I Only Have Eyes For Russ 

I like people. Most places I go I talk to strangers, much to the chagrin of my family. I almost always find people that I think are interesting and likable no matter how different they are from me. All that being said I am not drawn to the people here in St. Petersburg and most of them are not from here. I wonder how so many people from around the world who clearly belong here all got here?
This morning Russ and I got up and walked three miles down the beach to Pass-a-Grille to eat breakfast in what was the “nicest place.” On the walk we passed many multimillion dollar homes so it was not that it was a down trodden area. The average car was Mercedes, meaning there were higher ones and lower ones. I was a little worried that I was going to be too sweaty to eat at the nicest spot because it was already eighty degrees first thing in the morning.
We arrived and checked in with the hostess and told it would just be a five minute wait and to sit on the benches outside. We were clearly the youngest people waiting, some looking like they were dressed for church, but we were not too out of place. Quickly our name was called and we were ushered into a knotty pine low ceiling diner that could have been in South Jersey.
The waitress was friendly in that “more coffee, hon?” kind of way. As I looked around I realized we were fish out of water. Russ was the only man with either hair or a hair cut. Most older men had long stringy grey hair, the young ones had no hair at all. The older women had tattoos that had seen better days the young women had tattoos that were not going to age well. One woman across from our pine booth had a smokers cough that sounded like she needed her last rites. This was the nicest place for breakfast?
After breakfast we went out on the now fairly crowded beach to make the three mile walk back. It was more of the same, except the tattoos acted as covering instead of bathing suits. Sometimes it is hard to know where to look. One of the only people I saw without major body art was an old man walking towards us in a black banana hammock bathing suit (smaller than a speedo) with a fanny pack. I was dying to say, “regular men’s bathing suits have pockets!” What I would have given for that guy to have a tattoo to cover up some junk.
I have to say that I did not encounter anyone I wanted to carry on a long conversation with the whole day, except my husband. I know he brought me here for a business trip, but what he secretly did was make me cling on to him tightly as the only person I want to talk to or look at. Brilliant move Russ Lange.

No Motel Six

Twenty five years ago, before Russ and I got married my father gave him a nice present with a card that read, “Never take my daughter to a Motel 6 again.” This was in reference to the Super 8 motel in Anaheim, California where Russ and I went on a business trip together and I first noticed him.  
I am happy to report that Russ has lived up to my father’s demands and has never taken me to any hotel with a number in the name. Now I am thinking my father should have also mentioned that Russ not take me to any place that was “Anaheim like.”

Tuesday is our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. It is quite an occasion to make it all these years and still really like each other. Since we got a surprise new sewer line and are replacing our roof and painting our house all this month I told Russ that is what we were getting for our anniversary. Russ thought that was not good enough, so he offered to take me on a business trip to Florida. It is more like Anaheim than I expected. My father would not be happy.

We are staying at a nice place and we had a fun day visiting botanical gardens, doing a little shopping and walking, walking, walking. The highlight of the day was going to the Italian market where Russ got a giant hoagie for $5.50 that tasted like it was right out of Philly.  

As we walked the five lane beach road to go to dinner we passed many motels that could have been mistaken for Motel Six. I felt twenty five years younger. It was as if Russ and I were back in Anaheim, just falling in love. I am quite thankful we have not recreated the hot tub scene in the parking lot of the motel with music blaring from the biker bar next door. Some things are best not relived.

The Brilliance of Dali

When I was a kid Salvador Dali was just a weird guy. I did not appreciate his art as surrealism was just above my childish head. Today Russ and I went to the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida. It was a fabulous experience.  
The museum, which is the collection of one couple from Cleveland, came to be in St. Petersburg because no major museum would take their collection in the mid 1970’s. The collector, Mr. Morse, ran a full page story in the Wall Street Journal about the fact that no museum would take the collection and it caught the eye of a young lawyer in St. Petersburg who convinced the Morse Family to donate 92 works of Dali art to a new all Dali museum to be built around their collection. Since that donation the museum has gone on to increase the size of the collection to 2100 works of Dali art.

Dali is most well known for his melting clocks and the museum has one of the two melting clocks works. It is fine, but the real highlight of the museum are 8 of the 22 large format works he made in his later years.

One is a portrait of his wife Gala, from the rear, but if you view it for far enough away you realize it is a portrait of Abraham Lincoln. These giant format works best viewed in person so yo can see the optical illusions Dali had painted into them.

After a great time discovering the genius of Dali, Russ and I enjoyed a lovely Spanish lunch outside in the garden from the museum cafe. The gazpacho had us right back in Spain. What a treat it all was.

Balance Matters

My high school friend Mary Derbyshire has written a book about agility and balance. She is trained in the Alexander method and has been training people for 35 years in fitness and balance. Mary went to Northwestern after Ethel Walkers and is smart as well as fit and funny. This is her first book and there is a limited deal. If you order at Amazon for a kindle download before May 2 you can get it for .99¢. If Mary gets 250 people to order it by then she will become an Amazon bestsellers and that improves her listing in searches. For less than a buck you have not much to lose and perhaps a lot to gain.
The older I get the more I appreciate balance. Falling is no longer something I can laugh about when I am splayed on the sidewalk. I am getting to the fear of a broken hip stage of life. Quite frankly any form of exercise is needed, but none can happen effectively without good balance.
So here is the link to pre-order her book. It goes live on May 2 when you can download it. After May 2 it will cost $7.99. Save the seven dollars and get it today.


