Boston, August 31, Again

A year ago I was in Boston moving Carter into her on campus apartment. I swore I would not come back to Boston and do this moving in thing on August 31 and September 1 again. Boston is full of every college student moving from one apartment to a new one and they all have to be out by noon on August 31 and can’t move into the new one until noon on September 1. It’s a mess.

Well, here we are again. Carter is moving off campus. Thankfully she does not have to move out of a place, but we can’t move her in until noon tomorrow. We flew up this afternoon. Checked into a hotel that is a ten minute walk to her apartment. We went over to look at the building and the front door was open with people moving. We were able to at least see the lobby and the hallway which is more than I had seen before. It was clean and cute and the people we met were nice. One young man was moving from one apartment in the building to a new one and said, “It’s a great building.”

After that we walked to HoJoko our favorite sushi in the old Howard Johnson’s. Carter new exactly what we should eat so she ordered for us and it was fantastic. Durham’s sushi scene has been waining so this was welcome, especially to Russ.

After dinner we did a small Target run for some cleaning supplies so we can clean first thing tomorrow. Carter’s IKEA delivery called and said they were coming between 9-1:00. Pray for 1:00 since we won’t have the keys until noon. I had called the delivery service and asked for an afternoon delivery, but there are some things you can’t control. I would rather have it earlier tomorrow than later the next day. Now we sleep because we are going to have our hands full tomorrow.

More Rhoda Than Mary

In the seventies a Saturday did not go by without my watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Most of the time I was babysitting for my sisters. Margaret and Janet always wanted to watch Emergency, so I had to watch MTM alone. Thankfully we had two color TV’s with one tuned to each show in different rooms.

Mary Tyler Moore was everything girls my age wanted to be. A single working women with her own apartment, perfect figure and a beautiful wardrobe. Unfortunately I related much more to Rhoda, the funnier, quirkier friend who always was a few pounds heavier than the perfect Mary. In reality I look back at the photos of Mary and Rhoda together and Rhoda had a perfect body. It was kind of like Lucy and Ethel. They portrayed Ethel as fat, when she was anything but.

Rhoda was creative and artistic as a window dresser and had a strained relationship with her “Ma.” Mary avoided any mother drama by appearing not to have a mother. Mary had dates with gorgeous men, none who could ever be good enough for her. Rhoda had dates with losers, but in the end Rhoda found love and married Joe and got her own show.

Valerie Harper was a great Rhoda. I loved everything about her. Sadly now she is gone as are half the cast. Mary, Georgia Engle, Ted Knight, now Valerie Harper. Thankfully Betty White, Cloris Leachman, Ed Asher and Gavin Mac Leod are still around.

Thanks Rhoda for showing me that the less perfect one can succeed and be happy. I always thought it was so sad for Mary that Rhoda moved back to NYC and got married, leaving Mary alone in Minneapolis. In the end Rhoda seemed to have it all.

Rest In Peace Valerie Harper. You were a winner.

(No copywriter infringement intended)

Who Was More Proud?

In March Carter put together a PowerPoint presentation which she used to illustrate her request to go traveling to Stockholm and Copenhagen by herself after she finished school in London this summer. The presentation was well researched and thought out. She had figured out flights, hostels, museums and sights she wanted to see and the cost for the whole trip.

It was a big deal to plan a trip by herself and travel alone. Her hope was we might pay for half of it. Russ and I thought the opportunity to travel on her own was great, but even better if she paid for the whole thing herself. So that is what we gave her permission for.

She came home from college and went to work earning more than she needed for the trip. She left for London on July 1 knowing she was all set for her post study trip.

London was fantastic and she had the best time and getting two credits with perfect marks helped a lot. She loved her Prof and her whole group is looking forward to a Boston reunion. As good as that was I think that the vacation after was even better. She packed in seeing as much as anyone possibly could. Met some cool people and had the time of her life.

Carter kept a journal of every cent she spent on her credit card and came home excited to give me the money she owed for her trip. Today we went to the bank and she withdrew all that she owed and game me a big wad of cash. She documented it in this photo. I don’t know who is happier, Carter for achieving this milestone of paying for her own trip or me getting money back from her.


Yesterday I boiled eight Jumbo eggs all from the same carton I picked up at Trader Joe’s. I was making deviled eggs for Mah Jongg lunch today. The eggs were big, as jumbo’s should be, but not out of the ordinary. After boiling and cooling the eggs I started peeling and cutting them in half to remove the yolks. The first one I cut was a double yolk. I showed Carter and we thought it was so cute the way the yolks made double circles in the white.

I peeled and cut the next one, also double yolk. And again…! Five of the eight eggs I had boiled were double yolks. This was not the first time that has happened to me. More than once when I have bought Jumbo eggs at Harris Teeter and if I had one double yolk in the dozen many have.

I wonder if the egg sorters know which ones have doubles and group them all together in the same carton? It can’t possibly be random that there are so many doubles in one, when usually there are only single yolks, even in the jumbo cartons.

I wonder if getting the “Double Bonus Carton” is intended to make the purchaser feel like a winner, because that is how it makes me feel. I am thankful that I was not buying eggs to make meringue because all those extra yolks wold not be welcome. Too bad I was not making hollandaise sauce as it is an all yolk recipe.

I probably should have gone out and bought a lottery ticket as it clearly was my lucky day.

Celebrating Mary Lloyd

I always feel sorry for people who have their birthday in the middle of the summer. Seems like it is a hard time to get people together to celebrate appropriately. As a kid, my friends with summer birthdays never had a proper birthday party or worse, if their birthday came right at the start of school, they had to invite the kids in their new class, who they might not have known or worse liked.

My friend Mary Lloyd has an August birthday and she is always a good sport about celebrating it days and days after the actual event. Today was the day. We planned it well in advance and it turns it it might have been a good thing we waited.

Recently, Jack, Mary Lloyd’s oldest son went to Washington for his first semester of Junior year. It is just a semester and then her will come home and finish high school, but it is first child to leave home and that is a big adjustment. There also has been the loss of child at school and that has been a sad and hard thing for people to deal with.

