Seventh Grader Community Service 

One day last spring I happened to be walking through the campus of the middle school. Jon Meridith, the director, looked at me with wonder, since I have not had a child on that campus for four years and said, “Amazing, you are on my list to call today.”  
We talked about his plan about changing the seventh grade’s community service focus to hunger issues. I gave him some ideas and he asked if I could come and talk to the seventh grade for just less than an hour when school got back in session. Knowing I would have gotten Carter off to college by then I said yes.
Talking to seventh graders is not everyone’s idea of a fun time. They can be hard to engage and entertain. My role was to bring the hunger issue down to the Durham level. Hunger is a complicated issue, it mostly starts with poverty. I had to devise a talk that got the kids involved. I planned to invite at least a dozen kids up on stage with me and do it game show style.
My allotted time was today at 1:30 after lunch and recess, not the most energetic time of day. I started out by telling the kids the story of the man who used to eat from my garbage can in Washington, then moved into the game of them learning about the cost of living in Durham and how much money someone who earns a living age needed for food, housing, childcare, transportation, medical, taxes and other.  
When I asked questions many hands went up. When I needed volunteers to come up on the stage, more hands. The kids were polite, involved, insightful, and very engaged. After learning about how much it cost to live we talked about what happens if someone is sick, or looses a job, where in those buckets of money that were budgeted for housing and transportation and the like would the saving come? This is how we discussed that the food budget is one of the elastic buckets.
Once they saw how much it cost to live we played a second game to show them what the average wage in Durham was for different jobs. I saw the light go off in their eyes when they knew that it took a single parent of two children to earn over $59,000, but the average wage of a hair dresser was around $31,000 or someone in protective services was $32,000.
We talked about how hard it was to concentrate in school when they were hungry. They now understood that 65% kids in the school just down the street were on free or reduced price lunches.
They began to grasp the importance of the Food Bank so I spent a few minutes explaining exactly how it worked. They asked great questions. When I finished something happened that I never expected, they gave me a standing ovation.  
If you have a seventh grader at DA you should be proud. They could not have been a better audience. I hope they will have a good day tomorrow going to work at the Food Bank and then to the grocery store to try and buy food on a budget. I think they will go with a much better understanding of a very complicated issue.

Return of Dana’s Dinners

I took the summer off from “cooking for friends” because I was busy and people were away. Now that Carter is happily settled in Berlin, loving her people there and having to cook for herself I think it is time I get back to cooking for others.  
Russ and I have been eating whatever meals I can make up with the food in the house.  

The fridge is finally getting empty and that means I have room to make giant amounts of food for all you people who have kids at home, who you have to drive to sports, and watch their games and take them to piano and have no time to cook. Also for all my friends who have no one at home and just can’t bear the idea of cooking or even going to the grocery.
The other day I was at a meeting and some of my r gulag food friends asked me when I was going to start supplying them again. That was when other friends overheard and wanted to be added to the list. If you are local to me I am happy to add your name to the email list. 
Since it is a holiday weekend I won’t cook before that, but I will be making Green peppercorn chicken and zucchini rice casseroles available for Tuesday pick up. Those are two separate things, not all one casserole. All the details will go out in the regular email blast. Let me know if you want to be included if I know you. Sorry this is an offer only for friends.

The Purging at The Empty Nest

Yesterday, once I had a FaceTime conversation with Carter and saw her smiling face and new cool room in Berlin I began my purge to tidy up my life here. No, I did not go in her room and start cleaning, although it is on the long list of things for me to do. Instead I started canceling things I should have gotten rid of long ago.
I started by resigning from a club Russ and I have belonged to for multiple decades. I have been very dissatisfied with it for some time now and just decided I should stop giving them my money. Then I called the phone company and canceled two of our three land lines. Why we still had any land lines you might ask, but given our very poor cell reception in our neighborhood I thought we should keep one. We certainly do not need a dedicated fax line or Russ’ business line. He stopped working from home at least sixteen years ago.
With those lines I also called a very old long distance provider and canceled them. Do kids nowadays even know what long distance is? Yes, this was something I should have done many years go, but with direct debit as my pay source I just never looked at that bill.
Today I cut my housekeeper back to half the time. When Carter was at camp I had her skip some weeks and discovered that Russ and I are very clean by ourselves. I am fairly good at cleaning things up myself. She said that cleaning Carter’s space took most of her time and with her gone there was not as much to do.
Now I am looking at other things I can cancel, cut or do away with. I love the simplicity of less to care for, carry or pay. I mostly am looking forward to not being mad that my requests for healthy food options constantly get excuses from management. I am moving Mah Jongg to my house where I will be the chef. If I am unhappy with my lunch I only have myself to blame.
I can’t wait to see what bills come in this month to see if I can cancel them.

She’s There

At 1:27 AM Carter texted us that she had landed in Berlin. Russ woke up to the text and I joined him in texting a few minutes later. It was great relief and happiness that she had gotten there safely with her new classmates. After I knew that Carter was off to go to her new home on the University provided bus I went back to sleep.
I slept through the next text stream Carter sent me at 5:00 AM, and boy am I glad. I awoke at 6:30 and this is what I read. (Read AWARK as AWAKE)

The idea of Carter arriving anywhere without a bra was the scariest moment ever, but thankfully it was a short lived panic. She had insisted on packing herself did not actually get around to it until the night before she left.  
The funniest thing is on the way to the airport she was laughing about some kid on her program asking fellow students if they were bringing a tooth brush. Carter got a big laugh about that, but then discovered at the airport when she went to brush her teeth with her beloved electric tooth brush that she had her charger, but had left the tooth brush on her bathroom sink. I wonder what else she will discover missing. All I can say is thank god it is not her bras!  It may sound like a first world problem, but she is not in the third world right now, so a bra is needed.

