My Sneakers are Getting Uglier

When I was a kid we went every September to the Wilton Bootery to get new sneakers for school. It wasn’t much of a choice, either kids or PF flyers on either red or blue. I always got blue kids. They went with all my clothes and felt just fine on my feet. They were simple and no thought went into them except for the size. I stood on the little metal foot measurer and the man at the store just went and got the size that my big toe indicated I need.
Times have changed. Carter and both needed new sneakers so we went to Ninth Street Active Feet. The walls are covered with bight, metallic, glow in the dark sneakers with soles thicker than my whole original Keds. You don’t pick tennis shoes out by color like I did as a kid. Instead you have to walk for the salesman and he has to evaluate your arch, and maybe even measure you on the exact same little metal plate they did at the Wilton Bootery in 1969.
“Overpronation, high arch, this is the shoe for you.” No choice of color, or brand. I try it on and he is right. It fits my foot perfectly. I can practically run in it. But I hate the dark grey and the metallic turquoise swoosh. “That is the color for the year.” Not that I like the old model, light grey with purple, but I had gotten used to it and the light Great made my big feet look. A little smaller. There steel grey 2017 model makes my feet look like aircraft carriers. 
It is just tough luck. There are no simple sneakers, just blue or red. I could have gotten my model in the old folk home white leather walking shoe, but that was just too heavy for working out. So here I am with a shoe that clashes with everything I own in terms of work out gear.  
I guess I am going to have to keep an eye out for a year that has color combinations I like and buy many pairs at once. So far that has not happened. It’s just going to be an ugly sneaker year.

My Last Food Bank Board Meeting

As I was driving home tonight my car made a dinging sound that meant I had a text message from Carter. The car read the message aloud, “I’m home. Call me if you want. I know it’s a sad day for you.” I had just left the Food Bank where I had my last board meeting. For as long as Carter can remember I have been volunteering at the Food Bank and through lots of loop holes had been on the board for thirteen years. My heart was sad about leaving, but was comforted that my child had such compassion for me.
At the end of the board meeting, which is a long and very important one as it is the end of our fiscal year, our board chair, Eddie Story did the presentations to thank the board members rolling off the board this year. There were only two of us, my friend Matt Martin and myself. Eddie, read long lists of our contributions and responsibilities and then we each were given beautiful glass bowl, something I am glad I suggested as a parting thank you years go.
After the presentations I asked if I could say a few words. I figured as a past chair and vocal member of the board I could stretch the meeting out one more minute. I chose to explain why I was so passionate out the mission of the Food Bank, something I was not sure I had told these people before.
“When I was in my early twenties I had a side business as a caterer in Washington DC. Sometimes I had so much leftover food from parties that I would end up throwing some of it away in my rolling trash cart in the alley behind my house. One morning I went out to put something in my cart and I was met by a man who looked a lot like me. He was about my age and was wearing a blue blazer and khaki pants. ‘You have the best garbage in DC,’ he told me.   
What do you say to that? Thank you seemed inappropriate. I told the man that if he wanted I could leave food in a box on top of my trash rather than in the bin. He said that would be great and he walked away with a handful of cold hors d’oeuvres. It was then I noticed his clothes were a little tattered and he could use a shower. He was the first homeless man I had met who could have gone to prep school.
After that I always left good food on top, rather than in my trash bin. The box was always gone. Although I never saw that man again once or twice I found a scrap of paper that just read ‘thank you.’ It was then that I thought there must be a better way.
A few years later I moved to Durham and my minster Hayward Holderness was the current chair of the Food Bank. He told me I need to volunteer and that is how I got here.”
As I was telling this part of the story I was overwhelmed and my eyes filled up of tears. I tried to go on without sobbing, but it took an extra minute to compose myself as I tried to tell my fellow board members and executive staff what I wanted to say in my final parting.
“This is why this work is so important. This is a great organization that does amazing work. It is so important for all you board members to show up, volunteer your time and make big decisions. The staff are the best and the Food Bank has come so far in the seventeen years I have been volunteering. Thank you for all you do.”
My time on the board may be over, but I am not leaving the Food Bank. I have projects to work on that will keep me busy for at least the next year. 
After most everyone else had said goodbye I walked out to the lobby alone to leave and turned and looked at the words of our mission “No one goes hungry in Central and Eastern North Carolina.” It made me happy to know that children don’t have to look through garbage cans to find food here, but then I wondered about that man in DC. I hope when I moved and he no longer had my boxes of food that he too found an organization like our Food Bank to help him. In this country of ours no one should have to eat from garbage cans.

The Cruelty of a Summer Cold

Today could not have been a more beautiful day. Low 80’s and no humidity, Carolina blue sky’s and no pollen in sight. With a day like today having a cold seems down right cruel. Some how in the dark fridge days of winter a cold seems in place. If the weather is miserable then it is no surprise you are too. So during these fleeting perfect days feeling bad is just mean.
The chapped lips and dry skin that I have in the winter are taking over my face. I am wondering if the cold medicine is drying out my skin better than drying out my sinuses. I have done everything possible to deny that I am sick. At first I blamed my sore throat on air conditioning. Then the stuffy nose and aches were harder to explain. No matter how old I get I will look for any reason for cold symptoms that are not cold related.
Today, after four days of fighting I finally admitted it is a cold and let myself take a nap. Not that it helped my cold, just passed the time. Carter has sweetly been offering care, but I can’t think of a thing I need except a good nights sleep.

My Machines are Making Me Crazy

I’m tired of being technology illiterate. No matter how much I learn about my machines and their programs/apps I will never be able to keep up. Recently my blog has been acting up. I write it, post it and it does not seem to automatically update on Facebook. I can sometimes do it manually, but sometimes it doesn’t work. I have no idea why something that has been working for six years suddenly stops when it has nothing physical to break.
Last week I bought an app on my iPad. I wanted to download the same app on to my phone, which should be free to do. For the life of me I can’t get it to work. I wrote the help desk and what they told me to do was written in a foreign technical language disguised as English. I asked Russ to help me. He is after all my IT department. Even with a masters in electrical engineering he could not make it work.
I feel like I am falling behind in understanding how to mange my technology. If there was a class in just my problems I would like to take it, but there is no such thing. When our friends then Lefflers lived here I could hire their then ten year old son to fix all apple products for some ridiculous tiny amount of money. Now I am looking for a young person, like maybe a nine year old, who can help me with my issues.  
I may be old, but I am not ancient. I figure I have mother thirty years of flight g further and further behind in being blue to make my own technology work. One of the beauties of having pole products is they were less technical than PC and more intuitive, but I think I have lost my intuition, with the hope of getting it back.


