The Tortured and the Torturer

My job this week is to come and help my friends Warren and his sister Donna to clean out their childhood home and get it ready to sale. Both Warren and Donna inherited the collector gene from both their parents so it is a big task to deal with the what has accumulated in the house over the last 70 years.

I was supposed to be here at the tail end of this job that has been going on for months. Last week I got a panicked call from Warren that they were not as far along as they wanted to be before my visit. I told him it was my job to come crack the whip and hold their feet to the fire.  

When I got here yesterday Warren was not here yet due to the big storm that knocked power out at his house in Maine. Donna and I got supplies for the week then I told her she did not have to hang out with me and to go home and I started cleaning. I found great satisfaction in cleaning the appliances in the kitchen since I was going to be using them to cook. Warren eventually arrived just as I was settling into my sofa I was going to spend the week sleeping on since all the beds in the house were gone.

I awoke at the unnecessary hour of 5:30 this morning. It was a few hours before I was able to get to the task of the day, cleaning out one bedroom where many items had been placed from the attic. I was trying to enforce the OHIO method of “only touching it once.” This meant that I had to convince both Donna and Warren to throw things away, or put them in a pile to go to the Salvation Army, or keep something and then decide who would keep it.

Most of the valuable stuff had left the house earlier, but that did not make it any easier for me to convince them to throw things away. The biggest category of items today were the lifetime of games and toys they had pulled out of the attic. They had many original things still in their boxes. This treasure trove is valuable to collectors and was going to a friend to sell them all on eBay.

Just as I was the torturer saying, “throw those old pens, pencils and scissors that no longer cut away.” I was tortured because I was surrounded by a huge number of games, I would love to have been playing, and I was forbade even one round of password as my payback for throwing away dolls with missing limbs.

The good news is we finished the designated room, taking five body bag sized bags to the trash, and moving a dozen boxes of toys to the living room to be picked up tomorrow, bags and bags for Salvation Army and just a few items to go back to Warren’s and Donna’s. I can’t wait to see what job we will finish tomorrow.


Planes, Trains and Automobiles

This morning I got an early morning call from Carter in a panic. She is in Alicante, Spain and was unable to check in for her flight to Berlin tomorrow. I was busy trying to get ready for my flight to Boston and Russ was on a work call. 
After lots of calls found out despite having lots of confirmations that her ticket was bought and many e-mails from KLM about her upcoming flight, she actually did not have a seat and there were no seats to be had on any airline. Oh the joys of travel.
I found her a flight from Madrid through Munich with one last seat. Thank goodness she is flexible and is now having to take an early morning train to Madrid, an Uber to the the airport, and two flights tomorrow. There were other options from Madrid if I was willing to pay three times as much. There might have been an easier way than going through Madrid, but not one I could figure in the small window I had and not one Carter could figure out from where she was. I was not sure I wanted her to go through Barcelona given the state of the government and protests.
I have to admit that before Carter was invited to this lovely house in Spain, I had never even heard of Alicante. Probably the same way people i. Spain have never heard of Sea Island, Georgia. This mid semester break Carter has had has been a big adventure in travel. It might break her of her wanderlust.
As for me I am off on my “mission trip.” Going to Rutland, MA to help a friend clean out his childhood home since his mother passed away in August. Since Boston is having a nor’easter my travel of flying to Boston and taking a shuttle van an hour and a half out to Rutland hopefully will be less eventful than Carter’s, but you just never know. I also will probably not have any connectivity where I am so if I appear out of touch that is why. My friend has told me we have to go to the library to get WiFi and I have no idea how far that is. Just think of me in my red bandana and rubber gloves and absolute worst cleaning clothes for the next three days.

My Go To Dinner

A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, invited me over for a mass produced frozen meal. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am always happy to be invited, but I just as soon go for coffee and skip dinner if it is going to be Stouffers. The calories are too high and the portion is too small.  
I am not opposed to frozen food, but my frozen food is homemade. Yes, I have things in my freezer that are complicated meals I spent hours making and then froze. That is not what I ma talking about. My go to meal, especially if I am alone is a piece of pan seared salmon.  
I buy a side of salmon at costco and bring it home and immediately cut it into one person servings. I wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap and place them all in a ziplock bag in the freezer. When I need something for dinner I take one out and let it thaw on the counter, which takes less than an hour. When I cook it up you wold never know it was frozen.
It is almost as easy to cook that fish and a vegetable as it is to cook a frozen dinner and it is way more yummy and has no where near the amount of sodium and lord knows what else.
This also works for chicken, steak, pork. Any protein, if you cut it when it’s fresh into a single serving size it will thaw much more quickly. It also acts as portion control when having dinner. If I only that one, that is all I have to eat.
Forget frozen meals. Try real cooking!

Pack It In Day

I spent the last two weeks mostly alone because Russ was traveling. Not that I was actually alone, since everyday I usually had lunch with someone and I always had Shay Shay, but I did not have Russ around. I was good at entertaining myself and felt like I was fine, that was until Russ actually got home. Not only did Shay basically lose her mind so excited he was home, I too was very happy.
We really packed in a lot of fun for one day. We got up early and went downtown and had breakfast at Scratch and then went around the corner to Loaf to get Russ his weekly polenta bread and a bag of cookies to take to the UNC football game. We got home just in time to meet our friends Lynn and Logan to go to Chapel Hill.

It was the perfect football weekend, cooler than it had been and sunny. Logan is the best tailgater in the world. He packs a cooler with more drink options than any full service bar. You want a Bloody Mary? No problem, do you want lime or lemon in it. Prosecco? He has bubbles to spare. He even has curated the best lemonade. My favorite surprise in his cooler is the rice pudding. Sadly no one wanted the pudding because they were too busy eating Hope Valley fried chicken and deviled eggs.  

Eventually we went to the football game where the Miami fans were all in their unattractive orange and green. I am thankful for UNC blue. I sat with Lynn, Susan and Kathi who all we were all into the game. Carolina played much better than predicted or Miami played worse, so it was a closer game than expected.

