Party Suggestions Needed

Carter’s senior year is speeding by. This morning we had the first meeting of the senior mother’s to plan the graduation party. It was an excellent turn out and many who could not make it made sure to email a response of support for the party. One friend got to my house and teared up a little saying, “I still remember the first coffee I came to for this class, how can it be over.” Well, it ain’t over yet. We have a party to plan.  
Of course there will be food, a Dj, dancing, a photo booth, a slide show but we want this to be such a fun party they won’t want it to end. So I am reaching out to all you blog readers for ideas for the most fun activities you know of for parties. It might be something that you encountered at a fabulous Bar Mitzvah, or a great wedding shower where you played a game. Give me your ideas, we can adapt them to this age and time.  
This will after all be the last time these kids will all be together. As ready as they all are for graduation it starts to hit you that you will not be together as a group ever again. Yes, kids will stay in touch with their very good friends and some will even go to college together, but they won’t be sitting in the same class with a person they have known since they were four, or one who played on the lacrosse team for four years. They will not have that short hand of being able to just look at a friend when someone says something that makes them mad. That takes some time to develop in the new friends they make.
Sometimes at these endings people become friends with someone they hardly knew all through school and they say, “Why weren’t we better friends earlier? Now the time is gone.” We want this party to be the one that they will look back at and say, “it was the perfect ending.”
So what makes a party memorable if you are eighteen? Throw out ideas. Tell me what you think has failed at other parties. Those things are just as important to know. Thanks in advance for any ideas.  
I have to send a communication out to the parent body to let them know how the first meeting went. I would love to give them a few ideas in that letter that will make them excited about working on it. So suggest away. No idea is too crazy, well that’s not true, no sky diving, bungee jumping or luge runs. We are limited to an indoor party.

Driving Lessons

Due to a heavy foot in a rural community I am getting to spend five hours tonight in a driving class to avoid a penalty. You know I would do almost anything not to pay a penalty, but this class at night is scary. I am writing this during one of my ten minute breaks because I don’t want to stay up a minute more than I have to when I get home, because fatigue is something that should be avoided at all costs if you plan on operating a motor vehicle in the next day.
From what I have learned already, most of which I knew, you should not text, phone, put a Cd in, change the radio, adjust the temperature, take off a sweater, look at your self in the mirror, eat or drink anything, talk to a person in the car, out on chap stick, think about who the president is, listen to the news which might make you mad, think about the slow driver in front of you, think about the fast driver behind you, drink alcohol, take cold medicine, swallow cold medicine with a swig of bourbon, smoke a joint, snort cocaine, try and find your dealer while the car is moving, wave at your friend, beep your horn, flash you lights, take your clothes off and flash something else, raise your finger or any other body part in anger and we are only two hours into the class.
Basically driving is dangerous. It takes every brain cell you have to be hyper focused on driving. Watch all the other crazy drivers. They are probably at the very least mad about something the government is doing and that alone makes they a hazardous driver. I must stop now and pay attention in class or I might not pass and then I will really be a hazard on the road on the way home.

Shay as Restaurant Hostess

Days that I cook food for my friends are Shay Shay’s favorite days of all time. Not because she gets to eat any of the food I cook. She is not interested in red wine vinegar chicken, well maybe just the chicken. No, she likes the coming and going of friends at our house.
She sits at the front door, or on her bed in the kitchen looking out the glass door awaiting the arrival of a new friend. The doorbell rings and she bounds up on the storm door opening it slightly, greeting each visitor with the air of, “Where have you been all day.” Shay thinks anyone coming to our house is doing it just to see her and she loves it.
She leads each person to the kitchen, the place she is sure they want to go. She knows that is where she would want to go if she were a visitor. Shay likes it best when they stay and visit a while so she can get some snuggles. 
Shay would make the perfect restaurant hostess. She would greet each guest with the happiest smile and nods of her head indicating you are the most important human on earth. She is happy to lead you to a table where she knows you will be well fed. Shay would come back by your table throughout the meal to ensure you were happy. After you were done she would give you a kiss and say, “Please come back soon.”
Dogs as hostesses would make a place very popular with most of my friends based on how sweet they are to Shay. If only dogs were allowed to even go to restaurants, let alone get jobs. Until that time she will have to remain the greeter at our house. Come on over, she is waiting to see you.

Mah Jongg Class Offering

Last week I picked up teaching a new group who wanted to improve their Mah Jongg. Then after they had started I got a call that some other friends want to learn. So I am going to be offering a class for beginners. The class is three-three hour sessions. It will be held at my house during the day, but which day is yet to be determined. It is $50 for the class and you will walk away knowing the basics of the game and probably some new friends. You may also become obsessed, but the good news is that once you learn it is not expensive and it is calorie free. If you are interested please email me at, or PM me on Facebook or call me or stop me in the grocery store.  
Mah Jongg is much easier to learn than bridge. You can play with three or four, or five no have one person sitting out each round. It is excellent for your brain and with each passing day I find the more things I do to exercise my brain the better off I am. And Mah Jongg is so much more fun than doing long division in my head. I am not sure they even call it long division anymore.

This is the perfect Mah Jongg weather too.  So take advantage of this indoor time of year.  It is always a good ide to ask your friends if they want to learn with you so you can play together, but you can certainly come alone.  I will do everythin gpossible to help you facilitate a game.

There is nothing political about Mah Jongg so you can play with people you might otherwise disagree with and you will never argue, because you will be too busy trying to win. I feel like in the world we are in right now the more things we can do that are fun and not confrontational the better off we will be. Rather than putting your head in the sand, put it in your new Mah Jongg card and learn to play something you can do for the rest of your life.  

