Farewell Olivia Newton John

The summer of 1978 I worked in a printing factory in Stamford. It was a 45 minute drive from my house in my 1972 gold Chevy Impala that got about 12 miles to the gallon. There was a gas crisis and I would wait in gas lines on the odd numbered days to fill my tank’s tank.

The best part about that summer was that the movie Grease came out and my boyfriend Charlie and I went to see it five times. Sometimes our friend Jack would drive us. The benefit to that was he had a car which used less gas and Charlie and I could sit in the back seat and make out.

Olivia Newton John and John Travolta sang us through summer. I had the cassette tape and could sing along in my Chevy, when no one else was in the car with me. I think we ignored the fact that there was a pregnancy scare in the movie. We were just kissing back then so that never crossed our minds.

To us the innocence of Sandy was the best part of the movie. I can remember both Charlie and I did not like when Sandy came out smoking and dressed in black leather at the end of the movie. Still we went back to the movie over and over. Obviously there was not much for us to do in Wilton, Connecticut back then. I also was exhausted from working in the printing factory so sitting in an air conditioned theatre was the best. Everything was a lot simpler then.

So it is with great sadness that I learned of Olivia Newton John’s passing today. She always will be young and beautiful to me. Her voice will forever be stuck in my head singing, “totally devoted to you.” Grease was the soundtrack to that happy and carefree summer.


Two Days Home…Not Enough

Russ and I arrived home from Pawleys yesterday at 3. I promptly took a nap. I guess my extrovertedness saw the empty house and crashed. Russ was happily alone and awake.

Today was no better for me. I did laundry, but that was the extent of my productivity. I am resting up for my next trip in a day. Back to the beach for my final Mah Jongg classes of the season there. Seems like I have packed too much into my summer in anticipation of my month off in Maine.

I have a romantic idea that I will get to read, write, make art and cook a lot of lobster. Russ has even bigger hopes. Preparing for such a big break in our day-to-day life is not easy. Paying the bills in advance, lining up people take care of our house, getting prescriptions are just the easy things.

My list of things to do is growing and I have mere hours to complete it. I should never have taken that nap when we got home, let alone have such an unproductive day today. Sometimes you just have to take everything one day at a time.


Still Has It

Still Has It

When Russ and I started thinking about all the stuff we were taking to the beach, like chairs we never needed up taking out of the car, we decided to drive our 22 year old land cruiser. This car is a tank, but it is still a boss. I stopped driving the land cruiser regularly when I got my hybrid ten years ago. We kept the big car because it was great to take to the hardware store or dump. My dad had given Carter a VW when she got her learners permit, but after her new driver inaugural crash she started driving the land cruiser.

That car took her back and forth to Camp Cheerio all the years she worked there. I felt better knowing she was driving up the mountain in the tank. She and her friends even drove the car far into Tennessee to go to Bonnaroo, a big multi-day music festival where it turned out to be so hot they would go back to the land cruiser and sit in the air conditioning.

Since Carter left for College five years ago the land cruiser mostly sat in the driveway. Workmen would stop at my house and ask if I wanted to sell it. Absolutely not. With only 169,000 miles on it, which is only middle aged in land cruiser world. Yes, the leather seats have seen better days and the paint on the hood is a disaster, but as a work horse it can’t be beat.

On our journey home today I noticed gas prices were anywhere between $3.99 and $3.44 cents all in the state of North Carolina. It did not cost us much more to drive to and from Pawleys in the land cruiser as the price of gas is coming down continually the last two months. It did provide us with a great comfortable drive. The highlight was when we had it in limo mode. I was in the driver’s seat, Russ had the front passenger seat pulled up so he could sit in the back with Shay in her safety harness, but still standing on his lap with her head draped over his shoulder. The comfort level was high for everyone, especially Shay.

If you are ever planning on driving across the Sahara dessert or through the alps I highly recommend a late model land cruiser, if you can find one. People don’t get rid of them once they have one.


Last Dance

The ocean was perfect today. The water was cooler than it had been, making it feel refreshing. The jelly fish were someplace else. The waves were not so thunderous so you did not get thrown to the ocean floor. The temperature on the beach was warm, but not blistering. The breeze was not a land breeze, so it was sweet and pleasant. It was the perfect last day.

I enjoyed one last really good swim. I only had to save one small boy, who got in over his head. Thankfully there was no undertow and I got him to the sandbar easily. I have no idea where his parents were as there were just a few people on the beach. His two “older” sisters, maybe a nine and ten year olds, thanked me for saving him. I suggested they not swim any deeper and kept my eye on them while I swam.

Mary and I got lots of Mah Jongg practice in before we had to start packing things up in preparation for our early morning departure tomorrow. It was already getting to be a little sad that our beach week together was coming to an end. These small branches our our large family tree have never spent this much fun time together.

It was especially nice to get to know grown children who have turned into delightful adults. We are so sorry Carter was not with us and have promised to bring her on the next trip we will certainly have thanks to Meredith who is our official travel planner.

Tonight was our farewell dinner. Everyone who is still here all showed up. It was bittersweet to say goodbye. I love this extended family.


Demanding

For the most part the members of my very extended family have a few traits in common. Most of us love games and we are also very demanding when it comes to customer service. I can remember going to a fancy ladies store with my grandmother, Granettes, and when she was somewhat ignored standing at the front counter, she pounded her foot on the floor and bellowed, “who’s going to wait on me.” That was a very Michie way of acting.

Tonight we all gathered at one house to play some games. I continued my Mah Jongg lessons with the faithful and my cousin Mary won again, setting herself up to be a future shark player. The rest of the family was in another room playing poker. I heard from the young ones that my Sister Margaret cleaned up. I love that since she was always the least interested game player in my family.

After gaming we had no specific dinner plans. This was an oversight on all our parts. Since it is high season here, getting into any restaurant, especially with a group was impossible. We decided we could just go for Pizza and we picked the highest rated place called Rosie’s. Since it has only been open 8 months and four days none of us had ever been there before.

The place had plenty of room for us and we had possibly the best service any of us has had since we arrived, the manager and another waiter took care of us, never letting a glass get empty. We felt like we hit the jackpot as we are all so demanding.

Russ tricked everyone by paying the bill secretly, which was so like him. My mother complimented him on being the only person on earth who ever paid the bill before my father had a chance to do it.

We have one last day of our MichiePalloza and I have to say it has been a most successful family reunion, right down to the unplanned meals.


Some Observations From Large Family Gatherings

This has been a wonderful week of being with many kinds of family members. There are siblings, parents, in-laws, out-laws, first cousins, second cousins, first cousins once removed, second cousins once removed, third cousins and even foreign exchange students and of course pets. We have had a number of EVERYONE all together events and meals. We have had large and small gatherings on the beach or at a pool. We even had fourteen for one table at a dinner out.

Here are some observations from the week and we are only half way done. Not everyone likes the same food and some are not afraid to tell you. Some will come to any meal they are invited to and it never dawns on them to contribute. Some will contribute way more than their share and do it quietly. No matter what, there is always too much food. No one goes hungry and there are even leftover from meals that were made up from leftovers.

Not everyone knows how to put their glass in the dishwasher. There is almost always one person who does the majority of the cleaning out the dishwasher. If you ask someone who you are not a close relative to get up and clean out the dishwasher they will do it.

If everyone stops talking when you walk in the room it is a bad sign. If it happens twice within fifteen minutes you might want to skip the next reunion.

You should really pay attention when someone is telling you a story. If you are not, saying “Isn’t that wonderful,” to a pause in the story might alert the story teller that you were not paying attention to the story about the excruciating pain they were enduring.

It is probably not a good idea to comment on another person’s parenting style, especially if you are not a parent. Everyone should be given the benefit of consideration that this might not be their child’s best day.

If you are invited to participate in an activity you don’t have to, but letting people know before hand gets you lots of points. If you really want points get up and pour people more wine. You get double points for clearing the table and triple for cleaning the kitchen.

In-laws are allowed to slip out of the room and leave a group. Family members must hug and say goodbye before they go.

Rather than speculating about how someone is, ask them about it. Everyone is happy to talk about themselves.

Sharing what is a joy to you is often a joy to others. Listening is the most important thing you can do.

Remember, these are the people who are most likely to show up at your funeral, make sure they have wonderful stories and happy memories to share about you.


The Perfect Goodbye

Twenty something years ago my parents lived in South Litchfield, SC. My Dad had built a house he thought was worthy of visiting. He always wanted to give us a pool and comfortable bedrooms so we would spend our vacations with him. It was a beautiful house over looking the marsh with a dock for boating. We did all visit regularly and loved it.

There was one thing about the house my father found frustrating. In order for us to get to the beach we had to walk down a long road, because there was a canal between us and the beach. So my father took it upon himself to get a bridge over the canal built. It wasn’t easy. He had to enlist other neighbors to lobby the provincial Local government officials who put up as many road blocks as possible. Being turned down, by state and local authorities did not stop him.

