My years as a DA parent are done. With the exception of this year, most of the time Carter was a student I volunteered for many activities. My over arching goal was one of fostering a place of inclusivity. I had lived a life of exclusivity for most of my formidable years. I knew exclusivity was a small and dull place with people narrow of thought and lacking curiosity. Although we lived in a neighborhood branded exclusive, I want to change that perception and show that your neighborhood does not define you.
I started out first with Carter’s small class, having coffees and lunches for parents to get to know each other. Then I had whole grade level parents get together. Working on the welcoming committee was my favorite volunteer job, although I have to say I never got to do it the way I really wanted since I was not ultimately the one in charge. I saw lots of opportunities to improve the family feel of the school. Since it was not my job, I just did what I could with Carter’s grade. I knew there were other grades who had parents trying to do the same thing.
I had no idea if what I was doing was having any effect at all, but I just kept doing it. Then yesterday after the years of inviting people to come to my house with invitations that read, “our kids spend everyday together, we should at least have coffee,” I got the nicest note from a mother whose child had been in Carter’s grade since lower school. I am reprinting it here, and I hope she doesn’t mind, but it made me so happy to know that what I had been working on all these years was noticed.
I wanted to say thank you for a few things….great job with our senior’s sendoff party also, I wanted to let you know I appreciate that throughout Carter’s journey at DA you have allowed us to be a part of your family with many mom’s coffees, picture taking, your NC Food Bank weight challenge and volunteering on many occasions here, there and everywhere . Your smile is one of those great memories I will take with me from our years at DA. You were one of the first moms we saw at DA when Lydia came and interestingly, one of the last!
Thank you for being an amazing mom, an amazing servant to others and for having so much energy to really, really, make a difference in the lives of the Class of 2017. DA is a wonderful close knit family and yet, some parents did not always have the schedule to mix and mingle with others. But one thing is for sure, every parent and student in the 2017 class knows you and has probably had a quick and delightful conversation with you because you just made sure to connect when possible… Lydia has some great memories of play dates and playing sports with Carter.
Thanks again for everything…. wishing you a great summer with Carter before she heads off to school and happy empty nesting!
Please don’t see this as my blowing my own horn, because that is not what I intend. Instead this note reinforces a few things I need to keep at the forefront of my brain. First, I want to remember to thank people, it means so much. Second, I want to use this as a catalyst to keep doing what I start with good intentions and not forget why I started to begin with, even if I am not sure it is working. Third, it costs nothing to be kind to everyone.
To all the people I need to thank, I promise I will be getting to you. To Dee, thanks for your kind words. It has been my privilege to have gone on this journey with you and all the many other parents. It is much more interesting ride when we are all on it together.
One of the loveliest, kindest and most thoughtful ladies has left this earth. Logan Tom’s mother Margaret passed away yesterday. As was befitting her most selfless nature she waited until after her only Grand daughter Ellis’ Graduation and before their family graduation trip. Don’t you ever let anyone tell you that we don’t control our own passing.
I first met Margaret at Ellis’ and Carter’s baptism. No one at our church thought to tell the mothers of the children to be baptized that we were sharing the day with each other. It wasn’t until both families tried to sit in the reserved pews that this fact became clear. Margaret, never one to make a fuss, graciously offered to sit anywhere that was available. That gentile southern manor certainly smoothed the situation thus setting Lynn and I up to become the best of friends.
“Grand mother” with a big emphasis on the “grand” is what Carter and Ellis would call Mrs. Toms when they would go to visit her at her lovely apartment at the Cypress in Raleigh. She was the kind of grandmother you would think you would need to wear white gloves to visit. In actuality she accepted everyone just as they were.
Lynn always said she never said a bad word about anyone, a trait I so admire, but never have mastered. I reminded Lynn that the same could be said about her only son Logan. That kindness is carried on in him.
Sadly Margaret is the last grandparent Ellis had. She is just going to have to share Carter’s grandparents, Annak and Gracie, who love Ellis, Lynn and Logan like family. You can’t do anything about the passing, but you can always adopt friends to be in your family. I feel privileged to have known the sweet and gentle Margaret Toms. She was a true lady.
This morning Russ and I got up and worked in the garden before the heat of the day made it unbearable. We did not talk about the new chapter we were about to embark on. Carter was in her room packing to leave for her week of training at Camp Cheerio. For her it was home coming. For me it is a godsend that she must go to work and not to beach week.
“Can we help you carry anything to the car?”
“No, I’m just going for a week, I only have two bags. I am strong.”
As she goes down the stairs to her rooms carrying her new Yeti cup she got at the graduation party she realizes that takes up a whole hand.
“Can you carry my water?”
Once she is in her room she recognizes that she also needs to take her pillows.
“Can you please take these pillows?”
Russ and I gladly tote these few things to her car, which has new tires, brakes and anything else we deemed necessary to keep her safe driving back and forth, up and down the mountain.
“Please text me when you get to camp,” I ask trying not to sound too annoying.
“I will, just getting gas and turning on my music before I leave.”
She backed out the driveway and without looking back at us or even giving a wave, was off. It was the first tear I shed during the whole graduation weekend, but only one small one. It was back in the house to start our new life. Cleaning out the kitchen cabinets and sanitize washing sheets and towels. Nothing exciting, just busy work to keep my mind off things.
Carter was supposed to report to camp at 2:00. At 1:59 I got a text, “here.” There she is, not here. Not really here again.
As the parent of a brand new Durham Academy graduate I have some words of advice for parents just starting out with their kids in school, or even some who are in the middle of what feels like a very long journey.
First, it is the shortest trip you will take. One day you are sitting in the Pre-school great room waiting for your little one to run into your arms and suddenly you are watching her walk across the stage to receive her diploma. When the days are long, take a breath and enjoy them no matter the drama, tears or cheers.
The best thing you can do is volunteer to help at school when asked and don’t volunteer your opinion when it is not asked. Be a supportive parent of teachers. Unless you secretly want to home school, remember that these professionals usually know best and are willing to spend their days with your darling, even when they are twelve or thirteen. It is not the most important thing for a teacher to be good with me, but with my child.
