No Real Shoes No More

I’m planning for some warm weather trips. I am a carry-on only girl. Looking over my wardrobe the most important plan is how to bring as few shoes as possible.

If it were acceptable I would just wear AllBirds all the time. In warm places I don’t mind sandals, but I have more or less given up real shoes. Heaven forbid I have to go to someplace dressy and wear grown up shoes.

So as I look at my shoes my real decision is which color AllBirds?


I was at a gathering of some friends today and the talk turned to cookies. I mentioned that I had just made the dough for snickerdoodles that I was baking tonight. The cookies are for a celebration at church, which is about the only way I will be baking any cookies these days.

A friend asked me if my snickerdoodles were fat or thin. “Fat,” I replied as all good snickerdoodles should be. She said hers turned out too thin and asked me the secret. I asked if her recipe had cream of tartar and baking soda. Her’s did not. I’m not sure it is a secret, but I promised I would give her my recipe. Then another friend asked if I would send it to everyone, so here it is.


Four dozen small cookies or two dozen big ones

2 sticks room temp unsalted butter

1 c. White sugar

1/2 c. Brown sugar

3 c. All purpose flour

2 t. Cream of tartar

1 t. Baking soda

1 1/2 t. Cinnamon

1/2 t. Salt

1 large egg

1 egg yolk

2. t. Vanilla extract

For Cookie Rolling

1/4 c. Sugar

1 T. Cinnamon

In a stand mixer with he paddle attachment beat the butter and add the white and brown sugars. Mix on medium for two minutes. Add the egg and egg yolk and vanilla and beat until well mixed, scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Mix until just mixed. Remove the bowl and take the paddle out. Pack down the dough in the bowl and press plastic wrap down to cover the dough tightly.

Chill for at least four hours.

Mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Using a teaspoon scoop small ball about an inch big out and roll it in your hands, then roll it in the cinnamon sugar. Place on baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a silpat .

Bake for ten minutes and them let rest on baking rack for ten minutes.

The cookies will be soft. Store in airtight container.

You can make the dough balls and freeze for baking later.

Nothing Is As Good As Russ

Russ is off taking care of his Dad so Shay and I are home. I had a long list of things I wanted to get done this weekend. It was an ambitious list, but I knew I had carry over time this week to complete it.

Without Russ I have decided that Shay and I are very lazy. I know I am lucky that Russ is a modern spouse who does more than his fair share of house stuff, but without him I realize how much time it takes to do everything myself.

I did concentrate my time trying to finish my needlepoint purse I have been working on the for two months. Since I would like to have it for summer if I don’t finish it now there is no chance it will see a warm day.

Needing to needlepoint all weekend is how I justify binge watching all of season five of Yellowstone. I also went to church which is a good needlepoint opportunity. When our Pastor Alex said in his sermon that we did not have to be in church and we were free to get up and leave I considered it just for fun. He told me after church when he wrote that he thought I might be the one person to take him up on the offer. Am I predictable or just rebellious?

I didn’t leave church and I’m glad I didn’t. I wouldn’t have gotten more things done on my list if I did.

Shay misses Russ most of all. She keeps looking down to the garage to see if he is going to walk in the door. Poor girl. I am not breaking it to her how long he might be gone. I am no Russ substitute, for anything!

U Dirty Dog

After the at home haircut event yesterday I took Shay to U Dirty Dog to give her a bath and have them trim her feet. There is no dog on earth who hates water more than Shay. Giving her a bath is pure torture.

Russ found this place for me before he took off for a week of elder care. It seemed like a better idea than bending over the bathtub at home.

Shay was wary when we got out of the car at Homestead market. She had never been to this or any other shopping plazas before. As soon as we went in the door she could smell that many dogs had visited this spot before and she gave me the pitiful look of “you are not leaving me here, are you.”

I hope that the staff is used to owners talking to their dogs, because I reassured her we were in this together. Once I had paid we were shown to a washing room. It was much easier to give Shay a bath with a nice soft sprayer and a good standing height tank. They had four different kinds of shampoo to choose from, conditioner and ear cleaning supplies.

I gave Shay the full spa treatment. She was not too unhappy until I turned on the dryer. It was loud and I can see why it scared her. I kept the blower away from her face because I have been told by all her groomers that she does not like to get her face blown out. I concentrated on her feet because I was told they must be dry for her to get her feet trimmed.

I felt like that was not too torturous for her after my terrible haircut. I just wanted to make sure she did not have fur growing between her pads which make going down our wood stairs slippery.

After all of this work on my part the groomer who I had been using texted me that she had made a mistake and could come she Shay next week. Too late. Shay and I have moved on.

Competence, Reliability, Talent, Kindness

These are the qualities I am looking for in a dog groomer. Apparently they are too much to ask for because I have had a terrible time finding and keeping a groomer. The last one I had was a mobile groomer. She was outrageously expensive, but I was willing to pay if she had the right qualities.

The first time she came, she showed up on time and gave Shay an OK haircut. The second time she did not come the day that we had scheduled, but gave me notice and came within two weeks. Shay shivered at the sight of her. She gave a fair to poor hair cut.

