Center stripe — outside Burlington, N.C., October 2013
Currently showing posts tagged North Carolina
Center stripe — outside Burlington, N.C., October 2013
Shadows and light — Boone, N.C., May 2017
Curtains drawn — Asheville, N.C., February 2017
Angel looks homeward — Asheville, N.C., February 2017
Bank vault — Durham, June 2015
Early morning — outside Boone, N.C., May 2017
Simpler times — Boone, N.C., May 2017
Broken bus — Meat Camp, N.C., May 2017
Murals and shadows — Boone, N.C., May 2017
The six Cook-McFarland cousins have not all been together in more than four years, so it was great to have everyone (including Conner, Nick's significant other) in the same place this past weekend in Boone for Jill's family reunion. These pics show they were quick to pick up where they left off...
To see more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
The Hodges-Love family reunion drew about 50 people to Oak Grove Baptist Church in Boone over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. It brought together family members from Jill's maternal grandparents, many of whom we haven't seen in years. Here are a few photos; the rest can be seen in my Facebook album here.
Meanwhile, as part of the event, I took a series of shots of old family photos to display in the room. Below is one; you can see the rest by going to this link in the VIsual Storytelling section of the website.
I've had the kids on the brain this morning, particularly thinking about the pyramid picture I took of the six first cousins in Boone over Memorial Day. I wanted to recreate the pyramids the kids did in their youth and (after much cajoling/negotiation) managed to get them to recreate this one from Memorial Day weekend nine years earlier.
Twilight on the Outer Banks — near Duck, N.C., October 2015
Ruling the roost on Chicken Alley — Asheville, N.C., February 2017
Black & White Week: Ready for a wedding — Goldsboro, N.C., May 2017
Granny's hats — from Boone, N.C., but shot in Lorton, Va., in March 2017
Stairwell at the Biltmore House — Asheville, N.C., February 2017
Bar lights — Durham, N.C., February 2017
Model T. Ford — Asheville, N.C., February 2017
Covered bridge outside Hickory, N.C. — September 2016
Sun breaking through — Asheville, N.C., February 2017
Stone at the Grove Park Inn — Asheville, N.C., February 2017
Two more photographs that appear in "Road Show," my exhibit at the Workhouse Arts Center that ends with the Collector's Showcase fundraiser this Saturday. Both photos have appeared here before.
The first, taken in October in Paris, is what you see when you look up from the ground at the Eiffel Tower. The second, "Congregation of Bees," was taken during a visit to Durham, N.C., last summer.
I hope you'll consider going to the exhibit before it closes. If you're interested in the Collectors Showcase event, go towww.workhousearts.org.
Posted before. Appropriate for today — Durham, July 2016
Bonus Photo: Saw this while on a Valentine's Day bar/restaurant/shopping crawl with my lovely wife, in Asheville, N.C., no less. Great way to continue the 20th anniversary tour!
Three "Daily Photos," all featured in Road Show, my exhibit now at the Workhouse Arts Center. Go see my show, now through March 4 on the second floor of Building 16.
Rest Stop — June 2016
Nottoway, Va., is about halfway between our home in Lorton and Greensboro, N.C., where my oldest son lived when he was a child. The Nottoway Motel, located just off Interstate 85, was a pickup/dropoff point for a number of years. Still heavily rural, the area now has a combination gas station/Subway/ Dunkin' Donuts just off the interstate, but the motel and a cafe remain open. Last June, while going to see Nicholas in Durham, I stopped by the motel and captured this picture.
Natural Geyser — Caribou County, Idaho
Last August, on a day trip from Salt Lake City to the Grand Tetons, I saw a sign pointing me to this natural geyser, which goes off every hour on the hour in Caribou County, Idaho. I stopped, waited until it fired up again, and snapped this photo.
Covered Bridge — Claremont, N.C.
Located just outside Hickory off Interstate 40, the 85-foot Bunker Hill Covered Bridge is one of only two remaining in North Carolina. Spanning Lyle's Creek, the bridge was designed by well-known Civil War engineer Herman Haupt. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This photo was taken in September 2016.
Distillery tour — Durham, N.C., December 2016
Photos of Ivy, taken in November during a workshop for dancers in Reidsville, N.C., are now up on my website at http://glenncook.virb.com/ivy. If you are interested in scheduling a combination of master classes in dance and headshots for your students, contact me to talk through the possibilities.
The Daily Photo is back, and it's 5 o'clock somewhere — Durham, N.C., December 2016
Recently, I've started uploading a series of headshots and photos taken this fall. Check out these of Lauren at http://glenncook.virb.com/lauren-nc, taken during a recent trip to Hickory, N.C.
Another set of headshots from a recent trip to Hickory, N.C., are now up on the website. Check out these pictures and others of Elizabeth at http://glenncook.virb.com/elizabeth.
A huge word of thanks to the students and staff at Academy of Dance in Reidsville, N.C., for bringing us in for a day of master classes, headshots and dance photography this past weekend.
My son, Ben, taught back-to-back classes and talked to students at the studio about his experiences as a working actor. I took headshots, did an "Art & Dance" session with several students, and talked to parents about challenges of raising a child in show business.
This is the second of these types of sessions we have done this fall. If you are interested in bringing us in for your studio, send an email to email@example.com.
Surprised the oldest on his birthday yesterday in Durham. It's the first birthday we've spent together since 2009.
We're having a quiet Thanksgiving at home, quite the contrast to years past. Feeling nostalgic with Ben, Emma, and Kate here together for the first time in months, I started going through old photos of past Thanksgivings.
A few things I noticed during our visual time travel:
• Over the last 20 years, we've had Thanksgiving dinner in at least 7 different cities in four states.
• Only two years (2001 and 2014) are not represented in this album. We were just moving into our home in Lorton in November 2001 and in 2014 we had just the girls here for a low-key Thanksgiving.
• After 2003, we didn't have Thanksgiving at home until 2013. Since then, we've been at home for three of the last four years.
• The last Thanksgiving all six McFarland/Cook first cousins were together was in 2012. They've only all been together a handful of times since. The last time all of the Cook/Ghirardi cousins were together was at my dad's funeral in 2007.
Going back through these photos was fun experience. Some years were easier than others — no surprise given that December is the month of birthdays. At times we were celebrating new opportunities; at others we were mourning those we had lost.
But all it takes is one quick look, and you can see why I give thanks every day for the life we have together.
Academy of Dance in Reidsville, N.C., holds a special place in my heart because it’s where our daughter Kate took her first dance lessons at the age of 2. Seventeen years later, Ben and I returned so he could teach two master classes and talk to students about being a performer.
Earlier in the day, I took headshots of the kids as well as this addition to the “Art & Dance” series. Later, while Ben was teaching, I spoke to parents about the work it takes to help an aspiring performer navigate the professional world.
