Our Digital History
Not that I did not have fair warning, but December 16 is the due date for our year book page for Carter. I can not think of a worse time of the year to have this due and am kicking myself for not having done it this summer. Not that I don’t love looking at our family photos, but because I love looking at our photos.
I have spent hours going through the 75,000 digital ones on my current computer and thankfully have only tagged about fifty. Now the problem is I need to go through the pre-digital age. That is only another 30,000, but they are in various places and various forms.
The thought that I can say all I want to say in one page is ridiculous. This space limitation gives weight to each word and visual. Being a good, no, a great editor is called for here. How can I tell a story with all the poignancy, humor, inspiration and gratitude that I want? Then I also need to have Russ weigh in and get his message across.  
I know these ad pages, sold to senior’s parents, are a revenue stream to help pay for the creation of the yearbook, but it is also an immortalization of these seniors. I remember looking at my sister’s year book from New Canaan Country Day. The graduating ninth grader’s ad pages were about skiing in St. Moritz or spring break in St. Barts. It was a more about an ostentatious display of wealth than a celebration of a child. Carter’s page will have no mention of any Saint, person or place.
This year book page takes our digital history and is going to sum up Carter’s years in one analog space to be captured forever. I wonder if I am the only parent who feels the weight of this job? Or should I just pull together a dozen cute photos and say “we are proud of you and love you.” Seems not to be my style, so during the busiest of seasons I am going to have to buckle down and get this done.

Falling Gracefully

As a person who still has both my parents I am more and more aware of people older than they are who go down hill quickly after a fall. Tonight at Carter’s basketball game she fell and hit her head on the floor and was out of the game with a concussion. I am quickly coming to appreciate that we need to learn to fall better than we do now.
Balance and core strength are important to helping keep us upright, but inevitably we all fall. If we practiced falling in a way where we would not get hurt as badly we would probably be better off. As kids we fall all the time, especially when we are just learning to walk. We roll over and get up and keep going. As young adults if we fall we usually get up and laugh as a guard against the embarrassment of going down, even when we really want to cry.
My friends Michelle and Dave’s son Nick plays on the boys varsity basketball team and I have watched him fall for years. He has an elegant way of going down and keeping his head up, that often is rewarded with a free throw. I suspect that well practiced falling technique will serve him well in old age.
Tonight I am hoping that Carter’s head hurt is mild and that she can resume activity tomorrow, but only time will tell. I want her to be better at falling, but I also don’t want to get hurt practicing falling. I certainly don’t want my parents to fall. I know that practicing is out of the question for them. I think I am going to aak my trainer if we can practice falling, just not until after the first of the year when I’m not so busy.

Pizza and Beer

A couple of months ago I had lunch with Lee Hark, assistant head of Durham Academy. I was asking him if he would like to be the featured guest at a Parents of Alumni event. Lee is a particularly witty and delightful speaker so I knew he would make an event fun. He humbly agreed to do an evening and then we got down to the nuts and bolts. “What kind of event do you want to do?” I asked. The last one we had was a one night only book club with English teacher, Jeff Beirsach leading the discussion on an Edith Wharton classic.
I sat back in my chair and took a bite of my steak and cucumber salad awaiting the answer from Lee, certain he would chose some intellectual theme. Before I could chew my first bite he came back with “How about a beer dinner?” Not what I was expecting. A beer dinner sounded like a great idea. So that is what we went with.
I contacted Martha King, queen of all that matters at Pompieri Pizza and head honcho at Bull City Burger and Brewery. Since Martha has been on the Parents of Alumni advisory council I figured she was the right place to start. It was a home run. Martha and her head chef set us up with a private three course, four beer dinner, opening the restaurant on a Monday night when they are usually closed.
Lee was happy, I was happy and Martha was happy. Two dozen parents of Alumni signed up and I think they were happy too. Turns out the beer and food were considerably better than the money we paid for them. But my favorite part is that Lee is not a beer expert, not in the sense that he could talk intellectually about beer. He just likes beer so thought a beer dinner would be fun.
What he did talk about is what is going on at school and what is coming up in the not too distant future. That part of the evening was short. For the most part people just visited with each other and new friends were made while old ones caught up.
Even I, non drinker that I am, tasted all the beers and declared them to be far superior to beer as I remember it. Of course craft beer is nothing like keg beer from the distributor in Carlisle, PA; scene of my last major beer consumption. Of course the pizza was a hit and thus the post thanksgiving return to counting points must start in earnest tomorrow.  
I must thank Lee for a fabulous hosting job. It is so fun to throw out the invitation and see what idea comes to someone’s head. Martha King is the best. If you haven’t been to Pompieri or Bull City you should go. Just another wonderful thing happening in downtown Durham.

Ornament Placement Disorder Passed On

It was day two of Christmas decorating at our house. I got up early and turned on the TV to listen to while carefully placing each ornament on the tree. Not that anyone looking at my tree would know that I have Ornament Placement Disorder. It is an affliction suffered by many southern middle aged women whose houses are excessively decorated for the holidays. One reason my OPD is somewhat underground is that my tree is so packed with ornaments making it difficult to discern that an actual pattern that exists.
The ornaments are hung where they are for various reasons. First the old and ugliest ones are in the back. And the back is hardly decorated. Just far enough around that when anyone is sitting in any permanent chair in the room they see a tree full of ornaments. No one is invited to walk behind my tree to look at it from the ugly side.
The most beautiful ornaments are in the front, dead center. The most sentimental ornaments, such as the ones I get on every trip we take radiate out from the center, but in highly prized spots. Then there is the balancing of colors. Not too many predominately white or red ones clumped together. Ornaments with blue are dotted equally throughout since that is and unusual color. Very large ornaments go towards the bottom. If there is a hole in the branches, ornaments are hung from the inside of the tree to the outside and tiny ornaments fill in the spaces.
Carter came upstairs to watch me in the final hour. By the time she came upstairs I had stopped paying attention to what was on TV. Keeping up the Kardashians came on and Carter opted to keep it on while we talked and I worked. Carter likes that I have OPD because she has no fear that I will ask her to get up and help.
After I finished the tree and Carter and Russ put the empty boxes back in the attic she announced she was going to her to room to do some cleaning. Hours later she emerged with many garbage bags to be donated.
“What got into you?” I asked my child who rarely cleans her room. “The Kardashians inspired me to have a clean and organized room.” What? Is that all it would have taken for me to instill the desire for a clean room? I am changing the spelling of Carter’s name to Karter Kardashian to help promote this newly found desire to have a spartan home. Maybe this is some form of OPD that just needed to be unlocked. I never thought I would say these words, but those Kardashians are great role models.

