a day in this life, dirt under my nails, exercise, home

Update and stuff

I fell off the exercise wagon last year and I expect I won’t be getting back on it in any organized way. Even though I love the endorphins when they kick in, routinely making time for that takes a great deal of effort. And there are other things I prefer doing. So, I let it slide.

One of those things is yard work. I don’t like doing it. But, I like the final result. And I don’t have to get in my car to do it. I just have to get my as dressed and go outside. Well. I do eventually have to go to Lowe’s and get more mulch. But, that’s not a given for the starting point like going to the gym is.

I have 2 things to do today. I am going to plant a bare root lilac bush on the south side of my house. And I’m going to put 3 lily bulbs in their places.

My cousin told me that when my great grandmother’s house was sold, there was a white lilac bush covering the whole side of the house. The people that bought the house ripped it out. There’s a pert of me that wishes I had a piece of that bush to plant where I live. But, the truth is I prefer colored flowers to white ones. So, I’m planting a standard lilac and that’s enough.

I have 2 other lilac bushes in my yard. They are a pair of clones I got from the National Phenology Network. They are tracking climate change with the information they get from volunteers all around the country who are growing lilacs they gave us. They are nice to have. But, I was given instructions about where to plant them that are functional for the project, not particularly where I would have preferred. And they aren’t the standard color. They are Red Rothomagensis lilac (Syringa chinensis) and they have never been enthusiastic bloomers in my yard. They do bloom. But, not what I have wished for. So, I got the other one.

The other thing to do today is plant 3 lily bulbs. I bought a package of 9, kept 3 and mailed 3 to my cousin who lives in Las Vegas. They have a small back yard with a tiny growing area and last year whey saw pictures of Easter lilies and were quite taken with them. (Actually, Chris asked what they were and I called him a doofus for not knowing. Jennifer told me they don’t see them there. I thought they were universal.) So, when I saw them for sale, I got them to share. According to their USDA planting zone, they should be fine. And I know they grow here.

There is something in me that likes flowers as connections to people and places I have known. The irises remind me of my maternal grandmother. The gardenia is for my paternal grandmother. My crepe myrtles remind me of a conversation with my dad and he was always fond of the little primroses that grow in the front bed. My Thanksgiving cacti bring my mother to mind, (She thinks they’re ugly and tells me so frequently.) The black elephant ears I have in a pot make me think of the friend that gave them to me. My African violet reminds me of the friend that told me how to care for them successfully. There are 3 roses that remind me of specific people. The hydrangea is for a niece. The fig is my husband’s. (I will never see a fig without all our growing and eating of them coming to mind.) The foxglove is from an old friend. The Lenten roses are from another friend and the butterfly bush reminds me of my trip to Canterbury. There are several lilies that put me in mind of another friend.

The list continues but I’m going to stop and get on with planting.


Remembering Country

When I was 5, my dad decided to teach himself to play the guitar. At that time, my parents had a piece-of-furniture stereo. It was stocked with lots of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Johnny Cash and the soundtrack to Fantasia.

My dad was the one that contributed the Johnny.

As he learned to play, he practiced on Patsy Cline, Hank Williams (Senior!!!!!), Johnny and some Little Jimmy Dickens. Every night, he would practice and sing and my sisters and I would sing with him.

Over time, he got good enough to be comfortable playing for other people and whenever our extended family got together there would be at least one evening of Daddy playing and everyone singing along with him. He was in a couple of bands made up of friends who just liked playing together, never trying to make any money at it.

As he got closer to retirement age, though, the guitar came out less and less often. His hands were getting stiffer and it just didn’t happen as often.

One day when we were talking he mentioned having a dictaphone tape of my sister, Amanda, singing “Jesus Loves Me.” She had been about five and found a little gadget my dad had for making notes to himself on the seat of the car and had amused herself with it for awhile. Even though he doesn’t have a way to play it, he still keeps the tape knowing her childish voice is held in there.

I asked him if he had ever thought to make a tape of his songs for his grandchildren. He asked me what I meant.

