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The local public radio station, WUNC, did a piece last week on Durham's Urban Ministries and a game they have on their site called SPENT.You can play it here:

It is not a fun game, it's stark and relentless and real. Like homelessness.


One of my duties at my faux job for my realtor friend was designing the flyers you find in the "Take One!" boxes harpooned in front lawns of for sale houses.
I really enjoyed doing that - finding the right template for each house, loading the perfect picture for each room, pointing out the efficient working triangle in the kitchen, the gleaming hardwood floors "in the formal areas", etc. But I'd shudder when I read, "freshly painted neutral interior" in J.'s notes.

Because that only meant one thing...

The dreaded Beige.

Oh sure, you can call it Bone, Tan, Buff, Sand, or Belgium Lace, but beige by any other name is still...ugly ...and beige. And BORING! (FYI whoever named that color Papaya - I have never seen, nor would I eat, a papaya that color)

Hello - a soft creamy yellow or green can be neutral. Grays can stand in as well.

Behr is a great site to check out for color ideas There's also ehow. That link happens to be for yellow, but I'm guessing they have other color tips.
Valspar has a link to color samples of historic homes in the National Registry.

Color YOUR world, but please, make it anything but beige!


Saltines and Co-Cola

Missed the walk today, because I woke up with a headache that was not cured by washing dishes or vacuuming. (Those are not my usual cures, by the way.) I could have powered through the headache, but I started feeling kinda punky stomach wise (that was probably caused by housework before coffee).
I went to back to bed until 4 PM, got up and fed the cats (Lillie will brook no excuses - food must be prepared!), ate two pieces of dry toast, anything else sounded heave worthy, and finally gave in to taking an aspirin.
Back to bed until 6:30 PM, headache seemed abated, so I went out for ginger beer (Reed's Extra) and Saltine's - original with salt, because a Saltine without salt is a.) gross and b.) not a SALTine.
And Wendy's for a coke. Coke and Saltines - that is the upset stomach cure all.

As an aside - I need to have a little chat with Nabisco about their packaging. Can you not make eight smaller packages instead of four? You did it for Ritz crackers.
Once one of those packs is opened, the entire thing must be consumed - right now - or be faced with stale crackers tomorrow. Maybe it's genius marketing on their part - I have to buy more saltines sooner.

Hobnobs - an crazy addictive oatmeal chocolate cookie from the UK, used to have that same type of packaging - once opened, never closed again. I was beholden to eat every single one. (shush, I know I could have put them in a ziplock bag) Now they have a snap on lid, so I only eat 1/2 a container at a time. HA!
While we're on the subject of HobNobs - they are what I spent my last six pounds on when I left Ireland. If anyone going across the pond asked what they could bring me back - HobNobs was the answer. That's how dangerously addictive they are.
Now I can get them any old time at A Southern Season, so I rarely have them anymore.

Anyway, feeling better now. Oscar's glad.
Tomorrow's it's supposed to be in the seventies (so wrong) and I had better deal with the leaves or I'll be getting a letter from the HOA.
Ugh. Overlords.


Lack of Endorphins or Why My Mother is Like Exercise

As I drove home Monday night at 7 PM and passed right by the street that leads to her "home", I thought - yet again - that I need to see Mom.

Then it dawned on me  - seeing my mother is like exercise.
  1. It's hard to get into a routine
  2. I don't enjoy it
  3. Once I stop, it's really hard to get back in the swing of things

I wouldn't know an endorphin if it walked in here and slapped me in the face. I've never been a gym rat or addicted to anything, (good for me that is), like running. (Have you EVER seen anyone running who looks happy? No, you haven't and you know it.).

For a time, I rode my bike six miles round trip to work and walked three - four miles a day on top of that. However, read my lips - it was not enjoyable (especially the bike ride home).
I did not get up every work day morning excited about my ride to work.

Because people are crap to bike riders.

I've had things thrown at me (a large Taco Bell cup full of soda was my very favorite), and been a target for any rude phrases teenage boys feel like yelling out the window as they whiz by dangerously close.

I worried about loose dogs, packs of feral teenagers, getting hit by a car or a plain old random crash due to operator error. The weather was either hot or cold or raining.

