Short-Short Saturday: As the Hotdogger Turns

“I’m hungry.  Can I borrow twinny-five cents for a Little Debbie?” I asked Sandy as I watched her fill a bucket with soap and water.

Sandy picked the bucket up, the muscles in her lean arms pulsing from the effort.  “It’s twenty-five.  Twen-ty-five,” she emphasized patiently.  “Now you say it,” she prompted.

“TWENty-five.  Can I borrow twenty-five cents, please?” I asked again.

She set the bucket down, dug into her faded jeans pocket and produced a quarter.  “You really need to eat better,” she lectured lightly as she handed me the coin.

“Thanks, Sandy!” I grinned, plucked a Peanut Butter Bar from the shelf and deposited the quarter inside the cash register.

My shift over, I munched on the crispy treat as I watched Sandy begin to wash down cabinets in the back of the store.  Her strawberry blond plaits danced as she worked the rag in circular motions over the white cupboard doors.

It was the late 1980s, but Sandy was holding onto the 70s with all she had.  By the looks of it, she was in her forties – which seemed old in comparison to my seventeen years.  Divorced with a degree in Forestry and a second job there at the convenience store off Interstate 70 to make ends meet, she was quirky and carefree yet she demanded excellence of herself and encouraged it in others.

“Did the boss tell you to do that?” I asked, noticing that she’d worked up a healthy sweat from her labor.

“No, I just saw that it needed to be done so I’m doing it,” she replied matter-of-factly.

I thought about that for awhile.  I realized there was a sort of freedom and independence in discovering what needed to be done before being ordered by someone else to do it.

I only worked at the store on weekends, but I resolved to be a good worker like Sandy for those sixteen hours.  The following Saturday afternoon, I noticed that the hot dog machine had developed a build-up of crusted on juices from days of turning weenies to plump perfection.  I grabbed a bucket, filled it with sudsy water and donned a pair of yellow rubber gloves.  I scrubbed the hotdogger until it gleamed, then I placed hot dogs and sausages on the turner and stepped back to survey my handiwork.

“Beautiful!” my supervisor praised.  She hesitated as she noticed my hands, still clad in yellow rubber gloves.  “Where did you get those?” she inquired.

“In the back room on the shelf,” I pointed.

She looked dismayed.  “Harold uses those gloves when he cleans the toilets!”

Mixed Monday: The Fabric of Life

One of my favorite pastimes as a young girl was designing outfits with my Fashion Plates. (Remember them?)

My two sisters and I were my mother’s live fashion plates. She made most of our clothes growing up. It was a design extravaganza.

Even as children, we played a significant part in selecting the styles, fabrics, buttons, and embellishments that went into “Ann’s Creations.” I recall spending hours poured over the pattern books at Jo-Ann Fabric in Hagerstown, Maryland, or making last minute dashes to Old School Fabrics in downtown Boonsboro for more thread.

Mom was careful to blend modesty and affordability with function. Her creations ranged from jumpers, pinafores and more-functional-than-fashionable culottes in our early years to denim skirts, formal dresses and even a winter coat as we blossomed into young ladies.  To me, these clothes were more than garments provided as a labor of duty and provision.  Woven into each creation was my mother’s understanding of my eccentric sense of style and my desire to be just a little bit different.  (Thanks, Mom.)

A “Design by Mom” from 1988.

Durham Aglow: The “Lucky” Edition

Over the last ten years, Durham, North Carolina (a.k.a. “the Bull City”) has undergone a transformation referred to as “the Durham Renaissance.” One particular area of development is the American Tobacco Historic District. Once a thriving center for the manufacture of such products as Lucky Strike cigarettes and Bull Durham tobacco, the American Tobacco District has been repurposed into a thriving hub for businesses, entertainment, housing and cuisine.

Each year, the Lucky Strike water tower on the America Tobacco campus is lit for Christmas. This year’s lighting (which occurred on December 5th) marked the 10th year of this tradition. From various points in the city—from the DPAC (Durham Performing Arts Center) to the Durham Bulls Athletic Park—the tower (lit and unlit) stands as a reminder of the Bull City’s past and its unfolding future.


Durham, North Carolina

Duke Chapel: Getting Dressed for Christmas


Duke Chapel at Christmas

Earlier this week, I stepped into Duke Chapel for the first time in many weeks and witnessed it getting dressed for Christmas. U-Haul storage boxes were stacked behind the last pews, a testament to the festive work that was well underway.

Reportedly, the decorating process takes about two days, and I was glimpsing Day 1 of the efforts. Even as a work in progress, the Chapel was gorgeous.

Here are some of the pictures that I took:


Pine wreaths adorned the entrance of the Chapel.


The narthex bore reminders of the Messiah—an annual Duke University tradition.


The gates of the Memorial Chapel, to the left of the chancel, were decorated with pine wreaths. — Duke Chapel; Durham, NC


The Advent Wreath, pictured here in the foreground, originated as a Lutheran tradition; however, many Christian denominations today use it as a symbol depicting the four weeks leading up to Christmas.


The pipe organ created a beautiful backdrop for the Advent Wreath. (Photo taken from the front of the nave looking back toward the narthex.) — Duke Chapel (Durham, NC)


The Duke Chapel nativity is handmade and beautifully illuminated year after year.

Duke Chapel will be “in full dress” for the annual Candlelight Open House on Thursday, December 18th, from 12 noon to 2pm.