I said, “Well, you don’t pick very much any more. You learned ‘I am my own Grandpa’ for Christopher, but Sawyer hasn’t had as much opportunity to sing with you. And, frankly, there’s going to be a day when you aren’t around to ask to sing with us. Not that I think it will be soon, but it is going to happen, eventually. All your little people have always loved singing with you. It would be nice to have a tape or something to let Christopher’s children hear you play.”

He said, “Let me think about that a little bit.”

Several months later, he handed me a CD. It had his picture on the cover, liner notes and everything, like a professional piece of work. He was grinning like he’d just pulled a rabbit out of his hat.

Turns out, he had a parishioner who had a music studio. He’d asked this guy for help putting something together “for his girls” and the guy thought that was a great idea. He said he couldn’t print less than 500 and my dad didn’t know what he’d do with the other 497, but they got to work any way.

Mr. Craig knew some musicians who would help with some background instruments. Maybe they already knew my father, too. I’m not sure. Anyway, Ingram ended up with some guys in the studio with him playing and harmonizing a little.

They called it “Remembering Country” and the liner notes dedicate it to his wife and daughters.

One paragraph say “We started to put a notice on the cover that advance sales had already broken pewter and we expect it to go aluminum within days of its release. But it is not for sale and it won’t be released. If you are one of those lucky enough (or unlucky enough, as you choose) to hear this, just remember it’s the private property of my girls. Keep your snide comments to yourself.”

So, there was one for me and one for each of my sisters and my cousins all got one. His siblings did, too. And the people who went to his church got word of it and started asking if they could have one. A couple of my friends asked for copies and I burned them for them because that was the easiest way to provide them.

I told Daddy that I’d done that, thinking he’d enjoy knowing that people he’d known when they were kids still remembered those nights with fondness.

He said “I may need you to burn a couple more of those for me if it isn’t too much trouble. I’ve almost run out of the 500 I had and a couple of friends have asked me if I had any more. If I do run out and need another one, how hard would it be for you to do that? I’d pay you for the disks.”

I told him that it would be a piece of cake and that I keep disks around so it wouldn’t be a problem.

It has songs that are favorites of each of us, songs we sang to death. “I’m My Own Grandpa” is on it for Christopher. And there are two that he wrote himself. One is a love song to my mother. The other is a damn fine country song.

So, if you ever hear me singing “Crazy Arms” or “Send Me the Pillow That You Dream On” and think that doesn’t sound like my kind of music, keep your snide comments to yourself. 😉

Remembering country

a day in this life


Here are some of my opinions.

If it is a right, you shouldn’t need a law to get to have it. Therefore, everyone should be able to vote and be married or any other thing they want as long as it doesn’t infringe on the personal space of anyone else. The fact that laws are needed for the rights of some to be honored pisses me off.

I want everyone to have the same privileges I do, because I don’t WANT to get something because I’m white. I want it because I earned it. And I don’t want to NOT get it because I’m female. Or have blue eyes or grey hair or for any other accident of birth. And I don’t want your accidents of birth to give you, or keep you from, anything.

I am a believer in a meritocracy. I believe in everyone having the right to Life, Liberty and the PURSUIT of happiness. I don’t believe that you should be allowed to keep other people from those things.

Also, I believe in paying taxes. I want services and I’m willing to pay for them. I want smooth roads, good schools, speedy firemen and EMTs. I would like for everyone to have Medicaire instead of health insurance. I am willing to give up more paycheck in order to have more services available to those that need them. I don’t believe in tax loopholes. Fucking pay your part. You live in the land of the free, help tote the load.

family, randomness


When I was in my twenties, I used my grandmother’s lipstick. She had a kind of peculiar way of applying it and it worked for me, but not my sisters. Now, I am getting the same lines around my mouth that she had.

Kate, May 25, 1959

She was 5 years younger, in this picture, than I am now.

She was my maternal grandmother.

This is me with my dad.


My parents were only related by marriage. Truly.

a day in this life, home

Home update

I have always hated the brick-look vinyl floor in the kitchen. And the carpet in the living room had been abused by shoes and pets tracking clay in for over a decade. AND my child had done some damage to the kitchen vinyl when they were in high school. The damage was small and only noticeable if you looked in the right spot. But, I knew that it was going to be an excuse to redo the floors sometime.

