Preventing Child Abuse

This week and next we’ll hear from Sharon Hirsch, President and CEO (Chief Executive Optimist) of Prevent Child Abuse NC (PCANC). Sharon has been an advocate for kids for a very long time and now has taken her soft-spoken leadership skills to this North Carolina chapter of the national Prevent Child Abuse organization.

Sharon Hirsch

Sharon Hirsch, President & CEO of Prevent Child Abuse NC

Sharon says there is a building body of evidence that says child abuse is not only damaging and traumatic in the immediate situation, but also has long range ill effects. Persistent child abuse can actually be directly connected with the development of heart disease, diabetes and chronic illnesses that reduce life expectancy.

The good news is there is a LOT we can do, from little things to great big ones, to prevent child abuse. From individuals to nonprofits – churches – employers – schools – government. These aren’t experiments — these are things we know will work to give kids safe and strong childhoods that deliver them into secure, well-balanced, happy adulthood.

The most important thing to do is help families. When you support a family (we’ll talk about many ways to do this) you help kids stay healthy and safe.

You can follow Sharon on Twitter @PCANC_CEO. Visit the organization’s website at

Top Trends: July 24

Throwback: Remember when Bill Cosby wrote a Grammy-award winning album in 1971 called Bill Cosby Talks to Kids About Drugs? Now we know the irony of him having a hit song surrounding the message “Say no to pills.”

Video: One guy gets close to a baby seal, and what happens next will make you ready to love on a baby seal.

Recipe: Get ready for the weekend with these summer dinner dishes!

Keep up with WCHL/Chapelboro on social media! Follow along on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Find something you want to share? Email it to

Studies Rank Chapel Hill’s Quality, Intelligence

Photo by Erik Andersen

SAN FRANCISCO – Consumer advocacy and financial advice website NerdWallet recently ranked the top cities in North Carolina to raise a family and placed Chapel Hill at number six.

Analyst Mike Anderson says the study looked at the quality of K-12 schools, the affordability of living, and median household income.

“We figured that reflects how young families look at cities,” Anderson says. “Those three things are equally important to them.”

At the same time, self-described “brain training” website Lumosity released a list of the top 100 smartest cities in the country and Chapel Hill was conspicuously absent.

According to researcher David Sternberg, Lumosity offers a series of games that are designed to improve cognitive function and uses the game’s data to get these national rankings.

“We were interested in looking at this more direct measure of people who came to our website and how they performed on particular cognitive tasks when they first came to our site,” Sternberg says.

In Anderson’s study, which ranked Morrisville as the top city in the state to raise a family, Chapel Hill had the highest level of growth out of any other city in the top ten and had public schools that got an eight out of ten from GreatSchools, a website that ranks public schools based on standardized test scores and population.

However, Anderson says that Chapel Hill’s affordability issue prevented it from breeching the top five.

“The homes are a bit more expensive there, which is why it probably didn’t rank higher than it already did,” Anderson says.

While Chapel Hill has a lower median household income than most of the other top ten cities, Anderson says that Chapel Hill’s 49 percent growth over the past ten years helped distinguish it.

“If income isn’t really growing in a city, it’s not a good sign, even if income is already high,” Anderson says.

In Sternberg’s study, which found Ithaca, N.Y. as the smartest city in the country, Lumosity’s computers used the IP addresses of visitors to try and pinpoint their city.

However, to get more accurate readings, many cities were grouped together in “core-based statistical areas,” which are developed by the census to better understand how metropolitan areas work.

In the final version of the study, Chapel Hill was paired with Durham, with their collective score putting them at 265th in the nation. When Lumosity’s computers looked only at users they believed to be from Chapel Hill, the city ranked 18th.

But, according to Sternberg, this may not be an accurate representation of Chapel Hill either.

“In the city list, where we look at Chapel Hill specifically, is only going to be situations where the system thought that this IP address was in Chapel Hill specifically,” Sternberg says. “In a large number of cases, that’s probably going to be people associated with the university because that’s a very clear marker that someone is from Chapel Hill. That might be one reason why Chapel Hill does extremely well.”