My Dad started a campaign to raise money to build the bridge and by hook or by crook got it built. In 2003 the people of the neighborhood, now thrilled to have a fast way to get to the beach, named the bridge in my father’s honor. The funniest part about his doing all this work to get this bridge built is that he never went to the beach himself. He just wanted it to be easier for us and for others.

So it seemed only fitting that today we scattered his ashes from his foot bridge with many of his favorite people together.

We started the service at the house where my sisters and Mom are staying. My sister Margaret was in charge of this memorial and did a beautiful job talking about my Dad. She had gathered some things for us to read and my cousins and our friend Judy, Janet and I all read our parts. Right before the service started Margaret took the reading she had given me, the 23 Psalm, which I knew by heart and said, “No, I want you to read this.” I did not have a chance to look at it before we started.

After Everyone else had done their reading I was last. It was a perfect poem about not feeling sad about someone dying, half way through my reading the tears came and my throat closed up a little bit, but I continued.

We all went to the foot bridge and my Mom and sisters and I opened our little urns and scattered his ashes into the water. We wish that Carter had been with us physically, but she was with us spiritually.

It was the perfect way to say goodbye to my Dad, who always did everything for others.


Camp Pawleys

There is nothing I like better than an adult camp. That is exactly what it was like here with my cousins today. I got up early to drive into Georgetown to go to Independent Seafood to buy freshly caught shrimp for dinner tomorrow. You just can’t beat $6.95 a pound for the most perfect South Carolina shrimp.

I came home to camp in full swing. My cousin Leigh had brought the rock painting equipment and girls were busy painting rocks. I go in on this program and painted three rocks for markers in my vegetable garden.

After rock painting came Mah Jongg lessons. Meredith, Margaret and Mom arrived for their first lesson since I had to catch them up to everyone else. Once they got the basics down the rest of the cousins joined in for the second lesson. Hopefully they will get to playing soon, but we have so many activities it is hard to fit everything in.

After lunch there was a field trip for the teenagers and Mary and I prepped food for the Shrimp Creole I am cooking for 25 people tomorrow night. Then came free swim. One by one we gathered on the beach. It was hot so I went directly in the ocean. Sadly the jelly fish sent us back out of the water.

We had a good fellowship hour on the porch with Janet, Harry, Mason and Meredith, but we realized it was time to clean up for dinner.

Fourteen of us went to Bistro 216 and had a yummy dinner. Now after the exhausting day I am going to try and get to bed early. We have our biggest day tomorrow. I wish everyone had cousins they loved as much as I love mine.


MichiePalloza

Tonight was the first big “all cousin” get together of what my cousin’s wife Meredith calls MichiePalloza. Everyone here at Pawleys with us is either a descendent or married to a descendent of one of six Michie sisters of Charlottesville. Some of us are siblings, some first cousins, most are second cousins and their offspring are third cousins, but you would think we were all siblings. Well, most of us. Like all families there are some outliers, but that is just part of the entertainment.

My sister Janet and Meredith created swag bags for us all and we had a fabulous barbecue tonight at Harry and Meredith’s cottage. In the small world that is Pawleys, the cottage they are staying at is the same one my college boyfriend and his friends rented the spring break we all came to Pawleys, which was exactly 40 years ago.

This morning I spent two hours in the ocean with my cousin Leigh, her two daughters and French exchange student Jeanne, like we used to do when Leigh and I were kids. The wonderful thing about Pawleys is that it is so timeless.

This afternoon we started the family Mah Jongg lessons. Games have always been an important part of our family trips here. I used to play hours of risk with Leigh’s father, my Uncle Wilson and my cousin Brooks.

My mother is the only one of her generation to be with us, as a spouse of a Michie. There are only two Michie cousins left in my father’s generation, Big Harry and Ben, sons of the youngest Michie daughter Nancy. There was a remarkable connection among those first cousins, that created this great loving bond we all have for each other. I am certain that my father, his brother and their cousin Johnny would be so thrilled that we are here together having so much fun. This was the place we all came to see each other together and carrying on that tradition is proof of our love for each other.


A Big Family

I barley recovered from Elton and today we packed up our old land cruiser to come to the beach for a big family reunion. This beach trip plan was started when my cousins and I complained at one of our parents funerals that we only see each other when someone dies. Now that most of the generation ahead of us has passed on we realized it is up to us to make plans to be together.

So it started organically. My cousin Mary, who just sold her house here, rented a house and invited us to stay with her. Mary’s sister and family were already going to be here for two weeks and had a house. So Meredith rented another house and invited her husband’s sister. Then my sister got another house and invited our Mom and our other sister. My cousin Leigh rented a place, but Mary told her to come stay with us because she had room. Then people’s kids said they could come, including one 13 year old French exchange student who is going to have a very warped view of Americans after a week with us. So we have my Mom as the only representative of her generation at 84 down to Haidee’s youngest son who is going to be six. There are 23 of us and three dogs. All the dogs are at our house.

It was a long day, as driving to the beach on Saturday is the worse. Shay had to practice riding harnessed in the back, since that is what we are going to do when she and I drive to Maine. She wanted to be up sitting on Russ’ lap, but I said no. She is still exhausted from staying at her sitter’s Mary, who had at least 8 other dogs with Shay.

Leigh made dinner at home and carried it down here so we had a big dinner tonight at home with more than half of the family. Since almost all of us spent ours summers here together for our whole lives it feels very familiar. Except not to Shay.

Shay found our bed in our room and staked her claim. Russ and I had to make up the bed, but she was having none of that and refused to get up. We made the bed around her and now she is passed out hard. Russ walked her on the beach and he came back and said she did not like the ocean. So he walked her on the street and a big fire engine came by and scared her.

She and Russ are going to have a very exhausting week with all these people and loud noises. I think that if I can not find them I will know they are sleeping on the bed. Shay is just going to have to get used to having a big family.


Packed It In

I am rarely too tired to blog. Yesterday I should have written before Carter and I went to the Elton John concert, but I was too busy to fit everything in. My day started with my High school friend Stori coming into Boston to play with me. We walked from Beacon Hill to the needlepoint store off Newbury st. We hadn’t planned on spending as much time and other kinds of spending there, but we did. It is amazing how much a needlepoint store can fit into a tiny space. I was happy to see they had my Friend Karen’s Tout Le Monde canvases there.

After our fill of needlepoint we walked down Boylston to Atlantic Fish for a lovely lunch. From the looks of the people dressed in suits it feels like the business crowd was back. All this walking was not great for my bursitis. I had been doing so well, but Boston seems to be bad for my right leg.

After Stori time I had to go join Carter for our adventure to Gillette Stadium to see Elton John’s final farewell tour. We took back roads to get there and had no trouble at all. It was a packed house. Elton did not disappoint. He came on stage at 8:09 and we sang and danced until 10:30. He mostly played songs the whole stadium sang to, with a few exceptions that actually gave me a chance to sit down.

About 9:30 it started raining and the whole crowd stayed and sang in the rain. As is the case with big stadium shows the leaving is the worst part. I limped through the rain with Carter to our zip car where we sat for an hour until it as our turn to exit the parking lot.

We could not take the back roads home because we were not allowed to turn off route 1 so we stayed in the traffic of the 65,000 concert goers and took the highway back to Carter’s. It was after 1:30 before we got in and making the five flight climb to Carter’s apartment was a killer. My good daughter dropped the car off and walked home uphill herself!

It was well after two before I could go to sleep and was awoken at 6:30 due to the lack of curtains in Carter’s sunny living room where I was sleeping on her pullout couch. I dozed on and off until 8:00.

Carter and I went down her hill to Charles st. for breakfast and a little plant shopping before I set off for the airport. I was ready to get a good nap on the plane, and I almost did until the pilot came on and told us we were not going to be allowed to land because there had been a plane accident at RDU. Russ was flying home from Philly at the same time I was and I panicked that it might have been his plane.

I texted him and got no response, so I texted three friends at home to see if they had seen anything on the news. Before they could give me a definitive answer Russ texted asking if I was OK. Turns out it was a little plane, which went off into the grass.

All good. We are home together with Shay. I am going to sleep very early. Tomorrow is a new adventure.


ELTON!

I can’t post a whole blog because I’m sitting g in a car with Carter trying to leave the most fabulous Elton John concert at Gillette.

I’ll post tomorrow


The Fifth Floor

I woke up early this morning to see if I caught a snake in the trap the snake catcher put in my washer. The trap had no snake, just the eggs left as bait. I hope that the snake eventually gets hungry and goes for the eggs. I’m just not there to check the trap.

I flew up to Boston to visit Carter. About this time last year she invited me to come to see Elton John at his fifth and he says, final farewell tour. Of course this was an invitation I accepted, taking the bet that Carter would still be in Boston.

This is my first visit to her wonderful new apartment on Beacon Hill. Being on the fifth floor is the only challenge since it does not have an elevator, but once you get to the fifth floor it is very worth it.

