April Durham Magzine Column

Every month I write a column for Durham Magazine to highlight good works and the people that do them in our community.  This month my editor asked me to write about my connection to the Food Bank.  What an easy assignment.  No one to interview!  Here is a link to the magazine online.  My story is on page 16.

To make it easy, here is the story I wrote.

I can tell you that I had no idea we were going to ru  story on our volunteer work at the Food Bank, because of I did I would have worn some makeup for food sorting.  This is a picture with my wonderful editor and friend Andrea Cash.
 My colleagues from Durham Magazine recently joined me at the Durham Branch of the Food Bank Of Central and Eastern North Carolina for a morning of fun volunteer activities. For our writers, editors, photographer, art directors, administrative staff and sales representatives sorting food is not part of their daily routine, but certainly something they all were willing to do.


As we waited in the lobby prior to receiving our assignment for the day, one of my co-workers noticed my photo on the wall announcing they were entering the “Dana Lange Volunteer Center,” and asked me about it. The honor of having a room named for me is a boring story about being a volunteer board member for years; the real story is what got me interested in feeding hungry people in the first place.


Thirty years ago, when I was young and energetic, having just one job was not enough for me, so I had a catering business on the side. I always loved feeding people and throwing parties, which made it the perfect way to supplement my income. I was living in Washington, DC and I often threw leftover catering food away in my rolling trashcan in the alley behind my garage.


One day, as I was bringing more garbage to the can I met a man, dressed in khakis and a blue blazer, who was standing by my bin. “You have the best garbage in all of DC,” he said to me. I was a little taken aback by this greeting. Awkwardly my response was, “Thank you.”  


That was when I took a closer look at him and noticed that his clothes were a little dirty, with strings hanging from the cuffs of his pants.  His hair needed to be washed and his nails were filthy, but other than that he looked a lot like my friends and me. I realized that he must be homeless and had been eating from my garbage can more than once. In the moment I was unsure what to do, but I did know that I had a fairly good supply of edible food that I was just throwing away.


“If you want, on trash days, I can leave the good food in a box on top of my cart?” I said. “That would be very nice,” he replied.   “I really like when there is meat. I don’t get much meat.”  All I could manage to say was  “OK,”and I watched as he walked down my alley away from me. After he was out of sight, I burst into tears.


I left a box of food every week for the remainder of the years I lived in that house, and it was always gone the next morning. Once I found a scrap of paper tucked into the lid of my can with “Thanks” scrawled on it. I never saw the man again, but I was certain he was coming by and getting the food.


I knew that this was no way to feed people. Eating leftover food from the garbage was terrible, but leaving a box out in the elements through winter and summer was hardly better – it was just all I could think of when confronted with someone who was really hungry. That is when I started to be interested in safer, more compassionate ways to help people who are food insecure.


When I moved to Durham, Hayward Holderness, the pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church was the board chair of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, and he taught me there is a better way. I started volunteering at the Durham Branch about sixteen years ago and it is my passion.  


The Food Bank is the most efficient and safe way to gather perfectly good food from stores who can’t sell it, farmers who have a surplus or regular people who donate it, and then distribute it to agencies or churches who run soup kitchens or food pantries to feed people in need. What I have learned is that the majority of people who get help from the Food Bank are not homeless men, like the one who I met in DC, but are children, elderly people or people with jobs who don’t make enough to pay rent, buy gas and get food.  


Thanks to my co-workers for volunteering and to Durham Magazine for donating a portion of the proceeds from the annual TASTE event – happening April 21-23- to the Food Bank. Every dollar the Food Bank receives can be turned into ten dollars worth of food. And thanks to each one of the volunteers who gave nearly 190,000 hours of their time last year.  You will probably never know the individuals you help, but know that they are thankful for you.


Shoe Help

This blog is often more advice than anyone ever wants, but since people keep reading, I just keep writing. Now I need advice and who better to turn to than you, people who read my ongoing saga. For you male readers, I’m sorry this is probably not your area of expertise, except for any of my cross dressing friends, then you might be just the ones who can help me.
I bought a new outfit for my upcoming auction. As auctioneer I have strict standards about what to wear. Must have sleeves so my bat-wing upper arms do not in the least distract any bidders as I am wildly pointing to current bidders and at the most, don’t actually knock anyone out who gets to close to me while I am turning from one side of the stage to the other. It is a real possibility that my arm flab could get ahead of me and take out an unsuspecting waiter.
I also like a long dress because when I am standing on that little stage I could give people too good a view up my dress if it is not long. So I bought a blouse and long skirt number, but the skirt is long in the back and a little shorter in the front. Not so short that anyone can see what color panties I am wearing, but short enough that I have to wear a really nice pair of shoes.

Usually I can get away with a more comfortable pair of shoes since my dress will cover them, but not this year.
So I bought a beautiful pair of pumps that go great with my outfit, but they have a little higher heel than I have worn comfortably in years. I also need to mention that the ball of my right foot is very tender from walking long distances in the wrong shoes. So now to my question. Who has experience with gel insoles, either full or just the ball of the feet types? If you have used these things have they helped you standing for a long period in heels, especially if you don’t wear heels all the time. If not gel insoles, do you have any other advice for me to make sure these things don’t cripple me?
Please send me comments, emails, texts, real letters, phone calls or smoke signals. I want all advice, especially from cross dressers!  

Merry Mah Jongg New Year


Tomorrow is my favorite holiday of the year. It is the first day of the New Mah Jongg Card for 2016! Technically the real new year is April 1, but since tomorrow is the day my Mah Jongg Group plays, and we have received the new card in the mail, it will be an early happy new Mah Jongg card new year.
If you don’t play Mah Jongg, I’m sorry. You are missing out on an addictive, fun and completely calorie free great way to spend time with friends. Of all my addictions, Mah Jongg is the most healthy. If it were possible I would play everyday. I guess if I lived in a retirement home in Bocca it would be possible, but then my husband would leave me.
The excitement of the new card is that all Mah Jongg players are on the same level playing field the first day a new card comes in. We all have to sit and study the card as we are dealt our tiles since no one is quite sure which hand their tiles will fit best. This means that I can’t do my second most healthy addiction, needlepoint, while playing the new card on the New Year’s Day. That is fine. One day of just playing and not multi-tasking is fine.
I am most interested in how this new card plays since it is the first card since the death of Ruth, the head of the National Mah Jongg league, who create and sell the new cards every year. Will this card be balanced with hands that fully and equally utilize all the tiles, or will some tiles be favored and some become fodder for passing during the Charleston?
If this is just one big foreign language to you it is time to learn to play this game. I am happy to have another class and teach you. As long as you have not previously signed up for a class and not shown up. It is a game about fun, but I take it very seriously.
Now I need to get a good night’s sleep so I am ready for the big festivities of tomorrow. Happy Mah Jongg New Year. May the jokers be with you!

Why Did We Always Get Out Foot Measured?