I was willing to try her one more time. She scheduled me at the time of the last haircut. I contacted her this week to confirm. She told me she was coming two months from now. WTF.

I showed her the text confirming, but that made little difference. So now she is out. I am sure Shay is glad about that.

I called my vet and got Shay a grooming apt in two months. So I went ahead and did 4/5’s of a very bad haircut on Shay myself. She finally sat down in protest after an hour, so I will finish her legs tomorrow.

I may not be competent when it comes to grooming, but at least Shay does not shake in fear while I am clipping her. I don’t know why it is so hard to find reliable dog groomers, but my quest continues.

The Tale of Two Hip Replacements

I know two people who had hip replacements the same day. One was planned, one was not. One had a compliant patient who followed all the rules and is healing properly. One is not following the rules to heal and thus is not doing as well. One will still be on good terms with their care giver after this is over, one may not be.

The lessons from this are many. If something is wrong get it looked at right away so that you don’t do more harm to yourself than necessary. Once you have a replacement do exactly what the doctors, nurses, physical therapists and occupational therapists say. They know better than you do.

The biggest lesson is be nice to your care givers because you need them. Everyone knows you hurt and are uncomfortable, but don’t take it out on them. Take your pain medication if you hurt. Don’t inflict hurt on your loved ones.

Jane at 85

How can it be? My mom turned 85 today! She is a wonder! I am very proud of her making her transition to her new home in Durham, although it is some here and some home. At least she is making new friends and making her cute apartment a cozy nest.

She is strong and happy and I hope she has a fabulous year. She does not look a day over 65! I only hope some of what she has rubs off on me.

Happy Birthday Mom!

The Best Part of Teaching

Lucky is not the right word, maybe spoiled is closer to the truth. That’s the way I feel when I come to a town in Eastern NC for three days and teach Mah Jongg.

This week is my second trip to Greenville. The number of friends I have made has expanded greatly. Thanks to my host Nikki who organizes everything and who I am staying with on this trip. One of the students Tanya, has made fabulous homemade treats for the whole class each day. She is a world class baker. The quiche this morning was very popular as well as the dark chocolate short bread, I wish I could have tasted them, but the oohing and aahing from the students told the story. This is way beyond the normal kind of snacks that most people have at Mah Jongg class.

Tonight Nikki’s sister-in-law Kara, who I met first at the beach and adored immediately, had a party tonight for me with about a dozen other women. I knew everyone from class, but a few non-Mah Jongg players came who were just fun people to meet. Kara invited me to come early to hang out with her while she made duck poppers, and spicy shrimp and a giant charcuterie platter for the party. That was really over the top.

It is so hard for me to imagine any job I could possibly do where the people are so generous, kind and just so much fun to be with. I have to say that the hospitality in Eastern North Carolina is hard to beat. They really spoil me when I visit.

Eastern NC at It’s Best

It’s Mah Jongg week in Greenville. My friend Nikki who organized Greenville’s first Mah Jongg week just a few months ago did it again for this week. Not only did she fill two classes at the Greenville Country club, she invited me to stay at her house, which is so much nicer than staying at the nicest Hilton in town and that is saying something.

Classes went great today, especially since they started with a class of returning students who I already know and adore. The class of new players are going to do well, but not until tomorrow. There is so much to learn you just can’t take it all in the first day.

After classes finished I came to Nikki’s beautiful house where I met her charming husband Gray. After some visiting we got in the car and picked up Nikki’s sister-in-law Kara, who is one of my favorites and Gray drove us to Williamston, NC to the Sunny Side Oyster bar. This is as Eastern a North Carolina place as you can go.

We walked into the big bar area where you wait for a place at the 32 seat oyster bar. The bar area was three or four times the size of the eating area. We were lucky that it is a Monday in January so we only had to wait about 45 minutes. While we did we played the ring game where you are trying to get the ring hanging from the string attached to the ceiling to get caught on the hook on the wall. There was beer and wine, but don’t ask for Prosecco. The bartender told Nikki, “We have saw dust on the floor,” not a Prosecco type of place.

When four seats came available we were seated at the end of the bar. There are no menus, but the placemats had photos of all the shuckers. We did get out picture made with “geezer” who has worked there 52 years.

Justin took our order and was one of our shuckers. Before we even ordered they poured hot sauce made of ketchup, Worcestershire sauce and horseradish into cups in front of each of us. They didn’t ask if you wanted it, you just got it because everything they had to eat went with “sauce.”

There were two sleeves of Saltines on the counter that were part of your meal. Justin asked what we wanted. Gray knew, so he ordered. As the only newbie in the foursome I asked what they had. “Oysters, shrimp, scallops and crab legs.”

Kara and I split an half a peck or oysters and a half a pound of shrimp. Those were the smallest portions you could get.

Justin and another shucker brought our buckets of steamed oysters in mere minutes and dumped them into the troughs in front of them. They shucked the oysters and dropped them into tiny bowls right in front of us. Our only utensil was a tiny cocktail fork and we stabbed each oyster and sauced it up before enjoying it.

It was a happy comunial experience between you and your shucker. Just one highlight of coming to Greenville and Nikki and Gray’s hospitality.