Some years ago, like thirteen or fourteen my friend Jane Phillips had a birthday party of a trolley tour of Downtown Durham. She had the head of Downtown Durham Inc. narrate the tour, highlighting all the goings on in the then, just up and coming downtown. Russ and I had been big fans of downtown long before this trip, with Russ putting his office in the then still considered sketchy center of town. Since we had both lived in cities for years we saw the bones of a thriving city.
During the tour our guide was touting the renovations of apartments for those brave urban dwellers. There were a few cool lofts and older buildings being repurposed into homes. Downtown also had the starts of what would come to be known as the hottest chef/owners restaurants in the country.
As the trolley took us from place to place I was able to ask a question of the verbose proponent of downtown living. “Where are the grocery stores?” I asked. The response was quick, “outside of downtown.” How do these city dwellers get there,” I asked in my reporter style follow-up question. “They get in their car and drive there,” I was told in a sit-down-kid-and-shut-up-you’re-bothering-me sort of way. Not one to be told what to do I pressed on, “People who live in cities walk to buy their food. If they even have a car, they don’t want to lose their parking space.” I was quickly told there were no plans for a grocery store of any kind. Short sighted considering the huge number of apartments they were building.
Here we are all these later and finally a fabulous little store called Bulldega has opened across the street from the city hall. Even though we have to drive to get to it, from the suburbs we live in, Russ and I try to support it because it is what downtown needs. It isn’t hard to like this store, with Fiirst Hand meats, local produce and Box Car cheeses. The best thing they have are their house brands of honey and the southern darling, pickled watermelon rind. The most amazing thing is they are very inexpensive.  
So next time you go to the farmers market, or after you have lunch at Pompeii Pizza around the corner, stop in to Bulldega. It is family owned and run and the money you spend there will stay in Durham. It may make you consider living downtown.

Tackling The Real Clean Out

I woke up with a summer cold. Not terrible, but sore throat and stuffy head. I decided it would be best for me to stay home and not subject my sick self to anyone. I took some Aleve-D cold medicine and it made me feel not only much less sick, but totally took away any appetite and gave me great productive energy.
With this big block of time on my hands and some crazy drug induced kind of adrenaline I decided it was the perfect day to start my summer project of a total clean out of my office. First thing you should know about my office is I have been using it for 23 years. When we first moved in it was my consulting office when I was not out of the country at a client’s site. Once I retired from real work it became my arts and crafts center, while still being the center of the family paperwork storage.  
Many things have gone in this room over the years, hundreds of cookbooks, all of Carter’s letters from camp, scrapbooks, stationary for every occasion, and every box that an Apple product came in. Many things came in office and very little ever left. Once in a while I would move an entire category of items out of the office, like every issue of Durham Magazine since the second issue when I started writing for them. As the stack grew too big I found space in the furnace room to inventory them. Why save them? I do not know. I doubt Carter is going to go back and read an article I wrote about where to get things fixed.
I knew that the job of total overhaul is a multi-week job. Today I started with the first layer – the most recent mail, some of the piles on my desk and the year of financial statements that needed to be filed. Once that was done I stepped into some of the cookbook overflow. I pulled a bunch of books I have not looked at or might never have used from the shelf and am planning on giving them to the DA used book sale. Then I found the stash of old iPhone, iPad and Mac computer boxes. I am not sure why I was saving them, but I did find a perfectly good iPhone 4s in one of the boxes. My recycling is getting full now that I have seen fit to part with cardboard.
I found a lovely cloth bag full of papers that I think came from my bedroom many years ago and got squirreled away in my office and never dealt with. It had a sixth grade report card for Carter, a DA directory from third grade, a book of Poetry written by Carter in fifth grade and a couple of sweet notes from Carter with dubious spelling that belied the straight A’s on the report card. Finding that treasure made going through all the boxes and books worth while.
I can only imagine what treasures I will find in files that have been untouched for fifteen years. Probably mostly owners manuals for items long since discarded and statements for airline rewards programs for companies that have gone out of business. Perhaps I will have to stay on this Aleve-D past the period of my cold to have the energy to finish this job.

Mexican Street Corn

We had some friends for dinner tonight. I had no menu planned at all and just went to the farmers market with Russ this morning. I decided to be inspired by what was available at the market. I got bison steaks which were quite good. Tomatoes which I served with basil from my garden and Burrata, fresh okra, cherry lemon almond bread and the best corn on the cob.
Since it was a very simple supper I thought I should juze up the corn. I remembered some corn we had in Mexico and thought I would make a version of street corn. It was incredibly messy to eat, but I could have made a meal of nothing but the corn I loved it so much.
Mexican Street Corn
Sauce- enough for 12 ears of corn
2/3 c. Mayo

2 oz. of feta cheese chopped up smaller than pea size

1/2 c. Grated Parmesan cheese

1 t. Chili powder

1/2 t. Smoked Paprika

Dash of cayenne pepper

1 t. Black pepper

2 T. Lime juice
Mix all ingredients together and let the flavors marry together in the refrigerator for t least an hour.
Husk corn and grill on medium high grill, turning the corn every three minutes until the kernels start to get black all over. Put the hot corn in a backing pan with a couple of tablespoons of water and cover tightly with foil. This will keep the corn hot for half an hour. You can do this in advance and reheat the corn in the oven on 350° for 15-20 minutes.
Slather the sauce on the hot corn and serve.

You might need two ears per person, it’s that good.
This is not my picture of my corn.  I forgot to take a picture and we ate it all, but this is what it looks like.

