Tuesday, October 30, 2012


She's gone for weeks and then she's back two days in a row - the Curmudgeon. But as I was throwing Sunday's newspaper into the recycling I saw a headline that stopped me with an idea for an essay:

I loved this headline in this Sunday’s Community section of the Charlotte Observer: Outdoor Fireplaces: A hideaway in your yard.  Oooh! Things are getting bad: folks on the lam are searching for hideaways. And what about those “bedroom retreats”, and “adult sanctuaries”?  What I want to know is from what are some folks fleeing?  Why do they have to retreat? Why must they hide away?  Are things getting so bad that instead of sending recalcitrant kids to their rooms the parents flee to their own?  Are things getting so bad that folks must flee from the world in general?

Being just two weeks this side of seventy, I’m from an era where togetherness was the key word for families: togetherness at meals, togetherness for an evening’s entertainment and learning, togetherness in all times good or bad. It seems now that every family member is entitled to their own inviolable space. Entitled, I tell you!  Our son has three girls, and each has her own bedroom. The girls are all under six, so there aren’t yet any “go to your room” orders, or even their own desire to get away from the rest of the bunch - but they’re getting older every day. Of course, the parents have their own suite, and there’s a small guest suite on the first floor. Five bedrooms: gotta have ‘em! I’d better not complain too loudly: I may need that guest suite one day. But you know what I’m getting at here.

Excess, excess – it’s everywhere. (Witness yesterday’s blog about Booing.)

The size of the average American family home is increasing – doesn’t every home need a living room, a great room, a playroom, a media room, a billiards room, and maybe a gym?  Our son’s home has four of those six, yet along with those five bedrooms it’s one of the smaller houses in his golf club community.  I ask you!  But why not, it’s what up-and-comers do these days.  And I really shouldn’t comment, because they are doing so well. But it just chews at my conscious. Though I’m sure it is mainly doing what they think best for their family, it all seems to me to be the eternal keeping up with the Joneses, the maintaining face, if you will, and the showing themselves that they’re all right Jack.  Seems to me it might be our fault for not instilling simpler values in them.  It’s a vicious cycle, and many parents will probably be lamenting about this for eons.

Well, that’s off my chest for now – but I’ll probably still stew about it later on in life.




Monday, October 29, 2012


The Curmudgeon is back!  She’s been gone for a while, though I could have trotted her out for my last blog on manners. She’s ready to give her opinion on the current trend to make Halloween that much more frenetic by “Boo”-ing.  Boo for Booing. In my most recent letter to my dear correspondent in Canada I told her of that week’s encounters with Booing:

-----Speaking of candy – eye candy and otherwise - Have the Canadians picked up the custom of “Booing”? At night someone rings your doorbell and runs away, leaving a bag of candy and a note telling you to make two copies of the note and the picture of a ghost, and pass it on to two more Boo-ees, along with bags of goodies for them. Whew! I don’t know who started this, but I think it should be stopped.  My daughter-in-law and the kids got Booed last Saturday while we were there. She suspected who Booed them and couldn’t Boo them back and couldn’t think of any two others to Boo in the neighborhood (not many households with kids there). She’d have to find two bags to pass on and some candy to fill them, and make copies, etc. She was a bit exasperated at that point, but the kids were excited. Just what they needed: more candy!

Then one night last week we got Booed here. What a pain! They don’t allow Trick or Treating here at SCCL, so I don’t have any supply of candy or other goodies. I recieved a bag-full of M&M snack bags, a Reesse’s Pieces, and one mint tea bag – strange! I don’t know what my daughter-in-law did about it, but I stopped it right there. Like a chain letter, I don’t pass such things on. Instead I just ate the candy! (Burp!) It might be fun for the kids – and I suspect this was started by the candy companies to drum up more business – but here in Sun City it is almost an imposition. From the looks of the bag I got it seems like the Booer had to scrounge up something to pass along. Many of us seniors don’t go in for such sweets – at least not the kind of things kids usually like. Last week I did have a coupon from Lindt for a free (free: my favorite word!) bag of their new Truffles – at $6.99 a bag! That is not for the kiddies. -----

Turns out that, just as I did, my daughter-in-law decided enough was enough, and didn’t pass on the Boo. It would have been fun for the girls to sneak up and ring the bells, but they can have other fun other ways. She is not a Martha Stewart Mama, all organized to the teeth and so busy she gets everything done elegantly.  If gals like that are not a myth, they’re few and far between.  She’s an every-day, loving Mama who has a lot on her plate and little inclination to go off on tangents imposed from the outside.  