It was a fun day, an opportunity to help others, and a chance to reminisce. It also produced some really good pictures…
Covered bridge — outside Hickory, N.C., September 2016
One love — Durham, N.C., July 2016
Congregation of bees — Durham, N.C., July 2016
Photos taken of three dancers and Ben that were part of a weekend of master classes and shoots earlier this month in Hickory, N.C. The girls are students at Sonya's Dance Academy. The photos were taken in downtown and at the Bunker Hill covered bridge.
We also held a Sunday morning shoot at a railroad yard featuring some, though not all of the teenage dancers from Sonya's Dance Academy. The shoot produced an interesting set of images, and a whole lot of fun for everyone involved.
Bunker Hill covered bridge — Claremont, N.C., September 2016
A huge thanks to the staff, students, and parents at Sonya's Dance Academy who took part in a weekend-long series of photo shoots, master classes, and workshops recently in Hickory, N.C.
My son, Ben, taught two hour-long dance classes and talked to the students about his evolution from child to adult actor/performer. Meanwhile, I scheduled a series of mini-sessions with students for headshots, and spent more than an hour with parents talking about raising a young professional in the performing arts. Finally, we did a series of "Art & Dance" shoots, for which the photos will be coming shortly.
If your studio or group is interested in putting together this type of package, please contact me via Facebook message or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Religious graffiti — Chapel Hill, N.C., May 2016
Glass figurines — Durham, N.C., August 2015
Tombstone at the Old Chapel Hill Cemetery — Chapel Hill, N.C., May 2016
Angry cloud — Durham, N.C., July 2016
Proof that irony isn't dead — Standstill traffic in Tally Ho, N.C., July 2016
A weekend with my oldest son, Nicholas, and his girlfriend Conner in Durham, N.C. led to a walk around downtown and a series of fun photos of a cute couple. To see more, go to my Facebook album here.
Shadows and sunlight — Durham, N.C., July 2016
Post-game fireworks — Durham, N.C., July 2016
Hanging from the rafters — Chapel Hill, N.C., May 2016
Morning cup — Durham, N.C., June 2015
Hallway at the Carolina Inn — Chapel Hill, N.C., May 2016
Sun on the ocean — Corolla, N.C., October 2015
Graduation season began this past weekend with our niece, Elisabeth, receiving her bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We participated in Saturday's ceremony at the School of Journalism, followed by a lovely dinner at the Carolina Inn.
Elisabeth is the second in the McFarland/Cook clan to graduate from college this year, following on the heels of Nicholas. Margaret graduates from high school later this month, followed by Emma and Ben in June. Busy time of year...
Hometown mascot — Outer Banks, North Carolina, October 2015
Tobacco barn — Burlington, N.C., May 2015
As many of you know, my oldest son Nicholas has a younger sister, Bella, who lives in Greensboro and has Down’s Syndrome. Although she has since received a clean bill of health, Bella fought through a tough cancer battle several years ago. It was during that time that the Make-A-Wish Foundation gave his North Carolina family an opportunity to go to Disney World in 2013.
“It was a long, trying, and emotional two years,” Nick wrote in a Facebook post yesterday. “She pushed through it though and is one of the strongest, most resilient little fighters I know. I couldn’t be prouder and more honored to be the big brother of this little inspiration.”
Nick, kind and gentle soul that he is, has since been a supporter of the Make-A-Wish, including fundraisers with his college acapella group, Vital Signs. On June 3, he will hike 28.3 miles of the Foothills Trail in one day for the Make-A-Wish Central & Western North Carolina. He already has hit his $1,700 fundraising goal, but is still accepting donations to meet a personal goal of $2,500.
“No child should have to go through what Bella's gone through. But for those that do, having their wish granted gives them and the family a break from it all, enriching lives with strength, joy and hope, an opportunity to smile,” Nick wrote.
Our family has made a donation to Nick’s effort. I hope you will consider making one, too. To do so, go to his donation page here. Thank you for your support of our sweet and generous son.
My grandfather liked to say he was an “Okie from Muskogee,” having lived in the Oklahoma town for a period before moving to East Texas with my grandmother. I remember him telling me this numerous times, especially when Merle Haggard’s signature song came on the radio.
Haggard, who died last week at age 79, wrote “Okie from Muskogee” in 1969 after he became frustrated with anti-military, pro-sex and drugs protests that helped define the Vietnam era. The song, released three weeks after Woodstock, became a Number One hit as angry, proud conservatives embraced and latched on to its lyrics.
I’m not a huge Haggard fan, although I greatly admire his body of work and his ability to write about a hard scrabble life that included a stint at San Quentin, five wives, alcohol, drugs, bad business decisions, and battles with the IRS. Reading the many tributes written in the wake of his death, what I find most interesting is how he constantly evolved in his stances while tapping into the frustration of conservative whites piqued by changing morals and values.
Interestingly, Haggard’s death came just a couple of days before Bruce Springsteen decided to cancel a concert in Greensboro, N.C., to protest the state’s passage of HB2 – or the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act. The law, passed during a hastily scheduled legislative session by an increasingly conservative General Assembly, discriminates against transgender people and the LGBT community.
"To my mind, it's an attempt by people who cannot stand the progress our country has made in recognizing the human rights of all of our citizens to overturn that progress," Springsteen said in a statement announcing the cancellation. "No other group of North Carolinians faces such a burden."
Driving through North Carolina earlier this week in a truck that had only AM radio, I heard “Okie from Muskogee” in tribute to Haggard and wondered what he would have thought of the state’s latest legal action. After all, U.S. politics are the most strident they’ve been since Vietnam, and Haggard already had come too close to the flames of controversy more than once.
“I write from common knowledge, current knowledge, collective intelligence,” Haggard told author R.J. Smith about “Okie from Muskogee” in 2000. “At the time I wrote that song, I was just about as intelligent as the American public was. And they was about as dumb as a rock.”
I wish everyone could evolve like that over time…
The photos above are of my grandparents around the time "Okie from Muskogee" was released. The video below is of my favorite Haggard song, a duet with Willie Nelson on "Poncho & Lefty." (Seeing Townes Van Zandt, who wrote the song, in the video is a nice touch.)
It's difficult to believe it was just a week ago that I embarked on a 60-hour trip from New York to Tampa to Northern Virginia to move our daughter's stuff home. Now that our garage is sufficiently stuffed with stuff again, here is a summary of random thoughts from the long drive home.
Day 1: Monday
• Flying from New York to Tampa, I spent three hours on a packed airplane — window seat — with Edith Bunker and Sophia from The Golden Girls. Neither stopped talking the entire flight. One leaned over and raised my window while I was trying to take a nap, then explained three times in two minutes that she's "class-tro-phobic." I could resurrect the sitcom stereotype and run for five seasons on that material alone.
• The weather is nice in Florida, but reminds me of growing up on the Texas Gulf Coast. That’s the last time I remember seeing I saw a mosquito drive past in an Escalade.
• Not to make a political statement, but folks down here don’t seem to remember that the war ended 151 years ago. Of course, I know people in Texas who refuse to believe it ever joined the Union.
• I’m in a 12-foot moving van from Florida to Northern Virginia with no CD player or aux cord and spotty FM reception. The local AM conspiracy theorists are coming through loud and clear though.