It seems like a celebration was needed just to change the tenor of the air. So Christy and I took Mary Lloyd to the WaDu to have a long and leisurely lunch. During that time we decided that it is time to start celebrating our half birthdays this way because we don’t spend enough time enjoying each other’s company.

I for one think that half birthdays are not even enough. We really need to move to a monthly lunch bunch like I do with my friend Hannah. If we don’t make an effort to get together regularly it is easy to get involved in our own mundane day-to-day stuff and not see each other at all.

So today I am thankful for the birth and life of Mary Lloyd. I would be willing to celebrate her life and the life of my other other friends once a month, or twice a month or once a week. We just don’t know how many birthdays we each are going to get so celebrate an extra amount.

Another Dog Day

I awoke this morning to the news that it is National Dog Day! In our house everyday dog day. I felt like we just had a dog celebration day. So I looked up when was the last dog day we had. It was August 10, Spoil your dog day. Talk about redundant. Then I continued looking at the list of designated days or months that celebrate dogs.

January is Walk your Pet month. I don’t know about you, but every month is walk your pet month in our neighborhood. January is also Train your dog month and Unchain your dog month. I guess that a well trained dog who is walked often has no need to ever be chained, so lets lump them all in the same month. Although, every month should be unchain your dog month as it is inhumane to chain up dogs.

January 2 is National Pet Travel Safety day and January 14 is National Dress up your Pet day. Who is traveling on January 2? That is back to work day and why don’t they make dress up your let day on October 31 when they are dressed up with us?

February is National Dog Education Training Month. Really? Didn’t we just have Training in January? February is also responsible Pet owners month. You lugs of pet owners, did you not train in January or get educated about training in February?

February 3-9 is Have a Heart for chained Dogs Week. We just unchained them in January. Shouldn’t we have a heart for them first and then unchain them?

February 20: Love your Pet day.

I won’t go on for every month, but I was not surprised to see at least a dozen days a month that celebrate our dogs or all pets. Hug your Dog Day, or the oh so different Hug your Hound day, Mutt Day, Prue Bred Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, Dogs deserve Pensions Day, Dogs In Politics Day. I only made one of those up, good luck figuring out which one.

Needless to say, Dogs are important to us and why not? They never watch Fox News and tell us stuff that is clearly not true as if it were the gospel, they are always happy to see us, no matter how long it has been since we left their sight and they loves us when we don’t love ourselves.

So go on and celebrate National Dog Day, today, tomorrow and the one after that. You won’t be wrong and your dog deserves it.

A Celebration for Clee

The first time I ever went to the Baltimore Country Club was as the Maid of Honor for my dearest college friend Suzanne. I was the only non-blood relative in the wedding party with her next sister up, Gussy as Matron of Honor and her nieces, Laura, Caroline, Emily and Kristin as brides maids. Suzanne’s parents, Mary and Clee had welcomed me into their family as the sixth daughter years before, even if I was like Kristen Whig in the Lawrence Welk skit on SNL of the Maharelle Sister of the finger Lakes. Suzanne and her four older sister are still the most stunning family. And then there was me, with perhaps awkwardly short arms, making inappropriate comments. I was defiantly there for comic relief.

That first visit at BCC we danced the night away in the wood paneled ballroom and enjoyed a delicious dinner in the adjoining dining room with all the many Wordens and their giant extend family.

The second time I was in that same dining room it was for the lunch following the funeral of Suzanne’s mother Mary in 2006. I loved Mary and she loved me too. She always gave me the benefit of the doubt and loved to talk about finding antique treasures.

Today, my third visit to BCC was for the brunch to celebrate the long life of Clee Worden, Suzanne’s father who lived to 98 and some change. The rooms look the same, although Steve, Suzanne’s husband asked me if I thought they looked smaller than at their wedding. The people gathered in the room were as familiar to me as my own family. All of beautiful Worden girls, Nancy, Carol, Mary Jo, Gussy and Suzanne. Their husbands, and children and now their children’s children. All there to bid farewell to “Opa” as he was called by grand and great-grand children.

Friends had come, Steve’s sister Stacey and her husband Peter. Rose, our dear college friend. Meg, Suzanne’s best high school friend and each sister had their close friends. So many to toast the life of Clee. After Carol spoke and the Suzanne we watched a wonderful video of Clee and his clan. Steven made a wonderful speech about Clee, my favorite part was about the two subjects he always talked to everyone about, Metallurgy and Politics. That got a big howl from the crowd who each at one time or another had those conversations, or more like listening sessions with Clee.

One difference in the people in the room from that first visit in 1991 were perhaps my favorites, Suzanne and Steve’s kids, Grace, Jack and Oliver, whom I love like my own children. Grace admitted to me today that she was at least ten before she realized I wasn’t a real Aunt to her as she had always called me “Aunt Dana,” but couldn’t quite work out the math when her mom said she was one of five girls. Grace thought she meant she had five sisters, counting me in with her other Aunts and Suzanne made six girls in total.

The visit was too short, as it always is, especially to celebrate such a long and fruitful life. What a wonderful family that I am lucky to know and love for all these many years. Cheers to Clee and Mary Worden who started it all and I am sure are smiling down on us all.

The Drive Was Worth It

I spent the majority of my day in the car driving up to Washington. This trip used to be a four and a half hour drive. Back in the eighties when I made the trip regularly for work I could sometimes make it in four hours and that was on a weekday. I don’t think I have made it to or from DC in less than six hours in the last decade. Today it was over six hours with one stop at WaWa for Iced Tea and Lemonade.

I had left Russ home alone with Shay he is being ordained at Church tomorrow. Carter is sitting for the Prebble kids for two days so she couldn’t come. I have to be in Baltimore tomorrow for a memorial service and I didn’t want to make the drive up and back in once day. My family’s DC apartment is empty so it makes a good stopping place.

My sister Janet and her girl friend Sophie came to pick me up and take me to dinner at the Bombay Club. It has always been a favorite place of mine from back in my DC days. Time spent with Janet and Sophie is always the best. I was glad to get to see Sophie right now because she lost her mother earlier in the week. That is just something no one is ever prepared for.