Airline Improvement Suggestion

The other day my friend Michelle was talking about a flight she took with her family earlier this year. They had to make a connection in Atlanta and go from terminal A to terminal F. Their first flight arrived late and they bolted to the next gate to find out that their plane was still there, but the gate agent had given their seats away and rebooked them into middle seats. It was infuriating since they made the flight and those standby passengers could have been given those middle seats.
Today I got a notice that something I had ordered had been shipped and I went to the tracking page and was able to see exactly where my package is now and when it will be delivered to my house. Seems to me that airlines could get a lot more customer satisfaction, something they could use right now, if they would treat connecting passengers like packages and track them. 
The information already exists to know if a person boarded a plane, if that plane landed and which gate it landed at. All the airlines need to do is create algorithms that say how long it takes the average passenger to walk from one gate to the next. They could improve the accuracy if they also included where on the first plane someone was sitting so they could judge how long it might take them to deplane. Throw in an extra three minute for a bathroom stop and the gate agents at the second leg should be able to know if connecting passengers are going to make a flight or not.  
Let’s add some more improvements. If there are twenty people trying to connect and they are going to hold the departure of the plane up by five minutes isn’t that worth doing because the system could tell the gate agent that there are not 20 free seats on the next flight. The information exists, but it is not being utilized to make smart, customer friendly decisions.
Today airlines have built in so much fat in the flying times so that they can make on time arrivals we should stop caring about on time departures. Who cares if you take off on time as long as you arrive on time.
It seems ridiculous that packages are treated better than people. Hey every airline out there– hire some UPS data analysis people and take better care of your passengers.

Can’t post no internet 

What To Get Boys For Graduation

Graduation is a month away for Carter and her friends. I want to celebrate the occasion for a few close friends. I already have ordered gifts for girls. Girls, they are easy to buy for, but what to get boys? Coming from a family of all girls I have no idea what to get boys.
If I went on advice my father might give me I would be breaking the law I. What boys in college might want. Going on advice I might get from my husband I wouldn’t understand the technology he might suggest. So I am turning to you, dear readers. What might a young man as a graduation gift?
Wild ideas are appreciated, but extravagant ones, like cars, or surf boards are not needed. I can think of expensive things myself. Also these need to be gifts that the parents would not frown upon, so nothing naughty. I appreciate all your brilliance.

The Great Empower Community

I go to the most wonderful gym. This is a powerful statement from a non-athletic person for me to say. I hate working out, but I love going to Empower. It is not the exercise but the people I like. Over the many years working out there I have had quite a few trainers, but I have gotten to know and love all the trainers. When you work out one-on-one you talk to everyone to just help keep your mind off the torture of trying to keep a past middle aged body working. 
A couple of years ago I knew that the assistant manager Nestor and his wife Ashley had found their dream home and were about to close on it. The day came for closing and I went to work out and my then trainer,Tiffani told me that Nestor had been diagnosed with a glioblastoma, a cancerous brain tumor. Nestor, at 34 was the picture of health. It was quite a shock.
One of the best things about living in Durham is the access to world class medical facilities. One of the best things about working out at Empower is that many of the people working out next to you are the physicians who run those facilities. Nestor happen to train Dr. Henry Friedman of the Tisch Brain Tumor Center the top Neuro-Oncology Doctor in the world. Thanks to the team at Duke they were able to save Nestor’s life and today he is back to the picture of health having just done the crazy thing of a 100 mile race.
The Empower team believe in giving back and Team Nestor has been dauntless in raising money for the Tisch Brain Center. A few months ago Nestor called me and asked if I would be the auctioneer for a fund raiser BBQ they were going to have. When have I ever turned down being the auctioneer? Never, except for the “no kill cat shelter,” but for Nestor and the Empower team I gave an enthusiastic yes.
When we prepped for the event last week it turned out the auction items were more of the silent auction type. So I said we could do a donation auction where I just ask people to just give money. Thanks to the many people who love Nestor we had a great turn out and Dr. Henry Friedman came which was a real pleasure. The crowd knew why they were there. I told them out front that I was going to be asking them for money the asked Nestor some questions and Dr. Friedman about what they would do with the money. Nestor pulled on the heart string and Dr. Friedman laid out the goals, largest of which is the end of brain cancer. Then the “cash” auction began.
I asked anyone who wanted to donate $500 to raise their paddle. My friend Dave was the first to do it, then Barry, Michelle and Richard and many others. Then I asked for $250 the. $100 and so on. In five minutes we raised over $7,600 from a group of people who all go to the same gym. It is wonderful what community can do. Thanks Empower for being a community I love to be part of, even if I hate working out.
Note: this was yesterday’s blog, but due to the giant rain our internet was out and nothing could be posted

The Senior Prom Rite of Passage

Years after one’s senior prom people often don’t remember much about it, unless something horrible happened, like your date broke up with you the night before prom, or you had a wardrobe malfunction on the dance floor or you caught your date kissing someone else. Those are the kind of memories you just don’t want to have. So what are you left with, your photos from prom, with what’s his name.  
The worst of prom photos are the ones where people are lined up on staircases, or a boy standing behind his date with his arms wrapped around her waist in a “she’s mine” kind of look. Most photos of kids all dressed up don’t look like themselves or their real personalities so when they look back on them with their hair done in ridiculous hairdo’s they wonder “who are those people?”
For Carter and her friends I was able to capture some of the real moments of them being themselves. 

Carter and her friend Evan Ballew went to prom together. Since at four years old Evan famously declared “Carter better than snack from the snack bar,” they went to said snack bar and posed for pictures with the swim team trophy from their years together. These are the images they will remember for the rest of their life.

It is not just the pictures with your date, but those with your good friends that you will look back on and have something wonderful to remember.