Positive Christmas Kick-Off

This is usually the weekend Russ and Carter hate the most– the weekend that Christmas throws up at our house. They usually are a bit Grinchish about having to take boxes from the attic and helping out the tree up, but something happened today.  
Russ and I got up and got all the boxes down before Carter got up, but she did not know that. About eleven o’clock I got a cheerful text that she was awake, showering and then was coming up to help. This came without prompting. Something was awry.
I had decorated the living room, entry and dining room and Carter appeared with a smile and a hug letting me know how nice things looked. No Grinchy Grinch tone could be heard.
After some lunch, Russ and Carter got down the eight sections to the tree and happily spent two hours assembling it. Not a cross word was said, even when we put section B on instead of section C and they had to be taken apart.  
My responsibility in tree assembly is light connector and extension cord management. It is not a simple job with over 12,000 lights. Not 1,200 but 12,000. But that was last year. This year no less than 6 100 light strands had left this universe and had to be removed from the complicated way the lights are strung on the tree. I did not bat an eye and did not feel the need to replace them.
After the tree was up and lit I went to the movies, feeling better about the decorating progress and my families response to it. When I got home and resumed decorating Carter announced that she was going back to the attic to get her childhood bedroom tree and was going to put it up in her room this year. It has been at least seven years since she has decorated her room for Christmas.
I hope that all this holiday joy is a sign that it is going to be the best Christmas ever. I certainly feel like this is not the worst weekend of the year and for that I am very thankful.

Increased Stature

Last week I went to have my check up. On the way back to the exam room, for my least favorite part, the weigh in, the nurse had me stop in the hall for the height measurement. There is no embarrassment about how tall you are or no Hippa requirement that heights remain secret so it is fine to measure me right in the high traffic area with lots of spectators. She told me to take off my shoes and put my heels against the wall. She pushed the slider bar down hard on my head, “5 foot 7 3/4 inches,” she announced loudly.
“What?” I asked in my middle-aged-could-I-be-hard-of-hearing already way. “I think you need to do it again. I’ve been seven and a half feet forever.”  
She lifted up the pusher bar and I stood back against the wall, and she tried again, pushing it even harder into my head so that my very thin hair did not give me any possible height advantage.
“No, I was right the first time, 5 foot 7 and 3/4’s.”
I have grown! Really does not seem right. I asked her to look at my 24 year old records, perhaps I had always been this tall and I was cheating myself.  
In what was good news for my memory and my height, I was right. I had been a quarter inch shorter forever. This new quarter inch is new.
I found this to be very encouraging because my parents are shrinking, as are most people their age. Today before we left the farm from an amazingly political free Thanksgiving I took a photo of Carter between her grandparents. They all look great, but my mother was disturbed about how short she was.  
Well, everyone seems short next to Carter so it should not have bothered her much. It just was a good thing Russ was not in the picture because then I might have had to have chosen between cutting his head off or my mother’s chin, given the differential in their sizes.
I am not sure how I obtained any gain in height at this late age. I am not hanging upside down or doing any Pilates stretching exercises. I felt my heels to see if I am in need of a pedicure to remove excessive heel calluses that might have raised me up just that little bit, but no, smooth as a baby’s bottom.  
Whatever the reason, I am going to take it. Soon enough I am sure to be going the other way. The one thing I am fairly certain of, I will always be taller than my mother and my daughter will always be taller than me. So much for looking up to your elders.

Turkey Experiments

Last week my Dad called me and asked me what I knew about frying a turkey. “Just that people burn their houses down when they do it,” was all I had to say.  
“Have you seen the new Butterball indoor deep fat turkey fryer?” 
“Dad, where would I have seen that?”
“On the Bass Pro Shop channel.”
Does my Dad know me?  
By the time my Dad had called me he had already spent hours researching, watching videos and reading everything available online about frying a turkey. So he bought the new table top fryer. 
We arrived at the farm today and he told me about his hour long conversation with the customer service rep in Georgia and that he was ready to fry the bird. “According to all my studies it will take between 65-74 minutes.” This was great news since it was already afternoon and our guest would be arriving soon for a three o’clock dinner.
When the appointed time to cook the bird came the assembled congregation went down to the office barn, the newly appointed frying area, because my Dad wanted to cook it outdoors, even though it was an indoor unit.  
He plugged it in and nothing happened. Russ, the family electrical engineer, was engaged in the detective work. Adam, the strongest young man here, was enlisted to help move the fryer to a new outlet. After a few worry filled moments where we thought we might not be having turkey for thanksgiving since we only had a raw bird and not enough hours in the day to cook it conventionally, the circuit breaker was resent and the fryer began the important oil heating phase. During that time Shay, who had been circling the raw turkey was able to get one lick of the raw bird. Thank goodness we were about to immerse it in scalding oil. We were only a half hour behind schedule.
True to all the studies my father emerged from the office barn at the main house with a perfectly cooked bird. I was the anointed carver and have to say it was the most perfectly cooked bird I had ever cut in to and it only took 65 minutes.
There was not a hint of oil to be found anywhere on the bird. I am thankful that we avoided fires, fights and salmonella. All in all that makes for a good thanksgiving and I did not have to watch one minute of the Bass Pro Shop channel.

