Friday, April 29, 2011


The first time I heard that saying in a meeting of Alcoholic’s Anonymous I thought I’d heard it incorrectly. After the meeting I approached the speaker and he assured me that I’d heard it right. I was too new in the program to truly understand the full impact of those words.

Now, after almost 22 years sober, I’ve come to not only under-stand that saying but to firmly believe it. Time and again I’ve seen people hit rock bottom. They come into the rooms of AA sick, bedraggled and desperate. They “will do anything” to stay sober.

But, more often than not they are “well” in a matter of months. They‘ve regained their appetites, they‘re starting to look and feel good and recovery goes out the window. “Alcoholic?,” they say, “Not me. I can take it or leave it. I’ve proved that by not drinking for X amount of days.”

We feel bad as we watch them go. They’ve caught the dreaded “alcoholwasm” syndrome and all we can do is leave the doors open for them and hope that they will be lucky enough to find their way back in before it‘s too late … for them, or sadly too often, for others.

The first thing I had to have drummed into me when I started my AA journey was that stopping drinking is actually the easiest part of recovery. It’s facing the “ism” that’s hard. The “ism’s” are the psychological and personality issues that crop up and that we couldn’t get through before without drinking. We need to face them and put them behind us.

The process of changing how we deal with life and all of it’s problems is a critical part of recovery and I work on it daily. The results are well worth the effort … and it’s really not that hard once I set my mind to the fact that I have alcoholism, not “alcoholwasm.”

As a dear friend in AA puts it: “Getting and staying sober is a cinch. All you have to do is … don’t drink, go to meetings, and change your whole damn life”.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A 3 day respite to the mountains …

This lovely church is located in the western hills of North Carolina. It is also where my middle son was contracted to work on two columbarium’s a few weeks back. (a columbarium is defined as “a vault of niches where cremated ashes are interred”.)

The contractor has a mason construct the basic structure according to plan and then my son puts on the finishing touches … usually in marble or fine granite. He has been doing this for quite a few years and his job has taken him even as far from home as Texas.

When this job materialized he surprised me by asking if I’d like to go along and of course I jumped at the chance. Here he is … before and after.

It turned into a lovely 3 day vacation for me … spending quality time with my son … watching him work, reading, relaxing and just generally “chilling out” together.

It’s such a comfort to have him living nearby but it’s also fun for the two of us to get away from the old home scene. This little trip is a memory that will be with me forever.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Guess who came to dinner … in little old Vass, no less !

Yup…it’s none other than JIMMY CARTER.

Jimmy Carter, who served our country as President from 1977 to 1981, was in Pinehurst for the wedding of his great-nephew, Jason Stapleton.

I understand that he arrived Friday night in time to attend the rehearsal dinner. The actual wedding was the next day and it was after that when the party made it’s way to the reception held at the Woodlake Country Club, a golfing community in my little town of Vass.

You pass right by my house (circa 1902) to get there …

… and you arrive at the historic Oates House (circa 1792) in Woodlake for the reception.

Now which one would you choose???

Jimmy Carter may be many things to many people but he’s definitely not a snob … his advocacy for human rights and his myriad of projects aimed to make life easier for the underdog has proved that.

Soooo… I like to think that, if he’d been given his “druthers”, he would at least have stopped for tea ! But I guess those darn Special Agents of the Secret Service had other ideas.

Maybe next time !

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Too close for comfort …

I am always on the lookout for interesting bits of information that I think will make a good blog entry … but this time I would have gladly forgone the story if this had never happened.

It was the 16th of April and we knew that storms and possible tornados were on the way. The sky turned that ominous slate greenish/gray and the trees were nearly bent to the ground by the force of the wind. It was a frightening feeling but our State experiences it about every year at this time so it was not a new phenomenon.

My son-in-law advised me to get to one of the back rooms since we have a very large tree that bends over my house and he could just see it landing on the roof above where I was sitting. However the worst of it passed and we breathed a sigh of relief, until …

We turned on the TV ! Then we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. Barely 25 miles north of us the damage was unbelievable. The Lowe’s Home Improvement Store was flattened beyond recognition and reports of other tornado touch-downs were flooding in. Complete trailer parks were wiped out and wind damage alone caused havoc. It was reported that over 60 tornado touch-downs were sighted. They still, as of this writing, don’t have the total fatality count.

I was concerned for my blogger friend Kenju who lives in Raleigh and dropped her an email. She said, in her reply, “The tornado that tore up 401 going north narrowly missed my place of employment. I left there today at 3:10pm and got home about 3:45. The tornado went through that same area at about 3:35-3:40 and followed me on my route home…it gives me the willies to know that I drove ahead of that storm by only about 20-30 minutes.”

Amen to that …

and heartfelt condolences go out to the others who were not so fortunate.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Ron Howard & Francis Bavier… Pinehurst, NC 1988

AKA: “Opie” and “Aunt Bea”

In the 1960’s “The Andy Griffith” show dominated the TV scene and re-runs are still popular today. “Aunt Bea” was portrayed as a sweet elderly lady who loved nothing more than providing her two men (“Andy” and “Opie”) with her home baked goodies.