Lumosity games are designed to rate and improve the five sectors that Sternberg says constitute cognition: memory, speed, attention, flexibility and problem solving.

“When they first come to our site, the idea is that we can use those as an assessment, as a test, when people first show up,” Sternberg says. “We can look at how they performed as base-line the first time they try it.”

Link to the NerdWallet study:

Link to the Lumosity study:

The Ultimate Gazpacho

This is the last week of summer. In years past when I found myself overwhelmed by single parenting three kids I would daydream wistfully about the day I would put all of them on the bus and walk home to leisurely get ready for a non chaotic day. This year my youngest, Leo, starts kindergarten, and my oldest, Amira, is going to middle school, which feels like a big step to me.

But now that this day has nearly arrived, I am almost sad. For over 11 years, I have always had someone at home or out of school, other than little snatches of time here and there. Rather than anxiously waiting for them to grow up, I now want to slow down and savor each moment. So I decided to savor this particular summer day by making gazpacho with my daughter.

 Summer always makes me think of gazpacho. I spent my junior year of college abroad in Seville, Spain. I lived with a Spanish family and learned a few crucial Spanish dishes from the mother, Meli. In Seville, as soon as it warms up you see gazpacho being offered in the cafes and tapas bars. They normally drink this cold soup out of a glass.

Here is the recipe she taught me:
5 large tomatoes
2 cucumbers
2 cloves of garlic
balsamic vinegar, 3 tbsp
extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup
salt, to taste, maybe start with 1 tsp

Core and then blanch the tomatoes in order to easily remove the skins. Peel the cucumbers as well as the garlic. Put all ingredients in the blender. It will most likely take two batches to do. When I made this in Spain we would offer a sip of it to the man of the house, Manolo, so he could tell us what it was lacking. Almost always the answer was, “Mas sal! Mas vinagre!” Translation- if it tastes bland, add more salt or vinegar. Chill the soup before serving. It tastes better the next day.  

I ran into my friend, Nice Pollido, when Amira and I were shopping for the tomatoes at Weaver Street Market in Carrboro. She eats only raw foods. She said she just cores the tomatoes and includes the skins in the soup. She also suggested a variation of adding either one ripe avocado or some basil for a different flavor. In Spain they also sometimes add bread to thicken it up. Enjoy and be sure to savor this summer day!
Thanks for reading! I am always looking for great photo stories to tell in the Chapelboro area. If you know of someone or something that should be documented please write to me via email here.

The World's Greatest Mother-In-Law

This “Music In My Head” column is going to be a little different, but it’s a reflection of what’s been in my head lately…and there’s music, so here goes:

Let me tell you about my mother-in-law.

That song was obviously written by someone who had no appreciation for his mother-in-law, maybe with good reason. 

Sometimes mothers-in-law get joked about…and that plays right into the old stereotype, that they’re just plain evil, with no good intentions toward their sons-in-law.  That may be true for some, but let me tell you about mine.

I loved Sue as much as I loved my own mother, and she was an amazing woman.  She passed away a few days ago, and the world won’t be the same without her.  Anne Beverly Allen Wooten Harkins Montague outlived three husbands, and that’s how she got that long name.  I only knew two of them, since Bev’s dad passed away when she was only eighteen. 

Anne Beverly Allen Wooten Harkins Montague was always called “Sue” by her family and friends.  The story goes that her father really wanted to name her Suzzanne, and he lost the argument, but that didn’t stop him from calling her that anyway.  The new name caught on, and eventually, was shortened to Sue.  Sue had three brothers, and it was that way for them, too.  The oldest was Thomas Coley, but he was called Bill.  Next came Ben Lacy, and most people called him Mac.  Sue’s surviving brother is Cary Durfey, but what do we call him?  Maxie.  Apparently, Sue’s dad lost a lot of arguments, but managed to get the final word.  Bev tells me it’s just one of those Southern family things, but I’m from the South, too, and I’ve never seen a family like this one.

