Last month Peter Werbicki, the President and CEO of the Food Bank of CENC, called to tell me I was chosen as the recipient of the Hunt-Morgridge award. This is a beyond humbling honor for me. The award is given in November at the Evening of Appreciation, the Food Bank’s big recognition event.

Apparently a number of my friends received a “Save the Date” e-mail from Amy Beros that I did not know was going out, since neither Russ nor I received one. My friend Suzanne forwarded it to me with a note of congratulations, which was very sweet and an apology she can’t make it. Since she lives in NYC I told her that it would have been way over the stop for her to come, even though I would take any visit from her anytime. Today I got a note saying that my friend Kelly, from Atlanta, had sent a donation to the Food Bank in my honor.

I want to thank all of my friends who have supported the Food Bank over the twenty years I have been working with them. You all never complain to me about how often I share news or information about the need and the good work the Food Bank is doing in one third of North Carolina.

If you got this save the date, please do save it and come to Raleigh on November 14 if you can. The party is a good one and I would love to show you the Food Bank if you have never seen our new head quarters. If you didn’t get the save the date and want to come, please let me know. I am allowed to invite anyone I want, at least that is what I’m told. The actual invitations will be sent in October.

Good Afternoon,

Please save the date for our annual Evening of Appreciation on November 14, 2019 from 5:30pm-7:30pm at our Raleigh branch. We hope you are able to join us, so we can say thank you for making our work possible. We will also be recognizing this year’s Governor James B. Hunt and John Morgridge Service Award Winner, Dana Lange. Dana’s dedication to our work over the past two decades has been integral to serving our neighbors.

Additionally, as an important member of our Food Bank family we want you to be the first to hear about an exciting new chapter in the history of the Food Bank!

Because of you, the Food Bank can nourish our neighbors and build solutions to hunger in our community. Thank you for being part of our Food Bank family!

A formal invitation will follow. You can rsvp to

Amy Beros

Vice President of Development

Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina

1924 Capital Blvd. Raleigh NC 27604

OFFICE 919.865.3073

CELL 919.608.9884

Mission: No One Goes Hungry

@FoodBankCENC #NoOneGoesHungry

Drive By Visit

Since Russ and I were in New Jersey we made plans to see his Dad and his sister for breakfast. We weren’t exactly near them so I determined where a good meeting spot might be. Frenchtown looked like the nicest town. It was about an hour and fifteen minutes from where we woke up in Jersey and only 45 minutes for Russ’ family.

They got to the restaurant before we did and secured a table. Russ had been told the might be a wait so we were thankful for their early arrival. It was a good catch-up since we hadn’t seen them in a year. The last time was the night before my Aunt’s memorial service. My family seems to be providing us opportunities to spend just a little time with Russ’ Dad.

After our short reunion Russ and I drove back to Newark to come home to puppy. I tried to sleep on the plane, but the sound of Baby Shark playing behind me to the infant who was a new flyer kept me up.

At last we got home and I just passed out on my bed with Shay and took a nap. Now I am a mess. I slept too close to bedtime, I made no dinner and it is hot as the Fourth of July here. My body is as confused as my mind. Time to reboot and get back on Durham operating system.

Mr & Mrs. Harvey

Today was the big day we had traveled to NJ for, the wedding of Winston and Emily. Before the big event at 5:00 we had all day to fill. Ours started early with the arrival of the animals at the petting zoo just outside our room. I have never been to a hotel with a petting zoo so I made sure to go and visit the two goats, four bunnies, duck, and multiple chicken first thing this morning.

Russ and I went on a field trip to the quaint town of Warwick, NY for breakfast. We walked around and found Fannies and hip little place where I had zucchini pancakes with peach salsa and Russ had eggs on homemade bread. We had to get out of town soon after breakfast because Warwick was hosting their annual Fireman’s parade and the town was filling up with big fire trucks from all the surrounding villages and hamlets.

My Aunt Eddie had organized a brunch for the family and I joined them just to talk while they ate. Since my hands were free I got to hold five month old Weaver and I told three year old JoJo about the petting zoo which caused her to break into a quiet version of Old Mc Donald’s Farm.

We still had more time to kill until the wedding so my sister Janet invited me to come play cards in her room. Since she is always so hospitable she offered me some iced tea, which of course I took her up on. She apologized that she only had a mug to serve it to me in as she put ice and poured tea from a bottle. She put the mug down in front of me and I noticed a big lipstick stain on the rim. I pointed it out to her and Janet said, “Oh, I’ll fix that,” and turn the mug around so I could drink form the side without the lipstick. Such hospitality had me rolling on the floor in laughter and that got Janet going too.

Eventually it was time to dress and go to the wedding at one of the wedding Mecca golf clubs in the area. The weather was perfect for the outdoor ceremony. Winston and Emily wasted no time getting married and then it was off to the party. We had a lovely cocktail hour where there was enough food to be our whole dinner.

Then we were invited into the ball room for dinner and dancing. This is where JoJo, as the three year old flower girl, stole the show and danced all night. If it weren’t for JoJo I am not sure people would have filled the dance floor as much. I was thrilled to get to sit with my cousins JIm and Steve and Steve’s new wife Amanda. The completed the full circle of my first cousins on my mother’s side.

Emily and Winston were the perfect bride and groom and fun was had by all, until the old folks hit the wall and we needed to go back to the hotel to sleep, leaving all the young people to dance the night away. I am so thankful I am an old folk now. Best wishes to Mr. and Mrs. Harvey.

The Wright Side

My mother was a Wright and she had two younger sisters. Those three Wright girls had eight children. I am the oldest of those children and the youngest is getting married tomorrow. Those eight children have had seven children so far, (with one more on the way) and the current youngest came this weekend to be introduced to the family.