Tips for Parents of Young Ones

I was in a store today with lots of precious merchandise. A mother with too many children to watch came in and one young man proceeded to run his hands across all the colorful, clean, items hanging on the wall that could be damaged by dirty hands. The proprietor was involved helping the mother so I gently asked the young boy not to touch the things hanging on the wall. He didn’t rebel, but was unhappy. There is a reason I have one child. Stores are not playgrounds.
After he left the other mothers in the store shared tips about what we used to do to keep our children well behaved in public. We discussed the “one finger” rule – where things could only be touched with one finger. The use of one finger greatly decreases the chances of destroying something.
I related a great trick I was told this week by a shop keeper in Washington, who I happen to be having a discussion with about misbehaving children. He told me of some friends who were taking their two young boys on an overseas flight. The mother boarded the plane and before take off secretly gave two wrapped boxes to the flight attendant and asked her if she could give the presents to her children upon deplaning.  
Then the mother and father told the children that there was a contest on the plane with a prize for the best behaved children. “See that eye right up here?” the father said pointing to the light on the overhead panel. “That is a camera and the captain is watching all the children all over the plane. He decides who is going to win the prize.”
The children bought it, hook, link and sinker. As a boy across the row acted up, they knew they were well on their way to winning the contest. After eight hours on the overnight plane the boys, who had been practically angelic were each handed the wrapped boxes as they deplaned. “We won the contest!” they proudly announced.
It was no lie. But prizes should have been given to their parents for coming up with such a creative way to get the behaviors they wanted. Children do not naturally know how they should act. They must be taught.  
The little boy in the store today couldn’t help but be drawn to all the beautiful silky colors at his eye level. It is a parent’s responsibility to ensure children understand what their place is and how they are to act. There is no shame in bribery or giving incentives to ensure compliance. Eventually they will learn and be welcome members of society.

Picture Perfect

One of the joys of traveling with Carter and Ashley is that they are incredibly opposite in so many of their likes yet are so agreeable about doing what the other wants to do. Ashley likes art and Carter likes history. Ashley likes golf and Carter likes basketball. But when it comes to food there is one thing they agree on, both like to photograph their plate before attacking it.
The cell phone camera has revolutionized the way young people look at food. First, they “look” at it. Then they document it, then they taste it. Then they post it. I am not sure they ever look at it again, or bother to notate their photos to describe in words what was good about it, or how to make it or rate it on satisfaction.  
This was at a French Bistro for breakfast. Ashley got a savory waffle with house smoked salmon, herbed cream cheese and avocado. She declared it to be “the most perfect thing” she has ever eaten. I offered to teacher how to make a savory waffle, but that seemed unnecessary. She has eaten it once and now has a picture, what else would you need?
I feel for chefs these days. Making a dish look picture perfect every time is a lot of pressure to put on top of making it taste great, be the right temperature and be profitable. As a caterer I was all about the taste and less about the look. I know the phrase, “We eat with our eyes first,” but I am perfectly happy to have an all yellow dinner of chicken, corn pudding and squash and onions. It is ugly as can be, but boy is it good. Granted a little tomato and basil with a dribble of balsamic glaze would make the plate prettier, but that may not be what I have in the leftover offering.
I am just happy that Carter does not take pictures of the dinners I serve and post those. I would lose all credibility as a foodie. I am happy to pile my dinner in coffee mug and eat a little meat, veg and rice all together. Please no photos.

The Joy of Laid Back Travel

This last minute trip with Ashley and Carter did not have a lot of “must do’s” to it. The only thing Carter wanted to come do was go to the Holocaust Museum and we did that yesterday. Since yesterday was a very early morning/full day I told the girls to sleep in this morning. I did not mind following my own advice. Russ was with us last night and had a 6:30 flight this morning. Bless his soul he got up and silently showered and left the apartment and I hardly knew he was gone.  
By 11:15 the sweet girls were up and we snuggled in bed deciding what our plan for the day would be. Our only engagement was dinner at 7:00 with Carter’s godfather David. We were free to do anything we wanted. The first order of business was lunch, since we had missed breakfast. We went to the neighborhood hot spot, 2 Amy’s and had a lovely lunch. It was perfect to go for an early Wednesday lunch because we did not have the normal nighttime forever wait.
From lunch we went by my old house in Mt. Pleasant on our way to the to the National Portrait Gallery. We got out of the car and looked at the front and then drove around to the back alley and looked through the slats in the back gate to see the garden. Carter could not get over that this was the house I bought when I was 26. It looks so much the same, except that the color had been updated.

From my old life to the historical one we went to the museum where we studied many of the famous paintings. Ashley, not normally a history lover particularly liked the tidbits of history I would throw at the girls about the famous people’s images on the walls. Not only was the art fantastic, but the building itself is an amazing work of art, especially the courtyard roof.
We needed a drink and a chance to sit awhile after the museum and since this is “vacation” we did just that without guilt. This girls wanted to do a little shopping in Georgetown and I told them I wanted to go buy some stationary and I was happy to drop them off so they could go and do their own thing. “What? We want to shop for stationary too!” So instead, the three of us went to pick out stationary at a shop where the girls got quite an education about paper stock, printing types, ink colors, the difference between edging and boarders and why I am not buying Carter engraved stationary at age 18.
After we went back to the apartment to rest and clean up for dinner. Along the way we discussed the qualities of a good thank you note and the correct occasions that required one.  
The girls “grown up” education continued at dinner with David. As the President of a PR firm he had lots of good advice about what makes an new young employee successful. I was so happy that the girls were interested in learning these lessons well before they are in the first job situation. Practicing the good listening skills is something that they can utilize now in college in anticipation of that first job.
Finally home for bed. It was a great day, packed with all fun but little agenda. This is a good way to travel.  

Last Minute Girls Trip

When Carter was having a moment of missing me while at Bonnaroo she called me and said, “Let’s go to Washington for a couple of days when I get home.” When your about to go to college daughter wants to go on a trip with you there is only one answer. We de odes this was a good trip to bring my bonus daughter, Ashley on with us so we jumped in the car this morning and tooled up to D.C.
Carter wanted to visit the Holocaust Museum in preparation for her Holocaust class she will be taking in Berlin. It was a good idea I should have planned for two weeks ago. The museum is free, but you must have a ticket. Since it is a popular spot no advance tickets were left. They have a small number of same day tickets if you get on their website at six AM, so I set my alarm last night for 5:55. I hardly slept more than an hour at a time since I kept waking up in fear of missing the chance to get tickets. I should have assigned this job to Carter.

