The $34,482 Vote

Trump just spent $3,000,000 donated by his faithful to get Biden 87 more votes in Wisconsin. That’s $34,482 per vote for Biden. This is not surprising. It’s just like a Trump run Atlantic City casino. Take other people’s money and use it to run a business into the ground. I hope that Wisconsin got that $3,000,000 to do the recount up front because if history is any predictor Trump will run out on the bill and when Wisconsin comes after him for the money he will tell them to sue him for it.

We shouldn’t hold our breath for Trump to realize he actually lost this election. He has no shame in declaring six of his business bankrupt and act like he did nothing wrong. He never admits defeat. But we can stop paying any attention to him. There is nothing he hates more than being ignored.

He does not care to be right as long as he has the spotlight. Like those ridiculous claims that Covid was a hoax and we would stop hearing about it the second the election is over. If ever there was one of his claims I wish wasn’t a lie it was that one.

I just hope people who can ill afford to give him money stop wasting their time and dollars. His claims to keep fighting this already decided election is just a way to fleece people for more money. Poor dopes, have they never heard of Trump University?

Voting Out Cyber Monday

On New Year’s Day 2019 I vowed not to buy myself anything except consumables for a year. It was easy. I did not buy any clothes, or books, or shoes, or pocket books, nothing. What I had already was good enough. New Year’s Day 2020 I did not make the same vow. I needed some underwear and a new nightgown, but not a whole lot more. Then Covid hit and here we are staying home, seeing no one. So what did I need this year, NOTHING.

Watching the news tonight all they can talk about is cyber Monday, the biggest shopping day of the year. Too late for me, I have already organized most of my Christmas, small that it is. I am trying to encourage my family to not get me anything. What I proved last year is that I really don’t need anything. How many shirts or sweaters does a person need? When you just stay at home it doesn’t matter if you wear the same three things.

The one thing I got this year is my garden. Even though I built it almost all by myself I did spend a good amount on the materials. Now I have something big to show for the year of Covid. I expect this garden to last as long as I am in this house. If we live here another thirty years that garden will be a good investment, at least in keeping me healthy working outside.

Christmas is for children, but even they should not get too much. Give them the one big thing they really want. Don’t load them up on a lot of junk that gets cast aside by four in the afternoon on December 25. That saying, “The one with the most toys when they dies win,” is the worst saying ever coined. It came out of the over indulgent 1980’s. Please let’s not go back there.

If we learned nothing more from the year of Covid let it be that we returned to a simpler time. Save your money. Don’t over extend at Christmas. You will remember your credit card debt long after the people will recall what “things” you gave them. As I always tell Carter when she asks me what I want for Christmas, “Just give me a heartfelt letter you wrote by hand.”

There is no reason that in this year when so many are suffering from the loss of jobs, businesses, loved ones or their health that we make this cyber Monday the biggest shopping day in history. If you do feel like you want to give your loved ones a personal gift give them something you already own that they adore. Think how much more meaning it will have if you give them your Grandmother’s portrait, or your mother’s ring. Don’t wait to leave things in your will to people, give your prized processions while you can see the joy it will bring now. You can give without shopping.

Christmas Decorations Officially Make You Happier

According to the Journal of Environmental Psychology people who decorate for Christmas earlier are happier. No, I don’t subscribe to this magazine, but Real Simple reported on it and that is good enough for me. I don’t need any PhD to tell me what I already know…Christmas decorations make me happy.

The study hypothesizes that in a world full of stress, Christmas decorations evoke strong feeling of childhood. That assumes you grew up in a house that celebrated Christmas and you had more happy Christmases than unhappy ones. I am more simple than that. My theory is that the shiny and bright over come the gloom of short days. I am not sure if Christmas decorations take on the same affect in the Southern Hemisphere.

Today two friends reported that they have been decorating all week and fully enjoyed have Christmas decorations for thanksgiving. With as much work as decorating for Christmas is why not enjoy it for at least 30 days?

Another friend’s husband has a self imposed rule that no Christmas tree can be put up until December has double digits. At last their youngest child, who is a senior in high school, revolted and said she was not going to suffer this season without the sparkle. For the record the actual tree is not up, but all the other house decorations are done. I’m encouraging a full blown revolt and go on and put that tree up.

You are stuck at home, go on, decorate. You are not going to your decorated office, or should not be speeding much time in a festive mall. Your home is your shiny and bright place. Fly that Santa flag and give yourself a much needed jolt of childhood happiness.

If you don’t celebrate Christmas, string up some lights and call them the winter solstice decorations. You deserve some bright in this darkness too. We all need to be happier.

Dog of Routine

I know that all dogs have routines of one kind or another. Shay likes to have her dinner right at 6:00pm, which is 5:00pm when the time changes. We have a very hard time pushing her back to 6:00 and convincing her we are not cheating her. It does not matter what we are doing at 6:00, she comes and finds us and insists we get to the kitchen.

After she has her chicken and kibble course, which she only eats the chicken out of she nudges us for her second course, which is a tablespoon of shredded cheese on her kibble. Somehow she is able to vacuum out just the cheese and then asks for her second cheese course where she will eat her kibble. Such a continental dog who has cheese as her dessert.

Then, we are allowed to have our dinner. She usually doesn’t beg for our food, but the second Russ puts down his fork she is all over him to get up. It is time for him to play with her in the sun room where her basket of toys are. He might not have finished dinner, but she drives him crazy to go in the sunroom where he lies on the floor and throws toys into the air. Shay will either catch them mid air or bounce them off her nose.