Global Warming – Hard to Ignore

It’s the end of January and two months early the daffodils are about to bloom in my front yard. If I lived in Miami I might not be surprised, but here in the triangle of North Carolina those bulbs should not sprout so soon. It made me consider why the current President does not believe in global warming, which to my eyes is evident in my front yard. The man has always lived in New York City or in Miami. What could he possibly know about gardening? Well, he also has a house in New Jersey, the garden state, but I seriously doubt he has ever done any actual gardening.
When you live in a climate-controlled high rise of course it would be easy to scoff at “global warming” especially if any action to do anything about it might hurt you economically. But hurt us it all will. Daffodils coming up in January, perhaps to only be killed by fluctuating winter temps that are sure to come, are not a huge knock on the economy, unless you are a bulb importer. I am not sure it is worth my time or money to plant any more bulbs, which may or may not make it in a year. But most of our food comes from farmers who grow it and these wide swinging temperatures hurt the growing season.
Imagine you are a peach grower. If we have a long warm spell in January it causes your peach trees to bud. Then a cold snap comes, as it should in February and all the buds on your trees are killed. There is not enough time for that tree to recover and produce a full trees amount of buds, the necessary flowers to make fruit.
It might pay us to require all Presidents to do a stint as a farmer for one whole year so they can understand the connection between weather and livelihood. Being a farmer can be heart breaking because there are so many variables you cannot control. But having global warming deniers in power is a slap in the face.
Perhaps the President’s New York view of agriculture are the tulip beds on Park Ave. that are carefully replanted each fall with new and big tulip bulbs, carefully watered, fertilized and tended to ensure perfection and paid for by The Fund For Park Ave. Sorry Mr. President, that million dollars spent every year on 32 blocks of park strip is not the way most of America grows things. Most of us are dependent on the real weather, that means temperature and rain. Maybe if the sea levels rise up high enough to engulf Mar-a-lago you will believe that we should listen to actual scientists.

Thanks to Good Neighbors 

There is nothing better living in a small community where people know you and help you at the very moment you need them. Without giving the particulars I want to give a big shout out to Debbie Rand who was a calming voice at the right time. Rayner England who helped and showed up at my house with a treat and a balloon. My ministers Betty and Chris who showed up out of no where. Liz Yancy, Marjorie Pearson and Marla Wald who stopped to see if they could help.
Neighbors are wonderful things. But being neighborly is sometimes hard. I feel blessed to have such great neighbors who truly understand what being neighborly means. Everything is fine now thanks to the kindness of these people. I hope that I can be that kind of neighbor if the situation calls for it. 

Not Mary Tyler Moore!!!!

Mary Tyler Moore was my role model women when I was young. I never missed an episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show on Saturday nights, although I sometimes was relegated to watch it on the secondary tv because my sisters would want to watch Emergency.  
As a girl growing up during the women’s revolution of the late sixties and early seventies Mary was a great role model. She was a successful working woman. She had her own cool apartment and her life did not revolve around trying to get a man. Yes, she dated on the show, but it always seemed to be on her terms. She had strong female friends, Rhoda and Phylis. And she was even friends with men who she was not sleeping with, Murray and Ted.  
“Mare” was everything I wanted to be. She drove a cool mustang and spoke truth to power in her relationship with Mr. Grant, yet still had respect. She was beautiful and as a girl with brown hair it was great to have a brunette star in the days of Jeannie, Bewitched and Carol Brady.  
Betty White as Sue Ann Nivens, the nymph at the TV Station was the perfect frienemy to Mary. I can only imagine how Betty is feeling with losing a much younger co-star. I hope that Valerie Harper and Betty White stay well. I know Valerie has had cancer, but I can’t bear the thought of losing all these women.  
I know that it is crazy to miss a TV star, but it is the end of an era I loved. I’m going out in my front yard and throw a hat up in the air in tribute to Mary.

Janie at 79

Can you believe that my beautiful mother is going to be 79 tomorrow. She hardly looks a day over 50! Since I have to take Carter to get her passport renewed tomorrow I went up to the farm today to take my mother out to lunch today. There is nothing my mother likes better than someone else buying her lunch.  
It was a bonus day for her because she cut her crab cake in half to take as her lunch tomorrow at bridge. I wish that someone else was taking her to lunch on her actual birthday, but that would interfere with bridge. So a left over half a crab cake that someone else bought her will make the perfect birthday lunch.
Every birthday is important, but I feel like when you are going to be 79 they should be even more celebrated. But my mom does great for someone half her age. She wins at bridge multiple times a week. Teaches art and paints her own paintings everyday. Reads multiple books a week. And the most amazing thing is free hand needlepoints, which means she does not have anything already painted on the canvas. To top it off she can discuss both college and professional football as if she has a show on ESPN.
If you know my Mom, send her a shout out today. She might not hear it, that is the one thing that is going at her age, but she will eventually read it. Don’t expect a response you will understand. She has never quite mastered key boarding. She does not capitalize or use punctuation, with the exception of using a comma as an apostrophe. All typed communication is one run-on sentence you think is written by e.e.cummings. That’s just my very artistic mother who says, “Well, you understood what I was saying.”  
Understand this Mom, “I love you!!!” I meant to use those three exclamation points. I really like punctuation, but not as much as I like you. Happy Birthday! 

New Year, Same Me

The New Year inspirational statement normally is, ” New Year, New You.” For me it is more like, “New Year, Same Me.” Actually, what is the same is that I am always going up or going down, but never staying the same.  
I have spent the last six months going up. No amount of will power, self talk, artificial incentives have changed that. Today I got up this morning with the resolution of getting back to “better me.” It worked for half the day. I went to the gym, came home, got on the tread mill got my steps, ate a healthy lunch, then I fell apart, by eating too much popcorn. The way I look at it is I was half better. That is better than I was yesterday. Maybe tomorrow I can be three quarters better.
I am not looking for a “New Me.” I am too old to try out a new anything. I would just like to be slightly better most days.
Not just with my eating and my exercise, but in my parenting, partnering, daughtering, sistering, friending, working, pet caring, organizing, needlepointing and gaming. I would like to be slightly nicer, not so much that I am unrecognizable. A tiny bit more soft spoken, but not lose the ability to stop a trash truck half way down the street with my voice. A better listener, but not at the expense of telling a good story. 
I am not looking for any magic bullet, miracles or Devine intervention. I just want to recognize when something is as good as it gets or that I still have a chance to make an impact for improvement. I’m not interested in perfection, just most things getting a tiny bit better more of the time than not.
So let’s be real. It’s a new year, but it is still the same old me. I’m good with that.

