I Spent The Day in The 1950’s

In a huge attempt to try and ignore the bad in the world that I can not change I have retreated to an era I never lived in, the 1950’s. Back before television ran ugly news 24 hours a day, when movie stars had morality clauses, before you could watch the stock market plunge moments after some idiot government employee made a stupid decision.

Today I watched no news, read no Facebook, I listened only to music I chose, it made for the perfect head in the sand day. In perfect 1950’s style I worked at my sewing machine. I roasted tomatoes to make homemade cocktail sauce. I made the base for a homemade ice cream I will be serving at a dinner party. I made four dozen ham and cheese rolls for a funeral tomorrow. I

I dusted and ironed and then I did the ultimate 1950’s activity for a house wife, I met my friend Hannah for lunch.

We had salads, trade stories of our children. We did not talk about current events. We did not talk about our husbands. It was perfectly lovely.

The only problem with this 1950’s day is that like the fifties you can only live in denial so long. While you are not paying attention wars could break out, politicians can rob you blind, and most people will be marginalized.

So I have to come back to the real world. I have to ensure that I am contributing to not just my family, but my community. I have to hold people accountable. I have to manage my world. I still have to make food for funerals. Some things don’t change.

Review of the Reviewers

Today at Mah jongg my friend Morgan showed up at my house with a grocery bag full of fruit she had leftover. Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and cherries now fill my fridge. What a wonderful surprise gift.

Monday we are having Russ’ company teammates for our annual intern dinner as a way of welcoming the class of summer interns to the company. I had already made my menu because I have a lot of cooking to do. I am not sure if any of the teammates eat at all before they come to our house, but they usually eat everything I prepare and I always prepare too much.

My original menu included a buttermilk pie for dessert, but with all these beautiful berries I am going to make a change. I went online to do some recipe research. Nowadays I like to read reviews of recipes before I get invested in them. My only problem is I would like a review of the reviewers.

When someone comments that a recipe did not work for them how am I to know if the reviewer is a novice or expert cook. I wish that there was some rating system for the people who comment.

Back in the old day, when I just used real cookbooks I first would judge a recipe by the reputation of the author. Julia Child almost never has let me down, and Julie Rosso and Shelia Lukins of the Silver Palate are equally reliable, but their books are old now and don’t always include ingredients or dishes that are in fashion today. Don’t get me wrong, I still use their books, but sometimes I want something they don’t have.

So I turn to the Internet. When I input search words I often come up with something from All Recipes, although it might be perfect fine, I usually don’t even bother to look at that site because there is no quality control, unlike a site like Smitten Kitchen or Bon Appetite, where at least the recipe is tested.

Writing recipes is hard. I know that from experience. I cook, then write from memory. I don’t measure when I cook so my recipes are approximations. This is fine for cooking, but not for baking.

All this reading of recipes and the reviews, and the reading between the lines of the reviews to determine if the reviewer is an idiot is a lot of work. No wonder I just make things up as I go along. I wish I could do that in baking and have anything turn out.

Maybe rather than looking for berry cakes I should just make ice cream. I can do that without a recipe and with my eyes closed. I don’t want to make a pie since I am making tomato pies as part of the dinner and no one needs a two pie dinner. What a wonderful problem to have.

Roseanne Is Exactly Who She Always Has Been

When ABC announced they were doing a reboot of Roseanne I thought they had really sold out to bring back that woman. Her twitter history of slurring anyone who is not white, straight, American and republican was clear before today. I am happy that despite high ratings and thus good revenue ABC took swift action when Barr tweeted out her slur of Valerie Jarrett.

Just because the guy in the White House tweets out all sorts of unsavory slurs does not mean that the rest of the country has to sink that low. If we all would stand up to that kind of bullying we would be a better country.

Now Roseanne is claiming that we didn’t get her “joke.” I am all for comedy, satire and wittiness, but there was no fine line between those things and Barr comparing Ms. Jarrett an ape. But no one should be surprised by this, least of all ABC.

Did they do no due diligence on her by reading just a year’s worth of her twitter feed. She has acted this way forever so I sure she is wondering why this crossed the line. Well it did, and thank goodness for decisive response.

I feel sorry for the people who work on her show, like camera and lighting people, who are now out of work. The best thing that could happen is for ABC to find other work for them right away.

We do have freedom of speech in this country and Roseanne has the right to spew whatever kind of hate her black heart comes up with, but we don’t have to reward her with money and a platform on a network TV show to spread her kind of evil. Standing up to bullies is the right thing to do and ABC did that today. But hey, do your homework before you give another hater a show so you don’t have to go through this again.

Don’t Say “Happy” Memorial Day

It’s Memorial Day. Yes, it is the unofficial start of summer, which brings about a lot of joy and celebration, but the reason for the day is a most somber one. Remembering soldiers lost in battle is worthy of a day, but is the end of May the right time of year?

In the commonwealth countries they call this kind of day Remembrance Day. Citizens wear red paper poppies to remind everyone to remember the lost. Remembrance Day is held on November 11, the day of the end of the hostilities of World War I. Being held in November means that it is not a day for picnics, or swimming or barbecues so there is no confusion about the reason for the day.

I notice that around here lots of people say, Happy Memorial Day. I am guilty of this too, but the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. If I had been a soldier who was killed in battle I would just want to be remembered.

I am lucky that I don’t have any close relatives who were lost in war. The veterans in my family made it home and have Veterans Day to celebrate them. Nonetheless, even though I didn’t have any singular person to remember, I did take a few moments to think about the sacrifices made by families who did lose a loved one serving in our military. To them I could not imagine saying, “Happy Memorial Day.” What is happy about losing your family?

So maybe we should move Memorial Day to a time of year when we aren’t tempted to celebrate summer at the same time. We could switch President’s Day in February with Memorial Day in May. All those dead President’s won’t care since we already combined George and Abraham’s birthdays into one day.