There is a donut in the air, the blurry brown thing by Russ’ head, that Shay is going to catch

The ones she catches she might play with for a moment before digging in the basket to get a new toy for Russ to throw to her. This toy routine is as strong a habit as her dinner routine. She feels like she has not been payed her attention due without the toy time after dinner.

Who says you can’t teach a old dog new tricks. Russ was in his fifties when Shay taught him to come and play with her after dinner. There is nothing sweeter than a boy and his dog at play.

Decorate, Zoom, Decorate, Zoom, Eat a Little

Happy thanksgiving to all! We have had the most family filled Thanksgiving and it has just been Russ and I with trusty Shay by our sides all day.

We slept in just a little, read, Shay and I slept until eight. Russ of course was up early. We enjoyed some homemade gravlox for breakfast and then got to work bringing the rest of the Christmas decorations down from the attic. Why not decorate on Thanksgiving when we had no one to cook for?

Carter and I face timed some this morning to discuss her cooking and other items then I got to work decorating the house. It felt leisurely to decorate with the tree and the needlepoint already done. As I unpacked things I cleaned them and did some needed repairs on things that had gone unfixed for years. I listened to Alice’s Restaurant twice just because I could.

Around one-thirty I took a break to have our first thanksgiving Zoom which Carter had set up with the Carter side of the family. We had my sister Janet and her Partner Sophie, who is also celebrating her birthday today and by miracle both my parents making their first Zoom appearances. My sister Margaret was unable to join, but the rest of us had a marvelous time catching up. Unlike a normal Thanksgiving there was no fighting, no driving, no dishes. Practically perfect.

Then back to decorating. Around four-thirty I put our Turkey in the oven and joined the Lange family Zoom, which Carter had organized. All the Langes were there except our niece Bree who is an emergency room nurse who was working. It was my father-in-law, Marty’s first Zoom too so Carter was batting 1000 at getting all her grandparents on the 2020 communication program.

After that zoom it was back to decorating and then around six I took our Turkey out of the oven. Thanks to Amy at Sage and Swift we had more food than two people could possibly eat at four meals, despite us purchasing the dinner for two option. Russ and I made our plates and sat down at the dining room table at six-thirty and started our third Zoom with Carter with a blessing and then she showed us her plate of all her favorite thanksgiving foods she had made herself.

The three of us had Virtual Thanksgiving and stayed on the Zoom for an hour and half. Carter even got to witness Shay begging for Turkey. All this Zooming and introvert Carter was exhausted. Thanksgiving might have been “too peopley” as Russ and Carter like to say.

Russ did the dishes and put the food away and all in all it was a perfect thanksgiving. Even Shay is exhausted.

We hope that you all stayed safe and healthy this Thanksgiving and feel grateful that we are still here. It may have been a different Thanksgiving, but that is not bad.

Not Cooking

It’s amazing what you can do if you don’t spend time cooking. For the last three days rather than making pies or stewing tomatoes I have been in my sweat shop sewing some Christmas presents. It has been so productive to just work away at the sewing machine, something I should have done earlier in the year. The garden wall kept me too busy to be making Christmas presents, so the lack of Thanksgiving prep gave me some much needed time.

Instead of making rolls for thanksgiving, I was watching the Great British Bake off while I sewed. It was the perfect way to feel like I was cooking without any of the work.

I was not the only one who decided not to cook this year. Amy Tournquist’s parking lot at Sage and Swift was hopping as so many people pulled in to pick up their Turkey dinners. I was thrilled for Amy to have so many happy customers. We may not get to be at big tables with our families, but at least we can have yummy things to eat without any of the work.

I did not get a cooked Turkey as I still prefer to roast mine and eat it hot and fresh from the oven, but Amy did all the prep and it is ready to pop in oven already seasoned and ready to go. I think that cooking the Turkey qualifies as cooking something even though it is the easiest thing to cook.

So Happy Thanksgiving to all you friends. I hope you have a calm and simple day tomorrow. That is something we all can be thankful for. At least if it is just me and Russ we don’t have to wear masks at home alone and we can eat in the dining room, with Carter on Zoom eating her Thanksgiving she is cooking herself. We may not be in the same room, but we will be together for dinner.

WARNING: NC is Alerting You to Stay Home

Historically I try and not visit a grocery store this week as I usually find them full of amateurs. You know, the husbands who have been sent to the store to pick up one strange ingredient they have no idea where to find, let alone what it even looks like. Or the newly home from college student who wanders the aisles with all the time in the world blocking power shoppers like me from sprinting through our shopping. Or the mother with her children out of school in tow just trying to keep superfluous items out of her cart.

Since I am not cooking for Thanksgiving I did not do my big Turkey shopping last week and have not been cooking one item each day for the last week. Russ and I are getting our Thanksgiving from Sage and Swift. This is first time in our marriage that I have not cooked anything, except for may be our first Thanksgiving when we went to his parents for Turkey day. Given what we were served I think I had to cook after the Turkey meal when I got home so we could have something good to eat.

As I did not shop last week I realized that I needed to buy a few fruits and vegetable today to carry us through the holiday. I broke down and went to Trader Joe’s this morning. Thankfully with the vetting of the number of customers allowed in the store at the same time it did not matter if there were too many armatures, except for the one woman who kept wandering the store with her cart going against the stream of shoppers.