Road Trip Success

Carter got home tonight after her exciting weekend at the Women’s march. She gave me the whole download on getting from my sister’s by the Cathedral to the Mall. Talking about the great camaraderie of the women on the city bus and the metro.  
She loved a group of sixty five year old women she and Campbell met at the March who were college friends and came from all over to March together. They had a wall they were able to sit on and they rotated among their group getting to sit down. They put Carter and Campbell into their sitting rotation which was very generous of them. At one point one of them was trying to open a bag of trail mix and Carter helped her do that, so she gave Carter a handful of mix. Carter said it was that way all day. People were generally so nice and supportive. She said the speakers were good, but the actual March was the best. She showed me pictures of all the signs people left by the metro stops. It was a sea of clever and touching posters.
I am most appreciative of my sister Margaret who was so nice to have the girls stay with her. She texted me this morning saying that Carter and any of her friends are welcome anytime to visit. I think now that Carter has mastered the road trip she is going to be going again.
After leaving Margaret’s, Carter and Campbell went to meet up for coffee with Carter’s Godfather, David, my oldest Washington friend. Afterwards David sent me a picture of he and Carter together saying, “I realized she is just a few years younger than you were when we first met.” I told him she is just five years younger. How can this be?
When Carter got home she wanted to look at old pictures of my Washington days. Since both David and I were usually the photographer, most of the pictures have either, but not both of us in the shot. I did find this one picture of us from an Easter visit to the Cathedral. That has to be the explanation for my hat. It also was the early eighties so there is no accounting for the outfits.

I am just so thankful for my Washington crowd for taking such good care of my baby as she gets her first taste of activism. I’m glad she is back home safe and sound with me, but know she can handle going out into the big world alone.

Carter and Campbell Go to Washington

Last week while Russ was away Carter texted me early in the morning before school, “I have something to talk to you about.” That’s how parent/child communication is these days, through text. It sounded ominous, I was a little worried. A few minutes before she had to leave for school she came up and sat on my bed. What was she was going to tell me, she was so serious.
“Campbell and I want to go to the Women’s March.” What a relief. “OK.” I took a breath. “How are you going to get there?”  
“We can drive my car and ask Aunt Margaret if we can stay with her.”  
“If it is OK with Campbell’s mom and OK with Margaret you can go.”
I was so relieved that my daughter wanted to do something civically minded, not something teenagerish that I was thrilled she wanted to go to D.C. It is up to the young people in this country to speak out for what they want from government. Lobbies like AARP have been powerful because they get their constituents out to vote. It is time for the young to band together and set some priorities. 
My sister Margaret enthusiastically invited Cater and her friend to stay at her apartment. Since she does not live near a metro they got up early to catch the bus to get to the March. I got a text from them at the bus stop at 8:30 this morning saying they were making friends already. They must have gotten to the March in a timely manner because the report was they were up at the front.

It was a long day. Carter said the speakers were amazing. The only bad part was a day without food which made for some hangry marchers, but they did march. By five in the afternoon they were making their way back to the Margaret’s. I have no idea how long that took them, but Chinese delivery food solved the no eating problem.  

They are visiting with Carter’s godfather David tomorrow before heading home. I can’t wait to hear all about the day from her in person. It will be something she and Campbell remember the rest of their lives. There are issues they are concerned about and they took the first step to help create the world they want to live in. If you don’t like something you can’t just complain. Marching in of itself won’t solve it, but it is a first step towards being the change you want to see in the world. Well done Carter and Campbell. I am proud of you.

Kindness Response

Thanks to the brilliance of my friend Andrea Cash I went out of my way to do a few random acts of kindness today in response to her Kindness Blitz to “make America Kind again.” As Carter went off to school I told her what I was planning. She said, “Yes, please do that, but not just for the blog.” It might have been kinder of her to think that I do things to actual be good and not to just blog about them. Nonetheless the whole point of the Kindness Blitz was to not only be kinder, but to share your kindness in the hopes that it inspires others to be kinder.
I had to stay home most of the day so I could be kind to the people who I was feeding today. I don’t feel like being kind to people I already know and love is moving the kindness needle. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do in a limited amount of time. I decided that I wanted to show love to those people for whom today might be the scariest. So I went up to La Superior, the Mexican grocery store where they make fresh tortillas.  
My plan was to pay for people’s tortillas and baked goods that they had on their trays to purchase. Since I don’t speak Spanish it was interesting to see how I was going to handle this. I shop every so often at la Superior, but am still considered an outsider there.  
I went to the tortilla line and ordered a pound of tortilla’s which they wrapped for me. Then I waited for two other people behind me to do the same. I went to the cash register just in front of them and paid for mine and said to the clerk I want to pay for the people behind me. She rang the first person up and I handed over the money to the clerk. It totally confused the woman. I looked at her and said, “it’s on me.” Not a phrase she understood. The clerk said something in Spanish and the woman fanned herself and bowed her head in thanks.
We repeated this with the family behind her, but the young boy of the family spoke English and asked me why I was doing this. I did not want to make a big fuss, but just said it was a day to be nice to people. He smiled a big smile.  
By this time there was another person waiting so I went ahead and treated her to her baked goods. She did something that I think was a blessing on me. I just wanted people to have something happen to them that made them happy and know that the country is not going to hell.
I did a few other minor kindnesses on my way home, like stopping the line of cars so two young men could cross the road and letting a mother with two kids go in front of me at the gas station. Nothing big, but kinder than I usually am. I am going to try and keep this going and do at least two random acts of kindness everyday. I can’t be buying everyone’s tortillas everyday, but I can easily hold doors, or leave notes thanking someone.  

