L is for the Liberty Antiques Festival

laf signLiberty is a small town about 21 miles southeast of Greensboro, NC surrounded by farms and fields. It anchors the north eastern end of Piedmont Land Conservancy’s Liberty-Randleman farmland corridor, an effort started 17 years ago to protect more than 500 contiguous acres farmland before growth and development intervened. Many of the farms in the area were protected by the landowners’ generous donation of their development rights. Other than some federal and state conservation tax benefits, the landowners received nothing in return for giving up the development rights to their land. They wanted to insure that the way of life they’d grown up with would continue to exist for their grandchildren’s grandchildren.

Long before I started working for a land conservation organization whose mission is to preserve farmland, I valued the ability to drive through farmland within just a few minutes of leaving my suburban neighborhood. There is something restorative about driving through green pastures, crops in the fields and livestock grazing. So every year, when I read about the Liberty Antiques Festival  I’ve thought, maybe this year I’ll go. Even though it is held twice a year, in April and October, it tends to fall on a weekend when there’s a lot going on. April and October are busy months for me at work and home.

LibertyAntiquesFestivalThis year the festival will be held on Friday and Saturday, April 29th and 30th. As with past years, I have a conflict for Saturday – camping with my Girls Scout troop. But just maybe, I’ll find a way to scoot down there on Friday. Maybe this will be the year I finally get there.


B is for Bright Star on Broadway

Bright StarEarlier this month my family took a trip to New York City. It was our kids’ (Sarah, 26 and Will, 23) first trip to New York and their first Broadway play. Although I traveled to New York on business several times (more than 20 years ago) and we visited Rick’s sister when she lived there (more than 30 years ago) this was our first visit to the city as “tourists.” Frankly, we were a little nervous about how it would go (Rick and I drove into the city on a Wednesday and the kids flew up a day later) but it was much easier than we expected. We had a great time! And despite years of our laid back southern lifestyle, Rick hasn’t lost any of his NYC driving moves.

A motivating factor in making the trip was the recent opening of Steve Martin’s and Edie Brickell’s musical – Bright Star, starring Carmen Cusack in her Broadway debut. Not so much because of the famous writers and actors but because the stage musician on banjo is Bennett Sullivan who grew up right here in Greensboro, NC. Ah yes, I’m proud to say, “I knew him when . . .”

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The Half-Way Mark

By the time I post this it will be midnight on April 15th, which marks the halfway point for this month’s writing challenges.  My primary objective is to keep up with the remaining prompts for the #AtoZchallenge and NaPoWriMo 2016. I also want to complete the prompts that are missing so far.

Here’s what’s missing from the #AtoZchallenge: B, G, I, K, L and M, which is today’s letter.

I’ve completed a poem each day this week but am lagging farther behind on this challenge and still need poems for the following days:

Day 2- A family portrait

Day 3  – A fan letter to a celebrity or historical figure or someone/something you love

Day 4 – The cruelest month

Day 6 – A poem about food

Day 7 – A Tritina

Day 8 – A poem about a flower

Day 9 – A poem with a line you’re afraid to write

Day 10 – A book spine poem

Whew!!! Six A to Z write ups and eight poems to go plus each day’s new prompt, which is a total of 3 posts per day for the rest of the month! I think I can, I think I can, I think I can ….

I think I can.4





A is for Abandoned Houses


I’m fascinated by abandoned houses and the secrets they hold. Who was the last inhabitant? When did he or she die? Or did they just move away, unable to keep things up as they got older and weaker? When did it pass from a “fixer-upper,” to a weed and tree infested home to vultures and other critters. And who are those others that call it home now?

In many parts of rural North Carolina, one might easily mistake a currently occupied ramshackle house for one that is abandoned. At first I wasn’t too sure this one was empty. The lawn is nicely mowed and maybe the bushes were hiding a shabby but secure entrance.

Abandoned House
Is anybody home???

But on closer inspection – it seems unlikely anyone lives here now.


Unless they only use the back door.


I’m not usually afraid to explore these abandoned houses but I never stay for long. I feel like I’m intruding. Surely the last occupant would be embarrassed to see the current condition of her home. Sad that nobody cared enough to keep it up.


Oh what stories these houses could tell!

J is for Just Do IT

Just Do IT

Nike’s motto – definitely not mine. I’ve struggled with procrastination issues all my life. I usually get it done – but I rarely Just Do IT. I like to think about it, talk about it, ignore it for a while, and when I finally can’t put it off any longer – DO IT – with varying degrees of enthusiasm and success.

Just Do IT people don’t really understand folks like me. Sometimes I wish I were a little more like them but usually caution (or common sense as my husband, who is even less of a “Just Do IT” person than I am, would say) prevails. I study the situation a bit longer and maybe clean my desk or sharpen my pencils (or write a blog post, like this one for example) and then get started on IT.