An Early Anniversary Surprise 

A giant box, like the size of Russ’s smart car, arrived at our house. It was from my father-in-law. Although our anniversary is two weeks away he had gone ahead and sent us a gift early. It is not expected for my father-in-law to send us an anniversary gift, although he never misses at least sending us a card and a check for us to go out to dinner, but this is our 25th anniversary. He was not going to miss marking this achievement and it was apparent that he had been working on his gift for a long time.

Russ started the opening of the box which could have been in a UPS packaging store ad. First there was the double thickness of the cardboard. Then the first of three different types of bubble wrap. The largest bubbles encased the gift and were taped as if to mummify the contents, protecting it from evil spirits who might want to steal its soul.

Carefully removing the middle sized bubble wrap which was equally well taped Russ was whittling down the size of the present. Then the third tiny bubble layer once removed and still the contents were a secret to me for the gift was wrapped in more plastic and protective card board. Very tenderly Russ peeled off the last covering and revealed a clock that my Father-in-law designed and made for this occasion.

It is a beautiful case clock that has Westminster chimes that sound on the quarter hour. On the back is inscribed “to Russ and Dana on you 25th Anniversary, love Dad.” He had spent more time and effort on our anniversary than either of us had for any anniversary.

We called to thank him and I told him that clocks had gone across the country in Conestoga wagons with less protection. He was thrilled that it had made it to us without harm. Carter will have a family heirloom when we are gone complete with the three pages of instructions and photos on the creation of the clock that her grandfather included in a Manila envelope taped to the back.

What a sweet way to recognize our silver anniversary. Now the stakes are really high for me to come up with something equally as impressive for Russ. Thank goodness my father-in-law was so early on his gift giving. I have two weeks.

In The Pocket Farewell

Tonight was the fifteenth spring “In the Pocket” concert at DA. The Jazz/Rock Ensemble is the peak of the school’s extra curricular activities, which is really saying something given the state champion sports teams, and national champion debate team, and chess, robotics, science Olympiad and on and on.  
I can remember going to an In the Pocket concert when Carter was in second or third grade and being blown away by the musical talent of the then upper schoolers. Having no musical talent myself I am extra impressed with those people who can produce such beautiful sounds. I could hardly imagine at that time that Lydia Oakley and Evan Ballew who were Carter’s classmates would grow up to be stars of In the Pocket.
The spring concert is always bitter sweet because it is the final show for the seniors in the group. None of them disappointed this year. Creel Ng Cashin, Ellie Dusek, Niall Schroeder and Lydia Oakley as vocalists were outstanding. Nikki Inocencio who normally tears it up on violin also sang and played the guitar in a touching number for her mother who lives in Alaska, but was at the show.  
Chris Villiani ruled the keyboards. Diane Youngstrom seduced us with the clarinet. Addison West blew the trumpet and sang beautifully, but not at the same time. And the always versatile Evan Ballew masterfully played both the bass and trumpet also not at the same time.
Nine seniors departing the group leaving six underclassmen to break in the lucky new members, whomever they might be. Despite the talent that is graduating I have no question that the new members will pick up right where these guys left off. They will be just as outstanding, inspiring and thrilling to watch and listen to. It just won’t be the same for me because they will no longer be the kids I have watched grow up. Instead when I go to a future ITP concert it will just be a very talented musical group who I love to listen to, but it probably won’t make me cry, like tonight’s group did.

Senior Year Pillow

Today I picked up my “wedding party” needlepoint pillow all finished and ready for the sofa. It was good timing since Carter’s graduation is about a month away. This pillow represents my needlepoint work during her senior year. I started it as she was going off on senior challenge. I worked it during basketball games all through the winter and I finished stitching it as she was making plans to go to Berlin for her freshman year first semester at Northeastern.
Carter may be leaving us for but now I can go sit in the living room and look at my whimsical bird pillow and think about all the fun I had stitching in during her last year home.
I am thrilled with the material Lane Blank found for the backing and the piping and as usual Nancy at Chapel Hill Needlepoint finished it beautifully. It was a long labor of love. I counted something like sixty different colors in it all in tiny eighteen count. It was my senior year of needlepoint. It was the AP of pillows.  
Now I am back to ornaments that I can do quickly and simply. Kind of like my senioritis of needlepoint. Small and mindless. Thankfully I don’t think I will ever graduate from needlepoint.

Fox Might Be Learning, Slowly

Apparently the only person surprised by Bill O’Reilly’s ouster at Fox News is Bill O’Reilly. In a statement he made today he praised Fox News but said it was “tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims.” Therein lies the problem with sexual harassment. The person doing the harassing usually has no idea what they are doing is wrong.
Most men don’t demand that women sleep with them or stand to lose their job, although that happens too. It is the more subtle things they do that make women feel uncomfortable, but now women are fighting back. It is coming as quite a shock to these big dogs at Fox, where men will be men and women will do as men want them too that not all women, even those who might be right wing in their political leanings will allow themselves to be belittled, intimidated or sexualized.
Trump may have won the election despite his grossly illustrated sexualization of women, but the women’s march has given women a voice to speak out and advertisers are listening. Face it, Fox did not care so much that Bill O’Reilly had high ratings as they did that more than 50 advertisers left his show.
It is a different environment in the work place today and the 67 year old O’Reilly, like the very old Roger Ailes, did not learn that women are not their pets. You can’t call someone “honey”, or comment on their clothing, or their ass, or what they might do for you that would be helpful. Mr. O’Reilly probably has not idea if the claims that brought him down were unfounded. He is not a woman and has no experience being objectified. He just isn’t good looking enough for a more powerful woman to have said to him, “If you want to get ahead in this business I need you to…”. You fill in the blank with something untawdry.
I just want to say a good for Fox for not bringing him back. I am still not going to watch your news, but I am glad you are learning that women matter.  

