Big Durham Morning

I have been away a lot. Being away even a little feels like a lot since we hardly went anywhere for two years. Two weeks ago I planted about a third of my garden. It was still a bit colder than I would have liked it so I held off from putting too much in in case the frost got it. I am happy to report the tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, squash, peppers, basil, arugula, cucumbers and cilantro have all survived. Then we went to Chicago and Kinston and no one tended my garden. It all survived.

Today’s assignment was to purchase more plants and fill in what was missing. Off to the farmer’s market we went. I got more cucumbers, zucchini, red and green okra, butternut squash, eggplant, dill, and a real first for me, passion fruit. I had no idea that passion fruit could grow in North Carolina, but I will try as they are my favorite fruit.

After the farmer’s market Russ and I went to Grub for breakfast. We ate on the terrace and ran into the same father and his two little daughters who ate breakfast next to us two weeks ago at Press. We joked about meeting up for breakfast again.

After our eggs Russ wanted to stop at the Durham co-op to get some things. The last time I had been in the co-op it was still in an old building on Chapel Hill street. Now the co-op is in a new building with parking, still on Chapel Hill Street but perpendicular to the street.

Since we had been at the farmer’s market the produce could not interest us, but we perused the aisles and were very impressed with the offerings. Any food manufacturer in Durham seemed to be for sale in the co-op, from Melina’s Pasta to Foster’s red pepper jelly. If you needed gluten free there were loads of choices. Organic, well needless to say most stuff was organic. The cheese counter was beautiful and Russ liked the cider offerings. The truffle selection was extraordinary.

We picked up a few things. At check out they asked us if we were owners. We are not. The clerk gave us the flyer about becoming an owner. $100 for a one time fee and then you get 20% everything you buy. What a deal. It pays for itself in the first $500 of groceries.

It was a good Durham morning. Reminding me why I love living here. I went home and put in my plants, using the last of my homemade compost as I did. A mother and daughter walking their dog stopped by to inspect my work. The mother was visiting from Virginia and asked if she could take photos to copy my design. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.

My Favorite Compliment

A lot of packages arrived at our house today. More than the normal amount for people who rarely darken the doors of a store except to buy food. I had ordered some summer clothes as I am outgrowing my pre-pandemic wardrobe. I know that I should do my best to fit in to what I own, but fear that until I am able to, I should not go around naked. Also, it seems like I lose weight when I have bought bigger clothes and shrink out of them. Please god, let that be the case this time.

Besides, the clothes and the “cloth” paper towels I ordered from “deals and steals” there were two unexpected packages. One from my father-in-law that Russ says is an anniversary gift. I don’t believe that anyone other than the married couple needs to give a gift for your anniversary. Since it may be a ceramic Chicken I am going to wait and let Russ open that box on our actual anniversary. That might be my present to him for 30 years of blissful commitment. Being married to me is the gift he gets everyday, (cough, cough.)

The last package in the giant pile was an Amazon box. I had no recollection of ordering something, but I never know when Russ’ auto ship of freeze dried liver treat for Shay is coming so I opened it.

Immediately I recognized the overly expensive Amazon Gift wrap bag of some kind of woven/pressed-paper/cloth-like drawstring bag that acts as gift wrapping for a mere six dollars. Maybe it’s three, but the bag costs them a nickel, making it the biggest profit item in the whole company.

I read the gift tag. “Happy Birthday to the best story teller I know. Love You, Suzanne.” Then under the typed message was, “From Suzanne E. Worden”. That line is obviously added by Amazon to cut down on the number of calls they might get from gift receivers wondering exactly who sent them the gift. I would have known without that added line that the gift is from my college best friend Suzanne because only a best friend thinks you are the best at anything.

Before I even loosened the draw string on the not-quite-fabric, not-quite-paper bag to discover the gift, I was already thrilled with the card. Being told I was Suzanne’s favorite story teller was the best gift I could ever get considering I know many of the fabulous story tellers in her life. As the learned writer, with a masters in Journalism from Columbia, that she is, Suzanne is a continuing student of writing and the most voracious reader I know.

I am not a writer of her caliber. I am much more at home as an in-person storyteller, playing off the reactions of my audience. This is the difference between an introverted writer and an extroverted story teller.

The gift turned out to be a book by a writing professor, George Saunders, called A Swim in a Pond in the Rain. With the sub title, In which four Russians give a master class on writing, reading and life. I think, but don’t know, that Suzanne might have had this book as part of a curriculum for one of her writing classes, but I have not heard back from her to confirm it.

I read the prologue and love the idea of this book. We shall see if it can have any impact on my writing. I am an undisciplined yet prolific writer as I have written this blog everyday going on thirteen years now. I do not let the writing take more than twenty minutes a day and have no editor. All writers benefit greatly from an Editor. I would do well to just reread what I type before I post, but my time restraints often don’t allow me the luxury of even doing that. So dear gentle readers often send me messages pointing out spelling mistakes, grammatical errors or misused words. I welcome the corrections along with those who argue against my point of view or observations.

I would much prefer a group of friends I could tell my daily story to. I know the stories would be much more colorful, entertaining and probably funny if you were here in person.

Thanks to my practically life-long friend Suzanne, for giving me this best compliment and interesting book. I fear I might learn from it that I should spend more time thinking about my writing than I do now. Sadly that would rob me of time I get to spend with real people, having experiences that become the fodder for my stories. After all, I write a story a day and if you have read me for even one month of 156 I have written, something story worthy does not always happen everyday. Today is a day I will remember because I got the best compliment I could ever ask for. Love you too Suzanne.

No Grades In My Classes

No one gets a grade in Mah Jongg. Friends come to learn and their avid attention helps them become better players. Despite the lack of an actual reward from me, as their teacher, my last group of Kinston students treated me so specially you would think they were vying for a better grade.

