All Real Estate, All Day

My Mom came back for a big day of us looking at retirement communities. We had two great visits with two more places and the good news is she likes every place. I got copies of everything she was given so I can read all the fine print and be helpful in the ultimate decision making process. Mom asked the last place we visited what most people do about continuing care since these places are just so expensive. The woman said that there is a big hole in the market place. Most people don’t have the same choices my parents do.

As I was looking at places with my mother Carter was looking at apartments in Boston. Tired of living in dorms and having uncertain accommodations next year and the following years Carter negotiated with us to move off campus. I feel Carter’s desire since I moved off campus at the same point in my college career, although I had lived in dorms for three years more than Carter since I started in high school.

The rental market in Boston is nuts. The costs are crazy, but to be able to live alone and not have to move every four months is a great peace of mind. Carter did get a big dose of “adulting” having tried one agent who was not up to snuff and then seeking out a better agent who was able to show her many more properties. Now it’s the legal paperwork and money transfer, all things Carter is learning to handle with some lease review from us.

I used to have nightmare when I rented my first house that after my roommates and I had done a bunch of improvements to the house our landlord would evict us in the middle of the school year. They were the worries of a young person who did not know what rights I had as a lessee. This learning to be an adult is hard, but I am happy for Carter to get a chance to learn how to ease into it before she has to worry about earning her own money to pay her rent.

As for my parents, they are easing my nightmares about who will take care of them as they age. Growing up and old is hard on all of us.

One Name

There are a few people who can go by one name and everyone knows who they are— Cher, Madonna, Elvis, Prince. Of course for most of them, save Elvis, we don’t even know what their last name is. Like, what is Adele’s last name. Sometime we know both their names but only need one, Oprah you know I am talking to you.

Well as of today I have finally reached one name status. An unnamed friend mailed me a check that was made out just to “Dana.” I wonder if that is how Cher gets her money?

Since I most certainly have not reached one name recognition, perhaps it is that we are forgetting how to write checks since we rarely do that anymore. Thankfully my friend allowed me to write in my last name and the automatic phone deposit did not reject it. I didn’t want to chance depositing a one name check, even if it was my name.

Chef’s Feast 2019

Vivian Howard, of A Chef’s Life, fame and her many successful restaurants, anchored by the Chef and the Farmer in Kingston, is back as the headline chef at the Food Bank of CENC, big event. I will be the auctioneer and master of ceremonies again this year, on April 18 at Fearrington.

This is a big fun night for the Food Bank and if you are a fan of Vivian’s this is about as close as you can get to her. If you really want to see her and eat some great food you can buy a Station Chef sponsorship which will get you a table for 8. I only have six of these sponsorships available as everything else has already sold out.

There will also be a small number of individual tickets available at $225 a ticket. They will go on sale in February, but if you want to ensure you get one let me know and I can put you on my special list. It is a fun night with a few special items available for auction. Join me to help feed our North Carolina neighbors.

Chimney Mason Needed

In my ongoing job as “House Doctor” I have discovered that one of my chimneys needs some masonry work. Since this is not something I can do with my sewing machine I am looking for a good local mason who specializes in Chimneys. So if you are local and have had anyone work on your brick chimney can you let me know who did the work and if you were happy with them. I really want to know if you were unhappy also so I can take those people off my list.

I am using the need to get this chimney work done as an excuse why I can’t clean out the attic. Honestly, I don’t want to put this job off. The job I really want to get off my plate is as of House doctor. Once I have a completely rehabilitated house I will be much happier and will gladly go into house declutter.

I can not complain because Russ is in Minneapolis where it is going to be 57 degrees below zero. Now that is a horrible job!

Hello Pete, Goodbye DC

For our final meal in DC Russ and I met up with my sister Margaret and her boyfriend Pete for brunch. Pete and Margaret were supposed to come for Christmas so the whole family could get to meet him, but my Dad was too sick so he canceled their invitation. Turned out it was the right call, since Christmas was totally canceled for all of us. It was probably better for Pete to get to know us more one-on-one than in a huge mass anyway since we can be more than over whelming.

Pete and Margaret were great. We had a fun brunch together. Pete is of Hungarian decent and felt familiar to us since my cousin Leigh is married to a Peter of Hungarian decent. What are the chances of that? After some avocado toast and salad Margaret and Pete departed for Annapolis where Pete lives. I am so glad we had this opportunity for him to ease into getting to know the family.

Russ and I then departed for the airport with a Lyft drive who had never been to the airport. Thankfully he had no problem taking my exacting directions on how to get there since he had not been in this country long.

Living in Durham for the last 25 years I forgot what it’s like to be in DC where more people are from someplace other than DC and often other than America. When we were in the Amazon store yesterday a sales associate was showing an Asian woman an Alexa controlled outdoor light.

“It’s a flood light,” he said to her.

“So it tells you if there is a flood?” She asked inquisitively.

The Amazon guy, also from a non-American country did not understand her question, so of course I butt in and explained to her that it was a bright outdoor light that flooded the area with light, that was why it was called a flood light. She laughed and then told the guy, “I don’t even have an outdoors.” Needless to say he did not make the sale.

So it’s off to home to collect Shay Shay from her adventure weekend staying with Lynn and Logan Toms and their dog, Chuck and cat, Boots. I am sure Shay had as much as if not more fun than we did and we had a blast.

DC Part Duex

The friend reunion meals continue and nothing else. It seems completely decadent to do nothing more than sleep in, walk to meet someone for a meal, walk back and hang until you do it again. No visiting museums, no shopping, no sight seeing, just friends. I could call this weekend the wedding revisited tour since the only people we are seeing are people who were at our wedding.

The morning started with a lovely walk to Georgetown to meet up with my ground zero D.C. friend David MacKay. He has a regular weekend brunch spot the Peacock Cafe and we monopolized the prime table for a good four hours. Besides being the friend who practically introduced me to all my other friends in D.C. he is my most Forest Gump like friend in one sense, he has had a brush with more famous people than anyone I know. More than a brush, more like an experience. Today we talked about when he was Alec Baldwin’s roommate at GW. I will never be bored when I am with David.

