Nothing Could be FIner...

My daughter Karen and I drove to North Carolina to spend Thanksgiving with my sister, Lynda, and her husband, Henry.

We had a great time. Lots of talking and old-time stories and a HEAVY traditional Thanksgiving Dinner of southern cooking at a local fixture-restaurant. It was delicious and brought back a flood of childhood memories through the familiar tastes.

We ate our dinner at The Old Country Kitchen in Snow Camp, NC near the site of a historical Quaker
community.  This place is a relic of past times and the walls were covered with more vintage Coca Cola graphics than  I have ever seen in one place outside of a museum. They did no waste time on or charge customers for showy decorating - it was totally roadside and down-home. I loved it.

We  ate hearty --- and left satisfied and happy.

This was the first Thanksgiving without Jim and it turned out to be a good decision to leave town and try something new and different.


Walking a Tight Rope

I am learning the truth about the warning, "Firsts" are tricky when you have lost someone.

And how.

So I decided to spend this "first" Thanksgiving in NC with my sister and her husband. Karen and I drove down yesterday.
It was a good decision!

We had a really comfortable ride in the new car. I loved sitting high off the road surrounded by lots of metal - driving it.
On the way to Lynda's we drove through Chapel Hill - where we lived when Jim was in the Psychiatry Residency at UNC Memorial Hospital. A quick ride through was not nearly enough so we are going back tomorrow. This is memory research and story building - - -and I like it, even when sometimes tears are dripping off my cheeks.

Today was something new. We went to Snow Camp, NC  - a place near Lynda's - for Thanksgiving Dinner at The Old County Kitchen. It was perfect. Old, decorated with more vintage Coke signs than I have ever seen in one place - - and the food - - well it was delicious. When I saw the buffet with all the traditional southern food - cooked home-style  - - my mouth started watering. From corn bread, dead green beans, mac and cheese, and fried okra the food captured pieces of my childhood. I can tell you frankly - I not only over-ate - I shamelessly made a pig of myself and it was all GOOD.

Talk, my gosh we have all been talking. And I am collecting stories. Just you wait.  Do you know about "butter and eggs" ? I didn't but I do now from my brother-in-law and -----

Tomorrow Karen and I are going to Southern Supreme to see where my favorite marvelous pecan pralines come from. After that we are going back to Chapel Hill.

Right now I am going to bed so I will have lots of "git up and git" for tomorrow.


Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing all my Facebook friends a very Happy Thanksgiving.

This Thanksgiving I look back very gratefully to the 57 Thanksgivings Jim and I shared and my heart is filled with love and gratitude for the many blessings of those years.

Jim and I celebrated our 50 years together when we worked together to make this collage screen - an abacus - as part of my art show "About Time" at Studio Gallery, Washington, DC in 2005. 

Thank God for the gift of memory.

And,  for the stories we tell which keep our loved ones beside us!


Cars and Money Give Me Headaches and a PS

Facing up to buying another car and its hard.

I masquerade as a fairly practical person - but really I am a "creative" and crunching real numbers and making budgets gives me a head-ache.

When I was in high school we had a class called "Family Living" that was all about husbands and wives working together, budgets, talking things out - you know ways to have a reasonably functional family. Unfortunately my family was very dysfunctional which blocked my understanding of the class content quite a bit. I remember the cute blondes and serious others who made notes, brought in their hypothetical budgets and really loved the class.

I wished then -  and now  - that I was one of them.

In our marriage Jim was the practical money-manager and he often wished I had been one of them too.

But never you mind - life has a way of catching up with you and offering new chances to get those wishes.

Since Jim died I have had a continual nagging hear-ache - money and how to manage it. I am great at spending it - its the budgeting and managing that comes hard.

So here comes a BIG pain and test - buying a car.

What do I need?
What do I want?
What can I pay for - - - and how to pay?

First off - I am not buying a new car on a whim - the guy at the garage refuses to fix my 12 year old van because it is now and will continue to eat more and more money. Emotionally I am furious with this whipper snapper - ofcourse - but my rational side knows he has stepped up and done me a favor.

I hope he will also give me a bottle of Tylenol to go with the HEADACHE.

One of my primary needs is SAFETY.  To me that means sitting high up off the road and having lots of metal around me.

To start, since my van has been banned from the road, I rented a Chrysler Town and County van because its on the recommended list. When the guy from Enterprise drove up I tried not to laugh - this rental is shiny black and looks like a cross between a hearse and a Secret Service van like the ones that trail after the President's car when he speeds through Washington, DC traffic.

Its comfortable, lots of room, sits high up off the road, and the ride is smooth - its a TRUCK. Someone told me that Toyota Sienna's  - which I have driven for 12 years are built on a car body - while American auto makers built their vans on a truck body. I believe it.

The real extra on this Van - is that I can start a shuttle business and pay it off.

And, I love all the toys it has - things that were not even thought of a decade ago when we bought our Toyota - a back-up camera, navigation screens, hand free blue tooth telephone, Sirius radio with a whole channel devoted to 1950s music - all great! But - costly.

