Goodbye 2019, Let’s Hope 2020 Brings Us Clear Vision

As with all years 2019 was sometimes good, and sometimes bad, but it felt like it was more bad than good just based on the stress the news causes.

2019 could not have started with more stress for me as I was the at post, guard for my father in the hospital. It was not the 12 days of Christmas I was looking for when he was admitted on Christmas day and stayed in the hospital for almost two weeks where I was with him the whole time. The good news from that start is he got a new valve and is in much better health today because of it.

Carter’s best college friend Olivia went off to London in January and Carter got a terrible replacement roommate. This caused us all enough stress that Carter talked us into letting her get her own apartment starting in September. She found a great one and thankfully Russ was able to accompany us to Boston to assemble the world of IKEA furniture.

In other good Carter news she secured a fabulous Co-op job at Bain Capital that she will begin this January for six months rather than taking classes. Here’s hoping that she loves working there.

During the summer I took on painting my own kitchen cabinets, a job everyone thought I was crazy to do. It was a hot and hard two straight weeks, but I am thrilled I did it. The bad news came in the tile back splash for the kitchen. After I finished painting I found a great tile guy through my best plumbers, the Whaley Brothers. I picked out a tile and he ordered it. I told the clerk that he was going to order it for me. We were both told it would take 12 weeks to arrive.

At the 13 week mark he called the tile supply house to discover the clerk had left her job and no one had checked her orders, or lack of orders as was our case. So I am looking forward to finally having my summer kitchen project finished in January 2020.

I had a great time getting to see my Aunt Edie three times in August and September. First during a trip Carter Russ and I took to the mountains, second two weeks later on a four day visit to her house in Blowing Rock with my mother and then at the wedding of her son.

Russ has had a busy year at work and has not gotten as much time off as I have, but he has the devotion of Shay Shay to keep him happy. I hope for more fun for Russ in 2020 and more travel with me.

Carter and I had two fun mother daughter trips to the Dominican Republic and Asheville. Carter has already scheduled me for a long Boston weekend mother daughter trip in February so 2020 is looking good.

My friends have been wonderful this year with a new needlepoint group, my stalwart Mah Jongg crowd, my Bridge partner, travel friends, my EWS reunion, and those I lunch with regularly. There is nothing bad to say about that aspect of 2019. So at least as much friend time in 2020.

My big wish for 2019 is we have less MAGA and more MASA, (MAKE AMERICA SMART AGAIN). I am hoping for clearer vision by all of us since 2020 should be the year of perfect sight.

So goodbye to 2019, the good and the bad. I don’t think I will miss you. Look forward to “SEEING” you all in 2020.

“You Looked Like You Could Use a Seat.”

It’s been a big day of all things Biltmore. Carter really wanted to see the Downton Abbey exhibit and asked me if it could be one of her Christmas presents. I have never seen Biltmore decorated for Christmas and thought it was a good plan for me so here we are.

Going to see Biltmore is a big enough job. As I have only gone when the gardens are in bloom that has been my favorite part. But that was years ago, long before all the hotel and auxiliary villages were built. We drove in this morning through the familiar grand gate house, winding our way through the Fredirick Law Olmsted designed park with perfect little streams flowing alongside the road.

After three miles we got to parking area C where all of humanity was parking. We walked to the transportation center to wait for the first of many buses and or trolleys we would ride today. As our trolley made the corner into the main drive to the big house Carter exclaimed,”It’s not as big as I thought it was.” This from a child who is used to touring the grand castles of Europe.

The place was packed. They did a good job to let us in at exactly the appointed times, but that still meant that inside the house at points things were quite crowded. I did think everything looked so wonderful with the Christmas decorations up. Each and every room had multiple Christmas trees.

As usual, Carter and I both liked the downstairs with the kitchens and the servant areas the best. After the house we took another bus to see the Downton exhibit a the Deerpark area. Then another bus back to the main house where we were having lunch at the stables. After lunch we had one last stop to make at Antler Village to see the Downton Costumes. The line for the busses was so long, like 300 people long.

Carter and I decided to skip the transport and walk to our car in parking lot C. We had made the trip three times on the bus and thought it wasn’t that far. We walked past A and B1,2,& 3 lots. C a would be next. We rounded a big bend and then as we looked through the woods at the winding road we both realized that C was a long, long way off.

Carter took the lead on the trek on the single lane road. As we headed down a big hill a car from Ohio stopped at the bottom of the hill, pulled over and waited for us. A nice young Pakistani couple leaned out the window and asked if we needed a ride. Carter thought No, but I said yes. The young woman said, “You looked like you needed a seat.” She was right.

They cleared out their back seat and we got in. It was a good two miles to our car. Thank goodness for their kindness. We got our own car and drove to the last exhibit, our favorite, of costumes. We had really gotten our moneys worth as we were at Biltmore until after five. I am most glad I don’t have to take another bus anywhere.

“This is a Good Day to Be Alive”

It’s a really good day when Carter says this to me when we are alone. It has been a really good day. We sadly left Russ standing in the driveway with Shay Shay in his arms as we drove off to Asheville this morning. Although the weather was poor the road was not crowded and we made great time.

We stopped in Black Mountain to have lunch at a bar called The TrailHead. Our server was a nice as a person can be and since the only person we know from Black Mountain is our minister Chris we figured that Black Mountain grew good people.

As we made our short leg from lunch into Asheville and turned off the highway onto city streets we commented on how empty the streets were. It is Sunday, (I finally figured out what day it is) so we thought that might be coming to the ghost town. We drove no further than seven blocks and suddenly we were surrounded by hoards of people walking the sidewalks of downtown Asheville. Obviously we are not the only ones who thought a little post Christmas trip would be fun.

We drove past our hotel and made a little loop exploring the area. We stopped at a cool glass blowing gallery where a guy was demonstrating. It was very interesting and beautiful, but I did not see the need for a $500 vase or the $2,000 standing lamp that Carter liked.