Not Your Normal Turkey Eve

Between college applications and varsity basketball Carter has not had much time to work on her photo portfolio. Thankfully she has a very understanding art teacher. Since today was her first real free day she decided it might be a good idea to get some shots in the can. I agreed and then learned that she needed me to help her with pushing the actual button.
See, Carter is recreating famous portraits using herself as the canvas to portray the subjects. The real art in the project is that of makeup artist to transform herself into someone more well known.  
Rather than spending the day cooking as is usually my job, I was shlepping lights and tripods to Russ’ office where Carter was going to do the shoot since they have blank walls and back drops. Turns out we did not use any back drops, just a corner of the big room with twenty foot windows.
It was fun to watch Carter figuring out the shadows and lights. I truly was no help whatsoever since she has a Nikon and I am a Canon girl. Once she asked my opinion about an F-stop, but I could not give an intelligent answer since her camera works on a different priority than mine.
The highlight of the day was when she said how much fun it was to spend the day with me this way. I knew it was not just buttering me up since it was at the end of shoot and she did not need me anymore.
I am saying yes to these extended periods of time together knowing this too shall end. That does not mean that I did not get furious at her this morning when she told me she had left one of the outfits she needed for a shot at school. School security saved the day when she called them and asked if they could let her into the building to pick it up. I see chocolate chip cookies in the future of the security guard.
Turns out I did not need all day to cook. When We got home Carter freely offered to help me and together we got most everything done. It was a much more memorable day than the usual turkey eve.

The photo of Carter is one I took with my I-phone, not one of the shots she is doing for her project.  We have to wait for all the editing to see those.

No Amateur Grocery Shoppers Two Days Before Thanksgiving

I had to go to Costco and the Harris Teeter today. God help me. There was no way around it. I calculate how early I can shop for my fresh Thanksgiving ingredients and go as far in advance of turkey day as possible. I want to do everything I can to stay outside of stores selling food. Thanksgiving is when everyone cooks, those who know how and those who really shouldn’t be allowed in the kitchen.  
Sadly, based on the people I see in grocery stores these days the cooking disabled far out number the capable. This observation is based on the many rookie questions I have heard in the store. One middle aged woman, holding a jicama, asked me if it was a shallot. Now if she had been holding a green onion I might have felt like she at least was in the right family, but a jicama, really? 
I overheard a husband, standing in front of the butter fridge on the cell phone telling his wife that he could not tell which butter was made out of milk, since they did not say “buttermilk” on the packages. I silently picked up the jug of buttermilk from the milk fridge and handed it to him as I passed by. I was so tempted to turn back and look at him, but I withheld. I did hear a faint, “Oh,” as I neared the end of the aisle.
What I really wish is that stores would have one hour set aside for the regular shoppers who know where and what everything is, who can drive a cart at a fast speed and still not hit any end cap displays. What I encountered today at Costco is my worst nightmare. The store was full of out of town relatives, walking four or five a breast, casually sauntering through the store.
There was no sense of urgency to get their list done and get home to get cooking. No, they were mostly likely sent out by their in-town family to get them out of the house. The 3 college aged girls with their grandma who each had their own carts and pushed them in unison at a snails pace were my least favorite “shoppers.” I use that term very loosely because not one of them had an item in their carts but they insisted on going four wide down an aisle made for two. If I had an uzi I might have used it.
Perhaps it would also be a good idea to leave grandma home to watch the toddlers and send mom out to the store alone, not the other way around. The number of grandparents trying to navigate a foreign Costco with small children and no parent was disturbing. I caught one kid who was trying to escape from his cart head first as his clueless grandfather left him twenty feet away from the pie section he was perusing. This time I was not as silent as my buttermilk encounter.  
All these amateurs out shopping threw me off my game. It was not until I was home that I realized I had left off my entire appetizer list. OH SH$t. I have to go to the store tomorrow. 

Progressive Lens Instant Photoshop

Thanks to my many corrective lens wearing friends I ordered a pair of progressive lens glasses. I have worn them for a couple of days now and I am still not quite used to them. When I am watching TV I do notice that things are clearer, but as for reading I am still adjusting to moving my head up and down.
For things like just needlepointing my readers are still best because I am focusing on the same spot for an extended period of time. Going between distance and close is still a skill I have not mastered.  
I took this picture of myself in my new specks. When I went to look at it on my phone I noticed that I could easily make my wrinkles disappear by dropping my head as I looked at the photo creating my own personal instant photoshop.
Now I have decided that everyone who I meet needs to wear a pair of corrective photoshop glasses that will blur their vision ever so slightly. Everyone they look at will appear ever so much younger. I don’t see any need for anyone to look at my pores, let alone my significant wrinkles. I am not so vain to do anything to rid myself of the lines I have earned living and mostly laughing, but it is nice not to have them jump out at people.
I am still learning to walk in my glasses. Not being the most coordinated person to begin with does not help. I was considering getting a cane to use for the first few weeks to steady myself on uneven surfaces that appear more uneven with my glasses.
Perhaps I even need a button the reads, “I’m not drunk, just learning to use my new glasses.” I have avoided headaches by not wearing them too many hours at a time, but I am going to have to push myself to wear them more. Perhaps I am a little afraid that I am going to have to wear them all the time just as I was really enjoying seeing the world a little softer.
If you are a good friend of mine I will try not to lift my head too high when I look at your face. That way I am keeping you in the gloaming light which is the most flattering. If you see me really looking down my nose at someone you will know I was just counting their chin hairs because that is the degree to which I can see. But please, don’t count mine.

Thoughtless Hostess

Last night as the kids dressed in their formal finest and their parents were coming into our house, I was consumed with the giant porchetta cooking in our oven. It was the size of a log that needed to be split in thirds to make it fire place sized. It took almost six hours to cook.
The kids went up to the gathering room, the pretentious name our architect gave our family room. He was right, gathering is what we do there when there are a lot of us. As each couple exchanged flowers I snapped pictures. The mothers watched and the fathers mostly hung in the kitchen, the real gathering room.
The smell in our house was not one of the corsages on the girl’s wrists, but rather of the fennel laced pork and olive dotted focaccia in the oven. The time came for the kids to leave for dinner, giving me a chance to get dinner ready.
I hated the peas and asked reluctant friend Lee to stir the gravy. Russ helped wrestle the pork from the pan where the crackling skin had adhered over the many hours in the oven. With my trusty electric knife I was blue to glide through the meat that was over 12 inches across. I piled chunk and slice after slice on the the platter, adding the carrots, onions and fennel cooked in the juices to finish out the platter. Cooper brought a kale salad, and we had peas and focaccia. It was a giant feast.
This afternoon Russ asked me, “Do Mark and Kelly eat pork.” Mark had sat next to Russ last night and he noticed he had a rather small plate. “Oh no, they don’t eat pork, I totally forgot.”
What wonderful guests they were. Not a word was mentioned that I was serving a meal that they could not enjoy. I wish Russ had mentioned Mark’s skimpy plate to me last night. I most certainly could have rustled up some pork free entree. My friend Lynn does not eat pork, but she hardly eats anything at all and I knew that was going to be the case. Next time I have people to dinner I might remember to ask if there are any food issues.  