At the four hour point Russ really needed to stand up and stretch his legs so we walked with David back to his neighborhood grocery store, making one stop at the Amazon store on the way. David had never been in an Amazon store so we showed him how it worked, with scanning the barcode with your Amazon app to find out what price you pay personally. It was only then that David said,”Oh, today I saw Jeff Bezos going into the West End equinox.” That doesn’t count as one of his meet ups with famous people, but he just recognizes them faster than the rest of us.

After a little rest, Russ and I went to meet our friend Tricia Reilly Koch for dinner. The last time I had seen her was shortly after she had lost her husband Danny. She is doing amazingly well and kept us enthralled with stories of her sweet kids and what she is doing with her work on wellness. Russ was particularly interested in her work as he is doing a lot of health consulting. She introduced us to her podcast called Health Gig. She and she sister-in-law Doro Bush Koch interview a wide ranging group of people involved in the the mind, body and spirit world. You can find it where you find podcasts.

Time is always too short with these life long friends, even four hour meals where we drink endless amounts of tea to keep them going. Once you know and love someone you almost always will love them and I am thankful that Russ brings me back to DC often enough so I can see these dear friends.

A Friend at Every Meal

I’m not as good at taking advantage of our empty nest as I thought I would be. When Russ goes on a trip and asks if I want to go I usually say no because I have found that being alone in a strange city is not that fun. When he took me to Nashville I found I really didn’t like it, certainly not half as much as being at home. But when Russ asked me if I wanted to join him in Washington, DC this weekend I jumped at the chance to “go home.” Since I lived here for my first ten years out of college I have lots of friends still here.

When a Durham friend asked me what we were going to do in DC since the government was shut down, I told her, “I’m not going to do anything except have meals with friends, and I don’t have enough meals to see that many friends.” (So if you are in DC right now and I don’t already have plans with you, I’m sorry. I will see you next trip.)

Given the government shut down I think I was lucky to have my flight actually get to D.C. today. My dear friend Dorothy picked me up at the airport and we went to a dumpling place for lunch. We had a lot of catching up to do and a lunch hardly scratched the surface. As we were the only customers who stayed for over two hours we decided to move to a bar across the parking lot for another few hours. During our time there it came over the news that Trump was going to sign the end of the shut down for three weeks. Dorothy said, “Dana comes back to DC and the government shut down ends.”

From lunch and post lunch I moved onto drinks with Russ and his co-worker Sumeyya and then dinner with my dear friends John and David. Since I have known John since 1981 and David since 1984 we always have a lot of old stories to tell. Russ is an excellent sport about listening to us tell ancient history, which always devolves into huge fits of laughter. The only bad thing now is we are too old to stay out late despite the desire to spend more time together.

No matter how long it has been between visits you can pick right up with old friends. The hard thing is parting from them. David did ask me to plan a return to trip to DC in three weeks just in case some a-hole national leader try’s to close the government again. He said the mere threat of my return should keep it open.

Two all day meals and three friends and it still wasn’t enough time. Two meals tomorrow and two friends. There just aren’t enough meals in the day. Yeah, maybe this wasn’t the best time to do Intermittent fasting, then I could have three meals and see more friends.

Good Day With Mom

Tomorrow is my Mom’s 81 birthday. If you know her send her a message. She is an amazing 81. She still paints most everyday. She plays bridge two times a week, but would like to play everyday. She loves to do laundry, but hates to clean out the dishwasher. She struggles with technology and still uses a comma as an apostrophe yet never as a comma when she texts me, but she can text.

During the refuge period when my parents came to stay with me I had a heart felt talk with my Mom about figuring out where she and my Dad might live next. She wasn’t happy with me but listened to what I had to say.

Today my Mom and I went to look at a place. It was a nice day together. We went first to lunch, where she generously paid, even though it is her birthday. Then we went on a tour of a lovely place. It was exciting to see someplace that we both thought was so nice. At the end of the tour my mother hugged the young woman showing us around.

We will go look at more places next week, but I am thrilled that my Mom is open to the idea of making this decision herself.

Getting old is not for sissies. None of us like it after the age of 25. I am thankful my parents are being proactive so they can be active!

Can There Be Enough Lotion?

When I was a child my father worked for Avon. That meant that we had a free and unending supply or shampoo, conditioner, lotion and any number of ungodly smelling colognes. I used to wonder how regular people ever could carry home enough lotion for one family during a Connecticut winter, let alone afford it. When lotion is free you are very liberal with its application.

Between skin-so-soft laden baths, that left a hard to remove oil slick on our old porcelain tub and gallons of pink bottled body lotion no one in my house had a dry winter skin excuse. I guess that young training got me hooked on lotion.

There is nothing I hate more than dry, itching winter skin. As someone who cook and does needle work constantly any natural moisture my hands might have gets whisked away. So lotion is my best defense.

I noticed that my bathroom lotion collection has taken over my window sill as I can’t possibly put any of it way when I am using it three of four times a day. Sometimes in the winter I feel like I need to strip off my jeans in the middle of the day and moisturize. Certainly this is caused by dry heating, too many long hot showers, aging skin and not because I trained my skin at an early age from all that free Avon lotion.

I can’t be the only one who has hand lotion in my kitchen, office, purse, car and bedside table? I sometimes wonder about buyers of toiletries at hotels. They give you the same size bottles of shampoo, body wash, conditioner and lotion. The shampoo will last me three or four days, but the lotion is only a start on one half of my body. Granted my body may be bigger, or am I the only person lotioning everything? Just writing this is making feel the need to go slather my feet and dry legs right now.

I may be frugal in many areas except for lotion. As far as I am concerned it is one thing you can’t run out of for it will take you weeks to rehydrate if you go without for two days.

