A Hard, But Good Day



Last night as I was about to doze off the text on my phone buzzed. Russ was already asleep since he was going to be getting up early to fly to Philly to visit his younger brother who is home recovering from a serious heart attack. Carter was down in her room so I almost did not bother to rummage around on my bedside table for my reading glasses to see who was texting me so late at night. My normal mode of thinking is no late news is ever-good news and bad news can wait until the morning.


Something made me break habit and I turned on the light and looked at the message. It turns out that Carter had read a message on Facebook from my cousin saying that her father was nearing the end. I have known for a while that my poor Uncle Wilson had suffered enough with cancer and the pain was bad, but apparently in my effort to deal with my own grief I had not fully informed Carter of how bad it was.


“Mom, I need to go see him tomorrow.” She was right. Since my Uncle and Aunt live in the house next to my parents on their family farm they have been a fixture in Carter’s life, more so than most people’s great Aunt and Uncle. After much late night texting back and forth I begged her to go to sleep and we would go and see him in the morning.


Carter got up for her normal Saturday job at her barn, cleaning stalls and caring for horses and I texted my cousins. What I learned was that Wilson had finally decided it was time to go to Hospice and leave his beloved farm. I texted Carter that she needed to leave work and get right home so we could rush up there to see him, having no idea if he was lucid enough for our visit.


We got there before noon and found Wilson to be in great spirits and very awake. Aunt Janie Leigh was sitting on the sofa in his room with his bags packed and told us the EMS just called saying they had an emergency and were delayed in coming to get Will.


Uncle Wilson opened his arms and I was able to go and give him a hug and as the words, “I love you,” were coming out of my mouth the tears started flowing. He strongly replied, “I love you too, sweet girl. Thanks for coming. This stinks, doesn’t it?”


Stinks is not a strong enough word. Uncle Wilson and I have shared a lot of the same loves. He is an avid game player and at the beach in the summer we would carry on massive games of Risk. He was my first real photography teacher and he is the only grown up I knew when I was a child who openly proclaimed that dessert was important.


Carter got a good visit and felt better about seeing him while he was still in his own house. My cousin Brooks and his wife Sherri came in and it was like regular times telling stories and laughing. Then Will asked for some pain meds and soon after that the EMS showed up.


The hardest part was watching as they shut the door on the ambulance taking him from his beloved farm. My Dad, Aunt Janie, Brooks, Sherri, Carter and I stood teary in the driveway knowing this was the end of his long walk home. This was absolutely the right way for Carter to get to say goodbye. I’m still in denial because I have 54 years of memories of my life with Uncle Wilson and I know he will always be with me no matter what.

Car Troubles



I try and not use this blog as a venue to endorse or oppose businesses too often, but sometimes my life is just a little too dull to write about and the mundane happenings of the day are what you get. Despite the non-commerce philosophy of the blog I feel I owe it to AAA to give them a mention today.


For you foreign readers or people who live in New York City and may never own a car this blog is probably not for you. AAA stands for the American Automobile Association and is probably the best club I belong too, sorry Costco, Hope Valley and American Needlepoint Guild. Years ago when I was a traveling sales person I got a AAA membership and I can not count how many times they have saved my butt.


Just in the past week I have called them twice, once to tow Carter’s car to the dealership to fix a major problem and again today. After being stuck at home from the snow storm for the last two days I thought Carter was going to lose her mind if she did not get some teenage friend face-to-face time. Her friend Ashley wanted to go to the mall, get pedicures, do some girl shopping and have dinner. I was all for that happening since too had been stuck in the house with Carter.


Off she went in her recently fixed VW on roads that were now nothing but slush. I ventured out at the same time to the grocery since I had refused to go right before the big storm when the store had lines that wrapped the frozen section with people trying to check out. Just as I was pulling in our driveway, looking forward to starting my “House of Cards” binge watch walking on the treadmill session I got a call from Carter that the “low tire pressure” light came on in her car and she found a big screw stuck in her tire.


At the previous call to AAA just days ago I had gone ahead and gotten Carter her own membership, but her card had not arrived yet. I told her that I would call AAA to come and meet her and change her tire. “Please can you come and help me?” I heard over the line from a voice that was more reminiscent of pre-school than high school. Since she did not have her own card I said yes thinking that I would probably be sitting in my car at the mall for the next two hours waiting for help.


Boy was I wrong. I called the main number and asked for the service, got in my car and drove the ten minutes to the mall. Before I could even get there the nice man from Dave’s towing called me and said he was waiting by the car. The whole fix took ten minuets and he taught me all the secrets about the lug covers and lock that both Carter and I needed to know in case we ever had to change a tire ourselves.


The only way I ever see that happening is if we have driven the car deep into the woods where there is no cell reception because I can’t see owning a car and not having AAA. Yes, Carter learned how to change a tire herself when she went to defensive driving class, but doing it at the Mall on very wet pavement seems completely unnecessary when there is professional ten minutes away that is free since we already belong to that great club, the American Automobile Association. If you belong and want to add your child to your membership it is only $25 a year. That is the best piece of mind I can have because I know that I am not always going to be around the corner to help my new driver. Now that she has learned how easy it is she can call them herself next time.

Snow Day Play Date



It happened. We got the seven or eight inches of snow the weatherman was forecasting. It came in the middle of the night. It was the big wet heavy kind of snow. I woke up in the middle of the night when our power flicked off for a moment, but then miraculously came right back on. I don’t know how we lucked out there since so many of our friends and neighbors lost their power for much longer.


I slept late since I knew before I went to bed that school was at least delayed. I would have slept longer but I got a robo-call from school around 8:30 telling me school was canceled. Since it was already delayed until 10:15 I could have gone a little longer without that wake up call.


Once I was up I decided to go on and get some exercise by shoveling our walkway and doing some work moving snow away from cars. While I was out shoveling I heard a pig pop-pop from the transformer on the corner of our property and saw a big flash of light. I was sure our power had just gone out, but no. it stayed on. Russ came out to help me between work calls but then took the four-wheel drive vehicle into the office. Commerce must go on.


Since my regular day had been canceled I went to work doing two loads of laundry, changing sheets on the guest bed for a friend without power to use tonight, cleaned off the months of mail that had piled up on my desk, ran the dishwasher and got all my steps on my treadmill before 2:00.