Mah Jongg Life Master

Today I was invited to give a class of what I would call intermediate Mah Jongg to a group in Chapel Hill. It was one of my favorite things to do and they were a lovely group of ladies.
I started teaching Mah Jongg when Durham Academy started Academy Nights, a fundraiser of enrichment classes. It was well before Carter even went to DA. I estimate that I have taught many hundreds of people to play Mah Jongg. It is not really a hard game to learn to play, but mastering it is another thing.
The group I was with today were celebrating their one year anniversary of playing together. It was the perfect time to have a lesson. They understood the basics, and were ready to conquer some of the nuances of the game.  
I had not made a lesson plan because I wanted to see what level they were at, but it did not take long for me to find many themes in their playing where they could step up to the next stage. I realized that some of my ideas about teaching them strategy and probability would have to wait for another lesson. It occurred to me that I probably could find things to teach people about Mah Jongg for four or five lessons. Not that there are that many people looking to become Mah Jongg life masters, a designation that does not exist. Or should it?
Bridge has tournaments and people collecting points and trying to move further and further up the bridge ladder. Maybe Mah Jongg needs the same thing. Currently Mah Jongg is a dynasty run by a family in New York City. They also have a Mah Jongg cruise, but outside of that there is no formal ranking of Mah Jongg players. It seems like it is an opportunity to encourage people to improve their play. If they are competitive enough to play they might want to document how good they are with points or rankings.
I see creating regular Mah Jongg tournaments around the country. Just another one of my crazy ideas to make money. For now I am happy to teach people the game. A number of people have asked me when my next beginners class is and I did not keep track of who you were. So if you or someone you knows wants to learn please contact me.  
If your Mah Jongg group wants an advanced lesson I am also available to come to you. What I realized today is that I like teaching Mah Jongg almost as much as playing it. Now, how can I get these tournaments started?

The Children Are Watching

Carter was seven years old when then Senator Obama was running in his first presidential primary. She was watching a debate with Russ listening to Hillary, John Edwards, Joe Biden, Barack Obama and a few others. She turned to Russ and said, “I like Obama, he has sparkle.” 

We were more familiar with the others, but Russ agreed with that wisdom from a young Carter, that he did have something about him that drew us in.  
Now, eight years later he is the only President Carter really has any memory of. I am so thankful that he and his family have been the best role models for my daughter. I don’t want to praise his accomplishments or call him out for things he was unable to get done, but I just thank to thank him for his lack of personal scandals. Not just Barack, but Michelle and the girls and their extended family. 
We had no Watergate, no “happy birthday Mr. President,” no Billy beer, on white water, no VP’s leaving office, no “e” on potato, no reading my lips, no psychics in the White House. All in all Obama was boring from the tabloid’s point of view. I am really going to miss that steady, no drama family.
The Obamas are classy and relatable and children across America saw a strong African American family being successful and not just at sports or in entertainment. This has made an impact on young people who, like my daughter only remember a President of color.  
In a few hours we will have the calm transition of power. Trump and his family have their work cut out for them to be as fine a role model for young people as the Obamas have been. I am not talking about legislation, just decency. I hope that for the good of all small children in our country they can have a President who inspires them, is kind and honest. Children don’t understand laws, but they can’t tell who has a true heart. Mr. President, the children are watching.

For the Record

I may need to start every blog with “allegedly” out of fear of being sued for something tongue in cheek I might have written. Since the “news” is no longer balanced and fair and all principals of journalism seem to have been thrown out the window, all forms of writing are being scrutinized. The first amendment is under attack and “fake news” is now a real thing.
For the record, this blog is opinion, satire, story telling, and food porn in that order. Sometimes it is diet advice, confessional, and tips and tricks. What it is not is news, fake or other wise. That does not mean that I might discuss things in the news, but then it becomes opinion.
Blogs were not created to become the news. We should have professionals do that. The loss of reporting on two sides of a story is something I mourn. The idea that Americans take “stuff” and I would like to use a stronger word, they read on the internet as gospel is idiotic. But that is how we got into this insular, protectionism situation.
If I write something bad about someone you like it is usually done with a comical tone. Take it that way. We need to encourage more comics to continue to poke fun at those who take ridiculous stands on issues if only to shine a strong light on them. I worry that the thin skinned who govern want to stamp down dissenting opinions rather than listening.  
Listening is the skill most needed in this country today. Then add empathy, kindness, and generosity in that order.  
I agree we need to be vigilant about stopping “fake news,” but not at the cost of different points of view. Journalism is the only industry specifically protected in the constitution. We need to keep it that way. But please let’s do a better job at separating journalism from entertainment.  
For the record…this blog is entertainment. Read it that way, laugh, cry, disagree, applaud, but don’t think it is news. If this blog brings up a serious issue for you, go to a serious and credible news site to research it. Don’t take my word for it, but please support “real” news because if we lose it we are screwed.

Lunch Is the Answer

 As the years go on we see our daughter less and less as school, sports, friends and the Internet take up more and more of her time. Since I am home most of the time I am used to the dwindling attention she has for us. Russ, as the traveling/working parent has never quite moderated to the new reality.  
Long gone are the days when she would sit waiting for him to come in the door, excited to share with him her newest passion. Now it is more like, “I see her car, will she come see me?” The answer as parents is, “probably not.”
The last two days we have had something of a miracle, two lunches in a row with our daughter. It turns out that the secret words are, “Do you want to go out to lunch?” It does not matter if I have cooked the best meal on earth. Lunch at home is passé.
It helps that MLK holiday meant that Russ worked at home, rather than the office, so he was around to have lunch with us. I am not sure this “out to lunch” draw would work with just me and Carter, but if Dad is involved it holds a whole new charm.  
So few lunches available before she goes off but I am going to do my best to invite her out every chance I get.  I am sure this is very bad news for my diet, but when she is off at camp and then college incan stop eating, until then it’s out to lunch.

