When in Durham

Our day started with a breakfast delivery from the Tom’s because Ellis and her boyfriend Kevin were in town and we had a rare chance to all be together. Kevin and Claire were good sports as we told stories about Carter and Ellis growing up. It was such a treat to have everyone together.

Later in the day we had plans to go to the ball game. When friends come to Durham in the spring you take them to a Durham Bulls. When Carter comes home you definitely take her to the bulls. We have been going to the bulls since she was four months old. It is part of her.

When we got to our seats the long time on-field announcer Jatovi McDuff looked across the infield at Carter and made an “OMG” Face. He looked to me and mouthed, “How can it be?”

We have been buddies with Jatovi for so many years that he still thinks of Carter as being that nine year old girl who, with her friend Ellis, used to scream at Pat the bat boy so he would look at them. Jatovi came over to our seats to give Carter a big hug, meet Claire and the best thing was hug my mother. She didn’t have a choice, he said to her, “we are huggers.”

The game was not the bulls best showing when the Redbirds scored eight runs in the second inning. It felt like it would never end, and that was just the second inning. But it was a beautiful night. The rain had stopped and the sun came out. The park was not too full thanks to the earlier rain.

We didn’t stay until the end, but went to Thai Cafe for dinner to round out the full Durham Experience. We did have to take my mom home and get back to play some fast Mah Jongg. Such a Durham day.

Sharing the Obsession

I’ve done it now. Introduced Mah Jongg to Claire. Carter has known how to play since she was practically a baby as I sometimes needed her to sit in. Claire has wanted to learn since she likes games of all kinds.

This afternoon I gave Claire a lesson. She was methodical at learning what the tiles were. She had little trouble learning how to read the card. She took right to it.

Carter, Claire and I played a game before dinner. We took a quick break to eat dinner outdoors on the perfect night to enjoy the spring weather. Russ cleaned up so the three Mah Jongg players could return to the table. Carter and Claire both won a game and now are hooked.

I had to retire and left them at the game table plying Siamese Mah Jongg. I might have created a problem by sharing this obsession. I am planning on going to Boston to teach their friends. As long as they promise to still go to work I can think of worse things to do. Mah Jongg is good clean fun.

Welcome to Durham Claire

Carter and Claire arrived today for a four day visit. It is Claire’s first visit to Durham and we are very excited to show her the place Carter hails from. They took a very early morning flight. They said they met at Logan at 5:30 in the morning, which makes me tired just thinking about it.

I picked them up at the airport and on the way home Carter and I told Claire about some of the things she would see on the way to our house. Our favorite thing we described is the ugliest house in the neighborhood. As we rounded the corner near it I just said, “Look to your left.”

“Oh my, so much worse than you described.”

Once at home Carter had a good reunion with Shay, introducing her to Claire who has a sweet doodle named Norman. Thankfully shay took right to Claire. We gabbed for a while, then had a little tour of the garden where I harvested some arugula and lettuce for our strawberry salad lunch.

Carter took Claire downtown to Russ’ office and showed her American Tobacco Campus and the Bulls Park. Carter had a two hour zoom conference she took from Russ’ office. I met them all downtown for a quick dinner at Dashi.

The very early day was catching up with them and me by association. Russ had been up since three, but that is normal for him.

We are calling it an early night so we can go the the farmer’s market in the morning and then get some good game playing in. At last I have another game lover in the family. Thrilled to have Claire here to encourage game playing. Tomorrow Mah Jongg lessons will be given and at least a few games of Catan. Can hardly wait.

What a Mistake

I awoke to the prospects of free rainy day ahead of me. Carter and Claire are coming for a four day visit tomorrow. I want to make sure everything in the house is clean so I got out the robot vacuum and set it lose. I scrubbed the kitchen counters and dusted the dining room table. I doubt we are going to sit at the big table for twelve when we are only four, but I want to remove any visible dust, not just for Carter and Claire, but for me. I am happier when there is no dust.

As I went about my day inside the rain started to subside and I saw an opportunity to get out in my garden before the rain came back. I was taking stock of my green beans sprouting, noting how many beans did not come up at all so I could get a new bean from the packet to replace the failed one, when my phone rang.

It was one of my Mah Jongg students, whose house I have been teaching at. “Dana, are you on your way?”

“Sarah, Oh NO, I have you in my calendar for tomorrow. ”

We had changed the date for her her class and I did not have it right in my calendar. I have never missed a class before. I have never even been late.

“I am getting in the car right now,” I said. “I will be there is half an hour.”

In my gardening and cleaning clothes I drove to Raleigh. On the way I called Sarah back and asked to be put on speaker phone. I apologized profusely and then gave the class some instructions on something I was planning on teaching them tomorrow.