That busy beaverness warranted me a play date with my friend Stephanie to catch up and play Bananagrams. With no visible work insight I had no guilt to take a couple of hours to play with my friend. Since she did not have power at her house she deserved a warm place to hang out too.


After we played a few rounds she tried to reach Duke power having been cut off by the automated system on multiple previous attempts to report the outage at her house. Finally she got through and the system voice told her that she could expect her power to return by 11:45 TOMORROW! I told her that her family was welcome to come camp at my house; we still have another unoccupied bed and plenty of comfy sofas the size of twin beds.


A snow day is only fun for one day. When it gets to be snow days without power then it is verging on too much little house on the prairie. I am praying for school tomorrow, not so much for me, but for all my friends with multiple little children. If you need a grown up play date tomorrow, call me. I’ve got lots of games we can play and no laundry left to do.

Snow Days and The Desire to Eat



I don’t know about you, but there is something terribly bad for me about snow days and being stuck in my house. It is not that I have lots of little children who need to be entertained. Actually it is quite the opposite, yesterday I tried to get Carter to play a game with me and she said absolutely not.


My problem with snow days is that I seem to lose all will power to not eat carbs when I am stuck inside. Now there are plenty of days when the weather is perfect and I am choosing to stay home voluntarily and I eat my regular diet of salad and salad and salad.   But let the smallest amount of frozen precipitation come out of the sky and I start searching the house for chocolate, cookies, cakes anything I have put in the freezer to keep from eating it and I just eat it frozen.


I have no excuse not to get my exercise since I have a treadmill, so on snow days I still get my steps, but then I negate all that walking with eating what I would not normally. Perhaps I am not the only person who has this problem and that is why when southerners hear it is going to snow they rush to the store and wipe the shelves clean of bread and frozen pizza.


I know of other friends who say that a snow day is the only time they bake and make cocoa. Yes, a hot drink is a nice warm-me-up when you come in from sledding, but why not a good ginger tea? What is it about snow that screams, “I need marshmallows melting on top of a creamy chocolate drink?


I guess that wearing all those layers of winter clothes hides the reality of my real body. Somehow I need to break this cycle because I don’t see the snow stopping any time soon. I may not have any control over the weather, but I do over my eating, I think. I am yet to hear any scientific evidence that snow really changes a body’s need for calories. If it did, then sunshine should have the opposite effect, and I am really no better at dieting in the summer.

Don’t Drink From Bottles

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This morning was my appointment to get my front teeth fixed and snow be damned I was going to get to the dentist so he could replace my old bonding on my front teeth. This was no emergency, but it was the day I had psychologically prepared for and I was not about to let the dusting of snow we had at 7:30 in the morning stop me. I knew if I did not go today I might have not rescheduled until I had broken off my old repaired teeth.


I have spent my whole life dealing with front teeth problems and I am always thankful for the brilliance of dental chemists who invent new and better ways to repair broken teeth.


It all started when I was five and climbing our chain link fence I chipped a front tooth. It wasn’t that bad, but back in the dark ages of dental care there was not much they could do about it.


Then when I was about 11 a boy on the school bus pushed me and I hit the metal bar on the top of the seat and chipped the same front tooth big time. By then there was some kind of fix our family dentist was able to do to it that at least kept the exposed nerve covered, but it was not a perfect match for my other tooth.


Then on New Years Eve my first year out of college, when I still had not figured out that drinking was not a good idea for me I chipped my other front tooth on a bottle of champagne. Thankfully my fabulous dentist in Washington worked out of his house and was willing to fix my tooth on New Years Day as long as I was willing to act as my own dental assistant and hold all the tools.


Lucky for me a new dental material had been invented called bonding so my Dentist was able to mold a new half tooth on both of my two broken front teeth. Over the years those fixes have had to be replaced this being the third and only voluntary time. The first two times I had to do a replacement it was because the bonding had finally given up and fallen off one of my teeth.


Although it was not pleasant to have to go around with a broken tooth it certainly made putting the new ones on easy since there was nothing to remove. That is why I was nervous about today. Although I was practically a pro having already assisted in my own fabrication of new teeth, I never had two perfectly good bonded teeth removed to make way for new ones.


I was doing it for precautionary reasons because my old ones had out lived their predicted life and they discolor differently than real teeth. What I really did not want to have happen was for my bonded teeth to decide to fall off when I was in a foreign country. Love travel, as much as I do I do not trust my teeth to anyone other than my American dentist.


Thank goodness my wonderful young dentist Andrew as well as his assistant were not deterred from coming into to work in the snow. I was able to lie down in the chair covered by a warm snuggly blanket and go into a Zen mode of mouth breathing while I ignored the machines used to remove the old and put on the new. In an hour I had new beautiful teeth that look so much better than the old. God bless people who invent this stuff and the ones who put it on. I have another fifteen years before have to worry about this again, I hope.

Is There a Nice Ranking For Colleges?



Tonight Russ and I have to go to college night for parents of sophomores at Carter’s school. It seems hard to believe that it is time for me to have a more meaningful role in where Carter goes next, but it also seems like we have been talking about college ever since she was in pre-k.


When I was a kid I don’t think I really knew what college was about. I just remember one day I would have a baby sitter and the next they were gone, where and how and for how long and are they ever coming back were questions that were never answered. Every once in a while I would just here the word, “college.”


Where I went to college was a little haphazard, although I think it was a great place for me. I remember going on a couple of college tours with my whole family in tow while we were on vacation. A memorable one was at Wake Forest when I must have been a sophomore and not really ready to think about what kind of school was right for me.


Here is the background, my father had grown up in Winston-Salem and had gone to Chapel Hill so he had a definite opinion about Wake. He asked our tour guide, who was an awkward young man, “What do you do for fun around here?” Now as an ex-college tour guide myself I know that questions like that coming from fathers are a minefield. Little did this guy know that my father thought having fun at college was very important, so as he hemmed and hawed for an answer that he thought a father of a daughter would like to hear, my father leans over to me and says, “You are not going here, they don’t know how to have fun.” (For the record, I know that is not true.)


My mother and I took a trip alone to look at colleges in Pennsylvania and it was a chance encounter with a professor at breakfast at Fay’s country kitchen that sealed the deal for me to apply early to Dickinson. That and the fact that three girls I had gone to Walker’s with had gone there and loved it.