During the game Carter was texting me questions about how to cook a pork tenderloin because over in Spain she was making dinner for her nine college friends on vacation. She proudly texted me a photo of the dinner she made all by herself, pork, chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and spinach. She was having a blast and announced she wanted to be a chef. Not why we were sending her to college. She did discover the joy or feeding people, not unlike Logan at his tailgate.
After our fun day Russ and I went to the Lakewood for dinner. I had thankfully skipped most tailgate food so I had no dinner guilt. It was nice to get more alone to catch up. I am not sure I could pack anymore in the day. I had gotten used to being alone, but boy am I glad Russ is home for the weekend.

Travel Training

When I was little my family used to leave cool Connecticut in August and drive for two days straight to Pawleys Island where the sand was often too hot to walk on. The drive was always in a giant Chevy station wagon with a boat load of crap tied to the top, and one sister laid out in half of the way back praying that the suitcases and bags on the other half would not fall on her during a turn.
The car, if it had air conditioning, never got to a real cool temperature and the smoke wafting from the front seat engulfed us in the back with no place to escape. Those two days of fighting with my sisters if one of them gave me the side eye trained me that this was the worst way to travel.
I wish that I had a time machine and could have taken Carter back to those I-95 nightmares, with some siblings for her to build up a resistance to bad travel. Instead I made Carter’s travel life just beautiful, flying to Hawaii in first class when she was six, by turning in frequent flyer miles. Yes, I wanted to go first class, but the worst thing I ever did was take her that way.
Now that Carter is in Europe she is having to do some travel that is not to her liking. First she had a school required trip to Dresden where they stayed in a sub par youth hostel. Then today she had a big scare, when her budget airline canceled her 10PM flight from Paris to Alicante Spain, along with her nine traveling companions.
I got some panicked texts. There was nothing I could do for her here so I told her to go to the airport and find out what the issue was. Thankfully the flight ended up being delayed and she did not have to spend the night in the airport. That is never a happy prospect, but especially after you have only had four hours sleep the night before.
I got a text picture of her legs on the flight. The space between seats was made for midgets and she said there wasn’t even a seat back pocket for cushion. The torture of budget travel and long legs. She announced she is going to work very hard and earn plenty of money so she does not have to travel like this very long.
Maybe it was a good thing she has been spoiled by traveling with me if it makes her work to earn her own money. I’m not sure how sorry I am when she is going from Paris to Alicante.

Does My Dog Make Me Unproductive?

I had to wake up early today so I could get Shay Shay to her groomers for her monthly hairdo. I know that we spend more money getting her hair done than the rest of the family combined, but everyone in the family is extra happy with her when she is clean and smells downright French.
Somehow when Shay is off at her spa day I am extra productive. I don’t have anyone to walk or beg to sit in my lap or snuggle and need petting or just someone to talk to, even though I always monopolize the conversation. So today while she was getting beautified, I noticed that I was like a whirlwind or dust devil or some quick spinning thing getting done tasks that I had been putting off for weeks.
I finished hand sewing the binding on my latest quilt, convinced two chefs to be headliners at the Chef’s Feast fundraiser for the Food Bank I am chairing, did many loads of laundry, paid bills that had been collecting dust all over my office, visited with a friend who came and picked up soup, cleaned out the refrigerator, made a quilt top placemat, made doctors appointments, put toilet paper in every bathroom, responded to 34 emails on various important and mundane topics, wished people happy birthday as well as condolences, wrote thank you notes that were so overdue the people probably had crossed me off their Christmas card list, made appointments for furnace repair and turned into receipts for payback on jobs done poorly.
All this was done in the five hours that Shay was being pampered. Once I was called to retrieve her all progress came to a halt. I whiled away an hour or two on my IPad while she snuggled next to me with that, “How could you have been without me?” look on her face.
I am beginning to think I need to find a play group for her to attend once a week so I can get things done. She is just the best excuse/distraction from being productive.  

My Mom’s Art

If you know me you might know that my Mom is a fabulous artist. She started painting in her thirties, teaching herself oils, acrylic and watercolors in days well before you tube. She has won every kind of award a watercolor artist can win.  
Proof of her artistic genius is that her style changes over time. Her early work was good, but never getting stuck in a rut she evolved and improved. Prolific is too mild a word for her. She paints everyday that she is at the farm, but there is not huge art market up in Caswell county.
Just in time for Christmas I am having a show of her work at my house November 12-14. If you are interested in being invited please message me. Please bring your friends. For anyone who brings someone who I don’t already know will get ten percent off any painting you purchase.
The bonus is you will also get to meet my Mom and enjoy some refreshments. She will provide the art and I will provide the food, that way we will be playing to our strengths.

A Charlottesville Funeral

This morning my family gathered at the Hill and Wood funeral home in downtown Charlottesville right across the street from Emancipation Park, sight of the Robert E. Lee statue where lots of ugliness broke out this summer. My cousin Mary and I got there early and walked around the park one small square big. A group of preschool children holding on to a rope traversed in front of the statue, now draped in black plastic so as not to draw any attention to itself, without batting an eye. A number of homeless men lay on the grass of the square and no one seemed to pay a bit of attention to the mass under plastic as if it does not even exist any more.  

Across from the statue, and next to the funeral home parking lot was a house that once served as a sanitarium owned by some relatives of ours, but no one could recall how we were related. It all seemed appropriate since we were there to celebrate the lives of Margy Hench Underwood and her husband Oscar Underwood. Margy had grown up in Charlottesville and lived in Pavilion IX on the lawn of the rotunda at UVA since her father, Atcheson Hench was the head of the English Department.

After the service where the Michie contingency overwhelmed the Underwood side we all went to Farmington to a lovely lunch hosted by Oscar’s sister, who was not able to be there. In perfect Charlottesville fashion lunch was dominated by a lovely bar, but my cousin Ellen had made sure they would have iced tea for me which was so sweet since I am the only Presbyterian in a huge long line of Episcopalians. 

During the service Ellen spoke about her mother’s love of family and how important it was. It made me happy that so many of us Michie’s and Michie Outlaws as we call the people who marry us, were able to come and celebrate Margy and Oscar.  

