Category Archives: General

olli to go!

Photography by Julia Daniels (OLLI Member)

Yes this is what we would all love to be doing right now, but circumstances dictate that we all stay home as much as possible. We hope OLLI at NC State members have the opportunity to sample some of our online classes, which are off to an incredible start this week. But if that is not possible for you, we will be sharing other resources on this site and our Facebook page over the next few weeks. Please send your ideas and contributions to

Classes on happiness and well-being have been very popular with OLLI members in recent years as we all become more aware of the importance of paying attention to our overall health, not just physical. Yale Psychology professor, Dr. Laurie Santos, developed a course for students titled “Psychology and the Good Life,” which has become the most popular course ever taught. One in four Yale students enroll in the course. Now the wider population can benefit from Professor Santos’ findings because the course is available free of charge online by the education website

The online version of the course is “The Science of Well Being” and features lectures by Dr. Santos on things people think will make them happy but don’t necessarily, and how to identify what is more likely to bring lasting satisfaction with life. Activities and and reading material are provided to accompany the lectures.

Click on the link to find out more and register.


If science is more your thing, OLLI members have recommended World Science U, a website launched by Columbia University professor, Brian Greene. Greene is a theoretical physicist, mathematician and string theorist. The Science Unplugged section has dozens of short videos and animations to answer questions you may have on topics like dark matter, quantum mechanics, relativity and much more. The site is very easy to explore and courses are free. “Greene has a rare gift for explaining the most challenging scientific ideas, and everyone can appreciate his refreshingly insightful explanations.” — Jennifer Birriel in Astronomy. Watch Professor Green explain the Anthropic Principle in this short video clip

Click on this link for the World Science U website

Another stunning photograph from Julia Daniels.

And now settle back in your chair and enjoy this jazz concert from the Lincoln Center – The Life and Music of Dave Brubeck featuring the Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis – heavenly!

Take a Virtual Museum Tour

Explore the extensive collection of the Natural History Museum in London without leaving your home – virtual tours are offered as well as just browsing the collection online

Caught up in the cycle of his life, this lovely creature in its striped pajamas was enjoying my garden Parsley, while on it’s way to becoming a beautiful Monarch Butterfly. Nancy Byrd

Volunteer from your Home

Are you a knitter? Let’s Knit-For-Note from Home! OLLI has been collecting scarves, hats and mittens from members to donate to Note in the Pocket. They are included in packages of clothing distributed to children in Wake County who need a supply of clothing to be able to go to school. Keep your items until we meet again!


We hope you have enjoyed this selection. We would love to have your contributions. Favorite quotes, movie and book recommendations you think your OLLI friends would find interesting, a short review would be helpful. Or you can have a whole OLLI Voices segment to yourself if you write a short article or piece of creative writing -500 words or less. Please send your ideas and contributions to

If you would like to receive notifications when there is a new post, click on the follow button. You do not need to have a WordPress account, just provide an email address. While you are here take the opportunity to look at some of our previous posts in the archives.

Meet olli instructor -Wanda Cox-Bailey

As many OLLI members have learned, librarian Wanda Cox-Bailey is an expert on Raleigh’s African American history. She notes that there was no public library here for people of color until 1935, when Mollie Huston Lee, a Columbia grad, took action. Mollie was a librarian at Shaw University, and she started a campaign to raise money for Raleigh’s first storefront library for blacks. “A penny and a book” did its job, and the new library was named for a famous actor named Richard B. Harrison. He was playing “De Lawd” in “The Green Pastures,” with the first all-black cast ever to perform on Broadway. When it was touring, he taught acting at local colleges. In 1935 he became the first African American to appear on the cover of TIME magazine – and that was the year he died.

Wanda was born in Fayetteville. “I was a military brat,” she said, and she helped care for her three siblings while her father was stationed from Germany to Okinawa. She studied at the University of Maryland at College Park, earning degrees in Social Work and Library Science. A librarian from high school steered her into the field, thinking she’d enjoy being a school librarian. So Wanda took every course the university offered in this subject “I fell in love with cataloging,” she said. To earn money for Christmas, she was among four grad students who worked in a library’s children’s section. “And I was hooked,” she said. “I love kids!”

