.


Today turned out to be a fun day with my daughter. After getting her up earlier than she needed to because I mistakenly thought she had a hair appointment I made up for it by taking her to lunch and the movies. The movie was her idea. I thought she might want to go to a Rom/Com, usually the genre of her choice, but I was wrong. She chose a war movie, Fury.


Since the reviews online were good I agreed and off we went to sit mostly alone in the dark at one in the afternoon. I must agree with the reviewers. The first test for me was that I only fell asleep for a couple of minutes at the start of the film, but then was awake for the balance of the show. This is a miracle because if you put me in a warm dark room after having enjoyed a bowl of hot soup I am usually assured of taking a good long nap. I am very similar to an eighty-year old man. I guess that if you throw Brad Pitt up on the screen I revert back to being a young woman and am able to remain awake.


The movie was a tough look at a young man’s first week on the front as an artillery guy in a tank unit in Germany who has been together for the whole war. Carter was enthralled with the mechanics of war and had a lot of questions for me that I could not answer. She decided that she is interested in studying both the Great War and World War II in college. Maybe my lack of details was a good thing. If I had satisfied her curiosity she might not want to go deeper in study.


What she really liked was the relationships of the people in the war. It was not the battles, or the tactics, but the camaraderie. I think that she may want to study anthropology and sociology to really understand how teams and relationships work. As of right now I am not going to go that deep with her. I am just going to revel in the good day off we had together. I know these days are going to be fewer and farther in between.

Clean Plate Club



Tonight after my mother’s art show my parents took me and Russ to eat dinner at Revolution. It was a lovely to get to sit down and relax after standing up visiting with all the nice friends who came out to see my Mom and her art. It was actually nice to get to eat dinner with Russ who I have hardly seen in the last couple of weeks because he has been in California, Chicago, Nantucket and New York and I have been in Durham and well, at the fair.


The difference between Revolution food and the fair is dramatic. That delta was probably just as great as the difference between food in Danville too. So I think my parents had a good meal.


Since we were eating so late I was hungry, but did not want to order anything too heavy. I picked the golden beat salad and the Ahi Poke tuna. The waiter looked at me and told me I was ordering two salads. I nodded that I was in agreement with that and he gave me the look that said, “I just want you to understand what you are getting.”


I guess that waiters think most people are expecting either a hot meal for dinner or something larger than a salad, but this waiter could not read the invisible tattoo on my forehead that reads, “This person is only allowed to eat salads.” To me a treat is to eat a salad someone else made me.


The Ahi “Poke” salad came first and it was spectacular. I easily could eat one of those everyday for the rest of the year and been happy. The golden beat salad came next and it too was yummy, small, but yummy.


After I had eaten every last sliver of beet and grapefruit section my plate looked as if it had just come from the dishwasher it was so simonized. A bus boy came by the table and after looking at the empty dish asked me the most ridiculous question ever, “Are you done with that?”


I am never sure what else he thinks I might be doing with that plate after I have practically licked it clean. Maybe rather than asking me if I was done with it he could ask me how I liked it, but since there was nary a morsel left that question too seems unnecessary. If I have fulfilled the requirements for the clean plate club I think it is fine to just take my plate without asking me any superfluous questions. It kind of makes me feel bad that I did not leave a tiny lettuce leaf on the plate, but it was all so good and without many calories that I wanted to eat it all.


Next time a waiter asks if I am done with my empty plate I am going to say, “No, I think I would like to take it home.” I just want to see what he says.

My Inappropriate Response Was to Swear Out Loud



Tomorrow is my mother’s gallery open house at the Alizarin Gallery at 119W. Main St. Suite 200 in downtown Durham. The reception is from 6-8 and all are welcome. That means you!


Months ago when this show was planned my mother asked me if she could come and spend the night at my house after the reception. “Of course,” was my answer. It was a question she really did not even need to ask. My mother is not that old, but old enough that she should not drive an hour home in the dark, especially if she has had a glass of wine. All art shows go better with a glass of wine.


Today as I was going into an important meeting I got a voice mail message from my mother. In a deadpan voice this is what she said, “Dana, I fell down today and broke my wrist so your father is going to drive me to the show. Can he spend the night too and we go out to dinner after the show, or we just could drive home?”


Again, a question that she did not need to ask, of course my Dad can spend the night. He too should not drive home late at night in the dark. But what about your wrist? I have called both parents back and only gotten voice mail. This broken wrist information did not put me in the best mood.


As I entered the room for my meeting I was carrying my ubiquitous needlepoint bag. The leader of the meeting looked at me and in what was supposed to be a joking way said, “You are not allowed to needlepoint at this meeting. We have too much important stuff to cover.”


In front of other prominent members of the group I looked at the leader and loudly said, “Fuck You, No one tells me not to needlepoint.” Shocked would not be a strong enough word. Now I was not planning on needle pointing through the meeting, but I certainly don’t like being told what to do. My response was uncalled for and uncharacteristic because I usually would have had a wittier come back with no need to drop the F bomb.


I later apologized to the leader, who also happens to be a friend. I did not tell her about the message from my mother. I don’t think that I had put it together in my brain that I was really just reacting to my mother’s news. I feel like a more average response might have been to cry, but not to swear like a sailor. I wonder if I will ever grow up?

Stop The Political Babbling It’s Making Me Fat



Between the television and radio ads, phone calls, e-mails, face book posts and the junk mail I can’t seem to get away from political babbling. I know I am not unique, but this political back and forth fighting has gotten into my subconscious. I must have fallen asleep with the TV on last night because I had a dream that Thom Tillis with a giant head and tiny body was running down a gravel road chasing me while I was riding on the back of an ostrich.