Put all important and seemingly unimportant school dates in your calendar at the beginning of the year. Do your best to show up. I will never forget the poor child in Carter’s class one year of lower school who was the only one whose parent was missing for a big day. He sat sobbing quietly as all the other parents, grand parents and special friends feigned over their child’s newspaper that they had worked on all year. I went to sit with him and asked him to tell me about what he had written and had to hold back my own tears as he gulped out the words. No meeting, business trip or tennis game is more important, even if you are a Williams sister. If you can’t be there, find a surrogate and tell your sweet one before hand.
Learn the rules of car pool. You do not want to be that parent who everyone hates because you block the moving lane, or you are reading your text while you should be paying attention. This goes for your surrogate picker uppers, so train the nannies, babysitters and grand parents who pick up for you. Trust me, people will figure out who you are and will brand you forever.
Every year let your child have more and more control over their decisions, work and responsibilities. In the beginning you spend a lot of time reading to them, then them reading to you, then quizzing them on math facts, or vocab, then not so much. Don’t read their papers, don’t ask if they have completed assignments, don’t manage their lives. That is what they need to learn how to do.
Make friends with their friends and their parents. A strong parent friend group is your best resource. Seek out a parent who has had an older child to ask them tips like, “What do the kids wear to grandparents day?” Or “What kind of backpack fits in a middle school locker?” Don’t worry if your children’s friendships wax and wane, they often come back round. When your girl comes home and complains of a friends mistreatment, don’t hold a grudge about that child. Your own sweet one will fast forget a slight so you don’t need to remind them. You also never know when your own child is the one doing the mistreatment. Let your kids fight their own battles.
Keep your child’s and their friends confidences. Knowing they have an adult who they can talk to without fear of reprisal is the best way to help them learn to make good choices. Maybe at some peoples rehearsal dinners will I reveal small childhood misdeeds, but certainly not before.
Take lots of pictures and videos and update them as formats change. Going back and listening to those little voices is a joy you will cherish.
Let your child find their own path and follow their own passion, even if you don’t understand it. There are lots of ways to be successful, happy people and your best measurement as a parent is that your child found their own.
A number of years ago I wrote a story for Durham Magazine about Project Graduation. In doing my research I learned that graduation night is the single most dangerous night of a person’s life. It was a statistic that scared me to death, no pun intended. Since this year was Carter’s senior year I did what my bossy self always does and appointed myself the head of her class graduation dance and party, which is thrown by the parents of the graduates.
In my swan song from her school life I wanted to keep Carter and all her friends safe and celebratory in their last night together. Nothing like this can be pulled off alone so meetings were called, volunteers stepped forward, donations were made and plans were drawn up. Without the benefit of an unlimited funding source and professional party planners it was necessary to marshal the resources of the many.
It was universally agreed by the parents that we needed to create a really fun party to first get the kids to not create competing events, come, and stay. My own daughter whinged on that she was not happy about my involvement in this event. She has no personal memory of me throwing elaborate, large fun parties in my past life.
After a long day of celebratory lunches, graduation ceremonies, post photo opportunities and post post drinks on the lawn of the Carolina Inn I barely had enough energy to begin to host this big party. We had done the decorations the day before, for which I was thankful so that my hamstrings could recuperate from trips up and down the 20 ft. ladder. The casino was set up, the dj’s, photo booth, and black lights were ready, the food was prepared, the “everybody wins one” prize table was laden with gifts, the chaperones were in place, ready to take keys, hand out glow lights, casino money and instructions on the rules. We just needed the kids.
The first one arrived fifteen minutes early and generously volunteered to help. Then another, and another, then a pack. We had a party. Ninty-five percent of the class showed up. At first there were those awkward moments, then they started playing games, dancing, winning prizes and being kids. There were a couple of minor issues, but everyone was incredibly respectful and calm. Kindness prevailed.
In the end the security guard who has done this same party for many years said it was smoothest one of its sort he had ever seen. The hired casino staff independently commented that these were the not just the nicest kids they had ever dealt with, but the nicest people. Except for a four or five kids who came and left, everyone else stayed and played. I had anticipated that kids would leave well before the 1:00 finish. I was incredibly wrong. Most were there to the bitter end.
I was exhausted, but thrilled. Ready for bed. My introverted daughter had asked me in advance if a few friends could come home with her. By the time I got home I pulled up to a house full of her classmates. The party continued at my house. I stayed up and policed that party until by 3:30 Carter shut it down and I made sure everyone got home safely. Four friends spent the night as they tend to do. This morning after they had gone to the diner for breakfast they came back and, I still in my night gown, exhausted from the four hours of sleep, hung out with them to rehash the evening. Carter said to me, “Mom, I was wrong to complain about your planning the party. It was great and I had the best time.” Her friends agreed. I’m glad I am so bossy.
It happened they graduated. It was not sad at all. It was a wonderful celebration. Now I’m off to run the graduation dance party for the kids. This photo blog will have to suffice for today. Congratulations to the DA class of 2017. You all did it!
When Carter was just starting Durham Academy as a Pre-k student in 2003 I somehow had the time and the forethought to document the year. I interviewed the kids and teachers and took photographs at all the major events. At the end of the year I put the whole thing together into a movie and gave one to each family. I thought at the time it would be something fun to watch at their graduation, which seemed to be a world away. But here it is.
As I searched for my DVD of the movie I realized I no longer had a computer that even could play a DVD. Thanks to Trevor Hoyt, I was able to get most of the movie off my very aging disk and put it on YouTube. (If you are a member of this class and still have your DVD I would love to see if yours is better than mine.). Sadly some of the ending gone, you get the idea of who the kids were when they were four.
Many members of this class have been lifers at DA, Campbell, Nick, Grace, Nichole, Tristan, Thomas, Spencer, Kate, Victor, Kiah and Carter. One girl, Allysa was only there that year. Some friends were at DA for lower school, but moved away and are missed, Stokes, Remy, Ryder and Georgia. Lastly there was Trey who left at junior year to go to boarding school, but who still is like a lifer. Their teachers Mrs. Ellis and Mrs. Stafford are no longer teachers, but are still in Durham and keep in touch.
I watched the video after I uploaded it. The small voices and tiny faces, so familiar, made me burst into tears. How did all this time fly by? I forgot that Carter has that Boston accent, from where no one will know. It seems only fitting that she is ending up there for college.
I got a good cry watching it. I am hoping to get all cried out before tomorrow.
