The Need For Tea

In the last seven days I have driven over 1,800 miles, packed one college apartment, visited three friends and had many wonderful hours with my daughter. Tonight is our last night on the road and I can see home just beyond the horizon.

During this week I have had two friends lose a parent. Suzanne Worden’s 98 year old father and Wendie Demuth’s Mother. It is a sobering reminder that time is short, even at 98. Doing this trip with Carter is making memories, or reliving past trip’s highlights. These are the times you talk about in years to come.

Today while we were moving down the NJ turnpike I felt like I had hit the driving wall. Carter and I exited to find a Wawa so I could buy some diet iced tea. Traveling gets me off my iced tea schedule. As I stumbled to the checkout with an armful of bottles Carter commented that I looked like a junkie about to get a fix. Thankfully Carter took over the driving and a I refueled with tea.

One more night on the road and then we are home to see Russ and Shay Shay. Just in time for Russ and my 26th anniversary. Home to our peeps and an unending supply of my perfect tea.

Life may be fleeting, but it is a whole lot better with tea.

Heading For Home

It was a long driving day for me and Carter. We got up in Maine and covered the whole of New England on our way home. We talked, told stories and listened to Hamilton all the way to NYC. Our destination for the night was our home away from home at the Farley/Worden’s, the family we choose.

Miraculously we found a parking space in front of their house and were able to unload just our travel suitcases and our Maine four berry pie we brought from Moody’s diner. The Farley family are a pie liking family.

I can’t remember the last time Carter has seen her godmother Suzanne. I was happy to come and get to hug her since her father Clee just passed away last week. Suzanne and I have been friends since 1979 and I have known her father almost as long. He lived a very long, well loved life with five daughters and ten grand children.

I have heard many a story from Clee about selling steel. Being a traveling salesman was something we bonded over. He was a good egg, as long as we didn’t have to talk about the government. I especially appreciate that even after he caught me in a compromising position at Suzanne’s childhood home he never mentioned it again to me. It helped that Suzanne’s mother, Mary loved me and would defend me to the end.

Our trip here will be short since Suzanne has to go bury her father with a memorial service to follow later. It is good for us to have a little time with Steve, Suzanne and Oliver who are the kindest hosts. Being with them is like being home.

Maine Smorgasbord

Our last day visiting Warren entailed lots of what we regularly do here in Maine. We drove over to Washington, Maine to go to the Washington General Store for lunch, stopped by liberty graphics to see if there were any new T-shirts, played Mexican Dominos, and ate good food. Warren and I worked on an ancient puzzle that hardly looked like the picture on the box and talked about old Walker’s friends while Carter napped.

We got on the subject of Peggy Tregullis and had a hard time recalling some important facts about her. So I messaged the Trigger expert Jennie Hetzler and of course she had all the info right at her finger tips. Both Jennie and I spontaneously sang songs from the trigger song book and reported to each other that we had done it. “T-R-I-Double G-E-R.” Was one of my favorites.

There is nothing better than talking smack about an old teacher who was not particularly your favorite, given her smoker’s stench and lack of a sense of humor. I can look back now and see that her ability to write with both hands at the same time on a chalk board and her odd personality might be hinting at someone who would be diagnosed with a definite difference these days.

After dinner and games Warren showed us some Howard Johnson Postcards from North Carolina. Our favorite was the one from Jacksonville circa 1960, of the pet comfort station. Howard Johnson’s was way ahead of it’s time to have pet friendly motels. If only this idea had caught on I would have not had to sneak my dog Beau into so many hotels when I sold OPEX machines.

After postcards we looked at old menus. Carter loved seeing what a $1.00 cold buy in 1937 at a HoJo’s restaurant. Pineapple juice, roast tenderloin of beef, vegetable, whipped potatoes, rolls, butter, dessert and a drink was a big meal for a buck. I liked that pineapple juice was an appetizer and not a drink.

Oh, the things we learn coming to visit Warren in Maine. We are going to miss him, but it’s time to move on to NYC. Eventually we will get home.

Freezing in Maine

The one thing you can’t control is the weather. So when it was pouring rain in the middle of the night I was certain that Maine would not have good weather today. I was mostly right. This morning is was rainy, foggy and totally COLD. Hello world, It is April, f-Ing 27 and the temperature should not be in the thirties. I did not pack for this weather.

Carter, Warren and I decided to go to Belfast, Maine, a favorite of ours, to stay warm and dry in the car, as our main thing to do today. Belfast was fun. We had seafood for lunch. Visited our favorite bookstore, Bella Books, and went to my Mecca, Fiddlehead artisan, a sewing and art store.

Since I am still on my “not buying anything for myself” year, Carter helped me out by requesting some pillows for her new apartment. We picked out this cool cork fabric and some other linen fabric to make her pillows.

After wearing ourselves out trying to stay warm we headed home to HoJo Central to play some Mexican Dominos with heating pads and blankets wrapped around us. Carter eventually retreated to her bed for a nap with many blankets. Trying to stay warm is exhausting.

