Random Lunch



Today I had lunch with a wonderful friend who I have known since well before Carter was born. We had been in a club together for years where we got to see each other once a month, but when that club disbanded we had less regular contact, but no less affection for our friendship. Our two-hour lunch could have easily gone on for another two hours, but we both had other commitments and had to promise to schedule another in a month or so. My friend had weathered some health issues, which she is now on the good side of so it was as much a celebration as a catch-up time.


I came away vowing to try and have lunch with someone different at least once a week. I am eating lunch everyday so why not do it with a friend at every chance? There is nothing I am doing that is so important that I can’t make time for friends ahead of most everything else. I can get my walking in before or after lunch. Laundry can be done while I sleep. Carter and Russ are busy more hours of the day than I am awake.


The big thing that has been on my list of things to do is clean out the attic, but I am looking for every excuse not to get that done and I think lunch with friends is the answer. As I started thinking about who I would like to invite to lunch the list got very long very quickly. In a matter of a half an hour I had three years worth of people I wanted to see and the idea of grouping them seemed the logical way to go.


That’s when I resurrected my random dinner party idea with a twist of doing it for lunch. If you don’t know what a random dinner party is it was a concept Russ and I developed to have more people over for dinner. We just put everyone we wanted to invite for dinner in a mason jar and when we had a party just pulled names out of the jar and invited people randomly. Our thought was if we like them, they would like each other. It made for some great dinners. Sadly we hardly made a dent in the jar.


Now I want to have a random lunch. No work for me, it will be at a restaurant and everyone will pay for himself or herself. Instead of me doing the inviting I am going to let people self invite. The first one is next Tuesday, April 7th at 12:30. If you want to come send me a private message and I will take the first five people who respond. Once you have gotten a confirmation I will let you know where it will be, but it will be someplace in Durham. If you are one of my far off readers you are welcome to come, you just have to get yourself to North Carolina. The only rule is I am not going to tell any of you who else is going to be there. Let’s just see what happens.

Like Christmas Day



Today is like Christmas, Halloween and Easter, minus any religious connotations, all rolled into one for me – It is the day the new Mah Jongg card came in the mail. It is almost sad that I look forward to this day with such glee. Every year Ruth and the mavens in NYC who run the National Mah Jongg League keep this monopoly going by creating a new set of hands that they deem as the winning hands for the year and require the whole nation to buy a new card. The set day is April 1, that everyone in America who plays Mah Jongg their way is “required” to start using the new card.


I woke up this morning think that my “New Card” might come in the mail today since April 1 is two days away and sure enough I was right. I quickly called some other enthusiast and had some friends, run, not walk to my house to play. No sooner had one group left to pick children up at school when another group, whose children are all grown, showed up to play. Two rounds of Mah Jongg with the new card, what could be better?


Just as my second group was leaving Carter walked in the door with flowers for me and a movie for us to watch tonight since she had finished her homework. How could this day get any better? I had already made a big pot of white bean soup for dinner, had folded all the laundry and gotten all my steps.


A great day is going to turn into a better night. Movie with my girl and needlepointing — Even better than Christmas day. I hope your day was as good.

It’s All About Perspective

Today is Palm Sunday, the start of the big week on the life of Christians.  As I sat in church today rehearing the very familiar story of Jesus’ last few days I was struck by the disciples lack of realization about what was happening to Jesus despite the warnings.  As I thought more deeply about it I considered that I was coming at the story as a middle aged woman who had the advantage of having had religious scholars, teachers and preachers connect all the dots of the story with the advantage of years of perspective.  It made me think about how little a vision I ever have of a situation that I might be right in the middle of.

Now I am certainly not likening anything in my life to those of the disciples of Jesus, but I am certain that I have ignored signs or important messages that foreshadowed coming events, good or bad.  Maybe, after the fact I might have put two and two together, or more likely gone on blissfully unaware.

Where I am going is that I have come to appreciate time in helping focus one’s point of view and understanding of the world.  A few years back I learned to consider that all situations do not revolve around me more deeply than the way a toddle does.  This came after a painful interaction with someone who was once a close friend.  After a few soul seeking months trying to figure out why this friend had been so cruel, it dawned on me that it was not about me, but about the pain she was in and I was just an outlet for her frustration.  

If I had better perspective of the whole scenario I might have seen the pain my friend was in before she lashed out at me and been able to offer help, rather than just being a punching bag.  But then again, maybe not.  

There is no way that one human can see all points of view over time and certainly never in real time.  Knowing this gives me a lesson I wish I had learned much younger in life, no matter what is going on it is a good idea to stop and take a breath and wait before acting or worrying or even celebrating too loudly.

My younger self was a fixer, see a problem, offer a solution.  Only now as my older self do I realize I did not always really understand what the problem was I was sure I could fix.  I am now learning not see the world as problems and solutions, but more as complex stories of different journeys, none right or wrong.

The one thing I am sure of is that no one will study the path of my life and connect all the dots and missing information or foreshadowing that shows where I went wrong and what I might have done well.  Knowing most of my mistakes will go away when I do makes me happy to keep trying and making them.  I am sure I will always be a fixer, but hopefully I am gaining a better perspective.

When Binging Became Acceptable

Not so long ago if someone admitted to binging you might worry that they were eating or drinking too much.  It certainly was not ladylike to say, “I went on a binge,” unless you were talking about buying more than three pairs of shoes at a time.  Now a days if someone utters the word “binge” more often than not they are referring to watching multiple episodes of a TV show all at once and not to eating thirty-two cupcakes in a sitting.

I am now here to say, “hello, my name is Dana, and I am a binge watcher.”  Normally, I don’t think of binge eating or even binge shoe buying as being contagious, but I am promoting binge watching as the way of the future, even saying that it is the best possible way to watch TV.

My latest addiction is an original show on Netflix called “Bloodline” that stars the very cute Kyle Chandler, of “Friday Night Lights” fame.  It is the story of a family, that I don’t need to describe as dysfunctional, because all families on TV are, that live in the Keys in Florida and run an Inn.  Sissy Spacek plays the mother and Sam Shepard is the father.  I don’t want to give away any of the plot line, but trust me, once you watch an episode or two you will keep watching it to see where this story is going. 

This binge watching plays perfectly into my two at home obsessions of walking on my treadmill and needle pointing, both of which I can do while I am watching a good show.  The only thing that gets in the way of finishing the series is sleeping.  I started watching this show yesterday afternoon and after seven episodes I decided it would be OK if I stopped and went to sleep because that meant I would still have six more shows to watch today.  

Now I am down to one show left and I am sick that in an hour my short lived obsession will be done, at least until a new season comes out next year.  In my defense, or really justification for watching so much TV is that it was not fattening, I still got my family fed during this time and i had the bonus of  never being confused about what was happening on the show because I did not have time to forget who a character was or what the story was since I did not have to wait a week to see the next episode.  

So let’s redeem the word binge from the shame it has faced in the food and drink world to be the great thing it is in the television on demand era.  Who says we need variety in our viewing everyday?  There does not have to be any shame in engulfing yourself in the world of television characters for a day or two.  This is only a problem if you can’t discern the fictional people from the real ones in your own home.  Thankfully I don’t think I am closely related to anyone as bad as these characters, but it is really fun to watch for a day or two.  

I wish I had never seen any Downton Abbey, because I would have loved to have binge watched that show and pretended to be engulfed in their world.  I wonder if I would have imagined myself upstairs or downstairs?  I guess I’ll never know.  But now back to the warm weather of the Florida Keys and my last Bloodline episode.

Herb Weiman Memorial Tuna Fish



When I was a kid I did not really like the tune fish salad I was served at home. The large chunks of too much celery added to stretch out too little fish swimming in a pool of mayonnaise just never really hit the right notes with me. Then in college I met Herb Weiman, and his skills with a can of tuna changed my outlook.