She may have been known to most as Sue, but I called her Mama.  We all did.  Mama did not like me one bit when I first got together with her daughter.  She just assumed that since I was one of those “disc jockeys” I was up to no good.  Even at our wedding, she still had not really warmed up to me.  She didn’t even bother to get her hair done, and if you knew Sue, you know she always had to have her hair done for special occasions.  Our ceremony was held outside, in the garden of a church here in Chapel Hill, and it was a beautiful, sunny, fall day, but she insisted on keeping her coat on, and wouldn’t even put down her pocketbook for the wedding pictures.  Her daughter was somewhat concerned about her disdain for me at that point, but I told her not to worry — that I would eventually win her over.  It wasn’t long before Mama came around.  As time went on, Bev even told me several times she thought her mom loved me more than her…that wasn’t true, of course, but I do know she came to love me like a son, and I loved her like a mom.

She was a remarkable woman. Strong-willed, independent, and fearless.  She never hesitated to stand up for herself or for the ones she loved.  She was the go-to person, the backbone of the family, the one who always kept things together, and she always made sure everybody had what they needed.  Her daughter –my wife– inherited those endearing traits, and while that can be extremely aggravating at times for a husband who sometimes tends to let things slide…I do find it an admirable quality, and I know it came directly from Mama.

When Sue was 80 years old, she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.  She had a head tumor.  And it was pretty serious. Even the doctors didn’t hold out much hope for survival.  While many people at that age might have simply given up, she said she would overcome it.  She went through chemo and radiation, and a myriad of other medical trials and tribulations, and miraculously, she beat it.  There were physical consequences, of course, but she managed to endure, and enjoyed many more Thanksgivings, Christmases, and birthdays. 

Sue lived to see her grandson, Zac, graduate from college, and her granddaughter, Cam, get through three years of college (so far) and she didn’t miss a thing.  Bev and I would love to take full credit for bring up these two amazing young adults, we both realize  that Mama’s strong influence on them helped mold them into the wonderful, caring, level-headed, and loving people they are today.  She was always right there in the middle of everything. 

No matter what, she kept doing the daily crossword puzzle, cryptoquote, and word jumble, without missing a beat.  Usually, she had her trusty, black-and-white cat, Tom-Tom, by her side.  The cool thing is that even as her body failed her, her mind remained sharp as a tack to the very end.  And I’m happy to say we were all right there with her when she passed away, at the age of ninety-two.  She was old and frail, and most of all, just tired.  We thought she would give up the fight sooner, but she stubbornly held on, until Zac could get here from Oregon.  She just had to see him one last time.  By the time he arrived, she couldn’t communicate with him verbally, but she knew he was there.  We all assured her that everything would be okay, that we would take care of each other, and Cam promised to take care of Tom-Tom.  Only a few hours later, she quietly slipped away in the middle of the night.

I will always remember the ritual Mama and I had.  As I was lifting her out of her wheel chair, I would count “One, Two, Three,” to let her know when I was pulling her up. And she started counting with me, but added her own unique twist to it.  The saying soon became, “One, Two, Three…Billy caught a flea.  Flea died, Billy cried.  One, Two, Three.”  She had other little pearls of wisdom liked that, but that little ditty will stick with me from now on.

Mama had a positive impact on everybody she met.  Many of her friends and family are no longer with us.  She outlived husbands, and everyone, it seems.  Anne Beverly Allen Wooten Harkins Montague, you had a profound effect on my life, too, and I loved you even if you didn’t get your hair done, and even if you were holding your pocketbook in the pictures  So Sue, rest in peace.  We will miss you, Mama.

Mama was a charter member of St. Paul’s Christian Church in Raleigh.  She was very involved in the church for many years, and it was always near and dear to her heart.  And I can tell you there are some really wonderful people there — they’ve provided a lot of love and support for all of us.  For those who would like to honor my mother-in-law, contributions may be made to the church at 3331 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh, NC 27612, or to Wake County Hospice, 250 Hospice Circle, Raleigh, NC 27607