Warren made his world famous tuna melts for dinner and we tried to settle in to watch a VHS movie. On the way to Maine Carter and I listened to her favorite podcast, “What you missed in history.” It was a two part show on Fannie Bryce. We told Warren about it so we decided we wanted to watch Funny Girl, which Warren happened to have in his giant VHS library. Sadly the tape was so old that it kept losing the picture and the sound every five seconds. Now for most of the movie we could fill in the dialogue since we all knew it by heart,but when it came time for Barbra to sing “People” we threw in the towel and gave up. I think the tape was actually freezing and wanted the heating pad.

Tomorrow is supposed to be sunnier, but no warmer. I just hope all those climate change deniers are freezing their asses off so we can finally all agree that our weather patterns are f***ed.

Last Long Day

After not sleeping well in the hotel last night, between coughing all night and the numerous sirens outside, Carter woke up this morning at 5:30 because she had an 8:00 AM final exam. Since I wasn’t sure how the Boston traffic would be she ended up getting to her exam at 7:15. I went back to the hotel to pack the car and was sitting waiting for her when she finished her last exam in record time at 9:30. We felt like we had already had a full day by the time we left Boston to drive to Maine.

Rather than go right home where Carter could have that awkward reentry into childhood home life after living the life of self sufficient college student, we are taking a little trip to wind down. Although I have been able to come to Maine every summer, Carter has not been able to visit for the last five years. Our friend Warren generously allows us to invade his home almost whenever we say the word.

Usually I come in the cool of Maine summer when it is horribly hot in Durham. Last fall I came after dropping Carter off at college, so coming back at pick up is a good bookend. September was perfect. Still warm enough to enjoy the front porch. April seems like Durham winter.

Carter and I drove up and stopped in Portland to go to our favorite DuckFat for fries, balanced out with salads. It was rainy and the bitter kind of cold that chills you to the bone. We got to Warren’s by 2:00. Was this still the same day of Carter’s last exam?

As fast as we got here we were all piled back in the car to go antiquing and run an errand. Turns out Carter is finally interested in “old stuff.” Apparently her generation sees it as “environmentally friendly,” which it is, but it means there is hope for antiques.

At the Rockland Marketplace where Warren has a booth of things for Sale Carter found many things I had to talk her out of. The excitement of furnishing her new apartment is September has her looking at art and old boxes that can be end tables. She found a Kellogg’s Corn Flakes sign that she had to have since she is a Kellogg. The nice ladies working the desk gave her a deal since she is Warren’s friend.

After our outing we went home to Warren’s and made a yummy chicken Francese dinner with spring asparagus. The sun set making the cold even colder. We played Mexican Dominos where everyone won at least one game and hit the wall of exhaustion by 9:30. A lot was packed in this one day.

Congratulations to Carter for a successful year at school. The time is flying by and I am happy to get to have these little trips with her. Just like when she was in lower school on the drives to and from school, there is nothing like the conversations you have in the car. Glad we still have that.

For now it is time to bed with the five blankets I have to counteract Maine spring. Wish Russ was here too, he deserves a little Maine and Carter time with me too. Soon.

Good bye

Twelve boxes and three blanket wrapped body bag sized parcels were picked up this morning from Carter’s room by the storage guys. We cleaned her apartment. Went to lunch and toasted her last dorm.

Carter had exam review and I hung around waiting to pick her up. As far as this move is concerned all the hard work is in the rear view mirror. Carter has her last exam at 8:00AM tomorrow, so today she said her good byes to her friends.

We took two of her best friends, Jada and Susanna to dinner at Eataly. It was fun for me to put faces with the names of the girls Carter had come to depend on. After dinner they had long hugs goodbye. Jada is off to do her co-op in Hawaii in July so Carter won’t see her until next January. Such is the life at Northeastern.

There is a lot of movement of kids between jobs and school, but it is easier to stay in touch with technology. Carter has had a fabulous year of growth and it makes me happy to see how much she has grown here. That being said, I will not miss packing and moving. We still have in packing in September, but the set up of the new place is so much more fun than the take down of the old.

Year Two Packing

Last year Carter packed herself and dealt with Storage Squad and flew home alone. Of course she only had one semester’s worth of stuff in a regular dorm room. This year is a little different. Carter has lived in a campus apartment this year. It was great to have her own kitchen and bathroom with her roommate. Her good roommate Olivia, who Carter lived with last year and last semester spent this past semester on Co-op London. Carter knew that was going to happen so she bought everything for the kitchen.

The rule here is you have to move out of your dorm within 24 hours of your last exam. Except if you have the last exam of the year, then you have to be out in six hours. Wouldn’t it figure Carter has the last exam. How can anyone study for exams, take them, pack and move out all at the same time? This being the situation I volunteered to come up and help her pack for Storage Squad and let Carter come stay at a hotel with me for her last two nights. This is a good excuse for a little road trip with Carter.

I drove into Boston first thing in the morning. Storage squad is coming tomorrow morning so we needed to pack everything up today. Carter figured it would take all day. Last year Carter stores five or six boxes. This year it is 13 boxes and three large items, like her rolling desk chair and metal shoe racks, wrapped in blankets.