As I was standing by the bananas both my watch and phone started blaring a terrible warning sound. I heard the same sound coming from every phone on every person in the store. I looked at my watch and saw the words “Public Safety Alert.” I was worried something like a plane crash had happened. I put on my glasses so I could see the text.

Covid 19 warning was what everyone had received all at once. It was the very first alert of its kind I had gotten. I was worried that it was alerting me that someone in the store had Covid. Thankfully it was not. I finished my shopping and heeded the warning and went home.

Then I got the same warning again late this afternoon. North Carolina is serious about us trying to reduce our Covid numbers. I hope that people listen. Don’t send any armatures to the store. If your normal Thanksgiving provision gathering happens by going back to the store a dozen times in two days, try and make a list an only go once. If you have a college student home, ask them what they want to eat and buy all their favorite foods for them when you do your shopping and if you are a mother with little kids, ask someone else to pick up your groceries so you don’t have to drag extra little people to the store.

Even better, order take out for your Thanksgiving. You can pick it up tomorrow and not have to go to the store at all.

The Drip, Drip, Drip of Christmas

In a normal year Christmas throws up at our house the weekend after Thanksgiving. It is an all out assault. 46 hinged crates come down from the attic all at once. The tree is assembled with lots of swearing. Non-Christmas decorative items get packed away in the attic to make room for the glass village, snowmen display, various Santa’s and general holiday cheer. I work fourteen plus hours those days to get it all done. It is exhausting, but needs to be completed to make room for the entertaining preparations for the no less than six events we hold at our house in the month of December.

This year I am really enjoying doing the Christmas decorating bit-by-bit. The tree was up last weekend. With the new tree we have new tree technology, mainly in the remote control for the lights. Russ got his hands on the remote and discovered that with the press of a button he can change my tasteful white lights to multi-colored lights. He declared that the colors are pure “northeast Philly.” So we have been toggling the colors on and off to feel like we are traveling, while still staying home. For the record I don’t ever need to go to northeast Philly.

Yesterday I spent a leisurely two hours putting up the needlepoint garland. I was exhausted after doing it and couldn’t imagine doing more decorating after I finished, like I do in a regular year.

So now I am enjoying a few days revisiting all my needlepointing before I move on to the rest of the house decorations. After I am done there will be no parties to cook for, no guests to have over, just Russ and I wandering the house sitting in rooms we usually don’t even use just so we can enjoy the Christmas decorations.

It’s a different year, but honestly it is an easier year. I don’t think I can convince Russ to let me put Christmas up before Thanksgiving normally and certainly Carter would object. For now I am just going to revel in the shiny and bright.

Inspired by a Friend’s Humanity

Last year I reconnected with a high school friend on Facebook. I had not seen her since she graduated the year before me. I haven’t spoken with her or seen her, just read her posts.

She lives on a small island in Maine and day before yesterday I read this that she posted:

We are now a solid 8 months into this. If you are not working/not getting a paycheck/struggling to make ends meet and run out of food or necessities…please don’t let yourself or your kids go to sleep cold or with an empty stomach. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to send me a private message. I am more than happy to help you and your family out. I will drop and go, or order for delivery. No one has to know and I will pretend it never happened. What’s understood never has to be explained. Thanksgiving is right around the corner. If you need anything for a family dinner or anything at all, message me. Stays private.

What humanity. I knew she was an extraordinary person in high school and was kind then, but this is beyond kindness.

She inspires me and I wanted to share her generosity with others incase it inspires you. We have had a horrific year, but many of us have not had to face homelessness or hunger along with all the depression those bring on.

Reaching out to those around you and just letting them know you are there might be just the thing someone needs. I am here for you if you need me. I thank Dinah for reminding me that it is our responsibility to care for those around us.

Leaning in on Veggies

Now that the stress of the election is over it’s time to get back to healthier eating. Following the lead of the others in my house I am not eating any red meat. That really isn’t much of a change, so I am trying to eat more vegan options.

This morning Russ suggested we get take out from Rose’s in Downtown Durham. Rose’s started out as Rose’s meats and sweets, a strange combination of butcher and baker. They took the meat out and morphed into a noodle house/bakery when they had great success with their Raman’s at lunch.

So Russ and I ordered a vegan Raman and I got a winter squash salad and Russ got a vegan steamed bun. If I tell you it was all so yummy I am holding back. It was fantastic. We each ate half of our dinner so we could save it to have again tomorrow.

Shay was not too happy that we didn’t have anything on our plates she wanted, but thankfully we still have chicken for her.

I am not giving up chicken or fish, but I will try and cut way down on cheese. If only my garden could produce in the winter it would make eating vegan heavy much easier.

Is Your Toothpaste Tube Safe?

In our house we all have our own personal tubes of tooth paste since we all brush our teeth in our own bathrooms. As I was squeezing my squirt of paste across my bristles I got to thinking about how gross our toothpaste was a kid. In our very old house we had very few bathrooms, none that could be considered luxurious by any stretch of the imagination. I shared the worst bathroom with my two sisters. We had one tiny sink where our tooth brushes all lay on the laminate covered counter with one usually well squeezed tube of Crest tooth paste.

It never seemed to matter how old the tooth paste was, it was always squeezed in the middle. Back in the sixties toothpaste tubes were a kind of bendable metal and once you mashed the middle up it was hard to squeeze the tooth paste from the far end to the cap opening. We never learned, we squeezed the middle first every time.