I especially loved that they died four days apart. Not only did they have a happy sixty year marriage, they did not have to live life apart or alone. It also made for a very efficient memorial, something I strive for. I just have to remember to put enough money in the will for the big open bar that is required if I am going to have any turnout from the Michies at my funeral.

Nothing Better Than Family

I know this is not going to sound right, but boy do I enjoy a Michie Family funeral. My grandmother was one of six girls born to GRB Michie in Charlottesville, Virginia. Five of those six girls had a bunch of children themselves, my father being one of them. Those six girls were bat shit crazy, some were also mean, some we also alcoholics, most were brilliant and funny and were fiercely proud of being Michies.  
Because of all those things the children of those girls were closer than first cousins usually are. They were much more like siblings. Consequently my generation of second cousins are closer than most people are with their second cousins, except for people who live in West Virginia and marry their cousins.
Sadly my father’s generation of Michie girl children have been passing away. This summer Margy Underwood and her husband Oscar both departed within three days of each other. Their daughters had a service in Florida where they lived, but planned on having a memorial in Charlottesville where they were going to be interned.  
So today I drove up so I could have some extra time with my Michie cousins, Margy, Ellen, Mary, Leigh, Sarah, Janie Leigh and Ava. The last time we came to Charlottesville for a Michie memorial service it was a UVA football weekend. Mary and I and our families could only find rooms at the worst motel, not just in C’ville, not just in Virginia, but I reckon in all of America. It was an Econolodge we nicknamed “the chicken motel” because it was more like a chicken coop than a hotel. It was so bad I had to go to the Kmart next door and buy new sheets and pillows.  The amazing thing is it is still in business so I had to take a photo for Carter who still uses it as the barometer of how bad a motel can be.

Thankfully for this memorial Margy and Ellen, whose parents we will be memorializing tomorrow, picked a Doubletree for us to stay at. Tonight six women went to dinner and compared notes on aging as Michie descendants, wondering what was normal and what might be hereditary. Since Janie Leigh was the only non-blood Michie relative with us we tried to use her as our control sample, but she was not much help.
I hate the reason we are together, but I do love a good Michie reunion. We completely understand each other and speak the same language that is foreign to so many others. I am just glad that I did not have to buy my own sheets for this one.

A Really Bad Idea


The other day I got a text from Carter, “Do we have any debt?” She was in a lecture in Germany where the speaker was talking about America’s debt problem. I was able to ease her mind and remind her of some basic rules I have tried to teach her. Save money and buy big things with cash, don’t charge more on your credit card than you have in the bank and pay it off it full each month, and start saving for retirement as soon as you start earning money.
Learning the lessons of good money management must start young. Not using shopping as a form of therapy or entertainment help set kids up for a potentially debt free future. Not coveting things is and delaying making purchases to decide how badly you really want something must be practiced.
All this debt and money management talk with Carter happened just before the president’s tax reform talks really got going. There is one proposal in the tax reform which I find so contrary to what this country needs and that is the change from a young person being able to contribute up to $18,000 in a 401k plan tax free to just $2,400. If ever there was a bad idea it was this one.  
Americans need all the incentives possible to save for retirement. We, as a nation, are already bad at dealing with our debt. So many people think if someone is willing to loan them money they should take it.  We have no guarantee that social security is going to be ble to continue use to fund itself at the same rate it has.  Each American should be be encouraged to be able to fund their own retirement as the current system does.
I know this president has had no wins as far as campaign promises outside of executive orders, but to change the 401k incentive just so you can appear to be giving a tax cut is the worst thing for the future of this country. This one is worth fighting over no matter which party you are in.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

From the outset this is a lovely photo of me at my friend’s Dave and Sara’s house with them. We just took this selfie after they severed me a yummy dinner and had our usual stimulating conversation. Sara took pity on me being alone for two weeks and invited me for dinner when she stopped by my house this morning. Of course I was free for dinner at a moment’s notice, but if you want lunch it is a four week wait. Such is the life of a lady who lunches with a traveling husband.
Back to what is wrong with this picture. First thing that is wrong is that it is just the three of us. Russ is away. Second is it is taken in Durham. Yes, it is one of the best places to live and we all chose to be here because we love it, even though we could live anywhere. Third, our children our missing from the picture. Granted Tatum, their oldest is a grown up and has her own place, but Megan and Carter are both in Europe, Megan in Florence and Carter in Berlin. Fourth, Shay, who is their dog Brady’s cousin was not there, even though she is always welcome. Fifth, Russ is actually in Amsterdam with Carter and I am here with Dave and Sara.

In all seriousness, if I couldn’t be with Russ and Carter I am thrilled to spend the evening with Dave and Sara. Dave and I shared school bus stories where I related the tale of the Ancona brothers terrorizing the boys on my bus for years, only to be rivaled by the Pressler brothers who terrorized their bus. We agreed that surviving those school bus trips gave us grit.

Somehow I am not sure that even the best dinner compares to visiting the Van Gough museum, walking along the canals or stopping for lunch at our family favorite Wagamamas that Russ and Carter were doing. For me I am glad that one of us was able to get their eyes on Carter and spend a little spoiling time. For Carter I think that some alone time with Dad, and actual alone time without roommates, a big hotel bed all to herself and a fancy bathroom are restorative. She may not have ever had to ride a school. Us and survive the bullying that went on like Dave and I did back in the seventies, but I think she is building up grit navigating college in Berlin.  

For this weekend it is a grit free zone for Russ and Carter. I wish I were with them, but know this is something the two of them will cherish forever. I do know they thought of me at least because they sent be a picture of this quilt shop, which interestingly is in English.  

Dave and Sara get to capture the right picture of their family together in Italy and it won’t be too long before I get to go see Carter with Russ in Germany. For now, Russ and Carter send me some more pictures of you two together. A good photo makes my heart happy.