Herb and I met when we went to school in France together what was the summer between my freshman and sophomore year and his senior year and first year of law school. We became fast friends and shared a lot of cooking between us. The best part was that Herb, who had the best sense of humor, was in law school in Carlisle while I was finishing Dickinson and he often retold the most outrageous cases he was studying with me while we shared dinner.


Herb had learned his special tuna salad from a diner in Ventnor, New Jersey where his family spent their summers. He even had a giant painted plywood menu hanging in his kitchen that had been discarded from the diner when they needed to paint a new one with higher prices.


Herb was always fastidious in the preparation of the tuna salad and impressed on me not to skip any of the important steps. I was more of a seat-of-my-pants-cook relying on my natural instincts rather than learning from great master of the diner culture. I have to admit that to this day when I make my tine salad the Herb Weiman way, not straying from the tried and true recipe I am immediately transported back to those happy years in college at my first bite.


Sadly Herb passed away at the much too young age of 40 from a brain tumor. His laughter and wit are still missed by so many. I do my best to keep him alive in his famous tuna salad.


1 6 oz. can of the best tuna in water you can afford – Herb swore by black diamonds

2 T. sweet pickle relish

Squeeze of half a lemon

1 T. mayonnaise

2 t. Dijon mustard

½ t. dried oregano

Salt and Pepper


Herb insisted that you must drain the can of tuna the best you can and then rub the tuna between your thumb and fore finger breaking it up into the tiniest bits you can, making it light as a feather. Mix in everything else adding only enough mayo to make it “Not dry” which is completely different than wet. It is best made a little in advance so the dried oregano can blossom in the salad.

What Kind of a Witch Am I?



My favorite job of the year is coming up, that of the Auctioneer at the Durham Academy Auction. There is nothing I like better than getting up in front of a group of friends and helping them part with their money for a very good cause. The theme this year is “Emerald City – There’s no place like home.”


One issue I always have is what to wear as the auctioneer. I try and stay with the theme, yet be covered up enough that I am not a distraction to the audience. A couple of years ago, when Russ was out of town, my zipper broke on my very tight dress and I had to call a neighbor to come sew me into it. The whole night I was nervous about popping out of the dress and causing mass nausea.


This morning we had an auction meeting and my friend Kristen had her Dorothy shoes, be it hooker Dorothy models and her little Toto and basket ready. I asked her who I should dress as and since she is a nice person she first answered, “Glinda.” Now really, do you think I am a good witch? I am probably more like the Wicked Witch of the North, save the green face.


My sidekick for a second year in a row is the ever-popular Lee Hark. If I go as Glinda he will have to be a munchkin, maybe even a lollypop boy, but if I am the Wicked Witch then he will have to be a flying monkey. Please weigh in and vote to let me know who you like best. I guess I should ask Lee, but he is usually game for any crazy scheme I hatch up.


There are some great auction items in the live auction this year, a beautiful house at Figure 8 Island over fall break, a cocktail party at Six Plates for 20, Four Tickets to Taylor Swift – 2 on the front row, A big golf package at the Wells Fargo Tourney, a Big Boss Beer Dinner for 10 and a Luxury box in the Blue Zone at the UNC-Duke Football game – whichever color blue you are this is the bomb. To read more about the items please visit DA.org/auction.


You don’t have to attend the auction to bid or donate, but I would love to have you come and spend a fun night with me there. Please let me know if you need a table. I still have spots at mine. They have changed my stage from one in the round to a cat walk type situation so I can get even closer to you when you are bidding. Chances are I might fall off more easily and that is always good to get the bidding up. It will definitely give Lee a good stage to model all the items from. Trust me you won’t want to miss the show.

Has Variety Made Us Fatter?



When we were in Italy I actually began to get sick of Italian food. Seems unthinkable since if I were able to eat anything I wanted without any caloric consequences Italian food might be at the top of my list. One reason I think I started to get sick of it is Italian cuisine is very regional and since we spent most of our time in Roman we were basically just eating Roman food, not food from all over Italy.


When I was a kid lots of my friend’s mothers made the same menu every week, baked chicken on Monday, hamburgers on Tuesday, spaghetti on Wednesday, meatloaf on Thursday and fish on Fridays. Not only were the foods the same every week, but also they were prepared exactly the same way week after week, year after year. Hardly anybody was fat. Was it because they were just sick to death of eating the same foods?


I can remember going to my friend Gayle’s house. Her family was from Minnesota of Norwegian decent. Her mother made some kind of meatballs with sour cream that I thought was fabulous, but Gayle and her two brothers could hardly look at it since it was a weekly staple.


I know that if I taste a new food and I like it I eat much more of it than I probably need. And the exact opposite is true. I eat the same thing for breakfast 99 days out of 100; a bowl of High Protein Special K with a few berries and skim milk. It is a small bowl and I am perfectly happy just having that since my mouth is not dancing with excitement for a new taste.


Maybe I have ruined my family by trying lots of exotic cuisines. Can we blame Food Network for introducing Americans to the idea that you never have to eat the same thing twice in your whole life? Yes, there might be a few foods you try and want to eat again, but chances are they are really fattening and that makes them taste yummy.


I think repetitive eating is the secret behind those horrible diets like the cabbage soup diet. If you are forced to eat the same thing over and over you eventually just don’t want to eat much of it. I think the cow is out of the barn at our house, there is no chance to have a repeating one-week menu unless I am looking for a divorce. What about at your house?

The Never Ending Life Lessons



Carter has been working on a photo project for her class where she had to take pictures from the perspective of her very much younger self. For a six foot person getting down on the eye level of her four year old self is a feet. Since she is an only child I have figured more prominently in her pictures than I might want, but some of them are literally of the bottom of my legs, or my hand holding the steering wheel.


Today she asked me if we could go to the Food Bank. I was thrilled that it made the list in places that made a difference to her life. Yes, she did not have much say in spending time there when she was three, but it did not have to make the list in her photo project.


Sadly, for the sake of her photos, the old Durham Food Bank branch has closed and moved to a much nicer building. The old, rotten dark building with food pilled three pallets high on racks would make a better picture. Now we have a brighter and cleaner looking building with much more open space and more room for volunteers to work.


After she got a shot of me pretending to sort food in the food drive area we went to leave and she said she wanted one more picture before we went out the door. Turns out she wanted to take a picture of me in front of the “Dana Lange Volunteer Project Area” plaque. She did not use her real camera, just her phone, but she said it was nice just the same and I think posted it on one of her many social media sites I am excluded from.


She has no idea how much it meant to me that she wanted to include my work in her childhood memories. Now I am not so crazy to ask if they are good memories or bad memories — I don’t want to push my luck, but as a parent I just hope that over time some of the good things sink in to our kids and end up making a difference.


I know she gets sick of hearing me tell her things. “Is this conversation going to turn into a lesson?” is probably her most repeated thing she says to me. She always gets back the same answer, “It’s my job, as your mother, to teach you lessons.” I am sorry for Carter that she is an only child so I only have one person to constantly annoy with the “lessons”. If she had siblings she might not have to hear them as often, but then again if she had siblings she would not get to go on as many fun trips because we would be paying for another kid. The trade-offs in life. For today I am just going to think positive thoughts about “the Food Bank photos.”



Too Old or Too Young for a Bib



Today I came home from lunch with my Friend Kelly at the new place downtown, Dashi and noticed that I had quite a few stains on my shirt from my delicious soup. Try as I might I obviously enjoyed my meal with too much vigor because I had evidence of it all over me.   How I wish that I had worn a bib, but I hardly ever see any adults who have all their faculties wearing them in public.