If you are someone who lost a solider in war, thank you for your sacrifice. This day is in many ways for you too. Not really a happy day.

Back to Camp

And like that she is gone again. Home less than a month, the longest stretch of time we will see her all year, Carter has now gone off to her true home, Camp Cheerio. She will be there three months, in her happy place. Finally she is a Senior Counselor, the job she has wanted for ten years. It certainly was the long play to get it.

She went today, two weeks before camp officially opens, to get the horses ready for the campers. She will spend girls session as assistant riding riding director. Good thing she has the big ‘ole land cruiser because she packed that thing full of not just her camp stuff, but her riding and grooming equipment. Her car was more full than what she brought to college. Of course she doesn’t have a horse at college.

So grooming and riding the horses this week. Staff training next week and then the campers come. Girls camp is four weeks this year. Then Carter moves from staff to Senior Counselor with a cabin. She won’t know which cabin until closer to co-ed Camp, but she hopes for the older girls.

It was a lovely few weeks with her home, even though she was back and forth three times to Cheerio working the weekends. No real drama. None of the trouble adapting to being home that I remember from college. That is what makes this departure today even harder.

I guess that long ago I came to accept that she likes camp better than home. I can’t really blame her. So good luck Bug. I hope it is the best summer yet. I know the work will be hard, the sleep will be little, but the friends are the best.

Anything For Shay

I heard whimpering from Shay before I heard the thunder. She stood at the top of the steps begging me to follow her. Being skittish about storms is a relatively new thing for our six year old baby. Since I had been doing nothing except cleaning all day I thought I could take a break and give Shay the comfort she needed as the storm approached.

As I came up the steps Shay headed for my bedroom. I came through the door and discovered her snuggled down on my new white quilt on the bed. Our bed is her home base safe space. This is what I get for making a mostly white quilt.

Of course quilts are made to be used and loved so the fact that Shay loves to snuggle on it is fine with me. It’s funny that even though the thunder was still clapping Shay stopped crying and shivering once she was at her home base. Oh well, dogs are more important and things.

I Miss Old Refrigerators

I had my day all planed this morning. My friend Jeanne was coming from DC and we were meeting at needlepoint. Our visit was going to be short because I was needed to be at home by one to have my refrigerator finally repaired from my May 9th original call.

I got to needlepoint and got to see Jeanne and Nancy and some bonus friends, Lane, Jane and Amy who all came in while I was there. My visit with Jeanne was much too short and I hardly got any time with Nancy. So sad for me since this was the fun part of my day. I was not planning on seeing any other friends in person since I look like a prize fighter with my eye. (And thanks for the messages of concern. It is an infection and I saw the doctor yesterday.)

I was home at my appointed four hour window for the repair man to come. I thought it was my lucky day when he showed up at hour three. So much better than two hours late like last time.

He took apart my refrigerator, something he did not do at the diagnoses call two weeks ago, and discovered that the back was full of frost and ice.

After thawing it out he said he might not have to replace the motor he had ordered. I was a little perturbed by this since it was something he could have done at my original visit. It turned out that the broken motor was actually broken so he went to replace it. Guess what, they had sent the wrong part. Three to ten days to get the right one and the automatic scheduling program set up his next visit to put the second and hopefully correct motor in on June 20! See Sears is very short on Techs because some other company came in and poached them all for better pay.

Children around Hope Valley might have learned some new words from me I was so mad. So here are the take always for today. Don’t trust that the diagnostic tool that tells the tech what is broken is the only thing that is broken. Make sure they actually order the right part. And don’t buy any products made or sold by Sears and especially don’t buy the extended warranty.

I miss the days when you bought a refrigerator and it was still working thirty years later in the garage.

Primland We Loved Ya

A few years ago our friends the Toms came home from this resort in the mountains of Virginia that we had never heard of raving about what a fun time they had. Then our friends the Prebles did the same. More and more friends had visited this place, yet in all the years we never saw one bit of marketing, not an ad, or an email, or a pop up on travel sites.

Apparently being a best kept secret is how Primland wants it.

When we realized that we had only a few days all summer to take a break with Carter before she goes off to Cheerio for the whole summer we decided that the resort that is only two and a half hours away was the perfect answer.

We arrived at the 12,000 acre resort along the south side of the blue ridge parkway. The gate was very unassuming, but once the voice on the other side of the speaker verified we were guests the doors swung open. We were instructed to follow the signs to the lodge. Thank goodness the signage was good because as we drove the winding roads climbing higher and higher up the mountain we did not see another car or person for the seven mile drive to the lodge.

As we rounded the final switch back the lodge came into view. It was a large, not huge shingle building where four men were waiting out front to greet us. We were staying in one of the pinnacle cottage which were another small drive from the lodge. Our suite was a huge two rooms with two big porches over looking the most astounding view across a valley to another mountain.

Primland was originally a hunting lodge and property of 3,000 acres bought in the seventies by a French family who, over the years amassed the current property four times its original size. They lumbered the property at first, but in 2006 changed the focus to a resort.

We we fascinated with the economics of such a huge property can work with a gorgeous golf course, big hunting operation, fishing and many other outdoor activities and only 26 rooms in the main lodge, five cottage of about 4-6 suites in each and a handful of fairway houses. So of course all three of us asked every worker we encountered all about the operations.

What we found out is that the family who owns it is not concerned with making a profit, “just don’t lose money.” What a model. It certainly pays off for the guests. To that nothing is inexpensive, but it is anything but crowded. While we we there there were only about fifty guests spending each night. The staff was all a twitter about the 150 guests that we’re coming for the holiday weekend. Seems like it is not what they are used to.

