Happy Birthday to my Dad

Eighty-three we thought he’d never see based on the stories he told us when we were kids. Happy birthday to my dad who has broken all records as far a big living is concerned.

Now he and my mom are about to embark on what I calculate is their 18th house move, if you count some work places my Mom never went to, in their marriage.

Getting ready for a big downsize move is not the best way to spend your birthday, but hell, no one thought my Dad would make it to 83, especially him.

When I was a child he used to start many life lessons with the phrase, “I have to tell you this before I die.” Well now neither of us can remember what those stories were, but he did a great job giving me life’s instructions and getting me to 60.

For now I pray that for his birthday the Internet installers show up on time at his new house. At 83 there is just not a lot you need. Happy birthday Dad.


Nature Is Miraculous

Squash April 16

My garden is growing! My squash are a great example. In exactly one month they went from three inch saplings to huge eighteen inch bushes with flowers and squash just days away from harvest size.

Same squash May 16

None of this is thanks to me, it is all Mother Nature. I helped by making organic compost, which I use as the mulch on the plants. I also make sure everything gets watered if we don’t have rain. My biggest help is I go out and shake the plants everyday to scare away the aphids.

I am worried that the aphids might be getting ahead of me and hurt the plants. I tried to attract lady bugs, but I don’t think it is warm enough for them. So today I planted more marigolds and catnip as they supposedly repel aphids.

My pole beans have gone from seed to ten inch plants, but a few of those plants have a couple of curling leaves and I am yet able to diagnose the issue.

Does anyone know what wrong with this plant?

Russ and I have been eating from the garden everyday, enjoying Kale, spinach, lettuce, arugula, cilantro, basil and chives. I am ready for the peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes to start growing fruit, but I know it will be another month before we can reap that bounty.

If you have a child or a grandchild please grow some food with them. It is the best education to understand where food comes from. Nothing tastes better than a vegetable you grow yourself.


Fig Miracle?

About ten years ago I bought a stick potted in a gallon of dirt at the farmers market. The farmer told me it was a fig tree and instructed me how to plant it. Before I walked off he said, it may take a couple of years to get figs.

Following his instructions I planted the ball of dirt with the stick in the garden at the end of driveway. It grew, and grew and the first year I had a little bush of a fig tree with beautiful big green hand shaped leaves. No figs. Winter came and the leaves fell off leaving a scraggle of sticks.

The next year the sticks bore more beautiful leaves and stretched further out towards the sun. No figs, but it was only year two.

Year three same deal, but now the fig bush was getting more like a fig tree and I was hopeful. No figs. Russ mentioned that I might need a mate for my tree, but how would I find the right mate?

This yearly watch for figs became futile year after year and I often fought with the ever expanding tree as it expanded out into the driveway. Last fall, tired of the inaptly named fig tree I cut practically all its branch’s off.

This spring they all came back, but surprisingly in an effort to beg me not to be so harsh on it it brought a few figs on it’s upper branches. They are big green figs right now. Russ and I squeezed one today to see if they are close to harvest and they are not. I have no idea why it took this tree ten years to produce and until something ripens I am not sure if the production is edible, but I will give this tree a chance this year. If the figs are good I’m going to cut the branches back again in the fall and hope she rewards me with figs again.

If that farmer who sold me the stick had told me it would take ten years to produce I would not have paid a cent for that stick. Ten years is just too big a gamble.


A Really Good Friend

In Jeopardy fashion, the answer is Jeanne Behr. “What is the definition of a truly good friend.” Today Jeanne volunteered to go with me up to the farm to help move my mother’s clothes from the old house to the new house. There is a special place for a friend like Jeanne. Perhaps I can put a good word for her in the Four Seasons Heaven where my sister Janet will eventually end up.

When I say moving my mother’s clothes I am simplifying the actual job by a lot. It was more like a clothing evaluation, negotiation, packing, moving and hanging job. My mother loves clothes and consequently likes to hold on to all the clothes she has ever had, regardless of style, or condition.