When the idea of writing about Just Do IT popped into my head this morning for the letter J in the #AtoZChallenge I Googled the phrase and learned that it came out of an ad agency meeting in the late 1980s. Dan Wieden co-founder of Wieden + Kennedy is credited with coming up with the phrase.  He recalled the final words of a convicted murderer as his inspiration for the phrase, which became one of Nike’s trademarks along with the famous Nike swish.

I wandered around the internet a bit longer and came across a 2011 article from Mental Floss.[1] Gary Gilmore was convicted of murder in Utah in 1976.  When asked if he had any final words before he was executed by a firing squad he said “Let’s do it.” Wow – even if that were my inspiration for a world famous slogan I’m not sure I’d want to admit it. All the more proof that I’m not a Just Do IT kind of gal. But now I needed to research not only the Nike slogan but Gary Gilmore as well. (Are you beginning to understand why I never “Just Do” anyTHING?)

In January 1977, Gary Gilmore was the first person executed in the US after the Supreme Court lifted a ten-year moratorium on the death penalty. He was convicted of murdering a motel desk clerk and gas station attendant in Utah. By the law in Utah at the time, which allowed the person sentenced to death to choose his method of execution, Gary Gilmore chose the firing squad. He rejected attempts by others to seek an appeal or to stay his execution although the ACLU and his mother did obtain two stays of execution. One of his last requests, to be executed without wearing a hood, was denied. He was executed on January 17, 1977.

Fast forward ten years when Dan Wieden recalled Gary Gilmore’s final words, tweaked them a bit and created one of the best known ad slogans of all time. Somehow knowing all this doesn’t make me any more inclined to buy Nikes (they’re too narrow for my foot) or Just Do IT. But at least my post for today is DONE!  


[1] http://mentalfloss.com/article/28478/stories-behind-6-famous-slogans

H is for Hiking

It’s early spring in North Carolina but Old Man Winter decided to make one last (I hope) appearance. The temps tonight are expected to dip below freezing. So my newly planted geraniums and pink petunia mixed planters will come inside – just to play it safe.

One person, much dearer to me than any flowers, who will not be inside tonight, is my son Will, who is on a backpacking trip in the mountains of North Carolina where the low tonight is supposed to be 28 degrees Fahrenheit.

That’s why I’m writing about hiking for my #atozchallenge today. Hiking as a restorative elixir. Hiking as a way to reconnect with the beauty and peace that the natural world offers. Hiking as a way to forget about your beloved Tarheels losing to Villanova in the NCAA national championship game last Monday – or at least to gain perspective. It’s hard to forget losses like that one.  Yes, it’s a good weekend to hike, even if the temps dip below freezing and the winds howl.

Hiking.1990Our family spent many weekends hiking when both kids were young. Sarah’s first trip was when she was 9 months old and she went to Yosemite when she was just about a year old, but Will, who was born on Earth Day (April 22, 1992) took his first camping/hiking trip when he was only six weeks old. It should come as no surprise that hiking and being outdoors is in their blood.

As a mother, I think it is impossible not to worry about your children. Fortunately, I have a spouse who worries too. Shared worry – much better than worrying alone. So here’s our conversation earlier today.

“I’m sure he’ll be warm enough while he’s hiking and as long as they stop before dark and start a fire they should be fine.”

“Yeah – I think that’s what they’re gonna do.”

“So they’ll be warm while they’re sitting around the fire.”

“Yeah – and they’ll be warm once they get in their sleeping bags in the tent.”

“I sure am glad they decided to take the tent.”

“Yeah – me too.”

“Yeah once he’s in his sleeping bag in the tent with an insulating layer underneath he should be fine.”

“Do you mean the sleeping bag is the insulating layer.”

“No, if he’s sleeping on a pad.”

“But he didn’t take a pad.”

“Well, it’s still better than sleeping in an Eno with the wind circulating underneath.”

“ Yeah – that would be cold – I’m glad they decided to take a tent.”

“Yeah – I think they’ll be fine.”

“Yeah – they’ll be fine.”

H – for hiking, heat and hoping he’ll be fine (but not for hypothermia – definitely NOT hypothermia.)

C is for Charolais Cattle (and catching up)

April 4th was the day for the letter C in the #atozchallenge. It was also my first day back at work after a family vacation to New York City and thankfully I was in the field not in the office. It was a nice way to decompress after four days in the New York and the long drive back to North Carolina.

I’m the Associate Director and General Counsel of a regional land trust working in the north central Piedmont of North Carolina. We are like the Nature Conservancy but work on a smaller scale to permanently protect family farms, clean water and scenic open land for passive recreation. Most of my job is the paperwork and negotiations that result in the permanent protection of these properties but every so often I get to be in the field.