Final Fall Formal



Tonight was the Fall Formal. Carter went with her great friend Trey. They looked so nice in their coordinated grey and silver. It was a nice end to the high school tradition. Five couples came over to our house to exchange flowers and let parents take their pictures. It seems like yesterday that they started going to dances.


I did my usual thing and asked the parents to come and stay for dinner. It came as a surprise to Russ, but since we have done this every year at Fall Formal it shouldn’t have.


I think he had had enough when, after everyone was gone and the kitchen was cleaned up I asked him if he could help me set up the air mattresses for the girls who will come back here and spend the night. It is the last time this will happen. Next year on this weekend all these friends will be spread around the country or the world. I guess I can still have people over for dinner on Fall Formal night, but it will be harder to trick Russ into doing it since I wont have the Carter excuse.

Pig In My Fridge

In a fashion that is perfectly me I might have bitten off more than I can chew. Or more accurately, more than I can carry.
Tomorrow is Carter’s fall formal. She invited a few friends to come to our house for photos and so I did what any good hostess would do, I invited their parents to come and stay for dinner. Our kids are old enough to drive themselves to dances so we parents are free to enjoy an evening to ourselves.
I could have made something simple for dinner. Simple can still be yummy, but no. I decided I wanted to make a porchetta, which is a whole pork loin and pork belly with the skin on it, stuffed and rolled. Now a roast of any kind is usually an excellent dinner party dish since you put it in the oven and take it out hours later and it is done. But a porchetta is just a little more complicated.  
First I had to call Cliff’s Meat Market because he could get me a local grass fed roast. I told him exactly what I wanted and when I arrived to pick it up he showed me this five foot piece of meat. “I haven’t cut it yet so you can show me how much you want.” I should have brought a carpenters tape measure.
I held my hands up about a foot and a half a part and that is what he cut me. “You will need help getting this to your car,” he told me with no questioning in his voice. He was right. What he did not supply me with was someone to come home and take it our of my car and put it in the fridge. I was able to wrestle it to the fridge in the garage and after a little fiddling was able to get the door to stay shut.
Today I made the stuffing so it could cool overnight. I need Russ to be home to help me with the lifting, rolling and tying of the roast. I am worried that it is going to be too big for my roasting pan. I have measured it and it will be close. I may be trimming off a bit on the end and then will just make sausage with it.
I am sure that the roast I am making could feed three times the number of people I am having. Maybe I can start a bidding war to sell off the leftovers. For now I am using the making of this dish as a weight training program.

Thanksgiving Prep

My Dad called me yesterday to talk about our plans for Thanksgiving. We go to my parents for the turkey holiday and we bring our South African friends. Having friends come to family holidays puts everyone on their best behavior. My friend Elizabeth calls them the buffer guests.
I find that having foreign friends come for a purely American holiday is ideal. First they have no ingrained childhood food memory that makes or breaks the holiday. Friends from other lands never argue over fresh whole cranberry sauce versus jellied canned. They are generally pleased with the giant spread of food. But being thankful is not something that Americans have a monopoly on. Most cultures have some kind of celebration for the harvest where people take a moment for mindfulness.  
Spending time with your loved ones is important. I can say that we see each other less than we should, but with friends at your Thanksgiving table you are much less likely to bring up petty or long held family grudges. 
In my discussion of all things food with my Dad we divided up the cook assignments. Turns out he is making what he usually does and I am making the rest. His big interest was in how much stove/oven time and space I would need for my items. Although I volunteered to make Brussels Sprouts, I might change my mind me make a different green vegetable just so I could have it prepped in advance.
The longest part of our discussion was the question of what time to eat. We settled on 3:00 with the idea that if we eat early enough we could turn the day into a two meal affair, big breakfast and big late lunch. This prompted my father to request that I bring some smoked salmon for snacking, because he felt like he had to feed people something in the first few hours they were visiting.
I am very interested in what time other people eat their thanksgiving meal and what do they eat before or after it. So much emphasis is put on the one main meal, but you can’t just eat once even if it is a giant turkey dinner.
I was talking to my friend Iman whose mother was trying to convince her they should go out for Thanksgiving and Iman was having none of it. “Is it because you want the leftovers?” I asked. Of course it was. The main meal is good, but they turkey sandwich later is the real deal. I suggested that any restaurant who really wanted to do a big Thanksgiving business should offer a meal that comes with leftovers as part of the package. That way people could have their holiday in an easy way, but still get the midnight stuffing fix.
For me, I am hoping for a harmonious holiday and just enough nutrition to propel me into my Christmas decorating weekend. I’ve got Christmas entertaining to get ready for.