I want to ask how it's possible to be so pessimistic and paranoid given their proximity to the happiest place on Earth, then realize I'd rather not know the answer and start searching for a sports talk channel. It’s gonna be a long trip...
• Cormac McCarthy won the Pulitzer Prize for “The Road,” his post-apocalyptic tale about a father and son traveling for months across land that has been destroyed by an unspecified cataclysmic event. Pretty much sounds like I-4 between Orlando and Jacksonville.
• Seeing a billboard for a heart specialist between ads for Cracker Barrel and Golden Corral seems sort of beside the point, doesn't it?
• In its next session, the Florida legislature sincerely should consider making an orange cone the state flag. That is, if Pennsylvania and Texas don’t beat them to it.
• Spotted on I-95 after crossing the Florida line: One F-150 towing another F-150. In many states you’d say that was someone helping out a friend. Given the political climate in Georgia these days, it feels like Ford is making a commercial for Brokeback Mountain.
• Speaking of I-95, it’s time to paraphrase Robert Earl Keen with, “The road goes on forever, but the party never begins.”
• Sometimes you just can’t make this stuff up, even if you’re working on next-to-nothing sleep at a Best Western off I-95 somewhere in the sticks of South Carolina... George Mason University received $30 million from the Charles Koch Foundation and an anonymous donor to rename the law school after Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in February. The name they came up with was The Antonin Scalia School of Law, which translates to ASSoL or ASS Law.
Needless to say, I’m sure the Kochs weren’t happy to hear this. The name was quickly changed to The Antonin Scalia Law School.
I needed that.
• I’ve stopped at a couple of places along the way to take pictures. Future stories/photo essays coming up, I’m sure.
• My grandmother rode her first horse in her mid 70s. I feel like I’ve been riding one for 800 miles.
• One stop was in Summerton, S.C., where I spent several months researching a story for the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. Almost 12 years after that story was published, not much has changed in this small town … sadly. (More on that later, too.)
• If Pedro from South of the Border ever becomes the billboard spokesperson for 1-800-Kars4Kids, I promise you I will hurt someone. Consider that a given.
• Post-Pedro billboard observation: North Carolina's internal conflicts are exposed in a 10-mile series of advertisements for Jesus and adult novelty stores that use the name Adam & Eve.
• Not much to report in Virginia. Thank goodness.
• Made it home around 9:30, about 60 hours after leaving New York. Now that all is said and done, I have driven more than 1,000 miles in 2+ days, loaded a small apartment, taken some pics and made it home alive to tell the tale.
Not that I haven’t been telling it all along.
Nicholas is featured in a short video promoting "Elon Day," the university's annual fundraising event. It's good to see he's putting his degree to use, and pretty clever, too...
Pat Conroy’s death last week brought back a tide of strong memories. The first was when I read the “Lords of Discipline” in high school, and the second was when I saw Conroy at a talk/book signing in Greensboro almost two decades later.
Like “The Great Santini,” perhaps the book he is best known for along with “The Prince of Tides,” Conroy’s “Lords of Discipline” draws upon the author’s struggles with the military’s hardness, born of traditions that encouraged prejudice and misogyny in the Vietnam-era South.
Published in 1980, the book was being made into a film a couple of years after “Taps,” another fictionalized drama about a military school. As I’ve often done, hearing about a movie based on a novel makes me want to read the book before seeing the film, so I picked it up.
What “Lords of Discipline” taught me was how hard it must be to do a novel justice on the big screen. Even though the film was OK, there was no way it could capture the depth of Conroy’s work, or the (occasional) pulp of his prose. The book captured a South I had long heard of, but never wanted to be part of, in such a way that I became determined never to experience it.
This has been a terrible winter for artists, and the world of classic rock-era music has been particularly hard hit. Add to that list author Harper Lee and actor Alan Richman, and it has been seemingly a never-ending roll call.
In the first three months of 2016, we’ve lost Beatles producer George Martin, David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Dan Hicks, Vanity, Keith Emerson of Emerson Lake and Palmer, Maurice White of Earth Wind & Fire, Paul Kantner and Signe Anderson of Jefferson Airplane.
In some ways, the deaths of most of those who passed away should not come as a shock, given the hard living that many of those musicians lived during the substance-fueled 1960s, 70s and 80s. Bowie, still working until right before his death, was the exception, even though he had been battling (quietly except to those closest to him) cancer for 18 months.
The reason, I think, that the long list of deaths surprises and gives me pause is because each of these artists was popular during my childhood. And with each passing, that childhood recedes further into my life’s rear view.
One singer’s illness, in the midst of everything, caught my attention. Joey Feek of the country duo Joey+Rory, whose public battle with cervical cancer was chronicled every step of the way by her husband, died this month at the young age of 40.
I didn’t know much about the couple or their music. In fact, I’ve heard only a few of their songs, which are pretty enough (especially their cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You”), but not cutting edge or truly memorable. What caught my attention was their openness about the illness, the way Rory Feek wrote about and cared for his wife and young daughter as Joey moved into hospice care.
There is something wrong about a person having to suffer in such a way, especially just a couple of years after having a child with Down’s Syndrome. But the grace and dignity they showed throughout is both commendable and memorable, and will outlive the songs they leave behind.
Pat Conroy wrote about life, death, family, dysfunction, mental illness and life as a military brat in the South. He too was open about all of his family’s foibles, so much so that many of his relatives would no longer speak to him.
He joked about this at the speech and book signing I saw him at in Greensboro, when he was promoting “Beach Music.” I had the chance to see him when Sarah Bullock, one of Jill’s co-workers and a second mother to her in many ways, invited me to come along.
Conroy’s sense of humor, always bubbling under the surface despite his lifelong struggles with depression, was in fine form as he told stories about his father meeting Barbra Streisand, and writing. When I mentioned, during the book signing, that I had worked as a newspaper editor before moving into communications, he complemented me on “escaping my career choice.” He then signed my copy of The Lords of Discipline — a hardback I bought that day, with the phrase, “For the love of words and books.”
Seeing Conroy was a highlight of my seven-plus years in North Carolina, and it’s rare that Sarah or I fail to mention it when we see or speak to each other. I still have the book, and last Christmas, Sarah sent me Conroy’s last work — “The Death of Santini.”
May he — and the others — rest in peace.
Morning latte — Durham, N.C., February 2016
Morning latte — Durham, N.C., February 2016
Peace and relaxation — Duck, N.C., October 2015
Goodnight sun — Corolla, N.C., October 2015
It's December (aka "birthday month") at our house, so here's a flashback to one of my favorite photos of the four kids holding hands in a brief moment of solidarity. By year's end, these four will be 18, 19, and 23, respectively. Sigh...
Four kids in a row — Wentworth, N.C., August 2000
Lone memorial — Alamance County, N.C., October 2013
Sun setting behind the trees — Corolla, N.C., September 2015
New life, old tree — Yanceyville, N.C., May 2015
Twilight in the Outer Banks — Duck, N.C., October 2015
Nicholas' first month at Elon University ended with a weekend for parents and family members. Elisabeth came down with me from Chapel Hill for the lunch, and then, later in the afternoon, I had a chance to see Nick's acapella group (Vital Signs) perform.