Thankfully I had my choice of times when I logged in at that ungodly hour.
Carter, Ashley and I had somber visit at the museum despite the crowds. Carter shed more than a few tears, especially at the piles of shoes. There were a few too many similarities of calls for nationalism with the rhetoric of today for my taste. We need to stand strong that America is made up of people of many nations no religions.
After the museum we went back to my sister Margaret’s apartment at the Westchester to chill and change. It was so nice of her to let us stay while she is in London. After we were off to pick up Russ to go to the Watergate for dinner with my sista J and Sophie. Drinks on the roof were only marred by the wind and a low hovering helicopter looking for something. Then dinner and lots of good life lessons talk from Janet for the recent graduates. It was a fun, if exhausting day. Time with my girls is to be taken advantage of.

I Need the Anti-Political Diet

I am not one to blame anyone else for my own actions. I am an adult, an old adult. I know that I am responsible for what happens to me. All that being said I realized in the last few days that I am affected by what is in the air. Over the last year my eating has been bad. I know it. I know everyday that I have been gaining weight. Now, I am an expert on both losing and gaining weight. I know what to do to get pounds off and I know when I am eating something that will certainly put pounds on.
Despite knowing all that I know I have been terrible with my eating. I decided to look closer at what is causing this. As I looked back at my photos and blogs to pinpoint when things changed I realized that last year’s election was taking a toll on me. The fighting, the vitriol, the lack of civility. I was eating my displeasure.
The problem is the election was just the beginning. The new POTUS is not to blame for my sugar in take, but I can certainly tie his inauguration with a great increase in carbs. I realized today I need to do everything possible to separate my eating from my feelings about politics. This does not mean I no longer pay attention or care about what is in the news, just that I need to not eat my feelings. I can’t let my body emulate that of the POTUS, even though when we had a thinner one, I was too.  
I understand from my therapist friends that many people are seeking psychological help due to political stress. I don’t know how to overcome this, but I do think that just recognizing it is the first step to over coming it. I can’t do anyone about the way the POTUS acts, but I can stop and say I am not going to let him make me fat.

Happy Father’s Day 

Yesterday I said Happy father’s day to my Dad, but today I want to celebrate the father I live with day in and day out, Carter’s father Russ. When I was a kid I thought my father was the best father. He was young and fun and a big presence in any room. Now I know there are many best fathers because Russ is best in a totally different way. He is quiet, strong, supportive, and brilliant.  
Russ is not the father who tells you what to do, but instead asks you enough questions that you figure out a good path on your own. He has big wishes, but is flexible enough to recognize that when a child has found a different path.
Russ shares his curiosity with Carter and together they revel in discovery of new things in the world. They both love travel, unusual food and the quirkiness of the Big Bang Theory, the TV show, not the explosion. He is the most generous human. Always giving of himself and encouraging generosity.
I know Russ is the best because Shay loves him more than any other human and dogs have a sense about who is the nicest person in the room. Russ will not have any empty nest syndrome when Carter goes to Berlin because Shay will always be his baby.
I consider myself incredibly lucky that Russ chose me and I got a fabulous father for the child that we have in the deal. When you pick a spouse who does not have children you have no idea how they are going to be as a father. In y case I got lucky. Happy Father’s Day Russ Lange. You are the best.  I love you.

It’s Already Father’s Day in London

It’s tomorrow in London and since tomorrow is Father’s Day I would like to take this time to wish my father a happy day. Not that I think he has any electronic way to read this blog tomorrow. For my Dad, going to London is about going back in time. Time for him is best spent at his “Local,” that means the pub in his neighborhood. Does not matter if it is just his neighborhood temporarily. He quickly assimilates.
London is the place both my parents can agree on, is their favorite place, but for very different reasons. For my mother it is museums and the theatre. For my dad is lager and Indian food. Our family has spent many happy years living in London, first in the late seventies and early eighties and then again during the middle nineties. When my parents were not living there they were visiting, not just London, but their beloved Cotswolds.
One of my favorite stories was a late afternoon Saturday jaunt to Upper Slaughter, or maybe it was Lower Slaughter. My father was driving the family Volvo Station Wagon through the Cotswolds admiring the beautiful villages. My sisters were in the way back of the car, sightseeing against their will. (They would have preferred to be home in St. John’s Wood watching Dallas on TV. It was 1980 after all.) Also in the car was a work friend of my father’s, Kevin Mc Donald, a New Yorker with the best sense of humor. Seeing no people on the streets Kevin asks, “Where are all the cocktail parties?”
Of course it was in jest, but the idea that it was Saturday, they must be going to a cocktail party was perfect for anyone who hung around with my Dad. So I hope tonight, in London my Dad has had the perfect cocktail and enjoyed his beloved London, or perhaps Broadway I. The Cotswolds.
This photo is one taken of my sister Janet and my father on a trip we took to New Orleans. I don’t seem to have many photos of him drinking in pubs. But it hardly matters where he is, he is happy to make it his “local.”


When Russ asked me why I was doing today and I said I was going to the Women of Achievement luncheon his response was Whoa. I thought he was saying Whoa as an exclamation, but in his quick minded way he actually just was saying the acronym WOA out loud. Then he asked what the group was. I explained that it was the fifth issue for Durham 

and Chapel Hill Magazines’ Women of Achievement issues and I was going as a past awardee. It always felt a little weird to be included as an honoree, but it was for the Food Bank and not my magazine work.
I was invited to bring a guest. I wanted Carter to go, but as a busy woman herself she had the honor of going to NC State to coach her DA Girls Basketball team in a two game tournament since her coach Krista had a baby two days ago. Since I was going with my Food Bank hat on I invited my friend Amy Beros, who is the VP of Development to go with me.  
We met up at the Carolina Inn where the luncheon was being held. There were lots of interesting women there from the last five years. Amy and I sat with my friend Treat Harvey and her guest Mimi O’Brien. The fun thing about this gathering is there was never a moment when I was not having an exciting conversation.  

In a moment of levity from “improving our community” conversations Mimi told us about her conservative relatives who had a daughter who, heaven forbid, lived with her boy friend before marriage. Her relatives way to convey their displeasure with their daughter’s situation was to tell her she was not being put on speed dial on their phone as long as she was living in sin. I’m not sure that the punishment they caused themselves by having to dial ten digits rather than one had any effect on their daughter, but I loved the story.
One thing the Women of Achievement had in common is they all were good communicators. To me the best communications include humor! I think Russ was on to something. Whoa, that was funny!