That time came last spring. I looked down and a small piece of the vinyl had come up. It terrified me. I was afraid that, if I left it for any length of time, there would be damage to the sub-flooring that would be ridiculously expensive.

Chuck and I had been talking about replacing the floors with laminate and had looked at options. Even getting chips from Lowe’s to bring home and think about. Of course I couldn’t find the one we liked best when it came time to actually do it.

I went to Lowe’s, looked at choices again, picked out 3 I liked (again), talked to the guy, got a rough estimate and found i could pay for it without taking out a second mortgage and came home to talk to Chuck. We picked a floor and I signed a contract.

AND we decided that since the paint was ancient and in need of refreshing, we should do that before the floor was laid. When we moved the furniture in anticipation, we found the floor chips we had gotten 2 years earlier and the one we picked out was one of the trio. CLEARLY this was our favorite.

We ended up with both rooms the same color and with the same floor. I even found switch plates and outlet covers that matched the paint.

We gave the old carpet to my friend, Carolyn, who had admired it for years, and got a new one to go with the new look.

When my mother came to visit, she and I stopped at the ReStore in Durham to drop off a lampshade I had changed and found a sofa that was the shopping coup of my life. They took the old sofa that had been badly reupholstered and sold me that one for $13. It had been marked down from $75 in October to $20 and was 40% off the day I went in.

It almost feels like a new house.

a day in this life, art, film, RiverRun International Film Festival

What’s up with me

This weekend, I took time from work and went to the RiverRun Film Festival in Winston-Salem.

We were given free tickets to the Gala a couple of year ago and had a big time. We bought tickets this year and decided it’s more fun for less money. The same band played less dance-able songs and small cocktails are more acceptable when you get a drink ticket included with the price of admission. It was a lot of fun watching all the ways people dressed up for it. And we did dance. But, Prince and Charlie Daniels didn’t inspire us to stay as long this time.

So far, we’ve seen 4 documentaries and 2 feature films. We have one more documentary tonight in Greensboro. It’s part of the festival? But not close and tickets are sold separately.

Friday evening, we saw Care to Laugh. It’s about a comedian living with his aging parents in Los Angeles, trying to work and tend to them at the same time. Making a living at stand up takes a lot of hustle and he doesn’t have any siblings to help look after the old people. He got a significant break while they were filming and he’s able to afford some help taking care of them in the after math. If you get a chance to see see Jesus Trejo perform, go for it. He’s funny and he’s a nice guy.

Saturday, we saw The Raft, which is a retrospective talking to the 6 people still alive who had an adventure in 1973. (Nobody died on the ocean crossing. They’re just old, now.) Neither of us remember much about the original event. I think I remember knowing that it happened. But, I was 13 and it wasn’t the most important topic to me at that time. Chuck doesn’t remember it at all. Their conversations about the expectations of the trip by the man who created the original experiment was fascinating.

After that, was One Last Deal. It’s a Finnish “redemption movie” about an art dealer who thinks he’s spotted an important painting at an auction. It was very sweet with no real surprises. It did make me desperately want a coffee and a pastry afterward.

Before bed, we saw While I Breathe, I Hope. I don’t know if you were aware of Bakari Sellers’ election to the SC House of Representatives in 2006 when he was 22 years old. He served while he was going to law school full time. This film follows him in his run for Lt. Governor (he didn’t win) and his activism in getting the Confederate flag removed from the state house grounds. If he ever runs for the Presidency, I’m voting for him.

Sunday, we saw The River and the Wall. It’s excellent. Five people pedaled, rode horses and paddled from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico following the path the infamous Wall is meant to take. I wish it would run on every network in the country to be sure everyone sees it to understand exactly what that wall would and would not accomplish.

Our last movie, before coming home, was Datsche. It was a mess. The writer/producer/director was writing it as she went and it shows. The script seriously needed editing before it went into production and that just didn’t happen. The characters could have been interesting if the story had been tight. It wasn’t.