When we were in Italy I did notice that one restaurant in Positano, Chez Black, had giant cloth adult bibs, not just to use, but for sale. How wonderful it is when an establishment makes it fashionable to keep your fashions pristine while still enjoying your meal.


In Russ’ family there is great lore about what a messy eater his great Aunt Jo was. I can attest that she never met a meal she could not help wearing. When Russ’ Dad and his brother Richard were little boys, Aunt Jo lived with them. She was the breadwinner in the family since their father had been injured in an accident.


The boys, when they were young, would tease her about how she always spilled something on her crisp white work blouse. Considering her importance to their existence it seems like they should have cut her some slack.


Story goes that one night when their mother had made spaghetti with red sauce the boys bet Aunt Jo that she could not eat her entire meal without getting any sauce on her shirt. She accepted her young nephews challenge and then got up from the table and got a big white towel, which she draped over herself. The boys squealed in protest that she was cheating and she said they needed to be more precise in the language they used to challenge her.


The family ate the whole dinner and Aunt Jo did not even get a dot of tomato sauce on the towel. The boys were astonished. After putting her fork down on her empty plate, she pulled the towel off with a great flourish and “ta-da” and the boys broke into great hysterics. There, right in the center of her white blouse was a huge blob of tomato sauce. How it got there, no one is quite sure, but it sealed the lore of her always spilling on herself forever and ever.


I may not actually be a blood relative of Aunt Jo, but I think I married into the right family based on the amount of food I have on me today.

No Photos So The NCAA Does Not Come After Me



I love March madness. I don’t have any guilt about doing nothing but watching TV while getting my steps on my treadmill since I am sure that half of my town is also watching our home town team make it to the sweet sixteen round.


I’m not going to mention any actual team names or describe anything about the great games I watched since the NCAA announces the very threatening copyright rules. You know what that is, “This game is for the private use of the audience and no photos or description of the game can be used without permission of the NCAA.”


This blog is my private use since I don’t make any money on it, but I am not about to put it past the NCAA to go after even a little blogger like me. So I can’t post a photo of Shay Shay standing next to me while I’m on the treadmill watching the game. She normally does not care a thing about what is on the screen, but for some reason this dog is interested in basketball.


It seems like during March, basketball is about all that half the country is talking about. I would think that the NCAA wants people to describe the games and post photos of it. I certainly think that plenty of people who are at the games are doing that. Is the NCAA going after them, or are they just acting like a big bully and threatening those of us watching on TV?


There is only one thing I want the NCAA to do and that is change the shot clock for men’s basketball to 30 seconds from 35 seconds. I think that games get very slow at the end when one team is up far above their opponent. There is good reason to run out the clock and not give the other guys a chance to score, but it makes it more boring for the spectators.


I don’t think discussion about this is in violation of the NCAA copyright rules, but I’m sure the NCAA does not want anyone discussing them and their rules. For right now I am just going to celebrate that I can walk nine miles in a game and a half. That means I can sit down and needlepoint during the rest of the games.

Trader Joes – My Shallot Hero



Tonight I am having a church supper club at my house for dinner. It is about time. My friend Sara and I volunteered to do this ages ago and it took us forever to find a date. As the host house I am cooking the main course. I opted for a dried fruit stuffed pork loin because it is easy, very inexpensive and fairly healthy.


Since pork producers have started raising very skinny, almost waif like, model hogs, pork can be dry, that is as long as you are not cooking a shoulder. To help counter act my potentially dry bland roast I decided I wanted to make a shallot grainy mustard sauce to go along side the meat. The only problem is that shallots, that light purple- but look like small onions, are fifty times more expensive pound for pound at my regular grocery store than the meat.


I’m not sure if my grocery thinks that a mainly French food ingredient can hold ransom over cooks with certain taste and training, but it make me crazy. There is no reason the small onion like plant is so out priced. It is no harder to grow than onions or garlic, which are in the same family, but are not exactly substitutable in flavor.


Yesterday while I was at Trader Joes stocking up on my wild arugula bags, I turned and saw a small display with bags of four shallots each priced at .99¢! Sacra Blu! That is at least 500% less than my regular market. They were not a special, nothing at Trader Joes really is. They were just the fair price of the fine flavored ingredient.


I bought three bags dreaming of the omelets and dressings I could make with the tiny purple sweet darling. So hooray for Trader Joes. You are so much more than a store full of already prepared fine frozen tika masala and hundreds of trail mix combinations. I know you got a bad wrap this week for arsenic in your wine, but shallots at a fair price redeem you and are going to save the day in my dry meat department.

What A Difference A Week Makes



Last Saturday we flew back from Rome on Alitalia and apparently we were lucky because today 200 flights out of Rome’s Fiumicino airport were cancelled due to a transport workers strike. 80 Alitalia flights were canceled and more delayed because pilots and flight attendants staged an eight hour walk-out.


I have no idea what the particulars are for this disruption, but it seemed obvious to me from the lack of service on our flight that the flight attendants could have already been starting early with a clear slow down in work activities and lack of care for customers. Based on our experience last week I had already vowed never to fly on Alitalia as long as I had a choice, and usually there are choices now.


I hate that workers think that striking of slowing down customers seems to be their only vehicle of protest. Disrupting travelers has a much longer term affect to their job because it makes the people who are buying tickets think not just twice, but forever if they will ever patronize their business again.


I am not saying that workers are all at fault here. Management also has a role in this and they too pay the price when customers get screwed because Labor and management can’t get their acts together to negotiate issues in a timely manner.


Tourism is clearly a very important segment in the Italian economy. The strong dollar makes travel to EU countries very appealing to Americans and I highly suggest taking advantage of this situation sooner rather than later. My only recommendation is make sure you are patronizing US airlines and read the actual carriers that are serving your route so that you are not caught in a code share situation with a foreign airline. It makes a lot of difference who you buy your ticket from when things go wrong. You want to make sure you are flying on the same airline you bought your ticket from originally in case there is a situation that requires you changing flights.


Of course the idea of staying longer in Italy sounds good, unless you are spending all that extra time sitting in the airport. Don’t be afraid to travel, just do it with the best companies you can find.

Stuck On The Toilet Exercises



I go to see a trainer twice a week to have her basically work on all the muscles that I don’t use walking. I know that it is not enough time to really counteract my walking muscles, but it is about all I can afford with time and money. Walking nine miles a day just takes a boatload of time, not my first choice of words to describe it.


Tiffani, my trainer, yes she is young, is constantly trying to get me to strengthen my glutes to counter act the “walking group.” I thought I was using my butt when I walk, but apparently it is just along for the ride. This week Tiffani had me do some exercises to strengthen my IT bands. I have no idea what those are, but what I do know is that the inside of my thighs hurt like a “Rhymes with witch.”


I know that I need to work on all my muscles, so doing one exercise to extreme can have bad consequences, but whatever I am doing to help that is causing me to almost not be able to walk at all. How can this be good?


Actually these IT bands have practically disabled me from getting on and off the toilet. I am sure you agree with me that is extreme. If walking too much is bad for me and doing exercises to counteract that bad thing hurts me so badly that I can’t walk I guess it is working to keep me from walking too much.


I am wondering if there is some exercise where I lie on the bed and move my fingers and toes and nothing else, that actually burns some calories? I have lived a long time without actually knowing the names of all my muscles and tendons and been just fine with that. Knowing what something is because it is killing me is not something I need to do.


From years of working out with trainers I have learned that exercising the muscle that hurts often helps relieve the pain, kind of like a hair of the dog thing, but I have not found an exercise I can do for these IT bands while I am stuck on the toilet. So all you experts out there let me know if you have the answer. I am sure that toilet-sitting exercises could be the next big thing. I just don’t want to be the person that demonstrates them. Oh yeah, remember to add the problem of having your pants around your ankles, for demonstration purposes you could use a band around the ankles if you don’t want to demonstrate pant less.