Giving Up On My Vegetable Garden Already

Every year I plant some kind of vegetable garden. I have never had much luck with tomatoes. The plants grow to be fairly large and then wither and die before they produce much fruit. Despite sending soil to NC State for testing and trying every possible variety of plant I just have something in my soil, air or water that make them fail.
This year I tried yet again. Since I had to replace my sewer line, I was thinking that perhaps the old iron line had been leaching something, don’t ask what, that might change now that it was out of use. I had a bunch of small green grape tomatoes that I was keeping my eye on last month. Then one day the fruit was gone along with all the tender new growth of the plant.
I had five beautiful pepper plants. I was looking forward to both red and green, hot and sweet peppers. Then the leaves on two plants were stripped one night. Then a week later another plant gone. Then the last two.
I had eight lovely okra plants. They were flourishing. Growing strong. Then they were murdered. The butternut squash plants, same fate. Cucumbers, and cantaloupe. Only my big squash, yellow and zucchini were still there. Today I noticed that some of their tender leaves had been munched. Along with the leaves on my fig tree.
I have tried multiple deer off products. Nothing worked. The heart break of feeding these thieves has me giving up on my vegetable garden this year. Fighting this gang is breaking my heart. I am not going to spend another cent watering or time weeding. Instead I am going to research my fence options and start at the end of the summer creating some kind of prison garden for next year. I have learned my lesson. Wildlife wins.

Tuition Paid

Times are different for college students than when I was a student. Back then your parents were mailed a bill. If you were lucky they paid it, or they got loans for you. Yes, some kids worked their butts off to get scholarships, but for the most part the whole financial situation was a transaction where parents did the bulk of the work. I remember once in a while a student showing up at registration for classes and embarrassingly being told they could not register because their tuition had not been paid. It always seemed like a surprise to them since the bill went home to their parents and they had no idea if it had been lost in the mail, or there were real financial issues.
The main difference today is that the bill is not automatically sent to parents. It is not sent at all, except via email, to the student. Carter had to give the school permission to allow me to even view her bill, let alone pay it. It took us a couple days to work out the correct transaction, but I am finally officially allowed to pay.
I am not a last minute bill payer. I worry that I will forget and then be late and I am allergic to late fees. I certainly don’t want Carter to face the embarrassment of the equivalent of being pulled out of registration line.  
So we sat on the sofa together looking at the bill paying system. Carter is interested in learning all the grown up stuff like what a bank routing number is so we did this together. She got to see the giant ass number of one semester and thanked me out loud, which was much more appreciative than I ever was. Sorry Mom and Dad.
After clicking on the tuition number we went to pay and got a screen that asked us if we wanted to “continue shopping”. We both got a big kick out of that. What could we shop for? A really nice roommate, no eight in the morning classes? Luckily Carter felt like that one number was big enough so we checked out with one item in our cart. First semester freshman year paid! Just seven more semesters to go.

Valuable Documents

Sunday night I was awoken from my slumber in my hotel room in California by my phone’s angry ring. It was Carter sobbing. Oh God, what has happened? It is midnight in Tennessee where she is calling me from her tent at Bonnaroo. “My Wallet is missing!” I made out between gulps.  


Thank god, just her tiny card wallet with her license, insurance card and debit card were lifted off her. “I tore the tent apart looking for it and it is nowhere. I never lose anything, (Sob, gulp, sob.) I misssss You. What is going to happen?”


I calmed her down. Told her this is not the end of the world. I was just thankful that this is what she was calling me about. I got on the phone with Morgan Stanley who issued her card and froze it with no problem. I called Carter back to tell her it was all going to be fine.


Today we went to the DMV to replace her license. It could have been a scene out of a Road Runner cartoon. We arrived with her passport and social security card as ID.


When it was Carter’s turn at the check in window she told the lady that she needed to replace her stolen license. The DMV woman gave her a ticket with a number to be helped and only then had a conversation with her. This is how the conversation went.


DMV Lady: “You need two more forms of id with your address on it.”


Carter: “Like what?”


DMV Lady: “Your drivers License and a lease with your name on it.”


Carter: “My license is gone and I don’t have a lease.”


DMV Lady: “A mortgage statement or a letter from a homeless shelter?”


This is where I step in.


Dana: “She is 18.”


DMV Lady: “Isn’t her name on the mortgage?”


Am I crazy? Do other people have their children’s name on loan docs?  


Dana: “We own our house.”  


DMV Lady: “Don’t you have a mortgage?”


Skipping ahead in the conversation because it was a long explanation that you can own a house without a mortgage and that does not mean you are homeless.


DMV Lady: “She needs something official with her name on it and her address, like a piece of mail. You will probably have to come back tomorrow.”


A piece of mail!!! Why didn’t she say that before a mortgage statement? We were going to try our best to use the number we had already been given. We dashed out of the DMV, rushed home and searched for “official documents.” I opened a file drawer and pulled a big unopened FedEx envelope out. Inside was another unopened envelope with big red letters, “Valuable Documents.” This was the cartoon portion, as Carter looked at me and said, “What is this?” I think you have a W-2 in this envelope of tax documents. In less than a blink of an eye I had found it.  


I turned next to the big pile of unopened mail that from last week that was yet to be sorted. Ta-Da, an envelope from Sallie Mae offering Carter a loan. Wow, that woman was right, Carter could have a loan, just not for a house.


We rushed back to the DMV and they still were six numbers away from calling her. She got a new license that is good for the next 8 years and registered to vote all at the same time. Lesson learned, you don’t need to put your child’s name on your mortgage to have an official document, but you do need to save a piece of junk mail that come addressed to them and always keep it in an envelope stamped, “Valuable Documents.’  