Before I even got there Kristi got all the classes organized. Jane hosted me, calling me to inquire what I wanted for breakfast day ahead of time. She and her husband Warren had a dinner party for me one night where Molly brought a lemon pie for dessert and Mary Ann a bottle of wine. We went to Chef and the Farmer dinner the second night and Ann and Becky joined us. The comfy bed in their beautiful farm house would have been more than enough, but Jane also gave me a book before we left for our last class today.

The first day of class Lee Van arrived with stunning yellow Peony from her garden, in a vase, announcing she was vying to be teacher’s pet. Kara bought my lunch the first day. Jo bought my lunch today. Debbie made muffins on the second day and took a group picture on the last, (sadly, Kristi and Kara missed the photo.) Then while I was teaching the beginner class Debbie snuck back in and left me a gift. It was the class photo in a fabulous frame.

Suzanne announced she wanted to take any class I would teach two or three times and her sister Nancy agreed. Even previous students, Ann and Boo came by to see me, despite not being able to come to class.

All these kindnesses to me and not one of them got a better grade because of it. What I get out of teaching Mah Jongg is so much more than the people get who are learning. I appreciate their attention, thoughtful questions, kindness to each other, their curiosity, diligence, stick-to-it-ness, laughter, patience and generosity, especially to me.

Fun Filled Day

There are some days that are so full there is hardly anytime left to write. Today was one of those days. It started out with a lovely bite to eat with Warren and Jane Brothers before Jane and I left for Mah Jongg. The Kinston Country Club has been a wonderful host to these two classes.

The morning strategy class was overrun with treats from the should-be-prize-winning baker Debbie, who brought homemade muffins, while the club made their crave worthy cheese biscuits. Thank goodness I had just taken my medicine that means I couldn’t eat for an hour when all these baked goods came around. It is hard to eat, talk and teach at the same time.

We did some mind expanding exercises in the strategy class and my friends worked hard to incorporate the new knowledge into their play.

I was able to grab a quick bite of lunch and had to meet with a new student to catch her up on the class she missed. Then it was off to the beginner class. When I gave them group work they really put their heads down to figure out the answers.

After class I stopped at the fish market to order seafood to be packed for travel tomorrow. Russ will be getting some yummy fish this weekend.

I met Jane, Ann and Becky for dinner at the Chef and The Farmer. It was great to go there with locals who knew everyone. We got the Royal treatment. I have to say the butter bean hummus was the most yummy thing I have eaten in a while.

Jane and I headed home to see Warren, thinking we were going to have an earlier night than last night. I’m not sure what we were thinking as we stayed up and yucked it up at the kitchen table much too late. Now I am against a hard dead line to post something. I must try and get some sleep so I can finish strong at Mah Jongg Classes tomorrow. It will be bitter sweet to leave since I really adore this group of friends.

I Love Being Tricked

In January I had the great pleasure of teaching Mah Jongg to the most glorious group of women In Kinston. At that class I met the darling Jane Brothers who asked me where I was staying. When I told her the Mother Earth Lodge she said, “Well, you need to stay at my house. I have a bed and breakfast.” Since I enjoyed her so much I agreed to do that if I came back.

Fast forward a couple months and I got a call from the Kinston crowd that they wanted more lessons. I told the dear Kristi, who was organizing the class, that I needed to be in contact with Jane because I was going to stay with her. A day later Jane called me and announced that she was ready for me to come and stay with her and her husband Warren.

Today I arrived to two very full classes of wonderful students. Jane was in the first class and I met her back at her house after my second class. While we were lying around on the sofa recovering from our day talking I said, “Jane, I need to talk to you about your bed and Breakfast.” She was yet to get a credit card or anything from me.

That was when Jane confessed she hadn’t had the bed and breakfast in years, she just wanted me to stay with her. That was the best tall tale anyone has told me in a long time!

It has been a delight to be here with Jane, Warren and their very cute dog lucky. Warren took me on a tour of his organic farm. I felt I already knew him as I had watched him for years on the TV show a Chef’s Life with Vivian Howard. They have a wonderful farm house and invited friends from the Mah Jongg class to have dinner with us. Warren cooked salmon on his new fangled repurposed Weber grill that lost it’s legs and we ate lettuce, radishes, and beets from the farm.

My new favorite person is Jane Brothers. I knew it the first time I met her, but now she had solidified her standing after tricking me to stay with her. So much better than a motel.

Sharing the Celebration

One of the best things about getting older is you enjoy sharing your birthday with your friend. Today a group of my friends who all like to needlepoint got together to celebrate Michelle Beischer’s and my birthday. Michelle’s birthday was three days ago and mine is next week so sharing the celebration was a joyous way to spend time together.

Our friend Christy baked the most delicious and beautiful almond, white chocolate and raspberry cake. It is a good thing we had a doubled up our birthdays because we certainly did not need two cakes one week apart.

As a child there was a girl who was in my second and third grade classes who had the same birthday as me. I hated having to share my day with her. Perhaps it was because I did t like her much, but mostly because I was selfish and want the day to be all about me. How perfectly childish.

Now I love all my friends who share the same birthday with me. It is a nice club. I no longer care to have a day all to myself. I have learned that sharing it with friends makes it exponentially sweeter.

First Post Pandemic Flight

For all of my life I have been a traveler. It helped that my father worked in London when I was young and my first job out of college was that of a traveling salesman. Being a consultant with international clients eventually got me all over the world. Then in retirement I traveled with Russ as much as his job let me. So a two year plus break from going to the airport is the longest I have ever gone since childhood for flying on a trip.

I can’t say that I have missed flying, but I have missed spending the weekend in a fun far off city. When Russ had this trip to Chicago he asked if I wanted to go. It is our thirtieth anniversary next week and he had a lot to make up for In our twenty-fifth anniversary trip.