This afternoon while I was cooking the TV in the kitchen was tuned into HGTV. Property Brothers, a show where people take houses in need of renovation and do them over, was playing. One of the brothers was showing a couple an older house with a bad kitchen with a vinyl floor. As the potential homeowners were having trouble seeing past the ugly he said to them, “We will rip this kitchen out and replace the floor with hard woods.”
Suddenly I was having a flash back to my second home I bought in Washington, DC in the eighties. I was a single woman trading up from a condo to a house that needed some work. My parents were concerned that I could not afford buying this much property on my own, but I did it anyway.  
The 1920’s house was very cute except for the candy apple green kitchen with Formica countertops and a green Congoleum floor. After I got into the house and found I could afford to pay the mortgage and still had some money left over for renovations I went about figuring out how I could change the kitchen.  
The house was “open concept” having had most of the main floor walls removed by a previous homeowner. That meant you could see the original ugly brown wood cabinets and the screaming green counters from both the living and dining rooms. I decided to paint the cabinets because it was something I cold do myself and was practically free. I found someone to put in new counters, which were an improvement. The last thing left to do was change the floor.
I went to EVERY flooring store in the metro area. I told them that I wanted to put a hardwood floor, to match the hard woods in the rest of my main floor, in the kitchen. Old man after old man floor salesmen told me I could NOT put a wood floor in my kitchen. “You’ve got your sheet goods and your tile,” I was told over and over again.  
I did not want tile since I spent many hours standing in my kitchen cooking for my catering business and a tile floor made my legs too tired. I did not want squishy Congoleum because it was just too ugly. I argued with each salesman saying that for hundreds of years kitchens had wood floors so why couldn’t mine. I don’t know if it was that I was a very young single woman, but they all told me I was crazy and they would not do it.
I finally found a carpenter who specialized in floors and convinced him that hard wood would be fine in my kitchen. I went back to one of the stores where I had been treated the least rudely and told them I needed wood for my dining room, which they gladly sold me. Remember this was back in the olden days before Home Depot or 1-800-floors, or laminated flooring. I was at the mercy of the floor store to even purchase wood. You might have thought I could have made Meth out of it the way they were so tight in not wanting to sell it to me.
The carpenter did a fabulous job changing out the hideous green sheet flooring to a hard wood with a border that matched my dining room. I lived in that house three more years and the floor was perfect the whole time. Whatever potential ruinous thing that might happen to a wood floor in a kitchen never happened when I lived there.  
I felt completely vindicated today when the “house professional” on TV said, “we will put in a wood floor.” HA! I was right all along. All those old men floor salesmen must be dead by now, but if one is living in some horrible nursing home with the TV playing too loudly I hope they are watching wood floors go in kitchens around America?

The Beloved Returns

Tonight Carter had a late basketball game. Since it was an all girls night there were very few spectators. I easily got a parking place. As I entered the empty lobby of the gym I saw, far off at the other end, the familiar face of Angie Roberts, the mother of DA graduate and best all time basketball player, Liz Roberts. What a fabulous surprise.
Angie and the whole Roberts family were the most supportive and kindest of basketball parents. If I did not know what was going on all I had to do was turn to Angie or her husband Bennet to get the low down. Seeing Angie in the gym again made me so happy. I went to hug her and congratulate her on Liz.
Liz, despite being the absolute best basketball player DA ever produced had decided to pass on schools that wanted her for basketball and instead opted for the big school life of UNC Chapel Hill. It was understandable that it was the whole college experience she was looking for. It was so sad for those of us who got to watch her play game after game last season that it was going to be the end of her basketball career.
Then something happened. Just recently the UNC coaches got wind of Liz and invited her to try out for the team. In true Liz Roberts humility she could not imagine that she had a chance. But she did. Liz was invited to join the UNC women’s Basketball team. Now she was at her dream school, plying D-1 basketball.
As I was talking to Angie about all the exciting news about Liz, she said, “You can talk to her about it, she is right in the gym.” It was so great to see her and give her a hug myself. Liz and Angie stayed for the whole game, which was rough in parts, even though Carter did score.  
After the game it was like old home week with the coaches Krista and Robert talking to us after the game with Liz and Angie. Life has to move on, and we have welcomed the new faces, but damn I miss the Roberts. At least Liz is just over at Chapel Hill and I can always buy a ticket to watch her play.

The Holidays Snuck Up On Me

I’m blaming the election for my lack of planning for the holidays this year. I am usually more on top of holiday entertaining, but suddenly I woke up this morning and thought, “S$&@, I have at least five or six parties I need to plan and throw in the next five weeks and I have not done a thing.”
Most of these are parties I give every year so none of it should come as a surprise, but on top of my regular stuff, like Carter’s birthday and my needlepoint lunch it is my year to host the Christmas Garden Club auction. I am not complaining, which would be so first world of me. I love the holidays and I love to entertain, but I wish that I had started menu planning back in October, instead of watching the debates. Turned out that winning debates made little effect on the outcome. I could have been inventing new make ahead luncheon dishes which would have been a much more productive use of my time.
I have gotten some Christmas shopping done, so that is a bonus, except that I have nothing for my husband and if anyone deserves a present it is him. If anyone has any brilliant man gift ideas please shoot them my way. I need something for my dad as well.
Just when I realized that I was behind on planning parties I also found out that my pictures for Carter’s yearbook are due before Christmas. My friend Stephanie warned me to get that ad page done in the summer before she started senior year, but somehow that never happened. Now I am spending time looking at every photo in my computer and that is only the 200,000 that I have taken since she was seven. I still have to look at the early years, which are not digital. How can I possibly whittle them down to one page worth?
Something is going to have to give. It already looks like it is laundry based on the pile of sweaters on the table in my bedroom. I still have not changed my summer and winter clothes out in my closet. I blame the eighty degree November days for that.
So where did the year go and why do I have so little to show for it? At least I have the fun of spending my time watching Carter play basketball games. Too bad I get so into those games and can’t plan menus there.

The Apple and The Tree

A couple of weeks ago when Carter officially was named one of the basketball captains she asked me if we could have a team dinner at our house. Nobody has to ask me twice to give

a party. Carter thought it would be good to have the players and their parents with the coaches. Amazingly every player was able to come tonight.
Normally when Carter asked me to have a party for her that is where her involvement ends. I do the inviting, the menu design, the shopping, cleaning, cooking, serving and Russ does the clean up. But something changed this year.
First Carter made sure the players were all going to be able to come. Then the team requested that Carter make her Texas Sheet cake. So this morning she got up and baked the cake with no help from me since I was at church. Then this afternoon Carter asked if she could help me cook. What ?!?!?! Yes, you can!
She even went so far as to put on rubber gloves to made the enchilada casserole. It was so nice to have such a cheerful helper in the kitchen. She made guacamole and cleaned up. I thought the aid might end when the fun part of cooking was over, but no. She took stools to the basement and carried up boxes of glasses and set up the bar. We were an hour ahead of schedule because she was so helpful. It was a new day in throwing parties at our house.
The team arrived and Carter got people drinks and entertained them while I put dinner out. With five new team members, four being Freshman, it was nice to integrate them and their parents into our group. People ate and socialized and had a big time. After everyone left Carter helped clean up, although Russ really did the bulk of it. I was just happy to see that the apple did not fall from the tree when it came to entertaining. It is a very useful skill that will serve her well when she does not live near this tree.