Working Towards Intermittent Fasting

In my quest to go shopping in my own closets I am trying different things to see what works. What used to work for me has become ineffective as I have finished menopause and am in full blown old lady stage. Intermittent fasting is my test subject of the month. I know from past experience that real fasting can make my body think I am trying to stave myself and it goes into a kind of government shut down phase. That means I stay alive, but rather than use all the fat I have I slow down the less important bodily functions, like growing hair.

I am not interested in fasting of that type ever again. Intermittent fasting means you eat eight contiguous hours a day and don’t the other 16. I have not quite gotten to 8 yet, an am more like 10. Supposedly your body will go to your fat stores once you have finished digesting your previous meal three to five hours before. Of course it helps you lose weight it you are not eating 16 hours a day.

I can’t report on the success of this trial yet, but what I can say is it make having dinner with my husband hard. I am trying to be done eating by seven and Russ is hardly home by the . Tonight I made a steak, smashed roasted potatoes and roast broccolini for dinner. Thankfully Russ is a good sport about eating a reheated dinner.

This situation reminded me of my childhood. The children would eat first around six, with my mother sitting with us and my father was still at work. Around 7:30, my mother would break down and eat her dinner since my father was still not home from the city. He would roll in after eight. Have a drink and look at the twice reheated food in the kitchen and have another drink.

It was years before my mother found out that he had a private chef in the executive dining room that served breakfast, lunch and dinner at the office.

I hope to work my way to the eight hour eating window by tomorrow. Let’s see how grouchy I get. Of course I am already grouchy since I can’t fit in most of my clothes so maybe it won’t make any difference.

Everyday a Day Of Service

Today is Dr. Martin Luther King jr.’s birthday holiday. I remember when states fought about not wanting to commemorate this day as a national holiday. I lived in DC in 1986 the year the federal government made this a national holiday. Arizona rescinded the holiday which set off a big boycott of the state. It only caved when in 1992 because the scheduled super bowl was threatening to be pulled from Phoenix. South Carolina was the last state to make it a paid holiday for state workers in 2000.

Because of all this backlash about it the holiday many people who lived in states that observed it started taking the day as a “Day Of Service” to give back to their communities, in the spirit of Dr. King. It made those hold out states look even more petty.

What a great way to honor a great hero by doing good works in his name. My church had many opportunities to go do some good works, but I did not join them. Carter’s old school had volunteer opportunities, but I did not go. There were numerous activities offered all over the city and I did not go to any. I failed to honor the day the way it deserves.

I am going to do my best to be in service to others all year. When someone I know Is depressed I often suggest that they should do something for someone less to make themselves feel better. But you don’t have to just do things for the less fortunate to feel better. Doing anything for someone else is the best way to help yourself and our world.

Start small. Hold the door, carry someone’s bags, make soup and give some away, then you can work up to bigger things. But to really honor Dr. King, think and act towards others with kindness. Kindness is free, but it gives so much.

Love Your Enemies, or Just Don’t Have Any

In advance of MLK birthday holiday tomorrow we had Joe Harvard as our guest preacher at church today. Joe is the retired pastor of First Pres in Durham. I had the pleasure of getting to know him when I did a story few years back on him and two other religious leaders, a rabbi and an African American Preacher in Durham called the God Squad who worked for racial equality. Joe, has been a force in Durham for many years so his sermon today was well timed.

Preachers in the Presbyterian Church don’t get to preach on just anything they want, there is a lectionary that dictates what scriptures are to be used each Sunday. Today’s included the text to “love your enemy.” It seemed like a message we need in America right now.

Being asked to love your enemies seems hard, until I really got to thinking about it. Who are my enemies? There are people I don’t want to spend much time with, but that hardly makes them an enemy. There are people I don’t have a huge amount of respect for, but that doesn’t make them my enemies. As I really, really thought about it I couldn’t think of a true enemy.

Now, if you had asked me about my enemies in my younger years I am sure I could name you more than a handful. When I was in sales I might have said that a competitor was an enemy. But now, as a I age I am not sure I run into anyone who I might classify as an enemy. Maybe because I have a choice about who I spend time with or maybe I have become more forgiving. It wouldn’t be hard to be more forgiving since I was not that forgiving as a young person.

What I did take away from Joe’s sermon is that only love can change the world, something I have agreed with for a long time. Now, I am not going to like certain politicians who I think are not too smart, or like terrifically bigoted people, but I am not going to let them have power to become my enemy. They aren’t important enough to be an enemy. They are just people I have no respect for.

When I was a consultant I was constantly trying to get my clients to not see the people they worked with as their enemies just because they might be fighting for promotions against them. I preached that the enemies were outside their own company. I probably should have used a different word.

If you have an enemy try and love them first, but even easier is just to not have any enemies. Don’t give other people that much power over you.

Red Chicken Chili

Wanting to put as many vegetables in all my meals as possible I made this red chicken chili the other night. There are plenty of white chicken chili recipes, but I find most of them bland. The other chili no-no is to use chicken beasts which have little flavor and dry out. The answer is chicken thighs!

1 large sweet onion chopped

1 cup chopped carrots

2 T. Knorr Chicken broth powder

1 28 Oz. Can of diced tomatoes

3 T tomato paste

Six boneless skinless chicken thighs chopped into 1 inch pieces

3 T. Chili powder

2 T cumin powder

1 T. Garlic powder

1/4 t. Allspice

1/4 t. cayenne powder

1 T. Ground black pepper

2 cans of beans (cannelloni, kidney, navy, black eyed peas- you pick)

1 diced red pepper

Salt to taste

In a big stock pot put the onions and cook on medium for five minutes. Add carrots and Knorr powder and cook another five minutes. Add the tomatoes with the juice from the can and tomatoes paste cook for ten more minutes.

In a separate pot put chicken and all the spices and cook for fifteen minutes at medium high heat, stirring every so often. Add the contents of the pot to the veggie pot and add the beans and peppers and cook another fifteen minutes. Taste for salt and pepper.