OK Alexa

My father-in-law is in love with Alexa. In the last two years he has given us two of the voice command devices for Christmas. At first I was not so sure what to do with Alexa. Russ set her up in the kitchen thinking I would listen to music. I am old school enough that I watch regular television, with commercials and all when I am cooking.
When the second Alexa arrived we got a wall plug device with it so that Alexa could control the on/off to anything we plugged into that socket. Russ set her up in our bedroom and plugged the lamps into her. Now at night when I want to go to sleep I no longer have to get out of bed and turn off all the lamps. Instead I just say, “Alexa, bedroom off.” The three lamps turn off and in the dark of my room Alexa says “OK.”
I love turning the lights on and off with voice command. It is way better than the clapper. I never wanted to be that old lady from “clap on, clap off, the clapper” commercials. The only thing I dislike is that Alexa feels the need to say “OK” after she does as I have asked her.
Russ has researched if we could turn the, “OK” off, to no avail. I tried talking with Alexa about this.  
“Alexa, don’t say OK.” 
“I can’t find the answer to the question I heard.”
“Listen bitch, just turn the lights off and shut up about it.”
She really doesn’t like that. I am hesitant to ask her to do anything other than turning the lights off and telling me what the weather is going to be because I am so tired of hearing her say, “OK.” Please can someone tell google to do a system upgrade and have Alexa fix herself of this annoying confirmation. I just want to turn the lights off in silence like the old days when you just flipped the switch. We don’t need to have a conversation about turning off the lights. Why are robots so needy?

Things Are Looking Up

Workmen I was waiting for today:
Sewer Plumbers


Durham Plumbing Inspector

Cable guy

IT guy
Good news, they all showed up. The masons were first, wanting to rebuild my brick walkway with the four inch concrete pad. They were a little early since the inspector had not come yet. He did while they waited but then he failed my job. The sewer plumbers arrived and remedied the failures, but the masons had left.
The inspector came back and passed the job so the plumbers began the big job of filling in the 150 foot long, by three feet deep by two foot wide trench, trying to beat the rain.
The IT guy came to try and restore my computer from the back up. This was my most worrisome issue because we were unable to connect to my back up last week and I was desperate not to lose my life time of photos. He was able to connect and left my house so I could monitor the five hour download. It worked!  
The cable guy came because not only were many channels not working, including all premiums and on demand, but the internet in my house was gone. Now the pay TV was no big deal, and I could live without on demand, but the internet, really?
The cable guy said we had a very old line so he replaced it. Since the plumbers were here and the brick walkway that the cable line runs under was torn up I asked the plumber for a piece of PVC and had the cable guy run the line through it. When the masons come back they can rebuild the walkway over the conduit and the cable will be safe. That was excellent timing.
As I was standing out in my almost restored driveway just as the big rain was coming I heard a big crash in the back corner of my property. Turned out a dead tree on my neighbors side of my fence fell down, breaking a few boards in our old fence, but missing my garden shed by mere inches. Just as I was getting things back together a new problem arises.
We will deal with that another day. Tomorrow I get a dump truck load of river gravel from the Rock Shop and hopefully we can drive on our driveway again. Not sure how long the masonry job will take, but at least I have a new lifetime sewer line. I won’t live long enough to ever need to do this job again. Maybe I can do some gardening later in the week, work I was supposed to do two weeks ago. Some weeks of your life need to be erased from memory. 

Easter Miracles

Happy Easter to all the believers. We had our annual Easter visit from my parents who came for church and lunch with our friends Stephanie and Roman. When they arrived Carter was still in the middle of her Easter “hunt for cash” that the bunny left for her. Last year the bunny skipped our house since Carter was so old and there was great sadness and tearing of clothes to mix your religious metaphors.

Apparently Carter was good enough this year for the bunny to stop and drop a few bills for her to find. Carter loved the hunt for cash and perhaps this should be an every gift holiday tradition. If she misses some than maybe Mom will get to keep it.

I was happy that I was able to snap a shot of Carter with her Grandparents after church was over since it is a very rare sighting for them to all be together, especially in church. I realized that this might be the last Easter we have Carter at home, maybe ever.  

The Easter miracles are continuing here because Carter has agreed to go to the movies with us tonight. It helps that I am finally getting to see Beauty and the Beast, which Carter has already seen four or maybe five times. The real miracle is that Russ is going.

So happy Easter to you and yours. I hope if you were with your family it was a joyous celebration and if you were not that you missed all the family fights and had a lovely day.

Easter Saturday Behind the Trench

Such a beautiful day and I did not take advantage of it. Russ and I did get up early and go to the farmers market as we do every Saturday. But with no access to my garden since it is in the demilitarized zone across the impassable trench I could not buy any plants. This is THE weekend to plant. Vendors were full of seedlings begging me to put them in my soil. Yellow grape tomatoes, Japanese eggplant, white globe eggplant, crooked neck yellow squash, Italian zucchini, Thai basil, lemon sage so many yummy varieties.
Instead we bought one small basket of over priced strawberries. Something has gone terribly wrong with the strawberry crop this year making me very sad. Russ got his usual kale and I got arugula, since I cannot get to the garden to see if mine is ready to harvest.
It was a day of sad chores, like changing the batteries in two different kitchen thermometers or changing the sheets and doing four loads of laundry. At least the water was back on and the sewer line was working so I could do water chores. But is was all chores, no fun, no digging, no planting no easter renewal. Well, I guess new batteries are renewal, but not on the Jesus scale.
The Easter bunny did do his duty ready for the hunt. Shay just looked at the bunny with the “where is my basket look.” No baskets for anyone, just a hunt for cash. Not your normal Easter weekend back here behind the trench.