I was the appointed taker-aparter of all the ikea like furniture. It was not as hard a job as Carter thought it would be. After dismantling three items I was moved to packing up the kitchen. At the beginning of the year I had told Carter I was only buying her one set of cookware and I was very impressed with the condition and cleanliness of it nine months later. She took my warning to heart.

We took a lunch break of avocado toast and finished up most of the packing by 2:30. Carter has an appointment and I went to the hotel to check in. I went back at 6:30 we packed Carter’s suitcases into the car and went to Wagamama for dinner. Tomorrow is the final cleaning while waiting for the box pick up. The worst is behind us.

My Childhood Babysitter

One of the best things about writing a daily blog for eight years, is eventually someone from my past will find me and we reconnect. I have been lucky that no one has found me that I was trying to hide from, but last year my childhood babysitter, Ann Whelton, found me. We have had a great time reminiscing virtually. Today, while I am on my drive north I was able to stop and see Ann in person.

When she first messaged me with a photo I would have recognized her without her name even though the last time I saw her was at her high school graduation in 1973. Today I got to not only see her, but hear her very familiar voice.

Ann was only 12 when we moved from New Cannan to Wilton, and I was seven. She quickly became our all-the-time babysitter. Neither of us can remember how my Mother found her. Ann was the third of a family of ten so she was well versed in child care.

Today we talked about what life was like back then. Ann was like part of the family because my parents were always at a party. She also was happy to stay and spend the night so they could stay late at parties.

I’m not sure Janet will remember her because I took over the baby sitting responsibilities when I turned 12, but Margaret most certainly will remember her.

Ann, thanks for lunch and for finding me after all these years. It was fun to relive those days from 50 years ago. You never forget your babysitter.

My Kingdom For a Fork

Years ago when my parents sold their beach house my mother said, “I have all this furniture, I am going to buy an apartment in DC to put it in.” Since my parents basically lived at the farm the three bedroom apartment sat empty. Then, my sister Margaret moved into it. She had furniture too. She had lots of furniture since she is a decorator.

Recently Margaret decided to move to Annapolis and my parents realized they didn’t need this big apartment just to store furniture in so they put it on the market. It is in a beautiful Art Deco building and their seventh floor unit has a lovely view of the National Cathedral, which has I just noticed has a strong resemblance to Nortre Dame. If you know anyone in the Housing Market in DC tell them to come look at it.

Today I started my driving trip to go help Carter pack in Boston and go to Maine and NYC. My friend Jeanne in Alexandria just had her hip replaced and I decided I would break my trip up and come visit her as she is stuck at home convalescing. I used to have no trouble driving ten hours in a day, but my old hips require too many stops to stretch so this was a good idea. My mom volunteered the apartment for me to stay in since I am literally just sleeping and jumping in the car early in the morning to go to my next stop tomorrow.

After a wonderful visit with Jeanne I stopped at Trader Joe’s and bought a salad to bring to the apartment for dinner. Since I didn’t have a key to the building or the apartment I had to get here in time for the front desk to be manned so they could let me in and give me the key. Once I got here I can’t leave because I can’t get back in the building. I can’t even go to my car, but then I shouldn’t need to since I have everything I need for the evening.

I unpacked my few things, and put my salad in the fridge. I took a shower and changed into my night gown. Since no one is living here there is no WiFi or TV. I went to the kitchen to get my dinner to take to the beautiful dining room. I poured the dressing that came in a little cup over the greens. I opened the silverware drawer to get a fork and it was empty. I opened every other drawer, empty. All the cabinets, empty of most everything except two sets of China with a sign, “NOT MICROWAVE SAFE.” I searched for some take out chopsticks in what used to be the junk drawer. Nothing, only some tape.

I called my mother. She knew nothing of all the utensils being gone. I called my sister in Annapolis. “I thought the apartment would be sold by now, I was just cleaning it out. Go to the Giant Supermarket and get a fork.”

I didn’t get into with her that I couldn’t leave the building until the receptionist comes back on duty in the morning or else I couldn’t get back in. So after searching every drawer for any possible set of pens I could use as chopsticks, and finding none, I sat down at the dining room table and scooped my salad up with the dressing cup. It was a very unladylike way to eat, licking the lettuce out of the cup, but it was better than using my fingers to eat it. I am just thankful that I settled on the salad and did not get the Chicken Tika Masala and rice. It didn’t come with a cup. If only I had gotten a sandwich.

Easter Blessings

Happy Easter and Passover to all the believers or those who are considering believing, or those who have questions and want an excuse for a good meal, or all those who are forced to come to a dinner because they are family.

Easter is a good meal after a good Church service at our house. My parents came for Easter, as they have for the last twenty years despite the fact that the only grandchild, and real reason for visiting, is at college and not here. It helps that they like our preacher and the brass ensemble at our church even if it is Presbyterian and not Episcopalian.

After we learned a good Greek swear word today at church my parents and the Toms came back to our house for Easter lunch. I forgot to get a photo, something someone with a daily blog should not forget. To make everyone happy I made both ham and lamb along with a really good spring green veggie salad of asparagus, green beans and peas. Who knew that putting all the green food together tasted so good? We also had a decedent potatoes au gratin.

My parents stayed until the late hour of two o’clock and suddenly My father realized they needed to get right home, so off they went. The Toms stayed and helped with the dishes.