Russ and I flew up to NJ and drove out to the northwest corner of the state which appears to be a wedding Mecca. We checked into the hotel where the Wright clan (who all being girls have many different names now) and friends are staying. My Aunt Edie and Uncle Bill, the parents of the groom, were waiting in the lobby for their room so we waited with them. Their oldest son, Will was with them, and then their middle son, Wright, arrived with his wife Calvene and their kids JoJo, and newest son, Weaver the five month old. Eventually my Mother, Sister Janet and Sophie arrived.

At check-in the wedding Mecca was apparent as there were hundreds of gift bags for guests of the six different weddings just tonight, that are staying here. Gaggles of girls in matching dresses streamed by us on the way to the wedding venues. There was the beige bride maid party, the maroon and the navy blue.

There was not a traditional rehearsal dinner as all the private rooms were full of actual weddings. Instead my Aunt and Uncle hosted us at a restaurant at the sister resort down the road. Russ and I were taking my Aunt’s life-long best friend Townes and her husband Bob with us. I have known Townes my whole life and she is like a bonus Wright girl.

My mom rode with Sophie and Janet, following us to the resort. We had sketchy instructions on exactly where we were supposed to go and the lack of any street lights did not help. After circling the other resort twice we eventually found our dinner spot.

It was our first chance to see the bride and groom Emily and my cousin Winston. They were calm and ready for this wedding to happen. Clearly the Mecca knows what they are doing and I guess you just pick and bridesmaid color and add water.

Our dinner table was the most fun. Not that we are competitive, just actually having a great time. We talked and ate and told stories and drank and then we all hit the wall. It was a long travel day. Tomorrow is the big event. Hopefully I will be efficient in finding the wedding venue for the wedding we are actually invited to. Given that Mecca can host so many weddings at the same time you can’t just assume that the woman in the white dress is the one you know.

It is wonderful that we, from age 90 to five months, have all gathered to celebrate Emily and Winston. The Wright Clan is not consistent at gathering together, except for funerals and by then someone is missing. So hooray for a happy event that brings us together in one place, and Mecca makes it easy.

Why Journalism is Important

Recently a friend of mine drew my attention to an editorial board opinion in USA Today from September of 2016. It was a historic moment for the normally vanilla, middle of the road, we don’t want to offend anyone, publication. Never is the 34 year history of the newspaper had they made a voting recommendation. They broke their own rule of bipartisanship and laid out the argument why people should not vote for Trump.

As I read it yesterday it laid out their long list of facts about candidate Trump that concerned them so much as to step out of their normal line. Reading it two years later it is an eerily perfect prediction of how Trump will be as a President based on his past actions.

Because I am not a technological pro I have included photos of the article for you to read yourself and decide how accurate you think USAToday was in their predictions. To me it reads as if it is a report on how he actually has been for the last two years.

If Trump wanted to prove the news really was fake he could have acted the opposite of all these predictions once he was in office, but then he is not an actor, he is a reality TV person who can only be what he always has been. He told us what he was going to be like and has been that from his inaugural speech on.

Good job, USA Today editorial board for pointing out what we would be getting. Too bad all your predictions came true and then some.

Happy Sally

One of the best things about living here is that old friends come to visit when they come to see their kids in college. Today is one of those great days because my boarding school friend Sally is here for the night on her way to see her son at Elon.

Sally has been living in Northern California for many, many years so my chances of seeing her are few and far between. This year we have had two visits. The first at our 40th, YES Four, O, reunion. It is hard to believe that we have known each other for forty-four years now. We aren’t that old. And now a second visit in the same year.

Sally is easily one of the happiest people I have ever known. Perhaps that is why I have liked her all these years. Why she has stuck with me is a different question. There is something about those friendships I started in boarding school that stay strong. I am not sure if the bond is from surviving those turbulent years or that we really got to know each other well as there were fewer of us and we were stuck at school. I don’t feel like my friends who went to day school developed the same depth of friendships with so many people in their school as we did.

Nonetheless, anyone who knows Sally loves her and I count myself lucky to have her as a friend. Tonight we got to revisit all our conversations at our reunion and compare notes on what we heard from our classmates. It was great fun.

I am realizing that next year Sally’s son will graduate from Elon and she will not be flying out here regularly. This is already making me sad. I think I need to plan a mini reunion of boarding school friends in a couple of years, Sally will be a good draw to get us together.

KoKyu Na’Mean

In an attempt to ignore all the big news of today because it is just the beginning of a story that is yet to be rolled out I am going to tempt you with yummy distraction. My friend Lane is always up for a hidden gem adventure when we meet up for lunch. I can’t remember how I heard about KoKyu Na’Mean, but I had wanted to try it and Lane was game.

The tiny strip mall sandwich shop is so hidden that it is in a strip mall behind a strip mall at Highways 55 & 54. You would never see it from a street and would have little reason to turn on the access road unless you where going to the Cook Out that is in front of the first strip mall and got lost and ran into the second strip.

The outside is unassuming in that “We don’t need a fancy sign because we are that good,” kind of way. But the dozen or so picnic benches that line the sidewalk, full of diners at noon makes you realize you are at the right place.

The small as you can possibly rent property is painted in brightly colored graffiti giving the place a hipper than the normal hole in the wall look. The menu of Bahn Mi sandwiches of a dozen variety and bowls is on the wall above the one station ordering cash register. There are about ten tables inside that are almost full as well as the outside.

When Lane and I went we decided to try a chicken and a short rib Bahn Mi, cutting them in half to share. Along with your sandwich you get a little cup of a side. Lane had a chick pea salad and I had coconut slaw. After ordering we took out little number on the metal stand and set it on our table. The wait for the food was not too long considering the size of the crowd.

The flavors were fantastic and clearly the reason all these people have searched out the strip behind a strip was apparent. It was just another example of interesting food being produced in Durham.

Now that I have found it, I must introduce it to Russ. It is right up his alley. The bad thing for me is this is the kind of place I should only eat at twice a year because it is a treat kind of place. But you should find it and go!

September Birthday Girl

My Monday monthly Needlepoint group takes the summer off because two of our members spend the summer in the mountains. Today was our first fall get together and it happened to be Karen’s birthday month. This means we have cake at Needlepoint in lieu of eating lunch. Isn’t that the perfect way to justify cake.