The one thing I think that made Dickinson perfect for me was that I went to school with the nicest group of people. I totally credit the admissions office for choosing people who were generally nice. My friend Tommy Hurdman who went to a different, but very good school, used to come to visit and complain that his classmates were in no way as nice as mine and he wished he had gone to Dickinson. That is how his little brother happened to come to Dickinson.


Now that Carter is about to embark on her search for her next school I wish there was a “nice ranking.” Yes, we want academic rigor, or at least her father does, but I am probably more like my father and want to know, “what do you do for fun around here?” At the time my father asked that I was completely embarrassed, but now I see I have turned into him.

What Underwear Are You Wearing?



Since today is Academy Awards day the most asked question is, “What are you wearing?” Of course celebrities have been given the designer clothes they are donning on the red carpet so they are obligated to do their best job telling the world who designed and made the free things they have on.


Really the what are you wearing question is the safest thing for any journalist to ask. Imagine what a mess it would be if any one of the 1,600 worldwide journalist were to ask a real question like to Julianne Moore, “How on earth do you feel about going up against Meryl Streep for her 18th best actress nomination?” What could the poor woman say? If she said, “I think since Meryl has won three times she should give someone else a chance.” No way. No savvy nominee is going to say anything juicy before the statues are given out so discussing their clothes is about all we will get.


Given that premise what I wish the TV people on the red carpet would ask is, “What undergarments are you wearing?” I can figure out the dress on my own since we can see it, what I want to know is what foundational items are under the dress and how uncomfortable are they?


To me the secret to a great look is one that is as smooth as possible and not all those bodies are naturally smooth. Also give us the inside scoop on how those boobs are staying in place, up high with little chance of wardrobe malfunctions. So you think there is any body tape left in Hollywood? What if someone sweats a lot? Could that make the tape slip off? These are the real questions.


While we are on the subject of questions they don’t ask on the red carpet I really would like to know what kind of hair products are used on these women with perfect hair that is left down. Now I know the updo girls can get sprayed to within an inch of their life and that complex braided bun ain’t goin’ nowhere. But what about the star who where her hair down and long and flowing, how does she keep it looking camera ready?


Please take note Good Morning America, Kelly and Michael and Jimmy Kimmel and ask these things next year. The Guccis and Armanis of the world get more than enough attention at Oscar time, I want to know which model Spanx is making it’s way up to collet a gold statue.

Motown Saturday Night


If only seat dancing were real exercise, then I would have runs marathon tonight. Russ, Carter’s and I went to see Motown at the DPAC and it was the sound track of my young life. I was so sorry that our friends the Prebbles had to miss the show, but it meant Carter got to come and our friend Susan sat with us.

Not only was the show a good two and half hours of songs I love, but the young actor who played Micheal Jackson, Reed Shannon was a friend of Susan’s daughter and Carter had just sat with him at dinner. He was exceptional.

I was particularly happy to have Susan next to me because when Diana Ross sang, “Reach out and Touch”, she asked the audience to join hands and raise them high in the air and sway back and forth. Susan gladly grabbed my hand, but Carter and Russ refused. Carter said I abused them for not joining in.

It’s too late to get tickets for this show here in Durham, but if you can see it someplace else with this great cast do it. I am thinking I need to pull out all my old Motown albums and make myself a good playlist to exercise to. I certainly got my share tonight and I was trying my hardest not to annoy the people behind me with all my wiggling. It took all I had not to get up and dance.

In Praise of Velvet Pockets



Living in North Carolina I don’t have need for lots of winter outer wear. Some winters I don’t even pull out a real cold weather coat. Because of this light demand for heavy coats I have kept my thirty five year old long fur coat to wear only on the coldest days. It does not really matter that it is terribly out of style and much too big because I really only wear it when it is so cold out that I am so bundled up from head to toe that you can’t recognize me.


I know there are plenty of people who are opposed to fur and all I have to say to them is these animals that gave their life for my warmth are being put to the fullest use since I plan on keeping this coat for at least another thirty-five years.


The thing I like best about my old coat is that the pockets are made of velvet and are the coziest and softest part of the coat. It makes me wonder why all coats don’t have velvet pockets; to me it is the biggest selling point.


Now pockets are sometimes an after thought in fashion, but in coats they are practically mandatory. For such a vital feature of a garment I wish that all manufacturers paid them more attention. Yes, it is easiest to fashion a pocket out of the same silky material the lining is made out of, but then you have a flimsy shell of a material that seems to hold the cold rather than velvet, which feels warm to the touch, no matter the temperature.


Yes, velvet is a little bulkier than silk lining, but on a coat that little bit more thickness should not make that much difference. It is not like I am advocating lining thin cotton shorts with velvet pockets that would add bulk to your hips.


The other feature of my old coat’s velvet pockets is that they are very deep. Not so deep that I have to stoop over to reach the keys inside my pocket, but deep enough that I can walk with a bare hand inside the velvet case and never feel one wisp of cold winter wind. This makes my old coat the perfect garment for walking the dog late at night when I can’t find my gloves and the long ago set sun has given way to nighttime low temps.


As long North Carolina is going to get one or two weeks of unseasonably cold weather I am going to cherish my old fur coat with the perfect pockets. I see no need for a new one that I would just wear to walk the dog, but why do away with something that makes me so happy on these ridiculously freezing days and nights. As much as I love my coat and it’s velvet pockets I am read to hang it back up in the hall closet until next year or the year after that and go back to some fifty-degree February days. Just because I have the right coat does not mean I need to use it.

Somebody Is Going to Lose, But You Are Still Winners



Except if you are trying to reduce your weight losing is not fun. Today was the final game of Carter’s basketball season and it was a hard loss to their big rival Ravenscroft. That means no advancing in the state tournament.


For me it is the end of the parent camaraderie in the stands. We are a faithful bunch of ever-hopeful supporters. Realistic in our expectations, we have often been surprised by our girls over coming big odds and great deficits to pull out improbable wins. We have felt the teams pain when they lost when they had a chance and proud when they kept at it until the end.


I think the days off from school the last few days due to the ice and snow did not help the girls feel fighting ready. I was hoping the other team also was lagging from winter problems, but they were not.