OK you dream analyzers, what the hell does that mean? I wish I were an ostrich and could put my head in the sand until after the election is over. I know who I am voting for so there is no matter of slashing the opponent ads that will make me change my mind. I do feel like all this name-calling and bad mouthing is causing me to eat bad for me food.


I know it sounds lame to blame politicians for my weakness, but why not? They blame each other for everything else that is wrong with the world. When I was in college my favorite course was called “History Writing”. We had this little 100-page textbook called, “How to lie with statistics.” In this class we learned how to write history to tell the story we wanted to tell, the angle we already decided we wanted history to portray or the version of the story we wanted the world to adopt. Can you say propaganda? I think that if I did not go to a liberal arts school this course might have been called “Marketing 201.”


It is my feeling that all this public finger pointing and personal bashing is filling the air with a negativity that people try and overcome personally by eating, drinking and smoking too much. I think it would be a really interesting study to see if the population of North Carolina got fatter during the time leading up to this enormous election.


If we could prove that negative campaigning made people fatter we could stop politicians from running negative ads. No one wants to be the candidate that causes his or her potential constituents to gain weight. Everyone would want to vote for the person who made him or her thinner or at least did not make them try and drown out the bickering with food.


Just a few more weeks and we can go back to do nothing politicians being quiet about their lack of getting anything done. Imagine that I am looking forward to that day.

The Offensive Naked Roll



The other day while I was attending a party at a friend’s house I had to wait in line to use the powder room. When my turn came to enter the very beautiful and well appointed throne room I was greeted by a pleasant smell and soft lighting coming from an expensive candle and beautiful linen hand towels as well as paper guest finger tip towels for those who are resistant to use the cloth ones. A bowl of small soaps as well as a glass liquid soap dispenser sat on the vanity. Everything a guest could want was provided for.


Then, while seated I noticed that a new roll of toilet tissue, that’s what fancy ads call toilet paper, was perched sideways on the spent old roll still attached to the wall holder. In the trashcan directly below the toilet paper holder sat the paper that had recently covered the new roll.


My poor hostess I thought. She had gone to great lengths to get her house ready for so many guests. She had cleaned and cooked and lit candles and put out her best china and linens. She warmly greeted her friends at the door. Made introductions all around so that people could get to know new friends. She poured drinks and passed food.


Her one mistake was she had not hired a bathroom attendant who could check the facilities after each guest had visited them. She had no idea that she had invited someone who was too lazy to actually change the roll of toilet tissue. Someone who had either used the last bit of paper and left an empty roll for her next guest or had needed more paper and found the graciously left spare roll, but could not be bothered to pinch together the roll holder and remove the naked core and replace it with a new fresh roll of paper.


Appalled and embarrassed that while waiting in line I had seen two previous visitors come out and not one of them mentioned having trouble replacing the roll. What country had these people been raised in? Certainly not one where the user of the last square of paper or even close to the last square is obligated to actually replace the roll and not just rest it on the old one.


The new roll that sat sideways on the old roll was very large so it obviously had just recently been placed there. I seriously doubt that my hostess had set it up that way before the party started. And what if she had? Wouldn’t it have been kind of any guest who first encountered it that way to go to the trouble of fixing her paper by hanging it on the wall roll holder?


I know there can be some debate among the fussiest of house keepers about which way the roll should roll; either paper coming over the top or from behind, but not knowing which way a hostess likes her roll is no excuse for not spending the ten seconds it take to put the new paper on the roll. If I wasn’t such a lady I might have whispered in my hostess’ ear about this horrific situation, but I held back. Just be assured I removed the offending old core and replaced the fresh roll. Points in heaven for me.

Big Ass Weekend

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Sunday night at last and I have survived my weekend from hell. Not only are the PSAT’s behind us, but so is the State Fair horse show. I know that my daughter loves it more than anything else she does all year, as much as I hate it. Getting up at an ungodly hour to get to the smelly barn to sit around and wait and wait and wait. Then to have her horse act up, cause anxiety to the humans and have a judge who we wish to never meet again.


In the end Carter was happy. A big championship ribbon was brought home and life lessons were learned. For me I got to spend some quality time with my child and the adults from her barn who I really like, but still I am glad this fair is behind us.


Behind should be the key word for the state fair horse show. As the children who are competing come dressed in their finest androgynous show clothes, all buttoned up in fancy jackets and starched shirts with rat catcher collars and jodhpurs and tall leather boots in the height of old English fashion they are quite the opposite of some of the mothers and trainers.


This year sparkly big ass butts were the grown up fashion of choice. I am not sure how many of these middle aged women had three way mirrors, but I think a little butt selfie in the dressing room to see how the jeans with rhinestone pockets and glittered flaps made their already spreading posteriors shine might be a good idea. Of course the skinny and younger ones could pull off the sparkle butt look, especially if they were from the “country”. But most of those Mamas need not make the sunshine reflect and magnify their backsides in such a blinding way.


One woman with particularly poor command of the queens English not only had “Hey guys, look at my giant ass” sparkle pockets on her jeans, but then had a shirt on advertising her “big ole racks” She had to hang her truck keys on her belt loop because her jeans were too tight to accommodate them on the inside. I have no idea who her child was, but all the girls who were in the ring she was watching were dressed in the epitome of perfect English riding attire. “Hey Mama, take some fashion lessons from your child.”


I have a whole year before I have to spend my weekend with these, shall I say, a color and a body part type women again. I hope that there is a more subtle type of jeans in fashion next year.