No Stand Up Eating



Tonight as I was pulling food out of the fridge to figure out what to serve for dinner I came upon some leftover Chinese green beans. I put the container on the counter while I assembled the fish to put in the oven and got a pot of water to cook the broccoli. One by one I popped a green bean in my mouth, mindlessly eating them standing up as I salted the fish, popped a green bean, turned on the oven, popped another green bean, talked to Carter, two or three more beans.


Before I even got everything that needed to be cooked started I had finished all the green beans. No one else was going to have beans for dinner — kale salad for Russ. They were leftovers and not enough for all of us, but I did not offer anyone the first right of refusal. It was too late. They needed to be standing in the kitchen to get a chance at them. I had turned those green beans in to snack food.


Now green beans are a better snack food than say, chips, but the bad part about the whole thing is that since I ate them with my fingers standing up I don’t think my brain registered I was eating at all. Maybe it is the straight line that food takes to the stomach when you eat standing, or perhaps the lack of using a utensil means something to my brain.


Whatever the reason I know eating standing up is not good for my general health.

If I were to have to stand up from a seated position between every bite that might be the only way it would be OK to eat standing up because at least I would be doing squats between bites. Mostly I think that standing just promotes eating too quickly. Like I am on way to do something else and am just grabbing something to eat and don’t even have time to sit.


That is crazy talk since I always have time to sit, so there is no reason for me to ever eat standing up. I don’t go to saloons and stand at the bar with my foot on the brass rail downing a shot, nor do I eat at hotdog carts. Now a really good food truck might be someplace I want to get a meal from, but if it is something that good to eat I would want to at least find a rock to perch on to enjoy the food.


So new rule for me – no eating standing up. I need to enjoy the little bit of food I should be eating and give my brain a chance to catch up on what my stomach is taking in. This also means no eating walking around. I know I ate some yummy gelato in Rome that I ate walking back to the hotel after dinner. I can only imagine how good it would have been if I had waited and enjoyed it sitting down. I’m sure my brain had to spend some capital thinking about walking and finding my way and not on how perfect almond gelato goes with dark chocolate gelato, but then again, it is probably better my brain not think too hard about that.

St. Patrick’s Day is Not Made for Me



I don’t know what the original intention of St. Patrick’s Day was, but it has certainly turned into an excuse to drink beer. The way I see it, people who like beer don’t really need an excuse to enjoy it. Almost anything can be a good reason to pop open a cold one. Celebrating March Madness, have a beer. It’s a warm spring day, have a beer. Hard day at work, have a beer. You are just plain thirsty, have a beer. Not Irish, but want to celebrate the like you are, seems like the way most people do that is to, you get it, have a beer.


Well, what if you don’t like beer, or shouldn’t drink beer, how can you participate in the celebration? You could always eat Irish food — that is not really as much fun as having a beer. Nothing about corned beef and cabbage screams party. There is just not much in the Irish diet that is well, very dietetic, so I’m out on that account.


I guess that leaves Irish dancing. You know the river dance type thing where people with really good posture bounce straight up and down while wildly moving their feet. Yeah, that seems like it is a really good work out, maybe that is heading in a direction I should go, but then again, no. I think that if I were to try and bounce up and down that hard with my aging breasts I might give myself two black eyes. I guess I need to leave Irish Dancing to prepubescent little girls.


What’s left? A pot of gold, maybe a bowl of lucky charms, searching for four leaf clovers… Just not anything I am really interested in. So I just wore a green sweater today and tried to seem like I was fitting in without really having any Irish fun. I’m glad we don’t have one of these holidays for every country on earth. I can only imagine how little of Russian Day I would be interested in.

Thanks To The Food Bank

Tonight I had the pleasure of attending the Food Bank’s annual Evening of Appreciation to thank those businesses and organizations that give most significantly to the Food Bank.  The highlight of the evening is the Hunt-Morgridge Service Award that recognizes extraordinary leadership and dedication to hunger relief efforts.  This year the honoree was a man I highly admire, Ashmead Pipkin.

When I first came to sit on the board of the Food Bank it was as an ex-officio member representing the Durham branch.  I had served on other non-profit boards before, but they paled in good governance compared to the Food Bank.  It became very clear to me in the first or second meeting that Ash, a Duke lawyer by trade with a Harvard MBA thrown in for good measure was the guy to learn from.  If ever there was a question about by-laws or regulations Ash was the authority to turn to, but he was so much more than just the rule enforcer.  Ash was always thinking about what was the right thing to do to help feed hungry people in the most efficient and productive way.

I was lucky enough to serve on the board with Ash for at least five years.  When it was finally time for his mandatory retirement from the board, thanks to the term limits he wrote into the by- laws, I was worried about how we would continue without his wise council.  Thankfully about that time another wonderful man sent me to Harvard to hone my non-profit governance skills.  In almost every case I studied at Harvard an issue was discussed about how highly effective boards should handle situations.  Time and time again in that course I would hear Ash’s voice in my head guiding my instincts to come up with creative, but sound answers to the kind of problems all non-profits face.

I know I was lucky to get to sit at his side and learn from Ash through all the years we served together.  It thrilled me that the Food Bank recognized his great contributions in this way, although there is no way we can ever thank him enough.  

Tonight I sat in the audience with my friend Jane Cox who had been the President of the Food Bank when I first joined the board.  It feels just like yesterday I got to know her when we opened the second Durham Branch, but I think Carter was two years old, so that means it was fourteen years ago.  I am so thankful for all the wonderful people I have had the honor of learning from who serve the Food Bank from both the staff side and the board side.  I count my hours spent helping hunger relief as probably the most satisfying work I have ever done.  I know tonight was an evening of appreciation to thanks others, but it really made me think how much I appreciate the privilege of working with the Food Bank.


Goodbye Italian Vacation Food, Hello Arugula and Chicken

One of the joys of traveling is discovering new foods, well maybe in the case of Italy is not so much discovering them, but allowing myself to eat them.  I have to say that the Roman diet is almost as unvaried as my at home diet, except that there it is full of pasta and bread and here, well, not so much.  

To me it is amazing how quickly I can get sick of pasta, which once was probably in my top five favorite foods.  Now Russ proved that he could eat Carbonara almost everyday, it is and has been his favorite food for a very long time.  On my last count he ate it seven times while we were away, of course it helped that he had a trio of different Carbonaras at one restaurant.  I did not know there were different ways of making what is basically a bacon, egg and cheese pasta dish, but I am wrong.  

As fun as it was to try gelato in interesting flavors like stracciatella, which is a vanilla base with tiny bits of chocolate, somewhat reminiscent of chocolate chip, but not the same since the chocolate is little flakes like angel wings in cream.  Describing it was almost better than eating it because I knew that I would have to pay the piper as soon as I got home.  

Do I think that the gelato combination cup of almond and dark chocolate was worth it?  Maybe, but ask me in three weeks when I am still trying to work off the vacation weight.  Overall taking a break from the salad life is good in small doses, but in no way can I live a vacation eating existence full time.

I had to get back in the groove right away.  Russ ran out for milk and blueberries first thing this morning so I could enjoy my regular cereal.   Salad for lunch, and salad for dinner.  I actually missed all my greens.  I also came home to a DVR full of missed shows, which made getting my steps easy while doing the vacation laundry.  Treadmill laundry folding should be a new Olympic sport or at least a good you tube video.

So goodbye artichoke paninis and hello grilled chicken.  I’ve actually missed you and am happy not to be reading menus and being tempted by descriptions of yummy sinful food.  Thank goodness we have no waiters at home placing bread baskets on the dinner table, actually thank goodness we have no bread at all.