The Great 18 Year Experiment

A child is born without instructions. You learn to recognize the difference between the “I’m hungry,” cry and the “I’m exhausted, and just can’t figure out how to sleep,” cry. You stay up nights rocking her. You don’t get mad when she throws up on her rug. You cry when that little hand grips your finger for the first time. You have no idea if you are doing anything right, but she wakes up every morning so you are thankful.
The hours between naps seem endless. You take her on a trip and realize hotels don’t have baby food. You just make due mashing up banana. Eventually she walks and your life changes. You spend your days making sure she does not fall down the stairs. You cry when she does.
You teach her to look people in the eye when she speaks to them. She can’t say “f’s” and instead says, “Mommy, you are so sunny.” You send her to nursery school and revel in her being better at cutting with scissors than anyone her age. You know it is because of the hours of arts and crafts you have done together, not some highly developed cutting gene.  
You watch her make friends and not need you as her best companion. Your life changes and you are relieved. You get some of your days back as she spends time at school. She learns to ride a two wheeler all by herself and you see the joyous look of what freedom looks like her eyes. You cry, because you know it is the beginning of her leaving you. She is only six.
You try and instill in her a curiosity, and love of learning. She discovers the bigger world through travel and begs you take her to many different places. You do. When she is thirteen and you have been together too much you tell her to go out and explore a city on her own. She does. She loves it.
She discovers her own passion and places that belong only to her, like camp and basketball. You let her decide how to spend her time. It is less and less with you. You are relieved that she survives adolescence and thankful for her ability to set her own direction.
You take her to look at colleges and watch as she works to go to the place she has her heart set on. The years of work pay off. You have no idea if all the things you have done to get this person from baby, to child to woman were the right things. You had no manual to tell you exactly what to do.
You take her to the airport to put her on a plane to go off and leave you for her first semester of college as far away as she can be. You cry because she is really leaving you. She walks through security and does not look back. As your heart is breaking you know this is the moment you spent the last 18 years working towards. You sob anyway.

Last Day

I have raised an independent daughter. So it is no surprise that I was not needed to help get her ready to leave in the morning. Is she packed? Not yet, but she will be. So I was blessed today with a visit from my boarding school friend Sally Peck who is North Carolina dropping her last son off for his Freshman year at Elon.
Sally and I have not seen each other for almost 20 years, we think. Of course we are both too old to remember when we saw each other last, but it had to have been at one Walker’s reunion. It makes no difference at all because we picked right up where we left off starting at high school graduation. 
There are no friends like those you live with at school, be it boarding school or college. As Sally and I reminisced about friends from our class we agreed that people don’t change. That can be a good or bad thing. The one thing you discover is that no one can be something they are not when you live together for at least a year.
Sally was and still is one of the sweetest people I ever knew. She always had a kind word for you and never said anything ugly about anyone. That is a rare quality, especially among adolescent girls. If I could have a do over it is a quality I would like to have developed.
I hope that Carter makes those kind of friends in college. She can’t help but get to know people well when there are only 60 of them living and learning in the same place for a semester. She certainly has had plenty of practice living with new people working at camp for the last few years.

After Sally left to go back to Elon, Russ Carter and I went downtown to Pizza Toro for our final goodbye dinner. She is ready to go, even if she isn’t packed. Russ and I joked that we were going to go over to the RV show after we drop her off at the airport. She said she would not be surprised if when she got home from Germany she found a note on our front door that said, “Good luck, we are out.” Russ followed it up with, “What door? We will have sold the house.”  We have to joke or I will cry.

With Her Blessing

This is not news, but I am a planner. Years ago when a Russ and I first bought this house and were childless we built an addition on to our house in the anticipation of having at least two kids. We added two bedrooms with a Jack and Jill bathroom under a big playroom. Before Carter Russ used those rooms as his “lair.” One was his office and he would sleep in the other bedroom when he had jet lag from coming or going to London or China.
My plans don’t always work out. We only got the one sweet Carter. From the time she was born until she was about 12 she slept in a room across the hall from our bedroom. Then one day it dawned on us that we would all be happier if she moved to the “lair” and Russ moved his office up to her bunny bedroom. This meant that Carter had a suite of two rooms and a bath. I told her that it was a nicer setup than anything she would ever have in college.
As the hour for her departure is practically upon us I have been thinking about all that space she is leaving. Now, I know she is not going forever, but those two weeks at Christmas and that one month in May when she might be here are not enough to warrant not using that space.
Yesterday I broached the subject with Carter. I want to use her office room as a sewing room. Amazingly she was very fine with this idea. “I think that is great,” she told me. Wow, that was easier than I thought. I promised not to touch her bedroom, but I did want to clean out her office room. She hardly ever used it and I don’t think she was really that attached to it.
I am not exactly looking forward to her leaving Sunday, but now I do have a fun big project to work on in reorganizing that room and making it a good place to quilt. This will also work out for Russ because he has a pile of clothes he has wanted me to fix and the likelihood of that happening is much greater if I have my sewing machine set up. I am not sure how far I can go as far as getting a thread rack or a hanging a quilt wall, time will only tell. 
At least I have Carter’s blessing so it won’t be some shock when she comes home at Christmas. I am not turning her suite a Mah Jongg parlor and tea house, which is still an idea. I draw the line at making it an AirBnB, but who knows, it does have its own entrance. If Russ did not have such a big office downtown he might have wanted it back, but he probably would prefer to have the sewing noise as far from our bedroom as possible.  