 I’m Whining to Myself



Since Russ is in Nantucket for a partner’s meeting and Carter had PSAT’s this morning there was no chance for sleeping late for me. Tomorrow will be another early morning for the long day at the State Fair horse show, my child’s favorite weekend of the year and my least favorite.


I am naturally a morning person, but I really like the idea of getting to sleep in if I want to, at least one day a week. Truth be told, even when I stay up late the night before I still wake up early, but knowing I could sleep late makes me happier. Somehow going to bed early is no replacement for getting to sleep late –psychologically. I am grumpy just thinking that it will be at least three weeks in a row before I get any opportunity to sleep past seven. Why is that?


Reality is that on Tuesday this week I got up at 4:30 just because. Tonight I can go to bed as soon as Carter gets back from the fair and that looks like it will be around nine. I got all my steps done today before the end of the Duke Football game at 3:45 and could have taken a nap, but I didn’t. I wasn’t actually tired, but thinking about no chance to sleep in makes me anticipate being tired.


Nobody else in my house complains of this, but me. Carter willing gets up every Saturday at seven in the morning and goes and mucks stalls and feeds horses. Russ does not sleep more than four hours most days and I never hear a peep out of him. This week he flew to California on a 6PM flight, arrived in Oakland at midnight, had to drive an hour and a half to his hotel and then get up at 5:30 in the morning for a conference call. No complaining, at least to me.


I am trying to put his all in perspective. I know it is healthier to sleep a regular pattern, which is really what I do. But the bratty side of me wants to have the option of a break. Maybe this is all a reaction to my not being able to go to Nantucket where I would have been allowed to sleep late, even though I know I would not have.


Whatever the reason, this is a first world problem, or not really a problem at all. So I will quit my whining now and go make food for the riders for the horse show tomorrow. At least I have found a way to get all the fattening food left over from parties out of my house. Another first world problem. At least I did not have to take PSAT’s this morning. Let’s really put things in perspective.

Proof of Semi-Maturity



When I was young my father used to say of me that I did not suffer fools well. He was an expert on this since his mother was of similar personality. Now she was an alcoholic so some of her shortness with idiots was liquor induced and mine was just pure impatience.


This tendency to be blunt is something my sisters really disliked. Once while waiting in a very long line to get on the only down escalator at Selfridges in London I was behind a woman who clearly had a fear of escalators. When her turn came she stood with her foot hovering over the descending steps watching them come and go, one by one without attempting to put her foot down and get to the next floor.


My sister stood with me as we waited behind the phobic. After at least ten treads came and went without any attempt to get on the escalator I did what I always did back then and intervened by loudly saying, “GO!” She did. It made my sister furious and embarrassed. “But she went,” was my defense.


Yesterday I had to take Carter to her barn to pack her tack for a horse show two hours before 30 people were showing up at my house for dinner. While Carter was doing her thing I ran to Trader Joes to buy the three last minute items I needed. As I pushed my arugula filled cart quickly towards the nut section I suddenly was surrounded by three tiny people pushing toddler size carts willy nilly with their mother carrying a fourth child.


The tiny ones with no shopping lists in hands and no real sense of urgency to move through the produce aisle stood like a battalion determined to keep me from getting past them. Although I said nothing, I must have had my “don’t suffer fools well face on.” I looked to the mother to solve my problem. Without any apology for allowing her children to go unsupervised she blamed me for the situation saying, “You should shop online if you don’t like children.”


Quick as a flash so many horrible and cutting responses flew through my brain, but I held back. I easily could have taken this mother down right in front of her children by saying, “I love children, I just hate mother’s who can’t control theirs.” But I didn’t. I could have even said something so over the children’s heads but so biting to the mother that they would not understand why she burst into tears in the car by saying, “Practicing childrearing is not improving for you with each additional child.” But I didn’t.


Instead I stood there patiently, bent down to eye level of the littlest cart pusher, smiled and said, “Look at what a good job you are doing.” With all my might I held back from standing up and looking at the mother and adding, “So much better than your mommy.”


Eventually the tiny ones figured out how to move away and the probably over stressed mother of four, maybe more at home, moved on. I grabbed the needed nuts flew to the checkout and was out the door.

It took every bit of strength I had to leave the store without making some come back, but I did. Just because I have a great response to someone does not mean I have to use it. I guess at fifty-three I am finally beginning to mature, but boy is it hard.

Cranberry Ginger Trifle

From my post yesterday I had quite a few requests for this recipe. Since I spent the day cooking and throwing a party and the last hour washing dishes I figured it was OK to post a non-healthy dessert recipe just this once.


Cranberry Ginger Trifle


2 12 oz. bags of fresh cranberries

1 cup orange juice

1 ½ cups white sugar- this makes it very tart and not sweet . Add more sugar if you don’t like things too sour.

2-inch piece of fresh ginger grated on a micro plane

2 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese

¼ cup of brown sugar

1 t. vanilla

2 cups of heavy cream

2-pound cakes – cut into ½ –store bought is fine, I used homemade lemon cake I had left over from a coffee I threw last week and put in the freezer just for this purpose inch layers


In a big soup pan put cranberries, 1 ¼ cups white sugar, ginger, orange juice and ½ cup of water. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer until the cranberries have popped, about ten minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely


Using a mixer beat the cream cheese with the brown sugar and remaining white sugar and vanilla. After it is well mixed start pouring in the cream and keep beating on high until soft peaks form.


Using a large trifle bowl layer one third of the cake, cover with cranberry and then cream and repeat with another layer two more times.


Chill at least three hours, but it is better done the day ahead.