Thankfully the restaurant gave us a comfortable table in the back where we told stories and laughed and had the best time. I am certain we monopolized the table longer than the restaurant had planned on us being there. If they asked I would had told them I had just driven six hours and deserved a few hours with my sisters.

We tried to get a photo of the three of us, but we should have done it before drinks and dinner rather than after. Sophie wanted to know if I could take the best one of each of us and put them together. Maybe on another day, but now you just get all the bad ones. The photos don’t represent how much fun we really had together. Love you Jan and Soph. Thanks for dinner.

Pray for RBG

Today news came across my watch while I was at bridge about Ruth Badder Ginsberg having been treated for cancer on her pancreas. As if we don’t have enough to worry about with 45 and his tariff happy rants these days. The news said she was cancer free, thank goodness, but we need to do everything possible to keep her alive and well.

If anyone can overcome anything it’s RBG, but let’s have a back up plan. Perhaps the brilliant people who are left at the MIT Media Lab can rehabilitate their reputation after the news that they have ties to Jeffery Epstein and make a clone of RBG in case we need her. If they can’t get a fully working constitutional expert cloned perhaps a convincing robot.

Certainly 45 can be fooled by a robot. He seems to be attracted to robot like women. The best way ensure he buys the robot as the real thing is to have one that compliments him on anything since all he wants is adoration. He will never say that anything that thinks he is good is not real.

Seriously, if you are the praying type, please pray for RGB to live at least another thirty years. We need every bit of her.

Shay Crazy

We awoke to a beautiful mountain day at our little cabin. We had to be out by 11:00 and we efficiently went about having breakfast, tidying up and packing the car. We thought we might go to blowing rock or grandfather mountain, but as we got to the blue ridge parkway we changed our minds and decided to just head home so we could see Shay sooner.

Are we the only people who cuts our vacation short because we miss our dog? It was not as if we had been away for weeks, or were just sick of each other’s company. We just wanted a good Shay snuggle.

We drove without stopping for lunch and you know if we skip lunch to get home earlier something is up. We headed straight to Shay’s sitter’s and got her just as the sky’s opened up and there was a huge deluge. That ended our perfect weather streak.

It was coming down so hard that when we pulled into the driveway we just stayed in the car playing with Shay until Russ eventually braved the rain and ran into the garage for umbrellas.

Apparently we missed quite a bit of bad weather. Our power was out for 12 hours last night according the texts from Duke Energy. I was thankful to come home to a cool house that was fully powered and a happy puppy who likes to snuggle no matter the temperature.

Great Day, In Every Way

Some vacation days are more perfect than others, at least for me. We started the day with a beautiful walk around Bass pond. The breeze was just enough to keep you dry and cool, but not so much that your hair did an unattractive dance. It was sweet of Russ and Carter to do this flat walk with me before they went off to do a strenuous waterfall climb on rocks rather than on a trail.

The perfect part for me was I sat on the front porch and read my book and did not hear a person, car or plane. It was not quite as tranquil for Russ and Carter because they had to jump from rock to rock as they climbed up the waterfall and river. It would have been fine except Carter is known to have an accident or two and was worried. Then to add trauma to the whole thing a family came down the other direction and little boy told Carter he had seen snake up river a bit. Not as perfect for Carter. They came hiking home soon after that. No injuries or snakes in tow.

Everyone cleaned up and we went to a beautiful spot up the mountain that had a gorgeous view to have a drink before going off to dinner at the Gamekeeper Restaurant that my friend Christy had recommended. Carter didn’t love that Russ told her it was in the top 100 romantic restaurants on Open Table. Carter had nothing to worry about.

The place is in a house on the side of the mountain. The decorating looks like your Aunt Tilley and Uncle Bub lived there with deer heads on the wall and strange old family photos. The tables were plain wood and the ladder back chairs were straight and uncomfortable. The music was eclectic and weird from Herb Albert to 1920’s jazz with no flow between them.

The menu was interesting as it was a lot of game. The reviews of the food and the place had been spectacular. We ordered fried green tomatoes, escargot, and okra and black eyed peas salad as starters. They were all good, except Russ thought the Okra was not half as good as Carter’s. For dinner I had duck and Russ and Carter had trout. It was also good, but not spectacular. Despite all that I have written on the place we had a lovely dinner just being together.

We returned to the cabin to sit by the fire pit and this was the highlight of the whole trip. Something wonderful happens by the fire. We talked and shared and loved each other. The kind of talk that you will talk about years from now. It was the perfect last night in the mountains.

Mountain Day

Russ awoke early and took a hike in the woods and then came home and made me his best breakfast of avocado toast and slow cooked eggs. It was a lovely way to begin the vacation day.

We are staying in a small cabin off a long dirt road on the side of a mountain at the edge of a huge National Forest. It could not be more peaceful and relaxing. After we all had breakfast we set off on a trek to find the tubing spot we were going to on the New River. The water in the river is low which made our two mile float take over two hours.

Two hours floating down a river is the ultimate unhooking from the outside world. The only thing we encountered was a father and his three year old son tubing and a couple of kayakers who paddled past us at a clip we could only imagine.

Russ named the most exciting part of the float a short stint of “rapids” as a .5 on the five point scale. We could have done the whole loop a second time but since we did not bring any food with us we decided that lunch was in order.

Russ and Carter had seen a sign that Carter misread as Nachos, so that is what they got in their tastebud brains we should have. Nachos meant another run back to the grocery store on our way home from rafting.

Carter volunteered to do the cooking so Russ and I sat on the porch and enjoyed the beautiful day. It was four thirty by the time lunch was served, but it was an instagram worthy sight to behold. Cat naps after lunch and we have fully evolved into vacation mode. I am enjoying everyone else cooking.

Tonight a fire in the fire pit outside and a night under the stars.

Russ Gets A Vacation

Apparently I have taken a bunch of vacations in the last year and a half and Russ has not. This life of all work had to stop and Carter made it happen. She too has been on quite a few vacations and is good at planning them so she convinced Russ to take a few days off and go to the mountains. I think this is Carter’s way of weening herself of a dozen summers spent at Camp Cheerio.