Code Share is No Share

When I booked our flights to and from Rome I picked Delta based on the great long haul flights Russ and I had to South Africa this summer.  Getting to Rome on Delta was not a problem.  I had lots of different flights to choose from so both our flight from RDU to JFK and the one to Rome were all on actual Delta planes.

Interestingly the return options were greatly limited.  I don’t know why Delta thinks so many people need to get into Italy, but don’t need to get back.  This meant I had to pick one for Delta’s code share partners to get back to the US and then use Delta to get back to RDU.

When Delta was selling me the tickets they did their best job at hiding the fact that the flight from Rome was actually an Alitalia flight.  They have a Delta flight number but outside that code sharing number nothing about the flight has anything to do with Delta.

The trauma of this fact started when we got our email reminder from Delta yesterday in Rome to check in for our flight.  Yes, they sent us the e-mail that linked to Delta’s automated check-in website, but once there we got a message saying we had to log-in to Alitalia’s site to check-in.  That site did not work on our phones so Russ said he would do it from his computer once we went back to the hotel.  Russ is definitely an automated check-in expert, but even he was frustrated when he logged in to the Italian airline’s site and they said that they did not have any record of our tickets, despite us having the confirmation and ticket numbers.  Three phone calls later we find out we can’t check-in online because Alitalia can’t issue us boarding passes for the Delta last leg of our trip.  What the #%€£!  This code share thing may only work for selling tickets, but not for the customer experience.

This meant we had to get up and hour and a half earlier this morning to get to the airport three hours before our flight since we had to check-in in person.  Many people in Italy told us nightmare stories about inefficiencies at the airport and warned us not to take our chances.  So we didn’t.  Of course since we were there so early there was not one person in the Boston flight line.  By then we had gotten an email from Delta telling us our RDU leg was going to be taking off on time, but landing two and a half hours late.  What the €%#?!  How could our two hour non-stop flight suddenly change to a five hour flight?  Did it become a bus?

The good news is our Alitalia flight got to Boston.  It was no Delta.  The service stunk, the food was crazy bad, four starches, no fruits or vegetables for lunch, the attendants were more like prison guards.  Once we were stateside I checked with a Delta agent about what the story is on our last leg and she said it was a mistake sent out by the computer.  Hooray!  We are about to get on our last flight and get home to see our sweet baby Shay Shay!  Loved Italy, love getting home.

I wrote the above at Logan Airport before our RDU flight was delayed over an hour due to mechanical issues.  I never should of written any thing about a flight until it was over because I am sure I jinxed it!

Arrivederci Roma

You know it is getting to be time to go home when Carter, who loves history starts to be bored by guides and is having more fun visiting with the local horses.  That and it’s time to get a little variety in our meals.  Last night after a week of all Italian food and I mean mostly all Roman food, all the time, we revolted and went to have sushi.  Carter was ecstatic and made me go and tell the sushi chef how great it was.  Of course she was mostly concerned that there were not many patrons in the place, but we eat on the early side for Rome. By nine o’clock when we were leaving the place was beginning to come to life.

To me a week away from home is perfect.  You get a chance to see someplace new, but you are sad to leave.  Staying too long makes me unhappy.  I am always happy to get home to my own bed, but I want to have great memories of a trip.  I think I will be most excited to get home to different shoes, iced tea and salads as my main sustenance.

I also will be happy to not have to have discussions with my family members over which is the best way to get somewhere.  Not having to follow a map will be a bonus.  For Carter I think going back to unlimited data will be what she likes best.  Even though Russ buys her the biggest data plan there is for international she still uses it up well before the trip is over and then is relegated to wifi which is usually nofi in most places.Not having to say no to “selfie stick” salesmen every few feet will also make me happy.  

Arrivederci Roma.  We loved spending time here, but still liked the countryside best.  

Potential Double Travel Disaster Adverted

For the record I am a a fairly seasoned, somewhat savvy, well researched, experienced, intrepid traveler.  Started young, and did it so regularly for work and fun that not a lot throws me.  I have lost suit cases and survived for days, arrived in foreign cities with no hotel reservations during peak holiday travel, missed planes, driven the wrong way down one way streets, been spit on by camels, survived high fevers alone in countries where few spoke English, been thrown off mopeds, broken multiple bones on an island with only a vet/doctor and a 1954 X-ray machine, slept nights on the local train that that stopped every fifteen minutes, been thrown out of youth hostels for being too loud, found enough cash on the street in France to live for three weeks, out bargained an Egyptian bazaar owner and gotten a lost suitcase back while I was naked.

So far this trip things have gone fairly well.  I made everyone pack in just a carry on bag so there was no chance of the airline loosing our luggage.  The hotels I picked from online reviews have been incredibly nice and the strong dollar that keeps getting stronger while we are here helps a lot. The tours we have taken have been great.  Carter says that Pompeii was the best so far.  The food we have eaten has been, well Italian, need I say any more?  Of course I will be paying for that part next week.

Today, two things happened that could have been huge disaster.  The first was this morning in Positano we wanted to get an early start on our three and a half hour drive to Tivoli to visit the Villa d’Este and it’s incredible gardens with the hundreds of fountains built over five hundred years ago.   

The hotel bellman went to retrieve our car from the hotel parking, where space for cars is at a premium.  He pulled it up in front of the hotel on the skinny space barely wide enough for our car and the huge busses driving both ways on the street.  After he put our luggage in the way back I got in the driver’s seat and he stood in the street to stop any traffic coming in either direction so we could pull out.  As we did a funny sound went off in our rental car, but stopped as soon as we turned off the flashers which the bellman had turned on.  

If you have never driven on the Amalfi drive let me give you a small description of what it is like on a good day.  The road, singular, is a thin strip of asphalt carved out of the cliff with a sheer three hundred foot drop to the sea on one side and a solid rock wall on the other.  It is either climbing uphill or dropping steeply down hill with a hairpin turn every few hundred feet.  The natives drive fast and close, the German Buses are too big to pass side by side with one another, the tiny three wheel workman’s wagons don’t have enough power to make it up the hills at any reasonable speed, people pass cars going the same direction with no where near enough space to see if anyone is coming towards them, but they don’t care, often if a large bus or truck is coming toward you, especially at a curve you have to stop and back up to make room so that someone can go.  

This morning as we were trying to get out of Positano we encountered at least two big busses coming at us that gave us pause, a couple of slow work men’s vehicles and a native or two who passed us.  We had gone about five kilometers when suddenly we noticed a fast motor bike starting to overtake us on the drivers side.  I looked over and noticed it was the bellman from the hotel.  We stopped as a big lorry was blocking the road and the bellman reached out his hand to my window and passed me the key fob to our rental car.  “Sorry,” he said and then turned the motor bike back the other way.  Since our car was keyless and the bellman had started it we were able to drive off without it, but if we had stopped the car we would never have been able to start it again.  We decided that was the alarm sound the car had made as we drove away and it was just coincidental that the alarm went off when we turned off the flashers.  It was incredibly lucky that we had two big busses block our progress as we got out of town, and that I had told the desk clerk where we were going.  The most lucky part is that motorbikes are able to make greater progress since they skip all the traffic by driving in the middle of the road, passed stopped traffic.  Disaster one adverted.

The second potential disaster came after a wonderful visit to the Tivoli and the successful return of our rental car.  We got an uber car to bring us to our hotel,  Since the road was being worked on that the hotel is on we got out and walked with our little rolling suit cases the two blocks to the front door.  As we walked in the tiny boutique hotel Carter said she got a feeling something was wrong from the look on the desk clerk’s face.  Apparently I had booked the hotel for two nights starting tomorrow, not today.  Rookie traveler mistake.

