Love Notes with Dead Presidents


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My 10-year-old self was shopping at a strip mall while my mom was buying groceries. I had no money, so technically I was just loitering.

In the window of an art supply store was a $2 book on how to draw animals, a skill I desperately needed. While I was yearning for the book, two boys wandered up — my classmate Joe Prince and another boy I didn't know. Trying to follow my gaze, Joe yelled, "Wooohooo!" and pointed to a bendable, wood-and-wire human figure that looked like a foot-tall crash dummy. It was sex-neutral, but it was naked.

"Calm down," I said, "I'm looking at that book," and explained my situation. Then Joe's friend casually handed me two $1 bills. "Here you go," said this kid I'd never seen before. "Live it up."

That young philanthropist's donation made such a vivid impression on me that decades later I tried to re-create that impact to please and motivate my children.

Over the years I've given out small cash gifts to endorse a good choice of friends ($1), to cheer up a sick child ($2), to celebrate a good report card ($5), to reward a daughter who protected a classmate from bullies ($10), and to keep a teenager from cursing around her father ($3 a week). Whenever a daughter was heading back to college, instead of weeping tears of farewell, I'd lay a couple of extra twenties on her.

It's risky, expressing approval and love with money. But my practices have a sober side, too. I've always kept the girls' allowances low. That's so I wouldn't mind them squandering it, but also to help them understand that the real money would not come from Dad. It is "out there" — in the pockets of babysitting clients and other potential employers.

When they wanted something expensive but worthwhile, I told them, "I'll pay half if you pay half." A whole summer at camp? Yes! A really fancy computer? OK!

But when that system failed, the results were bad debts that lingered until forgiven (if not forgotten).

So where is my wife while I am doing all this? Betsy is busily dispensing the coin of human emotion — love, approval, disapproval, exhortation and sympathy — paid out along with hugs and kisses. That's what really runs the family. (Anyone remember the flimsy children's car seats of the 1950s? Each one had a little plastic steering wheel so the tot could imagine he is driving the car. As far as Betsy is concerned, that's me, although she never rubs it in.)

A few months ago, when our youngest daughter, Wendy, turned 18, she asked us, "What would you do if I got a tattoo?"

My wife voiced her expectations and spoke of what a loving daughter owes to her loving parents. She also touched on decisions that a teenager would regret later. I just said, "I'd stop paying your allowance." Fifteen bucks a week isn't much, but it's something.

Surprise! A week later, Wendy was tearfully showing us a blue butterfly engraved just southeast of her navel. Her mother felt worse than I did because she had put some personal oomph into the issue. I'm not a big punisher, but I cut off Wendy's allowance for six months just to maintain credibility for future threats.

Last week a mother, known to local babysitters as an iffy payer, asked Wendy if she would watch her 6-year-old. "I'll do it," Wendy told us. "She might not pay me, but I could use the good karma."

I am proud of her. So proud, in fact, that when the mom ended up giving her excuses instead of money, I gave Wendy $20 to show her that a good deed is its own reward. Even I can see the irony in that.

So what did she learn? Who knows? I wonder if any of my attempts at using money to manipulate or improve my children have any effect beyond expressing my feelings. It could be that giving money to kids has no more educational value than feeding lumps of sugar to horses. But is that so wrong? For me, hearing a child whinny with delight is worth a few dollars.

You can contact Rick Epstein at rickepstein@yahoo.com.

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June 2019

Every year on June 21, we enjoy the most hours of sunlight during the whole year. Discover the science and cultural celebrations behind this special summer day. Make a pretty sun catcher to hang in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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This celebration of toys features interactive attractions, vendors, toy experiences and more. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $12/person. Free for ages 2 and younger.

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Enjoy stories with Amy Godfrey.

Cost: Free

Where:
The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St.
Durham, NC  27705
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Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Enjoy food, activities, music, and water sprayer fun for kids. Sixteen vendors will offer African clothing, jewelry, beauty products, voter registration, HIV/AIDS education and testing,...