Every once in a while we would nudge my mother to donate when she was wavering. Like when I opened the drawer full of white cotton sweaters. Granted there were chunky knits, cable knits, zipper knits, cardigans, crew necks, v necks, in multiples of each category. Convincing my mother that she did not need 20 white cotton sweaters was important and after trying on a few which were at least six inches too short she gladly said we could give them away. We found quite a few sweaters that would be perfect for teddy bears they were so small.

Having Jeanne with me made helping my mother so much more pleasant. We found the best way to complete this job was for my mother to sit in a chair and we would hold every item up and she would say, “Take, donate or try on to determine take or donate.”

Happily my mother had no trouble finally giving away a whale themed turtle neck that had been my sister Margaret’s in 1978. That means this shirt had been moved from Wilton to London, back to Wilton, to one house in Washington, DC, then a second, to Pawleys Island then to the farm and never once did my mother wear it. If you are interested in it you can find it at Pennies for Change in Durham where Jeanne and I dropped five boxes this afternoon. Also donated were some vintage Lord and Taylor pantyhose still in the packages.

It was a satisfying day of cleaning out, made all the more fun by having Jeanne there. I am forever grateful to have such a generous friend.

We will be having the Estate Sale at the Farm on June 4 & 5. There will be at least six sofas, and many chests of drawers, multiple full sets of China, designer pocket books, rugs, kitchen ware and more. Sorry no whale turtlenecks will be available at the sale. Let me know if you want directions.


No Masks For THE FULLY VACCINATED

In the earliest days of the pandemic my friend Michelle was the first person to ask me if I could sew her a mask. She was grocery shopping for an elderly couple and thought it was a good idea to wear a mask way before anyone official told us too. So I made her one, then I made some for us, and my family and more friends. I made over three hundred masks.

Masks worked. Not only did we not get Covid, apparently it kept most people from getting the flu this year. A normal year sees 130,000 deaths from the flu, this past year we had 2,304. I like the mask. We also had far fewer colds, thanks to the mask and washing our hands more.

Now the word has gone out that if you are FULLY VACCINATED you don’t need to wear the mask except on public transport and in some spaces where lots of people are close together. I am not giving up my mask so fast.

When cold and flu season comes around I might be putting that mask back on. I also like the way the mask hides any number of chins I might have on any given day.

I am certain that those people who have not been vaccinated will also stop wearing their mask, if they wore one in the first place. The President said it was the honor system to go without a mask if you were vaccinated.

Sadly those people who are not getting a vaccine and will not wear a mask may still get Covid and some will die. Or some will get Covid and never get over it, feeling like hell for six months or more. Only then it will be too late to change their minds and say they wish they had gotten the vaccine.

I am not sure how many people I know who are anti-Vaxers. No one has told me they won’t take the vaccine because if they did I would really have to consider if I wanted any relationship with them whatsoever. Why risk dying? The vaccine is much safer than getting Covid. If you haven’t gotten your vaccine keep wearing your mask, at least you might also not get the flu.


Happy Graduation Sweet Ashley

This spring many of Carter’s lifelong friends are graduating from College. Carter is in a five year program and is graduating early in December, which is great, but off cycle. I have had a great time seeing the graduation photos of her friends, who I adore so much, with more to go in the next few weeks.

How did four years fly by? I feel like I was just filming these kids in Pre-k telling me what they wanted to be when they grew up. Now they are on their way.

Today I took Ashley to lunch to celebrate her graduation and she wanted to celebrate my milestone birthday. I was lucky to find a date between all her graduation trip travels to see her before she is off to NYC and a job there. I was so happy that she asked me to visit her in New York. Since she is one of my bonus daughters I definitely will be doing that. I am her DMA after all. DMA is what she has called me for the last eight years as short for the nickname Dana Ma.

Now it is time for these young friends to call me Dana and not Mrs. Lange. They are adults. The person it is going to be the hardest to get to call me Dana is Ellis. She staunchly calls me Mrs. Lange as a sign of respect, but now it just makes me feel old. I may have to come up with a grandmother like name she can call me just as long as she stops calling me Mrs. Lange.

Congratulations to all the graduates. When I see you call me Dana! You have earned that little change.


Out of Gas?