Russ and I did a few chores and then it was time for us to go to our second Easter at our friend’s Richard and Michelle’s with Mick and Hannah. Richard had a beautiful leg of lamb, and home made rolls he was working to perfect, although they were perfect as far as we all thought. Hannah had brought a delightful salad with oranges and au gratin potatoes.

Two Easter lamb meals back to back is quiet a decedent day. But a day filled with friends and family was so fun. How could we say no to any of it?

Top the day off with a message from my Aunt announcing the birth of my newest second cousin to my cousin Wright and his wife Calvine. What a happy Easter and welcome Weaver Kellogg Harvey to the world. It may be a while, but chances are you may have lamb and potatoes au gratin on one of your future birthdays.

Energy is So Wasted on Youth and Puppies

Coming home tonight from three hours away at the DPAC watching Anastasia Russ and I were greeted by Shay with all the enthusiasm of a war hero returning home from years at war.

The jumping back and forth and standing on her hind legs in excitement feels like over kill. We were only gone three hours. It’s not like she wasn’t fed before we left. We never leave her that long. She didn’t even have to go out.

Shay just loves us so unconditionally that she always acts like it is a big parade when we get home. Now she does go to the top of the stairs when Russ is coming home, but for me she stays on the bed and doesn’t come down to greet me. Still we both get the big jumping routine on the bed when either of us walk in the door.

This is more exercise than she gets all day. I wish I could harness the out put and use it to run the air conditioning because it is an explosion of energy. With enough toddlers and puppies hooked up appropriately we could end global warming. Don’t send me letters about child labor. I just hate to waste that positive output from all that happiness.

Birthday Bridge

In a continuation of my theory that my friends are all born at the same time of year, today is my friend Deanna’s birthday. Deanna and I met twenty years ago when we learned to play bridge together. We played a few years back then, but I stopped and she went on. Since Carter left for college Deanna has generously been mentoring me to come up to speed in modern bridge.

Let me tell you Bridge is a life’s work. I have no idea why we call it a game, because it is more like a torture. I feel like I am never going to catch up.

Since it is Deanna’s birthday I stopped and got her a birthday hat that was similar to a dunce cap. I should have gotten myself an actual dunce cap. Despite being her birthday none of the opponents gave us any gifts.

Just when I think I am getting ahead at bridge I have a day like today where I make many mistakes. I did a terrible job giving Deanna a good day at bridge for her birthday. I am thankful if she will continue to play with me.

I forgot to get a photo of her in her hat. Maybe that is the best gift I can give her.

Auction Friends

Tonight was the Chef’s Feast for the Food Bank at Fearrington Village. I was the auctioneer again this year and was fearful about the date. First it is Maundy Thursday and Easter break for many people. As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge for a date the Carolina Hurricanes made it into the Playoffs for the first time in ten years and tonight was one of the games at home.

Despite those issues we had a wonderful turn out of kind and generous people for a yummy dinner and auction. The weather was beautiful as well as the setting so we couldn’t help but be successful.

Vivian Howard, of A Chef’s Life TV fame, was once again one of our presenting Chef’s. She is a devoted Food Bank fan and we so appreciate her continued support of our mission. Collin Bedford of the Fearrington Inn also returned as a featured chef. This year we had Andrew Ullom, previously pastry chef at Ashley Christiansen’s many restaurants, and now owner of Union Special Bread a new bakery/restaurant in Raleigh as our dessert chef.

Special friend Chef Paris Mishoe volunteered to come and do plating so that service could move faster and he brought along Edward Rampersaud to help out. When I asked Paris if he would do me this favor he had no idea that the Hurricanes would be playing tonight. What a good egg he was to come work and then go to the game late. If you ever need any catering in the triangle Chef Paris is the bomb.

My job as auctioneer was easy. We had five items to offer and the bidding was good, but sadly only 5 people got to win. So I followed up the auction with the raise a paddle opportunity to just give money. People were very generous and we raised an extra $45,000 on top of all the other money from sponsors and tickets. Since everything from the chef’s to the food and service and the location are donated the whole evening is gravy to the Food Bank.

Thanks to all the wonderful guest who came, bid and donated. It is a fun evening that I am happy to get to play a small role in. I am especially appreciative of the people who tell me that it is a fun auction and how much they enjoyed the giving. Auctions should be fun! Being a charity auctioneer is all about making everyone in the room feel like we are friends. Giving with a joyful heart does makes you feel good.

Shout out to my Food Bank Crew who do an exceptional job making the whole evening run smoothly. It is a highlight of my year.

Columbine High School Should Change Its Name

Once again Columbine High School had to have a lock down because of a credible threat that an eighteen year old girl from Florida was headed there with guns. Apparently the girl was obsessed with the Columbine shooting. She flew to Colorado and was able to buy a gun the day she got there. The idea that anyone could buy a gun that easily and quickly is insane, but that is not the subject of this blog today.

Instead I am wondering why Columbine High School doesn’t change its name? Of course, changing the name does not erase what happened there, but perhaps it would help remove it from being such a Mecca for the crazy. Perhaps if future bad actors can’t find the school because they will give up trying to reenact the original shooting.

