The Day Every Parent Waits For

Today was Carter’s first day of work at her first full time job outside of college. Russ and I are so proud of how she found her way to get a job at Catalant Technologies as a Network Development Analyst. Although I don’t exactly understand all that she will do there, from Carter I learned that Catalant is a company that helps companies looking for consultants for projects and helps consultants looking for work.

Carter will get to use all the skills from her work at Bain Capital, and at Explore, even her camp counselor training in this new position. She purposely looked for a younger company in Boston and she already reported in how they differ from other jobs she has had.

As a mother, this is the day you wait for, after 14 years of driving carpool, as I include preschool and subtract the years she drove herself, to the thousands of school lunches made, and spelling words quizzed, and colleges visited. The goal has always been to get her to adulthood, prepared to take care of herself and thrive in something she loves.

So congratulations to Carter on your first day of real world work. I hope it is exciting, and challenging and that you learn new things all the time. From experience I will say, you might not love everyone you work with, but you may also make some of your best friends. Maybe you will even be as lucky as I was and meet your lifelong partner at work. Just soak up all that you can and give them your best. This is a proud parent day for me.

Music and Memory

I just watched Anderson Cooper’s interview with Tony Bennet on 60 minutes. I sobbed as Tony, who at 95 with Alzheimer’s sang with Lady Gaga in his last concert in September. Although he is in the full throws of losing his memory, his musical and preforming memory were still with him. It was a miracle that he was able to command an audience as if he were 45. Musical memory is well documented. I know that I can still sing the whole eight and half minutes of American Pie, although no one would want to listen.

Since I am very unmusical I am hopeful that if I live long enough and am unfortunate to lose my memory that some things I have done most of my life I will still be able to do. I imagine I could still cook as long as it is not a long drawn out dish. Certainly, “somebody died? Fried chicken” will be with me until my family needs it to be brought to them.

I hope that I will be able to play Mah Jongg right up until the end. Playing is good for your brain and I hope it helps me retain it although I might have to play the 2018 card. I fear that If I lose my mind I won’t even be able to play “go fish.”

“Have you got any fours?”

“No, go fish.”

“Have you got any fours?” It’s a bad ground hog day scenario.

In my father’s last years he had taken to listening to a lot of gospel music that was from his childhood. He didn’t have Alzheimer’s, but his memory was not as good as it once was, but he wouldn’t admit that.

For all my friends who have a loved one in throes of dementia, I hope that you can sing with them some songs from their adolescence. It might be a bright way to have a connection. At least none of the song s you might sing will be as long as “American Pie.”

Non-Stop Hand Sewing

Covid winter days are the best time to make quilts. There is no guilt that you are not out doing something more social or important. It is cold anyway so what better time to be covered in a quilt. It’s North Carolina winter here and everything closes at the idea of snow.

So I made this very modern king sized quilt. Making it too no time at all. My long arm quilter, Tina quilted it fast. Today I woke up with the whole day of painters doing our doors and molding so I thought the sweat shop would be the best place to spend the day. Russ had some ideas of things we could do and I told him I would be with him as soon as I sewed on the binding of the quilt.

The binding is the finished edge. You sew one side of it with the machine and fold it over the edge and hand stitch the other side. My estimate to Russ was off by 100%. It took me six hours to do the finishing not the three I predicted. I was not at my fasted sewing at one point while I was watching the first episode of The Guilded Age on HBO. It was worth it, the show that is.

The binding was extra tricky because I put white on the white side of the quilt and navy on the Navy side, meeting in the middle of the medium blue and grey. By the time I rounded the fourth corner hand stitching and only had about 15% left my hand started to cramp up a bit from holding the needle, but I made it without any long lasting injuries.

Tina, still has my tiny stars quilt to do and I will be getting that back in a week or two. I hope my hand recovers before I have to hand sew that binding. I need that hand for needlepoint.

The Driving Story

These days I am doing a lot of commuting back and forth to Raliegh. Last night I finished teaching a class at nine at night and I had to be back in the same place at 8:30 this morning to set up to teach another class. Thankfully late at night there is no traffic to slow me down, but that is not always the case in the morning rush hour. The only thing that is saving me on all this back and forth travel are the books on audible I listen to.

Currently I am 17 hours into Jonathan Franzen’s 24 hour long book Crossroads. It has kept me enthralled enough to look forward to getting in the car and not necessarily getting right out when I arrive home. Sometimes I sit in the driveway finishing a chapter, which is always dangerous because then I want to go right on to the next chapter. I have kept the book playing on my phone and come inside, but find there are certain chores that are more compatible with listening to a book and some that are not.

Driving is an excellent time to listen, especially if I already know where I am going. Gardening is also a prime listening activity, along with mopping, and cleaning the kitchen. I have made whole complicated quilts while listening without an issue. Things that I can’t do at the same time as listening to a book are reading, especially mail, either paper or “e,” writing something by hand that is longer than a couple of sentences or doing math.

It is terrible when a text comes in while I am listening. I often will read the text and even respond and then realize I have missed some of the important plots points. It is so interesting that I can’t multitask the same way when listening to a book as I can when listening to music.

Thanks to my pandemic book club of three very literary friends who keep me supplied with good and well written things to listen to. The list in the past year has been much more high brow than I would have chosen on my own. Some of my favorites to listen to in the recent past have been,The Midnight Library, Snow by John Banville, Hamnet, and The Lincoln Highway.

During the real lockdown days of the pandemic I was reading real books and not listening as much so that I could have the book to share with friends when I was done, but as life picked up a little, especially since the summer I have found myself downloading books much more. I can’t drive and read a paper book, although in all my years of travel I have seen plenty of people doing that. They were obviously too busy reading while driving to notice me waving my hands out the window screaming at them. I know that making the same drive over and over again is boring, so than goodness for audible. I can listen and drive, but I can’t read and drive.