Checking into the hotel that Russ had given us with his hotel points the clerk thanked Russ for being a good customer. Carter said, “We thank Russ too.” Since he is such a good customer they had upgraded us to the best suite on the top floor. Nothing makes Carter happier than a gorgeous hotel suite with a giant ass bathroom, soaking tub and bath salts.

We walked around a little and then went to the bar in the hotel and played backgammon and Mancala. It was nice of Carter to volunteer to play games with me.

Our big event today was dinner at Cùrate, the famous tapas restaurant. It did not disappoint. My favorite thing was the ham croquettes. Something I am never going to try and make at home. Carter had some funky spanish Cider, which she loved. Who knew they made cider in Spain?

Now we are snuggled in our big bed about to watch a movie. We had so much fun telling stories today. I can’t wait to see what stories we will create tomorrow.

What Day is It?

There is something about these days between Christmas and New Years which are so unproductive. With Christmas coming on a Wednesday this year I have lost all count as to what day of the week today is. Seems I am not alone in this loss of calendar. Carter asked me what day it is too. Not that it matters. One day during the Christmas holiday is just like the rest after Christmas.

The only thing that matters to me and Carter is what the date is. On December 29 we are going to Asheville for a little mother daughter trip to see the Downton Abbey exhibit at the Biltmore House.

Given that little trip I got a little worried that today might be the 29th and we were missing our trip. Thankfully my phone told me that today is December 28. Well that bit of news precipitated the need to do laundry, fill up my car and throw away the trash.

I am thankful for something fun and memorable to do on these last days of 2019. It means I am not wasting time waiting to take the Christmas decorations down and welcoming the season of darkness. I am praying that 2020 is a much better year than 2019. I hope you know what day of the week it is.

Run See Little Women

If Little Women director Greta Gerwig does not get an Academy Award nomination it’s will be a crime. Carter and I went downtown to see the movie at the Carolina Theatre. It was sold out at Silver Spot so we thought it would be packed at the number one screen at the Carolina. We got there 20 minutes early and we were he first people in the big room.

Eventually about fifty women joined us. All women, mostly older than me. This is a movie that should be seen by everyone, not just women.

Gerwig, who also wrote the screen play from the favorite Louisa May Alcott book, did an amazing job changing up the way she told the very familiar story. She played with the timing, jumping back and forth over a seven year time period.

The casting was inspired. I loved each member of the March family and the men that loved them. Although I enjoyed previous movie adaptions, I always felt like one or more of the sisters were move lovable than the others. Not in this version. The costumes also contributed to the beautiful film.

If you have time to go to the movies, go see Little Women it will make you feel great and given all we have endured in the real world the least the movies can do is help you escape for a few hours. See it at the Carolina if you are local. The seats are more comfortable and you can get wine if you want it. But bring tissues, you will need them with or without wine.

Puzzle Guilt

Christmas has come and gone. The big show is over. We are not day after Christmas shoppers, hell we are not shoppers at all. Unfortunately Russ and Carter still had to go to the mall for an Apple genius appointment as Carter’s computer has not been fixed in four visits in less than a month. Poor things.

I got to spend the day not cooking, not wrapping, not decorating, but yes to puzzling. Russ got me a puzzle of the month present. I got to chose the size in terms of the number of pieces. He also got me a starter puzzle of London busses. It is only 500 pieces.

Since it is a day of no commitments, and the only thing I really needed to do was run the robot vacuum I decided to start my new puzzle around 1:00 this afternoon. After sorting all the pieces into edges, red ones, green ones, sky ones and brown/yellow/grey ones I got to work. It took me less than three hours to finish it.

I decided then that as my puzzle of the month I am going with the 2,000 piece count other wise it will be too easy. It’s not like I need new puzzles. I have plenty of old ones that I can redo. Really I should do something more productive anyway, but this obsession as no calories. It also does not burn any calories.

So I think I am going to have to set time limits on how much I can work on a puzzle. Since it only took three hours to do 500 pieces I think I can finish one 2,000 piece puzzle a month and not feel too guilty. There will be plenty of of things to feel guilty about I am sure.

Breaking the Bad Christmas Streak at Last

After a few really bad Christmases, one when I was too sick to get out of bed, one where Russ, Carter and I were alone while my family went to Florida and last year with my Dad being rushed to the hospital on Christmas Morning it was a new low Christmas point. After such terrible Christmas days my expectations have been low. My sisters and I agreed not to do any presents this year because it just adds stress to the season.

So I was expecting a low key day today. Russ, Carter and I got up and opened our presents and had a little breakfast. My parents and my sister Janet showed up at our house right on time at 11:00 this morning. I was in the kitchen cooking the Christmas meal. People sat around the kitchen talking to me or visiting in the living room.

I prepped the tenderloin for the grill, assembled the cherry tomato salad, and made the cheese soufflé. Carter cooked the peas and assembled the fruit and lemon tarts on the tart crusts she baked yesterday. Everyone got along. Everyone was healthy. It was the most pleasant Christmas we have had in years.

All the food finished cooking at the same time and lunch was down right perfect. Between the main course and dessert we had a few presents, mostly envelopes from my Dad who did not get the no gifts memo. He said he was never told and wouldn’t have obeyed that rule even if he did hear it.

After the presents and the tarts Russ took a Carter family photo. My parents had stayed for close to five hours, a Christmas record! They went back to the farm and Janet stayed another hour until she went to the airport to go to Mexico with Sophie.

Now Russ, Carter and I are watching a Christmas movie. It has been a wonderful Christmas breaking our bad Christmas streak. I hope that you and yours have had a wonderful day too. Merry Christmas.

Traditions of Christmasm

Early this morning I got a text from my friend Lane. “Think of you every Christmas.” With a photo of two hand written recipes of mine. I texted back, “How long ago did I give you those.” She replied it must have been twenty years and her daughter insists they have them as they have become their tradition. This is just one reason you should share your recipes with your friends. Don’t hoard what is good, but share it.