By the time I had arrived the class members had each down loaded the app I wanted them to, created user names and shared them with each other. Thank goodness my terrible gaff gave them some time to do that. I told them they all could come to new card class for free next year.

We started the class 42 minutes late, but everyone stayed almost an extra 42 minutes and got their full three hours of instructions. It was no consolation for my mistake and their lost time. Bless these sweet ladies who were so kind to me after I made them wait.

Thank goodness I was home just working when Sarah called. I am going to double check all my classes at the beginning of each week for a while now. I can’t endure a mistake like that ever again.

Setting a Goal

Working is really getting in the way of my needlepointing. And don’t get me started on quilting. I haven’t sat down at the sewing machine in months. Thank god it wasn’t too cold a winter and we didn’t all need many new quilts. Not that I quilt for comfort, but for art.

I recently started a giant multi-year needlepoint project. I am making seat cushions for my game table chairs. I am free hand needlepointing four different flowers, one per chair. I started with the easiest flower using a fabric that is on another chair as the inspiration for my flowers. I had to size the flower up to be one big dramatic bloom.

The canvas is so large I have to roll it up like a giant roll of wrapping paper when I am not working on it. Today was one of the first days I have had time to run by Chapel hill needlepoint to pick out a color I needed to go between the round parts.

I wish I had time to work hours on this canvas everyday, but I don’t. I need to set a time goal to get it finished, perhaps before we leave for Maine. I am worried that when I get to doing the background it will be so boring I won’t push through. My friend Michelle suggested I just do one side of the flower and then the background on that side so I break up the background into two halves. I like that idea. I think I could finish half the flower in the next two weeks.

I’m putting that out in the universe. Maybe that’s all I need to do is hold myself accountable through the blog. So here is a photo of where I am today. I’ll report back in two weeks.

I Hate Inefficiency

I really should have been an efficiency expert. I remember reading Cheeper by the dozen and loved that the father was an efficiency expert. It is so hard for me to watch people wasting time, or steps or movements.

When I plan my teaching days I try and have as little time between classes as possible. So I standardize the times I teach. Nine to noon is the morning class. One to four is the afternoon and six to nine PM is the the night. Every once in a while I break down and let people pick their own times. I really should not let that happen because then it just leads to me wasting time.

Today I had a class in Raleigh at 11-2. This was a moment of weakness on my part letting them change their time. Turns out to have been a bad idea for them too because a bunch had to miss class.

The problem with a class from 11-2 is I had four hours until my six PM class. I planned to eat my lunch/ dinner combo them, but still it was a lot of time to kill. I hate shopping, but I did need to pick up some organic fertilizer for my garden so I did that. I thought ahead of who I will need a birthday present for and shopped for that friend a month in advance.

Other than those errands I could think of nothing else that had to be done. So I went to set up for my second class an hour early and did some work while I waited.

I hated feeling unproductive. Not that I was, but it felt that way. I have so much to do at home and if I had scheduled better I could have gotten more done at home and not had time to kill away from home.

So lesson learned. No adjusting class times. I offer them when they fit in my calendar. I can’t let work drive me crazy because I am not being efficient. Productivity comes first. There are only so many hours in the day and I have to make the most of them.

It’s Monday, Must Be Greenville

As my friend Nikki says, “Greenville is my second favorite eastern NC town.” I don’t mean for my Mah Jongg towns to compete to be my favorite, but they sure do try. Last week I walked away from Kinston with the following gifts: hand made Mah Jongg soaps from Nancy, a loaf of homemade banana nut bread with home grown blueberries from Debbie along with half a dozen printed photos, a special Stanley straw from Heather, a place to stay at the beach from Ann, an invitation to stay with Sylvia at a future visit. Not to mention the dinner parties Becky hosted for me while I was staying with her. The outpouring of love was over whelming.

Today I was in Greenville to do the new card class for those friends. Lee Vann showed up with beautiful yellow Peonies from her garden. I don’t want people to think they need to do anything to get to be the teacher’s pet. You all are my favorites.

My favorite part of new card class is when I invite people to take photos of the slides of the easiest hands. It is like a rush to get Taylor Swift tickets. As I was taking a picture of students taking pictures Nikki took a picture of me.

Thanks Nikki for organizing the Greenville crowd and bringing Mah Jongg to your town and inviting the Rocky Mount Girls. It was a fun day with friends.

More and Bigger

My Dad did everything big. He always ordered two beers as soon as he sat down, or two vodkas or two gins, you get the idea. He repeated phrases to make sure you understood. When he shopped he would buy the shirt in every color.