Today the news reported that Columbine High School has daily visitors who are just there to see where the historic shooting took place. The school spokesman told people that they are not welcome to visit. Well, make it harder on them to find it. Change the name. Don’t make a big deal about changing it. Don’t report it. Don’t call the news. Just let the old Columbine High School name disappear. While you are at it, change the name of the street where the school is. The people who live in the town will know how to get there, but visitors might have more trouble.

Second Birthday Celebration This Week

Yesterday I celebrated Michelle’s birthday, which is next week and today I celebrated Stephanie’s birthday which was last week. Lynn and I took Stephanie to Thai Cade for the annual coconut cake birthday ritual.

As I was thinking about all the cake I have been consuming with all these birthdays I got to thinking about how my friend’s seem to have birthday’s clustered around April/May and September. Since my birthday is May It made me think that perhaps we are attracted to people in the same zodiac sign. I never really put much stock in that whole zodiac thing. Then it occurred to me that perhaps I have more friends with spring birthdays because it was a popular time to be born.

The internet had the answer. Some guy compiled births by day of the year and turns out September babies are the most numerous. September 9th in particular Has more babies born that any other day in the last twenty years. My sister Margaret happens to be a September 9 baby.

On the issue of spring birthdays, April and May are not overwhelmingly popular months so I might have to settle for my theory that like birthday times of years attract each other as friends.

Regardless, I do like to take a friend to lunch for her birthday. I forgot to take a photo of Stephanie today, so she gave me this one of her and her daughter Leander at Denison this past weekend. The one thing I will say about all my friends is that they don’t seem to age at all.

Fitting in the Fun

Last night I was awoken when different things in my bed room just came on. The plug that holds my iPad and iPhone chargers sparked, scaring me into thinking my bed might catch fire. This kind of thing only happens when I am home alone. I unplugged everything in my room and investigated the rest of the house. The scare kept me awake for a long time. Since I had a busy day planned today I really tried hard to go back to sleep, which wasn’t working.

As soon as it was an acceptable hour I called my trusty electrician. Everyone needs to be on the first name basis with an electrician and a plumber. I pray that mine never retire. I told Tony about my scare and he said he would come right over. Thankfully right over for him was still long enough that I was able to get to and from my haircut appointment.

Tony came and determined I had been victim of a power spike and thankfully nothing terrible happened. He did this is record time and I was only 45 minutes late for my neighborhood needlepoint gathering. We were celebrating Michelle’s birthday a week early and I was in charge of the “cake.”

Saturday I tried to bake her a lemon cake. The weather was terrible that day and although I knew it was not good baking weather I tried anyway. Big failure! The the cake stuck in the bundt pan and broke into many unsalvageable pieces. I was not giving up and decided to turn the lemon cake into a lemon trifle. I made a cream cheese and whipped cream concoction and added strawberries, raspberries and blue berries. It was way better than just a cake.

I had enough time at Needlepoint to teach a new stitch and have trifle then I had to run to bridge. Playing bridge on not enough sleep is never a good idea. After four hours of not my best play I had to run home to host the church Building committee meeting at my house. Since it is Holy Week there are no meetings at church. That doesn’t mean no meetings, just hold them someplace else. The thing about having the meeting at my house is I could serve beer.

There was not a free minute in my day, but thankfully I did fit in the fun things. OK, everything I do is usually fun with the exception of house repairs. Tomorrow the city inspector comes to look at my new furnace and the HVAC people come to inspect my air conditioning. Talk about fun!

Missing Dr. Coonrad

I was the lector at church today. Given my low, loud voice and relatively slow reading of the scriptures the older members of the congregation seem to appreciate when I lector. When I leave church after lecturing at least two or three senior congregants stop me and thank me for reading. One of the things I love most about our church is the big diversity of ages and I am always pleased when the seniors are happy.

Today was a little different for me. I read the way I usually do and I had three people thank me after church, except for my best and most consistent cheerleader, Dr. Ralph Coonrad. For the last twenty years whenever I have been the lector Ralph was always the first person to tell me how much he enjoyed the scripture and my reading. Sadly, Ralph passed away this past Wednesday at 95 and I really missed having him in the pew.

Ralph was a founding member of our church and is listed as number 1 in our membership rolls. He was a brilliant orthopedist who treated thousands of children with scoliosis in North Carolina, invented the first elbow replacement and still visited patients at Duke Hospital everyday well into his nineties. But he would never tell you any of these things. He was born in China where his parents were missionaries, but when you talked to him about that he would always turn the conversation to be about you.

He was kind, caring and selfless, but would blush if you mentioned it. He was always friendly to children and spoke to them in ways that were welcoming to them. Despite being very tall I am surprised his heart fit in is body because it was bigger and more generous than most people.

In the last few years I knew he was losing his ability to remember exactly who everyone was as he wheeled himself on his walker into church, but this smile and warm greeting never changed. It did not matter if he could not recall your name, he loved you just the same.

I feel lucky to have known him and every time I lector I will miss seeing his smiling face in the back on the right nodding as I read. The world was lucky to have Dr. Coonrad in it and now heaven is a better place.

