You have a supplier problem. In April I bought six yellow squash plants and 6 zucchini plants that we supplied by Bonnie. The plants were clearly marked and displayed in flats with photos of each vegetable. The seedlings were small two leaf sprouts, but looked healthy. I was careful about choosing plants to ensure I had a good mix of squash to supply my summer garden.
The good news is my plants have flourished and have grown in to fine giant plants. The bad news is they are ALL yellow squash. Granted it is hard to tell one squash seedling from another, but these were in pots labeled with their variety. It was not that they were just put in the wrong flat, but they were mislabeled at the planting.
Now I like yellow squash, but quite frankly everyone else in my house likes zucchini more. It would have been so much better is the mislabeling had happened the other way around.
Of course I can make stuffed squash blossoms exactly the same way with the yellow variety, but zucchini bread is not in the cards this year. I can make yellow squash bread and hope that Russ does not notice, since it is mostly for him.
I still could plant some zucchini since I have space for one small row, but I have missed a big growing period and soon the summer vacation time will start when I won’t be around to water. Needless to say I am not happy about this mistake.
Yes, in terms of money it does not mean much to you, Home Depot. The plants cost all of $2.50 a piece, but if you add the value of my time to plant them, weed around them, water them and lovingly tend them it really adds up.
I figure that six zucchini plants tend to yield about 90 pounds of zucchini give or take ten pounds. So at $1.99 a pound, the summer cost of zucchini at the store, I think you owe me $179.10. I would settle for $170, a heart felt apology and a promise to never let this mistake happen again.
If you want proof of my purchase I have my American Express reference number for my transaction on April 24 in Durham, NC.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who lost their lives serving our country. Tell that to my puppy. For Shay Shay it is a day of rest and relaxation amongst the carcasses of her squeaker removed, limb torn off, destuffed animals. I wonder if there is ever a day to give thanks for those stuffed animals who gave their lives to make dogs happy?
Shay has a large collection of once perfectly good, now disfigured, babies, but heaven forbid we do away with any of them. She is attached to them in any state of disarray.
Bushy Tail Squirrel, had his squeaker removed through an armpitarektomy. Obviously there were catheters in each thigh.
Only Blue Skinny Dog remains relatively intact with just one stick of eye removed. How Blue Skinny Dog has remain unscathed for months and months we will never know. Perhaps Blue Dog has some dirt on Shay.
Since the rain was coming down in sheets all day and Carter was studying and Russ was working on a deck for work I felt guilty not being as productive as they were. I decided it was a good time to work on one of my cleaning-out projects.
Earlier in the week I got a good start cleaning out the garage, but was not interested in being trapped inside the humid cave today. So I decided I would work cleaning out one wall of kitchen cabinets. With a tile floor, the kitchen was left in touched in the great wood floor refinishing project of ’15. Thus nothing about the kitchen had undergone the scrutiny I had with all our belongings in closets last year.
I was not going to work on the cupboards where the plates and glasses live, that is a project for another day. Instead I decided to tackle the catch all cabinets where the little used items are housed. Such things as the pressure cooker, the funnel sets or electric knife, things that I like to have, but aren’t called into duty but once or twice a year.
The problem with the orphan kitchen items is that they get grouped together in cabinets with unlikely neighbors. Shay Shay’s tooth cleaning gel, with cinnamon cashews, or hand carved wood salad tossers next to the dough hook for the kitchen aid mixer, festive Christmas apron and the extra large heavy duty aluminum foil roll.
Some of these things were first put in one cabinet and thus stayed there for life because that is where we knew it was. The problem with moving seasonal items is that when the season comes around you might not remember where you put it. But that was a long standing excuse to keep these misfits in the same place.
So today, without holding back, I cleaned out five major cabinets. Editing what really needed to be in the kitchen, rehousing some things, like all of Shay’s medicine to a better room, and taking out some things I had, but never used or frankly never liked. The whale platter went to the donate pile, and the dozen sports water bottles went to the garage.
I felt great satisfaction when it was all done. Russ came in the kitchen to eat his lunch and I announced the completion of the great clean out of the wall of cabinets, minus the two drawers. “Yeah, those drawers are the real mess,” Russ said.
So much for my feeling of accomplishment. He was right. The job was not close to being done. After lunch I pulled a chair up to the two large junk drawers and tackled the hard work. You know those drawers you have where everything you thought was important went. Turns out not that much was important in them. I reorganized the hundred or so batteries. If you need AA’s I have cornered the market on them. I discovered a pouch of Chuckie Cheese winner’s coins that Carter used to collect awaiting enough to trade in for a good prize. Apparently Chuckie Cheese did away with the coins years ago, and that Carter aged out of that place at least a decade ago.
In the end I grouped like things together, tape and stapler, matches and lighters, pie weights and pastry brush. The very last job I did was testing every pen and discarding any writing utensil that was not perfect. I sorted the pens, from the pencils from the sharpies, which even got their own compartment. Job done. Not bad work for a rainy day. I am working my way through the easiest clean out jobs so that I will eventually have to face the attic, but before that day comes every drawer and closet in my house is going to be perfect. I might be able to drag this out two or three years.
Used to be that we could go to the farm to celebrate Memorial Day and the unofficial start of summer. Of course that was before we had a high schooler who needed to study for exams over the long weekend. Today Russ said this was our last exam studying Memorial Day. Next year at this time Carter will be a graduate with no exams. Hooray.
So since we are stuck at home we went to DPAC tonight and saw a play with Carter and her “sister E,” our bonus daughter Ellis. Life is better when we get to have Ellis with us. I love to hear the plans she and Carter make for the future.
Tonight they were talking about going to Mexico. Carter thinks they should go right after high school graduation and Ellis realistically believes they will have to wait until they are a little older, like 30. Carter’s response to that was, “We have to go before then because 30 is when our bodies give out.”
I have to say I have not been the best body roll model, but I hope their bodies last past 30. For now I am happy to just get to spend time with these girls because soon enough they will be off on their own and lord knows my body might be giving out making me incapable of visiting them.
Today is a day of celebrations. First it is my very young friend Christy Barnes’ birthday and second it was the Durham Academy graduation. Since we are celebrating Christy’s birthday with a lunch next week I wanted to do something small to surprise her today. I bought a bunch of “happy birthday” Mylar balloons and was planning on surprising her at the gym, but I got her work out time wrong and by the time I got there she had left. First I want to say, who works out on their birthday?