Exercise smacks of pain and cruel taunts - not happy buzzes. Do with that what you will.


Twenty Ways To Avoid Doing Your Mom's (or your own) Taxes

Consider it a PSA from little ole me.
I'm here to help, people.

1.) Laundry
2.) Read The Oatmeal blog
3.) Edit and re-edit the last few entries on your own blog
4.) Fold laundry
5.) Do some washing up (aka - wash dishes)
6.) Play with cats/dogs/children
7.) Check Facebook every few minutes
8.) Get something to drink
9.) Rearrange furniture
10.) Make some popcorn - even though you're not hungry
11.) Listen to Dire Straits/Lily Allen/Dwight Yoakum/JJ Cale songs on You Tube
12.) Clean out the frig
13.) Flip mattress
14.) Put clean sheets on bed
15.) Read some other blogs
16.) Check out the Daily Mail online (trashy UK tabloidy type news)
17.) See if Amazon orders have shipped
18.) Look at local weather for next week on NOAA
19.) Bathroom break
20.) Reload stapler

You're welcome.

Harper Valley PTA

Next Wednesday I have a meeting with CB since Mom's been there one hundred days. This is apparently some sort of marker - like one hundred episodes for a TV sitcom.
Whoo hoo - and we've been renewed for one more season!

Dear god.

Somehow this reminds me of parent teacher meetings. Ugh.

Teacher: You need to know we will have high expectations when it comes to homework.
Me: Wait - homework? But, it's kindergarten.
Teacher (mouth agape): Of course there's homework!
Me (frantically trying to remember if The Boy had brought anything home): That seems wrong. The homework in kindergarten part. It's only half a day.
Teacher (furiously scribbling): You need to take your child's education seriously!
Me (chastened and humiliated): but it's kindergarten...
Teacher (more scribbling with mouth held in hard pinched line):
Me: Oh, is that punch? I'll just get a cup...(slinking out of classroom while making mental note to never to come to another P/T meeting)

They are expecting something from me. Questions, comments. Showing up.
I feel pressure as well as the omnipresent guilt.

I know they judge me for not showing up every day.
I just know it.

Sibling Rivalry

I enjoy watching the show Brothers and Sisters, but think it should be classified as fantasy, as it is most likely the figment of some writer's imagination.
A writer who perhaps did not have the bickering, loving, fierce family portrayed on the show.
I don't know anyone who does. Do you?

This evening as we eight wine tasters basked in the alcohol induced glow, we got on the topic of siblings. One of the members was adopted (and an only child) and she said she used to wonder once upon a ...well, you know... if there were any siblings out there, but had concluded based on friends comments that perhaps they were over rated. (She did however have two children.)

To prove the point, we went around the table and divulged our relationships with our siblings, if we had any (siblings that is). Several of us had a five year gap between us and the next child. (My mother had a fifteen year gap, my father, thirteen).
In birth order land - this equals two first-borns and does not often bode well for the relationship.

Only one of us said definitively that her sibling was her closest friend. Others said they had spent years purposely avoiding any contact with theirs. (I sometimes wonder if this is what my sister would say)

I often go months, even years without speaking to mine. Not because I don't like them. I do. I promise.
We have fun when we see each other, they can make me laugh like no one else, (except maybe Anon CP, but in her case we may be related in some Southern way), and if anyone else says anything negative about them, I feel a powerful strong urge to kick that person's arse.
But we have our own lives, our own families and friends. Not to mention one of them lives in Alaska, and the other in that state that is suddenly just like know, Wisconsin.

In my family's case I don't know if this distance can be contributed to our nomadic lifestyle growing up - we became accustomed to leaving family and friends behind. Perhaps we would have drifted apart anyway. No way of knowing.

Sometimes I have cousin envy. They live in Florida, knowing everyone and everyone's children and grandchildren, while I'm the one at family reunions asking small children "Who do you belong to again?"
On the other hand I thought a former colleague who only did things with family members my judgmental way...plain weird. Maybe I was a little bit jealous. Whatever.