 Caterings In My Blood



One of the perks of marrying a woman who owns a catering business is that you can utilize her skills for throwing parties for the rest of your life. One of the perks of marrying a really smart and driven man is that you don’t have to be a caterer any more.


Catering was a side business I started in college. I lived off campus and one summer when I stayed in Carlisle to redo my new off campus house because it was an old house that needed painting, tiling and general deep cleaning I knew it was a job that would take all summer. Since painting my own house was a non-paying job I had many part time jobs to make up the difference in eating and not eating. Selling Electrolux vacuums door-to-door, college tour guide, and college catering office manager were just a few.


But when I was asked if I could cater my history professor’s daughter wedding personally and not through the school of course I said yes. How hard could it be? That wedding led to another and suddenly I was a caterer. Probably the best skills I ever developed in college. Even though I got a “real” job when I graduated I continued catering because the money was just too easy and the work was fun, as long as I liked my clients. The joy of a side business is you can pick and choose which jobs you take based on how much fun the people are.


A couple of months ago Russ asked me if I would have all his employees to our house for dinner during a team meeting of course I said yes. He passed the number one rule; I like the client. The number two rule is not an issue; make sure to make money on every job. Well, since the company is paying for the food I figure I owe Russ the labor for free; after all I have been on permanent vacation for about the last fifteen years.


But being out of the actual catering game means my skills are dull and I am without my best resources, they guys who used to work with me. I don’t have the same refrigeration capacity now as I did in the olden days. This means I could not do major shopping or prepping too far in advance. My hands are orange from peeling and chopping ten pounds of carrots. I have sauces and dressings made in advance, but all the major cooking is going to have to wait until tomorrow right before the party.


The biggest difference in catering now versus then is that I now have a child who takes precedence. So tonight when I came home from two back-to-back church meetings, rather than make the desserts I had to take care of a medical issue for my child. Timing everything for the party tomorrow night is going to be tricky since I have to pick Carter up from school and take her to the barn to get her stuff ready for the State Fair Horse show this weekend. Life was much easier when I was just balancing catering someone’s’ wedding with 250 guests and closing a million dollar mail opening machine order at the same time.

Not Exactly Sleep Walking



Sleep is a precious thing. Long ago I tied a good night’s sleep to a healthier life. Getting enough sleep not only gives me fewer hours in the day to eat, but also I tend to make better choices if I have had enough sleep. But knowing that sleep is important and staying asleep are not connected. In fact, I sometimes think they are diabolically opposed to each other.


Take this morning for example. Russ is in California. I heard something outside my house at 4:30 in the morning that was loud enough to wake me up.   I am not a skittish person. Normally it takes a lot to scare me. Since I was awake at 4:30 I did what any middle aged woman would do, get up and use the bathroom. I lay back down in bed so I could go back to sleep, another loud noise.


Now my mind started running through all the possibilities, a tree branch, ten acorns falling in unison, a pair of randy squirrels, an intruder, a masked man, a robber with a gun, an Isis battalion. I was full on awake. I reached above my head to flip on the Stalag 13 type outdoor lights that encircle our house. They are so powerful the circuit breaker that supplies current to them makes a loud humming sound that can be heard from the garage throughout the house.


I peered out my bedroom window to see if I could catch a glimpse of the would be assassins running from my yard. Of course I only saw large branches swaying in the wind. Weather, boy is it loud.


I released the switch that lit the neighborhood and the house was plunged back into darkness. It was still just 4:45, plenty of time to fall back asleep and get some meaningful shuteye before the seven AM bell rang.


BAM! I was up. Why bother trying to go back to sleep when I was in a much better state to protect my home up and ready to tackle anything. I decided that since I had such a busy day and even busier week ahead of me I best should get as many steps in on the treadmill as I could before it was time to take Carter to school.


Amazingly I think my walking is much more productive at this ridiculously early hour than it is when I am tired from a full day. I logged over 12,000 steps before I ever took one step outside my front door. I got nine miles in two hours before lunch. I am on my way to a 30,000-step day.


Yes, I am exhausted. Yes, I am really looking forward to my bed tonight. No, I can’t go there until after my Mah Jongg class ends at 10 PM. I still have no idea what the noise was that woke me. Perhaps it was a higher power pushing me to do what was good for me. But wait, I thought sleep was good for me.

My Mother’s Art



When I was a child one of my favorite things to was to look through my mother’s scrapbooks from her childhood. It was not just the photos of her life as a child that kept me coming back to flip trough the big grey pages, but the drawings and sketches that she decorated the paper with. I always thought she had a great talent as an illustrator when I was very little.


But then she was “just a Mom.” When I got to be in about middle school she started painting. I can’t remember what the precipitating event was, but she got some oil paints and commandeered our big living room to paint in. I still remember her first painting of a door opening and a stairway. It was incredible and she did it without any instruction.


From that first canvas she was hooked on painting. So much so that when we had the big ice storm of 1972 and had no power for seven days she was so involved in a painting she was working on that she made my sisters and I go out and play in the ice covered world while tree limbs crashed to the ground covered in inches of ice.


After a while she migrated from oils to watercolors I think because her mind was so full of art that the fast paced of watercolor was the only way she could keep up. It is not just my opinion that she is a fabulous artist. A number of years ago she was encouraged by one of her galleries in South Carolina to enter juried shows. Quickly she started winning competitions and has amassed signature rights for every southern state. If you are not part of the art world that means that she could put initials after her signature saying she is a member of The Water Color Society of North Carolina, and every other southern state. She does not do that on her paintings because it would take up more space than the painting has and would look like some alphabet soup.