The service of the celebration of his life is April 26. Sadly I will miss it because I will be in Boston helping Carter, but Ralph would say, that is where I am supposed to be.

Can I Borrow?

Don’t ask me why because it’s a secret, but I need to borrow pair of cowboy boots for something the first weekend in May. As I am going to be out of town the two weeks before hand I figured I better get on this hunt now. If you or someone you know is willing to lend me a pair of boots size 10 1/2 -11 I would appreciate it. I would love to try them on before I leave, but don’t need them until that weekend.

I have a whole costume thing I need to create, which I can’t tell anyone and I don’t have a thing in my house that will suffice. The outfit is not something I can borrow and I am going to have to improvise. This is all within my capabilities except for the cowboy boots.

They won’t be worn more than half and hour, indoors. I can return them on the first Sundy in May. I appreciate any leads.

Real Mah Jongg

My friend Deanna was the first one of our Mah Jongg group to try out an online game called Real Mah Jongg. She had read about it in the Facebook Group, “Mah Jongg. That’s It.” A couple of us downloaded the Real Mah Jongg app. It has a free two week trial and after that it costs $6.99 a month, which quite frankly is much too expensive.

The app is good. The game gives you a choice of which card to play with and it has the new 2019 card. I highly recommend trying it as a way to learn the new card. Two weeks of playing it online and you should be well versed.

It is not a game that is good for people who don’t already know how to play. You still need to learn the game the old fashioned way, like from me or some other live teacher. If you know how to play, but feel like you play slowly, you can set the speed of the game to slow, medium or fast speed. Try just playing against computer players so if you make a mistake no one will get mad at you. You still need your Mah Jongg Card in front of you to play.

Years ago the National Mah Jongg League came out with an online game. You only could play with live players. It had a chat function and it was just terrible. The people who played it at first were often rude and unpleasant to play with. I decided they had to play online because no real people would play with them.

I am happy that this Real Mah Jongg version has computer player options so you don’t have to subject yourself to bitter, mean players who have been kicked out of other games.

If I seem out of touch for the next week I am just taking advantage of my free Mah Jongg period. I won’t be paying $6.99 a month for it. I have plenty of other free games on my iPad and my real life friends to play Mah Jongg with. The friends are the best part of Mah Jongg.

Shay as Nurse

Russ came home last night from work with a temperature of over 101. He thought he had just been suffering allergies thanks to the pollen as thick as syrup this year, but apparently he was actually sick. Shay stayed by his side in the guest room refusing to leave him.

This morning I went to check on the two of them. Russ was still sick so Shay refused to leave the room. I wanted to take her out and feed her before I left the house, but there was no hearing of it. Her duties as nurse were much too important and she would not leave her post.

With Russ asleep and Shay guarding him I went off to the Nasher to attend one of Ruth Caccavale’s excellent guided tours of the current Pop Art exhibit. Ruth is the best docent and always teaches the most interesting information about the art and the history of the time. I was fairly ignorant about how big Pop art was in South and Central America.

I had lunch with Ruth and two other women from the tour and returned home to relieve Shay of her nursing duties. She would have none of it. Russ was still not well and she stayed by his side the whole day.

I guess I don’t need to feel guilty about leaving my sick husband since I was practically shooed off by the labradoodle medical team.

Explosion In Durham Today-

This morning while we were playing Mah Jongg Mary Lloyd got a text from her husband Kurt that there had been an explosion downtown. We all stopped the game and searched our phones to discover that the explosion was not at one of our favorite restaurants, the St. James, but around the corner. I know that block well because for about two years my Magazine, Durham Magazine had our office in that block.

As better photos came in it was clear that the explosion from a gas leak was in my very office, the old Studebaker show room. The store front had recently been a coffee shop called Kaffinated.

So far the news has reported one person was killed and 15 were injured in the explosion, which Kurt texted he could feel in his office by the ball park at least ten blocks away.

The years that Durham Magazine was located there were the only years I really spent time at the office, with my co-workers, Bri, Kevin, Matt, Lisa, Carl and Dan. It was a sweet office with the “Studebaker” logo in mosaic tile on the floor.

The Ingram’s Porsche museum is next door and I can only imagine that cars were hurt along with the people. Please pray for the injured and fire fighter’s as well as the family of the person who was killed.

I have lots of good memories of working in that building. Thankful that it no longer is the Durham Magazine space, but so sorry for those who occupied it today.

Locked Data No More

A number of years ago one of my doctor’s practice started using a product called Health Vault. Supposedly it was a HIPPA approved way of communicating with patients and having a repository of all my health related information. The idea sounded good, but the reality was very different.

The Health Vault was perfectly named because all my information was locked tightly in it and I was never able to get in and look at it. I would get an email from my doctor saying I had a message in my Health Vault. I would attempt to log in to see what vital info was in there. I was always locked out. Try as I might, with the correct user name, password and multiple security questions the Health Vault was never certain I was me. I would call the doctor’s office and ask them just to tell me the message. No, that was not allowed. I would request a new log in, it would take days. Eventually I would somehow get the information, “All your tests are normal.” Thank goodness, but why the hell couldn’t someone just tell me that. Doesn’t seem like a HIPPA violation.