Wanda has one child, a son named Brandon, now 35, who has autism. “Folks know me in the world as ‘Brandon’s mom,'” she said. There were no services for him in the Washington area, and after some research, she said, “we moved to Wake County because it has the best schools for autism, thanks to lobbying by parents. He lives with me and I take him everywhere, from concerts to my speaking engagements.”

Asked about her views on North Carolina’s racial history, she noted that her great-grandmother had been a slave. When she drove from Maryland back to Fayetteville, they passed signs saying “Welcome to Klan Country.” She saw the movie “Green Book,” about a guide for safe travel by African Americans, but said it didn’t go far enough. She said the Green Books “were a valuable tool for anyone traveling throughout the United States, not just the South.” One of her OLLI courses is “Harlem Hellfighters: Black Soldiers in Work War I,” who were hailed as heroes in Paris — awarded the Croix de Guerre medal for valor – but faced harsh segregation again back home.

Wanda said that today Wake County has 23 libraries — open to all — and the Harrison’s rare book collection is named for Mollie Lee, who worked there for 26 years. Wanda is now the regional manager at Harrison and is still a story teller. “I focus more on stories for adults, as opposed to children,” she said, adding that when a national conference a year or so ago for children and adults met at the Cary Theater, she was in charge of touring to schools. Her personal interests include gardening, geneaology, “and quilting as a spectator sport.”

Wanda is president of the Triangle Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, a member of the Black Caucus American Library Association, the Wake County and N.C. Autism Societies, and the N.C. and National Associations of Black Storytellers.

This spring at OLLI, Wanda is teaching “Cultural Landscapes: Raleigh’s Historic African American Neighborhoods.” No surprise: It’s attracted a full house.

~ Barbara Haddad Ryan

Barbara is a long time OLLI member and member of the OLLI Voices team. She graduated with an English degree with honors from Swarthmore College and went on to achieve a Masters with honors from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Her career began at the Denver Post, 1962-1976: were she held various posts including feature writer, art critic, classical music critic, “first female editorial writer on a major Western daily” and TV Critic and columnist on this newspaper for five years.

Subsequent moves in her fascinating career were as political reporter and feature writer for the Rocky Mountain News (Scripps-Howard daily) from 1976-1982,  Public Information Officer for the State of Colorado Office of Energy Conservation from 1982-1986,  Associate Vice President for External Affairs, Swarthmore College from 1992-2000, Public Affairs Director for the National HQ of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, Washington D.C. from 2000-2006

Wind Dancer

I am a dancing windmill, turning freely in the wind. Birds fly around me cawing and screeching as if scoffing my solo performance. I don’t care what they think. The wind is my music, a varying tempo pulsating against me, around me, pushing me into a carefree state like bubbles floating, flitting into the cornflower blue sky. When the wind stops, I stand tall and proud like a general addressing his troops or a ballerina posed beautifully, perfectly still on her very straight, trained tips of her toes. A small breeze teases me, an encore to perform again like a peony blossom revealing itself in stages until all the colorful layers are peeled back. I do not perform for anyone. I dance for myself: the wind and I, partners in life. I am a wind dancer.

Nancy Huber

Nancy was an OLLI staff member for almost 10 years before retiring in May 2018. Born the middle child in a family of seven kids on a farm in northern Illinois she has lived in North Carolina since 1999. She loves reading, swimming, brisk walks, writing, old movies, and filling her bucket list with travel ideas. This piece was inspired by a photograph she saw while in a writing class.