The Alizarin Gallery, a local Durham gallery has started to represent her. They are having a reception for a show that features my mother, Jane Carter and another artist next Thursday, October 23 from 6-8 PM. All are welcome and I will be there with my mother. The address of the gallery is 119 West Main St. suite 200 in Durham. I would love to see you there and introduce you to my Mom. If you are a regular blog reader I am sure you will find her amusing.

Pineapple Ice Dream



There is nothing as disappointing than a not ripe fresh pineapple. After all the work of cutting away the kin and coring the yellow fruit to find that it is still too tart and not that tropical sweet juicy flesh you were craving is a let down.


So what to do with the tart useless chunks, but turn them into a Pineapple whipped dessert.


1 cup frozen pineapple chunks

2 T. fat free half and half

¼ c. non-fat milk

Splash of almond extract

1 Splenda packet


Put everything in an ice-cold container and using a stick blender whirl until a smooth frothy liquid. Place in the freezer and chill until not quite frozen through, at least an hour. Enjoy as if it is pineapple ice cream and curse the pineapple purveyors who sell such unripe fruit.

A Big Gay Day In North Carolina


At last I live in a state where all couples are free to marry whomever they love. I am thrilled that this day has finally come to pass, but am not proud that we got here because the court forced a repeal to the backward Amendment one. I wish that our populous was enlightened enough to agree that all people deserve the same rights regardless of their sexual orientation.


Young people are to thank for the quickly changing opinions about the LGBTQ society. To kids in my daughter’s generation they don’t see what the big deal is and for them I am thankful.

Long ago, when I worked for my Dad in marketing he had a mantra, “The young will eat the old.” He considered himself old back then, but he was always quick to teach me that the world changes fast based on the direction young people are going and if you want to be successful and leading edge you go where the young are going.


This is a lesson state government should learn. We can’t be a place governed by old men. We need to listen to what young people believe because like it or not it is their world. If we try and hold on to old-fashioned ways they will leave and without young people a place dies.


Hooray that we are changing here. Allowing people to legally commit themselves to each other strengthens a society. It also is good for business. Weddings are big revenue and I hope that my gay, bi, and lesbian friends who are interested in getting hitched throw some really big parties. You deserve it.


Now one note of caution, just because you can marry does not mean you must marry. Divorce is expensive and heart breaking. To all the children of gay and lesbian couples, you always were a family, but now I am happy that the law is catching up with the love you have.


To anyone who is having trouble with this change in the law, don’t worry, no one is going to force you to marry a gay person, who really is just a person, you just have a choice. Something not everyone had before. And here is the really good news, if your child turns out to be gay, lesbian, bi or whatever they won’t feel like a second -class citizen in the eyes of the law.

Women Need to ASK For a Raise If You Are a Great Employee



I am sure that you have heard the controversy when Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella spoke at a women’s conference yesterday saying that women should not ask for raises, but trust that they will get what they deserve which is good Karma. As CEO I’m sure life would be easier if everybody who worked for him would just accept the pay he wanted to give his employees and not make waves by asking for more money, both men and women, but to be speaking at a women’s conference and tell them to sit quietly by and wait was a big, no huge mistake. It made him sound as sexist as possible.


Yes, when you are the boss it is a pain when someone asks for a raise. If they are really good and you don’t give them raises regularly they should ask. If you are not such a good employee be careful asking for that raise, you might already be getting more than you are worth. But no one should trust karma to ensure you are getting what you deserve. You can’t spend karma.


The most important thing woman can do is make sure they get what they deserve in their very first job because if you start getting paid too low it is hard to make up the difference over the years. People tend to get paid based on what they historically made in the past. Big jumps don’t happen unless you make big career changes.


The hardest thing is to figure out if as a woman you are paid differently than a man with your same job at the same company with the same tenure. There is no excuse for inequality if you are really comparing apple to apples, but it is rare that you can find someone who is your twin except for gender. If you do ask for a raise and don’t get one over time you have a choice, accept it because you like where you work and you have other perks like flexibility or you need to be prepared to move jobs. Not always so easy. Moving may mean you lose seniority, or vacation time or stock options or something else you have come to enjoy.


Nothing is straightforward about the whole issue, but depending on Karma seems like the least good option. If I were an Executive looking for talent to hire I would consider looking to the women at Microsoft. The CEO unwittingly just opened a can of worms that karma will not take care of.

Not How I Look, But How I Make You Feel



This morning I went to a talk at Carter’s school given by Jean Kilbourne who is an authority on the image of women in advertising. She opened the discussion by showing us a fifteen minute film of a Ted X talk she had given on the topic. She clearly is an expert on the subject, but I have to say that many of the examples she showed us were very old ads. The parent talk was in advance of the one she was going to be giving to our children later today.


When I picked Carter up from school I asked her what she thought of the presentation. She remarked that the ads Jean used in her talk seemed dated and not as relevant to the world Carter lives in now.   We talked about the Dove real beauty ads and how much of the ad world is coming to appreciate what real people look like. But quickly we got to the issue of how someone makes you feel and not what he or she look like.


I have no Photoshop skills; I don’t even have the program on my computer. Although I appreciate judicious cropping of a photo, mostly so you can get a closer look at someone’s face, I don’t like the idea of changing how someone looks in a photo. In all the photos on this blog I actually do almost the opposite. I put photos with poor lighting, unattractive positions and real life full body shots so when someone sees me in person they think I look better than my blog.