Carter went to work in the Seaport today and I went down to have dinner with her. Since the Seaport is totally new in the scheme of Boston I had never been there. WOW, is all I can say. We had dinner at a wonderful farm to table place called Wood Hill, over looking Boston Harbor.

After dinner we walked to Carter’s office and she showed me around before coming home. There is nothing more fun than visiting Carter and seeing her grown up life here in Boston. I told her the benefit of her living in a better and bigger place is that she lets me stay with her, so instead of spending money on hotels I can buy her plants.

She said the better part of living on the fifth floor is no snakes. I agree.


What’s in the Washer?

I have a new rule. Make sure you don’t wait to do your laundry until the last minute. The reason? You might not be able to use your washer because there is a snake in it.

I came home from a meeting today and as I was approaching the washer, which thankfully is in my garage, I noticed this thick black cable reaching from the light switch to the open washer. Wondering what this black cable was I noticed it start to move as I got closer to it. That was when I realized it was a black snake.

It slithered into my washer and I shut the lid. I looked down into the glass lid and there was no snake in the basket. It had slithered into the inner working of the washer.

I came in the house and called NC Snake Catchers. Amazingly a guy was at my house within 45 minutes. Sadly he could not get the snake. He put an egg in a plastic dish inside the washer, hoping the snake would come out to eat. Right now I am waiting for his coworker to come and bring me a snake trap. Please god let this snake get caught in the trap tonight.

I like black snakes because they eat rodents and I hate rodents more, but I really don’t want this snake living in my washer. How would I ever know if he was still in there?

So for tonight I will not be doing any laundry. You know these things only happen when Russ is away.


The Rush

Some time in the mid 90’s had had the best job I will ever have. I was in charge of a advertising program for a large British company that gave away trips of a life time to a winner. The winner, chosen randomly was given a trip for themselves and 29 of their friends and family to an exotic location. On the trip we made commercials of the winners. I got to pick the locations, plan the trips, go on the trips and the very best part of the job, was I got to go to a radio station and call the winners and inform them that they had been chosen. I got to do this 12 times.

What a rush it was to call someone up and tell them they won a huge prize. The second best part was going to meet the winners the day after I called them to see them in person and explain all that they had won. One woman said, “I didn’t believe it at first, but then knew it had to be true because you are American.” I never thought that giving away a big prize was such an American thing.

Today I had a job that was similar in that I got that wonderful feeling when telling someone they have won. I am part of an organization which annually honors one deserving person who has given tirelessly to the organization. I am chair of the committee that chooses the winner and after meeting to discuss all the potential awardees we vote on who it shall be given to.

After the meeting I called the unsuspecting winner and told him of the award, which will be officially be made at a big ceremony in their honor. The winner, humbly did not think they were worthy, which is typical of the winner, who is more than deserving.

Making that call makes my day. There is nothing I love more than telling someone they are valued and recognized. It makes me want to do it everyday. I hope that everyone I know gets that privilege to honor someone else. It’s a rush I can’t match in any other way.


Cucumber Fest

Cucumbers are like the Elon Musk of my garden. They keep reproducing and reproducing with no regard to how many they have already made. Two days ago I picked ten cucumbers. Today I picked eight. They are full size big cucumbers.

Cucumbers are the things I planted this year that I am least interested in. The whole reason to have a garden is for tomatoes and those have all died. Russ found information for me about a tomato plight this year. “Shit,” is all I can say about that. Without tomatoes I don’t need so many cucumbers.

The deer have come and eaten most of the cucumber plants that grew outside the fence and I still have an Elon sized crop. Imagine if the deer never came by. I would have a full Morman temple, one in Salt Lake, number of cucumber offspring.

I am finally getting hot peppers, but have little time to make hot sauce. The butternut squash is taking over all the pathways. At this point I don’t care. It’s to hot and too wild to work in the garden. Right now I have to figure out what to do with all these cucumbers.


Don’t Look Up

Since I have had a hurt leg for two months I have taken to wearing just two different pairs of shoes that feel the most comfortable. Actually in the last three weeks I have only been wearing my fit flops which far surpass any other shoes. It’s amazing that I really don’t need or want other shoes.

My hamstring is now better and my bursitis is practically healed. I think I could wear other shoes if I wanted to, but now that nothing hurts I am not inclined to try other shoes. I am not sure if other shoes might put me back where I was and I don’t want to find out.

In spite of needing only my allbirds and fit flops I will have hundreds of shoes in my closet. They cover the floor, they spill out of a laundry basket under some hanging clothes, they fill wall racks and as if all those are not enough… they are in shoe boxes on shelves.

Tonight when I was putting away laundry I happened to lookup in my closet. That is when I spot the pile of boxes in the back corner. I wonder when the last time was that I even looked in those boxes. It takes getting out a step stool, and clearing a path on the shoe-strewn floor to even reach one of those boxes.

I know it is time to just get rid of them, but that is work. I would much rather needlepoint or play Mah Jongg. Those shoes aren’t hurting anyone up there in an out of the way corner.

The one thing I know is that when I travel I only need two pairs of shoes, except when I go to Maine, when I’ll also take my water shoes too. So for now I am going to just not look up when I open my closet. Really I always have to look down so I don’t fall over due to the shoes on the floor. I could get rid of the shoes on the shelf and move my floor shoes up to the shelf, but as I know, once they go on the shelf they never get worn again.


Backhand to the Arrogant

Nothing made me happier than the guilty finding of Steve Bannon today. The trice-shirted, pompous blow hole met his match in a DC court. It is about time that Trumps cohort have to answer to the same laws as the rest of the country. If you receive a subpoena from congress to come testify you only have so long to pretend that you don’t have to listen.

The case was so open and shut the prosecution only put up two witnesses and Bannon’s team didn’t bother to present a defense. How could they? Bannon is indefensible.

He did appear to have cut his hair a bit and showered at the first day of the trial, but one shower was all the guy could muster. So when he was found guilty he was just as greasy in person as he is in spirit.

Just being a white man does not give you a get out of jail free card when you are so flagrant at your thumbing your nose at the law. He thought he could fight the law, but the law won.

Thank you DC jurors who are doing more than your average share of holding January 6 law breaker’s feet to the fire. Three hours deliberation is an open and shut case.

Bannon could get up to two years in jail for these two crimes and Biden will be President for the whole time so no pardon for you. I hope that he is ready to bend over plenty in prison after all the harm he has done to our country.


Processing

The hardest thing about gardening, after the heart break of failed plants, is dealing with an abundance of fruit all at the same time. Yes, I could just give it away. In the case of my tomatoes, which gave one fruiting and the plants died, I want to keep them all since I didn’t get many. Ideally we would eat them just after they had ripened, but that never happens. So I have to process what we can’t eat before it goes bad.

Today I am oven slow roasting a pan full of red and yellow tomatoes. This way I can keep them in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks or even freeze them. I would never put a fresh tomato in the refrigerator as it zaps all the taste out of them, but once roasted the flavor is sealed in, in a concentrated way.

I also cook some zucchini and eggplant on the grill pan and together with the tomatoes they make a beautiful antipasto like you see on a table in a good restaurant in Italy. I would be happy just having that and skip the pasta. If I add a ball of buratta to the roast veggies I have my favorite summer meal.

Slow roasting tomatoes takes a long time. How long depends on the size of the tomatoes and their water content. I put the pan of tomatoes, sprinkled with olive oil and salt and pepper in a 250° oven.

At hour three they still looked like they needed another couple of hours. The temperature is so low you can be off by an hour and it won’t make much difference. You need to make sure to drain any oil left in the pan into the container with the tomatoes. It helps preserve them and the oil tastes great later.

I’m tired of making pickles with my cucumbers so I’ll make some more cold cucumber soup with yoghurt and dill tomorrow. It doesn’t keep like the roasted tomatoes, but I can give some of that away.


Just Call Me Granny

Bursitis. That’s an ailment I think Granny on the Beverly Hill Billies used to have. Well, that’s what I have. I am thankful to know what it is and that I can even do something about it.

As I described to the Dr. the timing of my leg pain she definitely thought my five days in Boston at Carter’s graduation, when I walked a total of 32 miles over five days, as the precipitating event. So just because I can walk 11 miles in one day does not mean I should. I also did have a hamstring injury, which is tied up in this, but PT has fixed that.

So now I am icing and using Voltaren and still going to PT, but with a plan of exactly where to concentrate my efforts.

Getting old is not for the faint hearted. I am going to fight it every bit of the way.

True to form though, I called the ortho Doctor’s two weeks ago to get an appointment. My original appointment was supposed to be last week, which meant I still had to wait a week. Two days before I was supposed to go I got a text telling me the Doctor was going to be a grandmother on the day of my appointment so they pushed me back another week. This weekend I noticed a noticeable improvement in my knee.