More Meaningful Photos

Last night I was watching one of my favorite new sitcoms, Single Parents. One of the seven year old characters said to another seven year old, “Did you know photos can be on paper?”

It should not have come as a surprise that children do not know of a time when all our family photos were only on paper.

Ever since I was in high school I have loved photography. I always took a lot of pictures, but I was way outside the norm. It was expensive, film and developing. When I was in college I took many photography classes as an art major. Being able to develop my own photos drove some of the cost down, until I went to print them. So I only printed the best.

As I look back at my many old photos that are printed I notice a few things. People stood up straighter and smiled, we gathered in groups to take photos, holidays always produced at least one “family photo.”

As I scrolled though my photos of the last year, of which there were over two thousand I don’t have one “family photo.” There are only a couple of big group photos and often people are slumping and not smiling. The ubiquity of always having cameras around has made us lax about actually capturing a good memorable shot.

Before “free” photos no one I knew ever took a “foodie” shot, except me, when I was a caterer. No one ever took photos of themselves, unless you got a shot of your foot when you accidentally pushed the shutter button while holding your camera pointing down.

People used to pose in front of their house or their car. Now we don’t pose much. Taking someone’s photo is not an event. But I do take many mor pictures of Shay than I would if I were paying by the picture. And now we can look instantly to see if we got the image we were hoping for, so if the lighting was bad we can redo the shot. I knew many horrible photographers who got home from vacations only to discover that they could not see anyone’s faces in their photos because they had their family positioned in front of the sun.

I am going to make a concerted effort to take more group shots. Ensure that the pictures I take are “print” worthy as if I was paying for each one like we did in the old days. The times when the whole family are together needs to be commemorated because they happen so infrequently.

This does not mean I will stop taking photos of my dinner, or a spot on my foot. Some photos are just for me, but more need to be for my future Grandchildren so they can look back and see what their mother looked like or if they resemble their great grandfather. In other words, I am going to put a bigger price on photography than free.

End Temper Tantrum Governance

The government shut down continues with what appears to be no real negotiations most of us non-government workers go on without it hurting us too much. The reason being is so many of the workers are going to work and putting in their time without getting paid. Without calling 45 a master, it is feeling like these government workers are his (you fill in the word of people who work for someone without pay or a say). Granted they are being told they will get back pay, but for most of the hourly, entry or mid-level workers they don’t have reserves they can easily live on without penalty.

No one should be treated this way and these poor workers are certainly just pawns in a game that has no strategy. 45’s approval rating are going down and his disapproval rates are going up, yet he holds on. The American people are the long term losers in this game because any good government workers will look for work in the private sector and future great workers won’t consider government work after seeing how this group has been treated.

In 22 states it is illegal to have a government shut down over a budget. If the governor and the legislature can’t agree the budget remains the same as the previous year. This should be the same way for the federal government. No one branch of government should be allowed to hold us hostage this way.

The best thing the Congress could do right now is pass a bi-partisan supported veto proof law that says that there can be no shut downs over the budget. Both sides could agree that it is in the countries best interest to not have temper tantrum like governance. It might make Acongrss’ approval rating go up for the first time in a long time. It certainly seems like labor laws are being broken to force these people to work without pay. I don’t see 45 changing his stance so please, please Congress find a way to change the law for the long term better.

Time to Order Mah Jongg Cards

I had the craziest dream last night. I dreamt I was in a big room full of people I mostly didn’t know, but who I was about to play Mah Jongg with. The annual Mah Jongg Card of the year had just come out and it looked completely different from the way it has always looked. It resembled a Denny’s menu in size, photos and lamination. That alone made me wonder where in the world anyone would put it while they played. The second thing was the hands made no sense. One hand was 22 44 66 88 ST Thomas. If you play Mah Jongg you will recognize the numbers as a possible hand, but not the letters, other than S. The third thing is there were very few hands, rather than like 45 hands there were only 12, except for an additional five hands that were made with sodas, coke, sprite, Dr. pepper, etc.

I have no idea the meaning of this crazy dream, but it did remind me time to ask people to join me in ordering the new card for 2019. If you want your Mah Jongg Card and give me your order and your money I send it in as a group. Your card(s) will gets directly to your house. The reason for doing this group ordering is the National Mah Jongg League will donate $2 for every card sold in a group to a charity of your choosing as long as you sell at least 30 cards. For the past twenty years we have been designating our money goes to the Food Bank of CENC. It sounds like small potatoes, but over the years it has given the Food Bank over $2,000.

So if you would like to order your cards through me please let me know. I take Venmo, check or cash. Large print cards are $9. Small print are $8, but save your eyes and spend the extra buck for the large.

I am hoping the new cards is nothing like my dream. If it is I will have to start creating a competitive card.

One Tough Mother

My Cousin Brooks and his wife Sherri and their two boys, Malcom and Watson were in a serious car accident in Tennessee last fall. Sherri and one of the boys were badly hurt. Because of the accident Sherri had a full body scan. Besides finding all her broken bones and things related to the accident the scan found two other serious issues. One was a tumor which was removed with a hysterectomy a few months ago and as if that wasn’t bad enough the other was NET (cancer) on her pancreas. That is very serious.

Today Sherri had a Whipple procedure at Duke. If you don’t know what a Whipple is be glad because it is a complicated operation with a long recovery. When I first heard of the talk of Sherri needing the Whipple I called on my friends Mary Pickard and Ted Pappas at Duke to help refer Sherri to the best team around. Sherri and Brooks, who live in Winston-Salem decided that the Duke team,who do more these procedures than most doctors see in a lifetime,would be the place to come to.

I am happy to report that Sherri had her operation today and it went well. She is finally in a room at Duke to recover for a few days before she goes home for her six week recovery at home.

Sherri has been very open about her situation, but it has been very scary. I see her car accident as a silver lining because she probably would not have found this pancreas issue until it was very far along since it has very few symptoms in early stages.