In what has become an annual tradition, the Cooks and McFarlands were together again on Memorial Day. This year, the location was Boone, where we saw Jill's dad, walked around Appalachian (one of Nicholas' possible college choices), visited Jill's Uncle Glenn, and ate a nice dinner with cousins Glenda, John, and Teresa Eggers and James McGhee.
The Cooks and McFarlands continued the tradition of being together for Thanksgiving despite some logistical hurdles. This year had a couple of twists: No Nicholas this year (sadly), and a one-day trip from New York to Boone for Ben and Dad in between two show days for "Billy Elliot." In addition to a family reunion covered in the next photo album, this year's highlight was football, gymnastics, and family time conversation in the front yard of the house where Jill grew up.
Thanksgiving also served as a Hodges family reunion in Boone for Jill's first cousins. Dinner was held at First Baptist Church with multiple generations in attendance. The event included great food, play time for the kids, and a chance for some nice family fellowship.
Big week/weekend/month for the Cook/McFarland families. To wit: One high school graduation (Elisabeth), one church confirmation (Katharine), two 8th graders moving onto high school (Margaret and Emma), one college freshman (Nicholas) ending his first year, and one 50th birthday (Jennifer). So, of course, we had to celebrate...
We celebrated Thanksgiving with the McFarlands this year in Chapel Hill, where Jill's father is staying due to illness. Nicholas was able to come up on Wednesday night, so we celebrated with him, then the five first cousins continued the activities into the next day. A lot of fun...
For the first time in a long time, I had a passenger on my semi-annual vigil to Elon to see one of Nicholas' shows, and Kate and I decided to hang around overnight to spend time with the oldest child and walk around campus. Here are photos from the extremely fun trip; check out the remarkable scenic design project that Nicholas completed on "The Grapes of Wrath" (bottom left). I wish you could have seen it. Really, really impressive work.
Six weeks after the death of Jill's father, we attended another funeral, this time for her Uncle Glenn, the patriarch of the Hodges family. A somber occasion made better by wonderful music, pearls of wisdom, and fond memories. I was a pallbearer at the service and was reminded throughout the day that Glenn Hodges never allowed his personal morals and value system to impede his ability to be kind, compassionate, and giving toward others.
The McFarland/Cook/Hodges clan reunited for the funeral of Jill's father, giving cousins a chance to reminisce and say goodbye.
Nicholas performed a solo at his spring Vital Signs concert at Elon University last night, covering "The Cave" by Mumford & Sons. Video is below.
A series of Instagram images taken while cleaning out Jill's childhood home in Boone this past weekend.
Jill's father, Bob McFarland, died yesterday morning in Chapel Hill, N.C. Thanks to everyone who has sent kind thoughts, words, and prayers.
I'm so blessed to have these five people in my life. It's truly fills my heart. Happy Valentine's Day!
Just off a state highway in rural North Carolina, a school that educated elementary-age children for almost 70 years sits vacant more than a decade after its doors were closed for the last time.
At the recent rate of travel, I can’t help but think I’ll be one of those people who wakes up in his own bed and doesn’t know where he is. It is nice, though, to be back in my bed after a whirlwind 2+ weeks.
For the past couple of months, Jill and I have pointed to this 17-day period as the one we had to “just survive.” To recap:
• June 19: Kate graduates from high school with my mom in from Texas and the McFarlands and Nicholas here from North Carolina.
• June 20: The McFarlands leave for a 25th anniversary weeklong trip to Maine.
• June 21: “Newsies” ends its two-week run in D.C. on Father’s Day. Nicholas returns to his new job and new apartment. My mom leaves, too.
• June 22: Ben leaves for Boston; Emma and Jeremiah start tech week for MSA’s “Toy Stories.”
• June 23: I leave to shoot the Graduate Management Admissions Council’s annual conference in Denver.
• June 25: Jill leaves for the ASCA conference in Phoenix.
• June 26: I get home from the GMAC conference.
• June 27: Ben catches a 6 a.m. flight from Boston to come home to see “Toy Stories.” I pick up the McFarlands in D.C. and take them to the matinee, the first of four shows scheduled this weekend. Emma packs for her three-week dance intensive in New York City.
• June 28: “Toy Stories” ends. Jeremiah returns to New York with his mom. After the tearful farewells to MSA’s seniors, Emma, Ben and I leave at 11:30 p.m. for Lower Manhattan, arriving just after 4 a.m. so she can start the dance intensive.
• June 29: Bleary eyed, I walk around the Lower East Side with my camera as Emma starts her camp. Afterward, Ben, Ginno and I meet her for a grocery/drug store run, then we leave for Boston.
• June 30: I have a business meeting in Boston, then Ginno and I watch Ben perform as Crutchie for the first time in “Newsies.” Harvey Fierstein (book), Jack Feldman (lyrics), and Jeff Calhoun (director) are in attendance. Ben nails it.
• July 1: Ginno and I head south in the early morning. I drop him off in Midtown and then head for Virginia.
• July 2: After a brief sleepover stop at home to check on Kate, who is child sitting for a family this summer, I did a quick photo shoot before leaving for North Carolina to see Nicholas and take him furniture for his new apartment. The trip takes almost seven hours, three of that to Fredericksburg 30 miles from our home.
• July 3: Nicholas and I embark on a memorable IKEA run to Charlotte, then drive back to Northern Virginia to see Jill, who returned that morning from her Phoenix conference. At the end of the evening, I drive into D.C. to pick up Emma, who is coming home for the weekend.
• July 4: Nationals game with Emma, her boyfriend James, Jill and Nicholas, followed by fireworks in D.C. with Kate. Great nap outside the National Theatre between the two events.
• July 5: Nicholas and Emma return to New York and North Carolina, respectively. I have another photo shoot with a client. Life returns to “normal,” if you can call it that.
Over those 17 days, I went to or through nine states and the District of Columbia, eight of them (plus DC) in a new car that has 2,600 miles on it after only 21 days of ownership.
To use a phrase Nicholas likes, “That, folks, is how we roll…”
Flag of plastic soldiers — Durham, N.C. June 2015
Nick's nirvana or the final scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark? You decide...
The things you do for your first-born child…
After four years at Elon University, my oldest son, Nicholas, recently moved into his first post-college apartment. He started work just after graduation at his alma mater in the admissions office, and found a place only a few miles from campus.
I got my first apartment, too, when I was 21, starting an itinerant stretch of life that saw me move 13 times in 12 years. I became so proficient at finding the best deal (a necessity, given the starving journalist’s pay grade) that I started looking at new places almost as soon as I moved into the new one.
It’s doubtful that Nicholas will follow my path, at least in this case, and yet I recall vividly what he’s going through as he makes this transition into adulthood, budgeting and planning for the first round of the never-ending monthly bills and trying to get everything in place. He won’t feel settled until he’s literally settled in.