Trench Warfare

I am thankful I don’t have little boys that live at my house for it is the perfect place to play war. I have a full on World War I like trench that runs the length of my driveway and wraps around my house. I have a backhoe parked at the end of my drive way begging for a little boy to climb on it. I have shovels and pick axes and tools strewn about. Large sections of old cast iron pipe are lying like dead soldiers on top of mountains of dirt. Plastic covers hills to protect them from the elements, but why protect dirt? PVC pipe criss crosses the trenches perfect for battalions of green army men to traverse.
This battle site that used to be my driveway, walkway and yard looks more like Kosovo than Hope Valley. How quickly destruction can change the landscape.

The good news is I was only without water ten hours today and now it is back on. The better news is that I have a fully functional PVC sewer line with no less than three clean out traps. The bad news is that because it is Good Friday no plumbing inspectors are working so my trench must remain open until an inspector shows up, hopefully first thing Monday. Then the rebuilding can begin.
Please pray for dry weather. Also, that no young boys discover the excitement that is my side yard. I am hoping that wildlife don’t run through and fall in the trench. That last thing I want is a deer with a broken leg screaming outside my bedroom window.  
I am very thankful that I won’t have five workmen at my house first thing in the morning. I have come to appreciate jack hammer free mornings, and water, but not in that order.

Not My Favorite Week

I started the week by watching my computer fall off my desk. The good news is I had Apple Care, the bad news is my hard drive had to be replaced. When I picked it up today the guy told me I could look online about trying to recover all “my stuff.” I need my IT specialist for that.
At the same time my computer was going so was our sewer line. So at the start of the week our driveway and whole back walk we were torn up so we could get a new sewer line. This job is for shit, literally. Besides the normal pain in the ass things like not being able to drive in our driveway, or use our back door, or wash clothes or dishes we have had some extra pains. Like today while I was out walking Shay and happened to see the guy with the backhoe puncture the irrigation feed line and have thousands of gallons of water shoot out before we could find the main water cutoff in the ground. That little mistake meant that I also had no water in my house for the day.

The only good news is the old pipe runs right u dear my garden and I convinced the guys to run the new one down the driveway and not spdestroy my garden.  They might have done a little ruining of the garden anyway.  Not to mention the trees,shrubs and other plants that had to get trashed to get to the pipe.  It looks like a bomb went off in my yard.

As of right now the easy half of the aging cast iron sewer line is replaced with PVC, but tomorrow the difficult end that connects to the house is going to be done. Let’s add that it is Good Friday and it is doubtful an inspector is working tomorrow which means we are going to have this giant open trench in our driveway until at least Monday. Lord know how long it will take to fix the brick walkway with four inch cement slab beneath it. Along with all the other lines that have been cut, irrigation water supply, irrigation power supply, five down spout run off lines, another electrical line which I have no idea what it supplies. This is a once a lifetime replacement. If I had to do this again it would kill me.

For tonight I am hoping the no animals fall in the four foot trench and spend the night crying for help. I really need a good night sleep before the plumbers come back early in the morning with the jack hammer. So much for Good Friday.


It was international day at a Carter’s school today. Since I am hardly international I have never volunteered for it, but this year there came a desperate call for parents cooks. Well I can cook internationally and I have eaten internationally so I signed up to make Mexican chicken and cheese enchiladas which I knew would satisfy many high schoolers. I arrived with my hot pans wrapped in towels and was sent past the European section, with their fine desserts, past the very well tended Asian section with many dumplings and rice dishes to the Latin American section where a couple of lonely pans of food sat with no one serving them, no decorations, no flags.
I looked over next to me and saw a thing of beauty in my friend Kelly’s African section where she had many posters, special table clothes, and four different South African dishes and hats and props for the serving mothers. I knew there was a reason I had never volunteered for this day before.
The kids look forward to International day and the yummy food loving prepared for them. They lined up all around the quad and have to be held back until the allotted start time. Once released they were free to go and get food from any and all sections they wanted. Despite my lack of ambiance I had enough kids who knew about my cooking to make my station popular enough. It was so great to get to congratulate seniors who had made their college decisions and give hugs to basketball players I have missed in the last two months.
One of Carter’s very good friends Evan came up and got a serving and told me about his weekend visit to Drexel, Russ’ alma mater, where he loved the music engineering program he is going to next year. He did not let on to me what else was about to happen. Carter came by with her friend Libby. Carter skipped my food since she could get it at home, but Lib made sure to try it and off they went. So much for seeing my daughter.
I sold out of my two big pans fairly quickly and that gave me a chance to talk with some teachers. Then out of the corner of my eye I see Carter and Evan waving at me with big poster board. Evan had asked Carter to Prom with the aid of a promposal poster. It was very sweet that I got to get a Pi cture of them together right after it happened.
I am so glad that I listened to the call for international cooks and by chance was at school the day Carter got asked. I texted Evan’s mom, my friend Amanda, the picture and she sent me back this message
I am so thrilled they are good friends! The statement holds true now and for years to come!
“The only thing better than a snack from the Snack Bar is seeing CARTER LANGE!” 4 year old Evan Ballew
It is hard to believe that they have been friends for over 14 years and now they are at the end of their school together. So glad for such good friends.