Tonight was Senior Dinner. The night the kids got their yearbooks, they heard the inspirational speeches from the wise Kathy Cleaver, college counselor extraordinaire, who talked about community, twenty seconds of courage and curiosity and the very witty and insightful classmate Chris Villani who encouraged whimsy. I held it together the best I could, but when Chris teared up at one moment when he said, “I love you Mom,” or something along those lines I had to put my hands over my face to choke back a sob.
We watched the slide show of three pictures of each graduate from babyhood, middle school to upper school that brought the levity that I needed. Then it was off to dinner. There was no chance for crying at dinner since we were jam packed into the learning commons due to the rain. I am somewhat thankful we did not have a warm spring evening in the court yard because that would have made me even more sad. Having wait staff snatch spoons from the serving dishes and watching dining companions trying to serve salad with sugar tongs kept my mind off this being the last time to be together with this group of friends all at the same time.
Carter got a chance to hug some of her favorite teachers, especially Mrs. Frasher and Mrs. McNall. Having strong women role models has meant so much to Carter. I know she will look back on them as two of the many influential people in her life that she came across at DA. It is hard for her to have perspective on what this school has given Carter while she is itching to move on. But as Mrs. McDonald told the kids tonight, “You can be adults on Saturday, but for the next two days just be kids.” Little do they know that being a kid who goes to DA is about as good as it gets, being an adult is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Especially if you are a mother of a graduate.
In order to completely ignore that this last week of school is happening I decided to cook food for my friends today. Since I was bringing dinner to my friend Hannah and her Mom and family since they are home from from her father’s funeral I made ten times the amount needed so my other friends could have dinner too.
After cooking all day I realized I did not have a dessert to bring. You can’t bring a condolence meal without dessert. I had enough time to go to the store and purchase something, but I wanted to “Juze” up store bought ingredients. I got a lemon pudding cake, some vanilla ice cream and blueberries. I was envisioning an ice cream cake concoction, but was still not quite sure what I was going to do with the blueberries.
I decided to make a compote. I needed to add some zing to this dish so I added fresh ginger and lime and pow! That was the right thing. I layered cake, ice cream, and compote twice and froze the whole thing. The compote was the best part.
After using it in the dessert I put it in a glass with Club soda and a little more lime juice and crushed ice. It made a yummy blueberry slush. Next I envision adding it to some oil and vinegar and making a salad dressing with it. Or spooning it straight onto some cantaloupe. Oh the lengths I will go to avoid a big cry.
1 pint of blueberries
1 inch oh fresh ginger root grated on the micro plane
1/3 cup sugar
3 T. Lime juice
3 T. Water
Put everything in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Cook for two more minutes. Remove from heat and chill.
One of the things that drew us to our house when we first looked at buying it 23 years ago was the beautiful magnolia tree in the front yard. It was a full and majestic specimen. From inside the house we could lookout at it and see our neighbors house across the street. In the spring the fragrance from the basketball sized flowers harkened back to a long ago era.
Today I went out in the front yard to walk to the mailbox. The smell from the now coliseum sized tree was almost overwhelming. I felt as if Eudora Welty and William Faulkner were around the corner and coming for iced tea. I walked across the street to my neighbors house and took a picture of the beautiful green giant. It is now so large it completely blocks our house from view. To give you some perspective on its grandeur, look at how small my car is on the right side of the photo.
I wish that I could turn this blog into a scratch and sniff because the feeling you get when you inhale practically lifts you off the ground. In the next few days the big gardenia bushes by the house will blossom and I may not be able to walk out front with the aid of a cane. Oh the life of a southern lady.
I am making a smell memory. In future years, when all these beautiful things bloom, I will think of Carter’s graduation. It is going to be overwhelming I am certain.
When I was graduating from high school one of my closest friends, Stori Stockwell’s mother gave me a beautiful engraved silver frame with a perpetual calendar. It was such a lovely gift and I was so overwhelmed that she had thought of me at graduation. Since we went to boarding school We did not see parents everyday, but I did go to visit the Stockwells on vacations. Stori’s Mom, Deicy, was one of the Moms I really liked to spend time with. I don’t think I can remember many gifts that people have given me, but that one has always stuck with me. To this day when I look at it I still think of Deicy Stockwell with such fond memories.
Since Carter is graduating on Friday I started to get a little sad about not getting to see so many of her friends when they are all off at college. Empty nest is not just the loss of your little chick, but of all the birds who have been together for all these years.
I wanted to get a present for some of the girls I felt close to and I wanted it to be personal. My hope is that in years to come when they look at it they will know how much they are loved by all the Lange’s and that they always have a home here.
I searched and searched and eventually found a woman, Michele Chisholm, who made beautiful appliqué pillows. I contacted her at her website calicodaisyhomemade.com and asked if she could make these pillows in time for graduation. She promised me they would make it. I waited weeks and worried, what if they did not turn out the way I envisioned them? They arrived yesterday and as I opened the packages I burst into tears. They were beautiful and just what I wanted to give.
I spent the afternoon inserting the pillows in the covers, and wrapping each one in tissue of each girl’s college, putting them in a box and wrapping them in DA colors paper and ribbon and writing. A letter to each of the girls. The outside of the package was their old life and the inside their new one they are walking into.
I was so excited I gave Carter hers first. She loved and thought it was the perfect gift for her friends. Today a few of the girls came over and I gave them their presents. Libby was fastest at unwrapping and declared, “These are my colors, how did you know?” Of course I didn’t know, but that was just a good bet on my part. A few tears were shed. It is the last week. The start of the goodbyes. It is supposed to be a happy time, but as I recall from my graduation I cried through the whole thing. They are ready to go, but not leave each other.
Happy birthday to our most beloved Shay Shay who turns six years old today. Carter took her to Pet Smart to get a party hat and some birthday presents. Turns out they don’t have party hats for dogs. This seems shocking since pets are the biggest thing money gets spent on these days.
Carter says it was for the best because Shay would hate a cone hat with an elastic string. Of course she would, we all hate those hats, but nothing says, “It’s my birthday” more than a little humiliation.
It is hard to remember our life without Shay. Carter had wanted a dog for the longest time, but Russ’ allergies prevented us from getting one. I used to say to Carter, “It is more important that Daddy can breath.” She didn’t always see it that way.
One day we were at our friends the Pottengers for dinner and Russ spent the entire evening snuggled up with their labradoddle Brady without any Clairitan and without any trouble. That was the answer. I contacted their breeder and found out he was having a litter soon and I could be interviewed. The price was outrageous, but the interview was even harder. I think getting a security clearance is easier.