I’m not complaining, but if figures that once I waited so long to go to the Doctor it would start getting better before I even see her. Still glad to have an official diagnosis. Just call me Granny.


The Friend of My Friend is My Friend

Tonight I got a call from one my boarding school bffs who lives in Massachusetts. “Hi Stori,” I said answering her call. “I just met Suzanne Worden!” Stori exclaimed over the line. Suzanne is my bff from college.

This morning, in our morning wordle exchange, Suzanne reported that she was going to Manchester-by-the-Sea today to see our other college bff, Janet. Janet used to live there and she and her husband were back for a visit.

In the small world Janet and Stori knew each other as their girls attended the same school at one point. So when Stori got off the tennis court at her club and went into the club house she was surprised to see Janet, who had moved to Arizona three years ago. Then Stori saw Suzanne, whom she had only seen and read about in this blog, but she recognized her immediately.

Stori told me she said, “You are Suzanne Worden, Carter’s godmother.” So they took a photo together and Stori sent it to me as proof that friends from different places in my life are meeting each other randomly in the wild. That made me very happy that they all met and were kind, as they always are.

My two college bff’s meet my birding school bff and I’m not there!

Such a better example of hospitality than the encounter, or lack of encounter I had today. I was out to lunch with two friends to celebrate one of their birthday’s early. Someone we all know walked by our table and we didn’t see her until she was passed us. After her lunch the same woman walked back by our table without stopping or saying hello. This woman may be a friend of some of my friends, but she certainly does not subscribe to the rule, a friend of my friend is my friend.


Mexican Street Corn Dip

Russ and I had a yummy corn dip out one night and I thought I could recreate at home. This came awfully close and is a keeper, so I must memorialize it here.

Four fresh ears of corn, but I’m sure a bag of frozen corn would be almost as good

1 brick of cream cheese, softened

1/3 c. Mayo

3/4 cup of feta cheese or even better Mexican cotija

1 fresh Jalapeño seeded and minced

1/4 t. Cayenne pepper

1/2 t. Smoked paprika

Fresh lime cut into wedges

Handful of cilantro leaves

Corn chips

Grill the corn and let it cool enough to be able to handle it. Cut the kernels from the cobs. (If using frozen corn, cook it in a frypan on high until is starts to get brown spots.)

In a bowl, mix the cream cheese, mayo, feta, jalapeño, cayenne and paprika. Add the corn and mix well.

Place in an oven proof dish and bake at 350° for 25 minutes

Serve with cilantro, lime wedges and corn chips.


Waiting Room Abuse

We had an unplanned visit to the er tonight. A friend had an accident and I was the one called. Thankfully the friend is fine.

The bad part was sitting in the waiting room with a very loud TV blaring. Most of the people waiting had kids and were in a separate waiting room. So it was just me and Russ waiting.

I said out loud to Russ, “I wonder if we can turn the sound off?” From out of the blue the woman who man’s the door, who was two rooms away, came in and said. “Other people are going to be coming in to watch that.”

“Oh, I thought this was a Hospital, not a TV showroom.”

She went back to her post. As she did I noticed this sign saying “This is a healing environment.” It went on to mention what abusive behavior is. I wish I had a sharpie to add “loud noise” to the list. The show that is blaring has Simon Cowell on it. I think I could win in court that it is an abusive noise

I hope that the door watching women does not feel abused by me. I’ve hardly gotten started.


Airline Hell

Russ was supposed to come home from DC last night. He texted me from the jet bridge that it didn’t look like they were going to make it. The flight was delayed originally an hour because there was an aircraft with an issue in their gate and the plane they were going to take was stuck without a gate to come into. That hour, plus too much time unloading that plane when it finally got a gate pushed the pilot into overtime. The airline begged him to fly anyway and he refused. There were no “extra” pilots hanging around who could fly the plane.

So at 11:30 at night Russ had to go to a hotel and come back in the morning for a 9:30 flight. It didn’t take off on-time because there was only one working runway at Reagan because there was a pothole in the other runway.

This past week Heathrow Airport put a limit of 100,000 a day on the number of passengers who can travel through the airport. Apparently they can’t find enough staff to handle bags. There were thousands of bags that aren’t getting sorted and are just stuck at the airport. Delta had to fly a plane with no customers, just a thousand suitcases from London to Detroit just to try and get people back their lost luggage.

Heathrow is a major hub airport, but now with the 100,000 person cap they are going to lose a lot of routes. Who wants to try through Heathrow anyway if you can’t be guaranteed you will ever get a checked bag back.

I predicted things like this would happen when you restrict immigration. It was clear to happen in the UK with Brexit. They did this to themselves, the lack of airport workers or lorry drivers to deliver fuel and goods. We have the same issue, with the backlash on immigrants, but it was not such a public one day change as it was with Brexit.

America and Britain used to be places that people from other countries wanted to move to and work because we had more opportunities. Well, when the people in those countries become hostile to people from other countries they stop coming. So we can’t fill all the jobs we need filled. Like enough pilots, or baggage handlers, or pot hole fillers.

Our economy works when we have enough people to work and right now we don’t. Thankfully America did not have a Brexit situation, which legally makes it difficult to let workers come in. But we have obstructionist politicians who do nothing and don’t work together to fix our immigration policy. Both parties need to come together and work on the issue of immigration, which is not all about illegal immigration.

As Americans we must become a lot more welcoming to people from all different countries because we need them. All of us came from someplace else at one time or another. Just because you have been here for seven or ten generations doesn’t erase the fact that your people were once Germans, or Italians or Irish or Nigerian.

I am sure that Delta would gladly take a bunch of German pilots right now, but there is no way they would leave Germany to come to America the way things are going here.

I do suggest if you have a kid who like video games, perhaps they might like to learn to fly planes. I think there will be a lot of jobs available for a while. We aren’t going to get out of this problem this year, or the next, or the next.


Face Not Recognized

In an effort to make our lives easier, some technology platforms have adopted Face Recognition instead of passwords. I, for one, was thrilled not to have to remember anyone of my millions of passwords. My face happens to be something I keep with me absolutely most of the time. Naturally I signed up for every app as possible to use my face to log me in.

What I didn’t know was my phone can’t see my face in the dark. Come on iPhone, you have a light. Just shine it on me and look at my face. I promise it’s mine. Then there are the times when I can’t actually put my face in front of my phone. Like when my phone is in the holder on the dash board of my car. I have decided it is much to dangerous to try and lower my face below the dashboard while driving in order to turn my phone on. Actually, I don’t even think I can contort myself to get my phone to see my face.

The most frustrating thing is when I am in bright light, standing still and I hold my phone up and the message comes across “Face not recognized.” What the hell? I am unsure what is going on with that. Was I not smiling? Was I smiling too much? We’re my eyes crossed? Was my mouth open too wide?

I am thinking I might have to go back to passwords. Lord, I don’t remember what they all were.


Effing Squirrels

My garden has not been anywhere near the success this year as last year. The weather, my lame leg preventing me from spending hours tending it, and the worst problem of all, some undiagnosed tomato plant killer. Russ found an NC State lab where I can take my failed plants long with a quart of dirt, to have them analyze and hopefully diagnose my issue.

Despite my failing plants, the few which are left had plenty of fruit on them before I left for a quick two days to the beach. I came home, ready to harvest, only to discover a squirrel or more likely a platoon of squirrels had decided they wanted to eat those ripening tomatoes. I found no less than six, big, either fully ripe or partially ripe tomatoes half eaten, strewn around the garden. One was up on top of the garden fence, one was dropped between a fence and a outside raised bed box, one was just upside down in the bed.

There’s a half eaten tomato on the top of that board -12 feet in the air

It might not be so bad if the squirrels ate the whole tomato and left no evidence. No, instead they eat a small portion and leave the rest of a once beautiful fruit now decimated. If my plants were still healthy and producing I would not be so stingy about feeding wildlife, but these are the last precious fruit from a very poor season.

Those squirrels have not taken one bite out of any of the thousands of cucumbers, which have been my bumper crop, no just the prized tomatoes.

I first have to figure out how to successfully grow tomatoes for next year’s garden, but as soon as that education is complete I am going to turn how to keep the squirrels away. I am not opposed to electric fences.


Pull Over or Keep Driving?

After a most excellent day of teaching Mah Jongg Strategy to people I have really come to enjoy I got in the car to make the three hour drive home. I don’t really mind driving, especially if I am listening to a good book. This week I am listening to Lessons in Chemistry and I highly recommend it.

So there I am easing on down the road, nice weather, not too much traffic, even during the rush hour. I am looking forward to picking Shay up at her sitter’s house and getting home to my own bed. Russ is at his DC office so I knew I did not have to cook dinner or even talk.

As I got to Cary I noticed a few rain drops on my dirty wind shield. Good, it needed the cleaning. I turned my wipers on slow intermittent. Three exits later the rain started to pick up. Wipers on low, not intermittent. Then the lightening show started and the rain turned into sheets. Highest wipers, hazard lights and slowing down.