Laying Low

Last week was a busy one. I taught eight Mah Jongg classes, ending Thursday teaching three. So I took the weekend off from everything except church. January is a great month to do nothing on the weekends. It’s not like you are missing a party.

With so many people tied up with watching football playoffs and college basketball it was a great time to catch up on needlepoint. I have been working on this needle point version of a Nantucket basket purse. It will be a very cute bag with bamboo handles, but stitching it is very boring as I look only at Carmel and brown threads.

I want to finish stitching it in the hopes that it might be made into a purse before I go to Maine in August. It sounds crazy, but getting things finished is the longest part of any project.

Along with the stitching I have been binging shows on Acorn TV. Acorn has a lot of British shows that tend to be short series. Yesterday I watched an Scottish five parter called the Nest. Perfect thing to watch while needlepointing because I had to listen well to understand the accents. After a show and a half I was back in my old Glasgow call center I used to consult at. The director of the site, Anne McKinnon had such a strong accent that I did not really know what she was saying half the time.

It’s back to the salt mines this week, but only seven classes, instead of eight. I am looking forward to spending three days with a lovely group I have grown to enjoy. More news on their fabulous hospitality this week.

Hope everyone had a restful weekend. Spring and summer and the go, go, go season will be upon us soon.

The Year of the Rabbit

Tomorrow is the lunar new year. It is a big day in Asia. Celebrations with dumplings, fruit, sweets and money in red envelopes.

Yesterday Good Morning America had a segment about the year of the rabbit. And in it they showed the game of Mah Jongg as something fun to do to celebrate the lunar new year.

I laughed out loud at the thought of a non-Mah Jongg player thinking that they could get a game and learn it in time for the holiday tomorrow. I did like that they showed the game and the big Chinese tiles that don’t go on racks because they are so fat they can stand up on their own.

I really liked the look on Micheal Strahan’s face when he saw the tiles. No interest in them whatsoever. I think he was happy with the dumplings. They didn’t set the board up correctly because it looks like the table they had it on was too small, but 99% of people watching didn’t know that.

If you know how to play Mah Jongg, do it tomorrow in celebration of the year of the rabbit. It sounds like such a better year than the year of the rat or the snake. Next year is the year of the dragon and given that dragons are a part of Mah Jongg you should definitely learn to play before then.

One Night at Walkers ‘78/‘79

A few days ago my friend Arabella, who was my classmate in high school, contacted me because she found some photos she took at school. She thought I might want them. The eight small black and white snapshots arrived today in the mail along with a sweet note from Arabella.

Noting that they were not particularly good photos she did recognize that they were taken in my senior dorm room and that I was in my nightgown.

She was right. It was my room. I was in my standard Lanz nightgown which I still wear. I was needlepointing, which I still do. There were many friends gathered in my room all facing the same way. I think we must have been watching my tiny, illegal black and white Sony TV, which I don’t remember smuggling to school, but probably did. It looks like popcorn was served. I think the posters on the wall were the Characters from Wind in the Willows, but I must have left them there, because I don’t remember them well.

There was an Avon bear, which various friends seemed to hold. I think that most of these friends lived on my hall, Cynthia Reed, Lisa Dority, Mary Derbyshire, Stori Stockwell and Lisa Danforth. Sadly there were no photos of Arabella.

I wish Stori were still alive because she might have remembered what we were watching or why this particular group was gathered in my room. I wonder where Nancy Mack was, as she was my suite mate and the door between our two tiny rooms was almost always open.

If any of you friends in these photos have any memories of this event send a word. I have no recollection of that night, which I can tell it was by the black outside the window of my Cluett room.

I texted Carter a couple of these photos because in the small world that it is, Carter works with Cynthia Reed Klein’s daughter in Boston. Carter’s response to the photo is that I look exactly the same. What a nice daughter.

My First Concert

I came home tonight from teaching three Mah Jongg classes in Raleigh today. Nine hours of teaching is not something I can do everyday. I fell into bed just now and opened my email which had gone unchecked all day and discovered that David Crosby had died.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young had been the first concert I had gone to and the memory of that came flooding back.

In the summer of 1978 I had a summer job working in a printing factory in Stamford, Connecticut. It was a family owned business and most of the employees were all Italians who were related to each other, but not the family who owned the business. For most English was not their best language so it was lonely for me out on the shop floor running a folding machine.

The one person I could talk with was the owner’s daughter who worked in the front office along with her brother. She was my age and he was a year older. As the owner’s kids they got the cushy office jobs, but they still ate lunch out back with all the factory workers.

I can’t remember my friend’s name, but I do remember well that one summer night we went to New Haven with her brother and one of his friends to see Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The only part of the concert I can recall all these years later is singing “Our House” at the top of our lungs.

I also remember going back to their house in Westport to spend the night and my having to get up early the next morning to get to my 7:00am shift and my friend and her brother not being at lunch because their Dad told them they did not have to come in after the concert. I scoffed at this because they did not come into work until 9 anyway, but they were the owner’s kids.

Rest in Peace David Crosby. You were always a favorite of mine.