When he was in Northern Virginia for Kate’s graduation, my mom and Jill took him to IKEA to get him set up in his first home. They both were very generous in making sure he has the basics necessary, but left with him wanting a couch that he saw on the showroom floor.
We agreed to split the cost of the couch between us and my mom, and tried to figure out how to get it to him. That would prove to be no easy task, as the closest IKEAs are 120 and 250 miles away, respectively.
In the middle of a crazy — even by our standards — two-week stretch that saw me driving from Virginia to New York to Boston to Burlington, N.C., I agreed in a moment of temporary insanity to take Nicholas to the location just outside Charlotte to see what we could do. Charlotte, of course, is almost two hours from Nicholas’ new apartment, in the opposite direction of where we would be heading later in the day.
I'm not sure which is worse: I-95 South traffic that takes 3 hours to go 30 miles, or an 8 a.m., drive with my caffeinated 22-year-old and an IKEA catalogue. And I experienced both within 24 hours of each other.
Grumpy and butt-lagged from the drive from Boston to Virginia two days earlier, and the seven-hour journey to Burlington that should have taken no more than five hours the day before, we left for Charlotte in the middle of a seemingly never-ending rainstorm that has saturated the Mid-Atlantic. Nicholas, catalogue in hand, was excited about the opportunities to accessorize his new place, but I never thought I’d hear him say, “I really wish I could get curtains..." at 8:30 a.m. on a Friday.
Still, we marched on, and had a nice conversation about life stuff that you rarely have with your children during their teen years. (Added bonus: Given that I was doing him a favor, I had control over the radio for once.)
We made it to Charlotte, and after determining that there was no way the couch would fit in the CR-V, decided to have the three gigantic boxes it came in delivered. Nicholas kept the accessory purchases to a minimum, given that he’s now on a budget, and we soon were on our way back to Burlington and then to Northern Virginia.
In the meantime, I jotted down a few observations that I think are worth sharing. Here are six from the day:
• All IKEA furniture has to be built at home, giving credence to my theory that the three dirtiest words in the English language are “Some Assembly Required.”
• We had brunch in the IKEA cafeteria because the store takes off your food/drink purchase if you spend more than $100. That, I have to admit, is a nice perk.
• Given the way people zip around the store, the Charlotte location apparently doubles as a NASCAR training facility.
• IKEA really stands for “I Know Every Accessory” available to man.
• I heard more Abba music in an hour than I did during all of “Mamma Mia.” I get the connection, but do they really have to be so obvious?
• The chain really should bill itself as the "thinking man's Home Depot." And anyone who knows me knows what I think of Home Depot.
Nicholas was happy to get the couch, even though it won’t be delivered until next week, and I was happy to finally be heading home after the never-ending road trip. Despite some heavy rain, we made it back to Virginia successfully, and Nicholas stayed for two nights to celebrate the Fourth of July with us before heading back to work and his new place.
Ultimately, when it comes down to it, his decision to voluntarily come see us was the nicest perk of all. Because, even as they move out on their own, it’s nice to know your place still feels like home.
Window dressing — Durham, N.C., June 2015
I've been fortunate to travel quite a bit over the past few months with Ben on the "Newsies" tour. Every once in a while, I get to mix business with pleasure. Above are new headshots I took of the boy during a break between shows last weekend in Durham. For more, go to http://glenncook.virb.com/ben2015.
Josh Burrage is one of Ben's closest friends on the tour. He hired me to take new headshots during the tour's stop in San Antonio last month. For more photos, go to http://glenncook.virb.com/josh.
Fading barn — Gibsonville, N.C., September 2014
"Newsies" in Durham gave Jill an opportunity to reunite with childhood and college friends this past weekend. It was the first reunion of 20+ alumni from UNC-Chapel Hill's Tri-Sigma sorority and she also spent time with childhood friends Annette and Jan as well as Jan's family.
We've also been fortunate to see a number of North Carolina friends from our time in Reidsville over the past few days. It's been great to spend a little time together and to catch up. Thank you for your support and kindness!
Now it's off to a very entertaining two weeks in DC!
Congratulations to Nicholas, who has been hired as an admissions counselor serving South Carolina, Tennessee and western North Carolina at his beloved alma mater days after graduating. He has wanted to work in admissions since he started as a tour guide at Elon in 2012. Very proud of you, son!
Old glories — Stokesdale, N.C., April 2015
Last week, I went down to Greensboro, N.C., to — among other things — take pictures at the STEM Early College at North Carolina A&T University. The photos are for a story I wrote on early colleges for an upcoming issue of American School Board Journal. Not all will be used, but I thought this made for a nice photo essay on some of the work that is being done at the school.
The STEM Early College opened in the fall of 2012 as a joint project between Guilford County Schools and A&T. It is the second early college the district has on the A&T campus. The school opened with 50 ninth-grade students and has added 50 each year (maximum enrollment 200). Students finish their state-mandated high school credits in two years and spend the next two years on college coursework. By the time they graduate — and almost 100% are on track to do so — they will have a high school diploma and up to 60 hours of college credit.
Given the high cost of college tuition, the move toward early colleges is taking off. Guilford County, the third largest district in North Carolina, has the most early colleges in the nation.
For more photos, go to my Facebook page here.
Easter 2000: One of my all-time favorites of the trio (Nicholas wasn't with us that year), plus a PSA on the dangers of eating too much Easter candy in the morning.
Living in rural North Carolina, I was always fascinated by the old barns and buildings you see while driving down the two-lane state highways. Recently, on a trip back to the state where I lived from 1993 to 2001, I decided to take pictures of some of them along NC 87 between Reidsville and Burlington and in Rockingham County as well. Here is an example, and you can see more by going to my Facebook photo page here.
Our oldest, Nicholas, graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor of fine arts degree Saturday from Elon University. He completed his program in four years while juggling the a capella group Vital Signs, membership in a fraternity, up to three part-time jobs, a long-term girlfriend and two full-time families, who joined with him in the celebration.
Art and man — Charlotte, N.C., January 2015
Restaurant waterfall — Burlington, N.C., October 2014
Inside the lighthouse — Currituck, N.C., April 2014
Fall on the lake — Greensboro, N.C., October 2012
Broken scales — Reidsville, N.C., October 2014
Another tombstone — Forest City, N.C., February 2013
Clouds over the Blue Ridge Parkway — near Boone, N.C., September 2011
The Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, N.C., is the place where Wilbur and Orville Wright conducted the tests that led to the first successful, sustained, powered air flights on Dec. 17, 1903. For almost four years, the brothers went to North Carolina from Dayton, Ohio, to take advantage of the area’s winds and remote location.
On that day, the brothers made four flights from level ground near the base of the hill in what was described as “a heavier-than-air machine.” They had spent the previous three years conducing experiments from a 90-foot hill where a memorial was dedicated to the brothers in 1932. The massive, shifting dune was later stabilized and named Kill Devil Hill.