The Green Chair No More

Twenty three years ago last month Russ and I moved to our house in Durham. As is often the case with movers the truck bringing our stuff took a few days longer than promised. Why this happens I will never know, but it made me very nervous wondering if all our worldly possessions would ever show up.
To keep my mind from wandering to ugly places in our empty house Russ took me to Home Depot to purchase a few things we needed as new homeowners. I made two purchases on that day that I still have, one was a dhurrie rug that went into my office and the other is a wooden rocking chair for our front porch. The rocking chair was a very good idea on Russ’ part because we also got some green paint and I whiled away the time waiting for the moving van painting the chair. 
The rug is still in my office and the green chair has never left the front porch. Over the years I used the green chair as a place to leave packages for people, a rocker to feed my new baby in, as a place to sit when I watched Shay run around the front yard and as one of the only places I get good cell reception on all of my cell phones through the years. The paint held up fairly well considering the age, but of course it started to fade, flake and look just down right shabby without the chic.
In my dwindling time with Carter home I have left this week relatively empty of commitments so I was available to help her get ready. Of course she doesn’t need me to get ready and she also has wanted to go say good bye to friends who are still here. So I decided it was finally the day to redo the green chair. First thing I did was find Russ’ palm sander and sand off all the lose paint. I ended up with a distressed looking chair that looked nice, but Carter said I should go ahead and paint it.
Seemed like a good time for a new color so I spent the afternoon turning the green chair into the blue chair. It will have to spend the night in the garage to fully dry, but it is a start of the new era. Next time you have to come to my house and leave me a book, I will need to remember to say, “Please, leave it on the blue chair.” The “green chair” has been such a constant, but a new chapter is about to begin.

Farewell To The One Who Knew You First

Right from the start of Pre-k these two girls were friends of the highest order. Carter was the tallest in the class and Campbell was probably the most petite. Mutt and Jeff comes to mind. They never were the kind of girls who were rivals with their friends. They always knew that had each other’s back, even when they moved in different circles.  

They were friends in the beginning and are friends till the end. I never would have predicted that they would both go to college in the same state. I hardly could even fathom them going to college when they were in Pre-k, or kindergarten or fifth grade.

Tonight we had one last good bye dinner. As much for us mothers to get to same good bye as it was for Carter and Campbell. I hope that they will always have each other because there is nothing like that friend who knew you when to keep you honest and appreciate where you came from. Those friends who can commiserate with when your parents act crazy.  

Good luck to Campbell at Amherst. You will shine there as you always have. I hope that iMessage works well with Carter in Berlin. When you are unsure about your new place reach out to the one who has known you the longest.

Shoe Dilemma 

It is hard to think about packing for cold and rainy weather when your life has been norts, Chacos and t-shirts, but this is what Carter has been doing today. With very limited suitcase room what shoes to take, especially size 11’s, is a tricky equation to work out.  
Shoes to wear to class are not an issue since Carter will be having classes in the same building where she lives. I hope she doesn’t just roll out of bed and go to class in the same outfit she sleeps in. It is the shoes for out and about Berlin, and every other European spot she can get too that take thought.
Given her southern shoe wardrobe I suggested we buy a few new shoes for her semester abroad. I did not have to twist her arm and she was perfectly happy to go to DSW. (Frugality runs through the XY chromosome in my family.) At 95° today it was not exactly winter shoe shopping weather, bit there is no time to waste in case we had t order something.
The first choice of some black casual shoes, just slightly up from sneakers seemed like an easy thing to find. Not when you wear an 11. A very nice clerk offered to help and could only come up with a pair of sand colored grandmother shoes. Carter went off in another direction looking for some short boots.  
I roamed the aisles and found a pair of vans, exactly in Carter’s size that matched what she was looking for. Score one for Mom. Carter found a nice pair of brown boots perfect for fall into pre-snow winter. Yes, I told her to get those too.
Then for fun she tried on a pair of tall boots where the tall part was not stiff so they could fold into a small ball for packing. Well, she had to have those. Three perfect pairs. Exactly what she needed to be added to the warm furry snow boots we ordered earlier.
 I talked to her about replacing her Birkenstocks which I thought would be nice to wear around the dorm. “Mom, I am going to the land of Birkenstocks. I can buy them there.” Ta-da and done. Maybe some ballet flats, which she has in spades from the collection of shoes that lives in the hall outside her room.
There is nothing more important when traveling than having the right shoes. It is not about the look, but the walkability. I think Carter did well on both fronts. Now I am spraying them all twice with water proofing spray. Things only a mother thinks of.


There is no good explanation for my waking up at two in the morning and not being able to go back to sleep until 5:15, so I am blaming it on the eclipse. Seems like a fine theory since so many of my friends also appeared to be awake in the early morning hours today.
It would not have been so bad if I didn’t have to get up at 6:45 to go workout. Turns out my trainer, Inman, also had eclipse-a-somnia so she was up for my revised workout suggestion. The eclipse must have been have a bigger effect on many Durhamites because no one was at they gym and the usually full parking lot of the office building it is in was practically empty. Even Russ worked at home today so he could view the eclipse with both me and Carter.

Thank goodness I had ordered a set of thee glasses since we all were enthralled with the ever thinning sliver of sun.
My bonus daughter, Ashley and her Mom and sister Kaylee came over to view the phenomenon at our house. Since we wee in the 95% zone we had a good view of a tiny sliver of sun, but were amazed at how much light five percent of the sun still gives out.

At the start of the eclipse I took a picture of our front walkway. The shadow made of the crepe Myrtle was like it always is. As the sky darkened slightly as the eclipse went on the most interesting thing to me was how the shadow of the crepe Myrtle changed to have these little finger nail slivers of light. It was as if the shadow was reflecting the sun.
Everything went off just as the scientists predicted. My hope is that this will help the climate change disbelievers to consider that scientist know what they are talking about. Not that the idiot in charge will change, but maybe some of the other climate deniers will come around.  

I was happy we did not have cloud cover and got to enjoy the full effect. It is much better to have stayed home to see 95% than to have traveled somewhere and had clouds or rain.
Of course we are all addicted to eclipses now and are looking forward to the next one in seven years. I carefully stored the eclipse glasses in the front hall drawer. Let’s see if I can remember where they are in seven years.  I hope I don’t lose any sleep over that.