We had leftovers from our dinners twice and ate them for the 3rd supper, with a glass of wine outside a coffee shop on Sunday. We felt very efficient with not wasting food or having to bring a whole bunch back with us. 😂 We were at Camino Bakery (the coffee shop) daily. They’re right downtown across the street from one of the theaters.

Tonight, we’re going to see a Miles Davis biography. Chuck has (finally) become a fan of jazz and we have been indulging. And tomorrow will be dinner-and-a-movie again. I learned about a seafood restaurant in Greensboro when I was doing a Portuguese wine tasting a couple of weeks ago. I hope it lives up to the promises of the wine distributor who pointed me to it.

In addition to movies, we saw art at the South Eastern Center for Contemporary Art. SECCA is one of the venues for the film festival and we noticed that there was a new exhibition up when we were there for our movie Friday evening. So, we went back in the morning. There were some interesting pieces by UNC School of Art students and a small print and watercolor exhibition by local artist, Emily Clare, in the house.

The part that we had gotten a glimpse of was in the main exhibition area and it is fantastic. There are 2 mixed media exhibitions going on at the same time.

One is called Archives Aflame. It’s a collaboration between a Japanese artist whose father was at Hiroshima and an American artist whose father worked on the Manhattan project. It was devastating.

The other is Somewhere in a Dream I Got Lost. It is a powerful look at racism. Lonnie Holley uses everything in his art. Paint, sculpture, music, video. Found and created.

We try to get to SECCA a couple of times a year and sometimes, our timing is bad and we miss a change. We were really glad we didn’t miss this. It would have been worth the trip by itself, even if we hadn’t had other things to do while we were there.

a day in this life, books, dirt under my nails, family

KonMarie thoughts

First thing, a disclaimer.  I have not read Marie Kondo’s book.  My sister, however, loved it.

This morning, my friend, Tom, posted a link to an essay about KonMarie tidying and how it affected her when she got to the part of dealing with her 1,127 books.  I suspect that Tom is a little bit of a hoarder.  So, I think that is probably indicative of a step in a healthy direction for him.

Since I booted my second husband, I have been actively trying to live by this:

“If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”  ― William Morris (1834 -1896)

(He was, ultimately, neither useful nor beautiful.)

I found it relatively easy to purge furniture, kitchen and clothing.  Although is is sometimes hard to decide if a thing is truly useless or simply rarely useful.  (This is why I have bought a ginger grater twice in my life.)

Books were harder.  As were DVDs.  But, I eventually realized that I wasn’t actually using those things.  Just storing them.  Sometimes lending them.  So, I sold them or gave them away.  Most of them.

I do still have a couple of bookshelves.  They hold books I’m not quite willing to be without.  Picture books.  Poetry.  A couple of collections that I just can’t let go of even though I, also, own them digitally.

After I posted on FaceBook that William Morris predated Marie Kondo, Caitlyn commented that he didn’t pre-date Shinto, which is a part of her inspiration.  Since I hadn’t actually read the book, I didn’t know.

a day in this life, activism, food & drink, randomness

Re: that fucking wall

Anthony Bourdain wrote:

“Americans love Mexican food. We consume nachos, tacos, burritos, tortas, enchiladas, tamales and anything resembling Mexican in enormous quantities. We love Mexican beverages, happily knocking back huge amounts of tequila, mezcal, and Mexican beer every year. We love Mexican people—we sure employ a lot of them. Despite our ridiculously hypocritical attitudes towards immigration, we demand that Mexicans cook a large percentage of the food we eat, grow the ingredients we need to make that food, clean our houses, mow our lawns, wash our dishes, and look after our children. As any chef will tell you, our entire service economy—the restaurant business as we know it—in most American cities, would collapse overnight without Mexican workers. Some, of course, like to claim that Mexicans are “stealing American jobs.” But in two decades as a chef and employer, I never had ONE American kid walk in my door and apply for a dishwashing job, a porter’s position—or even a job as a prep cook. Mexicans do much of the work in this country that Americans, probably, simply won’t do.