Everyone Needs to Lose

When I was five or six I remember visiting my sweet Grandmother Mima. She was a world class game player. We would play grown up card games and she would beat me. If I started to sniffle she would swiftly raise her pointer finger in the air and sternly say, “no crying!”

I would pull it together and play another round with her, mostly getting beaten, but never quitting. It was the best life lesson. No participation trophy for me.

I was telling my Mah Jongg students today that they are going to lose 78% of the time. With four people playing you are only entitled to win 25% of the time, but in Mah Jongg sometimes no one wins so that ups your loss rate. There is also no second place in Mah Jongg so you either win or you lose, deal with it. And players do, most graciously congratulate the winner and move on to play another game and try and win that one.

There is a guy in New Mexico all over the news this week who was arrested for shooting up the homes of political opponents he lost to. It was reported that he lost badly, but he was a sore loser and turned to violence. This guy needed more practice losing in his life. One needs to learn that sometimes you win and sometimes you lose and you learn so much more from your losses than you do from your wins.

Children should have to play board games in school so they can build up a thick skin when they lose. Doing it on videos does not have the same effect. You need to look your opponent in the eye and shake their hand, regardless of the outcome. The world would be a much more civil place if we all played games together.

Tell Me Your Name

I give all my Mah Jongg students my cell number so they can text me questions. I also give people doing work at my house my cell phone so they can call me. For most of those two groups I don’t always have their cell phone in my contacts list so when they text me just a phone number comes up rather than a name.

Mah Jongg students often ask a question and make some niceties. I answer their question and give a general nicety back. I would love to actually know who is texting because I might have something specific to say, if only I knew who they were. I hate to text, “Who is this?” It has no tone and could sound rude. I don’t really have the time to type out, “I’m sorry, just a phone number came up. Could you please tell me your name and how I know you?”

Most of the time people have no idea I don’t know who they are. I give them an answer and they are happy. It just starts to get embarrassing when they carry on multiple text conversations with me and I still have no idea who they are. By then it is much too late to ask, “Hey, who are you?”

I can’t be alone in having this happen. I have taken to always introducing myself via text if I am texting anyone I don’t know well. I would like to spread the habit to others.

It is kind of like the habit of telling people in a group your name just in case they don’t know it. Of course you don’t introduce yourself to people you know well, but whenever you are with people who aren’t close friends or colleagues.

It amazes me how many people don’t know that if I tell you my name it might be because I don’t know yours. I am prompting you to tell me your name. The worst is when I say to someone. “Hi, I’m Dana. Nice to see you.” Nice to see does not mean I know you or I don’t know you. But if the person says, “Hi Dana. Nice to see you too.” I then am forced to follow up with, “Can you remind me of your name?”

I wish I could remember everyone’s name I ever met, but as I age it is just not possible. I am married to someone who does not remember anyone’s name so I have to remember for him too.

Let’s try and spread the word that we introduce ourselves if there is the slightest possibility that just one person does not know your name. And when you text you start with your name.

Take Your Mother to Work Day

It’s a big week of Mah Jongg classes. I apologize now if I have nothing else to write about since I am teaching eight classes in four days.

Today was a one day Advanced Beginner class in a Durham. That makes this the lightest day in terms of travel and number of classes. My mother has started plying Mah Jongg at Croasdaile without having taken a full formal beginner class from me.

This summer she started learning at our family reunion. So many people assume they can just pick the game up on their own and it is only after playing a while that they are humbled and realize they could do with some classes.

I learned Mah Jongg by sitting beside someone who knew slightly more than me. It was the worst possible way to learn. There are too many exceptions.

After playing with some real Mah Jongg players my mother asked me if she could come to some of my lessons. I tried to get her to come last week, but she was busy, so she came to just one of the advanced beginner classes. She did well, but I know she, like everyone could benefit from a few classes.

Once you learn the rules of the game you really need to do exercises to train your brain how to pick which hand to play. Training people how to think is by far the most fun thing to teach. It was fun to see how well my mother did. Even at almost 85 she is naturally a great game player.

Silver and Gold Friends

When I was a Girl Scout, or maybe a Brownie I learned the song, “Make New friends.” It wasn’t much of a song, so we sang it in the round, repeating the same line three times.

“Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.” It didn’t explicitly say that the new friends are only silver and the old ones become gold, but that was the way I took it at the time.

If I try and think what I learned in scouts this would be the one standout, that and how to cook bacon for a crowd over a campfire. I was probably seven or eight when I learned the song and it has been a guide star for me my whole life. Once in a while I will be driving alone in the car and I will be humming it without realizing it.

The thing I love about it is it encourages you to always be making new friends while not ignoring your old friends. It also lets you know that some friends are more important to you than other and that is OK too.

Just because someone is a new friend of mine does not prohibit them from becoming a gold friend fast. Conversely, just because I have known you forever you may still be a silver friend. And the song gave me permission for it to be fine like that.

Experts on longevity often site the existence of friends as being key to living a long and happy life. So be like a Girl Scout and always be making new friends. You have no idea who is going to be gold to you. Not everyone will be gold and silver friends have their place too. The good news is are all friends, something you just can’t have too many of.