It has been a tough year for their whole family, but I am praying this is the last of it and she can look forward to many healthy years ahead thanks to taking care of things found as a result of her car accident. First she needs to recover from her Whipple.

So I am sending good vibes out into the world for Sherri and Brooks. I know only too well what life at Duke hospital is like, but that is a short down payment on a long life ahead. Sherri is a dedicated mother and I know she will rally for Malcom and Watson with Brook’s help as well as all her extended family.


My phone rang at 9:15 this morning.


“You aren’t going to like this, but your mother and I are coming to your house to spend a couple of nights because the power is off at the farm.”

My father should have at least started with hello. Their power went out yesterday morning at 5:30 in the morning. They went to the Hampton Inn in Danville, but did not get a good night’s sleep so my house, with three empty bedrooms was the answer.

“Dad, that is fine, but I am out all morning and have three meetings at church from 4-7.”

I could hear my mother in the the back ground, saying, “Ask her how we can break into her house.”

So I came home from my morning engagement and found my Dad taking a nap and my mother wandering around my house. When I returned from my church meetings I was greeted by my parents both wearing their coats complaining about how cold my house was. I found this rich, since as a child our house was never above 60 in the middle of New England winters. True to his norm my Dad offered me cash to pay for putting the heat up. I settled on his buying dinner.

So now the heat is cranked up to a level that means I will have to open a window to sleep, but at least my parents can be comfortable with electricity and heat in their own rooms where they can sleep without bothering anybody.

I am spending more time with my father in the last four weeks than I have since before I went to boarding school and that includes all the years I worked with him. At least with all the meetings I had I was able to escape watching Fox News. I am happy to have my parents come and stay, but I draw the line at Fox News.

It’s A Christmas Present

Carter gave me a 1000 piece puzzle of the Cinque Terre, since we hiked it when she was younger. It was an inspired gift, tying together something I love with a beloved memory. I felt like it was my responsibility to use this sweet gift right away. It may be a hardship, but I could suffer through.

Since I do puzzles on my game table in the living room I have a less than a week deadline to finish any puzzle because we need the table for Mah Jongg. So I broke the seal on the box Thursday and began working on the outline of the puzzle. It became apparent that this was not a normal puzzle. The edge pieces fit together in multiple combinations making it difficult to ensure I had it right.

The plan to finish this puzzle in a week seemed daunting. Then came the cold and rainy weekend. Ah Ha! The perfect excuse to work my puzzle and have a fire at the same time. I worked diligently for two days and am still a long way from being done, but it has been so fun and a little guilt inducing. But it was a gift from my only sweet daughter so a I must push through. What a sacrifice I am making.

Fiddler on The Roof

We went to see Fiddler on the Roof tonight at DPAC. Although I have seen it at least four times, this was a particularly good rendition. In the past the world of 1905 Russia seemed very far off to me. The plight of the Jews being driven out of Russia to mask the real problems in the country was the story of a different people from my world. Not that I don’t have lots of Jewish friends just that the previous times I watched the play I felt like things were looking up for the traditionally persecuted group. Although it certainly was not my place to decide.

But tonight, something felt different. The America I live in today is less tolerant, less welcoming, more judgmental and cruel. Hate crimes are way up and not condemned by huge swaths of Americans. We are moving backwards, not by decades, but by centuries.

At the end of the play, the Jews of the fictional Russian village Anatevka have to leave their country in days. They are refugees, looking for a more welcoming place. The Rabbi and the family which the play revolves around are leaving for America. In 1905 we would have welcomed them, but what about today?

When America has taken in those people who were unwanted in their own countries they often become the most devoted and thankful citizens, appreciating the country that gave them a new chance on life. How can we have become the place that does not have compassion for those who need a new country?

Fiddler on the roof is more relaxant today than when it first came out in 1964. Sadly now we must not just “never forget,” but also speak out against persecution of all kinds.

Best Throw Back Christmas Gift

Growing up in a converted barn in Connecticut meant I was cold, no freezing, five months out of the year. I guess that saying our barn was converted is generous. It was still more barn than house. There were places that you could see the outside through the barn siding. Porous would best describe our house.

When you add our lack of insulation in the old thin walls to the fact that our house was huge meant that heating the drafty large rooms was an outrageous expense. Top that off with the fact our furnace used oil and it was the time of the oil crisis. It is no wonder that we all were consistently frozen inside our house.

If you were in one of the rooms with a fire place you could supplement the heat with a giant fire. Thank goodness we had many acres of woods behind our house that we harvested dead trees from. If you were in a bedroom you only had one tool to counteract the indoor fifty degree temp, an electric blanket. Regular quilts and comforters did nothing to get your feet warm enough to be able to fall asleep.

I cherished my light blue electric blanket despite the fact that it was very scratchy. It had ten heat settings and I would start the night off at ten and just before going to sleep turn it down to four once my bed had gotten toasty.

As I aged and got to chose where I would live so I moved south and lived in places where I had no need for an electric blanket so many months of the year. Although even in North Carolina we have cold days I could use one I never got another electric blanket, until this Christmas. Russ and Carter thought I could benefit from a new and improved electric blanket.

Yesterday it was very cold and I decided to break out my new gift. It is so much softer than my original model and the wires don’t seem to be as hard. It only has five temp settings and the middle one is more than hot enough, at least for my better insulated southern home. Who says you can’t go home again? I feel like a kid under my new electric blanket.

A Believable Excuse

It’s January 10th, just two days away from the universal day that most people give up on their New Years resolution. My resolution, to not buy anything that is not a consumable has been going strong. I have tracked every penny I have spent in the last ten days and have lived up to my word. I am assuming that getting Shay’s teeth cleaned counts as a consumable, at least it is not something for me and that is the whole point. It did make up more than fifty percent of my spending so far this year. I am hoping not to have too many of those kinds of expenses.

In looking at my spending habits from last year I found somethings I have no need for that I could cancel. For Christmas Carter wanted a bathrobe from a site that gave you free shipping if you joined their club. The club had a monthly charge that entitled you to a few free things, but you could cancel it at anytime.