Putting the cap on the tooth paste was also something we were not good at. Given the nine years age difference it would be a lifetime before that was a skill we all had. So when you came in at bedtime there was a better than fifty-fifty shot that there would be some caked paste seal on the end and you had to squeeze extra hard to give enough pressure to break through the tough hardened paste.

One thing for sure was we all dragged our own tooth brushes against the end of the cap while we were trying to catch the paste as it came out. Now that I live in a Covid world and look at everything in terms of what their potential viral load might be, I look at shared tooth paste tubes as a ground zero for spreading germs.

I am thankful that in our house we all have always had our own tooth paste, but I think it was a proximity issue rather than a cleanliness one. I am wondering how many of you shared tooth paste with your siblings? If you have a house full of children now do they each have their own toothpaste? If they share a bathroom even if they have their own tubes do they not accidentally use someone else’s?

Seems like tooth paste manufacturers should make a place on the tube to write you name. Perhaps we could cut down on the sharing of the common cold if everyone had their own tooth paste. Maybe I have this all wrong. I have never heard of people sharing toothpaste being singled out for transmission of anything. If it had I am certain that the marketing departments at Crest and Colgate would tell us to buy a tube for every member of the house. Or perhaps they don’t want to imply that germs could live on the tube. Someone please tell me the answer to my questions about the cleanliness of our toothpaste.

I Know It’s Early

It may be a whole week before Thanksgiving, but 2020 Thanksgiving is not going to be much this year. So I threw out the rule of no Christmas before Thanksgiving and I put up my tree. The need to get the coffin sized box out of my front hallway had something to do with it, but my love of decorating my Christmas tree was the overwhelming reason.

Despite being a slightly smaller tree than my old one it still took me half of yesterday and half of today to decorate it. I did cull some unloved ornaments from the rotation, but saved a couple spots for new ornaments to come during this season.

With darkness descending on us at four-fifty the glow from the tree adds needed light to our evenings. We spend more time in our big room during Christmas than any other time of the year and that is all tree related. Sadly there will be no needlepoint Christmas exchange or garden club auction or Chinese auction so that friends come over and enjoy my Christmas decorating.

I may have to do a Zoom tour of Christmas just so I can see everyone’s trees. There is nothing I like more than Looking at people’s decorations and having them tell me stories about where they came from and which ones are their favorites.

Send me a picture of your tree when you put yours up. I know it might not be for a couple of weeks. Most of you are not as crazy as me. For the record, I have not out any other decorations up, not even my needlepoint garland. Maybe this weekend.

On a different note, this afternoon my friend Christy and I were going out on a walk to get our needed vitamin D. There was a big black suburban parked by the end of my driveway I did not recognize. Christy said it wasn’t there when he pulled in my driveway three minutes before. Then a friend, Anita, came out from behind the car and said she left me a little surprise. We talked a few minutes and she got in her car and Christy and I went on our walk.

As we walked away I said, “I wonder what the surprise is? I hope it’s some chicken poop for my compost.” Anita keeps chickens. When we got home we walked down the driveway. I didn’t see any poop. Christy looked in my mailbox and only saw mail. Then I saw something fluttering and looked up and found a gold star balloon tied to my garden. What a cute friend! Thanks Anita.

Introducing YOUZEY

When Covid hit my brilliant sister Janet was unsure how her business would fare. She mostly makes gift boxed beauty sets for department store and with the world shut down she did not know what the Christmas orders from retailers would be like. She is a small woman owned business who employees almost all women whose families are dependent on Janet’s business.

So what did Janet do, but pivot. She and her partner Sophie, created a new online accessory business. As Janet has so many contacts in the manufacturing world, who were also worried about where they could sell their products it was the perfect marriage. So I’d like to introduce you to

It is a fun site of perfect stocking stuffers and fun gifts for the young people in your life or the fashion forward young at heart. You can join Club Youzey and get free shipping.

One of the products Janet has sold for years is the Travelo fragrance atomizers. If you ever wanted to take a small amount of your at home perfume with you on the go this is the thing to get. It uses special technology that allows you to fill your Travelo with the atomizer of your at home bottle of perfume. The fanciest one is the Travelo Milano, which makes a lovely gift for your most discerning friend.

There are a ton of cute Watches and jewelry. And fun things like fake fur cuffs to change up the look of your old plain coat, if just for the night.

Take a look at the site and join Club Youzey. I can’t wait to hear what you like. Janet is sure to be adding new products all the time as she is chomping at the bit to get back on the road in search of the next fun accessory.

Good Grooming At Last

Before the Pandemic hit our regular dog groomer changed professions. Then, we didn’t want to leave the house. That left us with the home grooming options. We bought clippers and Carter spent a good three hours washing and cutting Shay one day in June. She did a good job, but three hours…

After Carter went back to Boston it was back to my grooming. I was already busy taking care of trimming Russ’ beard and hair. He is so much more obedient than Shay. I knew Shay needed a real haircut.

A neighbor who also has labradoodles had a mobile grooming truck in her driveway one day. I asked her if she liked them. “Yes, but expensive.” At this point I had already saved a fortune in grooming or lack of grooming so I called. It took a few weeks to get an opening but today was the day.