My Toaster Oven History

I have never owned a toaster. Did not get one as a wedding present. Never wanted a toaster. I am a toaster oven girl. I got my first one when I was a senior in boarding school. It was a General Electric.

We were not allowed to have appliances other than coils to put into a mug to heat up water. Those coils could easily start a fire if you laid it on our very flammable carpet, so I figured with caution I could not start a fire with a toaster oven.

The item I made most often in that toaster oven was Boursin stuffed mushrooms. No need to make toast, we could get that in the dining room, but stuffed mushrooms were a crave-worthy luxury.

That original toaster oven had a door that went up. It was small. I think you could toast two pieces of bread at the same time, so it was no better than a two slot toaster if that is all you used it for. The key was it was also an oven. It was more or less an adult version of an easy bake oven.

That toaster oven went far with me. To college, where I also made stuffed mushrooms, to my first apartment in DC. Somewhere between that DuPont Circle apartment and my house on Irving St. I got a new GE model. Slightly bigger with a door that opened down which made it easier to see what you were putting in or taking out.

After Russ and I got married I got a Black and Decker Model. I am not sure if we were living in NJ or had made the move to NC, but this model lasted a long time. At some point I think Russ was at a loss for something to give me and upgraded that perfectly good Black and Decker to a Cuisinart.

We had this one probably more than ten years now. The electronic push buttons were starting to fail and as is the case with all my toaster ovens I was unable to clean it to its original gleam.

I considered asking for a new one for Christmas, but decided that would have given Russ an easy way out. So this week when I was at Costco buying Shay’s chicken I sashayed by the small appliance aisle and this toaster oven/air fryer fell in my cart.

We have a basket type air fryer which is not convenient and it does not live in my kitchen so getting it out is an ordeal. But I do like air fying some things. Tonight I made sweet potato fries and chicken thighs á la chicken tenders. I was going to air fry the green beans, but I just threw them in a fry pan and dry roasted them. Dinner was fast with the new toaster oven.

As far as I am concerned the toaster oven is a must have kitchen requirement.

My Toaster Oven History

I have never owned a toaster. Did not get one as a wedding present. Never wanted a toaster. I am a toaster oven girl. I got my first one when I was a senior in boarding school. It was a General Electric.

We were not allowed to have appliances other than coils to put into a mug to heat up water. Those coils could easily start a fire if you laid it on our very flammable carpet, so I figured with caution I could not start a fire with a toaster oven.

The item I made most often in that toaster oven was Boursin stuffed mushrooms. No need to make toast, we could get that in the dining room, but stuffed mushrooms were a crave-worthy luxury.

That original toaster oven had a door that went up. It was small. I think you could toast two pieces of bread at the same time, so it was no better than a two slot toaster if that is all you used it for. The key was it was also an oven. It was more or less an adult version of an easy bake oven.

That toaster oven went far with me. To college, where I also made stuffed mushrooms, to my first apartment in DC. Somewhere between that DuPont Circle apartment and my house on Irving St. I got a new GE model. Slightly bigger with a door that opened down which made it easier to see what you were putting in or taking out.

After Russ and I got married I got a Black and Decker Model. I am not sure if we were living in NJ or had made the move to NC, but this model lasted a long time. At some point I think Russ was at a loss for something to give me and upgraded that perfectly good Black and Decker to a Cuisinart.

We had this one probably more than ten years now. The electronic push buttons were starting to fail and as is the case with all my toaster ovens I was unable to clean it to its original gleam.

I considered asking for a new one for Christmas, but decided that would have given Russ an easy way out. So this week when I was at Costco buying Shay’s chicken I sashayed by the small appliance aisle and this toaster oven/air fryer fell in my cart.

We have a basket type air fryer which is not convenient and it does not live in my kitchen so getting it out is an ordeal. But I do like air fying some things. Tonight I made sweet potato fries and chicken thighs á la chicken tenders. I was going to air fry the green beans, but I just threw them in a fry pan and dry roasted them. Dinner was fast with the new toaster oven.

As far as I am concerned the toaster oven is a must have kitchen requirement.

We Need A Math Wordle

Back when I first got out of college I noticed that I was starting to lose my ability to do basic math in my head. It’s not that I didn’t know how, but I just wasn’t doing it everyday so I was slowing down on calculations. To combat the loss I started balancing my checkbook in my head. (Remember when we used to write down what checks we wrote and subtract those amounts from our balance.) I also did as many math problems as I came across each day without a calculator, like figuring out what my commission on a sale might be.

Doing all this math regularly helped. I still try and do these things and consequently I got to be very fast at brain math. I am not doing calculus, but what used to be called long division is a big brain booster.

I do Wordle everyday, sharing the results with my book group. They are a heavy literary crowd and I am there for comic relief. I find that Wordle is helpful in brain training, but being able to figure out a missing letter is not really a transferable skill.

I wish someone would come up with a daily math puzzle. Nothing too hard, but something useful as a tool to keep up our basic math skills and keep our brain’s agile.

I no longer have a checkbook and I certainly don’t balance anything. I guess most of us are taking the bank’s word. The best math I do in my head now is calculating what I think my retirement account has in it after looking at how the market did each day. That is not a math problem, but a wishing game.