Sock of Dismay

Shay doesn’t like me leaving home to go teach Mah Jongg. Russ says she mopes around when I leave. She still has Russ who is her preferred human. I am quite surprised she even notices when I’m gone. Last week when I was gone for three days and nights Russ says she stood at the top of the stairs looking down to the garage door waiting for me to appear. So sad.

Today I think she thought life was back to normal. I woke up and cooked a bunch of food for friends who are sick. I changed the sheets and did some other equally uninteresting house work. Shay was happy as a clam. Then I tricked her and left the house late in the afternoon to deliver the food and go teach night Mah Jongg class.

I came home to find that Shay had deposited one of Russ’s dirty socks right in between two freshly changed pillows on our bed. S thankfully they were between the middle pillows and not my, nor Russ’ pillows, but still. It was the act of defiance. The only one she could think of to register her unhappiness.

Thank goodness she did not realize she could have pee’d on the bed to really let me know she was mad. Please don’t mention this to her. Right now she is happily stretched out next me. All is right in the world, until I leave tomorrow at 7:45 to go teach morning Mah Jongg. Since it’s just one class, she might not realize I am gone as she likes to stay in bed late into the morning these days.

Not Watching Jeopardy Tomorrow

I never should have written a blog about Amy’s winning streak on Jeopardy. I feel like it was a jinx. Of course I know that’s not true, but I do feel incredibly sad that her streak is over. She was a most impressive player. The good news for me is I just looked at my calendar and I am teaching mah Jongg 8 evenings in the next month and that was going to prevent me from watching Amy in real time. I was already worrying about when I was going to be able to catch up with her playing and now I don’t have to worry about that.

Amy did a wonderful thing to show a trans person in a superior light. She wasn’t only an excellent player, but she appeared to be a nice, kind and humble person. Congratulations to her on the fabulous accomplishment. During these boring Covid days it was nice to have a winner to get behind.

For me, I am going to sign off tonight and be a little sad that tomorrow I won’t get to watch Amy.

Happy Birthday Mom

Today is my Mom’s 84th birthday! I was lucky enough to get to go up to her house and take her to lunch with my sister Janet. My Mom has had quite a year. Selling her apartment in Washington and my parents big farm where they have lived for the past twenty year. Moving to a new house my father built and then loosing him three months later. When she was on her way to turn my father’s truck into the dealership a deer ran in front of her for the first time doing major damage, but not hurting my mother. She also has major eye problems. It’s just been a lot.

Despite all that she has been a real trooper. I think had known she known what was around the next corner it would have been too much, but she has done what she needs to do to keep going and I am very proud of her.

She also looks better than anyone else in our whole family at any age. I pray for her that her 84th years is way better than her 83rd year because no one could continue to handle all that she has in this small a time frame. I also have to thank my sister Janet who has been my mother’s rock. Everyone needs a “Janet” as their child.

So happy birthday to my beautiful mother. This is going to be your year.

Jeopardy Addiction

My addiction to long term winners on Jeopardy continues. Earlier in the year it was Matt Amodio. Matt won 38 games and $1.5 million dollars. Tonight, in the same TV season, Amy Schneider beat Matt’s game record, but has not caught up to him in dollars. So far she has won $1.3M and is still in the game. She is just behind greatest winning streak holder Ken Jennings at 74 games.

When you consider that they film five jeopardy shows in one day, these long streaks are absolutely incredible. Yes, there is some advantage to being comfortable with the buzzer, but that kind of stamina and knowledge is undeniable.

The streak scenario has got to be the best things for ratings ever. Every night I make sure not to miss it just because I want to see how Amy does. I am not sure when the tournament of Champions is going to be this year, but the fact that the number two and number three streak holders of all time, Amy and Matt are going to be in it together means that it is going to be appointment TV. When I went to Kinston last week I had to figure out when Jeopardy was on there just so I could keep following Amy in real time.

No matter how many right answers I can scream at the TV I could never come close to winning Jeopardy even once, unless the categories were, Cooking, obscure Mah Jongg Rules, episodes on Downton Abbey, I love Lucy facts, easy math, North Carolina geography and needlepoint stitches. You don’t have to be good at jeopardy to appreciate the super stars. I would love it if Amy could catch Ken Jennings record. That would be exciting.

Pressure Needlepoint

For a handful of years I have been in a needlepoint group, in which we each secretly pick a name of another member and stitch them a Christmas ornament. When I was first invited into the group it was terribly intimidating because it was full of much more experienced stitchers than myself. A couple of years ago I was invited into a newly forming group, who gets together to stitch and in that group I was the elder stitcher. We too decided to pick names and secretly stitch for each other. Now every January I start thinking about what I am going to do for the dear friends, whose names I drew from the hat.

At first, I was happy to stitch a canvas that was painted by a professional. I added decorative stitches and personal bits to each one. Then I felt like I needed to up my game. So this year, with each friend in mind I am designing and creating my own canvases. One person I have stitched for in the past so I wanted to do something really different. I came up with a plan. I sketched it out on graph paper, but rather than paint it on the canvas, I needlepointed it free hand. It took me two weeks, but thanks to the snow weekend I was able to finish it today. I am so excited to give it to this friend I am not sure how I am going to wait until December to do it.

The good news is I am fairly certain it will have plenty of time to come back from the finisher. Now I am about to start on my second self-designed canvas for my second friend. It is something I have designed that I would also like to stitch for myself so I am going to have to put it more precisely on graph paper so I can recreate it. Making original ornaments for people who really love needlepoint is so much more fun than stitching something they could have bought for themselves. Oh the pressure. I am glad I am doing them in advance so I can sleep well the rest of the year.