Thankfully we passed the requirements for being parents of a precious labradoddle. My father had given me a very nice check for my birthday so I spent half of it on Shay Shay. It went against every grain in my body to pay for a dog and not rescue one from the shelter, but it was the only way I could be half certain that I was not killing my husband. Turns out Shay loves him best so it is a good thing she is so undog like.
With Carter leaving for camp and college Shay is going to be even more spoiled than ever. I can only imagine her wanting to take over Carter’s space so she can have her dog friends over and not have the prying ears and eyes of her parents when she is with her teenage gang. Then again she likes Carter’s cave like rooms because she can sleep the day away without guilt because she has no idea if the sun is up or the sun is down.
Happy birthday to our second baby. You make our family complete. Since it is yur birthday you can sleep 21 hours instead of 20.
Some days in life stand out, but most are just a blur. The ones that are memorable are not always big days in our lives, but for some reason you can relive little vignettes of an ordinary day. One of those days for me was about her forth week of Durham Academy, when Carter was in Pre-k. I was waiting in the great room of the pre-school to pick Carter up. I sat on the low bench by the window, still a stranger to many of the other parents in the class.
Carter and this tiny girl with dark brown hair and big brown eyes came out of class hand in hand and announced they wanted to have a play date. This was the first friend Carter had made who I did not know. I looked at this little girl and said, “Hi” and asked her name. She told me it was Campbell. “Well, Campbell can you show me who your mother is.” That is when I first met Hannah Hannan. We planned a play date and that was the beginning of two beautiful friendships. One for Carter and Campbell and another for me and Hannah.
Having your daughter chose a friend who you like as well as like her parents is a bonus. We became friends who shared holidays, vacations, countless sleepovers, celebrations and sadnesses. I got to know and love Hannah’s mother Jean Saunders, otherwise known as Boogey, and father Dan and even Hannah’s Grandmother from their countless visits from Michigan to Hannah and her family. Russ, Carter and I got to go to visit Hannah’s family in Michigan one summer. Boogey is always the most welcoming and loving grandmother and Dan was quick witted.
Dan got sick this year, although he was still relatively young. At first they thought he wouldn’t make it to Christmas and he did. Then the goal was set for him to be able to live for Campbell’s graduation with Carter, a week from today. Sadly, Dan passed away this morning, with Hannah and Jean there. My heart is breaking that he did not make it to graduation. I wish I were in Michigan right now to give those Saunders girls big hugs and be cooking some chicken as a break from the hot dish that is sure to be arriving at their door.
Dan was a kind and thoughtful guy, but also pragmatic. It does not surprise me that if he felt like he was going to be a burden he just departed with enough time for the family to be able to say good bye and get to Campbell’s graduation without having to worry about him. Doesn’t make it any easier, saying goodbye to a beloved. I can say he was a wonderful father because he produced one of the best people I know, Hannah Saunders Hannan.
My Carter had senior project this week. It is a chance for the seniors to try their hand at something they may be interested in for their future. Carter wanted to shadow an OB/GYN. I was not sure how that worked but it was not my place to figure it out.
My Carter asked Dr. Carter Gray, the coolest female OB/GYN around if she would be willing to take her on for the week. Dr. Gray, renamed herself, Carter the Elder and generously allowed Carter Lange the opportunity to spend her days with her in her office. Dr. Gray explained that thanks to HIPPA Carter could not go with her to the hospital, but that she would still learn a lot doing patient visits. Not getting to deliver babies in no way deterred Carter Lange from doing this project.
Carter the younger had an exciting week since most of the patients allowed her to be in the room for their exams. She got to watch sonograms, biopsies, and all things involving pregnant women. Carter the younger says it was the best form of birth control ever.
She came home everyday excited to share all that she learned and talk about what a fabulous Doctor Carter the elder is. I am so thankful for Carter the elder’s generosity with her time, her knowledge and passion for her job.
Before my Carter started I thought there could be two outcomes from this projects, one she would decide she was definitely not interested in becoming an OB/GYN or two she would say it is still on her list. The second choice is what happened, but even better Dr. Gray exposed to many other careers in medicine Carter the younger had no idea ever existed.
I am proud that Carter Lange chose to do a meaningful senior project and use this time to explore future possibilities. The world is a big place and only through exposure do we ever know what options there are for us. One small piece to life’s puzzle.
Today is my Dad, Ed Carter’s birthday! It is hard to believe that he is 79 years young today. I feel like he was just fifty. I mention that because I think it was his fiftieth birthday when his friends threw him a surprise birthday party. The theme was “I’m and Ed Head” and we all wore hats with his picture and that saying on them.
I know that I am very lucky to have both my parents. They are an incredibly young pair of just barley under octogenarians who live on their own, drive, take care of huge farm and can still hear well enough to talk on the phone. The reason I feel so lucky is that for as long as I can remember my Dad would start many a talk with me with the phrase,”I need to tell you this before I die.” He would then go on to tell me something incredibly mundane like, “make sure you change the oil in you car so you don’t burn up the engine.”
For most of my childhood and well into my twenties I thought my father was living on borrowed time since he always used that “before I die” phrase. As I aged I began to realize it was just hyperbole and he was sticking around, which made me very relieved.
Thanks to his sage wisdom, which I committed to memory out of fear of not having him around to ask questions of, I was able to take care of myself, and my car at a young age. Something’s he told me were about careers I should not chose, or how to avoid speeding tickets or the big rule, “never run one of your cars into another one of your cars because you have no one else to blame.”
Other things I learned from him were not direct advice, but just from watching. One big one was I should always do my expense reports in a timely fashion. When I was little the worst chore was to sort receipts so my father could do his expense account. He had multiple brown paper grocery sacks filled with receipts. He would write the names of each month on a separate piece of paper towel, probably because it was the only paper he could find. Then anyone in the house who was old enough to read would take a handful of papers from the bag and try and find a date on it and then put it on the paper towel of the corresponding month. My mother would live in horror that those bags might get thrown way because they were like bags of paper waiting to be turned into gold.
When I was young my Dad knew everything. I have noticed in subsequent years he asks me more questions about things than tells me stuff. Like today he asked me how to make Ranch dressing. Not something that I must tell him before I die. Now Carter is the one who knows things and he asks her.