When the door bell rang, Shay ran and opened it, a new trick she has learned. She was out on the front porch greeting Jeffery her new hairdresser. I walked with them down to the driveway where his Mercedes Sprinter van grooming truck sat. Shay was not too sure about getting in, but I assured her by having her pose for her before photo and taking a picture of the license plate in case Jeffery decided that Shay was a keeper.

Two hours after entering the van a fluffy “Steiff Like stuffed animal” sweet Shay emerged. She pranced around the house, showing off her new look. Jeffrey reported her good behavior, but dislike for the hairdryer. This was something I already knew. Groomers should get the silent Dyson hair dryers, especially if they have Mercedes Vans.

So now we have a full on princess back in the house. It’s amazing what a real haircut will do for you.

What I Have to Show For Covid

On August 16 I weed whacked what was left of my summer vegetable garden after the bunnies and the deer had turned it into their personal smorgasbord. For the past 25 years I have fought with wildlife, droughts and bad soil over my vegetable garden. I decided I had enough and wanted to control my own space.

I spent the next month scouring Pintrest and Fine Gardening and talking to friends, like Christiania who had put in raised beds this years. I came up with a plan. It was going to be hard, expensive but in the end beautiful. I decided most of the work I could do myself. I knew I needed help with the fence because it needed four hands so I talked to a friend from Church and he said he could help with that.

I went to work. Clearing the ground, buying the blocks, building the retaining wall which was over forty linear feet four feet high. When a section of wall fell In because I had not backfilled it fast enough I did not get discouraged. I had too much in this project. I had to keep moving forward.

I started the building on September 13 and finished today, November 16. I worked almost every non-rainy day. I laid 512 twenty one pound bricks, I shoveled 28 yards of clay as my fill, with the help of David we built a 15 by 25 foot deer and bunny proof enclosure, I built 11 cedar raised beds, I built an underground irrigation system to each bed, I filled those beds with six yards of garden soil, I covered all the garden pathways with card board and four inches of pine bark nuggets. Now I can rest until spring.

Of course there will be tree branches to trim so sun hits the right places and plants diagrams to draw and seeds to start. I wait with baited breath to see if my output improves.

Ultimate Recycling

This is the giant box my Christmas tree came in. It was a work of art. I was instructed to cut it open on one corner. From there I unfolded multiple layers of thick card board to uncover the bagged tree ready to be rolled out of the box once I cut the straps holding it in place.

Instructions on the box asked me to please thoughtfully recycle to box. Hooray! I had the perfect job for all that cardboard. So I spent a good hour cutting the box down. It had many layers, some thicker and some thinner. I dragged the huge pieces out to the garden where the parts of that one box covered every inch of the pathways between the raised beds.

Apparently cardboard under wood nuggets is the best way to prevent weeds from growing in my garden paths. So I covered the whole place and will purchase the nuggets to be spread tomorrow. This will complete my project for the winter.

I think I can safely say that I have recycled that box in the best way possible. No fuel was used to move it and it will break down overtime in my garden, eventually turning into soil. Until then it will act as weed blocker. A win-win for me. I know you will be glad when I stop writing about this project.

Ten Minute Tree

Last Christmas I made the decision to retire our giant Christmas tree. It was an eight section behemoth that took a toll on our family relationships when we put it up and took it down. Little did I know when I made the three trips to the dump that 2020 was not going to be the best year to purchase a new tree.

Sadly, the company that I bought my tree from stopped selling trees retail and began making them for Balsam Hill. This meant my new tree was going to be double the price. Like I did a decade ago, I ordered the branch sample box from the company so I could pick out a tree that had the most realistic branches and color I was looking for.

As I shopped for trees I decided to go with one that was two feet shorter then my old tree. Spending my life going up and down the ladder and placing ornaments with uber long tongs was a younger woman’s job. Since I was getting a slightly shorter tree I could get one that was the newest flip technology. That meant the tree was permanently attached to the rolling stand and when I went to assemble it I flipped the tree over and added only two more sections, rather than the seven I used to.

Last week a coffin sized box arrived via FedEx. The nice delivery man actually got it into the house for me where it stood in the hall for five days. Since I didn’t want to have the box though Thanksgiving I decided that it was perfectly OK to put the tree up today. Russ and I are having a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving with just the two of us. Why not decorate for Christmas really early.

Russ helped me build a beautiful cedar box for the tree to stand on. This way our train can be put up around the tree easily. Then we lifted the first section on the box. Flipping it was easy. Russ added the next two sections, where they plugged together so the lights came on automatically. It took less than ten minutes to put the whole thing together as opposed to the hours for our old tree. Now I am fluffing the branches. Since it is a brand new tree the fluffing will take a little while, but as it is November 14 there is no rush.

Christmas is coming early here. Lord knows we can use the spirit.

It will look a lot better when I fluff all the branches

The Best Medicine

Today was my annual visit with my GYN. I go to a woman who took over from my OB/GYN who delivered Carter and was my doctor for over twenty years. Since I don’t have a lot of need for visiting her I don’t have the same relationship with her as I did with my old guy. I think I have seen her four times in four years.

The worst part about going to any doctor is weighing in, but this year with Covid the nurse said nobody is getting scolded. Thankfully my weight was less than last year, but not as good as it was in March. My “new” doctor spent a lot of time with me considering everything short of the blood work which is not back yet was great.