No photos in this blog because I can’t let my person see what I have stitched.

Animal Activity Evidence

The snow finally came overnight. It wasn’t deep, but enough accumulated that we could clearly see tracks from “wild “ animals that visit our front door. Russ looked out this morning and saw bunny tracks, which were no surprise as we have many bunnies. Then he saw this strange track of one small track mark in a straight line coming toward the house, but when it got to the front step in changed to two side by side. The spacing made it seem much to small to be a deer, which is our most regularly visited animal. I looked up track marks online and could not figure it out.

Eventually Shay put on her Barbour jacket and went out with Russ to sniff around, but the snow on the walkway had already started to melt. Quite frankly, Shay really could care less about other animals, let alone be able to track anything, unless it is a steak.

I just wonder why animals are coming to our door? It’s not like we hand out animal candy like Halloween. Has Shay made some friends we don’t know about? You just never know what these kids are up to when you are not looking.

If you know what the straight line track maker is, drop me a line.

No Actual Snow, Snow Day Baking

Our friend Warren in Maine introduced us to Anadama bread. It is an old New England bread made with corn meal, molasses and flour. I have never tried to make it, but since everything was canceled today due to snow that didn’t come until after dark I decided it was a good day to try and make it. I also had some deep cleaning to do after the painting so baking bread and serious dusting go perfectly together. When you are tired of dusting you can do a little kneading.

I read a bunch of recipes about how to make this bread. They were divided between ones that wanted you to mix corn meal with hot water and letting it sit, some as long as over night, and those that said you could just mix it together with hot water and let it sit as long as it takes to cool.

I went the second route since I wasn’t looking for a two day project.

His is the recipe as I adjusted it due to what I had on hand. I have to say it was very successful and will be baking it again.

3/4 cup yellow cornmeal

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

3 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup molasses, dark

1 cup boiling water

1/4 cup dry powdered buttermilk, (or regular powdered milk)

2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup bread flour

2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast

Put the cornmeal, salt, butter and molasses in the bowl of a stand mixer, off the mixer. Pour the boiling water over it and stir until the butter is melted. Let it cool for 15 minutes.

In a separate bowl put the flours, the dry milk and the yeast. When the corn meal bowl has cooled mix in the flour bowl’s contents. Let it sit for 20 minutes. Put the bowl in the mixer with the dough hook on. Knead the Dough for ten minutes on medium. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let it rise in a draft free place for an hour.

Take the dough out and roll it into a log that fits in your loaf pan. Cover again and let rise two hours.

Preheat oven to 350°. Bake for 35 minutes to internal temp of 190°.

Let cool ten minutes in the pan, then turn it out onto a rack. It will slice better once it is cooled, but good like not cutting a slice to taste it before it cools.


I finished up my Kinston stint, with a bunch of new friends. I will be going back in a few months for follow up classes since I like these people so much. While I was away I left Russ home with the painters. This was not my plan, but it was how it worked out. These days you just can’t say to your painters, “This week isn’t convenient for me. Can you come back next week?” You take all workmen when they are available because you might have to wait months to get them back.

I came home to the surprise of seeing the colors I had picked with just small patches on the walls to being full blown walls of color. That is how painting works, but if I were home and didn’t like the color as they got one wall done I could stop them right there and run get another color.

I know the entry was going to be neutral, after removing red wall paper. That was fine. I will adjust to it. Since it flows into the upstairs and down stairs halls and they need to be neutral so overall the flow works fine.

The best change was the yellow living room into a green living room. Greens are incredibly hard colors to pick. They can either be too blue, too yellow, or too muddy. Russ had already told me he loved the green so I was hopeful it would be good. Well, I loved it too. Now it is time to recover the furniture. I know I should have done the furniture first and the paint last since you can paint any color and fabrics only come it certain colors, but I am so happy I have this color to work off of. The best thing is how great my mother’s painting look against this green.

The big surprise was the dining room color. I am not sure how I feel about it or if I am just reacting to not having curtains. I have glazed gold windows and below the chair rail which I love and want to keep. I like the way the tall case clock and the sideboard looks against the blue. I am going to have to live with this a little while and see if I just need valances or if I need to repaint. So many decisions.

The Joyous Students

Another fun day in Kinston spreading the love and joy of Mah Jongg. I don’t care how old or young you are, winning a game you just learned how to play brings the winner so much joy, as evidence of the photos of the winners today. What is not captured in the photos is the cheering from the winner’s opponents. So nice when people are naturally good sports and are genuinely happy when others win.

Yes, there is some luck in who wins, but as I tell my students, “You all have the same amount of luck.” I am having a wonderful time teaching this really nice group of women. I am sorry if I did not get a photo of all the winners, but there is always tomorrow.

My Full Work Week

It has been a lot of years since I had a job that had both a full work week that included travel for work. Yesterday I had a full day of teaching Mah Jongg in Raleigh. I drove home and packed for my three day work trip to Kinston to do it all again.

Right now I am having dejà vu from my old OPEX days being a traveling sales person. I woke up at 6:00 and drove down east two hours to Kinston. I arrived at the Kinston Country club to be greeted in the parking lot by one of my former students who was taking my class again. Unfortunately all the students didn’t make it for one reason or another. So I had a smaller morning class and a big afternoon class.

Turns out I know more people in Kinston than I knew. Four of my students had taken class from me at the beach and a fifth is coming tomorrow. The great thing is they really are the nicest people. Since I am teaching threes days in a row I am spending the night here. True to my first job traveling all over the east coast, I checked into what was once a Holiday Inn, but is now a cool mid century motel. I think I am one of two guests. My room looks out on the kidney shaped pool, putt-putt course and shuffle board. Too bad it’s too cold to enjoy any of those fabulous amenities.