 When I was a kid and we went to a fancy shoe department at a store like Lord and Taylor the shoe salesman always made a big deal about measuring our feet. Now this does not seem unusual to do with children whose feet seem to grow faster than any other part, but he also always measured my mother’s feet.
I think my feet stopped growing around age thirteen, but I noticed that it never stopped the shoe salesman from pulling out his handy silver foot measuring device with the little width gauge. I was never quite sure how they read that thing, but despite my foot remaining the same size I still stood first on the right and then on the left foot in the silver measure contraption every time the salesman asked me.
Once he had ascertained the exact size of my foot he would disappear into the back and then after a little wait would reappear with many more boxes than shoes I had requested. It was not that he was bringing different sizes, but additional styles or colors he was certain I might like. Being a department store shoe salesman was a lucrative job, back in the day. They worked on high commissions even when others in the store worked on salary.
Today we either order our shoes online with no measuring available or if I go to a real shoe store I just tell the clerk the size to bring and they just dump the box beside us, not attempting to put the shoe on my foot like they real shoe salesmen used to do. What I wonder is did those old time shoes salesmen really need to always measure our feet, or was it just part of the show to get a chance to talk with us and figure out what other kids of shoes they might entice us with?
I wish I had a recording of those conversations so a I could figure out if the salesman asked us about favorite colors, or activities we might be doing. I just can’t believe how often I stood on the metal measuring machine when it was totally unnecessary. 
Maybe shoe manufacturers have gotten much better at making standard sizes. With everyone I know ordering shoes from places like Zappos, being off in your sizing just the littlest bit could be the death of a shoe brand. Maybe we are just happy with shoes that stay on our feet and don’t give us blisters.
I kind of miss old fashioned shoe salesmen. I don’t feel like I need the measuring, but I do like when someone else slips the pump on my foot so I can just sit back and decide if it looks good. I also like looking at the shoes in the little mirror on the floor. It is not so much to see how the shoes look, but to see how they make my calves and ankles look. This is just something you can’t do when buying on the Internet. I’m just glad I’m not the maker of the silver metal foot measuring machine. I bet their business has really gone to the dogs.


On Easter I can think of no better time to speak out about the shameful law HB-2 that our small minded North Carolina politicos passed last week to stop an inclusionary law the Charlotte City a council passed to allow transgender people to use the bathroom they identify with.
First the biggest issue, since it is Easter. God did not make any junk. We are all children of God and he loves us all. Now for some people who by luck of nature feel that their gender assigned them at birth does not match their outsides they should be allowed to become who they feel they were born to be. And God loves them just as much.
I think that the republican law makers in my state believe in God for the most part. And being republicans they usually believe in smaller government, and fiscally responsible spending, and local rights over bigger government over stepping and they are usually pro-business That is why I am totally confused by this action.
First our state general assembly felt the need to call a special session to deal with this use of bathrooms issue to the tune of $42,000, when they could have waited one month until the regular session was due to be in Raleigh. Second they felt that Charlotte City council as well as all local North Carolina municipalities do not have the right to set their own local laws concerning the uses of bathrooms by transgender people. Third, they apparently never considered how many businesses are going to be hurt because of passing this absurd, backwards, hurtful, stupid law that makes people say, “Why do I want to go to North Carolina?”
Then there is the God issue. If any of these people listen at any places of worship I am not sure how they can think they get to judge others. Now I know their small minded reasoning was they thought that they needed to protect women in restrooms. What? I think if they looked at any statistics it seems that transgender people are assaulted in bathrooms at a ridiculously higher rate than anyone else. If we let people just use the potty in the restroom they look like they belong in there won’t be any real issue. If I see someone who looks like a man in the ladies room my first thought is not, that must be a transgender person. Did they law makers, in their $42,000 session not think through the absurdity of this law?
The small minds and unkind hearts of our law makers and our Governor who signed the bill as fast as he could need to be challenged. This absurdity hurts not just transgender people, but all of North Carolina. I normally don’t blame one political party for bad policy, but this was such a lopsided, poorly thought out action it needs to be called out. Republicans need to keep to the planks of their party, and stop spending money foolishly to make more laws that really were not hurting anybody. Let local governments decide these things.  
And on this Easter Sunday I will say that Jesus died for our sins, but that does not mean you need to sin more by thinking that you are a better human than someone else. God loves us all the same, even you stupid North Carolina law makers.

A Party at Ten

When the invitation for a friend’s 50th birthday arrived I was thrilled to see it was a party from ten until two. That is until I realized it is ten at night. I am much too old to go to a party that starts at ten. I didn’t like starting parties at ten in college. What a waste of seven, eight and nine it was.
Despite the late hour I like this friend and certainly don’t want to forgo the celebration. I made the mistake of working in my sweat shop all day rather than taking a nap. Now I have a sore back and am exhausted. I would be pumped if I had finished the dress, but the review is “good” except for the list of alterations, Can this be tighter? Can this be lower? I have at least one more full day in the sweat shop and now I am going our to a party that goes until two.
Oh yeah, tomorrow is Easter and my parents will be arriving for church and lunch and my house is just going to have to remain covered in threads and pins. There will be no time for cleaning up since I am going to have to get sleep at some point. Do you think it would be rude to bring my seam ripper and dress to church to work on during the sitting parts of the service?
So much for a long holiday weekend. I’ll post a picture of me at a party at a bar after ten tonight. It will be a rare sighting. Even rarer will be that Russ is going too.  

The Sweat Shop Life

In the continuation of my trying to design and create a dress for Carter I sat hunched over my sewing machine for the better part of eight hours today. I now have great respect for the millions of real sweat shop workers who make the world’s clothing. Designers have it much easier. Standing and draping fabric is the fun part. Picking out material and colors is easy in comparison to the work of the people at the bottom of the rung who are tethered to the sewing machine do.
Since I have made this creation without a pattern I have even more respect for pattern makers and cutters. To be able to look at a sleeve and know exactly what shape to cut so that it is big enough to go around the shoulder and down to the arm pit and not strangle the appendage is a true art. I avoided this hurdle by making this dress basically sleeveless.
Life would have been easier if I had not put the zipper in correctly on one side and backwards on the other. It also would have been better if I could have found my seam ripper. I have also realized that I desperately need to get to the eye doctor to see what can be done about my mid-distance vision, but that is certainly not going to get fixed before I am done with this project.  
Happily I am almost done with the top half which is by far the more complicated portion. I am in the tailoring and getting the fit just right phase on the top and then I will turn my attention to the long flowing shirt that will be a welcome reprieve.
For now I just need my back to recover from my sweatshop hunch. Hopefully one good night’s sleep will do that. Thank goodness my family does not depend on me to make all their clothes. I would quickly lobby for nudity and trust me that is not a good thing.

Slow Eggs In Time For Easter

When we went to visit our friends for spring break I made my slow cooked eggs for breakfast. My friend asked me for the recipe and I thought I should write this dish for everyone, since it is the best way to have scrambled eggs ever. So if you are having a bunch of people over for the Holiday weekend this is the perfect thing to get your brother-in-law to do while you are whipping everything else up.
Use a high side sauce pan. Melt a tablespoon of butter in the pot on very low. Then take the pot off the heat. The key to this is use as little heat as possible.  
Use 2-3 eggs per person. Beat the eggs in a bowl and add 1-2 tablespoons of cold water. 

Don’t add salt or pepper until the very end because they break up the strands. 
Put the eggs in the pot and put it on the lowest heat. With a wooden spoon stir the eggs very slowly in one direction. You don’t have to stir constantly in the beginning, but as they start to thicken you need to stir more so they don’t stick. 
It will take between 20-25 minutes to make these eggs.
Salt and pepper after they are finished.
They will be very creamy and will taste nothing like a diner.