Anyway, I knew she was going to be meeting her sister after the workout so I just tied the balloons to a lamp post outside her house. To me there is nothing happier than seeing balloons outside a house announcing, “something good is happening here today.” So happy birthday to Christy!
Although I did not have anyone graduating today, Carter was a Marshall for the ceremony and I know plenty of kids who were graduating. So I met Hannah Hannan at her office on the campus of UNC and we walked over to Memorial Hall where DA holds its graduation. It is wonderful to hold it there because it is big enough that anyone who wants to go can.
Carter’s second grade teacher, Karen Lovelace, sat with us in the balcony where we were surrounded by many beloved teachers from the pre-school, lower school and middle school. It was so nice that they come and see kids who they taught over the years graduate. They certainly aren’t required to come since they are plenty busy enough finishing up grading and writing report cards for their own students.
The graduation was nice. Lee Hark, the funniest Upper School Head in America, gave a fabulous speech. It made me sad that he will not be doing one for Carter’s graduation since he has been promoted to assistant Head of school for next year. Maybe as assistant head he could still give a speech.
Carol Folt, Chancellor at UNC, gave the official speech. It started off slow, but ended with six very sound bits of advice for the graduating seniors, which I wonder if they will remember by tomorrow? Then the diplomas were handed out. The clapping never stopped as each person’s name was read and they crossed the stage to accept their diploma from Micheal Ulku-Steiner, the Head of school.
With their caps and gowns on the only thing that made the girls standout from our vantage point in the balcony was their shoes. Many of them wore platform wedges, some high heels, some sensible cute flat Jack Rodgers. The best were the ones who had a small heeled sandals because they walked with the most ease and grace as the eyes of hundreds of loved ones watched them cross the giant stage.
I was sad thinking about the year of lasts to come. Last first day of school, last last day, last day with all those loving and dedicated teachers. I know that Carter will be rejoicing. I want to remember to help her pick the right shoes to wear with her cap and gown. It seems like it might be the last time I may have an opportunity to suggest school foot wear to her.
Today was our last school parent’s council meeting of the year. It is really not so much a meeting as a thank you lunch. I counted it was my twelfth time I have been to this lunch since I have volunteered to chair some committee since the second year that a Carter was at DA.
I parked in front of the lower school, since the lunch is normally held outside at the overhang and followed some very young mothers into the school. I recognized them as people who I knew when they were students at DA when Carter first started school. It made me feel very old.
As I tried to get outside I was waylaid because the preschoolers were coming in from spirit day all in their matching shirts. Memories of Carter and her friends came flooding back. I felt like they were just that little a week ago, when they would be strapped into the car seats in the back of my land cruiser singing.
Eventually I found the lunch in the auditorium. I was definitely one of the oldest mothers. I sat with my friends Michelle and Chesley who both have juniors in Carter’s class. We represented the old guard in the room. Karen, the out going parent’s council president, got up to start the meeting. She called on Leslie Holdsworth, the director of development to come and give a special award. This was something different than usually had happened at any of the last twelve lunches of this kind.
She asked me to get up and she presented me with a cool piece of art to commemorate my seven years as auctioneer. It was a very nice surprise. She announced that I had been involved with raising over a million dollars. What she did not do was also credit all the hundreds of volunteers who work every year to make that auction happen. The auctioneer is a small cog in the much bigger machine.
I have one last year on parent’s council, still chairing parent’s of alumni, where I have a chance to get that community going before I officially become a member of it. Once Carter graduates, in exactly a year, I will no longer have any official relationship with Durham Academy. It is hard to believe that after fourteen years of volunteering I will just be the person who paid for my child to go there.
Last year, at this time, I was busy cleaning out every closet in anticipation of redoing our floors. Although it was pure hell to go through it felt incredibly productive when it was all over. I vowed to continue the cleaning out process, but somehow a vow is not quite strong enough to keep me on that track. It is just like dieting. Good intentions don’t mean anything. You have to actually do it everyday.
I have been feeling guilty due to this lack of productivity so I thought I should get back to the ever giant and still growing list of things that need reorganizing. Attic- still on the list, crawl space – you can hardly crawl through, garage – growing mountain of things that need to be donated, Carter’s section of the house- forbidden zone, my office – the walls are closing in, kitchen cabinets- over flowing.
I can hardly make a turn without seeing someplace that needs attention. Well, not exactly. The closets that all were all cleaned out last year are still in pristine condition. All the more incentive that I should get to work on the rest.
Yesterday I had a virtually free day, just one conference call and one meeting. Nothing was holding me back from tackling a big job. Did I do it? Not on your life.
Well, my cleaning ladies were working so I did not want to get in their way. I needed to get my steps in and well, I was playing Catan. Feeling guilty I looked round my office for a job I could do that would count towards reorganizing and cleaning and my eyes landed on the four buckets of change that had been accumulating for the last year. I could roll all the coins! Wait, even better I could do it while walking on my walking desk.
Since our change sorting machine had corroded batteries I had to come up with a solution for putting the right number of coins in the rolls without counting everyone. My solution was to count one roll’s worth and then weigh it on my kitchen scale. A roll of $10 worth of quarters weighs 230 grams. Ta-da!
It took me the better part of a day and 13,000 steps, but in the end I had over $400 rolled and ready to deposit in Carter’s college fund. Yes, it was a very minor job as far as cleaning out goes, yes, it only netted the value of one college text book, yes, it was the least painful of my jobs, but it was a start, small that it was.
Peter Walsh, organizing guru would send me for time out for even considering this cleaning out, but in the words of my father, “it was better than a sharp stick in the eye.” I am not sure if I am ever getting to the attic, but maybe this summer I can at least do the garage and maybe my office. I figure I need to save some cleaning out for when Carter goes to college, otherwise I might have to get a real job.
It’s a good thing I am not in college admissions. I am much too hard on applicants. Tonight I went to a talk a school given by an admissions director at UNC. He gave a very informative talk about how admission’s committees read applications. He was giving us the big overview, not the UNC specifics.
He talked all about the stuff I feel like has been drilled into my head, about kids taking an academically rigorous course load, constant improvement, how important teacher recommendations are and the Valhalla of a strong essay.