Kinston is the home to the wonderful Chef and the Farmer restaurant. Apparently it is not open on Tuesday so I am going to try and get dinner there tomorrow. As I was searching for my dinner (Which turned out to be a chick-fil-a salad) I stopped in a gas station to fill up. I thought I would go ahead and get a bottled iced tea for the morning. I went inside the store only to discover I really in the deep south now. The only bottled tea came in Sweet tea and lemon sweet tea and a tea I have never seen anywhere, SUPER SWEET TEA. So I guess Unsweet tea is out of the question. That’s how I ended up getting dinner from Chick-fil-a. They were the only reliable unsweet tea I knew I could get.

After two more days in Kinston I go back to teach in Raleigh on Friday. It will be a week with lots of travel and work five full days in a row. The only good part is I am not selling Mail opening machines, but am Teaching my favorite subject.

Need Curtains?

Part of the great refresh is the removal of my dining room curtains. Changing colors so I can’t use these beautiful curtains is hard since they are so perfectly made of Colfax and Fowler fabric. I am hoping that someone with French doors or big windows wants them.

The valances are built on boards and come with all the hardware. One is 142inches long and the second one is 103 inches. They are lined in red. They come with two panels each. The panels are 46 inches wide and 100 inches long each. They are lined in white and have the hardware. They all can be cut down to fit smaller windows.

Maria Von Trap would have a hey day with all this material. I am certain that all seven children and one Nancy could have jumpers and shorts from these things.

I have listed these on Facebook market place, but I can’t ship them anywhere because the valances are on boards that are too long to ship.

Please feel free to share this with anyone who might be interested. I hate to just throw such beautiful fabric away.

Lazy Sleet Day

It is a good thing we don’t live some place that gets more snow. Today was predicted to be our big snow day. Big around here means any snow. Not exactly what we got. First some flurries early in the morning. Followed by some sleeting, then some freezing rain and rain. It did not get warm enough to wash everything away, just enough to be annoying and make me stay inside all day.

So with the excuse that church was on Zoom and that the house was kind of torn up by the painters I ended up spending the whole day in our bed room, in my soft clothes, but not my night gown, and needlepointed all day. Well, I also binged a few shows while needlepointing.

To make myself feel better I did do a deep cleaning of an antique table that needed old wax removed, but other than that basically just needlepointing. In my defense it was free hand needlepoint on a blank canvas where I am designing something myself. That involves some putting stitches in and taking stitches out. Still a very lazy day. I didn’t even cook anything, just reheated leftovers.

If we had more snow days I would be the least productive person on earth. I hope you all stayed in, stayed warm and enjoyed your day.


I don’t know if this is a standard thing, if I learned it some where, or made it up, but I think you need to redo your interior about every 20 years. If you move it happens naturally, but if you stay in your house forever, like us, then you need to look around and say, “Is this room getting tired or outdated?” When Russ and I bought our house in 1994 we didn’t do much to it right away. He was in business school and we knew were were going to put an addition on so we waited for that to paint and decorate the whole house at once two years later.

The problem with doing it all at the same time is not only is it expensive, it means it all needs to be redone at the same time. Well, that did not happen at our house, especially with a child in college. So before Carter went to college I redid the gathering room and then breakfast room. While she was in college I redid the kitchen. And now that she is out of college I am redoing the entry, all the hallways, living room and dining room.

Redoing is not really the right word. Basically I am painting, and recovering. I did get new window treatments for the Iiving room a couple years ago and a new rug last summer so those are staying. The big thing is I want to do some dramatic color changes

The wall paper that is going

I have been contemplating getting rid of my red wallpaper in my entry for a while, but was unsure which direction in color to go. Then I got a bold Idea for the living room color and an even bolder one for the dining room. So I settled on painting the entry the same color as my big room, which is buff color, or not too much color at all, but warm.

The same view after the priming. The shadows from the chandelier are much more prominent without the wallpaper

With the color ideas made I called my painters thinking I needed to get on their radar so they could work me in. That was Thursday. Daniel came by Friday morning. My timing was perfect. They had a big new house that was supposed to be all finished and ready for painting, but of course it is backed up a little. He could start today! Today, Saturday. So I ran to the Ben Moore store and got samples.

Early this morning Daniel, his brother and cousin came in to strip wall paper and prime. Then they put up the color samples. The first dining room one was a definite no. On no, what if this bold idea is a bad one. Second sample, good. Sat and watched paint dry and it was a definite yes.

The color in the living room went the same way. First color, NO! Second color, better, third color just right. Then they painted the two colors side by side just to make sure the flow from one room to the next would not be jarring. They went together well. So here we are in the middle of painting. Poor Russ thought he was going to have a nice quiet long weekend. He was already sad that I am going to be teaching all day Monday and now he will be home alone with the painters. Somehow I am getting out of living with this since I will be away all week teaching. I pray I like it all when I get home.

Shay’s Killing Fields

Santa brought Shay 19 new squeaker toys for Christmas. “Thank goodness,” Shay thought, “I’m all out of toys with squeakers still in them.” Not that having a squeaker is a requirement for a dog toy, but Shay has a special talent for cutting through just enough of a seam to extract the small plastic bubble.

Every night, before Russ is close to finishing his dinner Shay starts bugging him to come into the sun room and play with her and all her toys. Poor Russ, being a too kind dog Daddy, always leaves his plate half finished to accommodate his great love. He lies on the floor and throws her toys from her basket. She jumps in the air and either catches them or bats them back at him with her nose.

Well, true to her one squeakier a day rule, Shay has officially finished her removal of all her Christmas toys. Now, as her toys lay strewn across the sun room floor she looks longingly to Russ asking for another 19 toys. Sadly she will have to wait until a dog toy holiday. Russ thinks that Martin Luther King’s birthday is absolutely a qualifying holiday. Spoiled? Damn right.