Another Candy Holiday


I went to the store today and was confronted with the giant display of Easter Candy. If you are under ten and reading this you should know that of course the Easter bunny gets his candy some place else. That candy at the store is just for grown ups.
I am just wondering when Easter went from a holiday about Jesus rising from the dead, to Easter eggs to candy? I’m just unsure about that leap from Jesus getting to be with his father to jelly beans. I get the symbolism of eggs equaling rebirth, but candy is more like certain death.
Were churches involved with bribing kids to like church through the strategic use of candy? Or is it just another way the candy manufacturers and sugar producers could get candy into the hands of kids? Germans brought the tradition of Easter baskets to Pennsylvania when they immigrated, but considering the dislike of all things German during World War II you would think that Americans would have thrown out all German born traditions. Then again they never gave up Budweiser.
But of course by the 1940’s kids were already hooked on candy, even though it was scarce during the war. I guess that once sugar stopped being rationed parents must have thought their children deserved a bit of candy. But why give the bunny the credit for bringing it?
I feel like holidays that revolve around candy need a make over. Easter can get back to being about rebirth and spring and maybe ham or a lamb. Halloween,the biggest candy fest of them all, should just be about scaring the shit out of people. No more going to strange people’s houses and asking them for free candy, that is really scary.
Nobody needs all that sugar and I certainly don’t need to see all those Reece’s peanut butter eggs at the store. I can withstand a regular peanut butter cup, but those eggs, they are pure sin and that is just not what Easter should be about.

Terrorism Continues

Another morning where Good Morning America is consumed by one breaking news story of terrorism. Sadly, this is becoming too common place and could begin to have the effect of being just background noise because it it is happening more often. I don’t want to diminish how horrible the bombings on Brussels today were, but I also don’t want to let terrorist set the agenda.
Yes, these people don’t like Western life and they don’t like how we treated their countries, twenty, thirty, or more years ago during wars like dessert storm. Some people in the west act like these people just sprung up and started hating us for no reason, but most certainly that is not the case. We, meaning Americans and Europeans, most likely did lots of things to create generations of people who are willing to die to get back at us.  
We can’t fight terrorist by just searching for bad guys and shutting them down, like Donald Trump thinks we should do. We can’t go back to the beginning and undo all the bad things we did in the middle east to create generations of people that hate us. Nothing is going to be easy about changing the senecio we are in now with terrorist cells waiting all over the world to try and wreck havoc and make us feel unsettled.
All we can do is not stop living, not stop traveling, and try to be more understanding of people who are different than us and more loving of all people, even terrorists. Walls, isolationism, hate, torture, bombs, fear and ugliness will not make us safer.
I do not know exactly what these people experienced in life that makes them think that bombing innocent people will help their cause. It had to be something and until we try and understand the root cause we will continue to have these kind of incidents like we did in Brussels today. It took years of doing something to Syrians to get where we are. I am not saying that it was even something we did, but we need to pull back the lens and look at the big long range picture and figure out how did we get to this place and how can we change it. If we don’t study the history from more than just our American perspective we are doomed to have more days like today.

There Is No Resting On Your Laurels


The ancient Greeks used to bestow a laurel wreath on the head of a champion or great scholar. From that came the idiom, “to rest on your laurels” meaning you just don’t try anymore now that you have gotten the wreath.  
The problem is that laurels can’t be spent, eaten or traded for cash so what good are they. As humans we just can’t rest on our laurels we have constantly got to keep trying and improving.  
I, for one, don’t have any laurels so I don’t have anything to think I can rest on. But I know that I can’t slow down or stop trying in everything or I slide backwards and backwards is worse than resting.  
My friend Suzanne ran the New York Half Marathon yesterday. She has never been a runner, but she has children who are good runners. She wanted to raise money for Summer Search, a program that helps low income teenagers transform what they believe is possible for themselves. So Suzanne transformed herself into a runner. Her motto for this run was “You can do more than you think you can.”
After her run she wrote, “I wasn’t a runner before I set this goal for myself, and today I have the medal to prove that, actually I AM a runner! Not everything is possible, but I know now that more is possible than I believed.”
Suzanne has been a TV producer, produced three successful children and could have rested on her laurels, but she didn’t. She picked a goal that was hard, to start running at age fifty-five and then on a bitterly cold day run 13.6 miles in about two hours. That is more than I imagine I could do in five hours.
If you want to contribute to her fundraising it is not too late and you can help kids too, http://www.crowdrise.com/summersearchnychalf16/fundraiser/Suzanneworden.
I wish I had been in NYC to see her at the finish line, but I did get to watch her progress live on my I-pad. I was inspired as her little initials kept moving along the route of the race, never stopping or even slowing down much. It inspires me to not rest, to keep going and try to do more than I imagined.

Project Runway at My House


I used to sew, but that was a lifetime ago. When I wrote about my making dresses in college for myself and Carter’s godmother Suzanne I opened a pandora’s box. “Mom, do you think you can make a dress for me?” Carter asked me.
“Sure,” I replied. Then she showed me an idea for a dress.
Now I am draping material over a dress form to try and create a look that Carter wants without the aid of a pattern. I am not sure what I have gotten myself into, but I hope she will like it.

At least she does not need it for a couple of weeks so I have time to perfect it.
Not like my sewing my high school graduation dress the night before graduation. The requirement of a long white dress sounds easy, but when you are at boarding school it is not so simple to find time or transportation to go find such a dress. That is why I was hunched over my sewing machine trying to perfectly alter the strapless dress so I would not have any wardrobe malfunctions as I walked down the grass with my classmates. If I had an extra hour I could have made straps to ensure the dress would be held up, but those last hours were fleeting and I still had to pack my room so I could move out right after graduation.
Today, as I was working on draping the bodice I at least had the benefit of YouTube, something I could have used in my youth. Now if I had the time I could practically become a tailor via the Internet, but who has the time to watch all those tutorials?
I am just hoping I can figure out the right sleeve treatment on this green dress. Where is Tim Gunn when I need him? I’m just going to have to make it work.

Things Airlines Should Never Say

At last we are home from our flying spring break. Flying was not the purpose of the break, just the only way we could maximize our time to visit colleges in three different cities. This meant we had to go from RDU to New York, New York to Pittsburgh, Pitt to Washington DC, and DC back to RDU. This schedule makes my desire to get home even stronger than ever.
When I planned this trip I thought we should have two days of fun at the end, but in reality the most fun thing would be to get home early to Shay Shay. So today we did our best to waste time shopping with our suit cases in tow. This meant Russ sat surrounded by roller bags while Carter and I were on the prowl for shoes. After lunch and more shopping we headed out to the airport with just an hour until our flight.
Well, that was the scheduled time. First it was pushed back twenty minutes. Then an hour, then an hour and a half and without telling us two hours. We were hardly going to get home with much time to snuggle with Shay before passing out.
As we pulled into our gate at the very empty RDU, two hours and twenty minutes after our scheduled arrival time, I looked out the window at the jetway. It sat there, ten feet from the plane. Five minutes later, after no movement by the jetway, the pilot came on the intercom, “Seems like we sneaked up on the gate agent.”  
WTF! There is no sneaking in air travel. Your every movement is tracked. Since we were already so late there was no incentive for anyone to move their ass to the gate and let us off the plane because they already screwed up their on-time arrival. Seems like airlines should not be judged just on on-time take off and arrival, but on how many minutes you are late once they missed the on-time window.  
We sat for almost fifteen minutes so close, yet still trapped. The next thing I hate is when the pilot says, “We know you have a choice in air travel, thanks for choosing us.” Ha! We hardly had a choice. When I booked this trip I was trapped into one airline I hate for three of the four legs because it was the only airline that went to these three places. I could have booked all different airlines, but it would have cost four times as much. So we just did not have a choice.
Please pilots stop saying stupid stuff. Just apologize for being late, being slow and having dirty planes. I would respect you a lot more for your honesty. “Sorry we are so late and there is no excuse that no one is here to drive the jetway.” Be real airlines, sugar coating does not pay.