Bad Inaugural Memories

All this talk about about the upcoming Inauguration brought back memories of my ten years living in Washington. For the most part my life in DC was as separate from anything federal as life could be. Outside of being the caterer for Congressman John Lewis, who has been in the news lately fighting with Trump, I mostly steered clear of politics. The only time I had anything to do with an Inauguration was in the second year I lived in the District.
It was Reagan’s second term. I had a gay friend who worked in a Republican congressman’s office and needed a date to the ball. I was too young and naive to even think it was strange he worked for a Republican and needed a woman as his date. I just thought it would be fun to go to one of the eight ball’s being held that night.
You did not get to pick which ball you went to. They divided up the country and depending on where you were from you were assigned one of the locations. My friend’s state was Pennsylvania and that ball was being held at the Kennedy center. I can’t remember exactly which states were lumped together at that ball, but I do think one of them was Texas because there were loud men in black tie and cowboy boots. Something that was foreign to me at the time. Back then I don’t think we had big names perform at the balls like Beyoncé did at Obamas.
I had a navy blue taffeta dress with silver beading on the square neckline. It was very eighties and so horrible. I have no recollection of getting to the ball, just standing in very long lines to check our coats and another long line to get our picture taken and another to get a drink. It was crowded and boring. Hardly anyone knew anyone else. Everyone was just waiting for the President and First Lady to come and take a turn on the dance floor and then rush off to the next ball.
I can’t remember if there was any food, but do recall that I was ready to leave within an hour of getting there. Of course that was not an option. I was a beard after all and my date insisted that I stay close to him in the off chance that his congressman boss see him. I never met the congressman so my being thee was totally unnecessary. I swore I would never again go to one of those political things and I never did.

Nice Matters

Today I went to the funeral for one of the world’s nicest people, Sally Ransford. I first met Sally when her husband came to work at Westminster as the youth minister. She immediately struck me as one of the kindest people I had ever met. Apparently I was not alone in this feeling for her based on the over capacity crowd at her service today.
Sally quietly fought cancer for the last five years, but I never heard a peep from her about sadness or suffering. Of course I knew her at church where people tend not to complain about their own lot in life. Sally was more than nice, she always made you feel like you were the center of all that matters.
Sally’s three daughters my friend Kristen and her sisters Julie and Becca as well as their father all spoke. It made the kind of personal farewell that is heartfelt and touching for those in attendance. I know it is not always the strength of all mourners to public talk about their departed loved one, but I wish it were always that way. When I go to a funeral that is straight from the book, with only a few remarks from a clergy who may not have known the dearly departed I am sad.
I came away from Sally’s service determined to be a better person. She was that inspirational. Sadly, I told her husband and my friend Kristen that I don’t think I can live long enough to get to be half as nice as Sally was. If I change all my bad habits and live a chaste and selfless life for the rest of my days still no one would say at my funereal that I never said a bad word about anyone.  
Even though that is certainly the case I am not going to be deterred about trying to do “what Sally would do.” One thing I know is too late for me is to become a great tennis player like Sally, or to have two more daughters. The best I can do is not to think about myself and care first about the person in front of me. The one thing Sally Ransford proved is that nice matters.

Lower and Preschool Night at the Cavdome

It gets just crazy at Carter’s basketball game when the little kids from her school are “invited” to come to the games. The young kids and their enthusiastic parents should be encouraged to come to every game because the make the whole thing much more rowdy and fun.
Tonight they played Cary Academy. I was not there for the JV girls game, but apparently the DA girls won. I got to the gym at the end of the JV boys and they blew it out 49-8. Then the Varsity girls took the court. They were still on a high from their Ravenscroft win two days ago.
They came out and took a commanding lead which they held for the whole game finished 63-29. The varsity girls were in charge of the half-time child friendly basketball musical chairs during the half of the Varsity boys game. Children’s name’s were called to come down the the center of the court and get paired up with a big girl. Carter got a kindergarten boy who was a little nervous about coming out to play with such a tall girl. She coaxed him into the circle by giving him the basketball.
The music started and the kids walked around the circle of chairs dribbling the ball. When it stopped they had to run to a basket and shoot. If they missed their big girl could shoot for them and then they had to run back to sit on a chair. Last one to the circle did not have a chair and they were out. Carter’s little boy made it through one round and then was out. It made little difference because it was all in fun.  
I did not stay for the second half of the boy’s game who were way up at the half so I am assuming they too won, making the Cavdome a clean sweep of CA.  
I am cherishing these last few games in Kirby gym. So many memories were made there. Hope the rest of the season is as successful.

Some Obsession is Good

My sister Janet called me earlier in the week. She was talking about the elation she had from the “snow day” cleaning she was getting to do. Janet is a natural born organizer/cleaner. My other sister Margaret also has this trait. It seems very unfair to me that only two out of three sisters share this “quality.” Of course to some it is considered a compulsion, but I just don’t think my sisters’ love of a tidy and well thought our living space is a bad thing. In fact, I am quite jealous of it.
When I was a kid my room was so small that it was hard for it to appear messy. It consisted of two twin beds and a long shelf along the window that acted at a desk. I had skinny built in book shelves where my prized glass animals were displayed and since this was all my room consisted of it appeared “neat” as long as I did not have a pile of clothes on my spare bed. But then if anyone opened my closet the horror of my non-obsessive compulsive self was on full display.  
I had no dresser, just shelves and hanging space in my closet. I kept not only my shoes and clothes in my closet, but also all my school books. On most days my closet was a mountain of all my belongings, with piles of shirts and sweaters falling half folded off the shelves and entangling themselves with the books, shoes and other clothes on the floor pile. No one much knew about my closet because I kept the sliding louvered doors closed.  
As my younger sisters were growing up I noticed a marked difference in the way we kept our rooms. I had no idea it was such an inherently genetic difference. I thought I was more lazy about tidying up and they, well I just did not understand. I also did not understand why they did not like to play game and that was what I lived for. I thought they had just given up on playing since I was older and always beat them. I now see that games are my compulsion and organizing was there’s.
As I have aged I have come to enjoy living in a tidy house, but I in no way enjoy making it that way. So when Janet and I compared what we did on our snow days it was no surprise that I played games and she cleaned her house to the degree that surgery could be preformed there. I in no way wish to give up playing games, but for a month or two I would so love to have the organizing obsession, just so I could get everything in order.