Is Two Weeks a Tradition?

Last Sunday the three of us went to dinner. It was Russ’ idea as a chance to actually get to eat a meal with Carter. What with his travel and her school, the two of them re not often in the same place t the same time. It was such a nice dinner Russ suggested we have a family meal out every Sunday until she leaves for Camp and college. Carter, sensing better food options readily agreed.
This weekend Russ was up in Philly visiting his family. He made a reservation at a new restaurant and told Carter about our Sunday night plans. While he was still away she came to me about the menu. “I don’t want duck tongues for dinner,” she told me. I looked more closely at the choices and I agreed it was probably not the best choice for her. Rather than end the fledgling tradition I suggested a different restaurant.
“I don’t want to hurt Daddy’s feelings,” she said.  
“Daddy doesn’t care where we eat. He just wants to spend time with you.”
Daddy readily agreed to the new choice.  
It was a win-win. Food that made everyone happy. Good company. Great conversation and quality time together. We may have a tradition.
I am wondering if the same dynamics would work if we were at home. Of course I am happy to cook and that way I can make things that are also good for us. Russ usually prefers my cooking over most restaurants, but not Carter. For her “restaurant food” is always better than mine.
I am not sure that time at the table would be half as long if we were at home. I feel like the pull of “other things to do,” would draw Carter away. I guess we re just going to have to keep going out.  

The Life of The Party

Miracles happen. I was able to keep Russ Lange at a party for two whole hours. Not just keeping him there, but his being happy at a party. It helps that there were some yummy meatballs and chips and dip to tide him over until dinner. Being outside in the cold air was also a bonus for Russ. If we had been in a warm room he never would have lasted.
The real highlight for Russ is he got to eat dinner with his friend Ted. They had played basketball together years ago and they talked about getting the gang back together for a regular game, if only they could get a gym to play in. Between the barbecue meal and the bball talk with Ted, Russ was happy to stay at the party long past the allotted hour he had told me he would stay.
Now, even though he spent 100% more time than I thought he would, we still were probably the first people to leave. I was happy to go with him though because I had to avoid the s’mores bar that had peanut butter cups as a chocolate choice. Staying on my healthy eating plan at a party is tough enough, but being confronted with a Reese cup is almost more than I can handle. 
Thanks to Theky for such a great party and to Anna and Bob for opening up their house. Only you all could throw a party’s that is not at our house that Russ Lange likes. Now tomorrow he is going to have to help host a party at our house, but since it is for Carter’s basketball team and their parents I think he will be OK. We will be discussing basketball after all.

Trump Diet

The new president elect has a huge job in front of him. He made a lot of claims of things he wants to do to “Make America Great Again” with very little details on exactly what that means. He wants to bring jobs back, an goal that we all can get behind. So I have an idea for this that he might really be able to get behind.
It’s called the Trump Diet. The man is nothing if not a great marketer. He got plenty of people to buy what he was selling, even if they had no idea what that was. Nothing sells better than a diet and nothing usually delivers less.
If Trump could help the country all get healthy it would make America great again. He could put people back to work making the smaller new wardrobes everyone would need if they lost the weight they needed to. Trump knows something about making clothes, be it in foreign countries. He just needs to convince manufacturers to do it here and employ Americans. Oh yeah, some of those people in this country who might sew clothes might be from other countries, but if they live and work here they would pay taxes and spend their non-tax dollars on food and housing that would help the American economy. Taxes, Mr. Trump, you need people to pay taxes if you are going to have any money to run the country.
I know that Trump likes women to be thin. Any woman who is not thin is a “fat slob,” according to him. Since most people in America do not fall into the Trump version of beautiful I would think that he would not even like to govern anyone who needs to lose weight. Then again, there is his inner circle. Newt and Chris could use the Trump Diet more than anyone, and quite frankly so could the President Elect himself.
Forget building a wall, or doing away with health care for all citizens. Make America thin again and you will be a beloved leader. Those red states need you more than ever. Solving the problems of the country is going to be so much harder than you think. So start with the hardest thing of all, a successful diet. If you get enough people to be a healthy weight, then lots of other problems will be reduced too. Health care costs will go down. Absenteeism at work will be reduced. Airlines will spend less on flights because flying thin people is cheeper than flying fat people. Hospitals can only have one size gowns.  
America will go back to the 1950’s, when women were thin and still in the kitchen, not the board room. Men, and by men I mean white men, will run the world. Everyone will know their place. But at least we will be thin and isn’t that great?

The Five Year Baby Was Birthed

Today was the long awaited ribbon cutting for the opening of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC’s new headquarters. Five years ago it was apparent that we needed to move into a larger building. I was the chair elect then and I started doing everything possible to get the Food Bank in the best possible shape from a governance perspective so we could expand.
It took many people a lot of work to make sure we had succession plans, and gift and endowment policies and many legal items. We worked on strategic plans, surveyed the market, discussed the future with other hunger leaders and started searching for a new building. It took forever.  
Then one day about two years ago we got word that a couple named the Ogburns had passed away and having no children had left the entirety of their estate to the Food Bank. We did not know the Ogburns personally. They had been donors who over the previous ten years had given us $1,800 total. Starting with $25, but never more than $200 in a year.
About the same time we learned about their estate gift we found the Raliegh Flea Market building at 1924 Capital Boulevard. It was big and needed a total renovation. The building cost about $4.5M. Amazingly the Ogburns left us a little more than $4 Million dollars.
The writing seemed to be on the wall. The board grappled with the question of whether we should buy this property. I was in the optimistic crowd who said we can’t ignore the divine intervention that we had received this gift at the exact time we found a great property.
So we pulled the trigger and bought the building before we had started to raise a single dollar for the renovations. We have a ten million dollar campaign and less than a million left to raise as we open the building officially today.
I sat on the front row of the audience as Peter, our CEO, stood in front of the American Flag and the Flag of North Carolina I felt such a wave of pride that our Food Bank had completed this organization changing feat in such a quiet and remarkable way.  
We serve over 800 partner agencies who feed over 650,000 people in one third of North Carolina. We are going to be able to do it in an even more efficient way now with our new building. It was accomplished by people, but I want to give credit to that greater power who sent us the Ogburns at exactly the right moment. I believe and I am going to continue to believe as long as there are great people who work to help their neighbors. This baby may have taken five years to come about, but it will live a long time giving life to so many. Praise Be!