Your Know You’re Old When…

Today while Russ was at his Georgetown office working during his vacation, Carter and I were doing tourist things. After having lunch with friends who had been looking at schools this week too and comparing notes, Carter and I went off to the Smithsonian. We had already done art this trip, and since Russ was not with us we did not have to go to Air and Space so we went to the museum that makes Carter and I happiest…American History.
Carter wanted to see the Julia Child’s kitchen exhibit and true to our luck it was closed so that the walls around it could be repainted. So instead we went to the war section where we relived all the wars America ever fought in. This was a very useful review for AP US History for Carter. As we neared the end of the exhibit with Vietnam and the World Trade Center attacks I recognized many of the famous photographs in the exhibit as ones I had seen in real time as a child and adult.
After finishing wars we went to see the First Ladies dress collection. Donating your inaugural dress to the Smithsonian is a relatively new concept for First Ladies. Of course the museum did not exist during many of the first ladies’ lifetimes so they did not have a place to donate the dress to and second most First Ladies probably wore their inaugural dress more than once since those things were expensive. But as we looked at the dresses on display I realized that I had lived through quite a few First Ladies. I recognized everyone since Pat Nixon as a personal memory and that was at least eight. 
When Carter and I were thirsty we went to the basement cafe that had a display case of lunch boxes and although I remembered many of them from my childhood I was most shocked to see a Partridge Family lunch box that was the exact model I took to school everyday in fifth grade.  
It was one thing to look at famous photos I had seen as a child in an exhibit, or the actual gowns I had seen First Ladies where on TV, but to see my exact same lunch box in a Smithsonian exhibit really made me feel old. To me the American History museum was full of old stuff from days of yore, not from days of me. How could stuff of my generation be worthy of a museum? I wish I had held onto that lunchbox now, as well as my Monkey’s one and all the others. They might be worth something, more than just the memory of loving David Cassidy and Davey Jones.

What’s Your Major? Who Knows

Looking at colleges is exhausting. I am not sure how people with multiple children do this over and over again. Today was our last school for this trip. Since we have a friend that works here we had a little extra tour so it was more like looking at two schools than one since we got to look more in depth into one of the colleges at a University.

The admissions lady who ran the information session asked all the prospective students in the room what they were interested in studying and I was amazed at how specific almost all of the high school juniors were about their perspective majors. I was happy that one lone boy was brave enough to say undecided.  
The daunting thing is that if you want to go to a University that is made up of different colleges you have to apply to that college that has your major. I went to a liberal arts college, that was helpful since I went thinking I was interested in economics, but after first semester macro I clearly knew it was not for me. It took a while before I realized that I was going to have enough art credits to make it my major. In the end it did not hurt me any that I did not know what the hell I wanted to do when I was seventeen.
At one of our previous tours this week there was a boy on our tour who wanted to study pharmacy. I was very interested in how, at his young age, he got to that point. Perhaps his parents owned a pharmacy and he liked standing on his feet all day. I was restrained and did not ask him.
Carter is very interested in the “where” she is going to college, as in which city, and she wants a city. DC has a big draw in that it is such a beautiful city. Although she claims she is not interested in politics, that is until you get her to actually talk about the current flock of presidential candidates and then she has quite a bit to say on the matter, she does love Washington.
It does not hurt that the diversity is high and the people are nice. After lunch today we stopped in a Starbucks and one of the baristas asked Carter if she’s would try a new drink they were creating. She said, “No thank you.” The guy then said, “I want to give it to you, on me.” No one else in the place was being offered a free drink. “If you don’t like it you won’t be out anything,” he said. This was not even the barista who was ringing us up, so he got our guy to ring it up and then put in his employee code so it was free. This does not happen to us at home, at least it has never happened to me. This kind of stuff certainly makes one like a city.

I think we have explored a few cities that each give Carter a different idea about places to go to college. I just hope we now can navigate the what to study question. I don’t feel like there is any harm in being undecided. The world is changing fast and maybe there will be a totally new major by the time Carter actually goes to college. As long as she is someplace with nice people she will be fine. I just don’t think she can count on getting another free Starbucks. That is a once in a lifetime happening.

Part Visiting Colleges Part Revisiting Former Lives


We spent last night in Pittsburgh. Save many layovers at the Pittsburgh airport back in the nineties when US Air used to have a big hub there I have not spent much time there since my summer of 1982. I went west from Carlisle for the summer to take advantage of the introduction of cable television into the city of seven hills, or as we cable sales people liked to call it, “the land of bad television reception.” 
It was a paradise to sell cable television to people who lived in a city of four TV channels, but depending on where you lived you could only get one or two since they all emanated from different towers on different hills. Although it was my summer job, it was my first big time sales job and I was the only “summer employee” amongst a group of young people for whom this was a real career.
I quickly learned the various neighborhoods that make Pittsburgh a patchwork quilt of many ethnicities who were not necessarily aware who else lived in adjoining neighborhoods and definitely not who lived across town. This made my job interesting in a time of Rand McNalley atlas’ and city street maps.  
Everyday I would go into my office where I would wait in a bull pen type arena of desks waiting to be given the cards of my prospects for the day. If I was lucky they were homes where the newly built cable was just being dropped to their street and I had first crack at selling them cable TV. If there were no new streets ready for sales I got “resale” cards where the cable had been available for a while, but some people had resisted purchasing it so far.
I will never forget the first house I went to sell. It was a nice neighborhood and I rang the door bell and a middle aged woman answered the door. She was quite excited to see me and invited me into her mid-century modern all-white living room. Remember, mid-century modern was not so hot in 1982.  
The woman had a giant plate glass window that looked out on her front yard and on the opposite wall from the window was a twelve foot curved white leather sofa and she asked me to sit in a chair facing the sofa, where she sat. I took out my promotional material to begin my first ever solo spiel and as I looked up at her sitting on the sofa, I noticed for the life sized painting above the sofa that was a nude portrait of the same woman lying stretched out on a rug. It took me a moment to compose myself, but I launched right into my sales pitch making sure I pointed out the playboy channel. She bought the “full boat” which was every channel we offered, including HBO, Showtime and the playboy channel and was a big commission for me.
I left her house after writing up the order and as I walked down her sidewalk and to her neighbor’s to try and get another sale I looked back at the front of her house and could see that portrait plain as day through the big plate glass window. I was worried that they neighbor’s had no need to buy the playboy channel since they had it for free right on their very street.
Today after visiting a college Carter and I drove out Fifth Avenue so I could find the house I lived in that summer. I recognized it immediately and got out to take a photo. It was hardly as glamorous as it as was almost 35 years ago. There was some indoor furniture on the front porch and cardboard cases of beer out back. Despite that I still looked fondly on that house. It was the first place I ever lived alone where a I had a job and supported myself. It felt like yesterday. I did not go looking for the house where I made my first sale. I was worried it would look exactly the same and I did not want to scare Carter. At least mid-century modern is in now.