There were a few things that made us realize that there were not many of us there. Like one morning it appeared they were short staffed in the kitchen. Our exasperated server was furious that it took them so long to poach me two eggs so she comped our whole breakfast. Carter and I had scheduled some spa treatments and when one of the staff showed up sick so Carter’s massage was canceled. The spa director, who was also a massage therapist, gave Carter a free half hour massage when they couldn’t get another therapist to come in.

Those things were minor in the enjoyment of our vacation. Carter announced it was her favorite vacation we have taken. That is a high bar. We will definitely go back. I think we will stick to the non-holiday visits so we don’t stress the staff.

La Luna

While I was holding a hot compress to my eye most of the morning Russ and Carter were shooting skeet. Turns out, like golf, Carter is a fairly good shot. That makes two new expensive hobbies she has taken up in three days.

Russ, being the frugal one in the group went out for the most difficult hike while Carter and I went to the spa. His phone registered that he did 84 flights of stairs in an hour and fifteen minutes. Even though it looks like I was punched in the eye, no one at the spa said a thing to me.

Being our last night on vacation (the name of the place will be revealed tomorrow when I am at home) we made the most of it. Our resort has an observatory and after dinner we went up and had a star gazing time with Lauren, the resident astronomer. It was the only clear night since we have been here so we felt lucky to see Saturn, Venus and a number of different galaxies. We also saw the international space station fly by. Carter got this fantastic photo of the moon through one of the smaller telescopes.

After star gazing up high we went down low and sat by the fire pit where s’mores are always available. Other than the glow of the fire there were very few lights on so we could see the stars we just learned about.

As we walked back to our cottage with only the light of our phones and the moon we saw the shape of some big animal pass in front of us. This type of nature is not the kind Carter likes. It didn’t like us anymore either and kept moving away from our cottage so we got in safely.

Back to hot compresses for me and the hope that tomorrow I will start to be on the downside of this stye. Carter has already announced she is going to the driving range before we go home. What have we done?

What’s Scary

It never fails, just as we go away for a small family getaway I get a stye in my eye. I woke up yesterday feeling like I had been punched in the eye in my sleep, but other than pain bellow my eye and in my lid I was fine. Russ thought I might have been bitten by something while gardening. I did not think much about it yesterday, it then I woke up this morning with a much more swollen eye. UGH!

Hot compresses are the thing to do, but that is just not convenient or easy. So I tried to wear my big sunglasses all day to hide my unattractive eye. Thankfully thee were very few people on the hiking trial Russ and I walked today. It was considered moderate, which I should realize means hard for me.

We saw two deer, a giant spider and soon after that a tiny mouse ran right by me and under a rock. I was more afraid of the mouse than anything.

While Russ and I hiked Carter was taking a golf lesson. The pro said this morning that she was incredibly coachable. Must have been true because after her lesson she came to get me to show me her driving. I was astonished at how consistently straight and far she hit it. Hard to believe that she never played all those years at Hope Valley and now she likes golf.

As we were walking to the pool we saw a big black snake which made Carter run faster than she ever did in any basketball game. The mouse was still more scary to me than the snake. Of course the scariest thing of all is me without my sunglasses on.

When Did I Get So Short?

I used to be accused of being much taller than I am. When compared to my truly tall friend Lynn, I was considered equal or taller than her. It had nothing to do with my actual height. “I’m not tall, I’m just loud,” was my response. Well, it was not absolutely true, yes I am loud, but I was above average in height, which makes me on the tall side, just not as tall as Lynn.

I am able to reach high shelves in the kitchen without a step stool. I know that all the dried chilies are on the top shelf and I can grab them without aid. I can’t reach the canister of chicken broth powder without the help of the kitchen tongs, but I am tall enough to put it back on the shelf without the tongs.

Since Carter has been home I have noticed that I am on a different level from her and Russ. They could be having a totally different conversation without me up there is the stratosphere. I feel somewhat inferior.

Now with my new found shortness I wonder if I had left any of my short friends out of things inadvertently? Had I ever talked over someone’s head with no notice of their facial expressions because they were not on my eye level? Had I hung things too high for a vertically challenged friend to see?

Being around Russ and Carter gives me a new appreciation for people with all kind of handicaps that I might not have appreciated before. Now that I have the worse eyes in the family I am feeling very feeble.

Yes, I am sure I am shrinking. Gravity has that affect on all of us if we are lucky enough to live long enough for it to take effect. But I don’t think I have shrunk that measurably much. It is just the perception that I am so far the shortest now. It is all relative, and when your relatives are giants you feel even shorter.

What Are You Wearing?

When I was a kid in grade school it was common practice for girls to call each other and say, “What are you wearing to school tomorrow?” It was code for, “Are you wearing a skirt?” For some reason girls didn’t want to show up at school and be the only girl in a dress. Why, it hardly mattered since if we were wearing a dress or a skirt we were also wearing shorts underneath. Mostly it was that we never wanted to stand out so if you matched with your friend you had an automatic ally.

This is not a practice that continues for me into adulthood. Sometimes I will call a friend and inquire what the dress code might be. Once in a blue moon I end up buying the same dress as a friend, so I might ask her if she is wearing “our” dress to an event to prevent showing up wearing the same thing. I never want to be included in a “who wore it better” spread because I will be certain to loose that.

Tonight we went to a party at the Teer farm. As Russ was getting dressed I told him that we were going to be outside and to change his leather loafers to boat shoes since the ground was saturated. I wish I hadn’t done that because it meant that he did not totally match his very close friend Logan.

I know they did not call each other and ask, “What are you wearing?” It is just the psychic thing that happens between Russ and his close friends. More days than not when Russ and his business partner Rich go to a meeting together they show up wearing matching outfits and I am not just talking white shirts and khaki pants. At some point I think Russ might need to adopt calling his guy friends and finding out what they are wearing, just to make sure they aren’t matching.