I went on to do the cooking for our a Christmas traditions. We always have the Toms over for Christmas eve dinner, although our menu varies from year to year. I also started prepping for Christmas lunch for tomorrow when my parents and one of my sisters, Janet will be coming to celebrate.

Since I am making beef tenderloin tomorrow I made horseradish sauce today. I have one question, who invented horseradish jars? They are always too small to fit a spoon into? Is there some reason they don’t want you to be able to get the stuff out of the bottle?

Carter helped by making the pastry shells for the fruit and lemon curd tarts. While Carter was occupying the kitchen I finished my Christmas puzzle. Then Ellis Toms came over to practice her scripture reading for Church tonight. Public speaking is not her favorite activity, but I gave her some lector tips and she practiced in front of me and then Carter.

After we had dinner we went to a church and Ellis was the best lector of the night. Carter said I was beaming watching Ellis, since She is my bonus daughter.

After a wonderful service that left me filled with the Christmas spirit we all came back to our house for dessert and lots of good stories.

Carter prepared her note for Santa with a cup of water an a note and drawing of a cookie and carrot. Santa said she couldn’t eat another thing, but Carter didn’t want to take her chances and leave nothing. The tradition of leaving a treat for Santa is a strong one.

I love all our Christmas traditions, mostly that we are together this year, no one is in the hospital and we can celebrate another happy year.

Wishing you peace, love and all the happiness of the season. I hope you have a cherished tradition that brings a smile to your face. Merry Christmas.

The Slowness of December 23rd

When I was a kid December 23 was about the slowest day of the year. We almost certainly did not have school, but my Dad would have probably been at work, as long as it wasn’t a weekend. That meant that my sisters and I had to occupy ourselves as the minutes seemed to drag out the day.

The 23rd is nothing. The eve of a Christmas Eve is not a holiday. At least on Christmas Eve we had church and a big family dinner in the early years. Once I turned about 12 we started having our giant Christmas Eve party, but that is a story for another day. I am talking about when I was a big Santa fan and I could hardly wait for him to visit.

Despite the fact that we had plenty of toys to play with nothing seemed interesting on December 23. My sisters hated playing games with me since I was older and almost always won. The thought of reading a book made the day go even slower. We never had any friends over because they had Grandparents visiting, but we did not. It was just a miserable day.

Now that I am an adult I love December 23. It is a day that is still slow, but that slowness is a joy. I woke up early and went to three stores to buy the food for the a Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals. I was home and done by 10:15 having beat all the crowds. No one was going to school and many people were not going to work so the roads were empty at 8 this morning.

I came home and made the peppermint ice cream and parsnip soup for future meals. After setting the dining room table I whiled away most of the afternoon working on my Christmas puzzle. The perfect disconnected thing to do to enjoy this quiet time.

I wish that we had set a puzzle up when I was a child. It might have helped me fill those slow December 23 hours waiting for the big show. Christmas will come and go in a blink of an eye, I want to try and slow it all down to enjoy every minute.

Doodles are French First

Our dog is an Australian Labradoodle. Technically she is American since she was born in Raleigh. She is a 33rd generation labradoodle coming originally from Australia. Like all things Aussie she normally marches to her own drummer. And like most dogs she does not like clothes, costumes, hats, coats or any apparel. If we try and put a head band on her she shakes it right off. She is a little better with her Barbour coat, but that is only because it is so fancy.

Today Carter took her big crazy scarf and wrapped it around Shay. Shay loved it. She stood there and modeled the scarf, not once trying to get it off. She was a purely Parisian puppy.

She loved posing and showing off how cute she was in the warm, soft scarf. She threw off all her Australian heritage and fully embraced her Poodle roots. That French DNA is strong. I just hope she doesn’t take up smoking and having disdain for Americans.

Winter Solstice

Four days before Christmas and Shay has all her fans home to spoil her rotten. Russ and Carter put the train up around the tree in record time. Actually Carter set it up and it worked at first try. Then Russ ran it around the tree over and over again. Shay doesn’t care much for the train, nor the real fire in the fire place. Too many strange noises for her.

So she sits in her chair while Russ lies on the sofa with his iPad. Carter occupies all the space in front of the fire place and I sit at my game table which is turned into a puzzle table, working on my Christmas puzzle Mary Lloyd gave me.

All the wrapping is done, and it is too early to cook for Christmas eve or a Christmas Day so I happily work on the puzzle and snuggle with Shay. The winter solstice was calm and cozy with carols playing through the house. At least tomorrow the days will begin to get a little bit longer as we await the big day. Tomorrow I can make the peppermint Ice Cream which will really signal Christmas is almost here. The only problem is I have to hide it from everyone until Christmas Eve.

True Self Awareness is Hard

Today was Holiday Bridge at the Bridge Academy. It is a big production event. 164 people playing bridge at the same time, but before hand a really nice lunch made by a Robin Marin with a crew of elves. I was a kind of sub elf, just asked to bring a dessert. I made my yummy orange, ginger molasses cookies which are a good adult cookie. They were a hit and perhaps I should keep to providing cookies.

My dear bridge partner Deanna, who has so many master points I have to play with the best players when we play together, asked me to play Holiday Bridge with her. She has her choice of partners so it was kind of her to ask me. We started off strong, at least that is what we thought. We had some great wins. When you play competitive bridge you are never sure how you are doing until it is all over since you are playing against everyone in the room.

Overall, we were happy as we moved from table to table. We didn’t make what we thought were any major gaffes and we set some opponents on a couple of big hands.

Perhaps it was the holiday goodies we had for lunch, or just the euphoria of the sparkly season, but when we arrived at our 13 table of opponents we were still happy and they were despondent. They said they had a terrible day of bridge and we just looked at each other a little smugly thinking we had a good day. We played our last two boards against them and the bridge mate, which is the computer scorer, announced we had not had such a good day, in fact our despondent opponents had a slightly better day than us.