We rented a little cabin on the edge of the Cherokee National Forest. It was an easy drive since Carter did all the driving as the expert to the mountains. There were only a few stress filled moments as I drove her crazy as the consummate back seat driver.

We stopped in Boone for lunch where I was the only person without a tattoo or homemade shoes. We had a sweet hummingbird dining beside us. I am not quite sure how pot has not been legalized in North Carolina, but when it happens Boone will lead the way.

Our little cabin is exactly what we needed. Russ immediately went out on a hike to get the lay of the land. He already found a waterfall and knows where a second one is.

After we cleaned up we went over to Blowing Rock to visit my Aunt Edie and Uncle Bill. They have been summering in Blowing Rock for eleven years and this is the first time we have come to see them. Eddie is my mother’s youngest sister and Carter has not spent any time with them.

We sat on their porch with a view of nine mountain ridges and had drinks and some nibbles while we caught up. We went into town for dinner and continued our great conversation. Carter wondered why I had kept these relatives from her all these years. I promised it had not been my plan.

Now back snuggled in our little cabin our Russ-along-vacation is off to a very good start.

Comfort and Love

Almost a day doesn’t go by that I am not thankful for Westminster. I am not a religious zealot. I am just a person trying to figure out how to live in this world and do better everyday. The one thing I know is that most everything that happens at church helps me get there and trust me none of it is perfect.

Today I had the pleasure of listening to Davis Bingham sing a solo. His gift of song brings joy to everyone who hears him. I just adore that I have such a sweet relationship with he and his wife Joan because of our church connection.

Russ has agreed to be an elder at church and his training concluded today with his examination for ordination. Thank goodness he passed. He will be a great elder and I am happy that he is offering up his precious time.

Next Sunday he will be ordained along with the four other elders and nine Deacons. Sadly I am missing his big day because I will be in Baltimore. My best college friend Suzanne lost her father earlier in the summer and I am going to the celebration of his 98 years.

If you go to Westminster look out for Russ as he starts this journey without me. Of course I will be back that night, but I wish I could be in two places at once.

Everyday hard things are happening all around us, and Westminster and the people there make it easier. I hope you have a place in your life that makes you feel comfort and love.

Schools Back in NC

Growing up in Connecticut back to school was always the day after Labor Day. I have never gotten used to back to school being in the middle of August, but here it is. Our friend Adam leaves his car at our house over the summer and today he and his Mom, Kelly, arrived to pick it up so he can move into his college apartment.

The news alerted us yesterday that UNC was moving in the past few days and Duke is coming on a Tuesday. This alert is code for, “Don’t try to go to Target, Walmart, Costco or Bed, Bath and Beyond.” Thank goodness I wasn’t going to go in a Walmart anyway.

Adam didn’t store all his stuff in our garage this year. Instead he used a storage service. Turns out that they are a little behind on deliveries because a whole lot of their workers quit. I hope he is able to locate his boxes and if need be Carter and her Land Cruiser can aid in delivering them.

As a sweet thank you for just letting Adam’s car sit in our driveway Kelly took us all out to dinner tonight. It was a wonderful chance to catch up and hear about Adam’s summer in Tanzania. College summers are so different than when I was in college. Adam’s twin Cait was in Australia, Carter was in London and Adam in Africa. Oh what I wouldn’t do to have a college summer. Of course I am not looking to go back to class, certainly not before Labor Day.

Dickinson Reflection

A young woman who is a student at Dickinson College, where I went to school, e-mailed me a few weeks ago asking to meet me for an interview. I agreed and today after I had a very poor showing at bridge I met her at Fosters. Nell, is something called a Presidential Fellow and she was assigned to interview graduates who live in North Carolina.

She was polite, on time and a good conversationalist. She asked me about my time at Dickinson. What did I think was my favorite part about the school? It was an easy question , I said, my friends. I am glad she did not ask me what classes I took sophomore year because I don’t believe I could tell you what anyone of them were, but if you wanted to know the name of every girl in my pledge class I could give you that almost without taking a breath.

I loved my time at Dickinson, but as I told her, I was more interested in clubs and activities than in academics. It worked out well for me as not one potential employer ever asked me for my transcript. They were much more interested in leadership positions I had held.

My best skillI developed in college was public speaking. I got there with a lot of experience from boarding school, but I had bigger audiences in college. To this day talking is my favorite activity. Even at bridge today a woman I was playing against who goes to my church told me she likes when I speak at church.

As Nell continued the interview she was asking me things about how I thought the college could improve. I offered two areas I thought it was lacking, real life job experience for students and for Dickinson to play a bigger role in improving the town of Carlisle.

Central Pennsylvania is not exactly a hot bed of excitement and one small liberal arts college is not likely to fix what years of poor governing has done, but Carlisle is a nice enough town that has potential, but could use a big idea or two.

Liberal arts is a tough sell in these STEM filled times. Not that Dickinson doesn’t offer great science and math that produces a good share of great doctors and researchers, or that liberal studies are not a wonderful foundation for any future, but place it in a sleepy small town and it gets to be a harder sell.

One thing that I learned from Nell is that Dickinson has just two fraternities and many sororities which is a little bit of a flip from my years there. I didn’t ask her what they do for fun. The litigious world we live in has caused all schools to crack down on what we used to do in college. Maybe we need to teach bridge and Mah Jongg at orientation so at least kids can play a game they could play the rest of their lives. If only I had learned to play bridge in college…on second thought I probably would not have graduated.

Cleaning as Avoidance

I don’t think I am a person with natural OCD tendencies. If you saw my childhood room and especially my closet you would say, “definitely NOT.” That being said, I am developing a love of cleaning things. What does this say about me. Perhaps I don’t have enough to do?

I am not obsessive. Right now I am fairly certain I know where some dust is in every room in my house and there is plenty of silver that needs polishing. Talk about a half world problem. It is just that I am taking great satisfaction in figuring out the best way to clean difficult things. I have mastered grout! Now that I have solved that world problem I needed something else to move on to.