Best At Home Men’s Shopping Ever

The best relationship Russ got out of business school was the one with his custom clothing salesman Rob Butler. Russ bought his first couple of custom suits from Rob who brilliantly advertised at the business school. As a very tall man Russ has trouble buying off the rack. Rob was the answer. Who knew that 26 years later Rob would still be the very best source of perfectly fitting beautiful clothes for Russ.

As work life has changed Russ no longer needs suits, but beautiful shirts are more important than ever since that is all anyone sees on Zoom. The customer shirts Russ has gotten from Rob have always been his favorites. Rob’s lines have the most sumptuous fabrics and being able to chose the collar styles, if you want pockets or monograms, button color and now even the thread color that holds the buttons on makes each shirt a work of art. That is all before you get a fit that is tailored made. Russ has such long arms but not very big wrists so a custom made shirt makes a world of difference on him.

The best part is the speed of shopping. Rob showed up today at our house, like he always has, right on time, and Russ had picked out his new clothes and was remeasured and done in half an hour.

The new item Russ is trying out is some custom made five pocket pants made out of gabardine. Since most places don’t sell pants long enough for Russ, Rob’s offerings are a godsend. I can’t wait to see how these turn out, with contrasting stitching and rivets like jeans, but a big step up.

Now that Russ has been remeasured I can do some secret shopping for gifts in the future. I am not sure if Russ would ever have anything other than shorts to wear if it weren’t for Rob Butler. Thank goodness for that first meeting in business school. This 26 year long relationship is one I am so thankful for, especially since Russ’s favorite pink shirt he got from Rob ten years ago just got a hole in it at the collar. In five weeks Russ will have a new one, but this one will be fitted a little more because styles have changed and Russ is so stylish, thanks to Rob.

My Pandemic Zeal to Clean is Gone

As the second anniversary of the pandemic is a mere two months away I realized that I have lost my zeal for Pandemic cleaning. That first month, when we were all locked at home and it was still cold so I was staying inside, I took on the task to deep clean and clean out things in my house that needed it. My bathrooms had never been so sparkly. Using a straight edge razor I removed all the clear caulking on the glass wall of the shower and replaced it with a perfectly applied clear bead. Every inch of grout was deep cleaned to a blinding white.

Drawers were cleaned out, and vacuumed before being reorganized. Places were dusted that had not seen the light of day since their original placement, like behind the TV in the linen press in our bedroom. It felt productive and satisfying to clean everything so throughly when we had no control on what was going on in the bigger world outside our doors.

Well, the satisfaction of cleaning my own house has certainly worn off. Today I noticed that the glass in the shower needed to be cleaned. Rather than making up a batch of homemade glass cleaner and scouring the glass with a microfiber rag twice, I just sprayed some store bought cleaner and squeegeed it off. Rather than inspecting it with the eye of a drill Sargent I just walked away. Tonight when I came back in the room I noticed what a half assed job I had done. No surprise. I know what it really takes to clean soap scum from glass, but I didn’t even attempt to do the job right.

I guess the only good thing about the pandemic, the zeal to clean like I’ve never cleaned before, has gone. This is especially disturbing to me since I look around and see so many things that need the deep cleaning treatment. I have to say that I am impressed that the original pandemic thoroughness lasted almost two years with lots of regular weekly cleaning. But now I can’t not see cobwebs on the stringers of chairs we don’t use or dust on light bulbs in chandeliers.

Now that I see all that I need to get working on it, but now I am busy and don’t have whole idle days to fill with something useful. It’s time to come up with some system that tricks me into deep cleaning again. Back in the old days when Russ wanted me to clean off the kitchen counters he would say, “I think we should have some people over for dinner.” Russ never really wanted people to come over, he just knew if we were having people over then I would clean off the counters.

It’s so sad that I am missing those early pandemic days. Maybe what I really am missing is that uber clean and organized house. Saddest thing is that no one ever saw my house that clean and I guess they never will.

Tell The Truth

I know the supply chain is broken. I know getting workers is hard. I know that Covid has cut down on how many workers are showing up to work. I try and be understanding. So when I ordered some fabric from one of my regular online places I shop at I took note when it said, “all orders are taking an average of 5-8 days to ship.” I got it.

As the days passed from the day I ordered I would check the status of my order… unfulfilled. It was one item that didn’t need cutting and one that had to be cut. It was a big order in terms of dollars, but not in terms of work for them. Unfulfilled. Yes, I am unfulfilled. I need my fabric.

Today, was day eight from the day I ordered at 9:50 in the morning. Unfulfilled. You have to be kidding me. Not even “in processing”. Unfulfilled means, “We aren’t even thinking about it.” It’s not even close to “label created for shipping,” or “awaiting pick up,” let alone “shipped” at which point it is at the mercy of the the GD FedEx Ship Point, or Smart Post or whatever crappy shipping that Fed Ex has become.

So, tired of being unfulfilled on day 8 I did the chat option with Kristin in customer service. Well, those 5-8 days (as advertised,) Kristin said were 5-8 business days. NOT THE SAME THING! Come on people. Say that on the View Cart page. Don’t bait and switch.

Kristin did say that my items were in stock so maybe give them until the end of the week or early next week to ship it. “But don’t quote me on that.” Kristin, Honey, you are an online Chat customer service rep, you wrote that, it’s in writing. Not only do I have a picture of it, you can’t hide that you said it. The beginning of next week will be 13-15 days (actual days, like you had on the view cart sales page) since I placed the order. That is more than double what the expectation for shipping is.