Home From LA

Despite such a fun four days in LA I am more than thrilled to be home with Russ and Shay. I beat Carter and her friends home from Bonnaroo so I am still somewhat unsettled until I get my arms around my girl. I think it has been a very long six days at the music festival for her so she is looking forward to a shower, air conditioning and clean everything.
It was so worth my going cross country to see such wonderful friends, but it was not without pain. The pain comes in the form of all things transportation. I rented a car, which I am thankful, since I could have spent thousands of Uber dollars getting where I needed to be. The renting of the car was the least expensive part of having it, the parking of the car was outrageous.  
I had valet only parking at the hotel, which meant that not only was I charged for the parking, but the tipping every time I needed the car kept me constantly searching for small bills. Only strippers could ever have enough ones to satisfy all the LA valets.
The traffic! Even on twelve lane highways it was constantly bad. It never mattered where I was going I had to plan on an hour. First to get my car, second to get close to where I was going and third to park my car. On Saturday I went to a fabulous needlepoint store in Santa Monica and even there I had valet parking and had to get my ticket validated.
Validation is often a misnomer. At brunch on Sunday I had my parking validated and I still had to pay fourteen dollars and tip. Lord, imagine how much it would have been without validation. It was just brunch, not the academy awards.
Despite the constant flow of traffic, everywhere always, finding a gas station was not so easy. On my ride up the Pacific coast highway I drove six miles before I saw a gas station. May not sound that far, but I could have bought a Range Rover, shopped at a Ralph’s, Von’s or one of three Trader Joe’s along the way and had my choice of fish tacos every fifty yards yet no gas stations. Speaking of Range Rovers, I can scientifically say that there are more of them in LA than there are in the whole of the U.K. At any given moment on any road I was on I was never more than three cars from a Range Rover. 
This morning when I dropped my rental car off at Hertz and got on the bus to the terminal I was happy to not be driving. That was until my middle aged African American bus driver spent the whole trip telling me what a good job her President was doing for the country. I had to hold back when she told me she could not afford to move back east where she had come from the year before. What that President is doing for her that made things so great I could not tell. I was wishing for my rental car and the chance to over pay a valet to take it off my hands so I could drive myself up to the terminal.

Once Friends Always Friends

My weekend in LA has been filled with great reconnection with old friends. And if there is one thing I know, if I loved you once I still love you, no matter how many years have passed between visits.
The excuse for my trip was Shireen’s going away party, but I was thrilled to be able to spend big chunks of time with two of my sorority sisters, Rena Ronson and Laura Scherck Wittcoff. Rena and I lived on our freshman floor together. It was a great floor and nine of us all joined PI Phi together. We were an overwhelming force of friends who remained close. Yesterday, we met for lunch and held our table for four hours catching up on the thirty plus years we have not seen each other.  
It was as if we had not been apart even a week. Rena has a daughter going off to college in the fall so our heads are very much in the same space as far as kids go. It was almost cruel that I had to part from her to go to my party for Shireen. We knew we could not go mother thirty years without seeing each other, hell we might not even be around in thirty years. So we made plans to see each other in NYC in a month!
Today, was my day to see my sorority twin sister Laura. She was a year ahead of me in school, but we shred the same big sister, thus making us twins. We have seen each other through the years. I was a bridesmaid in her first wedding and since she lived in Boston for many years I would get to see her when I went north. But we had gone far too long between visits. One reason is she moved to LA and married a wonderful guy, but I had never met him.
Laura and I had a four hour brunch and at the end I got to meet Mark. I give him my stamp of approval that he is good enough to take care and worship Laura as she deserves.
It was almost cruel that we only had those few hours. I could talk with Laura for months without stopping. This weekend reinforces that if I ever was friends with someone, no matter how long ago or for how short a period of time I will always be friends with you. There is no growing apart. It is just picking up right where we left off.  

Shireen is Only Moving Half Way Around the World for Love

Last year about this time I was in Spain with Russ and Carter. My friend Shireen was on her around the world alone tour, which meant she was practically never alone. She came to Seville and met up with us for a couple of days. During our wonderful time together we got to talking about how she was still single. Shireen had not been without plenty of suitors, being the gorgeous, fun person she is, but she just had not found the one. So she thought. I asked her the obvious question, “Who was the one who got away?” Turned out to be Nick from Australia, who she reconnected with at the end of her year long tour.
So after going all over the world she returned to her home in LA to pack her belongings, say good bye to her friends and family and move to Australia to live with her long lost, now refound love. Nick, being the good guy that he is, thought he should come to LA, meet her loved ones and get their blessings and bring her back himself.
This is how I came to spend the weekend in LA. Shireen’s sister Stacie and nephew Cooper hosted a big party as Shireen’s goodbye party. Many of the friends who traveled the world with Shireen appeared, as did people she worked with, family members from Seattle and Idaho, and LA friends. Nick took the overwhelming spotlight in stride. Shireen is special to so many people and we all wanted to be here to send her off in style. Moving to a small place outside Brisbane is going to be a big change from life in LA.
I had been hoping that we might have a surprise wedding at the party, but we are going to have to wait for a real wedding. As I talked with new friends who all had Shireen in common I realized that this was the first time I had ever spent any time with her in the US, since we traveled the world together for work or fun. I guess if she does get married in Australia it would be a great excuse and completely fitting to go there for a wedding, even if I am not invited.

Spanx Foreshadowing

With Carter off to Bonnaroo what should I do? Russ is busy working and Shay is happy idolize him so I did what all empty nest mothers are doing, I jumped on a plane to LA. Delta has this lovely direct flight from RDU that was only four and half hours long so it was easy, even if I was in the second to the last row in a seat dividing a Korean family. Mother and two kids on their first day of summer vacation, aisle, me, father and then an unaccompanied minor who needed a lot of help. The father was happy to be separate from the family so he could spend the whole flight trying to master a rubrics cube while his wife fought with their kids about doing their Kumon, even thought it was the first day of summer vacation. The father had a rubrics cube cheat website up and still was unable to get all the colors on each side. I guess that is why the mother thought it was important for the kids to master math.
We landed at LAX and after all thirty other rows deplaned I was able to get off and the first thing I saw as I walked into the terminal was a Spanx store. I had never seen a Spanx store at any airport before. Underwear shopping is not usually what I think of doing at the airport. I also think of airport store as places for people departing not arriving since once you land you usually just try and get out as fast as possible.

It was morning in LA, but lunchtime to me. I got my rental car and drove to Manhattan beach, where I walked by the beach, shopped for a gift for the host of the party I am going to tonight and stopped for lunch at a place my friend Carl Johnson recommended on Facebook last week. It has the best name so it was easy for me to remember, Fishing With Dynamite.

I had a few shrimp and a yummy dish of cherries, burrata, peas and grilled bread. It quickly became apparent to me as I watched people at the restaurant and walking by on the street that the Spanx store was for visitors coming to LA. No one I saw needed Spanx as far as I could tell, unless they were all wearing extra, extra small Spanx on their tooth pick legs.