Deanna and I are rarely shocked about how well we are or are not doing. This poor placement came as a blow. If we are playing badly we usually know it, and conversely if we are playing well we usually place high. This was a huge disconnect, it makes me question my own system of self awareness.

I come from the school of fake it until you make it. This works in lots of things, except bridge. As a self taught cook, baker, quilter, needlepointer, crafter, mah Jongg player there is no ranking system. In bridge you are constantly being ranked and have to be taught almost everything, over and over again. It’s a life’s work. I am truly humbled today. This bridge was no Holiday.

‘Tis the Season to Go To the Movies

Coming home from college is boring. I remember coming home and wondering why vacation was so long. Carter has been fairly good about not falling into the sleeping 15 hours pattern just because she doesn’t have any real work. Russ has given her a few assignments which have kept her slightly occupied. When she finished those she and I went to the movies.

I gave her the pick of the fist movie we would see and she picked Frozen II even though she had already seen it in Boston. Once you love Disney movies I guess you always love them.

Since I had never seen Frozen she made me watch that at home to prep for the sequel. So this afternoon we went to the AMC right by our house. It is never Carter’s first choice now that Silverspot exists in Chapel Hill, but it was close and half the price.

Half way through the movie I heard my phone drop on the floor. Finding it was a disgusting operation and now I know why we pay double at Silverspot. Despite the need for sanitizing my phone, I did like the movie.

Thankful that we got Carter’s choice out of the way I am ready to see Little Women, Bombshell and perhaps Knives Out, 1917 and Richard Jewell. I know the big movie is Star Wars, but I have a confession. I have never seen one Star Wars Movie. The first one came out when I was in high school and since I went to boarding school we never saw any movies. Once I was behind on that national obsession I just never jumped in.

Chances are I might only get one more movie in during the season and if that is the case it will be Little Women, even if I have to go alone. Maybe I should leave my phone in the car so I don’t risk dropping it again. Looking at that floor made the thought of going to the movies a lot less appealing.

Another Binge I

Carter had a little computer problem and when she got her Mac back it came with Apple ➕. It seemed like a nice gesture, and would have been if they had actually fixed her computer, but not is what this story is about.

Since Carter had Apple ➕ I coerced her to let me watch Jennifer Aniston’s new show, “The Morning Show” with Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell. Poor Carter, no computer and I have taken her IPad to watch TV. I would feel much worse about this if I weren’t so hooked on the show.

Jennifer Aniston is fantastic. Nothing like Rachel in Friends. Reese Witherspoon is mo4 than fantastic and the writing is crisp and timely.

I now realize that I am going to have to get my own subscription. Brilliant thinking Apple, giving Carter this channel free. Now I will buy it and spread the word.

As soon as I get my own subscription I will start watching “Dickinson” which is written by my college classmate Amy Turtletaub Geller’s son Ken. Even though we went to Dickinson, the show is not about our college, but I like Emily Dickinson too.

Good job Again Apple, now fix Carter’s computer.

Celebrating 21

Today, Carter and I had a spa day in celebration of her 21st Birthday. You can’t take pictures at a spa since, 1. No devices are allowed since you are supposed to be taking a break from the outside world and 2. People might be naked and not want their photos taken And 3. If you are like us, you are not naked, but don’t want your photo taken in your spa robe with your hair a big mess having just had massage oil rubbed into it and now all you joints are lose and you look like one of those wooden toys held together by string that when you push up the bottom the toy figure falls down into a lump. So this spa-like window shot needs to suffice for the record that we had a lovely day.

Having an introvert daughter means alone spa time is the perfect way to recognize this milestone. So different from my extrovert 21st birthday.

My friend Laura Scherk schemed up a surprise party with my parents. Since Laura and I were in college in Carlisle, PA, where no really good parties happened, my parents thought that my party should be in NYC. Laura and a group of guys kidnapped me.

As it was a Saturday and I was a college student I was on the roof of my off campus house, in my green sweatpants washing the windows of my bedroom. I was not a normal college student. The boys jumped out my bay window and threw one of their dirty laundry bags over my head and pushed me back inside the house. How no one fell off the roof is a real miracle.

From that moment one I had no idea how many people were in the caravan of cars that drove to NYC. I was ordered to keep the blindfold on for the whole trip. We ended up in the city where I was allowed to shower and change and a surprise party was held at Trader Vic’s in the basement of the Plaza Hotel.

People drank way too much Navy Grog and no one noticed when my middle sister slipped out and got in a cab and went home to Connecticut. Eventually that fact caused the end of the party. My friends and I carried on with out my parents who must have been frantic trying to find my sister. It was a wild night. One I don’t remember a lot about, but certainly was one for the books.

I am so thankful to have a spa child and not a Trader Vic’s child. I guess I have a Trader Joe’s Child where at least none of her friends are passed out on the floor next to the table after a handful of cheese bings and three rum punches. The early eighties were fun.

Pensive Puppy

Is Shay pensive because Russ is not home, bored waiting for Santa or despondent because her haircut left her without any curls. I’d bet money it’s mostly about Russ, but her haircut definitely affects her mood.

She hangs her head a little lower as she creeps down the steps to go outside. She dashes to the back yard so no one sees her skinny legs. She curls up like a duck with her head tucked under her wing trying to stay warm without her furry coat.

I’m sorry she needed this drastic cut, but she had too many matts. If only she liked to be combed and brushed.

Don’t look so sad sweet girl. You can snuggle with Carter to stay warm and your curls will grow back soon., maybe not in time for Santa, but he doesn’t care. You are still on the good list.

No Stranger Danger

A few weeks ago I was at the house of a friend who is small and thin woman. She told me about a man who asked her for money outside the grocery store. She said she didn’t have any cash, but was afraid and didn’t know what to do. She asked me what I do in those situations, not sure if he had bad intentions.