I am happy to say that I officially missed traveling. We didn’t have any major plans in coming here. We have spent lots of time in Chicago before. We just hung in the city, going to the art Institute, eating at interesting restaurants and walking our feet off. Well, mine were walked off and Russ just got his normal daily amount of steps.

Our best meal was at The Girl and The Goat. The staff was fantastic, belying the idea that there are no good service workers left. Although the best meal was there, the best thing we ate was at a little Oyster bar in Lincoln Park. It was thinly sliced lemons that were fried as part of calamari. There we had the most opinionated waitress who said after we were served that , “I would never recommend that dish.” She was wrong, it was the best thing we ate. Of course everything she recommended was twice as expensive as anything else. We didn’t get Oysters in the middle of the country.

Our best breakfast was at Eleven, a great Jewish Deli. It was so good we ate there twice. On those days we didn’t eat again until dinner. I am always happy at a Jewish Deli. The best thing on the menu there was “Guilt. $0, there is always plenty to go around.”

Our best activity, that I can talk about, was a visit to something called Mindworks, which is a kind of lab that the Booth school at U Chicago runs to do mind experiments on willing percipients. It is in a storefront on Michigan Ave. I was in an experiment that was supposed to be about memory. Another man and I were told to read a paragraph, then we were moved to a waiting room where we were told we had to stay in our seats for ten minutes. The lab assistant told us we could look at our phones. I leaned over to the man and told him he was not allowed to hit me and I wouldn’t hit him. As a nice older gentleman he readily agreed with me. The lab assistant shut the door and I asked the man where he was from. That is our family ice breaking question. He said Mexico City and a long conversation ensued.

At the ten minute mark the lab assistant took us back to our first room to answer questions on computers. They had nothing to do with the paragraph we read, but instead asked if we talked to each other and who talked first. After the experiment the lab assistant told me I was the fastest first talker she had ever had. Surprise, surprise. Russ was in a virtual reality experiment. The best thing about that is he learned he can use virtual reality with only one working eye.

Flying home was not so hard, but still the least good part of a great weekend. Russ goes back to the airport tomorrow for another business trip. I can see that we are quickly moving out of the pandemic life. Now I am wondering when I am going to have time for all my pandemic hobbies if I am going to travel again.

Really Old Married Couple

Russ and I are about to celebrate our 30th anniversary. In true fashion that we have been together so long, we bought practically matching shoes today. In Russ’ defense I forced him into the store. I am at the place in life that there is nothing better than a clean pair of sneakers. Thankfully the world has gotten so casual that everyone wears them everywhere.

As if it even matters what a sixty year old woman is wearing any way. No one is looking at me, or cares. So after my Christmas Red wool Allbirds purchase I decided I needed a summer pair. I just wanted white mesh sneakers that are so comfortable I can walk as long as I want.

Russ and I walked to the store. He thought he could wait outside like he does at all stores. I told him he had to come in since he had the wallet. I quickly found the pair of shoes I wanted. Tried them on and left them on, placing the shoes I was wearing in the box. I asked my sales girl what the biggest size the men’s came in. FOURTEEN! I asked her which ones were the narrowest. She showed them to me.

I asked Russ if he would try them on. He humored me. See, he wears a 14 AAA. That is an impossible shoe to find. These fit. He really didn’t want them, but the casual shoes he had with him had holes where his big toe popped out. He needed, not wanted, but needed new casual shoes. He did not say he liked them, but he wore them out of the store and out to dinner tonight.

We are now that old married couple wearing matching shoes. At least we don’t have matching outfits. He would look so much better in his than me so I will continue to wear different clothes.

Photo Blog

All photos, text to follow…

That one’s for Lynn

Florida is Not the Happiest Place on Earth

With all my apologies to my various family members who live in Florida, you officially live in the dumbest state ever. DeSantis is picking a fight with Disney he can’t win. He should have learned from North Carolina’s one term Republican governor who picked a fight over bathrooms, which was a law in search of a non-existent problem. When North Carolina tried to legislate which bathroom people could use we lost billions of dollars in revenue for the state. Now Florida stands to do worse.

The don’t say Gay law is a law in search of a problem that didn’t exist before. Disney should have spoken up for LGBTQ+ people while the bill was being debated. It waited and only after DeSantis signed the ridiculous law did they say something. Disney is the happiest place on earth. It’s a gay ‘ole time. It’s right to speak up on behalf of it’s cast members and the guests who visit.

Now DeSantis wants to punish Disney. Disney is the reason Florida has revenues to begin with. I was a kid when Disney world was conceived and was being built. I watched the Wonderful world of Disney every Sunday night at seven hanging on Walt’s every word about the new theme park. We begged my father to take us. He said not on his life would he take us to that swamp.

Because Central Florida was a swamp of nothingness before Mickey and Minnie made it home. Yes, Florida has beaches, but so do many states. People wouldn’t flock to Florida just for their beaches if Disney wasn’t there too. Now, Florida Law makers, without any time spent studying the consequences, passed a bill to take away a special tax status that Walt and Roy secured from Florida before they agreed to build there.

If Florida does revoke the Special status they will also inherit the $1.7 BILLION bonds that Disney owes for improvements, as well as have to set up all the “government” type services, like fire departments, police, etc. that Disney currently owns and runs. This assumes that it all happens without a raft of law suits from much smarter lawyers that Disney employees than the civil servants in Florida government.

All this fight with Disney does is brings attention to how unfriendly Florida is, not the nicest place on earth that Disney has created. There are lots of other places people from all over the world can visit and spend their money. Look how much North Carolina lost on one bathroom bill and we hardly have the same worldwide draw as Disney. In fact, when I worked in London and I would tell people I lived in North Carolina they would cock their head with a dazed look. I would follow up with, it’s between New York and Disney world and that gave them a point of reference they knew.