I was in the left lane, which I found helpful because then I had a yellow line to guide me as to where the road was. I don’t think I have ever driven through such a volume of water that was not in a body of water. Thankfully there were not too many cars on the road, but it was very scary.

I considered pulling over and stopping, but my fear was I would then be a sitting duck for someone to run into the back of me. It was almost impossible to tell where the three east bound lanes of I-40 were, let alone the shoulder of the road. If I were to pull off the pavement into the grass, my car could have sunk into a mud pit, or just filled up with water.

So I carefully kept driving and when no one was anywhere close to me I moved to the right lane so I could exit. Once off the highway I could see that the trees were blowing and bending at unnatural angles. Do I stop and stay in one place and have a tree fall on me, or do I keep going and have a tree fall on me?

I kept going. Picking up Shay, who was not happy to be driving in the storm. We did not take the fastest route home because that would have taken me by the golf course where there is often flooding. Instead I took a longer, but higher route. I pulled into the driveway which was a little like a small river, but at least the sheets of rain were now mere buckets.


Enabling Other’s Addictions

I’m back at the beach this morning to teach two strategy classes, today and tomorrow. Teaching a two day class is a quick trip. I got up at 4:30AM to drive down, always getting in earlier than I need to. I never know what might happen on a three hour trip and I would hate to be late. But an early morning drive, followed by six hours of class makes for a long day. Thankfully my strategy students are all friends I have taught before. For some this is their fourth or fifth class with me. Those people don’t really need the class, but I love that they come and participate again and again.

The thing about teaching to the same audience is I have to tell then new stories. If you know me or you read me, you know that I can make a story from nothing, that certainly is what this blog is. Someone recently told me they have read over 13,000 of my blog posts and she likened it to watching all the seasons of Seinfeld. “You mostly laugh, but when asked what it was about, you really couldn’t say.” That’s high praise for me. If you do nothing but get a chuckle I am happy.

That being said, I don’t have anything particularly funny to write about tonight. I do want to give a shout out to my friend Kate. I am staying at her place at the beach, but she is not here as she is having her second knee operation. Now that is one nice friend who will let me crash in her lovely guest room. I do have the company of her very old, sweet lab Lucy.

One issue with making an early departure is I left the plug to all my charging cables at home. There is a USB port in the bedside clock, as Kate is a superior host, but my iPad has some new “fangled” lightening plug so my life is limited with my iPad. So much for playing Catan before I go to bed. As much as I love Mah Jongg I also love Catan and I blame that addiction on my friend Suzanne. As I said to my Mah Jongg students who came to class today blaming me for their addiction to Mah Jongg, “Hey, at least Mah Jongg is calorie free.”


Mexican Fiesta

Twenty five years ago my friend and decorator Lane did my living room. We have loved our living room. The yellow was calm and happy. This winter I told Lane I had bought a new living room rug and painted the walls green and needed to recover all my furniture. Her husband Jon asked her why we were redoing the living room since he thought everything still looked good. We told him 25 years was long enough.

Original Living Room

A few years back Lane had changed the window treatments from the very 90’s balloon shades to something more modern. So I was working with my kind of new blue window treatments, my blue and pink and green rug from Maine and my green walls. Lane and I started discussing what I was looking for and I said colorful to go with all my other colors. She boiled it down to Mexican Fiesta.

So we picked out fabric for the sofa and club chairs and a French chair and Martha Washington Chair. Today the sofa and two club chairs came back. They are just the Fiesta I was looking for. I can only imagine what it is going to be like at Christmas! The best thing is all my cushions got re-stuffed. It is so worth buying well made furniture to start and recovering it, if it needs it or not!

Mexican Fiesta Living Room

When the Martha Washington chair comes back I am going to design needlepoint seat covers for my game table based on that fabric. I am going full on color bomb, no monochromatic for me.


Everyone Needs A Dog

I don’t understand people who don’t like dogs. Yes, someone might have had a scary encounter with a dog when they were young, but that can be worked out. When Carter was five we were at some friends house and their dog snapped at her. Thank goodness it did not have any long term affects.

Russ has been away on his longest business trip in years. Rarely is he away on a weekend, so this has been a real exception. My weekdays are busy and booked in advance, but I usually try and leave weekends open for Russ. So when I found out he was going to be away I purposely left the weekend free so I could hang with Shay.

I had some plans with her, but then the rain and my still hurt leg kept us at home. Shay does not like to go outside when it’s raining or even wet. I have had to force her to go out to potty, which she does under protest.

So the two of us have had one big snuggle fest. She has taken to staying in bed until noon, regardless if I am in bed or not. When she does get up she will have a little bit to eat and then hang with me as close as possible. So when I was doing laundry she helped by carrying the socks down stairs. When needlepointing, she’d sit next to me acting as an armrest. When I was processing the garden harvest she stayed on her kitchen bed supervising. Shay is quite disappointed I don’t raise chickens because she much prefers that to cucumbers.

You are never alone if you have a dog. Everyone should have one. It would make people much kinder if they treated everyone the way their dog treated them.

Every once in a while Shay would stand at the top of the garage stairs and look down, hoping Russ was coming through the door. I wonder if she will wake up the second he comes in tonight. She may have been the perfect companion for me, but I am still second fiddle for her.


Top of the Hill

It is terrible to be so happy about the constant and continuing alerts about bad weather. We are so behind on rain that I will take this deluge. Not that getting to much rain at once fixes everything. It mostly will run off and thus the potential for flooding. But some will soak in, especially on the flat places.

My friend from college, Doug, always told me what his father told him, “Buy on the top of the hill.” It’s not for the view, but for the safety of having the water run downhill.

When we built the addition on our house 25 years ago our fabulous contractor who was all about water management. He ran drain pipes thirty yards away from our house for the runoff water in the down spouts. When we get big rains like this I am thankful for Joe.

I have a neighbor who lives on the downhill side. She complains about her driveway getting wet from runoff from property up the hill. I have tried to explain to her there is no stopping water, but she thinks there should be. She wasn’t friends with Doug, nor did she have Joe as a builder.

So pass the lesson on to all younger people. Water runs downhill. You can’t stop it. When it comes all at once, like it did today, you can get flooded. So live at the top of the hill. You are not being elitist, you are being smart.


Waiting…waiting…

I might as well write my blog as I am sitting in the “cell phone lot” at the airport waiting to give friends a ride home. I have been here an hour and so has their plane. Unfortunately right when they landed this huge storm came in making it unsafe for airline employees to drive the jet bridge the 50 feet to the plane. It is also unsafe to unload baggage so we wait.

I brought Shay with me because she has been despondent that Russ is away. What a mistake. Now she is despondent about the weather and demanded to be let out of her seatbelt harness. She stands pushing on my legs panting. She has refused water and is worrying like an old woman, panting and looking out the windows.

My friends told me to leave, but I didn’t see a reason to drive through the dangerous storm, so I’ve stayed put. This might be my excuse why I got so little done today. Not that I was planning on vacuuming tonight, but I might have.

For now it’s just waiting…waiting…


Nothing Makes A Teacher Prouder

My goal as a Mah Jongg teacher is to enable all my students to be able to beat me. Now there is some luck in the game so beating me once is not enough. Twice is good, but three times in a row means my work is done.

Today my friends and students Nancy and Jeanne invited me to come play with them. Russ is away so Shay Shay and I took this perfect opportunity to go over to Nancy’s store and play some after hours games.

Jeanne and Nancy have taken to Mah Jongg. They have a regular group, which meets often. Every once in a while they text me a question, but for the most part they are fully trained players.

All players can go through a dry spell where they don’t win. I like to remind all new players that if you are playing with four people you only have about a 22 % chance of winning. It is not 25% because sometimes no one wins and you have a wall game. New players have more wall games than experienced players. So if you play four games and don’t win you are not outside the norm. This bit of information makes some people feel better than others.

I try and not beat my students right away, but sometimes I can’t help it. That happened this afternoon. I won the first game fairly quickly. Nancy commented that she had not won in a number of weeks. I told her that her time would come. Jeanne won the second game. Good for her. Then Nancy won the next three games in a row!! WooHoo! It makes a teacher so happy when her student beats her.

Congratulations to Nancy for superior play and adjusting her play on the fly. I can say you have more than graduated. My work is done.


My Garden is Failing

Or maybe I am failing as a gardener. It’s been bad weather for my garden. Too cold a spring, too hot and dry summer. Those excuses are not the reason my garden is failing, but I don’t know why yet.

For years I was unable to grow tomatoes. The plants would grow and I would get one round of tomatoes and then the plant would whither and die very early. Last year, with the advent of the new garden I grew tomatoes well into October. I don’t know what has happened, but I am back to my old tomato’s problem. I had two plants barely produce. A third was weak. Four others looked to be doing well, but now are succumbing to the same problem. I have to dig one up and take it to NC state to have it analyzed.