I told her that I look right in the guy’s eyes and smile at him so he knows I see him and recognize him as a person. Then I say, “I’m sorry I don’t have any cash, but I hope that things go better for you the rest of the day. God bless you.” Then I walk in the store, even if I was actually walking to my car.

I explained to my friend that I felt that most people just need to be recognized as people just like us. Once I am back in the store I go and buy a couple of apples and some individually wrapped cheese and then I go back out if he is still there I give him the bag. I actually look around to find him because I want him to know I heard him. If he is gone I just take it home.

Most people asking for something in the grocery store parking lot are not trying to hurt you. Yes, someone could try and take your purse, but it is a risky place to do that with so many people coming and going from the parking lot. Mostly they ask there for that very reason, there are people to ask. But if you are someone who needs to ask strangers for help you are probably somewhat invisible in the world. What I mean is most people shopping don’t want to see those people so they avert their eyes or walk out of their way to avoid them.

My friend liked my advice and said she thought I might have an answer for her. Simply seeing the humanity in all people takes practice to overcome your own fears.

Today at church our minister Chris preached on this very same thing. Looking at people and recognizing them as humans no matter who they are. It was an interesting coincidence that it so exactly mirrored my conversation with my friend.

When Carter was little and I would take her downtown, when downtown was not quite as tony as it is now, she would ask me why I said “hello” to every person we passed on the street. I told her is was kind to look people in the eye and recognize them as my equal. I didn’t want to tell her then that it also was safer to look at people’s faces and that if you were nice to them first they were usually nice to you, but that was secondary to my greeting anyway.

My lesson was don’t be afraid of strangers. Most all of us just want to be seen and acknowledged. The worst thing someone can be is invisible. Just start with kindness. You just never know when you might be meeting Jesus.

Christmas Can Start

When Carter got her exam schedule she found out she had the last exam on the last day. So she bought a plane ticket to come home the morning after that exam because she didn’t want the stress of taking an exam and making it to Logan right afterward.

Then, a few weeks after buying the ticket her professor changed the final from an exam to something else. Carter did not want to pay a change fee on her ticket so she just stayed in Boston and had fun for an extra week. That was a good plan because being home with her parents is much too boring.

I talked to Carter yesterday while she was packing. She told me she was going to get up at five and uber over to Logan for her eight AM flight. I told her that was fairly early. She insisted since one time the traffic to Logan was so bad she almost missed her flight.

I awoke this morning at 5:55. I looked to see if there was a text from Carter saying she was at the airport. Nothing. I searched for her phone and found it to be in her apartment. So I called her. No answer. I called again. No answer. Four more times. I woke Russ up and asked if he could get her Alexa to wake her. Nothing. It now was 6:15. I face timed her, she answered and said a bunch of bad words because she realized she had slept through three alarms. This is something she has never done.

Thankfully early morning Saturday traffic was not bad and she made it to Logan and was home with us at 10:30 this morning. Now Christmas can start, it it is still ten days away and Carter is already bored here. I have a feeling the expression “slow as Christmas” is going to apply here. I am just thankful she woke up and made her flight. If she didn’t like the change charge for a ticket in advance she really was not going to like the charge for buying a whole new ticket on the day of.

Soup Kind Of Day

It’s a cold and rainy day here which was perfect weather for my friend Lynn and my Chinese Auction. We have had this party for years with other mothers from our daughters’ school. Then a few years ago we didn’t have it when I was going to Berlin at Christmas to visit Carter. That hiatus lasted more years than it should have.

Since I was not having any other Christmas parties and my house is decorated for a party Lynn and I decided to resurrect the Chinese Auction in a small way. It is so hard to make guest lists that includes everyone you want. This party has always been for mother’s of kids who went to school with our daughters as the first criteria, second criteria was we had to have been invited to your house before. That really helps us in deciding who to invite. Because I write this blog sometimes someone will make a side comment about not being invited. My response is always the same, “The best way to get invited is to invite.” If I don’t even know where you live you are not going to be at the top of the list. Having a couple of people over for lunch is not that hard.

This party was the perfect example. There was no caterer and the menu could not have been simpler or more economical. And it turned out to be the perfect one for the weather. We served a tomato soup bar and salad. Homemade tomato soup with the following toppings to chose from: grilled cheese croutons (just grilled cheese sandwiches cut into eighths), fresh jalapeño slices, pesto, cheese, sour cream, crunchy fried onions, cilantro, gold fish crackers, and bacon. Arugula salad with green apples, pomegranates, blue cheese and candied nuts filled out the rest of the lunch. Lynn made a Coke cola cake and that was it.

It was the company that made it. As usual, sitting around the dining room table is my favorite place to be with friends. No one cares that it was not a fancy lunch.

I know that all my friends who have me over were not included, so I will have to have another event to invite them too. This is not my only party, just the one I have with Lynn. I am so glad she suggested we return to the Chinese Auction and celebrated Christmas the gift stealing way. Merry Christmas to all my friends. I hope to share some soup with you soon.

Two Party Day

Such a fun day of Christmas reverie. I started the day with a fun lunch at my friend Amy’s. I so appreciate being invited with friends I don’t see often enough. Amy being a superior cook always makes a yummy lunch and her dog Annie, who is Shay’s cousin, gets a lot of treats. I came early and left late and had a great time.

Tonight I went to Russ’ company Christmas party. Russ did not tell me it was going to be an activity party and I thought I was just going to eat a few hors d’oeuvre and come home. When I got to his office all the young ‘ins were standing around the company bar eating, but quickly we were ushered into the conference room where the room was filled with drums.

A group called Drum Team Collective was teaching us how to play drums. When we came into the room everyone just sat at random spots. Russ was not in a drum or symbol section. I think he might have thought he was getting out of it. Turns out he was in the tambourine, maracas, cow bell, shaker section. I was in symbols and was my normal trouble maker persona.