The right, in their efforts not to bother legislating something actually useful, but still wanting to gin up their base creates these non-problem issues and then doubles down when they are challenged.

My answer is to not give any revenue to Florida if I can help it. The state that has buildings full of sleeping residents collapse due to poor oversight is bad enough, but starting a war with Disney after creating a hostile community for LGBTQ+ people is unacceptable.

The only way that things like this can be stopped is if people of good conscious speak up and withhold revenue. It worked against the NC bathroom bill. When it hits Florida residents in the pocket book they will cry uncle, and not uncle Wiggly.

The Graduation Celebrator We Miss

The summer between my junior and senior year in college I worked in Pittsburgh selling cable television. It was a job that required a car since I sold in every neighborhood all over the city, depending on where the new cable was being built. One night we had a big team event and on my way home I got t-boned in an intersection and my car was totaled. My father happened to be in Pittsburgh that day, which was very comforting. He also went out the day after my accident and found me a “new” used car. It was a maroon Volvo sedan, the safest car he could think of.

I loved that car, but the day I graduated from college my mother put the dollar amount my father had paid for that car on a piece of paper on the refrigerator. Happy graduation, no present, you owe us this money. Since my parents had paid for my education it seemed only fair. Thankfully I got a job that provided me with a company car, so I sold that Volvo for $7,700, seven hundred more than my father had paid for it and returned the $7,000 to my parents. (Good thing I was good at sales.)

Last summer it dawned on me that I paid my parents back exactly what my father had paid, but he had gotten insurance on the car I totaled. I asked him about this when I thought of it. He said, “You are right, but I never told your mother that I got that insurance money.” I told him that was rough on me. He said, “Don’t worry, I will make it up to Carter when she graduates this year.”

Sadly he did not make it long enough to see her graduate. Even though she got her diploma in December, she is going to walk in graduation next month. We are going to celebrate and see her do it, especially since it will be at Fenway. I do wish my Dad had lived long enough to celebrate it with her. He would be very proud of how well she did and the job she got.

She also is not getting the present that would make up for his pocketing the insurance money, instead having me pay for the whole car. I’m not sure she is getting any presents at all for graduation. Not that she needs anything other than money to help her decorate her new apartment now that she will have a separate bedroom. Her grandfather would have been the big celebrator. We do miss that about him.

The Joy of Winners

Everyone wants to be a winner. That’s probably how we got to be a nation of participation trophies, just so people can think they are winners. I am not a believer in participation trophies. I like the feeling you get when you really win. My sweetest grandmother, Mima, was a big gamer. She would teach me every grown up game and play with me as hard as she could. I well remember playing gin rummy with her when I was five. She would inevitably beat me. My lip would quiver and she would quickly raise her pointer finger in the air and say, “No crying.” She never “let” me win. So when I did beat her it was a real triumph I would relish.

As grown ups we don’t do enough things we can win at, unless you sell something at work and can beat your competitors. So playing games is the best way to get that high feeling you get from winning.

Today was our last Mah Jongg Class at Chapel Hill Country Club. It also happened to be the club’s 100th birthday so they were having a big celebration. Champagne and cake were brought into our class. So when people won their game they not only had that fabulous feeling of doing something better than everyone else they also got a champagne toast.

I suggest you find something to compete at just for the sheer joy of winning. It might take you a while to win, but then when you do it will that much sweeter. So don’t settle on go fish with your grandchildren. Make it a challenge. I want to congratulate the winners today. This is just the beginning of your journey as a winner.

Dr. Day

Everybody dealt with doctors today. Russ had doctors. I took my Mom to Duke to have her sit around at the eye hospital for five hours to “see” doctors. I had my annual exam today.

I had to help my Mom check in online after she said she had already checked in. Five different codes later we final got into her MY Chart. We went through what felt like hundreds of illnesses she never had. I had done online check in for my appointment too. It took me fifteen minutes to input all my medications and supplements. And another fifteen to go through all the illnesses I never had. Then when I got to the doctor’s office they had me fill out three more pages. What the hell? My favorite question is “what was the date of your last period.” I just put down “a million years ago.” They have that information in their system better than I have it in my memory. You tell me.

I like my doctor. The funniest thing she told me today is that I have a small tight uterus and small ovaries. Isn’t that just perfect. On the outside I have big things, but on the inside, they are small. Why the hell can’t it be the other way around?

I also have small finger nails. That is the one big thing I wouldn’t mind having. I have small lips too. Yes, I wish they were bigger. I guess at my age just having working parts is a good thing.

As I watched how much time my parents spent going to doctors I am not looking forward to parts breaking down. I feel like we go to Dentists more than the average now and that is sure to go up. Oh, I also have small teeth.

Easter was Happening All Over

Our little family was all split up today. My mother came down to spend two nights with us for Easter. We went to church, where I was the lector so I didn’t even sit with my family. Thankfully the friends who sat near Russ also knew my mother. It was a beautiful day at church to have a full congregation, the Westminster Brass playing and the sun shinning as we came out. Russ commented that this was the first time we have had so many people in the courtyard with the reflection from the glass windows in the fellowship hall making it look like double the people.

We came home to our little Easter dinner that I made. Mom, even changed out of her church clothes before lunch so she was ready to help me plant my garden after lunch.

My sister Margaret had my sister Janet and Sophie over for Easter brunch and it looked like the bunny came with goodies for everyone. I think Margaret is just glad I was not there to steal all the good stuff like I did when we were kids.