I try me not scare Carter by telling her, “I need to tell you this before I die,” but I do tell her things that I want her to know in case I am not around. Like today, I introduced her to our financial advisor, just so she’ll know who to talk to if she needs him. I guess I am an Ed Head by birth. I hope that I am like my Dad and stick around for a long time. It is really wonderful to go through life with your parents and their real time advice. Happy Birthday Dad, I love you and all your wisdom.
It’s getting to be cold soup season. Last night I looked in the fridge and announced I had asparagus. Carter requested cold soup, but the. Went out to dinner with her friend Liza. I’m glad I didn’t rush to make it then. Tonight is a rare night when both Russ and Carter are going to be here for dinner so I whipped this up.
1 large sweet onion chopped
2 carrots chopped
1 celery rib chopped
Sprinkle of red pepper flakes
1 lb of asparagus- Woody ends removed, cut in thirds
1 T. Knorr chicken soup powder or chicken broth
1/4 cup half and half
1 T. Lime juice
Dash of nutmeg
In a soup pot sprayed with Pam put the onions, carrots and celery and cook on medium for four- five minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and cook one more minute. Add 1 cup of water and knorr powder or 1 cup of chicken or vegetable broth and bring to a boil. As bottom 2/3’s of asparagus and cook for one minute. Add the remaining asparagus and cook for three more minutes. Turn off the pot, add nutmeg and salt and pepper.
Blend the contents of the pot either with a hand blender or in a regular blender. Add the half and half after it is mostly puréed. Add the lime juice and chill.
Carter was off doing her senior projects and Russ was at work so I am just feeding myself for both lunch and dinner. Wanting to use some beautiful shrimp I cooked the other day I decided to make this recipe up. It was so good for lunch that I also ate it for dinner.
2/3 cup cooked Reed Quinoa
12 cooked shrimp, peeled and cut in thirds
20 cherry tomatoes halved
2/3 cup chopped English cucumbers
2 T. minced shallots
1/2 cubed avocado
2 T. Lime juice
1t. Olive oil
Mix together. Serve over arugula lightly dressed with balsamic vinegar and goat cheese on top.
Refreshing and healthy!
The best thing to do on Mother’s Day is nothing. Mothers do so much every other day of the year so I am thankful for the excuse to say no. Of course this is not easy when you not only are a mother, but have a mother. So I want to give a big shout out to my sisters who have my mother visiting them this weekend. I called my sweet mother this afternoon and heard all the fun things she was doing with my sisters. All fun except cleaning out her storage unit. (Why she still has a storage unit in DC is a topic for another day.). So happy Mother’s Day to my Mom.
For me my offspring, with the help of her father, took me to a lovely lunch at the Washington Duke. A couple of times Carter was mistaken for a Duke graduate since around here today it is also graduation day. She was quick to say it was Mother’s Day. She gave me a gift of a future spa day with her and I am for sure going to redeem that before she leaves for Germany.
I was blessed with an extra child today. It is also confirmation Sunday and I got to go to church to bless my confirmand mentee Jack Preble. Confirmation is a long year of commitment and study and I am proud of how thoughtful Jack is in his path to joining the church. I may be a bit of a rebel in the Mentor group of confirmands, but I hope that Jack knows he can always talk to me about anything church or life related. That’s the lifelong commitment I make as his mentor.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the women out there who spend their days raising good human beings. I know this can also be a sad day for anyone who has lost their mother. It is always positive to reflect on what your mother means to you. I hope that good memories abound. There is nothing like a mother.
This morning Russ told me he renewed my blog subscription. “What day is it?” I asked. May 13 is my blog anniversary. It is hard to believe that five years ago today I started writing this daily blog. In the beginning it was a way to raise money for the Food Bank while I lost weight. During these five years I have lost, gained, lost and gained many pounds. Unfortunately I am on the up side now. I may not always be perfect in my eating and exercising, but in the last half decade I have stuck to writing daily.
According to the stats on my blog I have written 1,831 different blogs. God bless you people that read it. Despite the discipline of writing everyday I still sometime get to eleven at night and say, “Oh Shit, I forgot to write my blog.” And that’s Shit with a capital S.
I wonder if I should continue, but then I say, I can’t quit now because I have not reached my goal weight and kept it off for a year. I am always on the way up or the way down, but not very good at holding at one place.
When I started writing If you told me I would still be doing it five years later I would have told you that was crazy. What is even more unbelievable is that people read it. Thank you for your years of support, your non-judgmental comments and the smiley faces. I appreciate most the people who know when I am sarcastic and don’t take me too seriously.
This blog morphed into the minutiae of my life. Who knows where it will go or if I can keep at, but as of now I guess I need to keep writing until I find the secret.
This morning I had the best breakfast reunion with my Pi Phi big sister Marlene Bodene Ostrow. Marlene lives in Cincinnati, but her only sister lives in Raleigh. Thanks to that only sister having an only daughter I get to see Marlene when there are big milestones, like four years ago when her niece graduated from high school. Thank goodness that niece is wicked smart because she got the Park Scholarship to NC State and now Marlene is back for her niece’s college Graduation.
During our wonderful reunion I felt like we were missing an important family member of the sorority kind. Marlene had another Pi Phi little sister before she had me, Laura Scherk, who in sorority family trees is then my sister/sister. It is nothing like sister wives, it just means we have the same big sister.
Laura is one of my favorite people on earth. I must be one of hers too, or was at one point, because I was a bridesmaid in her first wedding and even though she is married to some else now I think that being in someone’s wedding means you like each other. Well, now Laura lives in California so I have not seen her for a VERY long time because California is too far to walk to. The saddest thing is she used to live in Boston and I am about to have four or five years of regular trips to Boston, but she is not there.
Now if only Laura had a sister who had a niece who lived in Raleigh, or Durham, or even Fayetteville I would get to see her when she came for graduations, or weddings or baby showers. But Laura only has two brothers and I have no idea where they are or if they have children.
So now I am going to have to work on planning a big Pi Phi family reunion. Wait, didn’t my fellow pledge class sister Jamie Karp Stone, who now lives in Seattle and just got a new knee task me with creating a Pi Phi reunion of multiple class years? Have I worked on that yet? No, I have been too busy planning graduation night parties and filling our college forms, but if I am ever going to see Laura Scherk again I better start planning a reunion. I need all my sisters.