Nothing Like A Royal Wedding

Like so many people I woke up this morning to see our American Princess marry her prince. I figured it was my last chance to watch a British Royal wedding of any consequence for at least another quarter century and no one does weddings better than the Royals.

To me the highlight was Bishop Curry, who until recently was the North Carolina Episcopal Bishop. His homily really rocked the stiff upper lip crowd, who looked nervously at their programs. I was waiting for Oprah to give him a big, “Amen.”

It was such fun that the whole thing was held at Windsor where they have the best chapel. As the newly married Duke and Duchess were parading in the landau carriage right after the ceremony all I could think of was how in the world did all those people get to Windsor? It’s not such a big town, with very little parking and the train service from London is not direct.

Russ and I took Carter there one March Day a few years back and I remember we had to change trains.

As Harry and Meghan were driving in the carriage surrounded by the queen’s horse guards, I thought I recognized a few. That same day we went to Windsor he happened upon the horse guards having their annual photo taken in Hyde Park. Of course they do all look alike in their very fine uniforms.

There is nothing like a good Royal wedding to take the world’s attention off Brexit. I think that Meghan is the right person at the right time for Britain. She appears to have the queen’s blessing based on the story that the queen gave Meghan’s dog a ride out to Windsor. The best way to the queen’s heart is either through a dog or a horse.

The saddest part for me now that the wedding has come and gone is this means the news is going to turn back to our “I am the king” guy in the White House. It was so nice for a little while to pretend he wasn’t there.

The Beauty Of Collaborations

Today was a really fun day thanks to two people I collaborate with in totally different areas of my life. The first was my long arm quilter, Tina Schwager and the second is my bridge mentor and great friend Deanna Larus.

Over a month ago I dropped off my most recent pieced quilt top and back at Tina’s house. It was my largest and most favorite quilt I have designed and sewn so far. It was a complicated design where I used a lot of negative space so the quilting was going to be paramount in the design.

Tina is a true artist and I love collaborating with her on what the possibilities are to turn my flat work into an even better 3-d piece. I had envisioned a very complicated quilting design, but Tina took it even two or three steps beyond anything I could have imagined.

I have on illusions that I will ever be able to do this level of quilting myself. I don’t have the space for the right equipment and it is not the way I want to spend my time. But I do create the quilt pieced designs with the quilting design in mind and I love that Tina is able to translate my vision onto the finished quilt.

I can hardly wait to get to work hand sewing the binding edge this weekend and putting this quilt on my bed.

My second great collaboration is at the bridge table. Twenty years go I learned to play with my friend Deanna. She went on to be a life master and this year has pulled me back into bridge by being my mentor. She has her choice of practically any partner and could be much more successful in the point count if she wasn’t playing with me. I so appreciate her generosity to teaching me. It is thanks to her that I get master points every time we play together. I know that I can never catch up to her, but I look forward to the day I am not her handicap.

National Ed Carter Day

Sorry if today happened to be your birthday too, but today is reserved for my Dad who turns 80 today. It is shocking to think he is 80 because he hardly seems any different that when he was 30. Maybe because he hasn’t changed one bit.

It helps when you lose your hair young, because then you don’t age. You don’t get grey hair when you don’t have any. It helps that your vocabulary is still as colorful as ever. I never worried about Carter learning “bad” words from my Dad because they were said just like regular words and with the same frequency.

If you look up the definition of generosity in the dictionary there is a full color photo of my Dad. He always has advice for everyone and usually it is correct.

If you ask him to write something it will be long, even if you were just looking for a summary. He wants to know you are really paying attention to him when he talks and you know he is serious about it when it starts with, “Follow with me now…” And it always starts with “Follow with me now…”

He might make you mad, but he is often right. Maybe you are mad about the way he tells you, because he will always tell you when you are going the wrong way.

If he likes what you are telling him you will know it because he says, “yeah, yeah.”

There has never been a better story teller, but you probably should cover young children’s ears.

He never thought he would be 80 because he started many conversation with me as a young child with, “I have to tell you this before I die.” At first I was worried that he was going to die that or the next day, but then I realized he has a lot to tell me before he dies so it is not going to happen anytime soon.

If he likes you, you are the best person on earth and if he doesn’t you are a dumb ass and no one is in between.

So on this National Ed Cater day I just want to tell this before I die, now follow me, he is one funny son of a bitch, yeah, yeah.

My Favorite Grade School Teacher, Dale Stoelting

Today, many schools around North Carolina were closed because teachers went to Raleigh to protest how schools are funded and they are treated. When I was a kid my parents moved to Connecticut because the public schools there were so highly rated. Back in the sixties teachers were at least respected, but still not always well paid.

I think that as working conditions went the teachers in Wilton were on the high end of the scale. That being said, I am not sure they were paid enough to live in Wilton. I say this because my very favorite teacher, Dale Stoelting, who was both my fourth and sixth grade teacher rented a room to live in at someone’s house in Wilton.

I was very fortunate to have her as a teacher. My fourth grade class was extraordinary and when we moved on to fifth grade we kept in touch with Miss Stoelting even though we were in a different building. She missed our class so much she made the unusual move to change from teaching fourth to sixth grade and somehow got most of our original fourth grade back.

Having her as my teacher for two years meant that I really got to know her well. We had her over to our house for dinner, which was the most exciting thing to me. That was how I learned that she didn’t live in an apartment or a house. It seemed so wrong to me, as a child, that such an important person in my life did not earn enough to live independently in the town where she worked.

Now Wilton did not have any high density housing due to strict zoning laws. That seemed very short sighted even to me way back then. How could we attract good teachers if we don’t have any place for them to live?