Carter was looking forward to going to a Big Italian Easter with her friend Olivia at her parents house outside Boston. Then one of Olivia’s roommates came down with Covid so they could not go to Olivia’s family in order to protect her ninety something year old grandmother. So instead of them going there for Easter Olivia’s mother drove Easter into them in Boston. She even brought Carter an Easter basket along with a giant feast that Carter and Olivia were having at Carter’s apartment. There is nothing better than a mother you don’t know loving on your child.

Carter’s friend’s Mother Brought this to Carter
And filled her fridge with Easter Dinner

So we may have all been apart, but everybody had someone with them and everybody celebrated. For he is risen, he is risen indeed.

The Dog’s The Highlight

It’s opening week at the Durham Bulls and things aren’t going well. Tonight we went for our first game of the season and they were playing the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. How scared should a bull be of a shrimp, jumbo or otherwise? Well it turns out plenty scared.

So with the Bulls not playing their best, especially the pitcher in the seventh inning who gave up five runs, we turned to the other fun activities that make up minor league baseball. Of course we have the always entertaining Wool E. Bull. I asked my friend Javoti, the on field announcer if There was a new guy in that Bull Head and he said yes. He seems like he will be a successful Bull so we are rooting for him.

The biggest “hit” of the night was Ripken, the bat dog. Ripken is a black lab who goes out and picks up the bats after the player has run off to first plate. Ripken was the most popular member of the team tonight. He only picks up the Bull’s bats. Those shrimp needed their own dog, but alas they had none.

Since our seats are right behind the Bull’s dugout we got to talk to Ripken’s trainer. They only come for Saturday night home games and Ripken has his own official Topps Baseball card.

All our friends at the game tonight agreed that the Dog was the highlight. There was some good playing and hits and runs were made, but when the Bulls gave up five in the seventh that was enough for me. Ripken had already departed, maybe he was the good luck charm that shouldn’t have left until the game was done.

It’s a Ramadan, Passover, Easter-Palloza

It only happens about every thirty-three years that The three most practiced religions in the US have major celebrations at the same time. Tonight Passover begins for Jewish friends and runs all week. Ramadan started April 2 and the daytime fasting and prayers last until May 1 for Muslim friends. And today is Good Friday and Holy Week wraps up with Jesus’ big day Easter Sunday for us Christians. Since Ramadan moves one month every year, it will be celebrated in every season over the course of a dozen years. So having all three major religions observing big things on the same weekend is a rarity.

First to my Jewish Friends I would like to wish you a sweet Passover. To my Muslim friends I wish you a blessed Ramadan. And to my Christian friends Happy Easter.

I am hopeful that all these celebrations at the same time remind us that we may pray differently, but we share in common tenants to be good people, love each other and do good in the world.

Not all religious followers are good at remembering these things, just as you don’t have to follow any religion to do these things. For me I am wishing the world peace and love during this Holy Week. We need a lot more compassion and working for the common good. No matter what you believe, if anything, good blessings on you.

Someone Is Always Awake

It’s 2:45 AM and someone is awake in our house. Two nights ago it was me. Last night it was Russ. I don’t know what is going on, but for some reason no one seems able to sleep past 2:45 everyday. There must be something going on in the universe.

I went to the dentist two days ago to get an old filing replaced. He asked how I was. I said, “Just exhausted because I have been since 2:45.”

He looked at me a little cross eyed. “You are the tenth patient day to tell me that.” I asked how many people he had seen in total and he said maybe 14. That is a high percentage to be awakened in the middle of the night.

There was no weather event that might have woken us. And it’s not just waking up and then going back to sleep. It’s waking up and not being able to go back to sleep.

As I child I was a professional sleeper. Even as a young adult I never had any trouble sleeping. I’m not in the throes of menopause. Russ is definitely not going through menopause. We just can’t sleep, at least not both on the same night.

If you need something in the middle of the night, go ahead and text me. I might answer.

When To Wash The Car?

If you live in North Carolinian you know it’s Yellow Season. That’s when irritating pollen rains down on everything, everywhere, all the time. This morning I got in my car, my very dirty car, and drove a quarter of a mile with the windows up and sneezed 15 really hard sneezes. Thank goodness there were very few cars on the road and no dog walkers because my eyes were forced shut at each sneeze. I don’t have allergies so I can only imagine what this year is like for those of you who suffer.

As I was driving I had to run my windshield washers to brush away enough pollen so I could see. I desperately need to wash my car along with the old land cruiser that lives next to it. We don’t have a four car garage so two cars live outside.

I am at a loss about when I should wash my car during the Yellow Season. I know you should not bother to wash if it it is going to rain the next day, but with the amount of pollen around I feel like washing it now just makes it a pollen magnet. Sure the dirt under the pollen is probably not helping repel the tiny spores. Yes, the inside needs to vacuumed because I can see a film of pollen inside. I just hate washing it and having it look like it wasn’t washed the next day.

I guess I just can’t win. I’m going to have to break down and wash it. Now I am wondering if there is some kind of filter I can put in my air vents that prevents pollen from getting inside the car. I only have the air recirculating inside already, not allowing new air in, but that doesn’t seem to stop this yellow. I am worried that if I keep having these big sneezes while I am driving I am sure to hit someone or something. Thank goodness I didn’t have an incontinent issue. Then I would definitely need detailing.

Like Getting Into College

Apologizes to anyone who is still waiting to hear if their child will be accepted into college as I liken Shay getting accepted by a groomer to the turmoil your family is going through. Since Carter got herself into college early we did not suffer. So it only seems fitting that we have had the trauma of having Shay turned down by multiple groomers.

Shay had been happy with a groomer up near Costco for years. Then they had to close due to the lack of available staff. That was at least four years ago and since then it has been one nightmare after another.

We had an excellent young woman, whose parents I knew. She came to the house and Shay got the full spa treatment at home and was very happy with that. Of course dog grooming was not her long term career so she left us after a while.