It’s the Final Countdown

My friends keep asking me if I am ready for Carter to go to college. My response has been, “I’m ready to have her home from working at camp first.” Finally tonight she pulled in the driveway after six. Her car was neatly packed with her summer stuff. As I helped her bring the crates and bags inside I was thinking how she is only going to be allowed about a quarter as much stuff for her four months in Berlin.
The real work of getting her ready to go begins tomorrow, but for tonight we just caught up on all the stories of the summer at her favorite place on earth, Camp Cheerio. The thought of having her leave so quickly is freaking me out a little bit. We went to have brunch today with our friends Mark and Kelly and their son Adam who just started UNC. I said something about seeing Carter a couple of weeks go and Russ reminded me that was just last week. It felt like it was ages ago. What in the hell is four months going to be like?
I guess the good news about going to Berlin is the actual packing won’t take that long. It is the deciding what few things to take, curating a wardrobe to take her from fall to winter. The worst part is the 50 pound suitcase limit.
Russ’ father sent me money to buy Carter flowers as a “farewell gift.” He sent me too much even though I told him I was going to get them at Trader Joe’s. So when Carter got home she got the sweet flowers and a twenty dollar bill from the change. It was a very thoughtful way for her Grandfather to send her off.  
I am trying to be available for Carter this whole week so I can savor these days. I know she is also going to see friends and try and catch up on her sleep. I do want her to be well rested when she goes off, but I wish we had more time.  

Unplanned Vegetarian Day

As is our Saturday custom Russ and I went downtown for the farmers Market first thing this morning. We found it to be more important than ever that we support downtown businesses since yesterday many were closed due to the rumored KKK rally. Thankfully no such rally materIalized, but the counter rally pulled itself together fast and large. Despite City hall’s notice that the KKK did not have a permit to gather, the county offices closed early, prompting other businesses to follow suit. I liken this “false” KKK rally to when kids at Junior high school used to pull the fire alarm to get out of taking a test. I wonder if a county worker just wanted to have a long weekend?
In spite of the large counter protest crowds the idea of any protest hurts businesses who just want to sell meals or clothes. So after picking up our vegetables and eggs at the market Russ and I went to Scratch for breakfast. I had the avocado toast which was topped with thinly sliced cucumbers and drizzled with buttermilk and a poached egg. It was divine.  

Russ went to see Tony his barber and I sat in a little French cafe chair at a table in the small park on Parish street needlepointing while I waited for him. There were lots of people out and about downtown and no sign of any neo-Nazis. Just the many colors that make up Durham all enjoying the day.
Last week my friend Cynthia brought me two kinds of goat cheese and figs from the Hillsborough Cheese Company owned by the West family. I decided that a toasted fit and goat cheese sandwich would make the perfect lunch. I was right. Cutting the small brown figs in half and placing then between the soft goat cheese spred on a slice of Loaf’s own polenta bread and topping the figs with a few slivers of the aged goat cheese made for a very tasty lunch.
At dinner I made an international mash-up. Brown field peas, roasted Brussels Sprouts with Chinese spicy bean sauce, sautéed baby eggplant with cherry tomatoes and roasted garlic and blacken pardon peppers. It sounds like the worst combination ever, but was really yummy mixed all together. It was only after dinner that I realized that dinner had been vegan.
Even though I loved my dinner, I don’t think I could give up cheese or eggs and eat vegan all the time, but it was a yummy day of food. I feel like if I could have both the KKK and the Counter protesters together at my table we could find some humanity and common ground. Maybe food is the way to bring people together. 


Tonight my friends who moved to Atlanta and stored some of their son’s college stuff in our garage are coming to pick it up. Tomorrow they move him into his dorm. We were happy to keep his boxes and shelf in our garage. It was just a bit and we had the room.
Russ’ cousins in Boston are doing the same thing for us. I drove Carter’s linens she will need in Boston there this summer. She won’t be in Boston until January, but since we are flying her to college it was to get some stuff there in advance. Of course the Cousins are having to store her stuff more than two months so I am eternally grateful for their generosity. 
I got to thinking about all the students who travel from all over the country to the towns where they go to college. Every summer when they go home they don’t necessarily need to take everything they own home. Sheets, towels, mini fridges they could go into storage, but how to find a place for it to stay?
What about an AirBNB type program just to store college kids belongings over the summer? If you live in a college town and have space in a basement, garage, storage shed or attic you could rent it out to store the books that kids are certainly not going to read over the summer. It is much easier than having real life guests in your house. Think of how convenient it would be for the parents of these student and you might make a few bucks. 

Light Shine

Dear precious Lord, please welcome your new young angel and keep her close. Enable her spirit to stay with and provide comfort to her family and friends who are missing her so much. Allow the love that they have had from and for her for these quick years to stay with them always and forever. Let your love shine down and keep out any darkness.

Move Confederate Monuments

Yesterday I shared something on Facebook about our North Carolina Governor calling for the moving of confederate monuments from state properties to art museums or historical sites. Seemed like a reasonable way to handle the problem of appearing to continue to support a war that has an ugly background, and quite frankly, was lost.
I opened a huge can of worms when someone I knew as a child, but have not seen in at least forty years, disagreed with my point of view. Everyone has a right to their own opinions and I defend people’s right to disagree. That is what America has been built on. I would find it to be a very boring place if we all agreed. What I do wish is that we could I listen to each other and consider when perhaps our point of view is not the important one.
The issue concerning confederate statues should seem like an easy one, but it isn’t. Removing statues does not change or excuse our history, but keeping them may keep wounds open that we should work to heal. As a white woman, I find a statue to honor men, who were willing to fight to keep slavery, offensive. I can only imagine how it makes people of color feel.
If you are someone who believes the statues should stay in place, ask yourself why. What about having that memorial in front of a courthouse are you proud of? The argument that it is part of history is a thin one. We can keep these statues in museums where they can be part of the bigger story, told more thoughtfully.  
At some point we can admit that the existence of confederate monuments in state public spaces are acting as a flash point. We need to find more ways to come together and find agreement than hold on to things which divide us. In the past I might have said, “I don’t have a dog in this fight,” but that is a total cop out. It is right for me to say, “It is time to remove these statues.” It is not political correctness, or something else that our president likes to use to rile up the far right, but just decency.
No person entering a courthouse should have to face a statue which is representing the oppressors of their ancestors. If you are in grave disagreement, why is that? I have heard that people don’t want their tax dollars spent to move them. It is a small price to pay in comparison to the cost of policing just one demonstration. If you believe in equality and the fair and decent treatment of all people then why not support the moving of the memorials? Consider what keeping up this fight might be saying about you, intended or not.  
No one believes they are a racist, but if you are not working toward equality for all you might just be one. It is not just neo-Nazis and white supremacists who are the problem. It is any person who does not speak out against them. Start to change the tone of the conversation by supporting moving confederate monuments. Once the symbols of hate are not front and center it can begin to move us forward.