I went to boarding school in the seventies, so I had two things going for me, we did not have Advance Placement classes and therefore no AP exams and we did not have parents who asked us about studying for anything. School work was the responsibility of the child. There was no questioning if I had studied. Some might say that I could have used a little more pressure, but overall I turned out OK.
Tomorrow afternoon is Carter’s very last high school exam. She has the pleasure of taking her Modern Euro as the very last AP offered. Today was her stats AP and she reported the multiple choice questions were tough. I have tried to be laid back this year about her work, it is after all her job, not mine, but in some last hurrah of parenting I asked her Monday about her plans to study all week for these tests.
“Why are you getting crazy now?” She rightfully asked me. It was a very good question. She is into college, she has done well in her classes, why was I interjecting into her work? I have thought about it this week. I realize that the moments I have to be influential are waning. They really were over around fourth grade, but in some last ditch attempt I think I am trying to hold on to her.
That time has long past. Carter is who she is going to be and I am great with that, but as an only child I have no one left around here to mold. What am I thinking, kids come out the way they are going to be and parents don’t really mold anything.
I know in my brain that my job is just to keep her alive so she and grow into whomever she is going to be. Not that she might not grow and change herself, but that has nothing to do with me. Letting go and letting children fly on their own is easier said than done, even for a fairly non-helicopter mother like me.
I will be happy when the pressure of exams are done and she can go off and do her senior project which is much more real world than school. When I was in school I was much better at real world things than classes so I am excited to see how Carter likes the work world. For now I just want to say, “Good Job Carter, sorry if I got a little nuts at the end. All this change is new for me too.”
In these waning days of high school, when Carter is done with class and just has two last AP tests to take I am willing to cook anything she wants if it means she will stay home and study. Usually when I ask, “What can I cook you?” The answer that comes back is very non-specific, which is not help to me. If I suggest something it is usually met with a ho-hum shrug, so when this week Carter asked for some spiralized zucchini with shrimp scampi on top I practically fell over. A healthy and yummy meal, Yeah!
Carter had given me the spiralizer attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer and I was yet to try it out. Frankly, I had never used any attachment for the Kitchenaid and I was a little unsure about how hard it would be. Turns out it was easy as pie. Took less than 15 seconds to turn a zucchini into noodles. The instructions were minimal and the attachments had many different blades to chose from so I just picked the middle sized zucchini blade. I might do the next size down next time, but it was all good.
I made the scampi in one pan and sautéed the zoodles in another and the whole dish took less than five minutes to make.
Zucchini noodles from two squash
15 raw shrimp peeled
Shelled from shrimp
1 T. Knorr chicken stock powder
4 cloves of garlic minced
Few red pepper flakes
1 T. Butter
1 T. Olive oil
3 T. Lemon Juice
Put the Shrimp peels in a small sauce on with 1 cup of water and the knorr chicken stock and bring to. Boil and simmer for two minutes. String out the shells.
At the same time in a fry pan put the butter and olive oil and heat until melted. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and some black pepper and cook for 30 seconds.
At the same time spray an additional fry pan with Pam and put the zucchini noodles in on medium heat. Stir them every few minutes.
In the garlic pan add the shrimp and toss on medium heat for two minutes, add the lemon juice and about 1/2 cup of the shrimp peel stock water. Add the cooked zucchini noodles and toss with the shrimp and liquid in the pan.
Sprinkle parsley on the whole thing. Enjoy.
Back in my Washington days, when Costco was called Price Club, I used to joke that it was my favorite club I belonged too. Tonight I need to officially amend my favorite club status and announce that Hope Valley Garden Club.
I was first invited to be a member of the historic group when I was still in my thirties, albeit very very late thirties. And here I am these many years later and I love Garden club more than ever. In those early days I was young one, but I really enjoyed the intergenerational aspect of the club. Getting to joke around with Marion or talk British history with Doreen was a bonus. I do miss many of the old guard.
Tonight was our annual May picnic with spouses and it realize I have clearly moved from the young group to older, but not the oldest group. It is such a wonderful gathering of women, and most of their spouses are pretty good too. Thanks to Carol Shepard who opened her house for the lovely dinner.
I was in the side dish assignment group, so it made a green vegetable because no one ever want to bring vegetables. As I assessed my choices I settled on Brussels Spouts because nowadays more people love them than hate them. In my normal, Let’s try and make up a new recipe without testing it first way I decided to add pepper jelly to the cooked Sprouts. I liked how it turned out. If you are not southern you might not know what red pepper jelly is, but it is a hot and slightly sweet jelly usually poured over cream cheese and served with crackers as an nibble.
I cut the ends off the spouts and halved them. Put them in a hot skillet and browned them. Sprinkled with a little salt and pepper and nutmeg. I put them in a bowl and spooned a couple tablespoons of hot pepper jelly on top and covered them up. The heat from the Sprouts melted the jelly. The garden club crowd devoured them, bless them each darling one of them.
Today Carter got an email about filling out the many college forms she needs. She came up and sat on my bed as she worked her way through course registration, passport information, jpegs of passport and photos, medical information, emergency contact info, housing requests and on and on. Some things were just computerized forms and some had to printed and filled out on paper.
It is quite an education for her to fill these things out herself. It is one thing to know your own social security number it is another to know what the difference is between MMR and a measles vaccine.
I am required not just to answer questions like what is Tdap, but to figure out how to get a JPEG of each form so it can be uploaded. We have a fax machine that can scan, but for the life of me I can’t figure out how to get the scan out of the machine and on to a computer. An IPhone does not take photos in the JPEG format so that was out. I had to get out my SLR camera and take a photo of Carter’s passport then upload it to my computer and email it to her so she could upload it. What do most people do about these things?
I anticipate that I will be needed for a long time when forms are to be completed. Carter has been trying to learn how to do official things on her own. She sat by my side when I filled out our tax packet for the accountant because she wanted to understand it. She called me when she had to fill out her withholding form for her summer job. It is so many forms and who knows if we fill them all out correctly. I wonder if anyone even looks at half of them.
Tomorrow it is off to the doctors to have then sign the medical form that she has had all these vaccines. It would be so much easier if I we just had that medical information chip imbedded under the skin in her arm and could scan her to make sure she is actually covered.