The instruction began with the base drums, then the snare drums, then the symbols and the tall drum (I can’t remember what it was called). Each section was given specific instruction on what beat to go on. Then the teacher got to Russ’ percussion section. “You all can do any beat you want, but you need to get up and dance.”

Russ had to get up and dance while shaking his Maracas! He did it. Not only did he do it through the first section, but we got up and switched instruments four times and he went back to percussion and danced again! I guess the secret to get Russ to dance is to give him maracas so he has something to do with his hands.

It was a very fun activity, although I wish I had worn the earplugs we were offered. The leader didn’t mind that I was a trouble maker and said that I would be fun to take on the road. He followed that comment up with you spend 90% of your time on the road driving some place and only ten percent playing music so you want people who are fun and the road and they don’t have to be the best musicians.

After the drumming activity we went back to the bar and had a big company indoor snowball fight. You can see how many snowballs were coming at me all at once!

It was an outstanding party! The young ‘ins are always fun and I am glad I was surprised with the activity. Now I am exhausted from so many parties! More tomorrow.

Today’s Volunteer Work

Today is the Heart of Carolina Food Drive for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC. It is our big holiday push to get enough food to feed people through the holidays and especially children who will be out of school on break. As the federal government is cutting wya back on food benefits for people the Food Bank is depended on more and more. The Food Bank is a non-profit, not a government agency, yet we are the one that is turned to in times of emergency to feed people because there is no government way to actually do that. Please consider helping the Food Bank today as gifts are being doubled.

In my other volunteer life today I had a meeting with the builders and the architects of our church fellowship hall. The foundation is laid and we are hoping for three days without rain that are above 40° in the next week so we can pour the slab for the building. It is exciting times, but it is still cement so it is not much to look at.

If you want to see the fun part today I got the samples for the floors, millwork, counters, paint, doors and tiles. I think it is classic and should serve us well and be a happy place to gather.

We also saw the mock up of the brick and mortar that will be the outside of the building. It is very Westminster and will fit in perfectly with our campus.

I figure I have nine more months on this job and then I am not sure what I will be volunteering for next. As for now I am enjoying the people I am working with and the satisfaction of creating something new and beautiful.

Competitive Elves

Another favorite holiday rite has come and gone, my garden club Christmas Auction. As an odd number year I did not host it at my house, but I still had my regular job as auctioneer. This year I had two elf Helpers, Stephanie Perun and Kathi Eason. They did an excellent job keeping the items coming and “Carol Merriling” them around the room so people could get a closer look at the yummy rum cake or beautiful wreath that someone had made.

It was a banner year for the auction. People out did themselves with the items they brought. We had ten very generous guests who bid wildly along with the members and our best treasurer Missy McLoud, she told me the total was over $6,000 which is about a thirty percent increase over our best year. That’s a lot of money for cake!

One reason we were so profitable this year is when an item was going really high the donor often volunteered to make a second one so I could sell two for the crazy high price. So thanks to those people who “doubled” their donation. The prize might go to Nancy McGuffin, who was a guest, not even a member of the club. When Pokey Schiff’s item of a needlepoint canvas of the garden club logo went for $150, Nancy volunteered to donate another 3 canvases so Pokey’s original donation got quadrupled and four people went away with the prizes and the Garden Club made $600. Sha-swing!

After all the biding was done we all retired to a lovely lunch thanks to our hostesses and Chef Paris! Thanks to the elves who worked so hard in the kitchen, Mary Lloyd, Laurie and Elisabeth. At lunch I finally got to sit down and rest my voice. It was worth stressing it for $6,000! I couldn’t have done it with out my elves, Stephanie and Kathi who both modeled that darling purse that Karen Rabenau made so well! Thanks to all who made this year the biggest success ever.

Mail Surprise

Well, I apparently wrote my thank you notes a day early, that is if I wanted to do them all in one batch this week. Just after mailing my notes today I went to my mail box to get the mail. This is the only time of the year that it is really fun to go to the mailbox. I love getting all the photo cards from my friends who generously still send me a card. I appreciate when people put their children’s ages as I have such a hard time keeping up with how old kids are. Once they go to college it is not needed, but between four and seventeen it’s nice to know.

As a I was sorting the mail in piles of catalogs I will not look at, credit card offers I will not open, postcards for deals from stores I will not visit I finally get to the Christmas cards. I opened the ones first from return addresses I know and studied the beautiful photos.

Then I came upon an envelope with a little white church on the front with my name and address carefully written in a cursive that millennials could not decipher. The little Christmas return address sticker announced the name of a woman I did not know, but a local address.

I opened the envelope and inside found a card with the same little white church on it and before I could open it a check and a little paper Christmas ornament fell out. You know there is nothing more exciting than getting a real hand written check in the mail. At first I wondered if it was a direct mail piece that was going to say if I cashed this check I was agreeing to some scam. I looked more closely to the check and saw that it was written to my church for a substantial amount.

I read the card from a woman who had been a charter member of my church, but who I do not know because she belongs somewhere else. She told me that she gets our newsletter and enjoys reading it. She congratulated me on my work on the fellowship hall building committee as well as my award at the Food Bank. She was moved by something I wrote in the newsletter about money we needed for the fellowship hall and that is why she was enclosing the check.

It was a lovely long letter from this generous woman who lives at a local retirement community. What a wonderful surprise to get this in the mail today. She could have mailed it to the church, but it was so nice of her to write me such a kind note and give me the joy of taking it over to church.

I so appreciate her gift as well as knowing that my words moved her to such a degree. I will be writing another thank you note tonight and hope to have a chance to go meet this dear angel someday soon.

A Note of Thanks

I had some thank you notes to write this week. Christmas gifts from friends deserve a special note of thanks, not just for the present, but more for their friendship throughout the year. Hand written thank you notes are about the only thing I mail these days that is not a package.