The current state of the public schools in North Carolina is not a map for success. Most of the problems we have in the whole country could be solved with better education. If we want to have people to take care of us in old age, we need to do a good job educating young people today.

I would love to know what happened to Miss Stoelting. She was the kind of teacher that inspired her students to be their best. She was the first teacher who encouraged me to use my voice and stand up for what I believe in. That is priceless.

Growing Old Together

In the ever stretching out of all things Birthday my dear friend Sara took me to lunch. Since she is fighting unknown food allergies we went to Happy and Hale so she could have a salad of limited choices. I was perfectly happy to go along with this plan, but felt guilty eating somethings on my salad, which she could not. It seems that no matter how old we get new allergies can pop up. This hardly is fair that she has to cut out most all foods and then slowly add them back to see how they make her feel.

As we enjoyed our salads we discussed a group we are both part of. We wanted to talk about new officers we had received word of in an email, but neither of us could remember who always on the list.

“Who sent the email?” I asked so I could look it up on my phone.

“I don’t remember,” Sara replied.

I scrolled through back emails, wondering why I had not deleted messages from the Boston Globe, Talbots and the American Cancer Society. Eventually I found it. I read the names allowed one by one.

“I don’t think I know her,” I said after one name.

“I think she is tall and skinny.” Sara told me. Not enough information for me to figure it out.

“Who is that one?” Sara asks.

“I think I met her once, but I can’t recall what she looks like or where she lives.”

And so it went on like that. Of the group of a dozen names we thought we knew maybe half, but of that we still could not be sure. Some of them I might know by sight, but could not put a name to.

When we finished that fruitless exercise we decided it was a good thing we have known each other as long as we have because we might be all we have as we get older and less and less reliable in our recall of people we have met.

I used to be able to tell you where everyone I ever met grew up, went to school and worked. If I were pushed I could describe them to a T so that a police sketch artist could reproduce such a likeness that they would be instantly recognizable. Those skills are completely gone for new people I meet these days, but I can still recite all that information for all my high school and college friends perfectly.

At church we have these little “friendship pads” in each pew where we write our names each Sunday and pass the pad along so we can learn the names of the people in our pew. When we first joined our church I thought it was a silly exercise because of course I knew everyone’s name, even when I was a fairly new congregant. Now I wait for that friendship pad to be passed to me so I can refresh my memory of who that young couple is sitting at the end of the pew, where they have sat three weeks in a row.

I don’t think I am losing my memory any faster than anyone else or that I have a memory issue, I just think my younger recall was extraordinary and now I am less than average. At least that is the way I measure myself compared to Sara. I wish we both were better at remembering, but I feel like I am in good company. Thankfully she has been a friend for so long I’ve got her in lockdown in my mind.

Playing Hooky

The best kinds of days are ones where I get to play an unscheduled Mah Jongg. My friend Carol had lots of family in town over the weekend for Duke’s graduation. In true form she had so much leftover yummy food that she had to have an emergency Mah Jongg game so we could eat up her leftovers.

Not only did we have delicious lunch but she had so many bouquets of flowers that she gave me two to bring home. Lunch, Mah Jongg, lots of games won and flowers, cha-ching a great way to spend the afternoon.

This feels like a bonus to Mother’s Day. Thanks to Carol. The only reason I don’t feel guilty is that I got lots of done at home this morning. Of course, even if I did feel guilty I still would have played. Never pass up a chance to play with your friends. Your work will always be there.

Happy Mother’s Day and Dad’s Birthday Brunch

After a successful surprise birthday dinner last night we had the not-a-surprise birthday brunch for my Dad this morning as well as celebrating Mother’s Day for my mother and me.

All our out of town guests had stayed at my friend Shelayne’s Courtyard Marriott in Danville, which they all said was wonderful. Thanks to Shelayne for making that happen. They took a walk along the river before arriving at the farm to have a big brunch, which my sisters, aunt and mom had made with me. It was almost more fun than the party the night before.

After everyone ate strata, fruit, salmon, bagels, and ham biscuits we gathered in one room where I read a tribute to my father from my best childhood friend, Tom Hurdman. It was written in old English so I passed out the copies of it for everyone to follow along as I read it. Thankfully Tom had given me a translation. My father loved it and it was a hit with the gathered friends.

We had such a good time reminiscing about all our old times together and vacations taken together. It meant so much to my father than these friends made the trip all the way to the farm to honor him as he turns 80. It sounds like such a big number for such a young guy.

Sometime after noon the last guest departed and our nuclear family was left to celebrate Mother’s Day. I gave my mother her needlepoint pillow which I had finished for her. Carter game me a tea towel that said, “OMG, my mother was right about everything,” and a darling wooden box filled with notes about what she loves about me. Let’s just say those are about the best gifts I ever could have gotten. Plus she is cooking dinner for us all tonight.

In true Carter fashion she came to Russ’ rescue with the best Mother’s Day present he could give me, a trip for the weekend to visit Carter in Boston in the fall. How she worked out a gift for herself in the process is brilliant and much appreciated by me. I think she has offered Russ a gift consultant contract and he may be signing it.

This was a very successful weekend. We surprised my father and he was not unhappy about it. We got quality time with dear old friends, and we were all together for Mother’s day. I hope your weekend was at least half as good because then I know you were happy.

Dad’s Surprise Birthday Party

My dad is turning 80 next week. It is not really something he seems to be very excited about, but it’s a pretty good thing. Our friends Anne and Mark offered to give him a birthday party up in Annopolis. My dad declined. So my mother decided that if he didn’t want a party in Annopolis she would throw him a surprise party. Oh lord, this plan was fraught with lots of potential pitfalls.

First my mother had to find a place to hold it that was acceptable. Then she had to save up the money to pay for it. Then a very small guest list of only the closest of friends had to be drawn up, most of which were coming from Washington, all the while keeping this all a secret from my father. The hardest part of the whole plan was how we were going to get him to go to this restaurant at the right time.