No Kristin, I’m not outing where you work, or are going to call the company and complain. I canceled the order. I drove to a store and bought what I needed. I am never going to order from your very large business where I have spent thousands of dollars ever again. I know that times are tough right now, but you never should have lied at the ordering point that it was 5-8 days. You should have said there and then that it was five to eight BUSINESS day, then maybe I would not have been so mad when you actually took 10-12 BUSINESS days. But you knew that I mostly likely would not have ordered from you at all if you told me the truth at the ordering point because 12 days to process and seven days for mailing was never going to work for me. I could have woven the fabric faster myself.

Thank goodness that some local retail Mom and Pop shops still exist. They may have the last laugh.

Just Keep Learning

It’s back to teaching Mah Jongg for me. Having had Covid in December makes it not that dangerous for me so I am happy to do it. Today I had 24 new students in two classes and tomorrow I have another 12. Next week I add two more classes adding 24 more new students. Fifty-six new learners in the month makes me very happy.

I find that the people who take classes and learn new things regularly are the smartest. They don’t necessarily start out as the smartest, but constantly exercising their mind in new and different ways helps.

At the end of some classes I taught, when I already knew who the best students were, I asked people when the last time had taken a class of learned a new skill. Not surprisingly the top students were constant learners, it didn’t seem to matter what they were learning. The best students had recently learned everything from Pickle Ball to coding.

It did not seem to matter if they were learning things taught in classes, like Mah Jongg, or self taught like learning new needlepoint stitches from a book. It also didn’t matter if they were learning physical or mental things.

If you haven’t set a goal for the new year, try picking a number of new things you would like to learn. It could be as simple as learning to bake bread or as complicated as learning a foreign language. You can find how to learn about anything on You Tube. My favorite thing learned there was how to fix my own dishwasher when the repair man said it would be three weeks before he could get there.

My attitude about learning new things is if others can do then why can’t I. Like when I taught myself how to build a retaining wall. Learning how was not the hardest part, but lifting all those blocks was the killer part. What do you want to learn how to do? Your brain will thank you.

Emergency Provisioning

Last week one of the most horrific travel incidents happened around Fredericksburg, VA. Thanks to a freakishly fast drop in temperature the rainy, wet I-95 highway turned to an impassible sheet of ice and then quickly a snow covered mess. The travelers on that road and apparently the surrounding roads got stuck on the highway for 27 hours.

For anyone who has had the displeasure of driving between Richmond and Washington DC, that stretch of road is over crowded on the least crowded day. Add weather and those people were in a word, “screwed.” I have no idea how that disaster could have been prevented, but I am taking some lessons from the incident seriously.

In my many years of driving I have heard that we should have an emergency kit in our car. A quick look on Amazon and you will find many choices that include things like jumper cables, those little hammers to break windows, glow sticks, which I think are modern day flares. I have never carried any of those things in my car and on that day on I-95 they wouldn’t have done anyone any good. But other things in the kit like thermal blankets and gloves might have been helpful.

I pray that no one ever has to go through that kind of hell again, but hellish situations seem to happen much more often, like 500 year floods that occur every other year. I am no longer going to go on road trips without my own emergency kit. The first thing is I am going to make sure I always have a jug of water and some substantial snacks. Of course these snacks will have to be in the trunk so I don’t eat them unless there is an emergency. My sister gave me a solar charger, so that went right in the car. I also think I need to plan my gas/ potty beaks to be more often so at no time on a trip do I have less that 2/3’s of a tank of gas. Think of those poor people for 27 hours who ran out of gas.

Now comes the big things I think I need to take with me. First is a tent, not for sleeping in, but for the porta-potty I need to bring. If I have a gallon of water I most certainly and going to need a bathroom. Then there are the non-digital entertainment items, like books, both to read and to color in, with a cache of colored pencils. Needlepoint is always a good option that I usually have with me anyway. Then I think it would be nice to have real snuggly blankets and pillows, and that is for winter. If I were stopped in the summer I am sure I would like some kind of solar powered fan. Perhaps an eye mask so I could block out any light while I napped.

As I think about all these things I need for a road trip I realize I would have no room for my regular trip suitcase, let alone any other passengers. I think what I really need is a camper van. If I had a house on wheels being stopped for a period of time would not be a terrible inconvenience. At least I could cook and maybe I would have power to watch TV.

All this emergency planning makes staying home seem like the best thing to do. At least I should try and plan how not to drive on I-95 between Richmond and Washington.

Dreaming of Maine Summer

My Sista J is a really good gift giver. Due to our active Covid cases we had to cancel our Christmas Day together. My Mom just brought us boxes and boxes of gifts from my sister and my Mom. I told Janet not to bother wrapping as that is always the bain of her existence. She took me seriously and I opened a huge cardboard box full of many random and unrelated items, from gardening equipment to Mah Jongg gear. The best things were two actual books about Maine Travel.

Janet is a great listener and when she heard we were going to be in Maine for a month she took note. I would never buy travel books for myself since I just do research on the internet. On this, the coldest day of the season so far it was so much fun to read through these books to discover places I never knew about in Maine, but would love to visit.

The problem with the internet is I forget to take notes about what I discovered months in advance. Having the books it was easy to highlight and tab things. So far I have picked out about 15 museums we have never been too, 42 restaurants, 19 hiking trails, 22 light houses, 4 boat trips, and dozens of cute towns to visit.

Russ is probably going to have to limit the days we are going to go exploring or we won’t have the relaxing, reading and writing vacation we are planning. Our biggest limiting factor will be Shay since she is going with us. Either I have to find places she can go with us, like all the hiking trails, and outdoor restaurants, or we are going to have to not go so far from home.

I wonder if it’s too late to train her to be a service dog? She could never pull off acting indifferent to people around her. Maybe I will have to find a dog sitter. I hope I live long enough for America to become like England and just let you bring your dog everywhere.