It seems that I mail lots of packages. Some things are to Carter or I am returning things I have ordered or I have been sent in error. Every time I go to the post office to mail a package they ask me if I would like to buy stamps while I am there. I chuckle a little as I decline. Why would I need stamps? I have not mailed a bill payment in ten years as I pay all my bills through mobile banking. I rarely send real birthday cards, as I am not really good at birthdays outside of Facebook. I don’t send Christmas cards since I write a daily blog and everyone is sick of me. I don’t even mail invitations to parties as I let Paperless post do all the work. The only thing I still mail are thank you notes.

Today after writing four notes I went to put stamps on the envelopes. I have two little holders of the stamps that come on a roll. One is a beautiful enamel box and the other and old brass one. I have no idea where they both came from or why I have two, but I have had them for at least 20 and 30 years respectively.

I went to get a stamp from the brass one and as I pulled the stamp from the little slot I noticed it was not a “forever stamp.” You know what those are – Stamps that work on mailing a letter regardless of the current postage rate. The stamps in my brass holder are .34¢ stamps. I have no idea how long ago letters went for .34¢ especially since I am not quite sure what the going rate is right now. I could look it up, but if you only use forever stamps it doesn’t matter.

I turned from my sitting desk to my walking desk where I found the enamel stamp dispenser and there were forever stamps in it. Thank goodness. I always liked the enamel box better.

At the rate I write thank you notes I will probably have enough forever stamps to last me until the the going rate of first class postage is .68¢. Then I can use two of my .34¢ stamps together and I won’t be wasting any pennies. That is assuming I will still have friends who break my gift giving rule.

Happy 21st Birthday CARTER!

It is hard for me to believe that I am now the mother of a fully grown adult. OK, you have been fully grown and acting like an adult for a long time, but now, now you can drink without fear in this country, buy a business and gamble. Only one of those things might happen today, but welcome to the world of adulthood Carter.

Carter, before you rush off I want to celebrate some of the things that I love about you. First, the way you came into my life. Your birth was anything but average. You were two weeks late, had to be induced, had your heart rate go down three times before you would be born by an emergency c-section and then when you entered the world, perfect. All that drama was just a way of getting our attention to say, “Hey, I’m here.”

Your early years were easy. It was obvious that you paid attention to what you were being taught. The best example was when I picked you up from your 2 1/2 year old class at Westminster and your teacher Mrs. Smith said, “Carter is so your daughter. Today she told another child on the playground, ‘Why would I reward you for bad behavior?’” You were not just my daughter, but fully you.

You discovered at three you loved big horses, never afraid to take command of a big animal. Sometimes smaller things caused you unnecessary worry. You have done a great job to learn balance.

You are intuitive, curious, hard working. It is no wonder you asked to go halfway across the world to Taiwan at 13 and live with people whose name I could not read, say or write.

Your ability to visualize a long term goal and work to make it happen is something you must have gotten from your father, and it admire it so in you. Like the time you figured out that you wanted to go to Camp Cherrio at age 9, a place I had never even heard, you made it happen. Then when we picked you up after your first week and you already had a plan to win honor camper, so you could parley that I to a spot as a CIT and then a junior counselor and then a senior counselor. That was a lot of planning for a nine year old.

Your years at DA in basketball where your best skill was team psychologist were just the set up for your college years. Your independence, worldliness and stick-to-it-ness has brought you to this point, launching into adulthood, while still having a little time to ease in to it.

Being your mom has been the greatest, hardest and most joyful thing I have ever done. You may be an adult now, but you will always be my daughter who may make a lot of noise about getting here and then be like, “Hi, everything is cool.”

Enjoy your day. It is my favorite day of the year. The day you came into the world.

Vintage Hose

‘Tis the Christmas party season. Russ and I had to go to a black tie event tonight. Any event on a Friday is tough on Russ, especially if he is just flying home in time to change and go. I had a much easier day. My friend Hannah and her mother Jean came over for lunch and a good look at the Christmas all over my house. I was able to take a little nap after lunch, not that it was planned, just that Shay and I were snuggled together on the sofa.

I awoke just in time to look around my closets to find something to wear based around the shoes I wanted to wear. I have hurt the top of my foot and so they shoes were the only thing I cared about. Thankfully a few years ago I sprung for a pair of black heals that were made in Israel. They never hurt, but look fancy. I think they were made for female assassins.

As I was getting dressed I decided I should wear hose. I couldn’t remember the last time I wore hose. The only thing I ever wear are tights because they are warm, but this outfit was not a tights kind of thing. Since I had not planned ahead I had not purchased any hose. I looked in a drawer in my closet and miraculously pulled out a new package of nude panty hose. The price tag said $4.95. My god, when I had I purchased these. I turned the package over and the date said 1994.

When I put them on the 1994 date came fully to life. The stretch in the spandex had definitely gone the way of the new millennium. What could I expect from 25 year old hose. They were vintage after all and vintage is not what you want in hose.

Thankfully they stayed up through the whole party, at least the part we stayed for. We had a great time visiting with friends and enjoying our dinner. Then the “It’s Friday” hit us and it meant it was time for us to go. It’s just the start of the holiday party scene. We have to pace ourselves.

The Ceramic Chicken

The big threat in our little family is, “Tell me what you want as a gift, otherwise you are getting a ceramic chicken.” I am not exactly sure when this threat took hold, but I am almost certain it was in relation to making a list for my father-in-law who is a world class early gift buyer. There is nothing more he hates than waiting until the last minute to mail you a gift.

Given the “chicken” threat it came as quite a surprise when I was devastated when I broke a chicken ornament while standing on the ladder decorating last weekend. Russ and Carter acted appropriately sad for me, but I thought that was just for show. Not that losing one ornament could possibly be noticed on my jammed packed tree.

Today, was one of my most fun Holiday celebrations where my friends Christy and Mary Lloyd and I have our friends Christmas. We went to the Carolina Inn where I ogled the sugar plum fairy Tree and garland chock full of pink, light green and baby blue ornaments. It is not a color scheme I am going to begin to collect, but that didn’t make me not covet it nonetheless.