The memorial includes a visitor’s center that features models and tools used by the brothers during their experiments. You also can see a life-size replica of the 1903 Flyer that was the first powered aircraft to achieve controlled flight.
The site also has replicas of two wooden sheds that represent the world’s first airplane hangar and living quarters for the brothers. You also can walk along the actual routes of the four flights, and stop at small monuments marking their starts and finishes.
The spectacular monument cost more than $200,000. It includes 1,200 tons of granite, 2,000 tons of gravel, 800 tons of sand, and 400 tons of cement.
For more photos, got to my Facebook album here.
If you ever visit North Carolina’s Outer Banks, be sure to check out the lighthouses that are still being used to aid navigation through the barrier islands that dot the East Coast. One of the best is the Currituck Beach Light in Corolla, N.C., where you can climb the 214 steps to a gorgeous view of the area.
Currituck Beach Light has been in constant operation since construction on the 1 million brick structure was completed in 1875. It still uses the first order lens that comes on every evening at dusk and shines from 158 feet in the air at 20-second intervals.
The lighthouse has been completely automated since 1939. Unlike others in the area, it was not painted, and the brick façade remains visible. The walls are five feet thick at the base and three foot thick at the top.
For more photos, go to my Facebook album here.
Currituck Beach Lighthouse — Currituck, N.C., April 2014
Four Instagram images that look at aspects of my wife's childhood home on the one-year anniversary of my father-in-law's death — Boone, N.C., January 2013
Passage to classes — Elon, N.C., October 2013
Daily Photo: Abandoned barn near Gibsonville, N.C. — October 2013
Top Photo: Six first cousins in front of Jill's family home in Boone, N.C. — Thanksgiving Day, 2005. Bottom: The same six on the front porch in February 2013.
Double exposure from the days of film: One student studies; another waits for the bus on the first day of school — Rockingham County, N.C., August 2000
Full moon near Mount Vernon — Alexandria, Va., September 2013
Church chimes — Forest City, N.C., February 2013
Daily Photos for the weekend of October 5-6, taken on a 575-mile round trip from Northern Virginia to Elon, N.C. Above: Sunrise in King's Dominion, Va. Below: My oldest son, Nicholas, and his girlfriend Katherine at Elon University.
Morning fog outside Boone, N.C. — May 2010
Sometimes photos can spark lifelong memories that instantly send you back to a moment in time. For me, this is one of those.
It was October 1998, a brisk, windy day in Beech Mountain, N.C. On a whim, I had taken Nicholas (then 5) and Katharine (then 1½) to a theme park known as The Land of Oz.
Making the trip meant I would face some logistical challenges. Given my directional dyslexia, it didn’t help that I was not familiar with the area, even though it was reasonably close to Jill’s parents in Boone. Also, we had to go up and back the same day — a six-hour roundtrip, plus however long the tour took.
Most challenging: I had never taken two small children on my own that far away, knowing I would have to struggle with a stroller on a Yellow Brick Road that, based on what I had heard, was missing a few bricks.
A kitschy theme park patterned after the book, not the movie my kids were burning out on our VHS/TV combo, the Land of Oz opened in 1970 with Debbie Reynolds, her teenage daughter, Carrie Fisher, and 20,000 people in attendance. A fire that destroyed the park’s Emerald City and many Oz artifacts (including a dress worn by Judy Garland in the original film), combined with dwindling visitors, led to the park’s closure a decade later.
The park was abandoned for years, but starting in 1993, it has been reopened on the first weekend of October for the annual “Autumn at Oz” celebration. Volunteers dress up as the iconic characters and help walk tourists through the story, including a trip through a tilted version of Dorothy’s farmhouse.
When Jill and I heard about the fifth anniversary reopening, she suggested I go with the kids. Ben and Emma were still infants, so taking them was impossible, but we thought Nicholas and Kate might enjoy it.
And they did, which leads me to this photo.
As always, I brought a camera along for the ride, knowing that I would not have much chance to take pictures while chasing after the duo. Hoping to get something, I sent Nicholas and Kate ahead. He held her hand and they walked down the Yellow Brick Road as I snapped off three quick frames.
The picture still makes me smile.
Here are the other pictures from the trip.
Postscript: We enjoyed the experience so much that we took all four back the following year. While nothing equaled the photo I got of Nicholas and Kate, that trip was memorable, too.
By this time, Nicholas and Kate were in full Oz mode, and they both squealed as they saw and remembered the things from the previous year. Ben and Emma, on the other hand, were more cautious. When the Tin Man reached down to say hi to Emma, she promptly punched him. Sadly, he was not wearing a tin cup. (Photos below)
Postscript No. 2: This morning, after several stories about the 20th anniversary of Autumn at Oz popped up on Facebook, Nicholas commented that he’d like to go back some day. Kate and I will get to see my oldest son this weekend, but this time it’s at his college, where he's performing in a play.
How time flies.
Note: I wrote this essay when Kate was 18 months old. She's now 13. Interesting how we knew something was up even then, isn't it?
She walked at nine months. She had twin siblings before she turned a year.
It’s no wonder my daughter Katharine made it to the “terrible twos” several months early.
We are now in that period of parenthood that my seasoned, been-there-done-that friends refer to as the “teenage preview.” They shake their heads and say, “Just wait ‘til she turns 13.”
At times, I wonder if my wife and I can make it until she turns two. Little did we know that parenting a pair of infants would be a breeze compared to chasing a toddler with an attitude any high school sophomore would be proud to possess.
Part of it is the circumstance. With three children under age 2, life around my house is never less than interesting. Going to the bathroom can require an act of Congress and a signed letter from the president. And with Katharine in her present phase, you never know what you’ll find when you get there.
I’m more convinced than ever that the “terrible twos” are a simple way of identifying “toddler schitzophrenia,” the developmental stage all parents must endure. I just wish they had “toddler Prozac” to help the parents cope.
One minute, she’s wonderful, working the room like a career politician.
“Hi, I’m Katharine Cook, candidate for leader of the toddler party. My platform is more beanie weenies, less Spam for all. Glad to meet you.”
The next is like listening to an air raid siren, battle lines having been drawn when I tried to take something out of her hands.
“This is a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. For the next 60 seconds, I’m going to let out a scream that will make you think the entire area is under nuclear attack. Please stand by.”
And so it goes.
For her parents, moments of quiet have resulted in near “I wonder what she’s gotten into now” paranoia.
And yet there are moments when I wouldn’t trade this time for anything.
With the insanity around my house, it is easy to forget Katharine is only 16 months old. She’s had to change rooms, move from a crib into a bed, and share the attention with twins who — by virtue of their unique nature — naturally snatch a spotlight that once was exclusively hers.
Partially because of all the changes, Katharine is remarkably self-sufficient for her age. She’s at the phase where she absorbs words and actions like a large sponge sitting at the bottom of a vast ocean. And yet, as much as it makes us cringe, it’s also easy to understand why she occasionally enjoys sitting on her sister’s head. She’s still a baby herself.