We talked about life and she expressed an interest in doing some work for my Food Bank. After she commented on my strong core muscles I showed her a picture of my garden project and she said that was the healthiest thing she had seen during Covid. I was happy she thought my muscles were improved.

After a good check up and really nice visit she asked if she could give me a hug. It has been so long since I have hugged anyone besides my husband. She said with out masks on it was safe. It was the best medicine. A hug. The thing we all need, but can’t ask for or shouldn’t.

It was the best trip to the doctor I think I have ever had.

Childhood Murder of Brussels Sprout

As a child there was a no more despised vegetable in our house than Brussels spouts. They would arrive in our freezer in small frozen boxes and when my mother would dare to prepare them they would be boiled to death and slathered in butter and sour cream. Now don’t get me wrong, butter and sour cream almost could improve anything. Anything, but the poor limp Brussel. The smell would reek up the whole house.

My sisters and I would have that smell preview of what was surly going to be a horrible dinner. We would drag ourselves to dinner where we usually ate without adults since my father did not get hone until we were in or almost in bed. The no adult thing was the only good part on Brussels nights. This meant that I could put a sprout in my mouth and then pretend to wipe my mouth and deposit the sphere into my paper napkin. This trick only worked if you had one or two on your plate. Once you got two I your napkin you could pull off keeping them there while trying to spit a third into it. If a sister caught me not eating my sprouts there was sure to be tatle telling.

Then there was the move of bringing your plate and sprout filled napkin to the garbage to scrape before putting the plate in the dish washer. You had to make sure there was some other food that you could use to cover your napkin in the garbage. It was fine in my family not to eat your potato, but you had to finish your green vegetable. The threat was you would not be able to poop if you didn’t. (The follow up to that lie is for another day.)

Sadly, because of these early exposures to poor Brussels sprout preparation I went years steering clear of them. It was not until I was much older and ate a roasted sprout did I discover that I had been exposed to a murder of sprouts as a child.

Thankfully Russ loves my roasted sprouts and we can enjoy them fully without the need for extra paper napkins and a potato skin to hide them in.

Oh Happy Dog Day

I came home from Trader Joe’s today with a special dog Advent calendar. Shay somehow knew it was for her. How? She has never had an advent calendar before? She is a church going dog and sits on many committees as all good Presbyterians do, but she has not made advent a priority in her life.

Well, times have changed. She looked at the advent calendar and looked at me and sniffed right on the number one door. Okay, it’s not December 1st yet, but it is 2020, so I let her open the first door and have the treat – Two salmon and sweet potato coins. She was quite happy with her haul.

And like all good Presbyterians, she did not ask for more. She knows that she must wait until tomorrow to have the honor of opening the number 2 door.

As she will finish her advent calendar well before Christmas I am going to have to either skip some days or come up with a second calendar. We shall see if she remembers to ask for her treat everyday. She’s pretty smart so I think she will be demanding it.

Russ to the Rescue

I ordered 6 yards of garden mix soil last week. When I did I had to pick a delivery date, so I said Monday. Late yesterday afternoon my soil guy pulled up, the same guy who delivered 28 yards of fill dirt to me a month ago. “Nice job,” he told me as he surveyed all that I had done since his last visit. I proudly accepted his compliment and told him I was looking forward to finishing this project for the winter.

When I scheduled the delivery I had no idea that we were expecting many days of rain starting tomorrow. So yesterday after the driver expertly dumbed the beautiful black soil right were I needed it I started shoveling.

I would fill our big yellow wheel barrow about three quarters full with soil because that was about all I could lift and still be able to push the wheel barrow through the gravel driveway and into the garden. I had left two feet between every raised bed which was just enough to maneuver the wheel barrow around the garden.

I started filling the fourteen inch high garden beds. It took many loads just half way fill one bed. After a few hours yesterday I had to stop because I was losing the light. With impending rain on Wednesday I knew that I had to finish all the filling by today. I thought it was doable.

I was out in the driveway shoveling and dumping, by 8:15 in the morning. I had taken a preemptive Aleve knowing this was going to be hard work. I kept at it all day. Taking sitting breaks every hour when I would cut the garden fabric I was using to line the inside joints of the garden beds.

I worked and worked calculating I had made 150 trips of the wheel barrow based on my step count of 22,000 by 4:30. The light was beginning to wain. I still had a big pile of dirt and my back was causing me to slow down. A little bit after 5:00 Russ came outside and said he had postponed a work call to help me. I burst into tears from exhaustion.

Together in the dark we worked another 45 minutes and got most of the work done. We had reduced the pile to the point that we could cover the remaining dirt with tarps so in a few days when the rain stops I can finish.

For the most part every bed in 90% full. I am going to need these rainy days to recover physically, but the worst of this job is over.

Science is Back

Regardless of who you voted for it is good news that Biden had created a Covid task force full of smart Professionals in the Science fields. Even if you voted for Trump, you too will benefit from people who use science and might actually be able to end this pandemic.

The exciting news from Pfizer about the successful phase II trial of their vaccine is the second best news of the month of November. We still have to wait for the safety tests and hopefully those too will go well. Setting us up to vaccinate the whole country or at least the smart people who believe in science.

Sadly, science could not save Alex Trebeck any longer. Pancreatic cancer is still tough. Hopefully when we get through this pandemic we can go back to fully funding our government backed research on things like cancer and climate change. We have a lot of big issues facing the world that have been put on hold the last four years. Science matters. To all you scientists who have felt threatened, come out of the darkness and enlighten the rest of us on what you discover. We need you, we appreciate you.