Grateful To Be Here

Today was my final visit of the gratitude tour of Food Bank facilities. I have been to Durham, Raleigh, Sandhills, New Bern, Greenville and that just left Wilmington. One of the benefits of these visits is I get to spend a good day in the car with the Food Bank CEO, Peter, and he drives so I can needlepoint.  
We left from the Raleigh branch around 12:30 and headed out I-40 towards the coast. Not half an hour into our trip we saw big plumbs of black smoke down the road and a state police officer merged on to the highway at a high speed with lights on. Moments later we came upon a horrific accident on the other other side of the road. A car was fully engulfed in flames and another mangled car was right near by at an odd angle blocking all the west bound lanes.  
As we approached a man in a car up ahead of us pulled off to the left side of the road near the flaming car and got out of his car. Just as I was saying I hope that the car does not blow up and hurt the bystanders the car did just that. Thankfully we were not right beside the accident as we went by.  
The cars going left were already stopped with a good long back up line. We drove at least a few miles before we saw a fire truck going to the scene. Tonight I saw on the news that someone died in that crash and three others were badly hurt. It made anything I might have been complaining about seem petty. I am thankful that more people were not hurt and send prayers for the person who was killed.
I am trying my best to be grateful for everyday. I was going to Wilmington to express gratitude for the good workers who help feed people who need help. Now I am grateful that I made it there and back safe and sound. You just never know when your time is up. Cherish every moment.

Frying Chicken Diet

This is not the fried chicken diet, but they frying chicken diet. Today I was making “Somebody died? Fried chicken even though no body died. It was a special treat for some friends, but it was a lot of chicken. So I fried and fried, made 17 quarts of rice, fried some more then made gravy. It was quite the work out.
Tonight after all my friends picked up their chicken Carter and Russ came into the kitchen to have their fried chicken, rice and gravy dinner. I just could not look at another piece of chicken. I made myself a bowl of cooked spinach. Carter asked me if that was all I was having. Surprisingly I was very happy with my spinach.
Perhaps I need to get a job at Bojangles or Popeyes and just fry chicken all day long. Maybe then I could lose the pounds I put on this year. The smell of frying does not appeal to me.
I am certain the same would not hold true if I got a job in a bakery. I could make cakes all day long and still be perfectly happy sitting down after an eight hour shift and eating a slice or two.  
I more or less have banned frying in our house, except when somebody dies, but maybe I should rethink that rule. I could open a funnel cake stand or a French fry booth like they have in Rehoboth Beach. If I fried anything all day I certainly would give up eating all together. I could call it “the I fry for you” diet.  
Next fall when the State fair comes to town I might have to get a job frying snickers bars or butter just so I don’t eat for two weeks before the start of the holiday eating season. If you drive by my house and you see what looks like a lemonade stand set up it probably will be me roadside frying some onion rings to sell as a way of not eating.  
Since my house smells like a chicken stand right now I hope that the smell alone will continue to curb my appetite. If it does I am going to be making chicken for my friends every week.

How Dumb Are Americans?

For months they have been building a Sheetz at our exit of I-40. It has been highly anticipated since there is no gas station right off the highway. For the record is like the locally owned Family Fare because they have the cleanest stations and stores and the nicest people and honest deals.
As I was driving by the new Sheetz I saw a sign at the pumps that gave me a big laugh. Sale on Gatorades- 2- 20oz bottles for $2 or 2 -28 oz bottles for $3. By my math you are paying more per ounce for the larger bottles. Rather than buying two 28 oz. bottles you should buy three 20 oz and get four extra ounces for the same price.
I am honestly wondering how many Sheetz shoppers notice this? Perhaps no one else besides me cares if they are paying a little more. Am I outraged about Sheetz cheating Gatorade drinkers for nothing? Are drinkers of sugary drinks dumber than other people? Are athletes who are so electrolyte depleted not using all their brain cells when they run into Sheetz for a drink?
I feel like Americans have fallen for so many things this year like, “Yes, we can bring your coal mining jobs back.” Retailers have caught on that people will pay more if you make it look like it is a deal on the sign and just go along with it.
Americans, stay vigilant and be suspicious. Ask questions and for goodness sake, do the math. This is not calculus, you can figure this kind of math out.

Let’s Buy Fox News

As I see it Trump gets all his information not from security officials, the FBI, CIA, the military, state department, congress or government information offices, but from Fox News. You can see it in his tweets. They say it on Fox and he tweets it about as gospel. I know there is no way to change Trump. He is old and set in his ways. What those ways are I am not quite sure, but Fox is driving the car right now.
Since we can’t control the President let’s take over Fox and control the information he sees. I doubt he will change the channel. He probably doesn’t even know where the remote control is and his TV’s are set to have Fox as his power on station.  
This is the perfect time to take over Fox News. The stock is down thanks to the Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly sex scandals. Advertisers are jumping ship because they don’t want to be caught in the backlash of poor HR policies. Murdoch loves money more than anything else and if given the right price would probably sell. Plus he is Australian and Trump insulted them right out of the gate.
Not only could we sway the President, but we might also be able to effect the outcome of the midterm elections. If we are subtle in how we change the tone of the news all those Fox only news watchers who believe everything they report without question will continue to believe Fox and won’t realize we are making it more center of the road. We just can’t go crazy and make it some really liberal stuff because they might catch on.
If you really care about the future of America I see this as the fastest way to save the country from its current situation. Please go to the Go Fund me page, Buy Fox News To Save America. Let’s see what we can really do.

The “Super People” of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina

I had the privilege of going to Staff Day at the Food Bank today. Twice a year the entire hundred plus members of the staff from all six branches comes together. This year hurricane Mathew caused the Food Bank to cancel the earlier staff day due to the overwhelming amount of work a hurricane causes the Food Bank. That made this the one and only day for training and staff appreciation. This year of all years they needed to be appreciated with the overwhelming mount of extra work the move to the new building and a natural disaster happening at the same time caused, on top of providing food weekly.

My friend and fellow board member Amy Gamber had the job of obtaining prizes and swag bags for the whole staff. Board members answered her request to donate things. I wish I had been there when they pulled the tickets to see who won the Yeti coolers, something the staff seemed excited to win. Thanks to other board members Octavio Soares and Debbie Aiken who also worked to make today happen.