One thing that rang most true to me is this bit of advice, “if a friend found your essay on the ground, with no name on it, and read it, they should know instantly that it is yours.” Ta-da! The key for all writing, your voice should ring through.
After the introductory talk he gave us two actual application packets, of course with no names. They were the application, the essays, the transcript, the letters of recommendations, the whole shabang. We were told to read them and then we discussed the strengths and weakness of each application.
I hated all the essays. In one application that had two essays they did not read like they were written by the same person. There was no distinct voice and I did not feel like I got to know the writer any better after reading them. The real turn off was the essay that says why the student wanted to go to UNC. Practically every sentence began with “I”. “I will be a great asset to the University,” “I have something the school can benefit from,” “I am a leader,”… I, I, I.
Yes, you want to sell yourself to a school, but the last thing you want to be is a used car salesman. “I’ve got the perfect car for you. I know you will love it. Have I got a deal for you.”
The second application we read had an essay where the student thought so little of a teacher who took over a class mid-year that he asked if he could teach the class. He boasted that the grades on the test for the section he taught were the highest for the whole year.
Humility is a fine line to walk, but it feels like it is the tone that was missing from all the essays we read. First, I want to get to know someone, then I want to learn something about how they have grown, learned, changed, evolved or discovered something about themselves. Plus they need to do it in a short, concise manner and throw in a little humor. It is a tall order. No wonder it seems daunting.
I have no idea what I wrote about in my college essay. I was not a good writer or even a practiced writer, and my life of story telling was just beginning. What I do know is that at the age of 17 or 18 you don’t have to have some earth shattering story to tell. You don’t have to be the best at something, in fact it is probably better if you never claim you are great at anything. Just be human. Show how something someone did made you feel and how that made you act differently after that. Be vulnerable, be curious, be yourself.
If I were a college admissions officer I would only hope to admit those people whose voice I truly could hear and I liked.
It is the time of year when the tomatoes start to be yummy. I bought a few gorgeous tomatoes at the farmers market the other day and ever since have been craving a BLT. The only problem is that a normal BLT is that it is made a two slices of fattening bread, slathered with full fat mayo. No wonder I was craving one.
Carter wanted a Bahn Mi for dinner so I decided a I would make the spicy aioli with fat free mayo, lemon juice and sriracha for her. I decided it might make a lighter option for a BLT mayo. Now to the bread substitute. I looked in the fridge and found some beautiful hearts of romain. Ah Ha! BLT lettuce wraps! I added grilled chicken to bump up the protein and help limit the amount of bacon I needed. I chopped the bacon into smaller bits and sprinkled in on the lettuce, adding the tomatoes, chicken and just running the spoon of mayo across the top.
The BLT wraps totally satisfied my BLT craving. All of the flavor, none of the bread. Now I am tying to figure out how to do a bread less Ruben. I am not certain the the lettuce option will stand up to the griddle.
I should have known something was wrong when Russ asked for my car keys, “because your passenger door is slightly ajar.” When he came back in the house and asked if I had taken everything out of my center console I knew my car had been broken into. I went down and saw that everything from my glove box and center console was sitting on the passenger seat, but it was the smell of cigarette smoke that was the most assaulting.
I made the mistake of disturbing the scene by searching through the mess to see what was taken. Of course my beloved Lulu Guinness striped change purse where I keep my mah Jongg money was gone with all of about twenty dollars in change, but nothing else as far as I could tell.
“Those idiots left your Tom Ford sunglasses,” Carter exclaimed, determining them to be major amateurs. Carter said I should call the police and I thought, what for, a change purse? Then as I was looking at the inside of my car I noticed the cause of the cigarette stench, the idiots had left the butt of a camel cigarette in the cup holder. Now we had evidence so I got out of the car hoping I had not messed it up too much and called the police.
Within moments a very nice young female patrol officer came. She told me that there have been at least ten break ins like mine in the neighborhood this week. Russ came out and we looked around to see if we could find my change purse. We followed a trail of coins, obvious winnings from my gambling addiction and Russ spotted an opened bag of pretzels under a tree with a dozen stale pretzels next to it.
We immediately recognized the bag as the four year old one that had been in my glove compartment. The thieves had taken it and once they tasted them, discarded the terrible old pretzels right at the end of my driveway. The officer was thrilled with the find and finger printed the whole bag getting a number of usable prints.
She then finger printed the car and retrieved the butt. As she was getting my prints to compare against the ones she already had I asked her what in the world a charge would be for stealing my change purse? “Breaking and entering!” She just was happy to have any evidence since there had been so many of the same break ins with no help to determine the robbers.
Carter and Russ got printed too and Carter was furious that I had not interrupted her from the boredom of writing a paper to help collect evidence.
I was fairly certain I had locked my car as I always do, but must not of since their was no sign of tampering to get in my car and the other cars in the driveway were not disturbed. It was very bold to come down our gravel driveway with our bedroom just above the car, but we heard nothing last night. Make sure your cars are locked, but if they are not, leave some old rotten snack food inside. Just make sure to wipe it clean of your prints so you can get evidence of these idiots who are breaking in. They are smoking camels, have pockets full of change and will certainly not be wearing designer sunglasses.
A couple of nights ago Carter showed me a beautiful film on You Tube of someone doing calligraphy. I have always loved everything about beautiful lettering and wished I just had better hand writing.
Yesterday Carter told me that she needed to do some artwork for a class project in school, asking if we could go to the AC Moore today. I am never one to turn down a trip to an art store. As we started talking about what she was going to do for her class I mentioned to her that I had been thinking about the calligraphy she had shown me and was interested in trying to learn it. “I want to learn too,” Carter enthusiastically responded. There is no better time to pick up a new hobby than right before exams.
I told a Carter than she needed to work on her art project and I will start to try and figure out the calligraphy and as soon as exams are over she can pick it up. It helped that AC Moore did not have a huge inventory of calligraphy stuff and I needed to order a few things from Amazon.
So while Carter worked to do a drawing of a war correspondent during World War I, I was studying the letters on a calligraphy website. It is much harder than I thought, especially since I was trying to learn first with a slanted maker and not jumping right into a messy ink pen. Carter was much more successful with her charcoal pencil.
Maybe this is something we can’t teach ourselves, so I looked on the web to try and find a class. After a couple of clicks I discovered a week long calligraphy retreat held at Camp Cheerio, Carter’s beloved true home. Seems like a sign that we need to learn calligraphy. We probably still need to find a local class and practice a while before we go off on a week long camp, but it seems like a fun activity for the future. Carter thought it was promising thing for me to get involved with as she is preparing to go to college. I doubt it will become a career, just would be nice to address invitations in a neater hand.