I often make the cake instead of giving a gift since I am anti-accumulating more stuff or contributing to others accumulating. I had been wanting to try and make a 12 layer cake and Needlepoint birthday is about the only reason I could try this out.

Yesterday after studying many recipes I settled on one in the New York Times. The cake is kind of like a chiffon, that you just put a bit in the bottom of a well prepped pan. Cooking time for the layers is about six minutes. I actually made 14 layers with the amount of batter I had, but as I was running out of icing I only used 12. I thought an 8 inch cake was tall enough.

The icing was a boiled one and although it had nothing resembling a peanut or peanut butter in it is had a slight peanut butter flavor with the chocolate.

After I had completed the cake I noticed it had a definite list to one side. Next time I try a 12 layer cake I am going to make a collar for it and hold the layers in place and chill it before putting the outside icing on.

It was a very sweet cake and after my piece I felt a little sick. I hope no one else had the same feeling.

Karen insisted that we get a photo of the inside of the cake with all of us and thus the strange positions of us all. Karen should be the front and center as the birthday girl!

No Time Like the Present

One of the beauties of being empty nesters is we can decide at the last minute to do something unplanned. Our role models for this are our church pals Davis and Joan Bingham. They sit in our section of church. Today Davis was the lector and Joan was just behind us. Russ had to go sit with Davis up front as he was the Elder presenting a child, Wyatt, for baptism today.

Davis is not the lector Russ needs to be compared to. Davis is the best reader, bringing life to the most difficult lessons. Russ held his own up there and baby Wyatt was perfect during his baptism.

After church we stood to go out and before we did we spoke to Davis and Joan. They said we should have lunch together after church one day. We whole heartily agreed. Then Davis said, “What about it right now?” When your almost ninety year old friend asks you to lunch there is no reason to wait.

So we went over to the Cedars, the most lovely retirement community In Chapel Hill and had a great lunch with them. Once seated I saw Stephen, the best manager who used to work at Hope Valley and he came over and gave me a big hug. I told him we had left the club after he did and he said he loved working at the Cedars and we could come there. We are still a little ways from needing to move to a retirement community, but it was a welcoming offer.

After lunch Russ and I went up to the Bingham’s apartment so they could show us around and talk a little more. It was a fun way to spend out after church meal with such fun people.

I hope that when Russ and I are almost ninety we have friends who are two thirds our age who actually like us as much as we adore Davis and Joan.

Small City Life

Last night I met Russ downtown for dinner. He walked up to the restaurant from his office. As we were sitting at our table a text came over Russ’ phone from a Tony, his barber. “Hair getting a little long?” the message read.

Turns out Tony drove past Russ while he was on his way to dinner and he recognized him, even with his long hair. It had been two months since Russ had gotten a haircut. We do have my cousin’s wedding to go to next weekend. It was perfect timing for Tony to call Russ out.

I love living in Durham. It is small enough that you pass people you know everywhere you go. This morning Russ and I drove up to the farmer’s market around 8:00. As Russ parked his Smart car, he put up the convertible top on the eleven year old vehicle. As he was doing it we looked up and saw our friend Southgate leaning over the balcony of his condo he and his family recently moved into.

“All the years I’ve seen you in that car I never knew it was a convertible,” he called down to us.

“Good to see you,” we called back.

Of course we saw plenty of people we knew at the market even though we just made a quick loop gathering vegetables for the week. We were going to Foster’s for breakfast on our way home.

As I was waiting to get a coffee from the thermos dispenser the girl in front of me used the last bit from the one that was available and she moved to the one that had a cup over the spout that read, “do not use” and got the rest of her coffee. She turned to me and said the other was empty. I called out in my loud voice to the employee that the coffee was out. The girl said, “You are a better citizen than I am.”

“No, I would have done the same thing in your case, I am just looking out for the person who comes up after we have left.”

She looked at me and said, “You must be from Durham. People are nice here.”

I told her yes and thanks as we parted ways. It is great to live in a place where visitors recognize we are nice. It is even better to live in a place where your barber is looking out for you.

Russ went off for his haircut after breakfast. Thanks, Tony.

This Day, At Last

This is the day I have been waiting months, maybe years for. It could be called, “The day I take my mind totally off all idiot politicians day.” Or it could be called, “My day with hundreds of people thirty or more years older than me.” But to be as descriptive and correct as possible it should be called, “Opening day of a Downton Abbey.”

Like so many people I know, I have been a lover of Downton Abbey from the very first showing on Masterpiece theatre on TV nine years ago. I waited patiently every week to see the next installment and then when the typically short British Season would come to an end in 9 weeks I would pine away for Mathew Crawley for another year and a half awaiting the next season.

Then it was over. Masterpiece showed reruns and I watched them. Streaming services replayed all the seasons and I binged them last summer, watching every episode, all 52, in two weeks. I was so distraught after that binge that I watched all the documentaries about Downton. The waiting for the long promised movie was going to kill me.

My young friends Mary Lloyd and Christy and I canceled all activities for today so we could go to the show with the advance tickets we had bought. We were going to see it at Silverspot where you get to reserve your seats. The early 1:00PM show was our first chance.

I got to the theatre first. I thought I had come to an AARP convention by mistake. I was practically the only person without a walking aid. The wheel chair bound patrons rolling abreast almost took out two women with walkers. Thankfully a man with a cane used his instrument to save the day and prevented the rolling chairs from bowling others over.

When my young group assembled we went up to the ticket man to check in. After he scanned Mary Lloyd’s bar code on her phone he told us, “Your seats are kind of far up the theatre. You can take the elevator if you need.” We laughed and said we could handle the stairs. We think he didn’t bother to actually look up and see that we didn’t have walkers.