Actually, I can see a sort of Booing here at SCCL.  Perhaps I’d call it “Gifting”. I remember when I was just a kid, maybe eight or so, and my Grandmother was writing out a birthday card to her Secret Pal. They even had greeting cards especially for Secret Pals. Do they have them now? I always thought that was a nice idea. So today, if someone knew that a neighbor or friend had a birthday coming up, or was recovering from an illness, or was just in need of some cheering, I could see leaving a Secret Gift. How about a gift bag of things like a small supply of herbal tea, some trial size toiletries, a colorful pair of socks, a box of Walker’s shortbread? You know the person so you should know what they like.  Add a cheerful card and Voila!  Just hang it on their doorknob.  There’d be no instructions to pass on the gift – though talking up the idea would be nice.  Mmmm!  One never knows, do one?

Friday, October 26, 2012


What better month to celebrate National Manners Month than in October, the month when Emily Post was born to a prominent Baltimore family in the year 1873. She was raised in the Victorian era when manners were strictly codified, and women, especially well-to-do women, had to know their place and do nothing to jeopardize it. That was an era of polite society, so polite that even today the Emily Post website politely fails to mention her divorce, one of the first in her circle of friends, and her subsequent entry into the realms of the gainfully employed. After writing several successful novels and travel articles she turned her hand to a book on etiquette.

In my book, her book is really about two things: etiquette and manners. According to my handy dictionary, etiquette is “the conventional requirements as to social behavior, and the prescribed or accepted code of usage in matters of ceremony.” It is how you set a table, what fork goes where. It is how you formally address the President of the United States or the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Manners, on the other hand, are, according to the same dictionary, “social behavior, especially in terms of what is considered correct or unacceptable in a particular society or period in time.” There is a fine difference. Manners are how you relate to other people. Using an example from today’s technical world, we could say etiquette is using the accepted lingo or shorthand for text messages to your friends, while manners would be your texting them at appropriate times for both of you: not when you are driving, not at meal times, not at midnight.

Etiquette, as I said, is how you set your table. Manners are waiting to eat until your hostess takes her first bite. Etiquette and its rules go along with the times; manners are timeless. Emily Post said "Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use." It comes down to this: it’s nice to be nice.

It’s not that you do something correctly, but that you do it with correct consideration. Etiquette requires a gentleman to hold the door for a lady; manners require that he do so graciously, not with an exasperated expression on his face. Further, manners at SCCL suggest that you hold the door for the next guy, especially at the Lake House where the heavyweight doors were designed for Gargantua.

I get all confused here: is it etiquette or good manners for SCCL golf cart drivers to park two carts in a regular car spot? Well, I guess it could be etiquette for two to use the spot, and manners to be considerate and park them offset so that drivers and passengers can get in and out of the cart with ease. 
Speaking of manners, we’ve a few husbands around here who are really pips.You may have seen one of these incidents with the genders reversed, but on several recent occasions I’ve seen men with relatively infirm spouses get out of a car or golf cart and just stride off, leaving the woman to get out, rummage around in the back seat for her cane in one case, and to get herself inside without so much as a steadying hand. You can’t tell me that on every one of those occasions he had to get to the john so fast he left her to fend for herself. He sure wasn’t catching a plane.

I firmly believe that courtesy, manners, and etiquette, are part of the foundation of a good marriage.  I have been blessed with one of the most considerate husbands on the planet, and I appreciate it no end.

To paraphrase Sgt. Esterhaus: “Let’s mind our manners out there.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


On our recent trip to th Blue Ridge Mountains I bought one of these jars of sourwood honey at a roadside stand on Rt. 221 outside of Linville, NC. I opened the jar yesterday and tasted a bit of the honey - delicious.  Certainly beats the commercial stuff.  I've never eaten honeycomb, so naturally I went on line and did a bit of browsing.  My farorite idea was to serve it with good cheese and  great crusty bread or crackers.  Just cut into the honeycomb and spread it and savor it.  Ooooo - sounds like a great plan. Come on over and share it with us.

Friday, October 19, 2012


This week Frank and I took a leaf-peeper drive along South Carolina’s Route 11, the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Highway. Our first stop was Cowpens Nation al Battlefield. As at any battlefield we’ve visited there isn’t much to see in the lay of the land – you have to use your imagination. We stopped off first at the information center.  They’ve got just about the best battle presentation we’ve ever seen.  It is a narrated summary of the war to the date of the Battle of Cowpens, and later to the surrender at Yorktown,  complete with a fiber optics display on two large maps: one map of the south in general, and one map of the battlefield.  Later we took the loop road drive around the battlefield and, with the presentation in mind, could get a better idea of what went on where.
I wrote the following article for the July 2011 issue of Living @ Sun City Carolina Lakes.  As today is the anniversary of the surrender at Yorktown I thought it appropriate to use the article again.

The Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, formalizing the conflict between ‘us’ and ‘them’. The conflict was all but ended south of the Mason-Dixon Line on October 19, 1781, with the British surrender Yorktown, Virginia, only 330 miles from here as the crow flies.
The Redcoats are going! The Redcoats are going!
Coming from one of the North Atlantic states I was fairly well schooled in the northern events of the Revolutionary War, but it never kept my interest for too long, seeming to be just a series of names, battles, and dates that I had to memorize for a test. Moving to the South has awakened my interest. 

Since my school days I’ve learned that some of our ancestors, especially the more noted ones, had a lot more going on in their lives than just leading the nation. Fourth grade history and the study of American Revolution never mentioned that Benjamin Franklin was quite the ladies’ man or that Thomas Jefferson had a concubine. Interesting! 

Fourth grade history in the North also never mentioned much about the role of the South in that war, and it was probably the same in reverse for students in the South. Nor did it mention what it was like for those on ‘the other side’ – in this case, the English on the other side of the pond.

Queen Charlotte
Did you know that King George III was married to Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz?  That wouldn’t have interested me before, but, living where I do just south of Charlotte, now it does. Poor guy: wars going on all the time, suffering from a mental illness that may have been a blood disorder, he had troubles galore. And some upstarts in the American colonies wanted things like “no taxation without representation,” and they had other objections to being mere colonies. They wanted their independence.  Think of it from George’s point of view: it was appalling.

If it weren’t for the South we might all be British.  Though the primary action of the opening years of the war was in the north, at the same time the persistent southern forces were handling British actions in Charleston and eastern Florida, and nagging at the British and Loyalists whenever they could. The North began to get help from the French, and in the last major battle there they defeated the British at Saratoga in 1777.  Still the British remained a large presence in the north, harrying and engaging the forces in a series of smaller battles. 

The same year as Saratoga, the southerners did lose Savannah, their biggest city, to the British.  Then Charleston went, and the Americans retreated in defeat to the Carolinas. There they met the British in several engagements: one of them was the Battle of the Waxhaws.  For about a year it didn’t look good for the American cause, but then the tide turned and they won at Kings Mountain and Cowpens.  The British kept at it, winning some battles, but at great cost to themselves. Finally the American southern, northern, and naval forces came together in Yorktown to defeat the British and accept their surrender.  King George lost control of Parliament to the factions within his own country that were suing for peace with the Americans, and that, in a nutshell, was that.  

Of course, the Revolution can’t be covered in 600 words. There’s so much to be learned, seen, and enjoyed.  You can begin on the internet researching the Southern states’ Revolutionary War Trails, starting at oldeenglishdistrict.com, or hit the brochure racks at the highway visitor centers.  Our nations’s history will keep you busy and entertained for a long time to come.



Tuesday, October 16, 2012


but where would I have put it once I got it home - that is if I had won the bidding?

Friday, October 12, 2012


On this October 18th, 245 years ago, surveyor Jeremiah Dixon and astronomer Charles Mason completed the plotting of the 233 mile line known to us all, naturally, as the Mason-Dixon Line. Historically speaking, it settled the border between Pennsylvania and Maryland.  During the earlier settlement of the country things got a bit messy with lands granted to various families.  Stop here: this is where it sometimes “gets to me”, that bit about “lands granted.”  Broadly speaking, the English swept up what the French and Spanish didn’t particularly claim – though they had a few wars later over it all – and just stated, more or less: “Never mind who lives here now, all this is ours to do with and give away as we like.”  Talk about divine right of kings! Talk about coming in and taking over! Whew!

But to continue: the claims of Penns of Pennsylvania and the Calverts of Maryland overlapped significantly to the point where Philadelphia was technically within the Maryland colony. So out they went with their rods and chains, letting Philadelphia sit a good fifteen miles above the new border, and marked the line for posterity.  The line now forms the boundaries of four states: Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Delaware.  The Delaware-Pennsylvania section of the line is relatively small, and the rest of their border is a twelve mile arc. That arc in itself is an interesting topic for another essay.