I think when I went to college I filled out a page or two and attached a check. No uploading, no loading at all. Now it’s waivers, disclaimers and acknowledgements that we are paying for this no matter what.
Classes ended for Carter Friday. Moments after school was over she was off to Camp Cheerio to work for the weekend as they were having the High Point Indian Princesses and their father’s at camp for the weekend.
Our empty nest has already started. While Carter was at camp working in the kitchen and running arts and crafts Russ and I were getting used to what life without her all the time is going to be like. There is hardly any laundry in our new world and we probably could survive on the food we have in the pantry, freezer and garden as long as I learn to make my own vinegar.
We may be losing a daughter, but we still have a baby. Shay is hardly ever out of eye sight of a Russ if he is home and mostly sleeps on the bed waiting for him when he is away. Shay now gets all our attention and like a teenager she does not always want to do what we want. On this beautiful afternoon we took her outside to play ball. Russ brought three different toys out and she would have none of it, holding her ground on the front porch.
Back inside she was happy to entertain Russ if he would lie on the floor with her, which of course he did. Carter came back from camp, exhausted from too much fun. Shay was happy to see her, but had no interest in going down to her room and take a nap with her. I hardly had a chance to tell Carter about the lovely graduation party we went to at Madi Dunk’s house where I got to spend time with lots of her friends. I am going to miss her friends almost as much as I am going to miss her. At least Ashley and I have promised to have lunch together when she is at Duke. Maybe she will awake for dinner with us, but chances are it is going to be me, Russ and Shay.
Perhaps I should get a baby highchair for Shay to sit in so she can be at eye level with us when we eat. Our new reality is it’s just the three of us. Two with our I-Pads and one staring lovingly at one of us.
Birthday celebrations are better with whipped cream. After my Food Bank birthday party I came home with a huge bowl of homemade whipped cream. You know I can’t waste food, even though I have no business having any whipped cream anywhere near my house. We had our friend Rich over for lunch today since is his birthday. I looked at that big bowl of white fluff and thought I might be able to make biscuits using it.
I had made cream biscuits in the past that are basically heavy cream and self rising flour. I was unsure of the science of doing the same thing with whipped cream, but figured it was worth a try. I put self rising flour in bowl added a little extra baking powder for good measure, a pinch of salt and then started spooning in the whipped cream and lightly mixing it until I felt like it was moist enough. The dough was very light and sticky so I could not cut biscuits out, instead just pinched off bits and formed then into disks. Baking for about 12 mins at 450° the biscuits turned out very light and flavorful. They were tender and would not work to make a breakfast sandwich, but as a side to chicken salad they worked just fine.
This vehicle to use of the whipped cream was helpful, but did not quite do the whole job. We were having a birthday dinner with my cohorts, Lynn, Logan, Stephanie and Roman so Russ invited them to come back to our house for dessert after dinner. To this invitation Logan replied, “This must be what it is like to win the the lottery.”
The dessert choices were the chocolate chess pie or Key Lime pie with or without whipped cream. I was hopping the everyone would choose cream. Shay sat patiently at each guests feet waiting the chance to lick their already cleaned plates. This is where Shay discovered the secret of life is whipped cream.
She kept biting Russ’ wrist to get him to go back to the kitchen to give her a dollop of the white gold, which he did. She agreed with Logan that she had won the lottery.
There is still more than a few big spoonfuls left in the whipped cream bowl, but I know who is going to get the last of the sinful fluff. I wonder if we will ever get our dog to eat dog food again?
When I met a Russ he only owned three work shirts. He wore one, was washing one and was letting one hang to dry everyday. I thought this was crazy especially since it put a crimp in our social life because he needed to always have time to a wash shirt every night. Since he only had three shirts he did not have enough to take to the Chinese Laundry at the end of his street, not that he had ever known you could take shirts to the laundry.
The first gift I ever gave him was ten shirts for his birthday and an introduction to the nice lady at the Chinese laundry. It changed his life in a big way, only second to asking me to marry him.
Last night Russ asked me if I could take his shirts to the laundry this morning since he had a six AM flight to DC and needed some of them for a conference in San Francisco on Monday. Of course I could do this small errand for him. He left five shirts on the bed.
This morning I got up and went to work out later than I usually do. I got home at 10:20 and discovered the shirts I had forgotten about. I rushed over to the laundry, but I had missed the shirt deadline and no shirts are done on Saturdays. “I guess I’m washing shirts,” I told the gal at the laundry. She looked at me like I couldn’t do it.
The one thing that Russ has become addicted to in laundry shirts is starch. I knew that he has to speak on a stage next week and I wanted him to look his best. Spray starch was not going to do the trick. So I went to the store to buy liquid starch called Sta-Flo. The Harris Teeter carried no Sta-Flo or any other liquid starch. I went to Target, none there. I looked online at Walmart, none in the local stores only for delivery on Wednesday. Crap.
I turned to You Tube. “How can I starch shirts at home like the laundry.” Very few answers. What? Has the whole world stopped buying 100% cotton shirts? Or has no one else missed the laundry cutoff?
Eventually I found the recipe for homemade starch. Guess what it is? Corn starch and water! I whipped up a batch, but how to use it? The debate on the internet is sketchy, I eventually washed the shirts on delicate in the washer and took them out and soaked them one at a time in the stachy water and wrung them out, hung them up wet and when they had dried just a bit then ironed them. It took forever, but they turned out almost as good as the laundry, not quite as stiff. I probably could have added a little more starch, but I was worried about leaving white starch residue on the shirts.
Now I have a new skill I can add to my linked in profile, laundress. It hopefully was a one day job. Next time I will make sure I put the shirts in the car the night before so I don’t forget them.
In my most Tom Sawyerish way I celebrated my birthday a day late by inviting friends to come volunteer at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC in exchange for lunch. I was not sure anyone would fall for this trick, but am so thankful for the wonderful friends who selflessly gave up a good chunk of their day to drive all the way to Raleigh to sort food. I wanted to show off our new headquarters before I am just a civilian there.
The Tom Sawyer part was that after the orientation we went to the volunteer area where there were giant crates of cucumbers and peppers which needed to be bagged into “shopper size.” Everyone put on their rubber gloves and gathered four or five to a pallet and carefully checked each vegetable to ensure it was not spoiled and then put it in a net bag. I on the other hand never donned a glove, but went from group to group talking as they worked.