Win Fail Win

I need distractions today. I drove over to Raleigh this morning to pick up my second quilt (a surprise for someone so I can’t show it to you) from my long arm quilter and drop off my third quilt, (also a surprise). I got back in time to go play real bridge with my friend Deanna. It was not a mentor/mentee game so I was playing against very experienced players.
I did not do well. I was a little preoccupied with Carter and Russ going to meet up in Amsterdam. In the middle of the game I got an emergency text from Carter that she was locked out of her debit card. She was trying to get a pair of tickets for the Anne Frank Museum that had been unavailable until just that moment. The museum is undergoing renovations and the tickets are severely limited. Even though she solved the problem I never quite regained my composure. I wasn’t supposed to get any text during the game and I was worried I would get in trouble for that!

After my poor bridge showing I decided that I needed to be productive at something I am good at so at 4:40 in the afternoon I started making 52 quarts of black bean soup. Ending the day with a win in the kitchen took my mind off the things I was not so good at. It worked for the four hours I was cooking, but now I am exhausted, but not really able to rest.
Russ is on an overnight flight and as happy as I am that he is going to spend the weekend with Carter I am a little hyped up waiting to hear that they connect in the airport. Now that I cooked the food I was going to do tomorrow I need to find something else I can’t fail at. Perhaps laundry or washing the kitchen floor. I am fairly certain Russ and Carter will have the better weekend!

Quite an Accomplishment

With all that is ugly in the country and the world this is a story of love and happiness. Yesterday I had the privilege to deliver three needlepoint stockings that my friend Christy that she designed and stitched for her sons. She wanted to make them new Christmas stockings that were personal to each of them, but were coordinated to go together.
For all the stitchers out there you know how long making a Christmas stocking takes. I know of people who spend years making just one stocking. Before now I have never met anyone who stitched three in five months.  
This labor of love turned out just beautifully. And is worth sharing with everyone. Christy let me take a picture of the stockings, but did not want to be in the photo so she placed them on this table. Only after I looked at the photo hours later did I notice that I had caught her reflection in the mirror. I hope she doesn’t mind that I caught her, but her smiling face should be captured because her work is a labor of love for her kids.
It’s nice to have something happy and uncontroversial to share today!

I Miss My Tribe

For fourteen years I had a tribe of mothers and children I saw often. In the beginning it was daily, sitting in the great room waiting for pick up, or after school, at Daisy’s. Then it was every few days in carpool, or at birthday parties, or hot lunch. Then it was less often for seeing each other, but more texting “did you know my child was coming home with yours after the dance?” Or in the bleachers at games cheering. 
Sometimes I would have five girls in my house talking about boys. Sometimes I would have five boys in my house trying to figure out the girls. Then all the children left, happily. To me sometimes it feels like the bad guy in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang lured them off and left me in a land without children.
But tonight something truly scrumptious happened. Two wonderful moms in my tribe got us together to pack surprises for our kids. Like stone soup, everyone contributed something but in the end it was way more than anyone needed.
Since I can’t send a package to Germany I packed a surprise to send to one of her friends. Sorry Carter, I am sending you Daddy instead and that will make up for not getting a package from me.  
Mostly it was so wonderful to reconnect with my tribe who I realized I miss so much. I have been very busy, but it is not the same as seeing the same people day in and day out. Having them notice when things were bad or being able to share a win without worrying that it might be considered bragging.
Thanks to Lynn and Michelle for taking the reins and getting us all together. It is hard to not spend everyday with you people after doing it for fourteen years.  

I Miss My Tribe

For fourteen years I had a tribe of mothers and children I saw often. In the beginning it was daily, sitting in the great room waiting for pick up, or after school, at Daisy’s. Then it was every few days in carpool, or at birthday parties, or hot lunch. Then it was less often for seeing each other, but more texting “did you know my child was coming home with yours after the dance?” Or in the bleachers at games cheering. 
Sometimes I would have five girls in my house talking about boys. Sometimes I would have five boys in my house trying to figure out the girls. Then all the children left, happily. To me sometimes it feels like the bad guy in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang lured them off and left me in a land without children.
But tonight something truly scrumptious happened. Two wonderful moms in my tribe got us together to pack surprises for our kids. Like stone soup, everyone contributed something but in the end it was way more than anyone needed.
Since I can’t send a package to Germany I packed a surprise to send to one of her friends. Sorry Carter, I am sending you Daddy instead and that will make up for not getting a package from me.  
Mostly it was so wonderful to reconnect with my tribe who I realized I miss so much. I have been very busy, but it is not the same as seeing the same people day in and day out. Having them notice when things were bad or being able to share a win without worrying that it might be considered bragging.
Thanks to Lynn and Michelle for taking the reins and getting us all together. It is hard to not spend everyday with you people after doing it for fourteen years.  

A Bad Omen

Yesterday there was a knock on my door and two guys from my sewer line replacement plumbers were on my front porch. “Did you call us?”
Turns out it was my neighbor across the street. “As nice as you guys are, I am happy to say I don’t need you.” I spoke too soon.
This morning, 28 Days after Spectrum ran a temporary replacement cable from the pole across the street, on the ground over the pavement and through my yard, the fourth crew of cable burying guys showed up. I am not sure why the three previous crews all made feeble attempts at getting the cable to run under the street and failed, but today’s guy assured me he could do it. And he did, but not without breaking my water line.
I was told by Spectrum that the contractors who bury the line never need the customer and actually are not even supposed to talk with us. Not really a good policy. I left the guys working in my yard and went to lunch, when I returned I noticed one of the installers looking nervous as he stood on the side of my yard. I asked him if everything was OK from afar. He said yes.  
I went inside and something told me things were not going well so I went back out and walked over to see what was going on. That is when I heard the load gushing of water and saw a small river.
“How is this OK?” I asked him. They told me it was fine they had called the city water guy. I told them that they had to turn the water off at the meter and showed them where it was. At this point I was now without cable/internet and water.  
I took maters into my own hands and called my sewer line plumbers because I knew their work. The city water guy showed up and told the cable guys the cut in the line was on my property and therefore was not the city’s responsibility. I already knew that.
After talking to the cable supervisor I got it worked out, but was trapped at home for the next six hours supervising the restoration of basic services. So much for my day. Fair warning that if your plumbers ever show up unannounced they might just be a day early.