In those rare quiet times, however, all it takes is a certain look to make you forget all of the bad stuff. Her eyes, which are as expressive as her mother’s, alternately make me swell with pride and reach to my face to feel the tears roll down my cheeks.
Recently Katharine has started waking up in the middle of the night. And even though it usually takes her mother to get her back to sleep, I have made several half-groggy attempts to soothe my daughter.
In the small rays of dim light provided by the blinds in the bedroom window, I start to rub my little girl’s back, much like I do with her mother. As I watch her eyes move slowly, alternately opening and shutting, I flash forward to those teenage years my friends talk about.
On some nights, I project even farther into the future. High school. College. The day she has my grandchild. I wonder briefly if her daughter will be as beautiful as she is.
But that is a lifetime away. A lifetime that will pass much too fast. Ahead is a childhood that I hope we both can enjoy.
If we survive it, that is.
Sometimes you ask “Why” and there are no answers. Sometimes you say it with a question mark, or an exclamation point, or both, and still the answers don’t come.
Sometimes there is just no answer.
Four days ago, a 29-year-old woman who apparently had everything committed suicide. I didn’t know her well, hadn’t seen her since she graduated from high school, only mentioned her occasionally in conversation. Her parents, for different reasons, had a great impact on our lives and, ultimately, on the places where we are today.
Why does this affect me so? Why has it had such an impact on Jill?
Because this was not supposed to happen. It was the last thing anyone would have — could have — anticipated. No one would have thought, or could have imagined, why someone with so much would end everything.
No one ever can.
I grew up in a small town, or at least I thought it was small. Compared to Houston, 35 miles to the north, Texas City was — and is — a small town.
And with around 40,000 residents, it is 2½ times larger than Reidsville, N.C.
From 1993 to 2001, I lived in Reidsville, moving there as the managing editor of a small newspaper and leaving there to be the managing editor of a national education magazine. I’ve said often that leaving the Houston area to move to a small community where tobacco and textiles were the prime industry felt like going from fifth to first without hitting the clutch.
And yet, during those eight-plus years, my life changed in ways I can’t imagine. Looking back now, it’s hard to believe I didn’t leave with a permanent case of whiplash.
To sum up, while living in Reidsville, I:
• Turned 30.
• Got a divorce, rediscovered my love for theater, remarried, changed careers, bought a house, and had Kate, all within an 18-month period.
• Discovered shortly after Kate was born that we were having twins.
• Found a series of surrogate families — and my children at least one additional grandma — that we’ve stayed in touch with over the years.
When we left to move to Northern Virginia, it was time. The many things that Reidsville offered, the hooks and lures that held us there, had their allure. We could have stayed.
Something told us — both of us — that we needed to move on. And I’m glad we did, for our sakes, and for the sake of our children.
But there is something about living in a small town, or growing up in a small town, that never leaves you. It’s an extended family you can’t leave behind.
I just don’t get it.
I don’t think anyone else does either.
Separating the intellectual from the emotional is difficult most, if not all the time.
Retrospect helps you point to signs, like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. But, ultimately, it doesn’t answer the central question: Why?
Jill and I had not seen Lindsay in years. We heard about the different things in her life from friends and acquaintances with whom we still maintain contact, but like all too many people we encounter, she was another person from a place we lived in a decade ago that we assumed was going to be OK.
Her parents are extraordinarily kind people, who’ve done nothing but help us — and others — over the years. Our lives intersected with theirs at various moments; the memories we share of each other are good ones, lasting ones, or at least I’d like to think so.
But as happens all too often in this life, people you care about drift away. You don’t mean for that to happen, but life intervenes and it does.
And then something like this happens, and abruptly, without warning, you are slung back into memories of a time you had left behind.
First and foremost, I’m a chronicler. I would like to be someone who can develop scenarios and turn them into classic fiction, but my writing at heart comes from everyday life. Why create something out of nothing when there is so much around you to chronicle?
That said, although I love biographies, I’m not a person who typically follows others’ blogs, just as I don’t expect you and others to follow mine. I hope what I have to say is something that is of interest to others — at the very least my children — but if not I can say without question that writing has provided me with an outlet that otherwise I would not have.
Earlier this week, I happened to find Lindsay’s blog (http://applebloggingjeans.tumblr.com) and could not stop reading it. It’s a fascinating chronicle of a young, caring, witty, and extremely intelligent woman facing life in her 20s. Naturally, I found myself looking for clues, hoping something would answer my central question, knowing that nothing would.
Somewhere in my reading, I happened on this paragraph that I can’t seem to shake:
“I am, at my core, a person who fights everyday with who I am at my core— both an open book, ready and willing to share all that I am with the world, and a person who deals with many of my own demons, triumphs, blessings INTERNALLY and without desire to share those things even with those closest to me. I have been, for as long as I can remember, a walking contradiction.”
We encourage our children to be open about their struggles. We try to be open about ours.
Of course, bookstores are chock full of memoirs from people whose families did an incessant data dump on the author, who suffered so much in the process that they managed to get an autobiography and an Oprah/VH1 episode out of it.
That’s not what we’re trying to do, in our dealings with our kids or even in this chronicle I’m putting out there for them — and you. What we want them to know is that they can come to us — no matter what.
I think they do know that. And I pray, every moment of every day, that they feel like they have someone to share their thoughts with.
No matter what.
The school-to-summer transition always is a strange time.
May and June, like the holiday period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, always is a crazy period in our lives. Inevitably, we’re dragging the kids to the finish line for school, tired and weary ourselves from getting up early and going to bed late. Meanwhile, all the end-of-year activities jam the calendar, leaving us to rush from one place to the next at a more chaotic pace than usual.
As I write this, I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Alexandria. My daughters are up the hill, dancing in the first of two performances of “Grease.” Ben is in New York, performing in the matinee and evening “Billy Elliot.” Jill is in Seattle at her conference. And Nicholas is in North Carolina with his other family and his girlfriend.
For the first time, it looks like our family won’t be able to take an extended summer vacation. As the kids get older, and activities become even more diverse, it’s becoming more and more difficult to string a week of days together that everyone can be together.
This is a transitional period in our lives as a family, a cycle that every nuclear unit goes through to a certain extent. It has been extremely difficult for Jill, much more so than for me, because I find transitions and changes generally come easily. For Jill, this time of year is doubly hard because of the work/family conflict caused by her conference and the recital always falling on the same weekend.
Despite our best efforts, cloning is not something we’ve managed to master.
At times like this, it’s hard to imagine that we’ve lived in Northern Virginia for 10 years, that my kids really were 3, 3, 4, and 8 when we moved here.
This year, more than any other, I’ve been aware of that transition, which is one reason I’ve been hanging around the auditorium where the “Grease” dress rehearsals took place. Normally, I can’t wait to get out, to the point where my kids have perfected the tuck and roll as the van hits the parking lot.
But this year is different. It likely will be Kate’s last year to dance; she’s planning to play field hockey starting this fall when she enters high school. Over the last few months, her enthusiasm for dance has waned. You can see she wants something different.