Why in the world would someone Photoshop an unrealistic picture of himself or herself to the point of being unrecognizable in real life. If we only put beautiful pictures out in the universe it may inhibit our desire to actually go out in the world and be seen live. I don’t want to have try and live up to myself. I just want to be myself. I also don’t want my existence to be tied to my image, but rather to the way I make someone feel.


The point that Carter and I came to together after our exposure to the subject is that we are happy being ourselves. I love that my daughter takes crazy selfies and posts “weird” pictures. We are who we are both in 2-D and in real life. If you see one you will recognize the other. No retouching, improving, airbrushing, or photoshopping.


This is my glasses on, end of day, no hair brushed, little makeup, bad lighting selfie. What I hope is that in person I appear a little better because I am making you laugh because of what I am saying or make you feel good about yourself because I am asking you about yourself. I don’t care if you think I look better than my picture. I care that I make you feel something, and hopefully that feeling is positive.

The Cheese Is The Thing



Most of my friends who have dogs in their families tell me stories about how their dog is like a vacuum for food dropped on the ground or that no matter what they put in their dog’s food bowl it gets sucked down in a blink of an eye with a follow up begging look that says, “Is that all I am getting?” If I were a dog that is the kind of dog I would be too. Not so discerning about quality and very interested in quantity. Ok, maybe a little interested in quality.


Now our dog is not in that normal dog camp. If most dogs are a live-to-eat Shay Shay is an eat-to-live type dog. Picky is putting mildly how she acts at the majority of food placed in her bowl.


When Shay was a puppy and first moved into her forever home we thought maybe she missed her mother and that is why she refused to eat all of the fifteen kinds of foods we gave her. She would look at a bowl of kibble, barely sniff it and walk away. Not a taste or a nibble. We tried wet, dry, soft, raw, and every combination.


Eventually we found a sensitive stomach blend she would try, but actual eating a whole bowl was rare. Now don’t get me wrong, she is healthy and active, but she definitely has retained her girlish figure.


My attitude is if she gets hungry enough she will chose to eat rather than die. Russ on the other hand hates the thought that his precious baby might be hungry. He has been known to leave the house late in the evening and go to Harris Teeter and buy her a whole cooked chicken that he then will shred with his bare hands and scatter over the sensitive stomach blend. This she likes.


When Russ is out of town I must admit I begin to worry if she goes a day or two without a regular meal. I have discovered that a pinch of Swiss and Gruyere blend shredded cheese sprinkled over her Bill and Jack’s dry food will induce her to eat. It is so much cleaner for me to spoon out a bit of cheese rather than getting chicken fat up under my fingernails and she seems to eat about the same amount and with the same gusto.


It got me thinking that I like everything I eat better with cheese. I bet that if you were to melt that same shredded blend on a piece of cardboard I probably would love it. So maybe what I need to do is to remove cheese from my diet and see if I feel as lack luster about my meals as Shay Shay does. I like Jarlsburg cheese in my scrambled eggs, Blue in my daily arugula salad, goat as a dessert at night. I am sure that cheese makes up the largest percentage of my daily calories. It is the last vice I have not given up, oh yeah and Sweet ‘n low in my iced tea. I will eat chicken everyday for the rest of my life as long as I have cheese. I could forgo ice cream forever as long as Brie is still in my diet.


So can I blame my dog for not wanting to eat, heavens forbid, dog food? I have no idea who first introduced her to cheese, but if it happened before she came to live with us I can understand why she was holding out on eating unless there was cheese, or chicken in a pinch. I guess I have not gotten desperate enough to drop those last five pounds by giving up cheese all together. I somehow feel like my world would turn from Technicolor to sepia if I did.


For now I guess I could use my desire to have my dog stay alive by giving her a bit of cheese on her meal as my excuse to have a big drawer of cheese in my fridge. If only I had someone doling out my portion as just a sprinkle on my veggies.

If I Lent You Something Can You Bring It Back



I am getting old enough that I can’t remember who I lend things too, but not so old that I don’t remember having them in the first place. It stinks.


Today I am setting up for Mah Jongg Class. I go to my storage space to get my three card tables and when I only find two I remember that I lent out my best black card table. When and to whom I can’t recall, but I do remember pulling it out and wiping it off for someone. Do you think there is such a thing as borrowers face blindness?


I also lent someone my Jamie Oliver Italy cookbook. I know it was at least a year ago, more like two. Who it was I have no idea. I’m sure I did not have my name in it, but the sad thing is with all my cookbooks you would think I just would not need it, but I do. My long term memory is good enough to know I did have it and I recollect giving it to someone, but what they look like, where I know them from or even their name I can’t call to mind.


I think I am going to have to set up a lending card system like the old fashioned library used to have when I was a kid. I don’t mind lending things, but sometimes I need to get them back usually right as I am needing them.


My friend Anne told me that her neighbor came by her house to return a book of Swedish fables he had borrowed at least twenty years ago. When she told me about this she said, “What do I need that for now, even my Grandchildren are grown up.”


I am sure I have lent out other things that have not come back and that I have not missed yet. If you have something of mine and it is not the black card table or Italy book just keep it, I’m not missing it, unless I lent you a thousand dollars, then bring it back in small bills.


Now if I have borrowed something from you let me know. The same face blindness for borrowers works for lenders too. One caveat, I know I have not borrowed a thousand dollars from anyone so don’t think you can trick me on that one.

It’s A Meal Cauliflower Soup



At last the weather has been cold enough to jump-start my desire for soup. I love soup all year long, but there is something about the first cold snap that makes me happy to just have a big mug of soup for dinner.