I am not going to spoil the movie for you, but the day is everything I had been waiting for. The best part is that I think there are plenty of things set up for a sequel. Julian Fellows, the writer and creator, is probably wondering why he didn’t do this movie thing years ago. I hope he makes tons of money as well as all the cast mates so they want to do it again. I am certain that there will still be politicians I want to ignore in two years.

Union Special

This past April I had the pleasure of meeting chef Andrew Ullom who has been Ashely Christensen’s pastry chef for many years. Andrew, who had left Christensen, was opening a bakery, breakfast, brunch and lunch spot called Union Special in the newly renovated shopping center next to the Food Bank.

As he was awaiting the build out of his location he volunteered to be a chef at the Food Bank’s triangle Chef’s Feast where I was the auctioneer. Besides providing the 250 guests at the event with the best milk and cookies one could ever eat, he brought bags of take home cookies for all the guests. As I was coming off the stage from auctioneering Andrew approached me and offered his own big donation to the Food Bank. Chef’s don’t tend to make big bucks and his gift was beyond generous.

Today, after my Roundtable meeting at the Raleigh headquarters of the Food Bank I stopped into Union Special to see how Andrew’s dream turned out. He came out from the office to talk with me in the beautiful white space with a window into the baking kitchen. The community has come out to taste Andrew’s offerings he told me, which made me happy for his success.

I bought a loaf of his signature sour dough made will locally milled flour. I was just sorry I had already had lunch as I watched the sandwiches come out for other patrons.

Supporting local business is the best way to support our state. Andrew pays his employees a living wage and it showed in their service. I am thrilled to have Union Special as a neighbor of the Food Bank. When the Food Bank purchased our building the adjoining shopping center was failing. After we renovated the Food Bank the shopping center did the same and now there are up and coming business moving in.

Visit Union Special on Crabtree Boulevard right off Capital Boulevard in Raleigh. If you go for weekend brunch plan on a wait. Continued good luck to Andrew.

Not A Dog

Carter called today. Since she has been in Boston for three weeks I have hardly gotten a call. A text every few days seems to be all she has time for. The voice on the other end of the phone was high and excited. I anticipated some good news, a perfect score on a test perhaps?

“I got a fish today?” Her voice reminding me of a child at the state fair. For a second I thought she was having fish for dinner. No, it was more like the state Fair.

Carter had stopped at her flower store across the street from the mother church of the Christ Scientist, around the corner from her apartment. She has been a patron of this store for the last year, which is a little different than when I was in college as I don’t think I ever went in a florist. The store sells plants as well as cut flowers and Carter has discovered that one beautiful flower every couple of weeks is a great mood enhancer.

Today the store had beta fish in bowls with bamboo, which cleans the water for the fish. Missing her Shay at home Carter decided that she could swing the budget for a fish, but told the store owner she wasn’t going straight home as she was on her way to the gym. The owner told Carter she was open until 8:30 so that sealed the deal and Carter bought the fish and will introduce her to her new home tonight.

As Carter was relating this story to me she said, “I think I’ll name her Fluffy.” So now I have a grandfish named Fluffy. When I was Carter’s age I got a dog in college. Beau came from the shelter and never went to a vet for any check ups, but lived a charmed life as a college dog.

I am not going to say a word about a fish. It is a much easier pet than a dog.

Start of the Garden Club Season

If as a child you asked me if I was interesting in joining a garden club, I would have looked at you with a puzzled look. I don’t remember there being a garden club in my small town. The society type women of our town were all in the “Wilton historical society,” which us children called the “hysterical society.”

Garden club seemed like a very old fashioned southern thing. Perhaps it was that our growing season was short or that the best time for garden club would be the summer and women’s clubs didn’t meet in the summer as that is when women had their children home, leaving no time for “clubs.”

Years and years ago I was invited to join the Hope Valley Garden Club. I can’t remember who my original connection was to the club, but I happily accepted the invitation and it has been a joy to belong to ever since. I had first taken to gardening when I had my row house in Washington DC. With a completely fenced in back garden and no lawn mower I embraced the flower garden concept as much easier to maintain and more beautiful to look at.

I had a lovely patio and brick walkway with beds lining the sides of the garden. I put a fish pond in the back by the garage where the sun did not shine, making it difficult to grown much. The pond added a beautiful water fall sound that helped drown out the city noise. It was an oasis I came to adore.

I miss that fenced in perfect garden. The deer and the sheer size of my yard are making gardening not as much fun. Perhaps my older body adds to that problem too.

For our program at Garden Club to day local artist and friend Marjorie Pierson came and gave a talk about her nature photography and art. She inspired me to look at the things growing in my garden from a different perspective. Perhaps I will try and photograph the weeds growing in my driveway garden at dawn to see the beauty in them, rather than my failure. Thanks Marjorie for your inspiring talk and fabulous eye.

Unnecessary Sleeplessness

I didn’t sleep last night. I drank too much iced tea too late in the day yesterday. I didn’t take any sleeping aid and I never had the right pillow in the right place all night. Consequently I tossed and turned. When this happens I usually remember my wild dreams and have things pop in my head that I should have done that day and that I don’t want to forget about in the morning.

First thing that kept me awake was the thought that I had not called the Thai Cafe to order coconut cake for Lynn’s birthday lunch we were going to be celebrating today. I knew the restaurant did not open until 11:30 and I was going to be in the middle of giving a talk to the entire seventh grade at Durham Academy at that time.

Second thing that had me tossing and turning was the loss of one of Carter’s stored boxes, by the Storage Squad company we had paid to keep her things over the summer. They had brought 10 of her 12 boxes and her three blanket wrapped items on the correct delivery day, albeit, three hours after the assigned three hour window.

The three young men who delivered them made no apologies for being so late, without a call telling us they were running behind, nor for the two missing boxes. They just said a manager would call with them the next day. That was two and a half weeks ago. No one from the company ever called or emailed about the missing boxes, until yesterday.