We found another mobile groomer, a sweet man who did an excellent job. He left the one company he was working for and did not show up for a scheduled appointment. The owner eventually called and said they were not servicing our neighborhood anymore. I could not imagine why they didn’t want to soak our neighborhood.

That guy eventually went to a new company and called to see if we wanted him. We did! Again he did not show up. Eventually his boss called and said they too were not servicing our neighborhood anymore. What is it about the dogs of Hope Valley?

The pandemic set in about then and Carter came home and she groomed Shay. It was better than a sharp stick in the eye, but her nails were never clipped as none of us could bear to do it. The hair between the D’s of her feet grew long and she started sliding down the wood stairs. Not good.

I asked everyone if they liked their groomers and got many names. I called at least half a dozen and none of them were taking new clients. I eventually had one who asked me to email Shay’s medical records like she was going to give us an appointment. I sent a photo of Shay. I offered to bring her by so she could meet Shay and see how easy going she is. As I was awaiting the call back with an elusive appointment time I realized it had been days. I called back and asked if Shay could get in. NO. No explanation why, just. NO.

Like when a kid gets a “not accepted” letter for college, there was no explanation. I studied the medical report, was there some hidden code that says, “difficult dog?” If she was difficult I might understand.

Finally a friend gave me the number for her mobile groomer. I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I called multiple times being so much nicer than I actually am in real life. I was told Shay had to be on the six week grooming schedule, if she needed grooming or not. I just said yes.

I was nervous this morning when I had not gotten a confirmation call or text, so I called. Thankfully she was actually coming. Shay was not happy about it, but she got a great hairdo and had all the important bits taken care of. I pray this woman stays in business. It’s not like Shay will eventually go off to college and make her own beauty appointments.

Thankful for Easy Flowers

I have spent the last year helping my parents move, losing my father and teaching people to play Mah Jongg like their lives depended on it. It you asked me a year ago what the next 12 months would be like I would not have predicted what has transpired. It just goes to show you need to be open to the possibilities and deal with the responsibilities when they happen.

All this time I have been fairly neglectful of my house plants. Don’t thing I have lost my green thumb. Last summer was also the first summer of my newly-built fenced-in vegetable garden and I harvested well over 700 lbs of food from it and that is not counting all my friends took when I was away on vacations.

Most of my house plants are orchids or succulents. My succulents suck right now, but my orchids are a tropical paradise. I don’t do a thing for them. I have never transplanted a one and some are fifteen years old. I have never once fertilized them. They are lucky if they get watered two tablespoons every two weeks. I am just lucky that my sun room seems to get cold enough at night and hot enough in the day to grow orchids.

So while I am out spreading Mah jongg love, my flowers are happily blooming alone back home. Since I hardly ever have a minute to sit and enjoy them I decided to take a few photos of just about a tenth of all the flowers I have right now. I thought I should share them, if even just virtually.

God Mother Visits Day

It may be National siblings day, so to my two sisters, “Happy day!” But to my only child she will never celebrate National siblings day. Thankfully there are no gifts or cake involved in this day. I tried my best to get her a sibling and she knows it, but after a while when you have one good kid you say, “Why mess this up?”

Photo credit Suzanne Worden

Today Carter had something better than siblings day, she had “God mother comes to visit day.” Carter’s god mother Suzanne drove to Boston to take Carter to lunch and for them to have a good walk around Carter’s city.

I only heard they were doing this just before it happened. There was no need to involve me because they have their own relationship, which I love. Suzanne asked Carter where her favorite place for lunch was and she of course chose Select Oysters. Carter said she had oysters and a beet salad, something 10 year old Carter would have died before having.

There is nothing better than knowing that your adult child and your adult friend love each other. For the record I adore all three of Suzanne’s kids to whom I am “Aunt Dana.”

So happy “God Mother visits day” to you Carter. I’m so glad you had a good day.

Love My Electronic Calendar

I am ever grateful for my apple calendar. I have always liked calendars. I had a weekly planner in fourth grade before they were a grade school staple. In college I used nature conservancy spiral bound calendars which were only about five by eight inches so they were small enough to carry around in my purse or book bag, but had enough space in each day to makes notes about every possible responsibility I had.

When I started work I adopted a filo fax. It had places for addresses, birthdays and notes and I often had directions on how to reach different customer’s locations in places for which I had no maps. I could relive my whole life by looking back at an old calendar. Work commitments, dates, dinner parties, vacations, everything was notated.

When my work went international I adopted a small electronic calendar that was a little bigger than a checkbook. It was great because it kept track of where I was supposed to be in the correct time zone.

As soon as I got a smart phone I immediately moved to the calendar on my phone that also sync’d to my computer and iPad. My favorite feature is the alarm setting. Now the alarm rings on my watch. Without all these reminders I never would remember exactly where I should be and when.

I know exactly when it became important for me to keep track of my own appointments. I was five years old. It was a Saturday and I was playing in our front yard in New Canaan with my Dad and my baby sister. A car pulled up and a friend of mine and her mother got out carrying a goody bag and paper plate with a piece of cake. Apparently I had been invited to her birthday party and was a no show. They assumed I was sick.

I was so mad, embarrassed and sad that I had missed a birthday party. My mother said she just forgot. I’m sure she did. If I had known I was invited I would not have forgotten. Birthday Parties were a big deal when you are five. They still are. If it weren’t for my electronic calendar I might forget a party or two. I am happy that my current version reminded me that today is my dearest friend David Mac Kay’s birthday. Happy Birthday David. Glad I never missed a party for you that I was invited to.

Technology Smechtology

Of all the weeks to lose my Internet this was not the best. I had seven classes to teach this week, meaning I was be home very little. You might think, why does she need her internet when she is not home? Well, Russ also needs the internet, much more than I do since he has a real business to run.