A born Yankee – a New Yorker from “Nu yawk”, although I don’t really sound like that – I never ever expected to live below the line, much less have my whole family living down South. One lives in the suburbs of Houston, one the suburbs of Charleston, and now the other two are near Charlotte. Jobs are the great movers of families these days. Needless to say, I never gave the line a thought other than to know that it separated us from them, culturally speaking and gastronomically speaking. Ooh – the gastronomy down here is superb!

Why do adults tell children outlandish things? I know my Father was highly indignant later on in life when he learned that chocolate milk did not come from brown cows. His Mother was born in West “By God” Virginia. Many times when I was little she told me that the Southerners would love me because my name is Lee. Well, good grief! How long can a kid believe something like that?!  I don’t know how many Southerners like me, but I like a whole lot of Southerners that I’ve met so far. They are charming, gracious people. Sometimes, living where I do, I am mortified at what they have to put up with from pushy Northerners. It’s the same feeling I got a few times when we were traveling in Europe and “Ugly Americans” - maybe they were Northerners! – were less than polite, shall we say, to a shop clerk or the hotel staff.  Maybe I just don’t want to be tarred with the same brush.

Reverting back to gastronomic delights, and I frequently do, I leave you with this prayerful poem by the late, big and big-hearted actor, Victor Buono. 
The last lines say it all. 

A Dieter's Prayer

Lord, my soul is ripped with riot
incited by my wicked diet.

"We Are What We Eat," said a wise old man!
Lord, if that's true, I'm a garbage can.
To rise on Judgment Day, it's plain!
With my present weight, I'll need a crane.

So grant me strength, that I may not fall
into the clutches of cholesterol.
May my flesh with carrot-curls be dated,
that my soul may be poly unsaturated

And show me the light, that I may bear witness
to the President's Council on Physical Fitness.
And at oleo margarine I'll never mutter,
for the road to Hell is spread with butter.

And cream is cursed; and cake is awful;
and Satan is hiding in every waffle.
Mephistopheles lurks in provolone;
the Devil is in each slice of baloney,

Beelzebub is a chocolate drop,
and Lucifer is a lollipop.
Give me this day my daily slice
Cut it thin and toast it twice.

I beg upon my dimpled knees,
deliver me from jujube's.
And when my days of trial are done,
and my war with malted milk is won,
Let me stand with Heavenly throng,
In a shining robe -- size 30 long.
I can do it Lord, if you'll show to me,
the virtues of lettuce and celery.

Teach me the evil of mayonnaise,
And of pasta a la Milanese
and crisp-fried chicken from the South.
Lord, if you love me, shut my mouth.


Oh yes!  Amen to that!




Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Our granddaughter at the Altamont Fair on a windy fall day in 1993!  Can't you just taste that candy-apple?  Makes my teeth itch!

Friday, October 5, 2012


When I was in high school the Guidance Department gave us aptitude tests.  I came out highest to be an auto mechanic or a diplomat. At that time I just listened to the counselor’s spiel while I sat there, got up, and went out. All I remembered after that were the two professions, neither of which I chose to follow. Looking back after all these years, I see that the common denominator there was logic.

An auto mechanic must have a logical mind to go with his knowledge of cars.  The combination tells him, for instance, what’s wrong with the car, how to take it apart, and, most important, how to put it back together again.

A diplomat has to juggle logic: his own and that of the entities with whom and between whom he must negotiate, and with whom he must maintain cordial relations on behalf of his country or company.  Like being green, it ain’t easy.

I did fall into a field that required logic: computer programming.  I was working for a Long Island bank that was about to get its first computer.  They tested all the employees and I scored very well. So, from being a teller and then a clerk in the loan department, I was catapulted into the world of computers. Programming involves logic: instructions to the computer must follow logically, with no “oh, by the way” instructions to mess things up. Logically, I could say, I went from programming, to systems analysis, to running the department, to becoming and A.V.P. in Operations, the first female officer at the bank. 

On the face of things now, I don’t have to dig down and use any of my logic abilities. Except that I can’t get into a criminal mindset, I can usually understand other people’s point of view.  After over a quarter of a century of retirement, living in a relatively isolated and fairly homogenous rural community, it’s a brain boost, and sometimes a diplomatic challenge, to live in a dense, diverse community like this Sun City Carolina Lakes.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012



We're back from our too brief sojourn in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. We had a marvelous trip, saw this year's start of the fall colors, spent time and took a lot of pictures on Grandfather Mountain and the Blue Ridge Parkway, and bought wonderful handcrafts from pottery to jam and sourwood honey.