Shay Wonders Why Her Dinner is Late

Hey, it’s Shay Shay here. It must be late because I have been home alone in the dark for hours. Where did everybody go? I think you forgot to give me dinner? Oh, you left at four. Yes, I understand that is too early for my evening meal, but nine, that is too late.
You were at a basketball game? Really for five hours? Oh, an away game. Ravenscroft, the biggest rival. I don’t know what either of those things mean. Did Ravenscroft dogs get dinner?
So you had to drive a while to go to the game. The traffic, the traffic was bad. Is that why you left me home alone without food for five hours? No. There was an accident going there. So why did it take so long?
It was an exciting game. What does that mean? Carter’s team was down by eleven at the end of the first quarter. I can’t count to eleven, I can’t count to anything. So did they lose? What? They were up by one at the half! Izzy scored 31 points! Erin scored 12 and didn’t foul out! Cole made two threes! That’s fine, but what about Carter? Couldn’t she come home and feed me? She had to play? And keep team moral up and scream in the plays. OK! I guess that explains some of why you left me all alone, no food, no explanation.
Well, did my girl Carter’s team win? They did? They did! By two or three points. You can’t remember? What’s wrong with you. Why was it such a big deal? Oh, they haven’t beat Ravenscroft at their house in years. Ok, why didn’t you say so. I guess that is a big deal. So my girl is happy, so I am happy. Can I just have dinner?  

Snow Days Diet?

Here in Durham we have had four “snow days.” Everything has been canceled. No Church on Sunday, no school the last two days, even doctors offices were closed. But this was not “the power’s out” kind of snow days. They were the “stuck in your warm house with your family” kind.  
As I talked or texted with my friends I heard a familiar theme. “I am stuck at home so I am cooking.” When asked what they were cooking it was comfort food like chili, mac ‘n cheese, spaghetti or brownies. No one said they were making a yummy fruit salad or vegetable tray. What is it about snow days that makes us change normally healthy eating to carb, sugar or fat feasts? Is there some connection between eating melted cheese and getting snow to melt?
The same poor eating habits happened at our house to a degree. I did make tortilla soup which is fairly healthy as long as you are judicious on the amount of fried corn tortillas you add. I don’t know why I can’t make myself eat an arugula salad on a snow day. There was no difference to the temperature inside my house yesterday than two months ago.  
I also don’t have the excuse that I was out shoveling snow and burned up a lot of calories. The “snow” outside my house is hard packed “snice,” that is ice on the bottom with a little snow on top. There is no chopping through that crust. Instead we stayed inside and watched the sunshine on it waiting for it to melt.
It will be in the forties tomorrow and school is only delayed two hours so hopefully life will get back to normal and eating will get under control. I wonder how many people stuck to their resolutions during the snow days? Aren’t these days just a big excuse to do everything bad?  

Kindness Blitz

Today my friend Andrea Griffith Cash started what she is calling a Kindness Blitz to do on January 20. This is what she posted:
On January 20th, I am going on what I am calling a Kindness Blitz. What does that mean? I have a whole list of ideas. I’m going to drop off quarters at the Laundromat, offer to pump someone’s gas, place a book or two in a Little Free Library, leave a nice note on a car in a parking lot, write a letter thanking our public servants, offer to bus someone’s table. 
Andrea used to be my editor and now she is the Director of Inspiration at Inspire MEdia Network. She is always full of positivity and hope and I think this is a brilliant thing to pass on. Since January 20 is going to be a hard day for some people, me included, I want to overcome any feelings of dread with kindness. It is going to take all of us, being our best selves to live in a country that we are proud of and happy to be in.  
This is our country too, even if we don’t agree with the way some people chose to govern it. So please join Andrea and now me and the many others she is gathering to do small acts of kindness on January 20. Hopefully I will like the way it makes me feel and will continue to be kinder in more random ways all through the year.  
You don’t have to sign up or even tell anyone, but if you want to share any stories with me I would love to hear them. I think we can flood the world with love on January 20. And in my kindest possible way to all of you who will be celebrating something else on January 20 I say, I hope you have a wonderful time too. Kindness is for everyone, even those I don’t agree with about everything.  
Andrea, thanks for starting a sweet idea!

Dogs Don’t Like Virtual Reality

Being a snow day I did not have much guilt about watching the Sunday morning and night news shows. Church was canceled so I just stayed in bed where it was warm and snuggly with Shay Shay. She seems to really like the staying home of snow days, but not the snow.
On multiple shows today there were different segments about Virtual Reality. Seems that the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas this last week was full of all things Virtual. We were not one of the homes this Christmas who got a VR headset, but I have tried the cardboard version that was sent to our house by the Wall Street Journal. Yes it is cool to be able to see under water without having to go to all the trouble to get certified to dive, but doing it with a VR headset on is a lonely experience. Not that you can have a good conversation under water either.
Humans are finding more and more ways to do things alone. We no longer have to go to stores. Everything you could ever need is available online. Not that shopping is an experience I really liked, but at least it was contact of the human kind. People are working virtually more than ever. Yes, I find offices to be unproductive, what with all those people to talk to. It is a good thing I don’t have an office, no one there might get any work done with me around.
I hear in the olden days people got together in the evening and played cards. Now I play words with friends on my phone. At least there are real people on the other end, but usually we just play and don’t “talk.”
I am worried that as more and more of life goes virtual we are going to become less and less good at being human. I also fear that our pets are getting left behind in this virtual world. Shay would prefer one of her humans to play with her, but if we are all too busy with our devices she is left with her toys. You can see how happy her virtual friends make her. Not one of them can rub her belly.
I am not suggesting we need a dog petting robot, just more real human time. I know I am old and not the target audience for these virtual reality devices, which makes me more scared about the new generations to be able to have real human relationships. Life needs to be real, skip the virtual reality and go out and sled down a real hill. Hey, bring your dog with you.