Carter has loved playing on this team and I know will miss seeing this group every afternoon. I will miss watching them play and sitting in the bleachers with the other parents. But after a little rest for her ankle to finish healing it will be time for conditioning to start to help get ready for next year.


Despite this loss Carter said to me in the car on the way home that she learned so much this year and had the best time. Only one team can win, but every player can personally win if they take the lessons they gained through the season and use it to improve not just in basketball for next year, but in everyway.


Learning how to be a team, support each other, listen to coaches, have good sportsmanship, get up when you fall down, offer a hand to help an opponent up, be gracious as well as tenacious, try things you never thought you could do, these and many other lessons are the kind of things you learn from a team sport that you never learn in a classroom.


Thanks to the coaches Krista and Robert. It is not easy to mold, motivate and inspire teenagers. Hell, sometimes it’s not easy just to be with teenagers.


I am already looking forward to sitting in the bleachers next year, cheering for the girls who will keep building on what they have learned already. It was a great season. You all should be proud.

Winter Travel



I felt terrible that both Russ and I were away from home when an ice storm hit Durham. That meant that our wonderful friends the Toms who had agreed to let Carter stay with them had her at home for two days off school. It is one thing to agree to have a sixteen-year-old visit, who can drive, has her own car and is planning on being at school and basketball practice most of the time. It is another thing to have a sixteen year old cooped up in your house. Thanks to Lynn, Logan and Ellis for taking such good care of Carter.


I was lucky enough to have had a ticket on the flight I did today because it was about the only window of good weather to get home in. Yesterday’s full flights were canceled and todays were already full.


I pulled in the driveway today to a “Welcome Home MOM” carved into the ice in our driveway. I don’t know how Carter did that because the ice on top of the snow was so hard that my car could not break through the thick coating. Even with me jumping up and down on the ice I can’t seem to crack it. I did not jump long because I could easily fall and crack me on this stuff.


I have only been home a couple of hours and now it is snowing here. It is a slow light flake type of precipitation, but I am glad I landed during the clear spell nonetheless. Since it is right at freezing I am not sure when the ice on the driveway will possibly melt. Given the gravel underneath I am not going to try and shovel it since it would take a pickaxe.


I am thrilled to be home with my girl and our pup. Absence definitely makes the heart grow founder, the driveway sign is evidence of that. But I also only had a few short visits with my DC friends and seeing the few I did for such brief times makes me miss them more.


My friend Jeanne even came to the airport this morning to have breakfast with me so we could spend as much time a possible together. There is just not enough time in life, yet alone the day, to get to really see and be with all the people you love.


Besides coming home to Carter the other good thing is I need to get back to monk like eating and exercise. Something about staying in a hotel made me think I can eat omelets and toast for breakfast. I did, but I shouldn’t have. The snow and freezing, really single digit weather also made me think I could drink the hot chocolate with marshmallows and crushed peppermint stick the hotel put out in the afternoon, I did, but it was naughty.


I have to get back under control because before I know it spring break will be here and I can’t afford to be out of control before I am in the land of the best food on earth. Maybe I should dig an ice cave in the back yard and just stay hibernating for the next three weeks. I wonder if I could dig a cave big enough for my treadmill.


Home sweet home.

Proof the World is Small


Yes, I lived in Washington DC for ten years, but that was twenty-two years ago. This was the first place I came after graduating from college. It is where I worked, made friends, played, married Russ Lange and eventually left.

Today, in the snow covered city I went to visit the new office space for Russ’ business to help plan the build out. Once the subject changed from furniture and paint colors to technology I excused myself and left Renee to handle the real work. By that time the sun had broken through and some sidewalk shoveling had taken place. I decided I should walk back to the hotel so I could freshen up before getting on the Metro to go up to Bethesda to meet my friend Tricia.

One of my big reasons for volunteering to come work on the DC office build out is that I really wanted to see Tricia. The last time I saw her was this past summer at her husband’s funeral. Tricia and I went to college together and she was a bridesmaid in my wedding. Her husband Danny was one of my favorite people on earth and now in heaven. Although it was important for me to be at the funeral I certainly did not get the quality time with Tricia I needed.

As I was walking along M street navigating my way across the slush filled corners to cross the numbered streets I came upon one corner whose lake of brown melted snow and ice was much too big and deep for me to traverse in one step. Although it would mean I had to go the wrong direction and walk on the non-sunny side of the street I turned to cross M street rather than the numbered street. As I looked up at a man standing on opposite corner I recognized my ground zero, very first new friend I made in DC, the man who introduced me to almost everyone I knew here, who lived above me in my first brownstone and became Carter’s Godfather, David MacKay.

Dressed in a big black coat with a black bucket hat pulled down over my face, scarf wrapped around my neck I screamed, “Hi, David.” He cocked his head, wondering who the hell I was, then in a split second he recognized the voice he knew so well, but did not expect to see. I might be able to walk around downtown Durham for a month and not see someone I know, let alone someone I love.

This has to stand as proof of how small the world really is. If it had not snowed the night before thus closing David’s office he would not have been on that corner at that time. If he ever had learned to cook he might not have been on the corner buying a sandwich at that time. If Renee and I had not been so efficient in doing our work I might not have been on that corner at that moment. If the water had not blocked up my path, causing me to change directions I might not have seen him standing on that opposite corner.

At my reunion with Tricia she reminded me of something I had written about my desire to spend more time keeping in touch with people I have known a long time and loved forever. Today’s chance meeting was confirmation of that. I had not let all my DC friends know of my trip because I was not sure how much free time I would have and I wanted to make sure I did my job. But now I know I need to come back soon and do a better job planning real quality visits with old friends. I think that running into David is a fairly strong message from somewhere to pay attention to old friends.

I’m a Winter Wimp Now



It never fails that when I go away I get the worst winter storm in years in Washington, the land of snow wimps and I leave my child home in NC to face the only snow day we have had all year. It wouldn’t be that bad except that she ripped her beloved uggs today to an unwearable degree.
Oh the mother guilt.

On the other hand Renee, Russ’ new office manager and I had a very productive morning doing what I came here to do, picking out office furniture. Since it is President’s day in the city of Presidents, most everything was closed today and we were the only customers at the furniture showroom. We could not go to see the new space because the building was closed so I was forced to take the afternoon off.