College Viewing


Yesterday Carter, Russ and I had the pleasure of looking at two colleges with Carter’s best twin friends, Cait and Adam. It makes such a big difference when a good friend can look at a school and say, “I can see you here.”

Russ and I try our hardest not to have opinions that we voice out loud until Carter has had a chance to give us hers. It is not always easy since we both are so opinionated.

Today we got up early in NYC, where we kissed and hugged our friends goodbye to go off to a new city to look at more schools. I am very thankful that we made the trip to Philly last December to get TSA Precheck, not only because we get to skip the really long lines which were extra long at regular security today, but also because sometimes you see celebrities in the pre-check line. Like this morning Anne Burrell, wild platinum haired chef on the Food Network was behind us in line wearing a fireman’s looking raincoat.
We arrived at our second city and went straight to a University where Russ had a friend who was a professor. His daughter is also a student there. They generously gave us a tour and we went to lunch together. Nice as they both were it quickly became apparent to Carter that this was not her place. I felt the same way. They were not her people. Poor Russ loved everything about this school and was drooling wishing he had gone here, but was a good sport when Carter broke the news to him. We went to the info session, but skipped the official tour since we had seen enough.

I am happy Carter gave it a try. So many people have told us stories about driving a kid seven hours to a school and when they pull up the kid says, “I’m not getting out.” It’s all about a feeling and if you don’t feel it there is nothing you can do.

Thank goodness we have another school to see in this city tomorrow so that we have another chance to make coming here worth it. Of course every school Carter knocks off her list reenforces other decisions already made. This is one long marathon.

Time with Friends Instead of Time Blogging


I have not slept, only toured, played, visited, reminisced, walked, talked, eaten and talked some more. I have run out of time to write tonight in favor of spending my last precious moments with my friends Suzanne and Steve before I try and get a few hours sleep and have to get up to catch an early morning flight.  
In place of my blog today I am just posting this wonderful picture of Carter that says it all. For the record I got this in one shot so it is a true reaction to how we were feeling today.

The Extroverts Answer to Daylight Savings Time



 For most Americans today is the day we hate most of all…the one day a year we lose an hour of precious sleep thanks to the practice of setting our clocks forward an hour to gain an hour of sunlight later in the day. Many studies have been done documenting an increase in accidents, a decrease in productivity and a general malaise amongst the populist during the first few days following the torturous spring ahead.
I am generally one of those thrown off by losing an hour of sleep since I tend to need a regular eight hours nightly. This year is the first time I can remember that I have been on vacation in America at the spring forward since the last few years I was out of the country and on a screwy time zone to begin with. But today I have to say I have not been off at all.
I got up fairly early, for a vacation day and since my friend Suzanne who I am staying with is training for a half marathon, Russ and I went with her to the park and we walked while she ran. Starting the day with a good five miles under my belt helped me get to a total of eleven miles walked today.
After our constitutional we went back to Suzanne and Steve’s house where we made a fabulous brunch with all the yummies we purchased at Russ and Daughter’s yesterday. Carter and I then walked up to the Met and had a most delightful mother daughter afternoon. I am already sad now thinking about what I am going to be missing with her when she goes to college because we had such an adult time today.
After returning home we got ready for dinner and Carter did my makeup which is a skill she is an expert at and I looked better than normal. The Lange’s departed to meet our Lange cousins, Jon and Ali who are expecting their first child. It was great to catch up and talk about how their life is going to change.
After dinner it was back to Steve and Suzanne’s where I got to learn a most fun game, the Settlers of Catan. Suzanne, her youngest son Oliver and I played as late as Oliver and I could convince Suzanne that he could stay up. For a game playing extrovert like myself I was just getting more energized. Sadly we had to leave the game, but it is still occupying the dining room table awaiting its completion tomorrow.  
Between the exercise, many friends and game playing I think I have found the recipe for me not to feel the pain of spring forward. For the introverts around me I am sure that this is completely the opposite. My only problem now is that all the introverts are sound asleep and I am wide awake worrying about getting enough sleep before I have to go tour two colleges tomorrow, when the thing I am really going to be waiting to do is finish the Settlers of Catan game.

College Tour Crash at Your House Excuse


It is worth getting up at five in the morning to come to NYC to get to spend time with my best college friend, Suzanne. Since she is Carter’s godmother it is only appropriate that she host us for longer than fish stays fresh so Carter can look at colleges. A truly gracious and generous hostess does not say, “Why are you coming two days before your college tour and stay a day after?” Instead she says, “My house is your house and of course I want to go to the tenement museum tour with you.”
So we arrived at the ungodly hour of nine AM on a Saturday morning, moved into the rooms of her two college away children (who we miss badly and promise not to mess up your space) and then after a coffee and catching up, Russ, Carter and I took the subway down to the lower East Side to try and get breakfast at the Russ and Daughter’s cafe, the brilliant off shoot of the popular hundred year old appetizing store of the same name. Sadly, we did not have an hour my fifteen minutes to wait for a table and instead went around the corner and grab brunch at an Italian joint named Sauce. It was fine, but no smoked salmon that my mouth had been craving.
The reason we could not wait at Russ and Daughter’s was Suzanne was meeting us at the Tenement Museum tour of the Irish Outsiders. If you have never been to the museum of the lower east side you really should go. We had been once before when Carter was in third grade and she did not remember it. Now that she is enthralled with her two history classes at school she was dying to see one of the places she had been studying.
Our small group of 12 met our educator, Sara, who took us into a building that had been a five story apartment building since the 1860’s with over 7,000 documents different families living in the 20 — three room flats that occupied the building. We learned about Bridget, the Irish girl who emigrated to America alone and eventually married Joseph P. Moore, a waiter, who lived in the building with their three daughters until their youngest, Agnes, died at the tender age of 3. We learned about life in the Lower East side and the various ethnic groups, first Germans, then Irish, Italians, Jews, Chinese and Puerto Ricans who all have lived in the same most populated area of New York for many years. History was brought to life for us as we were able to ask questions and all members of our group contributed stories of their own family immigration path.  
Since my family’s immigration story is more Mayflower than Ellis Island I almost got in trouble when the guide asked me to describe my personal story when I made a comment concerning some immigrants loss of their native languages in one generation in haste to assimilate. Suzanne, understanding what I was awkwardly getting at, saved me by describing her relatives desire to fit in the new world and that a common language was the fastest way to “be American.” A good friend knows when you might be putting your foot in your mouth and how to help you extract it.
After the tour and a rest for some tea afterwards we went down two blocks to the original Russ and Daughter’s and bought enough smoked salmon for a feast for breakfast tomorrow. My fix will just be delayed one day.
A nap and then back downtown with Suzanne and Steve, her husband, for a Laotian restaurant dinner. We had our own immigrant tour of food today. No matter what happens with looking at colleges we are at least getting our fix of friends this weekend. I’m sorry I only have one child to uses as an excuse to come crash at Suzanne and Steve’s house. But at least they still have one child left to come and look at Duke so I can return the favor. 