I Miss The Center

I don’t know what happened to this country and how fast it went awry, but I desperately miss the center. Two years ago if a screen writer wrote a movie where a reality TV show c-list celebrity who had been sued thousands of times for not paying people he contracted to do work for him was going to be our President no movie studio on earth would buy that script.  
Then if you added that he was someone who appeared to defend Nazis and Russians the writer would be laughed out of Hollywood. The icing is he appears to be in a “who has the worst hairdo contest” with the supremacy leader of North Korea while playing with the nuclear codes and every movie executive on earth would say, “The Producers was already made. No one would buy this movie. It is too crazy, horrible and not even funny.”
How did we get here? Where are all the people who are not ALT anything? There has to be one politician, Republican or Democrat who can take this guy down and make America reasonable again.  
Years ago when the media really started to dig up dirt on politicians I said, “Anyone smart enough to be President doesn’t want to be President because you just get ripped through the coals.” Now we have gotten what we deserve, a crazy man. I am yet to understand how anyone can defend him. We have no hope of anyone great helping him because why go out on a limb to work for the good of the country when you have a boss who is so out of control that he defends white supremacists and Nazis by saying the “alt-left” is to blame. 
Please, everyone in the center, if we ban together and form a new party, the Common Sense party and stop fighting about fringe issues we might have a chance. I don’t want the Alt anything.

Thomcord Grape Slush

I don’t know about where you are, but around here it feels like it is a good day for a drink. Thomcord grapes are available at Trader Joe’s and they make things better.
You need a good blender, like a Vitamix to make this.
Thomcord grapes

Lime juice

Fresh ginger root

Tequila if you are so inclined
Wash and stem the grapes and put them in a measuring cup. Use at least a cup. Put in the blender. Get slightly the same amount of ice cubes and add them. Put in a small finger of peeled ginger and a squirt of lime juice. Pulverize until the grape skins are not noticeable.
Add as much liquor as needed.
Drink fast before the ice melts

Needlepoint PSA

This year I have done more than just needlepoint. I had a child graduate from college and get into college. I cooked food for my friends many times a month, I made a quilt, I visited many friends. All those things were lots of fun, but while I was doing those things I was not needlepointing as much as I did in years past.  
I mostly needlepoint Christmas ornaments. Now I have amassed a very good number so I don’t feel the production need to fill my garlands where they are displayed. I looked at my collection last Christmas and realized I had stitched quite a few blue ornaments. Blue is not exactly a normal Christmas color.  
So I vowed to myself to make more red canvases. I do think that many of my finished works had red, but I am not sure I am going to overcome my blue volume this year alone. I am working on one last canvas right now that is mostly white and red. See, the deadline for Needlepoint Christmas is Tuesday, August 22. Just over a week away to complete a work and turn it into Chapel Hill Needlepoint so that it can be finished into an ornament in time to adorn your holiday decor.
If you are working on a canvas stitch quickly. Stockings and ornaments are due. There is nothing sadder than missing the deadline by a few days and have to wait more than a year to display your handiwork. Consider yourself warned.

Circle of Life Saturday

It has been a full day. Russ and I drove out to Winston Salem to meet Carter for lunch. She originally was planning on coming home from camp on Aug 18, but earlier in the week told us that she was asked to stay and work one more weekend. She’s grown up so it was her decision. Since she was missing a weekend at home to see Russ and I asked her if we could meet her today just to get a little time with her. Also, I have some winter boots and a coat that I needed her to try.
Russ, Shay and I were sitting at a table on the sidewalk of a place we love in Winston and Carter quietly came walking around the corner. If she did not have a Northeastern shirt on I might not have recognized her. She was tan and calm and so composed. It was a wonderful few hours, but short.
I drove home so Russ could work if he wanted and Shay slept on her bed in the back seat. We knew that the visit had really worn her out because she usually rides on Russ’ lap. I had not looked at my phone all day so when we pulled in the driveway I glanced at my ridiculous long list of email. One caught my eye from my friend Warren in Maine. His 92 year old mother passed away this morning. She had a heart attack last weekend and he had thought she was improving as they made plans for her to move to rehab, but she quietly passed away in her sleep in the early morning.
I called Warren to see how he was. I loved his mother who was a real hoot. We had some quality time together during my visit two weeks ago. I knew it might be the last time I saw her, but I had thought that during previous year’s visits. She was a proper, god fearing woman who had some dementia in the last little bit. At dinner one night in the HoJo room this visit Warren, his sister Donna and I were eating at a table with “Gram.” We were talking about movies we loved. Well, Donna, Warren and I were. When we brought up Casablanca I quoted the best line from the movie, “You know how to whistle don’t you?” I stop there, not wanting to offend Gram. She looked up from her ice cream with a wry smile and said, “I know the rest of the line.” Nobody finished, “just put your lips together and blow.” She was more with it than not! My heart goes out to Warren and Donna. I really loved Gram.

After I hung up from talking to him it was time to leave for my friend Sara’s surprise 60th birthday party. I had taken her out to lunch yesterday to celebrate her birthday and as a way to throw her off the scent of an impending party. Her husband Dave had invited a big, I mean giant crowd of her many friends to toast Sara.

She appeared to be totally surprised. It was a very fun group of so many friends that I hardly had enough time to talk to everyone I wanted too. Russ and I are too old to stay at a party more than three hours. I finally had hit the wall of this big day and had to come home. I am not sure I can take this much emotion everyday.  