I had been worried that I would not be able to get my steps during this business trip so I had banked lots of extra steps in the beginning of the month. The zero degree weather was not really conducive to walking outdoors, but luckily the gym was available. I spent two hours working out all alone and playing Mah Jongg on my I-pad. I followed that with an hour in my whirlpool bath tub. Do I feel guilty that Carter was having a tough day at home? A little, but what can I do about it?

All the flights are canceled. The roads are impassable, school is canceled. My friend Lynn is taking good care of my baby. Russ is freezing his ass off working in Chicago. Life will go on. But now I am exercised, cleaned and just had a good dinner with Renee and am watching TV.

Even though Washington will be closed down tomorrow thanks to this big snow, but Renee and I will still be able to finish off our work. I promise I will get home Carter as fast as I can. I want to get back to NC warmth, so please let the snow melt in a southern wink of an eye. I’m tired of this cold and I have only had to deal with it two days. God bless all you Yankees who have had the worst winter ever. I can’t imagine…

Will Work For Tea


Russ has been working like crazy. When he asked me if I could help him out with doing the build out for a new office in DC of course I said yes. I cleared my calendar, made plans for Shay to go to her favorite sitter and asked Lynn if Carter could hang with her. Then the lease signing dragged on and on. I pushed my plans back, first one week and then another and a third. At last everything fell in to place.

I love DC. I lived here for for ten years from ’83-’93. My sisters live her and I still have lots of friends here. I knew that Russ needed me to come up here and work, so I came today so I would get a little time to play with friends.

Given the cold and wind in the weather it took me much longer to get here than planned. I checked in my hotel and despite the single digit feels like temp I walked the nine blocks to le Diplomat to meet my friends John, David and Karl. It was a good thing I walked because lunch at a French Bistro was going to blow out my diet. It was not the warm shrimp salad off the appetizer menu that was bad, but the basket of French pastries and mimosa that were sent over to us from the general manager who was friends with John. I was able to withhold from having the drink, but the one bite of each pastry I shared with the three boys still added up to one whole flaky, buttery sweet naughtiness.

After a long and leisurely time in the warmth of old friends and good food we had to face the cold. I should have walked back to the hotel, but the boys wouldn’t hear of it so they drove me right back to the door. As I entered my room I saw a giant carafe of iced tea and a plate of limes sitting on the bedside table.

Russ knowing that I function better with tea had made sure that the hotel supply me with my drink of choice without my having to order it for myself. That one little gesture is why I love my husband.

I hope that I have a productive time here and make him happy because he makes me happy all the time. Happy belated Valentines Day to Russ Lange. Thanks for getting a new office in a place I love to visit. I’ll show up here and work for tea anytime.

Prayers for a Heart on Valentine’s Day


A couple of days ago Russ’ younger brother David had a serious heart attack. He is a cop and it happened at work where a coworker recognized what was going on and threw him in his unmarked detective car and with lights flashing rushed him to the local hospital. The doctors said that saved his life.

Russ flew up to Philly to be with his family. When he got there he was able to see his brother sitting up in bed eating lunch. We all were very hopeful that everything was on the right road to recovery. After spending two nights up there Russ came home late this afternoon.

When he got here he told me that David’s heart was not doing as well as it needed to and he was going to need to be moved to a larger University hospital and hour and a half from home.

So on this day devoted to hearts I want to ask you to pray for my brother-in-law David and that his heart quickly recovers fully. Please keep his wife Tasha and three children, Bri, Sierra and Chris in your prayers as well.

David is only 47 and is otherwise healthy and strong. He has spent his life keeping other people safe. Being a cop is a stressful job, but there is nothing else in the world he wants to do than go back to it.

While you are at please pray for Russ’ father Marty. The stress of having his son in the hospital is not good for him either. I hope that your Valentine’s Day was one filled with love and a healthy heart.

Last Regular Season Basketball Game


It was a do or die game tonight for Carter’s team at North Raleigh Christian tonight. The last time they played them at home one of the Captains, Cha’Mia was injured to the point of being out for the rest of the season. Two weeks ago there were as many players injured as there were able to play and with that being five of each it made the last few games of the season tough.

Carter diligently did her rehab since he coach really needed her for this game. She practiced hard yesterday and was able to play today. That made seven regular players on the team and one angel Grace who played not only the JV game earlier today but played up for this game too.

This was the last game of the regular season and if the lady Cavs lost this one it would mean they would not go on to any state tournament. This was also the last game I was going to see since I have to be away no matter what happens at the state level.

Tonight the girls played hard. Every member of the team contributed and they pulled out the win. It was not their prettiest game, but they did what they do best, never give up and fight to the end.

I am thrilled they will get one more chance to play and if they can win that at least another, but for me the basketball season is over. The sitting in the bleachers with the other team parents, cheering for our girls will have to wait another eight months to start again. I have love every minute of this sport. The support, camaraderie,celebrations, and consolations have made my heart sing. I count at least ten needlepoint ornaments I completed while sitting at games. You would think I was not watching by that amount of progress, but you can stitch a lot during warm ups, timeouts and half time.

The best news is that with no seniors on the team we do not have to say goodbye to anyone yet. I am already thinking about how sad I will be come this time two years from now when Carter is a senior. I am more than a little addicted to this team so I guess aim just going to have to keep coming to games even when I don’t have a child on the team.

Thanks to coaches, Krista and Robert and thanks to all the players. You brought a lot of warmth and light to a cold and dark season.

My Dog’s Eating Disorder

Maybe Shay Shay knows something about the flavor of tissues, paper towels and napkins that I don’t know, but given a chance she will nosh away on them, but turn her nose up at almost every dog food on the market. I’ve heard of people with eating disorders who chew on paper rather than eat in food an effort to keep the pounds off. I can’t seem to find a calorie count for tissues or paper towels, but it seems to me that anything you eat that does not go straight through you, like a penny, could put weight on you if you eat enough of it.

What in the world makes Shay love paper, and I don’t just mean greasy napkins that had pizza wiped on them, but even perfectly clean new tissues, ripped to shreds and swallowed down? Have I been missing a yummy delicacy all these years? Could a sheet of Bounty be as good as a brownie?

Maybe paper needs to come with nutritional charts just like all foods do now. If eating paper is ok recycling could be a thing of the past if it turns out that the latest office memo is also a yummy snack.