Maybe it was from the years we lived in London. Cold and usually wet were the weather of most days. Since Russ and I worked many hours a day there was not a lot of cooking going on. We came to depend on the Covent Garden Soup stand in Euston station that was conveniently next to our office in Grant Thornton House. I can’t remember all the soups we used to get, but I can say we never had a bad one. What I learned from them is that soup could be satisfying as a meal unto itself. Of course they also included a hunk of crusty bread to eat with our soup, but even forgoing that today I was happy with this concoction.


3 Slices of think cut bacon cut into lardons

1 large sweet onion chopped

4 coves of garlic minced

2 carrots peeled and chopped

1 head of cauliflower broken into florets

1 qt. of chicken stock

6 springs of fresh thyme tied together with kitchen string- or two dashes of dried thyme

1 cup of milk

¾ cup of grated Gruyere cheese

Dash of cayenne pepper

Black pepper


Put the Bacon in a stockpot and cook on medium high heat until almost crispy. Pull the cooked bacon out and set aside leaving the bacon grease in the pot. Add the onion, garlic and carrots and cook for five mins. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add the cauliflower and thyme, reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook about 15 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft.


Remove from heat and fish out the fresh thyme if used. Using a stick blender puree the soup adding the milk to ensure you have enough liquid.   When smooth add the cayenne and lots of black pepper and the cheese.


Serve with a few of the bacon lardoons on top.


Eat and imagine you live in London.

Death by Savory Scone



My kryptonite is the breadbasket at a really good restaurant. Since we rarely have any bread in our actual house I usually can steer clear of eating white flour in the form of some baked product. But take me to a nice restaurant with other people who don’t have the same need for restraint that I have and I am in trouble.


If I were alone I know the answer is to politely ask the server to not bring me any bread, not to mention the existence of a biscuit and under no circumstances not to bring me the dessert menu. If I am just with Russ he might do that for me, which is a great sacrifice on his part since he loves bread and could afford to eat a piece.


The problem is when I go out to eat with other, non-family members. The bread comes to the table. Of course it does and I need to let other people enjoy it and still be able to sit there and carry on a pleasant conversation. But that is not what happens. Try as I might to sit on my hands and ignore the smell of the warm yeasty lump of pure white pleasure I eventually find my resolve too weak.


Tonight was no exception. Lemon poppy seed savory scones came to the table. Yes, they were really lemon poppy seed biscuits, but regardless of the name, they called to me. I did my best not to look at them. I ordered the soup and salad for dinner. I was drinking water. Before I knew it my hand was moving that scone from the breadboard to my plate. Practically in a trance I split it open along one of the many flaky fault lines that circumnavigated the circular bit of yumminess. I broke off a small piece and popped it in my mouth. Nirvana.


The combination of salt, flour and butter that were perfectly cut together to produce a tender biscuit that melted in my mouth ignited the happiness zone in my brain. Just as my hand was reaching to break off another morsel the red light siren warning system on the other side of my brain began a guilty blaring. I turned a blind eye to the guilt center and quickly finished off the entire scone.


I know that the scale tomorrow might not register that one little baked item as badly as I feel about it now. See, if I could only eat one once a month or so I think I would be fine, but one usually leads to more than one. I fled the restaurant and the other baked items. Tomorrow I will have to begin the detoxification process and pray I do not encounter another lump of white flour I am not able to walk away from. If you can’t reach me it might be because I am floating in the deprivation tank.

The Toms Trump

photo photo photo


I may have been sworn to non-celebration events for Russ’ birthday, but our friends Lynn and Logan Toms took no such oath not to acknowledge the half-century mark. In true Tom’s fashion they gathered good friends and fellow Carolina fans for a football game outing with full on tailgate extravaganza Logan style.


Logan being a true object of courtesy when it comes to entertaining did all the advance recon. Not only did he and Lynn provide the tickets, 50-yard line for the girls and blue zone for the guys, but also he and Lynn brought the food and more drinks than a bar full of drunks could consume in a week. In the perfect host world of Logan Toms he researches exactly, to the brand, what all his guests might want to drink and makes sure that he has iced down to the correct temperature the makings for each person’s ideal refreshment.


When we got in the car this morning to go to the game he told Russ that he had also arranged a fly over in honor of his birthday, but Russ was not to be fooled by the cover of Military Appreciation. Turns out to be truer than Logan thought.


We arrived at the very special parking deck and parked in the spot that Logan favors since it has large openings to the outdoors to bring light to our tailgate and is right behind Kenan stadium. Once all the savory fare was set up we enjoyed a toast or two to Russ.


Since we were having such a fine time in the parking deck we missed the opening of the game and the very special fly over, but not the All Veteran Group’s parachute jump into the stadium. We could hear the roar of the crowd, but our beverages held our attention.


We were about to pack up and head into the game when four guys and two women dressed in their parachute jumpsuits came out of the stadium and walked up to their van parked just outside our opening in the parking deck. We struck up a conversation with the vets who now run a group who not just jump out of planes at sporting events, but take disable vets up in planes and do tandem jumps with them as a healing exercise.


They were a cool group and we shared our tailgate with them and heard some great stories about their organization. You can see what they do at If you ever saw the jump George Bush Sr. did for his 80th birthday then you saw these guys. Being late to the game paid off.


Eventually we did go in and watch Virginia Tech run all over the heels, but the weather was fantastic, the company was perfect and the hosts were generous. I don’t think Russ can complain that someone celebrated in his name. Thanks to Lynn and Logan, Rich and Susan and Hannah and Mick. It was a great day.