After lunch I wheeled my way to my hotel in Redondo Beach where I was met with an outdoor bathtub on my balcony. Since my room looks out on a Marina I was thinking that I would need a full body Spanx to wear while bathing since I could be arrested for disturbing the peace of I were to take a bath in daylight. Thankfully I also have a shower that is well hidden in my room. If only I had known I would have shopped at the airport.

A Murderer and A Thief at My Door

We live in what I consider to be a fairly safe neighborhood. I don’t need bars on my windows and doors. Nevertheless what I found this morning is evidence of great criminal activity right at my front door. As I was letting Shay out for her morning constitutional I noticed what had been a big and lush double begonia that was ripped from its pot with all the blooms and leaves missing. Then I turned to a planter on the front porch right by the front door and noticed an innocent sweet potato vine that had a majority of its leaves striped from their stems and stolen.  
This thief and murder had been so bold as to come up three steps and stand on my front porch to take those poor unsuspecting leaves from the bosom of their mother plant. The beautiful begonia lay on the brick walkway with small bits of adolescent roots clinging to the small bits of dirt. No being could survive this blatant attack while everyone was asleep inside.
My guilt of not waking to this senseless defilement right on my own front door overwhelmed me. How could this bold intruder or gang of thugs get away with this killing? This was not the first sign of marauders in my midst. The pepper plants and tomatoes in the garden had been suffering ongoing violations all spring, but they were beings that lived in the wilderness of our property not those in the urban dwelling of the front porch.  
Clues and evidence of the perpetrators were left on the scene. Foot prints were left and trust me the authorities are on the lookout for the guilty parties. They should be careful because some have been known to shoot first and ask questions later. As for now I want to warn my neighbor’s to guard your precious plants. They are not safe as long as this gang is left unchecked.

Bonnaroo Crew Departs

I didn’t sleep well last night. Actually once I got to sleep I slept fine thanks to an Aleve PM at two in the morning. I was up at 7:00 because Carter was getting up to say goodbye to Russ before he left for work. Normally with five hours sleep I am not really fully awake, but since Carter and her Roo Crew, Evan, Cait and Libby were departing for Chattanooga at nine my adrenaline was chugging through me.
Months ago when Carter came to me and asked if she could go with her friends to Bonnaroo, a big music festival, seven hours away I was slightly apprehensive. She excitedly showed me the website and I read every word. Four days of concerts, 130 musical acts, U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Weekend, Chance the Rapper, and most I had never heard of, but Carter swore were her favorites. Four days of festival, I could let her do that. Then she said it would be six days, Oh yeah it takes a day to drive there and back. Well, I am letting her go off to college in Berlin where she does not speak German, at least her grandmother is from Tennessee.
The Roo Crew met to plan everything out. I had the old Land Cruiser completely checked out with new tires, brakes and all things hoses. We borrowed a Yeti Cooler from the Harris family. This morning the crew arrived. Packed the car. They had rain gear, they had snack food, they had their festival bracelets. They had the directions on Waze.
I am waiting to hear if they got there. At 2:00 I called to check to see where they were. Had lunch in Asheville and were making their way across the smokies. At 6:30 I texted, “are you there yet?” “One more hour, but we went through a time change so we got an extra hour.” I am waiting to hear if they have checked in and found their “comfort tent” they are renting for the five nights they are there. I know that texting me is the last thing on their minds, but really I am still a mom.  

Carter’s Friends

The one thing as a parent you have no control over is who they are friends with. That is not all together true. When your kids are little you have total control. Play dates are a Mom’s call. When you don’t think much of a friend you just say, “sorry sweetheart, we are busy the day you want to have that kid over.” As your child ages it is harder to make excuses to keep your kid apart from someone. By the time they are thirteen or fourteen parents are completely out of the picture as to who your person is friends with.
I am so thankful that I actually adore Carter’s friends. I can’t think of a one I wish she would not hang out with. Of course most of her school friends I have known most of their lives. Camp friends are different. At camp Carter he made some of her very best friend and I hardly know them at all. One of her very best ones is her friend Jovi, who lives in Miami. I have spoken to him on face time when he and Carter have been talking, but not until this week had I ever actually met him. This is weird to me since he is such a good friend of Carter’s.
Jovi graduated from high school and the day after flew up to spend five days with us. It has been a huge pleasure to have him visiting. He is a kind and wonderful young man. One of the bonuses for me is to see how well she chooses friends that have nothing to do with me or with school. It gives me confidence in her future going out to the world where I will no longer have any influence or opinion.
To me my friends at college were college. I know that so much of the college experience is about who you are going through it with. I am happy to say that I still love and adore my college friends. We have not grown apart or had our friendships diminish with time and distance.
Although I know I am going to miss Carter’s high school friends when they are away, I am going to love getting to meet the new additional friends that are going to come into her life.  

The Annual Intern Dinner

Every year Russ’ company hires a group of summer college interns. We started having them come to our house for dinner during their orientation period at the Durham Office. This dinner has become ever more popular with the employees as well since they have learned what it is like to come eat dinner here.
Last night it dawned on me that I was having 20 people for dinner tonight and maybe I should start working on it. Since I was still tired from the big family reunion I could only bring myself to make chocolate mousse. When I say only, I am looking at it from the time it takes to make mousse, not how it tastes. Thank goodness I got that knocked out yesterday because I was slammed today making cheese puffs, brisket with onion gravy, salmon, corn pudding, tomato and goat cheese salad, arugula and rolls.
The new interns and team members showed up right on time. Carter and her friend Jovi joined us for dinner so they cold have a chance to talk to the four new interns who all just finished spending a year studying in Denmark and Hong Kong. Hearing about the places they all traveled to while studying abroad made me drool. Russ wondered out loud how he could get to go back to school and join the UNC Globe program.
After a nice time sitting around the table, learning about each new person, everyone got up and helped clean the dishes. What a nice group of young people. I am always happy to cook if someone else will do the dishes.