Last year I had an over abundance of peppers of all kinds. This year I have six plants and only one with fruit. My squash all got a Boring worm and one by one they are going. My successful crops have been cucumbers, of which I have had hundreds and butternut squash.

No green beans yet. A Few okra and two eggplants today. I have some potatoes a friend gave me, but I have not dug them up yet.

With my hurt leg and the crazy hot weather I have not been spending as much time out there, but I am not sure how I could have saved things.

Damn squirrel

To add insult to injury that is a squirrel who has come to taste the few red tomatoes I had on the vines. I have taken to picking the tomatoes when they are just blush to save them from the critters. It is all very discouraging


A Surprise for Shay

Today is the kind of traumatic day that Shay Shay hates. It started with a very early morning visit by her groomer. Shay is unaccustomed to people coming to the door before eight in the morning. She barked to let me know someone was outside and then hid behind me shaking when she saw it was her hairdresser.

The groomer is very sweet and Shay just doesn’t like anyone cutting her hair. Sadly she had to have a serious cut due to too many thick curly tangled locks. She came in after the buzz cut and snuggled with her Daddy.

The second trauma of the day came when she saw her Daddy packing his suitcase. He had a late afternoon flight to Chicago. Shay lay despondently on my bed after the little Smartie reversed out of the garage, and the door went back down. I tried to console her, but she blamed me for all her bad luck today.

About forty minutes after Russ left I received a call from him. Sure enough his flight was canceled just as he pulled into the parking garage. He had checked if it was on time before leaving the house and verified that the aircraft he was taking out was on time in. There was no explanation about the cancelation and the worst part is he can’t get a new flight until Thursday morning. I knew that afternoon flight was going to be risky.

So Shay doesn’t know it yet, but her dreams and wishes are about to come true when her Daddy is going to walk back in the door. So glad her day can end better than it started .


Americans Need a Common Enemy That Is Not American

Even since the fall of the Berlin Wall Americans have turned ever more inward to find enemies. This has caused an ever growing rift in our country. Today being July 4th we celebrate our Independence from Britain. We all celebrated together the fact that we are self ruled.

I worry that we forget that we are all Americans. Some Americans act as if they are more American than the rest. In fact, the most American are our native peoples who are often treated the worst.

I might have thought that with Putin’s unprovoked attack and war on the Ukraine we might have pulled together a little more as we could all see him as a common enemy. Sadly there are elected officials who seemed to have some allegiance to Putin and aren’t afraid to say so.

On this fourth my wish for America is that we work to see our neighbors as ourselves. If someone is a different religion, or skin color or orientation or political party, try and find what you have in common rather than concentrating on your differences. A homogeneous society is not an interesting one.

Let’s try and not find enemies within. Our enemy does not have to even be another county or person, but it can be a situation, like hunger, or climate change or cancer. Let’s fight for the betterment rather than the breakdown. Happy Birthday America. Please let us be better next year and the year after that.


It’s Hot and Muggy

It’s not such a nice day here. It was very hot and very muggy. Sadly that did not mean a thunderstorm, which we really could have used. Proof of the mugginess is the baby squirrel who took up residence on our front porch. This little guy didn’t care that I was just on the other side of the glass door. He hung out for quite a long time. He stood, he reclined, but he didn’t leave.

There is a big hawk that lives in our yard, and flies between our house and our neighbor’s the Anderson’s. I am happy to have a hawk because he can keep us clear of little critters, although not voles who rarely surface. I wonder if this squirrel feels safer on the porch with us than he does out in the open yard where the hawk can get him?

I’m ok to let him stay protected on the porch as long as he doesn’t want to come inside. If he felt how cool it is inside he would never leave. Then I would have to invite the hawk inside to catch him.


Couples Therapy

One night I was driving home late from teaching Mah Jongg. I was on an unlit section of a particularly dark road. I felt like my headlights were not on. I clicked the brights off and on and did notice a difference, but even with brights I was not getting the amount of light I was used to. When I got home I checked to make sure that none of the bulbs were burned out, something my car usually tells me. All the bulbs were working.

In the daylight I looked at my headlights and found that the plastic covers were a little cloudy. They did not have any condensation in them, just the outside had lost that crystal clear look. I alerted Russ and he said we could fix it.

After some study I tried using toothpaste and a tooth brush on them. That was a waste of time, but at 99¢ it was worth a try. I turned to consumer reports and learned that this Sylvania Headlight Restoration kit was the way to go. So that was the exciting couples activity Russ and I did today.

I was thankful to have him because it was not a minor processes. We each took a headlight and followed all the steps. It started applying with painters tape around the light as the first step. Activating, washing, sanding with three different grits of sand paper for five minutes each. You never recognize how long five minutes is until you are sanding in a circular motion. Washing again. Compounding, that like sanding, but with a liquid, another five minutes. Washing again. Drying well, activating (that’s spraying something on for 30 seconds and wiping it off.)

Drying and then applying the clear coat. Waiting six hours for it to cure. That goes by much more quickly than five minutes of sanding. I forgot to take a before shot, but the after shows the light covers to be much less cloudy.

I can’t wait to go drive someplace very dark to see how much better the lights work. Oh the exciting things that happen at our house on a holiday weekend. Russ gets big marriage management points for doing this with me.


Check Your Voter Status

Yesterday my friend Jan alerted me to a topic that was treading on Twitter. Apparently lots of people have been removed from voter rolls in many states. It is not unusual for clerks to update voter rolls. They are supposed to only remove people who have died or moved. Some overly active clerks could remove people who they should not. If this happens to you, you would not be notified and might not find out until you go to vote and it might be too late to do anything about this, thus being denied your right to vote.

I have a friend in Georgia who in the 2020 election had quite a lot of trouble with their voter registration as well as that of their adult children. It seemed fishy then that they had been registered and then suddenly were not. Of course they only found out after it was too late to do anything about it in time to vote.

Your voter registration is a public record. It is important to check your registration and verify everything is OK.

Here is a step-by-step guide about how to do it.

First go to USA.gov

On the home page scroll down just a bit and click on Voting and Elections

On the next page click on Voter registration

Next page click Confirm you’re registered to vote

Next page click Confirm you voter registration status

Next page click How to Check your voter registration status. When you expand that click the “Can I vote” link

That brings you to the can I vote page and click voter registration status

This bring you to the page where you use the pull down menu to find your state, and from there you will get to a place where you input your name and info to check to see if you are registered.

As in all things government it is way too many steps just to verify if you are registered, but it is worth doing regularly. Especially at least a month before any primary or election.


Never Too Old For New Friends

At one of my recent Mah Jongg classes at the beach I had a student named Penny. Penny’s Mother-in-law had been one of my students in Kinston, and was a favorite of mine. In class Penny said she had moved from Kinston to Chapel Hill during the pandemic and had hardly met anyone. She asked if we might have lunch when we were back home.

Today we met for lunch. It was so fun to get to know her more deeply than I do in class. When I am teaching a group they get to know me better than I get to know each of them, even though I try hard. My whole life my default when I meet someone is to ask them where they are from. I think this is a habit I developed during boarding school. I love making connections between different people I know from the same place. Of course, I probably inherited this trait from my father who never met a person he didn’t first ask, “Where are you from?” Which was quickly followed up with, “How long have you been doing this.” This, being their job.

While Penny and I were having lunch, my neighbor Jay came by our table to say Hi and I introduced him to Penny. She asked him if he was related to someone and it turns out he is and that someone had been in one of my Mah Jongg classes.

I wish I kept better notes about who I have taught and could make a big Venn diagram about how they are all connected and related. Penny is looking to play Mah Jongg in Chapel Hill. I was planning on introducing her to my friend Val, who just took a class and before I could say it, Penny mentioned she had met Val and asked if I knew her. The criss-cross of connections is endless.

To all my Kinston friends, if your ears were burning today it was because I was sharing your names with Penny. I hope that Mah Jongg brings you all many new friends as it has for me. You just are never too old to make new friends.


Williams Sonoma Dish Towel Review

I got out of college in 1983. That year I bought myself a set of blue and white dishware from Conran’s. To go with it I purchased a set of two blue and white striped dish towels from Williams Sonoma. I loved blue and white and it was easy to just get things all in blue and white since they always went together.

The dish towels were nothing special, just cotton, made in China. I used them everyday and washed them every week. That means in the last 39 years I have washed these dish towels 2,028 times, give or take a few times. Not only did I use them to dry dishes and pots and pans, I would grab one to take a hot pan out of the oven, or mop up something on the floor or counter. They would wrap up plates I would be transporting to catering events and be tied around Carter’s neck while she sat in her high chair.

These dish towels have moved from my DuPont circle first apartment, to my Glover Park Condo, to my first house in Mt. Pleasant, then up to Russ’ house in NJ, lastly to our Durham house 28 years ago. They have been in my regular dish towel rotation for the last 39 years.