I only had one child, in part due to choice and in part due to that's where the cards fell. He did not seem to mind being an only child. He had plenty of playmates and friends. Only once, in second grade, did he ask for "a five year old red-headed sister named Mary"...I replied that I couldn't help, unless Mary's parents were willing to give her up. (Ah sarcasm, so often wasted on the young.)

It was also noted last night that with a large age gap, it's like having a different set of parents. My sister thought I got to do everything. I thought she was a lunatic and marveled at the amount of freedom she and my brother had.
The firstborn gets all the rules and the micro managing - parents are trying so hard to do it right. The ones following after often get a more relaxed parental mind set. (But do they appreciate it?! Nooooooo.)

Maybe, like leaving the nest, finding your own relationships, not just the ones you were born into, is part of growing up.
As the saying goes - friends are the family you get to choose yourself.


Fearrington 9th Annual Folk Art Festival

It is really nice outside today, about 70. Yuck.

I KNOW! Please don't hate me.

But honestly - it's FEBRUARY. The Raleigh groundhog whatshisname (Ah, Sir Walter Wally - thanks Google), saw his shadow for Pete's sake (who the heck is Pete anyway?!).

Anyway, the four hardy souls who turned up and walked in the sweltering heat then drove eight miles up the road to Fearrington and the annual folk art show.

I fell in love with this piece by Gabriel Shaffer  
and while it was not an unreasonable price, it was too much for me after a 35% drop in annual income. But what's not to like about a blue cat??

I settled on this beautiful pin - painted on a piece of goose eggshell: Her work is really amazing - looked like cloisonne enamel.
 You can find more of Stephanie Astalos-Jones' work here:

I'm sure my camera phone photo is not doing it the justice it deserves.

I got another small piece from Danny Doughty
I like pears and eggplants, what can I say.

This is the piece I bought last year from Danny.
Please ignore the paint sample to the right. 


Speaking of art that is as far away from folk as possible, this is my friend Clark Mitchell who does beautiful pastels. Even fifteen years ago he was way out of my price range.

Anyway, off to some wine tasting thing now.

Tomorrow is a pajama, do Mom's taxes, get cat puke off the floor and carpet day. (Is it my imagination or is that happening more often?)


Mothers and Body Image Or Why I Cut The Tags Out Of My Clothes

One recent Saturday after our walk, four of us sat in Panera Bread talking. At some point the talk turned to mothers.
One woman's mother used to prequel the weekly phone conversation with - have you lost weight yet? Another asks her daughter when she's going to change her hairstyle and why isn't she wearing make-up? (a Skype call with Mom qualifies as a date now?)

I had a friend in California - a competitive runner who was 5' 9", had zero body fat, wore a size three. And thought she was fat - because her mother told her so.

My mother used to ask what size I was - all the time - even after she stopped making my clothes and had no damn business knowing. She once asked me if I wanted to see pictures of myself before I started eating too much  Granted she was by then in the depths of dementia. (I'm pretty sure she thought it before, but filters were in place to prevent the asking of the burning question.)

Part of it is the crazy fashion industry and the media that tells us a size ten is a PLUS size. Seriously, I would happy to be a plus size ten.

Hand in hand with the body image issues (thanks Mom!) is the nonacceptance of compliments.
We can't accept a compliment on a pair of shoes or a jacket without invoking the magic incantation - "This old thing?! Oh I've had it for years, honestly, I think I paid $2 for it." And then proceed to point out the tiniest hole, worn down heel, thread pull or some other minuscule, and quite possibly imagined, flaw.

Before the Chocolate Affair on Sunday - ten attractive and well groomed women stood around in the Fresh Market parking lot and bemoaned how many times each of us had changed outfits before we came. Land of Cotton wrote about the Goldilocks aspect of the day.
We women are always doing math in our heads - the slide ruler of comparison - weighing ourselves against one another and usually finding ourselves lacking.

So what is it about women that we can't see ourselves the way others do (I mean in the good ways). Is there some DNA code buried deep in the X chromosome that disallows goodness or self acceptance - of myself or my daughter's self?
I'm willing to bet few of us have these conversations with sons.
Frankly, I'm glad I didn't have a daughter or she'd probably be cutting the tags out of her clothes.