None of that has much to do with Charolais except that I was in the field on Monday to meet state agency representatives who decide whether or not this farm will get funding. And with me in the field – were about 800 head of Charolais cattle. The entire farm has more than 800 acres so this is not one of those depressing feedlot operations. No – these Charolais are happy cows.img_3400

The breed originated in France perhaps as early as 878 AD. They are completely white (except for patches of mud and dirt) with variations ranging from the color of straw to white as new fallen snow. They are stocky and heavier than other breeds and able to graze easily over rugged terrain and able to withstand hot weather. The breed is raised primarily for beef. The first Charolais came to the United States from Mexico in 1936.

We won’t learn of the funding decision for several months, but getting a site visit is the first step. It’s also appropriate that I post this today because I’m headed out there this morning to meet representatives of the federal funding source. Not a bad way to book-end my first week back at work. Happy Friday!


F is for a Friend Named Fried

Leslie and I met 34 years ago when we started law school in Baltimore in 1982. Leslie lived near Dupont Circle in Washington DC and I lived in Takoma Park, Maryland. We shared the drive to and from Baltimore each day and the travails of our first year of law school. We bonded in a way that only such an experience can provide. I’m not sure which was more terrifying, the Socratic method harshly applied or the daily commute on I-95. I have vivid memories of both.

Leslie and I both got married after our first year of law school and will celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversaries this summer. We both kept our maiden names. Leslie and Jeff have two boys, Josh and Daniel. Rick and I have a daughter, Sarah and a son, Will. Jeff and Leslie stayed in Washington DC but moved to the suburbs. Rick and I moved to Southern California for 12 years and then to Greensboro, North Carolina. I’ve seen Leslie three times in the 30 years since law school graduation. Leslie specializes in elder law, I work for a land conservation organization – probably not what either of us expected when we graduated from law school in 1985 but I know we both feel good about making a difference in the world.

Leslie is on a business trip to North Carolina and extended her visit by a day so we can get together. I know from our brief visit last fall (our 30th class reunion) that it felt like it had been a few days – not 30 years – since we’d been together. We didn’t have much time to talk at the reunion and we were surrounded by other classmates. That’s why I’m especially happy to have my FRIEND, Leslie Fried visiting tomorrow. I have no doubt we’ll pick up where we left off last September when this picture was taken and have a great time catching up on the last 30 years. Somehow I doubt the time we have will be enough – but I  know we’ll make the most of it.

Celebrating 33 Years of Friendship
Celebrating 33 Years of Friendship

E is for Election Year

I’ve been cynical and apolitical for years now – probably close to 20. I’m disgusted by the personal attacks and mudslinging that have characterized our national elections for far too long. Our federal legislative process is disheartening at best, more often just downright disgusting and embarrassing, with little effort at cooperation and compromise that would allow Congress to get things done.

True – I haven’t done a lot to evaluate the issues and figure out how I can be part of the solution. Instead I’ve been hiding out in my apolitical cocoon – avoiding television and news and taking the position that I can’t really do much to change it so I’ll just ignore it. If I hadn’t already been feeling that way for as long as I have this year’s presidential race would certainly push me in that direction.

So why am I writing about Election Year for today’s post in the #atozchallenge when I could be writing about anything that starts with the letter “E”?

One simple reason. Someone I know personally and respect greatly is running for Congress. I’ve known Jason Walser through his work in the land conservation community in North Carolina for fifteen years. I had no idea he had political aspirations. When I learned that Jason was running for Congress in the newly redrawn 13th Congressional district, I felt hopeful for the first time in many, many years. His announcement restored my faith in the political process.

When I heard the news a few weeks ago I didn’t know what political party Jason belonged to. It didn’t matter. I knew he was a thinking person, a caring person, a kind person. I also knew he has always been willing to tackle complicated issues that require intelligence and energy. I knew that I would vote for him if I could and work to help him get elected. For the first time in many years my political apathy subsided and I felt optimistic that things could change.

As it turns out, I can’t vote for Jason because I don’t live in the 13th Congressional district. Even if I did, I wouldn’t be able to vote for him because I’m a registered Democrat and he is running in the Republican primary. The primaries for U.S. House races in North Carolina were moved from March 15th to June 7th because of the change in the districts’ boundaries. That only leaves two months for campaigning so I’m using my blog post today to get the word out to anyone who might be able to support Jason Walser with a vote on June 7th.

There are 17 other Republicans running for the 13th district congressional seat. I don’t even know who they are. I don’t need to know – I know Jason. If you want someone who will take the time to understand the issues and try to move our country beyond the petty personal attacks that have characterized our legislative process for far too long – you should vote for Jason. You can read more about him in this article from his hometown newspaper.

Josh Bergeron / Salisbury Post – Salisbury resident Jason Walser has filed to run for Congress in the 13th Congressional District. Walser previously ran the Land Trust for Central North Carolina and currently is coordinating a revitalization effort for Salisbury’s West End.