I called them up to cancel my membership. The first girl I spoke with asked me why I wanted to cancel.

“I am not buying anything for the whole year,” I explained.

“What do you mean you are not buying anything?”

“I am 57, I don’t need one new thing.”

She could not comprehend what I was saying. More likely that was not one of the choices in her script and she did not know how to classify my cancellation. She transferred me to another person. I was more than a little perturbed by this, but I was certain this new girl had the same script as the first.

“Why do you want to cancel?”

I decided to give her a completely different answer and see what happened.

“I am entering a convent and as a nun I will not have need for your products.”

Dead silence. Dead silence for a long time.

Without saying anything she transferred me to someone else. Now I was having fun, but I also wanted this task to end. Rather than getting mad at the third person I gave a completely new excuse that I thought was timely enough.

“Hello, can you please tell me why you want to cancel.”

In my nicest, most downtrodden voice I said, “I am a federal government employee who has not worked for the last 19 days and I have no pay check in site. I can’t pay my mortgage, or my house insurance or my dentist bill. As much as I love your clothing, I need to feed my children so I have to cancel everything I can.”

“Oh I am so sorry. Of course I have just canceled your membership for you. You are not the first government person who has called. They just changed our system with that as a reason for canceling.”

I thanked her and hung up. HA! I said out loud. I knew the first two agents couldn’t cancel me because I did not give a standard excuse!

The Right Tiles

I am getting back to normal life now that my Father is home and doing well. Since it’s Wednesday, it must be Mah Jongg. Nothing makes me happier than playing games with friends. This is something I hope younger generations discover and don’t just play video games. Games can teach us such good lessons.

Today after the Charleston portion of a game I had this hand. If you don’t play the game let me tell you that it is a very hard hand that pays fifty cents, double the average payout. The only tile that did not go with the patternI was looking for was the green dragon and I only needed two sevens to win. If someone were looking at the racks before the play was to begin they would have bet on me all day long. Only needing two tiles for a win is very unusual, usually you need more like seven of eight.

Despite having this extraordinary start I never picked even one of the two tiles I needed. Turned out no one won that hand, which meant we picked all the tiles to no avail. Frustrating would be a kind word to describe my disappointment.

Mah Jongg is like life. It doesn’t matter if you are dealt all the best tiles. Sometimes things go your way and that is called luck and sometimes you make good decisions. In the case of this hand I had a couple things going against me. I had to pick the exact right tiles and not call ones that are discarded and I could not use jokers. I knew that and tried to make the hand just the same. I almost did not have any choice with 12 tiles to one winning hand.

If I had picked the two sevens it would have totally been luck as there was no skill involved. But it was also luck, just the bad kind, that I did not pick them.

Luck is fine in games, but in life I like to make my own luck. We all have to play the tiles we are dealt, like who are family is, where we grew up, the brain and body we were born with, but we don’t have to just sit by and except the tiles that we pick. We can change our direction. The secret is realizing when it is time to do something different to change your luck. If you just take what you are given you may never win.

Next Patient

My life as caregiver continues. Today it was Shay’s turn to go to the hospital. Nothing serious, but her annual teeth cleaning. Just that teeth cleaning for dogs is an operation. I had to make sure she didn’t have any food after midnight last night and bring her in early this morning.

Poor shivering girl knew exactly what was going to happen. She cowered behind my back as a I sat on the little person bench in the doggie exam room. The was hardly enough room for my back side, let alone a dog behind me.

If only she would equate having to go get her teeth cleaned with allowing me to brush her teeth. Brushing her teeth at home has never been successful. Then again my vet says that labradoodles are notorious for bad oral hygiene. Which breed brought that trait in, the poodles or the labs?

The house was so quiet without Shay and Carter. I almost didn’t know what to do while she was gone. I didn’t have a shadow. When the time came to pick her up I was early, waiting like a mommy on first day of pre-school pick up. Poor Shay had matching shaved arms because they had a hard time finding a vein. She could not have been more ready to go. She came home and drank a bunch of water and has been snuggling with me.

Thank goodness she does not equate me with the torture of going to the hospital, even though I bring her and leave her. I am hoping this is my last care taking job for a long while.

End This Government Shut Down

45 claims he need 5.9 Billion Dollars for national security to build a wall because terrorist come OVER the border. This claim is wrong and tiring. More reports show terrorists come into this country by air and the 9/11 ones came in by air.

Not paying TSA agents, or air traffic control agents is much more dangerous than not having the wall. Not paying IRS workers means cheating can happen on tax returns and possibly not be caught. Not having workers at national parks means things go wrong and people have already gotten hurt. Not picking up trash at national parks gives rats a chance to take hold and they spread disease. Not paying EPA workers or food safety inspectors means food and water can be unchecked for problems. Not funding food stamps means that people who are the most vulnerable will go hungry.

In last shut downs government workers got back pay for days they were shut so that meant we paid them not to work. But what about the sandwich shop next to a government agency that is shuttered? They don’t have people coming in to buy lunch because they are not at work. Those businesses will never make up that revenue.

This government shut down is the most childish was to legislate, as all government shut downs are. We don’t pay any politicians to act like children and take their ball and go home rather than legislate. We need to demand the reopening of the government and then let officials fight out the details of the wall.

Cooking Therapy

Today was my first day free at home since Christmas Eve. Although I came home at night to sleep, that was all I did. I did not cook, or clean or do anything fun, except for one night at the movies during the whole 12 days my Dad was in the hospital. I had cooke a big Christmas Eve dinner and my family enjoyed the leftovers for a while, then Carter took over cooking.

Today I realized that without my cooking every so often the supply of leftovers gets depleted. I knew it was time for me to get back in the kitchen. Russ had given me the latest Ottolenghi cookbook, Simple Ottolenghi. In my pledge to use what I have on hand first I found two recipes that I could make and adapt for what I had in the kitchen and the garden.