When I complained about the Health Vault my pleas fell on deaf ears. “Your tests were normal, what was the problem with getting the info days later?”

“Besides the aggravation,” I would say, “What if something had been life threateningly wrong with me?”

“The doctor would call you then.”

I eventually learned I could ignore the Health Vault since the only news that came through was no news. If I were dying someone would actually let me know. Today when I got an email telling me of the eventual death of the Health Vault. I was thrilled. All my normal test results can stay locked away from me forever. I certainly won’t be able to down load any data as a I don’t have six or seven days to devote to convincing the Health Vault that I am who I am. When I am going out of this world I figure someone will tell me.

Bring Back House Dresses for Pollen Season

With all the pollen in the air today the second I went outside I was covered in a thin layer of yellow dust. It didn’t help that I was wearing a navy shirt and white jeans. After Needlepoint morning I was off to do errands and jobs around the house before a church committee meeting. While I was doing my work at home I was noticing how dusty my clothes were getting and I wasn’t even dusting.

It got me thinking of the photos of women of the fifties wearing “house dresses” as they did their chores at home. The usually brightly colored floral cotton dresses looked like just the thing to wear while cleaning. No dust or dirt would show on the intricate patterns and the dress was not expensive or hard to clean. Since the lady of the house would be home alone wearing these outfits it didn’t much matter how you looked, you could even have a kerchief over your hair in curlers in your house dress. Comfort was the key.

Now a days yoga pants are the house dress of the day. If you are not dressed up you are in yoga pants and no one expected that you have just come from or are going to yoga. The only problem with yoga pants as the uniform is that dust clings to them. Try sitting on a park bench today in black yoga pants. You will have a big ‘ole yellow butt. Yes, they are comfortable and thus makes doing house work or running errands easy in them.

The big difference between house dresses and yoga pants is you could put a house dress over another outfit if you are just looking to protect your clothes. You might even put a house dress over your yoga pants. Yoga pants are a stand alone outfit.

I am certain that since most people don’t clean the way women of the fifties did there is no need for specialized cleaning clothing, except during pollen season. The problem with pollen season is that you have to clean every few hours. Maybe I need to make myself a yellow house dress like the one in the photo. I think I will skip the pearls while cleaning.

It’s Yellow Season

Yesterday I cleaned the dark blue chair on the front porch. I carefully wiped every surface with a wet rag remover not every trace of dust and pollen. Russ went out for a walk with Shay after church and texted me back a photo of the clouds of pollen rolling down the golf course.

As I was cleaning the house today I walked out on the front porch to discover that all my hard work yesterday was for naught. The blue chair was back to being a yellow chair. Not only did I feel like all this cleaning was a waste of time, but I also knew that if I didn’t do it the fine yellow dust would stain everything I have.

I hate yellow season and I don’t even have allergies. Russ lives on Clairitan and even Shay sneezes and rubs the dust off her face. I don’t remember the pollen being this bad in Connecticut when I was a kid, but perhaps it just didn’t bother me because I didn’t clean anything.

Consider this a warning, right now in Durham if it isn’t raining you are going to get yellow outside. I am going to be doing nothing but cleaning until yellow season ends. Oh, and I won’t be sitting my my blue chair.

Back Up Team

Tonight is the Durham Academy Auction. Yes, I long ago aged out of working on the auction, but many of my friends have not. When my friend Morgan fell skiing on spring break she did a superior amount of damage to her knee precipitating an operation last week. Since Morgan is the floral designer for the auction she called in her trusted recruits to help her.

This morning a group of us arrived at the Washington Duke, where Morgan, who should have been in her wheel chair, instructed us on how to make the two different flower arrangements needed for the 38 tables. Once she gave us our loose instructions she went off to the tent to instruct the balloon assemblers.

Recreating Morgan’s vision was a big order to fill. I was thankful that there were many talented women to lean on. With the exception of one arrangement completely falling out of its vessel once it was on the the table, everything went fairly smoothly. I am just praying that no other giant elephant ears decided to jump ship before the auction starts.

One other beautiful flower installation that I did not work on was Stacey Burket’s flower wall out in the lobby. It was stunning. I hope that everyone who goes gets a photo in front of the wall.

Good luck tonight to all those who worked so hard to make this auction happen. I hope it raises lots of money and everyone has a good time. Certainly they will be wowed by the decorations.

Being Beautiful is Hard Work

Shay is no glamour puss. She cares little about beauty. She has not subscribed to any Kardashians’ instagrams and follows no beauty bloggers. When her groomer arrived today the shaking began. “Please don’t make me take a bath,” She shivered out is doggie Morse code. Too late, Georgiana was already here and setting up her table.

She gathered up Shay in her arms and marched her down to the bathtub with the hand held shower head that we installed to make Shay’s bath easier. Not long after a wet puppy wrapped in a giant blue on blue polka dot towel was carried up to her grooming table. “That wasn’t too bad,” I thought as they passed by me.

The hair dryer ran, the clippers whirled the scissors clicked and suddenly Shay was running up to my bedroom and jumping on the bed to show me her new do. Her face was trimmed. Her body was clipped to look and feel like velvet. She rubbed her face against mine and there was no shivering.