I guess the old adage, “use it or lose it,” applies here. If only it was as easy to lose weight as it is to lose the ability to multiply 13 times 24 in your head.

Half Price AllBirds

Last week when I was in Rocky Mount one of my students noticed I wore AllBirds to class each day. I am of the age that I only wear comfortable shoes. I really don’t care how fashionable they are as long as I can stand and walk all day.

This new friend told me about a company that was in Rocky Mount that sold new AllBirds online through their eBay store. They are called Shoes and Fashions. She had bought three pairs of AllBirds half price and said they were new in the boxes.

I went online. Sure enough they had hundreds of thousands of shoes half price. I don’t know if they are buying the returned ones, but I went ahead and ordered three pairs. I had to search for my size. Each shoe is individually offered so it’s not like looking at a website where you find a shoe you like then pick your size.

I was able to find many, I think a dozen shoes I wanted. I put them all in my cart then picked my top three favorites and ordered those. They came fast as could be, saying they actually were coming from Durham. Each pair was in the standard AllBird box and they all were brand new with the cardboard foot inserts in them. I have worn two pairs so far and they are just like the AllBirds I paid full price for at the store.

I did read that AllBirds are falling out of favor with finance Bro’s. All the better for me. I am just happy to have comfortable shoes at a good price.

Highlight of My Working Life

Tonight while I was finishing up teaching a lovely group of young women in Raliegh how to play Mah Jongg we got to talking about all the careers I have had. They asked me if I like teaching Mah Jongg best. “It is right close to the top,” I told them. I followed up with the story about the true highlight of my career that I am certain will never be surpassed.

In 1995/96 I got to run a program for BT, advertising Friends and Family in the UK. We created an ad campaign called the Friends and Family reunions. Once a month for a year we randomly picked one person who won an all expenses paid trip to a fabulous location and they got to take 29 of their friends and family with them.

This story I told the women who were sitting at the table tonight was of the family who won the trip to South Africa. They were a lovely couple from Canterbury who had four children, 14, twins 8 and a new baby. This was the biggest thing to ever happen for this family. The father was a car mechanic and they lived in a tiny house, which I visited the day after calling them to tell them they had won. They had never been on a vacation in their whole marriage so this was a big deal.

When the mother was packing for the trip she called me at my London office to ask me if they needed to bring towels. I was taking them to the Palace Hotel in Sun City and I promised her we would have plenty of towels.

I had one suite for the parents and the baby with an adjoining suite for the twins and the older sister. In the kids suite I had the mini-bar stocked only with kid friendly items.

After the long overnight flight from London I went to their suites to see how they were. One of the twins Nigel opened the door to his room. I asked him what he thought? He looked a little worried and said to me, “Dana, someone left their soda in our room.”

Having never been to a hotel or anywhere, I knew he had no idea what a minibar was. I told him, “Nigel, that soda and all the snacks and juice are for you and your sisters. You can have whatever your mother says you can have. Don’t worry about saving it because they will restock it everyday. It’s free for you.”

Without missing a beat Nigel then said to me, “Dana, would you like a soda?”

It was all I could do not to burst into tears right then. This sweet boy, who lived an incredibly modest life thought of me before himself. I thanked him so much and declined his offer, but told him I was looking forward to spending the week with him showing him all the exciting things we has going to see in South Africa.

That one encounter that happened so many years go still stands as the very best moment of my working life.

As I told this story tonight the three women I was telling it to all teared up. They asked me if I knew where Nigel was and I said, no. We all agreed he probably is still an incredible person.

Garden Club Bright Spot

What a difference a day makes. The relative with the emergency hip replacement had the surgery this morning and is resting in the hospital. I also have. Friend who had a hip replacement today and her surgery was successful according to her husband. Yeah for two new hips.

This morning I got my old car in Raleigh towed to the dealership in Durham to get fixed. I picked up my regular car and have it safely at home. No other cars broke today.

The highlight of the day was a fabulous Garden Club meeting at Anna Whalen’s house. Morgan Moylan of West Queen Studio gave the best presentation on tips and tricks and what is hot is the floral world.

My favorite trick she showed us was the spinning of roses to get them to open up. Morgan’s energy and excitement around flowers is infectious. It was a most entertaining presentation. Now I wish I had an event coming up so I had an excuse to purchase a lot of flowers and play with them.

Thanks to Anna for getting Morgan to us. It had been too long since I had seen Morgan and it was fun to catch up.

I am thankful for Garden club to make me slow down and visit with friends and think about beautiful things, not broken bones or broken cars.

How Many Things Can Go Wrong?

Some days are just worst than others. The day started out fine. I taught Mah Jongg in Durham. During the class I got a message that a very close relative had a bad injury which put him in the hospital and is going to have a big surgery tomorrow. So prayers are needed for that.

After the first class I drive to Raleigh in our old Land Cruiser because my car was in the shop. I was teaching mah Jongg to a very cute group of young women.

Class ended at nine and they helped pack up my car and the car wouldn’t start. The five women who were still left jumped into action and tried to jump my car, to no avail.

I called AAA and after waiting an hour they finally came and a new battery didn’t work so we determined it was the starter. A tow truck was needed, but couldn’t arrive until 1:00 pm.