It was my job to thank the staff during lunch. As each group finished their work session they came and lined up for lunch in the shopping warehouse. They could smell the burgers being grilled outside and see the spinach and potato salads in huge bowls in front of them. In no way did I want to delay them getting their lunch so I opted to let them all start eating and talk to them after everyone got through the line. It is no prize to listen to someone talk when you are hungry.
 I chose to liken them to Superman from the old 1950’s TV show, which I first had to describe to them since most of them were not born when it ran on TV. I told them about the opening of the show where the announcer described mild mannered reporter Clark Kent, being a hero in plain site, was actually Superman.” I told the staff that to me and the hundreds of thousands of people they provide food to they are the true “Super people” of North Carolina. They are mild mannered and not attention seeking, but save lives all the time. They are better than a man who can leap tall buildings in a single bound.
It was somewhat bitter sweet for me since this will be my last staff day on the board. Despite the staff having sexual harassment training today I asked many of my friends there if I could give them a hug. No one turned me down. The Food Bank is a hugging kind of place. They reach their arms out around the community and give it a hug everyday. Their selflessness and generosity of their spirit and time is the greatest super power there is. Hail to the Food Bank Staff.

My Tiny Cupid Moment

Last summer I got to spend three days in Seville, Spain catching up with my long lost friend Shireen. We had spent a year working around the world together twenty years ago. When you travel and work with someone you get to know them in a different way, like you talk about everything. It was no surprise to me that when we reconnected in Spain we picked right back up where we left off in Bali, or South Africa.
Shireen, had spent the last dozen years living and working in LA. Despite being the most beautiful and fun person I know she had not found her true love. Knowing that life was more than work she quit her job and sold her stuff and spent the last year traveling around the world, going to twenty two countries. It was a big adventure to do alone, although she was never alone much since she makes friends easily and people often joined her travel tribe. As luck had it she was able to leave Sweden and come to Spain while Russ, Carter and I were there.
We talked a lot about her trip and her plans for afterwards. Russ and I encouraged her to come to North Carolina, sure she could find a life here. Apparently another conversation I had with her was more important, and I don’t even member having it. Of course we talked about men and her love life. In my journalistic way I asked her if there had been any man who got away. I don’t remember the conversation because she said no even though there was. But that question got her thinking.  
Today Russ asked me if I had seen her post on Facebook. I pulled out my IPad to see what he was talking about. Shireen had found the one who got away. They reconnected after twenty three years and she is not coming back to the states.  
Here is her post today. I am thrilled to have played a tiny role in her fairy tale ending to her round the world year. I guess I am going to have to keep asking people the right questions.  

Zen Fish- Hooray

Last week Carter and her friend Cait went to eat at a new Ninth Street eatery called Zen Fish. It is a Poké Bar which means it is kind of like a sushi salad bar. Carter came home raving about it, so tonight she and I went there so I could try it. I think I have found my new healthy place to eat.
The bar is on the north end of Ninth street in the ground floor of the Solis apartment building, directly across from One World Market. It is a couple of steps down from street level so you might miss it if you were driving by. They have a bunch of out door tables and seating for about 20 inside. It was crowded enough tonight on this raining evening that we had to take ours to go.
Three very nice young people waited on us Chipolte style, meaning you start your order with one person and they hand your meal off to the next person to add what you want and then again to a last person. The first decision you have to make is if you want a “Bowl” or a “burrito” made with a seaweed wrapper and rice. If you chose. Bowl you then choose a “base,” rice, Quinoa, salad or zucchini noodles. Right there you have a bunch of healthy choices.
Your next decision is your protein. You can have up to five different proteins, a small scoop is one of raw tuna or spicy tuna, salmon, scallop, shrimp, crawfish, crab legs, sweet potato or tofu. I got a combo of salmon and crab legs. You pick a sauce that gets mixed in with your protein and there were so many yummy ones to pick from. I got miso ginger, which was delicious. Two kinds of onions thinly sliced, fresh jalapeños, bean sprouts, mango and cucumber are your next choices and you can have any and all.
All of that was mixed together and put on my salad greens as my bowl was handed around the corner for the last of the goodies. Beautiful radish slices, seaweed, edamame, ginger, the list went on forever. I got some crispy shallots and then added a touch of srirach aioli for a little heat. Lastly I got avocado which was the only up charge on my bowl adding $1 to the flat price of my large bowl at $13.95.
My mouth was watering just looking at my beautiful dinner, but I had to wait until I got home to see how it tasted. In a word it was DEVINE! I think I have found my new go to place and I don’t need to have any guilt about it.

Basketball Hangover

Last night with Russ away on business and Carter out watching the basketball game at a friend’s Franklin St. office I was all alone to watch the championship game. Well, Shay was will me, but she is not that into basketball. As I lay in bed screaming at the TV with each missed three point shot or miss offensive rebound I realized that no one was listening to me. Yet, I continued to talk back out loud.
I wish that I had been hooked up to a heart monitor so that during the game I could keep track of my blood pressure as the game was played out. Neither team played their best games. It has to be exhausting to be a college student and keep up the pace of play through the whole tournament. I find it is just exhausting just to watch.
I am thrilled for UNC that they pulled this one off. I was not sure it was going to happen as they went into the locker room at the half down by one or two. Despite being exhausted at the half I just had to see the game out to the end. I know I don’t sleep well if I fall asleep without knowing the outcome. The problem was that I was so excited about the win that I could not go to sleep when they did finally win.
I was sad for The Zags. It was a spectacular year for the team. I was most impressed with their coach who at the post game press conference had nothing but good things to say about the hard working officials. He was pure class, making no excuses.
Now I am suffering post basketball sadness and exhaustion even though my team won. Carter is worse off than I am having celebrated on Franklin Street with the faithful hordes and UNC is not her first choice team.  
Congratulations to Roy Williams, such a dang nabbit good coach. Last night’s game was his 100 game in a playoff championships. He is the age Dean Smith was when he retired and that is just too young to stop. Look what he was able to do. Now I pray that he has another one in him. Go Heels and thanks for a great season.

