Wheeler: Ms. Self-Righteous Pants signs off

As my hands work powdered sugar and softened butter into a big ball of tooth-aching sweetness, I realize again how much my fingers look like my mother’s.

Sitting in the floor with the usual green bowl in front of me, I pinch off a piece of dough. Roll it between my palms. Shape it with my thumbs and middle fingers into an oblong receptacle for the chocolate I will melt a little later and smear onto the Christmas butter creams, one by one.

It’s a labor-intensive offering of love that my grandmother, gone a decade now, started and that my chronically ill mother perfected. That I continue it each year is my comfort.

Such traditions are the constants for us in lives that can seem awash in variables.

So many of us have lost jobs, lost homes, lost marriages, lost loved ones recently that “adrift” becomes our go-to adjective.

Here at The News & Observer, most of us working hard to bring you the news have survived multiple buyouts and layoffs, which means, as it does with any business in similar straits, that employees have taken on duties that we wouldn’t necessarily have asked for.

Reluctance is what I brought to the request that I start writing a weekly Triangle & Co. column nearly 14 months ago. Standing atop this platform requires a certain amount of self-assurance that I wasn’t sure I possessed.

Good people, good things

Over the year, I’ve tried not to contribute to the cacophony of crap and complaints in the world and to instead use my words as often as possible to tell the stories of good people doing good things.

I got off to a fiery start with a column about Johnston County grandparents who wanted relatives caring for children to receive the same benefits as foster parents. Some readers suggested that the couple’s two daughters, who had given up six children, be forcibly sterilized.

That I will end my column-writing this Sunday by kicking off our Holiday Guide to Giving series seems fitting, given that writing about worthy charities last year brought me the moment I will treasure most from this job.

After your generous donations saved Raleigh’s struggling Community Music School, which offers lessons to disadvantaged children, reader Susan Gilbert gave her piano to Ari Moore, the deserving and talented teenager featured in the column who had only an old keyboard for practice.

Being there to weep with Ari’s family as the piano arrived at their home? What a gift.

Lots of tears

I’ve also shared tears, as I am prone to do, with Women’s Center workers, war veterans, heart-transplant coordinators, other mothers.

I’ve shed them over the lovely calls and notes of encouragement many readers have sent my way, and I thank you.

I also treasure, by the way, the epithet that one not-so-complimentary online commenter gave me: Ms. Self-Righteous Pants. It makes me laugh every time I think of it – another gift.

Next week, I will step into the role of associate editor of The N&O’s Editorial page, a position held almost two decades by Allen Torrey, who is happily retiring. Steve Ford, the editor of the Editorial page since 1989, also is retiring.

More loss. More change. More uncertainty.

Someday soon, I’ll be sitting in my floor, crafting the Christmas butter creams, moored to my big green bowl of constancy.

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