My friend J took me to lunch today to celebrate my birthday. She picked me up at home so we could have more time together in the car. We had a fabulous lunch. The pandemic had kept us apart far to long. We made plans to do more things together, fast.

We got back in her car, which is fairly new to her and as I was asking her if she liked it she noticed that the gas meter said she had 20 miles worth of gas left. “Oh My, my old car used to tell me in a big warning sign when my gas was getting low.”

I suggested we should stop and get gas on the way home, just in case. Well, it was a good thing, because apparently the Colonial Pipe Line shut down, by the Darkside hackers has hit NC hard. The line at our favorite Family Fare filling station was around the block and there was only one pump with any gas.

Only 14 cars in front of us

We sat in the line a long time and her gas meter went from 20 gallons left to 10 gallons. Thankfully two cars in front of us got tired of waiting and pulled out of line. We watched as our line slowly inched towards the one good pump. One young man in a black mustang convertible tried to jump the line, but after some words from other pulled his car out of line.

The car in front of us was unable to get gas for some reason. Turned out the card reader stopped working and J had to go in the store to pay. Only ten dollars worth allowed. That was 2.77 gallons of gas. It sent the meter up to 80 miles worth of gas, which quickly ticked back to 70 in less than a mile of driving.

I blame the Russians for offering a safe harbor for the Darkside. The pandemic is bad enough, but now a gas crisis, where there really shouldn’t be one is just an insult we don’t need. Please conserve your gas if you can. It will take a while to resupply once the Colonial is back online.

Thankfully I have gas in four cars, not that I am going anywhere. J let me know that on her way home she saw other gas stations out of gas. You are probably out of luck if you need it today or tomorrow.


Moving Is Shit

I saw a pretty wise saying the other day. “At my age I don’t get down on the floor without a plan about how to get back up.” My mother obviously never heard this saying. After a long day I found her lying of the floor of her new bedroom with no furniture except for one chair. She said she just needed a rest.

Today was an ongoing move day for my parents from their farm to their new house. My father is not really doing any moving so I am called in for what I thought was a supervisor role, but it turned I turned into a low level packer.

Thankfully Miss Daisy came with the movers today to pack with me. I was thankful for her every minute as well as the Richard, the Danville firefighter and his amazing team of movers.

After packing up the never ending sea of China I went over to my parents new house to look at where things were going in the kitchen. I should have done the inventory of available space before I let my mother dictate how many thousands of plates she wanted to keep. There is no way she has the space for half of what she wants.

To top it off the cabinets are not outfitted with any shelves or pull out drawers. This has to be fixed before much can be put away.

Downsizing is difficult at best. I can hardly wait for this month to be over. I am sore, dirty and exhausted already and don’t anticipate anything getting any better. I also would like my mom to have a bed to lie down on because she does not plan ahead when she lies down on the floor.


My Kind of Mother’s Day

Last weekend I had the treat of having Carter home, so we celebrated mother’s day then. Tomorrow ai will go to the farm to supervise the first of many parts of moving my parents to their new house. That is my Mother’s Day present for my mother, along with a couple of goodies.

So today I got to do just what I wanted to do. The first was working in the garden. There is not much “work” right now as most everything is planted and I am just waiting for things to grow. I did do some harvesting today. My friend Karen gave me a swarm of heirloom quality garden implements for my birthday.

Today I used the ceramic pruners to harvest spinach. I cooked it for dinner and Russ exclaimed it was so much better than store bought spinach.

After the garden I got spent time reading. I had a long call with Carter, then Russ and I took Shay on a hike in Duke forest. It was a glorious day here, worthy of a celebration day.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mother’s out there. Condolences to those for whom this is your first Mother’s Day without your mother. And to those whose mother’s have been gone a while, I am certain it never gets easier, but I hope your happy memories of your mother hold you tight through this day and all your days.


Dickinson Farm

For my birthday my friend Sally, who went to Dickinson with me, sent me a box of items from the Dickinson College Farm. This farm did not exist when we went to Dickinson. It came about as part of the sustainability program the college undertook a few years back.