The Supervisor

Shay and her constant companion Russ are never far apart. For the last nine months we have called Shay the supervisor, because she is by Russ’ side 24 hours a day. She has beds strategically spread out around his home office so she can crack the work whip from every vantage point.

Weekends are a little different. Russ still works all-day, everyday, but does not have to sit at his desk on Zoom calls. Shay has figured out that on Weekends she can dictate which of her beds she would like to supervisor from. When she can, she likes to spend time on her favorite big bed in the kitchen and has taken to forcing Russ to work from that bed.

These photos were taken on different days, but they tell the story of the iron fist of the supervisor perfectly. I have a feeling that when Russ is finally able to go back to the office the supervisor is going to demand a few new beds at the office. Russ has really let this new found power she has go to her head.

46 is My New Favorite Number

At last we have the answer to the question of who is going to lead our country for the next four years. Congratulations to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. This is a historic moment. What I am most looking forward to is having a President whose integrity is not something I am constantly having to worry about based on what he is tweeting. Actually, I am mostly hoping that we no longer have any government by Twitter. Secondly, I am looking forward to leaders who don’t make every issue about them.

From the moment that 45 opened his mouth at his inauguration I was shocked about how he only voiced any care for people who voted for him. Since it was the very first public office he had held he had no understanding of the difference between running for office and governing. Sadly, that instinct never changed. He saw us as a country of people who were either with him or against him. It didn’t have to be that way and this is the huge difference I see between 45 and the new and improved 46.

If 45 had prevailed the idea that there are winners and losers would have continued. That is not the way it should be in America. We should be able to disagree on points, but no one should be considered a loser. Government should not be playing a zero sum game.

With Biden the good news is he does not treat people who disagree with him as losers. Even if you didn’t vote for him, he is going to try to run the country in a way that does not make you feel less than. Your candidate might not have won, but you are not a loser with Biden.

We have to get back to a place where honesty and humility are valued. We have to get back to a place where we work together for the common good. There is no more important time than during a global pandemic to have Joe work to heal our nation.

Reading some tweets today from Trump voters I had to laugh. When a guy wrote, “With Biden as President I am going to have to move to Mexico to save my children.” Oh the irony. Or the man who tweeted, “My children literally have not had any food. How can we survive without President Trump.” Did this guy not understand that he was the President while his children were hungry?

I am not expecting all our citizens to get smarter, especially these tweeters, but I am hoping that we can get kinder. It is time to turn the temperature down. It’s time to have an America where your President does not look at half of our fellow citizens as losers. Congratulations to Joe and Kamala. I look forward to the team you build that looks like America.

Sunrise at Lowe’s

How do I pass the time waiting for election results all the while Covid is growing? I wake up early and make my list of needed hardware for the day. Then I go off to my Lowe’s. Yes, I am claiming the south Durham Lowe’s as my own.

I know men and women who work in lawn and garden, hardware, plumbing, lumber and especially customer service by name. They know me by my project and ask to see photos of my progress.

I refuse to go to a restaurant and eat there, but I will go and push my cart throughout the whole Lowe’s store, steering more than six feet from all other people. Today I had to buy two carbon Monoxide detectors for the building at church I am working on. Ted, one of my regular Lowe’s helpers, asked me why I needed those for my garden? I had to laugh.

Today as I was finishing up installing the irrigation system I got a little teary. I think I am done with things they sell at Lowe’s, at least for a while. Now I am awaiting garden soil delivery and then I will search out wood chips. Then my garden will be set and ready to go into winter hibernation, awaiting early spring planting.

Thank you Lowe’s for keeping me busy and occupied. If we don’t get results soon I may have to come up with a new project. Anything other than cleaning out the attic.

Biding My Time

As the counting of the votes continues I needed an activity to take me away from what I can not control. So I started building the irrigation system in my garden. Working with PVC pipe is almost as fun as legos. I am thankful for my life of solving puzzles and Carter’s childhood of a million Thomas the train pieces I put together.

It was a perfect day here weather wise so being out in the soon-to-be garden was glorious. I cut PVC and glued joints, creating my future self-watering system. While I worked I listened to an Audible book Russ had in our library, “HI Bob” Bob Newhart talks to younger comedians. It was the perfect way to occupy my time.

I got the hardest part done, digging the trenches. Then I tackled the second hardest part creating the complicated pipes at the start of the run. Eventually I started to lose light so I left the half finished system. I realized I need to take stock of my pvc right angles and “T” pieces and go purchase a few more before I start up again tomorrow.

Doing something I have control over is my best remedy for the waiting. Listening to funny stuff also helps. The funniest thing I heard was a story a Bob told about his best friend Don Rickles’ wife talking about going to buy burial plots. When she told Bob they had bought eight plots Bob asked her why eight since they needed 7 for their family. She replied, “Don doesn’t want anyone next to him.” My telling doesn’t do it justice, but it struck me as hysterical. So much for biding my time.

The Day After

It may be the day after the election and as of this writing we don’t know who won, but what we do know is that the Coronavirus is still here. In almost every state the numbers are going up and by a lot. Now is the time we need to double down and wear masks. If everyone would just do that religiously we could stop offering this virus so many host bodies to keep it alive.

Thankfully there are no more reasons to hold rallies. Lord knows how many people got sick from going and standing close together with other non-mask wearers. But you don’t have to do that anymore.