Today was one celebration after another and I will not complain about it. I got to start my day with a special trip to the needlepoint store with my friend Jeanne. She moved away to DC last year and I miss seeing her smiling face on a regular basis. Luckily she got to spend the night in Durham last night and needed a visit to see Nancy at Chapel Hill Needlepoint. I have been slow on my stitching thanks to the craziness of May so I loved having an excuse to go and stitch and visit at the same time.
That fun was followed by the last of my birthday celebration lunches. Yes, my birthday was seventeen days ago, but yesterday my friend Jean, a different Jean, took me to lunch for my birthday. It is our annual tradition where I love catching up. Then today was a lunch organized by my friend Hannah with six friends where we went to the WADU and all ordered the same salad. It is just and excuse to get together and have lunch, but if it wasn’t somebody’s birthday we just wouldn’t do it. Thank goodness we all have birthdays every year.
Russ flew in from Denver this morning on the red eye. I wasn’t sure if after ninety minutes of sleep all night if he was going to be able to make it to the last celebration of the day, but he rallied. We went to the Nasher Museum for the Durham Academy fund thank you event. It used to be called the headmaster’s dinner, but now is called the Cavalier Circle. That name does not mean anything to Russ, so I told him it was the headmaster’s dinner. He does not realize that we also don’t call the head of school the headmaster any more.
The event was actually really fun. Some of the kids from In The Pocket, the musical group, performed. Since it was at the museum we looked at the art. Russ loved the modern art. One of the coolest pieces was a big mirrored bowl. From far away you appeared upside down in the mirror, but as you got closer your image flipped to right side up. How do it do it?
That was a lot of celebrating for one day. Amazingly Russ stayed out late and I had to drag him home. Hopefully he will sleep through the night since he missed most sleep from last night. I of course will be up late since my extroverted self was with people all day. I need a day off from partying so I can sleep.
I am not a good indoor gardener. When I was a child my mother grew all kinds of spider plants and wandering Jews inside. I think as a way to combat seasonal disorder for the long winters we had in Connecticut. Since I live in the more temperate climate of North Carolina I prefer to garden outdoors. That being said I may need to switch to inside if the herd of neighborhood deer keep eating my garden.
My only inside plants are my large and growing collection of orchids that Russ has been giving me as presents when he is at a loss for a gift. I count eighteen plants right now. I did ask him to stop giving them to me since I am running out of space to keep them, but somehow the florist assumed I always get orchids and changed his cut flower order to three orchids in one pot for my birthday.
The good news about orchids is they are very low maintenance. At least I don’t seem to do a thing for them except try and remember to water them about every 8-9 days. My sunroom apparently is the perfect room getting hot in the day and cold at night to sustain the orchids.
I never know when they are going to bloom and usually I have at least a quarter of the plants in flower at any one time. Some bloom twice a year and others three or four times. Somehow today when I came in the sunroom to try and get some natural light to brighten my day and noticed that practically all the orchids are in bloom at the same time.
When the request first came into me asking if I was free at 12:30 on a Wednesday my initial reaction was no, since Wednesday is the sacred day of Mah Jongg. If someone needed me early in the morning or later in the day on hump day that would be fine, but never during the middle, lunch hour of Mah Jongg. Now, not everyone is as precious with their Mah Jongg commitment as I am, but I never would skip the game to do something mundane like laundry or the dentist.
That being said, the request was for me to go to Croasdaile Village, a local retirement community, to accept the donation they were making from their virtual food drive and for me to say a few words. Croasdaile had been doing drives for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC for a number of years, but this year was their biggest donation ever and they wanted to have a little ceremony for the BIG check presentation. Of course Mah Jongg could be abbreviated for such an occasion.
I arrived at the main desk where the cutest couple, Larry and Betsy DeCarolis, chairs of the food drive, met me with great enthusiasm. They escorted me to the auditorium where I met other residents who were donors to their drive. I helped Besty hang the posters she had made to publicize the drive as residents, rolled in and took their seats.
It was quite an official occasion. I was seated with seven other dignitaries and given the addenda for the presentation. Men in suits and ties read from prepared remarks extolling the virtues of Larry and Betsy in their leadership to raise the money. I, having no need for a script when talking about this subject, got up and talked about how invisible food insecurity is in our society and the shame people feel about needing help with food. The audience gave a little gasp when I told them that just the Durham branch of the food bank serves over 106,000 people annually, some week after week. I thanked them profusely and promised that we would take their $15,300 and turn it into $153,000 worth of food.
Afterwards, Betsy hugged me and told me she had the best time running the food drive. I told her I hoped she would do it again next year and promised to come back. I left on a cloud much bigger than one I would have been on if I had played Mah Jongg all day and won every hand.
Getting a chance to have a ceremony to hand over their check meant the world to these people. They should be celebrated because they did a wonderful thing to encourage their community of people, who are well taken care of, to share with others who need help. Thanks Croasdaile Village and especially Larry and Betsy. You made me smile the whole afternoon.
As long back as I could remember one of my earliest and most recurring thoughts was that I was lucky that I had one of the best fathers on earth. Not all my friends felt that way about their own fathers, but they sure liked mine. He wasn’t always around because he worked so hard, but when he was he always showed a lot of interest in me, what I was doing, what I liked and what I was learning.
I was never too young for him to teach me things that were important to him, like what every make and model of car was on the road, both coming toward us and going away from us. He loved to talk with me about his work and I learned early on about business, hard work and how to deal with dopes you might have to work with, and there are a lot of dopes.
He taught me to have a strong handshake and to look people in the eye when I spoke with them. Laughter was ever present and telling a good story was a highly valued skill in our house. He made me more articulate, especially when arguing. When I was in the height of pupperty and could not find the words in a disagreement he would scream at me to stop crying and to just talk.
He had important rules like, “never run one of your cars into another one of your cars,” and “always let your mother sleep late on Saturdays.” If there is one word to describe my father it is generous, often to a fault. Although he slurs all nationalities in an equal opportunity way, he is the kindest customer to every taxi driver and waiter he ever met.