A few years ago when I visited him at the farm he asked me if I wanted some zinnia seeds as his internet order had arrived. I said, “Sure,” and he handed me four bags that totaled two pounds of seeds.

FOUR POUNDS of zinnia seeds could be a three acre field of zinnias! Think of a thousand of those little paper envelopes of seeds all dumped into a bucket.

I planted handfuls of those seeds. They made a beautiful bed in front of our house. I gave handfuls of seeds away. I planted more the next year, gave more away.

Seeds have a shelf life. I tried to use up those bags or give them away as fast as I could. It was so like my father to have bought twenty times more seeds than any of us could possibly plant.

Today I pulled out my last giant bag of zinnia seeds. It was easily at least 7 ounces still left. My Dad has been gone a year and a half and the seeds still exist. Russ and I added compost to my zinnia bed, which has gotten bigger every year. I lay out six long rows of seeds, sown heavy, since I have so many and am unsure if they might still germinate. Even with this bigger bed I still have seeds left. So like my Dad, more than anyone could ever use.

I hope that I get some flowers to have one more summer of my Dad in my garden. Eventually I will have to order my own seeds, but for now I still have the gift my Dad gave me.

I’m Lonely

I’m taking over my mother’s blog today. See, I’m lonely and want friends to visit. I do have my babies on every bed in the house as well as in my big basket in the sunroom. I like my babies, but I have silenced most of them by removing the squeaker. I don’t mean to hurt them, I just love pulling the squeaker out. I think I need professional help to not hurt my babies, but my parents haven’t gotten me any therapy.

My Dad says walking would make me happier. Some days I will walk with him, but some days I only go to the end of the street and then turn back to home. Today he tried to get me to walk, but what was he thinking? The ground was wet and I am a pure princess and don’t like my paws to be wet.

I stood on the porch looking for friends walking by, but did see any. I guess they don’t like to have wet paws either. My Dad should realize I am not alone in that no walking in the rain rule.

Mom and Dad left me home alone this morning. They said it was because they were going to the farmers’ market where dogs are not allowed. I hate that rule. Dogs like farms. It was OK because they came home with a chicken for me. Not as a pet, it was cooked.

I hope the sun shines tomorrow. I am not promising I will go on a walk , but I will be happier when I go do my business in the front yard. Someone should build a covered area for me so that I never have to get wet. Mom? Are you reading this?

Home for Shay

Russ reported that while I was away Shay kept going to the top of the steps to look down to the garage door. She was looking for me to walk in and be with her. So sorry sweet Shay, eight classes this week kept me away from you.

April is my big month. I know Shay wishes I would just stay home with her, but I have to make hay while the sunshines.

Russ did an excellent job holding everything down at home. He even watered my garden and flowers in all the pots.

Now I am home snuggling with my girl. I am tired and she is happy to take care of me. I am not sure who is supervising Russ in his office since Shay is with me, but she will have plenty of time to do her office job next week when I am away again. Oh, April.

Big Kinston Day

Becky Darst has been a most wonderful hostess to me. We had a free morning since classes were not until the afternoon and evening. We started the day with Becky showing me six of her favorite games. I would have been happy to stay home and play all of them but Becky wanted to give me the big tour of Kinston. First we drove around to see everyone’s houses. If you want a beautiful house move to Kinston because you can get the best house for the best deal.

As we were touring we happened upon my friend Ruth E.’s mother and cousin who were out walking and stopped to say hi and ask how Mah Jongg was going.

Then Becky took me into to town to see the O’Neil hotel which had been her husband’s office when he worked for First Citizen’s Bank. The boutique hotel has seven fabulous rooms with the most wonderful art. I know this because Becky knew the manager who showed us the whole property.

Our favorite room was the one that had twin bunk beds built into a bank vault. Christopher, the manger, could not have been more fun and was kind to show us everything.

Back to Becky’s we went to grab a quick lunch before we went to the club for Mah Jongg lessons. The advanced class lamented plenty about the difficulty of the new card. The night class did not know the difference and everyone in the class Mah Jongged at least once, thank goodness. It made the wins even sweeter for the girls who did it later in the night.

Thanks to all who make my trips to Kinston so memorable. I could not do this without Kristi Blizzard, who was missed today. I also missed Jane Brothers. Just means another trip is in store. I have a whole new group of cute players. Thanks Kinston, your never disappoint.

Big Kinston Day

Becky Darst has been a most wonderful hostess to me. We had a free morning since classes were not until the afternoon and evening. We started the day with Becky showing me six of her favorite games. I would have been happy to stay home and play all of them but Becky wanted to give me the big tour of Kinston. First we drove around to see everyone’s houses. If you want a beautiful house move to Kinston because you can get the best house for the best deal.