Today I heard the most ridiculous statement from the governor of Guam to the people of his island, “Enjoy a nice weekend, but prepare for the worse.” What kind of statement is that? How can anyone on Guam, who can read, enjoy a nice weekend when they might be in the sights of the crazy North Korean leader? Of course the words of our own dubious leader are not helping the situation, but perhaps are pouring gasoline on it.
Please god let’s hope these boys with their wars toys don’t play this game with the people of the world. Why can’t we all just have a nice weekend every weekend and live in a world without conflict? What if all these men take a break from “leading” and let the women work it out.

Outputs, Outcomes and Impacts

I was sitting in rush hour traffic tonight getting from Durham to Raleigh for a 6:00 PM meeting. The normally thirty minute trip took and 75 minutes. Why do I do this? I was going to a meeting of the Harvard 100, the non-profit leaders in the triangle who had been sent to Harvard by one man named Chuck ReCorr. Chuck is a Merrill Lynch broker who took it upon himself to invest in the education of non-profits’ human capital.
I was lucky enough to be in the first guinea pig class of seven that Chuck sent to Harvard to take a four day class on non-profit governance. It was a top ten life experience. Because of it I was able to be a better non-profit board member and was able to help the Food Bank of Central and eastern NC make big strides to fulfilling our mission.
Tonight was the gathering of the 86 people who have gone already and the seven new ones who are going next month. I was asked to come to a pre-meeting to give a talk about what it is like to go to Harvard and how to get the most out of it.  
What came back to me as I prepared to talk about my experience five years go is that you can almost never learn enough to help an organization improve. After I scared the chosen few about doing their 400 pages of case work before they got to Boston, I tried to convey to them how impactful these fours days can be on their whole life.  
At the main meeting four non-profit leaders who had just returned from the Harvard Program for Non-profit presidents gave a talk about what they learned, which was different from my program for board leaders on governance. They related the difference between outputs, outcomes and impacts. Outputs are the things someone does. Outcomes are what happens directly from what was done because of that output and the impact is the long term effect of that outcome. Outputs are easy to measure. Outcomes are a little harder, but still possible, and impacts are the long range story that are much less tangible.
An example in the Food Bank world is something like this. The Food Bank runs an after school feeding program called Kids Cafe, where kids come for snack, after school activity and homework help and then dinner. The outcome is that kids involved stay in and do better in school. The impact is that the kid who stays in school and learns is able to grow up to have a better job and be self sustaining, no longer is food insecure and can provide for a family.
As I looked around this ballroom of the Harvard 100 (which will reach Chuck’s goal of sending 100 to Harvard in the spring), I could see the output of his work. I know personally of the outcome all these people have had by going to Harvard. The impact is still being written, but it is immeasurable. It got me thinking abut the need for me to quantify the impact that people have had on my life and thank them for the output they put into me.  
Chuck ReCorr is an easy one to thank, but there are so many more. Of course my parents and family, special teachers and friends and colleagues. I plan on writing people and letting them know. I am suggesting to you to do the same. Many people who made an impact on you have no idea that they did it. Isn’t it time you let them know?

Succumbing to Aging

I bet my parents don’t like when I point out how old I am getting, but I am embracing all the tools that are made for seniors. And why not? They seem to make my life easier and quite frankly an easier life will probably help me live longer.
A few weeks back I was at the Container Store buying things for Carter for college. While pursuing the aisles I came across this little pill cases for .99¢ each. I bought three to take on my trip. See, at my age I take three daily medications. Two at bed time and one right when I wake up. For years I have been doling out my pills right before bed, which quite frankly was a pain because I usually had to get out of bed and go in the bathroom to get my meds because I did not do it earlier in the night.
Now I spend almost the same amount of time opening the bottles and filling my little pill holders for a whole week than I used to for one night. I no longer wonder, “Did I take my medication?” Why did I not get these things long ago?
Well, these things are made for “old people”, so I didn’t even look at them. Foolish me. Either they are just time savers, or I am an old person. Actually both.
I was talking to a friend who is a few decades older than me about how much she didn’t like her cane. “I don’t want anyone to know I am old.” She said. “How about embracing the fact that you don’t have a broken hip, because you have a cane to keep you upright,” I responded.
News flash, we all are aging and at exactly the same rate. It is no sin to get older, but a joy. Consider the alternative. I’m not worried about leaving a beautiful corpse. I want to go out wrinkled and old as the hills. If that means I have to use these little pill holders so be it.

More and More Hobbies Needed

While I was in Maine I got inspired to make a quilt after visiting a very schmired art and fabric store. I spent a hour or so picking out fabrics with little actual quilting knowledge. I did buy a pattern to help me with amounts and sizes of cuts, but it assumed the user had a wealth of quilting knowledge.
I thought this might be a nice empty nest project to fill the hours. Well, I must have worked in a sweat shop in a former life. I started working on the quilt top last week, since Carter is still at camp being a counselor. The pattern was for a twin sized quilt, but I decided to make it a king to go on our bed. I thought that would add a lot of time to this project.  
Despite almost doubling the size I finished the quilt top today. I made two big mistakes that involved ripping out seams of two long pieces, but other than that it went fairly smoothly. It is not perfect, but nothing is. On Sunday I ordered some material for the back and lord knows when it will get here. I have decided to take the top to a place where they will do the quilting. It is such a big quilt I just don’t think my standard sewing machine can handle quilting it and I certainly don’t want to hand quilt it.
I have decided that needlepoint is a much easier hobby. I can needlepoint almost anywhere that there is light. Needlepoint does not leave thousands of tiny threads all over the floor. My back never hurts from needlepointing, unlike sitting at the sewing machine or standing over the rotary cutter which does take its toll.
I used to think that needlepoint was expensive, then I decided to make this quilt. At least a quilt can be used everyday unlike my horde of needlepoint Christmas ornaments.  I can’t afford hobbies that cost me five hundred dollars a week.
The really bad news is that I finished it too quickly. So much for filling up the empty nest hours quilting. I may make another one, but not right away. I think I need to take a class to learn some correct skills to move to the next level. At least a class will take a while.  
I am just built for production work. Too bad there is nothing I really need that I could make, like a new dining room table or chest of drawers. I need some more substantial hobbies.