I called every day and e-mailed, no one ever knew where they were, but kept promising they would come. Three days ago one came. It was not the one with all Carter’s coats and shoes and boots, which would cost a fortune to replace. Yesterday an email arrived saying the box was being delivered at 10:30. A time when Carter would be in class. This being Sunday there was no way to speak to anyone about adjusting the delivery time. So it was left to me to call and try and do this morning.

The third thing that disturbed my sleep was the fact that I was giving this talk to the seventh grade about the Food Bank and I wondered if I had all the right papers for the game I was going to play with them to teach them about how much living expenses are.

So after a fitful night’s sleep I woke up at 4:45 and emailed Storage Squad. I lay back down and at 5:45 I called Thai cafe hoping to leave a message bout the cake, no voice mail. At 6:45 I just got up. I showered and left the house, calling Storage Squad every fifteen minutes from the car.

I went to the Post office to mail three packages. The screen the Clerk was using kept blanking out and it took five times as long as the eternity it takes anyway at the post office to pay $81.00 to mail stuff.

I kept calling Storage Squad. I never got a person. I never was able to reschedule the delivery. I prayed no one would take this box that was going to be left on the stoop of Carter’s building.

I went to DA. The papers were all waiting for me. I gave the talk, the kids were great.

I went to Thai Cafe to secure a big table and check to see if they had coconut cake. They did.

Lynn and the birthday group arrived and we had a wonderful time, even if the two waiters who took our picture couldn’t get it right. Here is the unedited version so you can see what a nice photo we have of a table with two pitchers on it.

Carter got back to her apartment and got the box.

All that sleepless worrying was for naught. Now I am exhausted. I am going to bed early tonight, with the right pillows and an Aleve PM. I am not taking any chances, but next birthday get together I am going to take the pictures so I know everyone is looking at the right camera at the right time, in frame and in focus.

Channeling My Inner Father-in-law

My father-in-law is a world class gift wrapper, followed by a professional package assembler. If you ever get a box in the mail from him everything is perfect wrapped, with protection to keep bows fluffy and air pillows holding everything in place so no shifting/crushing will take place, no matter what gorilla is delivering it.

I have received many a gift wrapped in bubble wrap, placed inside a gift box, wrapped in gift paper, adorned with two kinds of ribbons and bows, placed inside a sturdier box, wrapped in a plastic bag for wet protection, wrapped in more bubble and placed inside a reinforced card board box. He really should work for Waterford Crystal. If a gift called for it, I am certain he would carve foam to perfectly fit the item and the box. Thankfully I try and never request a breakable gift fearing the amount of work that would go into the wrapping.

Carter left a few things at home that I promised I would mail her. They were a mixed bag. One was a very heavy cutting board. Another was a delicate large sign and the rest were kitchen items and two sweaters. All together it would be much to heavy to go in one box and I feared the cutting board would crush everything else.

So I channeled my father-in-law, Marty and created a custom sized box for the cutting board in one parcel, another custom box for the sign and all the rest in a third box with all the sharp knives wrapped in bags and put inside a second box. Marty would be proud of my effort although it still didn’t match his in that my taping was not as precise as his.

Wrapping and sending boxes is a lost art. I would rather let Amazon do the work for me, but then sometimes you have to send special stuff. At least when I wrap it and send it myself I can put a note and a surprise in the box.

Next up, the actual mailing. Oh Joys!

My Watch

I was an early adopter of the Apple Watch. I wanted it from the moment it was introduced, which was months before it was actually available. Russ is always thrilled if there is an Apple product I am interested in because that means he has a gift idea well before a gifting occasion. Every birthday and Christmas he quizzes me about the condition of all my Apple products. I don’t need the newest, so he is often disappointed when I say my five year old iPad still works perfectly and I don’t want a new one.

This summer my friend told me about the face of her Apple Watch falling off. Since I have had my watch since it was just called “Apple Watch,” (no version numbers when you are the first one) I was looking out for this issue. Sure enough, today as I was entering my password on the face after just putting the watch on I felt a little give on the face. I tried again and I could see the face move. Shoot. I love my original Apple Watch.

Russ made an appointment with the Genius Bar. I knew how this was going to go. My very old watch is years out of warranty and the cost to fix was probably higher than a newer version would cost. We entered the Apple store and it was like Noah’s ark with pairs of every race and nationality on earth waiting in the store. Eventually a non-genius came to help us. I was right. No need to fix it. Russ was sorry it hadn’t broken in November, when he could justify a new watch as a Christmas present.

I thanked the guy and told Russ I would do my best to baby my watch and hope it holds out. Russ wanted to look at the new watches on display. I was shocked that my stainless steel watch, which was the cheapest version when I got it is now a very expensive version, $300 more than the aluminum version, but still cheaper than titanium or ceramic. I quit paying attention at that point.

I hate that I love this watch so much. I had stopped wearing a watch when I stopped working until the Apple Watch came along and now it is hard to go down to the kitchen and get iced tea in the morning without my watch on. Damn you Apple for making me love you.

Home Again, Home Again, Gigitty Gig.

I love a good trip. I just spent four days in the mountains with my Mom, Aunt and Uncle. My mother has gone on this trip every year for years, but now I am included to be the driver.

My summer travels were few this year as I chose to stay home and work on my house instead. So a little fall travel is making up for my lost summer. It is just harder to go away in the fall because fall is really the start of the new year and there are things to do, as opposed to summer when being away is normal.

Whether it’s spring, summer, fall or winter when I go away I am always happiest to come home. It doesn’t matter if I was on the best trip to Italy or Paris, or Paris, Texas I am always ready to come home to my own bed, my puppy and my family. Even if my family was with me on the trip.

This week Russ had a big work week so Shay went to stay with her caretaker, Mary. Shay loves to visit Mary. There are almost always other dogs visiting Mary too and Shay has buddies to play with. Even though Mary reports that Shay sleeps with her, Shay comes home exhausted.

Today we both were tired from being away. I picked her up from Mary’s and she jumped up on my bed at home and we took a nap together. No one was home to catch us napping. It was the perfect refresher.