Amazingly enough they happened to have the suite of rooms I had booked free tonight and only our rooms.  The sweet clerk showed us our rooms with a lovely outdoor terrace and Carter announced it was a strong finish to a great vacation.  Lucky day all around.


Bar Bruno

The first time I came to Positano I was just three years older than Carter.  I had spent the first half of the summer in school in France and then came straight to Italy to go on vacation with my family before going back to my parent’s house in London.  Those were the days.  Carter would love it if she could live that life today.

My youngest sister Janet was only eight years old that summer we spent here in Positano.  We were staying at Le Sirenuse, a lovely hotel right in the middle of town.  During the day my other sister Margaret would sun by the pool, I would explore, and Janet would disappear.  My parents were fairly laid back even for those times, and never really knew where Janet went everyday, all day by herself.  The attitude was as long as she showed up for meals everything was fine. 

I remember one night at dinner after we had been here for a few days my father asked Janet where she went everyday.  She said that she would show him the next morning.  So after breakfast I went with my Dad as we followed Janet out of the hotel and up the street to “Bar Bruno” a dark bar with a bead curtain for a door and a couple of old Italian men drinking early in the morning.

I was horrified that my sister had been hanging out in a bar during the beautiful Mediterranean summer days.  What kind of bar let an eight year old kid in any ways?  Then Janet who was the consummate Tom boy showed us her reason for coming to this bar.  There in the corner of the small dark bar was a car driving video machine.  How Janet discovered it I can’t remember.  But I do recall that she had figured out that the machine took a lire coin that was about the same size as a 2p piece, which she had plenty of.  In fact, I think she had jammed a coin in so that she could just continuously play this driving game.  Apparently none of the old men who hung out at the bar realized what was going on.  

This morning when Russ and I left our hotel to go explore in town I discovered that Bar Bruno was still open in the very same place.  The beads on the door were gone as well as the video machine and old men drinking at nine in the morning.  Today Bar Bruno is also a restaurante and in honor of this being the first hangout bar in Janet’s life we ate lunch there, sitting at a table overlooking the sea.  Sorry Carter, we don’t live in London or let you hang out alone in bars, but we do bring on vacation to Positano, one of my favorite places on earth.

You Can’t Be Afraid to Drive Yourself

It was probably easier for the Italians to find Pompeii, 1,700 years after it was buried in 79ad by Vesuvius erupting covering it in 21 feet of ash than it was for the Lange family to find the Hertz desk at the Termini station in Rome.  That being said, we eventually did stumble upon the tiny and off the beaten path car rental center and got our car for this leg of our trip.  

Of course finding the desk was just the beginning since we then had to find the parking garage where the car actually was a few blocks away and seven floors up from the street. Just as we had the car located and packed a young American woman came over to us and asked for help, since she said her husband was too embarrassed to ask.  They had a manual car and could not figure out how to get the car into reverse.  Russ volunteered me as the manual expert and once I got in their car I quickly discovered the locking ring on the gear shift.  

The young couple who probably were on their honeymoon were very thankful and drove off in front of us.  At last we were on our way to Pompeii.  We started the winding decent down the very tight corridors of the parking garage until we were blocked by the honeymoon couple who had stopped because their GPS was not working and they did not know how to get out of Rome to go to Assisi.  Russ volunteered us again to lead them to the ring road where we would get the AutoStrada south and they would go north.     

Driving in Rome is stressful enough with other drivers apparently not really following any road rules, add to that driving without a real map and only with Google maps my least favorite way to navigate since I am a visual driver, then the pressure to ensure a less confident manual driver is able to keep up with me as the Romans are doing their best to separate us.  Carter, who for some reason felt very responsible for the happiness of this newly married couple kept watch on them as we maneuvered traffic circles and trolley crossings, telling me, “Mom, slow down, they are losing us.”  Finally we reached the ring road and even though they were not behind us I had to tell Carter that they were going to be fine that we had to go a different way to get to Pompeii.

Since Carter had been studying Western World in history I thought it would be fun to go to the oldest place I could take her.  I had debated if we should go to Herculaneum or Pompeii, but Carter insisted on the later.  Knowing that ruins can begin to look like just another bunch of rocks without a good guide I decided this was the place to spring for a private guide.  After much research I booked one through the Internet last week and we met Dino who thankfully showed up a half an early just as we were arriving.  

Dino, an archeologist who gives tours since there is not much digging going on in Italy due to lack of funds, not lack of dig sites, was the perfect match for us.  He brought Pompeii to life for us and I know that Carter will never forget all the lessons she learned, especially the more racy aspects of the “Las Vegas of Italy” as Dino described it.  

Three and a half hours of history flew by and before we knew it we had to be back in the car to make the hour long drive along the Amalfi coast to Positano.  Since I was already the Italian driving expert and I also was the only one with the experience driving the winding cliff-side coast road and I am the worst back seat driver, I took the wheel while Carter tried not to look over the side of the road into the Mediterranean as giant German busses tried to push off off the side.  Since it is low season the traffic was not too terrible and we made it to Positano in one piece.  My lesson of the day to Carter was the importance of being able to drive yourself in a foreign country.  We never would have been able to do what we did today by public transportation. Carter happily announced that Pompeii was the favorite part of the trip so far–that makes it all worth while for this mother.


The Napping Way of Life

When Carter was a baby she started to refuse taking naps before her second birthday as well as wanting an adult to sit in her room with her until she fell asleep at night until she was very old.  Oh, how times have changed.

Today we had to get up extra early for people on vacation because we were taking a tour of the Vatican before it opened to the public.  Carter did not understand why this was necessary  until we left St. Peter’s four hours after we went in and saw the thousands of people lined up waiting to get in.

One could spend a a week at the Vatican museum and still not see everything, that one would not be in my family.  Knowing this I planned the very small group private tour that just hit the highlights.  Thanks to Carter’s interest in history we were able to keep her fairly engaged and interested, but all those people eventually zapped the energy out of her.  Even a good lunch that included her favorite meat did not fully restore her so back to the hotel we went for siestas.

I have to admit I have quickly come to embrace an afternoon nap.  Rather than spending the afternoon packing in as many sites as we could see, we snoozed away, spent time on the roof top terrace of our hotel and went out for a most fabulous dinner that included lots of truffles.  

After living a life of limited pasta, bread and sweet options for almost the last three years I think I have lost my stamina to eat so many carbs.  I am already tiring of pasta and am looking forward to going to the Amalfi coast for some fish and vegetables.  Tomorrow we will leave Rome for a couple of days, but I hope when we get back we can make more progress on being tourists and less life as Italians taking naps. 

Welcome to My World

When you have family in Italy you get to be Italian, if just for a while.  We started our day with a wonderful visit with my cousin Kennon, her Italian husband Pietro and their darling son, Franceso.  Kennon, who’s mother was my grandfather’s sister, has lived in Italy since 1980.  We keep up through Facebook and when I said we would be in Rome she generously made time to see us.  

We met on a corner by the river and after all the kissing and hugging they drove us up to Piazza Garibaldi, the highest point in Rome with the best panoramic view of the city.  This was great because we never would have known about it or gotten there on our own.  After seeing so much of the city we headed down to the Trastevere neighborhood to meet up with Francesco and his friend.  The last time I saw Francesco he was a high school student doing in cannonballs into my parent’s pool, now he is a 27 man studying Philosophy in London.  It was great for Carter to get to meet her only Italian cousin. 

We walked the neighborhood, talking and stopped into a beautiful church just as the service was starting.  Since we had missed Wilson’s funeral yesterday Kennon lit a candle in the church for him.  Carter impressed me with her art history knowledge she had learned in her Western  World class as we looked at the paintings in the various chapels of the church.  Too quickly our time was up and we had to say ciao.