The Auction is Coming, The Auction is Coming

The Durham Academy Under The Big Top Gala and Auction is happening this year on April 9th. This year’s leadership Team of Harriet Putnam, Jamie Spatola, Kemi Nonez and the always present Kristin Teer have been working all year to bring us what is sure to be one big fun night.
Russ and I stared going to the DA auction when Carter was just two, well before she became a student there. I remember looking at all the beautiful student art work in the silent auction. I naively bid on a sea turtle clay bowl but quickly learned that it was going to be won by a parent who had a child in that class. You can imagine that it must have been fabulous if I wanted it and my child had nothing to do with it.
At that first auction I watched the auctioneer work the room. Russ and I actually won a week at the Greenbrier and cooking school with Julia Child for a song because I don’t think that auctioneer knew what he was selling. Russ turned to me and said something like, “you could do a better job at that.”
A few years later at a Caring House Auction that went terribly bad because we had two cattle auctioneers who did not know our crowd, another friend said, “Dana, you should be the auctioneer.” So the next year I was, and for a while.
Then a few years after I had gotten plenty of practice, between Caring House and Garden club auctions I started being the auctioneer for the Durham Academy Auction. This was a risky experiment for them to try. We had been using a professional auctioneer and after one bad year a group said, “Let Dana try. It can’t be any worse that the guy from DC.”

That was seven years ago.  
I have had lots of fun helping people support the school by raising their paddle even when they swore they were not interested in buying anything. We have had some great years where the set up,the items being offered, the economy and the sound system were all working in unison to help raise records amount of money. Once or twice we have had a hiccup, but for the most part it has been very fun.
This is going to be my last year as the DA auctioneer. As we have moved to the bid pal electronic bidding it is time to try a professional who works with bid pal all the time and has a team of people he brings in to maximize the bidding. But that is next year. If you want to see me tease as much money from the crowd as possible you need to come to the auction this year. I am hosting tables and would welcome you. It is my last hurrah, but only for DA. I am still happy to auctioneer for other events.  
The good news is next year when Carter is a senior, I will finally, at last, get to just have fun at an auction and not be working. I have volunteered at every auction since Pre-k and I am ready to rest.

When Immigration Goes Wrong

I was watching the news today about Justin Trudeau, prime Minster of Canada coming to Washington that was followed by the never ending story about Donald Trump’s wall to keep people out of the US. The cross of those two news items reminds me of my favorite Canadian Immigration experience.
In the early nineties I had the pleasure of being a consultant to the ten provincial 

Canadian phone companies. Each province (think state) had it’s own telephone company and as competition was coming into to the phone business there they created an umbrella company called Stentor to help them fight the new start up phone companies. I worked for Stentor. The average Canadian had no idea that Stentor existed and only thought of their phone company as their local one like Bell Canada in Ontario or BC Tel in British Columbia.
The only way I was allowed to work in Canada was I had to be granted a work permit that basically said that no one else in Canada had the same experience I had and that I was in no way taking a job from a Canadian. It was a stretch, but I got one. When I flew into Ottawa where our main office was it was not an issue because they knew what was Stentor since it was head quartered there.
Since my consulting was in sales I had the adventure of getting to visit every province in Canada, multiple times. I have been to places Canadians don’t even visit like Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, but then I also got to go to Vancouver a bunch so it all balances out.
One day I flew into London, Ontario on a little prop plane from Detroit. There were only twelve passengers and I think that they had very few international flights each day. This meant that the most junior of Immigration officers worked there and he took his job very seriously.  
The first person in line was Canadian so he got through with only about five minutes of intense interrogation about what he might be bringing back from the states. Then it was my turn. The young officer looked at my passport and my work permit stapled inside and grilled me for fifteen minutes about my expertise and why was no one else in Canada capable of doing the job I was doing. I had to first explain what Stentor was since that was the name on my work permit and then explain telephone competition. It went on and on and he eventually tired of me and told me to go wait on a bench so he could clear the rest of the passengers and he would get back to me.
The person behind me was a Nun carrying a guitar. Since we were in a tiny room I could hear perfectly as this young man grilled this Nun. 
 “Why are you coming to Canada? ” he asked.
“To sing in a charity concert,” the Nun answered.
“Is there not a Canadian Nun who could be doing this job?” He demanded of the frail and elderly woman.
“It is not a job,” she respectfully explained. “I am not getting paid.”
“But why should I let you into Canada to do this work?”
This poor Nun obviously was not an expert in immigration rules and did not know that she should have said she was just coming for a vacation, but then again Nuns don’t usually vacation. After about fifteen minutes of hard core treatment he made the Nun come sit on the bench next to me to be dealt with after he had finished with everyone else.  
In the end over half the flight was on the bench and it was at least two hours since we had landed. By now this guy was ready for a coffee and he had proven his point that he had all the power and we had none. He had me come back to his little stand and asked me what the name of all the provincial phone companies were as if to test my qualifications. Luckily I knew them. He stamped my passport and let me into the country.  
I did not stay around long enough to see what he made the Nun do to prove her value, but a I imagine he had her open her guitar and had her sing for him.
I have a feeling that Donald Trump would like to clone this guy and have him work all the US boarders. No one would ever try to come to the US again once they met the likes of this immigration officer. So much for good relations with your neighbors.

Carter’s Limited Craving Menu Includes Camp Food

Poor Carter has been sick with this terrible head cold and headache which apparently is going around. It never fails that she gets sick right before spring break. I have been doing everything possible to try and heal her, well everything she will put up with. She has drawn the line at any nasal treatments where liquid goes in her nose and comes back out, either the same or different nostril, it is all a no from her.
I know she is really sick because she is disinterested in all foods. Finally yesterday, after missing many meals, she did request a BLT, which she only ate half of. Well she ended up eating the second half as her second meal, but that is just not much.
Tonight I asked her what she wanted for dinner, willing to make anything that might make her feel better. This is an unusual occurrence that I was giving her carte blanch and she could have taken advantage of me, but remember she is sick.  
“I don’t know what I want,” came the pitiful response to my question. “Nothing sounds good.” Then a long pause. “Let me think about what food we have at camp.”
My cooking skill have now been surpassed by the ladies who cook camp food. Carter could not think of one of the thousands of things I cook and was racking her brain going through the seven meals they repeat every week at camp to try and come up with a food that sounded comforting.
Thank goodness she did not request chicken fingers or hot dogs. When the camp food did not inspire anything she did her around the world tour of food, which usually means Mexican, or Asian with an Indian thrown in every so often.
That world tour did lead her to Mexican red rice with a fried egg over easy, on top. Hooray, a meal I have all the ingredients for that wouldn’t take long to make. I happily whipped up my much too gourmet Spanish rice and was so happy that camp food did not win.
Now if only that rice cooked in tomato sauce with onions and cumin could cure the cold that has taken over Carter’s sinuses I will be happy. Also if I can not catch this thing from her just as we are about to tour colleges I will be happy.