My mother asked me to invite him. I asked Carter to ask him, thinking that he would never say No to his only grandchild. She did and he said No. So my sister Janet had to get involved. Eventually he gave in and said he would go to dinner with my mom, sisters and my family, but he wasn’t happy about it.

The out of town friends were staying at the nicest hotel in Danville and they all dutifully arrived at the restaurant on time. It was decided that we would not say “surprise,” because we didn’t want to scare my Dad. He walked in the room and when he saw all the friends gathered there he said exactly what I predicted, “Shit!” He may not have been happy at first, but he quickly warmed up.

There were many of the friends we had worked with in London, Washington or Kansas City together. It was so fun for me to see them. I think my Dad had a good time and my Mom pulled it all off.

Mark Schweitzer, who has known my dad since Mark was nine years old, just a mere 51 years ago gave a lovely toast, as did Cousin Harry. My sister Margaret said many sweet things about my Dad and I gave him the bad news, that we were having all these people to the farm tomorrow for brunch. Surprise! A second party. There is nothing he hates more than having a surprise party, except when it is with people he really loves.

I hope he remembers this as a very fun night because it really was and my Mom did a fabulous job to make it happen.

Waffle House Nightmares

I was driving in my car today with NPR playing as is my custom and I heard a news story about Dr. Martin Luther King’s daughter asking people to boycott Waffle House. I had missed the news the last few days and knew nothing of the two incidents of police arresting people at two different Waffle Houses, but I could have guessed it. See nothing good ever happens at a Waffle House after midnight.

My nightmares of Waffle House started my first year out of college when I sold Mail Opening machines. I had a five state territory, which included North Carolina, home of Waffle House. My s.o.b. boss would always pick Charlotte as the place he wanted to work with me because he loved Waffle House. Before I worked with him I had never even heard of a Waffle House.

Selling mail opening machines also meant training the customers how to use them when we installed new machines. Charlotte was a hub of banking, so I had plenty of good customers who ran our machines three shifts. That meant that I often had to go train people in the middle of the night. It was the second least glamorous part of my job.

The first least glamorous part was having to go to Waffle House with my boss at four in the morning after being up all night at a bank. Going to a Waffle House at that hour sober was an eye opening experience. You really get to see the under belly of America. Truck drivers, shift workers, people who shouldn’t be out driving, and cops, lots of cops.

I saw newlyweds, who just got married after one of them was released from prison that day, I think it was her, and people who were missing their important teeth. If I had a crystal ball when I was in boarding school and could have told my History teacher Rita Shay that I would one day be sitting in a Waffle House with my boss, who barely graduated from an unaccredited Christian college, but was my boss since his Dad owned the business, she would have told me to leave her class and not waste her fine education on anyone who one day would darken the door of a Waffle House.

I am happy to say that once I left that company I never had any reason to even drive by the parking lot of a Waffle House. I knew that nothing good could ever come from such a place, and not because they would scrape all the shit off the grill and it would land in the waffle irons. I knew that somehow you had to really hit rock bottom to consider eating at a Waffle House.

So that fact that they are making the national news for bad things happening there just isn’t news to me. I don’t know the details of these incidents, but Dr. King’s daughter might really be doing God’s work to save people by asking them to stop going to Waffle House.

Harvard 100 Reaches 100

Seven years ago I was in the first class of seven non-profit board chairs to be sent to Harvard by Chuck ReCorr. It was an evolutionary four days for me. He called it an experiment in training non-profit leadership. Then he sent our CEO’s six months later. He liked what happened to our organizations so he sent another class of seven the next year. Then he decided he was going to send 100 people in total, seven at a time, both spring and fall.

This year the 100 has been realized. For each of us individually it was empowering, but as a group we are formidable. So tonight at one of our regular gatherings one of our best professors from the Harvard program, Dutch Leonard, came to speak, as well as to honor Chuck.

According to Dutch, no other community in the country has invested in their non-profit leadership the way the triangle has and it’s all thanks to one man, Chuck ReCorr. He has spent a half a million of his own dollars to do this.

Now it is time for the community to pick up the reigns and continue funding this kind of investment ourselves. The idea Chuck had that if non-profits learned to collaborate and work together we could move the needle to improve our community faster. Having so many organizations all attend the same courses so we speak the same language and get to know each other has been a big help. It takes a while to break down silos but it is beginning to happen. Of course this is a long term project, one I believe in.

If you are part of a non-profit and would like to learn about how you can improve your leadership and join the collaborative let me know. You can not only improve your own organization, but you can improve our whole community.

Here is a link to a nice article about Chuck from Walter Magazine


Carter’s Double Civic Duty

Yesterday while everything was breaking at my house Carter was doing her civic duty double time. Her day started early with her reporting for jury duty down at the new Durahm Court House. Before she went she was excited about jury duty, then reality that perhaps she would be seated on a long trial got her worried.

She peppered me with questions about how the whole thing worked and was frustrated when I told her that jurors sitting in the Jurors’ lounge were just pawns in the “let’s make a deal” real life of lawyers. Sure enough the clerk of courts told them that she originally had three cases that needed jurors at the start of the day and that quickly became one.

Carter sat and read her book all morning until she was released for a two and a half hour lunch break. She texted me she was going over to have lunch with Russ. I told her that she might get excused as soon as she gets back since she got such a long lunch. Sure enough that is what happened. At least she got her certificate showing she has served, in case she gets called in Boston, which I hear lots of college students do.

The good news about her getting out early is she was able to get home and pick me up to do her second civic duty and vote for the very first time. It was only a primary, but she was still mad bout missing the chance to vote in the presidential election last year because she was a month and a day too young.