One thing I should have asked for Christmas was a good car dog restraint system. I would love any recommendations on non-crate Dog car travel systems people have used. Shay notoriously likes to sit in someone’s lap and that is not safe. I need a restraint to keep her in the back seat that is safe for her. There are a lot of things out there, but I don’t know which one is best. So much to plan for I can hardly wait.

My Favorite Sidney Poitier Movie

When I was a kid I loved to watch old movies on the weekends. In Connecticut we had the luxury of having three channels, 5, 9 and 11 which were not network channels so they played reruns, like “I love Lucy” and “Green Acres” and lots of old movies. One of my favorites was “To Sir, with Love” staring Sidney Poitier. I first saw in when I was in Junior high school and I was enamored and afraid of the tough British high school students all at the same time. Watching Sidney Poitier win over the students who had little respect for a black man was the ultimate good over evil, but with a big heart. When Lulu sang the title song I would sob. All those adolescent hormones would come pouring out watching that movie.

When I learned of Mr. Poitier’s passing on the news I kept hearing about his staring roles in “Guess who’s coming to dinner?” Or “The heat of the night,” great movies, but they did not hold a place in my childhood like “To sir, with love.”

I don’t think I have rewatched that movie since I left living on Ridgefield Rd. with all those independent TV channels. I am going to have to search it out and watch it now. Farewell to Sidney Poitier. He was a class act.

The Blessing of Omicron

As Covid rips through the country I am thankful to have gotten Omicron behind me. The official Covid counts are outrageous and I guess they probably only reflect about a third of the actual cases. I know so many people who have gotten it and only done an at home test without reporting it to anyone official. Then there are the a-systematic cases. My mother told me of people near her who think they just have the flu, who don’t want to know the truth. There just has not been that much flu around so far, so the chances are they have Covid, but don’t want to quarantine.

For all of us boosted, Non-immune compromised, relatively healthy people getting this version of Covid is not a death sentence. If enough of us get it all at the same time we might be able to starve the virus out of hosts so we can greatly reduce it. The trick is to keep it from those people who are immune compromised. Of course all those non-vaxed idiots are still at real risk and are selfishly not doing anything to protect others.

Even though Omicron is not as bad for the boosted, the non-vaxed are still dying. Yesterday over 1600 people in just the states that report. Lord knows how many more there are since some states, Florida I’m looking at you, don’t like letting their citizens know the truth about how many deaths are happening everyday. I guess that deaths will go up a lot in the next four weeks as the death rate lags the infection rate.

In France Macron has really given up on the anti-vaccine crowd and gave ‘em hell yesterday. He is trying to make it next to impossible for the Non-vaxed to go in public places like restaurants. Hooray for him. Why should the rest of us have to stay locked away.

I figure that I might have a couple of months of extra protection now that I am fully boosted and have some home grown anti-bodies from having had a break through infection. That does not mean I will go anywhere without my mask or will go anyplace really crowded. I did everything possible not to get this, except for not hugging my child when she got home for Christmas. This variant is everywhere. I am thankful that the vaccine did it’s job and lessened the effect.

Working Ahead and Behind

I am still working on a Christmas present for my sister. Thanks to Covid our Christmas plans to be together were scrapped, giving me an extra month to finish her present. At the rate I am going I will be lucky if I finish it in that time. I won’t say what it is or show a photo because I still want it to be a surprise, but it is taking up all my time right now, not giving much time to do anything else that I could blog about.

Today I took a little break from working on that present to go and get supplies for my next year needlepoint gifts for my two needlepoint exchanges. I am designing my own ornaments for those friends so I really just needed blank canvas, but while I was there and Chapel Hill Needlepoint was having her annual 25% off sale I treated myself to more canvases than I really need. But need is never the right word when describing needlepoint.

I want to go ahead and get my exchange ornaments done as soon as I finish my sister’s gift so that I won’t have to worry about getting them finished in time for Christmas. You think I am crazy, but with Pandemic living needlepoint finishers have more work than they can handle. I tried to finish an ornament myself and it was a horrible mess. I know where my skill lie.

In the last few years I did a good job of working down my needlepoint stash, but I am afraid with my haul today I am back up to an unreasonable amount. I need to stitch almost as much as I did the year I finished 63 ornaments.

I must admit I hate working behind and much more prefer to be done with things way in advance. That means I need to start inventing what other gifts I can make for my family for Christmas now. It’s not the making that is hard, but the inventing what to make. I need something that is fast if I am going to do all this needlepoint for myself.

Surprise Kindness

Russ brought in the normal pile of holiday mail yesterday. Some Christmas cards, a New Years Card, giant post card advertisements for Gyms, junk “magazines” we don’t subscribe to, appointment reminders. Amongst the larger than usual pile was a small hand written envelope that looked more like a thank you note than a Christmas card. After discarding the obvious junk I began to open the large cards, enjoying the photos of friends from afar. The last thing I opened was the little envelope. I recognized the name on the return address as my Aunt’s best childhood friend, Townes, perhaps it was a Christmas card.

After undoing the flap the first thing I noticed inside was the corner of a large folded check, which I pulled from the envelope along with a card. There is nothing better than seeing a check in an envelope, especially one I was not expecting.

I unfolded the check first, wondering what in the world Townes would be sending me a check for. As I opened it up I looked first at the amount. It was a big. Then I read the payee, my church. In the memo was written “In memory of Ed Carter, Dana Lange’s father.” I burst into tears, rendering me unable to read the card.