After Georgiana cleaned up she asked to take an “after” photo of Shay. Shay, would not leave my side to pose for a photo alone, fearing Georgiana might try and scoop her up for a second bath. I sat down on the steps and Shay proudly puffed up her chest and sat tall for her photo. Perhaps she is a little more interested in beauty than she thought.

Teasing of Spring

Today spring actually stuck a toe out from behind the curtain today. Teasing us like a burlesque dancer. I wasn’t looking for a full on show, but am looking for at least a naked leg. I have had a cohort of herbs waiting to be planted. A dozen from the Home Depot, expensive and fairly reliable plants. Another dozen from Trader Joe’s, sold in pots as culinary herbs, with no word if they are transplantable outside. The Trader Joe’s ones are half the price of the Home Depot.

I decided to try a little experiment and planted all of them just outside the front door. The darker thyme are the Bonnie plants from HD, the lighter the TJ’s. If the Trader Joe’s make it through the next week I will go ahead and buy a bunch more as long at TJ’s still has them available.

With the over abundance of deer being born and never leaving our neighborhood there is little hope to grow much in my garden. The deer can knock off a thousand dollars worth of plants in one cocktail party in the dusk of the evening. They have no regard that they are uninvited guests, party crashers who should at least bring a hostess gift. No, they are more like teenagers who heard in the halls at school between third and forth period that there was a party in my yard and decided it was open to them.

Rather than going through the heartache of planting and having things stolen in the driveway garden I am just doing herbs which deer don’t have much of a taste for. In the driveway garden I might just put down zinnia seeds since zinnias are not tasty to those teenaged thug deer.

Glad as I am that spring may actually be here I hope it does not bring mating season again to the deer. Of course they have been having two or three offspring a year thanks to all the good food around here. I think those deer have watched too much burlesque.

Dress For Success Night

On a Wednesday night, after a long day’s work I really appreciate that Russ will take three and a half hours and go to the Dress for Success fundraiser with me. The founder of the triangle chapter, Pat Nathan, invited us to be guests at her table. I think the world of Pat and wanted to come support her so it was nice that Russ came and supported me and them. It helped that the event was held at Bay 7 in Durham and we did not have to drive to Raleigh.

The big bonus for us was some of the young people Pat invited to sit at her table. A young couple who recently moved to Raliegh from DC were sitting next to me. They both do interesting political and policy work and it was exciting and reassuring to talk to young people who are working hard to make our world better. Next to them were two young women who, when they we not working at their day jobs at Duke are volunteers at Dress for Success helping women find new jobs and gain confidence along the way.

It makes my heart happy to meet young twenty and thirty somethings who are giving back. I don’t think I gave back much in my twenties. I was busy earning money for myself, it was the Reagan era after all. The one volunteering thing I did was teach grown women how to read, but that was part of my Junior League Placement. Don’t get me started on the DC league. I loved the volunteering, but not that the league was unsupportive of me when I was hit by a car and couldn’t come to “done in a day.”

Thankfully now people have ways to volunteer without the need of an umbrella organization. Even better is that young people are volunteering. The sooner you learn that doing something for someone else is the fastest way to feel happy about yourself, the better off you will be.

It’s a Two Soup Day

Yesterday a friend of mine asked me if I was making any soup anytime soon. She was the second person to ask for soup in the last few days. I had already planned on French onion Soup for Mah Jongg lunch tomorrow since we are still having winter here in NC. I decided to also make some black bean with ham soup this morning as I saw snow furies outside my window.

Soup is the perfect cold weather food. It warms the whole body as it goes down and considering the craziness of the weather it seems like it is a two soup day.

My morning was spend chopping onions and caramelizing half for the onion soup and cooking the other half for the black bean. Since it was over 15 pounds of onions I am certain that is what I will smell like for the rest of the week. But if I have to smell like anything the sweetness of slow cooked onions is fine with me.

I hope you are keeping warm out there. Heat yourself up some soup and snuggle down under a quilt. Summer must have to get here eventually. Then we can have two salad days.

Shay’s Party

We have a new security system that has an indoor and outdoor camera. Although I was not home all day I was alerted by the system when there was movement inside the house and at the front door.

Although I was not expecting a package I got two alerts from the door bell camera and one from the house camera while I was playing duplicate bridge. The rules at bridge are you can’t have your phone on, but my watch flashed the photos up on the screen and I was able to see the alert. I didn’t want my opponents to call the director if they saw me looking at my watch so I had to glance at it with my arm in my lap slightly under the table. With my reading glasses on I couldn’t see the tiny photos well and had to wait until my partner and had finished that round.

We still had two boards to play and I almost forgot about the photos on my watch while I played the bridge hands. As we moved to the next table I got another buzzing of my watch and remembered to look at the photos. The first picture was one of a small deer standing on my front porch looking in the glass of the front door. The second was the backside of the deer walking down the porch steps. The third was a video of Shay running to the front hall and looking out the front door.

Obviously Shay was inviting her friends over while I was away. And if you believe that Shay would be bothered to get off the bed while no one is home you don’t know what day it is.