We ventured off to lunch in the ghetto upon Kennon’s recommendation.  I had the multi artichoke meal which made me very happy, but required a lot of walking afterwards through ruins and up to the capital, through more tiny alleys and finally back to our hotel for a small rest.  It was all I could do to wake Russ and Carter in time for our walk up the hill to the Borghesse Gallery for our appointed entrance time.  

All that art really drives Carter’s need to sit and relax somewhere and since it was too early for dinner I thought we should stop in at the famous Harry’s Bar on the Via Veneto and have a drink just like I did with my parents back in the seventies.  The only difference is that back then everyone in my family drank so going to Harry’s made sense.  We were seated at a nice table outside, Russ looks at the drinks menu and says, “Now that I have given up alcohol I don’t know what to order.”  Carter piped in, “Welcome to my world.”  For the record Carter had a Shirley Temple and Russ had the most decedent hot chocolate that came with a whole bowl of whipped cream.  Despite the lack of Campari and soda it was fun nonetheless.

Roman Holiday

Travel for fun is so much better than travel for work.  Last night, when all the other passengers on our delayed flight to Rome were losing it as the gate agent kept pushing back the departure time, 10…15… 7 minutes and finally an hour late, we were just chillin’ with no place we absolutely had to be. Vacation mode came to us quickly.

We arrived in the eternal city and since it is low season our hotel not only upgraded us to a better room, but had it ready for us early.  Purposely I had not planned for us to do anything today so we would have no guilt easing into our vacation.  The lack of plan turned out to be the perfect plan.

After unpacking and taking in the view of the Spanish steps from our balcony we went out for a walk looking for someplace to grab lunch.  We happened upon a rustic restaurant where we were seated beside a multi-century old fireplace where the smell of smoke permeated the ancient stones.  I happily had a small plate of the vegetable antipasto, Carter a pizza and Russ the first of his two spaghetti carbonara for the day.  Perhaps this trip should be renamed “Russ Lange’s carbonara tour 2015.”

After lunch Carter opted to walk back to the hotel alone to start her afternoon siesta while Russ indulged my pocketbook shopping and walk through the neighborhood.  I purposely had not brought a purse on the trip as a good excuse to have to buy one first thing.  My justification was that the dollar had never been this strong and I was never going to get such a good deal again.  Russ did not need any of this malarkey and just went along and cheerfully bought me the bag.

After strolling for a while the bed was calling me for a nap so we went back and I passed out for a good three hour restoration.  I think Russ might have worked the whole time, but it certainly did not bother me.  

Post nap showers and fresh clothes and we were all finally human again and ready to walk to dinner.  We picked a route that would take us by the Trevi Fountain. Sadly when we got there we discovered it was drained, covered with scaffolding and surrounded by a glass wall for restoration. We continued on our meandering way and arrived at our destination and old Roman restaurant.  Although we had not planned any activities for the day we had talked about all the roman foods we wanted to eat on this trip as well as a no diet talk rule. Tonight I Carter and I both had stuffed squash blossoms which was very high on our list and Russ had his second serving of carbonara for the day.  Carbonara is Russ’ favorite food, but the problem is that he compares each version to the one I make and seems disappointed in his selection.  I don’t know why, I tasted both his plates today and they were equally wonderful and different from each other.  I do hope he gives up searching for the best carbonara and try’s some other things soon.

Half way through our dinner a group of six men were seated at the table behind us.  As they were enjoying their dinner Russ leans over to me and says, “I bet they are from Philly.”  After we payed the bill I got up and turned to ask them if they were from Philadelphia and they say yes with a roar. Not only were they from Philly, but one of them was Rusty Shunk’s nephew who was the head of admissions at Dickinson and admitted me and all my friends since he worked there for about 30 years.

Russ quickly did the math, and the people of the city of brotherly love only make up 0.07% of all the people in the world and in this one small room in Rome where there were just three tables of diners seven were from Philly, with Carter and I being honorary Philly-in-laws it would be nine.

There was not enough walking today to make up for Italian food, but there was not too much eating considering we are in Rome.  Tomorrow we will get to work showing Carter the city, but for today we just were on vacation.

Rome Bound

In true comparison of our personality differences Carter and Russ chose to sit as far in the corner of the Delta Sky Club at JFK on the tall uncomfortable stools looking out the window so no humans were in their view.  I on the other hand plopped myself down on the comfy chairs in the six person pods and made friends with my neighbor across the way from me when his phone rang with the Odd Couple theme song.

This is how we differ as family members, not just while traveling, but always.  I take great joy in talking to strangers and learning their stories while Russ and Carter would rather be in their own worlds observing more than interacting.  Even though we all are different, the fact that we all love to travel is our family theme.

I leave on this long planned trip for Rome with a heavy heart since it means that we are missing my Uncle Wilson’s funeral tomorrow.  It almost never fails that I am going to be out of the country when a relative I love passes away. But since I come from a nomad group they all say, “of course you should go on your trip.”

I talked to my Dad today and he is doing exactly what he does best during times of sadness and family gatherings, he is hosting two big dinners where he is doing all the cooking.  I guess that I inherited the cooking grief gene from him and that is why I fry chicken when someone dies.

As I would expect many Carter and Michie cousins are coming for the funeral and I am going to miss all the story telling that is certainly going to happen.  If we were there I would be smack dab in the middle of the action and most certainly Carter and Russ would be off in a side room.

Not that they would not be listening to the stories, or interested in visiting with the family, just not in a big gang, more one-on-one.

To my family, I miss you all this weekend and send virtual hugs and kisses.  You get plenty of my stories everyday, but I will miss hearing yours.  Someone take notes and lots of photos so I can share in the celebration on Wilson’s life, as I am sure this weekend will be.  For us Lange’s we will toast Will in Rome and try and take photos worthy of his great eye, eat food he would have loved and visit churches he might have been suspect of.

Roman Undergarments?



Right before I am about to go to Rome the Spanx catalog arrived. Since I am giving myself permission to eat like a normal human while I am in the country that elevated eating to it’s highest level it makes me wonder if I should have bought more Spanx for this trip. I am a little worried that by day three of vacation eating my clothes will not fit.


I have never seen an entire book of garments meant to squeeze and smooth you in so many ways. I had no idea I was supposed to be wearing full leg length sausage casings under my jeans; then again I am not one of those 20-something skinny jean wearing with stilettos types. From what I can tell there are bras, panties, things just for your middle and ones for your back, long line, thigh length, butt lifting, hip squeezing, waist cinching, tunic long spandex.


Since I limit myself to one carry on roll-aboard I see no way to bring so much body smoothing wear unless I just gave up wearing actual clothes on top. Of course the other option is to wear it all on the plane. I can only imagine what kind of hospitalization I would need if I were to wear such confining items on a transatlantic flight.


“Why are you being admitted to the hospital in Rome?’


“Because I squeezed myself too much in anticipation of eating Rome’s finest food.”


I am sure immigration would deny me entry. Thank goodness I know very few people in Rome and the ones I do love me whatever my shape. I am going there without one shape wear item. I am going to just have to let the bulges be where they may and thoroughly enjoy my trip.


I know that the Italians look great naturally without the aid of ace bandage like binding. There is no reason to try and pretend I am anything but a soft American. I’ll save the Spanx for my return when I am going to have to go back into monk like living to pay for my Roman sins.

How Much Is That?



When I was a kid I was really good at guessing the right prices on the TV show The Price Is Right. One of Bob Barker’s beauties would wave her arm model style in from of a new Amana Radar Range and I almost always guessed the price better than any contestant on the show. This was the case from the time I was about nine or ten. I was good at guessing the value of everything from a bottle of Windex to the total of the better of the two showcase showdowns.