As we were touring we happened upon my friend Ruth E.’s mother and cousin who were out walking and stopped to say hi and ask how Mah Jongg was going.

Then Becky took me into to town to see the O’Neil hotel which had been her husband’s office when he worked for First Citizen’s Bank. The boutique hotel has seven fabulous rooms with the most wonderful art. I know this because Becky knew the manager who showed us the whole property.

Our favorite room was the one that had twin bunk beds built into a bank vault. Christopher, the manger, could not have been more fun and was kind to show us everything.

Back to Becky’s we went to grab a quick lunch before we went to the club for Mah Jongg lessons. The advanced class lamented plenty about the difficulty of the new card. The night class did not know the difference and everyone in the class Mah Jongged at least once, thank goodness. It made the wins even sweeter for the girls who did it later in the night.

Thanks to all who make my trips to Kinston so memorable. I could not do this without Kristi Blizzard, who was missed today. I also missed Jane Brothers. Just means another trip is in store. I have a whole new group of cute players. Thanks Kinston, your never disappoint.

New Day, New Town

It was a glorious day to visit New Bern, NC. I was lucky enough to be invited to the New Bern Golf and Country Club to give a lecture to a wonderful group of women. I have not taught Mah Jongg in New Bern, but had many familiar faces from the Coral bay club.

For those virgins to my classes the first one can be a little bit of a surprise if you are not used to my animated style. Thankfully these women were not to shocked.

It was a big group of 45 so I needed all the tech to work, which it did not always do, but in-spite of some poltergeist like trouble having slides project the information was conveyed.

After the lecture we adjourned to a lovely lunch overlooking the river and then we got to play some. I love when students I have taught beat me because then I feel like they learned. And beat me they did.

I had to get back to Kinston to teach the evening class. Thankfully they are a darling class. Now I am retired to Becky Darst’s house where I am well taken care of. Thank goodness, otherwise this schedule would do me in.

Eastern North Carolina Tour

Today I started my New Mah Jongg Card Tour of Eastern North Carolina. It’s nothing like a Taylor Swift or Bruce Springsteen Tour. Tickets are not hard to get. You don’t have to go through Ticket masterand there is no up charge. There is also no tour bus or roadies.

Instead it’s me in my little Cmax, tooling down rt. 70 to my favorite small town, Kinston. I am basing this week’s tour out of Kinston since I love these people the most and they are the most hospitable. The fabulous Becky Darst is my hostess this week. She let me know months in advance that she had beat others out in claiming me for which I am eternally grateful. I don’t know if that means she actually drew the short straw, but it is very convenient since she lives so close to the club.

The first class was this afternoon with the band of faithful Kinston Mah Jongg Players. It ended at four and I had a two hour break before my second class of new beginners. In that two hour period I went to Becky’s along with five other friends. Had a yummy early supper together and got all caught up and was back at the club in time to set up for the class.

Not only is Becky putting me up, but throwing a dinner party, and one that started at four is most generous. I should have come right home from the last class and gone to bed, but I stayed up talking to Becky. Now I’ve got to wind down and catch some zzz’s because I am off to New Bern at the crack of dawn for the second small town tour stop tomorrow.

Nothing better than Eastern North Carolina. Taylor Swift or Bruce could not be doing any better.

Early Birthday Celebration

My birthday is more than two weeks away, but today I got to celebrate early. My needlepoint group is extraordinary about celebrating each other’s birthdays. Since my birthday is so close to Michelle’s birthday we had a joint birthday party today.

We always have a beautiful cake lovingly made by one of the members. Kathi had called me last week to ask me what my favorite cake was and I said lemon. She seemed to not like my answer and asked me what my second favorite was. I said, “Whatever Michelle wants.” We are talking about cake here, what could be bad.

She didn’t like that answer either and made me give her a second choice. I said, “Chocolate.”

“You know Nancy does not like chocolate cake,” Kathi said.

“Kathi, whatever Michelle wants is fine.”

“Pick another cake.” (Usually the cake is a surprise and I was wondering why I was getting the third degree.”

I was running out of ideas as I didn’t want to say something difficult. So since it is strawberry season I said, “strawberry,” even though it is not close to a favorite flavor.

I saw Michelle at church yesterday and asked her what her favorite cake was, “Lemon.”

I relayed the inquisition from Kathi and we laughed. Both Michelle and I were thrilled when we found out Christy, a superior baker, had made a lemon chiffon cake.

After we had enjoyed it I asked Kathi why she wanted so many cake choices and she said, “I wanted you to be surprised.” I would have really been surprised if it had been funfetti! So glad Michelle and I both love lemon.