Life is a Crapshoot

Sarapiqui rainforest

Our tour group stopped at a restaurant for lunch on a hot February afternoon on the way to the rainforest in Sarapiqui, Costa Rica. My tablemate, Donna, wouldn’t be continuing with the group. She had been having intermittent chest pains and since the next site was so remote, she felt, with the encouragement of the tour leader, that she should have this checked out at a nearby clinic. “Life’s a crapshoot,” Donna said as she left to get into the taxi. I thought it ironic that she uttered the same term I had been using for the past two months. Random episodes of mishaps started soon after my husband and I downsized to a two-story townhouse, rather than move into an apartment in a continuing-care-community.

Urgent Care

First, I came down with bout of the flu. The flu morphed into “walking pneumonia.” As the pneumonia symptoms subsided, I slipped on a wet floor, lacerating the side of my face as I hit the corner of a table. I dropped-in to Urgent Care for the second time within a couple of weeks.



We had planned a vacation to Costa Rica months before the move. Thoughts of my recent vulnerability began to circulate in my head. Would the active pace of this tour prove too great a challenge? But if life was indeed a crap shoot, I had no reason not to take this trip. Our first morning in Sarapiqui, we woke to a thunderous rain pounding on the roof of our cottage. I had signed up to go white-water rafting for the first time. The rapids were a class three. How rough was that, I wondered knowing that the international rating classification goes up to a six. Besides the storm didn’t cancel the event. I knew I would regret not going. Ten gutsy, or clueless, participants, out of fifteen in our group, showed. Most of us were in our seventies. One man admitted to being eighty. We stood by the water’s edge as the downpour plummeted us.

rapids (1)

After listening to brief instructions, we donned life jackets and helmets, grabbed a paddle, and took a seat in one of three inflatable rafts. The rafts rose, dropped, and tossed in the swirling currents. Our guide shouted orders over the noise of the river and rain. “Row” “Stop.” “Down.” “Down” was the scariest. I can still see the raft rushing toward a thick tree trunk extending over the river. The leaves from the tree swept across my face as I hunched on the bottom of the boat. Had I sat up, I surely would have been decapitated. The rain subsided. The three rafts drifted on the calm river as our guide pointed out the birds and reptiles that watched us from the trees and shore.

break at rapids (1)

Halfway into our trip, we beached the rafts, shared a pineapple and watermelon snack and posed for a group picture. (I am fourth from the right) Finally, we pulled the rafts to shore and relinquished our oars. Hiking back to the hotel, tired but exhilarated, we congratulated ourselves that none of us fell into the rapids. Later that afternoon Donna returned. She had gotten a clean bill of health.

Marianna Crane, OLLI Member 

Marianna was one of the first gerontological nurse practitioners in the early 1980s. A nurse for over forty years, she has worked in hospitals, clinics, home care, and hospice settings. An award-winning author, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Examined Life Journal, and Stories That Need to be Told: A Tulip Tree Anthology among others. Her memoir, Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic: A Nurse Practitioner Remembers, has been recently released. Her web site is She is a member of the OLLI Writers’ Group.

Farm To Feet Socks – Textile Rebound


Mt. Airy, NC, is the home of a unique company called Nester Hosiery.  Last Christmas, my daughter in law, Kim, gave me two pair of socks called Farm To Feet, and on the eye catching sock holder was a person’s picture, name and a little bio about what they did at the plant and their back ground.  This perked my interest, and reading on, I discovered the socks were manufactured in Mt. Airy and used all USA materials.  From the merino wool farmers to the other materials, it all came from the United State of America.