I had no reason to have bought any of the items featured on the show. I can’t ever remember doing any appliance shopping although I did help my mother with grocery shopping. I must have just picked up the cost of items from watching other games shows that told the values, like Let’s Make a Deal. I also ran errands every Saturday with my father and I always was interested in how much things cost.


Today Carter’s advisory went to the Habitat ReStore to do their community service time. As one of the mother’s who has a more flexible schedule I drove half the class to and from the store.


Since I had never actually been in the ReStore I went inside to retrieve the kids at the pick up time.   I encountered Carter and her friend Amelia wearing blue habitat vests with a price tag gun, hanging hardware on a pegboard.


“What work did you do today?” I asked.


“Mom, we did the craziest thing,” Carter said. “We priced things.”


“Was it fun?” I asked.


“It was scary. We did not have any guidelines about how much things should cost and they told us just to price stuff.”


Then another classmate came up and basically reiterated the same thing. “I had no idea how much this giant window was worth, so I just put $200 on it.”


It made me chuckle. These kids have most certainly never strolled the aisles of Home Depot studying the prices of new doorknobs or kitchen sinks, how in the world would they know any value for a used door or ceiling fan? I doubt any of them had ever watched the price is right. Understanding the value of money, goods and services is a long-term study that starts with understanding how hard it is to earn the money in the first place.


Carter did say the volunteer supervisor did say at the end they had made the prices of some cabinet knobs too low at .50¢, they should have been $1. Seems like that was info she could have told them up front. I guess if you are in the market for some underpriced used hardware now is the time to visit the Durham Habitat store. With teenage pricing schemes I’m sure you can find a deal.

And Then There Was One




After three years of illness my Uncle Wilson, my father’s only sibling, passed away around noon today. He suffered too long and was in too much pain, but he stuck around as long as he did because he was so loved by so many and hated letting anyone down. I am thankful that my sweet cousins, Brooks, Leigh and Sarah were there with their mom as they always were in the beginning, the long middle and the end.


Will was two years younger than my father and for their whole life it always was the two of them. Growing up in a tiny house on Lockland Ave. in Winston-Salem they shared a room where Will would lie on his bed and read his comic books. When my father was about ten he decided that he would like to have a room of his own. Since it was only a two-bedroom house my Dad asked his father if he could dig out a basement room under their house.


Since my Dad had both a morning and afternoon paper route I’m sure my grandfather did not think my Dad would actually do it. I always wondered who’d let their kid dig a room under their house, cement block it and pour a cement floor? No one much came down to see what was going on until the day my father announced it was done and he was moving out of the room with his brother and down to the newly created basement.


My Uncle Wilson, who had read a lot of comic books while my Dad had been digging came down to see where his older brother was going. He looked around at the much bigger room with a shower in the corner of the room and announced that he too was going to move in with my Dad, and so he did.


That was the way they were together for their whole lives. My Dad went to Chapel Hill and Will came too. My Dad married someone named Janie my Uncle Wilson did too. Our families would spend summers at Pawley’s Island together, My Uncle Wilson, Aunt Janie and my cousins would come on vacation wherever we were living, be in Wilton or London. When my Uncle Wilson retired from the church he came to work with my Dad. Both brothers moved to retire at their grand parent’s farm.


They differed in their politics, but never let ideologies divide them. They both love each other’s children as their own. To me Uncle Wilson was much more than an Uncle, he was my father once removed. As an Episcopal priest he preformed the marriage ceremony at my wedding and at every wedding in our family. As a Jungian physiologist he analyzed and explained us all to each other. But mostly as a father, an Uncle, a grandfather and a great Uncle he loved on us.


But it was as a brother that he was always there. My grand parents were not the easiest couple nor ideal parents. I think that my father and his brother were always there for each other when things got tough. I’m glad that Uncle Wilson’s suffering is over, but I am sad for all of us who won’t have him to turn to for wisdom and advice. I’m sad for my Aunt, and my cousins, but mostly I am sad for my father. He lost the person who has been with him all his life that he can remember.

The Importance of Sisters



It was Winter Athletic Awards Program tonight. Given that Swimming had lost a team member Grame Kirven this year and Boys basketball had three players badly injured in a car accident with Ryan still out of school doing rehab it made the ceremony more emotional than a normal sports awards night.


Although Carter’s girl’s basketball team did not have the same direct hit as the other teams they were greatly affected by what their brother team was suffering. With no seniors playing and only two players returning the team did a remarkable job of coming together as a family. At first they looked like a group of odd balls, but together they made a beautiful work of art.


As Carter’s coach, Krista was talking about each player she often noted their scoring or rebounding, but when she got to Carter she said, “Carter said my favorite thing I heard all year from the team, “I never had any sister’s before I had this team.’” That is the way Carter thinks about her teammates and that is far more important to me than stats.


Having a team to lean on when times are hard is helpful. Inside jokes, silly songs, pushing each other to try harder, celebrating successes, offering condolences all part of belonging; and on this team everyone belonged whether you were a starter, or someone who was put in to give another player a break.


It was a tough year with injuries, but these girls never gave up. Nicole Ripple a freshman who started the first game got hurt in the first half and was out for the rest of the season, but she was at every game and according to the coach most practices. Kenan Little was injured the week before the season started, but she stayed on to manage. Grace Drewry did not even try out for basketball but was recruited by her friend Abby to play JV. When the varsity team got down to six healthy players Grace was drafted and she played both JV and Varsity most of the season.


Carter was not a starter, but she had the advantage of learning all the lessons coach Krista was teaching as she talked on the sidelines during games. Being a good listener was Carter’s big job, that and using her loud voice to repeat the names of the plays Coach was calling. It was hard to miss Carter’s distinctive voice as she screamed out “Syracuse” so her teammates could hear it.


The girls basketball team was the smallest team being honored tonight, but as the auditorium watched the slide show of all winter sports the girls basketball team was the most vocal in celebration of their teammate’s, or should I say sister’s photos being flashed up on the screen, Congratulations girls, you make a wonderful family.

The Smell is Getting to Me



I think I can speak for all mothers in our area when I say I am looking forward to kids going back to school tomorrow. Not that I have little or even multiple children who have been at home wanting to be entertained; and not that I lost my power and needed to keep small people warm and un-electronically entertained or fed; and not that we have missed even a third as many days as our friends in places like Boston where “winter camping” became the inside norm.


No, but my child and her Spanish classmate took over my kitchen today to make food for a class presentation tomorrow, which involved using a large bottle of vegetable oil and frying up plantains, chicken and making guacamole. The house smells like we are running a French fry stand or other frying empire.

I did my best to stay out of the kitchen because I don’t think I could bear to swim through the tiny oil droplets flying through the air and landing on every surface in the kitchen. On the other hand, I appreciate my child learning to cook with her friend. I did not get one question about how to do anything. They studied the techniques and executed them without instruction from me. Proof is their need to use a whole bottle of oil. I am sure the outcome is more authentic than my lightened up version would have been.


Now my issue is I am going to have to spend some of my childfree day tomorrow riding the house of the smell or I am going to open a funnel cake stand in my kitchen and capitalize on the already stinky space.


It is amazing to me how sensitive my nose is to fried food now. Just the whiff of overly hot oil makes my stomach turn. I guess that I have actually broken myself of ever wanting to eat fried food again. Now I need some olfactory overload of baked goods so I can gross my brain out on the smell of the things I really crave.


I wonder if Carter could get class credit for making 10,000 chocolate chip cookies? I am guessing that is about the number I might need to be baked in my kitchen to make me sick of the smell. Now that I think about it that number is probably low by a factor of 10. 100,000 cookies, that might make me never want to taste one again. I don’t know, that number might be low by a factor of 100…