After they had put in some good work I took groups on tours of the new facility explaining how the Food Bank actually works, which was a revelation to most of these dear friends.
My friends are great workers and quite competitive so they wanted to finish bagging their whole 2,000 pound pallets worth of vegetable before they would stop for lunch. It was an impressive showing because they bagged 6,780 pounds of food in less than an hour and a half.
The vegetables were beautiful and Denise found a whole bag of smile shaped cucumbers and we held them up for our photo. We didn’t need the artificial smiles because everyone already had a big smile on their faces from the actual fun they had bagging.
After the work was done we went to a community room and had lunch. My Dad had brought the famous Midtown market chicken salad that I requested in another Tom Sawyer trick. I am a famous over feeder and over estimator of how much food we need. You can tell it is a genetic trait because my father got 50% more than I asked for, forgetting that I had already requested more than I needed.
I also made six pies for the celebration, three chocolate chess and three lime pies. I whipped a big bowl of cream which turns out was enough for 100 people. Now I am noodling ideas on what to do with left over whipped cream.
Thank you to my dear friends who made the long trip and spent the better part of their day at the Food Bank. It meant the world to me. I was so happy to share my passion for their mission with you. Now if you want whipped cream, give me a call.
When your anniversary and your birthday are on back to back days you get a lot of love concentrated into a short period of time. I start to feel guilty that these two days are all about me and me and Russ. When I planned our wedding the day before my birthday was the only Saturday where both the church and my mother’s club were available so my hand was forced.
In years before social media it did not matter to anyone besides Russ and me that I had back to back celebrations. Then I had Carter and the triple whammy was created, anniversary, birthday, Mother’s Day. Poor Russ he would pull out his hair to try and find gifts.
Now I don’t care a thing about gifts. I got needlepoint and that made me happy. The best part was Russ made my envelope out of Needlepoint letter patterns which was quite an arts and crafts project for him. The world of Facebook makes your birthday and anniversary a much more public event. I heard from close and dear friends to far off acquaintances who I may have met once, but still wanted to wish me a happy birthday.
It is down right hard to be productive on your birthday these days. Between texts, and email and the old fashion phone calls. One of the highlights is I got to catch up with my birthday sister, Tricia, who was one of bridesmaids that I share a birthday down to the year with. Thanks to all of you who reached out and thought of me. The Dana show will be over soon, no more anniversaries for another year.
My Dad called and told me that 56 years ago at that moment he was drinking Rum Stingers with my grandmother at a Polynesian restaurant because the Doctor had told them that nothing was happening with my mother’s labor. That was the first time I had heard that story. I guess at 56 my father feels it is OK to tell me he was having a drink waiting for me to be born. I probably could have guessed that, except for the Polynesian restaurant part.
It was a great day of Mah Jongg with fun friends. Christy brought coconut cake from Thai Cafe that we had after I had won more than my share of games. I also got a beautiful orchid from Carol, a darling needlepoint canvas from Christy and a Birthday Kringle from Mary Lloyd. Carter gave me a painting and needlepoint. Then dinner with Russ and Carter and “surprise!” more coconut cake.
Thanks for a wonderful day. I will be stretching out the birthday celebrating a few more days. There are things I want to do under the guise of “it’s my birthday” but for now I just appreciate all the birthday love that came my way today. You really only get to do whatever you want to do for one day and I took full advantage of it. Birthday wishes to my friends and family I share this day with, Sarah, Gussy, Tricia, Beth, Ashley and all the other May 3 babies. It was a beautiful day.
Despite both my minister Uncle and Russ’ best man brother talking about divorce at our wedding Russ and I have made it 25 blissful years. I consider myself incredibly lucky that he chose me and has stayed around all these years. I could not have predicted that Russ would be the most generous, kind, smart, funny person I know. All I knew then was love, but now I know so much more. Despite his mother telling him he could still get out of this he chose to marry me. I’m glad she was wrong about our compatibility.
Together Russ and I knew something about us that none of those other people knew. We have always been a fairly strong team, but not blind about our faults. The one thing I know is that Russ always has my best interests at heart and I try to do the same for him, but will never match his selflessness.
We are not perfect. Russ is a terrible dancer and I am no good at sports, not that he cares. But we have grown to love things the other loves. Russ has become a fabulous cook through the years with me and I could probably be a contractor based on my study watching every episode of This Old House with him.
The best thing about us is that we basically would rather be with each other than with anyone else. Considering in my youth I used to like a party more than most it is so funny now that Russ and I are usually the first to leave a party so we could go home and just talk to each other.
Of course the other great thing we did together was produce Carter. She is certainly a 50/50 combination of the two of us. But soon she will be off and it will be just her two old parents alone together. Thank god we really really like being together. I can’t wait to see what the next 25 years brings. If only Russ would learn to like Mah Jongg.
We arrived home from our four days away and the dish washer was running, the kitchen was clean, the garden was watered and Carter had washed and folded at least four loads of laundry. Oh, she also took an AP exam today. We have no idea how the exam went, but leaving Carter home alone to take care of Shay went great.
“I love living alone!” was what Carter told us. She certainly is her father’s child.
With the days counting down that she will be with us I hate to leave her home alone, but I am thrilled that we came home to no problems.
Russ asked me if I wanted to go back to a Florida, already knowing what my answer would be. I love spending time with Russ, but Florida is no North Carolina. Also Russ had to work today so I had to entertain myself. After dropping him off at the clients I had a couple of hours to kill so I went to the Florida Holocaust Museum. It is a small museum committed to keeping the story alive with photos and artifacts, because someday soon no one will be alive who survived the horrific period in history and we must never forget.
It was a well thought out little 25 year old museum. The scariest part is the section describing Hilter’s first 100 days in office. There are parallels to be made. As many Jews in the films in the museum said, “If we don’t remember history we are destined to repeat it.” I am praying that is not going to be the case.
One thing I learned about that I never knew was about the ship the MS St. Louis. In May of 1939 it left Germany for Cuba with 937 Jewish passengers. They were denied entry into Cuba, denied entry into the US and sailed back to Belgium. They were at sea for over a month and the U.K., Belgium, the Netherlands and France divide them up as refugees. Except for the ones who went to the U.K., most were murdered in the concentration camps. They so easily could have been saved if the US had just accepted them as refugees. Are we repeating history right now?