For the record I try and keep most pulpy snacks away from Shay, but she does not appear to have any bathroom troubles when she does consume a Kleenex or two. I just know that I have to coax her to eat dry dog food by lacing it with chicken or cheese. Maybe I should just give her an old napkin with her kibble.

Pretend is a Wonderful Place



With some of the sad realities of life happening around us I sometimes would like to go to the land of Pretend where everyone is healthy, happy and kind. Sometimes there is not much I can do about the bad or the sad in the world. When I am feeling a little down and useless because of that I like to look at a little book of Quotes from Carter when she was three. The wisdom and imagination of that age takes me away from the things I have no control over.


Here are a few little vignettes from that book:


“In August we were never alone. Carter had an imaginary husband, a daughter and a baby in her tummy. ‘They don’t have names, and don’t ask me again!.’ They are new additions to Carter’s imaginary sisters, Lala and Teetee. There is a good Lala and a bad Lala and sometimes they are both with us.


“September 4, 2002 was Carter’s second day of school in the frog class. While working on the computer she told her teacher, ‘I know how to fix computers, my husband taught me.’”


“’So, what happened at school?’

‘Conner asked me to marry him.’

‘He did. What did you say?’

‘Mom, I couldn’t say anything. Conner asked me right in front of my husband.’”


“Mommy, when I grow up I will have to move far away from you. But don’t worry. I will always remember you in my heart.”


Oh, to be three again.

It’s All About the Lighting



This morning at garden club my friend Lynn was trying to get a photo of the hostesses. She had them lined up in front of the beautifully set dining room table with a pair of fabulous flower arrangements made by one of the hostesses. Being the busy body that I am I was looking over her shoulder as she was about to take the picture. The image I saw was as she was about to push the button was just outlines of three bodies since they were posed with a wall of glass doors behind them. I jumped in and turned the group so that the light from the windows was illuminating their faces and the dark of the room was behind them.


Now the ubiquity of cameras on every device we have has made taking pictures a regular occurrence and not the special thing it used to be when we had to pay for film and developing. The problem is that all the same rules for good photos exists with digital as it did with film, but very few people study the finer points of photography now that it is practically free.


Many people assume that photos can be fixed with the likes of Photoshop, which is true to only a point and by someone who is well trained. Great photographers all would prefer to get a well-lit shot from the start.


My interest in getting a good photo is a diet issue. The worst thing about being lit from behind is that the dark shadows on people’s faces renders them unidentifiable except by body shape. I hardly know a woman over forty who would like people to study the outline of her body, no matter how tight it is. When looking at a beautiful picture of someone’s face you tend to overlook imperfections, which we all have, even if it is just that you are not standing up as straight as possible. But looking at a dark outline it is hard to distinguish if that thing sticking out of the middle is a large stomach or just an elbow of a bent arm.


Do yourself, your friends and family a great service and never place them directly in front of a bright light source to be shot straight on. It is wonderful to take someone’s picture in front of a window if you have them stand with their shoulder on the window and you have the light coming across their face, but even that is a little advanced for most I-phone photo takers. The best rule of thumb is always having the photographers back to the light source shooting directly at the subject. A smiling beautifully lit face will always make the person in the picture look better and isn’t that what you want.


Here are two photos I grabbed from a 2001 scrap book to show you examples.  Who knows who those people in the pool are? (I do)  and here is one of Carter taken with the light from the side of the window.

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How It Looks or How It Feels



Today I took my car into to get washed and have the inside cleaned. Yes, it did start to rain within an hour of my laying out good money to get a professional clean up my car. Am I an idiot for not looking at the answer machine I have with me at all times that has not just one, but four different weather apps, before I pulled into the car wash? Probably. The thing about the rain is that it may make the outside of my clean car look dirtier faster, but the inside is still pristine and that is the part that was making me unhappy when it was dirty.


To the world I really don’t care if my car is dirty so cleaning the outside is the least of my issues. I want to part of the car I live in to be nice and not feel gritty and no one else really sees that. That is also the way I feel about myself. I really don’t care what I look like to you, but to me I want to feel good.


My hair is a perfect proof of that. Last week while I was with a group of friends I see regularly the subject of hair color came up since a couple of friends were going off to get their hair done. I announced that I had never colored my hair and was met with disbelief. My evidence is my hair and the argument that no one would ever pick mousey brown as their color of choice.


Having grown up in a family of not the best hair my reason behind never coloring is that I want to preserve what little poor quality hair I have. Since I don’t have to look at my hair color it does not really bother me, but I do like that it feels as fine as it does. There it is, not the way it looks, but the way it feels to me.


Now I do want thinner thighs, not for the way they look, but that they don’t rub together when I walk and that feels better. I like weighing less, not to be thinner, but because being able to zip and button my jeans feels better. I like my house to be clean, not so it looks better to someone who walks in, but because I like the way a clean floor feels to my bare feet.


If there were a preference for how things look to others or how they feel to you which way would you go? It is clear to me that I am not going to make anyone else happy but myself and I feel fine about that. I hope you don’t mind seeing me in my dirty car with my mousey brown hair with the greying temples, just know I am happy in there.

Learning to be a Follower

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Growing up as the oldest girl of three I had a natural bossy tendency. I was never good at following an other’s lead and always wanted to be out in front. If I were traveling with a group of cars I needed to be first. As I aged I realized this was not always the most attractive trait, but one I had to fight to overcome.


Today was one of those days that make me happy we live in North Carolina. While the west coast is consumed in rain and the North East is hit with yet another snowstorm, it was seventy degrees and sunny here. I woke up early for a Sunday so I attended early church. Although I really missed the choir I loved having my whole day ahead of my by nine thirty.


Russ and I decided to take Shay on a big hike at the Eno State Park. Even though we arrived before eleven the parking lot was almost full with other lovers of North Carolina winter. With Shay on her pink leash held by Russ we set off to hike up the trail that runs besides the river.


The trail is fairly narrow and a bit muddy from run off from the hills. Shay could be mistaken for a mountain goat in a brown curly coat. She can jump over fallen trees and climb steep trails with no effort. As the three of us negotiated our way up and down the hills of the park one thing became apparent, Shay had to be out in front.