Thankfully Carter came home and provided me with a challenge. She had bought some Allbirds, wool shoes in white and wore them all over Europe. I don’t have such fancy shoes, but I had read they could be washed in the washer. Carter removed the insoles and the laces, per the instructions and I threw them in the washer on delicate since you treat them like a sweater to clean them.

The first run through the machine with Woolite was unsatisfactory to my uber cleaning sensibilities. I then scrubbed them in the sink with more woolite. Not happy. I looked at the internet and found no better information other than “Do Not Bleach.” Ok, Ok. I tried scrubbing them with Gain. A little better but not good enough. I put them back in the washer with my Kirkland pod and added two towels to rough them up a bit during the delicate cycle.

As I count it I had washed them four times. Oh I didn’t mention that I cleaned the rubber soles with a manic eraser which was perfect. I showed them to Carter, thinking she would say they were not good enough. “Oh, these are great, thanks.”

Now they are drying and I will judge how clean they look fully dry. It shouldn’t make a difference to me if Carter is happy. I think that all this cleaning is my way of ignoring the bad news in the world. If I am researching the best mop I am not looking at the stock market or what bone headed tweet is coming out.

Am I alone in trying to control my own little world as the bigger one around me is in chaos?

Grape Public Service Announcement

I really shouldn’t tell the world this, and I have written about it in the past, but I must be unselfish and tell you about Thomcord Grapes. See Trader Joe’s and perhaps a couple of other grocers have these very special grapes for about a month. They are a cross between a Thompson Grape, which is red and seedless and a Concord grape which is purple with seeds.

A Thompson can have a slight bite to them and a concord is as sweet and grapey as you can get. Put together you have a purple seedless grape that is sweet and slightly tart and pure yumminess.

At Trader Joe’s they sell them for $2.49 for a container and like I said, the season is short. The reason I shouldn’t share this Information is they are hard to get and it means I probably won’t be able to get them every time I to the store for the next month. But what kind of friend would I be if I kept this a secret? If I kept letting you eat tart green grapes you might never know what real grapes are supposed to taste like.

If you loved purple grape juice as a kid then these are the grapes for you. Trust me they are better than candy, cookies or cake. Even better than chocolate. Now I have your attention. You can thank me later.

Moving Off Campus

In a couple of weeks Carter will be moving into her first non-school apartment. This is real grown up life. She got an agent to rent to apartment, which is common practice in Boston. The place comes with heat and hot water. While Carter was away I got to thinking about the other utilities she needed to secure. I mentioned electricity to her and she had been unaware that she needed to do anything to get an account.

When I was Carter’s age I too moved off campus to a house with three roommates. In Carlisle, Pennsylvania we did not need a real estate agent to rent a house. We just walked down the street and saw a hand written sign and called the owner.

To get a telephone installed we walked over to the telephone company on high street and put in an order to have a phone installed. It was a one line phone installed in the stairway on the first floor with a very long cord so my roommates and I could pull the phone into our rooms on the second or third floors as needed.

We called the electric company and had them put the account in our names on the start of our lease. Actually, speaking of leases, I don’t remember having anyone of our parents look at it before we signed it. Of course our rent was only $350 a month for the four of us. That meant we each paid $87.50.

The only utility we had any trouble with was oil, which was needed for our furnace. The tank was in our dirt floor basement where our washer and dryer also resided. Every once in a while one of us would look at the little float on the tank to see if the oil was getting low. When we were at a point that our tank might run dry we would call the oil company. As a cash customer one of us had to be home with the money to give the driver when they came and filled the tank through pipe in the front porch. I can’t remember how much it cost, but we did wait until the last minute every time.

We got a water bill every once in a while, but it was inconsequential. Garbage was free in our town and of course there was no recycling. We also had basic cable which I think cost us $14 a month.

Carter will not have to worry about phone, oil, or water, but she has internet which I am happy her father will help her figure out. So much adulting when you move off campus. I at least had roommates to help remember to check the oil. Carter won’t have that, but at least she can get her bills electronically and can pay online and won’t have to worry about buying stamps to pay her bills.

Hold My Mail

I got the mail today. Same old crap. A three hundred page catalogue for shipping supplies. Two other random catalogues from stores we have never been to. A coupon for something we will never buy. A letter from a car dealer wanting to buy my car and the best thing a letter to Russ from Melanie Trump. I don’t know what “fake mailing list” the RNC was buying, but someone is wasting their money.

Due to spousal rights I get to open all mail that beautiful women send my husband. No prejudice here, I also open the mail all ugly women send him too. I needed a little comedy this afternoon and I was certain that I would get it from this particular letter.

As a retired Marketer I am very familiar with direct mail. My father was the king of direct mail for years and I loved to try and shorten many of his voluminous offerings. So I read these things with an editors sensibility.

Two things caught my eye in this mailing. The first and most glaring was the big Melania Signature which looks incredibly similar to that of her husband, Donald. It made me wonder if she did not learn to write until she met him and he taught her hand writing. If that is not the case, then I wondered if 45 was sending out this mailing for her and signed it himself. Either way, I have never seen a couple with so similar a signature.

The second thing I found amusing was that the call to action form (that’s the thing you send back with a big check) actually wants people to pledge to the President because the Democrats and the media are out to “destroy you Personally” (meaning destroy the Donald personally). Never in my life reading fundraising mail for anything have I seen a plea from a politician for money because someone was trying to destroy them personally. I am so tired of 45 thinking the whole world revolves around him.

This officially kicks off the nightmare of a long political season. I am wondering if it would be OK to have the Post Office hold ALL our mail until after the election?

Building News at Westminster

Today at Church I gave a minute for mission talk abut the fellowship hall we are tearing down and replacing with a new and improved one. As the chair of the building committee It is my job to communicate what in the world is going on. This is the only reason why I am the chair, as the other members of the committee are far more seasoned building professionals. If you go to my church and missed it today this information is important to you, if not you might just take away the meaning.