Presidential Lies

“I did not have sex with that woman.”
“I am not a crook.”
“Read my lips, no new taxes.”
Two actual Presidential lies and one unkept promise.  
It used to be when a President lied he was forever branded with the lie and we all recognize and can quote the lies forever and ever.
That was the case before 45 came along. The number of outright lies is so huge that people have no count of all of them.
I am not talking about spin, when a president presents his “view” or “interpretation” of the facts, but just outright lies. Today the potus said that other Presidents did not call the families of fallen soldiers. This lie was in defense of why he had not contacted the families of the four soldiers killed in Niger last week. He did have time to play five rounds of golf since their passing, but not call one gold star mother. How can his flag waiving supporters condone this?  
To teach Carter the seriousness of lying I used to remind her that Martha Stewart went to jail for lying about a stock trade, not the actual trade itself. Once you lie, you are a liar.
Of course we all lie, but never in my life have I seen someone lie as often or as easily as 45. Granted many of his lies are ignorance of actual history, but for gods sake, let’s hold him to the same standard we have for all previous presidents and brand his outrageous statements as lies. The children are listening.

The Harvey Weinstein Women Are Not Alone

WARNING: Sensitive Adult Subject Matter
Women are coming out of the woodwork telling stories of their sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein. Allegedly, one starlet who Harvey met later in life was asked by him, “Did I try anything with you before?” This is the most telling part of the story. It implies that he made these advancements so often and regularly that he could not possible remember them all.  
The sad part of these allegations is that most women kept quiet when it happened allowing him to go on to allegedly harass women for years. It is understandable that young and aspiring actresses did not want to be black balled in the industry by one of the most powerful men around. They were somewhat powerless alone, but together they have credibility.
Actresses and women in entertainment are not the only women who face these kind of situations. Back in the dark ages of the eighties I was a traveling sales person. I covered five states and spent many hours driving in my company car visiting clients. Due to my good track record one day my boss asked me if I would take a new hire out on the road with me and spend three days training him how to do his job. It was a plum role to be asked to train so I agreed to take the man, about ten years my senior, on the road.
I went to the headquarters in New Jersey to pick him up and we headed south to Delaware to visit some of my best customers, the credit card banks headquartered there. I can’t remember this guys name, just that he was very tall and very talkative, not a terrible trait for a salesman.
After visiting three or four clients in the middle of the day we headed south to go to Dover where we would be staying. It was late fall and the sun was setting as I was driving down a fairly rural road. Although I have blocked his name out of my mind I have not forgotten how the conversation went on this drive. I was explaining how the company liked you to report your travel expenses and which receipts you absolutely had to have. Out of the blue this guy sitting in the passenger seat of my car says, “I’m really good at eating P#&$@.” 
What the hell? I stopped the car on the side of the road by a gas station and in my most loud commanding voice told him, “Get out.” Thankfully he did. He was more than a little surprised by my abruptness, but not as surprised as I was by his boldness in the first place.
The second he was out of the car I peeled off leaving him in the dust, without his belongings or even his coat. I drove about five miles down the road to a store with a payphone where I stopped to call my boss. I told him what happened and where I left the jerk he had hired. Thankfully my boss supported me and told me I had done the right thing.  
I continued on my trip keeping my appointments I had. My boss drove down to Dover the next morning to get they guy’s belonging from me. He told me he had been fired and thanked me for finding out we had a bad hire so quickly. That was the last time anyone at work ever talked about it. I feel guilty that I did not talk to other women about this story at the time. I know I was lucky that this is how the story went, but if women don’t bring these stories to light some scummy men will keep trying stuff like this.

International Review Day

I don’t usually take requests for my blog, but I am happy to hear readers ideas. Yesterday my friend Dave asked for more reviews and it just so happens that I have tow of them today. Russ called this my international day of Durham.
The first review is for the movie, Victoria and Abdul. Technically I should call this International Triangle day since we saw the movie at the Silver Spot in Chapel Hill. If you like movies you will love the Silver Spot with its giant reserved leather seats and better than most movies food delivered to your seat. We must have chosen the retirement bus time to see the movie because most of the other patrons were contemporaries of Queen Victoria.  
The movie was wonderful and you can never go wrong with Dame Judi Dench as a royal, but just as Good as Izzy Izard as her good for nothing son and heir to the throne.

After the English, Scottish and Indian movie Russ and I threw Ethiopia into our international mix with a dinner at Goorsha on Main Street across from Brightleaf Square.  
I have loved Ethiopian food since I first had it in Adams Morgan in the early eighties. At that time Ethiopia was having a terrible multi-year drought and food there was very scarce so Americans were confused about what an Ethiopian restaurant would serve since all they knew about Ethiopia was the famine. Stupid Americans, the Ethiopian restaurants in DC got their food from Sysco like all the other restaurants.

Goorsha is a very happy place with seating outside that doubles the capacity of the small restaurant. Russ and I ate at the bar which was very helpful since we were sharing a chicken and meat combination dinner. You eat Ethiopian food with your hands, scooping up the meat or vegetables with a piece of spongy bread/pancake called injera. The food is spicy, but not hot. My favorite item was the doro wot which was a chicken leg and a hard boiled egg cooked in spices.  
Sharing a plate was the way to go and we cold hardly finish it and had no need for any appetizers or salads. The staff was very friendly and the prices were low so it was a win/win/win in my book.
I doubt I am going to try and recreate Ethiopian Dinner at home because making the injera is more work than I want, but I can see a soup in my future from the flavors of the lentils we had tonight.  

No Scathing Review

When I have a really good day it sometimes makes for a very boring blog. It is quiet at my house with just me and Shay. I had nothing on the calendar so I spent the better part of daylight hours quilting. I am working on a fairly complicated pattern and as a total novice I am sure I am doing it the most difficult way possible. Since this quilt is a present for someone I can’t post anything about it.
The human interaction part of the day did not start until the evening when I went to the pool deck of the Unscripted Hotel to celebrate Kelly’s birthday. It was also a celebration of her husband Mark’s birthday too since his follows right behind hers, but today is her real birthday.

