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.