I tackled the Toyota dealer yesterday starting with new cars. The salesman was not high pressure so this morning I am going to drive a variety of Toyota vehicles.

I feel another headache coming on.

TA DA!!!

PS: 10 PM that evening.


After lots of agonizing, telephone confabs with my sister in Georgia and great help from my daughter Karen  and  - - - a handfull of Tylenol  - - I bought a car.

It sits high off the road. Surrounds me with lots of metal and  - it is filled with intriguing toys.

I bought a "fully loaded" 2010 Toyota Sienna Limited Van - in pristine condition that seemed to
be made  - - and waiting - -  for me.

There is a story for later.


Book-ends in History?

Whew! Elections are over!
I am happy!
Watched CNN where Wolf Blitzer and John King covered the count state-by-state until it was clear Barack Obama had won four more years.
I went to bed and slept well.

I missed sharing the evening with Jim.
We always tabled everything else and watched the Presidential election results together - by no means always agreeing about the best candidate, sometimes having "words" over it. Especially during the Nixon years. I was especially vocal and vehement about Richard Nixon.

Jim and I would have agreed last night as we did in 2008.

The way my story-mind works I also thought of other elections Jim and I shared.

The first election count-down we watched on television together was in 1960. We were living in San Antonio, Texas where Jim was stationed at Brooks Air Force Base - assigned to the staff of the School of Aerospace Medicine.  The 1960 was the first time I was aware of Richard Nixon and thank goodness John F. Kennedy won. Waiting for the results that night was so exciting and it went on and on. Finally we were so tired we decided to take the count-down to bed with us. 

We wheeled the small yellow television set on it's moveable stand from the living room to our bedroom. The rabbit-ears aerial perched on top of the set brought the black and white picture into any room in the house. Before there was a definite decision on the winner sleep claimed me. I missed Nixon's concession remarks and JFK's acceptance speech. I woke up as Jim came out of the shower and announced the good news!

Today people say the 1960 JFK win was the start of a new chapter in US History. As people will probably call last night - four more years for Obama - significant in our history. I can imagine historians will one day write books on how the two are related - will they call them book-ends to 50 years of US history?


Missiles, Canned Goods and White Shirts

Get Microsoft Silverlight

This is what I call "kitchen table" storytelling.

Sometimes something comes up - sparks a story - and you go ahead and tell it without deep preparation, relying on your memory to feed you the information as you need it. Well, that's what happened the day I told this story for the camera at Channel 16.  I watched the morning CNN News and 20 minutes later when I pulled into the parking lot outside the television studio I had decided to revisit my memories of a time 50 years ago. Perhaps the story will prompt your memories of October 1962 in your home.

This happened a week before Sandy the Frankenstorm loomed on the scene.  Funny that just 4 days later we were putting in supplies and preparing for our "survival" during Sandy.


About a Sister Visit

My sister Kathy came for a visit and even Sandy, the Frankenstorm, did not put a damper on our fun.

Ok. Ok. there were also tears - that just happens with me these days - and she understood - because she first met Jim when she was in 9th grade and Kathy has shared many things with us over the 56 years of our marriage. She misses him too.

We talked about our children and grandchildren and about our parents and our childhood memories.
In the ten days she was here - outside of storm Sandy - we crammed in a long visit at Arlington National Cemetary,
several thrift shops,
the Virginia Storytelling Alliance in Lorton where I told a story of a 1945 NC Hurricane at Wrightsville Beach that Kathy well- remembered even though she just 4 years old when it happened -
I switched my selected stories so that I could tell that story with Kathy in the audience.
(This is a link to a video version of the Hurricane Story   if you are curious.)

We talked of books and movies -
 I marveled at how she does all her internet work on her iPhone
she installed the Nook App on my iPad so that we can share our Nook books in future,
and I was surprised to discover that my sister is a dog-whisperer.

Our eight year old Shih Tzu, Leia, who was really Jim's dog has seriously grieved for him since he died in March. She has not been a bit interested in opening a loving friendship with me - not that I blame her - we have both been sad females. Kathy undertook to make a bridge with her and she did it.
She not only did it to her she showed me how to build a warm relationship with Leia for me. wow.

One day we drove to Baltimore for a sentimental visit to Johns Hopkins Hospital and the neighborhood where Jim and I met and began our marriage. Kathy spent a month with us during the summer and she remembered a lot about it. Most important she understood how important it was to me to be there with a "trusted" companion.

A security guard took this picture for us in the former Main Entrance with the legendary statue of Jesus, The Healer which has been there since the Hospital opened in the 1890s. People lightly touch the cool marble foot as they pass and often stop to sign a large visitors book which is kept on a near-by wall shelf - it is filled with petitions and gratitudes.

I lived here - Hampton House, the Nurses Home, when I was a student nurse at Hopkins. Jim and I met in the lobby for our first "blind" date. Every day I walked across the street and entered the hospital through the old Main Entrance. The first time I entered the hospital through that door the statue was such a surprise it took my breath away.

Being there brought back waves of memories and story possibilities - that's why I love storytelling.

And sharing these days - that's why I feel so fortunate to have sisters.