Of course being a college the farm is used for research, but it also produces food for the dining hall and sells it too. Oh, how I wish we had the college farm when I was in school. I gladly would have given up Calculus for farming. I have never used calculus one day in my adult life, but I could have used farming knowledge everyday.

One of the things Sally sent was some stone ground corn meal from purple and yellow corn. I made a test batch of simple corn muffins so I could get a feel for what the corn meal was like before I dudded it up in another recipe.

It had a very strong and fresh corn meal flavor. Nothing like a jiffy mix of corn meal. But the freshness of the corn meal made a very light muffin.

I did not try the Strawberry jam with it yet, but am looking forward to tasting Dickinson’s version. I wonder if they offer jam making and canning as college credit courses or just for fun.

As I think about all the classes I took in college that were interesting, but not applicable to my regular life I wish that they had offered a real life interdisciplinary class of personal finance, basic plumbing and electrical work, tax preparation, and food safety. I am certain there were no professors who could teach this one class, but lots of college staff, like building and grounds, dinning hall and the business office people who could have taught us.

Of course I learned to learn at college so I have taught myself most of these skills, but it would have been faster if someone who really knew what they were doing had taught me.

For now I am going to use my experimentation skills on this corn meal. Thanks Sal, for surprising me with these Dickinson goodies.


Have You Fallen?

His answer is always the same. “I live on a farm. I walk outside on uneven ground. I fall on the grass. I am not hurt.” They put the bracelet on nonetheless. He just hates the overt sign of being called old that the bracelet screams.

When I go to the doctor’s office with my Dad I am always prepared for him to be mad about the first question they ask him. “Have you fallen in the last three months?” I know that the lawyers want them to ask so they can put a bright pink bracelet with the words “fall risk” on him before he takes another step. It is not an unreasonable question to ask an octogenarian.

Now that I am sixty I am wondering if they are going to ask me this question. Today, after much rain I put on my new hunter gardening shoes that Russ and Carter gave me for my birthday. I was going out back to my new moss garden (my early Mother’s Day present) to inspect where the bunnies, I presume, are already nibbling. Since major chunks of moss have been moved around I decide I need to fence this moss in until it gets a good hold of the earth.

I went back to the garage to gather random bits of wire fence I have left from building my garden. I rounded the corner, arms full of fence and slipped on the dirty, wet bricks and fell on my butt. Thankfully the extra padding I carry everywhere with me cushioned the blow and I got up unhurt and went about wrapping the moss garden in an unattractive jumble of wire. Fighting with bunnies is one of my specialties.

Next time I go to the Doctor, hopefully months from now, if they ask me if I have fallen I seriously doubt if I will remember this slick brick induced fall. It makes me wonder about the senior-seniors they ask. Unless you badly injure yourself are you likely to remember a small tumble? Seems to me that no one should legally depend on anyone over 50 to recall everything that happened to them in the last three months. For good measure just put the bright pink fall risk bracelet on everyone over 30, but just don’t print the big words “fall risk.” The medical staff should just know by the color what it means.


How to Feel Six Instead of Sixty

Carter loves bartending. I wonder whose genes that came from? In honor of my birth year she made a special drink for my birthday dinner for others to enjoy. It was a classic whiskey sour. Apparently it was the “it” drink of 1961. It must have been popular for years afterwards because it was often served at parties at my childhood house.

Being the sixties it was made with a “sour packet” that came in a box of six from the liquor store. Just add bourbon. I think the brand was Holland house. My dad used to make us “sours” by adding water and ice to the contents of the packet and run it in the blender. If we were lucky we got a cherry in it. Sure, start kids off enjoying cocktails early.

So Carter made people who wanted a drink the knob creek version of the whiskey sour. For me I had the ginger beer version which was fantastic. It used the Trader Joe’s triple ginger, ginger beer and the sour mix of fresh lemon juice and simple syrup, some cherry juice and a maraschino Cherry.

It brought me back to being a kid getting a kid cocktail. This was a great way to not feel 60, but perhaps six again. Maybe in my very old age I will take up drinking again. Until then I’ll take this mock-tail version anyday.