I said forget that, I would get a tow truck tomorrow. So my Mah Jongg girls unloaded my car. I called an Uber and while Ahmed is driving me home on I 40 I am writing the blog on my phone.

I hope tomorrow is a better day.

Is It Really Just the Second Week of 2023?

I feel like I have lived more than one week in 2023 already. So far in the first week I went to church twice and one memorial service. I drove 720 miles. I taught seven different Mah Jongg Classes over four different days. I made 100 copies of materials for classes. I packed and mailed five different packages. I scheduled fifteen Mah Jongg classes as far out as the end of September.

I had lunch with a friend I have been friends with for 38 years, reconnected with two people I had not seen in 30 years, and went to lunch with another 25 year long friend. I made 25 new friends and met 16 more people who I hope will become friends.

I started one puzzle. Needlepointed at least 20 square inches. I washed many dishes by hand as the dishwasher is still broken. I dropped one car off to be serviced and when I was not doing anything else I watched the most entertaining week of C-span, staying up until after midnight Friday night witnessing the mafia like negotiations in congress.

What I didn’t do in the first week of the year: any laundry, grocery shopping or cooking.

I figure I better do some of the regular life stuff every week or we are going to run out of food to cook, things to eat and clothes to wear. Maybe tomorrow I can fit in some grocery shopping before my two Mah Jongg classes. I would much rather be making new friends and seeing old ones.

Farewell to Tom Belcher

Today was a a sad one. One of my old friends from my Washington days, Tom Belcher passed away right after Thanksgiving. He was just a few months older than me. He was at my wedding. Today was his memorial service in his hometown of Oxford, NC.

My oldest DC friend, David MacKay called me when he learned of Tom’s sudden passing after trouble with a hip replacement. Tom lived in Miami and we hadn’t see each other much in person, but we had kept in touch. David and I made plans to meet for Tom’s service.

I came up to Oxford early and David and I met for lunch at the Strong Arm Cafe and Bakery. It is a fairly new place that is having great success in Oxford. David and I rehashed all our old Tom stories. After a while two more old DC friends, and best friends to Tom, Kevin and Donald came in and joined us. I had not seen them in years.

When I think about Tom I always think about Kevin being with him as they were inseparable friends. Both of them were very broken up about Tom’s passing. We walked down the street to the Oxford Baptist Church and joined the family and gathered friends for the service. It was comforting to hear from people who loved Tom.

Parents should not have to bury their child. This is the second friend in the space of two months that I have lost. This is streak I would like to break.

The only silver lining is I had to chance to see people I have not seen in decades as well as spend some quality time with David, who I do see more regularly, but never enough.

Hold your friends close. There is not enough time left to make a life long friend. As wonderful as new friends are, they do not know your history, your inside jokes and all your secrets.

I pray for Tom’s family and friends who are missing him now. He was a loving son, brother, partner and friend.

I Need A Good Handy Man

Russ and I found some rot in some wood work in the sunroom. Nothing terrible, but something that needs to be fixed soon. When we built the addition on our house we had the best builder, Joe. He told us that once he worked for us he would always come work for us. We thought we were set for life. Then Joe retired. He wasn’t much older than me.

Now I need a handy man with good carpentry skills. If you know someone you have had work on your house I would love their name and number. I need a new Joe in our lives who I can call with the list of things that need to be fixed.

Russ is excellent at fixing many things, but he does not have the time. If only my father-in-law traveled. This wood working issue could be fixed in an instant.

We are still waiting for the dishwasher repair man from the day before Christmas. We know what the problem is, but we can’t fix it. It’s incredibly frustrating to wait around for someone to come, but it is worse not to know who to call in the first place.

A New Sweet Town of Mah Jongg Players

Years ago one of my Beach Mah Jongg students came up to me after class and said, “Would you ever consider coming to Rocky Mount to teach Mah Jongg?” She was not the first person from a small town to ask me like that.

I love going to small towns to teach. There are nice people all over North Carolina, but the ones in small towns are so grateful when you come to them. I understand this. Big cities have more available. I could spend everyday and night teaching in Raleigh because there are just more people there. They are wonderful people and I adore them. But people in small towns are just so appreciative.

This week I was at Benvenue Country club. It is a Donald Ross course built in 1922 so it feels very much like Hope Valley. The manager could not have been nicer and all the members who came to class were as fun and friendly as they could be. They have already booked their next round of lessons.

As I was packing up today, my friend Catherine, who is the one who asked me to come teach there and organized the whole week, put a gift in my car. When I got home I opened this beautiful candle and a sweet note. It was over the top for her to give me a gift, she got me the gig!

Thanks to Catherine and her friend Ginger who hosted me all three days, taking care of me and helping out. I am happy to come to Rocky Mount anytime. I am adding it to the list a small North Carolina towns that I think are full of the nicest people.

House Mess or is it a Plan?

For years many congressional Republicans have been obstructionists when it comes to actual legislation. They didn’t see their jobs as trying to make legislation that makes all of America better. Instead they just wanted to stop Democrats from doing that.