I immediately fell in love with the socks, their unbelievable comfort,and they even came with a lifetime guarantee.  After checking out the Farm To Feet web site I discovered it had a discount store very close to the plant.  I just had to go to Mt. Airy and check out this company.  I thought textiles died in our state years ago, yet here was a thriving company.  How come, I wondered?  There must be a fascinating story behind their success, so this summer my wife and I drove to Mt. Airy with the expectation of getting a plant tour and checking out the discount store.  The store was fun with bins of “seconds” at about half price.  We could not see defects on any of the socks, but the company is so quality conscious, that any minute flaw got sent to the seconds bin.  When I was ready to check out, Libby, the very personable and do-it-all lady who runs the store, asked if I was a military veteran and I said “yes” and showed her my identification.  She thanked me for my service and said “all veterans get a 50% discount”.  I thought she said 15% discount and I asked her to repeat what she said, “All veterans get a 50% discount”.  With this unbelievable discount I went back and picked out more socks! When we got all the socks for us and gifts for others, I asked her if the plant did tours, and she said. “Yes” and called the plant.  Returning she said, “The person giving the tours was gone to some sort of “sock convention”, (my interpretation) and was not available.  That led to our second trip to Mt. Airy, Tuesday, December 17, with a tour appointment and an understanding I would write a blog on the Farm To Feet story


The tour given by Frankie Vernon (Human Resource Manager) surpassed all my expectations of a company that has resurrected a part of the textile business and is doing it with highly skilled local labor, and only USA materials. Another interesting fact is they consider themselves a “green” company, by utilizing as little resources and energy as possible to manufacture socks.

A few facts about Nester Hosiery:  The Company was founded by Marty Nester in 1993 and its current president and CEO is his nephew, Kelly Nester. Both Marty and Kelly gainedextensive experience in the hosiery business, coming from another similar company.  The Nesters located their first plant in Dobson, NC, not too far from Mt. Airy.  It wasn’t long before they outgrew that facility and moved to Mt. Airy.  The Farm To Feet logo is their brand and has been highly successful.  The socks cost a little more than their competitor’s socks, but both quality and American made have won a considerable following.


The plant now produces 2000 dozen pairs per day, which includes some other name brand socks.  This is all done by a work force of only 181 employees including the owner. The knitting process runs 24 hours a day Monday through Friday.  It is fascinating to see how machines, programmed by computer experts, and tended by highly skilled employees, make such beautifully designed socks.


The Farm To Feet brand supports over 2000 workers in the US, all the way from the sheep farmer, spandex manufacturer, thread makers, knitters and eventually the packaging and shipping department.


Its location, 1546 Carter St., Mount Airy, NC, and only about a two and a half  hours’ drive from the Raleigh/Cary area, make a day trip well worth the time.  And of course, you can also take in the many sights and sounds of “Mayberry”, made famous by The Andy Griffiths TV show and Mayberry R.F.D.

By Larry Kingsley,

OLLI Member, OLLI Writers Group, Member of OLLI Voices Editorial Team







A Stroll in the Park

The author of this piece, Douglas Johnston, would welcome comments and discussion on the topic so feel free to add your voice after reading.

A Stroll in the Park

“Is there any pleasure which all persons find at all times in every park? If so, upon what does that pleasure depend?” asked Frederick Law Olmsted for the sole purpose of answering his own questions.

“Yes,” he answered, “there is a pleasure — common, constant and universal to all parks. It results from the feeling of relief experienced by those entering them, on escaping from the cramped, confined and controlling circumstances of the town, a sense of enlarged freedom — to all, at all times, and in the proportion by which there exists the general impression of undefined limit and sense of indefinite extent.” (Frederick Law Olmsted, Public Parks and the Enlargement of Towns, 1870.)

Central Park

Olmsted worked to create spaces where people could “easily go when the day’s work is done, and where they may stroll for an hour, seeing, hearing, and feeling nothing of the bustle and jar of the streets where they shall, in effect, find the city put far away from them.”

That was how Olmsted pitched his vision for what city parks should be. A park shouldn’t feel like the city, Olmsted believed. It should feel like an escape in the city from it.


And that is what Central Park and 500+ other Olmsted parks and green spaces remain today. He was a man who helped make cities livable, and who changed America forever.

In a little over two years we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth. What more exciting time to explore, understand and participate in  Dorothea Dix Park’s first steps to address the complexities of developing a health-promoting place for all, its sustainability and resilience, and the legacies that Olmsted and Dix champion.

Dix Park


Douglas Johnston – OLLI Member.