The Loss of One Of My Favorites

Sadly my cousin Mary texted me this morning to let me know that her mother Flo had passed away earlier today. Although Flo was technically a cousin to me she was much more like an Aunt and a favorite Aunt at that. She had not been well for the last few years so her passing is a blessing and we are certain she is in heaven with her husband Johnnie, another favorite who left this earth much too early over twenty years ago.

Johnnie was my father’s closest first cousin, more like a brother. Johnnie’s mother Haidee was an older sister to my grandmother Margaret. They were two of six sisters in a crazy family of Michies from Charlottesville. Johnnie’s parents had a house in Pawleys Island and my whole childhood we spent our summer vacations on Pawleys with them and my dad’s only brother Wilson’s family.

There would be three generations spending all day everyday on the beach and Flo was a calming presence amongst those with Michie blood. We think she was the first one who married into the family who named it a support group for the in-laws to Michies.

One of my earliest memories of Flo was from the summer when I was eleven years old. I was the oldest cousin of the Pawleys crew so I often hung with the adults and listened in on the conversations. My mother had a serious kidney disease and after our vacation she was going home to have her kidney removed. This was a big deal in 1972 and required a long stay in the hospital.

I remember sitting on the beach and hearing my parents talk about this operation and them not knowing what they were going to do with me and my two younger sisters. This was the first I even heard of my mother’s illness as no one told children anything back then. My grandmother said she could take my baby sister Janet, but not me and my seven year old sister Margaret because that would be too much. Flo immediately spoke up and said that Margaret

and I could come and stay with them at their little house in Columbia, SC.

I was so thankful that someone was willing to take us and that it was Flo. As Flo and Johnnie only had my cousin Mary at that time it was a big deal to add two more children, but she made sure we had lots of fun and kept our minds off my mother’s situation. The highlight of that stay was when Flo took me, Mary and Margaret to be on the Mr. Knozit TV show, a local kids show. I was the only kid onthe show that day who knew the answer to the question, “what are the call letters of the TV station?” That got me an extra Icee coupon which Flo happily helped me redeem at a local store.

I am forever grateful that Flo was the kind, understanding calm person she was. The loss of her is hitting me hard as I realize that there are fewer and fewer of her generation in our family.

I send my love and hugs to my Cousins Mary and her sister Haidee. Thankfully we are all vaccinated now so we will get to go to the memorial service. Flo deserves us to celebrate her life. She certainly did a lot for mine.


The Birthday that Never Ended

It’s a good thing I only turn 60 once because you are going to be sick about reading about it. Yesterday I wrote my blog around five in the afternoon. I thought that all the birthday celebrations were concluded and I was exhausted from them all.

Then my dear friend and birthday twin, Tricia called. We were born on the same day in the same year and have been friends for 42 years. I had made a little video for her 60th that her sister Cathy put together in a movie. She told me all about her birthday movie and asked me how I liked mine. I told her I didn’t get a movie, but said my family needed to save something for my 70th.

After a quiet dinner with Carter and Russ they told me it was finally time for them to give me my presents from them. Russ leans hard on Carter for both present ideas and logistics in all things gift giving. She went above and beyond this year. Having her home was the best present I could have gotten, but I had no idea about the last big present they were giving me… A MOVIE from my friends!

Thanks to Carter’s Godmother, Suzanne, I had a funny, touching, heartfelt movie of a wide range of friends from all aspects of my life. Suzanne, as a TV producer in her last life, had strict rules about how many people, and made sure that every decade was represented starting in my teens.

I want to shout out to all you dear friends who went to the trouble to record such sweet things about me. I cried, I laughed, I howled and it made me miss each one of you so much. I tried to do a screen grab of each of you, but it is hard to get you not talking. I just want you all to know how much it meant to me and that I love you so much.

Russ and Carter made this the best birthday in my whole life along with all you friends. This getting old thing is fantastic.


Yeah for 60

For over the last year there have no celebrations. So why would I think things would be any different? Yes, we got our vaccines a while ago, but we have hardly gone back to our old ways. Until today, we had not eaten in a restaurant. We kind of just let life happen in a grey kind of way.