Just Because It has the Word “Girl” in The Title Does Not Mean It Is a Kid’s Movie



Months ago while we were playing Mah Jongg my friend Mary Lloyd announced that Gone Girl was opening at the movies on Oct. 3 and said that we should go see it. I put a note in my calendar, but no real plans were made in June for a movie date in October. Fast-forward to the beginning of the week and Mary Lloyd says she has bought the tickets for the first showing at 10:45 in the morning.


Well the date was in my calendar and no other pressing engagements had come up so I thought, What the hell, I have not been to the movies in months, I can do my walking later so I certainly can allow myself to slip into a dark theatre in the morning and watch a world class socio-path.


As the seven movie trailers played, first one for a romantic comedy, then a war, then romance, then sci-fi, another romance it dawned on me that going to the movies in the morning is no faster than going at night. I don’t know why I thought it would be more efficient. I should have realized when we were not the only ones at the movie that opening day of a big-time, much anticipated movie is exactly the place that every future movie wants to have a preview. Since Gone Girl is rated R for the very reasons they came up with R, sex and violence, it can show previews of other very R rated movies.


Around the fifth preview an older woman holding her phone in flash light mode came walking across the front of the theatre dragging a small girl by the hand. They bumped their way up the steps right past us to settle two rows behind us on the back corner. There the grandmother type, laid her phone to rest on the banister, light facing up so she had enough illumination to change the diaper of the toddler all the while shooting and sex played on the screen.


I will not be a spoiler to what goes on in Gone Girl, but I will say that it is graphic enough and blatantly disturbing to cause horrific nightmares in any human, but possibly do permanent damage to a two year old watching it. I am praying that this older woman is not the Grandmother of this child and was just an emergency one time only sitter for this child because the idea that anyone who loved this little girl thought it was OK to bring a child that young to an R rated movie means that this child has no chance in life.


When I watch movies about truly disturbed people I wonder how authors came up with such horrible characters. Now I know how. They probably were exposed to these things in their own homes at young ages. So old lady, don’t bring a child to an R-rated movie. Just because it has the word Girl in the title does not mean it is a movie for girls. Oh yeah, one more thing, diapers should be changed someplace private. That kid was big enough to be potty trained, but since she wasn’t she was big enough to learn that we don’t show other people our private parts in public. And thus socio-paths are born.

The Best $6 Ever Spent



Fifty years ago today, on the Fort Dix Army base in New Jersey, a young woman named Virginia was giving birth to her first child. Martin, the nervous father-to-be waited outside as all fathers did back in the day. When the word came it was a son the parents decided to reverse the father’s first and middle names and call him Russell Martin Lange. The bill for the whole delivery and hospital stay was a whopping $6.


On this same day in 1964 I was at nursery school in Dayton, Ohio in a church basement sliding down the very exciting indoor slide with my friend and neighbor Johnny Schlemmer and wondering what my one-month-old baby sister Margaret was doing at home. Little did I know that half way around the country Virginia and Martin had welcomed the person that I would come to know as the best man on earth.


About 25 years after he came into the bigger world Russ and I happened to inhabit the same smaller and very exciting world of Mail Opening and Extracting. It took me a while to notice that the tallest, smartest person in the room was someone worth paying attention to. His quiet but irreverent sense of humor eventually caught my ear. Once I actually opened my eyes and realized what a catch there was under that wrinkled shirt and giant glasses I never let him go.


This milestone birthday for Russ also marks the point when we have known each other more than half of his life. I wonder which half feels longer to him, the one with me or without me? I know that for me out time together feels shorter than it takes the sun to set once it reaches the horizon.


Thanks to Virginia and Marty for having the best son on earth. Thanks to the army for the best deal, $6 for such a fabulous human. I hope that Russ will have many more wonderful years filled with curiosity. I am trying to honor your “no celebration” wish, but sorry Russ; you deserve more than a slice of apple pie. You are better than the whole pie.

It Looks Like You Are Playing With Your Private Parts



I’ve written about this subject before, but now that Carter is less than three months away from getting her license I am more aware than ever how many drivers don’t use their turn signal and it scares the heck out of me. Today while I was driving to school to pick Carter up I was waiting at a terrible intersection where I needed to make a left hand turn. I was in the position of never having the right of way, which is always frustrating, but at least I knew that.


As I sat waiting for an opportunity to turn I counted 34 cars that turned in front of me who never used a turn signal. THIRTY-FOUR! Most of them were looking down at their laps which leads me to think they had some device down there that was more important than taking the split second to flip the turn signal or looking up and actually driving. At least I hope it was a device. Before we had cell phones if someone was paying more attention to their lap I thought they might be doing so because their pants were unzipped. I actually miss those days since their were fewer people who could not wait to get home to play with themselves than there are people who can’t resist looking at their text messages.


In the last two weeks three teenagers in the next county over have been killed making left hand turns. I have no idea if they were using their signals, not that it matters since what probably killed them was the young drivers misunderstanding of how fast the drivers with the right of way were going. Nonetheless making a left hand turn is dangerous. No matter which way you are turning you need to inform the whole world what you are planning by using your turn signal. It is not optional. There is a reason cars come free with turn signals. If using them were optional car manufacturers would charge extra to have them installed.


For the good of all the new drivers out there and for that matter the very very old drivers, use your turn signal and at the same time stop whatever you are doing in your lap. If I see you looking down I am going to think the worst of you and assume you are driving without your pants on. Now do you want people to think you are playing with yourself while you are driving? Putting your phone in your lap to “hide” the fact you are on it makes you look like one of two things, an idiot or a pervert. Calling people out for being idiots has made no effect on the number of drivers not paying attention. Calling them perverts might make a difference.