Today I pulled the two towels out of the dryer and noticed many new holes in them. It seems like just over 2,000 washings is all these towels had in them before the fabric just gave way.

I probably paid three dollars for the set of two, it was 1983 when I bought them after all. Since I used them somewhere north of 14,000 days the cost per day is too low to even have it make sense. So at a cost per year, they were .038¢ per towel. For those of you who are bad at math, it was under 4¢ per YEAR. I have to say as a return on investment that is very good, especially compared to shoes I bought and never wore.

My review is five stars, if you can find the 1983 version of the Williams Sonoma dish towels. Sadly I will have to retire these to the rag bin, but fear not, they will still be utilized to mop up things that are too gross for good dish towels. Despite the holes, there is still enough fabric intact to keep them around another year or two.


The Bravery of Cassidy Hutchison

I watched every minute of the January 6 hearing today. I was interested in who was going to testify since the committee so quickly called this surprise hearing. During all the last hearing there has been testimony of brave people who spoke up to tell the truth, despite almost all of them being republicans who were going against their party’s President. But Cassidy, a 26 year old women, who had only held jobs working for republicans in her adult life, seemed to be the bravest of them all.

It broke my heart that this young women, who had risen quickly through the ranks jobs that are usually overworked and under paid, appeared to feel like she was proud of the work republicans had been doing. She never appeared to have any agenda, other than doing a good job serving the administration which she believed in.

What a horrible loss of innocence she got as she witnessed, firsthand, the bad actions of the president she supported. As a nation we are lucky that she has the integrity to speak up, even when there are threats to those who do.

People in great power often overlook or ignore the support people who are constantly around them. It is no wonder that she was witness to conversations that bad actors wish she had not heard or seen, let alone testify about.

She was a believable witness today as she spoke without any of the signs of a person not telling the truth, she rarely blinked or repeated words or phrases, as liars often do. Instead she respectfully and in a measured way answered the questions she was asked.

I hope that she finds a new path and can work at a job with people of honor and integrity because she deserves that. As for the people who try and intimidate witnesses, that is a serious crime and one I hope they are prosecuted for harshly. As for the rest of the people who the committee would like really testimony from, answer the questions and tell the truth, it is the only way out of this club of killers.


Bring a Sharpie to The Shower

We were in New York this weekend staying at a lovely hotel. One of the joys of staying at a hotel is the lack of needing to carry shampoo, body wash, lotion or conditioner with you when you travel. I love trying the various products that hotels offer.

I am a big fan of the large bottles attached to the wall as opposed to the tiny disposable containers. The large ones prevent a lot of waste and usually have larger print on the bottles so even without my reading glasses in the shower I can tell which one is the Shampoo and which one is the body wash.

See, I rarely wear my reading glasses in the shower. That really is a flaw I have. I have never gotten in the habit of reading in the shower at home since I know which bottle is my shampoo and waterproof books haven’t really caught on.

Unfortunately for me this particular hotel we stayed in still went with the earth killing tiny bottles. The problems with those bottle are many. My main complaint is tiny writing on tiny bottles. Then to top it off they usually print the writing in light lavender on a slightly darker lavender bottle. The lack of font size and color contrast makes it all but impossible to figure out which bottle is the damn shampoo. There is nothing worse than putting body wash on your hair. Trust me they are not the same thing.

Not my actual bottle this weekend, but an example of what I see in the shower

You would think I would have learned to bring a sharpie in the bathroom with my glasses on and mark up all the products before getting naked. It would be so much easier if the bottle just had a big S on one side for the shampoo.

My second complaint about the tiny bottles we had this weekend was the tight flip cap. There was no way for me to open the cap, either by flipping or unscrewing. I eventually learned that if I opened the shower door I could use the edge of the glass to pry the cap open. It saved breaking a nail, which would have really infuriated me if I discovered I had opened the wrong bottle too.

So please to all you hoteliers out there, and I know a few who read me, buy large format bottles with big font sized writing on them. I know the people who make these decisions are probably young, with excellent eye sight, but have them think of what their grandmothers might need. I may never be a grandmother, but I am getting the eyesight of one.


The Best Nanny Becomes a Mommy

Back when Carter was just barely two I was taking a class at church and mentioned I was looking for a summer baby sitter. My friend Susan volunteered her daughter Megan. It turned out to be a match made in heaven. Megan was an actress heading to UNC to major in Drama. She was full of magic and playfulness and Carter, fell madly in love with her. It didn’t take long for Megan to become an important and beloved part of our family.

She was innately good with children. More Poppins than any Mary ever was. Carter and Megan could be found making puppets and putting on shows, or coloring full size drawings of themselves. Life with Megan was sparkle and glitter.

I quickly learned to give Megan and Carter free reign to spend their days together as they saw fit. With a car seat permanently installed in Megan’s turquoise Saturn they would traipse about Durham county and venture off to Chapel Hill with Carter. When Megan went to college she would continue to sit for us as well as provide a dramatic troupe of back-up baby sitters from the Drama Department.

Sometimes Carter would accompany Megan to rehearsal. One day when Carter and I were walking down Franklin St. A boy screamed out across the four lanes of traffic, “Carter, Carter!” She waved her tiny three year old hand enthusiastically back at him and said, “Hi!” I asked who that boy was, since she obviously knew this college student. “Hamlet,” she responded nonchalantly as we continued down the sidewalk.

Megan was so important to our family that we took with us to Disney world the first time Carter went. We didn’t really need a baby sitter, we just knew that Disney would be more fun for all of us if Megan came. For Russ it was a big bonus because he did not have to sit next to the two crazy ladies singing along to Hakuna Mattata at the Lion King show. Carter just thought is was normal to have your very own fairy Godmother everywhere you went.

Eventually Megan graduated, moved to New York City, got a masters at NYU and became a big time actress. Along the way she loved and cared for other children while in school and between acting gigs. She married the dreamy Max, a British actor and they moved to LA.

At last, more than twenty years after becoming our very best nanny and friend, Megan had a baby of her own. We are all ecstatic here in our house. We know first hand that her little boy is born into the most wonderful family, full of love and imagination. His pictures show a prince and we can hardly wait until the day we can meet him and whisper in his ear, “You are the luckiest boy.”


Ok, Today was my Day

Today was my day and I loved every minute of it. We started with brunch with my bonus daughter Ashley in Chelsea. I have missed Ashley as she has been living and working in New York for the last year. Carter needed a good Ashley fix too, so as soon as Carter planned this trip with Russ, behind my back, she invited Ashley to spend some time with us. One meal was not enough time to catch up on a year, but it was a good start.

After brunch we walked on the high line for a good while. Well, Russ and Carter walked and I hobbled. Three days of New York walking on a bum leg have caught up with me. I am glad to be going back to PT on Monday. I really want this leg all better before we go to Maine.

Russ left us at the high line to continue his walk of the city while Carter and I made our way to the theatre to see “Funny Girl.” What a fabulous birthday gift this was. There is nothing sweeter than your child getting you a present of a wonderful experience to do together and paying for it.

In regular Dana and Carter fashion, she sat on the aisle so she would not have to talk to anyone and I sat one seat in and made friends with the couple from Philly next to me and the mother and daughter from DC in front. We discussed favorite plays and musicals. The guy from Philly’s favorite is my least favorite, Phantom of the Opera. We still had a lovey conversation.

I was prepared for the show to not be fabulous because who can possibly beat Barbra Streisand and Omar Sharif. We throughly enjoyed Beanie Feldstein and Ramon Karimloo, who played Fanny and Nick Arnstein. Jane Lynch was under utilized as Beanie’s mother, but was fun to see. Beanie’s singing got stronger throughout the musical especially belting out “Don’t rain on my parade.” Thank goodness we had to wear masks, otherwise we would have been heard singing to all the songs and those new friends I had made would have been annoyed.

After the Musical we went back to the hotel to find Russ and rest a bit. It was a hot day in NYC.

We had dinner in the west village at a yummy pizza place called Roey’s. I think it was the best meal we had. The perfect ending to a perfect day with my favorite people. What a wonderful present from Russ and Carter, getting to spend time together can’t be beat.


Today’s Bittersweet

Today was supposed to be my day. It started out well enough, with Russ going out early to get me iced tea which I require every morning, along with bagels for us all for breakfast. As we were enjoying our breakfast the horrible news came from the liars on the Supreme Court, over turning Roe. Carter burst into tears. The last six years have been so traumatic to be a young woman in this country. All those justices who sat before congress and said, under oath that “Roe was settled law,” have no integrity whatsoever.

The justice branch should be free of politics, but these Trump appointed Justices were nothing but political. It is hard to respect people who lie to get a job. Stand up for what you believe, but don’t lie. The majority of the country believes it is a woman’s right to chose, but now we have a group of liars who have dominion over us all. Be careful what you wish for, because you never know when they will come for something you thought was settled law.