Then Russ came home and took me out to dinner. What a wonderful way to renter life at home. No wonder I love coming home after a trip.

I Love My Aunt Edie

When I was little I always thought my Aunt Edie was the coolest Aunt. She was a successful woman in the sixties in New York which was so different than the other grown women I knew, who were all just mothers. She had interesting friends and travelled which is all I ever wanted to do.

Sadly she was busy and I got busy and I just didn’t get to spend much time with her as a I got older. She and my Uncle Bill moved to Florida and raised their three sons there. Every once in a while I would see Edie at my Grandmother’s or when she might visit my mother, but it wasn’t much.

As luck would have it I am seeing her three times in the space of five weeks. Russ, Carter and I visited Eddie and Bill one night a few weeks back. Now I have been with them with my mother for four days and at the end of the month we are all going to Edie and Bill’s youngest son, Winston’s wedding.

I have treasured this time. Her sense of humor and her faith make her a delight to spend time with. Today we went to the BRAHM museum in Blowing Rock. She and I got to laughing about some of the commentary on the paintings as we found the same comments on middle-aged women hysterical. Edie always makes sure you never miss the sunset as she appreciates the beauty of this great earth so much.

I am so thankful to have gotten this time with her, though it makes me a little sad for all the years we didn’t spend time together. I am going to have to make sure this changes.

Changing September 11th

The whole country mourns on September 11th. It is a day that will always be sad in my lifetime, but now for more than just the horrible attacks, but because it is the day my mother’s second sister Susan passed away last year. When it happened I didn’t really register that it was September 11th, mostly because I didn’t expect it to happen. But now, a year out, the day of national and personal mourning merges into one.

My dear boarding school roommate, Nancy, lost her brother Peter on the same day a year ago. It makes it hard just think about your own loved one when the whole country is thinking about the big communal loss we suffered together.

It helped to remember Susan today by being with my mother and my Aunt Edie, the youngest sister. My mother was only two years older than Susan so they shared lots of the same memories. Edie is ten years younger so she does not always know all the names of every person my mother wants to talk about from her childhood. Nonetheless, Edie has been so good to my mother and I am glad they were together today.

It wasn’t that it was a day of sadness as much as a day of togetherness. We had a lovely breakfast and Edie and mom did a little shopping and I got to sit on the porch with Uncle Bill enjoying the Mountains. Uncle Bill is 90, but you wouldn’t know it. I said to him after lunch, as we walked to the car, “You have good eye sight, great hearing, a fabulous memory, we should study you.” And he followed up with, “And a great head of hair.” I guess I should have started with, “a wonderful sense of humor.”

We had lunch outdoors and the a nice walk and time sitting in chairs by a beautiful lake. Afterwards Edie drove us around to see the gorgeous houses with the best mountain view’s and we went back to the house to play bridge. Before we played Edie and Mom called Susan’s husband Hank and everyone said how much they missed and loved Susan. It was a good day of remembrance, one I was glad to be included in.

Driving Miss Janie

My mother is independent. She likes to go where she wants to go and when she wants to go and with whom she wants to go. At over 80 she does fairly well with all this going, as long as she is going in good light. Her eyesight sometimes has trouble, especially in darkness. You can plan on driving in the daytime to have light, unless there is a big storm and then sometimes it gets dark, even in the daytime.

Her sister Edie and her husband Bill come to North Carolina and stay for a few months every summer and my mother likes to visit them. It’s a good three plus hour drive for my mother to get to the mountains to their house. This year I volunteered to drive, just in case there was a rain storm in the day time.

Going on a trip with my mother is always a learning experience for me. I get to hear many stories about her childhood, a favorite topic, followed up by the second favorite topic, questions for me about technology. Coming in a close third is the stock market.

Today’s trip followed the usual pattern. I learned information about relatives three, four and five generations back from me. We talked all about all her childhood neighbors which included my mother quizzing her much younger sister about her recollections about said neighbors. A new bit of information I learned is that they had a one next door neighbor family who they hated. The details about why were sketchy, but it involved dogs pooping in the wrong yards and they neither my mother, nor Aunt could remember exactly whose dogs were at fault.

My favorite technology portion of the day was when my mother thought she could lock her car with just her finger. She does have a car that has a capability to do that as long as you have the key nearby, but my mother thought she really only needed her finger. Unfortunately her key was inside the house. No magic finger on my mother.

Then we did discuss the stock market, a topic my Aunt is also and expert in. It makes me nervous when my mother tells me she is in risky stuff, but she assured me she can ride out ups and downs. I guess she is planning on sticking around at least another fifteen years.

I guess am going to have to be driving her a lot more, and carrying the key so she can lock the door with just her finger. Some technology conversations just don’t stick, not like family folklore stories.

Hope, Joy and Peace

With all the discourse in the world right now; Bahamian Dorian refuges who can’t get out of their devastated country because they don’t have a visa, North Carolina Outer Banks communities without power and the one road that connects them all together, all things Taliban and so on and so on, we need something unifying.

I am nominating this small squirrel, who stopped to smell the flower as the symbol of hope, Joy and peace we all need right now. The sight of this sweet animal enjoying our glorious world is what we all should be doing.

If it weren’t so hot, I would don a squirrel costume and go around with a giant yellow flower smelling it with the happiest look on my face just to spread good over evil. Of course if you saw me in a giant squirrel costume I am certain I would not elicit joy from people but perhaps concern.

So instead, enjoy this photo of the real life squirrel who has no idea all delight he is causing the world as he revels in the beauty of smelling a flower. The lesson for me is when there is so much crap all around you, stop and close your eyes and smell the flowers and enter the euphoric world God created for you.

My Sister, The Coach

Tomorrow is my sister Margaret’s birthday. This month she is going to finish her accreditation in coaching. Margaret has survived cancer and depression and has turned things around in her life with the help of a coach. She discovered that her true calling was to help other people who have big issues to find a better path to good things in their lives.