With that tree on my mind I came home to a number of packages. Two from my father-in-law, which I know are Christmas presents and one addressed to Russ from an unknown sender. I texted him and asked if it was something I should open and he said go ahead.

Sneaky guy knew full well that it was a replacement chicken for the one that jumped to his death last weekend. How he found a chicken, completely different, but just a beautiful I will never know. Next time I get threatened with the ceramic chicken I am just going to say, “Go ahead, as long as I can hang it on the Christmas tree.”

The Season of Kindness

Kindness should have no season. We should strive for it all year round, but somehow the time around the holidays seems to remind people to be kind and generous. The beauty of kindness is that it is free.

Yesterday I ran into a friend who has had a tough year. She related some things to me that people have said to her that added to her difficulty rather than alleviating it. I am certain these people were purposely trying to be mean, but at the same time they weren’t trying to be kind. Most of it was small talk where they were just filling an empty space of not knowing what to say with words that turned out to be extremely hurtful. Sometimes kindness means not saying anything at all.

Today 45 cut 750,000 people off the roles for a Food Stamps. The new rule says that if you are able bodied and don’t have a child under six you have to work to be able to get food stamps. There are many people who will have their food stamps cut who will be hurt, like the person who who takes care of an elderly of invalid relative and therefore can’t work outside the house. Or the people who live in rural areas where there really aren’t jobs, or the homeless. Cutting these food stamp benefits right at Christmas is the opposite of kind.

Food stamps don’t just help the people who use them for food. They put money into the local economy because they are redeemed at local stores which make a profit and employee local people who earn a wage. Food stamps are such a minor cost to the federal government but makes a huge difference to the individuals who need them. The stress of losing these benefits just piles on to vulnerable people who already are under stress.

I am going to work extra hard to be kind right now, knowing that I have no idea what people I encounter in the world are dealing with. It seems like kindness is my only weapon to combat the horrible things that are going on that I have no control over. Maybe we can work to spread kindness and it can go viral. I’m tired of the meanness.

Christmas Tree Tour Needed

Today a few of my needlepoint friends made a stop at the most prolific stitcher, Christy’s house to look at her Needlepoint Christmas tree. There is nothing more fun to me than looking at other people’s Christmas ornaments and hearing the stories those ornaments tell.

I saw a Facebook posting from my mother that she put her tree up today with ornaments from all her old friends through the years. Sadly some of those friends are no longer with us, but my mother gets to remember them fondly as she looks at her tree.

I would love to take a Christmas tour of my friend’s trees. It is so fun to see the ornaments their children made twenty years ago that they still display proudly. Or the ones that used to be their grand mother’s, or the ones they were given by Santa when they were children.

I could give an around the world exploration on my tree and tell you a story about every one of my ornaments. I may not remember what I had for dinner last night, but I know exactly where each ornament came from. I am certain I am not the only person who can do that.

So if you want someone to come look at your tree and quiz you about your ornaments let me know. Or send me a picture of your tree, and close up of your favorite ornament. I love to learn about my friends through their Christmas trees. If you are someone who does not have a tree just tell me a story.

Christmas Kickoff

The celebrating has officially begun with the annual needlepoint Christmas exchange. Always a highlight of my year. Since we traditionally gather the first Monday in December it heralds the start of the season. This year, with the the first Monday coming on the tail of the Thanksgiving weekend, I couldn’t get my house decorated as well as prepare the lunch so we opted to go to the Washington Duke for tea.

Everyone came right on time, filling the table with small gifts for each other, separate from the special ornament we each stitched for one secret friend. I have spent less time at the stitching table this year, so this gathering is an extra special to get to reconnect with dear friends.

After we ordered our tea we exchanged our needlepointed ornaments. Each one was lovingly chosen for the receiver and generously stitched and finished. I cherish these gifts from these friends as only another stitcher understands what a huge gift a needlepoint ornament is. Sadly Ann Hannon was missing from our ranks because she couldn’t make it all the way from St. Louis so close to Thanksgiving. Her ornament, lovingly beaded was beautiful.

We enjoyed our scones, tea sandwiches and sweets, but I will be hosting again next year since I think my food is so much better. I just can’t compare with the various offerings of tea, but my scones are hands down much better. I don’t think anyone will complain about coming back to my house, even if they don’t have ten different varieties of tea to choose from.

Nevertheless, it is not the food that we come for, but the fellowship and the common love of all things needlepoint. I can hardly wait to see whose name I pull from the hat next year so I can think of something personal to stitch for a friend.

December is Here

Carter went back to Boston last night. She had planned all along to go back on Saturday fearing the Sunday travel and now that the weather is getting so bad I am glad she cautiously planned ahead. With Carter gone I pushed ahead to finish all the Christmas decorating.

Last night at seven I gave up on completing the tree with about a fourth left to go. The plastic hinged top boxes that I store all the decorations in were strewn about the house. With forty plus of them you can’t help but trip over them. Thankfully last year I labeled the boxes so at least they went directly from the attic to the correct room.

I got out of bed at seven this morning and went right back to work on the tree while still in my night gown. I wanted to get it done before church. I could have skipped church, but if I did I would have missed a good sermon on keeping things in perspective during advent. As the loudest laugher at church I got pointed out for laughing at the line about being aware that we might meet Jesus anywhere, even at church.

Chris, our wonderful minister knows he can always call me out when I laugh out loudly. I wasn’t dissing the idea that I might meet Jesus, just that I think church is the last place I would find him. Jesus is needed so many other places first. I may over decorate for Christmas, but I still honor the reason for the holiday. I figure I have met a lot of Jesus like people doing good works all over the world, even at church.

After church it was back to work cleaning up all the boxes and vacuuming up the mess I created. Finally the house is ready for the season. The shiny and bright helps with the dark and rainy of the day. My favorite month is here!

When you look at my tree from afar you have no idea that it has any ornaments on it because it is jammed packed. So here is a close up next to a far view