Happiness at Losing to My Daughter

At last my job as a parent is complete. It is no secret that I love to play games. My idea of the best day ever is an all day Mah Jongg marathon followed by an all night game of Catan. One of the saddest things in my life is that the two people I love the most in the world, my husband and my daughter do not like to play games.  
Carter’s great friend Jovi flew in from Miami for a few days visit. Jovi, a rising freshman at MIT, happens to enjoy games. He asked Carter if we could have a game night and since she is a good friend and host she agreed and invited me to play with them.
Jovi likes Catan too so we decided to teach Carter how to play. At first it was not exactly her cup of tea, but as the game went on and she was doing very well she got more into it. Jovi and I were neck in neck. Carter’s friend Libby arrived to act as our Vanna White and hold the game box top where we threw the dice. With each throw of the dice Carter collected more points. Jovi was one throw away from winning. Libby announced she was always on Carter’s team throughout the whole game. Then Carter threw the dice and made the winning play.
She beat both the brilliant Jovi and her seasoned game playing mother! It was a sweet victory and one that made me so happy. My daughter had fun playing a game and may play again another day. I told Jovi that he and I were playing the long game by having Carter beat us fair and square — This way the game may go on.

Great Portrait Drawing

My great grandfather, GRB Michie had been the president of the Bank of Charlottesville from 1913 to 1938. Some time during his reign the bank commissioned a portrait of him which hung in the bank. Eventually the bank was sold to Bank of America and they decided that after 100 years they no longer needed the very large oil painting. Through some personal connection my father was contacted about the portrait to see if the family would like it. Since GRB had six daughters there are many descendants today. Given some bad family history called “the great furniture wars” after the passing of GRB’s wife, my father wanted to make sure that deciding who got the portrait was done in the fairest possible way.
He devised a complicated set of rules to figure out who was even interested in getting the portrait. Once it was clear that there were as many as fifteen people who wanted it, my father went about planning a family reunion party at his house where the drawing would take place.
Cousins come from as far as Houston, Boston, New Hampshire and Charleston. The youngest cousin was nine months old, the oldest seventy-nine. It was an excellent gathering of thirty three Michie family members and their spouses.
After the drinks and hugs and conversations the official drawing began. I was the appointed videographer to document the entire drawing to prevent a recurrence of the “great furniture wars” to show those family members who could not be present what the outcome was.
Carter’s friend Jovi, who is visiting from Miami, was appointed the official name drawer because my father promised a person with had no interest in the painting would draw the winner. The names of the grand children of GRB were written a papers and put I individual envelopes. Every envelope was opened. The first one was the biggest loser, then the next, and so on until there were just two names still left in the drawing. One would win the copy of the portrait and the big winner would get the big painting.
It was down to Helen Lamberton, who was not present and to the offspring of Johnny Heyward, Mary and Haidee who were on the porch. Jovi read the second to last envelope, Helen. That meant that Haidee and Mary were the big winners. Cheers went up!
Mary stepped forward to stand beside her sister. “We talked about this before the drawing. We would like for Ed to keep the portrait as long as he is alive and after his passing Dana and I will fight it out.” It was a most touching moment. My father who usually never accepts a gift from anyone was almost speechless, but did not decline the lovely offer.
GBR Michie would be proud to know how these generations get along so well and love each other. After the drawing a fabulous dinner was served. The reunion was quite a big hit. It is not over yet, since we are gathering for breakfast in the morning.
Thanks to Mary and Haidee I think this is one of the most special nights in my father’s life. He has spent a year preparing for this event and had so much fun doing it. Now we need to stumble upon some long lost family heirloom so we can do it all again.

Imagine How Boring I am Becoming

I’m in my pre-empty nest period. Carter was away at camp doing staff training this week. Russ was home half the week and away half. I had not planned too many commitments so I could have a little time to recover from the craziness of May. It turns out it was a good thing because I needed up having a funeral and “somebody died” fried chicken to make. Suddenly my recuperation week was just a regular busy week.
The one goal I want to accomplish this summer is to reorganize everything in my house that needs it. At first glance one might think my house is organized. The public rooms of my house tend to be fairly clean all the time. If you open a drawer in my kitchen chances are it is not a terrible embarrassment. But this is is not the case everywhere. If I tackle one cabinet, one closet, one drawer a day I figure I could get through the whole house by the end of the summer.
I started this weekend when I cleaned out the “Tupperware” cabinet. Truth be told I don’t own any Tupperware. Just a miss mash of Rubbermaid, snap ware and various off brand plastic containers. I took everything out the cabinet and moved half of it out of the kitchen. What I kept was just the “best of.”
The next day was a cabinet that had canned goods and dish towels. Doesn’t everyone keep those two items together? I ordered a can dispensing rack and now have my cans neatly organized.
I eventually will get all the fun things, like the kitchen and my office done and will get to the real issue read, the garage, crawl space and attic. I think that all these funerals I have been going to are making me worried about what I am going to leave behind. It should not be up to my little family to have to go through thirty year old dark room equipment, but I am not looking forward to it either.  
At the rate I am working I am going to have to not schedule anything all summer so I can concentrate on making daily progress cleaning out. Once I get everything all organized I have no idea what I will do with my time, especially since I won’t have a child home, but it will be so much fun to walk around and open random drawers and cupboards and admire my handiwork.

I am becoming the most boring human on earth, but it is fun.


Proper to the End


As I sat alone on the hard wooden pew in the beautiful old episcopal church in the square of the capital I wondered how skinny people, with no back side padding, felt when they sat there. I was there for my friend Logan’s mother’s funeral. She had been a life long member of this church and I knew it was special to her. The last time I had sat there was at her husband’s funeral seven years before.
Waiting for the family to come in I let my mind wander. The organ played beautifully, the colorful stained glass windows gleamed, the air inside the thick stone walls was cool. Everything was just as Margaret would have liked it. But the pews, of well loved dark old wood with numbers on the ends were straight and hard. There would never be a thought to replace such fine antiques that served the congregation all these many years, but what about a cushion? 
Perhaps if I were thinner I wold not have such heft weighing down on my backside. On the other hand I have a personal built in cushion, so what of bony bums? I just got the feeling that church would be a lot more appealing to the average Joe if the seat were more comfortable. Maybe they were not interested in average Joe’s. Maybe sly congregants smuggle in small cushions to sit on.  
I did not have long to sit and ponder such things. The service was swift and with four favorite hymns to be sung, I was standing more than I was sitting. It was a service completely designed to the very last word by the dear sweet Margaret. I guess that she knew how hard the seats were and purposely did not allow a homily so that we did not have to endure one extra moment of discomfort. Funerals are for the living. I always like to hear personal stories about the beloved who is departed, but that was not to be today. There is no doubt that Margaret is resting in peace. Her going out was as proper as she was.