I am very proud of how she has changed her own path and discovered this talent for helping others by using her insight to draw people out. This is surprising to me in some ways, but not in others.

Margaret has done some amazing things in her life. Like when she was in her first semester at University of South Carolina freshman year she knew it was not the right place for her. Without telling our parents she went to visit Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, got her self admitted and came home at Christmas with all her belonging and told my parents she was transferring. It was a big thing to do on her own.

Later in life Margaret had a successful decorating business in Boulder and Telluride Colorado and Washington DC. She worked with celebrities and regular folk alike. When the likes of Wayfair came along it totally changed the decorating world. Suddenly the internet gave regular people access to decorating that had only previously been available through decorators. In many ways decorators are even more needed now, but the internet makes it harder for them to make money.

Margaret, knowing that decorating was not going to pay the bills, went back to school for coaching and has done an extraordinary job helping people already. If you or someone you know needs direction consider getting a coach.

Margaret is just one, but you can visit her website The Bright Life Coach with Margaret Carter. She has been able to take her life’s experiences and turn them into action plans for other people. I am thrilled that Margaret is starting her next year off on this exciting journey.

Happy Birthday to Margaret. Joy and Peace.

Making Money on Sharpie-Gate

In the category of “You can’t make this shit up” we have a Sharpie-Gate. We all know the story. 45 claims that hurricane Dorian is going to hit Alabama. Government hurricane officials say he was wrong. Dorian was not going to hit Alabama. 45 can’t stand being told he is ever wrong and not one to EVER admit any little or HUGE mistake someone took the hurricane map and used a SHARPIE to add Alabama to the cone of possibility.

I am not going to concentrate on the childishness of coloring on a map to make yourself seem right. That is nothing new. I am not going to concentrate on the thousands of fabulous memes that have been created with 45 and other Sharpie exaggerations. They speak volumes on their own.

No, I am going to point out that Newell Brands, the parent company of Sharpie had a nice little rise in its stock after Sharpie-Gate. Sharpies only make up a tiny portion of Newell Brands 200 products, from pens, to cookware, like Calphalon, Crockpot and Mr. Coffee, baby goods Graco, Rubbermaid and many more.

Under the old adage, all publicity is good publicity, Sharpie-Gate was good for Newell, thanks to 45. So when he says he is good for business, is this what he is referring to?

I think if you want to benefit from 45 you need to pay close attention to any gaffe and then invest in products that were involved in said gaffe. The products will get publicity and often that is good for the stock.

Sorry you have already missed the run up on Newell Brands, that is until 45 throws a Mr. Coffee across the Oval Office at some unsuspecting visitor. It would be interesting to know what stocks his children are invested in? Maybe Sharpie-Gate was on purpose.

Show Don’t Tell

For years my mother has been telling me about her great art students. It is no secret that my mother is a great artist. She has won more shows than there are walls to display her many ribbons and awards on, but I really had no way to judge how good an art teacher she was. The one thing I knew about her teaching was when she tried to teach me to play bridge back before I knew anything about bridge.

She had been chomping at the bit to get me to play so when I agreed that she could teach me this is the VERY first thing she taught me.

“The most important thing in bridge is to not miss bidding a slam if you have it.” If you don’t play bridge it will sound like Greek to you. At least that is how it came across to me.

“Wait, Wait, Wait Mom, how many cards do you get?” Teaching bridge was not her strong suit, pardon the pun.

So I extrapolated from that my grand master bridge playing Mom who was not a good bridge teacher so as an expert artist she might not be a great art teacher, but I never told her that.

Today I got an envelope in the mail with just one thing in it, a folded up page from the Danville Bee newspaper. It was a front page story about an art show of my mother’s students at the Danville Museum. No note was included. She was “showing” me what she had been “telling” me all these years. Apparently my mom is a great art teacher.

Good job mom. I am going to have to make a trip up to the Danville Museum to see your students work!

Stop Pre-Empting Regular TV

I don’t remember the local news taking over their stations and running all weather related non-stop talking heads during weather incidents all the time last century. Maybe I did not watch as much TV because I had a job or a life, but now whenever there is the slightest potential for some weather event the local channels stop running regularly scheduled shows and just talk about the weather ALL THE TIME. It is enough to make you absolutely crazy.

Here is the big issue. If you have electricity and cable then the weather has not gotten bad enough for you to need 24 hour a day weather information. If you lost your power or cable you need the Information, but don’t have a way to get it. Either way, we don’t need 24 hour, non-stop reporting on where it is raining.

Hurricane Dorian is passing over the edge of North Carolina right now. That is not good, but it is also far from me and our local TV stations don’t broadcast that far east. We don’t really need to cancel the National news to show some local newbie reporter standing in the rain telling us it is raining. There is more going on in the world. Perhaps 45 had colored on something with another marker.

If you are stuck at home in bad weather you might want to watch something that takes your mind off that bad weather and all news on the weather is not that. Please play regular TV at least 75% of the time and give us the weather news when there actually is a change. I’d rather watch old Law and Order reruns than a 23rd rehash of the track of the storm. But please people, be safe out there, don’t go anywhere, stay glued to your TV and the heads will tell you when it is safe to leave.

Hero Dentists

When I was five I was climbing the chain link fence that separated our house in New Canaan and the Quinn’s house so I could play Batman, Robin and Cat women with the Quinn boy’s. It was an on going game where we would fly out of their tree house on the zip line and run around singing, “Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Batman.” Lyrics in the sixties we’re so precise.

This particular day as I was going across the fence that was at least two feet over my head, my blue Ked’s “Tenny pump” slipped and I hit my front tooth hard on the metal fence and chipped it. Thankfully it was still a baby tooth.

About eight years later on the school bus I fell forward and hit the big tooth replacement on the metal bar at the top of the seat and chipped that tooth again.