Recurring Nightmares

The other night I woke myself up to get out of a nightmare I was having. I think I only recently realized I could do that. Maybe in the last year have I developed the consciousness when I am having a bad dream that I don’t have to endure it to the end if I just wake up. I wish someone had told me earlier that it was possible to do that.

In my dream a few days ago I dreamt I still worked at my first job out of college. My boss had called me and asked me what my plans for the day were and I didn’t want to tell him I didn’t have any. So I started making up appointments in a panic. For the record this never actually happened, but it sure felt real in my dream.

The day I was having this dream was the day I was teaching three giant classes. I don’t know if I was feeling anxiety about that big day. It wasn’t like I didn’t have a plan and it certainly wasn’t like I have a boss.

Of all the jobs I have had I don’t have any recurring nightmares about any of them except that first one. Granted I worked for some real dolts, but they never were really mean to me. I saw them be mean to plenty of other people. I think they were afraid of me, as they should have been. I was a lot meaner myself back then.

My only other recurring nightmare is one where I am in college right before exams and I discover I was registered for a class I never went to and I have to take the final exam. The class is always something like a foreign language, something I can’t bullshit.

The funniest thing about this dream is in real life I hardly ever missed class, except gym. I also tend to not miss appointments, but in the nightmare I am not like myself at all.

It seems odd that I only dream bad things about not being myself and never have dreams about being a model or an astronaut or some other absurd thought.

At this point in life I just glad that I can wake up and be myself and not have to answer to someone else. That’s better than a dream.

Bulls For the Win

In the midst of my Mah Jongg mania teaching Russ texted me Friday and asked if I want to go to the Bulls Game tonight. It was a risky time to be asking me since I was burning the candle on both ends, but I said sure.

I called our friends Sara and Dave and asked if they wanted to go to the game with us. It had been too long since I had seen Sara and they are great Bulls fans who actually watch the game.

I had told Sara we would pick them up and then forgot I had said that as we waited for them to come to the house. About fifteen minutes into waiting for them it dawned on me my mistake. So we were a little on the late side to the game. We decided to get tacos for dinner and ordered before going to our seats. Unfortunately I messed up the automated ordering system and never actually entered my order. So Russ hung around the taco stand for a very long time waiting for my dinner that was never coming.

Thankfully all my mistakes were not foreshadowing for how the game was going to go. We were standing right under the Bull when a home run was hit bringing in three players. I had never been so close to the Bull when he is snorting. It was very exciting.

Despite what Russ had told us about our season tickets we still were in the second row on the first baseline where we have been since the beginning, but no longer behind the bulls, as they switched dugouts. Now we are behind the visitors. It made for some excitement tonight as we heard the Lehigh Valley Iron Pig Manager say the F word twice at the umpire and get ejected from the game.

The Bulls were in fine form and won the game 8 -6. There were a few tense moments when the outfielders missed a number of catches, but the hitting was good.

It was an excellent first game of the season for us. The weather was perfect, no humidity, no pollen and just the right temperature. I am hoping for more nights like tonight, not that I have time to go to many games, but they sure are fun when we do go.

Planting Time

No matter how busy or how tired I am it’s planting time around here. I learned my lesson long ago to only buy as many plants at one time as I can plant in the next two days. Thankfully I usually am driving my little car and it only holds so much. Back in the days when I drove the Land Cruiser I would fill that baby up with plants and it would take me weeks to plants them all.

When I went to Augusta I bought a bunch of perennials and they seem to be thriving. Tuesday, after garden club I stopped at Stone Brothers and bought a few more perennials, a packet of bean seeds, a few tomatoes and eggplants. I have not transplanted the veggies as I am letting them acclimate to my garden.

Today after teaching my morning class I came home and passed out for a nice nap. I awoke refreshed and ready to plant. The earth was easy to til from the good rain we had.

I am ready to go to the farmers’ market first thing in the morning to get my next round of plants. I need to get my vegetable garden in before I am off on my Mah Jongg down east tour next week. I pray we have had all the cold weather we are going to get since I won’t be around to cover things. Russ is fine in a pinch, but I hate to impose on him and Shay only snuggles in blankets and won’t share them with the veggies.

Three Down, Two to Go

From six PM last night to noon tomorrow I am teaching five three-hour classes. This is what happens in April when the new card comes out. I hate disappointing anyone who wants to learn Mah Jongg so April is packed.

Last night was a cute group of young women in downtown Raleigh learning beginner Mah Jongg. Today is my big New Card Orientation Classes at Carolina Country Club. I had a morning class where there were so many great questions. I just love how curious everyone is.

The afternoon class was just as exhilarating. My favorite thing happened when I put up the slide of the easiest hands and the whole room took out their phone and took photos of the slides.