Ode to the ‘Ole Land Cruiser

On Thursday I got a call from the VIP concierge at the Toyota Dealer. “I’m calling because we want to buy your Land Cruiser.” No kidding. They called wanting to buy back my seventeen year old car. “Sorry,” I replied. “I’m keeping her forever.”
I bought that Land Cruiser as a one year old used car when Carter was just in pre-school. It has driven us to Maine, Michigan, Florida and many places in between. As I aged out of needing a big car to drive around a car pool I set her aside and got a smaller hybrid that got three times the gas mileage, but kept her for hauls to the dump or inclement weather.
I thought the call from Toyota was poorly timed since the week had been full of forecasts for snow, which we did get last night and today. If ever there was a time to have an old rhinoceros of a car it was today.
We heeded the new governor we so badly wanted to win when he declared the whole state an emergency and asked people to stay in today. I used the forced day home productively to take down all the Christmas, with the exception of the naked tree which will happen tomorrow. But we broke the rules and left the house tonight to go to DPAC and see An American in Paris.  
The DPAC never cancels a show because then they would have to refund our money. So if we can get there we are going. Our friends Christy and Lee also had tickets and got a reservation at Watts Grocery, one of the only places open tonight. They invited us to go to dinner and I offered to drive them in the ‘ole Land Cruiser.
It may not have a back up camera, or satellite radio, but it could handle the icy snow covered roads, hills and all. We may have driven slowly, but we never slipped, slid or spun our wheels once and we were toasty warm inside. That Toyota dealer is down right crazy to think I would ever get rid of the best vehicle ever made.

Girls Movie Day

In advance of the reported giant amount of snow we are reported to be getting tonight a group of girls and I went to the movies. It was perfect because while everyone else was clearing the grocery stores shelves of all fresh food and frozen pizza we practically had the theatre to ourselves. We went to Silverspot where everything is nicer than a normal movie theatre.
We started with lunch in the real restaurant they have there. I love being able to get a beet salad at the movies. We stopped in the ladies room on the way to watch the show. The bathroom rivaled a Ritz Carlton. Could this really be the movies?
The seats are reserved so we had a whole row for our little band of friends. The only issue is the seats are so big it is almost like being alone at the movie because the person next to you is too far away to talk to. Not that I encourage talking at the movies anyway.
We saw Manchester by the Sea which was so heavy and sad that there was very little chance to talk. It was a good movie, but it was not like there were a lot of laughs.
Afterwards I went home and cooked healthy food for the snow storm. I figure if I have ginger chicken and carrots made it will keep me from eating snow storm Mac and cheese.

Gratitude Tour

Seventeen years ago I started volunteering at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC. It quickly became a passion. This year is my last year on the main board as I am term limited out. I am chairing the personnel committee as my swan song since it is the one thing I have not done. Over the years the Food Bank has grown from a handful of employees to over a hundred at six branches across North Carolina.

The people who work at the Food Bank are hard working, kind and dedicated. This year has been extraordinary in that they provided a record amount of food to those in need, dispensed emergency service during Hurricane Mathew and the months that followed and renovated and moved into a new headquarters.  

As a member of the board I felt like it was important for us to personally meet and thank every staff member for the work they are doing. Today was my first visit of what I am calling the “Gratitude Tour.” I spent the afternoon at the main Raliegh headquarters, where over sixty of the staff work.

I walked the building and talked to truck drivers, warehouse coordinators, volunteer services people, finance administrators, food drive coordinators, food and nutrition services program supervisors, house keepers, food resources managers and many more. I asked people how long they had worked there, from my friend Earline who has been there 27 years to the three new employees who started 3 days ago, and thanked each one for all they do.

After my walk about I went to the branch wide meeting where I told them not just how much the board appreciated them and all they do for hungry people in North Carolina, but that I love them, and I meant it. I wish that I had longer with each individual, but they have lots of work to do. I hope they all felt the heart felt appreciation that the board of director and I have for them. They are not just employees, but are true angels. It is such a privilege to be associated with them.

Ginger Shortage?

I don’t mean to be alarmist, but is there an unreported shortage of fresh ginger root? I’m back to cooking dinner for my friends. This morning I was contemplating a new recipe that is healthy flavorful and seasonal. I came up with a chicken, gingered carrot, green bean dish served with rice on the side for the January dieters.  
Knowing that snow is predicted I went to the store today to purchase the ingredients. I figure I can fill the Land Cruiser with the yummy food and deliver it around to my friends if they are snowed in. Getting twelve pounds of carrots was easy. Twelve pounds of chicken, no problem. Green beans, rice, green onions, check, check, check. I have 20 heads of garlic so that is covered. I knew I had ginger root in the freezer, but thought I should add to my storehouse.  
I was at a Trader Joe’s where they always have ginger next to my highly prized .99¢ shallots, but alas today there way none. When I asked one of the friendly clerks she cheerfully said, “of course we do, right over…” as she walked me to the spot I had already searched. “Huh.”
Off to Harris Teeter where ginger would be much more expensive, but usually readily available. I knew that it lived in the black baskets on the end cap of the potato and onion display. I rounded the shelves to find clean and empty baskets, not a hand in sight. Huh.  
Over to the prepped veggie fridge where the most expensive of chopped onions and sliced mushrooms are displayed. There they have puréed garlic, ginger and lemon grass in convenient tubes. I was going to have to pay quadruple, but I had already purchased everything else for my imagined recipe.
There in the high rent district of the super market were a few tubes of garlic and one lone lemon grass, but not a finger of ginger, whole, minced or pulverized could be found. By this time I was tiring of this treasure hunt so I just went home. I opened the freezer to find four nice sized hands carefully wrapped. I am ever so thankful that I keep a well stocked larder so I have the freedom to whip up new recipes without having to interrupt the creative process with shopping.
Tomorrow I will start developing this meal, but I am worried that there is some unannounced ginger shortage. Perhaps there have been a lot of news stories about the medicinal and dietary powers of ginger driving non-ginger buying regulars to the store.
Keep a look out when you are shopping and if you see a nice hand pick one up for me. I can always make tea out of it if I get too much.