Before retirement, Douglas taught at the UNC School of Public Health, was counsel to the State Treasurer, and held the rank of Commander, US Navy, so for him, it’s natural to see Dix Park as an investment in the community’s well-being and our civic common ground.  



His Handwritten Letters

Writer’s note:  The letter shown here is a prop.  This story about my father’s letters, however, is true in spirit, and largely in fact.

Black ink

 A man of routine, his letters were never written from home.  Time at home began sharply at 6 p.m. and was given to his wife, eventually of sixty years, and to us, his three children who left his home and his town in our early twenties.  His letters to us were mostly newsy.  He always wrote them on white paper which rested on the glass counter off to one side of his long, narrow furniture store, He sat on a rickety stool.  He could have repaired that stool as he was handy with such things, or selected a new one since he sold a variety of stools, but he chose this ancient relic in need of re-gluing that swayed with his words.  Always teased about that stool by us and by mother, he argued that its creaks and groans were words understood only by them.  In his mind, the stool was his writing partner.  Words were chosen carefully and crafted in broad black script by the two of them over their many years together.

Handwritten Letter

He and his stool composed letters to manufacturers, letters to his sister, and letters to his children.   His descriptions flowed over and around customers who came into his furniture store during the day to browse or buy.  He preferred them to buy, of course.  He didn’t follow them around the store.  He let them browse, and he wrote about their behaviors, which were usually what one expects of customers, but occasionally the odd duck would arouse his humor, and he was a funny man.

His letters were as much about his captivation with form and visual beauty of penmanship as with news. The formation of letters and words with haughty flourishes and steep peaks and swooning u’s and y’s were as much cursive art as news of his and mother’s day.   His fat red fountain pen was legend in our family.  He would invite me to watch him fill it from the ink bottle.  That, too, was a ritual he and his stool shared.  Our father would settle the bottle of black ink on the glass counter and sidle the golden tip of his fat red pen into the reservoir and lift the gold lever built into the side of the instrument.  My father, gingerly wielding the lever, would cause his pen to drink like a humped camel from the bottle and fill its black rubber bladder with the fluid that formed his words.  It was a delicate, nearly religious experience.  I wish I had asked my father why the filling of his pen was such an important ritual, but I didn’t. I imagine now he would have had much to tell me.

Red Pen

On the occasion of one of his pen-fillings, I asked him what his favorite word was, and without hesitation, he replied, “swimming.”  “Why?” I asked.  “What’s so special about that word?”   With his fat, full pen held in his hand properly, with the golden blade extending the proper distance from his fingertips, he swirled out the word “swimming” on a clean sheet of letterhead.  His beige paper was expensive, so I knew this lesson was important. The word on the beige paper was at once a mountain range of peaks and valleys. It was a brook of swells and waves formed by w’s and m’s and n’s and i’s excited by the wind.  My father painted the word “swimming” for me.

Cursive W

When I’m missing my father, like this morning, with my dime store pen, I write his word.  Swimming.  I can’t swirl the peaks and valleys and and ripples the way he did, but for the long moment when my pen is trying to be his pen, we are sitting together at the glass counter.

A cursive “swimming” has been my favorite word since that day in my father’s store.  I see the glass counter and beige paper and his strong hand holding his fat red pen. Wherever I am, and I’m missing him, I write out his word. He and I have shared his favorite word hundreds of times over the years.

By Tim Hoyt

Tim says “It seems like I’ve been an Encore and now OLLI member ever since Uncle Rex punctured his wrist on the cow yoke. I retired from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in 1999, and moved to NC a year later. I grudgingly maintain our house and yard in fair shape, and happily stay in touch with the kids in Wisconsin via “dad’s daily letter.” But mostly, I focus on keeping my mind in good shape with OLLI classes and by writing. Lots and lots of writing. Tim leads three Special Interest Groups – Readers Theater, OLLI Questions Across the Spectrum and the OLLI Family Stories Writers Group