Now I’m relaxing in the Bogey Den before my night class. Thankfully my extroversion gets me through the day of three big lecture classes. I was worried that nine hours of talking to a room of almost 100 3 times would be too much, but it hasn’t been.

Let’s see how I feel tomorrow afternoon after I have driven home and driven back to Raleigh and taught a whole new group o new players their first class. First classes are the hardest on me, but Los something I can do in my sleep.

The fun part is I do it all again next week when I go to Kinston and New Bern. Thank goodness I made this sixty-slide Power Point to do the new card orientation class so that I make sure to cover all the important topics every time. Now I know to tell people to take their cameras out on certain slides and take photos!

My Durham Magazine Column

My cable and internet went out this morning. Not great timing as I was finishing polishing m sixty slide power point for the new Mah Jongg card class.

I am teaching in Raleigh tonight. Will get home around 10. Turn around at 7:45 and drive back to Raleigh. Teach three back to back classes. Get h.one around ten tomorrow night. Go back to Raleigh at 7:45 Friday morning and teach.

So five three hour classes in a forty hour window. That leaves no time to get my internet fixed. So as I am sitting in a parking lot before I lug my stuff into an event space and I posting a photo from Durham magazine of my column. I have no band width to do anything els.

Reality Ministries Happiness

My garden club had a fabulous field trip to Reality Ministries today to visit their North St. Neighborhood and specific to see Tony’s garden at the corner house.

I first got to know Reality years ago when Beth Sholtz told me about it and suggested I do a story on it for Durham Magazine. I met Susan McSwain, the founder and was so impressed with their mission to create a community of friends where people living with disabilities are side by side with friends whose disabilities not as apparent. The day program provides a loving place for 400 people who might otherwise be lonely to have a place to come and be with friends.

One of the wonderful things that came out of Reality was an intentional neighborhood of 20 homes where over 100 people live together, people with all kinds of abilities living together. These are not normal group homes, but families made up of chosen friends.

Many of the houses have glorious gardens and we went to have a tour of one of these gardens where Tony lives and tends his fruits, vegetables and flowers. Tony grew up in Greensboro and moved to Durham when his mother passed away. My guess is he is in his seventies and without Reality I am not sure where he would live. Bonnie who also lives in the home with Tony was there and shared her gift of making tea with us all. They were a most friendly pair who were clearly loved by many.

It was an incredible visit and I was so happy that members of the garden club got to learn about the miracle of Reality Ministries and meet the sweet friends who spend their day there.

Tony is a master gardener and he showed how people of all abilities can have extraordinarily talents. His gift is gardening, and maybe also impersonating Elvis, but that is a story for another day.

Thanks to Quinn Holmquist, the community out reach director for sharing Reality with us and making us feel so welcome. If you live in or around Durham and want to visit a happy place call Quinn to schedule a visit. It will change your perspective on how wonderful it is to live in a world where everyone is valued.


When I leave home to go teach Mah Jongg it is one thing that Russ has to fend for himself, but for Shay it can seem like I am abandoning her. Tonight I went to a cute girl’s house in Raliegh. He darling puppy Bonnie took a liking to me and wanted to snuggle while I was teaching.

It is never a hardship to play with cute puppies. The only bad thing is the look of betrayal on Shay’s face as she sniffs all of me when I get home.

I try and reassure her that she is my number one dog, always, but she is not happy to know that I step out on her. No matter how much I tell her it is just for work, she is still insulted.

I wonder if Shay should become my Mah Jongg assistant then she could entertain the dogs while class is going on. The only problem with that is she would have to play with other dogs and hat is not something she likes to do. She would think she should teach Mah Jongg and Ali could play with the dogs. If I could just get her to hold the pointer stick.

Happy Easter to All

A glorious day happened to day! Christians celebrated our risen Lord.

My Mom came to church with us, but had to sit in the pew with Russ and our friend’s Jeanne and David because I was the lector and sat up front. It was a cool, but sunny start to a cloudless perfect day. Church was full with many friends. Chris gave a great sermon about going out into the world to do good. Always my favorite theme.

After church Lynn and Logan came over for Easter lunch with us. It was a feast of all that spring has to offer, peas, deviled eggs, lamb chops, with fresh mint sauce from my garden mint, new potatoes, blue cheese slaw and carrot and cheese cake bars. Nothing is more satisfying than cooking for Logan who is the most appreciative eater.

Then there was the excitement of watching the Masters and Jon Rahm’s decisive win. I was so happy that a non LIV tour player won as I am not a fan of the Saudi’s blood money in golf.