 I Foolishly Fell For Out of Season Fruit 

In an effort to eat the way a I know I should, I have been trying to stick to my protein, vegetables and fruit routine. I find it is much easier to be good if I have fruit prepped and ready to eat so that I don’t fall down and eat something naughty that is quick and ready.
Today I walked into Harris Teeter to find a giant cantaloupe display. Now it certainly is not cantaloupe season and even though I knew I might be disappointed if I bought fruit that is not local and ripe I bought one of those big giant cantaloupes anyway. My much to hopeful brain thought that in order for a mellon to get so big it had to be ripe. Wrong.
I brought my big fruit home and got my biggest big ass knife out to carve it up and put it in a container in the fridge ready to curb my sweet tooth. It took all my power to cut through the right color/wrong flesh texture. How can something grow so big and look so right, but just be tasteless?
I guess I can make it into a smoothie, or add some other fruit to make a salad. I just really was craving the soft juiciness of a summer cantaloupe and the warm weather today somehow lulled me into the idea that it existed. My bad.
This is really the worst time of year for good fruit in season. Yes, I can have an orange or grapefruit, but that citrus tang does not satisfy my sweet tooth the way a good mellon does. I guess I only have five more months to wait until I can get a good one, but then I also will have peaches and plums and strawberries and lots of other yummy choices. I need to be good now!

No Cash Wanted

Tonight I dropped by a local Chinese restaurant to get Carter’s favorite dry sautéed string beans. The girl behind the counter told me the total of the bill and I gave her cash to pay. She looked at the bills as if they were from outer space, “Don’t you have a credit card?”  
I know that using cash is becoming a rare action, but I have never had anyone try and turn in down in person.
“Yes, but I just prefer to use cash and I gave you exact change,” I explained. I was not sure if she was some kind of credit card salesman and was interested in getting me to enroll in some Chinese Restaurant credit card program or if she thought my few dollars were counterfeit. I considered telling her that no one counterfeits ones and that my wrinkled bills were real, but I decided it was not worth getting into with her since she was handing over my green beans.
I like cash. When I buy something with cash I feel it. Paying with a credit card does not have the same effect on me. Yes, I like getting points and rewards, but I really like not having bills at the end of the month better.
I do best dieting if I think of fattening food as high cost food and healthy food as free. For instance a brownie should cost like $20 and an apple would be free. When I think of food this way I do better on making the right choices because I am naturally cheap. The sad thing is that at the real store the healthiest food is often mores expensive that the highly caloric junk. So I have to trick my mind to think that paying more for fruit means I will be paying less when I am hungry. I know this is convoluted, but I have to use every trick in the book to help keep me on track.
I probably would do best if I had to pay for all my food by the bite with coins. Eventually I would tire of shelling money out and would stop eating. Considering my interaction today with just trying to use dollars I am sure that soon coins are going to disappear and I will be stuck with paying on credit cards, or a chip in my arm or some other invention that is going to be the death of cash.

Turmeric Is Your Friend


I have a big cabinet full of many kinds of spices. In an effort to use them while they are still fresh I am always looking for new recipes. Russ is also on the lookout for foods he wants me to make him. There are not enough days in the month, let alone meals that he is actually home for me to make everything that he requests. I draw the line at the outrageously fattening ones, but he usually only shows me the healthy ones.
Russ read somewhere about the benefits of turmeric. Things like anti inflammatory and mood boosting properties sounded good to me. As with all these nutritional kind of claims I am sure I would have to eat way more than one turmeric based dish every few days to really have it make a difference, but since we all love Indian food in our house and turmeric is the spice that gives curry it’s yellow color I thought it is worth trying to use it more.
I also often get requests for vegan dishes and this one happens to not include any animal products so it is serving many purposes and it tastes great.
Yellow lentils with Turmeric
1 lb bag of yellow lentils (also known as yellow split peas)

2 t. Ground turmeric

2 T. Vegetable oil

2 Cinnamon sticks

2t. Cumin seeds

5 whole cloves

1 t. Smoked paprika

4 scallions minced

3 chile peppers minced (seed them to reduce heat)

5 garlic cloves minced

2 inches of fresh ginger root -grated

1 pint of cherry tomatoes- halved

1 T. Honey

Juice of a lemon

Chopped cilantro to garnish
Put the lentils in a colander and rise in cold running water for a few minutes. Place the lentils in a pan with four cups of cold water and the turmeric. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer and cook until the lentils are soft, about 45 mins. Stir every so often and make sure they are not sticking to the bottom of the pan. If you need to add more water do so, but you don’t want it to be watery when they are soft.
In a separate small fry pan out the oil and the cinnamon sticks, cloves. Cook on medium heat for three minutes, add the cumin seeds cook another two minutes. Take the cloves out since there is nothing worse that biting a whole clove when you don’t expect it.
Add the paprika, scallions, garlic, chiles and ginger. Cook another three minutes. Add this spice oil mixture to the yellow lentils. Stir in the cherry tomatoes, honey and lemon juice. Taste and add salt and pepper. Let everyone add their own cilantro since you only want to add it as a garnish.

Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt Sauce


I woke up this morning with the desire to make some new foods for dinner. I knew we would be watching the Duke Carolina game tonight so I wanted something I could just heat and serve. This picture does not do the lamb meatballs in yogurt sauce any justice. I also make a corn pudding cup with blue cheese and grilled asparagus with romesco sauce. Good flavors from everything.
Here is the recipe for the meatballs
2 lbs ground lamb

1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs from good sour dough bread

1/4 cup milk

1/3 c. Toasted pine nuts

1 t. Cinnamon

2 t. Ground coriander

20 fresh mint leaves minced

2 t. Allspice

4 cloves of garlic minced

2 t. Salt

1 t. Black pepper
Put the bread crumbs in a big bowl and mix them with the milk. Add everything except the meat and mix well. Add the meat and gently mix everything together. Roll golf ball sized meatballs.

Heat a nonstick frypan on medium heat and out as many meatballs in the pan as you can without them touching each other. Brown on all sides and take out and set aside. Finish the rest of the meatballs.
Yogurt sauce
1 large sweet onion chopped finely

4 cloves of garlic minced

1 small green chile – seeded and minced

1 bunch of Swiss chard- destemmed and chopped

2 t. Allspice

1 cup chicken stock

Juice of one large lemon

2 cups Greek Yogurt

1 T. Cornstarch

1 beaten egg
In a large stock pot, spray with Pam and add the onions and the garlic and cook on medium heat stirring often for ten minutes. Add chile and Swiss chard and cook for 3 minutes. Add the allspice, chicken stock and lemon juice and bring to a boil and turn the heat off.
In a mixing bowl put the cornstarch with 2 t. Water and stir into a paste. Add the egg and mix together. Add the yogurt and mix well. Add a spoonful of the hot Swiss chard mixture to the yogurt and mix well, add about half the Swiss chard and mix again and add the last of the chard and mix. Return everything to the stock pot. Salt and pepper the mixture. Add the meatballs and gently stir to coat with yogurt sauce.
Heat on medium heat and cover the pan and cook for 30 minutes to cook the meatballs through. Stir gently every ten minutes.  
Serve with some cilantro if you like it.