Not the best way to start our day. We spent it in Brooklyn, exploring and eating at interesting places. Lunch was at a place Carter had seen in a documentary about the history of food. It is called Claro and we sat in their garden under a grape arbor. I was not hungry since I had a bagel for breakfast, but Russ and Carter had a lovely lunch.

I had this asparagus salad with puffed amaranth and sesame seeds dusted with matcha

After we went to the transport museum, which is right up our family’s alley. Where ever there is a transport museum, we go, us and all the six year olds. We walked the length of Whitman park on our way to Dumbo. Carter wanted the instagram photo of the Empire State Building in the arch of the Manhattan Borough Bridge. It is a good place to meander by the river and we hopped on the ferry and took it up to North Williamsburg. That was the very was my favorite part of the day. The cool breeze off the water as the boat sped upriver was lovely.

Wicker seats in old subway cars

Williamsburg made a great place to meander around. Russ and Carter found their favorite hot sauce store, I am not sure how they make rent with nothing but hot sauce to sell, but we helped them out there. Our last stop was the Rule of Thirds for dinner. It was good, but by that time I was so exhausted that I had a hard time enjoying it. Carter did say she had the best sashimi she has ever had.

Carter left us to go meet up with a college friend. Now, back at the hotel it is beginning to sink in on me what a horrible day in history this is for me. I worry that with the court striking down gun control laws and women’s right to chose we are just at the beginning of more bad things to come.


It’s a Hell of a Town

Russ and Carter surprised me for my birthday/anniversary with the idea of a trip to New York. Carter got me an actual present of tickets to Broadway for the two of us, so we had to take the trip. So this is the weekend.

My Dad’s old office

Russ and I flew up and Carter trained in from Boston and we met up at our hotel. This is a low key trip since I am injured, but I still walked 11,000 steps today and felt every one of them. Thankfully we have great rooms at a comfy hotel and I plan on sleeping well.

The highlight of our day was a yummy dinner at The Modern. The best thing we ate were the morel mushrooms, but Russ declared his Burnt Orange cocktail second best. It was just great to be together.

The city is bursting with pride colors and it made everything more festive. I just love having all three of us together.


The cold spring and now the heat too early, plus the lack of rain is curbing my yield in my garden. Today I picked a large yellow and two Roma red tomato’s and one okra. Sadly the okra was too big to be eaten. I hadn’t been monitoring the okra and this one just got out of hand.

If my garden is not as productive this year as last it won’t be the end of the world. I can afford to buy food and it is just the two of us at home. But my garden Is probably indicative of what farmers are going through and people who grow home gardens to have food through the year.

Yesterday’s harvest…pitiful

Gardening and farming can be heart breaking pastimes. You are at the mercy of the weather, pests and varmints. I saw one of my Mah Jongg students, Lee, at the beach and asked her how her farm is going. She reported that some thing had gotten into her husband’s cantelope and watermelon patches and taken one bite out of each fruit. Infuriating! Some stupid animal did not learn that all the bites were going to taste the same.

So pray for the farmers and the gardeners. Pray for rain and moderate temperatures. Pray that squirrels and groundhogs don’t come into your garden. Pray that bees are plentiful and pollinate everything. We are at nature’s mercy. We must take care of our planet or our planet will not be able to provide for us. Produce is not a given. It takes hard work. So thank every farmer you meet. They are our most essential workers.


Cookies Are Trouble

I have never been much of a cookie baker. Bars are more my speed. When you make a brownie or a lemon square you put the recipient in a pan, bake it and cut it up when it is done. Cookies involve portioning out each cookie, rolling each one into a ball and baking only 12 or 15 at a time one one cookie sheet. That is so slow. Not to mention the advance planning to get butter and eggs to room temperature.

Now that I am on the funeral committee at church I have been asked to make cookies. Someone else had already made plenty of brownies so it was just cookie for me. We have had a lot of funerals lately. Now the biggest funeral in our church, for our former beloved pastor Haywood, is going to happen this Saturday. This is a funeral I wish I could attend, but I will be out of town.

So the funeral committee asked me to make as many cookies as I could. Today I baked 14 dozen. That is a boatload of cookies. My friend Jan texted me asking how she could help. “COOKIES,” I said. Thankfully she responded in the affirmative.

This is not the time for me to make waves, but I am going to work on developing some bar recipes that might be acceptable in place of cookies. I know they always have plenty of brownies, although they have not had my sea salt brownies. I guess I need to come up with a snickerdoodle bar.

At least 168 cookies is a good offering. I don’t think I could make cookies for a living. It’s just too much work.


Haywood Holderness, One of My Favorites

Yesterday was a hard day for a few reasons. I only wrote about missing my Dad on the first Father’s Day since he left us, but I got a double whammy while I was sitting in Church. Our pastor Chris started the service as he normally does with some announcements. Having the announcements before the worship service usually ensures that we concentrate on the message of the sermon, not yesterday.

After the normal nuts and bolts, Chris cleared his throat and slowed down a bit. I had no idea what was coming, but knew it was something serious. When he had gathered himself he told our congregation that our Pastor Emeritus, Haywood Holderness had passed away. It should not have come as a shock, as he had been in decline for a while, but it hit me really hard. I cried through most of church, unable to get control of myself.

Haywood is the reason I am a Presbyterian. He is responsible for my involvement in the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. He supported us when Russ accidentally cut two year old Carter’s finger and we suddenly were under investigation for child abuse.

I grew up as an Episcopalian on both sides of my family. My uncle was an Episcopal priest. Russ and I got married at Grace Episcopal in Georgetown. There was no question I would die an Episcopalian. Then when we moved to Durham we visited our neighborhood Episcopal church four Sundays and no one spoke to us. I wondered if we had landed in some Yankee church. It was not welcoming at all.

Russ had grown up Presbyterian and our friends Jan and Rex were members at Westminster and invited us to go with them. From that first visit we were not just welcomed, but embraced. Haywood was a preacher I could listen to all day. We joined right away and that first year I took a Kerygma bible study with Haywood and learned more about the Bible than I had learned in my whole life. More than the Bible, I made many wonderful friends. I went on to become a Deacon and an Elder and served on Ways and Means all under Haywood.

One day after church Haywood looked at me and said, “You need to work at the Food Bank.” At that time he was the board chair. I got involved in the Durham Branch, which had been created, along with the Greenville branch under his leadership. He held a large capital campaign called the “break Bread” campaign and got the four past governors of North Carolina to be chairmen of the campaign. (It helped that they all just happened to be Presbyterians.)

It was because of Haywood that I spent five years on the Durham Council, chairing it the last two, 14 years on the board, eventually chairing it and the last five years chairing the Round table of the Food Bank. I was honored to present the Food Bank’s highest honor, The Hunt-Morgridge Award to Haywood in 2014.

The finger incident, as it is known in our house, was the scariest thing that had ever happened to us. On New Year’s Day, 2000 Russ was doing his duty and juicing lemons for me because I am allergic to touching them. I was still asleep and Carter was up helping Russ. She stood on a chair at the kitchen counter and just before Russ went to cut a lemon in half Carter put her finger on it and he cut her finger. It was a scary accident. He screamed for me to get up and we rushed Carter to the Duke ER. Being New Years day it was the lowest people on the totem pole working. Carter got two stitches in her finger as we told them how it happened. The resident did not like our “story” and that afternoon a social worker was dispatched to our house to do a surprise investigation. He told us that we would be under investigation for the next 30 days and if anything at all happened to Carter she could be taken away from us. She was two, she easily could fall down and hurt herself and we could be permanently labeled child abusers.

I called Haywood and he made some calls and vouched for us. The social worker sheepishly came back to our house and told us we were cleared. He blamed an over zealous doctor in training. I did call that resident’s attending to say that if they really thought we were child abusers they had not done their job. Carter was dressed in a turtleneck and leggings when we brought her to the hospital. They never separated her from us and they never looked at one inch of her other than the cut finger.

Haywood was a blessing during that very scary period. He told me that Duke had picked the wrong people to accuse and he made sure everyone knew it.

Haywood and his wife Mary moved to Raliegh to the nicest retirement community so they could be regular people in retirement and not pastor to Durham. It was sad for us not to have him living two streets away. I was able to see him regularly at Food Bank events, until he and Mary both moved to the continuing care wing.

The world was a better place because of Haywood. He had an excellent way of putting things into perspective. My favorite saying of his was in relation to Gay people. When the Presbyterian church was deciding if they were finally going to allow gay people to be married in the church there were a lot of small minded Churches fighting it. Haywood’s response to the question was hard to argue with. he said, “God didn’t make no junk.” Since God made gay people, just like he made everyone else, they were OK with God, so they should be OK with everyone else. Who are we to question God?

The Service for Haywood will be this Saturday at 2:00 PM. Sadly, Russ and I will be away, but if you go you can eat some of the thumb print cookies I am furiously making for the reception following the service. It will be a joyous celebration of a big life well lived.