Thanksgiving may be coming, but go on and cancel it. This way you don’t have to sit next to that annoying uncle who voted differently than you did. Stay home. Eat a chicken with some stuffing. You know the stuffing is the only reason you want a Turkey anyway.

It is getting dark early and it is getting colder. You don’t need to go to a restaurant to eat there. Take out is fine. Come home and really enjoy that meal without fear of Covid.

Now that we no longer have political ads on TV you can go back to watching. Being home alone with 500 channels is a better idea than being out catching and then spreading the virus.

Someone who shall remain nameless said that as soon as the election was over, “poof” we would no longer be concerned about the virus. That person was wrong. The virus is growing stronger. Almost every state is seeing a huge growth is cases and deaths.

We no longer need to make the virus political. The political races are done. So stop pretending it is not real or deadly. Fight the virus like you fought for your candidates.

America succeeds when we have a common enemy to fight. Your fellow citizens are not your enemy, the virus is. Let’s kick 2020 in it’s butt and stop the exploding spread. Do your part. Wear a mask when you go out. Wash your hands. Socially distance and just stay home as much as you can. I think that being able to return to normal is something we can all agree we want.

Trying to Manifest a Blue Wave

I knew I couldn’t sit around today. I volunteered to do one more push of ballot curing. Letting people who mailed in ballots that were rejected know so they could go to the polls. I dressed all in blue to act as a human blue wave. It was just one more subliminal way to get the message out.

I was given fifteen names of people in Durham and I went to parts of the city I had never visited before. I had elderly African American women, a young Indian mother, a new mom with a five day old baby, I had a senior citizen couple of Chinese descent and a public school teacher who was teaching on zoom. Those were the people I was able to catch at home. I went to two houses where the people obviously had not been home in the last week because mine was not the first door hanger letting them know their ballot had been rejected. Sadly their votes will probably not be counted.

What I have learned from this election is the best thing you can do is vote in-person early if you are able. Mail in ballots, while technically a valid option, depend on the voter doing absolutely everything perfectly as well as counting on the USPS to be infallible. The new mother I visited was frustrated because she and her husband had hand delivered their ballots and his was accepted and stamped as hand delivered and her was mistakenly stamped as delivered in the mail and therefore was somehow disqualified since it did not have a postmark. The new mother did not know this at the time of drop off. It was human error, but human error happens.

I think if I have learned anything at all it is that voting is a right and a privilege others before me worked to ensure for me. It is only right that I continue that work to ensure that those who come after me have that same right. Democracy is not gravity, it does not just automatically happen. It must be continually fought for. Here’s to a good fight and a decent America.

An Important Read

My tiny book club met this evening via Zoom to discuss a wonderful book of importance right now. We read Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warm of Other Suns, bestseller about the great migration. Given where the country is with Black Lives Matter it seemed like a good idea to try and understand this seminal event in America.

Although I was aware that Blacks left the south and migrated north I had no idea that it happened continuously over a ninety year period, making it not so much an event as an eventuality. Wilkerson, a scholar, spent years interviewing people who had made the migration and settled on telling the story through the lives of three different people. She turns the non-fiction history into a readable novel like book.

As a white woman, who grew up in Connecticut I have little personal frame of reference to understand the African American experience. Of course I have studied history of the American south and knew about Jim Crow laws, but this book brings to life all that it meant to African Americans who lived under it and why they escaped looking for something better. Better was only relative because although they migrated North, discrimination was never far behind.

It was heartbreaking to learn about how in Chicago blacks could only rent places to live in one skinny area of the city and they paid rents that were double what whites paid for places much nicer and larger. When they wanted to move to a better neighborhood, there was no where else to go, no matter how much money they had.

The one thought that ran through my head as I read about one indignity after another is that I can’t imagine enduring such blatant unfairness at every turn and keep taking it without lashing out. If you don’t understand why Black Lives Matter is an important movement you need to read this heartfelt book.

Life may not be fair, but for some they never have a chance to just get par, let alone get ahead. We can never truly walk in each other’s shoes, but we should at least try and understand.

Did You Mail in Your Ballot?

Voting is more important this year than ever. With Covid many of you requested mail-in ballots. For the most part mailing in your ballot is safe, as long as you mailed it in time. But there are still stories of people who mailed their ballots in plenty of time, but it was not received in time.

You need to make sure that your ballot arrived at your city’s election office. If you live in North Carolina you can go to this website to check on that status of your ballot. You enter your name and county and you should find your name. Once you click on it scroll down to the bottom link for absentee ballots. If you sent one in and it was processed and accepted it will tell you that.

It you mailed one and they don’t have it you will see nothing about an absentee ballot.

If there was a problem with your ballot, like the signature was not accepted it will say it was not accepted.

In the case of no ballot or an unaccepted ballot you need to go vote on Tuesday. You will not be voting twice since your mail-in ballots was not registered. If by chance it comes in after the election it will just be discarded if you voted in person.

I know that you chose to do a mail in ballot for a good reason, but if it did not get there please go to your regular polling place on Tuesday. With so many people early voting the lines on Election Day should not be too long. Please don’t skip voting. This is the most important election in our lives and North Carolina is a swing state.

If you have questions about your North Carolina mail in ballot you can call this hotline any they can help you. The number is 1-833-868-3462. We are right at the finish line. Let’s do it string North Carolina.