I made a butternut squash, onion and red lentil dish and lamb and feta meatballs. They were fantastic and yummy together and the only thing I bought was some ground lamb at Bulldega downtown.

Wearing my favorite yellow apron I happily chopped onions and grated garlic as lentils simmered on the stove. I used basil instead of mint because that is what I had. It was only two hours in the kitchen, but it was relaxing and therapeutic.

I know most people find cooking a chore, sometimes so do I, but not having a moment to cook for almost two weeks showed my how much I need to cook, and it is not about eating. It is the creativity and the sense of accomplishment. Also it helps when I make Russ something new and yummy for dinner. It was the least I could do for him after all the support he provided me during my Dad’s illness.

I appreciate regular life so much right now. Tomorrow I look forward to doing the laundry. Now that is regular.

Hom-A-Gen Farm

My grand father renamed the family farm Hom-A-Gen (said like Home Again) Farm when he retired there and moved back after living away from it for fifty seven years. It has been a very appropriate name since my I took my father back there today after twelve days in the hospital. He was never more happy to be home again.

Getting out of the hospital took three hours longer than the doctor predicted yesterday. I was sure we were not going to get out at ten and was fairly certain the doctor had no idea how long discharge really took. One thing we had to wait for was PT to come and check my Dad out. He had already proven his walking prowess. When he told the nice PT woman that he had steps up to his house she asked if he wanted to try the steps, he didn’t, but I did, so he tried. He passed that great too. The whole time he was sweet talking the PT so she passed him with flying colors.

The first thing he did when we got home was take a shower with his own good soap, soft towels and fresh razor to shave. He had lost so much weight from reduction of fluids, like 39 pounds worth, he looked like a new man.

After getting all his prescriptions filled and laying them out in an orderly manor I told my parents it was time for me to be done with this job and they agreed. I think my sister Margaret is coming for a couple days, but I am not sure how much there will be for her to do.

So it was time for me to go Home Again. Russ and Shay were here to greet me, but sadly Carter had gone Home Again to Boston, something she was looking forward too.

So here’s to a little peace and quiet and normal living. I missed Christmas and New Year, but I am happy I still have my Dad. I hope this is the end of this story line.

Lessons Learned from 12 Days in The Hospital

I didn’t sleep a wink last night wondering how my Dad was doing in the ICU. I called his night nurse around 10 to check in and someone else answered and said he would call me back. By 11:15 when I hadn’t heard from him I called again. The not knowing was difficult. Dad was still sedated, but was doing well. The news of that still didn’t help me sleep so I was up very early and at the ICU by 7:00.

I walked into Dad sitting up in a chair still with many tubes and wires attached to him giving the OT and his ICU nurse more trouble than he should have. Here was the reason I didn’t sleep. I need to be there to smooth things over. I recognized that he had not eaten or drank anything in 36 hours. They brought him a breakfast tray and I gave him his coffee. What a difference his coffee makes. He became his most charming self.

I knew he was feeling much better based on the return of his rosy complexion. He bonded with his ICU nurse over favorite Bloody Mary recipes and all was good in the world. The good news came when two of his doctors came in and said he could leave the ICU and a bed in the step down unit was ready.

Once in his new and last hospital unit his great nurse today told him that if he met a couple of requirements he could go home tomorrow. That was music to his ears since we were told he could be there until maybe Monday or a Tuesday. The requirements were to walk and to pee before 5:00 PM.

My Dad has been an over achiever in everything about his heart so far. First he had an undetected heart attack where his body grew an new artery around the one that died from this heart attack some years back. Then when his heart valve failed he only had something like 8% capacity, yet he still lived on. So if you tell him he had to walk and pee you know he was going to do that.

His step down until was full of other people all needing to walk so the hallway like a slow nascar track. At first he did four laps with the Swedish walker. Then Carter brought lunch and my Mom came for a visit. You can see from the picture that everyone is back to regular life, all on their phones at the same time.

After lunch, Mom and Carter left and it was back to walking. Dad did six laps of the hall, lapping multiple other patients. We took another break for him to push fluids so the peeing could begin and then he walked three more laps. In total he did 2/3 of a mile. He tried to negotiate a later pee deadline with his nurse, but it turned out he didn’t need it. He passed all his tests.

His surgeon, Dr. Williams came in to see him. I was in the hall getting ready to leave. I told him of passing the tests and Dr. Williams looked in his window and said, we never have people ready to go this fast from this procedure. He went in and confirmed with my Dad that he was well enough to go and he said, “How about tomorrow morning?” You didn’t have to ask him twice.

So tomorrow morning will be my final trip to Duke to pick my Dad up and drive him back to the farm. It will be a big day. Sadly at the same time Carter needs to go to the airport to fly back to Boston. I have had a lot of quality time with my Dad, but no time with my Daughter. It was not the Christmas break we were looking forward to, but it was one where Carter got to keep her grandfather.

Lessons learned from this whole experience:

If you keep falling asleep in the middle of the day you might have Congestive Heart Failure.

If you start retaining a lot of fluids, you might have CHF.

If you have any hallucinations, you might have CHF.

If your breathing becomes labored, you got it…

Things that make your hospital stay more comfortable:

Bring your own toilet paper and Kleenex if you need it to be soft.

Your own pillow is very important. Hospital pillows are made for prisons.

A foam gel mattress pad is also a nice luxury if you value sleep’s restorative powers.

Negotiate with your doctor for the nurses not to disturb you between midnight and six in the morning.

Get real food from the outside world as long as it complies to your dietary restrictions, especially better coffee.

Bring head phones and a device to watch movies or listen to music.

Have a bossy family member to stay with you all the waking hours so they can advocate for you.

Bring your own things to sleep in that have pockets to hold your heart monitor.

Shave any part of your body that has any hair where they might put tape or sticky pads.

Follow orders, but don’t be afraid to ask for things.

Be nice to nurses and doctor!

Send you care giver on a nice vacation when you get better.