Clearer Communication

Today, while Carter was emailing the colleges she was regretting their acceptances she asked me if “writing e-mails” was a job. I explained it was an important skill in many jobs, as all writing is. She pointed out that it was difficult to find the information about where to tell a college “no thank you” in the materials they had sent her.
I told her that there used to be a job called “copy writer,” but now it is “mar-com,” which stands for marketing communications. “Copy writer. That’s what Peggy on Mad Men was.” I love when television is our teacher.
Since I had two friends over during this conversation I did not go on to tell her about “technical writers” or “journalists” or now “bloggers,” and “content providers.” Writing is the most universal skill in most work and I fear we are not educating enough people with expertise in writing. One friend told me about a college acceptance letter her child received that said, “We chose you. Now we hope you choose us.” That copy sounded a little desperate to us. 
As a blogger I write everyday, but just for twenty minutes. I know there are many grammatical and spelling mistakes in things I produce, but I do this for the discipline of producing something daily. Since it is “work” I do for free I say that I am happy to refund anyone’s money if they are unsatisfied with the product I produce. This is about the only place that can happen. People who communicate for money need to be better at it than I am here.
For example, yesterday Russ was trying to figure out if our trash was going to be picked up today, our regular trash day, or since yesterday was a federal holiday, for January 1 which was on Sunday, would our trash be delayed?  The calendar on the website said,”holiday changes are noted above,” but they weren’t. He read four web pages and found buried in the middle of the fourth page in the center of a paragraph the answer to the question in a very round about way. It could have been much clearer.
Today I tried to make an appointment for Carter to get her Passport renewed. I called dozens of passport offices only to get recordings all day. I read everything on the website trying to figure out how to get an appointment. Finally, Carter and I just went downtown to the main post office where the passport office is and talked to a clerk. Turns out that no passport interviews or processing goes on on the third day of every month. This is information that could be written down somewhere, but is not on the list of days the offices are closed, like MLK day or the Fourth of July. 
Being skilled at communications is a talent that would serve everyone well. What is the most important idea you are trying to convey? Don’t hide that. In communication about getting a passport the fact that you can’t apply in person on the third day of the month is not the most important thing to know. But, it should be listed somewhere, along with the caveat of what if the third is a Sunday, or a federal holiday, then is it pushed back another day?
“Writing email” may not be your job, but doing it badly will certainly hurt you in getting the job. Maybe we should go back to having “copy writers” then people might know that producing clear and concise information is what they were hired to do.

Less Anonymity 

The other day, sometime between Christmas and New Years, my phone made a chirping noise sometime around six in the morning. That week is one I consider a holiday so I like to try and sleep in, thus I was very unhappy to discover that the chirp was a “nudge” from someone I play words with friends with. I am uncertain if I actually know the person because they go by one initial.  
In my anger of being awoken I resigned the game with a message saying that I did not appreciate the nudge so early in the morning during a holiday. Now, I certainly play a tile or two in the very early morning hours, sometimes at like three or four if I am unable to sleep, but I don’t like being told to play anytime.
After I fired back I was unable to go back to sleep and I got to thinking I might have been hasty in my response because the person was more or less anonymous to me. I am not sure if I know this single initial and if you read this blog, sorry if I was abrupt.  
It is my goal to be less virtual, less anonymous and more in person this year. I am still going to write my blog, which makes me some what virtual, but I can’t go to everyone’s house and tell them a story everyday, although I would really like that. I just want to add more face to face time with friends and family. Perhaps even actually talk on the phone with far off friends and not just “like” their stuff on facebook. That means you Suzanne and Janet, I’m calling.
Today Carter and I had lunch with my friend Lee and her daughter Lucy who goes to Northeastern. It was nice of Lucy to spend time telling Carter what life on campus was like. Lee talked to me about where I wold stay during orientation. It horrified Carter to think I would be there. “Don’t worry Carter, I have lots of friends in the Boston area I want to see, Stori, Page, Janet, Marty…”
It is amazing how old fashioned it feels to call someone on the phone or heavens forbid, meet face to face and have a conversation. I have found myself tiring of texting back and forth to try and figure out something simple that can be solved with a quick phone call.
So I am embracing the old fashioned. Lunches with friends, dog walking with neighbors, calls with family and more communication with real people. Now I am not giving up all anonymous game playing, but I would welcome more face to face playing. Perhaps this is the year to add another day of the week to Mah Jongg, that satisfies everything I like to do!

No Resolutions Resolution

Today is the day people historically say, “No.” The problem with New Year’s resolutions is they are usually about denial or giving something up. I bet only one in ten is about saying “yes” more often. Today I have read on social media many people vowing to lose weight. Nothing unusual there. I have also read a number of people announcing they are giving up facebook as their resolution. That is a new resolution to me, but no less addicting than sugar. I have also noted people vowing to sit less and get up and move more.
My issue with making a resolution is I am setting myself up to let myself down. I, like my weight loss friends, need to get off the sugar wagon of the last six week eating season, but I need something stronger than a resolution. What could that be? If someone stood in my kitchen with a gun to my head would that work? I guess it depends on the caliber.  
I also would like to waste less time looking at social media, but I don’t see giving it up whole hog. I am thankful that I have never started on Twitter or Instagram so I only have Facebook as a social time suck.  
For me the real time waster is playing games on my IPad. I stay up too late playing a game I may never win. This is what I need to control. I don’t see making a resolution to give it up all together, but limiting myself is needed.
I don’t need resolutions as much as prioritizing. If I can get up everyday and do the important, good for me stuff first and save the treats for later at least I can feel good about myself rather than feeling bad about not sticking to my resolution. So no resolutions or ultimatums for me, just prioritization’s.

To all my resolution making friends I wish you good luck.  The best part about making a vow is just telling your brain you are going to do something different.  Once your brain is on track it can happen.  Upjust remember that falling off the wagon does not have to mean forever.  If you eat something bad for you the next meal is your chance to right your wrong.  Of if you happen to look at Facebook for five minutes you can put your phone down and vacuum as redemption.  That vacccuming thing can also count as exercise.  Good luck making 2017 your best year yet.  We all deserve that.