It was very hip and young to be at a bar with a pool. Much too young for me. Thankfully there were plenty of friends there to catch up with. Dave and Michelle were there and Dave was complaining that I have to many pictures of Russ and Shay in the blog these days. When your nest is empty and all you do is sit at the sewing machine or stand at the cutting table it makes for very little material.
“I want pictures of food and scathing reviews of clubs you belong to,” Dave implored me.

No dirt here tonight, but here is a good food tip. The only good food Russ has had in the suburbs of St. Paul is this Goslings Ginger Beer. His regular waitress at his hotel told him to stop drinking the watery ginger ale and try this. He loved it so we ordered a case of it from Total Wine, the only retailer in the area that has it. It is a good strong ginger flavor. So it is the review of the day. Not exactly a picture of food and not a scathing review, but a maybe something Dave did not know about before.
And no pictures of Shay, but one of Russ’ hand holding the can. Instead, Dave, a picture of you!

When the Doggie Bag Weighs a Pound

When the waiter put my dinner down in front of me I thought he must have brought a platter that was meant for a family meal. My friend Kelly, who moved to Atlanta this summer is back for a weekend of fun, birthday celebrations and parents weekend at UNC, but tonight I got to have dinner with her alone before all the festivities begin. We went to Mothers and Sons.  
Since it is an Italian restaurant I wanted to stay away from my kriptonite – pasta. I noticed they had porchetta on the menu. It is a dish I have made a few times at home for big occasions and wanted to see how theirs compared to mine. It is not exactly dietetic, but all protein is better for me that any pasta.
I am used to slicing my porchetta a little thinner than the inch and a quarter slab I was given. It was good, but could have used a little more lemon and rosemary. I made a valiant effort at making a dent in it, but still took three quarters of it home.
Lifting the take out box was like picking up a dumbbell, so when I got home I weighed it. The meat was over a pound and the box was 5/8 of an ounce! I am not sure what Mothers and Son was thinking when they made this one serving, but it easily could have been for a family of four. Russ will enjoy it when he gets home from Minneapolis. For now it is great to have Kelly back in town.

Bottom of the Bowl Salad

My friend Christy had a yummy salad in Boone and came home and told me about it. I didn’t take notes, but was inspired by the roast vegetable salad, so I made my own version for my Mah Jongg lunch today. She didn’t tell me about the dressing, so I made up a maple version that I felt went perfectly with it.

Roast Brussels sprouts

Roast cubes of butternut squash

Roast cubes of sweet potato

Roast cubes of beets

Dried cherries or craisins

Toasted almonds

Goat cheese
1/4 cup good quality maple syrup

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cloves of grated garlic 

1 inch finger of ginger grated

2 T. Dijon mustard

1 T. Water

Salt and pepper
If you don’t know how to roast vegetables it is very easy. Cut them into similar size. Cover a cookie sheet with foil and spray it with Pam. Place vegetables on foil and spray them with Pam and put in a 400° oven and cook until they start to get brown on the side that is touching the foil. Salt when cooked.

Back to Bridge

Go on, zoom in on that picture. It shows that I came in third with my mentor Deanna at my first foray back into the serious world of duplicate bridge. I was worried about going back to play bridge after a decade off, but despite a few serious underbids my card play and partner saved the day.
Seventeen years ago my wonderful friends Jan and Helen taught a bridge class. I think there were eight of us in the class. I knew many of them from the neighborhood, but Deanna was new to me. It was clear after the first class that she was the one I wanted to play with.  
After taking three rounds eight classes we knew enough to play bridge the old fashioned way. Deanna and I asked two other people in our class if they wanted to have a weekly game, which we did for a number of years. Sadly one of our group developed early onset Alzheimer’s, which we were quick to realize when she asked us how many points an ace was worth.
We stopped playing as a group and did not replace her because we did not want to hurt her feelings. It was the end of my playing regularly. Deanna went on to start playing competitively and studying.  
When Carter was leaving for college Deanna suggested I should start playing with her again, but this time with her as my teacher. It is much harder for this old brain to learn all the changes to bridge since I have left. I never learned two over one, or Jacoby two no trump, but I have to now.
Today at my first live game an opponent asked me what signaling I played. “I have no idea,” I responded. He laughed and said I should just say “standard” when I don’t know. So for now I am playing standard bridge. It’s all good, I was able to come in third.

Ivana, the Real Ballistic Missile

This morning as I was getting ready to go to the gym I watched Ivana Trump being interviewed on Good Morning America. Apparently she has written a book that is going to be published tomorrow. Well, the woman is a brilliant marketer. She is getting great press thanks to her little throw away comment that she is the First Lady.
The usually stoic Melania, who has the amazing skill of not reacting when her husband says outrageous things, could not hold back when the first Mrs. Donald made this ridiculous claim. Through her spokesperson the current Mrs. Donald “has made the White House a home for Barron and the President. She loves living in Washington, DC and is honored by her role as First Lady of the United States. She plans to use her title and role to help children, not sell books.”  
Such swift action in a response. Too bad the real First Lady could not be as fast in actually helping children. How long does it take the b**#@ to make the plans? She has been there a while and so far I haven’t seen her do anything.
I notice that the President has said nothing, when he normally would tweet about much less significant things happening in the world. Maybe Ivana is the one thing that can shut him down, or up.  
In her interview Ivana, is still mad at the second Mrs. Donald as evidenced in the fact that she never says or writes her name, but calls her “the show girl.” Let’s get Marla to write a book and piss Melania off too. I think that if we could get Ivana to speak out more we might be able to distract the Donald from starting World War III. It would take all his energy to try and pacify Melania.
There is nothing like a woman scorned. And Ivana obviously has been stewing about the Donald for a long time. So much that she has never had time to change her hairdo. I never thought I would say this, but I wouldn’t mind more Ivana TV interviews.