I just needed to be able to play Mah Jongg online to learn the card well enough to teach it to the five new-card classes I was teaching. I had basically learned it before our internet crapped out, but I still was perfecting my understanding.

Russ on the other hand could not work at home and went back to the office. That left Shay home alone without the internet. Thankfully she is not into doggie gaming.

As spectrum was coming today I hung at home as long as possible waiting for them. Russ came home from the office fifteen minutes before I had to leave for Chapel hill and I passed the tech coming down our street. Getting work done at our house is usually my responsibility. I just could not cancel my class and I thought that we needed the internet back as soon as possible. This meant Russ had to juggle work calls and technical duty.

This was the highlight of my day

I had a fabulous class with friends in Chapel Hill who were good learners. I stayed a little late with them as they were very enthusiastic. As I was getting in the car Russ called wanting to know where some piece of equipment was in our house. Apparently the tech was still at our house reworking our system. When I got home, more than four hours after I had left, the repair was still going on. With me home, Russ ran to Office Depot and bought a new modem for good measure.

At the six hour mark the tech left and we had both TV and internet. It lasted 20 minutes. Thankfully he had given me his phone number so we called him back and he talked us through a fix. It worked, but I am left with a husband in a bad mood from having half his day hijacked. I am going to have to think of a number of ways to make this up to him.

Still Disconnected From the World

Oh how spoiled in the first world I am. Our internet service went down yesterday. If Russ can’t fix it it is really broken outside the house. I had to call our service provider who said we needed a tech. First available appoint was 30 hours from the time I called. I should have called when I got home last night and Russ told me it was down.

So life without wifi has been like 1984. Last night I wanted to talk to Carter. My cell signal is so poor in my house I had to call her from our landline. Thank goodness I have continued to have it just for these kind of situations. She tried to text me a photo and it took 20 minutes to download.

I went in our bedroom and couldn’t turn any of the lights on because they are all attached to Alexa. It was a little hot and I couldn’t change the temperature because the Nest thermostat needed wifi, so I had to do the old fashioned thing and go down and touch the thermostat on the wall.

There was no way for me to play any of my nightly games of Catan on my iPad without the internet. Instead I worked on a paper sudoku.

This morning I took my dress down to the sweat shop to iron, and thought I could continue using watching my show while I ironed, but I forgot that the TV there is supplied through the internet.

There was a buzz ad my front door, but I couldn’t see who was there through my Ring camera. Shay stands and looks at her Furbo treat dispensing dog camera and wonders why it is not popping out a treat for her.

I am not interested in going back to a time before wifi. I have a book I need to download on audible and I can’t do it. I may have to go dust the house or do something else equally dull as I have no internet to entertain me.

My Internet is Out

I got home from teaching Mah Jongg late tonight and Russ informed me that out internet had been out for three hours.

So I whiled away my time talking to Carter on our old fashioned land line. The internet has not come back so I can’t post a real blog.

This small note will have to suffice for tonight. Please come back and read something more interesting and entertaining tomorrow. As long as the internet is back.

Trying for the Lost Kitchen

There is an elusive restaurant in Freedom, Maine called the Lost Kitchen. It’s owned by a woman named Erin a French, a self taught chef who is regaled by the cooking community. The tiny 40 seat restaurant is probably the hardest reservation in get in America.

The restaurant is only open a few months in the summer. They only take reservations via post card. Yes, post card. Apparently anywhere from 25,000 to 75,000 post cards. It is a lottery system. You send your post card in and hope it gets pulled from the hat. This year the restaurant is asking you to donate to a Maine a farmer Charity to get a code for your post card. I personally find that a brilliant idea. With all the people with plenty of money trying to do anything they can to get a seat at this place, why not ask for a donation. Most people are not going to get picked, but sending $20 to help a Maine farmer will be good for the farmer community and not a hardship to any of those people willing to travel to Freedom for dinner.

Since we will be in Maine a month this year I decided it was time to send a postcard and see if we get picked. The website tells potential patrons you can send homemade or store bought postcards. I went the homemade way. I made a quilted post card because I am hoping that some curious hand that is drawing the winners will feel the fabric with pinked edges and want to pull it from the hat to see what they were feeling.

I appliquéd the word eat on a piece of fabric. Then I sewed two pieces of paper to the other side. As I was sewing the paper on I felt like my post card was not quite stiff enough to withstand the postal system. So before I closed up the fourth side I wanted to insert something a little stiffer. I looked in the drawers of my sewing desk and found a deck of cards.

A card would make the perfect inset. One card was too small, and two fit perfectly. Since I want the cards to fill the whole cavity I sewed them together and slid them between the fabric and the paper. Zigzagging the last seam I had created a little post card with exactly the right weight and feel of a regular post card.

I’m off to bring it to the post office. I want to make sure it is accepted and has the right postage. The Lost Kitchen closes post card acceptance on April 18. They say if you send two cards you are disqualified. I am not sure how they figure that out, but I am not taking any chances and will just send one.

If I’d Known…

Sometime around Christmas I was scheduling New Card Analysis classes for my Mah Jongg students for this week. It made sense to me to offer people advice on who to read and play the new card as soon as it was available. Students signed up in droves and I have five classes of 25 people filled.

There was a little sweating waiting to get my new card. I needed to analyze it and write a lesson plan. To do it well I needed to play the new card as much as possible myself. Thank goodness my cards came last Wednesday and I had four full days to tell my husband that I needed to play Mah Jongg for work.

Today I had my first two classes, back to back three hour lecture classes. I stood up most of the time talking to my Mah Jongg friends. By the sixth hour I was feeling that constant standing and talking so I asked to sit down. Then I just lectured from a chair. I was exhausted by the time it was all over.