Emma, on the other hand, has really stepped it up. If anything, it’s another part of her emergence from the wide shadow cast by Ben and Kate, another example of how she is growing into her own.
Watching the girls and their peers, you can see transitions occurring for other families, too. Some are getting ready to go to college, like Nicholas. Others, the ones you remember from grade school, are driving themselves to the theatre.
Little kids — fortunately I’m seeing a lot more boys this year — are dressed up in their costumes and don’t want to leave. Their parents, having not been through the drill before, can’t wait to go home.
I periodically take breaks from writing to concentrate on other things in life — job, spouse, children, the usual stuff. Ideas are constantly coming and going like cars on the autobahn, but something prevents me from turning them into something that’s at least somewhat entertaining.
Recently, when I’ve had the time to work on a blog entry or something for work, my brain/fingers don’t cooperate. When the brain is working – shower, in the car -- the time is never right. And then everything else gets in the way.
I realized earlier this week that I had not filed a blog entry since early July. Wondering why, I decided to check my version of a diary — status updates on Facebook. (Remember, all status updates start with your name. I try to finish the phrase by starting with a verb, but that’s not always successful.)
See if you notice a trend...
End of June:
• I've spent the days of summer (3 thus far) in a darkened auditorium taking pictures of my girls (and anyone else I could shoot) doing 5-hour rehearsals of "Grease" (w/dance recital material thrown in for good measure). It is almost July, and I still look like someone who has not had sun since 1998.
• It's been a good day ... on many levels. Wish Jill was here to celebrate the many things we all have to be thankful for. (To my editor friends, sorry for ending that last sentence in a preposition, but it's late.)
• Has had a wonderful day with Emma. Toured the Harry Potter Exhibition at Discovery Times Square (her version of nerdvana), ate treats at the Cake Boss cafe (see 13th b'day pics if you want to know why that's important), and had a good time with Ben, Neil and Ginno during the dinner break. It's been a lot of fun.
• Made the pilgrimage to the Lincoln Memorial with the kids tonight, something we do every time Nicholas is in town. I'm truly amazed by how much they have grown up over the past year.
• Congratulates Ben on his one-year anniversary in Billy Elliot! He has performed in 416 consecutive shows without missing a beat — a remarkable feat for anyone, let alone a 13-year-old who also went to school full-time. We are very proud of you, son!!!
• Has another one of those weekends lined up. Jill is in Boone today and tomorrow moving her dad. Kate is at a camp. Emma is meeting me in NY tonight and we'll get Ben. Nick is in North Carolina and going out of town. Yes, it is summer...
• Survived the midnight premiere of the last "Harry Potter" and is at work while the kids sleep in...
• Has taken Ben and Neil McCaffrey (happy 13th birthday, Neil!) to the train station, is schlepping Kate to camp, and has seen Jill off to her meeting in Georgia. And it's not even 9 a.m...
• Took Katharine to a two-week wilderness camp today, a 520-mile roundtrip that featured three vicious storms, a 12-mile stretch of interstate that took an hour and a half to slog through, a few photos of rural Virginia, and a very happy 14-year-old. So I guess it was worth it...
• Is getting ready to leave NY with Ben, who after 451 straight performances in Billy Elliot is doing something he's never done in his professional life — taking a vacation.
• Had a great time with Jill and the kids. Of course, we had dinner and a show. Ben sang, Emma danced, Kate laughed (at herself, not her siblings), and Nick created food art in the middle of his plate. A typical family evening!
• Has put Ben on a NY bound train. Nicholas is heading back to NC with the McFarlands this afternoon, while Jill and the girls are returning from Wintergreen. As for me, I'm going home to take a nap, and it not even 7:30 yet...
• Had an amazing evening at Steve Earle's show (thanks again, Jill and kids), which reminded me of the power of music and how it can rejuvenate the mind, body and spirit. As part of it, saw/heard a new favorite band called The Mastersons. Check them out on FB; some of the best new music I've heard in some time.
• Blew two tires just before 1 p.m. and thought that would be my news of the day. Just before 2, at a gas station next to a very pregnant woman, the earthquake hit. 45 seconds later, we stood there wondering what happened. She said, "I thought my water just broke." I told her, "I'm sure a lot of people felt the same."
• Presents the week in headlines: Ben as Michael; 4 tires and an earthquake; Kate in field hockey scrimmages; Nicholas off to college; finding a way home to VA in a hurricane watch with Emma. Next week's prediction: Frogs falling from the sky.
• Amid unprecedented plans to shut down NYC, Emma is on a roll. We're scheduled to be on — literally — the last train out of the city, and she wants to stop at American Eagle one last time. My response: I've been shopping with you more this summer than at any time in your life, so why now? Fluttering her eyes (I swear), she said: You've raised my expectations.
• Is back in Virginia with Emma, exhausted and thankful that the train ride was smooth. Full, but smooth...
Given our lives for the past two years, it was an unusual summer. Nothing earth shattering, just a lot of back and forth, and — fortunately — some quality time spent with all of the kids. I guess you could say there hasn’t been much to blog at home about, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
But now that it’s September, and things are picking up steam, I’m sure I’ll be back in this space soon.
Recently, while digging through some old computer files, I found a list of instructions for our babysitter from 2000. As you can see below, they were detailed and explicit, in part because we were foisting a 3-year-old and two 2-year-olds on unsuspecting (but excellent) sitters.
The girls who worked for us — now remarkably married (time flies) — were mostly recruited from the middle school where Jill was a counselor. It was a good deal for the sitters’ parents, too; we advertised ourselves as the Rockingham County Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Coalition.
If they’re not moving yet, wake everyone around 5:30. You can play outside and neighborhood kids can play in our yard as well, but keep them in our yard.
Eat around 7. Frozen pizzas are out; will take 60 to 90 seconds to heat. Ben likes milk, Emma likes juice and Katharine water or juice. We have self-contained juices in the pantry; Ben needs a cup that has a lid if possible. They’re in the kitchen cabinets or dishwasher.
After everyone finishes eating, get them in their pajamas (Ben likes to wear his pants/blue jeans, and that’s fine). Wash their faces; give them a bath if you feel brave, but it’s not necessary. Then help them brush their teeth.
Don’t give Emma or Katharine anything to drink after dinner.
Let them watch a movie downstairs (probably Rugrats) and aim to get them to bed between 9 and 9:30. (NO LATER THAN 9:30). We have popcorn in the cabinet that already has been popped; they can eat that.
Bed: Read to Ben and Emma (two to three stories minimum), then work on getting them to bed. Ben and Emma will jaw over what they want to take to bed with them. Go ahead and put their books in the bed. Ben likes Buzz or Woody; Emma sometimes likes to sleep with a towel. That’s OK. Read, bed, and leave the light on that is on their dresser. Don’t close their door; they’ll scream.
Katharine needs to be read to as well in her bed. Two to three stories, then flip over her tape and turn it on. Light on her dresser can be on as well.
That’s it. Once you’ve gotten to this point, you’ve made it! Congratulations and we’ll be home soon.