Car Trip Musings

When I was on my big road trip I spent many hours driving mostly on I-95. Sharing the road with lots of other folks in cars and trucks is not the most fun part of the trip. I keep hearing that air traveler numbers are way up, but I am here to say that highways are more crowded than ever. The worst thing the government could do is not support Amtrack. High speed trains in other countries are wildly successful. We need to upgrade our infrastructure and make our rails big speed capable.
I saw all kinds of things that drivers were doing while moving at sixty miles per hour. Looking at phones was the least offensive thing. Reading an actual newspaper on the steering wheel was fairly bad. Who has a real newspaper anymore? As I passed by I wish I had a bull horn that I could scream, “Hey buddy, haven’t you heard of the radio?” I know from my drive with Sirius Radio that there are hundreds of speciality stations and every kind of news was available. Probably even one where someone is just reading the newspaper out loud.
Since we have a dog that likes to ride on Russ’ lap, whether he is the driver or not I am not surprised by where people’s dogs end up in their cars. Cats are another story. First, who takes their cat in the car not in a carrier? Well, the guy in Connecticu whose cat was wrapped around his head rest t is one. I had to do a double take and be careful not to drive off the road when I saw that little calico face looking at me from the driver’s side window.
Trucks are the biggest rolling bill boards in America. When I was heading through Massachusetts on the way into Boston I drove side by side with a Big Russell Stovers Candies truck. It first caught my eye since it had a big “Russell” on it and I was missing my Russ, but then I got to thinking, where is that tractor trailer full of candy going, and who is eating that much candy? I could see maybe a small box car of candy, but 80 feet going down the road made me wonder. Perhaps there are a lot of little old ladies eating bon bons in New England, but I was skeptical. Could Russell Stovers actually be a cover operation for some covert government operation?
The strange things that go through my mind when I spend hours alone in the car. I would still rather be alone than traveling with a loose cat.

New Season of Life

There was a lunch today at church, but since summer church is at 10 the lunch started at 11:15. As much as I wanted the fellowship Russ and I just could not handle lunch at that hour. Instead we went home and did a few chores and around 2:00 put Shay in the Morris Minor and went to Geer Street Garden to eat outside.
We arrived just as they were finishing brunch and turning over to lunch. Geer street is a dog friendly spot, for “well behaved dogs” as they say. Shay was in good company with a shepoo, tiny terrier, Akita and some dog of unknown origin. Russ and I brought the average age up quite a bit since most people there were still under 30.
There was one young couple with a little girl, who was in the very early days of just learning to walk. She teetered between the picnic benches and the dogs. Shay was more interested in sitting in Russ’ lap than playing with either the other dogs or the little girl.
Suddenly I had a flash back of Carter in a smocked dress with red sandals tip-toe running from table to table at a restaurant on a Sunday morning after church. How quickly the season of our life has changed from being the parent of the young child to being the old empty nest couple with their canine baby.
Since Carter is still working at camp Russ and I have fallen into our new empty nest pattern of doting on our dog as if she is our child. I am so thankful that we have Shay Shay, but can’t imagine how quickly the years have gone by. I see us having to cultivate a list of dog friendly restaurants for our future. I wish America was more like England in their acceptance of dogs inside restaurants. Perhaps Shay will have to train as a service dog. Yet something else to do in my current old age.

Shrimp Failure

I can cook. At this point in my long and practiced cooking life I usually can cook, not bake, most anything without a recipe. That is not to say that I don’t enjoy trying new recipes, but most of the time I am just winging it in the kitchen. This is what comes from years of study and eating.  
There are certain foods that are so easy you can hardly screw them up. Shrimp is one of them. That is what I used to think until I went to a friend’s house for lunch a few years back. She was attempting to make us shrimp salad, using a recipe. The only problem is that she wanted to impress me and so she put the recipe aside and just started cooking. I was horrified as she put the shrimp in cold water and put it on the stove, brought it to boil and left it boiling for twenty minutes. Needless to say she should have revisited the fact of the recipe.  
Shrimp is a quick cook. Do it hot and fast in order to preserve the tenderness and flavor. I usually boil shrimp by bringing a big pot of water to a rolling boil, seasoning the water well with lots of salt and throwing the shrimp in for less than two minutes. As long as the shrimp have enough water to practically swim they will be cooked that fast.  
Tonight I had a pound of shrimp from the freezer that my Dad had brought me from Pawleys Island. I decided since they were so large that I would throw then on the grill in the shells. I did not have a recipe for this but thought it was a no brainer. I was wrong. Although I did not over cook the shrimp, they were very hard to peel once they were cooked. The flavor was good, but I think I should have peeled them and then grilled them.  
Sometimes thinking you can cook anything means you fail, but at least I learned a lesson. I am not sure how fresh shrimp would have reacted, but I don’t think I am going to try that experiment. I am too cheep to waste good shrimp.
Don’t get me wrong, we will be eating all these shrimp. It will just take more time to peel them than I would like. Consider my fail, your bonus recipe, and never over cook your shrimp.