He is emphatic in his speech, often repeating the important words for emphasis. I have never been at a loss to understand where he stood on most issues. He loves to teach and has had a sense of urgency about everything he did. As far back as I can remember he would start a sentence with, “I need to tell you this before I die…” It was unsettling for a five year old, but now I know it means it is important to him.
Mostly, I am happy that I have had fifty-five years of him “teaching me stuff,” and hope we have many more. I am lucky that he is still able to drive himself from the farm to my house to install by birthday present of “the best sound system” and go out to lunch with me to celebrate his birthday.
If you know my dad, Ed Carter, send him an email and wish him a happy birthday. He doesn’t have Facebook, too many dopes might want to be friends with him if he did, but I’ll pass along any messages.
One of the perks about “working” at Durham Magazine is my quarterly lunch with my beloved editor, Andrea Griffith Cash. Since a huge part of the Magazine is about local food we are sure to try one of the new spots in town. Usually the problem is that so many places have yummy, delicious, and fattening fare. You can find a world class pizza, but finding a good for you and drool worthy salad is much harder than it should be.
Imagine my delight when Andrea suggested we meet at a new spot of ninth street called Happy and Hale, a salad and juice bar. I googled it and there is one in Raleigh, but the Durham one is not listed yet. Based on what I read I was excited to try it.
The bright sunny restaurant has big glass doors that open out to the street where there are a few tables on the sidewalk. It was already getting crowded so I dropped a couple of Durham Magazines on one of the tables, just inside, as we waited to order.
It is a place like Sweet Greens in DC or Hale and Hearty Soup in NYC. You can get one of their pre-determined salad offerings or a pick your own type thing. They had a lot of different greens as base offerings, with my go to arugula being one of them, three stars just for that. I got roast butternut squash that I was wary about because it still had the skin on it. My cute salad maker told me it was tender as could be and she was right. Roast red peppers, caramelized onions, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese and chicken and I was a happy camper. Andrea had the Acai bowl with coconut chips and granola. She liked it. It screamed breakfast to me.
As we were still in line I noticed a man had sat down at our table, so from across the room I let him know those were our magazines. He got the hint and moved over one seat. Turned out he was a photographer who would like to work for the magazine so he was nice to us when we came and sat down at our saved table.
After Andrea and I gabbed and enjoyed our healthy lunch a nice guy named Tyler, who is someone of authority at Happy and Hale, came by to clear our bowls and asked how everything was. After many compliments I did request unsweet tea and lemons cut into wedges, since the only tea they had was sweetened with agave. He promised that it was coming and he would never cut lemons into anything else but squeezable wedges (that is my life long crusade).
If you are looking for a healthy lunch I recommend Happy and Hale, in the spot where the old Duck shop used to be on the south end of ninth street across the street from the play house. Now, if we can just get more white table cloth restaurants to offer tasty, big and low calorie salads my life’s work of searching for lunch is half done. I still have to tackle the half moon slivers of lemons that can’t be squeezed thing. it.
Today we went to a brunch in celebration of Leander Perun’s pending graduation from Durham Academy in less than two weeks. It was a beautiful occasion with brilliant blue sky and friends and families gathered to enjoy a yummy meal. Leander’s mom, Stephanie, hired Carter to photograph the occasion which kept her behind the camera where she loves to be.
As I watched Carter taking pictures of the guests, most of whom I have known since before they knew their own name I had to blink back the tears. The years have rushed by, but one thing that is true is that these kids came out the way they were going to be.
Leander, as a young woman now, poised to go to Denison to play lacrosse, is the same kind easy going person she always has been. I pulled up pictures from a week Leander spent at “Camp Gracie” in 2007. Camp Gracie, is what the girls called going to spend a week at my parent’s farm, since Gracie is my father’s grandfather name.
Since Stephanie was a full time working Mom, finding things for Leander to do that did not involve Stephanie having to drive her hither and yon was a help. Carter was going to a week of riding camp at Mrs. Brown’s very ramshackle barn, about 20 minutes from my parents farm. Horses were Carter’s thing, but Leander was a very good sport about spending the 100 degree days out at the fly infested barn on the world’s oldest horses.
I would drive the girls out, leave them with their packed lunches and pick them up eight hours later. Leander had a wonderful attitude about the whole thing. After the barn the girls would come back to the farm and swim, kayak, eat wonderful Gracie cooked meals and drive the farm vehicles around. Everything they did was OK with Leander, even if it was not her first choice.
That get along, be grateful, make the most of things attitude has never changed about Leander. Now she is graduating and going on to the next life’s step. I know she will succeed because that is what she does. She puts her head down, does the work, and is always pleasant about it, even if it is not her first choice. Well now she is going to her first choice, something she deserves.
Congratulations Leander. You are a joy, always have been and I am sure always will be. I have loved watching you grow up.
Due to my hurt back Russ volunteered to do the weekly weeding of my garden. Thanks to all the rain we have had, the flowers and vegetables are growing wild, but then so are the weeds. I hobbled out to the garden to instruct Russ about which were the weeds and which were not. Sometimes it is hard to tell arugula from a weed.
At first Russ said he was going to pull the weeds by hand, but I encouraged him to use a hoe, for speed and to save his back. I went back in the house because the worst thing I could do when a favor is offered is supervise.
“I owe you some zinnias,” we’re the first words out of Russ mouth when he came inside. “I’ll go and buy some plants now.” I told him that he did not owe me anything and that I will will plant with seeds, since that is how I got them in the first place. “I used the hoe and just kept going and before I realized I was in the flower area and I dug up the zinnias.”
Zinnia seedlings look very weed like. It was not surprising that he made this small mistake. I have plenty of seeds that my father gave me, so tomorrow I will replant. No repenting needed for replanting.
So often in life we can’t tell the weeds from the flowers when they are in their early stages. You never know what is going to grow up to be a beautiful flower and what is going to a choking weed. The vegetables are the same way. As a seedling a green bean plant could easily appear to be an invasive weed. It is only after letting it grow for a month before you realize what a delicious producer you have on your hands.
It takes time, care and tender hands to raise a productive garden, just like most things in life. Never recklessly yank something out until you are really sure you don’t want it. You may be ending the growth of the best thing you have. Is it a weed or is it a beauty? I venture that most things are beautiful if you have patience to let it flourish to its full potential.