I had a lovely afternoon needlepointing while watching the golf. It was practically the perfect Easter. It only could have been made better if Carter was home. But we had a great FaceTime with her while my mom was still here.

Happy Easter to all. The Lord is Risen, he is risen indeed.

The Busiest Time

April is my crazy month ever since I started teaching New Card Mah Jongg Classes. This month I am touring the state teaching my friends all the secrets to the new Mah Jongg card. Since my giant class is Thursday I had to finish my lessons. To make teaching the new card easier this year I created a power point presentation for the class. It took forever, but at over 60 slides long it covers a lot of information.

Between working on my slides, I made my big teaching Card for the year, planted some foxgloves, lupines, lantana and creeping Jeni I bought in Georgia, set the table for Easter lunch and prepped as much of the Easter feast as I could.

After chopping the mint from my garden to make mint sauce for the lamb I finally hit the wall and called it a night.

I almost forgot to practice my lector readings. Thank goodness being lector on Easter never includes lists of difficult names.

The one thing I did not do was look for a warmer Easter Dress. I am praying it is warmer tomorrow than it is today. I might have to wear a Christmas dress if the cold and rain keeps up.

Happy Easter to all the believers.

You Just Don’t Know

On my drive home from Augusta this morning I got a text from my mother that my cousin Steve had passed away. Steve was my mother’s middle sister Susan’s youngest son. As the oldest child of the oldest child my first cousins on my mother’s side are all much younger than I am. I was a teenager when Steve came along.

Sadly Steve led a hard life. His demons were constantly present. I saw him at his mother’s memorial service five years ago and he was in a fairly good place. Then at another cousin’s wedding where we found out he was getting married too and having a baby. I was hopeful for that baby and sadly now Steve has left him and his very young wife, Amanda.

My Cousins, Jim and Steve, my Aunt Eddie and Steve’s now wife Amanda

My uncle Hank has memory issues and so my cousin Jim, Steve’s older brother, has a lot on his plate. I am just so sad for him and pray for them all. You just don’t know how much time you have. Try and not leave anyone without telling them how much they mean to you.

Near Perfect Day at the Masters

Going to the Masters with Judy, Master of the Masters was perfect. We were up early and out of the door making the fifteen minute drive to August National in time to get great parking in the B lot. The walking from the car was nice and easy. The weather was warm, but mostly overcast in the morning.

We executed our plan “par”-fectly. Our first stop was at the pro shop where the line to get in kept moving at a steady pace. I was able to purchase all the gifts I could afford, filling two bags, that I regretted when I had to carry them to the car, but I am getting ahead of myself.

The Masters thinks of everything a guest might want, including an excellent check service for all the purchases you make. I was amazed at the men who looked like their bought their wardrobe for the next ten years.

Judy had asked me what my goals for the day were and shopping was checked off, next was seeing as many players as I could and lastly seeing as much of the course as I could.

We started the morning watching a pairing that included Fred Couples as we walked the course to the stands on the green at the fourth hole. On the way there we got some breakfast and then seats at the top of the stands. It turned out to be an inspired place to see most of the players, including Tiger.

The fourth hole is not one of the famous ones, but it turned out to be a formidable hole for many players. Judy and I got to be quite the experts on the hole and predicted with precision who was going to make par and who would go over based on their tee shot. There were many potential birdies that never materialized. In fact we only saw one all day.

We took a break from four to walk the course and the only thing that was not perfect is the lack of color on the course as 90% of the azaleas were already spent. The normally gorgeous 13 hole was just a wash of green without one pink bloom.

It was a treat to see Tiger since it might be his last Masters. The most exciting player was Amateur Sam Bennet making his first Masters’ appearance. I predict great things from him. He arrived at the fourth three under par and held it together to finish the day four under. I also really liked Tom Kim. Of course seeing Spieth, Scheffler, Koepka, Rahm and Day was exciting, but Hovland was a nice surprise to me.

It was thrilling to watch these superior athletes. I am ever thankful to Judy for hosting me. I think I had the pick day of the tournament as the weather is not looking good for the weekend. It will be interesting to see how the tournament ends up.

My day at the Masters checks off a top bucket list item. Thanks, Judy. You are the best.

Yeah for Judy

Some thirty years ago I met Judy when we both worked for my Dad. She worked in the Pawley’s Island office and none of us could survive without her. Judy was one person who could put up with my father and we were in awe with how she did that.

When I retired to have Carter and my Dad more or less retired Russ hired Judy and she worked for him for 25 years. Judy was the best CFO and trusted advisor at Russ’ company, but to me she just got to be my friend since I was no longer working.

Judy retired this year and when she did she asked me if I wanted to go to the Masters with her. Judy grew up in Augusta, still has a place there and has had tickets to the Masters forever. You can imagine my answer was yes in a skinny minute.