Back in October, when I was writing my father’s obituary I asked my mother if there was a charity we might designate for memorial gifts. My mother said that there was no place she felt my father was close enough to. To my father his children were his charities. I remember once when my parent’s received an annual report for Carter’s school, where they had once donated a small amount, my father read the report and discovered how much Russ and I had given to the school. He called me right up and said, “Why the hell have you given that school so much money, you weren’t raised that way.” I laughed because he was the most generous person I knew, having given many people money they needed when they were down and out.

Townes has been a constant in my mother’s family for as long as she and my Aunt have been alive. I remember when I was an adolescent going to spend a weekend with her in her New York City Apartment. She was like my own personal “That Girl” as she was only a little more than a decade older than me. She was well traveled and glamorous and was so kind to invite me for a girls weekend in the city.

Eventually I pulled myself together to read her sweet card. Telling me how much she loved my father from the second she met him at my grand parent’s house in Knoxville when my parents were just engaged. The card would have been enough without the check, but the check was a surprise kindness that meant so much to me. Townes reads my blog and knows how important my church is to me. Her gesture is one I will never forget and an example I hope I will remember to follow.

What Are You Saving It For?

When I was a kid we were never allowed to eat the Triscuits. They were for company. Now it did not matter if no company was planning on coming. My parents said, you needed to have Triscuits just in case someone stopped by for a drink. In defense of my parents people did drink a lot back then and it was probably a good idea to offer them something to eat before they drove them selves home. Who ever heard of a designated driver in 1972?

We could have an opened box of Triscuits and we were still not allowed to eat them. So the opened box would languish in the cabinet. Then if a friend dropped by at cocktail hour my Dad would have us test one of the broken pieces to see if it was stale. It almost always was. In all honesty I have never liked Triscuits, but always wanted what was forbidden.

So the precious half box of Triscuits would get thrown away and a new box, perhaps Carr wafers, was opened. We weren’t allowed to eat those either.

This habit of saving something good for a “special” occasion has stayed with me too, just not to the extent as my parents. If someone in our house wants to eat something that is opened I am all for it, but I am not going to open it for myself.

After moving my parents out of two of their houses this year I found lots of “speical” things that had to be thrown away because no one good enough ever came by to warrant using them. So I decided that I am going to change my family bad habits and start enjoying the good stuff whenever I want and not just for company. Lord, we don’t have company anymore with Covid anyway.

My friend Karen has given me the best Kusmi tea for Christmas for the last few years. I usually have not justified making a cup for myself, instead opting for regular ‘ole Liptons, but that is changing, Today, after the first winter storm of the season had passed, I decided I would like a cup of summertime tea.

With no fanfare, or friend to join me, I brewed up a cup and enjoyed it is the sunroom just because I have it, no saving for a special occasion. I am going to have one whenever I want, as long as it lasts. Hopefully I will use it all up before next Christmas when I might be lucky enough to get some more, or not. Doesn’t matter I should enjoy it now.

No Narcissists Allowed

Recently I’ve heard stories from friends complaining about Narcissists around them. These toxic people are not necessarily family members but people who call themselves friends or just acquaintances. The stories are of hurtful comments made to my friends by the offenders, who seem to go blithely about their business after delivering a zinger or two.

I’ve had experience with these types of people before. Thankfully one took herself out of my life after I pushed back. Another I just blocked from being able to communicate with me, which is easier than you think. The outcome from both of those removals was a much more pleasant daily life. There was no worry about what the next comment was going to be or who the person might offend next. I never missed having to clean up the mess left in that person’s wake as they went about insulting people.

As a person born in the south, but raised in the north, only to return south in adulthood I have experienced the different ways people handle Narcissists. In the north, they don’t get far as people are more willing to call them out. In the south, female narcissists can last a long while, because most true southerners don’t want to make waves or are afraid of becoming a victim of the bully.

If you have anyone in your life who belittles you in anyway now is the time to cut them out of your life. It’s not that hard because most true narcissists won’t notice if you don’t speak with them, or avoid them, or block them from your social media. When the world revolves around them, what you do is not on their radar, nor do they really care.

So no reason to include them anymore thinking that will make said person be nicer to you, it won’t. They can’t change, nor do they think anything they say or do to others is ever wrong. Narcissists never apologize. They are kind of like the subject of the Carley Simon song, “You’re so vain,” they think everything is about them. I’m here to tell you life without toxic people is so nice.

Tip-Toeing into 2022

In most of my sixty years I have welcomed the New Year with excitement and anticipation, made resolutions and plans and declared it would be the best year ever. See, I am an optimist who looks for constant improvement. Now improvement is not always realized. I recognize that I have years where I would slide backwards, sometimes at a breakneck speed, but that never kept me from declaring that the new year would be better.

The last few years have tempered me, but last year starting with the insurrection, working the move of my parents from two giant places to one smaller one, the passing of my father and just to put a bow on it, the canceling of our Christmas as we all had Covid made it particularly bad year. Not everything was bad. Carter graduated from college in a stellar way and made an excellent pivot from Bain Capital to get an offer doing something more suited to her skills. But in the balance it was not my favorite year.

I am tip toeing into 2022 with no great declarations. I just don’t want to jinx things. I have projects, but am going to take everything one day at a time. I have stopped looking at the Secret Escapes emails heralding fabulous deals on exotic vacations. There is no dreaming about going on a photo safari with Carter until things really settle down.

Instead I am going on more like the turtle than the hare. Plodding away and chipping at bad habits rather than making big resolutions. I don’t want to get my hopes up just to have them dashed. So instead I will try and take stock of all the beautiful small wins going on around me. This does not mean I am allowing myself to be less productive, just taking smaller steps on the same journey.

The thing that scares me is 2022 could be read as, 2020 Too and I definitely don’t want that. So I’m keeping my head down and not making a big deal about the change of the year. Maybe no one will notice and things can just slowly get better a wee bit at a time.