Thank You’s All Around

Not to bury the lead, my Dad’s surgery was successful today, but it was a very long day. He called me at 7:30, “Did I wake you up?” he asked. Of course he hadn’t as I was getting ready to come spend my day in the hospital with him like everyday since he got there ten days ago. “Come soon, because they might take me in earlier for my surgery.”

I am not sure how often people go in earlier, but in my experience they usually go in later. And that is what happened. He thought he might go at 10. No. Not 11, not 12 or even 12:30. So to pass the time, to keep his mind off it, Russ and I just kept talking to him. At one point Russ had to take a work call and I asked my Dad to tell me the whole story of the Avon Paper Scandal he uncovered when he was just a director. We also discussed all the things my grandmother used to cook and preserve and can. It was an extensive list and used up a lot of time waiting to go to surgery.

Around 1:00 they came to get him. Russ and I checked in with the surgical reception got a pager and went to the cafeteria for lunch. Just as soon as I finished eating the pager went off. I called over to reception and they said we were needed back in pre-op. It is a thousand step walk from the cafeteria to the surgical pre-op and I wondered the whole way over what in the world could have gone wrong already. Had an argument broken out? No, they just wanted us to see him in his cap and say good luck. We did so as the anesthesia fellow rolled him away.

Carter arrived to wait with us. About 3:15 when he had been back there for a couple of hours they paged me again. It was just to tell me they were just starting the surgery. I can only imagine what the conversation was with my father all that time waiting to start. I finally sent Carter home because it was clear she was not going to get to see her grandfather tonight.

After a few more hours the doctor came to see us and told us it went fine, but that his valve was twice as bad as they thought from a test last week. It is an absolute miracle that he is living. He is just stubborn enough to run on less than 20% of normal heart function.

Eventually he got moved to the cardiac ICU. We went back and saw him in the biggest room he has been in at Duke, but he won’t know it because he was still knocked out. He still had his breathing tube. It is going to be a few hours before they try and remove it. I told them that the more they kept him knocked out the better he will heal because he has to be kind of still where they cut him open. “Still” is not something he is capable of.

Russ and I came home to a delicious dinner of veggie frittata prepared by Carter. I will call over to the ICU tonight before I go to sleep to check, but won’t plan on seeing him until the morning.

The big thing I am thankful for are all the medical professionals, who despite having my father to deal with, kept him alive and hopefully improved. I am thankful for my family who has supported me supporting him. I am thankful that my Mom was able to stay mainly at home during this because dealing with this is not her thing. I am thankful for my Dad’s dear friends who called him over the last week and a half. All the messages on Facebook and texts and email really were comforting to me. And the people who came to visit in the hospital helped pass the time. And the prayers, I am not discounting those.

I did say to my Dad yesterday after we had been together in his tiny room together for nine days, “You know, the good thing about this is we have gotten to spend a lot of quality time together.” He agreed that has been a positive.

The worst thing about this whole experience was the waiting. Keeping my father occupied and not breaking out of the hospital was the hardest part. Now that is behind us. Considering how well he functioned on practically no blood pumping I am hopeful for a speedy recovery with a fully working heart. Lord knows the hospital wants that and for him to go home too.

So Close

Today was my last day as chief distractor for my Dad. Tomorrow he is scheduled to have his heart operation. When I got to the hospital this morning he announced that his operation was going to be at 5:30AM. We started counting down the hours. Spending the last nine days all day everyday in the hospital waiting is about to kill both of us.

At four this afternoon a PA for his surgeon came in to talk about the procedure. He said it was going to be the first one in the morning. Then the anesthesiologist came in and said it was at 1:00 PM. My Dad was not happy, but didn’t make too much fuss. Then the surgeon came in and said it was at 1:00. My dad hit the roof. We are so close to the operation. He has waited all this time and has gotten physically in much better shape so the waiting was good. He will recover much better. It is just a few hours difference, but please lord let’s pray it actually happens then.

The good news for me is I have to come get all the things he has in his hospital room because he is moving to a new room or two new rooms after the operation. That is a huge pain in the ass for me. Doing it at 10:30 in the morning will be easier than 5:00 in the morning since I have to pack it and take it to my car to hold it until he has a final room.

I hope he recovers quickly and gets to feel better and go home and never needs to come to a hospital again. Not unless hospitals take customer service directions from Ritz Carlton hotels and we know that is just not going to happen.

New Fangled New Year Resolutions

Happy New Year to you and yours. I, for one, am happy to see 2018 go, especially the last month. Between my Dad being so sick and the stock market it just was a poor month, not to mention anything to do with government.

So I welcome 2019 as a better year to come. Granted my Dad will have his operation and nothing much is going to change with the market and we still have the same lame leader, but all those things have a chance for improvement, mostly my Dad. As an optimistic person I am seeing the future as brighter than the past, but I am going to try and control what I can control and give up on what I can’t.

Resolutions are not really my thing probably because it almost always the same one, to fit into my smaller clothes. Since the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing expecting a different outcome I am going to try a whole new approach to my resolution. This year I am not going to buy anything new except for consumables, like toilet paper and milk. I looked around my house and decided I have enough of everything and more that a person can need.

Not only will this resolution save money, but I have to fit into the clothes I already have. If I want something “new” I will have to reduce a little to be able to go shopping in my own closet. Actually, own closets since I have clothes segregated by size in multiple closets. I really would like to get into my “closet of dreams,” but that will take all year.

Along with not buying anything new I want to use what I have in my pantry and have a total turn over. I am certain that I will have to create a lot of interesting new recipes. If any of them are any good they certainly appear on the blog.

Along with not buying myself anything new I am going to try and make as many gifts as I can. This will not apply to everyone, like Carter, because I doubt I can make her things she want, but for the rest of you, just wait.

It will be an interesting year to see how I do with this new way to get at my goal. At the same time it will be fun to see how much money I can save as well as time. I have no need to look at any of the hundreds of emails I get trying to sell me something, because I won’t be buying.