Judy, being the most upstanding employee never could invite me to the Masters when Russ was still her boss, but the second he wasn’t…

So today is the day I drove down to Augusta. Judy arrived at her place here about the same time I did. We watched ESPN all afternoon, prepping for my day at the Masters tomorrow. We have a big plan and there is no one better to go with than a pro like Judy. She could answer every question I had, except whether I can wear my Apple Watch. No phones or cameras are allowed, but according to the website smart watches that can’t make calls or take pictures are fine.

We had a lovely dinner and watched Ted Lasso, because once you are on a sports theme you should stay on it.

I am being a terrible guest and going to bed very early. I want to have all my energy cells fully charged for our day, especially since we are going over to the course very early.

I do miss having Judy at Russ’ office as she always had the answers to any of my questions, but I really appreciate just having her as my friend, and such a generous one.

Happy Birthday to my “sister” Janet

I am lucky to have a real sister Janet and a great sorority sister Janet. Today is my Pi Phi sister Janet del Valle’s birthday. So to her I want to say a big Happy day!

Sisters are important, be they the ones you had from birth or the ones you chose. I literally chose Janet d. as my sister as I was the membership chairman when she rushed our sorority. Little did I know at the time that I was choosing a friend for life.

We have been together through not just college and those early 20’s years when we were just figuring out who we were, but through weddings, all of them, children, loss of parents, empty nests and now entering the next chapters of our lives.

I am so thankful to have a chosen sister to laugh and reminisce with. To play games and do puzzles together. To share the daily goings on albeit through text, Facebook, and wordle.

I knew from having real sisters, and my Walker’s sister gang that female friends are so important. The proof that college sisterhood endures is how many of my Pi Phi sisters are still my closest friends. It was my twin Pi Phi sister Laura’s birthday two days ago and I cherish her so much too.

So happy birthday to my other Janet. My chosen sister.

All is Right in the World

At last my Mah Jongg cards arrived. Thank goodness because it was not as much fun to play without a card this morning.

Mah Jongg Christmas, as us gentile Mah Jongg players call the day our new cards come, was not on April 1 as it should have been. I would have thought that the National Mah Jongg League could have gotten cards ordered on January 1 out in a little more timely manner, especially when they raised the price by 50%.

I must say I miss the days when Ruth was alive, god rest her soul. For those who do not know Ruth was the President of the National Mah Jongg League for many years and from the outside it appeared that she ran a tight ship.

I have spend plenty of time analyzing the new card and so far, have written 25 slides for the new card class. I figure I might have at least that many more to go. I will save my opinion of the new card for my class.

Happy playing everyone.

It’s Not About Luck

I have gotten to work on my new card curriculum for the 2023 Mah Jongg card. My friend Jan sent me a post that some person wrote about the new card. I was laughing as I read it. She wrote that Mah Jongg was 70% luck and 30% skill.

I don’t know who her teacher is, but she needs a better one, then she would know it’s not in anyway about luck. Mah Jongg is a skill that can be developed. You only say something is that much luck to make yourself feel better when you don’t win.

The one thing I say to all my students is, “You all have the same amount of luck.” It is not usually luck that makes someone win. It is maximizing your opportunities.

How do you do that? It’s making the most of the Charleston. Anyone who stops the Charleston when they don’t have at least 11 or 12 tiles for one hand is not maximizing.

As far as understanding where your opportunities are in the 2023 card, you will have to come to class to learn that. I worked for three hours today on my PowerPoint for the class and have barley scratched the surface. It’s going to be fun.

Waiting, Waiting

My new Mah Jongg cards were supposed to come today according to my USPS Informed Delivery email. So far they are not here. They did not come with my regular mail and the USPS site says they will be here by 9:00PM. I am not sure I believe them.

So I did some other things today. First we went to the farmer’s market and bought strawberries and plants. Strawberries went up in price a huge amount! Plants did too. I brought home some spinach, cilantro, dill and Lactose kale, which I planted.

Then I decided I should start my game table chair needlepoint seats. I drew out the first one on a poster board and then copied just the center onto my canvas. I want to stitch the center first and then add the rest. It’s going to take forever due to the size of the canvas and this is just one of the four.

My glasses give you an idea of the size

Finally I couldn’t take it anymore. A friend showed me the new Mah Jongg Card so I started analyzing it in preparation to write my “New Card” class syllabus. This year I am doing it in PowerPoint since I have such large groups in my classes. I pray my cards come soon. It’s hard to be a Mah Jongg teacher without the cards.

I could switch to be a garden or needlepoint teacher, but that’s not as fun.