Overdue Thanks to Billie Jean King 

In the eighteen years we have been friends with the Toms we had never had a double date to the movies before today. The mothers go to the movies together often. The fathers may have taken the daughters to a movie once or twice. The mothers certainly too the daughters to the movies many times. But today with the daughters both in college the mothers and the fathers finally all went to the same movie, The Battle of The Sexes, together.
Of all the times for the daughters to be away, I wish they were here to see it with us. This was a movie depicting a time that the mothers lived through and remembered like it was yesterday. It made a big impact in the world for girls and women of the time.
Battle of the Sexes is the story of Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs and Women’s tennis players fighting for equality. The impact of Billie Jean King beating Bobby Riggs gave me, as a seventh grade girl, the voice to stand up to chauvinists I encountered, and it was happening in real time.
My dancing school teacher, Walter Shaulk, was very chauvinistic and I called him out for it. He favored boys so they would come to dancing school, because he had no trouble filling classes with girls. What he didn’t embrace was that the boys came for the girls and not because he favored them.  
I did get in big trouble for calling him chauvinistic, but to this day I don’t regret standing up for the girls in our class. It was good practice for standing up the rest of my life.
I owe Billie Jean King a lot for speaking out at the time. Someone had to counteract Anita Bryant and other women who were willing to remain second class. So Ellis and Carter, you need to watch this movie and see what women did so we could try and find parity with men. The fight is not over, but it certainly got better because of Billie Jean.

Belated Birthday Date Night

Birthdays and Christmas never seem to be about Russ. He is quick to say, “Don’t do anything for me,” or “I don’t want anything.” Of course the last thing he wants is a party. Being the center of attention at a party would seem like some sort of punishment.  
Since his birthday was Monday and he was working in Minneapolis absolutely nothing happened to honor him. I doubt that any of his team members even knew it was his birthday.
We actually did come up with a gift for his birthday, a quick trip to Amsterdam to get to see Carter. It is not until later in the month, but it is a nice gift for the two of them. I am thrilled he will get to see Carter in person.
Today I actually got to do a little more for his birthday. Russ’ cracked IPad finally started acting wonky. He had been watching the thing with two big cracks across the center of the screen for two years. This week the screen started flashing and he couldn’t use it for more than ten minutes at a time. So it was off the to Apple store to get the Big Ass, that the official name of the giant IPad. He also go a keyboard and Apple Pencil due to Carter’s love of hers. That was a real birthday treat.
Then tonight we went to Watts Grocery for dinner. Unfortunately Carter texted me through the first ten minutes of the dinner, but when you hardly hear from your college freshman you take those texts when you get them. Other than that one interruption it was a nice way to celebrate Russ.
The only way it could have been better was if Total Wine had the Diet Goslings Ginger Beer in stock he was wanting. I guess that two out of three things going right is a very good birthday for Russ. Now comes the Christmas problem. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want a quilt.

My Naked Dog

Shay and I have had a lot of quality time in the last month, with Carter in Berlin and Russ spending his weekdays in Minneapolis. Not that Shay thinks of it as quality. She spends her day looking at me with the eyes that beg the question, “Where are my true loves?”
Since I have been locked in my sweat shop working on Christmas presents that have a hard deadline Shay wanders the house, occasionally coming to sleep on the easy chair in the sewing room. I can usually hear her coming down the stairs as the metal leash hook on her collar clanks against itself.  
I noticed last night that Shay appeared to be sneaking into rooms where I was. At first I was unsure how she was able to do this. Was she walking on three legs while her fourth paw held the metal hook against her collar? Only as I was petting her as she snuggled next to me in bed last night did I notice her collar was missing.
A couple of weeks ago I thought her collar was a little big, but I did not tighten it because it was not that big a deal. Well now I should have done something about it when I noticed it at first. I searched the house, looking in all her favorite sleeping nests, to no avail. Where in the world did she put that collar?
Since Shay had ditched this collar, the one Carter bought her at Bonaroo, I went to find an older model. These too were no where to be found. Had Shay secretly taken every collar and buried them outside somewhere? Was she having some hippie rebellion?
When we went for our walk I looped her leash around the handle loop on her neck and I held the metal hook end. She did not seem to mind walking this way and never pulled so as to tighten the loop around her neck. It seemed risky, but what were my choices?
I am hoping that Russ has better lucking finding at least one of her collars, but my eye sight is about a thousand times better than his, so it is unlikely. Maybe Shay will find it and carry it up to our bed where she likes to deposit all her treasures. Until then, I think she is really enjoying being naked and not having that metal hook clanging in her ears as she walks. I can’t really blame her.

Really, Nothing is Going On

Carter texted me today. She misses home a little and wanted to know what was going on. Nothing. When she pushed me about what I was doing I told her the exciting news that I was making a quilt.  
“Really, that is all that is all that is happening?”
Yes. I didn’t think she would be interested in the quilt layout board I had made yesterday thanks to the instruction on my quilting friend Frances. Giving Carter the blow by blow of my trip to Home Depot to find “a very light weight board,” as Frances described it, to attach my quilt felt to was not something she wanted to hear. My excitement upon finding a foil covered insulation board that was four feet by eight feet was something I kept to myself. There was nothing eventful about my driving it home with it sticking out the back window of the land cruiser.
Certainly, my search for one of the four staple guns Russ swore we owned was not exciting news. I didn’t feel the need to tell her how, once I found an electric one, that had certainly been a gift to Russ from his father, that I had a hard time making it work. After stapling about half the quilt felt to the foam board I reverted to attaching the rest with giant safety pins. This was for sure nothing Carter wanted to learn about.
With my newly created quilt board I was able to layout the squares I had been fabricating to see how I wanted this thing to go together. Discussing the intricacies of placing a yellow edge square, next to a white one, and a grey one is not a conversation that a teenager probably wants to have with anyone.
The decision to add a light gray border between the squares still constitutes “nothing going on at home.” Thus the need to drive to the fabric store to purchase said material does not even warrant a mention.
I also ran the dishwasher, could I have told Carter about that? Why bother. I did tell her I had lunch with a friend, but it was not someone she knew.  
I guess I am going to have to get a much more exciting life if I am going to have anything to tell her that is going on at home. But why make her miss home, when, honest to god, it is not half as exciting as Berlin. Listening to what someone’s regular life is like is just boring, but you know that already since you just read this.