This past week we started the asbestos abatement in the fifty year old building. That means absolutely no one is allowed in the building. While that is being done a fence is going to be errected all the way around the building cutting off the main walkway between the back parking lot and the rest of the campus.

I instructed the congregation all the routes to get into church that will be left for them. I also asked that if you are able bodied to park in the far off spots and have a nice walk into church.

The big thing I tried to impress upon people, which might be useful info for us all, is that parking is going to get tighter and to consider car pooling to church. Also for those families who drive multiple cars to church because they can’t just get it together to all be ready on time, try and come in one car.

I ended with the plea to have patience and be kind, something we should have all the time with each other.

I seemed to hit on to something that the congregation liked. It might have been my humorous delivery, but after church I had more than my usual cohorts give me a thumbs up. The information I was relaying was fairly boring, but people responded positively. I had more than a handful tell me they discussed carpooling with a pew mate. I had suggested that perhaps carpool groups might even go out to lunch together after church and that sparked a few plans.

I walked away feeling like people just needed an excuse to get out of their solitary bubbles and do something with other people. I hope that next time I have to update the congregation on the progress of the building they respond as well. It’s going to be a year and I fear when winter comes and they are sick of walking the long way into church they might not be as generous with me.

A Girl and Her Dog

I think the only reason Carter came home was to see Shay Shay. She asked if we could bring Shay when we picked her up at the airport last night. The way Shay pulled on her lease to get into the airport you might believe that she knew we were going in to pick Carter up.

Shay stood at attention at the place where arriving passengers emerge from the gates. She jumped up on her hind legs when she saw Carter in the pack of humans coming towards her. Russ had to carry Shay on the escalator as we went to get Carter’s bags and they enjoyed a loving reunion.

At home Shay still sticks with Russ as her human of choice, but she has spent plenty of snuggle time with Carter. Tonight Shay lay on her bed that we dragged into the dining room while we ate the dinner Carter requested as her only dinner home before departing in the morning. After dinner Shay and Carter went to the sun room and played tug of war with Shay’s many toys.

Obviously Russ and I don’t do this enough with Shay because a few minutes after the rough housing ended Shay threw up her dinner in one big pile. Nothing like having Carter home to add throw up to the house.

I know it is going to confuse Shay so much when Carter pulls out of the driveway in the morning. Just as her puppy is used to having her home… Shay, you will just have to settle for me.

She’s Home!

I hate to say this in case I jinx something, but Carter spent the last six weeks in Europe and all her flights were on time. This is a big happy dance at our house after her nightmare of canceled flights home from Germany four days before Christmas year before last and her canceled flight to the Dominican Republic in March. I have not had as many canceled flights in my whole life as Carter, and I used to travel for twenty years of working.

Carter had a fantastic month in London studying the Scientific Revolution. Of course she inherited the Anglophile gene from my family and now she is more determined than ever to go back and work there. At least she was before she went off traveling to Stockholm and Copenhagen all by herself. She loved them both, but I think Stockholm was the winner.

In March Carter made a PowerPoint presention to me and Russ asking if she could go traveling by herself after she finished her courses in London. She had researched the cost of flights and youth hostels, made a budget for food and the cost of sight seeing. It was well laid out. I don’t think she was thinking we would give her the answer we did.

“Of course you can go travel by yourself. You just have to earn all the money to pay for it.”

So she did. She worked hard the first half of the summer and made more than enough. Not only was the trip a fun adventure of her own design, but it was of her own making. That part makes me so proud. She really took advantage of every minute and went and did and saw as much as she could. She also met and made new friends from Australia, Switzerland, Holland, Denmark, the UK and Austria.

So her trip was a balance of introverted things of getting to go at her own pace to only what she was interested in and then spending time talking to new people and learning about them and sharing meals and drinks with them. What a wonderful growing experience.

And she flew from Durham to Boston to London to Stockholm to Copenhagen to London to Atlanta to Durham all by herself and didn’t have an issue. Thank goodness for all that.

Shay, Russ and I went to get her at the airport and now we have her home for 36 hours before she is off again. I am going to make the most of the few hours she will be awake.

Travel Toiletries

As a life-long, practically professional, traveler I have learned some lessons, yet there are still things I can I improve on. I keep my travel drop kit packed and ready to go all the times. It is filled with the normal toiletries and some speciality ones for travel, like mole skin for foot boo boos, and band aids and little neosporin packets for all other boo boos. The travel sewing kit in there provides the needle to help remove a splinter on more than one trip.

A small old prescription bottle filled with baby powder is just what you need for chaffing skin in a hot climate and another old pill bottle holds more than enough Eucurin cream to take all your mascara off and soothe chapped lips.

I have travel sized tooth paste because TSA loves to take your Crest that just happens to be over the 3oz.limit. And travel mouse can make any hairdo in any climate.

The one mistake I make over and over again is I continue to buy travel sized deodorant because I want as small a container as possible, to fit in my small dopp kit, to fit in my carry-on only one suit case, as is my rule for air travel. Travel sized deodorant has approximately 1/2 an inch of deodorant in the tube when it is new, although the container is 2 1/2 inches tall. The mechanism inside the tube that cranks up the 1/2 inch of deodorant takes up an inch and a half. Why in the world do we need a screw type deodorant mechanism to push up half an inch of deodorant. It could just be a push-up thing we do manually. At least then we could have an inch and a half of product in the same sized package.

After being away this week and running my travel sized deodorant down to the nub I vowed to make room for a full sized deodorant in my kit. It is only 2.3 Oz so the TSA won’t take it away, but it is three times the size of the travel one. My only problem is something else in my kit is going to have to go. As a person who hardly uses any products anyway I am not sure what I can drop from the basics I already carry. I guess it will have to be the powder, but never the Eucerin. I can chafe, but never chap.

Coral Bay Mah Jongg

Teaching Mah Jongg right is a three day production. The first day you teach people what all the tiles are and how to identify patterned and read the card. The second day you start to let them play and it takes three hours to play two games. By the third day if they are going to “get it” they have. From a teacher’s point of view the third day is the easiest to teach, the first day is the second easiest and the middle day is the hardest.