She drove us to St. Stephens and when we checked in all the poll workers were so excited that a young person was coming to vote. They congratulated her on being a first time voter. There were only three races, but Carter had researched the candidates and knew exactly who she wanted to vote for. It was a proud moment for me and quite frankly the highlight of my day. I hope she never misses a chance to do her civic duty.

No Peace Of Mind

After the first three dinners I hosted with my friend Sara for our Church capital campaign it became obvious that the people who came to dinner were good pledgers. Since not everyone we invited could come to one of the first dinners, I volunteered that we needed a fourth one to try and capture some more pledges. Sadly the best day to do it was one where Sara was away on a much deserved delayed vacation. No problem, I can certainly handle a dinner for 18 by myself.

We planned it for tonight because I was going to be stuck at home all day with the treemen taking down nine trees and an unknown number of shrubs and volunteer trees on our property. Carter had her first jury duty so it seemed like a good day to cook.

I was awoken by a Russ telling me that the refrigerator had failed at some point during the night. This was not the news I needed. We emptied it and by the time that was over the repair line was open. The woman I first spoke with asked me to turn the fridge off at the breaker to see if it might come back on. It did! Hurrah! I wish I had known that before I moved all the food into coolers.

I went about prepping my food. About two hours later the fridge went out again. Not a good sign. I called back to the repair service. We had bought a 5 year extended warranty on this product when we purchased it two years go. I had the original sales receipt and the warranty contract. The next woman I spoke with verified my warranty, but asked if I lived in a rural area. No, we have about a million people here. “I don’t understand then,” she went on, “because our first available appointment is May 29.”

You can imagine what choice words I had for that. She gave me the number of the benefits coordinator for my contract and told me they might be able to help me. I called the next woman. Her help went like this:

1. An offer to give me a credit to buy a mini fridge to hold us over until the repair May 29. NO.

2. An offer for me to find and call a third party repair service myself and they would pay for it. NO.

I made it clear that I had my contract and a lawyer. Amazingly she put me on hold and came back with a repairman who can come tomorrow. Now that does not mean it will be fixed tomorrow, since they don’t have parts, but at least it is a start.

She did tell me that after the repair man comes I can make a claim for lost food. I wonder how much they pay for that?

I went back to cooking, but realized I needed to make a phone call and discovered that our landline was dead. Now I had to call the phone company and ask for a repair. That went a little more smoothly, but the jury is still out until it actually gets fixed, which did not happen today.

I was very busy cooking all day and only when the treemen came to the door to say they were done did I look at the wasteland of my yard that was created by taking all these tree down. Now I need a major landscaping job. This is going to take a while. Hopefully I will have a working refrigerator before I get that project done.

Pageant Month For Me

My friend Lee calls birthday’s pageants, because celebrating them goes on for a whole month. I guess that when you get to be our age it is a pageant. So in that spirit today I went to lunch with my friends Lynn and Shelayne in celebration of still being alive.

One of the beauties of having a May birthday is being able to eat lunch outside because it is warm enough and not too warm. That is why we chose to go to the Washington Duke, because it has an excellent chopped salad and a nice patio to eat it on.

Sadly, despite being the perfect temperature and amount of sun the patio was closed so the gutters and awnings could be cleaned. We had a fabulous lunch, inspire of not getting our usual out door table.

This just means that some other pageant activity will have to take place on the Wadu terrace, but not until after Duke Graduation. In case you don’t know this come Wednesday or Thursday before graduation, the Wadu, reduces it’s normal menu down to just a few things they can make quickly because demand is so high. I feel sorry for those parents who come to stay for graduation expecting something grand and they are confronted with the mini menu. I wonder if the Wadu lets people know that when they make reservations.

“Sir, since you are booking a room during our busiest weekend of the year I just want you to know we will be reducing our offerings in all restaurants and we want you to hurry along because other people will want to eat too.”

Seems like they could have scheduled the cleaning of the gutters and awnings for the time after lunch today so we could have enjoyed the terrace as we had planned. Power washing right during the height of lunch was not really a good idea.

But lunch with my friends was so fun just the same, we forgot to take a picture. We normally have a no gift rule, but Shelayne never follows rules, with the excuse “I have this and thought you should have it too.” She gave me pair of fabulous waterproof kitchen gloves. I am anti gifts, but her timing was perfect since my oven mitts and getting thin right where my fingers grab the handles on hot pans.

I do love pageant month.

Birthday Mystery

For my birthday this year, my old friend Warren, who I don’t usually exchange gifts with, sent me a package. As I opened the box, I saw the “EBay” logo tape. Warren is an avid scavenger of all things EBay and I wondered what odd treasure he had discovered.

Inside the well bubble wrapped package was a small salad or cake plate with the Ethel Walker School motto, “Nullas Horas Nisi Aureas” and the school symbol, a sundial. The border of the plate had an intricate design in blue and gold, not our purple and gold colors. Never in my years at EWS had I seen any such plate or pattern. In the seventies we used that white heavy ironstone which was so popular at institutions of all kinds.

I showed it to Russ and translated the Latin for him “no hours unless golden” as I remembered it. I was the poorest possible Latin student when I was a sophomore at EWS so I memorized the motto in case I was ever asked what it was. Never once in my years there did we ever discuss what the hell the motto meant. I have come to learn that basically it is a charge not to waste time. Ethel Walker girls were experts at wasting time, we were teenagers after all.

I called Warren to ask him the details of exactly how he had found this rare plate. He told me it was advertised on Ebay as an Ethel Walker School plate. Since there are no makings indicting the connection to the school we surmised it must have been stolen from the dining hall by a student, because how else would someone know it’s connection.

What neither of us could figure out was when were these plates used. So all my Walkers friends with mothers or grandmothers who went to Walkers can you show them this picture and ask if they used these plates. I would love to know why era it was from.