TV Script Idea 

I can’t write the name of a certain presidential candidate for fear of being sued for what I am about to speculate, but you can guess which one as you read between the lines. I have long held the opinion, like for the last thirty years, that anyone smart enough to be President is smart enough to know they don’t want to be President. This year’s crop proves my theory in spades.
Last night’s debate reached an amazingly low point in an already embarrassing primary season. Although I can’t bring myself to watch these debates I seem to be bombarded with all the details on every news outlet. News directors everywhere are thrilled that real candidates running are providing entertainment that rivals House of Cards or any fictionalized cable show out there. Who in the world would have ever been able to sell the show the primaries are creating? It is just too outrageous.
Since our real candidates have set the stage I would like to offer the following outline for a TV show based on the facts that have been laid out already.
A presidential candidate who has wooed his way into the hearts of people who have spent their lives in dead end jobs, hating anyone who do not look or think like them and think that American only belongs to them. This candidate has spent his life naming everything after himself and many of the businesses that he started have failed, but that has hardly had an affect on this giant ego. How is that? In fact those failed businesses are just a front for a giant money laundering scheme. He needs to publicly fail at many things, like making vodka, or starting a University so he can have a vehicle to launder money through for some sort of other terrible business. 
In this fictionalized story this guy wants to build a wall with Mexico so he can cause a a shortage of workers. He will then start smuggling in his wife’s Eastern European relatives, but only the beautiful ones, to fill the void in the American work force. He will charge each of them HUGE amounts to get to come to America. In order to help hide this new income stream he will have to create some more fake business to lauder the money through.
At some point he will have to disclose his tax returns and two brilliant, nerdy accountants unravel the whole mess because they follow the money back to its grimy start. The candidate is forced to flee the country but is not able to scale the very wall he built to keep people out and is caught and sent to prison.  
Do you think anyone would buy this story and make it into a T.V show, or are we going to have to actually live it as reality?  

Old Friends Right Near By


The other day at got an email from a sorority sister of mine who was in the class ahead of me at college. I had not seen Jan since she graduated too many years ago to say, but I remembered her well. Turns out she has been living in Chapel Hill for the last two decades and I never knew it. So we made plans to have lunch today.
We met at a restaurant near her real estate office and I knew her the second I saw her. Jan Kennedy, as I knew her was, always a smiling beautiful girl and still is as a grown up. That was when I remembered that she had come to Carlisle from Chapel Hill and was considered a sweet southern girl.
As we caught up over lunch I realized that I had seen her name, now Jan Butta, on Howard Perry and Walston Caldwell Banker signs around town. If only they had said Kennedy I might have put two and two together that I knew her from life long ago.
It makes me wonder how many other people I know from other parts of my life that are living near by. The internet has changed the chance to find friends, but it only works if you are looking for someone specific. It would be fun to put schools, camps, places of employment and past places you have lived into a program and have Facebook let you know who lives near you that also went to the same places you did at the same time. Or if you are going on vacation someplace to be able to find friends who live there.
Maybe my natural inclination as a connector makes this seem wonderful to me. I have found that reconnecting with old friends is almost always fun. I can’t think of seeing one person I had lost contact with that had not been enjoyable. As I age I don’t ever remember anything bad about someone, but just the good parts. This is certainly not because I only ever thought good things about everyone.
As Jan and a I talked we discovered many local friends we have in common, but amazingly we never crossed paths. Of course we easily could have stood in line at Whole Foods together and not realized we knew each other because we weren’t looking for each other. I wonder who else is right near by that I am missing?

Do Men Not Really Understand Salads?

After months of study I am beginning to wonder if men and women have completely different taste bud when it comes to salads. Perhaps not the whole of mankind, but a few in particular.

Sexism has no place in my life so this is not intended to be a war between the sexes, just a comparison.
I eat lunch every week at the same place with a large group of middle aged women. If there is a generalization to be made it would be that we, not just me, as a rule are looking for a healthy, read not too fattening, lunch option. I am not saying that everyone every week gets a salad, but on average 80% of us order a salad of some type. Once in a while someone in the throes of menopause will get a cheese burger or a something with melted cheese, which is the universal comfort food.
For months the establishment we eat at had the same limited salad choices. We don’t meet there for the food. We requested new salads and have told for months they would be coming. My response to a poor menu is to order something completely off menu from the items I can see are in other offerings. This usually means arugula, a fruit, avocado, some kind of cheese and hot freshly grilled chicken, dressing on the side of course. Often my friends will just say, “I’ll have what she is having,” in a direct quote from When Harry Met Sally without any pounding on the table.
A couple of weeks ago the chef came out to see us personally to show us a new menu. It was big, with offering printed on both sides. We scanned it to find not more salads, but fewer, just four, and one was a house and another a Caesar, so those don’t count. Being as shy as I am I said, “Chef, no offense, but this is worse.”
“No worries, Mrs. Lange, we are going to have a special salad every week.”
Last week the special salad was a bed of greens with roast beets, pickled beets, beet purée, horseradish and blue cheese. None of us ordered it. This week the special salad was called “the end of winter salad” kale and baby kale, carrots, mandarin oranges, hard boiled eggs and warm shallot dressing. None of us ordered it. I am beginning to think that the salad special is the attempt to get rid of leftover food salad.  
I know I should not say they are not good if I have not tasted them, but I am probably a certified salad expert and nothing about these salads screams, “order me, I’m yummy.” In fact I can’t imagine horseradish and blue cheese together and I have no need for three kinds of beets. I also feel like mandarins oranges should be left in the sixties with ambrosia. The “end of winter salad” should be renamed “instead of Metamucil salad.” I appreciate fiber, but really, kale and baby kale?
They did add a fifth regular salad this week, a chopped salad, which was so hopeful. So I ordered that. It was not really a chopped salad and to me was not good. I guess I am going to have to continue to create my own special salad every week. You think the kitchen would learn that when half the table orders the same off menu item that it might be a good idea to replicate it as a regular menu item, especially when your creations are not getting any takers.
With all the burgers, sandwiches and fried items that take up the majority of the menu I just have to believe that the men’s taste buds are different than the women’s, or that they really just don’t want women to come eat there. That’s a different fight.

Breakfast Addiction


Today my friend Lynn and I went to Bull St. market for lunch. Our friend Anne, who owns the popular restaurant, told us that starting this weekend they are going to start to serve waffles. I gave her that, “You know I shouldn’t’ eat those” look. Quickly realizing who she was talking to she added, “We also are going to start offering Meg”s eggs,” named in honor of one of her four daughters.
“Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, avocado and cheese.”  
“Now you are talking,” I said practically salivating. I sat down with Lynn, outside in the beautiful sunshine to enjoy my regular salad with grilled chicken, but all I could think about were Meg’s eggs.  
As I was shifting through the various leftover options for dinner tonight I realized I had broccoli that had to be cooked or tossed tomorrow. Then I spied a carton of eggs and Meg popped in my head. Forget leftovers, I decided on breakfast for dinner. Since I rarely eat anything other than Special K in the morning, eggs for dinner are a real treat.
In perfect short order dinner time at our house I planned on giving everyone here something different for dinner to suit their tastes. I roasted broccoli florets in the oven to put in my omelet and sautéed come chopped onions. Carter came into the kitchen just as the cheese was melting on my egg dish.
“Hey, can I have an omelet for dinner too?” 
Seems the allure of breakfast for dinner got her too, no leftover chicken tikka masala for her. We may not have had anything as wonderful as Meg’s Eggs, but I am looking forward to going to Bull St. sometime soon and getting them as a treat. Thanks Anne for the dinner inspiration.