Last First Basketball Game

Today, in the midst of despair in our house, basketball season came just at the right time. Carter went off to school in a fog from yesterday’s election. We hardly slept much in our house. I awoke at 5:15 and did what I do best to keep my mind off unpleasantries, I cooked.  
As the day went on normalcy returned with the routine of living. Some people I know were happy, but most were in a similar shock. In the end we are still Americans and will mostly likely remain here and do our best to make this our best country, although the bar that measures what that is is different for us all.
Despite the exhaustion from so little sleep and too much emotion in the last twenty four hours I got a second wind because Carter had the first game of her senior basketball season. It was held at the Durham School of the Arts, not a regular opponent. Gathering with the family of parents that make up the “old guard” and welcoming those whose daughters are new to the team brought me a warm and happy feeling.
Carter, as one of the captains this year, went to center court with her co’s to meet the refs and opponents and do whatever the captains do before the game starts. Then the game got under way. Carter has loved being a captain and working with the younger players. She may not be the best player, but she makes a good coach and spiritual leader.
The DA team was fabulous. They got out to an early start and held on for the whole game. Every player got time on the court and the parents were thrilled to get to cheer their girls on. It was the perfect way to take my mind off the issues in the bigger world. It was a world I could know, and count on and feel good about. The best part is it was a world my daughter loves and makes her happy.
If we all can make our little parts of the world good then we have a chance to make the greater world happy. We can’t fight. We have to talk, listen and work for all that is good. I was sorry for the other team that the score was so lopsided. I hope that they felt good about themselves for a good play, or an improved shot here or there. We don’t need a world of losers and winners, but one of people that are just doing their best to make things better.
I could not have asked for a better time to have Carter’s last first game of her high school basketball season. Now we have to move on to make tomorrow better again.

Hooray For The Young

As my world famous marketer father always says, “the young will eat the old.” With this in mind I decided to start this historic day with my church confirmand mentee, Jack. I picked him up at seven this morning to have breakfast at the Hope Valley Diner, before dropping him off at school.
I am bullish on the future of America when I spend time with young people nowadays. First consider Jack, an eighth grader. He happily accepted my invitation for breakfast, having to get up extra early on a school day to eat with a middle aged woman. He is well spoken, polite, and interested in history. We talked about his confirmation class, his school teachers and life as an eighth grader. His parents, Mary Lloyd and Kurt, should be proud they have raised such a nice young man.
I feel the same way when I spend time with Carter and her friends. They are much less selfish than I was at their age. They are concerned about the world in a more wholistic way than older generations. I know that half the country thinks everything is going to hell, but I am going to bet on the young people to help us go in the right direction.
Tomorrow is going to be the start of a new world. Which world is still a mystery, but whatever world we give these young people I am hopeful that they will take it and make it better. We need to encourage people who listen as the most important part of communicating, negotiate, compromise, brain storm, act in the best interest of all and dream big.
Thanks Jack for spending a small part of this historic day with me. I believe in you and your generation.

It Is Almost Over

The perfect way to keep my mind off what is about to happen tomorrow was to celebrate the birthday of my friend Nancy. A group of wonderful friends gathered at the restaurant Elements invited my Nancy’s sister Sally. Not one word was spoken about the national exhaustion of the most divisive campaign in my lifetime. Just fun as birthdays should be.
It was just nice to celebrate Nancy. I was so happy that she made it to this birthday because just two months ago it was her goal to make her birthday. Not that she had any reason to think she wasn’t going to live to see her double nickel, just felt weighed down. I told her that day, two months ago, that she needed to set a bigger goal.
I love birthdays now at this age because it is a chance to be frivolous and light hearted. With all the arguing in the world we need more birthdays. We need more friends just having fun. We need more excuses to eat cake!  
For tomorrow reality it going to hit us square in the face. Then we need the great coming together to begin. No more fighting. We are one America and we need to find common ground to be the great country we are. But today we eat cake.  

Doggie Dolphin Tour

This morning we had the time of our life out on our friends Jon and Lane’s boat doing an up close and personal dolphin sighting tour with our Dog Shay-Shay and their two Petunia and Swizzle. It was an incredible hour on the water out and amongst a huge pod of dolphins. At first we thought it might be six or seven, then maybe a dozen and eventually we saw as many as twenty in a line up reminiscent of the radio city rockets in a kick line.

Shay is not a happy water dog unlike her two friends. Petunia, despite her name, is the pirate captain of any boat she is on. She stands snuggle tooth on display on the bow of the boat leaning full on into the wind. Swizzle, made crying sounds the whole trip, calling out to the dolphins. They obviously enjoyed the sounds because they stayed with us for over an hour. Or Jon was able to stay with them with his excellent boating skills.

My photos of course do not do justice to the show we had. I missed the shot of the big grown-up who jumped in the air right in front of the boat. The dogs did have the best view of the gorgeous creatures, and I am not talking about a Russ.

Thanks Jon and Lane. It was a day to remember.

For The Love of Daddy

We have a true daddy’s girl. Not Carter, although she may qualify as one too, but Shay Shay is the big daddy’s girl. In Shay’s eyes there is no one on earth better than Russ. She rides on his lap in the car. She sleeps snuggled up to him, no matter where he sleeps. If he gets out of bed to wander around the house in the middle of the night, so does Shay.
Today, we went out on our friend’s boat and Shay, festooned in her red life preserver sat atop of Russ as the wind blew through her hair. We beached the boat to take a long walk and look for shells. Shay stayed right at Russ’ heels, except when she was jumping up into his arms to be carried.
This sort of love is such a burden. She sits on him everywhere. He rarely has a free hand if she is around because at any moment she may jump in the air and except to be caught. What is a daddy supposed to do? He can’t spurn such adoration. He must bear this love and continue to make a dog happy.