Do You Know Where Your Clean Out Is?

At one point today I had three different plumbers from two different companies working at my house today. That meant I was learning more about plumbing than I ever thought I would want to know.
After our clogged sewer pipe on Saturday we had a drain expert out today with a plumbing camera to take a closer look at our pipes. When the young man asked me if we had an outdoor clean out trap I just looked at him with that blank stare of, “what is a clean out?” Our seventy year old house does not have one of these convenient access traps to our drain pipe. This meant that the guy had to remove a toilet and run the camera down the hole in the floor.
With all the excitement of Geraldo Rivera opening Al Capone’s secret vaults on TV I watched as the camera was forced through the pipes. The picture on the screen made the old cast iron pipes look like a subway car could drive through them. I was shocked to learn they were just four inch pipes. No wonder they get clogged. Sadly the configuration of our pipes was a twisty complicated mess that the camera could not get through.
As one plumber was “cameraing” my friendly neighborhood plumbers, John and Chuck Whaley showed up to fix the chirping that was coming from my master toilet. Apparently plumbers all know each other so John and Chuck got involved in the hunt for away to get the camera down the pipe.  
Despite the hundred years of plumbing expertise I had at my house there was no way to get a good look at the whole length of pipe. Now to plan B, the creation of an outdoor clean out trap. This meant the three world class plumbers had to find where the pipe came out of the house. Into the hole in the bathroom floor went the clean out snake and it was pushed as hard as it could, while two guys and I stood outside and listened. I was skeptical that we would be able to hear a noise underground, but I was wrong. Not only could you hear it , but you could feel the earth move. Hooray, I am going to get an out door clean out trap, but not until tomorrow. The impending rain storm stopped all work for today and the great plumbing excitement will continue tomorrow.
The drain guy said once he digs a hole in the ground, locates the pipe, cuts a hole in it and fits a door on the hole he will be able to run the camera again. I was assured that I did not need to be home because he will take a video of the the pipe cameras adventure through my sewage pipe and leave me a flash drive. Oh I am so excited for tomorrow night’s viewing.

It’s Time For Raised Beds

Last weekend Russ spent two days turning over the dirt in my garden for me. He did this because the rototiller needed to be repaired and he had not worked on it in the eleven and a half months since he discovered it was broken. I am not complaining since that should have been on my to do list.
Today, I went out to the garden to continue the soil prep which Russ had gotten started. I thought it would be a fairly easy job since he had done most of the work. I was wrong. As I began to pull up the weeds that had already started to take hold I was wishing that this had been the year that I put raised beds in my garden. For three back breaking hours, right through the church hour I tilled, dug, pulled and reconditioned the soil in my vegetable bed.  
Finally after I had completed one of my two garden beds I decided my back and legs could take no more. I went to planting the lettuce, Spinach and herb plants I had picked up at the farmers meet as well as the arugula seeds. The planting took ten minutes. I watered the quarter of the one garden bed I had planted today and stood back and looked. It hardly looks like it was a two weekend job. It was more like a brown rectangle of dirt.
Now I am praying that no critters come and eat all that I have planted before I can have a chance at one meal from the garden. If I had those raised beds I at least could keep the bunnies out of the greens. Of course a raised bed is perfect eating height for deer, but then again I could put netting on top.  
I have to not be too precious about the garden and see it as more of an exercise program and less of a food production. If I were to depend on growing all the food I ate I would be very skinny. One from the huge energy output it takes to grow it and two from the small portions I would have. Actually three, from the fact that any produce I can grow is low in calories. I still haven’t found that Brie cheese plant.

Our House Played April’s Fools On Us

It started as a wonderful April Saturday, the first farmers market of the season. Russ and I visited our favorite farmers getting fresh eggs, cheese, kale, arugula and something I have never seen before Collardini, which are the flowers on the top of the collared greens. We also picked up two dozen seedlings of lettuce and thyme and other things that we can plant now without fear.  
After the farmers market it was off to Loaf so Russ could get his favorite polenta bread and they can slice it on the bread slicer. We stopped in Bulldega to get honey and sausage and then went for breakfast. After a bagel in the new shop next to Bulldega we made one last stop at Stone Brothers so I could buy two ounces of arugula seeds. At $2.50 an ounce everyone should grow arugula at home.
The sun was shining, the car smelled wonderful from the fresh bread and I was happy to get to spend a happy Durham Saturday with Russ. So happy that I decided to clean out the garage when I got home. I tidied the big work counter and rearranged the washer soaps.  
I found two suction cup hooks and thought it would be a good idea to hang up the reusable bags. They needed to be washed in order for the suction to work so I went in the bathroom by the garage. I was accosted with two inches of water. I thought my house was playing an April’s Fools joke on me. It was not a joke. After hours of soaking up the water and calling my trusty plumber I was told it was the sewage pipe was clogged and we needed Drain Express.

For about four hours we could not use any water or more exactly let any water go down a drain or toilet. It was a disgusting situation after I had removed the standing two inches of water. While we waited for the Drain fixer I went to the club and took a much needed shower. I was barely home ten minutes when the savior arrived to fix the sewer pipe. Bad new was there were some roots in it so we need the camera guy to come out and figure out what section of pipe needs to be replaced. The good news is he was able unclog what was wrong and get water flowing through our drain. So much for my beautiful Saturday.