I drove home and now trying to rest up to be able to stay awake for the final in the NCAA Final game with UNC and Kansas. If I had realized four months ago that UNC would be playing tonight I might have not planned such a hard day. All I want to do is go to sleep, but I’m not going to do that.

Thankfully tomorrow I only teach one night class. I can make I can easily stand up for three hours talking. It is no where as hard as playing basketball.

Pew Disorder

In olden days there sometimes were churches that had pews that were in boxes with doors on the aisle ends. The box pews, as they were called, served a couple of purposes. First, they were warmer than bench pews where the cold could sweep through the whole church. Families sat together in their box and could bring hot stones in a box to act as a little furnace in their family box.

Some churches had families pay to have their box and thus would know their seat would be available to them, no matter what time they arrived at church. I am unsure where poorer people sat in churches with paid boxes, but it certainly could not be as desirable as the pew box.

I am a church creature of habit. We don’t have pew boxes in our sanctuary, but for 23 years Russ and I, and sometimes Carter have been sitting in the same place every Sunday, the second row on the right hand side, closest to the window. I like this place for many reasons.

First, I am distracted by people in church who are not paying attention. (This is rich since I needlepoint in my pew) If I had rows of people in front of me I might be watching them and not listening to the sermon.

Second, I am a terrible singer, but like to sing out nonetheless. In the second row we usually don’t have anyone directly in front of us, so I am not singing badly into someone’s ear. I am close enough to the choir to use their good singing as cover for my bad.

Third, I am a laugh out loud sermon listener. So when I laugh it gives the not used to laughing at church people behind me a chance to laugh and it ripples back through the congregation.

Forth, I have excellent hearing and I don’t like to be distracted by people near me making noise. In the sound row there are rarely any noisy people that close to God.

For years the second row was our place. Some years we shared it with a family of six and it was a little tight, but we liked them. Sadly their family broke apart and so we were alone in our row.

A few years ago our church had our pews refinished. When they removed them they decided to make handicapped seating in our row and the one in front. That meant they shortened our pew leaving a space for a wheel chair on the outside. Ours was not the only place this happened and most of the wheel chair congregants choose the back row, rather than the front. So we retained our place.

The shortening of our pew meant that the pew behind us was longer and thus the seat on the end had an infinite about of leg room, as long as someone in a wheelchair wasn’t parked in front.

During Covid the Covid committee decided that people should sit in every other or every third pew and little braided ropes were placed across the end of pews that were forbidden. Russ and I moved back to the third pew where Russ enjoyed the leg room. He called it the “Exit row seating” like on a plane.

Now that Covid is calm people are allowed to sit where they want. Russ is happy in the third row so that is where we are for now. I, with my supersonic hearing can hear people behind us talking all through church and I find it annoying. I can’t imagine that the preachers don’t notice. It’s not like school where the teacher would stop the lesson and ask the offending talkers if they had something to share with the class.

I like the idea of having a paid pew box, we are almost guaranteed to have our seats when we come in. You have to get to church fairly early if you want the back row, but the front is almost always available. I am not sure if Russ will ever want to go back to the second row, unless he is in a wheel chair, but that better not happen. So for now I will endure the noise made by others whom I am now sitting closer to. I wonder if It would look strange if I sat in the front row and Russ sat in the third row?

Center of the College Basketball Universe

According to my governor I live in the center of the center of the college basketball universe – practically equal distance from Duke and UNC. The waiting for tonight’s HUMUNGOUS game is like waiting for Santa when you are five years old. There is nothing else that seems to matter around here. This is clearly the most important basketball game ever played.

Of course everyone I know will be watching it. Most are doing so in the privacy of their own homes so they can wear all their superstitious items, swear and scream as much as they want and replay things during commercials so they can be the judge of calls made by refs.

The number of houses divided is huge here. People who went to UNC and work at Duke or visa versa. Or parents went to one school and children went to the other. Spouses who went to the two different schools. Or worse, people who went to both schools.

What I am worried about is the fact that half of all my local friends and neighbors are going to be devastated tomorrow while the other half will be elated/nervous about the final game.

For now I am praying for good sportsmanship, fair calls, great coaching, no injuries, and fans who treat each other like they would like to be treated.

Good luck to all. This is a game for the history books and I feel like our governor was correct. This is the center of the college basketball universe.

Canine Game Show

After dinner Shay herded us into the sunroom so we could witness her squeaker removal Olympics. As she lay splayed on the floor, atop her dead blue dog, with one mummy toy under her chin, she wrapped her paws around her small lobster and systematically unstitched a seam. After creating a small opening in less than ten seconds she nosed her way around the stuffing inside and with just her incisors she delicately withdrew the squeaker, not disturbing one flounce of fluff.

With surgical precision she pulled the small stopper tube from the bulbous round of the plastic noise maker and paid them side-by-side before attacking the stuffing, pulling it all out of the red lobster until it was noting but a flat shell, picked clean of it’s meat.

While witnessing this activity over and over again, Russ and I got the idea for a dog game show of toy destruction. It could have different contests: Most precise seam ripping, fastest squeaker removal, cleanest fluff removal, best limb removal and best total destruction of stuffed animals.

Dogs could enter in weight categories like wrestling or in breed competitions. Grooming would not come into play and mutts would be encouraged to enter in all fields.

Shay could not be host of this show as she shows no interest in other dogs. She has no talent in dog small talk. This does make her an excellent potential champion because she is never distracted by other dogs. Friendly dogs would be at a disadvantage because they might want to play with the other contestants rather than concentrating on stuffed animal annihilation.

For more social dogs perhaps there could be team toy destruction or tug-of-war contests. Animal dentists may have to be on hand for type A dogs who refuse to lose at any cost.

For the productive dogs there could also be a contest of best layout of corpse animals. Shay does have a way of displaying her kills. Does it sound like it is too dark a show? I think it could command a following.