About ten years after that on New Year’s Eve my first year out of college I chipped the other front tooth on a champagne bottle. Thankfully I had enough champagne not to feel it that night, but the next morning was a different story. I had a wonderful dentist in DC and he came in on New Years Day and fixed my two chipped teeth with a revolutionary new product called bonding. He kept the parts of the teeth I still had and added new material on to shape perfect teeth.

Over the years the bonding eventually gives way and has to be replaced. Unfortunately it happened yesterday when I was walking in the airport to our gate to fly home. I looked like I live in a place without dentists, but thankfully it didn’t hurt.

This morning my wonderful dentist Dr. Wagoner fit me and rebonded my tooth before lunch. Thank goodness for good dentistry and good practices that work you in when it really is an emergency.

I don’t think I have ever met a dentist I don’t like. You all are heroes to me. I have given up climbing chain link fences and riding on school busses and drinking champagne, but I still need to walk places. I’m not sure how much more careful I can be, but I will try.

Middler Year

For most of Carter’s high school friends this year is their Junior year. So many are going off to abroad programs or are planning on going in the spring. Carter’s path has been so different. She started abroad, and followed up in Boston with a second abroad program this summer. Since she is in a five year program, four of classes and one of Co-op’s working in real life jobs this year is a middler year.

Now that she is settled I am realizing that she is not going to be home much. She only gets two weeks at Christmas because Co-ops start the second of January. No spring break for working kids and the job goes until July or longer depending on her employer. It’s real life, living on your own, and working, except with the safety net of parents who help with rent.

Today we got to see her for a couple of hours before she was off to her school job. Russ utilized her apartment to work and I walked around Carter’s neighborhood. She has a beautiful reflecting pool and plenty of green space near by. Tomorrow classes start and I won’t hear a word, maybe a text. At least I know the things she will be seeing as she goes about her days. Her middler days.

Not Working as IKEA Furniture Assembler

The only reason Russ and I did unpacking and putting together stuff today was that Carter was at work. When she got a promotion at her school job this summer we didn’t know it meant that she would have no time before classes started. Thank goodness for her she has parents who like her.

Carter also only has one key to her apartment so Russ went over there early this morning and walked with her to school so he could get her key. He and I then had breakfast before resuming our work. I emptied all the boxes that had been delivered, which means 13 of fifteen. I put things away best I could, knowing that Carter would rearrange things once she saw what I had done.

Russ was on hardware and tech patrol. After a few hours of trying to get the WiFi working he called the company and sure enough they have to come and fix the connection. So no WiFi and he could not get the TV working since it runs through WiFi. So much for the tech portion of the program.

He did do an excellent job on hardware. Screwing so many things together that he has a big callous developing on his finger.

Carter came home in the afternoon to find we had put most everything except her clothes away. But Russ and Carter did build her bed with six drawers beneath it and so she has plenty of drawers and a big closet.

The thing that made the most difference were the drapes we got from IKEA. That was a Russ and Carter job, which first involved the purchase of a step stool. I know the Economy True Value down the street from Carter well. Besides WiFi and her missing boxes Carter just needs art on her very white walls. In time.

Russ and I finished work early and left Carter to have a little time to ourselves and a good dinner while she is catching up with a friend who has been awaiting her arrival back in Boston.

I am thrilled about Carter’s set up and it almost being done. I pray that her two boxes are found soon because I really don’t want to deal with that loss since it was a lot of shoes, boots and winter coats. At least there is no need for boots this week.

Moving, Moving, Moving

Apparently Russ and I snore in syncopation, this according to the recording Carter made of us at four in the morning in our hotel last night. None of us slept well in anticipation of today’s big move. Carter had gotten a message from the IKEA delivery service that her order of MANY boxes was coming between 9-1 and they would call her 30 minutes in advance. All fine except she was not going to have the key to her apartment until Noon.

Being experienced with delivery people I convinced Carter and Russ to go eat breakfast and hang it at the coffee shop down the street from her building. We were praying for a noon delivery. True to form Carter got a call from the guys that they were in front of her build at 9:45! So much for notice.

Thankfully the front door of the building was open due to all the moving in and moving out so we had the boxes carried up the flight of stairs to the hallway outside her door. Since we had no where to sit Russ started putting together the chairs from Carter’s new table and chair set. Thankfully Carter only had to go down the block to get her key so she went around 10:30 and was second in line.

Russ and I had a number of lovely conversations with other parents moving in and moving out. Everyone could not have been nicer. The minutes ticked by very slowly waiting for noon to come. Finally Carter came running up the stairs with her new key. After much wiggling we got the door open, but had to call the maintenance guy to come give Carter a different key that worked. Thankfully her apartment was clean and cuter than it had looked in photos.

The plan was for us to all put furniture together today while we waited for Carter’s 15 stored boxes which were to come between 4:30-7:00. Then tomorrow we were going to go shopping for the last things. While Russ and I waited for Carter to return with the key I looked up what time Costco opens tomorrow. Thank goodness I looked because it is closed on Labor Day.

This changed our whole plan. Russ remained in the apartment for the delivery and continued to kill himself putting together IKEA furniture. Carter and I drove out to IKEA, Costco and Home Depot where all of humanity was shopping. Most of the people at IKEA had obviously never been to one and wandered around with their mouths open unaware of other people, us, trying to speed through the store.

Carter and I did record shopping , spending the most amount of money in the least amount of time. We got back to Boston and unloaded the rental minivan which has been a godsend. Russ came out to the car to make the four trips of full arms with Carter. He could hardly walk at this point.

I drove car back to hotel and parked and walked back to the apartment for the fourth time today. I have had no trouble getting my steps, but my steps have been giving me trouble going up and down stairs.

The furniture putting together continued as we waited for Carter’s other boxes, they finally came 3 hours late and two boxes short. By then it was ten at night. Carter has a bed to sleep in so we left her in her own first apartment and walked back to the hotel, well Russ dragged me back.

Tomorrow we do it all again, but without Carter because she has training for her job from 8-1. Oh joys. I will sleep well tonight and hopefully will still be in syncopation with Russ. I just don’t know what we would have done without him.