Today was the middle day. I taught for over six hours. “Can you help me?”…”I have a question.”…”Am I doing this right?”…”Can you tell me what to do?”

It is a good day for getting all my steps, but they are in a very small room. Thankfully I have had two dozen very good students, but I am looking forward to tomorrow’s class since it will be the easiest on me.

The Coral Bay club has been a lovely host to me as a teacher. They take good care of us with drinks during our classes and by 2:30 in the afternoon class they show up with a plate of cookies because the students need to keep their blood sugar up.

I have had a one hour break each day for lunch that the club has given me. Today I had a treat of seeing a bunch of old friends from all over at Coral Bay. I saw Diane Wade who was taking a bridge class. Lucy McLeod who served me tea at lunch who had been working here as her summer college job. I saw Cynthia Barnes who was playing bridge with Lou Uzzle from

Durham and two Moorhead friends and I saw Katherine Kruger who lives in Charleston now, but who was visiting her sister here.

I think I saw more people I know at Coral Bay than I see in a Durham on a normal day. Of course I also was with Reba, my host and all my new students, who tomorrow will be my old students.

This is a friendly place.

Beach Mah Jongg Day One

My life as the NC Beach Mah Jongg teacher continues. This week the Coral Bay Club hosts me teaching two beginner classes. When I first got the call that they were interested in offering my class the woman from the club asked what my minimum was I would come for? She was worried about getting enough people since the only days I was available were the same days they were having a big bridge class. I hate to compete against a bridge.

I told her 8 was the minimum, but 12 was ideal. She called me the next day and had 24 and asked if that was OK. I told her we could do one morning and one afternoon class along as they fed me lunch. It was a deal.

Reba has again been my most generous host to take care of me while I am here for three days teaching. She came to the beginning of each class and introduced me. It was more like a way over the top commercial for my class and it was unneeded as all the students were already there. I can’t thank Reba enough for her great promotion of Mah Jongg at the beach.

Before Reba started having me down here to teach, I had not done two classes back to back three days in a row, now I am addicted to it. The students here are so enthusiastic and fun. I have taught six classes in total here in the last 14 months and I am told there are others who want to learn who could not get in these classes. I am certain I will be back.

If you and your friends ever wanted to learn a really fun game I am happy to do travel Mah Jongg teaching and come to you. It combines many things I love to do; travel, make new friends, share my favorite game and visit with old friends.

No Sleep For Mothers

Before I had Carter I heard lots of stories from friends who were already mothers about how when they were away from their baby and they heard a random baby crying their milk would let down. (If you don’t know what that means look it up.) Suddenly women who had no particular interest in children would cry at random Cat Steven’s songs. When another child was mean to your child on the play ground it was all you could do not to take that child out. That motherly instinct was strong and fast and it made you do and feel things you never contemplated in your life.

Your friends told you about these things when you were a new mother, but they stopped warning you about how being a mother would make you lose sleep after your child started sleeping through the night. They didn’t tell you that when your baby was an adolescent you would lie awake at night because you suddenly didn’t know what happened to your sweet child now that she had hormones. They didn’t tell you that you would not be able to go to sleep when your high schooler was out late at night and you would sit up waiting for them to get in the door safely before you could actually close your eyes.

Even though no one told about those things you understood them. You lived through each stage and you eventually were able to sleep again. You didn’t blame your friends for not warning you. It was just part of being a mother.

Well, I’m here to tell you that sleepless night never end, no matter how old that baby has gotten. Carter was flying from Stockholm to Copenhagen last night. It wasn’t night her time, but early morning, which made it the middle of the night my time. Carter is a good traveler and like me she is always early, so I wasn’t so worried about her getting herself up on time, walking from the hostel to the train station, taking the train 45 minutes to the airport, going through security and making her 9:00AM flight. I wasn’t worried about SAS airline being safe. She didn’t have any connection so no problem if it didn’t take off on time. If I wasn’t worried about those things why did I wake up in the middle of the night to check on her?

Why could I not go back to sleep between 1:00AM and 5:00 AM while all this was happening? I had a busy day planned today since I had to drive to the beach to teach Mah Jongg this week. I had to sleep, but I couldn’t. Even if I knew Carter was fine, capable and an excellent traveler the mother in me made me wake up and make sure and stay awake.

No one tells you that once you are a mother you always are a mother. You are losing sleep for the rest of your life and there is just not anything you can do about it, except train your children well. Even if they learned all those lessons your u taught them, you still will not sleep.

So Sick

Mitch McConnell will do anything not to have to discuss gun control. After two horrific shooting in El Paso and Dayton in less than 13 hours, many members of the congress want the August recess canceled. They called for law makers to discuss what can done about our national stain of more mass shootings in one year, than days. McConnell conveniently fractured his shoulder at home in Kentucky.

Did this guy throw himself down the stairs to get out of possibly going against the NRA? Did his wife perhaps wack him with a golf club so the money train of NRA supporters won’t stop funding their life. I have no idea, but I find it incredible timing. How bad can a fractured shoulder be? Get up McConnell. Face the American people and work on real gun control.

We can’t seem to do anything about 45 spewing hate over twitter. He acts like he has nothing to do when people shout out, “Send her back.” He needs to be held accountable because he is complicit in creating a culture of divisiveness.

A study out of the University of North Texas just came out that showed that hate crimes were up 226% in counties where Trump held a rally in 2016 compared to similar counties where he did not appear. I wouldn’t call the Univ. of North Texas a liberal holdout.

I have called for love over hate. Trump says the words, “Hate has no place in this country.” But clearly the man has no idea what hate is. Please let’s love him right out of office. He will hate that. Then and only then when it is about him he might learn the difference.

While we are at it, please you good people of Kentucky, love McConnell out of office too. He is much too fragile to represent you.


Carter finished her London based study on the scientific revolution and is off traveling on her own. She made a power point presentation to me and Russ in March asking if she could take this extend vacation. It was well thought out, researched and illustrated. We bought in, but at the 90% level. We agreed she could go, stay in hostels, travel alone, but she had to pay for the whole thing herself.