A New Blog   Sent to me by Andrea over at Go Ask Alice...when she's 94 

Haven't had a chance to read all of the posts yet.


Sunday Morning

Got up as late as Lillie let me, (she is not food motivated, but when she is hungry she wants her food NOW!), made coffee and a bagel. Listening to Geet Bazaar, music from South Asia from 10 AM - noon (EST). 
From noon - 2 PM it is all things a cappella, if you like that sort of stuff. 
You can listen here:

Drag Bingo last night was great, $8000 was raised for the AIDS Alliance.
We were there from 3:30 ish to 10 ish; set up chips and candy, helped make hot dogs, veggie burgers and kept the folks hydrated during the games with soft drinks and water. Of course we played bingo too.

Did get to see Mary K Mart before she was herself. :) It is some major unfairness that a man got legs that good. Hmpf.

Later this afternoon, I'm heading to A Chocolate Affair, a fundraiser for Cornucopia Cancer Support Center. (Free tickets courtesy of S. who does some graphic work for them)
Guess I'd better get started...


Harried Blog Post

Bunch of stuff:

First: It's DRAG BINGO night! Volunteering for set-up.

Second: Here's a picture of Mom on Christmas Day 2010:
She looks totally  recovered from the Foley catheter incident here. Why does this picture make me feel guilty???
Third: My job gets more overwhelming every day. I don't think it's supposed to work like that.

Fourth: One night a few weeks ago the sky at sunset was the color of cotton candy. That was pretty awesome.

Fifth: Last night I went to the University Mall to pick up my Drag Bingo ticket and there was a tango (?) class happening. I love the U. Mall, it's old and small and has only a few national mall types stores. Mostly it's just our stuff. I like that.

Sixth: This afternoon I saw a Smart car driving next to a charter bus. Hilarious. Wish I'd gotten a picture.


Saturday Night

This was the scene last night as I watched Sons of Anarchy:

Sons of Anarchy features an actor I really like - Tommy Flanagan. You might remember him from Braveheart as the guy with deep scars on both sides of his face.
There's also a couple of actors from my favorite [drama] show ever - Deadwood. Which I can't really recommend as freely as I'd like to because that show took swearing to new heights. Even for me.

Wicked Witch of the East socks courtesy of Keen. (See the R and L on them? I still managed to put them on the wrong feet once.)

Keen sox are pricey (I had an Amazon gift certificate), but boy are they comfy. They have Merino wool padding which varies according to the weight/purpose of the sock and no seams anywhere. Seems like they would be really great if you were a serious hiker/runner.

They get Finn's Good Housekeeping Claw of Approval.

Boxcarr Farms on First Fridays

Friday evening a few of us went to 3Cups in Chapel Hill for Boxcarr Farms on First Fridays. This used to be an every Friday occurrence. Personally I think the shift to once a month will get a better turnout and make it more of an event. The deal is five small plates for $25 or individual plates for $6 each. They suggest about four wines as well (which are extra).

I wasn't going to go at all, it was raining and cold, had been all day and I was kinda beat from my first full week of work.
But faced with a choice of doing taxes or being with friends while enjoying some good local food - I managed to find the strength to drag myself out for dessert and ended up having the soup and dessert.

Here was the menu:
  • black bean soup with cilantro pesto, creme fraiche
  • roasted winter vegetable salad: beets, brussels sprouts, baby carrots, tarragon dressing (the last of the veggies from boxcarr garden until spring)
  • gnudi (ricotta dumplings) with guanciale (hog jowl bacon), thyme, lemon zest, brown butter
  • smoked pork shanks with gremolata, mushrooms, herbed barley risotto
  • lemon semolina cake with macerated cherries, lavender cream

The black bean soup was just the thing to take the chill off - spicy and full of flavor. The lemon semolina cake was nicely presented and very light. I didn't get any lavender flavor from the whipped cream - but that didn't stop me from eating every bit of it!
The gnudi (a type of gnocchi made from ricotta cheese and a little bit of flour.) looked fabulous and everyone who had them said they were really great. The pork shanks looked wonderful too, and again, was pronounced delicious by everyone who had them.