Every once in a while I would try and take the lead where the path got skinny, but I could feel Shay’s breath on my ankles and she pulled against the leash to try and pass me. As soon as I stopped to let her go by me she would relax as long as we let her tell us where to go.


With the fall leaves on the ground it was not always apparent exactly where the trail was, but somehow without ever looking up to see the trail makers on trees Shay was able to keep us right on the path we should be on to stay out of danger never mistakenly ending up on top of a boulder with no place to go.


Shay was clearly a better trail leader than I ever would have been, not that I had a choice. She must have inherited her desire to be a leader from me. But being a follower was highly pleasurable. I was able to enjoy the scenery and the sunlight streaming through the naked winter tree branches.


I guess that it was easy to be a follower when I so thoroughly trusted my leader. I guess that I need to work next of being more trusting. I hope I have a lot of years left because I still have a lot to learn.

A La Carte to the Max



Tonight we went out to dinner to a place where everything was a la carte. For me as a person who wants to control what tempts me it was perfect. Don’t want to eat starch, no problem none is put on the plate unless you order it. Even bread and butter were not automatic. It was easy to withstand the breadbasket when it was advertised as gluten free at $6.


The only problem with this way of selling food is that the portions of what you do order are large. Russ and I got the turf and surf special to split and we still brought half the steak home. I ordered the Brussels sprouts and it really was big enough for three, although I ate most of them myself.


I can see the next wave of food service going even further by being an order by the bite plan. I think I would like six bites of steak, nine of salad and seven of green beans. The real winner in a by the bite plan is that I then might order one bite of rice and one bite of dessert if I was guaranteed to only get that much.


Despite my leaving half a steak uneaten tonight I am normally I’m not good at leaving food on my plate, even if I am full. If you put the food on my plate, I usually am going to eat it. Given the opportunity to order exactly the amount I should have I am much more likely to eat it all and be perfectly happy, even if it was only half as much food as I could have eaten.


Hooray for charging customers for bread. We all know bread and butter are not free, but once it has been put down on a table the leftovers must be thrown away even if the basket was not touched. That’s the food service law of the land, until Thom Tillis gets his hands on it. I like having the option to decide if I want you to tempt me with bread or not.


So go on and a la Carte everything, except for napkins and utensils. I don’t want to get to the point that people are forgoing wiping their hands because it costs fifty cents. This isn’t China after all.

Best Bang For Your Buck Black Bean Soup



My well documented hate of throwing away food drove me to create this recipe back in my catering days to use up the ham that was left on a bone of a Honey Baked Ham spiral cut ham. Later I learned that the Honey Baked store sells ham bones with a ton of meat still attached for something like $5. They keep them frozen so just go in and ask to buy the ham bone.


This recipe is for a huge amount of soup because of how much ham is left on the bone. If you want to make less you can just add some chopped ham instead of using the bone, but it will cost you so much more and won’t have quite the same flavor.


This is not the lightest soup, but it is very filling and satisfying so a small cup will stay with you a long time.


1 half a ham bone with meat attached

5 big yellow onions chopped

10 cloves of garlic minced

3 T. olive oil

8 15 oz. cans of black beans drained and rinse

5 T. ground Cumin

1t. Cayenne pepper- more or less depending on how hot you like food

2T. Garlic powder

1T. Smoked Paprika

2T. Dried oregano

2 T. brown sugar

Juice of 2 Lemons

¼ Cup Sherry

Sweet Red Pepper Chopped

Bunch of flat leaf parsley Chopped


If you get a frozen ham bone you can start this soup by putting the ham in a big stockpot and adding a half-gallon of water and bringing it to a simmer to begin to thaw out the ham and develop the flavor of the water for the soup. If your ham is not frozen just start at the next step.


In a big stockpot put the olive oil and heat on medium high heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook for about ten minutes stirring often. When the onions are translucent add the spices and cook for another two minutes to wake them up.


Add the ham bone and half a gallon of water at this point. If you have already started heating the ham in water add the onions and spices to that pot because it is easier to pour the onions that the water.


Bring the whole thing to a boil and reduce to simmer. Add the beans and cook uncovered for at least an hour to two hours. You want the liquid to reduce and thicken.


When thick take the ham bone out of the pot and let it cool enough to be able to cut any meat off of it.


Add the red peppers, brown sugar, sherry, lemon juice and the cut up meat back to the pot and cook for ten minutes. Taste for spiciness and add any cayenne you want. Add the parsley and serve. Good with Sour Cream






Playing the Villain



In my fourth, fifth and sixth years we lived in a tiny house on Crystal Street in New Canaan. Our house had a back yard that was surrounded with a chain link fence with holes just the right size for me to fit my red Ked tenny pumps into to climb. The fence came with the house and my parents had no need to fence us kids in the yard. We basically ran free in our neighborhood either on bikes or on foot.


My back yard neighbors were the Quinns who had a much larger and grander house than ours with a big corner lot. How I remember their name today when I can’t remember what I went to the Harris Teeter to buy an hour ago is amazing to me. The Quinns had sons, two or three, those details are fuzzy. The two I am most sure they had probably flanked me in ages so we tended to play together.


I often was sticking my toes in the chain link fence to climb over to their yard since they had an exciting and somewhat dangerous zip line that ran from a tree house to a porch, where I only had a standard metal swing set in my yard. Our favorite neighborhood game to play was Batman. The show with the “POW,” and “
“WHAP” graphics was big in the mid sixties.


The older Quinn boys of course assumed the roles of Batman and Robin, since it was their tree house we used as a bat cave. One boy who lived on their street whose name I cannot remember was Alfred the butler. I think he was always bringing snacks from home and that’s how he became the manservant. Needing a bad guy to fight against I was almost always assigned the role of Cat woman. I did not really mind because it required me to slide down the zip line standing on the wooden bar and only holding on with one hand.


When other boys would come along we would have a Joker or a Penguin and if a new girl happened to join in she would get to be Batgirl. I can remember wondering if I could be Batgirl when we had other villains, but I was never allowed to veer from my role as nemesis to Bat Man.


In reality I was a good girl, but it was fun to play the naughty one. I think that was my earliest memory of acting against type. Eventually “playing” the villain was a skill I developed. As an adult whenever there are ever negotiations to be done I always play the bad cop. If someone has to be the heavy I was happy to take on that role and not just because I was heavy. The real trick is not to become a villain just because you play one.