When Russ and I learned we needed to go to South Carolina overnight for a funeral Carter asked us if she could stay home alone. Not exactly alone, home with Shay Shay. We decided that she was trustworthy enough to handle staying home one night alone, so we let her do it.
Carter already drives herself to and from school, she cares for young children, can handle large animals and can navigate her way alone on a foreign city’s subway system. Why couldn’t she stay home in the only house she has ever lived in?
After the funeral I received a text of the steak, mashed potato and okra dinner Carter had bought and cooked for herself. The words read, “I am a competent adult.” When I faced time with her before bed she was happy and loving having the house all to herself. I thought about how much I love to be alone in my own house and understood the fun for her.
In the morning she texted me about feeding and waking Shay before going off to school. “Thanks. I really liked being on my own for a while. It motivated me.” How wonderful I thought. Practice adulthood is something I think is so helpful. For me, practice letting go was also good. I had no doubt she could care for herself and Shay, but I was pleasantly surprised by how clean everything was when I got home.
Small doses of responsibility and adulthood doled out over the next year seem like the plan I should go with. It seems like just yesterday that Carter would not sleep away from home. Thanks to Hannah, who made it her mission to get Carter to feel comfortable sleeping over with her friend Campbell when they were six. Now Carter looks forward to her six weeks away from home during the summer. All practice for the day she goes and makes her own home somewhere else. Now I need to practice not missing her.
More than twenty years ago Judy McMeekin started working for my dad as a book keeper in Pawleys Island. That was when I first met her and her gravely voiced husband, Gary. Judy went from working for my Dad to working for Russ and is now the comptroller of his company. We have gone on cruises in the Mediterranean and trip to the Mayan Riviera with Judy and Gary and he was always up for a good time. Gary would always ask how you were with actual care and then see if you needed a drink from the bar.
Sadly, Gary passed away this week at the much too young an age of 68. Russ, his business partner Rich and I drove down to Surfside, South Carolina for the funeral. We arrived at the church almost an hour before the service began so we could see Judy and their son Gabe and found the parking lot practically full already. Judy called the service a sellout. Clearly, Gary was well loved by the many people he interacted with from football referees colleagues, to the relators whose houses he appraised, to his fellow parishioners at their church.
After the service Russ, Rich and I went to grab dinner before Russ took Rich to the airport to fly to Boston. On the way to the airport Russ dropped me off at the hotel I booked us into. Rich got quite a laugh as we pulled up to the Surfside Beach Resort Hotel. The parking lot was full of cycles of the motor type.
Gary, with quite a sense of humor, had passed away just before famed Biker Week in Myrtle beach. The funeral was a respectful twelve hours before the official opening of the nightmare time here on the Grand Strand. Of course Gary could have picked any other of good biker week times to go, like black biker week, or gay biker week or black gay biker week, but no, he picked the granddaddy of all, plain ‘ole biker week. Despite our lofty spot on the seventh floor, I can still her the roar of the Harley’s as they rumble into the parking lot.
I figure this is the best joke Gary could play on us. We would not have missed the service because Judy means the world to us. I am really looking forward to getting a good sight of the people attached to those bikes in the light of day tomorrow. Seeing one biker is not so bad, but seeing a highway full of them reenforces my dislike of all things Harley. Of course, the average age of the attendees at biker week keeps getting older and soon funerals attached to biker week might be common place. Gary was a trend setter.
I am not one of those sports crazy people who lives to exercise. I do it in hopes that it will help keep me in better shape and so that I can be fully functional in my old age. I don’t usually complain about it, I just do it.
Well, today while working out with my trainer and my friend Christy I did something, what I don’t know, but it caused me to pull a muscle in my back. It wasn’t one of those, “oh my goodness, what did I just do?” moments. It was the, “now that I drove home why can’t I get out of the car?” pains.
I took some pain killer and went about my day, mostly sitting, but things did not improve. I came home to lay down and decided that I was going to skip my two evening commitments. Is this what old age has come to?
Am I destined to only doing one thing a day and then need an afternoon nap to make it through the rest of the evening? Carter and Russ gave me a terrible birthday present of a weekend away to figure out what I am going to do with my life when Carter goes to college in 15 months. I was not worried about what I was going to do. Now I see that I am going to have to test drive scooters and look at ramps for our house.
I am sure that is a better sounding plan to Carter than my previously unannounced plan to buy an apartment in the city where she is going to college and have lunch with her everyday between my morning exercise and afternoon walk.
All kidding aside. I think maybe this hurt back is just a way to give me a night off from the overload of May. Sorry I did not make my meetings tonight. My back went on strike and I choose not to cross its picket line. A huge dose of sleep/pain killer and a long sleep is what I look forward to.
Tonight was my favorite Garden club meeting of the year, the May picnic with spouses. This year we hit the jackpot with Anna Whalen as the house hostess and perfect weather where we were able to enjoy a beautiful night outside in her glorious garden.
All the members bring a dish to share and we may not all be good gardeners, but most everyone can make something yummy to eat. So for Russ this is a good party because the food is good and he knows almost all the people at the party. That and the fact that it starts at 6:00 and we are home by 8:30, that’s a good party for us.
This year the highlight of the party were the flower arrangements made by Club member Stacey Burkert. For the record she is a good gardener and can cook. She was called in at the last minute to produce the works of art from flowers she found around Anna’s property. The star was this three foot tall green and white arrangement. You can hardly tell how big it is since it is Anna’s great room with 20 foot ceilings, but trust me, it was spectacular.
Stacey has just created a company called Fig Tree Designs to do these kind of things professionally. She reminded me that she first has to renovate her new house before going great guns into flower and garden design, but I’ve seen her produce masterworks from found items before so I’m sure she will be called upon well before her house is finished. She also has three kids to raise, so what’s renovating a house and making flowers arrangements all at the same time? Stacey can do it.
Thanks to all the hostesses of the party. It really was a lovely evening.
As the national news leads off today with the story of North Carolina’s idiot governor counter suing the federal government over the clearly discriminatory HB-2 law I get more and more angry. This ridiculous law that was passed by an emergency called legislature and signed by the governor in less than 24 hours has been the worst kind of government action seen in decades.
The state legislature spent $47,000 to have that “emergency” meeting. That was just the beginning of spending over this ridiculous law. Hundreds of businesses immediately came out against the law. Companies that had planned to expand in North Carolina changed their minds. Concerts and events were canceled. Money that would be spent in the state was not, because the rest of the nation thinks we are bigots. Well, some North Carolinians are and I am here to say they don’t speak for or represent me or most of the people I know.