Watch TV Tomorrow

My sister Janet owns a cool business that reps a bunch of fabulous beauty products. One for them is a Dutch company called Treats Traditions. They are all natural bath and body products designed around ancient plant based recipes.
Tomorrow night at 7:00 some of the products will be highlighted on Home Shopping Network on THE BEAUTY REPORT. Rian Van Velazquez, the creator of these products will be on air to describe and show them. Janet says the bath bombs and gift set will be featured but that HSN will have the whole line of lotions, creams, shower gels and the like.  
These make great gifts, especially the bath bombs, which are, you say it with me, “the bomb.”

It is not too early to be buying your teacher gifts, and things for the aging loved ones in your life. Hint we are all the aging ones! Happy watching.

Someone Should Secede


I was in Canada working on the day that Quebec took a vote to secede from the rest of Canada. The vote narrowly failed, which I was happy about because it would have cut Canada in half. Wanting to secede seemed like the rashest of answers to a tough question. As in all things Canadian, they found another way.  
I worked in both Scotland and the UK and was sad when the Scots took a vote about splitting from Britain. It failed and the Kingdom has remained United. But then that same Kingdom voted last year for Brexit, the separation of the UK from the EU. Sad, and probably short sighted. The cards are not played out on how this is going to work out.
Now Catalonia is voting to leave Spain. Sure they have cool Barcelona and probably more money than the rest of poor Spain, but becoming a small free standing country with all the infrastructure costs to set yourself up diplomatically, are you that rich? Can’t you work it out?
It is so easy to hope that people could get along and do the hard work to come to a compromise when it is not your country. Now, given what has been going on in this country, with this POTUS I would be looking to secede if I could. We don’t have enough politicians with any backbone to stand up to the NRA to even have a rational talk about gun control. We have a president who is the most tone deaf narcissistic human being on earth, telling the people of Puerto Rico they have ruined his budget. Like the whole territory got together and said, “Let’s will the worst storm in history of our land to come and take out all our infrastructure, food and water so as to ruin the budget.”
When 45 tells the people of Puerto Rico that their storm is not as bad as Katrina because only 16 people died so they are lucky, I don’t think the families of those 16 consider themselves lucky. The story of Hurricane Maria is not written yet. You can’t tally how many people have lost their lives until everything is rebuilt. Going without electricity, clean water, food and medicine for long periods of time will take another toll on the people of this island.  
I never actually considered succession as an answer to a problem before now, but it is getting close. Seems like this great democratic experiment is being tested in the most extreme way. The guy who ran on the “drain the swamp” platform has cabinet heads who are spending ridiculous amounts of money on private planes and phone booths in their offices, and a son-in-law using non-secure private servers for government emails. Huh! Seems like that is all stuff you all complained about from previous administrations. So you can’t live up to your own promises and you can’t lead with any compassion. Save us all and why don’t you secede 45? Maybe you can go back to your wife’s homeland.

Happy Birthday Russ

“People let me tell you ‘bout my best friend,

He’s a warm hearted person who’ll love me till the end.

People let me tell you ‘bout my best friend,

He’s a one boy, cuddly toy, my up my down, my pride and joy.”
People let me tell you ‘bout my best friend, 

It’s his birthday and he’ll never tell anyone.

People let me tell you ‘bout my best friend,

He’s the best husband, father, son, kindest man I’ve ever known.
People let me tell you ‘bout my best friend,

He may be quiet and reserved, but he’s funny, smart and kind.

People let me tell you ‘bout my best friend,

I thank my lucky stars that he kept me in mind.

People let me tell you ‘bout my best friend,

Life just wouldn’t be as sunny if he never been born.

People let me tell you ‘bout my best friend,

So on this important day we can’t be forlorn.
People let me tell you ‘bout my best friend,

He may be far from home, but Russ Lange you should know,

That you are my best friend and I will always love you so.

The Stick-to-it-tiveness of Old Age


I have always loved creating things. As a child I tried lots of arts and crafts projects. Sometimes I was drawn to the raw materials like beautiful yarn or a set of brightly colored markers, other times the finished products, like a cute skirt or a nice Christmas wreath. But as a young person I often would start a project, gather all the needed supplies, organize them and begin, but not always finish.
I can’t count on one hand the number of knitting projects I started. Conversely there are not enough fingers and toes in my whole family to number the items of clothing I sewed. Of course as I got older I learned some things about myself and creating. I discovered what the fun part was about doing arts and crafts and did that and learned to outsource what was more tedious for me.  
Needlepoint is a perfect example. I love stitching but would never attempt “finishing,” a project. Finishing in the Needlepoint world means fabricating a stitched canvas into a pillow, ornament, stocking, belt or whatever it is meant to be.
One of my real weaknesses in arts and crafts is my love of beautiful fabric. I have been known to buy fabric with no plan on how I was going to use it. This summer when I was in Maine and wandered into an art and fabric store I fell hard for a bunch of fabric. It was then that I decided I wanted to make a quilt. I had never made one before and had no instructions or teacher, so I just winged it. As I started work on it I decided that I wanted to make one big enough for our king sized bed. This probably should have been decided when I was buying the material, but I was not so organized.
Making the quilt top went faster than I thought. Then I had to find a backing material, which took a little while. Once I had all the pieces of the quilt I realized I was not interested in ruining my first huge project by trying to “quilt” it myself. My friend Cliff Elam told be about his friend Tina Schwager who had a long arm quilting machine. Ah, I can pay her to quilt it. The answer to the part of the project that would bore me.
I went to meet her and knew this was going to be the beginning of a perfect friendship. Last week I picked up my quilt from her. The quilting that I had envisioned and described to her was exactly the modern look I wanted for this project. I brought the quilt home to finish it by hand sewing on the binding that covers the edge of the quilt. That was the slowest part of this project, but I was so excited to get my first quilt done that I kept at all 387 inches.
Tonight it is complete. Shay thinks I made this just for her. She snuggled in the folds while I was stitching the binding and now that it’s done has wrapped herself in it.  

Such a difference in old age to work on a project from begging to end non-stop and not abandon it part way through due to boredom or becoming attracted to some other shinny new thing. I have already completed a second quilt top that I gave to Tina when I picked up this one and have bought the fabric for a third quilt I will start tomorrow. I love being young enough to learn new things and old enough to finish them.