She had two months off before her study in London and she worked hard at multiple jobs, but earned more than enough for her trip. I think she is enjoying it more knowing that she did this all on her own. I’m just glad that now kids have phones, and post things on social media so I can keep up with her while she is away.

My first “alone” trip was right after I had graduated from high school. My parents had moved to London, but were renovating a house so my family lived at the Selsdon Park Hotel in Surrey. I had to share a very small room with my two younger sisters. It was not ideal, so I told my parents I was going to go off traveling. They were happy to be down one child.

My boarding school friend Jennie Hetzler’s older sister had a college friend, Sally Barnes, who was coming to the UK to travel and we met up in London one day decided to go to Scotland together the next day for a month. No planning. No internet. Just a Brit rail pass and a Let’s Go England and Scotland book.

Carter was able to make reservations at her hostels. Sally and I would get off a train someplace and using the book as our guide would run to the hostel with our back packs to try and secure beds for the night before all the other travelers on the train took them. Once there was no space in the hostel so we ran to a close by B&B and got a room. It cost a little more, but it was a nice change.

Carter has filled her days with visiting every palace, church, museum and attraction that she had read about, traveling via tram, bus, boat and scooter. We would wander around trying to figure out if a bus was going the right direction and pray that we got off at the closest stop to a castle we wanted to visit. Often we walked some ways in the opposite direction before we figured out our mistake.

We had to take our back packs with us almost everywhere because there was no way to lock your belonging up in the hostel if we were staying there multiple nights. We also had to bring our own hostel sleeping bags, which were sheets sown into a bag shape. Carter has a locker and a lock to leave her stuff when she goes out and the hostel provides nice sheets and a duvet.

When I went, my parents had no idea where I was for weeks. I think I called them once from the road, but they couldn’t find me if they needed to. Carter and I have had wonderful FaceTime conversations, one because she is able to and two because she doesn’t like to talk to strangers like I do so sometimes she just wants to talk to some one. It was really big that she asked someone to take her photo in front of this church.

Student travel has really improved, but one thing remains the same, it is one of those things that stretches you. The younger you are that you learn to navigate the world on your own, the better off you will be. I am thrilled that Carter proposed this trip for herself. As I remember my trip 40 years ago like it was yesterday, she will remember hers and know that she can do almost anything on her own.

School Supplies

It’s the beginning of August and the T.V. is full of ads for back to school shopping. It is a time of year I loved as a child. I waited patiently until my mother would take me to Boyd’s the stationary, toy and office supply store in the village of Wilton. I would pick out my light blue cloth covered notebook. It was a classic and I wonder what happened to those durable notebooks.

I would fill a pencil pouch with all kinds and colors of pens and pencils. New wide ruled paper filled the rings. I would carefully write my name on the inside cover of the notebook in the little square provided with the prompt: This Book Belongs to:. It was a free for all on what we bought for school supplies. I got everything I could convince my mother I needed.

When Carter started going to school we got class lists which were prepared by her teachers with the precision of a scientist. They tried to keep it to exactly what the kids would use that year, nothing more, nothing less. Carter, like me, loved our trip to Staples to buy her supplies. She had to go to Staples because they had color extra sturdy notebooks with black rubber corners that could make it a whole year without ripping. They were top of the line, much like my cloth covered notebook.

Carter may still be in school, but I have nothing to do with supplies other than provide her with a laptop that she uses year after year. Instead the back to school shopping I am doing this year are for things like “Renters Insurance.” Russ is in charge of determining which WiFi provider is the one Carter should sign up with. Instead of making her a smock for art class in pre-school I am sewing her throw pillows for her sofa.

The cost of back to school supplies this year will over take all other years combined thanks to the need for furniture and stocking her pantry. Now I think of things like toilet brush and plunger combos as a school supply.

I am not complaining because I realize the number of years I get to spend this back to school shopping time with Carter is closing in. Although, when I was talking to her as she was finishing up her summer school program in London she said, “Mom, you can help me move into my place when I move back to London to work.” So I guess I will transition from school supplies to apartment supplies. It just might not be in August.

Sales Training

The other day I got a call from a young man in the neighborhood. He was following a very familiar script I had heard kids tell me over the last twenty five years. “I have an opportunity to get a scholarship. Can I come see you tomorrow?” I told him I did not have time. He never got to telling me what the actual product he was selling was, he never even got to actually tell me he was selling anything.

I hung up. I felt badly because I knew he was following the instructions he was given, but they were flawed. I have spent my life selling things. I started selling jaw breakers in third grade. Then I sold Burbee seeds, Girl Scout cookies, Avon, Electrolux vacuums, cable TV, Mail Opening Machines, I taught people how to sell telephone, and on and on. I. Was fairly sure this kid was selling Cutco knives. They are great knives. I have had them for over twenty years. He could sell them if he could get in to tell people about them, but his cold calling needed improvement.

I felt bad enough to call him back. “This is Mrs. Lange, you just called me.”

“Yes, hi, thanks for calling me back.” I think he thought I was going to give him a chance to come see me. I was, but not for the reason he thought.

“I’ve been in sales my whole life and your call to me needed lots of improvement. I would be willing to give you twenty minutes to help you improve your cold calling technique.”

Now, if some middle aged lady told me I did a bad job on a phone call I’m not sure I would want to go talk with her. This kid did not take the easy way out and said, “I would appreciate that.”

So this morning he came to my house. I spent an hour giving him the most condensed sales training I could. I had written down exactly how his call went with me so I could be very specific with hi. He took notes, he showed me his materials and asked questions about how he normally does his presentation. We talked about all the ways he could change to be more successful.

He has had success at selling when he was able to sit down with someone, but getting more prospects to give you may time is the key to really being successful. He asked to see my Cutco, I think to make sure there was something I didn’t have that he might sell me. He discovered I really did have everything already. In the end I did buy my favorite product from him to give as a Christmas gift to someone.

Selling is a great skill, especially for a young person to do. Helping people become better sales people is the one thing I really miss about not working. I wish him luck and if you have bad knives, let me know and I’ll have him call you. Hint, you probably have bad knives.