3Cups is a small place. That makes seating um...creative, especially if you have a group of more than four. The eight of us shared the only large table with several other people and perhaps made some new friends that we can look forward to seeing at the next First Friday.


ChemoToxic, the photography exhibit I went to a few weeks ago, was reviewed by the Indy (Independent - the free "what's happening around town" paper).

There is an event Wednesday night at the Carolina Theater called Ignite Durham. Sounds fun and interesting, but it's on a "school" night, so I probably won't go.
From what I can glean, it's people speaking for a short period of time - 5 minutes - on something they are passionate about.

Some Pictures from Around The Way

Took these on one of my last unemployed days.

Sunday, Sunday

Super Bowl today. I care not.

Last Thursday CB was extra depressing for some reason. Maybe because I walked in with a woman whose 92 year old husband was in there. She had to be in her eighties. She was tired from doing nine things since lunch, (it was around 4 PM), including the grocery shopping so she didn't have to go out on Friday when it was supposed to be raining. We parted ways once inside and went to look for our respective family members.

I found Mom down the hall by her room, She smiled and held her hands out, "Hey, it's you!"
Yes it is.

On the way to DSW she started to ask several questions or make comments, but the thoughts don't even make it past the first few words.

Anyway, I don't know what possessed me to take Mom shoe shopping before dinner, or any shopping any time really. It's too exhausting and frustrating for both of us.

After remarking on how big it was, she headed right for the most inappropriate shoes - the sky high stilettos.
Then she rearranged the display shoes, moving them from one shoe podium to another.
Good thing I am an expert cat herder.

We aimed for the clearance section in the back and in about five minutes reached our goal. Then the real fun began. Getting her to stay sitting down while I brought shoes to her was a challenge. Then she'd put her shoes in the box and carry the trying on pair around. She picked up one pair of black patent leather 5" heels about ten times. Several pair were tried on, but I couldn't get a clear answer if they were comfortable or not. So we left empty handed (footed) and went over to Bob Evans. We're becoming regulars. Sigh.

It's becoming increasingly difficult to know what to order. She says yes to whatever you ask (or point to) and then when it comes, she says that wasn't what she wanted. Or maybe she means it is, because it is often opposite. At any rate, my translating skills are not holding up.
I find myself getting angry because she doesn't remember what it means to blow on her food/tea to cool it off or how to use a fork or put a napkin on her lap. She blows her nose and after a commentary, (which I in no way ever want to hear), meticulously folds the Kleenex and wants to give it to me.
Okay, say it with me...EWWWWWWW.

She called me a "snerd".  Which would normally be funny, but it wasn't by then.
Her back was bothering her, (Another reason I didn't want her getting up and down at DSW.); when I'm around people in pain - my worry comes off as mad. But if I'm mad at anyone, it's myself.
We shouldn't have sat in a booth, I should have insisted she wear her brace, I can't do anything to stop the pain, she can't really tell me how bad it is. Crap.

According to Strength Finder 2.0, I'm Restorative; "People who are especially talented in the Restorative theme are adept at dealing with problems. They are good at figuring out what is wrong and resolving it."
But I can't fix this.

We decided we were finished, mostly because I could take no more of her wincing in pain, and headed home. She has become pretty good at recognizing where we're going; she always remembers Nantucket Grill and her former "home".

I was so tired and depressed I handed her off at the door.

That's just how us snerds are.


The Writing On The Wall

This new job, that is supposed to be only seven hours a day, is going to be my excuse in the "post-a-day" semi-goal.

I am admitting defeat a mere one month in.

Say what you will, but one advantage of being over FU Fifty - is that I am smart enough to know when I'm beaten. No shame in throwing in the towel. No more feeling like I have to prove myself.

Missed a call last night from someone talking about physical therapy for Mom. Guess I need to return that one.
Add it to the list: taxes times two, VA paperwork (before March 1), calling VA regarding direct deposit into the newly set up custodian account (where did I put that paperwork?!), paying her bills, wondering how I'm going to pay mine, working, and sticking in a visit here and there.
I have to get ready for work now.