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.