Cost: Free

Where:
East End Community
Wake Forest, NC  27587


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p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 15.0px Calibri; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} Safely view the Sun through a solar telescope, hear about how...

Cost: Free

Where:
North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
11 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Learn more about our amazing star, the Sun. Safely view the Sun through a solar telescope, hear about how the Sun and other stars affect life on planets, and about current solar science...

Cost: Free

Where:
NC Museum of Natural Sciences
121 W. Jones St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Discover Historic Yates Mill - a place of business, community, and exciting local history! Watch a brief slideshow, then explore the inner workings of the mill itself and witness the power of water...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Free/Child (6 - under)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: Free

Where:
Nido: Coworking & Childcare
902 Broad St.
Durham, NC  27705
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Durham Refugee Day celebrates the contributions and cultures of our refugee and immigrant communities and provides an opportunity to stand in solidarity with these neighbors. This is a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

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Bond Park Community Center
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Cost: Free

Where:
Carrboro Cybrary
100 N Greensboro St
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-918-7387
Contact Name: Cybrary
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Cost: See website for fees

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Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Cost: Free

Where:
The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St.
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Cost: $3/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
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Cost: Free

Where:
The Regulator Bookshop
720 Ninth St.
Durham, NC  27705
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Cost: $3/person

Where:
Carrboro Century Center
100 N. Greensboro St.
Carrboro, NC  27510
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Cost: See website for fees

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500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Telephone: 833-202-7626
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Sally Ride will take audiences on the ride of their life in this dynamic performance about space exploration. Through music, audience participation, and narrative, kids will see just how far...

Cost: Free

Where:
Orange County Main Library
137 W Margaret Ln
Hillsborough, NC  27278
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Sponsor: Orange County Public Library
Telephone: 919-245-2539
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Cost: Free

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IngenuiTea Kombucha Coffee & Tea
514 E Williams St
APEX, NC  27502
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N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: $5

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Wilkerson Nature Preserve
5229 Awls Haven Drive
Raleigh, NC  27614
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Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-6764
Contact Name: Marti Kane
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Cost: Free

Where:
East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Cost: $2/resident, $3/nonresident

Where:
Page-Walker Arts & History Center
119 Ambassador Loop
Cary, NC  27511
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

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Cost: $22-$36

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: Free

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East Regional Library
946 Steeple Square Court
Knightdale, NC  27545
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Cost: $23/parent and child pair; $12 additional child

Where:
Bond Park, Kiwanis Shelter
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27513
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Cost: General Admission

Where:
TreeRunner Raleigh
12804 Norwood Rd
Raleigh, NC  27613
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Sponsor: N/A
Telephone: 919-410-7347

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Cost: $22-$36

Where:
Raleigh Convention Center
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

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Cost: $20-$70

Where:
Kerr Scott Building of NC State Fairgrounds
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
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Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
PNC Arena
1400 Edwards Mill Rd.
Raleigh , NC  27607
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Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. Choose course #124952.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Please join us for the SouthEast Crab Feast event this summer in Raleigh, NC.  This event offers the Low Country Coastal Heritage of outdoor cooking of fresh seafood.  This highly...

Cost: $10-$30

Where:
Lake Wheeler Park
6404 Lake Wheeler Rd
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: SouthEast Crab Feast Inc.
Telephone: 980-202-1142
Contact Name: Jamell Hamilton
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

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Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Hemlock Bluffs/Stevens Nature Center
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

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Want to get inside Historic Yates Mill? Join us for a half-hour tour (starting at 1, 1:30, 2, 2:30 or 3 p.m.) to view the main power drive and milling machinery while exploring the mill's...

Cost: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60+), $3/Child (ages 7-16), Free/Child (ages 6-under)

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Launch Ministries
3013 Barrow Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27616
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Telephone: (919) 225-1020
Contact Name: Yolanda Morgan
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