Now that our governor is getting in a pissing match with a much bigger dog, the Feds, he has had to hire outside council since our attorney general will not support HB2. This is our governor throwing good money after bad. Stop trying to save face, McCrory, you are on the wrong side of history. I am yet to know of any women who were attacked in a bathroom by a transgender person, as you claim the law is needed to protect. Stop using women as your excuse to be blatantly discriminatory.
After looking at the list of legislators who voted for this dog’s breakfast of a law it is clear that the more rural areas of the state are the ones in support. I see the best answer to the problem is for Durham, along with Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Cary, Greensboro, Asheville, Winston-Salem, Charlotte and Raleigh, excluding the governor’s mansion, to succeed from the state. Let’s see how well the state would do without most of the economic hubs.
Since those legislators do not understand the constitution that rules us all I don’t want them to have access to spending our money to defend their ignorant actions. I want the progressive “Old North State” back, not this back water swamp the current government has turned into. McCrory, you don’t represent me in any way.
I know a lot of you mothers out there are going to disagree with me, but to me everyday is Mother’s Day. There is nothing better than being a mother. I get great joy in the good, the bad and the ugly parts of all things mothering. I guess you could say I’ve always been one hell of a mother. One of my college friends, Hugh, even nick named me “maternal breast.”
Since I came to actual motherhood late I did not appreciate all that my mother did for all those years. So I would like to declare publicly that I have a great mother. I certainly would not be who I am today if she were not for my mother.
Nobody asked to be born and it is not my child’s responsibility to validate me as a mother. It is a joy to be a mother. I don’t need a day to know that I am appreciated as a mother. I get that everyday in just watching Carter grow into the person she is meant to be.
Happy everyday to anyone who is lucky enough to be a mother. Not everyone has that privilege or wants it. So for some people Mother’s Day is sad. If you are missing your own mother or the child you never had I hope that you can take solace in this day. You don’t have to actually give birth to “mother” someone. I love being a bonus mother to a few of Carter’s friends.
So hooray for motherhood. None of us would be here without mother’s. As far as I can tell mother’s are not going out of style.
Under the category of art imitating life imitating art I bring you the story of the day. Last week my cousin Meredith, from Houston, contacted me with a question. “Are you going to see 42nd street at the Durham Performing Arts Center.” Strange question, from my Houston cousin, but the answer was, “Yes, we have season tickets.”
Meredith went on to tell me that her best friend in Houston’s daughter, Caitlin Ehlinger is the lead, Peggy Sawyer, in the show. She asked me if I was going to the show if it would be possible for me to bring her some apples and bananas. Being southern, the answer to questions of food hospitality to relatives, friend’s children who show up in your town is always yes.
Russ and I carried our bag of Honey Crisp Apples and Bananas to the theater. The door person at the DPAC wanted to know what was in my big bag as I entered the theater. “Apples and Bananas for the star.” It was such a crazy answer she let me in with it.
Here’s the life imitating art imitating life part. Caitlin has been a dancer her whole life. After high school graduation she decided to take a gap year and went to New York just to see if she could get in a show. She was thinking if she were lucky it would be to be in the ensemble, you know the nameless dancers who usually don’t have my lines.
She did not get an ensemble role, but instead was cast as Peggy, the girl from Allentown, PA who goes to New York to try and get in the ensemble of a musical as a dancer, but instead ends up being cast as the star.
After the end of the show, Russ and I called Caitlin who met us at the stage door. She came out and hugged us as if we were her long lost cousins. She is southern too so any relative of her mother’s best friend is a friend to her too. She was extremely appreciative for the fresh fruit. She told us how this was her 189 show on the road. At nineteen, she is learning what grueling work show biz can be. She told us she has not had a day off in fourteen days and when they leave Durham Monday for Akron her day off is spent on the nine hour bus ride.
Russ and I asked her where the cast was staying and when she told us the Millennium Hotel we both cringed. “Oh no, the worst hotel in town,” we said apologetically. “I know, you have no idea what this fruit means to me.” We were more than happy to give her a small treat after all the tap dancing joy she gave us in the show. With matinees and evening shows as well as staying at a bad hotel not near anything good for food I understand Caitlin’s need for access to fruit.
As Russ and I walked to our car parked up by city hall we struck up a conversation with a very thin, I would say older, but he was just two years older than me, man who was down on his luck. If I had more fruit I would have given it to him, but instead I just gave him some cash and he hugged and blessed us profusely. Both the fruit and the money were small things to us, but in the moment they were bigger to others.
It never fails, I wait all year for my favorite peonies to bloom and when they finally do, the rains come and pound them to the point that all the petals get knocked off. Peonies under the best of circumstances are a very short season, like two to three weeks at best. So nothing makes me sadder than watching the much anticipated large blooms bent over dragging in the mud, full of water, turning them prematurely brown.
Short of building a giant protective umbrella to shield the flowers from the relentless rain there is not much I can do to save them. I guess I am just going to have to wait another year for the next crop of flowers and hope for better weather. Rather than being sad that this year’s flowers are destroyed I could look at my garden from the point of view that I have had 24 years of spring time peonies. Rather than just three weeks, it is year after year of the pink and white blossoms coming. Waiting another year sounds like a long time, but it will be here before I know it, and then again and again.
Tonight, Russ and I finally had dinner with our friends Cynthia and Dave. Dave and I served on a board together and have said over the last couple of years we need to have dinner. Not from lack of wanting, but trying to work out the schedules of four busy people was work. It took over a year to get a date, but it was worth the wait.
We went to Nana Steak where we whiled away the evening just talking and eating with no show, or game or meeting to have to get to afterwards. I could say, “What took us so long?”, but am more inclined to say, “What a lovely evening. I look forward to doing it again.”
Perspective plays a more and more important role in my life. Changing the way I look at or think about things makes all the difference to being satisfied or being disappointed . I hope I can remember to take another view when something makes me unhappy, now I just have to remember that I control how I look at things and not blame the rain.
One of the best things about being on the far side of middle age is that birthday celebrations with friends seem to stretch out over weeks rather than just one day. Today my friend Shelayne treated me and our friend Lynn to lunch at her club. When people ask me if I am a morning or a night person I answer, “I am a lunch time person.” So lunch with friends, especially in celebration of me, is the best thing ever.