The world is not black and white like in 1960’s TV shows, even the ones in living color. Sometimes you are the bad guy and sometimes you are the good guy. That is just the way non-scripted life works out. I’m glad that now I really get a choice between Cat woman and Batgirl, or even commissioner Gordon, nowadays. There is nothing worse than being pigeon holed as a one-dimensional character.

Is Vegan the Answer?



Proof that Beyoncé is a brilliant marketing machine came out today with the announcement of the Beyoncé Vegan meal delivery service. For just over $600 you can get home delivery of a 21-day vegan meal plan. The unspoken message is “If you want a body like Beyoncé’s go vegan.” Bill Clinton the once chubby president is now also a vegan and a mere shadow of himself.


If I were only interested in being thin I would consider becoming a vegan, but since I am more interested in being happy I must have a life that includes cheese. Also the fact that I am an off the scale extrovert and enjoy the company of other live humans I need to keep my consumption of beans in check or risk not having another friend.


Using beautiful celebrities to sell things is not new, but I doubt that anyone thinks they are going to look like Cindy Crawford or Sofia Vergara if they buy their furniture at Rooms To Go. I am sure there are plenty of bootlicious wanting thick waisted women who will fall for the idea that they can look like Beyoncé if they eat like her. The part of the equation that is missing is her personal trainer, well equipped gym, personal assistant to do all her errands, nanny to care for her child, and well documented work ethic that allow her to spend hours working out as well as her blessed genetic make-up.


So go vegan if that appeals to you, but don’t do it expecting to look like Beyoncé. Plenty of the vegans I know are no thinner than they were when they ate meat. Potato chips are vegan after all.

Almost Made The Whole Season Without a Twisted Ankle, Almost



Carter really get’s her tuition’s worth of tape at basketball. She gets her ankles that have been rolled multiple times taped daily. Her shin splint calves tightly wrapped and her past torn meniscus and patella tendentious knees secured with tape. With all this precautionary taping as well as sonic treatments and ice and heat she has been able to stay relatively injury free during the whole long basketball season.


With Cha’Mia having an accident in a game last week, Nicole still recovering from her major knee blow out, Kenan’s leg still braced to within an inch of her life and Allyssa recovering from a concussion the team was down to six players. Last night they faced a crazy tough opponent and did not fare well. Carter was despondent, but determined for the team to rally and show the coach what they had in them.


With a back-to -back game tonight this was the six-girl team’s chance to prove they had real heart for basketball. Every player was important and was playing at top notch. The team quickly got out to a 13-2 lead in the first quarter. They were communicating, defending big and hit a majority of their baskets. Carter was getting more play time than ever and was rebounding and stopping the ball from going in the opponent’s basket.


The team was hot. The coach was happy. It was 30-10 right before the end of the half and it happened, Carter rolled her ankle and went down. I saw her do it. I knew her pain. The trainer came out with Carter’s coach and eventually she got off the court to the side for ice and a sprained ankle declaration, even with all that tape.


This meant that the last standing five players, Liz, Izzy, Erin, Serena and Imani had to finish out the game without a rest or fouling out. They held on and won the game something like 47 -22. Their heart showed big. Now it’s time for Carter to ice and keep that leg up high so it can heal in time for Friday’s game. At least Grace will play up from JV that game so they can have another player.


Congratulations girls. You fought hard. You are a team, a great one.

1000 Days



Yesterday after I posted my blog I got a message from my blog hosting service congratulating me on my 1,000th post. It is hard to believe that I have written and posted something everyday for almost three years.


Maybe I should rename my blog the 1,000-day war rather than Less Dana. It certainly has been more Dana than anyone ever thought they needed and I have to say that my weight loss journey is a constant battle, but one that has been much more successful with this blog as my accountability.


That being said, I wonder how long the blog should go on. Have I already told every story I have in me? Have I exhausted the attention of my readers? Have I run out of witty banter and just succumbed to complaining? I’m not sure yet, but what I do know is that I worry if I take my eye off this ball I easily could slip back into bad habits.


My Thanksgiving to Christmas relaxation in both exercise and healthy eating proved that my body easily could return to it’s former self. In my lifetime I have gained and lost hundreds of pounds, usually in 100 pound increments. I know it is not the way I want to go again. So for now I am going to keep at the program that has gotten me here, which I guess means daily written accountability.


I’m sorry if it is tedious. Of course if you are still reading this you can let me know when it is time for me to stop. But as a reminder why I do this I am posting a picture of me with Carter from 13 years ago and a very bad selfie taken just now in my 1950’s pink bathroom full-length mirror. I do wear reading glasses now and my skin is dryer and my daughter towers over me, but I am also about 125 pounds thinner than that picture and I certainly don’t want to go back there and wear reading glasses and have dry skin.


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Souper Bowl


I’m not someone who likes single purpose tools, but for some reason I have kept these ugly onion soup bowls for 33 years. I remember buying them from Wetzel’s catalog showroom in Carlisle the summer I lived there since I was friends with Chuck Wetzel’s. I think he must have given me a discount on them because they are so unattractive. Despite the look everyone in my family is happy when I bring them out because that means I am making French Onion Soup.

In honor of the big game tonight I made Soup! There is nothing easier and the soup base is very healthy. Adding a slice of toasted bread and a little Swiss cheese makes it a little less healthy, but if it is your whole meal it is still not too bad.

5 big sweet Onions sliced thickly
1 T. Sugar
32 oz. of Beef Stock
1 cup of white wine
2 Bay leaves
Handful of fresh thyme-tied with kitchen string
1/2 t. Garlic powder
Salt and Pepper

Spray a stockpot with Pam and put the onions in on medium high heat. Cook stirring every few minutes until the onions begin to brown. Sprinkle sugar on the onions and cook another minute.

Add the stock, bay leaves and thyme. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer. Cook for 20 minutes. Add the wine and garlic powder and simmer another 15 minutes. Taste and salt and pepper as needed.

But in an ugly bowl and float a piece of toasted French bread and top with cheese and put under the broiler to melt the cheese. You may be tempted to put so much cheese on it that it melts all over the outside of the bowl. Don’t do it! It makes a big mess in your oven and doubles the number of calories.