We love Mexican drugs. Maybe not you personally, but “we”, as a nation, certainly consume titanic amounts of them—and go to extraordinary lengths and expense to acquire them. We love Mexican music, Mexican beaches, Mexican architecture, interior design, Mexican films.

So, why don’t we love Mexico?

We throw up our hands and shrug at what happens and what is happening just across the border. Maybe we are embarrassed. Mexico, after all, has always been there for us, to service our darkest needs and desires. Whether it’s dress up like fools and get passed-out drunk and sunburned on spring break in Cancun, throw pesos at strippers in Tijuana, or get toasted on Mexican drugs, we are seldom on our best behavior in Mexico. They have seen many of us at our worst. They know our darkest desires.

In the service of our appetites, we spend billions and billions of dollars each year on Mexican drugs—while at the same time spending billions and billions more trying to prevent those drugs from reaching us. The effect on our society is everywhere to be seen. Whether it’s kids nodding off and overdosing in small town Vermont, gang violence in L.A., burned out neighborhoods in Detroit—it’s there to see. What we don’t see, however, haven’t really noticed, and don’t seem to much care about, is the 80,000 dead in Mexico, just in the past few years—mostly innocent victims. Eighty thousand families who’ve been touched directly by the so-called “War On Drugs”.

Mexico. Our brother from another mother. A country, with whom, like it or not, we are inexorably, deeply involved, in a close but often uncomfortable embrace. Look at it. It’s beautiful. It has some of the most ravishingly beautiful beaches on earth. Mountains, desert, jungle. Beautiful colonial architecture, a tragic, elegant, violent, ludicrous, heroic, lamentable, heartbreaking history. Mexican wine country rivals Tuscany for gorgeousness. Its archeological sites—the remnants of great empires, unrivaled anywhere. And as much as we think we know and love it, we have barely scratched the surface of what Mexican food really is. It is NOT melted cheese over tortilla chips. It is not simple, or easy. It is not simply “bro food” at halftime. It is in fact, old—older even than the great cuisines of Europe, and often deeply complex, refined, subtle, and sophisticated. A true mole sauce, for instance, can take DAYS to make, a balance of freshly (always fresh) ingredients painstakingly prepared by hand. It could be, should be, one of the most exciting cuisines on the planet, if we paid attention. The old school cooks of Oaxaca make some of the more difficult and nuanced sauces in gastronomy. And some of the new generation—many of whom have trained in the kitchens of America and Europe—have returned home to take Mexican food to new and thrilling heights.

It’s a country I feel particularly attached to and grateful for. In nearly 30 years of cooking professionally, just about every time I walked into a new kitchen, it was a Mexican guy who looked after me, had my back, showed me what was what, and was there—and on the case—when the cooks like me, with backgrounds like mine, ran away to go skiing or surfing or simply flaked. I have been fortunate to track where some of those cooks come from, to go back home with them. To small towns populated mostly by women—where in the evening, families gather at the town’s phone kiosk, waiting for calls from their husbands, sons and brothers who have left to work in our kitchens in the cities of the North. I have been fortunate enough to see where that affinity for cooking comes from, to experience moms and grandmothers preparing many delicious things, with pride and real love, passing that food made by hand from their hands to mine.

In years of making television in Mexico, it’s one of the places we, as a crew, are happiest when the day’s work is over. We’ll gather around a street stall and order soft tacos with fresh, bright, delicious salsas, drink cold Mexican beer, sip smoky mezcals, and listen with moist eyes to sentimental songs from street musicians. We will look around and remark, for the hundredth time, what an extraordinary place this is.

The received wisdom is that Mexico will never change. That is hopelessly corrupt, from top to bottom. That it is useless to resist—to care, to hope for a happier future. But there are heroes out there who refuse to go along. On this episode of “Parts Unknown,” we meet a few of them. People who are standing up against overwhelming odds, demanding accountability, demanding change—at great, even horrifying personal cost.”47180743_10161065587235514_5300303815826735104_n

Original Post by Samantha Rose on Facebook.