As for the motto, I have obviously never lived up to it because I have spent countless hours in my life wasting time. The only other Latin I can recall from class with Mrs. Dumbrow was, “Semper Ubi Sub Ubi” translated literally means “Always where under where.” Not the right where, but a motto I actually have lived by.

Winter Right Into Summer

In any normal year I am chomping at the bit to plant my garden in March. I know perfectly well the rule for North Carolina is not to plant until after April 15 for fear of frost, so I hold myself back. Not this year. I had no desire to do any work in the frigid garden until well into May. What is this Maine?

These lack of warm days tempting me to prep the soil or start seeds did not happen the same way it usually does. The was no soil improvement program as a precursor to planting. It was just too cold. Then it warmed up and fast.

Last weekend Russ tilled my garden. Even that didn’t excite me about planting. Then the summer day came. So I spent the better part of today laying down zinnia seeds in neat rows and scattering arugula seeds. Five zucchini plants and three cucumber are the only veggies so far. I am so sick of feeding deer they are the only ones I am going to attempt.

Then I turned to herbs. I had started thyme seeds indoors and I transplanted 30 tender little brown pelts of seedlings. They are so fragile that I am unsure if they will make it. The three hardy basil plants I put in should be fine.

After planting, watering and cleaning up weeds I turned to my peonies and decided to cut a bunch of flowers before the rain comes tomorrow and ruins them.

I may be late in my planting, but I hope come June I will be glad I did it. Maybe cutting my own salad from my arugula patch will make me forget the long cold winter we endured.

A Perfect Send Off

When I wrote my blog last Sunday night about Russ and I learning to play Pétanque from our friend Francois Deprez I certainly had no inkling that we would get a chance to play with him again. Francois had a freak tree accident Monday and his sweet wife let him go in the wee hours Wednesday.

Today we went to his funeral at University Methodist where his favorite Grateful Dead song was performed and the preacher told tales of Francois love of a good negotiation as well as the superior game of Pétanque. My friend Christina and their two sons held up as the gathering of their many friends went out to their home/Inn to continue the celebration of Francois much too short a life.

I was hugging Christina while she discussed how she is going to win every Mah Jongg game this year, thanks to sympathy, Russ wandered by the open shed where he caught sight of the Pétanque sign. It raided us both to not waste anytime doing the mundane, but to spend time enjoying friends.

I hope that any disagreements I am in with loved ones can be forgotten. We just don’t know how much time we have to bother arguing over small stuff.

One of the best things was Francois obituary. It ended with, “In lieu of flowers, please buy someone a Dos Equis.” I plan on doing that.

What A Nice Day

I don’t care what anyone says about Facebook, it makes birthdays so much better. Before it existed only your very closest s friends might remember your birthday on the actual day, and even then, they had a hard time acknowledging it in a timely manor. With Facebook you get hundreds of birthday wishes from people near and far. Thank you to all of you who sent me some sentiment. It made my day.

Between getting those Facebook recognitions, emails and phone calls I had just a nice day. It started with a morning drive to Raliegh where I had to be interviewed and video taped for a surprise film for someone I can’t name here. Since I was in Raleigh, I stopped by the farmers market and got some plants for my vegetable garden.

I came home in time to go to lunch with Carter at Parker and Otis. We spent a good amount of time discussing her favorite childhood toys and random early memories. She got mad t me that I asked if we could go home after a couple of hours. “We are having so much fun talking,” she said, as if we couldn’t talk at home. Which we didn’t.

I had some quality needlepoint time this afternoon. Since Carter is home I am trying to stay out of the sweat shop next to her room. I wanted to watch something on demand on TV but discovered that the ON DEMAND feature was OFF DEMAND on my cable box. That led to a twenty minute call with the cable guy only to determine I have to exchange the box at the cable company tomorrow. If that was the only low point of my day, it was still a good birthday.

While I was needlepointing the doorbell rang and my friend Stacey w standing at the door with this beautiful arrangement she had made. Stacey recently opened Figtree design florists and has filled the void that the closing of Family Garden left in Russ Lange’s life.

The photograph of these flowers does not do them justice.

Russ came home and I opened presents, the best one being a book Carter made about me, or more exactly about a person born on May, 3 1961. It is very cool.

Then we went to dinner at the St.James and had a rollicking time. All in all it was quite a nice birthday. The best part is my friends drag birthdays out over the month, since none of us ever get it together to celebrate on the actual day. So I have some fun lunches to look forward to and a trip to NYC with Russ to see Suzanne and Steve. Hooray for me!

Happiness and Heartbreak

Twenty six years ago today Russ went against his mother’s suggestion that he could still get out of this and married me anyway. It has been one wonderful quarter century plus one. I can’t imagine having a more supportive husband than Russ. No matter what crazy scheme I come up with he is down for it. And he never complains able it the baggage I brought along in this deal.

I am even more appreciative of him today because my friend Christina lost her husband in the wee hours of this morning to a freak tree accident. You just don’t know how long you have together so it’s best to let the small stuff slide and enjoy your partner for being the one who sticks with you.

My heart is breaking for a Christina and her two sons. I feel a little guilty to be celebrating my anniversary. But we all have to go on with whatever life gives us. I am just thankful that life gave me Russ Lange and along with him Carter Lange.

So I pray today for those who have lost a love and those who have a love to hold tight to. Make the most of everyday, always say “I love you,” when you part and appreciate each other.

The Worst Words

I woke up this morning to a message from a friend, “call me when you wake up.” Those were not the kind of words that make you think it is going to be good news. And it wasn’t, but it’s not my story to tell. But I am asking you for prayers, or good vibes, or anything you believe in for a friend of mine. You don’t need to know the name to pray for someone. Just wish the best to keep a family in the light.