Now, before I get too big in my birthday britches (which by the way I am with all this birthday celebrating) Shelayne gave me a card that makes sure I know my place. As she said as I was falling off my chair in laughter, “It is not a card you can give everyone.”
The world needs more people to laugh a lot more, especially at one’s self. With all the serious stuff, like whole towns in Canada burning down, and children in Flint drinking unhealthy water, and our Presidential race (voting for Trump as a joke is not the kind of funny we need), we need to laugh when we can. It is so wrong to laugh at people who are down on their luck, or going through terrible tragedies the safest thing we can laugh at is ourselves.
Thanks to my friends who love me enough to insult me on birthday. It gives me endless amount of pleasure. I’m glad you feel we are close enough to treat me this way. Only a truly good friend can do that.
Last year a group of volunteers from my church went to Haiti to do medical work helping the good people who are still suffering from the earthquake. Seems like that tragedy just happened yesterday, but it actually was six years ago. I feel a slight connection to the Haiti because my sophomore boarding school roommate lost her daughter in the earthquake because she was in Haiti for a school trip.
The same people plus more are going back to Haiti to continue the work they started last year. It costs a lot of money for them to get to Haiti, but they mostly pay for that themselves. What the team needs to raise money for is medical supplies, medicine and money to pay translators. I am not a medical professional so I would be little help on a medical mission trip, but I do want to support the team of volunteers who are giving up their own vacations to help others.
There is a fund raising jazz dinner being held at the Chapel Hill Country Club on May 21. If you feel inclined to have a fun evening out and help the Haitian people at the same time please consider attending. Anyone is welcome. Consider bringing some friends and make it an occasion. The invitation is attached below. If you can’t go you can always make a donation.
Before Facebook birthdays were often disappointing. I am someone who is awful at celebrating people’s birthdays. I never sent cards that got anywhere near the right day. I absolutely never give gifts. Sometimes, if I remember I might have called someone on their birthday. The best I ever did was organize going out to lunch to celebrate a friend’s birthday.
When I was younger I was almost always disappointed by my birthday. I don’t know why, considering how horrible I was at recognizing other’s big day. Of course as I got older birthdays did not hold the same importance. It was fine if I did not hear from friends on my birthday since they did not hear from me. Russ was always good at making my birthday something special since he has the one-two punch of our anniversary and my birthday back to back. And it’s not over yet since Mother’s Day is Sunday.
But everything is different today. I was overwhelmed with messages from friends far and near. Thanks to Facebook I could hardly go two minutes without another notification. Thanks to all you, dear friends, I had a most wonderful day.
Most of the morning was lazed away reading well wishes and playing a game. My mother called and sang to me. Carter’s friends texted me and sent me videos saying happy birthday. Then I was off to lunch with friends, Kelly, Hannah and Christy. When I got home there were beautiful flowers from my sister and Russ and Carter. My father called, but no singing from him. I walked this afternoon to help keep the birthday eating in check then went to dinner with Russ and Carter. After dinner I opened the perfectly wrapped gifts from my father in-law.
I have to say it was a wonderful day. I did not do one thing I did not want to do. I had no guilt not doing laundry, or cleaning out the dish washer. One day a year to do just what I want is the best birthday I can think of. But the real icing on the cake is the love I felt from friends and family. Thanks for making my day!
I also want to give a big shout out to all my friends I share this birthday day with– my cousin Sarah who is fifteen years younger than me, my bridesmaid Trica who is exactly my age, my friend Gussy who is nine years older, my friend Beth who is five years older, my friend Vickie who has never told me how much older she is and my friend Suzanne’s faithful companion dog Chance. I hope you all had a wonderful day too.
Sometimes when Russ and I are with a group of friends and the question of how long we all have been married comes up, Russ looks at me waiting to see if I get the answer right. The real answer, no matter when the question is asked is, “We have been married for all my happiest years.” Sounds schmaltzy, but it could not be more true.
Russ is much better than I am about remembering exactly how many years have passed since I belted out “I will,” at the church in Georgetown. I know we got married on May 2, 1992, so I just have to do the math. Not always easy since I can rarely remember what year it is now.
Today, a beautiful flower arrangement arrived from our favorite florist where Russ is a regular. The flowers are bright and smell divine. I already knew who they were from, but I opened the card just the same. “Thanks for 20 great years, love Russ.” And to top it off, the 20 was circled.
I got such a kick out of that. I quickly texted him and asked him which were the four not-so-great years. He was appalled. Of course he knew he told the florist it was 24 years, but who can prove it.
Honestly, I can’t think of four not so great days with Russ Lange. I am certain that I have caused many more than four not great days for him, but he would not tell me if it were true. I count all my twenty four years with him as the best of my life. I hope we have at least twice that many more, because Russ is the kindest, most generous, easy going, interesting, brilliant, funniest, and wisest person I know. That’s why he always knows how long we have been married.
Yesterday my friend Marty messaged me three photos of me from our summer school in France together in 1980. He found them amongst the thousands of slides with his mother’s belongings after her passing two years ago.
I have not seen Marty since we graduated from college 33 years ago, but he wrote the best thing to me. “That was a pivotal summer for me. Glad I got to share it with you.”
I loved going to school in France, mostly because of the wonderful friends I did it with. For most of them it was their first time living internationally. I was lucky because my family had been living in London before that so I had ready caught the travel bug. Traveling the Loire valley by minibus, exploring every weekend was not hard core schooling. We stayed at hostels, drank local wine, ate fabulous cheep food and laughed day and night. What could be bad?
Well, there was one annoying girl on our program who he never been outside the state of Pennsylvania before this trip. She did not like anything non-American. She kept whining that she wanted to go to a Howard Johnson’s. I wanted to push her under the bus. Our trip was not pivotal to her. I’m sure she went home to Scranton, or Wilkes Barre or some other small minded place and never left.
Today we booked our summer family vacation to Barcelona and Seville. Carter has the same wanderlust that I have. I feel lucky that Russ and I I have been able to take Carter to so many new and exciting places at a young age. I would hate it if I had a child who could not embrace the differences. Mostly I am happy that I get to witness her discovering herself on these different trips.
Traveling can make you into a diverse and hopefully better person as it did with Marty. It still makes me sad that the one girl on our program could not embrace the new and exotic. It was her loss.