Why Immigration Reductions Are Bad

This week I have had a side-by-side study in immigration. We have had two major projects being done on our house at the same time. One is the repairing of rotted wood and repainting of all the trim and wood surfaces on the outside of our house. The second is the replacing of the roof on the old section of our house.  
My painters are a nice family from Mexico who have lived and worked here for very long time. The roofers are an old Durham company who actually put the roof on our addition 21 years ago. All the men sent by the roofing company were American.  
The painters found a number of areas of rotted wood that required a carpenter to fix. Since our carpenter, Joe, has retired I asked them if they had someone they worked with who could do the work quickly. They called a fellow Mexican carpenter who came with his son and did excellent work.  
Here is my experience with these various crews this week. The painters showed up when they said they would, worked diligently, took no breaks except for lunch, which they microwaved in my yard and ate so they did not lose much time going someone else for lunch, they cleaned up everyday, did perfect work and charged me very fairly. They even cleaned up messes that were not of their making. The painters worked from eight until six everyday.
The roofers came late, which was a blessing since they said they would start at six in the morning, they made giant messes and left them, they trampled my gardens, they left nails in the grass, driveway and walkway, they took many breaks for half hour stretches, and they left before lunch and never returned on any day. I know that roofing can be hot and hard work, but as far as I saw no one was on my roof more than four hours a day. They promised to be done today and were not because they did not have enough shingles to do the sunroom roof, but they left at ten in the morning and were not sure when they will return.
I know we have a president who wants to make America great again, but as far as I can tell it is up to each American to make themselves great and the country will follow. The Mexican painters and carpenters I had working at my house were so far superior to the American roofers. I am comparing apples to oranges because the painters and the carpenters were the owners of their own businesses and the roofers were employees, but I never once saw anyone from the roofing company who could be considered an owner or management. I also never had any proactive communications from the roofing people.
I want to support American business, and local business, but if given the choice as far as work at my house I probably would chose Mexican workers if I could get them. Now this is not a blanket statement. I love my American plumbers and American electricians, but they are old and from the good work ethic school.  
I am worried about the pipeline of good workers that Donald Trump is trying to prevent from coming to this country being cut off. Our history has been one where people who are trying to have a better life through hard work come to America to make their fortune. We need those people. Some of the people who have been here for generations are not that interested in working hard.

Do I Have An Appointment With You Tomorrow?

I used to have the kind of memory where I could relive everyday of my life in my brain. No kidding, and not just when I was very young. Up until about 35 if you asked me what I had for dinner two weeks ago Tuesday I could tell you in detail. I am not just talking food memory. I could tell you on Halloween what Gayle Hemingway wore to school on the first day of fourth grade. Oh, how I miss that memory.
I am very thankful that the iPhone came around when it did, otherwise I would not remember anything. It is good as long as it is written down. I check my calendar often, fearing I might forget an important engagement. “I forgot,” is not excuse in today’s tech world.
Today I looked at my calendar for the next few days. I found a weird entry for tomorrow. “Icharis” at 3pm. It looks like auto correct changed what I put in my calendar and now for the life of me I have no idea what the original appointment was for. I searched email for the date and nothing came up. I even searched Icharis in case that is actually something relevant. Nothing.
I have been hoping that if this is a real appointment the person I am supposed to meet might try and confirm with me. So far nothing. Now I am putting it out in the universe and admitting that if it have an appointment with you tomorrow at three I have forgotten. Please let me know what the real details are.
Oh, how I miss my old memory. I don’t think I have Alzheimer’s because I can practically quote you this year’s Mah Jongg card and I have only been playing with it since April 1. But I do worry that if my memory keeps going at the rate it has been I am not going to remember less important stuff than the Mah Jongg card, like if I paid my property taxes. I am fairly certain “I forgot” is not an acceptable excuse with the tax man.

I Am Seriously Addicted

I am a fiberaholic. There, I have admitted it. I love all things fabric, ribbons, thread, yarns; fiberlike stuff. When I was in Maine I succumbed to this obsession by purchasing the materials to make a quilt. This is not a little needlework project, but a whole giant blanket I am attempting to make.
For me there is joy in just owning the materials, but as I have gotten older I have gotten a little better about actually finishing projects. My large collection of needlepoint Christmas ornaments is testament that I can actually use many of the fibers I own.
Since I was stuck at home today with my 18 workmen/women I decided it was a good day start my quilt project. I finished watching the five part YouTube series about how to make a quilt so I felt like I should begin before I forgot all that I learned. I had picked a very simple quilt pattern to make as my first attempt, but it still involved a lot of cutting. Thank god for the rotary cutter and self healing mat and giant ass ruler. I have 16 different patterns of materials that I cut out today into little strips, ready to be sewn together. That job took a long time, but when I was done I was quite satisfied with the quality. This just set me up to begin the sewing section.
It is slow going since I am trying to be precise in my sewing but the well cut strips are helping me out. I have about two and a half weeks before Carter comes home and I want to see if I can get this done before she gets home.  
Of course this means that my needlepoint has taken a back seat, to just work that is done while I watch TV at night. I ran into my friend Francis who is a major quilter and I told her that I had started. “We will turn you into a quilter and you will give up needlepoint,” she told me. “I can do both because you can’t exactly take quilts on a trip to work on,” I told her. She agreed. 
I also have a large investment in my needlepoint fibers and that addiction is deep. I wonder if I was an old woman at a spinning wheel in a former life? Maybe I can take up spinning now and make my own fibers.

In the Vein of If You Give A Mouse A Cookie

When you live in an old house you need to paint it often. So you call your trusted painters and they come and clean the wood to prep. While they are scraping the old paint they find some soft and spongy wood. So they dig a little deeper with their tools and actually make holes in your house.
They say you need a carpenter to come and fix the wood. When you tell them your carpenter has retired they call their friend who comes right over and looks at the soft and spongy wood. They say they can fix the two door jams, one window sill but they need to find a replacement for a big window/door. So the painter skip those areas while the carpenters go to see about the window/door.  

While all this is going on there are guys on the roof ripping it off and you can not hear what the painters and carpenters are saying because of the banging on the roof.

When the carpenters go to the building supply they are told it is a special size and the building guy gives the carpenters the name of someone who can make it special. When the carpenters call the guy he says, “Yes, for $2,000.”
When the carpenters return to tell the price I tell them it is too high, so they skip that and fix the others. When I look at the issue I ask the painters if he thinks we can just cut out the soft and spongy wood and replace that part and not the whole window/door. He agrees and asks the carpenter if he thinks that is possible. He agrees and so it will not cost $2,000. So it looks like the carpenter can fix it and the painters can paint it after it is done. But when your I live in an old house you need to paint it often so this does not happen.