It is interesting to note that, in 1972, Frances Bavier (“Aunt Bea“ from the show) retired and bought a home in Siler City, NC ... a rural area that closely resembled the fictitious town of Mayberry portrayed in the TV series.

In 1978 our family moved to North Carolina and I got a job as a secretary in the ER of the large hospital in Pinehurst, NC, fairly close to Siler City. About 10 years later “Aunt Bea” suffered some medical problems that were serious enough to have her hospitalized and she spent 6 days in our facility. I never saw her but the scuttlebutt had it that she was a difficult and demanding patient. This was no surprise since I’d often read that her co-workers thought of her in the same way.

The one member of the cast who seemed to be able to placate her was Ron Howard (“Opie”). Rumor had it that he was in the Pinehurst area to see her and, sure enough, he showed up at the front desk of the ER asking for her room number. (Of course we were thrilled to give him the info and didn’t tell him he’d come in the wrong entrance!)

One of the secretaries asked him for an autograph and he promised to bring in a stock photo with his signature the next day ... which he did. He was just there for those two days but the nurses on “Aunt Bea’s” floor reported that his visit was a great boon for them. He was able to calm her down and she became a much more pliant patient.

Looking back on this memory I can’t help but see the irony of it. Here was “little Opie” turning the table on his old “Aunt Bea”. It was his turn to dish out just what she needed ... common sense and a big helping of love.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

An impressive doorman … 1974

Some of you young people may not recognize this face but noone of my generation could forget it. It’s James Cagney, who, in 1999 was ranked 8th among the greatest male stars of all time by the American Film Institution.

In 1961 he bought an 800 acre farm in Dutchess County, NY, the same township where my husband, 3 children and I settled three years later. Although the property was just over the hill from our house we never saw him. He was a very private man and, when at the farm, he kept to himself.

When he was in his mid 70’s he retired to the property but was seldom seen, although he contributed to the well being of the County and was much revered. (He even agreed to let the Millbrook High School, class of 1976 dedicate their yearbook to him.)

One spring day in 1974 I was grocery shopping at our little local store. My arms were full and, as I approached the door, I saw a small, hefty man holding it open for me. He was slightly hunched over and had a plaid felt hat with brim covering his head. It was tilted to give it a rakish look and, as I turned to say “thank you”, he tipped it toward me and said, “the pleasure is mine, little missy.”

There was no mistaking that gravelly voice! James Cagney was my doorman and his twinkling eyes told me that he knew it was a thrill for me. Even in his 70’s he was a captivating presence and you could tell that, as much as he loved his anonymity, he was still the consummate showman !!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Those EVAN ESAR crossword quips …

The main theme of many a crossword puzzle seems to be a quip by Evan Esar. I’ve seen the name often enough but it wasn’t until a few days ago that I decided to find out more about him. It turns out that he was an American humorist who wrote “Esar’s Comic Dictionary” in 1943 and many more books on humor until his death at the ripe old age of 96. I guess that proves, once again, that “laughter is the best medicine”.

The length and humor of his quips make them perfect fodder for inclusion in a crossword grid and here are some of my favorites:

Nothing ages your car as much as the sight of your neighbor's new one.

Conscience is what makes a boy tell his mother before his sister does.

Most new books are forgotten within a year, especially by those who borrow them.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy -- and Jill a rich widow.

Admiration -- Our feeling of delight that another person resembles us.

A husband is like a fire, he goes out when unattended.

Character is what you have left when you've lost everything you can lose.

Many a man who falls in love with a dimple make the mistake of marrying the whole girl

Zoo: An excellent place to study the habits of human beings

Thursday, April 07, 2011

KIVA … update APRIL, 2011

You may remember that I’ve been enamored with KIVA for a long time. This is a service that specializes in micro-financing to deserving entrepreneurs the world over. For the mere LOAN of $25 I can join with others and make it possible for a person, or a group of persons, to start a small business.

At Christmas time in 2008 I invested $50. That was the amount it cost me to loan to a couple in Cambodia and to a woman in Togo.
Then my children gave me $100 for my birthday in 2009 and I loaned to 4 others.

These three represent Bolivia, Peru and Sierre Leone.

Now I can hardly believe how this has “snow-balled”. At last count I have enriched the lives of 33 needy entrepreneurs without loaning another dime of my own money. I have merely reinvested when the loans have been repaid although I have the option to withdraw my money if that were my choice.

It’s a win-win situation and so different from the handouts that some people have come to expect. I have a blank map of the world and, as I write in the countries where my loans go I receive a history lesson as well. Now I can locate such exotic places as Azerbaijan and Tajikistan and visualize my $$ going to work there.

I find this a very fulfilling venture and I know that at least two of my blogger friends, AC and Philip, think so too.

I hope you will check out the KIVA website. I’ll bet you’ll get hooked just as I have.

Saturday, April 02, 2011


Old April showers made me stay
inside the window half the day.

But I forgave them when I found
a crocus peeping from the ground.

(These sweet pen and ink sketches were drawn in 1935 by my grandfather Harry Lee to accompany his original poem.)