Good Timing

Russ and I got in the car tonight to go somewhere and he asked me if I had the Waze app. I had heard about the app that is better at navigating than plain old google maps because it uses the intelligence of all the users on the road in real time so you can avoid traffic troubles and know where the cops are.
I thought I already had it on my phone, but I was wrong so I down loaded it and put the address of our destination in it. Turns out it was fortuitous timing. We were headed down the highway with our friends Lane and Jon an bit ahead of us. I got a text from Lane alerting us that they were stopped dead because of a terrible crash just up ahead of them.
Almost instantly the Waze app told us about the accident and offers us a reroute. We took it while Lane and Jon were out of their car standing on the side of the road waiting for the many ambulances and fire trucks to clear the scene. They were stopped for more than an hour with no way to go forward or back, while we were able to keep moving and not only avoid the accident, but all bad traffic too.
There was an incident sign alerting people on the highway of the crash and telling them which exit to take, while the Waze app got us off the highway earlier and took us a different route than the highway sign was sending everyone else. This was brilliant because we were not stuck on a much smaller road with thousands of other people trying to avoid the accident.
Thank goodness our friends were far enough back that they were not involved in the crash. When they were finally able to move Lane said they saw the two cars involved and one looked like it had rolled over multiple times. Poor souls, I hope that they survived.
I think I am going to use Waze even when I know where I am going. You just never know what might be on the road ahead of you.

Major Wife Points

Yesterday after Mah Jongg I got a text from Russ from Washington, DC, “Are you home?”
I texted back, “yes.”  
“I have a big favor. I got a last minute meeting here and instead of coming home tonight I need to stay and I need you to FedEx me a suit.”
Russ is not a guy who can buy a suit off the rack. He can’t even buy pants off the rack because clothing manufacturers decided long go not to make pants long enough for the likes of Russ Lange. I went to his closet and assembled an outfit of suit, good shirt, matching tie and socks. Only then did I look up delivery times on Fed Ex. It seemed like it was going to be almost impossible for me to send him a package that absolutely would get to him in time to dress for an early morning meeting.
I called him back. “I’m driving you your suit.” So that is what I did. I jumped in the car, with a small bag for myself and left Shay home to be cared for by Carter. Oh yeah, I also texted Carter that she was on her own. It was an easy drive, being non-rush hour and I was in DC by dinner time.  
Russ got up early and looked dashing in his little worn suit and was off to the meeting. I had a leisurely morning where I walked around my first DC neighborhood, DuPont Circle, visiting my very first apartment. On my way to pick Russ up from his Washington office I stopped in Warby Parker and picked out a new pair of glasses which were my reward for being a suit delivery service.
This afternoon I drove Russ to Richmond to see another client and got home just in time to go to a fund raiser for Reality Ministries. It was fun to drop everything and go to DC with no plans or responsibilities. I wish I had more time to see my friends, but it was refreshing to not be rushing from hither to yon. I am looking forward to empty nest time so I can travel with Russ a little more, even at the last minute.

Homemade Bifocals

I recently discovered that my good long distance vision had fallen to the hardly fair zone. I went to the eye doctor complaining that I could not read the signs in museums where I was restricted from getting close enough to use my reading glasses and that I could not find a distance where I was able to focus. Sure enough I needed glasses for those situations. Since I had no complaints about other seeing situations because my worst vision involved close work, I chose to get single vision glasses for distance and to continue to wear my reading glasses as an item of apparel.  
Then I got my new distance glasses. I put them on to watch a play, boy were things sharper, but I had to switch glasses to read the program. I put them on to watch TV, but could not needlepoint while doing it. I put them on to look at something Russ wanted to show me on his computer that was on his lap, but then I could not read my iPad in mine. I now realize I needed these glasses more than I knew, but I really need my readers more. Why didn’t I get bifocals?
Now I need another pair of glasses for those times when I need both distance and reading. I have made my own homemade bifocals which work great, but look terrible. Friends have told me that progressives are difficult, and bifocals can give headaches, or is it the other way around?
I am just too old to learn this new world of vision correction. Now I m wondering if there is a LASIK fix to what is wrong with me. I don’t think that I can try contacts at my age. Sticking my finger in my eye is not a skill I am sure I can master.  
I may have to fashion a double glasses neck holder and keep two pairs going all the time. Life was so much better when I did not know how bad my eyes were. I wish I could go back to that ignorance stage again.

Remote’s Fault

Growing up we never had a TV with a “clicker.” That was what the earliest of tv remote controls was called. Some tv models had a box with real push buttons that could change the channel, that was connected to the TV with a wire. I had a friend whose family had one of these. The remote sat on a TV tray next to her Dad’s lazy boy. We also never had a lazy boy. In fact my father did not have a designated chair. I hardly remember him sitting down long enough to watch TV, unless it was football, but then my sisters and I were not watching so he had the whole sofa to himself.
People back in the day when most of us had to get up to change the channel were generally thinner. We also had far fewer TV choices so flipping through the numbers to see what was playing only took a second or two. If you didn’t find something that interested you you would just go do something else, like go outside.
Today, not only do we have a TV remote, we have a cable and a smart TV remote and a sound bar remote. Since all those things are connected to the TV I lump them together into one kind of thing to make myself feel OK about sitting on my butt when watching TV. But now life has gotten lazier. My father-in-law gave Russ a switcher remote that is attached to a lamp that is seven feet away from my bed. Now my smart phone is a remote and when I want to go to sleep I no longer have to get out of bed to turn off the non-bedside table lamp.  
I know other people who have remotes for their thermostats and remotes for their outdoor lights, but is this all good for us? I feel during the Don Draper era people were thinner just because they had to get up and move around. We don’t do that anymore. Don Draper people also did not go to the gym, they just got exercise by living.  
I would consider giving up my TV remote but my TV doesn’t have any buttons for me to change the channels. I cold just attach the remote to the TV so that if I ever wanted to turn it on, change the channel or mute the sound I would still get some exercise. In reality I probably would give up watching TV all together if I had to stand up every time I wanted to do something. That too might not be a bad idea.
Now if I could just find a remote to fold the laundry and clean out the dishwasher then I would be really happy, fat, but happy.