At last the house Republicans have finally figured out how to actually never have to do anything, but sit on their butts and argue by never electing a speaker. They literally can’t do anything until they elect a speaker and as long as they never do that they can spend the next two years doing nothing!

Of course this distraction is unacceptable to normal citizens. We would never be able to go to our work places and not do our jobs and just fight.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different out come. Kevin made the fatal flaw of moving in to the speaker’s office before he won the vote. That was setting himself up to fail.

All these crazy republicans who can’t come to an agreement are starting to make the Santos, the big liar just elected, look normal.

I wonder how long this shit show is going to go on, or is this rally what Republicans want?

Commuting is Easier

Today I started a three day class in Rocky Mount. For those of you unfamiliar with North Carolina geography, Rocky Mount is about an 80 minute drive east from Durham. Normally when I am teaching both a morning and afternoon class in a location out of town on consecutive days I stay overnight there.

I was torn about spending two nights away from home this week when I could commute. Yes, it does mean I spend three hours in the car, but it also means I am not staying in a motel meant for people driving up or down I-95.

As the day drew closer I judged that the weather was not going to be snowy so I decided to just make the drive and not spend the night. I left home at 7:15 and got home before 7:15. It won’t be as long tomorrow because I arrived extra early for class this morning because I got the start time wrong.

As far as commuting almost three hours in a day I thought about my Dad when we lived in Wilton. He commuted closer to four hours everyday and worked much longer hours than I do. His commute involved driving from our house to the Norton heights train station at six in the morning, which took about 25 minutes. Then getting on the New Haven line to NYC, a hour train. Arriving at grand central station he would carry his giant paper filled brief case on the 25 minute walk to his office at 9 West 57th street, no matter the weather. He left the house at six and usually got home around 8:30.

I got in my car and drove to the front door of the Benvenue Country club. Seems not to be too bad.

I am lucky that Russ ran out and picked up dinner. I guess it’s no different for him if I am away or coming home too late to cook.

The thing about commuting that is bd is the drudgery of doing it everyday. Three days is doable.

Resolutions, No Thanks

I stopped making resolutions years ago. When I did make them they were always too aspirational. As a younger person I thought if I made a resolution it would magically come true. Eventually I grew up and realized I was just setting myself up to fail. Failing never felt good and so I was despondent over not achieving my resolution and about how quickly I let it go.

Now I try and have an intention basically everyday. It should be nothing too big. Today It was to not put off cleaning the tile in my bathroom. Rather than just being a to-do item the intention was to not put it off. I felt great satisfaction in getting done something I had been thinking about doing for months, but just never got around to.

As I thought about it, setting an intention that was totally doable made me very happy. Why should I make a very long list and when I don’t get everything done I feel let down.

Now I am going to set intentions I am certain I can keep. I am going to do dry January. Since I gave up drinking 38 years go I think it is a good bet I will succeed. Maybe I will also intend to start the day with a healthy breakfast. I can’t think of the last time I missed breakfast so this is another sure fire win.

I am not setting a step goal this year since last year I did that and got terrible bursitis in my knee which practically crippled me for four months. I am healed now and can walk no problem so my intention is to walk just enough to not get bursitis. How much is that? Who knows.

Tomorrow’s intention is to have all the people in two Mah Jongg classes in Rocky Mount want to come back to class a second day. No pressure. I rarely lose a student, but I don’t want to start tomorrow. Getting people to love Mah Jongg is so much more fun than cleaning tile.

Earthly Mah Jongg Hand – Good Omen

It should come to no one’s surprise that I play Mah Jongg online. I consider it continuing education. One of my mantra’s in teaching is I encourage players not to stop the Charleston. For those of you who don’t play Mah Jongg, stop reading now because you won’t care abut this.

The Charleston is the the beginning of the game where players trade tiles with each other without knowing what you are being given until you see them. You trade three tiles at a time. It is mandatory to do this three times, which is called one round of Charleston. The second round is optional, meaning any one player can stop the whole thing. Once it is stopped all Charleston trading stops. I tell my students not to stop the Charleston due of indecision, which is the number one reason people stop.

The mistake is you are foregoing getting nine new tiles, three at a time and that can really improve you hand.

Today I played my first hand of Mah Jongg online. As the Charleston was going on I honed in on a closed hand in the odds. We finished one round of Charleston and I only had two tiles to trade. This would be the only reason to stop the Charleston. Despite having 11 tiles for my hand I went ahead with the Charleston and traded away one of my flowers that I needed, but knew with 8 of them in the game I could still get another.

Amazingly what I was passed in my last across was everything I needed, including a flower. I was able to do blind pass and no Courtesy in my last passes. As I was East I had fourteen tiles that made a hand. I was so excited I took a screen shot of it. You can see by the number of tiles still in the wall at 99 it was the very first play.

I declared Mah Jongg! This is called an Earthly hand, meaning I made it by passing tiles in the Charleston. In my 30 years of playing it has never happened to me. Just for your edification there is something called a heavenly hand, which means that East was dealt a Mah Jongg hand, no passing. I have never seen that happen.

You can see in the second screen shot that there are still 99 tiles left in the wall. I never discarded or picked! I hope this is a good omen for a very Lucky year!