Well the rainbow of color rained down on me for the last two days. Yesterday Carter showed up as a surprise to me for my 60th birthday and our anniversary. Then Russ threw me a surprise birthday dinner at home with some of our dear friends. We had a huge table set up in the big room with everyone spread out. It was so nice to have friends at home again.

Then this morning I had my needlepoint zoom group, which was a lovely way to start my birthday, but those sweet friends kept a big secret from me… a big surprise lunch at the Wadu with so many of my dearest friends. Christy picked me and Carter up for what I thought was just a couple of people for lunch. It was quite a shock when we arrived to see all my friends who I have missed so much.

Lynn and Karen organized it and of course Karen provided the most beautiful center pieces. Leigh came from Charlotte and Jan came from the mountains. I got fabulous garden themed gifts, but the best gift of all was just being with my loving friends and Carter. Kristin made me a garden themed hat which I wore through the whole lunch and am going to be bringing back for the next birthday girl. Thanks to Michelle, Hannah, Amanda, Anne, sara, Stephanie, Shelayne, Kathi, Elizabeth, Kristin, Leigh, Jan, Mary Lloyd, Christy Karen and Lynn.

So far I have to say the 60 is a really good number and I am so thankful for all my wonderful and sneaky friends who totally surprised me. I wondered why no one was talking to me for the last few weeks. Mary Lloyd said she would run by my house and pray not to see me so that she would not blurt out any of the surprises.

On top of all the dear people I have seen in person I have been overwhelmed with love from old friends near and far sending Facebook message, phone calls, emails and mailing cards. Thank you for ending the drought of the pandemic for me. Thank god for the vaccination and all my friends who have gotten it so we could be together. It has been the most wonderful birthday and I still have family dinner with Russ and Carter. I am overwhelmed with love.


Good Thing the House is Clean

When Russ asked me a question about table cloths I should have caught on, but I didn’t. Why would Russ care about where and how many matching table clothes I have. He finally confessed to me that he was having a surprise birthday party for me and needed help setting up the table, but who was coming was a surprise.

Thank goodness I have had a big spring cleaning bug for the last two months since no one has been inside my house for a year. The idea of friends coming over is the best surprise I could ever have.

This morning I got up early to garden so I put off showering yet another few hours. After trimming branches and watering vegetables I came inside to find princess Shay sitting atop the pillows. The doorbell rang and as it was still early on a Sunday I wondered who it could be.

The best surprise ever, CARTER! I had texted with her already this morning asking how she was and that sneaky thing said she was great because she slept late, when she actually was up at 5:30 to go to the airport. I was a mess both literally and figuratively, but so happy for this wonderful surprise.

So the fact that friends are coming for dinner is not a surprise, but who they are still is. Russ has been busy getting ready all day. He thought that washing the cars was something he should do before the party, since the house was already spotless.

I’m glad I cleaned Carter’s bathroom last week. Seems like it is a good lesson to always have a clean house in case someone wants to throw you a surprise party and you don’t want to be embarrassed.


Almost Anniversary

Twenty-nine years ago tonight Russ and I were at our rehearsal dinner. It was at Sequoia in Georgetown with more than a hundred of our friends and family in attendance. My irreverent family told lots of bad, yet not untrue stories, about me. Russ’ Aunt Joe who was in her late seventies at the time sat with her mouth open. How could he be marrying such a wild woman?

Well, Great Aunt Jo was there with her long time, yet publicly undefined partner Aunt Ruth so she could not have thought I was too scandalous. Thankfully she accepted me fully, even after those stories.

Unflappable Russ held up perfectly at the rehearsal dinner. Going with the flow has always been his way. He did not blink when his mother asked him how the money she had given to pay for the dinner had stretched to this big party. He just told her I was excellent at party planning as a caterer. I am glad we never had to go deeper in that conversation.

I am thankful everyday that Russ and I figured out that we were a good fit for each other. I am doubly thankful that he did not let my crazy family scare him off.

The last year of Covid has been actually very fun to get to be home with Russ everyday. Twenty-nine years sounds like a lot, but it feels like a blink of an eye. Happy almost Anniversary Russ Lange. You are the best and I love you.